Oct 19, 2014: Pumpkins and Book Clubs and Spiders, Oh My!

Why is it still HOT?!?! It’s killing me! Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, and it actually has cooled down a bit, but yesterday’s 80 degrees at the pumpkin patch felt more like 90!

We have the greatest little pumpkin patch near our house, and I look forward to going every year. The boys had a good time, though I think we may go back on a cooler day, as we were too hot and sweaty to go look at the animals, ride the little train, etc. But the boys did play in the hay maze and dried-bean pools (Sam wasn’t a fan) and such, and we got our pumpkins, so all was well.

We stayed pretty close to home yesterday because Chris had a game night last night with our friend Mike, and I wasn’t feeling well in the early part of the day. I switched medicines for the migraines I’ve been having, and my blood pressure was super low yesterday, which had me feeling really dizzy and faint in the early part of the day. Feeling much better today, so hopefully the worst of it has passed. (In case you’re wondering why I switched, it was two reasons: (1) the medicine seemed to make my already low blood pressure drop even lower, so I was having a lot of dizziness; and (2) it was packing on the weight at breakneck speed. Thursday I tried to put on a pair of jeans I wore three weeks ago, and I literally couldn’t even button them. Not even close. I can handle a little weight gain, but that’s insane. Hoping the new medicine works but with fewer unpleasant side effects.)

Today we’ve been invited to a friend’s house for dinner, so I’m doing the blog early. Can’t tell you what we’ll be doing Sunday other than going to dinner, because I have no idea! Probably a park of some sort….

On Friday, Theo had a day off school (for a teacher in-service) but Sam didn’t. So, Theo and I had a little “mommy/son date” while Sam was at EI. Theo asked if we could go to the bookstore and “the yummy, yummy Brussels sprouts restaurant.” Sounded good to me, so we headed down to Walnut Creek, browsed the bookstore for a bit and bought a new word-search book for Theo, and then devoured the Brussels sprouts. Theo ordered an adult-sized portion and ate them all. Kid loves his Brussels sprouts! They are yummy, I must admit. They just roast them at this restaurant, but they turn out very tasty—almost as good as Chris’s, but not quite!

Friday night I left the boys with Chris and went out on the town! Okay, not exactly—I just went to a book club meeting. But we had a great time, and before we knew it we had talked for four hours and were shutting down the restaurant! Such a great group of ladies—I look forward to many more book-club meetings (hopefully when I’ve actually read the assigned book!).

Thursday was a big day, too! Theo had a nursery-rhyme pageant at his school—the entire first grade (120 kids) performed various nursery rhymes. Theo chose to be in Little Miss Muffet, so I made him a hat with a giant spider on it, which you’ll see in this week’s pictures. By the way, I asked him why he picked that rhyme, figuring it had something to do with the scary spider, but no—he said he picked it because he has the rhyme on his iPod and thus already knows it. Ever logical, that boy of mine….

Speaking of logic, he’s a problem-solver. We cancelled our produce box when I lost all that work, and Theo was very bummed not to be getting the fresh fruits and veggies anymore. “You need to make more money!” he demanded. Feeling rather irritated about his attitude, I decided it was time for a quick lesson in how earning money works. Here’s the resulting conversation:

Theo: “Well, Mom, you could go work at Safeway.”

Me: “Yes, I could. It’s been a long time since I worked at a grocery store, though. I don’t have much recent experience.”

Theo: “Well, then you could go work at Starbucks!”

Me: “Wouldn’t that be fun? But I don’t know how to make coffee. I’m not sure they’d hire me!”

Theo: “Okay, then how about you go work with Daddy at Genentech?”
Me: “I’ve thought about that, but you know what? I’d never see you guys! I’d be working all day Monday through Friday, and I wouldn’t get to take time off to do stuff with your school, like come to your Nursery Rhyme program tomorrow! I like to work at home so I can spend time with you and Sam.”

Theo: “Okay, then maybe you can earn some money by taking the yard waste out to the curb on garbage day.”

Me: “That’s your job. Are you going to pay me?”

Theo: “Yes. Also, you can make some money raking leaves.”

Me: “And you’re going to pay me?”

Theo: “Yes. On credit. How much do I need to pay you?”

Me: “Oh, I think $1,000 sounds fair….”

Theo: “No, I think more like 50 cents, Mom. Two quarters. That’s enough to get you started, Mom.”

He’s got plans…big plans…for my financial future!

Speaking of which, the news is now out, so I can share a little more about my job situation. I suspect I came across as rather gloom-and-doom last week when I mentioned it, and that’s because I was rather gloom-and-doom. Still am, really. This client that I lost is a tech publisher that I’ve worked for since I started as an in-house editor in 1999. When Random House bought that company and dumped the tech portion, I lost my job and went to work in solid waste (horrible!). But the people from that tech division stayed together and restarted the division under a new owner, and they hired me to do freelance work…which led to me eventually being able to quit solid waste, go back to grad school while working as a full-time freelancer, and eventually meet Chris—and the rest, as they say, is history! Over the past 15 years, this division has been bought and sold several times, but it has always existed, and I have always gotten work from them—so much work that I rarely needed to look outside of them. I did start looking outside of them after they went through a bankruptcy restructuring last year, and for that I’m thankful, as I now have a few other smaller clients. But 80% of my work still came from this tech publisher.

And the people there became more than coworkers—I consider many of them friends. We worked together for 15 years, after all! Rarely face-to-face, but through email and such, and I knew them pretty well. Friends or colleagues, they were great people to work with! They always, always had the editors’ backs, which is terrific. I rarely had negative issues come up, as I think I’m generally fairly easy to get along with, but I did have one author when I was pregnant with Sam who was just awful. Just a mean, nasty person. Truly awful. Being pregnant and also trying to relocate for Chris’s job, I just decided I couldn’t deal with the jerk anymore. I backed out of the book, which I had never done before…and the publisher backed me up 100%. And I never felt as if I had let her down in any way—she remained completely supportive of me and continued to work with me until now. You just don’t find that kind of loyalty everywhere.

So I’m really mourning the loss of this client. Their parent company is a major textbook publisher who has decided to close down all their non-essential divisions. All of the in-house staff (including the publisher) got fired (or would it be laid off? They got severance packages, I’m told), and all of the freelancers were told to stop work. The division is for sale, so there’s the possibility that it will rise from the ashes…but in all of the many sales it’s been through before, they’ve never axed the in-house staff. So I don’t think that bodes too well. And even if it is sold, because I won’t know anyone at the new owner, there’s no guarantee that I’d be hired back on as a freelancer. The future is definitely uncertain.

But what I feel most bad about is the loss of jobs for these excellent people I’ve worked with for years. I’m lucky—I do have some other clients, though they make up a small fraction of my work. And Chris has a steady, good job. Some of these people who lost their jobs aren’t that lucky, and I feel awful for them! I’m hoping we can all help each other out and provide references and contacts for more work.

Anyway, that’s why I’m so disappointed about this job issue. The money is a problem—yes. It will be very tight for us. But more than that, I was working with a great group of people, and I will miss them!

I did get a brief reprieve because I happen to be working on a series of books that the parent company wants to continue, as they’ll look attractive to a buyer. So I’ll be working on those for the next four weeks or so, continuing to earn some money. And I get paid for my teaching in December, so that will help with Christmas. Looks like around the New Year is when things will start to get really tight for us. But we’re stockpiling what I earn now to help during the transition, so at least there’s that.

Honestly, the financial parts that most bug me are (1) Sam’s preschool and (2) travel. We still don’t know where Sam will go to preschool, but I’m concerned that our limited finances will limit his opportunities. And as for travel, it’s one thing we all really enjoy doing together—we so look forward to our trips! We’re hoping that by tightening up in all other areas, we can still afford to do some modest traveling next year. But we’ll see….

One amusing thing to come of all of this: I’ve been contacting my other clients to look for work, and one of them is the publisher I’ve written several books for. I asked them if they needed any authors right now, and as it turns out they needed someone to write a book on Valium addiction. I find this amusing for two reasons: (1) I could probably use some Valium right about now, with all of this job stress! (2) Chris works for the company that created Valium. 🙂 Small world, eh?

All right, I’m going to wrap this up now. Have a good week, all!

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