Tuesday, August 23, 2016

She Works Hard for the Money



Loving this old song, which is now stuck in my head!

Before moving on, I've been wanting to write a final "catch up" post covering some of the work related challenges I've faced in my aging journey during the past couple of years.  When I moved to the coast at the end of 2013- only about 25 miles away - my personal and professional network all but evaporated. 

I thought I might get established first and work a "real job" as a part time receptionist at a nearby senior community.  I scoured Craigslist and the other job sites for positions of this nature.  I got a few call backs, but generally these jobs had really wacky schedules which did not appeal to this old girl who needs her home time and beauty rest in a big way!  Routine matters as we get older!

Around January of 2014, I applied to work at an online startup relating to senior housing as admin support.  We spoke on the phone but he hired someone else.   In March, he contacted me again for another role he was looking to fill.  This role he called "Munk" (Chip - munk, get it?) for his senior housing ratings and review website ChipperList.  My role was to visit, tour and review the major senior housing communities in San Diego that he designated.  I was an independent contractor, and could set my own schedule and to a great extent, design my own job.

Since I had recent experience in senior services hrough family, volunteer and paid positions, this was a dream job for me!  The founder, Chip was super smart - a Millennial software engineer.  It was a pleasure to connect with another advocate for quality senior care and transparency to the consumer!

I worked very hard for him, touring, reviewing, researching and then developing what I called my "community outreach" role - basically promoting the website to consumers and senior services professionals.  I also blogged and wrote a monthly newsletter for him.  Great gig!

Chip ran into cash flow issues at the end of 2014 - his business model is unique and ahead of its time.  Senior housing is dominated by Corporate America and we were competing with "placement agencies" who function like Realtors - free to the customer, but big commission paid by the senior community to the placement company "senior advisor".  So in effect, the "advisers" are working hand-in-hand with the communities, and not necessarily representing the best interest of the senior housing consumer.  Chip's revenue model was similar to the YELP.

After some other efforts to reinvent the business and find investors, Chip put it on hold.  I was heartbroken and so disappointed.  I don't think I've ever grieved for leaving a job the way I grieved for this one going away.  Working with ChipperList was more than a gig, it was a meaningful cause. 

Late in 2014 I had responded to a Craigslist post from a local artist, Lori Wylie Richardson, who needed some filing done.  In 2015 my role soon expanded into catching up her bookkeeping on QuickBooks.  I am not a bookkeeper, but my decades of admin skills and excellent paperwork organizing abilities pay off very well with bookkeeping, as long as I can turn it all over to an actual accountant!  Lori's business finances came a long way during the months we worked together, before she moved her home and her studio into downtown San Diego.  In Googling her to get her website link for this post, I see she now has a gallery

In 2015 I helped a dear friend with organizing her apartment and her paperwork for her taxes.  Later, I started organizing paperwork for a local couple - the husband was very ill and the wife was constantly overwhelmed with her role as his primary caregiver. 

In early 2016 I responded to a Craigslist ad for a senior companion.  The very nice woman who posted the ad lives in a senior community right down the street from me!  We are a great match and I am still working with both of these two local organizing clients, focusing on daily money management - I plan to join this association in 2017.

Working hard for the money seems to change very little as we age!  I've always added value to whatever job I've had, or to my many clients' lives.   My hair is a little less big than Donna Summer's (and mine) was back in 1983 but I'm still kicking - though not as high!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Going coastal and sometimes postal...2014

The move from inland to the coast at the end of 2013 was all the more stressful due to a brief and failed romantic involvement with "a friend" of almost four years.  He was the son of one of my senior companion clients - a lovely upbeat and active woman, whom I met when she was 99 and I was 61. 

Call me crazy for not seeing that one coming.  I was so distracted and overwhelmed with my downsizing, home sale and moving I was not thinking clearly.  Romance at 64 and 76, our respective ages at the time, should be past the point of such drama.  It should have been all I needed to know when he told me that he had not been in a romantic relationship in 25 years.  Being solo is a respectable lifestyle choice, but you can't have it both ways. I too have had very little to do with romance in over a decade, by choice.  This latest debacle further convinced me that I'm just not good at it - apparently I pick the wrong guys and I don't seem to meet their expectations either.  At this age, IMHO we have too much baggage and we are set in our ways.  Some would disagree, and anything is possible if both partners make a huge effort to get through the inevitable conflicts and obstacles, but that's where "possible" devolves into quite a bit of risk.

After some repairs and a speedy cosmetic renovation in my 1000 SF condo, I got somewhat unpacked and settled.  Without even taking a breather, I then segued into helping the "gentleman friend" clean out, stage, list and sell his mother's home, 20 miles inland.  Her home was sold and closed escrow right around Thanksgiving 2013, which he and I enjoyed together with his now 102 year old mom and their family. A few weeks later, I was unceremoniously dumped by said "gentleman friend" the day before my birthday and thus uninvited for celebrating the holidays with him and his family.  Christmas has meant less and less to me through the years, and this year, I could not wait for the holidays to be over so we could start the New Year 2014.

I was in a new environment, just far enough that I had to reestablish all my connections - where to get gas, get my hair cut, change doctor and dentist, where to run errands, etc.  I met a few new women friends - always my saving grace - and they gave me a warm welcome.

I learned my new neighborhood by getting lost, kind of symbolic of life in general.  I'd go into a strip mall for an errand, and get lost on the way out, since I wasn't familiar with all the streets and how to end up where I wanted to go!  I learned my way to my favorite beaches to walk and look at the waves.  I signed up for some classes at the local community college, joined a gym and made some inquiries into a couple of organizations and volunteer projects of interest.  That's the advice they give to seniors, yes?  Stay busy?  Works for me. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Second half 2013 - oy

This blog went silent for a very long time as I felt OBE - overtaken by events in my life.  As with most writers, the muse often leaves the building.  And I am not the best at self-discipline, or should I say I use what self-discipline I have in other areas.  My practical WASP nature, work first, hobbies (like my writing) later and sometimes never.

Short version, I listed and sold the house I'd shared with my Dad, where I'd lived for 11 years.  I'd lived in that general area since 1996.  I had lots of furnishings to downsize and spent loads of time trying to sell them.  I tried to buy a manufactured home close to the beach, but it needed so much work, I backed out of the deal.  I moved from North Inland San Diego county to North Coastal San Diego, and while the blog has been dark, I've crafted a new life for myself.  I only moved 30 miles, but it was a pretty big change for this old girl.


Monday, February 20, 2012

LOL - Living on Less

I've spent a bunch of time in the last few days looking over my due bills and trying to figure out where I can cut down.  I hesitate to even write about this since I am so blessed - compared to so many people, I have so much to be grateful for.  I keep hearing stories of people who have lost so much over the past few years of this damn recession and I am so grateful that it has not been as harsh on me.

I saw a few minutes of a 60-Minutes segment last night and the subject was long term unemployment and its effect on a person's self-esteem.  It is sad but true that our purchasing power often dictates our self worth in our culture, but that is fodder for another post.

At 62, after a decade of one upheaval after another in my life, I do have my cash flow challenges to be sure.  I am becoming semi-obsessed with cutting costs. I'm of Scottish descent, a culture known for our "thriftiness".  This always seemed lame to me in better days, although never having been a big earner, I was not able to really afford a "lifestyle" similar to some of my Baby Boomer compadres.  I always managed to live within my means, mostly, and my Dad in years gone by, would help me out with major unexpected stuff like car repairs.  So I guess considering we Baby Boomers are the big spenders, I guess I do have that "thrifty" trait.  It's all relative, as my Dad used to say.

It is easy to find articles and blog posts on shopping at the dollar stores or thrift stores, both of which have been my habit for years.  I'm a lifelong thrift shopper - I used to go with my Mom and buy doll clothes, that's how little I was when I first started!  All through the years, I've been a collector of various things, and in every city I've lived I find thrift shopping very entertaining and very productive!  People give things away for many reasons and there are treasures to be had at a fraction of retail in all categories.

A friend and I have three categories of shopping - TS (thrift shop), GS (garage sale) and DS (dollar store).  I have not been to the mall in years.  But for my downwardly mobile semi-retirement life, I guess it doesn't matter.  I shared with a twenty-something acquaintance that I used to think older people looked so bad - bad clothes, bad hair, old cars - now I get it!  They're (we're) trying to get off the treadmill and hang on to what money we have.  So our store-bought image goes out the window, instead of the money to maintain it.

Consolidating errands to save gas is another no brainer.  My car is nine years old, and with the ever rising cost of gas, a new car with better gas mileage has great appeal.  But I don't want a payment and higher insurance costs, so I just live with the dorky old Accord.   I was thinking of eliminating the collision coverage but I better not go crazy with this thrifty thing.  It only has 51K miles on it!

For years, I've cut fun and entertainment to the bone - I rarely drive all over the county the way I used to, attending various events.  I do miss that.  My world has definitely gotten smaller and more virtual.  Perhaps that is age, perhaps it is a cultural trend.

I am on COBRA and medical insurance is one of my biggest monthly expenses.  I recently had the chance to lower my coverage level and I took the risk to do so.  It's not a big difference in routine coverage, but if I need to go to the hospital, I pay big time. I guess this kind of cost sharing is a good business model to encourage good health habits.  So I'm on board with Kaiser's hope that I stay out of the hospital.

Last year I 86'd my landline - I miss having fax capability but otherwise, I'm not a big phone person and I don't miss it.  I also left Verizon in favor of a no-contract provider.  Just this past weekend, I ordered a $20 CDMA no-contract phone so I could go with a lower service plan than they allow for my smartphone.  Right now, I'm in between clients, at home alot, and really don't need the unlimited everything on the higher service plan.

I stopped getting DVDs from Netflix and just get the minimum instant play subscription.  I do think they were cold to their loyal customers in raising their rates for DVDs, but they are in business to make money not cater to customers like me who have TVs from 1999 and a VCR/DVD player from 2006.  Would love to upgrade the TVs and get a new computer and printer, but while everything is still working fine, it stays, that's my rule lately.

I lowered the speed of my cable modem Internet connection, and cancelled my extended TV cable channels.   I have received two great gifts recently to help me with some of these video cutbacks - my new Kindle Fire is great for watching stuff on the very small screen! It's funny to have my cat on my lap when I'm watching something on the KF, for him, it's a perfect size screen!  I also have found some of my news shows that I miss on CNN on CNN radio which I get on the Kindle. The other wonderful gift is a Roku gadget that connects me to Netfilx instant play and other free and pay channels, on my ancient TV thru my wireless Internet connection. 

Again this year, I'm using TurboTax and hoping for the best.  I'm not smart enough to cook the books, if I make an honest mistake, the IRS can write me a letter.  This is my fourth year using TurboTax.  I'd much prefer to use a tax preparer, but the cost savings doing it myself is substantial, like $50 compared to $250 or more.  And at my (shockingly low) level of income, I figure I have the time to spend to DIY.

And then there's home repairs, and this subject causes me a ton of angst.  I have a long list of deferred maintenance on this old house, built in 1968, including needing a new roof.  Not making the repairs is only a temporary fix.  I've felt so stagnant here in this house - I've lived here ten years in March - longer than I've lived anywhere not counting my childhood.  The housing market is so anemic - I'm not underwater - yet - but making big financial decisions like buying and selling real estate is not my forte - I do better with the little daily purchasing decisions.

At least I have the little decisions somewhat under control in my world.  I am no math genius but I do get that cutting spending is only a tiny drop in the bucket, all things considered.  It really is about earning more, not just spending less.  I wish I got this message when I was 25 - I'm sure I was told, but I didn't "get it".  I had no concept of being prepared for retirement, until I was in my 50's and took care of my Dad, who was well prepared.   I've reflected on my options and my talents for a life reinvention at 62 - I note that most of what I'm good at doesn't pay...traditional "woman things". I've made my peace that being of service is my contribution in this life, but to date, the pay has not been good and the cost of living keeps going up!  So it is a struggle not only to keep the bank account balanced, but to keep my head and heart from plunging into despair.   Cutting monthly bills is easier than re-tooling my self-worth in a world gone mad.



Sunday, January 01, 2012

What are you doing on New Year's ...

New Year's eve is just a memory, and it for me was as blah as New Year's day is turning out to be.  It is a fabulous day here, 80+ degrees, clear and sunny, but I have not been out.  I have been trying to relax a little, and not bury myself in the usual chores and desk work that fill my days "off".  I am trying to stay off my feet, supposedly I have a slight fracture in my right foot, which has been bothering me for months.  Staying off my feet is a simple plan, but like many good intentions, not so easy to actually do.  The situation has not been readily (or definitely even yet) diagnosed, and I am hoping this lovely boot they sent me home with will do its job.

So it is just a regular Sunday for me I guess, maybe a slower than regular day.   I continue to feel uninspired, perhaps a little more so today, after reading and watching all the motivational articles and videos on New Year New You and Getting it Together and all that good stuff which I am always attracted to, yet lately it all just seems so overwhelming.  I try to counter the inevitable entropy of life - since it is the nature of things to so readily fall apart, I try to improve myself in as many ways as I can, just to stay on an even keel.

I have been remiss in taking time for myself in recent years, my spiritual and self development path has disappeared from my life.  I haven't done any writing in ages.  I seem to just chase cash flow in all its convoluted and time consuming forms.  Keeping the wolf away from the door could be considered a form of self care, but I am wearing down. I have not really been a person to define myself through my work through the years, so I am spending most of my energy on a portion of my life that is not all that gratifying.  Somewhat gratifying at times, but not what I would consider a calling or life purpose, not in present form.

The subject of underemployment crossed my mind this morning, I am very grateful to be working at all in this economy, yet the stress of the past few years has not been lost on me either.  Underemployment has dampened my enthusiasm for making plans and goals for the future, to say the least.  And at my age, staging a life reinvention is not so easy either.  Years gone by, I could make changes very easily, now I feel the quicksand of inertia under my feet. 

Not surprising I am having pain in my foot - Louise Hay in Heal Your Body says foot problems are an indication of "fear of the future and of not stepping forward in life".   I like her Beginnings and Endings post for the new year, but I am feeling lazy about setting any resolutions and directions.  I do have a mental list, but have not gone so far as to put it on paper or call the list "resolutions".  I feel sometimes as a woman I knew years ago once said, that she one day just walked out the door literally on her old life.  I fantasize about doing that, move to a new city (country?) starting over with a couple of suitcases and boxes as I've done many times years gone by.  But I am not young anymore, not sure how that would "fit" into my sixth decade of wandering around LOST on this planet.  I'm hooked on the creature comforts, and some of the trappings of midlife.

Well it is time to tackle some chores with what is left of this day.  Perhaps I will post more often in this old journal blog.  Used to do Morning Pages - maybe I should make a big list of things I used to do and call that list New Year's resolutions...

another year, another lame Christmas letter, another cat picture...

“Multitask, multitask, busy every day - Oh what fun it is to try to have a holiday!” - Well, you get the idea.  It’s an “Attention Deficit” holiday for me – not a lot of jingle in my bell.  This year my life has been about as stable as the stock market.  I’ve barely done a traditional holiday thing – I’m just distracted.   I put up a kitschy red tinsel peace symbol on my front door and sent a couple of cards, but for me, this holiday is about charitable donations not “stuff”.   I’ve enjoyed receiving some holiday cards and letters – I’ve read some fun stories, and some sad stories.  We all have our times of joy and sorrow to be sure.

Each year we are more deeply immersed in technology, which connects and isolates us.  I log too many hours of screen time, mea culpa.  I troll Craigslist and many job sites for work, read tons of news, and of course shop.  I am addicted to Redfin studying local real estate.  I have a website, two FaceBook pages, LinkedIn, a blog, plus the usual PC software, my calendar, Quicken, QuickBooks and smart phone.  Argh.   I am the proud owner of a Kindle Fire, an early birthday gift which has been a lot of fun.  And fun I need!

I’m self employed again, after having two receptionist jobs this year – one at a retirement facility and one at a skilled nursing facility.  I felt that I had better become my own boss again, or risk being wheeled in there myself on a gurney.  I turn 62 this year and I am very aware of the impact of constant stress on health.  I’m a hard worker, but I have no interest in drama or dysfunction - I want a peaceful life!

I applied for early “retirement” Social Security.  Not that I’m actually retiring, but my work as a freelance personal assistant is part time so I can maintain a healthy life balance.  The only benefit of self employment is that, yes, I can work in my pajamas with a cat on my lap!  It is surprisingly challenging work – my clients by nature are not good at the things I do.  If they were, they wouldn’t NEED me!  So there is plenty of opportunity for MY self development too - in terms of patience and communication skills. I am working now with three clients who need some type of office support, but I’ve also returned to senior companion care.  I enjoy working for seniors, and I have made several lasting friendships.  Friends becoming clients and clients becoming friends is another benefit! 

I’m volunteering as a driver with our local Rides & Smiles program and as a receptionist at a senior center, both as networking opportunities and community service.  I have joined a local political group also.  I joined a new gym about three minutes from home, and have actually been going!

My home life continues to be very quiet.  I have three BFF cats, all of whom are spoiled and demanding in their own way. No such thing as a low maintenance pet – that’s an oxymoron!  Have not done a thing to my house, it has been turning back in to the fixer that it was when we bought it in 2002.  I’ve held off moving due to concerns about housing prices and employment.  I continue to feel restless and ready for a change in many ways, but the crystal ball remains a bit hazy as my Dad used to say.   I have lived in this house for almost ten years.  For me, that is a long time.  So I’ve been practicing gratefulness for my comfortable, if not terribly exciting life, and counting my blessings and taking one day at a time.
 
 “Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are only days away from the winter solstice, which celebrates the return of the light, and the promise that the days will once again grow long and warm. But until that time, perhaps our energy would be best spent aligning with nature, and like the trees, pulling our energy deep into our roots, in preparation for another year of growth.”


Monday, December 20, 2010

Fast away the old year passes

I've been procrastinating and not very inspired this year about composing any sort of Christmas greetings - preoccupied with work and looking for work.  "Looking for work is the new work" as the cynical saying goes and this rings true for me.   This article in AARP really hit home - we can easily forget that our personal situations are often experienced in the context of the circumstances of the larger world.  I think "perspective" would be the word I'm looking for.

This past year I've had several very nice senior clients through home care agencies, and a very hectic part time position as concierge in a local retirement facility.  I also do freelance administrative work from my home office, and I've served several clients.  I am grateful for all of these people, and the income derived from my various efforts.  The downside is trying to keep it all together and have some kind of routine and personal life while juggling all these commitments.  This aspect needs some work in 2011!

Despite the difficult job market, I have notified my retirement facility employer that after January 2nd I would not be available for the five evenings a week "short shift" that I've been working since July.  I would like to continue with them as "relief" concierge and work maybe once a week or as needed on call.  Coincidentally, I haven't exercised nearly enough since I started working there.  I now work at the front desk in my "exercise window" which is not good for this old gal.  I'm not eating right either, and this year I've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, which to me is clearly a lifestyle issue.  My 61st birthday is coming up later this week, and I am thankful to one of my clients who has given me some sage advice that our health is our greatest wealth - so I must get off the "hamster wheel" and pay more attention to wellness.  I plan to continue freelancing and working for home care agency clients when suitable clients come my way. 

Ironically my health insurance premium, which has gone up in November to $602 per month has been my biggest motivator to be on the hamster wheel to begin with.   So I am trying to sort through my conflicting priorities of income, cash flow and good health and sanity!  This is the dilemma we are all faced with for sure, but as I get older and try to deal with all these issues in the Great Recession, it seems to be more perplexing. 

I have one "outside the box" project that I've been working on for several months - I'm looking into buying a low priced "distress" condo in Oceanside.  It is the only coastal area I can afford to consider.  I am undecided if I will use it as a rental, or move into it and use my existing home as a rental.  I'm no math genius and investment property requires a good amount of analysis.  I have been doing my research online, and have seen a number of units over the past few months.  Whether or not I can swing it and replace my cash flow from a job with rental income remains to be seen.  But rents are high here, and although the stock market is doing well now, the future is unknown.   At least I can relate to real estate, I can drive by it, make repairs etc.   Having all my retirement funds invested in stocks, bonds etc. is intangible and also not my core competency, although improving my investing skills is also on my list for 2011.

When I free up some personal time I must deal with some needed home repairs including a new roof on my house and several smaller projects.  This has never been my favorite pastime, but if I'm going to get into investment property, I need to get back into the groove with these projects.  I've done a number of fixer type projects through the years, including this house when Dad and I first bought it in 2002.  I guess I've just been burned out on home projects.  I've been watching HGTV and getting more ambitious!

My three little adopted cats are fine, sort of. They are all "psycho" in their own special ways.  They're relatively young - 2, 3 and 4, so they have a lot of energy.  They are my little fur family, and it is nice to be greeted when I get home and nice to snuggle with them and feel them purr.  Makes all the extra work worth it!  I had a senior client who lived alone and she said to me that sometimes she didn't speak to anyone all day -- I said "get a pet!"  They are wonderful companions despite the extra work and expense, and as another client said about my three, I'd be lost without them.

My holiday will be a little quiet and a little busy.  I asked to be scheduled to work at the retirement facility, it's time and a half plus a free dinner on Christmas Day.  I like the residents very much and it is nice to share the holiday with them.  I was expecting a visitor this week to help celebrate my birthday but we're in a rainy pattern and he's been sick so we are rescheduling.  I think I will manage to fill my time!  I am usually ecstatic when I find myself with a free day!

I must get back to some non holiday and non creative pursuits.  I have a load of bookkeeping to catch up with on Quicken and QuickBooks, plus all the usual chores, errands and desk work.

Oh did I mention wanting to spend more time writing in 2011?  Seems that has been on my New Year's Resolution list forever.  This just may be the year!  Goodbye hamster wheel - hello semi retirement and passive income!  A girl can hope and pray for the best for us all through the holidays and in the New Year. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vector splatter v. my elusive one thing

I've always been a generalist, often adventurous, especially in my younger days.  I have tried many things over the course of my first 60 years on planet Earth - various kinds of educational programs, work and alternative lifestyles.   Since computers and technology have taken over our lives (what, 15 years maybe?) my multitasked attention deficit personality has been kicked into high gear.  Lately, I feel as if I am multitasking to the point of not getting anything done.  I guess the reality is that I get things done in such small fragments on various projects, it takes forever to have any sense of accomplishment on anything.  I've never been very patient with projects that are pending for many months or even years, although I admit I have several of those on my own list right now.

I guess age is a factor, as a friend said, "As we age, we get more busy, but with less interesting activities".  I agree - just errands, chores and life maintenance seem to take up way more of my time than they used to.  Or as another friend put it, "I don't get as much done in a day".  

I'm also conflicted on my life purpose - my dharma, my "kuleana" (Hawaiian term) - I've thought for many years that mine was to live a life of service.  As I look back, if I had to put the things I've done in a broad category, service to others would be it.  As I look ahead, and try to find a common thread among all my interests and talents, service of some sort also comes to mind.

While this is not a bad thing by any means, my personal bottom line tells me that I am not exactly prospering from this philosophy lately.  Surely this feeling is shared by many many souls in this lingering economic recession.  Since I have little discretionary income for a "real life" I spend probably too much time online.  I have been making a little study lately on some friends - virtual or IRL - and how *they* spend their time, how they dedicate their lives to a purpose.

I've concluded that people who are self centered do better, and that they concentrate on one thing basically.  Not that they can't walk across the room and chew gum, but they aren't generalists.  They are specialists.  And they concentrate on what *they* are doing, first and foremost, not what others' needs are.  They charge high rates for their services because they feel they are worth it.  (I've been discounting mine, due to temporary insanity I guess.)   It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm a cat person.  I need to get over whatever erroneous messages about money and work that still float around in my value system and refocus my professional efforts to my one -- profitable -- thing.  And that would be asap, before I get even less done in a day.

I saw a $4 refrigerator magnet that I didn't buy, but it magnetically stuck in my mind for free - "If you settle for less than you're worth -- you'll get even less than you settle for."  Hmmm.  I can sure buy into this intellectually and see the dynamic in my own life.

So how to push past this latest identity crisis and rebrand myself as a power player in this complicated Universe, not an underemployed part timer and freelancer helping everybody out with life's dreary responsibilities while they go out and live a life I can't afford.  Wearing too many hats lately, need to let the wind blow through my hair and clear my brain on this subject.