Project: Furlough – Complete!

Today is my last official Furlough day and what started as an exercise to save some money, make the most of my time and earn more to make up for lost wages was a quite successful project.

I began this project (unwillingly) in February when my full-time employer redefined “full-time” as “32 hours a week” since I was simply too efficient with my time. What was an infuriating change has probably been the best thing to happen to me this year.

This change took me from the view that things were happening “to me” to a place of accepting responsibility and control.

I started out with the most immediate ways I could make up that lost income: saving money. I changed my car insurance and trash service, then cut back on running my air conditioner and ate from home more often.

I wasn’t really feeling deprived but I can’t cut back further in a lot of areas. Besides, it’s just not that rewarding to exclaim “I worked in the dark scratching out my 47 page budget on used envelopes while sleeping on a blanket made from fuzz out of the dryer lint trap! Yay!”

No thank you.

So after my burst of savings, inspired by Ramit’s I Will Teach You to be Rich Book, I moved into a new area: earning more.

But first, I went on vacation. I talked to a lot of people before going and one of them really explained well that there is never a “perfect” time. Fewer hours may mean less income but if I had the money saved (I did) and a good Emergency Fund (I do) then I should go enjoy myself. And I did.

Throughout that time I was taking Ramit’s Earn 1K course and learni how I could turn skills into cold, hard, cash. But not be paid pennies.

I made all the mistakes, even the ones they warned me about. I’m nothing if not stubborn! But I stuck with the program and began working on the right path. Free work in a field where I can bring value. Using referrals to secure a paying client. Doing great work and getting more responsibilities. And now going full time.

Because tomorrow is my last day at the full time desk job (and I’m working from home today) it’s my last official furlough day.

**

Today I wanted to write about perspectives after my break from work on Monday when I went for a drive. I was walking around taking pictures at my favorite chapel and loving the mild weather, the huge trees, running away from the sprinklers…

In photography, teachers are fond of saying “the shot may be behind you” as a reminder to take in your surroundings. I was walking around, thinking I was good when something caught my eye. Something fluttering on the ground.

Can you see it? I barely could so I decided to change my stance. Instead of standing and looking down I got down on my knees, leaning forward on my elbows.

Still couldn’t see this elusive little blue bug.

It would have been easy to get up, walk away and squash other bugs in the process. But I knew I had the right perspective. Now I needed patience.

I’m not great at patience.

It wasn’t just sitting there, getting my jeans wet and looking like a fool. I was ready. The camera was focused and raised, I was scanning the grass and making adjustments to the camera settings.

There we go. That’s the little blue blur that I could see but couldn’t really see until I made changes.

I spent a little more of my time outside lying in the grass, relaxing, looking around me for things I might be missing. I highly recommend it.

Working at Home

There was an interesting discussion amongst friends recently about remote workers, the benefits and the drawbacks.  Interesting enough most of the time we have a skewed perspective. As a worker. As a business owner. As an introvert. An extrovert.

But don’t look at me, I don’t have answers, just my own limited experience.

It occurs to me each morning when I walk out the front door to see my lovely porch that in a few hours I’ll be in a stuffy building, wishing I was outside. But when I come home I go right back inside. Not today! It’s Wednesday which means I’m on furlough and making up my own schedule based on freelance and volunteer commitments. So after a doctor’s appointment and before coffee, I took up residence on my porch swing to write, read and make snarky observations about my neighbors.

What I learned:

The dogs do not like it when I’m away from them so the front door remained open (screen shut) so Jackson could watch me. And he did. He sat there, occasionally whining, for hours. Watching. Good dog!

Wilson is more portable so he came with me, tied the leash to the base of the swing and let him poke around.

The porch is super comfortable. Even more so that I brought out my blanket to keep my clothes clean.  Wilson loves the set up out here and he’s comfortable on the rugs or atop a couple of pillows.  The gentle rocking motion of the swing is a refreshing change from the office chair. It reminds me of the hours I’ve spent with my grandpa in this swing on his front porch, just watching the cars go by.

Trying to balance a dog, a camera and a laptop means something is going to fall. Luckily the laptop is sturdy.

My neighbor has horrible taste in music. And appears to be unemployed. That’s a terrible combination. I fear his daily task of “cleaning the garage” is a ruse.

I hate bugs.

My laptop screen is really dirty.

Eventually I moved to the ground (yes, I sat on the ground, outside, to work today. And I loved it.) where I didn’t have to balance my laptop, could prop open my book and still keep an eye on my cell phone. Wilson got control of the swing.

Lucky for Wilson he’s really, really cute. Because he kept interrupting my work by barking at the mailman. Walkers. Falling leaves.

I have slapped myself more times today trying to kill flies than I would prefer.

*

So that’s my morning, sitting outside/lying on the ground, working from “home” – personally work is much less about where the work is done than what work is done. I strive to become a trusted member of a team so that no one cares if I’m working in rented office space, a loft downtown, in the park or while traveling.

Beautiful Furlough Day

Whew, today was exceptionally busy day. I’ve got 4 articles to write for the newspaper, baking to do, books to read, and photos to edit. This morning I drove to Placerville to pick some produce:

and ended up with 10 pounds of blackberries, Marion berries and Ollalie berries. Just look at these ripe berries:

They’re incredibly juicy, fresh and sweet. Now I need to decide what to bake for the holiday weekend!

Furlough Surprise

Sometimes it does pay to have time off even when it’s unwanted.  Today I was minding most of my own business when a door to door sales person made me an offer I could refuse: free carpet cleaning.

As I explained to him, I don’t hate cleaning or particularly love it.  I clean because the outcome is desirable. Besides the joy of watching this guy clean my carpet for an hour, I had so much fun listening to him go through the sales pitch and identifying the techniques  (knowing from the beginning I wouldn’t be buying).  There was the initial set up, looking at my current vacuum which was the same brand but much, much older. Then the product descriptions with words like “hypoallergenic” and “static cling.” He used the word “investment” quite often. As the carpet got cleaner the hypothetical questions started “if you could keep this hair and dirt out of your carpets… would you?”

My answer “as you can tell I don’t live in squalor, clean is usually clean enough.” It was fun to listen to “the pitch” having been on the other side many times.   They offer a free service – clean one room’s carpet – and I get an hour long live commercial on why my vacuum is archaic.  Of course it all comes down to price. And the price is HIGH. Once I was given the initial sales sheet with the warning “don’t freak out” the sales person began to work harder. He asked which model I would be interested in and began giving me discounts. Military discounts. Summer discounts. I like your house discounts.

I made it very clear that I don’t finance depreciating assets, especially a vacuum that would, for all intensive purposes be an upgrade to a machine I own that works just fine. And I don’t have $2,000 lying around.

A few things made the experience palatable: he wasn’t pushy, I had an abundance of free time, and my carpet smells really good.

In the end I did NOT buy the multi-thousand dollar vacuum that promised to clean, shampoo, blow up air mattress, paint, dust and do everything but my laundry.

Things that didn’t make me want to buy from this guy: he tells me about living with a former drug dealer, moving in there after skipping out on his ‘crazy’ girlfriend and being ‘the best’ salesperson at the company. And I don’t care how much you think it helps to share about your life, never tell a potential client that you often forget to wear deodorant when you go out on sales calls.

If you’re in sales please take note. I want to think you’re a good person, a smart person, someone who makes wise decisions like working for the best company. Not the kid who dropped out of school, lives in the worst part of town, has a superiority complex and doesn’t wear deodorant.

Furloughs & Smoothies

I’ve discovered that one of the reasons I’m less efficient with my time on furlough days is that I have so much more of it. Chores that I could complete after work on a normal day somehow stretch to fill the entire day. Today, a test to break my day into chunks and set limits so I can be more effective.

But first, a smoothie.

I have a weekly dance class at 9:30 and I’m loathe to go without breakfast as I’m likely to fall on my face during a turn. I can tell the days I don’t have enough protein because about 15 minutes in I can’t kick, my feet move slower and my arms don’t want to extend.

This morning I started with plain yogurt.

Added a half cup of cherries pitted and sliced yesterday, frozen overnight

Then a half cup of frozen while fresh pineapple since I can’t eat the entire container before it goes bad.  Top that off with a cup of strawberries, again washed, prepared and sliced yesterday and frozen overnight. Here’s the before:

I added about a half cup of milk to make it blend easier and here’s the after:

It’s pretty thick but can definitely be sucked up in that straw. Very light and fruity. Now I just need some peanut butter on crackers before class starts and I’ll be all set.  As you can see in the blender there’s a lot left over. When I buy coffee at my favorite place I try to remember to save the cups and lids (wash them of course) for times like these.

By tomorrow the cantelope I bought should be ripe and I’ll slice that up, cube it and freeze for smoothies.

Furlough Lessons

Last week I learned an important lesson in furloughing – get stuff done! Instead I reasoned that since I’d be working all weekend I could relax a little, didn’t really need to work on my projects and could in fact lie around reading books and playing with puppies.

Wrong.

Not only was I rushed beyond the limits of my fragile sanity but just one event had the potential to throw everything off. Friday that event was a group lunch. A required group lunch. Which left me no time to run to the printer during my lunch hour. Doh! Friday after work I managed to run to the printer, take home my work, pack for the weekend, change for the gym, workout, shower and then leave town. It was entirely more exhausting than it had to be.

This week went a little differently because I had several time benchmarks. They were:

8:10a Doctor appointment

9:30a Dance Class

11:10a Brunch with Friend

between 12 and 4p Visit another friend at work

4:30p Library Event

With that in mind I added in a half dozen errands based on where I needed to drive. I was able to pick up vegetables at the co-op, shop for books in downtown Sacramento, pick up presents for an upcoming baby shower and buy cookies for my Grandpa (who has probably never used a computer lest read my blog).

I was back home by 3:30 to get ready for our Annual Board Meeting at the Library which was a blast!  While this weekend isn’t as busy as all my travel and work like last weekend I am really glad to have a jump start on the week. There’s food in the fridge, gifts to wrap, books to read and cookies to deliver.

Furlough Switcharoo

While I’m against this furlough schedule with every fiber of my being, it does have some advantages. For example, Sunday night when Jackson went to the emergency vet and couldn’t sleep I took off Monday when I was operating on no sleep and waiting to file the Animal Control report.  Which meant I had to work today and I’ve become used to a little break in my week.

I was supposed to show you my new curtains, sewn by Mom this last weekend but alas, I didn’t write anything, take any pictures or even think about it until way too late in my day to be coherent.

Instead this afternoon I visited the police station, bought groceries, attended a board meeting at the Library, watched Jackson try to chew a bone without using his paws, read a lot of freelancing material, and played with the pups.  Earlier today I finished two new profiles on a project I like to call “Every Car has a Story,” submitted a press release for the paper and edited some writing for a friend.

It’s been a busy day.  So tomorrow, curtain pictures and Friday a fun guest post for you. For now: sleep.