the corona chronicles, day 8: being thankful

I started writing a post about the new stimulus package and how it’s not fair that dependent adult students are not getting anything from the package, while parents will be given $500 for each dependent child. My son lives with us, he has a part-time job, goes to school full-time, does everything right, but he can’t get a penny from this program? Well, that’s all I’ll say about it.

air atmosphere blue blue sky
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

What changed my mind was sitting outside. After a thunderstorm last night and what seems like rain every day or two throughout the month of March, the sun is shining brightly today. It feels good to know that no matter what craziness is going on on this planet, the earth will still revolve around the sun, rain will fill our reservoirs, and life will go on.

I began thinking about what I’m thankful for right now: that rain has brought green grass and blooming flowers, that my golden retriever was sitting by my side, that my four adult kids are all safe and healthy, that I have a roof over my head and a home my two sons can live in without worrying about being evicted (barring any stupid stunts, of course), that I have meaningful work that I can do from home and get paid for, that my husband remains employed through these nutty times, that I have running vehicles, friends I can count on (and a couple I can’t–but that’s for another day), and the simple fact that I can breathe in and out.

I think of the kids who are home with nothing constructive to do, the young adults who can no longer afford rent and are not wanted back at home, the people without Internet or a way to stay in touch with others. Kids will get behind in school. Adults will lose their jobs and not be able to find replacements. Mortgages will not be paid, rents either, and people will lose their homes.

But those are negatives, and I will not go there today. I will be thankful for electricity, cable TV, Internet, computers, phones, toilets, sinks, showers, entertainment at our fingertips. Never before have I worshiped the technology that allows movies and books to miraculously appear in our hands after a few clicks. I have a safe neighborhood to walk in and a backyard to sit out in when the sun shines as it is today.

There’s plenty to be thankful for. The griping will have to wait.

the corona chronicles, day 5: parks and beaches closed

Our mayor announced yesterday that all city parks and beaches would close. The day before, just the lots were barricaded to discourage people from parking in them and to reduce the number of visitors. But now, no one can hike, hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, or take a boat out on the lake.

gray storage shed on brown sand
Photo by Guillaume Hankenne on Pexels.com

Confinement is being taken seriously, and soon it will drive some up the wall. More and more businesses are closing. People who can work from home are advised to do just that. Those who cannot are going without work and, many, without pay. My younger son works at a coffee shop with a drive-thru window. Frankly, I wish it would close, because the longer it’s open, the greater the chance is that he brings home the virus. But the Starbucks next door shut down and my son’s employer is capitalizing on Starbucks’ lost business. I hope it’s worth it to the owners. I hope my son, who just started this job in January and would probably be the first let go if there’s a reduction in customers, doesn’t come down with any symptoms.

My other son, an employee of the YMCA, is home with pay until the end of the week. The Y is still charging its patrons membership fees while it’s closed. A friend of my husband’s just canceled his membership because of this, and I’m guessing he’s not the only one. No money coming in means no money going out to workers.

I am fortunate that the city I work for is still paying its hourly workers like me, but how long will this last, with talks of budget cuts having started pre-pandemic? So far, we’ve been paid for one week without physically working. Our next pay period ends on April 3. The city was hoping to reopen the libraries by April 6, but that looks pie in the sky.

At my other library, we are still working from home, which is going fine so far. We can do research online for our patrons if they need help. We can also work on other tasks.

I am able to take my dog to the vet today. He’s diabetic and needs his insulin checked every other week. I may ask the vet to send me home with a test kit that I can use without coming in. Maybe I can report to her the result I get and she can monitor and adjust his insulin from that reading. Or I may just ask to come in less frequently. Since we’re almost all home, we can spot if the ol’ boy is doing well or poorly. So far, he’s responding very well to the insulin.

Will weddings go on? We have one to plan for. Our second eldest is getting married in October, but, of course, wedding plans are on hold. The venue, a community center run by one of the local cities, has closed its doors. Brides and grooms who had booked in March and April will have to postpone their weddings for sure and most likely find a new place for the reception. This venue is very popular and is booked at least a year out. We put a deposit down months ago, fortunately. Now we’ll see if the wedding will still go on even seven months out. Everything is so uncertain. I’m glad we haven’t booked a caterer yet.

Typically in March I’m fully in the process of planning our summer vacation. My husband was having a hard time even picking a free week this year at the very start of coronavirus. We finally decided on a week in September. Now that too will have to wait. Who knows what is in store. One thing is for sure, though, even a trip to a local beach will feel like a vacation.

Stay safe. Stay well.

the corona chronicles, day 4

Monday, 23 March 2020

It is Day 4 of being sequestered during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Both the libraries I work for are closed. One, the community health-care library, remained open through last Thursday. The other, the city-managed branch, had shuttered several days before that.

person holding covid sign
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I am still working from home for the health-care library. I have work to do for now but wonder when things will slow down. If this stay-at-home edict remains in place for, say, two or three months, I can’t imagine there would be that much to do from home. Right now, I can review a video I was sent home with, and on a Word doc, I’ve started compiling a list of medical graphic novels the library may be interested in purchasing, which is something I had started before leaving. I also have a catalog to review and pick out websites we can possibly add to our databases. I may have to get creative in coming up with activities in the future, but we have to be doing something work related to be paid. For now, I’ve plenty.

To get out of the house, hubby and I took a little drive yesterday. It was nicing getting a peek at the ocean and seeing something other than our home surroundings. We are lucky, though. We have a house with two floors. It’s not big by today’s standards, but it’s adequate. We have a backyard and a front yard, so there we can convene with nature if we need to. This morning, when I let the dog out back, I noticed three sets of paired-up birds: sparrows, a couple birds that looked like muddy-colored robins, and mourning doves. They were not practicing social distancing, but isn’t it telling that that thought had sprung into my mind?

We also live within walking distance to a large regional park. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for others, “our” park has been flooded with people. So many people, in fact, that the parking lots had to be closed off to prevent visitors. (That can only mean that our neighborhood streets will soon start looking like parking lots.) People were not practicing social distancing. It’s the same as at the beaches, whose lots were also barricaded, and some other attractions that draw huge crowds. It’s a matter of time before San Diego’s pride and joy, Balboa Park, is off-limits. What crazy times we live in.

Today, I’m trying to find enough work to fill up my typical 5.5-hour day. I’ll also take the dog out for a walk—maybe in the streets, though, and a little later in the morning or early afternoon, when the typical walkers are back home. But there’s nothing typical about our times.

To say I have zero confidence in our commander in chief is an understatement. How I wish we had a real president, one who doesn’t lie, fib, make stuff up, whatever. What a kid he must have been to raise!

Well, back to work I go. At least I have something to fill my hours. I feel bad for people who are out of work and out of pay, like wait staff and hair stylists, whose tip money was rent money. Or the minimum wage worker who, even if they are allowed to take some kind of unemployment insurance, surely it won’t be enough to pay the bills. Yes, landlords and mortgage lenders are supposed to place a moratorium on collecting rents and monthly payments, but eventually all that money is going to need to be repaid. What then if these people can’t get enough in restitution to cover those payments? There will be, in my opinion, evictions and foreclosures galore. How sad.

Be safe. Stay safe.

how could i not have been told about the office party? (or, feeling left out at work)

There is an office Christmas party going on this morning as I type this. But I am not only not there, I wasn’t even notified of it until late yesterday afternoon, when I was at my other job.

dachshund dog wearing a red sweater
                                        hey, boss, remember me?                                                                                                                                                                                                                       [Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com]
Seems I’m forgotten often at the municipal branch library where I work, even though there are only ten employees and one volunteer besides the head librarian. In a way, it’s good. I don’t think I’m long for that place, especially if an opportunity to work more hours at my other part-time, better-paying job comes through in a couple months. It will be nice to simply slink away, practically unnoticed. Still, who likes to be ignored?

There are times I feel like a very small cog in an enormous machine. I am made to feel, by the type of job I fill and how I have little time to interact with other employees or patrons, that I’m just filling a spot, just doing the lowest-level grunt work, which mainly involves shelving, and that anyone with a little experience could take my place at any time. I’m made to feel expendable.

Woe is not me, though, because I have an outlet–other work that I find fulfilling and a husband with a much better salary than my four little jobs put together and multiplied by five.

But we all want to feel like we belong, right? I’m not getting that feeling.

A case in point:

  • Not being told about the Christmas potluck breakfast and gift exchange until late in the afternoon the day before. If I were to have participated, I would have had to prepare ahead of time to shop and wrap a gift for the exchange and prepare or pick up some food to share. At least a couple days’ notice would have been nice, not fourteen hours. I’m easy to reach: I was last at work less than a week ago and I have a personal e-mail address, a city e-mail address, and a mobile phone. I’m an afterthought.

 

  • Another case in point: My boss texted and called on a day I had requested off last week, asking where I was and why I hadn’t shown up for work. She had totally forgotten and failed to write down that I had asked for that day off weeks ago, twice, in fact. Even worse, she had completely not realized that it was my birthday. I’ve been working at this library for 2.5 months and yet my name hadn’t been added to the list of birthdays. Let me repeat that there are only ten employees. One of the other workers had a birthday around Thanksgiving, and we all signed a card. I received no card. I also had turned in my time sheet for her approval two days ahead of the cutoff, which fell on my birthday, but even that didn’t tip her off that I may not be showing up on Friday.

 

  • Yet another example: Festive little stockings have been hung on the circulation desk with care, but there’s not a one with my name on it. There’s a “Ryan” and a “Brenda” and a “Felix” on the stockings, but no “Rose.” I suppose the Ryan stocking will suffice, for it has the same number of letters and it begins with an “R”!

But as I said, I’m probably not going to stay in the job for long. All the walking and kneeling on a cement floor, in addition to the reaching, bending, crouching, and lifting, are causing my osteoarthritis to flare up. I’m getting all the aching joints–and a new one–I experienced just before leaving my last library job with similar responsibilities. My health is much more valuable than $12-something an hour.

I’m lucky to have an out, but there are plenty of people who need this type of work. I just hope whoever takes my place (which would occur about eleven months after I quit, because nothing in the city moves swiftly) gets his or her name on a Christmas stocking, a timely invitation to the Christmas party, and a birthday card, because no one likes to be forgotten or ignored. No one.

 

freelancing lies part 2 (or, sometimes you have to hide the truth to get the job)

Freelancing can turn you into a liar. Case in point: This week I had to omit the truth from a client who was checking on my status on a project not due for a month and wanting what I’ve worked on so far.

design desk display eyewear
                                          what I’m doing                                               (photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com)

I told him I’d do my best to get him what I have so far but that I have another editing project with a very short deadline that I’m focused on currently, which is true. Typically I wouldn’t have mentioned the other editing job for fear of looking like I’m too busy to work on his assignment, but I did so to let him know that I have another short-term responsibility I’m working his project around and will definitely be able to meet his January deadline.

What I omitted, however–and would never have been able to say–are that I also hold down two part-time jobs; it’s the holidays and my birthday week; and I have four kids, a soon-to-be-son-in-law, a husband, four siblings, and friends to shop for; there are two work Christmas gatherings approaching, Christmas Day dinner to host, and many other obligations to attend to. Had I mentioned any of those things, even one, I would look unprofessional and would probably never hear from him again, because in the fickle freelancing world, I am expendable and the next independent contractor is just around the corner.

The fact that the editor even asked for part of the project isn’t fair at all. The project isn’t due until January–nearly four weeks away–and I was never told I’d have to turn in partial sections of the book along the way when I took the assignment. Of course, the editor asked kindly about the progress and if it was possible to send back sections already worked on, but what was implied was that he really wants something. Now.

I am, if nothing else, excellent with time management. No matter how busy I am (see the above list), I never go over deadline or fail to get everything done. I never turned in late assignments in school and I haven’t in my career either.

But the editor’s asking for what I’ve finished thus far threw me for a loop. I have a system of how I approach a project, especially one this ginormous (over eight hundred pages). I tend to do a once-over and then go back and double-check my work. Now, since I plan to turn in something to him tomorrow, I had to stop my forward progress and do a reverse take, double-checking what I’ve already worked on.

I had every right to tell him on Friday that I will turn in the entire book on January 4, as agreed upon, but instead I e-mailed him back saying that I’d be happy (another lie) to give him what I’ve done thus far. I didn’t mention that I’d be working both days on the weekend, eight hours each day, to get him what he wants, not needs, so he isn’t stuck with this massive project landing back on his desk in the new year.

woman wearing brown coat
                                                                  what I’d like to be doing                                                                               (photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com)

It’s unfortunate, but when you freelance, you can never avoid working when other obligations are pulling you away from your desk. You can’t shut down the desktop, close the blinds, turn off the light, and lock the door behind you, saying goodnight to the janitor and tipping your hat to the lobby security worker at the end of the day. If you have work, you must work, no matter the circumstances, whether it means working until 11 p.m. after getting off from your day job or both days on the weekend. The show must go on and the work must get done.

It’s the holidays and my birthday week, to boot, but I am rushing to get out my project due on Thursday for another editor and now this one by tomorrow while trying to do a bang-up job along the way so I will be called upon again to handle similar projects. And I’m doing all this while working five days a week at two part-time jobs. Oh, and did I mention the holiday obligations that I have?

As I said, I’m nothing if not a good time manager, but in the freelancing world, time is always never enough.

why I won’t think about christmas before thanksgiving ends (or, let’s try to enjoy the best holiday of the year)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And no matter that there are only twenty-seven (!) days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I will not put out one green or red decoration, not one strand of garland or one set of twinkle lights, until Thanksgiving is in the bag.

santa and clock

Yes, I am a planner. Yes, I am growing gray hair by the minute as I write this because I have a fear that I won’t be ready for Christmas. Yes, I keep dreading that short window of time to get it all done this year. I still will enjoy the most wonderful holiday ever, one in which we get together for a delicious meal, watch some football, play games, and have a good time.

Nope, I won’t even think of everything I have to do before December 24.

What is everything? Oh, only :

  • shopping for gifts (for four kids, a daughter’s fiance, a son’s girlfriend, a husband, four siblings, nieces, nephews, my best friend, and more);
  • shopping for Christmas dinner for at least fifteen;
  • putting up the decorations (on the entryway banister, on the fireplace, on the beams over the dining room and family room, on tables, on floors, on windows, on doors);
  • buying a tree (which has somehow turned into my–and only my–job);
  • dragging that eighty-pound beast into the house and putting on a dozen strands of lights, ornaments, and tinsel;
  • setting up my little four-foot artificial tree in the family room and decorating it;
  • pulling out every Dollar Tree knickknack I own and finding places for each of them;
  • digging through the CDs for Christmas music and the DVDs for holiday movies;
  • putting out Christmas pillows and throws, bathroom towels, candles, and soap;
  • decorating the front yard;
  • setting up my village of seven buildings set on a blanket of snow;
  • baking cookies and decorating them, then putting them into gift boxes for friends;
  • wrapping a million gifts as my back aches;
  • misplacing the tape or the scissors or the gift tags after every gift I wrap;
  • filling out dozens of Christmas cards and then addressing the envelopes and mailing them;
  • making gifts for family and friends;kevin
  • cleaning the house a week before (including emptying the fridge and wiping down the shelves), then a couple days before, then the day before (yeah, my Christmas Eve will stink once again), and then the day of;
  • moving seven hundred pounds of garage junk to find my card table, bring it inside, and set it up;
  • touching up the paint in the house before guests arrive;
  • planning the meal, shopping for the meal, preparing the meal a few days ahead, then a day ahead, and then the day of;
  • cleaning up all the mess my immediate family makes on Christmas morning so the house is semi-presentable when the rest of the crew comes over;
  • planning, shopping for, and making something (who knows what) for Christmas Eve dinner so we have something to eat after we all get home from Mass;
  • planning and shopping for Christmas-morning breakfast. . . .

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but you get the idea. Oh, and did I mention that I work the day after Christmas? Nine o’clock, bright and early!

My days of doing all this should be over. I should have passed the torch on to my four grown kids or my grown nieces long ago, but with today’s economy being what it is in our part of the country, none of them has anything bigger than a two-bedroom condo–and, at 36, my niece and her husband are the only ones who own the home they live in. By that age, my husband and I were paying the mortgage on the house we still call home. Although by no means large, with four bedrooms, a living room and a family room, it was big enough to raise four kids and a few pets in. I wonder if I’ll ever see our kids host Christmas. Maybe when I’m elderly and they themselves are parents of adults–or grandparents of adults.

But no matter. After I sign off from here I will not give Christmas another thought until peaceful, wonderful, bountiful Thanksgiving has long passed, which I suppose this year is Black Friday.

freelance vs. part-time work (or, which gives me more free time?)

I cleaned my entire fridge this morning. Yep, I took out everything shelf by shelf and wiped down every surface.

What’s so amazing about that? It’s because I don’t go in to my part-time job until 3 p.m. today. If I were freelancing, I’d have been at my desk by 8 a.m., tapping the refresh button every thirty seconds, looking for work, finding none or little, and having turned, say, $20 an hour into about $7.50, when accounting for all the time I’d have spent seeking and not finding.

design desk display eyewear
life as a freelancer                (Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com)

Until last December, I had a part-time library job that supplemented my busy freelance career–my main work–giving me a place to go to to get out of the house too. I had felt a little trapped freelancing, especially after all my kids were almost out of high school and driving on their own. No longer did I need to be tethered to my home and the minivan, shuttling one to soccer, the other to swim, and the other to a friend’s house. I also had lost the companionship of my own friends, many of whom were my kids’ friends’ parents, as their children aged and they took on outside work. But my freelance career kept me busy all day long too, sometimes morning till night, every season, even on holidays. If there was work available, I’d be at my desk, my neck and eyes hurting from the strain.

I enjoyed the part-time library job, but the pay was low and the commute was too far to make four and sometimes five times a week. Plus, there was a shift in management and things began to change. Add on top of that the sudden aches and pains I began to have as my Hashimoto’s set in, and it made quitting a pretty simple, necessary decision.

But no sooner had I left that job than my freelance career started to fizzle. A career in freelance proofreading and copyediting was something I’d had for thirty years, long before the gig economy became a thing.  I had settled into two decent jobs over the years, one for a publisher and the other for a financial company.

The work was fairly steady for the financial company, with extreme peaks every few months. The publisher had me busy twice a year for several weeks at a time. It seemed, though, as the publisher added on new freelancers, I was being called on less and less, having to contact the editors for work and oftentimes getting little if anything. And the financial company, whose editors we U.S. freelancers work with are based in the Philippines, finally got savvy and decided to give a greater proportion of work to the Philippines-based workers, who undoubtedly make considerably less than the Americans. I have been with the company for ten years and it has kept me quite busy until now. I had a feeling, though, that once the Philippine (and then India-based) contingent became better at their jobs (and they do good work, I might add), we U.S. freelancers would see less and less work.

And so it goes. I missed my library work anyway, so I kept applying to jobs with the city and county library systems, as well as with an occasional other source. In June, I was hired at a health-care district library for a couple handful of hours per week and then, finally, I was called from the city. I now work a dozen hours at a nearby branch.

bookcase books bookshelves hallway
                                  in the library                                               (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

So, here I am, at 10:30 a.m. typing out a post instead of digging in to a book or cleaning up transcripts or, more likely, tapping the refresh button. There are times I don’t like having to leave my house (I work five days a week and two days in a row until 8 p.m., for instance), and I do dread trying to make appointments around my new hours, but so far it’s working out OK. I know that if my freelance career gets back on track or if one of the part-time jobs becomes too burdensome, I can always quit something. For now, though, it’s nice to have hours I can commit to and consistent paychecks, even though my per-hour rate isn’t so great.

I think I’ll remake my home office while my editing work is slow, maybe one day using it consistently again. In the meantime, though, I will enjoy not having to sit and wait for work.

So freelance or part-time? So far, part-time is giving me more free time.