I thought of this topic a week ago and recent events pushed me to proceed with it. People see this ketchup bottle and don’t think much of it. This bottle was sitting on my computer desk and when I looked at it, I burst into tears. It’s the perfect example of grief.
No, grief isn’t made from tomatoes or plastic or even Heinz; I know that company makes a lot of things, but grief isn’t one of them. This bottle, the front label in particular, reminds me of my brother. My sweet, strong older brother who’s been gone since 2019.
See how the label is coming off? My brother and I can’t stand when labels start to peel off, so we help them along. One time when he was visiting Mom and me, he sat down in front of the open cabinet and took the labels off our canned food. They weren’t coming off; he was just bored.
We didn’t know what the heck we were opening after that. I got (what I thought were) green beans out for dinner one time and we ended up having beets because there was no label on the can.
Anyway, seeing the ketchup label didn’t annoy me or make me anxious; it made me so sad. And that’s what grief is and why it’s cruel. It’s not predictable or even rational. My therapist explained grief perfectly to me. She said grief is like a big ball inside a box that’s wallpapered with nerve endings.
Over time, the ball gets smaller and smaller but it never disappears. Sometimes, this ball of grief rolls around and hits the walls of the box and nearly cripples you. Sometimes, it just rolls around or remains still and you hardly notice it. When it’s still, you think you’re better and things will be easier, but the ball’s just resting.
My mom died from cancer April 19, 2014; the day before Easter. My brother died April 10, 2019; Sibling Appreciation Day. He had just turned 39. My birthday is April 29. Suffice it to say, I don’t like April anymore.
Our sweet boy, Merlin, crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. He was the sweetest, funniest cat I ever met, and the pain is indescribable. Since losing Mom, I’ve made it a point to shower my kiddies with love and never neglect them. I play with them each day and make sure they are happy.
Merlin loved grocery day because I would sit on the floor and play with him with the grocery bag. I parachuted it down over his head and he would bat at it furiously and show his fangs (he only did this when he was begging or very happy) and get so excited. We did this every week for about 30 minutes each time.
He loved Amazon deliveries because he loved playing with the packing paper and those big air-filled bubbles. He would run at them and slide under them and have a field day with it. Grief now colors everything.
Our Mommy and Me time took place in the bathroom and kitchen. I would sit in the tub with him and love on him, then he’d follow me to the kitchen. If he wanted more lovin’s, he would “hide” under the table and attack me when I walked by. It excited him if I acted surprised. He was a terrible hider; if his head was covered, he thought he was hidden.
Merlin was actually my husband’s cat and it concerns me that he’s not losing it like I am. Hubby would say, “Merlin, it’s bedtime!” and Merlin would run past him and into the bedroom and get on the bed so hubby could love on him.
Now, everything I do reminds me of him, which makes me want my mom, which makes me think of my brother being gone and me being the last of my immediate family. Grief is never gone and will never go away. I’m told it gets easier, but that day has yet to come.
My classes started October 26, and the first discussion post (all online college students love those!) made me think of how differently I see things than other people. When I was majoring in criminal justice before COVID (I lost my job when the courthouses closed and am a communication/new media major now), I had to do a paper on the 4th Amendment; unreasonable search and seizure or warrantless search and seizure. I was supposed to explain why it became an amendment, and why our founding fathers felt that way.
The first thing that popped in my head, and the example I used in my paper, was Disney’s Robin Hood animated movie. It is one of my favorite movies. Robin and Maid Marion are foxes, Little John is a big bear who looks a lot like Baloo from The Jungle Book.
In this movie, the sheriff goes around and lets himself into everyone’s homes and just takes what he wants because King John raised taxes again, and it was the Sheriff’s job to collect those taxes. At one point, he visits a dog who has a cast on his leg, and the sheriff raises the casted leg and coins fall out of the cast, which the sheriff promptly takes. He also takes money from a “blind beggar” (Robin Hood in disguise).
I used the above to explain why our founding fathers included that in the Bill of Rights. My professor thought this was an unusual explanation, while I thought it made perfect sense. I got an A on that paper, but that wasn’t the first time I have been told someone didn’t think of something in the same way I did.
My mom was, and my husband is used to my “odd” thinking. I approach things differently because I can’t express myself “normally.” When I’m feeling out of it and spacey, I say I’m feeling really Kevin. Kevin equals spacey because…Kevin Spacey. I said that to my psychiatrist over the phone recently and my husband said, “Honey, he doesn’t know what that means.”
I met a work friend of Mom’s one time and I don’t remember her name, but she was wearing a purple pantsuit, so she became the Grape Lady. Any time I mentioned her, she was the Grape Lady and mom knew who I was talking about.
Just like off-brand food and medicine are fake food and medicine, i.e., I only get Heinz ketchup because I don’t like fake ketchup; my prescription medications are fake medications because name brands, such as Effexor and Zyprexa, are more expensive, and it’s WV law. We also buy Amanda butter since I don’t like the fake stuff made with oil.
In February, I kept collapsing and could not stand back up; my legs were too weak and wouldn’t work. I had hubby take me to the ER, and the receptionist wanted to know what was wrong. I told her my legs were lightheaded and I kept sinking to the ground and couldn’t get back up without being picked up.
The receptionist just looked at me and said, “What?” I said, “My legs are lightheaded,” again (why didn’t she understand this?). Hubby told her my legs kept giving out. Duh, that’s what I just said! For the curious, I had critically low potassium below 2.
With autism, something that isn’t always noticeable on the outside, people tend to think autistics are being smart alecks and sarcastic or funny, when that’s not the case. I’m often viewed as lacking empathy or compassion when it’s the complete opposite.
My confusion and literalness is seen as crass and unfeeling, especially online and through texts. Short of getting “Autistic” tattooed on my forehead or making that disclaimer before I text or talk to people online, I’m at a loss. I’m stuck being insulted and angry-faced by complete strangers (and family) who don’t know a thing about me.
Let’s talk about crap, shall we? More specifically, let’s talk about cat crap. I, for one, do not like messing with the cats’ litter boxes. They smell, they are heavy, they are messy, and the whole thing’s just gross. With four indoor cats, it’s a necessity, however.
About five years ago, I invested in two CatGenies. And I do mean invest; those things are expensive! Believe it or not, the Litter Robot Open Air is even more expensive, and you have to use regular scoopable litter, unlike the CatGenie, which I will get into. Without further ado, let’s talk some poo!
You can buy the CatGenie on Amazon. They have a great price for the CatGenie 2+1 Combo Fresh Scent bundle, which includes two fresh scent cleaning solutions and a three-pound box of granules for $68! Any purchase you make through my links helps out yours truly. How cool is that?
Not to be confused with the Litter Genie litter disposal thingy (it’s a Diaper Genie for cats), which is pretty nice, and I did own one, the CatGenie 120 (CG) is the “World’s only self-flushing, self-washing cat box.” These things are awesome!
Here’s how it works: Read the directions and set the litter box up or have your spouse/SO do it (I chose the latter). Fill the box to the line with granules, drop the solution cartridge into the back, plug it in, and turn it on. Don’t forget to read the manual: This is important!
You can choose to have the CatGenie run a certain amount of times a day or you can set it to run a few minutes after the cat gets out of the box. There’s a sensor that knows this. If you have it to run after each use, which is recommended by CG, you use less cleaning solution. Kitty enters the litter box, does its thing, then leaves.
A few minutes after kitty leaves, the wash cycle begins, which is about 15 to 20 minutes long. The CatGenie scoops any poop into the back of the box, fills the now-poop-free box up with water and cleaning solution, drains the water, fills up with clean water, drains it, then dries the granules with hot/warm air.
There is a macerator in the back of the box that chops the poop up and sends it to the toilet through a hose. You’ll hear it flush into the toilet. That’s it. You’re left with a nice clean box with a fresh scent or no scent, depending on which cleaning solution you buy.
No traditional litter
Not too big
Now, this is important. Of course, a litter box should be cat friendly, but some cats just don’t dig the CatGenie (no pun intended). The sound it makes while it’s cleaning might scare them off, or they might not like the litter granules. I didn’t have this problem, but some cat owners have. My cats and I sat on the floor and watched the cleaning cycle several times for a couple of days, and they were comfortable with it.
No Traditional Litter
The CatGenie uses little plastic granules for litter instead of clay. They look like what you buy to make stained “glass” ornaments. I don’t know what that’s called, but it’s in arts and crafts hobby shops. I was a bit leery about the granules at first, but they are great. I buy a three-pound box of granules every two years! Two years!! There is minimal tracking through the house, and very few granules are flushed. This saves us a ton of money on litter.
Not Too Big
The CatGenie isn’t super big. It’s heavy because of the motor, but my two boxes fit in the master bathroom side-by-side. It’s not much bigger than my old sifting litter box. You can purchase a hood for privacy, but some cats don’t like that, so it’s a preference thing and it doesn’t take up more space.
I buy the fresh scent cartridges and that makes the litter box smell good. Seriously. After the wash cycle, there’s a nice smell in the bathroom from the cleaning solution.
While it requires some maintenance, it’s much less than regular litter boxes. It’s good practice to keep the back of the litter box clean and make sure it doesn’t get clogged so everything runs smoothly. This generally doesn’t happen, but if you have a constipated cat, hard feces can be a challenge for the macerator and it can back up.
When the cleaning solution cartridge is low, the litter box beeps. Simply switch out the cartridge with a new one and push the button so the box knows you attended to it. The CatGenie will also beep and the buttons will light up if there’s an issue, and you can look in the manual to see what specific beep and corresponding lit button means. It is a smart litter box!
Long wash cycle
Requires outlet, water supply, and toilet or water disposal
Poo buildup in the back
The CatGenie 120 is not quiet. When it runs, it flushes and sprays and blows air; it’s not something you want to run at night. You can have it only run during the day if it’s too distracting. I don’t even notice it anymore.
Long Wash Cycle
As mentioned, the wash cycle takes about 15-20 minutes. Since I have two CatGenies and a Litter Robot Air, this isn’t a concern for me. If you purchase one box and have more than one cat, they will have to wait until the wash cycle is finished before they can use it.
I have the CatGenies hooked up to the master bath toilet. There is an option for hooking them up in the laundry room (I don’t know where the waste goes with this), but our laundry room is very small, so I can’t do that.
It makes a toilet look disgusting! People can use the toilet just fine with the boxes hooked up; the rubber hoses hook onto the toilet rim under the seat and aren’t in the way. However, I don’t use the master bath toilet, so it doesn’t get flushed often, and it gets brown and icky after the litter box runs. It’s easy to clean and doesn’t stain, but it’s unsightly. It’s not a big problem, however.
Outlet, Supply, and Disposal
The CatGenie has to be plugged in. DO NOT USE A SPLITTER FOR TWO BOXES! I made this mistake and melted the plastic splitter because both litter boxes ran at the same time when the electric went off and came back on. Luckily, only the splitter was destroyed, and no fires. They flipped the breaker a couple times, too.
The CG needs to be hooked up to the water supply, and the hose needs to be placed somewhere for the waste/water disposal. CatGenie supplies all the necessary stuff, and it’s very easy to install. My boxes are hooked up to the toilet’s water supply with the disposal hoses hooked on the toilet. If you hook it up in your laundry room, the waste/water goes wherever your clothes washing machine rinse water goes.
Unfortunately, there are poo stragglers that are missed by the CatGenie scoop. When this happens, those stragglers are washed, rinsed, and dried. What you are left with is a hot poop smell that’s unpleasant. It goes away eventually, but this does happen.
Poo Buildup in the Back
I have a couple of hard poopers in the family, and the CG has become clogged a couple of times. Since these boxes don’t need regular maintenance, if enough hard poop cannot be macerated, it just stays in the back and piles up. When this happens, the box will beep to let you know there’s an issue that needs your attention. Unclogging the back is smelly and gross, but it’s a rare occurrence.
This is the newer model that includes AI and works with an app, which I really want, but they are $400 and I don’t have the funds to upgrade. As stated on their site, “The CatGenie App, when paired with a CatGenie A.I., precisely monitors the SaniSolution cartridge cleaning cycles, shows you the cleaning status of the CatGenie, recommends maintenance, tracks how often your cat uses the CatGenie per day, and provides cat wellness information.”
Litter Robot Open Air/3 Connect
The Litter Robot Open Air, or Litter Robot 3 Connect (newer version) is an automatic self-cleaning litter box that runs at least seven minutes after your kitty exits the box; you can choose the time limit. The sensor is weight-based, and this litter box isn’t for cats and kittens under five pounds. This box will set you back $450 for the Open Air and $500 for the Litter Robot 3.
The Litter Robot is large and requires a power source and is all about weight distribution and sensors. Unboxing and setup is pretty easy. Once assembled, add some clean litter to the ring (very important!) and plug it in. Use the manual to learn how to make any setting changes. The default is the Litter Robot Open Air (LROA) will run 7 minutes after a cat leaves the box.
Clean litter box
Completely empty option
What indoor cat owner doesn’t love those two words? It took me forever to convince my mom to switch from non-scooping to scooping litter. I’m sure she was thankful for that when I didn’t live here. So, big seller: No scooping. Who wants to scoop pee and poop? Don’t we do enough for these little home invaders?
Clean Litter Box
Another no-brainer. With the LROA, the box is always clean. We have ours in the living room and you can’t even tell . I’m not a fan of cat smells, so it wouldn’t be in that room if it stunk.
You can hear the Litter Robot running. However, it’s not super noisy. I think the loudest thing is when the poop falls. It only takes a couple of minutes to run. All of my cats are cool with it. One of them got in it when it was sideways!
There is a blue light, a yellow/orange light, a red light, a flashing yellow/orange light, and a flashing blue light. The blue light means everything’s cool. The yellow/orange light means the box is running. The red light means someone stepped in there recently. It stays red (I think) until it runs, then it turns blue. The flashing yellow/orange light means it’s stuck; more on that later. The flashing blue light means you need to empty the bottom of the box because it’s full. The box won’t run until you empty the bottom.
Completely Empty Option
When you need a complete clean, there’s a button that completely empties all of the litter. You can then dump the bottom and clean the rubber and plastic interior. Easy, peasy!
Must buy litter
The biggest drawback to the Litter Robot Open Air/3 Connect is the cost. It’s $450 and $500 just for the box and a few drawer liners. The liners are nice, but you can use it without liners, or use small white kitchen trash bags.
Must Buy Litter
This may seem like a given, but after having the CatGenie, it’s a pain to buy real litter! As mentioned, a box of granules lasts 2-3 years with the other box. With the LROA, you buy litter just like regular boxes. The lightweight Tidy Cats scoopable litter works great with this box. Sam’s Club brand, Member’s Mark, litter works good, too, and it’s pretty cheap.
I have to admit, I’ve beaten the Litter Robot up quite a few times. This litter box gets stuck. It’s weight-based, so if any saturated litter is left in the bottom or somewhere in the wheel, the box will stop running.
Sometimes, it unsticks itself, which is cool. It will keep trying to run and sometimes it succeeds; sometimes it doesn’t, which is when the beatings commence. When it gets stuck, the yellow/orange flashing light comes on. Aside from the beating, I hit the start button and the box keeps trying to complete the cycle. It’s a real pain.
I have had these boxes about the same amount of time, and I have to say…It’s a tie. I know, I know, that’s not what you wanted to read. They both work great and make owning cats even more enjoyable. If I had to choose, I would pick the CatGenie because it’s cheaper to maintain.
However, I have the unique option of an unused restroom in the house to dedicate these boxes to and not everyone does. I can say they are both great options!
I just had one of my delicious modified Reubens, so I thought I would share my “recipe.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who dislikes corned beef and Swiss cheese! Before we start, I need to look up why Reubens are called Reubens because now I’m curious.
Okay, so it’s supposedly the name of the guy. Etymology isn’t a science, unfortunately, so there are a few origin stories. I used to listen to the Turn of Phrases podcast, which is super interesting! But I’m getting off topic. Back to Reubens!
Not using corned beef is more of a money saver than actual dislike, I guess. It’s gross (to me) by itself, but not bad on a sandwich. However, it’s more expensive than dried beef, so I get dried beef. Without further ado—
Rye or marbled rye bread, seeded or seedless
Dried beef or corned beef
Sliced provolone or mozzarella cheese
Thousand Island dressing
What You Do
Heat the griddle, skillet, panini press, whatever. Strain a few tablespoons of the sauerkraut as much as possible. Use a paper towel to dry it further if you want. The wetter the sauerkraut is, the sloppier your sandwich will be and we don’t want that.
Add a couple tablespoons of Thousand Island dressing to the kraut and mix it up. This is a preference, too. Just use as much kraut and dressing as you want and refrigerate the leftovers. You should have a light orange mess in front of you. If your kraut was in the fridge, you may want to nuke it for 15 to 30 seconds so it’s warm by the time your bread is toasty. Set this aside.
Grab your bread! I get Pepperidge Farms seedless rye, but it’s dealer’s choice. Butter the outsides of the bread like you do for grilled cheese sandwiches. All of your ingredients should be ready to go so your bottom slice of bread doesn’t burn before you get the sandwich constructed. The faster you throw your sandwich together, the better.
Place one slice of your bread butter-down on the skillet or press. Add one or two slices of cheese (I love melted cheese, so I use two). On top of that, place four or five slices of dried beef or corned beef. Dried beef is salty, so proceed with caution.
On top of the beef, fork your sauerkraut mix on the meat. Add one or two more slices of cheese. Yeah, I use a lot of cheese! Add the second piece of bread butter side up.
By this time, your bottom bread should be nice and toasty and the cheese melty. Flip your sandwich or close the press and let it fry for a few more minutes. Use your judgment, but around three minutes sounds about right. When the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty, carefully place your sandwich on a plate.
If you want to Dagwood it, add more meat and cheese and kraut mix, or even more bread! A super simple recipe (if you can flip the sandwich without making a mess) that’s super delicious!
Back in 2006 when I started working, flash drives/thumb drives were the poo. They are still great; small and lots of storage available, and you can get them in really cool colors and…shapes? The racecar’s amazing!
Anyway, whenever I needed to switch computers, I had to grab a flash drive, throw everything on it, go to the other computer, and do it all in reverse. Not impossible, but a total pain.
Around 2008, I started working for a new company and they used Dropbox. It was this nifty program with folders that I could put my stuff in and then retrieve it on another computer! I was amazed. I am not computer illiterate, but I am old enough to remember how things were before, and Dropbox was the start of cloud storage for the general public.
What is the Cloud?
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re using some sort of cloud service. Now, I have family members who don’t know what Dropbox or OneDrive are, but they have cell phones and laptops and automatic backup, so the Cloud still comes into play.
In a nutshell, cloud storage is where your data are stored that makes it accessible across your devices. It uses the Internet instead of your personal hard drive and other products with physical storage, i.e., flash drives, cameras, computers, phones, external hard drives. It’s this whole big thing that’s super technical, but there’s no need to worry about how it works unless you’re interested in that kind of thing. I am not.
I have used Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud. I’m an iOS lover, but a Mac hater, so I’ll be comparing the first three. Plus, iCloud’s 5GB of free storage isn’t even worth writing about without having a Mac. Let’s get rollin’!
My first foray in cloud management systems was Dropbox, as stated. It did what it was supposed to and has made many improvements since 2008, but those improvements were on the tail of Google’s advancements, so many people dropped Dropbox before the company had a chance to catch up with the times.
Easy to use
3.5 GB for free
Useful tools, like Paper and HelloSign
Compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Create New File feature
Easy to Use
Dropbox is easy to use and includes an interactive tutorial to get you started. It’s drag-and-drop feature allows you to add files to it easily, or you can upload them to your account via the site.
3.5 GB for Free
For the free version, you get 3.5 GB of storage. It’s not much if you want to store photos and videos, but it’s plenty for documents and smaller files.
Paper and HelloSign
Yet another name for a document (doc) creator that isn’t Microsoft Word, Paper is a nice little doc editor with useful features. You can easily include .gifs and code in Paper with a click or tap. It’s very much like Google Docs, although I like the featured apps offered for adding media. It’s streamlined and not fussy, and Unsplash is a popular site to get free-to-use images.
HelloSign is a feature to request signatures for documents. In the old days, you used to have to print all the documents out, initial each one and sign at the bottom, scan the documents, and email or fax them to the required parties. HelloSign makes this process so much more efficient and environmentally friendly. I don’t know if there’s a fee to use it, however.
Compatible With Mac
Dropbox is compatible with Mac and iOS so you can access your data on Apple products.
3.5 GB for free
3.5 GB Free
Free storage is a pro and a con. It is a pro because they don’t have to offer it, but it’s a con because it’s only 3.5 GB for free. I have tons of pictures of my family and pets that I store on an external hard drive and in the Cloud because I would be devastated to lose them. Right now, I have about 15 GB of pictures. Dropbox’s free storage doesn’t even come close to backing up my pictures.
Dropbox jumps from 3.5 GB for free to 2TB for $9.99 a month billed annually or $11.99 a month billed monthly. There is no in-between. It’s much more expensive than other cloud storage systems out there.
Dropbox lost popularity once Microsoft and Google jumped on the cloud storage bandwagon. It is not the go-to cloud storage company, and it’s important to have the same products as your family members and companies in order to share and collaborate.
Google Drive/Google One
I’m a Google girl, so Google Drive is obviously my favorite. Google has added Google One in addition to Google Drive. Google One is a subscription plan that you can add family members to and save more than work files and documents. You can save photos, music, emails, and more.
I am a business owner, so I use Google Drive File Stream for G Suite users. It’s basically a virtual drive, which is great. They also have Google Backup and Sync for non-business owners.
15 GB for free
Unlimited storage for high-res photos
Compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Easy to use
15 GB Free
Google gives you 15 GB free, which is pretty awesome and beats iCloud and Dropbox. Google has their hands in a lot of pies and it can get confusing, but they have your back. Their storage includes Google Drive, Google Photos, Backup and Sync, Drive File Stream.
Google One is the best way to keep track of everything, including Gmail email and backing up your phone if you’re an Android user. However, for business owners or G Suite subscribers, Drive File Stream is a good option.
Unlimited Storage for High-Res Photos
Amazingly, Google offers unlimited storage for high-resolution photos with Backup and Sync and Google Photos! This means your free 15 GB storage isn’t affected by your photos. With Google Photos, you can automatically back up any pictures you take with your phone and when you delete them off your phone to free up space, they are safely in Google.
With Google One, you can upgrade to 100 GB of storage for $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. For $2.99 a month or $30 a year, you can get 200 GB. For $9.99 a month, you get 2 TB of storage, and 10 TB of storage is $49.99 a month. You can add up to five family members to this plan for no extra charge.
Google Drive is very popular in the business industry. My clients use Google Docs and Sheets. With Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (the equivalent of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), you can share your work with others and allow them to view only, comment only, or edit. You can share with people via email or allow anyone with the link to view, comment, or edit. This is a great way to work with team members and clients.
Too many different services
No phone backup for iPhone users
No unlimited photo storage for Google One
Drive File Stream does not work offline
Too Many Services
As mentioned, Google offers so much that they are all over the place. They have Drive File Stream for G Suite users, but Backup and Sync for personal accounts. They have Google Photos and Google Drive and Google One, which are all separate programs. I don’t know what their plans are for Google One, but hopefully they’ll do some combining for their users.
No Phone Backup for iPhone Users
Phone backups take up a lot of space. Google offers the ability to keep your backups with them, but it’s only available for Android users. Considering iCloud’s laughable free storage, this isn’t helpful for iPhone users.
No Unlimited Photo Storage for Google One
The unlimited photo storage isn’t available for Google One. It’s not too bad, considering how cheap their storage is, but it doesn’t really make sense that you can keep your photos in one program, but not another. Photos, emails, and Google Drive counts against your storage.
Drive File Stream
If your Internet’s down for whatever reason, you cannot access Drive File Stream, even if you made your documents available offline. This is super frustrating. I don’t know why they did this. It will say the drive is not available if you try to access it while offline.
I might like OneDrive if I wasn’t forced to use it just because I’m a Windows user. I tried uninstalling it and it did not go well. Plus, I already have Backup and Sync on my PC and Drive File Stream, so it’s overkill to have OneDrive as well, but Microsoft is a bully like that.
Easy to use
Easy to transfer computers
Compatible with Mac
Microsoft 365 included in two plans
Easy to Use
Most cloud storage services are user friendly. You can do the drag-and-drop thing or browse your computer or device. OneDrive is no different, and most of the options are automated. By default, your pictures, documents, desktop, and music are selected for backup. These are the most popular and important, so it makes sense.
Easy to Transfer Computers
It used to be a real pain switching computers. If your old one died, you were stuck doing everything from scratch. This involved re-downloading programs, putting any files you saved on a thumb drive on the new computer, getting your settings and preferences just so, and more. As an autistic, this was very traumatizing for me!
With OneDrive, now you just sign in with your Microsoft account and it’s like having your old computer! Microsoft has included your Windows preferences, such as font, font size, Windows theme and colors, and important files that were in the aforementioned folders. For someone who is resistant to change, it’s glorious. I have two PCs and a laptop and I can pick up where I left off with all of them. Syncing is the best!
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft now includes Microsoft Office 365 in two of its premium plans, Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home. This is a big deal. You can buy Microsoft Office 365 for $400. Yeah, it’s expensive. Or you can upgrade your storage and get 365 with that storage for up to six users!
Office 365 Personal
Office 365 Home
1 TB+Office 365
6 TB+Office 365, 6 users
I have the standalone 365 that I bought for $40 at ThinkEDU (you must be a verified college student for the discount) and I like knowing I will still have it if I can’t afford cloud storage, but that’s just me.
Similar to Google Docs, you can edit documents in your browser and the changes will sync with your desktop and other devices that has the OneDrive app installed.
No annual option for OneDrive Only plan
Personally, I don’t like to be told what to use, and Microsoft is notorious for that. They want you to use their products exclusively. OneDrive is integrated in Windows OS and it is a pain and destructive to your computer to undo it. I tried and messed everything up. This is not a con if you’re a diehard Microsoft user.
No Annual Option for OneDrive Only Plan
The OneDrive Only plan is $1.99 a month for 100 GB. You cannot pay annually with this plan. Again, not a big issue, but it can be annoying to some users.
I like OneDrive all right performance wise, and it’s very similar to Google, but most companies and clients I’ve come into contact with use Google Drive, and it makes it easier to use the same programs as those I’m working with.
All three cloud storage management programs have great features and perform well. It comes down to preference and how much storage you need. I choose Google Drive/Google One because I’m a big Google user. I do have accounts with all three, but I use Google most and pay for it.
OneDrive is great to have if you’re a Windows user and Microsoft fan. I rarely use Dropbox and often forget about it. On the rare occasion that I work with someone who uses Dropbox, I bring it up in my browser and work from there.
So, for me, it’s Google Drive/One, OneDrive, and Dropbox. Your methods and preferences may vary. You can’t go wrong with any of them, however.
Disclaimer: This might get pissy because people annoy me, and people who insult others while being incorrect really annoy me. My parents were Baby Boomers, AKA “Boomers.” I’m a Millennial/Gen Y. The annoying, “Okay, Boomer,” crowd is Gen Z, or “Zoomers,” NOT Millennials. Saying Millennials are just now reaching the age to join the workforce is incorrect! Those are Gen Z’s. Know the difference; it’s not hard to figure out.
With that being said, lay off the Boomers! They did not destroy the planet. Earth Day started in the ’70s, co-founded by the Unicorn Killer (just an interesting fact). The only things destroying the planet are over-population, supply and demand, and greed, so stop. But I digress.
I want to know why some Gen Z’s are so lazy and neglectful when they have the world at their fingertips? I see all these Kids React videos, and it just baffles my mind. I can remember receiving my first CD (The Bodyguard soundtrack) and CD player for Christmas when I was a kid.
Before that, we had a lot of cassette tapes and we recorded songs off the radio. I don’t mean Apple Radio or Sirius XM. However, I knew what a record and record player were and that people listened to shows on the radio because the television hadn’t been invented.
My little cousins are Zoomers, children of Generation X, and they are (pop) culturally well-rounded and their parents encourage them to learn about things from earlier generations, such as music, bands, movies, TV shows, etc.
What are you other Zoomers doing? Why don’t you know about anything that came before 2000? What are you doing, parents? Gen Z’s are practically born with smartphones in their hands, but they don’t know who Matilda is or what Friends or Will & Grace are.
You may never know there were four hilarious women over 50 who accidentally stayed at a nudist resort and didn’t know they had to wear clothes in the dining area. Spoiler alert: There was a very large red cardboard heart involved.
You guys literally have all of this information in the palms of your hands. Don’t say, “Okay, Boomer,” when someone older than you mentions M*A*S*H. Go to IMDb and look the damn thing up, or look it up on YouTube. Check out the series finale; that will blow your mind. And guess what? I wasn’t even alive when M*A*S*H aired or ended. Crazy, huh?
Spend more time learning about what came before you instead of how many likes, hearts, and retweets you get. You can watch movies from the 1920s for free. They are mostly silent movies, so you may not like them, but they are there for the taking. You have so much history at your disposal and you just dismiss it all with an asinine phrase.
Listen to Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube. Check out Minnie the Moocher; she’s a real pill. Learn where “Dy-no-mite!” came from. It won’t age you, I promise.
With a little homework, you, too, can know who Glen Coco is and why he’s so fetch. You can learn why fetch never happened, and it’s not going to happen. You’re in the midst of a pandemic (those, and worse, have happened before as well), so use this time to learn things pre-2010, or even pre-2000, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Google “human spontaneous combustion.” Be careful if you do an image search, it’s not pretty. Amaze your friends by knowing what an 8-track and Betamax are. If they look at you funny and ask why you know that, just smile and say, “I looked it up.”
We could all use a little less editing in our lives, amirite? It is super frustrating to spend hours working on an article or post and feel proud of it, only to get an email with “Revision Request” or “Rejected” in the subject line. Or maybe your work is full of comments in the margins that tell you what you did incorrectly. Well, there’s an app for that.
Which one to use, though? The three I have used, Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway App, are powerful editing tools that will improve your writing and cut down on editing.
All three tools have very generous free versions. They are pretty cool apps, but I’m sure the paid versions are much more useful and worth the money. I’m typing this in the Hemingway App editor since I haven’t used it much. Let’s get started!
Grammar and Editing Applications
Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway Editor are apps designed to help you write well. They check your spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and more. I’ll go through them app by app.
I have used Grammarly the longest. I found it while attending college because English Comp I and II tried to kill me. The free version includes a chromium-based browser extension, desktop app, Microsoft Word add-in, Outlook add-in, phone app, and new iPad app. I’m an Apple person, so I don’t know about other tablets. The iPad is a new feature.
Grammarly catches misspelled words and normal “common” mistakes like your/you’re, judgment/judgement, its/it’s, there/their/they’re, is/are, etc., all on the fly (as you are typing). A newer feature will let you see what tone your writing is in, be it business, academic, casual, humorous, and the like.
The Grammarly editor scans your uploaded documents and scores your writing out of 100 based on correctness, clarity, engagement, delivery (with suggestions in each category), and premium features, which can’t be viewed in depth, but the number of errors will decrease if you guess your error(s) and correct it.
You can adjust goals for audience, formality, domain (style), tone, and intent for each document you open in the editor for custom editing.
The free version has really expanded since I last used it, and Grammarly is a great tool to have.
Go Pro (Not The Camera)
The Pro version delves into comma usage and includes a plagiarism checker, vocab enhancement, and other features such as passive-voice usage and outdated language. You can also receive help and feedback from a human editor. It’s $30 a month or $11.66 annually.
I have been using ProWritingAid since I saw it mentioned in an article somewhere online a couple weeks ago. PWA informed me I’m a very passive writer. Reading up on copywriting and content writing informed me editors frown upon passive writing. What can I say? I’m a very passive person, so of course, it would show in my writing.
The free PWA Editor opens in a browser and you can upload your documents or start typing away in the editor. There is also a chromium-based browser extension. There are so many freakin’ features!
In the editor, there are all these things at the top to check so many aspects of your writing. I’ll include a picture because it’s really extensive and impressive. When you’re done doing your thing (or before that, in case your computer crashes or the electric goes out), you can save the document or export it to your computer.
The PWA browser extension works like Grammarly (they do not work together) and has a contextual thesaurus. You can disable PWA on the site you’re at and also choose your writing style, which includes general, academic, business, and script. Pretty nifty.
Go Pro (Again, Not The Camera)
The Pro version of PWA includes much more. You can download the desktop app to use offline. In the browser editor, you can save your document to a host of places such as Google Docs, MS Office (which includes Word and Outlook), Firefox, Chrome, PWA’s desktop app, and some other ones I’m unfamiliar with by looking at a logo. You can also request a human editor for feedback.
Named after the famous author, the free Hemingway App is decent, but I’m getting a bit annoyed while writing this. It keeps taking me to the top of the page any time I do something other than type; this includes hitting Enter once or switching browser tabs. I don’t know the logic behind this.
Aside from that, it’s an okay editor. My document is very colorful (not a good thing for a professional piece). I really like the toolbar at the top. Tools are Bold, Italic, H1, H2, H3 (headings), “Quote,” Bullets, Numbers, and Link. The bold and italic can be activated by highlighting the word and clicking on Bold or Italic or by using key shortcuts, Ctrl B and Ctrl I.
While the editor grades readability, it’s not very helpful, in that it doesn’t offer suggestions unless only one or two words are highlighted. Right now, this sentence is yellow (hard to read), and hovering over the sentence with the mouse doesn’t suggest how I can fix it; it just tells me it’s hard to read.
The words “are highlighted” are highlighted in green and hovering over that tells me it’s passive voice and I should use active voice. I’m given the option to click on “omit,” which deletes the words, then takes me back to the beginning of the document (really annoying).
I like the word count and error count included on the side. I have a 5, but I don’t know what that’s out of. The counter gives you a reading time, letters, characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs in the “Show More” drop-down.
I have used adverbs 15 times and should aim for 9 or fewer; passive voice 5 times, meeting the goal of 16 or fewer; no phrases have simpler alternatives; 9 of 82 sentences are hard to read; and 6 of 84 sentences are very hard to read, including this one. (Sorry, guys!)
I think more suggestions would make Hemingway on par with Grammarly and ProWritingAid. If we knew what sounded best and increased readability, we wouldn’t be making the errors in the first place. I don’t see any spell checking taking place by Hemingway.
Go Pro (You Get It)
The Hemingway App desktop app is a steal at $19.99. You can work offline or publish directly to Medium or WordPress from the desktop app. Not on Medium or WordPress? That’s okay, too. The desktop app handles headings, formatting, and links so you don’t have to.
For me, it’s an almost-tie between free Grammarly and ProWritingAid. I would choose PWA for certain if I went Pro. If you are colorblind, the coloring will not be beneficial to you, but clicking on the underlined words or phrases in Grammarly and PWA will give you the information you need. With Hemingway, the Readability feature on the right will help you out.
I love numbers. That’s not to say I love math or am good at math. I enjoyed statistics when I understood it (if you attend college and are struggling with a subject, workshops are the best). I loved algebra, too.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. I specifically love numbers divisible by five. This strikes my husband as weird and he loves to rile me up, which is kind of rude, but totally expected. He’ll put the TV volume at 29 or 32, and that just won’t fly with me.
So, numbers! Any number divisible by five is the name of the game. Television volume, time, and even my order prices. I just had a client who created an offer for $19, and I created a counter-offer for $20. Seriously. Hubby asked me why I was stressing over the offer, and I told him it was because it was $19. The guy accepted the offer, and all was well 😊.
I will stare at a clock that reads xx:59 until it hits xx:00. With numbers not divisible by five, they have to at least match. In high school, I was a straight 7; I wore size 7 jeans, size 7 rings, and size 7 shoes. If I jumped to a 6 or 8 in jeans, I had to adjust my diet until I was back in size 7s. Crazy, huh?
It’s a toss-up whether this is an OCPD (obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which is different than OCD) thing or an autistic thing or maybe even a Dandy Walker thing. Who knows? I never got the proper treatment for any of those, so it’s anyone’s guess.
What’s something “weird” that you do or obsess over? Answer in the comments!!
There are so many job or “gig” brokers out there, it’s hard to find the right one. I have used UpWork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, and all three have pros and cons. But which one is best? Is there a best? I will share my experience with each.
I have been with UpWork the longest and have had the most success with it so far. I have used UpWork mainly for transcription jobs and some content writing jobs. It is easy to use and has the escrow feature, so you don’t have to worry about doing the work and not getting paid.
Very responsive customer support
Great overall work experiences
No one wants to put in hard work and time and then not get paid; it’s just not cool. Escrow works like this: The person hiring you puts up the agreed-upon amount through UpWork. This means you, the freelancer, do not have to send an invoice or remind them you need paid for services provided. It is a safe way to work with people you don’t know.
When you deliver your work and it is approved by that person, the escrow is released and you get paid. You go in knowing that person has the funds available and don’t need to worry about whether you will get paid. I’ve never had a problem with this and have never not had my work accepted and approved for payment. There is a resolution center, but I don’t have experience with that.
UpWork’s customer support is very responsive and great to work with. I did contact UpWork once when I could not get in touch with someone I was working for and UpWork got back to me very quickly.
You can have more than one profile for more than one specialty. I do transcription work and copywriting and content writing. Each profile highlights your experience and skills for one specialty. This is great for a jack-of-all-trades freelancer who offers more than one service. My tagline, bio, and skills are different for my different services, and I really like this feature.
A 20% service fee for each job
Connects are not free
Different proposals require different amounts of Connects
Clearing time for funds
UpWork’s service fee is 20% for each job or milestone! This means a $50 job costs you $10, so you get $40. A lot of people do not want to pay you what you are worth on these sites; they want a lot of work for the least amount of money.
The higher your bid is, the lower your chances are of getting chosen unless they have seen your work and skills. The proposals can even include if someone is looking for the best work or the cheapest bidder. We all know there are people out there who will work for peanuts for the experience.
UpWork used to give you so many Connects a month, but now you have to buy them. They are 15 cents for one Connect, but some proposals require 4 to 7 Connects. You are not refunded these Connects if they do not hire you. However, if the job proposal violates the Terms of Service and is removed, you are refunded your Connects.
Funds Clearing Time
Clearing time for funds is a whopping five days. When you finish the project and it is approved, it takes five days after approval before your funds are available.
After your funds are available, you can give UpWork more money ($2 for each transaction) for instant withdrawal, which is on top of the 20% service fee and whatever you paid for Connects. If you go with the not instant, it takes 3 to 5 business days before you see your money.
UpWork is pretty much triple dipping, and you are the one losing money. I have not hired on UpWork, but I am sure those who are hiring are paying UpWork, too.
There is a direct deposit option available for every week, two weeks, or month (your choice), but you have to have a minimum balance of $100. This is not very helpful when you have bills to pay and need your funds as soon as possible.
UpWork is reliable, but slow and certainly not hurting for money. There are tons of freelancers and “employers” on UpWork, so they are making bank on the daily.
I just recently started using Fiverr because the original $5 “gigs” were not appealing to me. My work is worth more than $5, but like most “dollar” stores, Fiverr has made some changes and you can charge more for your services. To get noticed, it is recommended to start out cheap, around $5, and then raise your rates when you have some jobs under your belt.
Like UpWork, Fiverr has the escrow feature. It is pretty sad that it is needed, but that’s humans for you. Escrow works the same way on Fiverr as it does on UpWork, which was explained above and does not need repeating. Payment options include a Fiverr Revenue card, PayPal, and Direct Deposit through Payoneer.
Fiverr gives the option to tip your freelancer, which I think is a great feature, with some drawbacks I will mention below. I have received $15 and $7.50 tips from two projects, which I thought was pretty cool.
There is a Fiverr community which is great for networking and learning how to get clients and get your profile noticed and become a top seller. I have been too busy to really get into it, but it’s a nice feature and the people are helpful and kind.
You can “learn on Fiverr” by taking courses, which are featured on your profile when you successfully complete them. I took the free course offered by the founder of Fiverr and it offered some great tips and answered questions.
A 20% service fee
Any tips earned are included in the service fee
Clearing time for funds
Like UpWork, Fiverr charges a 20% service fee and any tips you receive are not immune. If you are tipped by the person hiring you, Fiverr gets a part of that too, which I think is a bunch of BS. That is like splitting your tip with fellow waiters and waitresses at a restaurant when they didn’t do the work. It is not a fair practice.
Funds Clearing Time
Also like UpWork, it takes forever to get paid on Fiverr. I have made $94 on Fiverr from three projects and have received payment for one, which was $46. The clearing time is after the work is approved by the person who hired you, just like UpWork. Fiverr is basically UpWork and carries the same pros and cons with the exception of being able to tip your freelancer.
The courses offered on Fiverr are not free and they can be pretty expensive, ranging from $20 to $150. This may be worth it if you get more jobs by taking these courses, but I have not purchased any of them.
I am new to Freelancer as well, but have received three jobs so far. It is an okay platform, but full of non-US and non-Canadian workers. It is very much an ESL platform.
A 10% service fee
Like UpWork and Fiverr, Freelancer has an escrow feature so you know you will get paid.
There are many, many high-paying proposals on Freelancer. Those who are hiring set a budget and there are many $250 to $750 proposals, and some higher ones. I have seen a $50,000 budget on two proposals! My three jobs were $500, $600, and $1125.
Freelancer’s service fee is 10%, which I love. It is half of UpWork’s and Fiverr’s fees. Instead of a $100 service fee for a $500 job, there is a $50 service fee. This fee is waived when you become a paying member, which starts at $4.95 a month. Not too shabby.
You can take exams on Freelancer, but they are not free, and they are not easy. Each level 1 exam is $5, level 2 is $10, and so on. The amount is debited from your Freelancer account if you have earnings in there. If not, your connected bank account, credit card, or PayPal is debited.
You are not refunded the fee if you do not pass. If you pass the exam, it is featured on your profile, which may net you more jobs.
There are some interesting proposals on Freelancer. I have bid on many just because the project sounded interesting. There are some nice people to work with on there as well.
Very heavily saturated with ESL hirers and freelancers
High amount of scam proposals
Clearing time for funds
Service fee is taken before project is completed
Withdrawals are one at a time
English as a Second Language (ESL) Hirers and Freelancers
This may not seem like a problem, but for Americans, Canadians, and other English-speaking countries, it is. The cost of living in the US and Canada and the UK is high and the exchange rate is high. A $250 job can be very lucrative for those outside of North America and Europe because the cost of living in other countries is much lower. This creates high competition and lower rates for US and Canada workers.
Likewise, some of the bids are riddled with spelling and grammar errors because the freelancers who place bids for English projects are not fluent in English. You have to count on the hirer to see this and choose accordingly. Searching for projects by country will net zero results if you choose North American countries.
I have seen dozens of scams on Freelancer. I have already been scammed on UpWork, and the amount of scammers on Freelancer is tenfold. I have made bids advising fellow bidders to not accept interviews or take their business off Freelancer, but the scammers just create another project. UpWork is more vigilant and proactive in this department. It doesn’t seem like Freelancer cares.
There are tons of low bidders on Freelancer who are willing to work for almost nothing. They bid the lowest amount, and this is not good practice! I know what I am worth, and I bid accordingly. I have been chosen over dozens of the low bidders because those hiring want good work and know it means good pay.
As with most places, there are low-paying projects. Some people want 1,500-word articles done for $10. One proposal wanted to pay $30 for 20,000 words and there were dozens of bids for it.
Know your worth, people! Your actions and willingness to work for nothing hurts those of us who are good at what we do and know we should be compensated fairly for that work.
I bid $500 on a $250 to $750 range project and was chosen out of 30+ low-range bidders. The minimum budget for my $1125 winning bid was $250. Bidding low shows companies and hirers that you are inexperienced and do not value your skills or time. Low bids mean low-quality work.
Don’t undersell yourself and drag the entire industry down with you. In both cases, I was fairly compensated and received great reviews for my work. Sell yourself and let them know you are worth your price tag.
Clearing Time For Funds
Your first sell takes three weeks to clear after approval. This is ridiculous, especially after all the verification requirements. I am still waiting on my first project to clear.
The 10% service fee is awesome. However, Freelancer takes the fee before you even begin the project. My first project’s service fee was $50 (10% of $500) and my account balance showed -$50 upon my bid being accepted.
When I won the $1125 project, $112.50 was debited from my $450 earnings from my first project, which hasn’t cleared yet because it hasn’t been three weeks. This is a terrible setup.
A new rule, or whatever you want to call it, is that you can only have one pending withdrawal at a time. All of my earnings are locked up in Freelancer. When my first project earnings finally clear, then and only then can I request to withdraw my second project earnings. Very bad business and logic.
All in all, Freelancer has the most cons, but I think they win out for me because of how high the proposals are and how low the service fee is. I have made the most from Freelancer, if the funds are ever released before I die. (Update: They were, and I did not die.)
It’s a personal choice, but there’s all the information I have for you so you can make a fairly informative decision. Your experience and methods may vary, as with anything. Happy bidding!
Like many, many writers struggling to gain experience and an online presence, I was a victim of more than one content mill. It happens to people in all industries and it’s a disgusting practice that will never go away, unfortunately.
What’s a Content Mill?
In a nutshell, content mills are basically brokers. They have the resources, online presence, and the know-how to get clients. More specifically, they have too many clients and need help with production. Instead of paying people what they are worth, they hire tons and tons of workers (in this case, writers) and pay them way below industry standards.
For example, my per-word rate is at least 15 to 25 cents. This is considered fair to good pricing for writing. Content mills pay writers between one and four cents a word! So if they quote the client 15 to 25 cents per word or more, they pocket anything over three or four cents. I don’t see this as being fair in the least.
I get it; they know how to get clients and had to learn that and build their reputation and presence, but they of all people should know writing is hard. You can’t just sit down and start writing away like you do with your personal blog or journal. You have to follow guidelines, implement keywords, do research, include specific phrases, be creative, include graphics, and on and on.
Then you have the service fees. Freelance places such as Fiverr, UpWork, Freelancer, and ClearVoice charge service fees that range from 10 to 25 percent. ClearVoice is 25 percent; Fiverr and UpWork are 20 percent; Freelancer is 10 percent. This comes out of your payment, and I’m sure they get a fee from the people who use their services to find workers, too.
PayPal also takes a fee if you use them. If you want to transfer your money from PayPal to your bank, they take another fee for instant transfers. Granted, the instant transfer fee is only one percent, but that’s on top of what they got just because you used PayPal to get paid.
Why It Works
So, I mentioned that this won’t go away, and it’s very, very true. You will always have someone who will work for less than they’re worth. Heck, I did it. I am so determined to not return to my previous career that I worked for two people and one company who shamelessly paid me way less than I should get.
I didn’t know the pay rates going in. Their hook for gaining writers is not being upfront with their pay. They will either not mention the pay rate or use the common phrase, “competitive pay.” (I hope you weren’t drinking something when you read that last sentence and did a spit-take.) On Indeed or LinkedIn Jobs, they may include a per-hour rate, which is almost always over ten dollars and closer to twenty-something.
Other writers work for less for the experience, which I get, but create your own experience. Write for yourself and throw it up on your site or in a portfolio. Most content mills don’t credit the writers anyway, so you won’t be adding by-lined pieces to your portfolio. If anyone is credited, it’s the person who’s paying you or the marketing agency that hired the person that’s paying you. It’s not gonna be you, honey.
Then there are the writers who live in other countries with a much lower cost of living. For them, three cents is great. However, that drags the rates down for everyone, including people who live in more expensive countries like Canada, the US, or the UK.
The cost-of-living difference isn’t just from country to country. I live in West Virginia, and working for 15 dollars an hour would be great for me. However, someone living in NYC and making 15 dollars an hour would be struggling a lot, if not homeless.
After all the emails and the writing assessment and anxiously awaiting their decision, they hit you with the “flat” per-word pay rate. Flat means you get that rate regardless of the assignment and how much research is involved. Emailing a ROFL emoji will not get you a higher rate and is frowned upon.
Know Your Worth
The bottom line is, writers are worth so much more than a few cents a word! We are creative and educated and hardworking! I have spent hours trying to come up with one sentence. It’s there bouncing around in my head, but usually just far enough away that I have to think how to say something just right. One of the hardest things for a writer is that first sentence or paragraph.
That’s all from me. I have no secrets or strategies to help people avoid being underpaid, but content mills really irk me. If I ever get slammed with so much work and not enough time to do it myself, there’s no reason the help I receive should not get fairly compensated for their work. I think it’s highly unethical and appalling, but that’s greed for you.