Day 15. Where I Turn in My Things

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

It was a disjointed day. I dropped Matt off at work at 7:30 downtown, then drove home, then drove back downtown to turn in my computer and bring back all the workstation things. Then I drove home and then drove back downtown at 4 to pick Matt up from work.

I cast about for some way to celebrate the end of this phase of my life. I ended up with a Redbox movie and frozen Mac&Cheese for lunch, plus napping and reading. Matt and I got takeout at Fino for dinner.

I feel tired and wrung out. Tomorrow’s my first day on my own schedule. We shall see how it goes.

Books Read in March 2020

Picture Books

The Grizzly Mother
Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) & Natasha Donovan
Read for Librarian Book Group

A grizzly mother and her two cubs show us their life cycle. I found the abrupt jumps in time disorienting, but the subject matter interesting.

The Book Hog
Greg Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group

Officially a story about a hog who loves books. I wonder if there is a hidden (or obvious) commentary about American practices of acquiring excessive amounts of things when we can’t take full enjoyment from them.

Flubby is Not a Good Pet!
J.E. Morris
Read for Librarian Book Group

Our narrator compares a cat to other pets and finds he comes up short. Right up to the realization of what, exactly, makes Flubby a good pet.

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Sonia Sotomayor, Rafael López
Read for Librarian Book Group

Sonia and her friends plant a garden and talk about the things they need to do to live and thrive, or things that help them live and thrive.

There were a lot of words for a picture book. Perhaps too many? It was fun to pick out the different children on different pages of the book.

Bilal Cooks Daal
Aisha Saeed & Anoosha Syed
Read for Librarian Book Group

Bilal and his friends learn about daal. There is a recipe at the end of the book, thankfully.

It seems like Bilal livers in a lovely neighborhood chock full of friends and things to do.

Chick and Brain: Smell My Feet
CeCe Bell
Read for Librarian Book Group

Chick is insufferable, trying to get Brain to say please, thank you, and other niceties.

I found this book tedious for that reason and for Brain/Brian confusion.

However, I am not six. Were I, I probably would have found this funny.

Julie Flett
Read for Librarian Book Group

A year in the life of a girl and her elderly neighbor. Soft illustrations

Do Fish Sleep
Jens Raschke & Jens Rassmus
Read for Librarian Book Group

A brief book about the death of a younger brother translated from the German.

Raven Makes the Aleutians
Sealaksa Heritige/Janine Gibbons
Read for Librarian Book Group

Rarely does a picture book feel like I am sitting in a room with a storyteller. This one did. The illustrations are beautiful and I’m curious from the introductory note about the raven stories that are inappropriate for children.

Middle Grade

This Promise of Change
Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Read for Librarian Book Group

Most novels in verse I tolerate the verse to get to the story. This novel in verse I enjoyed the verse! Plus, it illuminated a mostly forgotten integration effort. I really enjoyed the back matter and the author’s note.

I’m Ok
Patti Kim
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ok’s father has died and things aren’t great. But Ok has a plan to help his mom and make more money.

I loved Ok and I love this story. One of my favorite characters this year.

Prairie Lotus
Linda Sue Park
Read for Librarian Book Group

For everyone who loved the Little House books and yet now find them problematic for a number of reasons.

Hanna arrives with her father in Dakota Territory, but faces ostracism for her half-Chinese, half-white background. She’s got some plans though: graduate high school, and turn her father’s dress goods store into a dressmaking shop.

All the flavor of the Dakota Territory, but with bonus content about fitting in and finding your place when so many don’t want you to have a place.

I’d love a sequel.

Kat Leyh
Read for Librarian Book Group

This started as a so-so graphic novel, but the story morphed more than once to directions I didn’t see coming that also felt organic.

I love when kids find their niche, especially when it’s an odd niche.

Young Adult

Hearts Unbroken
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Read for Librarian Book Group

Lou Wolfe breaks up with her boyfriend when he disrespects Native people. With time on her hands, she joins the school paper. There, she pitches stories and becomes part of a story when color-blind casting is applied to the school musicals and her brother is cast as the Tin Man.

Stuff happened in this book, but I felt so removed emotionally, it was hard to care. I would have liked to feel closer to the character, but it seemed she was keeping me at arms length.

Apple in the Middle
Dawn Quigley
Read for Librarian Book Group

Reasons this book needs a copyeditor:

  • Grandfather served in WWII
  • Grandfather is in his 60s
  • The book is set in approximately 2002
  • This makes Grandpa about two years old when serving in WWII
  • Mom graduated high school in 1988
  • Mom had Lief Garrett posters in her room
  • Leif Garret was not popular in the 70s, not the 80s
  • Mom was born in 1968
  • This makes mom 20 when she graduated high school even though she was “very smart”
  • House depicted as being on a long, gravel road
  • House has alley behind it with another house on the other side of the alley. This doesn’t fit any framework I’ve experienced when getting to a house on a long, graveled road.

In matters of style, the voice of this character felt like a 10–12-year-old, not someone in high school.

A lot of the writing is very conversational—many parenthetical asides and talking to the reader. This makes the book feel very unsophisticated and increased my dislike which is too bad, because I’m interested in the story’s framework of a girl who had not been exposed to her Native American heritage.

Also, her grandparents dialog was great, but got lost by Apple’s chatter.

I’m glad the North Dakota State University Press is recognizing contemporary indigenous voices. It would also be good if they employed some basic publishing standards such as a thorough copyedit, and possibly a better developmental and line edit.

I Can Make this Promise
Christine Day
Read for Librarian Book Group

Edie is half Native American, but it’s not something that is a part of her life. Things happen over the summer to change things up.

After the big reveal, I had a hard time believing that Edie’s mother would have distanced herself for all those years.

Red Hood
Elana K. Arnold

Things I never see in books:

  • Discussions of menstruation
  • Women fending off attackers

Bisou has a solitary and quiet life. Then one night she is attacked in the woods by a wolf.

Everything changes.

Elana K. Arnold excels at writing about women in contemporary society, even when she’s writing about other things.

Every Other Weekend
Abigail Johnson

An alternating perspective novel about two kids whose friendship grows over the course of the weekends they spend with their divorced and separated parents.

Nicely done!

When the Stars Lead to You
Ronni Davis

This is a relationship book that doesn’t follow the usual trajectory. I could have done without the filthy rich protagonist, but enjoyed the complexity of the romance.

The Voting Booth
Brandy Colbert

This continues Brandy Colbert’s streak of darn good YA novels. In this book we spend a single day with two teenagers trying to vote in their first election. It’s not an easy thing to do.

In Oregon, where we vote by mail, this would have been a few sentences, not a novel. I guess we can thank the country’s inefficient voting process for the inspiration. But I’d rather just have people be able to vote with little muss and fuss.

Grownup Fiction

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital
Lorrie Moore

This was one of those slim volumes of prose where I puzzled if it became a national bestseller without people reading it. The writing was good, but I was reminded how navel-gazing fiction for adults comes across. (Not well.)

Young Nonfiction

All in a Drop
Lori Alexander Vivien Mildenberger
Read for Librarian Book Group

A run-of-the-mill man develops a microscope. I especially loved seeing the microscopes.

March Money Report

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

Back in 2018, I thought I was going to start a personal finance blog. You know, with all my free time. It turned out that and starting up Keen Eye took up all of my extra time and I gave up that dream. And it was a dream. I really love writing about money.

And even with my solid job, frugal living, and good savings habits, finances always seemed precarious to me. What if I got cancer? How would that affect my savings rate? Would the astronomical yearly increases for health coverage keep me from meeting my financial goals? All of this went unexamined.

But look! Unemployment! A chance to discuss my finances regularly on this blog!

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be doing a monthly check in about what unemployment is doing to the state of my finances.

One of the first things I did was revamp my budget. I use YNAB for budgeting, and I love it. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s the best way I’ve found that lets me save for long term things and adapt to changing financial circumstances. (#nowmorethanever)

If you want to try YNAB, use this link and both of us get a free month. I’m happy to talk you through the YNAB process, though they have free classes.

My budget got revised into three categories: Fixed Expenses, Cut Back When Cushion is Exhausted, and Full Time Work.

I then pulled every extraneous dollar into my Tax Return category, which I renamed Tax Return/Cushion. This turned out to be a good amount, as I had been saving up for some things that either can’t happen right now or aren’t a thing anymore.

Flying to Arizona twice per year to visit my dad? The April trip is cancelled, and I will apply that to the October trip. I will hopefully use miles for the April 2021 trip. The Reverse Loft Bed I was going to build on my five-year sabbatical? I was let go at four years and two months, so there will be no five-year sabbatical.

My plan is this:

  • All incoming money will go to the Cushion account, which I will use to budget my monthly expenses.
  • When the Cushion account has been depleted, I will draw down my Emergency Fund.
  • If I get to the dire state of my Emergency Fund being depleted, I will cut all expenses to the bone and use my credit cards.
  • If things are incredibly terrible, I will tap my retirement accounts.

I was about six months away from meeting my Emergency Fund goal of having six months worth of basic expenses. It’s disappointing that I won’t be contributing for the foreseeable future. But at least I have an emergency fund. Many Americans do not.

I really don’t want to have to tap into my retirement accounts, because I feel like I’m behind, but if it means the difference between being homeless and working more years until I retire, I will tap them. And thank goodness that there is money available.

So let’s look at my monthly financials:

Income this month: $4602.72

This includes:

  • DHM pay + two weeks of severance: $4524.22
  • Keen Eye Pay: $28.50
  • Cash back rewards from my credit card: $50.00
  • Not included in income because it messes up my averages (and isn’t income anyway) is my tax return for 2019: $1181.00

Expenses this month: $2683.61

This includes:

  • An example of why cats, though I love them, are expensive: $1,721.28 for a surgery, blood work for two cats, and a prescription
  • Me paying more than half of the Joint Account expenses while Matt gets things up and running with the counseling business and the new job at the jail.

Amount of Cushion: $6527.85

Amount of Emergency Fund: $9353.08

So you can see I’m in pretty good shape for this unemployment thing, at least for the first bit of time.

I pulled my expenses for the last 15 months and found the average was $2029.68 with a low of $1214.46 and a high of $3166.38. I will endeavor to keep those expenses closer to the $1200 amount and further from the $3100 amount.

I’ll have a better idea next month what unemployment will bring. And hopefully I will have some increased income from Keen Eye.

Day 14. Where I Finish the Bulk of my Work

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

I QA’d two reports today. Both grammar and number. What that means is that there were two reports (both in Word, one 25 pages, one 19 pages) and I read them over checking that all the numbers used were correct, then read them again to see if all the grammar was correct.

This is a part of my job I’ve liked. Indeed, it is the part of the job I’m focusing on growing into a business during this time of unemployment. It’s the part of the job that inspired me to get a certificate in copyediting.

Still, two Word reports in one day is usually a situation I would try to avoid. But today is the last full day, so I did them both as best I can.

The reason I had to do two reports in one day is that one of my colleagues informed us all last Monday that she wouldn’t be able to write the report that was scheduled to be done on the upcoming Friday. So another colleague got to do the heavy lift of writing a report from scratch (because the assigned report writer had not started, despite theoretically working on it the previous week) and the deadline got moved to the very last full day, when there already was a report due.

I was only slightly irritated with this situation until another coworker complained that he thought it was unfair that the initial report writer wasn’t going to be paid for the last week of work and wasn’t going to get the severance package and didn’t we all agree?

I wrote back that I did not and my irritation moved from slight to complete.

On the one hand, none of this matters because people are dying and as of tomorrow none of these people will be my coworkers, but on the other hand, the gall of the person who dropped the ball completely, made more than a few people’s work life difficult and then got mad that they weren’t paid?

Also today, I had to call the tech people and tell them to cancel all the emails except for four of my colleagues who apparently are continuing with the company in some capacity. I’m a bit annoyed no one has asked me to continue working, as work allows, but also not surprised. The people in charge like to be flattered and I’m not a flatterer.

So here I am, a prickly nearly unemployed employee of a company I’ve been with four four years. I’m looking forward to dragging my work station in, turning in my computer, and starting the next phase of my life.

Day 13. A Sunday Without Too Much

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

I’ve been working my day job and about 10 hours a week on my side job for more than a year now. Sometimes it’s manageable. But if it’s a weekend with too many activities, or a week with too many evening things, it’s hard to fit everything in.

My weekends mostly aren’t relaxing. Do the side job work. Cook. Clean. Hang out with the boyfriend. Hang out with friends or family. There hasn’t been a lot of time to just hang out with me.

But this weekend there was. I slept in today. Got up and fed the cats at 5 and then fell back asleep until eight. It took me a long time to get out of bed and when I did, getting the things done was fine. There was enough time.

I’m pretty good at structuring my days. But I’m not great at letting unstructured time be okay.

But maybe without the day job, things will shake down a little differently.

This is the first Sunday I’ve felt rested and ready to face my week in a very long time.

Day 11. GameStorm as Heard Through a Wall

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

Every March, Boyfriend Matt attends Gamestorm, which is a three-day gaming convention. He goes to play board games, but there are other types of gamers there too.

He’s got a group of friends who attend and they usually make a new friend or two. I don’t see much of him for a few days, he has fun, and that’s all just fine.

GameStorm was cancelled this year, of course. But the guys had all taken time off of work to attend, so they are carrying on regardless. They met up online around 9, and connected their voices via their phones. I’ve been working away at my desk in my bedroom and I can overhear their gaming chatter.

And that’s the reason why I’m glad we’re having this pandemic now. There are so many ways to stay connected. It makes the isolation easier.

Matt’s back gaming, and I’m done working today. I’ve got a hot date with a Redbox DVD. This isn’t much different than non-quarantine Friday nights. Usually Matt is gaming at a friend’s house, and I’m at home with a movie.

Call to Action Via Sign

I enjoy a good homemade sign and the Kenton neighborhood is not immune to the occasional entry.

Here’s one outside an apartment complex.

I wonder if a country-wide medical emergency will be the thing that finally divorces access to healthcare from job status.

My guess is that it won’t due to the fact that political donations are what run our political system. But it should.

Day 9. In which the glories of the full internet are restored.

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

And in which I attend two webinars.

The Century Link arrived sometime after 9:00 am (which turned out to be about 45 minutes before the text telling me he was about to arrive pinged on my phone) and got to work upgrading the internet.

He did the outside thing, and when he came to do the inside thing he found trouble with the phone jack. Apparently, the wiring was correct right up until the jack, but then it was so very wrong that he was surprised we were getting any internet at all.

Things were done, including me moving the dresser beside my bed and frowning at the amount of dust that had gathered, and behold! The internet loaded in a manner that did not cause me to take multiple yoga breaths.

When I ran a speed test on 3/18 our download speed was 5.44 mbps and upload was .75. On 3/20 the download was 22.98 and upload was .75 again. Today: 33.9 and 9.1. Ahhhh.

This afternoon I attended two webinars. One was from Upwork, the platform where I have done a lot of “up”ing and no “work”ing. I learned that I need to just work for not much for the first 5–10 jobs and then can start increasing my rates. So that was good.

My other webinar was one about increasing my freelance business using LinkedIn. It had some good stuff which I will apply.

Peas were planted today, food was made, and those things plus the webinars, didn’t have to get shoved in around being at my office job from 8:00–4:30 (plus commute time).

I’m looking forward to April 1, which is the day I will be fully free of the W-2 job and into the W-9 world.