Adventures in Self Employment

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Gentle Reader,

I have been neglecting the blog.  I am deeply sorry.  I know, you turn to Wordie every day seeking high quality advice and opinion and entertainment (This week’s Glee?  Well-done, writers, well-done.  Not back up to season one, but a SIGHT better than the last of Season 2.) and I have let you down.  (And Raising Hope?  Continued excellence!)  (Martha Plimpton, you were ROBBED at the Emmys.)

Allow me to explain.

I’ve had this entire week at home, due to a conference I decided not to attend.  I told nobody, I hoarded that time on my calendar, and have been buried in client work all week.  There are both good things and bad things about self-employment.

-Reduced Gas consumption/expenditure.  This is a good thing and a bad thing, because if you aren’t out meeting with clients or doing other various lifesavers tasks, you’re not making money, either.

-Reduced laundry needs.  This is a good thing, and a bad thing because you look down and realize that you have worn the same pair of socks (I’m limiting my thoughts to THAT ITEM OF CLOTHING ALONE) all week.

-Less time spent styling one’s hair.  (See above analysis.)

-Caught up on ALL television.  (Except Weeds.  Don’t tell.)

-Reduced food costs.  Because you eat whatever crap is lounging in your pantry instead of eating a balanced meal.  BUT, you’re not eating from the drive-thru, either.

-You set your own schedule.  I think that we all know what is both good and bad for that.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying being self-employed, but I will say that it definitely isn’t for everybody.  Cooper really enjoys it.  He has a staffer available for his personal needs 24/7.

What you might not know is that the above photos were taken FOUR HOURS apart. He hadn’t moved.

I take back every time I complained about his energy when he was a puppy.

Anyway, we’re headed out to The Ranch tomorrow for the weekend.  (Another advantage to self-employment.)  And tonight, I’m returning to my beloved bell choir.  I’ve missed them, and am excited.  I hope they are as excited to have me back AFTER the rehearsal tonight.  🙂  My skillz might have gone a little dull.

Goodnight,

Wordie

Hunger Challenge: Wrap-Up, or “Whimper, Not Bang”

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Gentle Reader,

As evidence of my mortality, and if the fact that I am not the Pope didn’t convince you, and my fallibility, I offer The Last Few Days Of The Hunger Challenge.

Friday, I was supposed to host Girls’ Game Night.  I had planned on eating my Hunger Challenge snacks, and serving my guests various Thrifty Appetizers, and Value Wine.  (But Value Wine that I have deemed to be tastier than most.)  Plans for a Make Your Own Bob Armstrong Dip bar were in motion.  And then I got a migraine.

I blame the changing weather, and if it means that it becomes less than 1,000 degrees outside, I’m willing to make the sacrifice.  But Game Night was postponed while I sat in the dark and tried to keep cool.  (Does anybody else find that EVERYTHING is much more awful when their head hurts?  I couldn’t get cool, and I must be cool in order to sleep, and I must sleep in order to get rid of the headache.  What can I say?  I like channeling my inner Diva.)  I had sugar, I had caffeine, I ate whatever I wanted.  The Migraine ’11 was not going to be satiated by that awful spaghetti or some black eyed peas.  I’m lucky I don’t have to stay on The Hunger Challenge.  It’s a choice for me.

Saturday, I spent most of the day trying mightily to get rid of The Migraine ’11.  And finally, about an hour before P came over, it went away.  So, we were celebrating.  Went to Scalini’s, which I think we all know means garlic cheese bread and pizza.  I would have had a glass of wine, but I wanted some more sugar and caffeine, so I had a fully leaded coke.  And had some pasta, too.  Because half a pizza wasn’t enough.  And then we went to Marble Slab.  To get some Birthday Cake ice cream with sprinkles mixed in.  So, clearly, Saturday was spent with strict adherence to the Hunger Challenge.

And today, I went out to The Ranch to get The Sir, and we went out for Sunday Lunch.  And since Athens, TX OBVIOUSLY has some kind of strange rule about every restaurant having some type of buffet offering, I think we all know what I had for Sunday lunch.  Except this one was different, because they had various baked treats (I had a coconut cake that was so light it floated down from Heaven) for dessert instead of an ice cream freezer. (Really, I’ve never seen so many buffets crammed into such a tiny space, and I have been to Vegas…my friend K also observed that Athens has a boatload of donut shops, which I easily attribute to the 794 churches that Athens also has…)  I’m still thinking about that coconut cake.  Dear heaven, it was grand.

So-I think we can officially say that the Hunger Challenge is done, and indeed, I went out with a whimper, not a bang.  I went gently into that night, and basically disappointed every poet I can remember from Junior English.  My friend A was also taking it with me, and I’d like to think that she did better on the Challenge (I know she did) but today I got a text mentioning something about great crusty bread, brie, and organic pears with white wine.  Either A has starved herself for the last week and saved her entire budget for that one meal, OR, she’s got one heck of a grocery hookup.  Or, she had a day like I did.  Except A has a like, real, working job (not just a Lifesavers Desk Job…) and so her fatigue was real.  And in her job, I think she probably would have burned off that coconut cake instead of just slathering it on her arms and backside, as I did.

Anyway, I will be doing this again next year, and I think I’ve learned a few things along the way that will help me (like, Diet Coke is TOTALLY WORTH the $ in my budget because without it, I kind of turn into Scary Spice) so next year, I’ll finish on a stronger note.  It seems strange, to arbitrarily put myself on this Challenge and then arbitrarily take myself off, because that’s not how hunger really works.  I hope that I will continue to remember that, and show the Food Bank love year-round.  I hope you will, too.

Goodnight,

Wordie

Hunger Challenge Day 3, or “I’ll Keep This Brief”

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Gentle Reader,

I was in my PJ’s by 3:45 this afternoon, one advantage to at least partly working from home.  I have a MOUNTAIN of work to do, and no energy to do it.  I think this is because my diet has consisted largely of pasta, rice, and black eyed peas.  With salt and mayonnaise as condiments.

Breakfast was four glasses of water while I did my Lifesavers consulting work.

Lunch was (Thank You, God) the last of the tuna pasta salad.

Dinner was the one-pot spaghetti that I have been trying to make for awhile, except I forgot to defrost the ground beef, so it was really egg noodles and tomato sauce with a can of mushrooms thrown in.  Saddest.  Dinner.  Ever.  I didn’t even bother photographing it, because I didn’t bother eating much of it.

And I can’t even think of doing work this evening.  How do the people that live on Food Stamps have the energy?  They have kids and homes and often multiple (high-energy requiring) jobs.  They don’t have the luxury of working from home, calling it a day at 4:00 and curling up with Netflix and Oregon Trail on their iPhone.

I think I’m a pretty savvy (or inventive, or something) shopper.  I know food.  I’ve been cooking a long time.  If I couldn’t find a way to fill my tummy that didn’t rely heavily on simple starches, how do time-pressed mamas who don’t necessarily have a cooking background do it?  How do they sustain the energy despite the empty calories?

Please, help the hungry around you.  If you feel led, donate to your local food bank.  Next time you see tuna, or almonds, or canned beans on sale, throw a few extra in your cart and put them in the food pantry box on the way out.  Too often, the food pantry has lots of carbs, and little healthy protein.

Going to bed early helps to distract from the hunger.  I wonder how many will go to bed early tonight?

Goodnight, Gentle Reader,

Wordie

Hunger Challenge Day 2

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Gentle Reader,

Breakfast today, well, you know the drill by now.  Except this morning, I remembered my Crystal light BEFORE leaving the house!  I’m getting the hang of this thing now.

Lunch, no photo needed, was the tuna pasta.  The good news is that after tomorrow, I’m out of that, so you get to look at photos of sandwiches!

Dinner-I haven’t made yet.  But food boredom has set in.  I’m frankly very tired, and the idea of cooking things when I don’t really actually have any freedom to improvise or riff on things as inspiration hits makes me sad.  I need to make the “one-pot spaghetti” that I had planned on making.  I think I will make that tomorrow night, and tonight, I’ll just have a glass of milk and a banana.  If there were any chocolate in this house?  I’d be ALL OVER IT.  SIGH.

I think this qualifies as my shortest post ever.  I think it must be very boring to try to live on a food stamp budget every single day.  If it’s possible, I am bored with bacon.  (I know.  I am deeply shamed.)  How is this possible after TWO DAYS?  I am truly blessed to be able to have food variety.  Indeed I live a privileged life when after two days I can be bored with something that many would die to have in their meals.

Goodnight,

Wordie

Hunger Challenge Day 1, Version 2.1-Lunch

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Gentle Reader,

I told you I wasn’t a breakfast eater.  This morning, I again elected sleep over tea.  I feel I made the correct choice.  But when I got to the place where I do some lifesavers consulting a few mornings a week, I hadn’t yet had my usual liquid intake, and so my mouth was dry.  So my breakfast consisted of water.  Lots and lots of water.  Again, correct choice.

But lunch?  That’s a different story entirely.  Today, I had tuna pasta salad.  Which was really more like “tuna-scented” pasta salad with lots of celery, hardboiled eggs, and dill relish (which is actually the only reason I ever eat tuna, anyway-the dill relish…).

There is no recipe.  Cook pasta, chop celery, boil eggs, chop eggs, add relish, add (COOLED) pasta, add more relish, rinse tuna (I KNOW, the bag says you don’t have to drain…but I drain…I’m a believer in draining and rinsing tuna, since sometimes I kind of have an allergic reaction to it…but not all the time, so I’m feeling pretty okay about the decision to eat tuna.  Plus, it was all I could afford.), squeeze tuna dry, add tuna, stir, stir a LOT because you have to make the tuna stretch over WAY too many other ingredients, and then add mayo for your dressing (not Miracle Whip…gross…) and taste for salt (adding eggs to things always makes them need more salt, in my mind) and pepper.  Stir.  Have leftover carrots?  Bring them to the party, too.  Radishes?  We love all kinds.  The only reason I didn’t get more creative was because, hello Budget.  Nice to meet you.

And of course, the beverage was crystal light’s lesser cousin from Wal-Mart.  Fruit punch flavor.

Halfway thru my container, I got bored.  So I put the rest in my fridge.  If I get hungry later?  Then that’ll be my snack.  I wonder if people on food stamps suffer from food boredom?  Or have they figured out ways to add variety to their diet that I, the cheese and bacon and chocolate and ice cream and beef eater have not?

Until Dinner,

Wordie

PS-I didn’t count the Mayo in my total, because I’m not going to be able to eat all that rice or all that peanut butter, so I figure the per-serving cost of the remainder will cover my mayo/mustard/condiment usage for the week.

PPS-One day in, and I MISS CHEESE.

Hunger Challenge, Day 1, Version 1

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EDITED TO ADD:  So the guacamole was WAY out of date.  (WHY??????)  So I made Ramen.  While making the ramen, I started getting my tuna-scented pasta salad ready.  During the preparations, the ramen got done.  So I poured it into a mug, and kept on chopping.  Did you know that after 15 minutes of neglect, ramen becomes a gelatinous mass unfit for even prison inmate consumption?  Now you do.  So at that point, I opened a bag of gummi bears and called it dinner.  So-yesterday, a TOTAL swing and a miss.
Gentle Reader,

Today, I started the Hunger Challenge.  Today was also a Monday.  (You knew that, right?)  And today, I had to complete a Lifesavers Mission in the very most awful place that you can complete a Lifesavers Mission.  (You didn’t know that part.  But take my word for it.)

So, naturally, I overslept and didn’t make my Hunger Challenge Breakfast of hot tea, and instead, used the dollar I had left over from my shopping trip (more on that in a moment) and bought the LAST DIET COKE in my house.  Guzzled it down with nary a pang of guilt, for you see, I had to go to the most awful place that a Lifesaver can go on a mission.  Fortification was needed beyond my dainty cup of Irish tea.  Really, unless my mama makes it, I’m not a breakfast eater.   If I ever meet Prince Charming, and have kiddos, someone is going to need to train me or something.  Apparently schools are cracking down on sodas for breakfast.

And, since I didn’t have time to MAKE TEA, I certainly didn’t have time to make the tuna pasta salad I had planned for today’s (and tomorrow’s and probably Wednesday’s) lunch.  So I planned to skip that and count on my charm and poise to carry me through the afternoon.

(I’ll let you gather yourself.)

So after my FOURTH TRIP IN ONE DAY ON THE SAME ISSUE to the Most Awful Place Ever, there was going to be violence if I didn’t get some lunch.  So, people, I cheated.  I confess to you, that one day in, I cheated.  AND, if that wasn’t enough depravity, I cheated by dashing into a 7-11 (What you Hoosiers would call a Circle K) and picking up a TRIANGLE SANDWICH.  You know what I’m talking about?  In the triangle plastic thingey?  With the strangely drippy cheese?  It was all I had time for.  And a Hawaiian Punch.  Because I am a mature adult who needed just a wee bit of sugar to keep her from completely losing her grip.

I am now home, the laundry is humming (I love doing laundry, so really, after a harried day, this is fantastic.) and the idea of cooking anything for dinner is just about the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.  Guacamole and pretzel chips it is.  (Because I am out of tortilla chips.)

So since I’m ultimately the one that’s got to eat the foods on the Challenge, I feel like I have some kind of input.  I’ve made an executive decision.  Today will be my shopping post, I’ll have a few “deep thoughts” (I’ll let you gather yourself…) and tomorrow, we begin in earnest, and my Challenge will be extended an extra TWO days now.  So the 13th through the 19th.

So shopping!

(Not ashamed at all that I have to multiply 4.72 times 7 on a calculator, thankyouverymuch.)

For $32, I got:

Which actually ISN’T THAT MUCH.  I have the makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bacon sandwiches, a tuna sandwich, tuna pasta salad, Hoppin’ John for dinner a couple of nights, Spaghetti for dinner a couple of nights, scrambled egg sandwiches for dinner a couple of nights, of course my Crystal Light, and tea, and some green beans to eat for, you know, vegetables, and bananas, because it seems like everybody on the challenge eats bananas so it seemed like the thing to do.  And Butter (of course).  And milk.  For the tea.  And so if I get too hungry for a snack, I’ll at least have that.

Since I’m “segregating” my Challenge food, and since I spent $32, now $33, my whole budget, the good news is that I don’t have to do math to figure out my portion sizes/costs.  In a way, I think that’s more realistic, because foodstamps are loaded (at least in most states) onto an EBT card at the beginning of the month, so you can go shopping whenever.  (The thing that is scary about that is that it assumes the ability to budget, which I really wish someone would teach me how to do…so imagine someone on a very tight, very fixed income?)  So if I were actually living on foodstamps, I’d both probably learn how to budget much better than I currently do, and do my shopping once a week (to cut down on magazine purchases).

The preceding paragraph was my first “Deep Thought”.  My second, and last, “Deep Thought” for today is that I was able to compensate.  Sure I had planned to do without, take my lumps, because I hadn’t planned, but when the time came, and I NEEDED FOOD, I could go get some.  I had an emergency diet coke in my house.  There was a 7-11 nearby and I had enough cash to go get something to eat.  So I did.  But if I had no money, and failed to plan ahead, I would have been grumpy, cranky, and grouchy the entire afternoon.  (Which, those of you who know what I actually do for a living might think, “eh, she’d blend”, but I take pride in being nice, personable, and friendly…there is NO NEED FOR CRABBINESS IN THIS WORLD.)  If I were working at a job that was in foodstamps eligibility territory, it would likely involve the service industry of some kind.   Too many grouchy afternoons, and I might find myself without a job in a very tight market.

Hunger is all around us, people.  Your local food banks need love YEAR-ROUND, because there are grumpy, lunch-less people year-round.  Donate food, if you want.  It’s been my experience that most food banks have negotiated with major distributors, so your dollar will go much further with them than it will on your own.  So, if you don’t have an opinion on the matter, give money, if you can.  (I think that the concept of a canned food drive is TOTALLY important to give a public face to the issue, I’m not knocking those AT ALL…plus, it’s a great way to show little ones about how to give.)

Goodnight,

Wordie