Wednesday, March 26, 2008


In other news: Opossum in our driveway!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

omigod omigod it's almost time to go!!!

I should not continue to torture you, gentle reader, with my mind-numbing and self-absorbed countdown of billable hours. But let me just say: Three days left and ONLY 21 hours to work! Woo and hoo. If all goes according to plan, I will actually have Friday morning off to run errands for the trip.

Meanwhile, we are so unreasonably excited. We have the new Rick Steves Paris book. We have a whack of euros and an apartment that we're renting from a Frenchman named Ugo. We have two spiffy new cameras to replace the ones that were stolen. We have a nice young couple coming to house-sit.

I think that Nelly senses something is up, though. Her level of anxiety whenever I leave the house has gone up noticeably. She is doing the canine equivalent of grabbing my ankles and begging me not to leave her. I get out of the shower and she is standing there, silently condemning me with her piercing gaze. Like, I know the schemes you are hatching in your perfidious heart. You insult me to think I am so stupid.

Plus the other day she inexplicably peed in the dining room. Normally I would conclude from this that she's developing yet another a bladder infection, but I'm pretty sure this was just a fit of pique, or fear, or something.

When we went to Italy three years ago, I stayed over there for a full month while Enrico went for just over two weeks. When I got home, Nelly actually ignored me. Normally she greets me with overhwelmed, joyous relief, that I have returned from whatever danger has kept me away from the protective embrace of the pack. But that time in Italy, I pushed her too far. She may be woman's most loyal friend, committed to the unbreakable bond of the pack - but that time, she was all, who are you? You are dead to me, woman.

So it's hard to leave the dogs. They are old now, so you never know. But I am somehow confident that nothing bad will happen to them, if for no other reason than Nelly would stubbornly refuse to go into that great unknown without the opportunity to chide me, one more time, for my perfidious heart.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The light at the end of the tunnel

Billable hours required in March: 98
Billable hours completed: 72
Billable hours remaining: 26

Unavoidable non-billable hours required in March: 21
Hours completed: 12
Hours remaining: 9

Hours to work at part-time job: 31

TOTAL HOURS of work remaining: 66
Days remaining until France: 10

This just might be doable. Of course we also have to clean the house, leave copious instructions for the dog-sitters, file the taxes, assemble all our travel information, do laundry, pack, find out why the replacement for our stolen camera hasn't arrived, call the bank and credit card companies to authorize overseas charges, and obtain some sort of obscure renter's insurance for the apartment in France. Oh, and BILL ALL MY CLIENTS so I can look forward to some nice juicy checks upon my return. But it still might be doable.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

High maintenance

Of all the statements I've never expected to hear about myself, this one just about takes the cake:

"It's really hard getting you to eat."

Seriously? Because I eat about six meals a day, squirrel-like. Or at least the way I imagine squirrels eat, the lucky little bastards.

But the other night when I thanked Enrico for cooking dinner and added that I knew I'd been a bit picky, he replied, yeah, it's really hard getting you to eat.

I guess it's true. By the time dinner rolls around, I've already eaten, like, five times already! So exhausting, I'm drained from all the eating of tiny little meals. Not to mention all the working, and everything else. It's so much easier just to pour a glass of wine to cut the edge off my appetite.

But of course I have to eat eventually and if all else fails, I'll fill up on thin mints or breakfast cereal or chips with a little melted cheese, mmmm that's my favorite. So to save me from this terribly un-nutritious fate, Enrico either takes me out to eat (but then we have to worry about Toby punishing the pot holders for our absence), or patiently pushes me to identify something I might like. Mac and cheese? Vegetable soup? Veggie burger? Tuna melt?

I swear sometimes I don't know why that man puts up with me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

So long, little pins; we hardly knew ya

Today the little metal pins came out of my finger. The logistics were the same as the insertion procedure: No food or water for six hours ahead. Happy drugs feeding into the right IV. Tournequet on the left arm. Nasty numbing drug in the left IV that for about 15 seconds feels - and I am not exaggerating - like your hand has been dunked into scalding water. Why, why would something designed to reduce pain first cause so much of it? And then they apparently deliver the knockout punch in the form of a big fat needle into the nerve at the base of your finger, but by then the scalding-numbing drugs and the happy drugs have done their jobs and you either feel nothing, or don't give a crap, or both.

Then they do stuff. Then all of a sudden they tell you it's over, and give you very important after-care instructions, from a very great distance, while you nod your head and think, "this is probably important, but somehow I just can't make myself care."

When they put the pins in, they went heavy on the numbing - and I mean heavy, because I felt absolutely zip in that finger for 24 full hours - but the happy drugs didn't seem that intense. I was aware of not feeling anxious, but I didn't feel noticeably psychically altered.

This time, it was the exact opposite. Clearly they didn't need as much numbing, since they were simply sliding the pins out of my nearly-healed bones instead of drilling them into my freshly broken ones. But the happy drugs? Oh my, this new aenesthesiologist really outdid himself on that front. Wow, was I ever stoned.

So I decided the obvious thing to do while chemically deprived of the ability to care would be to call tech support for a really tenacious and annoying computer problem. It was perfect. Ninety minutes later - problem solved without the slightest irritation, and only floaty, dream-like memories of the entire experience.

But it's all worn off now, which is good because I still have SO much work. Poor Enrico is basically on his own, as I worked straight through the weekend. My billable commitment for the month somehow grew, from 96 to 102 hours - I KNOW, how the heck did that happen? 48 down, 54 to go.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mathematical realities

At the start of this week, we had four weeks until we leave for France on the 29th. That's 27 days, to be exact.

By the time we'd counted down to day 25, I had this growing sense of unease about everything that needed doing before the big departure. I'm not even talking about trip preparation, packing, cleaning the house for the dog-sitters - I'm talking about work.

I believe that most sources of anxiety and fear become less scary when you detail them out as precisely as possible, and stare them in the face. Uncertainty adds to anxiety. Plus, it's generally true that the things you make up in your head are much worse than reality.

So, I sat down and calculated exactly how many billable consulting hours I have contracted to complete before March 29, as well as all unavoidable unbillable hours (for example, filing the business taxes, interviewing for a new gig, some pro-bono work). And of course I have a half-time job. Here are the totals:

Billable hours contracted: 96
Unavoidable non-billable hours: 17
Half-time job: 80
Total commitments: 193

You do the math (well ok, I'll do it for you) - over 4 weeks? That's 48.25 hours per week. And in the middle there, I have a second surgery to take the metal pins out of my finger. Until then, I have major written deliverables, and I can't type properly with my left hand.

Now lest you say, well, people work 50-hour weeks, what's the big deal? I must remind you that as a self-employed person, my week is filled with hours for which I do not get paid. Checking my email. Billing my clients. Driving between my billable appointments. Eating lunch and going to the bathroom, which you salaried people generally get to count toward your total. So usually your billable hours constitute, at most, 80% of of your total work hours.

But fear not. It will all get done. I have already knocked off 25 billable hours! I have put the running tally, by client, up on my white board so I am constantly aware of the remaining days and hours. But you will understand if I do not spend a whole lot of my scarce hours blogging.

So, taking just the consulting side of the house (setting aside my job), here is the scorecard, as summarized on my handy white board:
Hours committed: 113
Hours completed: 25
Hours remaining: 88
Days remaining: 24

Tick, tock.