Tuesday, August 09, 2016


It has been a challenging few months.

I was laid off in April from a job that I loved. I had described it as my dream job. It had gotten to the point where it wasn't exactly a "dream" anymore, but as dysfunctional as it was, I still felt like it was my family, and never imagined that they would throw me out like the trash. It wasn't a complete surprise, I'd been getting some rumblings that all was not well, but it definitely felt like a betrayal. In addition to losing my job, I lost some friends. It happens. I'm not sure why I thought it would never happen to me. I guess I learned that lesson.

The timing turned out to be fortuitous, though, I guess. My sister had to have cataract surgery on both eyes and couldn't drive, so I became her designated driver, taking her to eye doctor appointments, surgeries, and follow-ups over a several week period. She lives fairly far away from me, and the eye doctor was further still, but I enjoyed spending time with her, and I was glad that I was able to do it.

Right after that, my dad told us that they needed our help in figuring out what to do as far as moving into an assisted living situation. My sister and I spent a LOT of time and energy researching elder care places, and visiting the ones that seemed promising. My folks, along with my sister and my brother and his family visited the one that seemed to us to be the best (I was sick and didn't go), they made their choice to move there, and then came all of the moving stuff. And both my mom and my dad ended up in the emergency room a couple of times during that period, so there's that.

It has been a pretty rocky move. They're not really very happy there, but I know it's a HUGE traumatic event, and they're probably doing as well as could be expected, even though we didn't expect it to be so hard.

Then, one day after the move, when I was out at their old house getting something for them, I stopped at Quik Trip to get gas, and my car died and wouldn't start back up. I had to call my insurance company's "roadside assistance," and they sent out a tow truck that took me to a repair shop. They had a hard time figuring out what the problem was, but they eventually tracked it to an electrical problem that they fixed, but told me that it probably isn't completely fixed, so don't go on any long trips. And that was around $500.

During this same time period, our refrigerator started failing. Ice wasn't freezing well, and it wasn't keeping things cool enough. So we had to buy a new refrigerator. I researched that, and found the most inexpensive one I could that would do the job, and it ended up being another $500 or a little bit more. Added to all the miles that I've been driving, and all the gasoline, it's been a really expensive few months, especially since I don't have an actual job anymore.

And now Bob's car is in the shop, and we're expecting that to be a big expense. I'm hoping not, but we shall see.

I was an election worker for the Primary Election last week, which was interesting and fun, although it was a really long day. We had to be there at 5:30, and left around 8:00. I just thought it would be something kind of fun, and it was. I went to a half day training class a couple of weeks before, but I was still nervous that I wouldn't know what to do. The primary was fairly slow, which was good, since it gave me and the other new workers a chance to learn how to work the machines without there being a lot of pressure. I'm planning to work the General Election in November, which I'm sure will be MUCH more hectic.

Now that the folks are moved and fairly stable, I'm starting to focus more on getting a job. I had hoped that I could stay home, but with all the extra expenses, it hasn't worked out that way, unfortunately. But it will work out, one way or another. It always does.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ebook obsession

I read a lot of books; I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone. I read over one hundred books a year, sometimes more. This year I'm on track to read about two hundred. I don't buy physical books anymore. I really love ebooks. I remember when I had a Palm Pilot, I was thrilled to discover that you could read books on it.

Then along came the Kindle. I had one of the first ones that I eventually sold to my sister once I got an iPhone. Then I got another, better (and cheaper) Kindle, and then a Kindle Fire, and of course an iPad. Now, with the iPhone 6S, I read almost exclusively on my phone now. It's always with me. I don't have to worry if I have a book in my bag for downtime, I always have several hundred in my phone.

I read while waiting in doctors' offices, I read in line at the car wash, I read while eating in restaurants if I'm eating alone. I have felt guilty at times for buying so many ebooks, and I've gotten more picky about them lately. I subscribe to several free and discount ebook lists, and I download a lot of free and 99 cent books.

For the new release bestsellers, I usually put my name on the waiting list at the library, but I would really rather buy them. But I can wait rather than pay $15 for the ebook.

All this is leading up to the Apple pricefixing antitrust lawsuit settlement. The suit had to do with Apple allegedly conspiring with book publishers to charge artificially high prices. According to 9to5Mac, "Customers will receive $6.93 for every ebook that was a New York Times bestseller and $1.57 for every other ebook" sold by certain publishers.

So, I don't have any idea how many books I bought, but I got an Amazon credit of almost $350 in my account yesterday. So yeah, my ebook obsession actually paid off!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lifting, carrying, moving

These last few weeks have been very hard. My parents have decided to move to an assisted living complex. My sister Lynn has done most of the research, and I just show up when and where she tells me. :) She made a ton of phone calls, something that she's much better at than I am. We visited three or four places, made extensive notes, took pictures, and decided that one of them was the best--the best location, the best infrastructure, the best pricing--although "best pricing" leaves a lot to be desired. They are all extremely expensive. They are all very similar, and they are all mostly in the same price range.

My father is pretty sold on it -- since my mother's stroke a few years ago he's been doing everything, and he's pretty worn out. My mom isn't sure about it, she's changed her mind a couple of times, but we've convinced her that it needs to happen. Of course, it's stressful for everyone. They don't want to move. I had hoped that they could stay in their home, and maybe have someone come in to help them, but it's gotten to the point where that isn't really feasible.

So now we're figuring out what they want to take, what they want to keep but maybe not have there with them, what they want to get rid of. The house is full of sixty years' worth of stuff, and it's a lot. It's all so familiar, and pretty sad, but we're working through it. Lynn and I have been out there just about every day, packing things and helping Mom and Dad look through things. I've been to Home Depot a couple of times to buy boxes, and on Saturday we were packing books and hauling boxes around on a two-wheeler. I would say that I haven't worked so hard in a long time.

Yesterday I told Dad that today, Father's Day, was going to be a day of rest, and I stayed home. Bob came home from a ten day fishing trip to Minnesota, so we've been catching up on our respective weeks. On Friday I had to stay home all day to wait for an AT&T Uverse technician, so I did laundry, vacuumed, and worked out in the yard for awhile. Unfortunately, he never showed up, so that was pretty annoying, but at least I did get some things accomplished at home.

On Saturday morning I got up fairly early and went to the library to use their wifi to do a little work before I got my hair cut, then headed out to Home Depot for more boxes, then to my parents' house. Sometime while I was gone, the technician showed up, apparently, because everything was working when I got home yesterday evening. They had told me Thursday night that someone had to be here when he came, but fortunately that didn't turn out to be the case.

I'm going to start sending out an occasional newsletter. It will probably be mostly geared toward web design clients, but hopefully it will be interesting to others as well. If you would like to get on the list, you can sign up here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Perfect all the time

It's been raining here for several days, and it's depressing. The sun is out today, though, after morning rain, and while I'm sure it's crazy humid, as soon as i finish here I'm going to go out for a little while.

The last couple of weeks I've been thinking about planners again. My sister is having cataract surgery, and my parents want to find an assisted living place to move to, so since I don't have to go to a job, I've been taking my sister to her appointments, and then she and I have been visiting assisted living places, then reporting back to my parents on what we find, showing them pictures, etc. I got a little overloaded yesterday, worrying about what I'm going to do with my own situation, but I'm glad to do it, and glad that I'm able to.

I follow a bunch of "planner addicts" on Instragram, who seem to fall into a couple of camps. One group buys the big expensive commercial planners and decorates them with washi tape and stickers, and their notebooks look more like scrapbooks than planners. I understand it, but to me it seems more about making a beautiful page than about planning anything.

The other group that I follow are the bullet journal people. They use a plan or dotted journal and draw their own planner so that it can be exactly what they want or need. I'm kind of drawn to this--there are some beautiful examples out there--but again, I'm sure that while they are functional, most of the buzz seems to be about creating a beautiful page rather than doing any actual planning.

So anyway, the point is, the planner I was using, the Levenger Circa compact daily diary, wasn't working. When the planner is open, the left-hand side is hourly for appointments, and the right-hand side has two columns for tasks, or it can be used for journaling or note taking. But there is no place where you can see more than one day at a time. With all of the appointments that I have going on right now, I needed something different.

I was in Staples one day last week picking up some address labels for a job I'm doing, and wandered through the Moleskine aisle. The 2016 planners were on clearance, so I bought a pocket size soft cover weekly one, and I love it. It's perfect for what I need now. The left-hand side is broken down into the days of the week, and the right-hand side is ruled for note taking. I put in all the appointments on the left side, and the right side is for my notes--this week it's notes about assisted living places--contact person, phone number, location, how much they cost, what they offer, etc. Sometime in the next couple of days I need to make a spreadsheet with all of the information so we're comparing apples to apples.

There's just something about a Moleskine that makes me happy. I love the cream colored paper, for one thing. I just like it so much more than bright white. There's a pocket in back that I'm using to hold business cards until I sit down and put them into my contacts, and an elastic band to keep it together in my purse. And I'm using some of those stickers and washi tapes that I bought when I thought I was going to do the whole hog decorated planner route ...

I always want my planner to be all things to me, to hold everything, and be perfect. But what I'm coming to realize is that there isn't one thing that's perfect all the time. When I was working at my job, the big daily planner was great to record notes, phone calls, etc. Now that I'm working from home, I was finding that the wall calendar next to me was fine to record appointments, and a plain notebook beside me to record time was working fine.

But these last two weeks full of appointments and information needed something else, and this pocket-size planner is working perfectly. It may be something else next month, and that's okay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Figuring it out

For a couple of weeks or so, I was VERY busy in my web design work, I put three new sites live, and all of my clients were very happy with their sites, and I was thinking that things would just continue to go on that way without having to do much of anything, but this week I have no billable work to do, and I've started waking up in the middle of the night again and going over the bills I have to pay and the money that I have coming in, and it's scary.

I've kept busy -- I baked yesterday, and I've planted flowers, and filled up the birdfeeders, and I've been learning Zentangle. We've been helping our parents figure out what they want to do about moving to assisted living. My sister is having cataract surgery tomorrow, which sets off a whole string of follow up appointments and then the other eye, and I'm going to be helping her with that.

I'm glad that I have the time to help my family, and I'm glad that I have the time to do some things around the house like the baking and the flowers, but I need to have work, and it would be great if I could do both, i.e., stay home and do the fun home stuff and also do the fun work stuff. Because it is fun, to me. That's why I started doing it, because I loved it, and I loved my job. But things change, and in order to make a living doing what I love, I'm going to have to do the work myself.

My portfolio needs to be the opening page of my site, not just a sideline (it was a sideline, of sorts, but no more), and I need to redesign it instead of using a standard Blogger template with a few changes. I'm going to have to hustle for clients, rather than waiting for them to come to me. Because they have come to me, but I can't count on that. I'm going to have to hustle, I'm going to have to actually do the work of marketing myself, which I haven't ever really done, because I hate that part. I love doing the work, and I love helping people get a website online, but if I could skip the sales part, I would.

Bob's the salesperson, and he loves sales, and he's great at it. He said what I need to do is go door to door to small businesses in town and talk to them. Oh man, I just don't think I can do that. It's hard enough, always, to email current clients and suggest updates or ask if they have any work they need done. Sometimes they do, which is nice, sometimes they don't, which is fine, sometimes they completely ignore me. Oh well.

Here's my plan -- you're supposed to put them in writing, right? By the end of May I'm going to have my plan figured out, have my website updated, have new business cards, maybe postcards, maybe Facebook advertising, something like that to grow my business. Then the month of June will be to get the ads placed, get the postcards sent, whatever I decide I need to do.

The first thing on my to-do list today, though, is to go get coffee.