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Happy Friday

August 17th, 2017 at 04:28 pm

There are some problems with this site. I can't add images, and I see a post where I talked about winning a library raffle is totally gone.

I had a sad dream last night. I was in a small, rickety boat with my mother, and we needed to transfer into a larger boat for some kind of excursion.

To make the transfer, we had to jump down into a small, murky pond where a man was waiting to help us out. It looked dangerous and I wondered if my mother, at her age, should be doing this. It seemed like a literal leap of faith.

To my surprise, my mother jumped without any coaxing. She disappeared into the pond and I watched anxiously for her head to bob up. I waited and watched. Nothing happened. The seconds ticked by and I grew more anxious. She never emerged. I felt the panic rising in my chest.

To me, that dark, murky pond was a metaphor for Alzheimer's. I never really understood it. I often wondered what was going on inside my mother's brain, what she understood and what she didn't. What she felt. Not much more I want to say about this but it just makes me indescribably sad.

Yesterday I took a leisurely drive down to a town to pick up 2 pretty occasional tables I found on Facebook Marketplace. I plan to use them for my growing collection of succulents and cacti. They are mostly outside now, but I will need to make room for them for the winter. I posted about this yesterday but I see that post isn't here.

The tables are very pretty, black wrought iron legs with a black/white tile top with floral design. I wanted to post a photo of them which I'll do if they fix this website.

She had wanted $50 for the 2 of them. I bought them for $35, which I thought was more reasonable. On the way home, being in an area I'm not often in, I decided to stop for an early lunch at a Middle Eastern take-out place. I had a falafel eggplant sandwich. I also stopped at a Trader Joe's which was practically empty of shoppers! So unlike my local TJs.

Facebook Marketplace can be addictive. I'm going to have to be careful. Here's what I've bought there so far in just about a month's time:

1. Assorted perennials (very cheap)
2. The day bed frame
3. These 2 tables
4. Today, I bought a 6 foot aluminum Werner step ladder for $25. (They wanted $30). I have a rickety old wood stepladder that I only use when I absolutely have to becus it's not very stable. One of the few spots on the house not covered in vinyl is the front of the mini roof above the 2 pillars at my front entry. The paint is all peeling but I needed a tall ladder to deal with it. Now I have it. Smile
5. & 6. Pending: 5 very large terra cotta pots and a cute wire plant stand.

When I offered the $25 for the ladder, I added that i lived in town and could pick up immediately, knowing that sellers appreciate prompt pickup. She said one person was ahead of me who wanted it. About 10 minutes later, she said the other person fell thru and I could have it. I have to wonder if she just decided she'd rather have someone who said they'd pick up right away come get it so they could be done with it. I don't really feel the other deal fell through. Smile

There's no limit to what you can find there, although many people post these ridiculous prices on their stuff. Lots of dark, old furniture. Lots of refinishing "projects" that most people don't have time for. Those trendy dolls (forget the name) that used to be really hot collector items and which are now worthless. Old, out-of-repair things people believe are "antiques" and price accordingly.

I just don't think people today have as much interest in junky stuff. People are so busy working and they don't want to spend their limited free time trying to repair or fix something. Just my opinion.

I am very much in favor of reusing or recycling things, but with the price tags associated with much of this stuff, it doesn't make sense to spend that kind of money and then still have to spend more on reupholstery, repainting or refinishing.

I've also noticed that the vast majority of posted items get very little, if any response (unless, I suppose, they are sold later and the buyer and seller communicate via private message). So I've learned that buyers will tend to accept much lower prices.

Yesterday was a nice, dry weather day so I did the touch-up I wanted to do on the 2 pillars at my front entryway. I had missed a spot or two when I repainted them. They look sooooo much better.

I noticed some peeling paint under the front storm door and decided to scrape that away and repaint the wood threshold at the doorway. I figured it was a 15-minute job. My house is covered with vinyl now, so this is one of the very few areas with painted wood. I found some usable old paint, a neutral gray/brown, which will hold up better to people stepping on it than the off-white color that was there before.

But I had to prop the storm door open so it could dry and for that reason I couldn't paid the part behind the propped-open door. So that will be done in round 2. Which won't happen today as thunderstorms are expected. Patience.

I planted the butterfly weed and succulents I recently bought. Again, I would show you a picture, but...

Good news...my dad has an offer on his house on the Jersey shore and they offered full ask price of $200K. Realtor said it's because they lost out on a few other homes to other buyers who offered more. I guess the market there is pretty strong which surprises me a bit since the entire Jersey shore is supposed to be submerged in about 20 years due to global warming.

Realtor says buyer is pre-qualified so let's hope it's smooth sailing from here. REaltor emailed me the 13-page contract and dad's coming over to sign it; then I'll have to scan it page by page and email it back to realtor.

Tree talk and cousin visit

August 14th, 2017 at 06:39 pm

I had a fun time at my cousin's yesterday. She mentioned she'd have her son there with his family (wife and 2 boys) and a friend from work. Well, I was surprised, she had about 40 people there, all from the company where she works.

She had a TON of food, all catered. She introduced me to everyone as "my cousin, PatientSaver," and a lot of people said, Oh, I've heard so much about you. Smile

I enjoyed talking with a few of her friends, including one woman (and her husband) who seemed like a version of myself, becus she loves attracting birds, butterflies, bats and other critters to her yard.

I left around 6:30 pm and my timing got me home exactly when I wanted, just as it was turning dark at about 8 pm. No major traffic issues.

I saw some guys down at the bottom of the driveway today looking up at the trees and went down to talk to them. They're with the tree company the borough tree warden hired to take down 3 of the white pines. The owner spent quite a bit of time looking at them and walking around them with me. It won't be an easy job due to the power lines. I am going to have to sacrifice a dogwood to make room for their crane to access the trees. I guess it's not the end of the world; the tree has been ailing for years, though it does still flower each spring.

I guess I am more concerned about them using my driveway with their heavy trucks since I just had a new driveway put in last spring.

He said it would be better to do this job in the cold weather; better both for my driveway (harder asphalt will less likely be damaged) and also because much of the undergrowth will have died back after the frost and he would be able to see the ground and so on.

So it looks like it won't be done til November, which is a little disappointing but I guess I can wait, and it would still be ahead of any major winter storms, hopefully. It's a two or three-day job, he said.

I asked him to try to save some birch trees near the mailbox and another dogwood further in. They are going to chip what they can and haul away the big cut pieces that won't fit in the chipper. So yay for that.

I imagine everything will be really flattened once they get done, which means an opportunity for me to try to wrest control of this whole overgrown area next spring so I can more easily manage it. Maybe too much to expect I could plant grass in the area, but at least pull out any remaining invasive stuff like the bittersweet. There's poison ivy in there, so I'd have to be careful. Things grow so quickly around here that if you don't stay on top of it, it could be completely inaccessible after a single season.

Today I did a load of laundry which hopefully will dry outside...it's a bit muggy.

I also made a 3rd trip to a local woman who's selling perennials very cheaply via Facebook. I am getting into butterfly gardening more seriously, so I picked up 4 more butterfly weed plants and 2 scabiosa for just $15 total ($2.50 each)!

I had a scary experience today when I went to post a restaurant review on Yelp. I got a page that said do not turn off your computer. Call this number to restore your pages, etc. The scam that's been so much in the news. Of course, I shut down my computer immediately without going to any links or calling. Luckily, when I restarted, Windows did a lengthy scan and fixed whatever problem there was. Phew.

Accomplishments close to home

August 10th, 2017 at 10:58 pm

It's been a while, it seems, since I was able to say, "it's been a productive day." But it has been...

1. I repainted the two pillars at my front door (after bleaching and sanding yesterday). I wouldn't have thought this would make as huge a difference as it has. I guess there were a fair share of nicks and scuff marks and scratches and so on collected over the years, and it looks soooo much better.

Still, I need to do some touch-up tomorrow, but that will take 5 minutes. Just some spots I missed.

Not only that, but doing the pillars used no more than a half a quart, so I can return the 2nd quart I purchased at the hardware store. I couldn't believe the prices: $18 for one little quart of basic white paint. Geez.

I have oodles of half-used paint cans in the basement and I did find a gallon of "white" I planned on using for this project, but when I opened it up (it was about 8 years old) some rust from the rim fell into the paint. Not only that, but it was more of an ivory than a pure white, and that would be noticeable with the other white trim in front. So I had to make another trip to the hardware store this morning for new paint.

2. Fed neighbor's cat. One more day to go.

3. Another dump run. In the summer, I eat so much fresh fruit and I don't like this piling up and making a stink.

4. Applied for 2 jobs, inquired about a third via the same recruiter who got me my last contract job.

5. A load of laundry which I hung out to dry.

6. A woman's supposed to stop by tonight...soon....to hopefully purchase one or more Pyrex kitchenware I'm selling on FB. A glass casserole dish and a large mixing bowl, both with lids.

I decided I didn't need two identical glass casserole dishes (one is enough) and also don't need the extra large mixing bowl since I have a stainless steel one of that size plus two smaller glass Pyrex mixing bowls. A lot of people like Pyrex. All these bowls take up a lot of space in my limited cabinetry, especially now since I'm wanting to hide a small trash bin inside one of these cabinets. I hate looking at trash or recycling bins in the kitchen.

7. After she leaves, I hope to squeeze in a walk at local walking trail. Last time I was there, I remembered to bring a small tube of toothpaste and a paper towel so I could remove some graffiti on the glass display case at one end of the trail. It came off with a fair amount of scrubbing, but I needed more paper towels and a wet one to rinse all that toothpaste, which has just enough abrasive power to take off dried paint (little known fact). So I'd like to finish that job tonight. My little good deed for the day, which I'm happy to do because I know this trail very well and I guess I feel some pride of ownership. Hate seeing graffiti mar it.

My new phone system with built-in call blocking is working very well. I'm so happy to block calls, I now actually look forward to blocking spammers! Bring it on!

I have also downloaded a free app where I can do the same thing with my smart phone and get rid of the very pesky messages from who know where about sports stuff.

I decided to get a nice gourmet/gift box of nuts or cookies or other edibles and drop it off at municipal center as a thank you to the tree warden. He hasn't taken down the trees yet, but this will ensure he will. Smile I think I'll go to BJs and see what they have.

Great news about my trees!

August 8th, 2017 at 09:44 pm

I got a call from the borough tree warden today. He said can you meet me down by your mailbox in 5 minutes.

We talked about the white pine trees fronting the road. As you may have read in an earlier post, one of these humongus trees came down a few weeks back, just out of the blue, not during a storm or any kind of wind. I'm afraid one of these is going to hit my house someday.

He said he can take down 3 of the white pines closest to my house. They are the ones within striking distance if a pine broke off at near ground level, the way the other one did.

I thanked him sincerely. I am thrilled. This made my day, my week. He said he will hire a tree company they use and it should be done in about a month.

I am so happy!!!! If I had to hire someone myself to take 3 of these down, I estimate it would cost at least $4,000.

He did say these trees may or may not be on town property. He said it was close, and that to determine that, the town would have to hire a surveyor, and he doubted they would want to do that. So he's just going to go ahead and do it.

The other pines, he said, are definitely on my property. But at least those wouldn't threaten my home.

I am so happy.

Here's some views of the trees now:

This is the view from my front door. It's about 100 feet down to the road. The height of those pines are also about 100 feet. There used to be another white pine in between the two you see here, but that one came down about 2 or 3 years ago.

That's my mailbox on the left. The power lines are also on the left side of the road, so this overgrown area often results in power outages when branches fall. At the end of the road you can see a sharp curve to the left. My property continues after the curve, and there are additional white pines down there, but just a few.

You can see how over the years, the power company has trimmed the tree branches roughly in the middle, making these trees spindly and more prone to coming down in a strong wind.

He said they would probably cut everything along the power lines, which is fine with me except I asked them to save a birch growing close to my mailbox.

I realize I will lose a lot of privacy and maybe even notice the sound of traffic going by more, but things grow so quickly around here, I'm not too worried about that.

If they do clear everything, it would make it easier for me to get in there and clear more on my own; there is a dogwood or two buried in there I'd also like to save.

Advice to readers: Never plant white pines near the house or under power lines. They grow very fast and will soon become a problem because they are prone to breaking and the wood is soft.

It doesn't seem right, but it is...

August 8th, 2017 at 05:57 pm

Went to feed my neighbor's cat this morning. This is day 4 and I still haven't seen it (!) but the food is gone each day.

Did some grocery shopping, mostly at Aldi's but a few item at Caraluzzi's.

Went to the transfer station with trash.

I was totally surprised to learn I am eligible for a 2nd round of unemployment benefits. I almost feel embarrassed to talk about it because I don't feel I deserve it, but the rep assured me in this morning's call that I more than qualify.

As you may remember, I was laid off last July and then collected 6 months of benefits, ending in January of this year.

But then I worked 4.5 weeks at a contract job, and believe it or not the $9700 I grossed from that job will enable me to earn up to $16,000 in unemployment benefits for the next 6 months.

Yep, you read that correctly. It doesn't seem right, does it? Not only that, but my gross/net will actually be higher than what I got last year, by about $18 more a week.

This is great for my ongoing expenses as it was just this past month where I had to, for the first time since my layoff a year ago, believe it or not, transfer money from personal savings to my checking, just to cover ongoing expenses.

Because while most households could not live on unemployment benefits, I made it work, especially since I paid off my mortgage years ago. Property taxes and health insurance were my top 2 highest expenses. Then the little money I made from freelance writing earlier this year and that one contract job nicely replenished the coffers here.

However, the pressure is still on to find a job this year because I am fully expecting health insurance to be considerably more expensive when my COBRA runs out, compared to the $525/mth I'm paying now. That's assuming ACA is even available by then.

But I am immensely appreciative of these benefits. I thought at most I might qualify for half the benefit.

One remaining question: The contract job was physically located in CT and I live in CT, but the agency paying me was located in NY. Does that mean I need to file a CT and NY state tax return this year? I asked the payroll guy at that agency and he said no, what counts is where you live, but I'm not so sure that's true.

Laura, if you're reading this, tonight Dr. Greger is on PBS live and you can watch it from the NutritionFacts.org website!

This weekend I'll be traveling down to Jersey to my cousin's little party. I'll be meeting her son and his family for the first time (they're up visiting from FL), and her friend, L., will be there, who I met once already. It's about an hour-and-a-half trip. I'll stay I'm guessing for about 4 hours and then return home.

I am picking cherry tomatoes and cucumbers and enjoying them greatly in my salads. Wineberry-picking season is over, and the mulberries on my tree are 95% gone.

I have been trying to do more reading lately as my local public library offers several raffles with gift certificates to local shops and you get a ticket with each brief book review you write. I've written 3 so far and hope to add one more soon. The program ends this month.

What I'm up to....

August 5th, 2017 at 06:20 pm

I got word that a cousin on my mother's side passed away. It's too bad, because my other cousin and I were planning on seeing her to talk about family tree stuff. I would have gone to see her by now but the other cousin was too busy, and now it's too late. I feel sad; I hadn't even know she had liver cancer. The last time I saw her was when I was a little girl, though we did talk on the phone after my mother died. My mother was always fond of her.

Today's the last day of the awful humidity.

Yesterday I did drop off 4 more pieces at the main gallery which has most of my mother's stuff. Luckily, she didn't require me to take any home with me AND she surprised me with a small check ($87) for something that sold, but she had no idea what it was, only the price.

After that I hit Trader Joe's and stocked up on canned organic beans, which I eat daily, often in my salads.

There was a man there ahead of me who moved on with his cart, but then upon seeing me load of my cart with quite a lot of beans, couldn't resist talking to me I guess. He said he eats the garbanzo beans right out of the can, plain. I tried to give him other ideas for making them more tasty, to which he replied, Oh, that's beyond me. Really? Putting them in a burrito or in a salad is beyond you? Hmm. But hey, I must sound just as dumb when I'm talking to my auto mechanic or to any one of a number of home contractors.

I've been taking little walks around the block each night when it's much more comfortable outside. I ran into a neighbor and got a lot of news I didn't know about. That's why I love talking to neighbors. Smile

Today was the first day of feeding one neighbor's cat. She's not really a neighbor since I have to drive about 2 miles to her house. She warned me right before she left on her trip that there was a large hornet nest in the making under the light above her garage door. She offered to let me out of cat duty if I felt uncomfortable about it, but that would just be silly. (She was relieved.)

When I went over there, the hornets were buzzing around rather angrily, no doubt becus it's a cloudy day. I gave them wide berth as I walked to the back door. The cat was nowhere to be seen, but we expected that. I stuck around a while to see if maybe she would emerge, but she didn't. That may happen tomorrow or the day after.

I'll email a brief update to my friend after about day 3. It may be very brief: "No sign of your cat." PatientSaver.

She decided she wants to pay me $30 a day x 7 = $210! Which is way more than I would ever charge but of course the money is welcome and needed. And she's not even requiring me to change the litter boxes.

My local weekly newspaper, which has been in continuous circulation since the 1800s, has a column purportedly written by a cat. Smile I emailed the kitty word about the bobcat I saw in my yard recently and she reported on it in her column, except that she forgot to say what street I live on. Which would have been important since I live very close to Main Street and I think people would be surprised about a bobcat sighting so close to town.

I've been wasting far too much time on Facebook and Luminosity these days. Right now, for instance, I should get out for a walk since I'll be seeing dad for dinner tonight. To continue practicing Instagram, I'm going to start taking pix of my dinners out and posting to Instagram. Cus I am seeing a ton of social media writing jobs out there. Facebook I know. Instagram I know. (I used to post photos to Pinterest but that seems to be on the decline.) Twitter, I'm inactive on but I do have an account.

What I'd also like to do is download and start using some apps on my smartphone. I only have one app (!) which enables me to access my email far more quickly than I did before becus the PW is preloaded. Thank goodness this app presented itself to me becus i would otherwise not be aware it existed.

Ugh. So much for a walk. It's raining again.

This morning I sacrificed some much needed cabinet space in the kitchen so I could use one cabinet just for a small trash bin. Because I'm beginning to hate looking at the cluster of bins blocking my back kitchen door: the organics container, the paper/coardboard/newspaper container, the regular trash container (now really quite small) and the largest, the plastic and metal container).

I also put the paper bag full of paper waste in a small cubby at the top of my basement stairs, so that means I have just 2 containers to look at in the kitchen: organics and plastic/metal containers.

I suppose I could put the plastic/metal container in the basement, but I don't want to attract any insects. It's in a regular trash bin, the kind with a movable top. Plus it is convenient to throw stuff in there right there. I suppose I could do the same with the organics bin. It it a small vented container that fits inside a larger plastic container with a sturdy lock top but I do still wonder if the smell would attract ants or anything.

Here's a flag I'm trying to sell for $15. That's what a dealer told me it's worth, but it has an interesting history. I bought it years ago poking around some old antique place. It has only 48 stars, so that tells you it was made pre-1959, the year Hawaii and Alaska became states.

Death as a side effect

August 3rd, 2017 at 06:49 pm

So dad has chosen one of the 3 realtors I lined up for him to list his house. It's the one I liked the most. She wanted to list it this weekend but called to tell me (becus dad wasn't answering his phone) the place has fleas and will need to be treated. So she had to cancel the photographer coming out to do the photos.

I have suggested to dad umpteen times he'd find it easier to use a landline, but he's a tightwad and doesn't want to spend that much. So he uses this old clamshell with a tiny LCD screen he can't read and much of the time he must push the wrong buttons becus he claims he doesn't hear the phone ring when there's an incoming call and of course his mailbox is perennially full so no one can leave a message.

It's now even more of a problem now that realtors are trying to reach him, and so now they're calling me instead. Sigh. Problem is, I can't reach him either. It's really frustrating.

UPDATE: We haven't resolved anything about his driving. I'm not trying to tell him not to drive (altho that's what he thinks) but I would like to see him avoid driving the highways going down to Jersey, especially when I'm with him and could do the driving. We talked about it more today but he can be a hard ass.

He basically said it's your prerogative not to drive with me if you feel uncomfortable but it's my right to drive when I want. Which is obviously the case. I again tried to say that when we were together, why not let me drive since otherwise it's a higher risk if he drives. He acknowledged that he is going blind but said he still feels he can drive. This is what's really behind his defensiveness and belligerent attitude on this.

This is the father I remember from when I was growing up. I did't see him much (my parents divorced when I was 6) but when I did see him I was a little afraid of him. He was very strict and he had a short temper. Over the years, I thought he mellowed quite a bit.

This whole encounter has left me thinking he does not have very good conflict resolution skills. Normally you try to find common ground and go from there. There is room for compromise.

I know this isn't a nice thing to do, but a part of me wishes he would realize how much I do for him and then perhaps he'd be more willing to compromise instead of digging his heels in and refusing to budge.

We have dinner together every Saturday. I was thinking of skipping it this Saturday because he's been very abrasive and unyielding and testy and a 2nd talk today did nothing to clear the air. I realize skipping the dinner is really like trying to punish him becus I know he looks forward to these dinners. When you get older there are fewer things you can do but enjoying a good meal is one thing most people can do. So withholding this would accomplish nothing but I admit to being an imperfect human being and wanting to skip it.

Today's my birthday. He rarely remembers, but I wasn't expecting him to.

I spoke to my friend R. who is returning to Sloan Kettering. He has numerous marble-sized tumors in his body. They'd given him a choice of either starting chemo or enrolling in a clinical drug trial that does not involve placebos, only the drug.

Since he finds it easiest to pop a pill, that's what he chose, so he has to take the train and a cab early tomorrow and will be mostly spending the day getting various baseline scans done.

So yeah, upon reflecting on LIvingAlmostLarge's post today about appreciating what we have, all I need do is think about what my friend is doing, fighting for his life. Remarkably, he is in fairly good spirits.

Tomorrow I decided I will head up to a local gallery to swap out 3 or 4 pieces that reside there now for some summer-themed pieces my mother did with sailboats and so on. I checked with the gallery owner today and she was fine with that idea. I probably should have done this in June, but life got in the way.

Dad's came over earlier becus we have to again fax a court eviction order to the NJ electric company who claimed they didn't get it when we faxed it the first time. It's really annoying, making special trips to library, etc. etc. May try calling them again and seeing if we can scan and email it instead of fax. The tenant was behind on paying her electric bill to the tune of $2300.

Taking care of parents can be a full-time job.

Not much else going on. I went to another MS lunch-lecture, had a delicious meal and met many of the same MS people who I'd seen at the dinner the week prior. This month, I'll be going to 1 of these each week. I enjoy the chance to socialize and of course the great meals.

A little history on MS drugs. When I was diagnosed, they had exactly 3 drugs: the so-called ABC drugs: Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone. Nearly 30 years later, they have about 14 drugs to choose from, and it's the drug companies that make these drugs that host these dinner lectures for MS patients.

They pay a local neurologist I'm guessing $1,000 or $1500 to give their PowerPoint presentation and the MS people get a free meal. Not bad for a half hour presentation and most leave as soon as they're done, not staying for the dinner. There are 3 or 4 neurologists in my area who constantly do these talks; no doubt they find it worthwhile to earn a little extra cash for very little time spent.

It kind of makes me feel like the drug company is the pimp, the doctor is the prostitute and we MS patients are the johns.

Sometimes the drug companies also pay an MS person to talk about their personal experience with MS and how wonderful the drug is. They pay to fly them out to these little dinners all across the country. It's like a regular gig for them.

At the last MS lunch I went to this week, the speaker was a guy who was a motorcycle fanatic. He used to race them. When he was diagnosed with MS, he had to give much of that up, but his did in fact ride his motorcycle to the luncheon from NH. The speaker at the dinner before that was from Chicago.

Only a few of the newer drugs are pills; the rest are the original, old injectables, like the Copaxone I take, or infusions you have to take in a hospital.

They are uber-expensive and thus pharma thinks it worthwhile to pay for a whole lots of dinners as a means of getting prospective users of their drugs to hear their message. Maybe they should just lower the price of the drugs.

I pray to god i would never need to use most of these drugs becus many come with some pretty serious potential side effects, like death, or require regular blood work to make sure your liver's not damaged or your white blood cell count doesn't drop too low.

So, um, no thanks, I'll stick with Copaxone, which is less effective than the other drugs in slowing disease progression (roughly 30% fewer relapses and brain lesions vs about 50% ) but I'd rather not have to worry about other health problems caused by these drugs.

Not much new on the job front. I've applied for a few jobs that I felt perfectly qualified for but never heard a word from employer. Actually, I was maybe a little over-qualified. A few ads even said "recent college grad ok." So maybe that's their preference.

I contacted the DOL becus there's a possibility I may qualify for a new round of partial benefits based on the contract job I had in May/June. I feel like kind of a loser even putting in for that, but I have paid into the system for 30 years.

But I watch the news daily and see how Trump's threat to withdraw funding for ACA subsidies has thrown the insurance market into chaos, with the 2 remaining health insurance issuers considering pulling out of the market entirely. This is really problematic, becus they estimate prices will rise by 20% in 2018, so the subsidies are needed for low- to moderate-income people.

Really pissed at my father

July 31st, 2017 at 10:47 am

It's 6 a.m. Right now, I should be winging my way down to the Jersey shore with my father but instead I'm sitting at home, wondering what happened. My father's left for the 3-hour trip without me.

The plan was he would be here at 6 a.m. and we'd drive down together. By now he knows I will nearly always say when we go out somewhere that I want to drive. And he nearly always lets me, no big deal.

By saying I want to drive, it means I don't have to say, dad, it's not safe for you to drive with macular degeneration. You can't see the face of someone 10 feet away from you who says hello, but you feel it's perfectly okay to make the 3-hour trip (1 way) down the Jersey shore.

I'm not saying he should give up driving entirely. He can get around town well enough. But um, driving down I-684, the Saw Mill Parkway, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, I-287 to the Garden State Parkway covers some of the most heavily congested roadways in the Northeast.

When I told dad I wanted to come on this trip (he has an 11 am appointment to see the court constable and then I set up appointments with realtors for 1, 2 and 3 pm), we agreed he'd be here at 6 a.m. to pick me up.

I asked him if he had an alarm clock. He said no. I asked him if he wanted me to call him. He said yes. I asked what time, and he said 5:15 a.m.

So I got myself organized last night for a quick early morning departure, set 2 alarm clocks and went to bed early. I called him at 5:15 a.m. He did not pick up. It went into voice mail. I called another 4 times and the same thing.

Now what? This happens all the time. He uses an old clam shell phone he doesn't really know how to use and half the time he doesn't hear the phone ring.

I debated having to get in the car and drive the 15 minutes over there to wake him up. I could have called my sister and asked her to walk over there to wake him, but we're not dealing with each other and I wasn't sure she'd be awake that early.

I decided to just stay put, realizing if we got a late start we'd hit all kinds of traffic, making an already long drive even longer.

Close to 6 am dad called me from the road and said he'd be here in 5 minutes.

He pulls up in my driveway and I go out with a box of cleaning supplies and some pruning tools I wanted to bring along. With his vision issues, he couldn't really see a dirty countertop or smudged walls. He had his cleaning woman there but I'm sure she didn't do everything.

Since we wouldn't be returning to CT til tonight, I figured I'd make myself useful.

In the driveway, dad's sitting in the driver's seat and tells me to get in. I tell him I want to drive. He says, get in. Why he chose to dig in his heels this time, I don't know, but honestly, there was this time he was driving us south on the Saw Mill Parkway, which is an old 2-lane, twisty highway that has way more volume than it was built for.

The exit ramps onto the highway have no acceleration lane; people have to come to a complete stop and wait to cut in. That's why dad likes to drive int he fast lane on that road.

It's a dangerous road, and this time dad was driving i was really fearful and afraid for my life. He can't read the odometer and so he doesn't know how fast he's going but he tells me he just keeps up with the traffic. Well, the traffic always goes way too fast. He's like inches away from the guard rail, swerving around these curves. There was nothing I could do but grit my teeth and hold on, and I silently told myself I wouldn't do that again.

So, back to me and dad in the driveway. We have a standoff. For whatever reason, he does not want to yield, and I don't want to drive 3 hours with him because I feel it's unsafe. He says I don't have time, get in the car or I'm leaving. I stood and looked at him and he started to leave. I walked back in my house, really disgusted and angry.

Dad is 84 but you just can't tell him what to do. I'm angry, because I've gone out of my way to help in so many different ways, and then he pulls something like this. I cater to him in every conceivable way, and I am always thinking of his best interests.

He doesn't want to admit there are things he can't, or shouldn't, be doing anymore. Driving in particular is a huge thing that gives him independence. I get that. He doesn't want to hear me tell him it's not safe to make that drive anymore.

I am fuming. I am also worried, realizing that with the last realtor appointment ending around 3:30 or 4 pm, his choices for getting home will be either to leave just in time for massive rush hour traffic, or wait til after rush hour and drive home in the dark. Which is what we would have done, except that I would have been driving. Or at least, I planned on driving. Maybe he will spend the night and return tomorrow. I have no idea.

Getting religion

July 30th, 2017 at 01:33 pm

July has not been a pretty month for me. My expenses exceeded income by the largest amount ever since my layoff a year ago. I guess it was bound to happen, but I admit to being fairly lazy about reining in my expenses.

I've done such a good job of that during previous unemployment periods but perhaps I've been lulled into a sense of complacency being so close to retirement. Not smart! There are so many expenses between now and then!

My total expenses for the month of July came to $2,305, an amount I'd consider quite manageable were I working f/t at even the lowest paying job.

But now it's wiped out much of the $3,000 or so in savings I managed to accumulate YTD, mainly due to the 1 month I worked for that high-paying marketing agency job in May-June.

My income in July was a paltry $229, earned from my first focus group of the year, some credit card rewards and the sale of a few items on Facebook Marketplace.

But let's take a deeper dive into my July expenses, shall we? This always helps motivate me.

Property taxes: I pay twice a year but it comes out to $492 a month.

COBRA: $520. This hurts and it will get much worse in January if I don't find a job.

Car tax ($271) and registration ($90) = $361. Ouch. All required to keep my car legal on the road. The registration is good for 3 years I think. The tax is an annual thing but slowly gets smaller as the car depreciates. This is one disincentive to buying a new car in Connecticut.

Internet/phone: $70.

Electric: $84. This is higher than my pre-central air summer bills that usually came in around $65 or so, but is so worth it when I ran the AC about a week or so during high humidity days here. I think these higher summer electric bills are just going to be a new fact of life.

"Household" This is a catch-all category for expenses that don't seem to fit elsewhere, and it came to $94 this month, including $52 for the used day bed frame and new slats for it and $20 to renew my computer anti-virus protection another year. (So glad I shopped this price instead of accepting the $55 auto renew from McAfee!!!)

Clothing: $3 for a cami top at Walmart.

Dining out: $55. Should be $0 when I'm not working, but $33 of this was splitting meal costs during my recent visit with a friend in Jersey.

Entertainment: $26. Again, by rights, this should be $0 but most is coffees i bought my dad after our weekly dinners; just doesn't seem right to let him pay for it when he routinely pays for very pricey dinners out every week. Also included $10 for Amazon books, totally not needed, and $11 on food at that vegan festival I went to recently. That $8 vegan hot dog was way overpriced and I should have resisted.

Gardening: $149, which includes 3 bi-weekly lawn mowings. Usually not that high.

Cat: $93 for food and litter. Now that we're down to one cat, I hope to see these bills come down a bit more.

Food: $322. A big disappointment. Seems way high for one person. I shop Aldi's as much as possible but this does include $16 on 1 cucumber and 1 cake at the organic farmers market...too much.

Gas: $36.

I need to get religion on my expenses again.

I used to be so strict with myself. Because once again, I wonder if I will ever find another f/t job.

Overall, my net worth, including the house, stands at $1,222,215. It's still up since June 1, and it's up $7,800 this month alone. Still, that's all due to the stock market and I feel uneasy relying on that to boost my bottom line since it can change at any time.

I am truly loath to return to the higher education freelance job again. I put her off the week the tree came down on my property. Shortly after that they suspended assignments to catch up on backlog, but they've again sent us new detailed instructions and critiques and I just don't feel the energy to jump through their hoops for a $15/hr job where I get so little in return. It was a ton of work for little payback.

It's just that if I basically quit that job, I'll need to remove it from my resume becus while I consider it a relatively unimportant job, prospective employers will want to call them for references since it is the most recent thing I've done. And I wouldn't want my contact there telling someone I quit; that would open a can of worms.

But without that job, I would need to account for my time since my layoff. Aside from the 1 mth contract job in May/June, I suppose I could say I've just been doing random freelancing without specifying with whom and not spelling that out on my resume.

Anyway, I do hereby pledge that I, PatientSaver, will revert to my uber-penny pinching ways for the month of August.

Things going on...

July 28th, 2017 at 09:29 pm

Back last night from my trip to the Jersey shore to visit a friend. We had a nice time but as usual, it was a very long ride. Since dad wanted to clean up a little at his house (the renters left a lot of trash, a spare tire in the yard, etc), we drove down together. He dropped me at K.'s house and he went on to his place.

On the way home we stopped at dad's attorney's office to see if he thought it worthwhile to pursue civil action against his evicted tenant, who stole about a dozen items, including a washing machine.

The attorney concluded that since the tenant doesn't appear to have any assets, it would be pointless to spend the money to pursue the matter, but we have 6 years to file a civil suit if, for instance, my dad learns she suddenly has money. Yeah, we could garnish her wages, at maybe $50 a month, not really worth it.

The attorney agreed the theft was very "in your face," since she took so many things, but it just wasn't worth it for dad to pursue. You have to choose your battles.

So now dad has decided to sell the house, as 3 of his kids including me have been urging him to do.

Today we scheduled to have the local constable come next week to execute a lockout. My dad had skipped this step thinking it wasn't necessary since he has an alarm system on the house if she tried to come back, but that's not really the point. It provides legal protection for my dad and the attorney said he really needs to do it.

After that phone call, we settled on 3 realtors we found online and I scheduled for all 3 of them to come look at the house, so they can do a CMA, on the same day dad is down there to do the lockout.

I'm not really looking forward to immersing myself in all this, after having sold my mother's condo, but of dad's 4 kids, I'm the only one not working. It's quite a bit harder doing it from a distance since I'm in CT and the house is in Jersey and I'm trying to minimize the number of times my dad drives down there.

His 2 sons are in Jersey (about 1.5 hours north of Dad's house), so if there's an opportunity, I'm going to ask them to help out with specific tasks if something comes up they can handle more easily than I.

I suppose it's better we try to dispose of the house now while dad is still alive becus I don't even know if he has named any of us as executor of his estate, and that is the person who would have to do all this if he wasn't around.

I haven't decided whether to go with dad when he goes down to meet them all. He hasn't asked me to, but I do feel better doing the driving. And I really have nothing going on that day anyway.

He plans to leave very early that morning since the meeting with constable is at 11 am and it's a 3-hr drive. To avoid leaving during peak rush hour, he plans to leave earlier, I'm guessing around 6 am.

While he dealt with the constable and realtors, I'm sure there would be things for me to do, cleaning or decluttering the garage, for one.

Then, instead of spending another overnight (and leaving Luther on his own again), we could have a leisurely dinner down there around 6 and hit the road for return trip home at 7 pm, after the worst of rush hour, getting us home around 10 pm. It would be driving in the dark, which is not my preference, but it would get us home sooner.

Tomorrow I scheduled with a local hospital for both me and dad to go for free skin cancer checks.

My wild kingdom

July 25th, 2017 at 11:57 am

I saw a bobcat in my yard! This was yesterday early evening. It had been a rainy, cool and overcast day. I was making dinner in the kitchen around 5:45 pm. I looked out the window and there it was.

It was just 20 feet from my front door and where I often sit outside, near the apple tree, which is a wildlife magnet. It looked to be very healthy with a thick coat of fur. I watched it from behind and could see its little bob tail wagging from one side to the other...almost dog-like, but slower, more measured.

An apple fell from the tree and the bobcat stretched one paw toward it, the way cats will do. It remained in that position for several seconds and then confidently sauntered into the brushy undergrowth, exactly where the woodchuck is raising 2 little ones I see daily.

I wonder if it will lie in wait for them. Until recently, I had 2 rabbits in the backyard but have not seen them for a while now. I noticed them missing at some point after I'd heard coyotes fairly close to the house one night.

Coyotes, bobcat, rabbits, woodchucks, skunks, raccoons, does with their fawns (never an antlered buck), red and gray fox, red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, garter snakes and many bird species have all crossed this way. This is the second bobcat sighting here, and the first one was in almost the same exact spot. About the only thing I haven't seen here is a bear.

It really pays to be always looking out a window here, a habit I got into years ago. PS I didn't pick wineberries last night.

6:45 pm Update: The 2 baby woodchucks emerged from the undergrowth to forage fallen apples. The coast seems clear.

This morning the doe came down from the woods and after grazing apples in the same area, walked into the undergrowth exactly where the bobcat went. It's practically an animal highway there.

This is not my photo, but the one I saw looked similar to this:

The other day I bought some perennials (daisies and butterfly weed) from a woman who has a nice side business selling a bunch of perennials through Facebook. They were super cheap at $2.50 and $3 each for the plants, which is less than half what you'd expect to pay at Lowes.

I have actually gotten good responses the few times I sold perennials divided and dug up from my own garden, but I didn't like digging up and potting plants until the customer got here since I don't have extra containers laying around and then I'd have to keep watering things until they sold. And half the time people cancelled. Just dealing with people was the biggest pain. In this woman's case, she had grown everything from seed, so no digging required, and she had so much inventory I guess she didn't mind the daily watering routine.

Dad expressed interest so I brought him along for the ride, and he bought some irises.

Now I want to go back and get some more as I am really interested in attracting pollinators and we still have half the summer left.

I feel that I have pretty much mastered Instagram. Smile Too bad that particular job is no longer an option. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram, my name there is NewtownNaturalist. Smile

I saw a pretty yummy recipe I want to try (vegan) called Cowboy Caviar. It has tomatoes, black beans, black eyed peas, corn, bell pepper, red onion and cilantro with an oil/vinegar/lime dressing. How long does chopped avocado last in a cold salad before turning brown?

I have a dinner/lecture to attend tonight.

I've given up on an idea I had to create a kind of living room divider using elephant ear plants outside on my courtyard.

Here's the "courtyard," which is really just the area to left of my garage.

I wanted to delineate the courtyard space from the driveway and i thought a row of potted elephant ears would be cool, but I've found after 2 years of trying that the elephant ears seem to come up really late, like July (!). I thought by planting the bulbs not as deep this spring I would fix that, but that didn't work.

Then I got excited about using clumping bamboo since it would grow much faster and taller and can possibly be overwintered. The only drawback is that bamboo offers no particular wildlife benefit, unless you happen to be a panda.

So at least for this season, I think I'd like to buy more inexpensive, tall flowering perennials known to attract bees and butterflies. I guess I became more motivated after going to a vegan festival. I parked on a side street in an urban area and had to walk down another street where 2 of the residents had postage stamp-sized front lawns but really lovely wildflower gardens.

I liked that the owner of this garden even planted the grass strip closest to the road, which technically is town property. But it makes for a much more lush effect when you're walking down that sidewalk.

The local woman I mentioned above was selling bee balm and other stuff I can't remember that I know is good for pollinators. It gets a ton of sun in the area where I want to put them.

Friday's here...

July 22nd, 2017 at 12:41 am

I learned today I will not be getting an in-person interview with the Catholic high school.

I went to a local garden center to practice taking photos with my smart phone and a video as well, and then transferring them directly to Instagram. It is super easy, and the videos are something I want to do more of, when I have something interesting to shoot.

Here are some of my smart phone photos;

I was shooting another video around my yard while walking down the driveway toward a copper bird bath I have. I was shocked to see a large, dead garter snake there on the drive. It must have just died because when I saw it there was only one fly and 10 minutes later there were many.

I looked it over and saw no injuries, so I don't know what happened to it. I'm afraid it could have been the baby garter I saw come out from underneath a board my carpenter was going to cut for my built-in bookshelves back in May or June.

I just am a little puzzled about its death. I don't use any kind of pesticides or herbicides here. And I like having them around to eat mice. And its mother was killed by Luther in the basement in the early spring.

I've begun eating a few ripening cherry tomatoes from my potted plants, and the string beans are winding down. I've decided it's not worth it planting string beans in pots unless you really plant a lot of them, because I can only plant a handful, not even enough to cook with dinner, so I tend to eat them raw.

Deadbeat Tenant Finally Gone

July 20th, 2017 at 01:39 pm

My father's deadbeat tenant is finally gone, after a year of delays and the eviction process. She started paying her rent late right from the get go,and it all ended up with her stiffing my dad for 3 months' rent and I'm afraid to know how much money in legal expenses he had to pay his lawyer. I'm guessing the lawyer charged around $300 an hour so it wasn't cheap.

The woman, a waitress, should never have rented the house in the first place as she couldn't afford it but was too stupid to realize that. Or m aybe she did. She sweet-talked my dad who was naive enough to think a conversation and a hand shake could seal the deal without a credit check.

What really galls me is that when she left, she and the other people living there stole alot of stuff that didn't belong to them. Two mirrors, a mahogany chest, 2 Ikea shelf units, 2 deep sea fishing rods my dad had left for their enjoyment, and a washing machine.

He's driving down there today for a doctor's appointment and plans to file a police report on the theft. I typed up the list for him yesterday because his handwriting has deteriorated due to his vision problems. It's doubtful he'll recover anything. Or maybe his lawyer, better versed in landlord/tenant law, knows what to do. I'd like to see her prosecuted just for the satisfaction of it.

My sister, half brother and I have all told my dad he should sell the house (on the Jersey shore) instead of trying to rent it again. The house is 2 short blocks from the Toms River and will probably be underwater in 20 years.

He had decided not to sell it originally because he wanted to get $200K for it and his realtor told him prices had dropped and $185K was more realistic.

Most of the places I checked for prices online indicated $210K and that was erroneously listing it as having 1 bath when it has 2. So I'll have to work on dad and have him "interview" 3 realtors after they provide CMAs.

In other news....

My phone interview with the Catholic high school went "okay." If she hasn't realized already, she will at some point realize that while I'm a great writer, my weakness as far as this job goes is that I don't have a ton of experience analyzing social media performance and aren't familiar with the social media out there. I know Facebook very well and of course I blog here, but I just don't have time to post on Twitter, Instagram, You Tube, etc. so I'm less familiar with those although I did yesterday create an Instagram account and post a few photos there with commentary. It was pretty easy.

I should know by tomorrow if I will get an in-person interview.

I did in fact check out my local BJs and Costco yesterday for p/t jobs becus they are some of the few places that offer health insurance to part-timers. The job openings they have would include customer exposure; I was wanting to be a back room stocker becus to be perfectly honest, I'd be embarrassed if someone I knew saw I was working there. I'm sure they would assume I was "desperate" for work and it would just be really embarrassing. I shouldn't care, but I would.

In the meantime, there is another p/t job I plan to apply for, as a marketing copywriter. It's in an affluent area; perhaps I could make a concession on some of the paycheck in exchange for getting on their health plan?

I've heard that you have to work "full time," or at least 30 hours, to be eligible for health insurance, but then how do certain companies like Costco and Starbucks and Home Depot offer coverage to part-timers? Is this a federal law or something?

After my phone interview yesterday, dad needed help faxing the eviction court order to the NJ electric company so they would not turn the power off. Apparently the former tenant also owed them a lot of money and they want to make sure my dad is who he said he is. So I drove to his place, picked up the court order and the fax number, told him to stay home cus it was too hot outside, drove to his local library and paid their stupid fee for the fax. Then I drove back to dad's to return his paperwork and went home.

I am glad to help him, but I would be even gladder to see him unload the house becus being an out of state landlord is not easy for anyone, let alone an 84-year-old. He makes that drive too many times and he really shouldn't be driving at all with his vision problems. It's a 3-hour drive along some of the Northeast's most congested highways, in the area west of the Hudson River.

We are transitioning from letting dad make his own decisions to gently coaching, prodding and persuading him to do it a different way.

When he returns from Jersey tomorrow, I'm going to share with him the favorable online market value prices I found and urge him to get the house on the market this season, because it it goes unsold by October he will likely still have it until next spring.

A competent realtor can help get the place ready. Dad has already hired a housekeeper to clean up the inside as well as someone to clean up the outside. The security alarm will be reinstated tomorrow; it was something the tenant didn't want to pay for even though my dad was paying half the bill.

I had told him to also have the locks rejiggered because she still has the keys, but at least for now if she tries to return tomorrow, the alarm will go off and police will arrive. I figure she's stolen as much as she wants but you never know.

Baltimore Orioles and robins are still hanging out in my mulberry tree. The berries are 95% gone but there are plenty of berries on my nearby massive viburnum. They are all red; it took me years to realize that the berries are actually black when fully ripe, but the birds picked them off long before they turned black.

I startled the doe early this morning who arrived to get her share of fallen apples when she spotted me picking wineberries for my breakfast cereal. She snorted her displeasure after disappearing in the cover of the undergrowth but returned a short time later to munch away on her favorite summer food.

The heat wave won't break til Sunday so until then I'm going to mostly hunker down at home and not go anywhere.

My 30-something Chinese sister-in-law easily found a job weeks after being laid off by a pharmaceutical company. She was making a six-figure salary traveling to various hotels and putting on a PowerPoint presentation to 4 or 5 doctors at a sitting about her company's drug and answering the doctor's questions.

She got multiple offers and took one she said she couldn't refuse becus it was "a ton of money." She'll work at home 2 days a week and travel an hour commute on the other 3 days. My dad told me this. I have to admit to being jealous and feeling totally inadequate in my job search.

Phone interview tomorrow

July 18th, 2017 at 08:12 pm

Tomorrow I have a phone interview lined up with a Catholic prep school (high school) about 35 minutes from here. They're a well-respected school, and I had to write a fictitious press release and email on one of three topics they provided.

I spent a lot of time on my cover letter and the assignments, and it was worth it since they want to talk to me.

I don't have an educational background but I have "dabbled" in education at 3 jobs writing about college-related topics or marketing student loans while at the bank. There are certain job responsibilities that could be a stretch for me: using data analysis to drive design and strategy, "demonstrated knowledge of" Instagram, Google Analytics, video. Everything else I could do.

It might be a more junior level job but i don't care too much about salary. Well, I do, of course, but I'm more focused on affordable health insurance.

Tonight I'm going out to a free dinner.

Today I've stayed inside all day...too hot outside. Didn't accomplish much but I will start prepping for the phone interview tonight.

Currently bleach cleaning the mildewy mat that sits under my dish drainer. Did a little reading. Wasted time on the computer. That's about it!


July 17th, 2017 at 06:59 pm

The wood slats for day bed were delivered by Amazon this morning. I got the "heavy duty" slats which cost a little more but I think were worth it.

While the slats seem sturdy, not flimsy. they are about a half inch too narrow. I knew that before I ordered. There are 2 bars running down either side of the day bed, and the new slats are supposed to lay across them. While they do, they don't extend all the way up to the edges, so if, say, I bounced around on the bed, I'm thinking it's possible one or more of the slats would fall through if enough weight was thrown on them.

I plan to sleep here on very warm nights so I'll have to see how it goes, but otherwise, I'm happy with them.

Here's how the bed looks all made up.

Yeah, I know, the pillows don't match but I don't really care right now. I don't get that many visitors. So what do you think, does it look any less "bed-like with this new frame?"

In other news...

An acquaintance of mine here in town has asked me to cat sit for her for about 8 days in August. Of course I'm happy to do that as it takes no time at all and she always paid me a ridiculous amount of money.

I am no longer able to participate in the 2nd focus group I'd hoped to do this week. I guess I wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Part of me doesn't care as it was an hour's drive down there.

I went to BJs and somehow spent $120. I shouldn't have bought Fancy Feast there becus I see Walmart's price is cheaper by a buck or two.

I spoke to our borough's tree warden about the tree that came down Saturday and my fear that any of the other white pines fronting the road could do the same. Since there was no storm, no wind, no rot and the tree ripped off about 2 feet above ground (it was not uprooted, in other words), my fear is that the same thing could happen with one of two directly in front of my house; if it fell the wrong way, they could directly hit my house.

I wasn't as concerned about this before because I imagined that if a BRANCH of one of the pines came down, it would fall near the tree, but now that I've seen that the entire tree could come down at nearly ground level, without even a breeze, now that's scary.

So he said some of those trees would be on town property. (I thought it was state property, but it is town.) I explained my fears and said that the utility company just keeps pruning the trees, making them spindly in the middle and top heavy.

He's going to send someone out to look at the trees and he said they MAY be able to take down one or two of the white pines. That made me jump for joy. He said he couldn't promise anything, but would see. The borough has a $75,000 budget for trees and he said that money can be gone in a month. The town at large has its own budget.

I would be thrilled to be rid of those 2 trees becus white pine in particular regularly sheds heavy branches or, like on Saturday, the whole tree comes crashing down. The tree warden said they are "self-pruning." Crossing my fingers on this one.

There were a number of things I wanted to do outside today but it's very warm out. And Wed-Friday will be a heat wave ....90+ temps. I had wanted to wash the exterior of my downstairs windows, which could really use it. I need to cut back brambles, pick wineberries, and use the trimmer on the lawn.

Tree down, no power

July 16th, 2017 at 11:20 am

I lost power for over 12 hours yesterday.

I was lying in bed at 6 a.m. when I heard the telltale sound of ripping wood. There was an interval of 3 or 4 seconds during which time I wondered where the tree was falling before I heard a resounding crash.

I got up, looked out the window but nothing seemed amiss in my yard. It was a large white pine, one of many fronting the road, and it had pulled the lines down with it.

I went to my office and rifled through my desk to find the emergency number for the utility company so I could report it. Our local hook and ladder company was there almost immediately; I'd say may be 5 or 10 minutes time. I got dressed and walked down my driveway to see if I could see where the tree came down. There was a volunteer fireman standing there; he had already blocked off the road with some yellow tape, one end tied to my mailbox post, and a neighbor of mine, too lazy to walk an eighth of a mile, was there also in his pick-up to see what's what.

I looked to my left and there you could see a very large white pine down across the road. I didn't take pix until this morning, after they cut up all the branches blocking the road.

This is my property, although technically, the state owns about 10 feet in from the road. I was a little annoyed they left this massive trunk just sitting there on the edge; no doubt they had a lot of work to do. Maybe the town will come by later and cut some of it up.

Interestingly, despite the racket caused by chainsaws, the doe that is so fond of fallen apples from my tree still came down that morning, as is her habit, to find the little green gems.

I don't know why it doesn't look as impressive in the photos as it does in person; maybe you don't get a sense of scale in the photos, but I can tell you, it was one monster-sized tree!

I called my neighbor behind me to see if they had lost power. They did. I went out to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, then came back home. Later I called the utility company to see when I could expect the power back on, and they said 1 p.m. Well, that time came and went. If I had known it was going to be longer, I would have bought ice for the fridge. I called later in the afternoon and they said 5 p.m. Well that time came and went also.

I left the house at 5:30 p.m. to meet my dad for dinner and when I came came around 8:30, I finally had power.

The last time I talked to the utility company, I asked him what I was going to do about all the ruined food in my fridge, not really expecting any kind of answer. He said I might be able to file a claim for it on Monday. I have never heard of this before.

Being vegan, I have no meat, cheese, dairy or eggs to spoil. The stuff in freezer should be ok. What's in the fridge is mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, an uncut whole watermelon, a few bottles of beer and condiments. I'm unsure if I can drink the soy milk.

The thing I worry about most is other trees crashing down in the future. In a way we were lucky this didn't happen in January. There are probably 6 other white pines in the same area along the road, just as large, and of course the power lines are directly underneath them.

What's alarming to me is that this tree was shorn off close to its base and it was NOT at all windy and there was no storm. We did have a lot of rain during the past week or so but that appears not to have been a factor since this tree just ripped away from the trunk about a foot or two high. I don't even see any rot. It appears the sheer weight of the tree pulled it down. It's scary.

If other trees closer to my house were also shorn off close to their base, they could easily hit my house. These trees are technically on property owned by the state (they own a certain frontage from the road), but while they will prune branches away from the power lines and come cut them up when they fall across a road, they and the town only take down dead trees or trees already fallen. To me they pose a hazard. I've talked to the tree warden about it before and that's what he told me. I'm not sure I'd even have the legal authority to have them cut down at my own expense.

Making progress on life's minutae

July 14th, 2017 at 04:48 pm

The neighbor came by last night and in a jiffy helped me move in the day bed. It takes up a bit more space than just the twin bed. Can't wait to get the new slats delivered on Tuesday so I can put my family room (and the day bed) in order.

I did the banking focus group last night. Got a $125 Visa debt card which I'll use on groceries. It was a very interesting focus group where we learned about all sorts of initiatives this bank is considering to better reflect its brand of being community first.

I loved many of their novel ideas. I would love to talk about them here but we were all asked not to discuss.

It's a bank with the name of my hometown in it; the bank is doing quite well in my region but by most measures is quite small. I much prefer small banks like this one to the mega bands that got caught up i the credit crisis (Citi, Wells Fargo, BOA, etc).

I am with another CT bank that is not national. I have considered switching to the smaller bank but was always concerned their limited ATM locations could be a problem if I needed to access one. Plus it's a hassle to move a checking account.

Just finished up lunch: a huge green salad with my homemade (oil-free) tahini maple dressing and a bowl of antioxidant-rich cherries.

It's near impossible to find organic cherries around here, so I did soak them in a saltwater bath for 10 minutes, which is supposed to remove surface pesticides. I try to do the same thing with the blueberries I buy, which again I rarely find organic. But they're so cheap at Aldi's at $1.69 for a whole pint that I've been enjoying them weekly this summer.

Which reminds me, I should just buy more, soak, rinse, dry and then freeze them for winter. I do also buy frozen organic berries at BJs in bulk. But I have been unable to decide which is healthier: to buy organic frozen strawberries and raspberries, or non-organic wild blueberries, which are said to have a higher antioxidant content than regular blueberries but again, aren't organic.

Plans for the weekend: Dinner with dad tomorrow; my friend R. over for a beer in the shade on Sunday. Simple pleasures. Laundry. Washing all my downstairs exterior windows, which are quite dirty.

Volunteered for a healthcare study

July 13th, 2017 at 05:09 pm

I saw something in the paper where a local hospital is recruiting people for a study looking at whether mindfulness meditation improves insomnia. It's a 6-month study. You have to wear a FitBit, which you then get to keep after completing the study, and if you are in the group getting the mindfulness classes, I will have to travel weekly to the hospital (30 minutes 1 way) for classes for 14 trips. If i am randomly assigned to the control group, I'll travel only 4 visits.

Either way they'll pay me $200, i get free mindfulness meditation classes in the one group, something I'm very interested in, and I get the FitBit. If not, i get no MM classes but I still get the money and the FitBit. Smile

There is a chance I get a job before the study is over, but I'm willing to take that chance. This study is specifically for people who have MS, and the doctor running the study is someone I've seen speak often at the dinner lectures I attend whenever I get the chance.

So it sounds interesting. I qualified for the initial phone screening and now I need to go in for the in-person screening sometime after next week. I wish it were a bit closer, but if I'm not working, once-a-week trips are not a big deal.

Here's a new planter I created with an old teapot I've had for ages....I just drilled drainage holes in the bottom and stuck in a blue/green sedum lookalike and some hens and chicks.

Speaking of hens and chicks, this is the first time they've bloomed for me, in this overcrowded pot!

I found a buyer for a little McCoy teapot I was selling. Even after I found a small chip inside the lid, she said she still wanted it, although i reduced the price by $3. I'm meeting her tomorrow for the handoff. $20 for something I've had forever; I've always liked the turquoise color, but it's time to give it a new home. I only have room for so many tschotkes.

I was going to go to BJs today but the weather is so oppressive I think I'll just stay home. I'll go tomorrow instead. I LOVE my central air. When I go outside to get the mail or whatever, WOW what a difference in air temp when I come back inside. How did I ever endure Connecticut's humid summers without central air for 20 years????

My neighbor is coming over tonight to help me move that day bed! I'll be getting the new slats next Tuesday from Amazon. There's a large ugly stain on the carpet which I can't replace now while I still have a cat. I'd love to hide it by putting the day bed OVER the stain but then it would sit a good 2 feet out from the wall and not sure what to put behind it. I don't have any large plants.

I released 2 more black swallowtail butterflies this morning. Just 2 more remain.

80% of the mulberries have been eaten; birds are chomping on unripe berries only to drop them on the ground.

I have lost or misplaced my BOA Better Balance rewards card for the SECOND time now. They replaced it once already but i don't want to ask for a replacement card again since i think it messed up my rewards. The way this card works is that if you charge something (even just 1 thing) to the card each month, at the end of the quarter, you get a $25 credit. So if you do that consistently, that's $100 back each and every year.

It occurred to me I won't have to call to get a new card because I logged this card number in as a payment method for my monthly telephone/Internet bill. In the meantime, I can keep looking for the card. I'm sure it will turn up somewhere, just like the first one did after I'd already cancelled it!


July 12th, 2017 at 11:04 pm

1. My neighbor, who had agreed to he move the day bed into the family room tonight after he got out of work, called to say he couldn't make it as the school bus he was driving broke down and he was stuck with a pile of kids onboard waiting for help. He will be here tomorrow night, same time.

2. Met a woman who bought an old cordless phone set from me.

3. Stopped at nearby Aldi's and got some watermelon and other fruit.

4. Cleared a path to family room and moved existing twin bed out of the way.

5. Applied for a faraway job.

6. Turned down a friend's invitation to go on kind of an aimless road trip this Sunday, but invited him over for a cold beer in the shade instead. He accepted.

Sadly, a black swallowtail butterfly that emerged from pupa this morning had a damaged wing. It clearly could not fly. I could not bring myself to destroy it and instead tried to feed it a bit of kiwi. I put it in the shade and decided to let nature take its course.

I had a lentil/walnut/rice burger for lunch.

Tomorrow I hope to get that day bed in here and then right after that will leave for a focus group in town on banking. $125.

Here it is only July and Money magazine has already started pestering me with renewal notices. I won't be. It was cheap, but I can just as easily read it online.

Monday achievements

July 11th, 2017 at 09:00 pm

I accomplished very little.

1. More thought and research about my daybed, leading to a $30 purchase of replacement slats at Amazon. My cost will be $0 since I sprang for an Amazon Prime credit card which immediately applied the $40 upfront bonus. Smile

So this is cheaper than springing for the metal bed frame, but also means it will be lower sitting than the former. Ultimately, I decided I didn't want to see the 6 ugly metal legs of the metal bed frame underneath the wood frame. Praying I don't have to cut slats to fit as some reviewers did.

2. Made a trip to the transfer station. Boy, was it busy.

3. Reluctantly informed my contact at the freelance higher education website I was again available for work. I had told her I needed a month long hiatus when I did that well-paying contract job, which ended in June. I've already done enough work for them that I'll have to do the extra self-employment forms at tax time, so this won't change anything in that regard, and I do need to generate some working cash to pay the bills. It's just such a big time suck and pays very little. Grumble. I got official word that I did NOT get the nonprofit job I'd interviewed for. Back to square one.

4. Rinsed out some buckets for organic recycling and cat litter.

5. Folded and put away some laundry I line dried yesterday.

6. Stopped at library to pick up some book review forms. Each summer, you can write very brief book reviews of whatever you've read (a paragraph or two) and enter your reviews in a half dozen different boxes for gift certificates to local shops.

7. I wrote one book review and hope to do a few more before the winners are announced end of August.

8. Posted on FB selling sites some photography equipment and knick-knacks which I doubt will sell but one never knows.

9. Did a teensy bit of editing for a freelance client.

Plan to call my neighbor tonight about moving the daybed frame.

Contemplating making a lentil walnut burger for dinner.

Daydreaming about daybeds

July 11th, 2017 at 06:55 pm

Thank you all for the really great ideas you've given me for turning the $20 half a bunk bed into a more attractive day bed than I have now.

I was relieved to learn I could replace broken slats and was excited to know I could have them cut to fit at a big box store.

I haven't gotten around to confirming that with Lowes or Home Depot, but the easier route for me would be plunking down $50 for a standalone metal frame, not unlike a cot, that would actually fit inside the wood frame I just bought.

I did all the measurements several times and the 38 x 74 x 14 frame would indeed fit. However, the wood frame I bought stands quite low.

That is why I've decided to go with purchasing a metal frame rather than replacing the slats. The metal frame stands 14" high, so combined with my 7.5" high mattress, the seat/daybed would only be 21" high, which my research tells me is about average for couch height as well as bed height.

If I just replaced the slats and put the mattress on top of that, I'd be looking at a 17" high seat, which is too low. I could add the box spring as well, which would bring it up to 24.5" high.

At some point if I find employment again, it would be nice to invest in a new foam mattress since they come even thicker than 7.5 inches.

Something else to consider: even with my current mattress, the combined height of the mattress and cot height means that most of the horizontal flats on this frame will be hidden. The top of the mattress will be about an inch below the uppermost slat on this photo.

From looking at a zillion different day bed photos, it would be nice if the frame were higher becus then you can lean up lots of pillows against it. It will still be against the wall so maybe not such a big deal.

I have ruled out those risers you can buy because they would be visible and an eyesore since this will not be covered by long bedspreads or it will look like a bed in the family room.

This is more the look I was going for, although it looks like it sits taller than mine will.

Instead of neatly tucking in the sheet or mattress covering like in the 2nd photo, I may have to do what was done in the 3rd photo: draping a comforter or some kind of throw down across the front. Because with the metal frame, I won't be able to tuck in underneath and I'll want to camoflouge the metal frame which will be higher than the opening in the wood frame at 9.5" high. There would otherwise be a 4.5" high gap of space. Hmmm. Lucky Robin, what do you think?

I guess I could get a skirt to hide the metal frame, but I don't really like that look..just a dust collector. Also, now that I mull on all these details, I realize the 6 legs of the frame will be visible...ick!! I hadn't thought about that til now. Sigh. Ugly.

I've pretty much decided to ask my neighbor's husband to help move the new wood frame into the family room with me. It would take us maybe 10 minutes. I would clear away the twin bed that's there now. I just have to think of a way to broach the subject in a way they can't say no! Maybe I should buy a bottle of wine and say I don't want it, do they want it, and when they say yes, just ask for a "small favor" in return.

Buyer's remorse

July 10th, 2017 at 09:51 pm

I think I made a stupid mistake.

I was browsing Facebook Marketplace after posting something for sale there. I came across a twin platform bedframe for just $20. A few of the slats were broken but I figured it could be fixed.

I liked the frame because it had a low headboard type of railing around 3 sides, so it could look very much like a daybed, which is the look I was going for in my family room with a twin bed I have in there but it basically looks like a bed with a lot of pillows.

I wanted something comfortable for lounging on or taking a nap that would also double as a comfy bed for an overnight guest.

So I called dad to borrow his truck and drove over to look at the bed frame. The nice man helped me load it in the truck and I gave him the $20.

I drove it home and probably damaged it more getting it out of the truck by myself, cus now there are 5 damaged slats.

I managed to get it in my garage for now.

What was I thinking?

Not only will I have to wait who knows how long to get someone to help me carry it into the house (the family room is on the first floor but there are outdoor stairs...luckily, it's not heavy) but I'll have to do some kind of repair job with new slats.

And now that I've had time to think about it, I'm wondering if a bed made especially for kids has a weight limit on it.

In addition, I measured the width of the frame (only after I bought it, of course) and see that's it's a good 1.5 inches wider than my current mattress, which is not foam but a conventional box/mattress set. That could probably be camoflauged with cushions in the back.

I asked the guy how the slats got broke but don't remember his answer. I assumed his kid jumped up and down on the bed a few times, but I don't know.

I think I was seduced by the low price and also visions of that bed frame-turned-day bed. But honestly, I don't know ANYONE I could ask to help me move the frame into the house. Everyone I thought of has a bad back or it too old.

Now I'm stuck with this big thing in my garage. Please tell me you've done something like this yourself so I feel a little better.

PS I feel a little better now because I found you can buy a whole new set of slats. Amazon has some that would appear to fit this bed for $27, free shipping. I think that would be the simplest fix. There's no assembly, you just lay the slats, attached by rows of fabric, into the slot.

Upon closer exam of a little label, I see that this was actually the top end of a bunk bed!

No concert but a great dinner

July 9th, 2017 at 12:32 pm

We decided not to go to the outdoor fiddling competition yesterday afternoon as it was warm and humid.

But I had already made dinner reservations at a restaurant close by the fiddling thing. It was a place called Mamie's that only serves dinner on the weekends.

We drove out there and nearly missed it, even though I had pulled into the parking lot. I was looking for signs but didn't see any until I had turned around and was pulling out to leave. It's in the middle of nowhere, the kind of place you would love "discovering" if you were on vacation and just happened upon. It had more outdoor seating than inside. We ate outside in a very rustic setting. There was a shower but we had a small roof to keep us dry. The menu was very limited but excellent. Dad had steamed mussels, we shared some great gazpacho soup and we both had the ribeye steaks. No veganism for me when we eat out!

Here's dear old Dad enjoying the view.

After dinner we did stop in at the fiddling competition, which was still going on and it was just down the road. We rolled down the windows and could hear the music as we circled the parking lot. The signage had us exit a different way and it threw off my directions for getting home. We did end up getting a bit lost on the windy back country roads but we weren't too far off track.

Today is going to be a great weather day, a good day for some yardwork. I want to try to clear my blueberry bushes from bittersweet vines threatening to engulf them.

Summertime plans

July 8th, 2017 at 12:30 pm

The pickin' and fiddlin' contest today is up in the air. Meaning, we're not sure if we're going yet. We'll wait til 10 am to see if the fire department, the sponsor of the event, will cancel due to 50% chance of thunderstorms, or not.

If they don't, I'll have to talk to dad and see if he really wants to sit out in an open field in around 80 degrees and high humidity/dew point weather. Dad is 84. We'd have an umbrella and lawn chairs, but still.

I'm torn. I love this kind of music (he does too) and this event only happens once a year, but I am also razor-focused on making sure dad is safe and comfortable.

Speaking of family, I have invited my half brother, his wife and their two kids up for a visit in late August. They live in New Jersey.

In addition to that get-together, I also am planning to visit a friend on the Jersey shore for a one night sleep-over later this month. Now that Waldo is gone, I can do that. Luther will be okay on his own for that short time. My friend was my dad's significant other for at least 15 years. They have been split up for a few years, but we have kept in touch. It's a long, 3-hour drive for just one night, but I don't want to leave Luther longer than that, and she's delighted I'm coming.

K. has 2 certified therapy dogs (dachshunds) and she has built her retirement around bringing her dogs to area hospitals and to private homes for hospice patients. She's about 10 years old than me and used to work as a school nurse, so she is comfortable working with very sick people and gets a lot of satisfaction from it. She's also very devoted to her dogs and 2 cats.

I have one other summer trip tentatively planned, though no date has been set. It's with my other cousin on my mother's side (mom's father's brother's daughter). We plan to visit another cousin (another child of another brother of my grandfather's) who is now in their 80s. We want to do some interviewing for family research purposes.

So I'm pleased to say that I now have 2 solid new relationships with family members I never had before: 1. cousin M. on mom's side; 2. cousin J. from dad's side, the one who recently came up to visit for a few days. During the past year I've also met 4 other new-to-me cousins (3 of them are sisters) but they all seem to have their own lives and haven't shown the interest in a deeper relationship, as of this time.

I haven't had a real vacation lasting more than a few days in over 8 years now, believe it or not. The last nice trip I remember was 3 days in Bar Harbor in 2007 when I accompanied my boyfriend to a doctor's conference in Maine and everything was paid for. It was lovely.

After that, I didn't go on a vacation because I wasn't dating anyone special. When I had that long period of unemployment, I didn't go on vacation for obvious reasons. Later, it was because my mom was ill. Last year, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for a vacation anyway, and I had Waldo's twice-a-day meds to worry about. So it was always something.

So if you're vacillating about taking a trip somewhere but can see your way clear to doing it, go for it! You never know what the future holds and you could easily regret not doing it when you had the chance.

I don't want to spend a lot of money since I'm not working, but aside from these little trips I am trying to come up with fun little day trips to take just by myself, before the nice weather disappears. There's a Japanese garden nearby I went to about 5 years ago and would like to revisit. Maybe I'll check out a new hiking venue. Maybe another public garden in the state. It's hard to push myself to do those things solo because it's so much easier to just stay home, but even a little trip to somewhere you don't regularly visit can be refreshing and rejuvenating to the soul.

Wednesday words

July 6th, 2017 at 01:15 am

Not much to report today.

Spoke to a recruiter about an ongoing job writing feature stories for a corporate newsletter. The company is in aviation, so since I don't have this kind of background, I think it's a long shot, even though she said an aeronautical background wasn't required.

I was waiting and hoping today I would get a call/offer from the nonprofit organization I interviewed with about 3 weeks ago. He had said he would make a decision after the 4th of July weekend. He didn't say he'd be calling the very next day after the holiday, but I am still sort of hoping/assuming he would be making the offer to whomever this week. So that leaves 2 more days.

The longer I go without hearing anything, the more I think I won't get the job, becus that would mean they're negotiating and working out the details with one of the 3 other candidates, checking references and so on. If I don't hear anything by mid-day Friday, I will email the HR person to inquire.

I'm sort of over analyzing, but I'm thinking I'm probably up against younger, more bubbly candidates who would more likely apply for a lower-paying job like this because they might still be living at home, not have a mortgage and so on. I'm remembering what the man said at the interview, that being a good writer was a given, that they also wanted to make sure the candidate they chose would "fit in" well with the other writers and work well with their team.

Not sure how they could surmise that, but if it's a personality contest and I'm competing against perky 20- or 30-somethings, not sure I'll come out on top.

It was another beautiful sunny, low humidity day. I went to the transfer station and then for some almond milk at expensive Big Y becus Aldis was completely out of any kind of alternative milk, so I paid $3.69 for a half gallon instead of $2.19.

I weeded the back patio, a thankless job that will never cease until I have the back patio redone in pavers that don't permit weeds to go in between every single brick. There's poison ivy back there, too, and I did brush against a leaf so I washed myself in Tec Nu 3 times. I hope I don't get it.

I am trying to break down all the yardwork into more manageable individual chores. The next one, for instance, might be using my electric trimmer on the spirea and azalea shrubs by the same back patio. July is the latest I like to prune or the new growth will get zapped by frost.

Well, now that I have my new phone system in, I'm waiting for some telemarketing calls since I want to "push the button" and see if it does indeed block the call. I'll ask them to call me back in a minute and then see if they can. Or NOT. He he he.

So far I'm happy with the phone. It even has something called the "baby monitor" where you can eavesdrop remotely on your baby. Or pet or kids. Its like having a video monitor but instead this is audio only. I would have no need to use it but it's an interesting feature.

I have not had much energy lately and am unhappy with my exercise regimen as of late. I wimped out of walking the last few days and opted to garden instead.

Stuff I'm doing

July 3rd, 2017 at 02:33 pm

I spent a very enjoyable day yesterday doing very little. It was too hot to work in the yard, but I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the shade of my front stoop, watching a beautiful Baltimore Oriole feeding a female...or maybe it was a fledgling.

They spent a lot of time in my tall chokecherry tree. I had noticed earlier that the leaves seem to be stripped of some of their leaves, and upon noticing the oriole in there, I wondered if the tree had caterpillars. There were lots of green berries, but it didn't appear the bird was pulling those off.
Every so often the birds would move over to the mulberry tree, which is providing a feast for a large assortment of birds, squirrels and chipmunks.

The oriole is still around this morning. Perhaps it has a nest nearby.

It was just so lovely in the shade, and from my vantage point at the top of a small hill, I can see a lot with my binoculars.

Around dusk I noticed a rabbit about 25 feet away, and soon after I saw a doe eating the fallen apples from the same distance. The deer knew I was sitting there and was very cautious, though it continued to munch on as many apples as it could find and it did turn its back on me. At one point it tentatively walked around to get a better look at me and then it nervously took off.

I did manage to vacuum out my car and rinsed off the rubber mat in the trunk. I repotted a miniature aloe plant into a bigger pot. I played a ton of Luminosity games online since I got a free month of access. Bad habit.

I also decided to haul an outdoor table I have in the courtyard (driveway) up to my front stoop. I haven't been using the table/chairs where it was because there were a lot of ticks under the shade earlier in the year and I'm a little paranoid. But my front stoop gets strong morning sun and there's just enough room for it and 2 lawn chairs.

I also assembled the new Panasonic phone set I got which includes the base and 3 cordless phones. The main reason I bought it for $90 I think was because you can BLOCK whatever calls you like, and I can't stand telemarketing calls. I never knew how many I got until I started staying home all day.

I've set the date/time, recorded my greeting, etc but I have yet to get an incoming call so I'm a little worried about the sound quality since sound quality is not great with my current Panasonic cordless phone set. I may try to move the base into the bedroom since they say a high location away from electronics/computers is best. Right now I have the base downstairs.

The next time I get a telemarketer call, I'm going to ask them if they can call me back in literally a minute, after which I'll block the call and then see if they can get through upon calling me back. I just want to make sure it works.

I also made a mason bee nest (actually, all pollinators are welcome. It's essentially a bunch of PAPER straws inside a metal can. I also put some samples from when I got my bamboo curtains. You need to make sure the straws, where they lay their eggs, fit snugly and do not move around. They need to be in a sunny location that's protected from rain. That means my front stoop, which gets bright morning sun. I hope someone finds it.

Financial housekeeping

July 1st, 2017 at 01:33 pm

A tepid stock market did a little sideways dance during the month of June; my portfolio was up by about $2,000.

While I was doing my month-end report, I converted a recently transferred T. Rowe Price fund worth about $70,000 into Admiral shares at Vanguard. Sorry T.Rowe, love ya, but Vanguard's fund of the same type had a .26% expense ratio vs your .66% expense ratio. The conversion to Admiral shares, which you can do with any Vanguard fund once it gets big enough, will reduce my annual expenses for the fund even further.

The fund I moved was a Roth IRA, so there won't be any tax consequences. This is the reason why the 2 remaining taxable funds I have at T. Rowe will stay put until I need them as I don't want to trigger any tax liability.

I recently opted in to a lower priced electricity offer by my current provider. The lower rate is only good for 4 months and then I'll have to shop around again. As with the conversion to Admiral shares at Vanguard, just a little bit of what I call "housekeeping" chores will save me money over the long haul.

Barclay's recently informed me the interest rate on my money markets there has ticked up, as they should at any bank since the fed raised rates. The uptick is not enough to exceed the rates I locked in on my laddered (2, 3, 4 and 5-year) CDs with Barclays, but it helps.

I have two focus groups coming up in July worth $125 and $225 each. I haven't done a focus group in ages. One is in town, the other I have to travel about an hour for. I also have 3 MS drug dinners sponsored by the pharma companies in July.

I have the central air on, set at 76 degrees. It's quite muggy and damp outside and it's so much more comfortable, although a few days earlier I really enjoyed opening all the windows around here, something I hadn't done for several years due to Waldo's allergies.

I still think I'm going to see him around a corner or in his favorite spot. Luther isn't showing visible signs of missing him although it sure seems quieter around here.

Friday fun

June 30th, 2017 at 11:55 pm

We're in the middle of a pretty powerful thunderstorm now. Well, the thunder has moved off to the distance but it's still raining pretty hard. I had to bring a bunch of cacti inside.

Yesterday I spent some enjoyable time at the cat shelter when I donated Waldo's favorite scratching post and 3 bags of cat pill pockets. The volunteer there, the same one I worked with when adopting Luther/Waldo, walked with me from room to room to show me all their cats. The place was so overcrowded 8 years ago; now they only have about 25 cats.

I think she was hoping I might adopt another one. There were a few nice ones I liked, but I don't think I will be tempted. She also suggested maybe I could start coming to socialize the cats until I find a job, as they've lost some volunteers. I might consider it.

I did practically nothing today. I actually drove out to Aldi's and Walmart just to have something to do. Picked up a few things at each place.

Dropping in on Bill and Hillary

June 29th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

Dad mentioned he planned to drive down to Jersey yesterday and invited me to come along, so I did. I don't especially look forward to the drive, but I will take the wheel to keep dad from doing so on some very heavily congested roads in heavy traffic.

We paid a visit to my half-brother. He was working from home because his wife, who was recently laid off, had a job interview to go to and someone needed to stay with their young daughter.

So we got to see everyone but their son, who was in daycare. We only stayed about a half hour as they had things to do.

Afterwards, we stopped at the bank and then Bendix Diner, a local landmark near Teterboro Airport which has been there for years and is your typical greasy spoon diner.

It struck me how ethnically diverse New Jersey is, especially compared to where I live in Connecticut. The woman who helped us at the bank was Egyptian, the guys at the gas station were Sikh Indian and the owner of the diner was probably eastern European.

My dad has mentioned several times when we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge how proud it makes him feel to be an American. A new bridge is being built next to the existing one and it's very striking to see. There are a million cranes in the Hudson. I told dad that seeing how ethnically diverse Jersey is made me proud to be an American. It is, after all, how this country was built.

Dad learned that the Clintons live in tony Chappaqua, NY in northern Westchester, and had expressed curiosity to see where they lived. I figured the way back would be a good time to do so since we go right through that area.

I easily found the address online and warned dad we wouldn't see much because of a tall white fence/gate around the property, which is only 1.1 acres, smaller than mine! They live in a 5,000 square foot Dutch Colonial mostly hidden from view. It was built in the 1880s.

So we drove down the short dead-end street and as expected, we found about 6 black Secret Service vehicles, all with tinted windows, clustered at the end of the dead-end in front of the Clinton home. I couldn't tell if anyone was in the vehicles or elsewhere. I'd also read that the Clintons bought the house next door so Chelsea would have a place to stay with the kids when she came to visit. We could see that house, an unremarkable ranch which I'm sure is quite nice inside.

I didn't want to attract any Secret Service agents, so I didn't even stop as I slowly turned around in the cul-de-sac, but Dad still got a chuckle out of seeing it. Instead of getting back onto 684, we took back roads through the wealthy horse country of northern Westchester County, then crossed over into Fairfield County and on home.

We came back to my place and I sent dad home with a delicious slice of orange cake I got at the farmer's market the day before. So it was a good day with dad and it kept my mind off Waldo.

In other news...
Amazon customer service is always good. I was able to get a refund of several bags of cat pill pockets I no longer need, and they didn't require me to return the bags either, so I will donate them to a local animal shelter.

I am meeting the volunteer there this morning who helped me adopt Luther and Waldo 8 years ago. I had kept in touch with her all this time, sending her Christmas emails with their photos. I'm donating Waldo's favorite scratching post. She was happy to take it as it's a "deluxe" post that set me back about $60, but it's very sturdy and won't tip over. I suspect she is hoping I'll adopt another cat but I've already told her I don't want to. Still, it will be enjoyable to see all the kitties there. I just hope I'm not tempted.

I finally heard back from someone at the fire department sponsoring the fiddling contest that dad wanted to attend. They have ample handicap parking which shortens the walk to about 100 feet, which is on level ground, and they do plan to spray for ticks prior to the concert. They also have "gators," which he said is like a golf cart, so he said just ask at the front gate and drop my dad off there directly and then go the lot and park my car. So it all sounds doable, especially if we could get some help with the lawn chairs we'll want to bring. The only remaining concern is if it's a hot or humid day and there's no shade (forgot to ask him that) it could be uncomfortable and my dad doesn't use sunscreen.

Family matters and cat dynamics

June 27th, 2017 at 02:14 pm

Fawn "spotted" in my side yard this morning. The doe comes daily to eat the fallen fruit from the apple tree, and now she's brought her fawn.

Thanks, everyone, for all the condolences. I spent all day yesterday moping around. I forced myself to go and run some errands to try to regain a sense of normalcy. I kind of felt like I was just going through the motions.

I also took a walk at Fairfield Hills last night because it was such a beautiful summer day. It's where I used to go when my mother was still battling dementia, and I do find nature to be a comfort. It reminded me that while I am wholly absorbed in my loss, there is much in the world that is active and alive, buzzing, vibrant and healthy. The beat goes on.

I feel like there's a big hole in my life that Waldo used to fill. It sounds silly, but we used to be a threesome here, and now it's just me and Luther. I was very much aware of my cats' presence in my home. I might be busy doing other things, but I always knew they were there, somewhere, lounging in the sun room or pattering around in the kitchen, or wrestling each other in the family room. And periodically I would take a break from the computer, my job search or whatever I was doing to wander downstairs and see what they were up to, rub a chin or toss a toy.

So now Luther is the recipient of all my attention and I feel myself becoming anxious to know where he is and what he's doing all the time instead of taking him for granted. He must be aware of Waldo's absence, but I don't know that he misses his presence. When I brought the empty cat carrier home, I let Luther sniff it, and the towel inside, before I put it away.

The only other clue I had as to Luther's thought process, if you can call it that in a cat, is that when I fed Luther yesterday, he looked around for Waldo. Both cats did that if I happened to crack open a can of food with only one of them there. They were both concerned about getting to the food first, Luther especially, since Waldo was very food-oriented and would enthusiastically push his face toward the bowl whether Luther had begun eating or not. This was off-putting to Luther, who would then retreat and wait for Waldo to finish before going back to the dish. They were chums, but he preferred to eat his meals solo.

Luther is a very handsome cat, but truth be told, he played second fiddle to Waldo, who captured my heart with his affectionate nature. It was also incredibly rewarding to be able to "tame" an essentially feral cat.

Luther suffered from his time at the shelter in his own way. He was there for a much shorter time than Waldo (months vs years), but you can tell he didn't get much attention there becus he has always disliked getting touched much. It often drives me nuts when he slinks away from under my hand, not wanting to be touched. He is always in good spirits and happily accompanies me from room to room or bounds up on a table if I am looking at something there. To Luther, life inside this house is a grand adventure. If I go in the basement or to the attic, he often races ahead of me, reaching the destination before I do.

He wants to be "involved." He will seek out affection, sometimes jumping on my lap, and only then will he accept being pet.

He never gave any indication that Waldo getting to the food first bothered him. (I would later feed them in separate bowls but even then Luther preferred to wait til Waldo was done.)

When they were both in the kitchen and I was preparing their food, Waldo would get so excited he would sometimes circle the small kitchen island, meowing in excitement, and for some reason this would irritate Luther, who would swat at Waldo as if to say, "Cut it out, bro."

So when I cracked open a can of food yesterday, I thought I caught Luther looking up and into another room, as if expecting to see Waldo come running.

Things are quiet here. This morning, Waldo did not wake me up in the morning, demanding breakfast. I actually slept til 7:30, which is unusual. After spending the night downstairs, where it's cooler, Luther had jumped up on the bed in the early morning, but he was content to lay there quietly while I slept.

I heard back from the shelter volunteer who helped me adopt both Waldo and Luther 8 years ago. Waldo had always been one of her all-time favorite cats there, so I would send her Christmas emails with photos and updates on both. She thanked me for letting her know, and she said he couldn't have had a better home. She had come here to do a house check when I adopted, at the time when I was getting the sun room done, putting built-in benches there just for the cats!

Shortly before Waldo got sick, I had renewed both of his meds for the maximum quantity, 90 days. One prescription was from the old vet I no longer plan to use; I had simply renewed the med as I thought it easier to do since the new vet would not give me the same med without bloodwork and an exam. I realized there was a seal on the bottle and I decided to see if I could return the bottle. They said yes, so I drove down there yesterday and was able to get a $55 refund.

The other med from the new vet was not sealed and cost half the price of the first one, so instead of asking for a refund I asked if I could return it so they could use with either animal rescue groups they work with or low-income patients. They said yes, thank you, they do that all the time. So it made me feel a little better knowing Waldo's leftover meds would help others who maybe couldn't afford them.

I got a really nice phone call from my cousin last night. Strangely, I had been wanting to talk to him about losing Waldo. I say strangely because at first blush we wouldn't seem to have a lot in common and you might not think him particularly sympathetic.

He's an avid gun collector, including semi-automatic things, Uzis and the like, something wholly anathema to my entire community post 12/14. And also to me, but I haven't really expressed my opinion on that.

But just having the family connection, of knowing he is my late grandmother's favorite sister's son, somehow creates this instant bond, a sense of loyalty and fondness for someone I don't remember ever meeting. He said he met both me and my sister when we were very little and visiting my grandparents, and in fact my grandmother scolded him for teasing my sister when my cousin was about 14.

But anyway, he told me how much he enjoyed his little visit here and how he wished we had all reunited years earlier. I've had the same feeling, because there is so much more we all could have done. It makes me feel a little wistful. But later is better than never. He also said he wished we lived closer together.

He lost his wife years back. She was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was very successful in his work, but his home life for many years was hellish. He has two grown daughters. He said he has a decent relationship with them but was envious of the relationship my dad and I have, that the caliber of the relationship he has with his daughters is nothing compared to what dad and I have. He also said that I have all the qualities that he is lacking, that I am kind and tactful, organized and thoughtful. It is a curious thing to see yourself through others' eyes.

And I feel very fortunate to have a good relationship with dad. From age of 6 on, I saw my dad (divorced from mom) very little, and as a teenager I drifted apart from him, knowing he was busy raising his second family. There was well over a decade when I had no contact with him at all. So yes, dad is precious to me and in these past few years since he's been living near me I have gotten to know him so much better.

While J. was visiting, my dad has asked me if I would mind if he invited my sister to our final dinner out with J. I said no, not at all. Neither of us were sure she would want to come because if there's one thing I know about my sister, she won't do anything that makes her the littlest bit uncomfortable. She won't do things purely to please others; there has to be something in it for her.

It occurred to me after my dad asked me that this dinner could be an opportunity for me and my sister to come closer to a reconciliation without necessarily having to deal with each other one to one. We really haven't had anything to do with each other since my mother's death in December 2015. Once or twice my father gave me a dozen eggs, compliments of my sister's chickens, and there was one time my sister and I politely said hello to each other when I was picking my father up for dinner.

As it turned out, my sister declined dad's invitation. I know he was disappointed because he wanted her to meet J., knowing it might even be the last opportunity to do so. Everyone is getting older. He told me he wanted to say something but decided he'd better not. Dad is always very careful not to tell any of his kids what to do; I think he has a fear that doing so could alienate them. I've told him I don't think that would happen and that in fact I would welcome his opinions and thoughts whenever. He has good relationships with 3 of his 4 kids. My younger half-brother doesn't seem to have much to do with him and I'm not sure why. My dad is not the type to force himself on people if he feels he's not wanted, so that's the way things have been for a while.

Relationships are complicated.

Today, and this week in fact, I have very little planned. I keep a daily calendar listing things to do,and it's very light. Today I'll go to the farmer's market for the first time this year, and also to the dump. When you recycle organics (kitchen waste), you want to get rid of it quickly before it attracts fruit flies. I'll also walk, and maybe do all 3 in the same trip.

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