Is working for free ever justified, even for your spouse?

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I came across this NY times column, which gave rise to all sorts of thoughts.

My husband is beginning to fund-raise for his new start-up. I’m a professional brand strategist. He and his co-founder want my help naming their company, crafting messaging and creating their website and pitch materials. When I asked how formal the arrangement would be and whether there would be any compensation involved, he was incredibly hurt and now believes I don’t support his business. Am I completely wrong here? Should I work for him for free on the principle of being his wife?

So let’s try to break this one down.

Many people would have a knee-jerk reaction and say, “OF COURSE spouses should share skills. Marriage is all about mutual contribution, and everyone’s the gainer. It’s called supporting each other.”

True enough. But there’s also this: if the wife is a professional and if she does any work of serious extent for her husband’s business, she almost inevitably passes over other (paid) opportunities.

Her contribution could range from a short-term consultancy to actually laying aside her own business entirely and supporting her husband’s startup. And here, if she gets no official recognition, position, or salary, is the fly in the ointment.

If the marriage stays stable, equitable and loving for the rest of these two people’s lives, that’s fine. No problem may ever arise and it may not matter in whose name the income is. But what if it’s not?

What if things go south, and 20 years down the road, the wife needs to strike out on her own after being a prop for her husband’s business for two decades? Yes, as many will point out, in case of a divorce, she gets a share of the business. He may buy out her part during property division, or he may sell the business and split the profit with her.

This, however, leads to two issues:

  1. In a family court, depending on the state in question, the wife may need to prove the extent of her contribution to the business, and this may be difficult if she never had an official role.
  2. If the husband is in sole control of company finances, he may prepare for divorce and siphon off funds to offshore funds and trusts (I’m aware of these strategies because I write a lot of web content for divorce lawyers).

Furthermore, if her role in the business was completely behind the scenes, the wife may have a 20-year blank on her resume. She may include her experience in the family business, of course, but then what happens if she applies for another position? Who will give her recommendations, the ex-husband/boss?

This gets even more problematic if she ever needs a mortgage or a car loan. Not (officially) working for 20 years doesn’t present a good picture for potential lenders.

If the split-up happens closer to retirement age, the wife may find herself in even deeper financial trenches.

But this isn’t even the worse scenario. In the worst case, the wife may actually stay stuck in an unhealthy, possibly abusive, marriage because she is so deeply mired financially. I’m not saying this will definitely happen. But it might.

So, my bottom line: if a person expects their spouse to play any long-term significant part in their business, at minimum, the contributing spouse should get an official recognition of their role and company stocks. Anything else may put their partner in a very, very precarious position down the road.

Rainbow Lace Crochet Top

My new crochet top

Isn’t it nice that when the world is going crazy and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we still have crochet? There are still a few stray ends to weave in, but by and large, this rainbow top is done and I look forward to wearing it.

I worked with Camilla Cotton Magic by Ice Yarns and simply loved this yarn. It’s mercerized cotton that’s a bit on the thick side for thread, and it comes in a whole array of dazzling color-changing varieties. Like most cotton yarns, it’s a bit stiff if done in a tight stitch, but a lacy pattern like this one gives it some nice drape.

The yoke in close-up

This item involved quite a bit of improvising and I’m not sure I could recreate it if I tried. I used this diagram for the yoke and this one for the bottom.

I wish all my Jewish readers an easy Yom Kippur fast and a blessed new year.

A messy post about COVID-19 and what the pandemic is doing to us as a society

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Things have been quiet here. Really, really quiet. Some of you may have already surmised part of the reason: I’ve been working a lot lately. With four kids at home, renovations going on, and building up my freelance writer business, my own stuff has taken a place on the back burner.

But there are also other issues. COVID-19 has messed with my wellbeing in a massive way. No, I haven’t had the virus (I think). I’m just finding it extremely difficult to adjust to this new world we’re living in.

About a month ago, our new PM started a witch hunt campaign against people who haven’t taken the COVID jab yet. “They’re endangering us,” Mr. Bennet says. The ensuing media echo chamber has led to an unrestrained hate trip against the approximately 1 million un-Pfizered Israelis, many of them children under 18.

This circus goes on while two things are becoming clear: first, vaccinated people still spread the coronavirus, specifically the Delta variant; and second, people who’ve had two Pfizer shots are now getting infected. The vaccine’s protection against COVID is wearing off rapidly, and the government has started a massive Round Three campaign, giving people a third jab in what is essentially a clinical trial, since they have not tested this practice anywhere as far as I know.

This was not what people expected when they started lining up to get vaccinated in January. We kept hearing, “the vaccine will probably be effective for at least a year.” Well, it isn’t. And now we hear, “You should get used to it: a scheduled jab every 6 months.” Long-term effectiveness? Risks? Pffft. Don’t be ninnies, just roll up those sleeves!

Furthermore, there’s a more aggressive push than ever to vaccinate children and teens, who have a near-zero risk of COVID complications but not a near-zero risk of newly emerging side effects of the vaccine, like myocarditis.

All these months, I’ve felt like I have so much to say and so few words to articulate it all. Then Dr. Robert Malone came and said it all for me in his recent interview. I’ll just share a few select quotes.

We had the CDC come out last week, talking about the pericarditis and other cardiomyopathies that are showing up in the pediatric population, up to the age of 18. That is a significant safety risk. That was only recently identified about two months ago. It’s taken two months for the CDC to verify it.”

The thing is, mRNA vaccines use a new technology. They’re being researched as I write this, and the research will continue for many years to come. It’s not surprising that things like this are cropping up. In fact, I won’t keel over with shock if honest, unbiased research discovers more and more side effects down the road.

“So there’s things going on there with the vaccines. The problem is we don’t know how severe they are in general. What is the bell curve distribution for severity? What’s the incidence? Often the question is asked, why don’t we know? And the answer is because the FDA elected during this phase of emergency use authorization to not require that the drug manufacturers rigorously capture adverse events and efficacy signals.”

And this just begs to ask WHY?? My logic says that capturing adverse events should have been the FIRST aim during a mass trial of a novel genetic vaccine.

Dr. Malone also mentions Israel:

“We had hoped to have a rigorous data set from Israel. The CDC and FDA had been very comforted by what they thought was a rigorous data set from Israel and the ability of the Israeli government-related epidemiologic monitoring people to data-mine that database and identify signals.

The cardiac events in the adolescent population were actually first identified by an Oracle biostatistician, working with people at the FDA that are outside of all this. That was data mining from the various publicly available databases. He identified it, and notified the CDC. They identified it, then tracked it. They notified the Israelis, and then the Israelis were able to verify that they saw that signal in their database too. And how could this happen?”

I’ll tell you how. The Israeli government (Netanyahu, then Bennett, together with all their cohort) declared that we were pioneers. We were trailblazers. We were quicker and smarter and more advanced than the rest of the world. We’d grab this amazing new mRNA vaccine technology by the horns and we’d be the first in the world to BEAT COVID.

“Effective” and “effectiveness” were the only words in the official jargon. Nobody used terms like “caution”, “prudence”, “conservative approach” or “rigorous monitoring.” People who experienced a whole array of post-vaccine side effects were simply brushed off or told it’s “all in their heads.”

I haven’t been out to collect data, but individual cases stare me in the face. A family member with inflammation flare-ups. A friend who hasn’t had her period since getting jabbed. People complaining of muscle pain, general weakness, allergies suddenly rearing their heads.

So they come to their family doctor, and they’re told, “this has nothing to do with the vaccine. The vaccine is safe. Safe. SAFE.”

Of course, no treatment is 100% safe for everyone, let alone an experimental vaccine. Israeli health experts are no fools. If our government had been totally honest, they’d have said, “Yeah, we expect some people are going to suffer severe health effects from the vaccine. Some may possibly lose their lives. But as epidemiologists and statisticians, we have made our calculations and figured out that we’d lose more people if we let COVID run rampant. So we’ll sacrifice a few in order to save many. Roll up that sleeve, please.”

You know what would have happened then? No one would get vaccinated except possibly the risk groups. And they couldn’t let that happen, could they? Not after they’d agreed to become Pfizer’s biggest lab. So the vaccine is SAFE. It HAS to be safe. And anyone who has experienced a different reality must be a crazy anti-vaxxer.

The consequences of what we’re doing socially right now in this context is driven by fear. We’re driving ourselves a little bit mad with our fear over this pathogen.”

I’ve seen this with my own eyes. Today, Israel has a Green Pass for vaccinated people and people who’ve recovered from COVID. Children under 12 cannot get a vaccine yet. Children between 3 and 12 must get a COVID test before entering ANYWHERE, including movies, amusement parks, or the library. One mom got hysterical because another mom tried to get her 3-year-old into the local public playroom without a COVID test. It escalated to the ugliest mudslinging you can imagine. The offending mom left in tears.

Today, the public playroom is empty. Parents just won’t bother with constant health paranoia for their 3-12-year-olds. They’ll take them to the beach, out to nature, to visit friends, or to any place that doesn’t require a Green Pass. The library is empty because they fired the librarian for not getting the jab. People live in fear.

I hear hate-speak all the time. “Non-vaxxed people shouldn’t be on public transportation.” “Non-vaxxed teens shouldn’t be in schools.” “I’ve crossed any non-vaxxers off my friends list.”

Even with one million non-vaxxed people, Israel still has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Declining effectiveness and sneaky variants are responsible for the new upsurge of severe cases, coupled with the fact that COVID vaccines were never able to fully prevent transmission. Mr. Bennett must know it, yet he still points an accusing finger to the non-vaxxed even as their numbers shrink. This is called scapegoating, and it’s a classic bullying tactic.

Dr. Malone says, “Eventually, we’re going to get through this, but it’s impacting on society in profound ways. This censorship of information, those that are experiencing it, including myself, are profoundly disturbed by what we’re seeing, and the long-term meanings of it.”

Do you know the saying, “two Jews equals three opinions”? Jews love to debate. Israelis love to argue. But not when it comes to the COVID vaccine. Ever since the vaccination campaign first launched in January, there’s been no discussion. Just one huge echo chamber on the mainstream media and perpetual shutting down of social media profiles for people who posted “misleading” information (honest personal opinions and experiences).

It scares me. It scares me because it seems that free exchange of information, the ability to disagree, the ability to shift from monochromatic yes-no, black-and-white thinking are gone.

“Just today, the World Health Organization made an announcement clearly and unequivocally. You’ve got to start using masks because none of these vaccines are preventing infection. They’re preventing disease. They’re not preventing transmission.”

Got this, Mr. Bennett?

The dictionary of an overworked freelancer mom, part 1

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One of these days, I’m going to write a more serious post. Like what it’s like to live in a country that was so proud of being a vaccine pioneer and now appears to be in total shambles. Or how to save on electricity during a massive killer heat wave.

But today, it’s time for something just for laughs.

A: Advancing. Something you’re supposed to do on projects instead of browsing the biography of Elvis Presley.

B: Break. Something you should never feel guilty for taking. In fact, I guarantee that you need it.

C: Client. Someone who bombards you with emails while they need you and disappears for a month when it’s time to pay.

D: Deadline. Wait, how can it be tomorrow?! I thought I had a week.

E: Entertainment. Watching your kids chase chickens around the yard.

F: Food. Something you’re somehow supposed to come up with three times a day. You try to convince your kids leftover soup does too count.

G: Getaway. Something you daydream about nonstop.

H: Hunger. Something you feel around noon when your stomach rumbles and you recall you’ve gotten breakfast for everyone except yourself.

I: Internet. Something you rely on for your work, which tends to flop just when you’re having an important discussion over Skype.

J: Jig. Something you do when you finish a big project.

K: Kill. Something you want to do when your computer crashes.

L: Lucky. The way you feel when you open the refrigerator and see there’s still some milk left for your morning cuppa.

To be continued…

The perfect escape

We have lived through a hellish week and a half, with everyone sick and me having just enough energy to feed the poultry, make tea, and make sure everyone has their antibiotics.

After this nightmare, yesterday I realized there’s no more perfect opportunity than now for a little escape trip to the beach.

Perfection, every time

We arrived in the late afternoon, my favorite time of the day, and stayed until sunset. The sky was still red when we caught the train home.

Love it.

I always kind of wish we lived closer to the beach, but then maybe it wouldn’t be as special.

I sure hope we won’t be as sick again this summer – or, ideally, ever.

Is working from home really better for the family?

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Some days, honestly, I doubt the answer.

As a mom to a bunch of young kids, working from home gives me the benefits of no commute, a flexible schedule, and the ability to work in my pyjamas at the kitchen table.

It also means, however, that I often find myself working a whacko schedule of late nights followed by early mornings and the occasional hour in the afternoon.

Whenever someone is awake, forget about productivity: distractions can propel me into making ridiculous mistakes like using info for Orange County, NC, instead of Orange County, California (true story!).

I’m always there, but I’m also not really “there”, because my eyes are glued to my laptop screen. And when the time comes to close the laptop for the day, I find it hard to disengage.

Here’s a dirty secret: when you work from home, many people consider it not working at all, even if you make pretty good money (Covid and the lockdowns changed this cultural assumption somewhat). As such, family members expect you to be always available for a phone call or a quick errand during the day and don’t understand what you mean by “busy”.

There are days when the lure of walking out of the door for a set number of hours, then coming back home to really BE at home, is almost overwhelming. Then a kid gets sick or I make a trip somewhere and see the traffic, and think that my choice of being a home-based freelance writer makes sense after all.

The ideal solution for me would probably be a designated home office (and a whole lot of help with little ones!). Until that is in the making, I’ll make do with what I have.

Five things you gain when you simplify

Simplifying can mean many different things to different people. For me, it’s paring down your life to get rid of clutter in all areas: closets, schedules, relationships.

Simplicity is the freedom of being able to smile, say “no thanks”, and walk away without being riddled with guilt or feeling you’re missing out on something.

Here are five things I enjoy thanks to simplicity:

  1. More time. Fewer engagements and less stuff mean you don’t have to spend as much time managing the administrative side of life.
  2. More money. Simplifying often means buying less, traveling less, and opting for fewer paid activities. Which allows you to save your money for what matters!
  3. More creativity. Slowing down helps think outside the box. For example, during the strictest covid lockdowns, we discovered lovely spots we’ve never visited before within walking distance.
  4. Deeper engagement. If you put your phone aside and don’t look at the time for a bit, you can really be present in the moment.
  5. Stronger relationships. For me, simplicity means spending time with people you truly care about and elegantly opting out of superficial relationships.

I’m sure I can think of more, but these are the main points. What is simplicity for you?