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Summer fun

June 24th, 2017 at 01:34 pm

I got my 1st electric bill since using the central air. I was kind of pleasantly surprised as it was up maybe $10, at $81. Granted, I didn't use it daily, only when the humidity was oppressive, like today. For a total of about 5 days.

My cousin has returned to PA. Gosh, what a talker. I have grown fond of him, and that won't change (I kind of miss him already), but I find it very tiring to spend extended time with someone who talks nonstop.

So we ate all our lunches and dinners out except for one lunch I had at my house. My dad and he ate breakfast each day at the diner across from his motel.

I have lots of leftovers now. Smile Otherwise, all we did besides eating out and the river cruise was after lunch yesterday I took him and dad to get an ice cream cone at the farm ice cream stand. They even have diabetic ice cream.

After that, I did the grand tour of my home town; we stopped in at the old town hall so I could show him the beautiful painted wall murals of different spots and historic buildings and homes around town, plus the theater, which is pretty unusual.

We also made stops at Fairfield Hills, the organic farm, the new school built after the shootings, historic Main Street, Ram Pasture and The Pleasance and our two lake boat ramps, the Victory Garden, the solar panels all over town, and where I go hiking, the new fire station, the new volunteer ambulance building. I guess I could have been a realtor.

He had never seen CT before so he came away with a favorable view and said he'd have to drive all over his county to show me comparable things.

Earlier this week, just in time for the cousin's visit, I got a call that my bench cushion was ready.

It's an old, out of print Waverly pattern. It looks great and I guess she over-calculated how much fabric I'd need because there was a full yard left over...enough to cover the 2 seat pads on 2 very old chairs of my mother's. I did the seat pads myself and they came out fine. I used a staple gun and glue, as they had been done before, but I removed some small nails in the chair that seemed like they would puncture the new fabric when I put the seat back down on it; so I hope the seat pads will stay in place if people sit on them.

I STILL have enough left over fabric to make a pillow, although I don't sew, don't have a machine and I don't want to pay for a pillow. Anyone have any easy pillow construction methods where I can sew my hand?

I have someone coming over tomorrow a.m. to hopefully buy a twin wood headboard. I'm only asking $20 after having no takers for a long time. I don't like the dark wood but it could be painted and I think new it would be about $50.

Got paid $105 from a freelance client. Smile

I'm a little worried about Waldo. He hasn't eaten all day, and as a result, he also hasn't had his morning 2 meds. This kind of thing has happened before, and then he comes around and eats, but it usually doesn't last this long. He was sounding stuffed up/congested, so if he can't smell his food he won't eat. I already have him on meds for the allergies and cant' increase the dose. I had the windows closed with AC on and AC brings in air from outside. But it rained this a.m. which should have brought the polllen count down.

I tried fishy smelling food. Not much else I can do. He shouldn't be off his meds and he's pretty old.

Great day for a river cruise

June 22nd, 2017 at 04:02 pm

We had a picture-perfect day for our river cruise. Sunny and warm but dry, not muggy.

It was pretty relaxing and interesting to listen to our captain and mate talk about the river, historical points of interest, the comeback of the ospreys and eagles and so. There are hundreds of osprey nesting on the river, the Gillette Castle, the unusual truss bridge that opens perpendicularly for boats to pass (not upright). One of the osprey nests is on a pillar of that bridge that opens out across the river whenever a tall ship goes under. The birds don't seem to mind.

I brought water and some grapes to snack on. It was fun to look at the sonar results on a large TV screen showing little markings where all the fish were. There were a lot of fish.

Another cruise boat...ours was much smaller with just one level but very comfortable.

This is the East Haddam Bridge as it's swinging open to allow a tall ship to pass. The white building at right is a historic opera house which was saved from the wrecking ball and continues to host theater shows, many of which began there and made it big on Broadway, including Annie.

Here's a closer view of the backside of the opera house.

We hit a lot of traffic coming back and had a late lunch at one of the better restaurants in my dad's area.

I'm so pooped.

My black swallowtail caterpillars are coming along nicely, having grown from the first instar (all black with a single stripe in the middle) into a larger version of themselves with the more colorful striped variations you see here. They will get larger yet. I have two separate pots protected from parasitic wasps with tomato hoops covered with paint strainer netting: 1 with 4 caterpillars and 1 with 8 caterpilllars.

Family matters

June 22nd, 2017 at 04:32 am

My cousin arrived yesterday and we met for dinner last night at a local diner with dad.

I felt bad because while he didn't run into any major snafus on the trip out here (4.5 hrs), he followed his GPS and took I95 north, right through NYC, which I would have avoided at all costs due to traffic.

I have gone online and printed out directions for a different way home to Harrisburg area via the Tappan Zee, not the GW Bridge.

This morning is our trip for the Connecticut River cruise, about an hour's drive from here. I made a 7 am wake-up call to him this a.m. as he asked, but I got his recorded message; hopefully he was just in the shower.

I am already feeling a little fatigued, perhaps mentally more than anything, as I feel responsible for the welfare and comfort of both my father (84) and my cousin (70).

Both have major vision problems (my cousin has had 11 eye surgeries) and trouble walking, getting about, and even just getting in and out of my car, as Hondas sit a little low to the ground. I am doing all the driving and basically orchestrating events during my cousin's visit.

He is staying at a local motel because dad doesn't have much room at his apartment above my sister's barn, and I would not be able to medicate Waldo (2x daily) if someone were staying here. Waldo would just not come out from hiding til he left.

Friday they will be over for a vegan lunch (a sweet potato, string bean and black bean salad with cilantro dressing and a wheat berry salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, scallions and chopped apple) and after that I figured we'd hit the local farm ice cream stand (they have diabetic flavors) and then a brief driving tour of my town.

My dad was here the other day to show me some paperwork he got from his lawyer. Poor dad has had a long running problem with his tenant, who has paid every month's rent late for over a year, and she has not vacated the premises by end of April as was dictated by an earlier court order.

This has all resulted from my dad failing to do a background check on this woman before he rented to her. So he had no idea she's done this before and never could afford to rent his old house on the shore in the first place. He's been trying to evict for about 6 months now and recently changed attorneys because he didn't feel the first one was paying attention. I'm not sure I would have done that since now the new attorney is not familiar with the history of this case.

The problem is my dad just makes his own decisions unilaterally and I only hear of what's happened after the fact, when it's harder to fix things or possibly steer him in a different direction.

He has trouble reading things now and the paperwork he brought over I read out loud to him so he knew what he was signing! He had the stamp on the envelop and was ready to mail it. As it turned out, the papers incorrectly stated the tenant was $8,000 behind in rent; dad said she has only not paid for May and June rent to date. So I had to get on the phone with the attorney's assistant and explain that; she sent revised paperwork over to me via email, I had dad sign it last night when I picked him up for dinner, and then I emailed it back to the attorney last night when I got home. This greatly expedited things since without me, my dad would be mailing stuff to the attorney and vice versa.

Now dad wants to go to a "Pickin' and Fiddlin'" concert coming up in July in my area. It's an annual fiddling competition and we both like that kind of music. I had considered taking him but had decided it might not be a good idea since it gets a large crowd and involved a bit of walking to get to in a park on an uneven surface. Dad walks with a cane and is not steady on his feet. Someone brushing up against him could knock him off balance. Plus if it's hot and sunny it would not be pleasant since it's an outdoor event.

So I had decided against it without mentioning it to him but he saw it in the paper and said he wants to go. We'd need to bring lawn chairs with us; we only have one that folds. Dad can't carry one with a cane. Ugh. I tried to invite a friend to join us (and help carry stuff) but they can't come.

Trials and tribulations.

Waiting for a phone call

June 19th, 2017 at 09:20 am

I realized I'm running low on both of Waldo's medications, which I get from 2 different vets. The one vet makes it kind of a hassle because when you call to renew the med, they make you wait for a return phone call that the prescription is ready.

Usually they call back in an hour, but today I called them at 9:30 am and I'm still waiting! I like to consolidate all my driving trips and I had a bunch of other things to do today. The vet is on the way back from the other vet, but I don't want to leave if it's not ready.

It's too hot and humid to work out in the yard doing my pruning chores. I have the AC on, but set at at a high temp of 77. If it weren't for Waldo's allergies, I would just open a bunch of windows and see how it felt.

I did a little dusting and cleaned the cat hair off some upholstered furniture. Otherwise, I've been playing Luminosity word games rather obsessively with other players.

I had the brilliant yet obvious idea to get the 2 very worn and dirty seat pads on my mother's chairs redone in the same fabric I'm using for the new bench cushion in the bookshelves. I should have the bench cushion done in another week or so, but I learned they don't do chair cushions. However, they recommended someone else; I'm guessing it'll be $50 a chair plus material cost.

The interview

June 16th, 2017 at 06:19 am

Yesterday morning I had my job interview. It was with 2 people I'd be working with, one of them being my manager. Both are around my age. They are part of a team of 5 writers.

They seemed pretty nice. I was there about 1.5 hours. He gave me a brief writing assignment summarizing an actual "Situation Report" of what this organization is doing to help with the drought in Vietnam. I did this when I got home and sent it on in to them last night.

My friend thinks I did a great job with the 1st writing assignment (the answers to 5 key questions) and he thinks I'll get the job. But I kick myself for answering one of the questions (what was your favorite job, and why?) by describing several job I liked a lot because they allowed me a fair degree of latitude in how I performed the job and that in some jobs I was able to define my role as I went along. He emphasized in the interview that this job was not really like that. I hope this doesn't make him think I'm not the right fit. I emphasized my strong interest in an email following the interview.

He also did say they will be talking to 3 other people besides me. I'm the 2nd one they interviewed. He's away next week so he expects to be making a decision shortly after the 4th of July. Which I don't mind, as it gives me 3 weeks to enjoy the summer. I am also still applying for other jobs if I see something. Technically I have just a 25% chance of getting the job.

He said it was a given that whoever they hire is a good writer/editor, but beyond that, they want to make sure that the person they hire can get along well with the rest of their team and is "unflappable" in dealing with their field offices in far-flung locations and can deal with stressful situations. He also mentioned that all the writers have to be on call on a rotating schedule on weekends in case some humanitarian crisis situation develops. When there's an emergency, they have to write something up really quick that can be sent to their current roster of donor corporations, asking them to help with recovery efforts. He also wanted to be sure I was ok with an "open office" setting. Which means they all sit very close to each other without much privacy.

The job does sound very interesting, unique, even, and certainly very different than anything I've done. I'm sure it would be a real eye-opener.

In other news, I had my well pump recharged this morning; it services my outdoor water only. I won't have to carry buckets of water from my kitchen to water all my outdoor plants anymore. I let it go too long but was procrastinating as I didn't want to spend the money. I feel like I've been spending, spending, spending. It came to about $130 and I got a 5% Angie's List discount. If I'd had exact change, I could have gotten the 10% discount for paying in cash; I had the money, but only in bigger bills. Darn.

I've schedule my cousin from PA's visit for a few days next week. I need to tidy up the downstairs, go grocery shopping to buy snacks/drinks and maybe even tidy up the front gardens outside. I've done next to no yardwork this year, and it shows.

I continue to get mailed solicitations from various groups addressed to my mother; she was fond of donating very small amounts to lots of different charities, and these charities share their mailing lists with other groups, so it all just proliferates. I had to call another one today to remove her name from their list.

For Carol....(butterfly talk)

June 14th, 2017 at 01:02 pm

I read about an easy way to build a butterfly habitat that is inexpensive and easy for even a klutz like myself to do.

I bought two 2-paks of "paint strainers" in paint area of Lowes for about $3.60 each. You carefully pull the netting over an upside down tomato hoop. Not a jumbo-sized hoop, which is too big, but a regular sized hoop. You will still need to bend the 3 prongs on the bottom all the way down. You want to make sure the netting covers all the way to the bottom, to prevent parasitic wasps from getting in there.

I used an old pizza pan on the bottom covered with paper towels. You will want to keep the bottom clean of caterpillar poop, and they do poop a lot.

These do seem lightweight enough that they could blow over on a stiff wind, so you may have to keep an eye on it, or simply keep it indoors.

I stocked up on fresh ORGANIC parsley plants at my local organic farmer. The parsley MUST be organic or the caterpillars will die.

This is what the first instar looks like. At first, you will see tiny, pale green round eggs. The first instar comes next. I counted 7.

I should be prepping for my job interview for tomorrow, but I'm having too much fun. Smile

A new interview

June 13th, 2017 at 10:57 am

After a phone screening and an exercise that involved my answering 5 key questions in writing, I've been invited to interview for the international nonprofit group I mentioned here earlier. This week!

I took a LOT of care in answering those questions; it came out to 3 pages. Hopefully it demonstrated my overall intelligence and interest in the job.

So I'm excited to get the interview so quickly and I'm feeling very bound and determined to get this job, one, because I think it would be an interesting job, and two, because a perm job with health coverage would get me out of this endless loop of worries about health insurance and how to keep it.

During the phone screening, she asked what salary I wanted and I sidestepped the question, saying I understood a nonprofit job would pay less and that I was okay with that. Still, she persisted, so I'm glad I did my homework and researched what similar jobs at this nonprofit paid on Glassdoor. When pressed for a number, I said something in the $50s and she said yes, we were thinking mid-50s. So no worries there. To be honest, if I hadn't done the research on Glassdoor, I might have been afraid to suggest anything higher than $45 to $50K, simply because I didn't know the going rate.

Thirteen years ago I took a job with a starting pay of $50K, and that was when I still had my mortgage. Not only that, but I was still able to contribute to a 401(k). Not the max, but it was something. So my years of hard work in prepaying that mortgage early will pay off for me here; I'll be able to take a lower-paying job (if offered) and apply all the income that would otherwise go toward paying the mortgage and invest it in the 401k instead.

Working as a contractor for any length of time is not an easy job. You have to prove yourself to people who don't know you or your capabilities, over and over again. And just when you're settling into the job nicely, the contract is up and you have to scurry and find something new. It's also hard to form any lasting connections since a lot of people don't seem to want to invest the effort in getting to know someone new when they know you're only there a short while anyway. So it can be a little lonely.

The beat goes on...planning for summer fun

June 10th, 2017 at 08:45 am

Yesterday I got an email from a national non-profit HQ'd in my area about a job I applied for there. They work with children. I think the job would be very interesting as I'd be writing lots of communications for high net worth donors. That's why they're interested in me, I think, because I have a lot of experience in all my financial services jobs writing for affluent and high net worth audiences.

She wanted to set up time for a brief phone chat, possibly later that morning, but I had already left the house earlier and by the time I saw it, it was 4:30 pm and she never responded back after I replied. I am hopeful we will talk on Monday, her alternate time slot.

I think this could be a very interesting job; it would pay less that what I'm used to (maybe in the $50s?) but as I've been saying, affordable health insurance is more important than earning top dollar. I see from reading Glassdoor reviews that they have Aetna, every other summer Friday afternoon off and liberal vacation time. On the downside, according to reviews, there are frequent layoffs, no meaningful pay raises or room for advancement, and it can be hard to take time off. I take all these comments with a grain of salt since everyone's work experience can be so different.

I'm really hopeful about this one.

My driveway guy sent me a note last night saying his guy would up here bright and early this morning to reseal the driveway. He finished up around 10 am. I'm hoping we won't see any of the pop up thunderstorms too soon, but with this heat it should dry quickly. Still, I can't drive on it for 2 days, so before he got here, I blew off the driveway and parked my car on a side street down the road.

Problem is, there's no way for me to get down to the street without walking on the driveway. There's all brushy growth and a steep slope on either side of the drive, and it's all overgrown on the side of my house where I could walk down my neighbor's drive.

Maybe by the time I go to dinner with dad tonight it will be dry enough to walk on (but not drive on). I could wear my rubber garden boots, just in case.

I finally have time to plan the get-together with my cousin and dad dad for later in June or July. Dad wants to take cousin on a river cruise, on the Connecticut River. I checked out the cruise dates, and my own calendar, and came up with 4 different time periods that would work.

The cruise is 90 minutes long and takes you by Gillette Castle and you can bald eagles and stuff. I've never done it so it would be interesting. Afterwards, I'll have to research nice places to eat for lunch. It's about an hour and a quarter from here.

Now that I'm not working, we can go during the week and feel less crowded/rushed. There's a senior discount and otherwise it costs $20.

I'm going to call my cousin today or tonight.

WE are definitely tick infested around here. Seems like everytime I pick up my outdoor watering can, I find one on it. I think ticks must have a natural instinct to climb on top of anything, and on the large, flat expanse of my driveway, I guess that was one of the few things to climb. I'm no longer going to leave it on the driveway, but will keep it on the front stoop which is a few steps up. Don't know if that will make a difference but I have NEVER seen anything like this. Ticks everywhere.

Spoke to my neighbor last night and she agreed, but she said her husband picks up more ticks than their 3 dogs. They sold 3 lambs to a wealthy couple in a nearby town that wanted to keep them as pets. Sold for $200 each. I'm so happy for the lambs. But now she has a lot of male lambs, which she doesn't want, because they will soon be sexually mature and cause problems. These are known as hairless lambs, a special breed that doesn't require shearing. They don't look hairless though.

I'm done (!) and so are the bookshelves!

June 8th, 2017 at 05:01 pm

I finished my last day. It wasn't so bad. I turned in my laptop and badge, faxed in my final time sheet to the recruiter and said goodbye to a few people.

For some reason I was anxious to move on once I learned the job would be ending.

When I got home, I decided the painted bookshelves had long enough to dry (I gave them a few extra days because it was rainy every day this past week) and here they are:

I love them, because for the first time in my life, I can attractively display so many possessions near and dear to my heart, including, primarily, my grandfather's woodwork and some of my mother's art.

The paint job is not perfect; I see some drip marks I missed, and so on, but it's good enough. The small pewter knobs I bought for the 2 cabinets below came with 2 screws, one shorter and one longer. Neither of them works right. The shorter screw is too short to hold the knob and the longer screw is too long so it doesn't sit flush against the cabinet door. I will have to go to the hardware store to see if they have an in-between size. Once I get the cushion in there, I think that window will be a cat magnet.

Still to be done is a trip to the fabric store to see if they could create a custom cushion for the windows seat with foam insert. I have to take measurements; maybe I can find the size somewhere without paying extra for "custom."

I now have 4 mortar and pestles and about as many cutting boards, all made by grandpa. All of it reminds me of loved ones lost, and I sobbed like a baby while I was picking out items to display on the shelves. I don't know how people handle it. I do a terrible job.

Anyway, I feel "liberated" now and have all sorts of things on my to do list for tomorrow and beyond. I'm looking forward to having my dad over for lunch next week so he can see the bookshelves.

I am looking forward to getting back on track with more walking for exercise and getting things back in order on the home front, even as I continue looking for work.

1 more day

June 7th, 2017 at 05:16 pm

It's funny how quickly your attitude can change.

When I thought I'd be working at this job all summer, I was happy to be there, no doubt helped along by visions of so much money to be made.

This week, knowing that tomorrow would be my last day, I've felt impatient to be gone and just get on with yet another change in direction in my work life.

Another exceedingly boring day today but at least no one suggested I leave early. Well, actually, at my 4 pm meeting the other writer did when she learned I didn't have much else to do besides the one thing I was editing, but since I told her I wanted to finish the full day tomorrow, she is having the junior writer give me some of the sell sheets he is working on. So tomorrow should be easier and I won't feel any particular pressure to finish what he gives me, or not.

One surprise thing I learned was that the person who hired me is leaving for another job very soon. We all just found out. I liked him.

It was very upsetting yesterday to learn that my neurologist's office is no longer going to be able to accept Cigna patients after mid-August due to some sort of contract dispute.

I have Cigna thru COBRA, and that will last til January of next year. I called the prescription company to see how many months worth of my medication remain; my doctor authorizes the med a year at a time so I can renew it each month. I have just 4 months left.

I plan to call the doctor's assistant to have her fax in a re-authorization early so this doesn't cause a problem 4 months from now, in October, when I need re-authorization for the meds.

Aside from that, I need to find out how much he charges for an office visit so I can determine how much more it would cost me to continue seeing him, if needed, on an out of network basis. So instead of a $40 copay, I'd pay 40% of the tab.

As long as I get his office to renew the meds prescription, I may very well not need to see him again before my COBRA expires in January. If I did, I might go to a different neurologist who accepted Cigna and then I'd have the option of returning to the original doctor once I had different health insurance, or sticking with the new one.

It's so hard to say what will happen, if I'll get a new perm job with new insurance, or a contract job, many of which how offer insurance if you get the job thru a recruiter. Or if ACA will still be around in some form so if I had to, I could buy it there.

I am thinking more and more that after my current job ends tomorrow, I may not return to the freelance job I had writing those college and university summaries. Before I left that job, I told her I did want to return when this contract job was up, but it just seems like so much work for the $300 or $600 I made per project. The $600 projects, for example, keep me fairly busy for a good part of the day for 5 or 6 or 7 days, so i average about $15 an hour. After taxes, it's even less, and it then complicates my tax return by having to report the freelance income.

It just doesn't seem like there's much to be gained by it aside from the money, and it demands so much time that I wonder if it makes me "feel" like I'm accomplishing something when really it's taking time away from a more directed job search.

On top of that, the company recently instituted a ranking system for all of its writers, and each one of us has received a "score" based on our writing and they are keeping notes pages personalized for each of us with admonitions to do this, not that. I rank 12th out of 43 writers. It annoys me, given the low pay I'm receiving; there is no incentive to "try harder." In fact, the net result is that it takes me even longer to finish each project because I have to check the notes pages to make sure I'm following their style and all their little rules. I mean really!

This might be a good job if I was in my 70s and didn't want to commute anywhere and was willing to just do it for pocket change, but I feel I need to make a more concerted effort to get either 1) a perm job with benefits or 2) a contract job thru a recruiter who offers health insurance to its workers. Even if that contract job was for just a few months, it would "restart" the COBRA clock, ensuring 18 months of coverage compared to the 7 months I have left now.

So in this light, any freelance writing gigs I find myself offer very little reward. As I've said before, it's the health insurance coverage, not the money, that is most important to me.

An excruciating case of lame duckitis

June 6th, 2017 at 04:05 am

As you know, I learned my job would end early last Friday. Yesterday (Monday) I had absolutely nothing to do. Am I already a lame duck?

It was one long day, sitting at my desk and pretending to be busy when I really am not. The highlights of the day were getting a half hour walk in on my lunch break and a few trips to the rest rooms, a trip or two to kitchen to replenish tea or water. Seriously.

I don't want to say I have nothing to do because then they might say okay maybe your last day is today. And I don't want to give up $1320 for the 3 remaining days there!

To sort of justify my time yesterday and hopefully trigger something for me to do today, I did at day's end turn in a revised version of something I'd written with some revamped language they hadn't asked me for.

It was excruciating.

Random stuff

June 4th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

I had dinner with dad last night at a new-to-us restaurant, which was pretty good. He had swordfish, I had scallops.

Afterwards, in the car, I read him the article I found on the region in East Germany where grandpa was from, an area known as being a violin-making capital of the world, prior to WWII when the Russians clamped down on everything.

Today began as a bright and sunny day, just perfect. I paid my federal and state estimated taxes for the 2nd quarter. I just winged it and paid 15% as the calculations using their forms rivals the 1040 form and is just ridiculous. For the amount I have to pay, it just doesn't feel worth it to spend hours figuring it out. If anything, I overpaid, and I'll get it back when I file my regular taxes.

I spent a few hours in "the courtyard" (aka, my paver driveway) potting up some parsley seedlings in hopes of having a black swallowtail caterpillar population explosion. Also planted a few more cucumber seeds. I have now used up every available pot.

I used the blower on the driveway and swept up a pile of fallen rhododendron leaves.

I used the trimmer around the yard since the mower did his thing Friday.

I watered assorted potted plants.

I contemplated throwing down more grass seed on some bare lawn spots, since I've got the seed and it's going to be off and on rainy into Thursday, but i just didn't get to it.

I sprayed all known areas of poison ivy with a straight vinegar solution. It works, but you have to spray several times and be patient.

Now it's cloudy and it already rained a bit. I've just been tidying up inside, nothing special.

Plans for after I wrap up this job on Thursday:

1. Call plumber to recharge my well so I can use my outdoor faucet/garden hose again, to water my many potted plants. I'm loathe to do this as it will cost over $100 and hopefully not too much more but right now I've been making due filling up my watering can indoors and then carrying it outside, 3 or 4 times a day.

2. Inviting dad over for a weekday lunch; I feel bad because since my sister's at work all week, he has nothing much to do. He has a garden which is engulfed in kudzu and probably loaded with ticks. I see him every Saturday but weekday get-togethers are nice too.

3. Get my driveway sealed for free by the guy who paved it last year....free because I've had weeds growing thru the new asphalt!

4. Use a $5 coupon from Kohls plus a $15 gift from them on account of my having an account with them for 15 years.

5. Deep clean: When looking for Luther's live mouse, I was pulling furniture away from the wall and noticed how dusty it was back there. I'd like to wipe things down with a damp paper towel.

6. Call my cousin J.from Harrisburg, PA area and schedule his visit for later in June for a few days.

7. I'd like to get some impatiens started as they do so well in the shade by my Stairway to Heaven. And it's so easy to root clippings once they're established.

8. I'm sure I'll think of more.

Garden report: Peonies and mountain laurel now in bloom.

Moving toward my goal

June 3rd, 2017 at 10:52 am

So, in May my savings just barely spilled over into the $900K range, at $900,308. As of June 1, I am now solidly in the $900s, with a net worth at $917,462. This is what's so magical about saving a wad of cash; the month-to-month gains (or losses) can add $17K to your investments without too much trouble.

My goal, of course, is not to see that number go south.

This is kind of exciting; it means I have achieved about 92% of my goal of saving $1 million for retirement.

I'd be too young to retire and live on that money now but I'm getting pretty close. Ideally, I'd like to save another $131,000 (see my sidebar) purely for healthcare expenses over my remaining lifetime, and not having any idea what the state of our healthcare system will be in the 8 years before I can pick up Medicare.

On the face of it, saving another $213,538 (for healthcare costs and to hit my remaining goal for retirement) in 3 or 4 years seems like a herculean task. But thanks to an incredible bull market and the power of compounding, I've come this far already, so who knows?

Well, there are a few good things about my contract job ending soon. I can attend the MS lunch the following week. I can go ahead and schedule a visit by my cousin in PA and generally enjoy the summer. I can try to do more things during the week with dad.

My cat drove me nuts the last 2 nights. I had just turned the light out, dead tired, at about 10:30 pm when, lying in the darkness, I heard the telltale scamper of little cat feet. A certain kind of scamper I have become familiar with, the light-hearted dance of a very excited cat. I got up to find a live mouse hiding under my dresser which Luther had carried up from the basement to show off. Sigh. When Luther retrieved him, I yelled at him with the aim of getting him to run down the stairs into the basement, mouse in mouth. He did, and I then closed the door to keep Luther in the basement.

Later, I went down there so I could remove the mouse, but it was nowhere to be found. Luther lost it.

Last night I went to bed and again heard the scamper of little cat feet. Luther had a mouse again, and I assume it was the one he caught...and lost... the night before. He'd brought it up to the main floor of my house and it was hiding by the sewing machine. This time I used a broom to sweep it into a cardboard box and dumped it outside. It was dead.

I went to bed again and unbelievably, Luther caught a 2nd mouse. Got this one in the box in the sun room and released it outside, still alive.

I'm not getting much sleep.

I went to see my neurologist last week. The one I usually see for my MS. I felt that my numb toes had gotten worse, that it's not really numbness now but extreme stiffness involving all 5 toes and part of the pad of the foot, just under the toes. His nerve conduction test a few months ago showed no lasting nerve damage from a pulled hamstring a few years ago and I just wasn't clear on what exactly the problem was. Arthritis? MS? Something else related to stepping on glass years ago? I had seen 3 podiatrists about that, years ago now, and all 3 said there was nothing in my foot.

My neurologist said he didn't think it was arthritis since part of the ball of my foot is affected, and he doesn't think it's related to the pulled hamstring of years ago since any inflammation caused by the pulled hamstring would now be gone. He thinks it's my MS.

I was surprised, since I've had no major issues for the past 9 or 10 years. He explained that as part of the normal aging process, we all lose "reserves,"
so little deficiencies or ailments are magnified.

I guess this may be true, becus the fact is, nearly every MS I've had involved my right side. Lesions in the brain, depending on their location, cause certain symptoms. He said to come back about it only if the stiffness spreads to my ankle or up my leg; it would be a sign my current medication is not working and an MRI would then be warranted to see what's going on.

I forgot to ask him if this could go away spontaneously or am I stuck with it forever. With relapsing/remitting MS, which is what I have, symptoms do come and go; with progressive MS, symptoms gradually worsen over time and don't disappear. Some MS people who start out with relapsing/remitting MS go on to develop progressive MS over time.

At this point, there are more effective MS drugs available now than the one I'm on, but all of them come with much more serious potential side effects and may require regular checkups to ensure no kidney damage, for example, and stuff like that. I'd prefer to avoid those drugs as the Copaxone is nearly side effect free.

Disappointed, but not surprised

June 2nd, 2017 at 03:30 pm

My contract job, in flux since I started 4 weeks ago, will come to an end next Thursday. This, just 2 weeks after my manager told me I could expect to work all summer.

The client bank decided to eliminate the 4th marketing piece I was to work on, and the junior writer they hired shortly after me can handle the sub-projects, apparently. So after next week, there will be nothing left for me to do.

At least I got 4 days notice and was able to gross an estimated $9,680 from 21.5 days of work, spread over 5 weeks. My net of about $7,000 will at least cover my recent bookshelf construction and replenish my coffers for living expenses for about 2-3 months.

I managed not to waste money on buying lunch at the cafeteria for all but 2 days.

I am really disappointed, but there's nothing to be done. I asked if he was happy with my work performance and he said yes. He explained that the bank client is not on retainer but calls them every so often with projects out of the blue, so it's my hope, after confirming my departure has nothing to do with my performance, that they might call me back down the line.

However, I can't help but feel, too, that their decision to let the junior writer finish the sub-projects was based probably on his lower rate of pay. When I checked his Linked In background, I could see he has about 2 years of experience in the field spread over 2 jobs. But they like him, and I'm guessing he wasn't making as much as me.

For Frugal Texan

May 31st, 2017 at 04:05 am

Thanks for your suggestion of a treat ball to keep Luther occupied. I wasn't familiar with them but found them on Amazon.

I may get one. Luther would love them as he adores dry food (he now gets exclusively wet food), although Waldo has no teeth so crunching on dry food would be tough on his gums. Maybe I could try using just soft treats.

Luther enjoyed watching a dozen different videos of cats using the treat toy. He seemed very interested. Smile

Sunday relaxation

May 29th, 2017 at 11:11 am

It's a chilly and rainy Monday. I couldn't quite work up the enthusiasm to continue painting the bookshelves for the 3rd day straight, so I gave myself a break as it's kind of dark to do so anyway.

Instead, I:

1. Did 3 loads of laundry.
2. Changed the hummingbird sugar water.
3. Wasted time on Facebook.
4. Whipped up a batch of granola.
5. Did my monthly expense report.
6. Tidied up.

There have been unwelcome signs that Luther is getting "bored" again now that I'm away all day at work. He scratched off some wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom. I found his tooth marks on my copper spoon plant and he knocked off a small cactus in the sun room. Bad, bad Luther!

I now have a pair of wave petunias hanging on either side of the front door...nice!

Happy Memorial Day

May 28th, 2017 at 05:28 pm

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend.

Today was Day 2 of painting the bookshelves. I worked on it 2 hours this morning and 2 hours this afternoon. It's very tiring. My arm was killing me using the paintbrush all that time, although with the roller it was better because I can use the roller in my right hand as well as my left.

I was wearing a respirator the whole time because the paint stinks. It's hard to breath thru the respirator. I opened the windows and had a box fan running so the cats wouldn't have to breathe it all day.

I'm only about halfway done and it's possible I'll even need to buy another gallon of paint!

Aside from painting, last night dad and I went out to dinner at a fusion Chinese/Japanese place. Dad's really into good food, and he remembered 30 years ago having a delicious bass dinner at a Chinese place where they served the whole fish, head and all, on the plate, and he wanted to re-experience that again. Well, they had it on the menu and he seemed to enjoy it. Except for all the fish bones.

After dinner we stopped at Starbucks, as we sometimes do, and got something to drink, then drove to a nearby park to sit in the car and talk til it got dark. I'm so thankful to have all this quality time with dad.

This afternoon during my painting break my friend R. stopped by to say hello and to check out the bookshelves. He invited me to dinner with him and another couple in a few weeks that I have never met. So that will be fun and a break from my usual routine.

His cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. He has started an immunotherapy that involves taking his blood, treating it somehow and then putting it back in him. It costs $93,000 (it's covered) and only extends life by 4 months, he said.

When he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was very fatalistic about it. Now that the drugs he was on no longer work and his PSA is rising again, he has started seeing a naturopath (at my urging) and is taking a ton of supplements and trying to eat better. He says if he doesn't see results in 6 months' time, he's going back to bacon, burgers and pizza. He probably has a year to live and I don't know much longer he will be feeling well enough to go out and socialize. I wish there was something I could do. It's a terrible thing. I will lose my oldest friend and I don't want him to suffer.

Somehow I found the energy after painting to go to Trader Joe's as I'm vegan and I'm out of beans! I bought about 20 cans of kidney, chickpea and white beans; the cashier must've thought I was crazy.

I hope to possibly finish the bookshelves tomorrow although that would be a tall task.

I may hit BJs tomorrow morning first thing before starting the painting again.

Washing out paintbrushes and rollers is such a royal pain; I'm trying something new this time. My dad left his Starbucks cup with lid in my car, and I put the used paintbrush in there, filled it with water just to the top of the bristles (don't want to rust out the metal part), then widened the hole you normally drink out and slid the handle of the paintbrush thru that, and closed the lid on the cup with the paintbrush in it.

Then I tool the 6-inch wide roller and put it in a plastic ziploc bag. Both techniques seemed to keep the paint moist during my break of a few hours, and I hope it will work overnight. If not, I have a spare roller and maybe I'd just use one of my not-as-good used paintbrushes to finish. With the roller, I'm seeing much better results with the paint job where I just use the brush to cut out all the corners and borders of the shelves and then use the roller to fill in the center and make everything uniform.

Probably more info than you care to read about painting techniques but this is what I'm up to this weekend.

Exciting genealogy news!

May 26th, 2017 at 04:30 pm

I haven't spent nearly any time at all on genealogy stuff since I was so intent on making money, first at the education job and now at the marketing agency.

So I was totally surprised to get an email from Pastor Anders from the small German town where my grandfather grew up.

I had asked him a long time ago to take a photo of the address he had uncovered as being the family home when my grandfather was born in 1905. At that time, he sent me a photo which simply showed a few modern-looking single car garages evidently being used by private home owners, with a steep slope behind it. Whatever residential building had been there, was there no more.

Tonight he provided me some details about grandpa's home, and even better, some photos he obtained from the city archives!

Interestingly, what I assume was a multi-family home was built in 1884 as an extension to an adjacent building, which was built in 1778. The owner was, guess who? My great-great grandmother, or my grandfather's grandmother! And in 1853, the older building belonged to her father, my 3rd great grandfather. So perhaps he found some advantage to put the 2nd building in his daughter's name, or maybe he was just trying to set her up in life.

Here's the building:

Not at all what I was expecting! If you look carefully you can see some people looking out the 2nd story window. For all I know (and I guess I never will know), that could be family!

In all the research I've done on both sides of my family, this was the first evidence I've gotten that anyone was anything but of very modest means! Perhaps she inherited from her father, then; the pastor's research shows one other sibling, a son.

Here is a 2nd photo; i have no idea who the family is in the foreground, but the building in the background is again my grandfather's ancestral home.

To complete this little story it would be wonderful to find out when and why this building, and possible the whole row of buildings, was taken down or destroyed. Was there a fire? Did the city want to redevelop? One can only wonder.....

I would love to ask the pastor, but he seems so busy and he has already done so much research for me, getting nothing in return. So I feel funny asking.

A new bonus credit card

May 26th, 2017 at 03:38 pm

I just activated a new $200 bonus credit card, a reward I'll earn after charging $1,000 on it in the first 3 months. Smile That means I must charge EVERYTHING on this one card. It's the Wells Fargo Cash Wise card. They asked me to disclose name of my employer, how much $$ I make and even a phone number. I provided all that without mentioning it's a contract job, and I gave the toll free number that goes who knows where, not my local office number. It's a huge company so I don't even know if they got thru to the right HR person. They did not provide the immediate online approval I'm used to, which seemed ominous, so I was happily surprised when I got the card in the mail anyway.

I managed to work til 5 today at work, even though most people left much earlier. I take all back roads home so extra traffic wasn't an issue; in fact, it was lighter.

I'm truly surprised that my credit has managed to stay north of 800 even with all these random credit cards I keep opening.

Really ANNOYED that the person who said he wanted to buy my miter box did not respond to my message this a.m. suggesting we set up the pick up this weekend.

Here comes the weekend!

May 26th, 2017 at 02:40 am

I love the long summer days...got up around 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep. (Of course I konked out last night at 10 pm).

Happy to be wrapping up week 3 of the new job today, although I want to ask if I can stay til 5 today (I'm sure others will be leaving early for the long holiday weekend) since I am already losing pay for the holiday itself and a half day the following Wednesday for a doctor's appointment.

This is what sucks about being a contractor. You don't get paid for holidays, or time out for doctor's appointments.

They had another happy hour (with alcohol) yesterday at the office around 4. I guess it's a weekly event! I chose not to go on either day because I don't think it's appropriate for someone getting paid on an hourly basis to be drinking while doing so.

I think I have a buyer for a nice miter box my mother used to make frames. The price is $25 and it's heavy duty metal; everything new now is plastic. I thought I sold it a year ago and drove 20 minutes to meet another guy, who then offered less than I'd asked for in the ad. So he was counting on me caving to the lower price becus I had driven all that way. Wrong. That pissed me off; didn't appreciate the less-than-honest tactics.

Anyway, this is my first attempt using Facebook Marketplace.

I did get my first paycheck and so after grossing $4166, I only netted $2841. The biggest deduction was for federal taxes, at $784!!

Still, this one check (for 2 weeks) pretty much covers my monthly expenses.

I want to revisit my witholdings. That little table on the back of the W4 is not very precise, IMO. Based on using that table, I am claiming 2 deductions, but I think I should be claiming 3 to have less money withheld from my paycheck. I know there's a way to fine-tune it (a calculator, maybe?) but I'm not sure. I'm very sure I'll remain in the 25% tax bracket.

This has happened to me before with higher paying contract jobs; too much is withheld, resulting in a large refund at year's end, when I would much prefer to get that money now.

The one big goal for the long weekend (heavenly) is to finish priming and then painting my new bookshelves. I primed about a third of it before using up the quarter of primer I had. And yes, it's going to take a lot of time. I would also like to ENJOY my holiday weekend and I need to hit Trader Joe's, BJs, Aldis, the dump and the gas station.

I found tiny butterfly eggs on my parsley (now that I know what they look like). Wow, that's early! I have released about 4 emergent black swallowtails this month that had overwintered from last year. Truly amazing that life inside those tiny cocoons somehow survived the cold of winter.

The idea behind raising them in an aquarium is that you are boosting their survival rate compared to the predation they'd face from birds and parasitic wasps if left to fend for themselves.

What a disappointment

May 22nd, 2017 at 04:00 pm

I thought I was getting paid today. No pay, all day, so left some messages with the agency. He replied back explaining that while he sends the time sheets in to payroll place every other Monday, I won't see the money til Wednesday. Sigh. Two more days.

Today was a stressful and trying day at work. We had a noon conference call with the client and I was making last minute changes and writing up "talking points" at 11 a.m.

Later in the day what I thought was a near perfect 2nd writing assignment drew lots of questions and declarations that certain copy was "clinical" and didn't "tell a story."

So we'll meet again tomorrow after I pull together some revisions.

I really don't think I'd want to do this permanently; people are continuously telling you what's wrong with what you've written, and this is long before the client even sees it and adds their .02. What an exhausting process, one I'll have to repeat 50 or so more times before I finish this job by September 1 (because that's about how many more writing assignments I'll have). Big sigh.

So it's disheartening. This is one reason why they're paying me the big bucks, no doubt. But still.

Saturday stuff

May 20th, 2017 at 05:33 pm

Today is the weekend I wanted to start work on my bookshelves. As they say, the prep is what takes so much time. I had a lot of caulking to do where all the corners meet, and I was using wood putty for the little nail holes. It took a lot of time, plus 2 trips to the hardware store and 2 trips to the paint store because our local Sherwin Williams "says" they open at 8 am but actually were buttoned up tight at 8:15 a.m. when I left, annoyed as could be.

Caulking is a messy job but I had noticed an influx of carpenter ants, some of whom were on the bookshelves or on the dining room floor, and I suspect they were coming it thru some of those above-mentioned cracks.

So I think I used 2 tubes of caulk. I just had no energy or motivation to do it, for some reason, but of course I want to have it done.

In addition to doing that, I did drop off some stuff at the household hazardous waste drop off site as I didn't want to hold onto it for another year. Interestingly, they took some old perfume and baby oil but not 3 old smoke detectors.

I also had to go to the dump.

My goal for tomorrow is the following:

1. Sand everything.
2. Vacuum up all the dust from sanding.
3. Prime.
4. grocery shopping
5. Fill up gas tank.
6. Think about what to make for my work week lunches.

Painting will have to wait til next weekend.

Went to dinner with dad at the Barnwood Grill, right in the center of town. It was very noisy, very busy. Dad wants to do Chinese next weekend so he can have bass done a certain way he's had before.

He has volunteered to come to my house on a day I schedule to have a water guy here to get my pump running again for my outdoor water. I have a ton of stuff planted in pots but have to carry it out from the kitchen because my pump was running last summer during the drought and would not stop, probably becus there was no water. So I turned the power off all winter but now it's still just running, so something is not right. I hope it's not expensive.

Anyway, I don't see how I could have the guy come over to troubleshoot it now that I'm working f/t again, so having dad here that day would be a huge help.

I also want to get an electrician over here to take care of some minor issues but he moonlights so I know he could come on a Saturday.


May 19th, 2017 at 05:16 pm

And the weekend is here, just like that.

There's a family of at least 4 chipmunks who seem to have taken up residence in an old vole tunnel close to my front door. They seem unusually tame to me, and Luther's not happy about it.

Here's a slice of orange I tried feeding the black swallowtail butterfly with until the weather cleared and I released him:

Hard to believe I wrapped up 2 weeks at the new job. Pay day will happen on MONDAY and I can't wait.

There were a zillion more rounds of edits to my piece but it goes to the client Monday.

In just the 2 weeks I've been there, they've already had:
1. Thursday afternoon alcoholic drinks at 3 (I skipped this and wasn't sure it was appropriate for me, a contractor, to partake)
2. A hot breakfast this morning of scrambled eggs, bacon and French toast!
3. A gourmet style food truck and all you can eat off their menu, compliments of the company. (I checked with HR and they said it was fine to join in)


I have a ton of stuff I want to do this weekend. At the top of the agenda is starting the paint job of the bookshelves. Or at least the priming.

I'm totally overrun with disgusting black carpenter ants, mostly in the kitchen, but elsewhere too. I think all that rain is to blame. And I thought I had found a way to seal off my kitchen. Apparently not. I still don't know exactly how they get in. Sprinkling ant bait is also high on my agenda.

I am trying again to sprout broccoli seeds for my daily salads. I need to go to Aldi's. I have to go to the dump and the household hazardous waste drop off is tomorrow. I want to spread a bunch of mulch on some perennial beds and plant more flowers for the butterflies, and veggies for me. I need to buy the paint for bookshelves. There's a plant sale at the middle school.

I am pooped just thinking about it.

The good and the bad

May 18th, 2017 at 04:14 am

First, the bad.

I must have told myself three times to write myself a sticky note and put it on my thermostat. The note would read: Do not turn on central air without taking outdoor cover off.

You know what happened, right? Yesterday was the first of 3 very hot and humid days, up to 95 today. Before leaving for work I set the thermostat to kick on when indoor temps reached 80 degrees. This was the very first time I'd be using it since having it installed in April.

I forgot to take the cover off.

I'm not sure when the AC would have kicked on yesterday, but maybe about 1 pm. All windows were shut and blinds drawn. So it was running, on and off for about 5 hours, until I came home from work and suddenly "remembered."

The hottest it ever gets indoors without AC is about 84 degrees.

It was noticeably cooler (tho not by a lot) and drier when I came home yesterday. So it had been on and running.

I went online to look for info on whether I damaged my AC. Some people said forget it, if you run it with the cover on, it's fried, while others said there's an automatic emergency shut-off switch that prevents it from overheating, but if that kicks on it won't run again until you manually reset it.

Well, my AC is running fine. I'm not sure why it would NOT have overheated. The cover that was on it does not cover the entire unit. The bottom 6 or 8 inches are left exposed even with the cover on, to prevent condensation from building up and rusting parts all winter long.

Maybe that helped? Maybe it helped that I set the AC to run at a relatively high temperature and it didn't need to run as much as I thought?

Maybe there's an automatic shut-off switch that doesn't need a manual reset? I don't know but I am SO SO SO thankful my idiocy does not "appear" to have damaged my new unit.

I'm happy with how it's operating though I must say the upstairs is, as usual, warmer than the downstairs. I'm not sure at what temp I should leave it on while I'm at work.

The cats make do and lay low in hot conditions, but my main concern when I'm not here is protecting my mother's art from humidity. I think I have it set at 75 now and it feels okay upstairs, but I'm wondering how many $$ that's going to add to my electric bill. Which is a good reason to re-check current electric rates. I usually lock in for a year when possible, but you can switch suppliers if you find one at a lower price without penalty, if that's the kind of plan you signed up for (and I always do). So rates could have fallen since I last signed up.

I will be very interested, and a little fearful, to see how running the AC affects my monthly bill.

In other news, I'm trying to organize my work and home schedule moving forward and asked my new manager to clarify how long I'd be working for. He said the next project will probably start in a few weeks and may overlap the existing project I'm working on now. So it sounds like no break in between. They hired a 2nd writer to help.

The deadline for the 2nd project is Sept. 1 but he's not sure at this point if I'd be working non-stop or if there would be little breaks/intervals throughout (which I'm rather hoping for, so I can play catch up on personal stuff, but not if that would reduce my overall income from this job).

Thinking about it now, I guess the deadline is the deadline. So I may just need to buckle down without breaks if I want to maximize my income because if I don't do it, the other writer will probably pick up the slack and draw from my hours.

But the good news is that instead of grossing just $8800 for 1 month's work, I am looking at earning over $35,000 for 4 months' work!

I have a doc appointment end of this month so will only work a half day that day. I am going back to my neurologist about my toes on right foot. They became numb 3 years ago shortly after I pulled my hamstring and that never disappeared. I saw 3 podiatrists, who did x-rays, and the neurologist, who tested and found my nerve conduction was normal.

Now my toes feel more stiff than numb and I'd like to rule out MS, Lyme and arthritis. I don't think it's the 1st 2, really, but not sure about arthritis. I just know the toes are very stiff and hard to flex and I might say the ankle is a bit stiff too, compared to the left foot. And I also can't walk barefoot anymore or that foot becomes very sore very quickly.

Day 5 and steady progress

May 15th, 2017 at 05:13 pm

Today was the 2nd "reveal" of my copy internally, at the marketing agency where I'm doing a contract job. After the first review, she wanted me to come up with 2 more versions; at this review, they cherry-picked what they liked and asked me to make some minor revisions to 2 versions only, instead of 3.

The 3rd reveal will take place Wednesday, still internally. God willing, it will then go to the client. I'm sure I'll be sick of it by that time, but I've already finished the 2nd assignment, modeling it on the first and hoping the client likes the first.

They hired another writer, a young guy, to help me with the larger assignment that comes after this one. I guess I'm okay with that since it answers my question that yes, I will definitely be able to pick up more work at $55/hour!! Yippee yay hi ho!

For all I know, this could be my only big paying job this year. Whenever it ends, I'll be going back to my very LOW paying job with the higher education company. What a difference: $15 vs $55/hour. Which would you rather have?

I'm already planning on devoting the upcoming weekend to priming and painting my bookshelves. To clear my plate, I drove home from work a different way so I could return a top I bought for this job at Macy's.

Of course, now that I'm working f/t, I MUST go the dump and do my grocery shopping and fill up the gas tank on the weekend, but I should still have time leftover for the bookshelves.

There have been plenty of warnings on the local news that this is going to be a particularly bad tick season becus we had a mild winter and lots of rain this spring. They are right, and I am kind of freaking out because yesterday, I found a large deer tick crawling around (unattached) on Luther. I pulled it off and flushed it down the toilet. Then I called my dad to warn him becus his garden is for sure infested with ticks plus he can't see them due to his eyesight. I assumed he or the carpenters had carried the tick inside the house since the cats don't go outside.

After I hung up from dad, I was going to sit on the front stoop on a lawn chair and I found a 2nd tick crawling on the metal part. I flushed it, too. Later that day, I found ANOTHER ticket on Luther; they can't seem to attach to him becus of his incredibly long hair.

Today, I found a 4th tick again on the lawn chair, this time on the arm rest!! What is going on? The lawn chair had sat for several weeks in a shaded area of my courtyard/driveway, under the canopy of several large rhododendrons. Yesterday I moved the lawn chair to the front stoop. Could the tick have fallen onto the chair that I'd been sitting on?

It's amazing to me how the ticks were somehow transferred to Luther, whose like a magnet becus he rubs against everything. Maybe the 2 ticks I found on him were on my legs from the lawn chair and then he picked them up.

The whole thing is making me very skittish.

Bookshelves: finally done!

May 13th, 2017 at 02:26 pm

Here they are:

This is the seat/cabinet under the window. I need to buy knobs for the 2 doors.

I'm very happy with it. It came to $1600 but I have some unused trim to return for a refund, so it will be somewhat less than that.

If the rain stops, I will get paint and supplies tomorrow. I will use a good quality brush and a sponge brush to get in back of those small cubby holes above the window.

Eventually I will buy some thick foam for the cushion on seat.

After they finished up, I went to gas up my car, deposit some cash and get groceries at Aldi's. They had pints of blueberries for $1.69, which I think is a good deal. Although I remember when you could get them for $1 at summer's peak.

It's been raining all day, so this am as I was clearing space for the carpenters, I glanced at my butterfly aquarium and saw that the last of the unhatched pupa from last summer hatched into a butterfly!

I don't know how long it had been like that but I have not released it because it's so chilly and rainy. Tomorrow will be windy. I'm hoping I can release on Monday; for now, it's protected from the rain in its aquarium with screened lid, in my sunroom, with a slice of orange, some zinnias I cut from my potted plants, a water dish with marbles to perch on and a paper towel soaked in sugar water. I've check on it though and it hasn't moved from where it's hanging onto a twig from the underside. It's only about 50 degrees.

Tuesday for sure will be in the 70s and it can be released then, but I'm not sure it will last that long if it doesn't eat/drink something.

Dad's coming over tonight to see the shelves and then we'll have a great dinner at a very good Italian restaurant in town.

Undecided about reactivating my cell phone

May 12th, 2017 at 05:43 pm

Cell phones and me just never clicked. I just rarely find the need to chat with anyone while I'm away from home, though certainly I recognize there are times (infrequently for me) when having a phone on the road would be very handy.

I let the minutes expire on my smart phone last February. Being unemployed, I didn't see the point in spending another $100 to keep me going for another year. It's an Android Trac Phone, pay as you go plan.

Today I had to complete 2 different time sheets for my new job. I got them signed and used the company fax to send them to the recruiter's office, who will be issuing my paychecks. The fax indicated only 1 page went thru the first time, so I sent it again and this time, the 2 timesheets went through.

That was around 4 pm and I didn't see the 4:30 m email right away from recruiter saying call me, there's a problem with your fax. Maybe he sent that after I sent the first fax, where only one page went thru. Maybe he didn't, I didn't know.

So I sent a quick email to say i was heading home and would call him when I got there. I couldn't call him at the office becus 1) i didn't have my old smart phone with me and 2) the company doesn't use normal phones. They use something called Fuze, which is a phone via computer, and I haven't set it up yet. No one's really around to help much and I thought I might even get thru the whole monthlong assignment without needing to.

I got home and there's another message from recruiter saying call me there's a problem. Of course he doesn't say what the problem is. If it wasn't that the fax didn't fully come thru, it could be becus yes, I did claim the 4 hours of at-home time I worked for the company before starting on-site. This was done at the request and blessing of my new boss there who gave me a pile of reading material to absorb about the client so I could "hit the ground running" when I started the job 4 days later. So maybe the problem was the recruiter was going to tell me I couldn't bill for that.

I still have no idea because although I immediately replied to the email, called and left a message AND scanned and emailed the 2 time sheets in case neither fax went through, the recruiter never got back to me. Even though it was just before 6 pm when I tried to call him back....not that late.

So anyway, if I'd have my own phone with me I could have easily found out what the problem was while I was still at work. So I'm thinking I should activate the stupid phone again.

Here's why I don't like using it:
1. The on/off button is hard to push. Do most people just keep the phone on at all times and then have to recharge like every day?
2. Half the time when I tried to check personal emails on the phone while i was at the bank, the internet connection did not work. I was using the bank's wifi to connect. This was totally annoying. I just don't know enough about using the settings to know what do so, especially since the phone didn't come with anything more than the briefest instructions.
3. Figuring out how to send photos I'd taken to my computer was also a real pain in the butt.
4. The phone was synced with great difficult with the Bluetooth in my car but then inexplicably was disconnected. This happened more than one.

The phone was fairly straightforward to use, so I guess for that alone I could use it but every other function just seems so complicated and a hassle. I could just get a basic phone with no internet, but then i couldn't sync it with my car's devices, and that's one of the coolest things about it! I can make calls using buttons on the steering wheel. Truth be told, once again rarely had need to do that, and the number had to be one already stored in the phone. But it was still cool.

So far, so good

May 12th, 2017 at 03:59 am

I got the first feedback on my first completed assignment at the new job. She said it was "strong writing" and she liked it a lot but asked me to do 2 additional versions so the client "has a choice." On Monday we'll meet with 2 other senior people to review the versions and then she thinks we'll be ready to present to client.

I will have today (Friday) to do that; the copy can stay the same but she wants me to experiment organizing the content in different ways, with different subheads. Kind of a pain, since each time you move paragraphs around you lose some of the connective language which you then have to adjust.

Personally I feel it's just a time-waster as I carefully thought through how best to approach the topic and the approach I chose really is the best.

My concern is reserving enough time to do the remaining 3 pieces. They kept giving me important background reading material until the eleventh hour on this first assignment, even after I'd already written it. Not the best organization.

And I'm anxious that my content passes muster with the client after the Monday meeting. I picture myself as a runner on a track clearing little hurdles.

But I hate working full time! No time left to do ANYTHING! I'm getting up earlier in the mornings, around 5:30 or so, so I can have a leisurely start to my day and not have to leave for work until 2.5 hours later.

I've been leaving the contract job at 5:15 or 5:30, getting home around 6 or 6:15, and by the time I finish with dinner, the dishes and feeding the cats, it's 7:30. Then I check emails (I'm still applying for jobs when I see them) and I am addicted to watching new episodes of The Americans (I usually try to fit in 2 full hour-long episodes), before hitting the sack at 10 or 10:30 at the latest.

There just isn't much time to think about "me" stuff. I just have to keep reminding myself how much I've grossed so far. To date, it will be about $1,760 by the end of today...just 4 days work. Yay for me!

I did decide I will be putting in for 4 hours of at home reading on my timesheet today. This is for time spent before starting the job. It's not my fault I got conflicting information about doing so, with my boss at the new job saying yes, do it, it's really important, and the recruiter saying no, don't do it because all the paperwork hasn't been finalized. I did it because I knew I wouldn't be prepared otherwise to "hit the ground running" on my first day on-site, as my boss said he wanted.

While waiting for the meeting to review my work yesterday, I was finally able to get the required online courses to launch at the office, and got them out of the way. Practically everything you try to do at the office requires a password, even the computer phone system. It was more than a little frustrating because you just get automated responses from the help desk and no one's there to walk you through things if you have a tech problem.

Tomorrow I am HOPING my carpenter shows up to finish the built-in bookshelves. It's just the cabinet below the window he needs to do. However, we're expecting rain for most of the day, starting at about 9 am. He can set up in the garage, but he'll need to keep running out in the rain with the wood he cuts. I just hope he doesn't try to bag it because next Saturday is his daughter's graduation, so it would mean at least another two-week wait, and this bookshelving thing has dragged on long enough. It still will take me quite a white to prime and paint it so my entire downstairs will remain in disarray until it's done.

Job, end of day 2

May 10th, 2017 at 05:14 pm

The job is doing okay. Day 1 was a little overwhelming as "everything" was new...They use Macs, which I haven't used in 8 years, and there were various accounts to activate, an electronic timesheet, figuring out which drive to save my documents on, learning people's names, where's the kitchen and the restroom, etc. All the little things you take for granted once you've been settled into a job for a while.

Yesterday, I ate at my desk and basically took no lunch break, but today, I returned to my usual routine of eating at my desk and then walking for a half hour wherever I can. This job is in an office park on a busy road, so my walking will be restricted to in and around the buildings and a few picnic areas in the office park. It's better than nothing.

I've met about 5 or 6 people I'll be working with directly, but otherwise most people don't always bother to get to know contract workers becus they know they may not be there long. It doesn't bother me, to be honest, for the same reason: I won't be there long.

Because it's a marketing agency (consumer packaged goods), they have all these cutesy decor items around the place, like outdoor umbrellas and lawn chairs, a foos ball table and stuff like that.

I was largely finished writing the 1st of 4 marketing sheets on my first day, believe it or not, and just played with it some more today, massaging it a bit here and there and reviewing some last minute background materiaL they just gave us. I was so stressed out about having enough time to do a good job, but with all my advance prep at home (which I probably won't try to claim on my time sheet) and reading, I was pretty well prepared to write it.

See, this is how agencies operate. My opinion is this one spent way too much time talking about tone and voice and brand; they threw so much reading material at me it took me longer to read it all than it did to write the marketing collateral. I could be doing the same kind of project for a company and they would spend maybe 15 minutes talking about it and then they'd expect you to do it. But agencies turn it into a long, drawn-out "process," maybe as a means of justifying their existence.

Of course, what I've written still has to pass muster with the agency and I'm sure there will be some changes. I'm also a little nervous because the people reviewing my work are used to reading stuff for CPG (consumer packaged goods), not financial services.

I just hope none of the changes they may propose are massive. The real test is when they run it by the client bank; it makes sense to let them see this 1st piece to make sure they're happy with the voice and tone, before I move on to the other pieces.

It's a little nerve-wracking having so many pairs of eyes critiquing my work. Maybe that's one reason I never liked working for agencies.

The drive is about 38 minutes long and a pretty one at that, going through the woods and passing the reservoirs. But when I get home, I sigh with relief but have no time to get anything done. A familiar complaint, I know. I am doing this solely for the $$ and will be glad when the assignment is over. Though of course I will take the extra work this summer if they offer it. If I can just get at least a few days' reprieve in between assignments.

Still, I'd rather be doing this job now than in the dead of winter when I'd be getting up in the dark and driving home in the dark.

Bovine escape artist

May 7th, 2017 at 05:22 am

So it's Sunday morning and I'm enjoying a late breakfast around 7:30 am, sitting at the kitchen table by the north-facing window. Out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of black. Behold, it is one of my neighbor's cows.

She disappears and I run to the back window to see her racing the length of my backyard. Most people rarely see cows move that fast. She paused at one end by my toolshed and then cavorted across the lawn once again. I can only describe her actions as gleeful and joyous, and she reminded me very much of the fawns I've seen racing around the back lawn with their mother nearby.

Then the cow disappeared up a narrow footpath through the brushy overgrowth, headed back toward my neighbors.

I called neighbor at 7:40 am and she thanked me for telling her, then went to call her husband. She said the cow is just a year old; her mother had also escaped a few times, going down to the road and getting the police involved to help corral her.

I feel sorry for their animals because I constantly hear the cows and sheep. Although they have their dogs and cats, they are not sentimental people. They are keeping the animals to raise their own meat and milk, which I "get," but I don't get the idea they are especially concerned with treating their animals humanely.

Don't know why the cows are always mooing and the sheep baaing, but if they were contented, I don't think they would be so vocal. Are they hungry? Do the cows need to be milked? Why wouldn't you board up the gaping window-sized hole in the wall of the barn so winds don't make wintry nights even more frigid? Why would you leave a ewe to deliver a lamb without veterinary assistance if it ran into trouble? The answer is, they don't want to spend the money, so as he put it, "One of 2 things can happen: either it delivers a healthy lamb, or it dies." Case closed.

Had a great dinner with Dad last night. I had sea scallops and risotto which was very good. Today for lunch I'll have the last of my wild Alaskan salmon from the freezer. After this, I will be eating strictly vegan except for my weekly dinners with Dad.

I'm very happy that tomorrow the carpenter is coming to finish the bookshelves; namely, building the window seat and cabinet below it.

I may spend some time today investigating where to buy the particular enamel paint I learned was best for things like bookshelves. I could even start sanding and priming today if I wanted.

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