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Feeling the urge to purge

January 18th, 2018 at 12:56 am

What is it about the dead of winter that makes one want to purge, clean and declutter?

I had a thoroughly enjoyable day at home today and part of it did involve purging.

It was snowing steadily when I awoke, and to be honest, I just didn't feel like driving to work in it, especially knowing I'd have to leave early anyway for my eye doc appointment.

And my eye had been positively killing me most of yesterday, which was really frustrating since doctor #1 told me yesterday it was "90% healed." It sure didn't feel that way.

When I went to doc #2 today, she said yes, it is healing, and the reason you're still feeling pain is this: think of an open wound on your hand and what it would feel like, and how long it would take to heal, if you were brushing your hand over it every few seconds, the way you do when you blink your eye.

OK, got it.... Now they've added a steroid to the mix; am still taking the antibiotic drops 4x daily. I've created a spreadsheet to ensure I don't skip doses.

On the way home from doc office, I stopped at Aldi's, dropped off a donation at the library and picked up my new med.

Here in my office, I spent my time at the computer or watching my new office TV (so convenient) to keep an eye on the weather.

I shoveled the driveway and later began going through a small cabinet containing my mother's old papers. When I was cleaning out her condo, I threw out a ton of paperwork I knew wouldn't be needed for anything, and this is basically what's left. I have a lot of records related to sales of properties (homes, condos and a coop) literally decades ago, so those I will shred.

I came across an old photo of the house in NJ when we purchased it, the MLS listing, actually, and that I will hold onto for sentimental purposes. I also found my grandfather's death certificate, which I never found on Ancestry but will be helpful in my family research.

I also found a sweet poem my mother had written to the realtor who helped her find the last condo she lived in. In the poem, she offered them a piece of art as her way of saying thank you for all their help. This I will keep. I know the realtors; they became friends of my mother's, and the wife of the husband/wife team also helped me buy my house.

Then there are quite a few of her old tax returns. If I'm really ambitious this weekend, I'd like to scan them and save them to a computer disk, then shred the hard copies.

My electrician is coming this weekend to hook up 2 new exterior light fixtures and 1 inside; there is more work I want him to do, but I doubt he'll get to it this weekend.

The eye worsens, and job questionable job strategies

January 16th, 2018 at 01:35 pm

Ugh. I learned yesterday at eye doc's that I do now have a "small infection" in the eye with the abrasion. So they switched my medication and want to watch it closely.

I am feeling a little anxious about this and just want to get this under control. Infections in the eye can't be good, and they seemed a bit concerned as well.

So I'm going back today. Totally necessary, of course, but I'm wondering what my final tab will be. So far I've paid $160 in copays for 4 visits, plus $40 for the new med. Since I haven't paid my 2018 deductible, I'm guessing this will cost me at LEAST several hundred dollars. At least the deductible (on a COBRA plan I'll be losing next month) is just $500.

Update: Well, I'll be. I just check my Cigna account online and the 1st 2 of the 4 visits were there, and I don't owe anything beyond the copay I already paid. This is a mystery but I'll take it. (I will miss this health plan.)

So far, then, $200 out of pocket, and I'm sure there will be at least 2 more visits beyond today's. I will never take my eyes for granted again. Interesting how kind of a fluke medical event can put things in disarray.

Once I get on the high deductible healthcare exchange plan next month ($5,685 deductible), I would love to open an HSA. I guess I would fund it myself and the contributions would not come from my employer, and I can get a tax deduction at tax time? Never had one of these before but I imagine I can do it with a Vanguard money market account? I can easily transfer cash from one of my online money markets.

We're expecting 2 to 4 inches of snow tomorrow morning. Not a lot of snow by New England measures, but certainly enough to make the morning commute a mess. I will work at home tomorrow. It's just not worth the risk of an accident to be a hero and get to the office.

There may be some benefits to being a somewhat older employee, because I've already established that I don't drive in snowstorms, regardless of what fellow employees do. Used to be, this kind of decision would just stress me out; now i feel there's not as much at stake here so I'll make these kinds of decisions myself.

I will also hopefully avoid having to go back to eye doc tomorrow and having to drive in the bad weather. I will learn that at today's appointment.

My friend keeps urging me to be sure not to quit my job or I'll lose the opportunity for unemployment benefits. I don't see how that's possible if I tell manager I want to scale back hours and work part-time and he says absolutely no, we need you f/t and it would be too much hassle to find another part-time person.

My friend says, let them fire you if need be, but don't quit.

I still have this week to think about it but I'm inclined to just have a talk with manager, tell him I would very much like to continue working there but that I want to have more time with my elderly dad and I want to scale back my hours to about 25 hours a week, or 3 full days, preferably.

If he says no can do, I would probably then just say I'm sorry it won't work out then, and that I would probably start looking for a part-time opportunity elsewhere, although it may take me some time to find the right fit.

Truth be told, I HAVE been looking all this time and not found anything.

And if he then says, fine, and finds someone new to replace me, I again don't think I'd qualify for unemployment since I said I wanted to reduce hours. So I'd sacrifice 6 months of income that would be nice to have, but not much I can do about that.

I could not bring myself to do something stupid enough to get myself fired, either.

The writing on the wall, a fork in the road

January 14th, 2018 at 11:08 am

It's 5 am. Once again, my best thinking takes place in the early morning hours, at a time I'm not even aware I'm "thinking." Thoughts just appear.

And these are my thoughts.

In the next 5 years, I am going to suffer some pretty significant losses. I am concerned about how I will cope, and the toll these losses will take on my emotional health, but at the same time, I want to be there for those who are important to me. For someone who has no spouse or children, what is most important? Close friends and extended family.

My oldest and closest friend R. has advanced prostate cancer. It's been a long journey, but last night he told me, after wrestling with a choice between starting chemo and entering a clinical trial, that he's going with the chemo, ASAP.

He has spent much of the last few years preparing for his death and over this time, he's divested himself of much of his material wealth, probably giving about $200,000 to his younger niece. He's rearranged his condo so his bedroom is on the first floor, prepaid for his funeral and has gotten his ex-wife to agree to nurse him toward the end and look after his dog when he dies.

In short, he has done what he does best: plan and prepare.

I know I will take his death hard, for though our relationship has always been rocky, we've stuck with each other since I met him in my late 20s. He probably knows me better than anyone else, and I know him pretty well too.

The prostate cancer, which he has talked about often, has been a part of his life for years, but maybe it never seemed real to me because outwardly, it didn't affect his life too much; he takes various drugs that kept it at bay. But now, things are getting real. The cancer has progressed. They have found little tumors all over his body. Hence the chemo.

Still, in recent conversations, R. always wants to know what's happening with me, and what my trials and tribulations are. He's ended the call with encouraging words; he's always been good at reminding me of things I have to be grateful for, my accomplishments, and what I've done well in my life.

Then there's my father, who will turn 85 in a few months. His health is stable now, but he has a variety of health challenges, and anything could happen in the next few years.

And finally, there is my cousin J. J. has 2 things in common with my friend R: they are the same age (70), and they both have prostate cancer. J. is still in the phase where the medications he takes keep the cancer at bay, so he is not as far along as my friend.

J., too, is dealing with his prostate cancer (and other health issues), but instead of preparing for death, he is preparing for the best life he can have in what time he has left. He is doing this by getting serious about his health. He told me he wants to get back in as great shape as possible, thru diet and exercise, so that his quality of life is as best it can be and then he hopes for a quick, not lingering, decline leading to death.

He lost 20 pounds in recent months; part of it is, I think, that he wants to look attractive for the 20-something with baby he plans to marry soon. He, too, is grabbing the bull by the horns, pursuing a relationship with a young woman most would think is foolish, doomed or even disgusting. But for a man who stuck it out with an unhappy marriage to an alcoholic for much of his adult life (he was asking my father for advice not long after my own parents split up, and that was when I was 6), I understand his desire to wring some enjoyment and happiness out of life before he goes, and this is what he wants.

He told me last night a probation officer was scheduled to do a home visit of his house prior to the release of the woman from jail, which could be in as little as 2 months time (she was arrested/jailed for drug possession and resisting arrest). Two of the conditions for the home inspection are no alcohol, and no firearms.

So my cousin spent this weekend emptying his house of guns and ammo. He's a huge gun enthusiast and owns many extremely valuable weapons. (Something I personally abhor but I just overlook it for the sake of our friendship, which I enjoy.) He and his friend brought them all over to his friend's house, but after seeing how much space they took up in his friend's garage, they then moved all of it to a storage locker. My cousin estimates he has some 15,000 rounds of ammunition.

This brings us back to "the writing on the wall." I see that I will probably lose 3 very important people in my life in the next few years. I want to enjoy these people while they are still capable of doing so and are still here. I want to spend more time with them and lend as much support as I can when they the going gets tough.

Because they are the most important thing in my life.

I also want to build a stronger social network. While I'm working these crazy hours, I don't feel I can do that. I always pictured myself getting more involved in the many clubs and groups in my adopted hometown community, but I just don't have the time or energy to do that while I'm working full-time.

I want to build that stronger network to help prop myself up after I lose 3 key people in my life.

Which leads me to thinking about leaving my current job, at least in the form it exists now.

Last night I did another quick check of where I stand with retirement savings. I used the T. Rowe Price calculator, which reassured me I should be in reasonably good shape, whether I stopped working now or in 2 years time, whether or not I collected Social Security at 62 or later.

So I'm thinking of telling my boss I don't want to work full-time anymore. I've been there for about 4 months and haven't really been happy, mainly because I don't have control over the length of my workdays.

I'd been planning to talk to him about my future there, hopefully next week, after they return from some national sales meetings our company has been planning for, for months. My plan was to grit my teeth and tell him I wanted to become a "permanent freelancer," which would mean they'd make me an offer *right now the headhunting agency is still writing my paychecks) and pick up half my health insurance premiums on a healthcare exchange plan. And then I would stick it out for 2 years and see how I felt about retirement, or not, after that.

But now the probable short time remaining for some of those close to me has me rethinking things a little. Of not working for 2 more years, because I'm not sure my father, cousin and friend will still be in good shape by then, or even alive.

This is one reason why I've worked so hard to save for retirement (aka, "freedom"). To be able to make decisions that truly are best for me. Now yes, my financial well-being may also be "what's best for me." I do still hesitate a little bit, mainly due to the uncertainty about high health insurance costs until I can get on Medicare in 7 years time.

I'm also feeling a little pressured to make a decision very quickly, because ideally, I would make up my mind about what to do before committing to anything like the arrangement i described at my company, unless i was really going to stick with them. And I'll need to decide that quickly because my COBRA ends Feb. 28 and I'll need to know when I choose a healthcare exchange plan whether I'll qualify for subsidies or not.

When I used the T. Rowe Price calculator, i factored in health insurance costs based on 2018 premiums on the healthcare exchange of about $775 a month, leaving full-time work at age 59 (the software wouldn't allow me to set it at my current age) and making just $16,000 a year. (Presumably I could make at least that at some kind of part-time work.)

I DO want to have some kind of part-time work to lend structure and balance and a sense of productivity to my life while at the same time not allowing work to dominate my life, as it does for most people.

I keep thinking about this one woman at my office who has been there since the company started, around 2009. She's just 2 years younger than me, married with no kids. My guess is that because she told me once her husband works 2nd shift, he is not home when she gets home, usually around 10 pm, and so she must
figure, why not work late at the office since she's going home to an empty house anyway?

It just seems to me she's essentially sacrificed much of her personal life for this job. And I think others have too, which made me understand better why they mostly seem willing to regularly work very long hours, because casual friends have probably dropped by the wayside a long time ago and so their only real "friends" are the people they work with. I noticed this in observing how much they seem to enjoy each other, and how, whereas I generally love to bolt out the door when I know I can, many of them tend to hang around talking and having extended conversations with others before they leave, or on their way out the door.

Anyway, that's just a side note. My experience has been that you usually end up losing friends after leaving a job; it's just too hard to maintain friendships with someone who may not live near you, and with most people being busy raising kids, etc. So I never wanted to rely so much on workplace friendships, because they seemed ephemeral to me.

These are just some of the thoughts swirling around in my head. I think I would do alright, financially, if I left full-time work now. My hope would be that if I told my boss my desire to scale back to a strictly part-time role, he would make that happen, while having to hire another person to pick up the slack. That's what I would hope.

I would pay for my own health insurance, continue a frugal lifestyle, work part-time somewhere, if not where I am currently, and spend a lot more time with family and friends. Not to mention, enjoying my own life more and feeling more relaxed.

What do you think? Would you still stick it out with work for a while longer? I could do that. I just wonder if it would be the right decision.

Knit jeans and other apparel wonders

January 13th, 2018 at 10:14 pm

I hit a home run with a recent class action lawsuit. I subscribe to a newsletter that consolidates all the class action lawsuits and periodically scan and/or file a claim for items I may have purchased.

Usually the check you receive is a few dollars. This time, because not as many people filed claims, more $$ was distributed to those who did. It was the Blue Buffalo lawsuit, and I got a check for $81!!

I am quite pleased with that.

A jean that fools the eye
OK, I admit it...I like to watch TV shopping channels while I'm making dinner or something. I recently bought some boot-cut pants for $21, which includes shipping. They are super comfy pull-on KNIT pants even though they look like JEANS with a regular zipper and button and the same pocket/styling as a regular blue jean. It's almost like trompe l'oeil, especially with the ones that look like blue denim.

I liked the one pair I got in the mail today, so I ordered them in another color. I am always looking for comfortable clothes to wear to work since I sit all day. These pants feel like a sweat pant but are lighter weight, and they should wash well as a knit.

(If you are looking for a skinny pant, you won't like these, because they don't hug the leg.)

Don't ripen bananas in the microwave
Just so you know...it doesn't work.

I had 2 bunches of bananas purchased from Aldi's that were quite green. I do not like to eat mushy bananas. But these were hard as a rock and would NOT ripen after 2 weeks of sitting around. I read online you could zap them in the microwave for about 30 seconds after stabbing them with a fork a few times. Didn't work.

Putting them inside a paper bag also did not work.

I have finally gotten success (slowly) but putting them in a warm area, upstairs, near a heat vent.

I'm on track for retirement
I used T. Rowe Price's retirement calculator to gauge where I stand. If I make no further savings/retirement contributions, retire in 2 years and include Social Security income starting at age 62 (I plan to defer) and based on my estimated monthly needs of $3300 (I could get by with less, but I added a cushion for expensive health insurance), T. Rowe calculates I should have an income from my current investments/savings of $4,560 a month until I'm age 95.

If I include NO Social Security, I would still have a monthly income of $3,130, which also makes me happy since that tells me I should be able to defer taking SS until full retirement age of 66, for a higher subsequent monthly payout.

Eyeglass frame prices and more

January 13th, 2018 at 05:24 pm

So far with my scratched retina I've spent $120 on 3 office visit co-pays and all of $1.12 for the generic antibiotic drops.

But I haven't paid my $500 deductible for this year so I expect to see more bills coming my way. I'll also be incurring another $40 co-pay when I return to doc Monday to hopefully get this thing out of my eye, which is uncomfortable. Two more days and nights to go til then.

I was really looking forward to the weekend but was asked late Friday afternoon if I could work on some hot project that "had to be done" this weekend. It's kind of hard to say no when the owner of the company and my manager are standing there looking at me. At least I can work at home. It's just that I don't know when I'll get the work so, umm, I can't go off hitchhiking to Utah or anything.

Next week many people will be at the meetings we've all been preparing for, for months, so the office should be relatively quiet and maybe I could even leave on time.

This morning I went to local optician to look at eyeglass frames. Only because Cigna said they participate in their Healthy Rewards program that offers discounts on frames. Turns out they don't. It still came out to just under or over $400. .

The markup on eyeglass frames seems to be similar to the amount some people for mattresses...meaning, a lot, and way in excess of what it's actually worth. Just my opinion.

I decided to try Target, and found a better selection of frames there. I chose one and again the price was about $400. I supposedly "saved" $160 with my Cigna Healthy Rewards, .

I didn't really feel like investing more time in eyeglass shopping, so I bit the bullet and ordered a pair. Depending on how they work (they're progressives), I may wind up getting another pair just for use with the computer, because that's what I'm having trouble seeing right now. I keep having to use the lowest portion of my current glasses to read, and even then, my vision's not great. They are quite scratched up, too and I never liked the frames much. (Got them at BJs 5 years ago.)

So I'm really looking forward to the new pair of glasses, which I should have in 1-2 weeks. If I do get the 2nd pair of computer glasses, I will definitely try an online place like Zenni Optical. Seems like it would be harder to mess up a single strength lens.

And the weekend is nearly here!

January 12th, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Heating oil price mysteries
I've been checking oil prices daily on my usual go-to heating oil delivery company website. When temps are warmer, prices drop, and vice versa. The worst possible time to order heating oil is when it's exceptionally cold.

I've got about a quarter tank left; this is when I like to reorder, because there's usually a lag time of at least 3 days before they can deliver. So this week I've been waiting for the extreme cold temps to pass and was hoping to snag a lower price today, as temps will rise to 50. (They will drop again tomorrow to more seasonal temps, so today was my slim window of opportunity.)

The price did fall yesterday, but today remained the same. The advertised price on their website Was $2.83 a gallon, considerably higher than this time a year ago when it was $2.05 a gallon. (Yes, I track oil prices all year long, looking for patterns.)

Once, over a year ago, I came to them with a lower price from another company, and so they gave me a .05 "price match" discount. I thought this was a one-time deal, but surprisingly, they haven given me this .05 discount ever since.

Yet for some reason, today they gave me a price of $2.75, which is .08 cheaper than their standard offer. I didn't want to question it in case they got it wrong!

And then I learned that if I paid by check, I'd save another .05 a gallon, or $7.50. Hey, it's something. So I will get my 150 gallons for $2.70 a gallon. Note to self: Always pay by check.

My eye issues
The pain from my scratched retina has eased somewhat as the antibiotic drops have kicked in, but it's still feeling uncomfortable since my doctor inserted a "shield," much like a contact lense, to protect the eye. I can feel the edges of this thing in my eye, and I have to sleep with it and keep it in my eye til I return to the doctor's on Monday.

I wasn't even sure I'd be able to sleep with it in last night, but thankfully, I did.

So when I went to see doc yesterday morning, he had another doctor, a dry eye specialist, look at my eye. I asked her if it was a very deep scratch and she said no, it was not, but it was fairly large, and that's why I was feeling as uncomfortable as I was. Yet I am not allowed to keep doing the eye drops for pain that my regular doctor gave me.

On top of that, the shield thing they inserted in my eye causes my vision to be blurry. You can imagine how difficult it is to perform my job as a one-eyed editor. I had a good laugh about that with someone I work with at the office.

I sure will be glad to put all this behind me, soon. It's amazing how much we take simple things like our vision for granted, until something goes wrong.

We're expecting lots of rain today. Instead of my morning walk before work, I may go out there with a shovel instead and try to shovel away snow from my foundation to avoid a wet basement.


Fun new survey program

January 11th, 2018 at 01:07 pm

My local hometown bank, the one I just switched my checking account to, sent me an interesting offer, which I've taken them up on.

It's a kind of mystery shopper program where they'll pay me $10 a survey, up to 3 surveys a month, where I answer questions about my contact with the bank; I have to visit the bank once a month, which I usually end up doing anyway.

The programs will last for 12 months, so there's potential for me to make an extra $360! This will be a nice addition to my long ongoing Communispace credit card surveys, where I usually earn $20 a month.

Headed to my eye doctor in about 10 minutes to check on my eye. I'm not sure the pain eye drops are doing much, but for now, the eye feels "ok." Thank god for drugs, when you need them.

I hope I can do my job without too much trouble. When I woke up, I did not even feel like going in, to be honest. My eye was all filmy/smeary from all the drops I put in and it made me think my vision had gone blurry before I realized it was all the drops

Hurt my eye

January 10th, 2018 at 10:25 pm

OK, I have very dry eyes to begin with. It often feels like I have something in my eye, and I don't.

I woke up this morning with my right eye feeling very sore. I found an eyelash in my eye, which I promptly removed. I'm guessing it was in my eye all night. Normally, your eye would wash it away, but with my eyes being so dry, that didn't happen. It no doubt just stuck there, causing irritation all night long while I slept.

I applied some drops (free samples from eye doc from last week's visit) and off to work I went. Eye started feeling really sore now, almost intolerable. At lunchtime, went to buy more drops. (The pricey pharmacy in the town where I worked charged me $16 for the tiny bottle, and only after I used it did I notice it was 8 months past its expiration. (I will be returning this for a refund.)

Now my eye felt even worse. I called my eye doctor; he had one appointment time available at 3:05 pm. I flew out there with hurried explanations to 2 coworkers since my manager was in a meeting.

I was 20 minutes late but did see the doctor, who confirmed I have an abrasion on the lens. He gave me eye drops for pain and for antibiotics and I have to see him again tomorrow morning, before I go into work, to make sure there is no infection.

I expected the pain meds to work, but they have not, and I am still in a considerable amount of discomfort. It hurts to close my eyes. It hurts to open my eyes. It hurts to move my eyeball in any direction. I can only apply 1 drop of the pain med a day.

Sunday activities

January 7th, 2018 at 09:56 pm

1. Made a batch of granola, which should last about 2 weeks.

2. My turmeric capsules were running low, so I filled another month or so's worth by filling them myself with organic turmeric I bought in bulk and store in the freezer.

3. My new Samsung TV is now fully working, both with the antenna and Roku, though I still get just 2 channels with the antenna. The room it's in faces north and east, and that just isn't the right place, I guess. Come warmer weather, I'll likely move the TV down to my family room, which is closed off now for winter.

4. I donated $25 toward the purchase of 30 farmland acres in town that will be developed for housing if $600,000 isn't raised by mid-January. It's a scenic area with an old farm I've hiked past many times.

They have only slightly surpassed the $300,000 point, so it seems doubtful they will reach the goal unless some angel contributor steps forward. This is actually why I delayed contributing til now...they were so far behind.

I did grocery shopping at Aldi's, BJs and Big Y, stocking up At BJs on 2 heavy boxes of cat litter. I'll get as much as I can before my membership ends Feb 28.

Filled up the gas tank.
Stopped at Tractor Supply for some birdseed.

Tidied up, here and there.

Tomorrow it's back to my normal work routine. I hope to raise the subject of my future work status with manager some time this week. I need to know, if only so I know whether or not to claim subsidies.

Time for new eyeglasses

January 5th, 2018 at 09:20 pm

Has anyone had success buying eyeglasses from somewhere other than a typical retail optical center and saving money?

I'm not a Costco member so can't go there. I confirmed that. I used BJs last time around and don't feel there were much of any savings. (I wear progressive lenses.)

There's a frame shop associated with my eye doctor that had nice frames at $180. More than I'd like to spend but I am truly sick of the glasses I've worn now for 5 years.

The frame shop is having a special package deal where the lenses and frames are $350, but I don't know yet if they'll offer frames I like for that deal. That deal doesn't start til end of January. I do also have a $50 off coupon for them; not sure if I can use the coupon on their package deal, but I would try.

I'm tempted to try an online place, but I'm worried if the glasses aren't quite right, I can't very well have someone adjust them for me. So I don't know.

I may return to the optical place tomorrow and see if I can find any frames cheaper than $180.

Next up: Replace car battery?
Today I stayed at home to work again for a 2nd day. I tucked the car in the garage as I was worried these frigid temps might make it hard to start the car. It hasn't yet, but I realized recently i still have the original battery in my 2013 Honda, and it should be replaced soon rather than waiting for something to happen.

I'm now a 3-TV household
I bought a new TV (26" or so) to replace the one in the kitchen as I wanted to hook up an HD digital antenna to it so I could watch local news/weather stations on it. I did this successfully with the Samsung in my bedroom.

Unfortunately, while I measured to make the sure the total length of the TV would fit under a kitchen cabinet, I neglected to check the height, and the TV is in fact just 1 inch too high to fit under there. No way, no how.

That stinks. Dumb mistake. So this means the older Sanyo (2005) I had in the kitchen will stay there and I won't get local stations.

So I put the new Samsung (identical to the Samsung in the bedroom) in my office. But interestingly, while the bedroom digital antenna, which faces south, picks up an extra 13 stations, the antenna in my office, which faces east and north, only picks up 2 channels, and reception for those are iffy.

Wondering if it might be worth trying a different HD digital antenna.

I also programmed the Roku for the office TV but now after viewing the 2 over-the-air channels, i can't get back to Roku. So I'll have to call Samsung or Roku for assistance. Frustrating.

Car needs a wash
My car is so filthy from road salt. I had hoped to wash it last weekend, then this weekend, but that won't happen due to the extreme cold. I'm too frugal (cheap?) to pay for a car wash. So I'll wait another week.

Running low on heating oil
I have a little more than a quarter tank of heating oil left. I noticed oil prices jumped to $2.85 where I usually buy it, so I'll wait til mid-week next week, when temps should moderate and hope prices drop again. Otherwise, I'll just have to bite the bullet and pay the going rate.

I need to declutter
I'm looking around here and still feel stifled by so much "stuff," my mother's stuff. I need to begin again to focus on either disposing of things or finding the right place for them because I'm constantly walking over or around things for which I have no room. I have to start "letting go" of more stuff.

The first item will be a handful of wood weaving tools which I will never use. I know a weaver in town who would probably like them. Still, it's hard to let them go. I may keep the 2 hand-hewn sticks to display on my shelves and let go the rest.

Weekend plans
Aside from routine grocery and gas errands this weekend, and lunch with dad, I also hope to change my furnace humidifier filter, stop at the eyeglass frame shop and put away Xmas decorations.

My prayers go out to Thriftorama.

Snowstorm, working from home

January 4th, 2018 at 12:50 pm

We're expecting 8 to 12 inches from today's storm.

I told my manager yesterday toward day's end that I was concerned about the weather and would like to work at home. He said fine. They are actually paying for hotel rooms for 5 or 6 others, who live further away than me, to spend the night! They don't feel they can easily do their work from home, though some I've talked to disagree.

I am glad he didn't ask me to do that. I have a cat to feed and besides, it would be icky not to have a change of clothes, etc.

I have too much stuff in my garage so just left the car outside. It will just take a little more time to clear it off. I brought my car brush and snow shovel indoors for easy access, have made sure my heat will stay on at 67 all day in case there's an outage, and now I have my kerosene heater which will at least keep the pipes from freezing.

The super cold temps will return when the storm dies down and it will be frigid through Sunday, so this would be the worst time to lose power, kerosene heater or not.

Due to having a few days off for the holidays, my paycheck today was only $518 for the week.

My manager wanted me to edit something for him first thing this morning, and I wanted him to see how capable I am of working at home efficiently. Naturally, I couldn't get into our company email remotely with a PW I last used 4 months ago. I had to email him for help, and he in turn emailed the vendor firm they use fir IT stuff; that was nearly an hour ago and I'm still waiting for them to respond. Sigh.

I hope to order new eyeglasses this weekend, assuming doc office manages to mail me my prescription.

New Year's Day Adventures

January 1st, 2018 at 09:40 pm

Tired of being cooped up by cold weather, I decided to go for a short walk. I bundled up in:

* A hat
* 2 layers of mittens, plus hand warmers
* Long underwear and pants
* A turtleneck, sweatshirt and coat
* Thick socks
* A scarf wrapped around my face from nose down.

The only exposed skin was around my eyes. I was comfortable, but only walked for 20 minutes due to a certain area of neighborhood where neighbors always burn wood, and the smell is thick in the air. The Northeast already has the worst air quality in the nation, so no need to breathe the stuff in. I turned around.

Earlier in the day, I posted a barely used pressure cooker for sale on Facebook with several accessory pots that nest inside it for steaming and so forth.

I got over 45 responses. The first person was a no-show. I met the 2nd person at the library, but she questioned me about the part that goes on top of the lid, which I didn't have. I searched high and low for it and tore apart my kitchen without finding it, and finally concluded that it possibly never existed. I thought maybe the pressure relief valve was somehow built in.

I looked online but the Manttra website kept giving me warnings that my info could be pfished, so I didn't go further there, and found no user manuals for my particular model.

She bought it anyway, and then when I returned home, of course that's when I found the top, on the top kitchen shelf inside a cabinet, all the way in the back. Even though I had looked in there before.

So I called her back and drove to meet her, though she was half the way home. She was glad to get it. I felt it was good karma to do this on New Year's Day. Sort of sets the tone for the year ahead.

I made a big pot of tomato vegetable soup today for the workweek lunches. Did a load of laundry which is now drying on racks. Decided to wait til next weekend, for warmer weather, before doing another test drive with the kerosene heater again.

Back to reality tomorrow.

A dry run with the kerosene heater

January 1st, 2018 at 12:55 am

Having a 3-day weekend is blissful.

Yesterday we got some unexpected snow so I just stayed home and rather enjoyed it.

This morning I ran out early to do my errands so I could clear my plate for the afternoon to try out (finally) my new kerosene heater.

Disappointing performance
I filled it (outside) with just a small mishap. As I pulled the plastic ring on the 5-gallon container of kerosene, which I got from Tractor Supply, the kerosene splattered up onto my hand. But using the hand pump siphon to transfer the fuel from the container to the heater was easy, otherwise.

Then when I pushed on the ignition starter, nothing happened. The heater comes with 2 batteries for the auto ignition start. I ran out to Walgreens for new batteries and with them installed, the heater started right up.

After letting it burn a few minutes outside and adjusting the flame/wick, I carefully carried the heater inside after lighting it, moving it from just outside the garage door to inside my basement, about 12 steps.

I had turned my oil-burning furnace off when I started the kerosene heater. I noted the time and temperature inside the house at that point. It was 60 degrees indoors at about 4:30 pm.

I called my cousin J. to discuss the heater operation and over the course of the next 45 minutes (still on the phone with J.) I noted with some excitement that the heater had increased the temperature upstairs from 60 to 62 degrees. But when I finally hung up from talking to J. I checked my thermostat again and was very disappointed to see, at about 5:30 pm, that the temperature had dropped back DOWN by 1 degree, to 61 degrees.

It appears the kerosene heater was operating near the limits of its heating capabilities. I should note that it's been exceptionally cold today, and that the temps outside were about 9 degrees when all this was taking place.

I gave it until 6 pm to see if there would be any improvement in temps, but got impatient (and rather chilly) by 6 pm, when I shut it off, removed the 2 batteries so they wouldn't be affected by the cold, waited 15 minutes for it to cool down, and then carried it back out to my garage.

Everyone was telling me i should be "toasty warm" with this little thing so yes, I'm disappointed. I plan to give it another go tomorrow during the daytime, but we're expecting a high of only 14 degrees, so I kind of doubt it will perform much better.

Hmmm. Not to say it still wouldn't do what I want it to do, keep the pipes from freezing during a power outage, but it may not be enough to keep me comfortably warm in the house during such an outage. I might consider getting a second heater to also position in the basement, but on the other side. It's not a big house: 1650 square feet, so maybe on exceptionally cold nights like this, it might require more BTUs.

I might also do another test drive when outdoor temps are say, 20 degrees, or about 10 degrees warmer, and/or maybe set the furnace to 65 and then see if the kerosene heater can at least hold indoor temps steady, or increase them a little.

Eye, eye, eye
Saw my ophthalmologist last Thursday. It was something I was impatient to do as I have very dry eyes and felt I was ready for a prescription. He gave me a bunch of over the counter samples as well as some samples for Xiidra, a new competitor to Restasis which is about as effective but works much more quickly than Restasis does.

However, I walked out of there not immediately realizing he'd failed to give me the written prescription for my vision, and when I went to the frame shop and then returned to doc office, he was with another patient, so since I'd already been there for 2.5 hours, I asked them to just mail it to me.

I can't wait to get new glasses as the ones I've had now for about 5 years I never liked, even from the start, they were not especially cheap (got at BJs) and now they're all scratched up and at work I get a neck ache from tilting my head up so I can read out of the very bottom portion of the progressive lenses.

The frame shop I visited after doc visit is having a "special" in January where you get the frames and lenses for $350, which is rather better than what I paid last time, but I do want to make sure I can get frames I like this time.

Feeling the Pressure
I've decided to sell a pressure cooker I've had for over 23 years which I rarely used. Mainly because it was taking up a lot of room in a kitchen cabinet. It's a shame, but I just never use the thing and the technology is such that I wouldn't feel safe using it without having to read the directions all over again, and I just want to keep things simple.

I posted the Manttra cooker with its many accessory dishes that nest inside the cooker for just $10 on Facebook and have several responses already, with one person who's supposed to show up here tomorrow morning. They'd be traveling some distance, so I'm a bit skeptical they'll show. It retails for about $60 new.

For security reasons, I'll have it and show it to them in the garage.

My new bank is offering me a $10 Amazon gift card if I use my ATM/debit card 5 times during the month of January. I never use it as a debit card because you don't have any of the protection you have against fraud that you do have with a credit card. But I'll do it for a gift card. I tried to use it twice today and it was declined both times, so I'll have to call the bank to see what I'm doing wrong.

2017 income and expenses in review

December 29th, 2017 at 01:50 pm

It's that time of year when I take a micro look at the past year's income and expenses. I couldn't take this kind of close look if I didn't track my expenses (and income) all year long. This is when it really pays off, because I always come away with some surprises.


Here we go with my Top 10 expenses, ranked highest to lowest:

Health insurance: $6,267. Health insurance accounted for a whopping 17.4% of my total budget. I paid for it via COBRA, which I felt was an "affordable" $520/month compared to much higher healthcare exchange rates (figured without the subsidy).

I would be much better off with an employer-paid
plan and that of course is still a goal, although it remains to be seen if I can find one.

This expense was much higher than last year's (41% higher) $3,711, only because I was laid off in July 2016 and thus only paid the higher COBRA costs for 5 months of the year, not 12.

Property taxes: $5,904. This is my 2nd highest expense, but it is pretty stable from one year to the next.

Central air $4,650. This represented 13% of total expenditures. I think it was worth it.New England summers can be sweltering.

Food: $3,276. The very welcome news here is that this total is 24% LOWER than last year! I really tried to shop Aldi's as much as possible, and I think that paid off. I still buy quite a bit of organic produce but shopping at Aldi's more and at BJs less helped a lot. I am not renewing my BJs membership in February when it expires so I hope to see continued savings in 2018 in my 4th highest expense category.

I will buy a year's worth of cheap cat litter before I lose the membership.

Cats: $1,669. Both cats had very expensive dental work done in 2016 (teeth pulled) until I began to suspect the vet used this as an easy $$-maker. I switched to a more reasonably-priced vet, but still, Waldo had continuing challenges last year with his asthma and hyperthyroidism until his passing last summer.

I hope to contain costs in this category with just Luther now. Nonetheless, this expense is a 77% decrease from 2016.

Built-in bookshelves:$1,665. This is a good example of getting a lot of bang for the buck for a relatively small amount of money. I LOVE my dining room bookshelves and they're a great place to display my many family heirlooms, from my late mother's art to my grandfather's marquetry.

The bookshelves really enhance what used to be a plain Jane dining room, and it's one of the first things you see when you walk in the door. Love these, and am still considering getting more built-in shelving elsewhere in the house.

Household: $1,371. "Household" is my one catch-all category to assign certain purchases to when there's really nowhere else to put them. Mainly it includes purchases for the home that are not "used up" and which are under $500, since I have a category for big expenses over $500. This amount represents a 57% decrease from last year...nice!

CT taxes: $994. Most of this was taxes owed to the state from 2016, paid at tax time. The rest is estimated tax payments due to my freelance work. Calculating taxes from contract jobs that don't deduct taxes from your checks can be tricky. I do hope to get a refund for this year.

Phone/Internet: $941. This is about the same as 2016, or 3% higher, to be exact. I'm still with AT&T and I do keep a landline.

Clothing: Hmmm. I spent 34% more than I did in 2016. I tend to splurge and buy a lot of stuff just before starting a new contract job, and I recall doing that twice this year. Clothes are so expensive. I need to rein this in; ideally, if I lost weight, I'd fit into so much more.

Those are my Top 10 expenses for 2017. My remaining expenses, in order of amount, are:

Lawn and garden: $876.

This is mainly from paying a guy to mow my lawn, every other week, from about April thru November.

Electricity: $845. I continue to shop around for electric rates for the best offers available. Still, this represents just a 2% decrease from 2016.

Heating oil/cleanings: $784. This is 22% higher than 2016, I think because I simply ordered more oil before year's end than in 2016. In fact, I do remember topping off the tank earlier in the fall when prices were lower. So this is one expense that should be looked at on a seasonal basis rather than a calendar year basis.

Homeowners insurance: $682. This is an increase of 6%.

Gas: $661. This is 15.5% more than last year, but that's because I've been working and commuting since last September.

Car maintenance: $544. This is 21% higher than in 2016 on my 2013 Honda, mainly because I bought brand new, top line Michelin tires.

Out of pocket medical/dental expenses: $539. Off the top of my head, this would all be expenses associated with my annual physical and my twice-a-year dental cleanings, which I have to pay out of pocket.

Car insurance: $487. This is 82% lower than 2016, because I decided to drop my collision insurance. It's a calculated risk, but I have funds available should I need to repair or replace my car, and I've never had an accident save for a fender bender in a parking lot that was someone else's fault. So I'll take the savings here.

Entertainment: $473.

Car tax/miscellaneous fees: $381

Home maintenance: $338

Dining out: $259. Not that I don't eat out! When I wasn't working, I would frequently eat out for free at very nice restaurants at those MS dinner lectures. And dad treats me weekly on Saturdays. So this is mostly lunches out at work, which I hate to do because I consider it a waste of money but occasionally I don't have time to make my lunch.

Gifts: $235.

Water: $210

Borough taxes: $149

Dump sticker: $95

Haircuts: $57

Total 2017 Expenses: $35,994
Last year my expenses were $42,970, so I did great this year by reducing expenses by 19%!!


Pharma contract job: $11,691. This represents net income from the last 3 months.

Unemployment benefits: $7,408 (net)

Marketing agency job: $6,824. This represents 6 weeks at my highest pay rate ever, $55/hr.

Freelance work: About $5,000.

Sale of my mother's art: $2,578

IRS tax refund: $1,279

Credit card rewards: $754

Miscellaneous sales on Facebook: $300

Cat sitting: $210

Rebates and class action lawsuits: $139

Focus group: $125

Total 2017 Income: $36,592

So even having worked f/t only about 5 or 6 months of the year, I was able to save $5,690. I'm pretty well satisfied.

Snow could put a kink in my Xmas plans

December 24th, 2017 at 03:39 pm

Problematic snow
They're calling for 3-6 inches of the white stuff overnight tonight and ending tomorrow a.m. around 9 am. It could also be more snow (6-10"), or less (1-3").

One good thing is that it's due to end snowing around 9 am, so that will give me a chance to a) shovel my driveway and b) decide whether to drive the 1.5 hours to my cousin's house for Christmas. And back, same day.

I really would like to go: today I'm making my cranberry 3-nut pie (really good) and I wrapped all her presents last night.

However, I'm wondering if holiday traffic with the snow will make the roads a mess, lengthening my drive and fraying nerves. My friend R. is urging me not to go becus it's not worth the risks, he says.

I'm going to play it by ear and make a decision tomorrow morning.

My father is in the same boat...his plans were to drive down to NJ today, spend the night there with his brother-in-law and extended second family), and return tomorrow morning becus he says he doesn't want to "be in the way" during the kids' gift opening. It's just his preference. I hope if he goes (he's to call me today to let me know) he just stays there longer before heading back to CT so the roads are in better shape.

My crazy, mixed-up cousin
To complicate things even further, I got an unexpected call from my other cousin in PA, telling me he wanted to visit between Christmas and New Year's.

We talked at length. There's a lot going on with him. Basically, he's a 70-year-old man who's fallen in love with a 22-year-old stripper who's now in drug rehab. When he told me about it a few months ago, he said he knows exactly what he's doing and he knows what the risks are (that she'll use him for his money and manipulate him to get what she wants and then leave him... he's fairly wealthy).

But he doesn't believe he'll live for many more years becus of a variety of health issues, including prostate cancer, and after a very unhappy marriage for years to a woman with mental illness and multiple addictions, he I guess sees the possibility of having fun with someone young enough to be his granddaughter.

I pointed out the common threads between his father, his wife, and now the young woman, and I said trying to help this young woman could be a full-time job. Are you sure that's what you want to be doing at this point in your life? He said he had nothing to lose, and prior to meeting her, felt he already had one foot in the grave already and really had nothing to live for.

His own 2 daughters are very angry with him and are wondering if he's gone senile. His relationship with his daughters was not great to begin with, so I doubt spending Xmas with either of them was an option.

Christmas Day plans
I told him of my plans for Xmas and my dad's, and we agreed J. would come up the day AFTER Xmas and stay thru week's end. He said he had plans to spend Xmas eve and Xmas day with his friend's family.

He also thanked me for my advice given a few weeks ago about the young woman and said that after several attorneys he talked to reinforced my views he should just walk away (the lawyer said "these things never end well") he was going to do just that.

Yesterday, he called me back and totally changed these plans, telling me he was now going to come up Christmas day and was not going to spend any time with his friend/friend's family. He had already made the motel reservations.

When I reminded him neither me or dad would be around when he arrived, he said he'd forgotten I had told him that and said it was ok, he still wanted to come. It's a 7-hr trip for him from where he lives. I warned him about the snow; he drives a 4 wheel drive truck and says he's never gotten stuck and isn't concerned.

He said 2017 had been a very difficult year and just wanted to get away. (The way he met the young woman was thru his grand-son, also unemployed, no high school

These last-minute changes are kind of throwing me a little but I'm trying to accommodate as best we can.

He also told me he'd changed his mind about the woman and was going to see her in rehab. She just agreed to extend her stay in rehab for a full year (after being there a few months) and he feels, based on his experience with his late wife who he put in rehab about 10 times, were a complete waste of time, they essentially brainwash you and so on. He wants to try to talk her into coming to live with him, and he would help her get her driver's license, buy her a car, help her get a job and so on. Right now, her infant baby is being raised by her aunt and grandmother.

I tell my dad all this stuff and he just shakes his head.

I have to go back to work Wednesday, so I guess if J. does come tomorrow and I end up not driving to Jersey due to the snow, I'll see more of J. I'd really like to do both though. Both dad and I do like him, notwithstanding all the stuff going on with this young woman. He worked as a pharma sales rep for years and enjoyed success in his career, but his marriage, as I mentioned, was hellish. His wife died of a drug overdose and his daughter found her with an empty whiskey bottle in her hand, in bed. J.'s father was also an alcoholic schizophrenic and he's told me many stories about that.

When he was still working, he was a very private person, not wanting to reveal the troubled family situation.

So back to my Xmas plans. A lot is up in the air. I'm just glad the snow is forecast to end by 9 am so that gives me 1.5 hours before I leave to assess the condition of the roads and make a decision.

Oh no
Just got a call from my one remaining active freelance client; he's in the IT field, very senior level, and has been trying to find a new position for the past 6 months or so. He's a finalist at one role he interviewed for and needs my help to write some essays they requested, create a leave-behind and write a technology strategic vision plan.

His next interview is in 2 weeks' time. I will have to make time to help him starting today and until it's done. Sigh.

Coming up for air

December 22nd, 2017 at 12:50 pm

The most beautiful sound in the world
You probably don't know this about me, but I listen to classical music almost exclusively.

A few days ago, driving in to work, I turned on my local public radio station. They've been playing some great music lately, Christmas carols from around the world from centuries ago.

At the moment I turned the radio on, I heard the most wonderful song. It was just so lovely. I cranked the radio as I sailed down the windy back roads filled with New England's scenic beauty: stately Colonial homes, open bodies of water filled with swans and geese, and towering pines.

This music brought me to tears, and at the end, I waited to hear the DJ identify this piece of music. After she did, I realized 2 things:

1. I had heard this music before. But somehow, its magic never enthralled me the way it did that day, and

2. I had what I'm not sure I can is a memory, because I'm not positive it really happened, but it reminded me of when I was a child standing in church and listening to the choir sing during Christmas Day services. My mother sang in the church choir, and in fact that is how she met her 2nd husband, who was the organist and choir director.

(And this is why I am hooked on classical music: my stepfather, who taught classical piano at NYU, would always play classical music and opera, which at the time, being a rock and roll-loving teenager coming of age in the 1970s, I hated.)

I believe this was one of the songs I heard my mother sing on Christmas Day so many years ago. Not an easy piece to sing but certainly a worthy choice.

The song is Unto Us a Child is Born, from Handel's Messiah. If you'd like to listen to it here, I found a You Tube video of it being sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choice.


I just love this Baroque masterpiece. I had to go and find the lyrics as well. It sounds funny, coming from an atheist, but it even made me think about going to church this Sunday.

Christmas still feels so bittersweet to me, as the 2-year anniversary of my mother's death is coming up next week. My mother loved this kind of music, and now I have a new appreciation for it myself.

She had an extensive classical music CD collection, and I regret donating nearly all of it to my library for their annual sale. At the time I just felt completely overwhelmed by decisions on what to keep, or how to dispose of her stuff. The CDs were one thing I gave away because I rarely have time in my life to play a CD; I usually just turn the radio on.

The office Christmas party
Last night I experienced the office Christmas party where I work.

Every company is different and chooses to celebrate in a different way: Secret Santa gift exchanges, the giving of bonuses, big dinners, little dinners, with or without one's significant other.

This one was a really great dinner at an Italian restaurant in SoNo, a trendy neighborhood in a small Connecticut city known for its pubs, restaurants and night life.

They rented a small bus to take people there and back so they wouldn't have to drive. There were about 16 of us.A few of us, including myself, drove themselves because based on where they lived, it would be easier to just head directly home from the restaurant.

There were about 18 of us, including some people I hadn't met before because they work remotely. Including the one guy who made such a terrible first impression on me when he ranted and raved and was terribly upset during a conference call on speaker phone after I'd made extensive edits to his piece. He didn't think we'd have time to make all the edits and just carried on in the most unprofessional manner. I attempted to explain as diplomatically as possible that I was just trying to make the piece as polished and professional as possible, becus truth be told, although this guy's a PhD, his writing is pretty bad.

The people at the office all rolled their eyes and said that's XXX just being XXX, he can't handle stress, and also explained to me that when I met him (he took the train up to CT from Brooklyn), that I'd see he was the most introverted man around.

I was so surprised to find he was a fairly attractive man around my age and yes, he seemed a little ill at ease in the din of our conversations (like me).

I didn't get home from the party til about 11:30 pm, and I didn't go to bed until 1 am becus I was so wired. And because I was still thinking about Handel's Messiah.

The prankster
Earlier that day, back at the office, B., the 26-year-old, 6'4" "operations manager" (a fancy title for someone who runs to get us coffees and is at the owner's beck and call) went on and on about how each year at the Xmas party, he does a "roast," excoriating each employee one by one in great detail, and that he keeps notes all year long so he has good material to embarrass people with. He said J., my manager, didn't speak to him for 2 weeks after what B. said about him. He indicated he would have things to say about me and to J., who both share B.'s work space just outside the owner's office.

I was starting to feel nervous about what he'd come up with for me, in front of people I've only recently met. J. and I. actually tried to warn B. not to be too harsh and questioning the wisdom of making fools of people you work with when you want to become more of a close-knit team.

When we got to the dinner, I wondered when the roast would start. It never did. The entire story was just a yarn B. spun because he is a rather snarky Millennial with a wicked sense of humor.

J. and I agreed we must get back at him. I was thinking of calling B. when we return to work next Wednesday, feigning a flat tire and begging him to drive out to help me. When he did so, I would sneak to the office via another route and I would be nowhere to be found when he arrived, and then we'd have a good laugh at his expense when he returned to the office.

Today's a day for last minute shopping, wrapping of presents and buying ingredients for a pie I'll be making to take down with me to Jersey Xmas day.

Our trip to the abbey in Bethlehem

December 17th, 2017 at 10:59 pm

My dad, friend R.and I went to that abbey I mentioned earlier. It's in Bethlehem, Connecticut, a small and rural town where many people like to mail their Christmas cards from, so the postal stamp says "Bethlehem" on the envelope.

It was the last day of their Xmas sale, so they had already sold out of the things I was most interested in, breads, cheeses and jams.

Here are some pictures of the creche in an adjacent barn, along with a bit of history about it.

This is their chapel.

On the way home, we stopped at the Curtiss House, the oldest restaurant/inn in Connecticut, for some mulled hot cider and tea. the restaurant was built prior to the Revolutionary War, so that's pretty old. Dad and I decided we need to return for dinner sometime.

Other than this, I was running around like a crazy woman doing the usual catch-up chores, not even Xmas stuff.

I am going down to see my cousin for Xmas day, but just for a few hours, and I'll be back home here in CT by dark. Suddenly, I had to think about bringing a small gift for her, so I did order 3 pairs of cute cat socks for her, and I may give her one of my mother's many handwoven scarves she made for sale. She was friends with my mother, so that will be meaningful for her. She has animals and likes to feed the birds, as I do, so I'm tempted to maybe get some treats for both. As for the scarves, I have so many from my mother....probably about 40 of them, and I doubt I will ever get a chance to wear them all.

Since I now know I have off from Friday through Tuesday of next week, I can also do some local Xmas shopping; I have 3 shops in mind. Otherwise, I have scheduled for my electrician to come over on Tuesday to do some small jobs here. I also bought a new ceiling light on Amazon for the front entry which I really rather like. All of my ceiling light fixtures are icky old, tacky fake brass look and very dated. I'm ready for something much more modern.

It will arrive just before Xmas.

I'm a little nervous about it, and hope it will go in this place. I can't say you can discern any particular style here, although I really used to like a very "rustic" decor. I'm really drawn to modern now but after spending hours browsing on Amazon and Lights Plus, it was hard for me to find any other ceiling fixtures I liked. One challenge is that my ceilings are not that high, so the upstairs hallway lights, for instance, need to not be hanging, but close to the ceiling.

Thwarted by the cold/ethical question

December 13th, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Exercise getting harder with the cold weather
Just as I was getting into a nice little routine, walking a 1/2 hour each morning (which combined with my lunchtime walk, resulted in a full hour of near daily exercise), the cold weather arrived.

I find about 30 degrees is the point at which I don't really enjoy being outside. I do plan on wearing my silk long johns to work today though.

The line in the sand has faded...
Setting boundaries at work continues to be a somewhat pointless, illusory task. I had told him a week or so ago that moving forward, i would be leaving at 7:30 pm at the latest.

Yesterday, something needed to be proofed so they could use it for an 11 am meeting today. He told me i could either stay late to do it last night or come in earlier tomorrow.

I treasure my mornings these days. (I don't have to leave for work til 9:45 am.) So I decided to stay late again last night to just get it done. Sigh.

My boss is a nice guy
At least he gave me a choice. He is really pretty nice about it and in fact, it would be so easy for most people in his role to just lay down the law to me. But he's so darn nice; that's actually what makes it hard for me to stick to my guns. That, and a reluctance to lose the job if I flat out refuse to work at some critical moment. It's the unpredictability of it all that bothers me most. It's hard to plan anything these days.

How I could reduce my health insurance costs to $0
I do wonder if my less than 100% enthusiasm will cost me after we enter the new year, around the time he said he would put together a job offer for me. He may not want to do so without ensuring I understand the job offer comes with some attachments, like a time commitment.

I still plan to propose a 30-hour week for myself at reduced salary. We have to submit time sheets each week accounting for time spent, and he told me when I started that, after padding time spent on legit projects for various clients if I still had unaccounted for time (when I have nothing to do) to count that time as "Research."

Well, I've been keeping track of my "research" time, which probably averages out to 3 hours or more a day. That's a lot of wasted money they're paying me to do nothing. They don't seem to mind, honestly. I'd love for them to agree that yes, we'd like to save ourselves some money by cutting your hours to 30 a week because you've shown us you can get the work done in that time, and we'll pay half your ACA health premiums (previously offered as a possibility).

The strategy I'd love to use
If I worked a 30-hour week and they cut my salary proportionately and I became an employee eligible to contribute to their 401k, I would contribute the maximum, $24,500 (including the catch-up provision for those age 50+), thus removing this amount from my taxable income, which in turn would most likely make me eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

I'm not the first person to consider asking her employer to cut her salary in order to qualify for ACA subsidies. I've got an interesting article about doing so, if anyone is interested.

The ethical question
Here's the ethical question. Right now, the cost of an ACA plan to me without subsidies would be about $775 a month, last time I checked. That's what I told him, and so he said what they've done for others is pay half their health insurance cost, or in my case, about $3500 a year. (The company is too small to have its own plan.)

I don't see how it's any of their business how I would plan to contribute to the 401k, or that I intended to plow as much as possible into it so I could qualify for the subsidies, which would lower my health insurance costs considerably.

Anyway, I'm sure others here will disagree, but really, if they're already prepared to pay me $3500 a year toward my ACA costs, then I don't think I owe an additional explanation just because I've learned to (legally) use the system to my advantage.

Office Xmas party
I've learned there's going to be a Christmas event at the office Dec. 21. They asked the longtimers there (not us newer contract workers) what they wanted to do. Either go out to a fancy dinner in SoNo (who knows how long we'd have to work that night before being able to leave) OR, have a nice lunch in office and be let out of work at 5 pm.

I would love to do the latter instead of having to schlep down to SoNo with traffic/crowds, and then drive home late at night.

Of the 3 people they asked, 1 said she wants the dinner. The other lives in the town where the restaurant is and so he said don't count my vote since I live right here and I'm biased. The 3rd person hasn't voiced an opinion yet but no doubt will cave to what everyone else wants.

The woman who said she wants the dinner is like a slave to this company. She's been there since its inception, around 2009, and has the longest commute: about 1.5 hours one-way.

She is always there. I guess family life doesn't matter to her because her husband has left for work by the time she comes home late at night. I don't think she has kids.

I was told that last Christmas, she arrived late to the Xmas party dinner because she was working, and that after the dinner, she actually went back to the office! I'm sorry, there is something abnormal about that. I don't admire that at all.

A chance encounter, and a chance to help

December 12th, 2017 at 11:01 am

A few weeks ago, me and dad went to lunch at a restaurant in town. We were surprised to see a waitress we knew from another local restaurant there. Turns out she works at both places. She's always very friendly, so when she seated us and asked us how are you, or maybe she even said so what's new (even though we don't really know her) I must've mentioned my new job.

It could have ended there, but instead she asked me to tell her about it, so I briefly did. When I mentioned it was "pharma," she said she had a friend who was looking for work and had a pharma background.

Again, it could have ended there, but I gave her my email address and told her to have her friend send me her resume and I would pass it on to my manager, not really knowing this woman's background or whether my company could use someone like her.

So I've been trading emails with the woman who is job searching. She lives in my hometown. I guess I could relate to her situation. She is feeling kind of desperate, is single and fears she will lose her house. Her dog just got diagnosed with cancer. I think she is in her 40s. She certainly has a sold work history.

So I gave my manager her resume a few weeks ago; he seemed interested, but I never heard anything else from him, and the woman, "V.," would have told me if he'd contacted her.

So I asked my manager about it yesterday to see if I could get any idea if she was even someone he would consider/have a need for, and it sounds like a possibility, actually. He just wants to wait til after the holidays because it has been so busy, but he said he could see her doing his job when he is stuck in daylong conference calls. What he does is make sure the work flow continues and doesn't get bogged down. He is always trying to make sure I have work to do, for instance. The work really comes and goes in spurts and there are plenty of times throughout the day when I have nothing to do, sometimes for as long as an hour or more at a time. Not very efficient but I can see how sometimes that can't be avoided.

Anyway, V. is immensely grateful to me already, although I told her I don't feel I did very much. The opportunity to help presented itself to me, and I was happy to try to help someone, especially another single woman living in my hometown in circumstances similar to what I've gone through.

It would be kind of funny to end up working with this woman. I havn't met her yet. She wants to take me out to lunch; I suggested coffee since I know she's got money problems and really, lunch isn't necessary. I will tell her what I an about the company.

Tis the Season, PS Style

December 11th, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Next weekend I hope to bring my dad (and invited friend R. to come along) to a Benedictine abbey in nearby Bethlehem, CT, that has a Christmas sale each year, largely of items handmade/grown by the sisters, including beeswax candles, jams and jellies, soaps, cheeses, breads, even wooden pens made from an old choir stall.

On the premises they also have an incredible 18th-century Neapolitan Crèche, a rare and lavish display of a traditional Nativity scene which is thought to have been created as a gift to Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia, on the occasion of his coronation in 1720.

The creche recently went thru a 4-year renovation by experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

If the weather's decent, we'll go.

First snowfall

December 9th, 2017 at 05:00 pm

We're getting our first snow of the season. About 4 inches are expected.

I ran out this morning to try to squeeze in as many errands as I could.

1. Fill up the gas tank. Done.

2. Pick up my vacuum from the repair place. She charged me $20 to fix it. Don't know how she can earn a living charging so little, but I am grateful. Done.

3. Lowes: Recycled more CFL bulbs and bought a 5-gallon kerosene container for MY NEW kerosene heater. Also bought a siphon that makes it easier to pour into the heater without spillage.

4. Walmart: I wanted to buy a 2nd Hanes sweatshirt since I like the gray one so much. Found a maroon one in my size for $10. Done.

I was tempted to squeeze in a quick stop at Aldi's as I have nothing to eat here, but the snow by that time was starting to stick to the roads, so I headed home, a 20-minute ride, and I'm glad I did as it was looking pretty serious on the back roads. My driveway slope was slippery but I got the car in the garage.

I'll do my grocery shopping tomorrow after I meet dad for lunch. I also want to get the kerosene from a station in neighboring city, much cheaper than my local hardware store, which charges $4.99 a gallon.

So the kerosene heater I ordered has already arrived! I believe there will be some simple assembly required, mainly to put the metal cage around the unit to protect against burns, as this thing gets hot. I'll try to do that this weekend.

The guy at Lowes suggested I go to Mitchell Fuels for my kerosene as it was much cheaper than what Lowes charged. I may also do that tomorrow with dad.

I'll also write out my Christmas cards, dust, vacuum, etc.

An about-face: no generator

December 8th, 2017 at 02:23 pm

I decided not to get the $7,000 generator for my home.

Why I'm not getting the generator
It wasn't the upfront cost...I more or less expected that price range. Believe it or not, it was the $475 charge quoted me for annual maintenance.

Sure, I could probably "afford it," but I didn't get to where I am today without being frugal and carefully weighing big ticket purchases like this one.

The light bulb went off in my had after my cousin mentioned, at the tail end of our "should I or shouldn't I" conversation, that he had used a kerosene heater for years before transitioning to a portable generator, and later, a whole house generator like the one I'd been considering.

I decided to more thoroughly research kerosene heaters, and I liked what I read. A nearly 100% efficient fuel source, unlike my top-line oil furnace which is just 83% efficient. Very quiet. A compact, 22-lb DuraHeat kerosene heater could warm my entire house quite quickly! I was somewhat amazed.

Vague fears of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning had caused me to avoid even considering using one, but after reading Amazon product reviews in great detail, I ordered one online, along with a carbon monoxide monitor for the basement (i already have 2 detectors upstairs).

Since any kind of burning fuel will consume oxygen, you just need to crack a window to ensure good air flow (and no carbon monoxide poisoning). If you have a drafty house, you might not need to crack a window. My basement is fairly drafty under the door to garage, but I will set up the monitor anyway, so instead of merely sounding an alarm if there's a problem, I can see at any time what the carbon monoxide levels are on the LCD display. I also have a small window I will crack open near where I will put the heater, which will sit on a concrete floor.

It has an auto off feature if it's accidentally knocked over.

The only hassle will be filling up the tank, which they recommend you do outside because upon start-up, there may be a minute or so of stinky smell. So I'd have to carry the roughly 22-pound heater from basement into attached garage, where I'd start just outside the garage door, let it run a minute or so, then carefully carry it indoors again.

And since I would only plan on using it during a power outage, I could be trying to fill up the heater in the dark, or with a flashlight, which could be a bit tricky.

Unfortunately, I do have a step down from the basement to garage, but otherwise, it could be done. I do routinely haul 44-lb boxes of cat litter home from BJs. That's about the most I'd want to lift.

My cousin suggested filling the heater only about one-quarter full outside so it's not too much heavier when I bring it back in the basement, at which time I would fill it completely.

My cousin, who is VERY long-winded, was actually extremely helpful because his habit of explaining things in great, excruciating detail, which normally makes me impatient, was very informative for someone who has had little exposure to things like alternative fuels and how they work.

I feel a lot more comfortable now after our conversation, which confirmed much of what I'd read in customer reviews of the heater I just bought. He even said he ran the heater overnight while he slept, and when he went off to work, 2 things I would not do.

the only other caveat to remember is that kerosene fuel does not store well long-term, so I would plan to buy fresh fuel around October, before late fall storms roll around, and then in April, when I felt the coast was clear as far as future storms, I would just burn up the rest of any remaining fuel i had. It actually would be more efficient and cost less than my heating oil.

So yeah, using a kerosene heater would not be a PERFECT solution to the power outage problem, in that the house would still be dark at night and the fridge could not be opened, etc, but it would ensure my pipes would stay toasty warm, as would the rest of the house.

And I started thinking about how many other ways I could use that $7,000 investment. Finally, just knowing I'm not at the complete mercy of the electric provider (Eversource) as to when power is restored is a truly empowering feeling (pun intended).

So when you consider the kerosene heater is a FRACTION of the cost of the generator, it's a slam dunk for me. My total outlay for the kerosene heater, 2 fuel cans, a siphon, and the carbon monoxide detector, is less than $200 vs $7,000+. Of course, there's the cost of the fuel itself, but it's nothing inordinately expensive and you can purchase it many places, apparently, including gas stations. I never really noticed before.

Now that I've totally bored you with the minutiae of my decision-making process, I'll move on to other things.

The one thing I like about my job...
Since I don't have to be at work til 10:30 am, I get up at my normal time (at this time of year, 6 or 6:30 am) and make good use of my limited free time.

I've gotten into the habit of doing a 1/2 hour walk around the block here during this time. This is an excellent thing since I also ALWAYS go for a 1/2 hour walk during my lunch break at work. I consider this essential for my sanity and it's also a really good idea to stretch my legs.

So I've basically DOUBLED my daily walking routine to 1 hour a day. I track my exercise using supertracker.usda.gov and I'm hoping it could help me with some weight loss.

However, I really don't like walking much when it gets below 30 degrees, like it is this morning, but overall, having the extra time in the morning is really extremely helpful.

I've used this little bit of extra time in other ways, including my Wednesday morning trips to the landfill (which lets me avoid having to go there on crowded Saturdays), vacuuming the house and heck, not feeling like I have to spring out of bed at the crack of dawn if I stayed up a little late the night before.

The weekend
I am really hoping they don't ask me to work tomorrow (Saturday). I have much I'd like to do, and it can't all be done Sunday.

I got another debit card ($10) from an electric company I had problems with. Contacting the state regulatory agency promptly fixed the problem, but I am not doing business with them, so sending me gift cards after the fact, to someone who will not be returning to you as a customer, is sort of dumb. It's a shame they couldn't process a new, discounted rate they advertised on the state's website. That's all it was all about. But I will apply the gift card toward groceries.

I need to make a decision, but having 2nd thoughts

December 6th, 2017 at 02:29 am

So the bids are all in for the install of the stand-by generator I was interested in getting for the house. The generator and propane tank would be installed on the north side exterior of the house, which is a pretty good spot for it since you couldn't see the stuff unless you walked around that way. My central air unit is also on that side.

Electrician #1 wanted $5,000 for the job and the 2 propane companies who came over both quoted me prices of about $2,000 to install and connect a tank, which would hold the fuel needed to power the generator. So we're talking $7,000 total, a pretty hefty sum that made me start to have second thoughts.

We do get power outages here regularly, usually starting with late fall hurricanes and through the winter. Sometimes they're for a few hours, a day or a week. The last one I had about a month ago here was for 16 hours.

It's an inconvenience with some discomfort if it happens in the fall; you don't want to open the refrigerator and of course you can't operate any lights at night, etc. But if you have an extended outage in the winter, your pipes could freeze. This is really what's prompted me to consider a generator in the first place.

So after I got those prices, I decided to have a 2nd electrician out since that part of the work accounts for the biggest cost. He was over this morning before I left for work and he just sent me his estimate, which is about $750 less than the 1st electrician. One advantage to working with him is that he would handle all the work, sub-contracting the propane tank install to someone he regularly works with, so having to deal with one company would be easier than dealing with two.

So the generator would be a Generac, which is a top line brand, and 7.5 kilowatts (probably the smallest unit you can buy), which would be plenty to power the following things should I lose power in a storm:

1. furnace
2. refrigerator/freezer
3. Computer
4. TV
5. One kitchen outlet, which powers my microwave
6. A light in my bathroom and bedroom

I noticed that all the guys here tried to tell me i needed at least a 9 kilowatt generator or that they don't usually sell any smaller than that, etc, but once i informed them how i added up the energy use of each of the appliances i wanted powered and that i knew they added up to well under 5 kilowatts, they backed off and quoted me a price for what i said i wanted.

I also have an Angie's List coupon for 5% I could use with the 2nd electrician, although he asked me twice how I found him and I just said "online." I didn't want to say Angie's List because they he would probably jack up his price a little to account for the coupon. I hope he doesn't give me a hard time about not telling him I have his coupon until after he bid on the job, but I can just plead forgetfulness. The coupon would save me over $300.

However, CT sales tax is 6.38%. His quote said the total price for everything except the permit was such and such a price; i would have to assume he included sales tax since he didn't itemize it.

I'm still feeling a little hesitant about doing it. Partly because when I asked him what he charges for the annual maintenance on this thing, he said $475! That was quite a bit more than the other guys, who i think said something like $275.

So it seems like a big, new, ongoing added expense for me, which I don't like, and of course, I would need to keep an eye on the propane level and have it filled up after I used it up.

I guess I feel like it's yet another responsibility I'll have to take on, in addition to others involved in maintaining this home, and I do like things simple. If I had a husband, i wouldn't care since I'd know he could take care of it.

On the other hand, I can picture myself in the next storm, and the next, inevitable outage, and feeling anxious as I have in the past when it happens at the wrong time, when it's very cold out, and I worry about frozen pipes.

One has to wonder if the cost of repairing frozen pipes and dealing with possible flood damage is more or less than the cost of a $6,000 generator. Flood damage can be serious, especially if you're not home when it happens, but I don't think it would add up to $6,000. My basement is unfinished and there's not too much down there that could be damaged by water aside from my bike and miscellaneous stuff. But even absent that kind of scenario, extended power outages are not fun to deal with.

So I guess I'll go ahead with it, but I don't know. There are a lot of other things I could do with $6,000, and I would probably get more enjoyment out of those other things.

But this particular improvement is not really about "enjoyment"' it's more about protecting my investment, and keeping myself safe in bad weather. As I get older, I'm less inclined to tough things out in a cold, unheated house, and from what I'm hearing about global warming, storms of the future will be more damaging and more powerful.

So please tell me this makes sense. Or not.

Today's accomplishments

December 3rd, 2017 at 10:02 pm

1. Spent a fairly enjoyable hour raking leaves outside. I haven't had time to do this for at least a few years. I used a large tarp to rake the leaves onto and emptied 3 loads of leaves into the woods.

2. Dad came over and I brought him to "UK Gourmet" so he could find some "real" marmalade, you know, the kind that has actual orange rinds in it. He got a lime variety that looked pretty good.

After that, we stopped at Lowes where I ran in to recycle some CFL light bulbs and get some LEDs for my dining room chandelier. The only remaining CFL bulbs now are the globe lights above my bathroom mirror.

I filled up the gas tank, and then we had lunch at the Chinese restaurant.

3. Put my jammies on around 3 pm, sat in bed and read my hometown newspaper with a cup of hot tea! Delightful!

Edging closer to a big milestone

December 3rd, 2017 at 01:12 am

Just got home from work; it's around 8 pm and I REALLY need a break from the office. But at least I'll get some overtime pay for this week.

They were actually discussing whether we'd need to go in to work on Sunday (tomorrow). I would have refused if it came to that, and luckily, it didn't.

Tomorrow will definitely be as close to a "do nothing" day as possible, but I do want to get to Lowes for light bulbs. I will do lunch with dad and fill up the gas tank but the rest of the day: HOME.

Lifetime Milestone
It's hard to believe I've reached the point of even being able to talk about this without LMAO, but I'm just $39,000 away from becoming a millionaire.

I track both my expenses and investments monthly, and as of December 1, my investments (excluding the house) came to $961,000.

Will the bull market last long enough to carry me over the finish line? It has been a long time coming.

I know there are many who read this site who are trying to pay down significant debt or just get by paying the bills. I've been there, believe me.

After graduating college in the early 1980s, and throughout my 20s and even into my early 30s, I was pretty broke. In fact, the one and only loan I ever took out, excluding my home mortgage, was to buy a used truck. I was concerned about taking on debt even then, and I think the loan was for less than $5,000. I remember the bank had a certain minimum loan amount so I actually borrowed more than I needed, reluctantly.

I was working as a journalist back then, not making much money. I remember needing to find an apartment in southern Vermont when I relocated to take a news job there, and while there was one apartment I liked very much, the rent just felt too high for me, so I took a rather dumpy, much smaller apartment elsewhere.

I had student debt when I graduated, but it was nowhere the amount of student debt kids deal with today. I can't remember exactly how much it was, but I'm thinking maybe $10K.

I moved from Vermont back to Connecticut to be closer to family when I had what would turn out to be my first symptoms of MS. I lived in my sister's basement for several years, saving my money so I could get a place of my own.

It wasn't until 1992, when I took my first job as a financial services copywriter, that I began making what I considered good money. At that time, "good" money was anything over $50,000.

I stayed at that job for 7 years, and it was during that time I felt I could buy a house. Pretty much from the get go, I began prepaying the mortgage; sometimes it was just $100 a month, but other times it was $500. There were periods I couldn't make prepayments because I'd been laid off, but whenever I was working, I made those prepayments. That was one of my smarter moves.

Another really smart move, but one that most people wouldn't do? Tracking my income and expenses on a monthly basis. Income is fairly easy since most of the time, I had just one job, but after many years of tracking expenses, I don't feel this is a big deal at all. I'm just in the habit of making sure I have receipts or otherwise can record an expense on my own home-made monthly expense sheet.

The reason I think doing this is such a good idea because it forces me to see, right there in front of me, how the money has been flowing out each month, and on what. It's too easy to overlook things like eating out or spending on frivolous stuff, but if you track every expense, it's impossible not to notice. And then you can make adjustments accordingly.

Anyway, I'm grateful for the sense of security the $$ gives me, along with a feeling that I have "options" and won't be backed into a corner due to financial considerations.

And just for hoo-hahs, if you want to know what my net worth was in 2009, the start date for this blog, it was just $315,226. So I tripled my net worth in 8 years. This long-running bull market gave me a headwind that helped things along a lot. But I also have been able to save piles of $ after paying off my mortgage in 2012. That helped a lot too.

$7,000 is a lot of $$$

November 28th, 2017 at 12:42 pm

That's how much I could pay for the install of the stand-by Generac generator ($5,000) and the install of the propane tank and gas lines ($2,000).

I went into this thinking I would use the electrician I've used for several small jobs over the years (he moonlights on weekends but works f/t at a generator company), so I didn't get any other bids for his end of the work.

But now I'm thinking, that's silly, because 1) he's not doing the actual work itself, and 2) he can't control my costs since it's not his company.

So I decided I would get one more bid for the electrical end of the work, since that's the lion's share of the cost. I found him on Angie's List and he has 59 "A" ratings, far more than anyone else.

He can't come out til next week, though, so this delays everything.

I now have 2 estimates for the gas line connection, although the one guy hasn't given me anything in writing, just a phone estimate, which is about the same price as the other guy.

Strategy: I will call the one guy who went to the trouble of showing up here, explain it's a "tie" between his price and the other guy's, and ask if he can do any better on the price to give me a reason to hire him. If I could save a few hundred on the price, that would be great.

I imagine the payback on this generator will be quite lengthy, but the peace of mind and comfort factor is really what I'm paying for.

A small payday
My paycheck this Thursday (I get paid weekly) will be quite small since I only worked a 3-day week.

Mouse in the House
Earlier this fall, I noticed some herbal mouse deterrents at Lowe's and picked up 3 of them. Nothing to lose by trying. I put them in the areas of the basement where I think Luther catches his mice and until last night, they appeared to be working.

I was watching TV in bed when I heard a telltale squeak. Or was it coming from the TV? I got up and walked all around, looking for Luther, and finally found him in my upstairs bathroom. The poor mouse had climbed up the vinyl shower curtain and was clinging to it precariously. Luther didn't know where it went and was nosing around.

I quickly ran downstairs to the basement where I knew I had an empty cardboard box. I came back up, hoping the mouse was right where I left it. It was. I quickly tapped on the other side of the shower curtain while holding the box up on the side where the mouse was, and it landed perfectly in the box.

I released it outside. That was one of the lucky ones. I blocked the cat entrance in the door to the basement so I could get a good night's sleep without worrying about more live mice.

Capital improvements
Once I get this generator, I hope it will be the last pricey home improvement I make for a while.

There are other things I know I will do that aren't quite so pricey.

1. Beef up my attic insulation.

2. I would at some point like to replace my wood garage door. I remember everyone was trying to persuade me to go with a metal door, but no, I liked the look of wood better, but 13 years later, the door looks kind of like an eyesore as moisture/rain/snow has wicked up through the wood and warped the plywood panels in the carriage door style door.

Of course, I've always wanted a new kitchen, but that's such an expensive, overwhelming and disruptive project I have no desire to do it now. I have white laminate cabinets and some kind of manmade counters and it's too much white for me: white cabinets, white counters, white backsplash. Everything's a little worn around the edges, but perfectly functional.

The walls in the downstairs: I would love to get new drywall walls in here, another major disruptive project. This is an old house and old beaverboard (precursor to sheetrock) had layers of wallpaper PAINTED OVER. That's why the paint keeps coming up and cracking. The wallpaper was never removed. It's a mess and there's no use repainting as it only lasts a few years and then it cracks again. I will have to address this at some point.

The upstairs hardwood floors could really use a refinishing.

I would love to replace my upstairs bathroom cabinet, another laminate type job and part of the trim is coming off (tried gluing it back on already). But I have a pocket door opening to that bathroom and I can't even imagine getting a new cabinet in there, or the old one out.

My front door: It's narrower than today's standard width. I think it's just 30 inches wide and getting stuff in and out, like furniture, can be a challenge. I'd love to get a new door and wider opening.

The minutae of my life

November 25th, 2017 at 09:51 pm

Leaves & Hornet Nest
I ran the mower over leaves on the lawn for about a half hour to mulch them. The lawn looks better than it did before.

Dad came over and he admired the big gap in the tree line, as well as a humongous hornet nest that's now clearly visible about 12 feet up in my viburnum, before we went to lunch at an Italian place.

Dad's going to bring his branch cutter pole, the kind where you can reach way up high, to see if I can get that hornet nest down. I think it would look nice on my dining room shelves. If we get it down, I'll put it in a plastic bag and close it before bringing it in the house, to make sure the warm air indoors doesn't cause any hornets to hatch.

According to National Geographic, only the queen and her eggs survive the winter, and they apparently shelter in other locations, not the nest.

We had a young, inexperienced waiter at the restaurant. We had a very long wait to get our meals, even after the other table of people, who arrived after us, and then he brought out my dad's meal first; my meal came about 15 minutes later. Then when he was clearing our plates he spilled the shrimp shells from my dad's dish right beside our table and never did clean up the 4 or 5 shells so when we got up to left, we had to avoid stepping on them.

Other doings
I did 2 loads of laundry today and vacuumed 3 levels, due to possible flea eggs, including the basement, since the cat goes down there.

Sunday shopping plans:
Tomorrow I plan to:
1. get a haircut with coupon
2. get gas
3. go to lowes for 1 or 2 6-packs of LED light bulbs
4. go to walmart for cat food and peruse the sales
5. hit Aldi's for groceries
6. stop at the craft show on the way home

Food processor?
I browsed a few websites online more out of curiosity than anything else and idly thought about getting a food processor, but some bad reviews about food getting stuck inside certain parts and then turning moldy turned me off.

I try to use a blender for most things but if it's not that liquidy it doesn't work well; it's just not powerful enough to turn drier food around. So I chop most things manually. I would use a processor for certain things like coleslaw, for instance; cabbage takes forever to chop finely.

I've been in a bit of a decluttering state of mind lately. Last weekend, I brought 3 strands of Christmas lights to Lowes for recycling. I tried selling them briefly on Facebook, but after the woman who showed up to buy them declined to do so after realizing the price was $5 for each set, not $5 for all 3 (I mean, c'mon), I decided it wasn't worth the bother to try again. Now I have a pair of heavy navy blue clogs I want to dispose of.

Bought these Dansko clogs in 2010 because I really needed navy shoes for a new job, but have rarely worn them. Guess I'm no longer a clog type of person, though I loved them in high school. They're just so big and heavy. I paid over $100 for them at a pricey store because they were the only pair of navy shoes for miles around. They will last someone for decades, I'm sure, but they do have small scuffs on the toe. I fear they won't sell with those scuffs and the only way to fix that would be to buy blue shoe polish which again makes this probably not worth selling as I'd only ask $15 for them. So they will be donated...I hope Good Will doesn't toss them.

I do have a simple glass aquarium I'll try to sell for $9, about as much as I paid for it 2 summers ago to raise butterflies in. I now prefer netting over tomato hoop cages to the aquarium, which can heat up pretty quickly and doesn't have as good air circulation. So will try to take pix and post tomorrow. I figure now's the time to try to sell anything as people are in the buying mood.

A trip to the ASPCA and home revaluation results

November 24th, 2017 at 11:41 pm

I spent an enjoyable 3 hours sitting in a decrepit room at the ASPCA "socializing" 3 kitties recently rescued and brought to the shelter.

These kitties have beautiful markings and are all females. The male sibling was adopted. The longtime volunteer there who helped me adopt Waldo and Luther sat with me for a good while talking and catching up, and I met another nice volunteer there too. My volunteer very kindly gave me a Capstar flea pill, and the snack treats to put the pill in. I didn't ask for it but do appreciate it.

If I had thought of it, I would have taken the kitten pictures to show you! The shyest cat, a gorgeous tabby, was the most energetic when chasing my string; she was really like the Energizer Bunny. Yet she would scamper when I tried to touch her. The other 2 were a bit more friendly.

Their mother is there too, but not doing as well. She's been to multiple vets and they aren't really sure what's wrong with her, but she has chronic diarrhea, is extremely bloated and is acting listless. The volunteer thinks it could be dead worms blocking things up. She's been dewormed several times already. The mother, found in nearby city where I used to work at the bank, was killing and feeding dead rats to the kittens as they found several carcasses around.

Reminds me of the North Korean who ran to freedom recently. He also had tons of internal worms because the country is so poor, they say, they can't afford to buy fertilizer and fertilize their fields with human excrement.

I researched the Capstar when I got home and see that this pill kills fleas very well, but only for 24 hours. So to maximize what you get out of it you should be ready to vacuum and launder at the same time. And I would spray inside the house again too. I don't want to use it immediately as I just Luther him the Revolution, even though she said it was ok to do so.

I gave Luther the Revolution yesterday; he is still scratching and I am still finding live fleas on him.

Aside from time spent at the animal shelter, I didn't do too much today. I did spend over about an hour cutting back vines engulfing some dogwoods in the brushy area in front of house, now somewhat more accessible after the big white pines were taken down. In fact, I thought there was only 1 dogwood in there and I saw 3! I also blew leaves off the driveway and filled the wheelbarrow with leaves 3 times.

Our town did their revaluation and my assessment went up by $20,000. I checked the details the assessors have for my house on their website and everything is correct. In fact, my central air was installed shortly after they paid a visit so they did not catch that. I would like to challenge the assessment but I have nothing to base a challenge on.

I did also do a little bit of editing for my one remaining freelance client. He's still job hunting and likes me to edit his cover letters and resume.

4 days of bliss

November 23rd, 2017 at 01:37 am

I'm looking forward to 4 days of bliss and no work. That's right, 4 days. I learned today that after mentally coming to terms with having to work on Sunday, my manager said I don't have to come in. The others, though, who are working Friday and Saturday, will still have to go in.

I'm trying not to plan too much or add to my to-do list. Probably the thing I most want to get done aside from household chores is get rid of the cut up logs in front where they took the trees down; I'd like to clear away some of the debris while the leaves are off the shrubs, it's not too cold and there's no snow on the ground. Come spring, the brambles could grow back and again make things impenetrable.

I also have a fair amount of cooking to do but I will be spending the big T-Day alone. It still seems dismal but I'm trying not to think about the many Thanksgivings spent with family. All those family dinners over the holidays was just something I took as a given, and I never thought too much about how, one day, being single with no kids and after watching my grandparents die and now my mother, that I would be spending this day alone. I'm sure those of you who are married with children could never imagine anything more depressing, because I can't.

I asked dad last week if he was having dinner at my sister's; I assumed he was but he said she didn't say anything. He doesn't really seem to care that much one way or the other. He's always been like that, which mystifies me. One year he went to my half-brother's for the holiday and he was disappointed because bro's wife, who is Chinese-American, doesn't cook much and they ordered catered food which just wasn't the same.

I thought about volunteering at a homeless shelter or similar type place, but decided I'd rather just stay home than be with people I don't know.

I am going to cook a nice meal for myself, as if I were having company over and put the Macy's Day parade on TV, the way my grandfather always watched it every year. He grew up in the city so I guess it meant more to him, but memories of the TV being turned on to the parade every Thanksgiving are burned into my brain and it feels nostalgic now.

I could have invited myself over to my cousin's in New Jersey, as I learned that she, too, is staying home alone tomorrow. (Her husband died of Parkinson's around the time my mother died 2 years ago.) Last year if you recall I spent Thanksgiving with her and she went all out to make a big traditional dinner for just the 2 of us, and I realized it must've been a ton of work for her when she probably would have rather not done it. She works full-time and never seems to have enough time and what time she has she devotes to multiple cats and dogs in her home. She is always rescuing animals.

I didn't want to burden her with that and to be honest, I didn't feel like doing the drive (1.5 hrs x 2) and most especially, I would feel really bad leaving Luther alone for yet another long day when he spends so much time alone as it is. I could have also invited myself over to my friend R.'s, who goes to his niece's with other family members and makes up a group of 5. (Both he and his sister are divorced, no kids.) His niece has 2 daughters.) I have done major holiday dinners like Easter with them more than once but I don't want to intrude on their own family thing too much and don't want to appear pathetic.

I will make 4 or 5 phone calls to family and friends tomorrow to say hello, but that's about it. I'll browse Black Friday deals on Friday, see Dad on Saturday and maybe catch a movie and get a hair cut at some point.

I have a new view on life

November 21st, 2017 at 01:27 pm

The before....

Actually, it was dark when I was writing this so I don't have an "after" from my front stoop, but suffice it to say it's all very open now. Which of course I was expecting.

This is looking up at my house, which is now suddenly very visible from the road...

This is the view from the road. Now there's a large gap in the woods fronting the road. Doesn't look great, but it will grow back quickly in spring and I won't have to worry about large pines falling on my house.

Yep, I have a new view on things, from my front door. Suddenly, I can see the starry sky at night and during the day, the less attractive view of my neighbor's house across the street.

The tree crew hired by my town took down the 3 giant white pines, all in one day. Amazing.

I came home from work last night in the dark but even then I could easily see the yawning gap where all those tree branches used to be.

I already have some ideas about obstructing the view of the neighbor's house with some new tree plantings, but not those that will grow 100 feet tall or get in the way of the power lines.

I have a smallish (about 5 feet high) viburnum I transplanted to a bad spot in my backyard. I've wanted to get it out of that place, and now I could find a place for it under where the pines were. It will only get a max of 15 to 20 feet high.

There is a preexisting paper birch that sprang up a few years back in the stump of a black locust tree, another giant tree I had cut down becus I felt it was dangerous. I'm glad I let that birch stay and grow where it was, because it happens to be perfectly positioned to obscure the neighbor's front door, at least when it has leaves on it. I also have a Japanese black pine I planted 22 years ago, but its kind of bonsai-ish with a lanky appearance and not a whole lot of branches.

I had asked the tree guy yesterday before leaving for work if they could try to spare the dogwood choking in the undergrowth under the canopy of the white pines. He didn't give me much hope and I understood; the tree cutting was taking place right there.

The dogwood still stands, and it's cleared enough so I can hopefully get in there and cut back remaining vines.

The other bit of good news is that there was another dogwood, on my driveway, which they had said last summer would have to go to make room for their cherry picker to drive on the lawn and access the white pines. The dogwood is still there! It's been ailing for years, but it still blooms each spring.

The only damage done was to a trio of evergreen trees (not white pine) that I call The 3 Sisters. The smallest one to the right got its crown nicked, which is now hanging from where it broke about 6 feet from its top. It's too bad it happened, but all things considered, I guess I'm ok with that. It if it was one of the bigger ones, I'd be more upset.

They flattened the area where the white pines were pretty well, and cleaned up all the debris, but they did leave a bunch of old logs from where a tree fell a few years ago. At the time, I figured I'd just let them rot in the overgrowth, but now they're kind of an eyesore and I will have to try and dispose of them.

The time to do it would be NOW when it would be most accessible, and when the poison ivy is dead, tick activity is low and so on. I hate to spend money paying someone to do it since they always overcharge, but since I have a few days off this weekend, maybe I could borrow my dad's truck. The transfer station will charge you $20 for a pickup truck full of cut logs, which is not too bad.

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