This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Best of Friends

I do not have a funny tale today, or a freelance horror story like the last post, or a social commentary like the one before that.  What I do have today is laundry.  Time sensitive laundry since the 4 year old wet the bed last night.  But before I get started in earnest on that, I wanted to come and tell y'all a little story about these 2 awesome "older" ladies that I met last week. 

Last week, I had to go to the doctor...the LADY doctor.  I hate going to the gynecologist.  It is my least favorite appointment of the year.  Any appointment that involves a paper sheet and stirrups just sucks.  I was a new patient so I got there really early to do all of the necessary paperwork.  I had to ask the receptionist where to list the birth of my last child since there was only room for 3 on the form.  When I sat back down to finish, I noticed these 2 ladies staring at me. 

I was not in the mood to be friendly.  I was at the gynecologist.  But I smiled back at them, I can be polite without being friendly, I thought.  This was the cue that they had been waiting for apparently: as is the norm in my life, I am a "Chatty Cathy" magnet. 

"When are you due?" one of them said with a smile.

Yep, I am not pregnant.  Nor have I been pregnant in nearly 5 years.  So I looked up at them both smiling expectantly and said deadpan "July, 2008." (Which was when my youngest was born.)

This took a second to sink in, and then they apologized profusely and laughed hysterically.  Then they asked about my kids.

"You have FOUR kids?" the graying brunette asked in amazement.

"Um, yes."  I replied a little tersely.

"My, my -- I could not imagine.  We both had 2.  Not together, of course.  Hahahaha." the obviously expertly dyed blonde said.

I offered a wilted smile, hoping that we weren't about to become best friends or something.

"We're best friends."  (were they reading my mind??!) "We've been best friends since grade school.  We married best friends, we live on the same street, our oldest kids married each other."  the blonde offered up.

"I guess we're sort of attached at the hip." reaffirmed the brunette and they both giggled like school girls.

My paperwork now finished, I was intrigued by this pair.  What were they doing here together at the gynecologist together??  So, with nothing to lose, I asked "So, do you both have appointments today?"

"Yep, but we do go to separate exam rooms."  And there was that school girl giggle fit again.

"So besides being incredibly fertile, what do you do?"  The brunette asked.

"Yes, do you work outside of the home?  I imagine that with 4 kids you have your hands full." inquired the blonde.

"I do have my hands full, but I am a writer.  I work from home, usually in my pajamas, surrounded by kid clutter and laundry."

This piqued their interest.

"Steamy romance novels?" smirked the brunette, "I don't suppose the stork brought those 4 kids." followed by another chorus of giggles.

"Um, no." I laughed nervously.  These two were a lot more feisty than they appeared in their coordinated fashions from Cato.  "I doubt that my romance novels would be very good.  All of my characters would end up pregnant by the third chapter.  Mostly I write content for web pages."

"Oh.  That sounds sort of boring." the brunette said disapointedly.

"Well, I also have a personal blog where I share funny parenting stories and satirical social commentaries." I said, hoping to redeem a little of the coolness factor. "And I've written some children's books; but they've been rejected by every publisher I've sent them to."

"Maybe you should try romance novels" the blonde responded.  "Does your blog have a lot of followers?"

"A few," I said. "I quit watching the numbers because it makes me crazy.  I have a little over 3,500 followers on Facebook though."

"So let me get this straight -- you just write down what happens during your life as a mom, and strangers read it?  What for?"  the brunette asked.  The concept of a blog seems to have confused her a little.

"Yeah, well, other parents read it.  It either reminds them of the days when their kids were young, lets them know what they have to look forward to, or it makes them feel normal by knowing that they aren't the only ones dealing with parenthood insanity."

"Parenting is many things, but there is no 'normal' when you're dealing with kids," the blonde offered.

I gave them the address for the blog, and we talked about some of the stories I had written.  They were obviously est friends -- they finished each other's sentences, speaking in tandem, a perfect rhythm of years together.  But still I wondered -- the gynecologist?  Together?  I have some really great friends that I love to spend time with, but I prefer to face the stirrups alone.  I had to ask because I am nosey:  "So, why come to the gynecologist together?  It seems an odd choice for a girl's day out..."

They smiled at each other and tilted their heads like there was some secret between them.  Something that they were going to tell me, but I would never fully understand.

"Five years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer." the blonde said.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, now sort of regretting that I had asked.

"She was here alone when they found it, alone when they told her 2 weeks later and explained the treatment options, and alone when she had to tell her husband."  the brunette said patting her friend's leg.

"Well, I am an adult..." the blonde began.

"But you're my best friend.  You shouldn't have been alone.  And since I wasn't here, you didn't tell me until after they confirmed it.  You carried that for nearly a week by yourself, and then you had to tell [your husband, your kids] and then me."  I felt like I had intruded into something private between these two...

"I beat it, though," the blonde said to me with a smile and clasping her friend's hand still on her leg.

"Yes you did." the brunette said. 

"She came to every appointment after that.  She stayed in the hospital with me when I had surgery, sat with me through chemo, even sat on my bathroom floor and held my head over the toilet while I got sick."

"Just like college," the brunette said, and the school girl giggles were back, but both of their eyes were glassy.

"Anyway, when you are old ladies like us, there is always a chance that they might find something.  We don't take any chances.  Ever since my cancer, we schedule our appointments together -- gynecologist, mammograms, even eye doctor and dermatologist.  That way, we never have to face bad news alone.  After each appointment, we go out to lunch or to dinner and have a drink to celebrate another good report, until the day that we need the drink to face what lies ahead."  The blonde seemed almost wistful.  "Besides, its not like [our husbands] want to come with us."

"No, they don't have time.  All that golf won't play itself."

And they laughed again.

I found that my eyes were a little full too, threatening to overflow when I smiled at their jokes.

I was called back shortly after that.  They said that they would check out my blog and I told them that I may write about them. They were gone when I got out.  I haven't been able to stop thinking about them.  What a testament to friendship. 

I hope that I am that kind of friend. 

I want to be that kind of friend. 

And I hope that I have friends like that who will be there for me. 

I think that I am blessed with more than one. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Live and Learn

As most of you guys know, I have a freelance writing job that sort of fell into my lap.  It has been very educational and I am still enjoying it very much.  I have been blessed with a lot of work to get the client's website up to date and as a result I have been able to take care of many things that we were holding off on -- new tires, medical appointments, and replacing some broken and worn out things around the house.  It has also taken the pressure off of those last few days before the husband gets paid where we eat Ramen noodles for dinner.  However, the initial surge of work has slowed down and I have extra time on my hands so I have started looking for more freelance clients.  There is a website called Elance where I created a profile on Friday, and before noon on Saturday, I had my first job.  These are usually not long-term contracts like the one that I have currently, and they're sort of all over the map as far as the subject matter is concerned, but I was up for the challenge. 

You need to know sort of how Elance works -- a company (or individual) posts a job detailing what they need, how long it needs to be, and when they need it.  Then the freelance writers submit a proposal for what they would charge.  The job poster then contacts the freelancer saying that they have accepted their bid, and sends payment into a sort of escrow account.  As soon as the funds are in the escrow account, the writer sees that the job has been funded and gets to work.  As soon as the work is completed, the client releases the funds and the writer can collect.  Sounds pretty easy right? 

Yeah, I screwed it all up (though not without help from my client) -- and I learned some valuable lessons in the process.

The proposal that I submitted was for five 500 word articles.  I got to work immediately since the deadline was 24 hours (I did not realize that I should have waited until the job was funded before starting).  The client sent me a list of article topics and they were weird -- IRS Marriage Penalty, Allergic to Histamine, Marriage Tax Penalty (almost the same as the first article), Cost of iPads, and Advanced Pilates DVD.  I wondered what kind of company this could possibly be, but whatever, they were paying me to write not question the topics.  She also sent me a template to follow.  I had to research the topics on my own and compile an article.  This was very similar to what I do with my regular client, so it is not like I was flying blind. 

When I opened her template, I should have known that something was wrong.  The format was for an introduction, 6 paragraphs of text, a conclusion, and a final paragraph containing statistical data.  The template specified that the paragraphs were to be 4-8 sentences long.  That is a about 48 sentences per article on average.  Unless I was going to write sentences like "The dog died," this was going to be way longer than 500 words. 

And it was -- the first article was 924 words.  I sent it, along with a message that said in part: 
7 paragraphs plus an introduction and conclusion, all 4-8 sentences each, is considerably more than 500 words. I understand that this is a trial, and that we have an agreed upon price for these 5 articles, and I will honor that. However, should we continue our work relationship, we will need to discuss content and pricing in more detail and find a happy medium that we can both live with. 

Let me know if you want me to continue with the other topics
I didn't hear from her for six hours.  Then, at about 9 PM, I got an email saying yes -- continue with the other articles.  Not knowing exactly what the rules were about the deadline, I stayed up and finished 2 more of the 5 articles thinking that I would finish the rest after church on Sunday.  So, 3 out of 5 articles done, a total of 2,569 words written and submitted, I go to Elance to check my inbox and see that she has funded the project.  At less than half of what I bid and that she had accepted.  I am pissed.

(I know what you are thinking -- why didn't I just tell her to forget it. Well, this was my first job on Elance. Clients can rate you and your work after the project is completed and I did not want a bad review right out of the gate).

I send her a message, along with the 4th article (because in my mind, we have an agreement that I plan to honor), and I wait while I work on the final article.  And I wait.  And I wait.  Sunday night, I get a message from her.  She did not address the discrepancy in funds, but instead sent me a different template for the final article.  At this point, I want to be done with her, so I finish the final article (in the now new template) and send it along with a message:

This was easily twice the amount of work that you advertised for, and you only funded for half the price that I had bid. You asked for 5 - 500 word articles but the parameters that you set via your template made that impossible. You also provided no guidelines as to what the articles were to accomplish or involve, (despite me asking), leaving me to complete, compile, and interpret research on my own before attempting to determine tone and voice.

I hope that you are happy with the result, but if you want me to do any further work, please know that the $0.01 per word is nowhere near acceptable. My normal rate for articles of this sort would be a minimum of $0.06 per word.  I hope that you understand why the money that I will walk away with (less than 20% of my normal rate) leaves me feeling a bit taken advantage of. 
She responded with a message saying basically "Tough."  She said that I started before the project was funded and therefore she paid the amount of the lowest bid that she had received.

Lesson One: do not begin work until funds are in escrow. 

She claimed that the work was late because I accepted the job around noon on Saturday and the work should have been completed by noon on Sunday (she also said "I don't care if it was Easter, you agreed to 24 hours.").  It also did not matter to her that she did not provide me with the templates or respond as to whether or not she wanted me to continue when I raised questions until hours later. 

Lesson Two: be sure that you know exactly when the deadline is and do not start the work until you have all of the information necessary to complete it. 

Then she basically called me naive (a fair assessment, apparently) saying that "I would learn about how things work in the freelance world" and that she rarely ever uses the same writer twice (probably because no one would ever work for her twice). 

Lesson Three: Know that the ethics of people most likely do not match your own -- be wary of accepting jobs from strangers. 

I was appalled.  I had no idea that people who claimed to be professional were such conniving sneaks (I had a few more colorful words for her, but *I* have some sense of decorum).  I relayed these events to a good friend of mine and she said "Google her and see what comes up."

So I did.

She is a freelance writer. 

Apparently, she takes on jobs, contracts them out on Elance and then sells them on her site at a profit. And she doesn't have to work at all.  I thought, this woman is the most dishonest person I have ever worked with.  So I sent an email to the Elance customer support people notifying them of what had transpired.  I told them "I do not know if this violates your policies, but I definitely felt violated by the experience."  Apparently it doesn't violate anything since I have not heard back from them.

Now, my long-term client and I do not always agree, but she is honest and fair.  I rarely have to wonder about what is going on, I know that she will pay me, and I feel that we have a relationship.  I have spent hours researching SEO and marketing techniques for her -- things that I don't get paid for -- because I want her business to succeed.  Her success means more work for me, so I am willing to go that extra mile.  Not to mention that all that research ultimately helps me in writing for her because I learn about trends, keywords, etc. that I work into the articles I write to hopefully boost her SEO.  I do not have to worry about her cheating me, and I don't think that she ever worries about me cheating her. 

I hope that there are more clients like that out there. 

I hope that I do not become too cynical and jaded to recognize them. 

And I hope that karma smacks down the sneaky cheat that took advantage of me on Elance.