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weekend doings

October 23rd, 2016 at 01:56 pm

Yesterday dad and I headed to Jersey, about an hour-and-a-half ride. We stopped in briefly to see my half brother, and for the first time ever, I met my niece and nephew. I'm not really sure how old they are, but I think the older girl is in school. I took a cute picture of them with their dad.

After that we headed to my cousin's house. We met her 2 dogs, 3 cats and 3 parakeets. We took her out to lunch (at a place where my dad said he took my mother out to lunch when they were dating) and she and my dad had a great time reminiscing as they had both attended the same high school. Even though there is a more than 20 year age difference between them, turns out they both had many of the same teachers! My cousin's brother also remembers meeting my father when he started dating my mother.

I was able to finally deliver two pieces of my mother's art she had wanted to buy. I didn't charge her. She showed me about a half dozen other pieces of mom's art she had acquired at a local gallery, along with a photo album where she collected memorabilia and art stuff about my mom.

My cousin had been close to my grandparents because my grandfather regularly visited his brother (her father). When my grandmother died, my cousin got friendly with my mother, and they kept in touch. And it was when my mother died that I struck up a correspondence with my cousin, which now continues. She had said, too bad we hadn't been a part of each others' lives when we were younger. I agree.

We talked about doing Thanksgiving together. I had been surprised to learn that she spent the holidays alone last year. Her husband died around the time my mother passed away. She has a son in Florida, but he spends the holidays with his wife's family.

I was also alone during the holidays last year. My father went on a hunting trip Thanksgiving weekend and spent Christmas with my sister and her boyfriend. So the idea of having some family to spend it with sounded pretty great to me.

I think we both need to start some new traditions. We talked last night and I told her to think about it as I don't want to intrude if she really doesn't feel like it.

Today, after all that driving, I just relaxed around the house. I did go to BJs and fill up the gas tank, but otherwise started reading My Brilliant Friend for the next book club meeting in November.

Upcoming week:
Tomorrow I'm lunching with a friend from old job who also got laid off.

Also hope to go to the library and talk to genealogy pro about one of the things I'm stuck on.

On Wednesday I have a focus group meeting and that will be a bit of a drive, but will do it for $100.

Thursday: Bereavement group

On Friday I have another MS lecture/luncheon at a local restaurant. Hard to pass up a free lunch.

I also have another small freelance editing assignment which will probably generate $75.

I earned another quarterly $25 credit from by Bank of America Better Balance rewards card. I earn $25 every quarter; all i have to do is make one purchase each month using the card. How easy is that?

For the credit card bonus lovers...

October 21st, 2016 at 08:40 am

Here's an interesting story about how to work those cards...


Autumn in New England

October 21st, 2016 at 02:53 am

More pix from another walk around the center of town. Main Street is lined with historic homes and is also where you can find the library, police station, old town hall and general store.

This is actually a historic flagpole. It stands in the center of a busy intersection (most especially during rush hour and Saturday mornings) and has the distinction of having the highest accident rate in town! However, due to its being on historic Main Street in a very scenic area, the townspeople have fought prior attempts to install a traffic light there.

I used to work in the small brick building you see here for a small PR agency. My work areas was on the first floor, by the 2 windows to right of the door. It was a very small space; there were 6 of us working there (2 p/t). The bathroom was the size of an airplane bathroom. Once I was alone in the building on a winter's day and the frozen pipes burstand flooded the first floor. Buy working here was great because I could walk to work in 15 minutes, and often did, though crossing the street to get there (at the flagpole shown above) was kind of dicey, even though there was a crosswalk.

This was our old town hall, built in 1930. The town outgrew the space and now has a much larger "municipal center" in another location. This building is still used for various functions. It also houses our single screen movie theater, where they recently raised the admission price to $3 (from $2). This is where my yoga classes are, in the gym. The smaller red building at the left is the general store, where you can get a great sandwich. My dad and I were here last week.

My street

Yesterday's news....
I got a check for $20 from the Linked In class action settlement.

I went to the clinical skin product test thing yesterday and was deemed "ineligible" for the survey because the inside of my lower arms did not have even skin tone, according to the person who inspected me. So I'll just get paid $20 instead of $55. So I guess I won't go for one of their skin care product studies again, but they do other things, like focus groups and food taste testings.

Still looking for work, of course. I see very few that I could apply for. Of the copywriting jobs I see, I would be overqualified for many. There are very few where I recognize I might not be quite up to snuff as far as required qualifications they're looking for. One reason I'm seeing so few possibilities is because I've limited my search to a geographic area that would be commutable in 40 minutes or less. Because I hate driving and all that it entails (like getting up earlier and less free time).

I sent a fairly long email reply back to the Lutheran church pastor in Germany who helped me with the family tree research. He was open to continued correspondence. I just would find it very interesting. So next time I will send him some of the pix shown here, to give him an idea what my town is like. I would love it if he could do the same! Maybe even take a picture of my grandfather's old address!!

Monday stuff

October 17th, 2016 at 05:57 pm

Met my friend R. at the dog park this morning. His dog seemed to enjoy being off leash, though it's an older dog. Could not persuade R. to take a little walk with me in beautiful nearby open meadows. He told me he couldn't walk further than 100 feet. At 40, he was so rakishly handsome. Today, he is obese. So sad. He does not act motivated to improve his health.

Liberty Mutual, aka Safeco, has renewed my auto policy and has accepted my registration for "Right Trak." I should get the device in the mail in a few weeks and then I'll attach it to the car for the next 90 days, when I will attempt to drive like an angel to lower my premium. Can't wait to get started.

Dad came over this am as well. By offering to email a bunch of paperwork NJ DMV required to prove his car insurance was reinstated by The Hartford, I kept him from having to drive 4 hours there and back to do it in person. Apparently, he transposed a few letters on his auto policy number when he mailed in his renewal payment, and since that happened 3 months ago it's been nothing but repeated phone calls, hassles and headaches with both The Hartford and now DMV.

Regardless of the transposed numbers, they had his name and SS and should have been able to figure it out but they've made him jump thru hoops and he is beyond angry about it. Every time you have to call them, you talk to someone new who has no idea what you're talking about. I have tried to run interference for him and deal with the reps on the phone, but it's pretty much been the same thing anyway.

Problem was, in the long recording when you call NJ DMV, they DO provide their email address so you can email stuff to them, but unlike anywhere else I've heard email addresses spelled out in a phone call, they did NOT say "D as in David, a as in aunt," etc so they simply spelled it and i guess i heard it wrong (called twice and wrote it down) becus my email was bounced back to me. So then we were forced to go to go to local library to fax the paperwork, which cost about $5 with my credit card.

After this we went to the General Store for some very good sandwiches; we ate there. The store dates back to the 1860s.

I applied for a few (two) freelance writing jobs I found on Craig's List. I find quite a few writing jobs there; it's like a secret job source most people I know don't seem to know about.

I found this on my front steps the other day:

I unearthed some calladium and calla lily bulbs i had in pots, dried them in the sun and will overwinter them in dry peat moss in the basement. For the calla lily bulbs, it said make sure the space is at least 60 degrees, which is probably a little warmer than my basement, so may have to move them again to somewhere. Maybe a closet shelf.

I need to get a haircut and saved a $9 coupon for Great Clips. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday stuff

October 15th, 2016 at 07:34 am

Well, I don't know why, but I've been skipping out on more and more Saturday yoga. I really like the idea of doing yoga and appreciate all of its health benefits, but I don't know, I usually wind up blowing it off.

I have been walking more. I just started a weeklong challenge (or is it 2 weeks?) that Dido is doing to see how many steps you can rack up. I've got 34,000 steps since Monday.

This week I dropped off some new art and took back some unsold art from a newer gallery I'm dealing with. It annoys me that as she carefully studies each new piece I bring, she finds it necessary to critique it, whether it's the frame,the background color or something else. ANNOYING. But she did sell one piece so far, for $325 (my net $210).

I won't get paid til the start of next month as that's how she does billing/accts payable.

In January I'll also net $2041 from the other gallery. It was my choice to be paid this way. She paid me $590 now and the rest will come next year, when my overall annual income will likely be lower since I'm not working. Thus I may fall into the 15% tax bracket instead of the 25% bracket.

Anyway, the man who bought 5 pieces came back a week later and bought 3 more. So considering that I no longer have my biggest freelance client to depend on for income, these art sales will be helpful.

I am still having to give Luther 2 meds post-teeth extraction. The pills are easy, as he swallows pill pockets whole, but the antibiotic i have to squirt in his mouth, and he doesn't like it.

Returned to BJs so they could correct a cashier error in charging me twice for a vitamin 2-pack. More and more, I dislike the whole security thing when you leave there and have to 1. Stand in line a 2nd time and 2. Wait for someone to examine your purchases. Makes me feel like a criminal. What a negative customer experience, and yet, we've all been conditioned to accept this extra layer of scrutiny as "normal." I mean, if I were going to steal something, I can't exactly hide a big box of you-name-it under my coat.

I want to try to do some outdoor chores today while the weather's still so cooperative becus i know as soon as it gets chilly it will be much harder. Just things like emptying out some pots with calla lily and elephant ear bulbs, letting them dry out in the sun for a day or two and then overwintering them in peat moss. Also, bring in other plants (I think we had a frost last night)and plant the gorgeous crimson mums I bought last week.

There IS a local craft fair which i usually can't resist. I shouldn't buy anything. Tomorrow is a Pet Expo where you can get lots of free samples.

Dinner tonight with dad.

Next week going down to Jersey with dad to deliver 2 pieces of art to my cousin. Finally! I wanted to do this last spring but didn't get the invite. She knew I wanted to come down, but maybe she didn't feel ready. Her husband died around the time my mother did. So I didn't push it. But dad asked again about it because I know he was looking forward to seeing her, so I sent her a friendly email and that we were coming down to Jersey and could we "drop off" the art while we were in the area. So now we have a date to do so.

My cousin said she heard the Billy Joel song where he mentions the Parkway Diner dad and I ate at...twice...during our family research road trips. It's a diner that's been there forever, and it's likely that all 4 of my grandparents ate there at some point it their lives, before I was born. And now I have eaten there,after they are all gone. Such a strange feeling about that diner.

Coming up next week is get-together with friend at dog park for chit chat and 2 MS lecture dinners. I may only make it to one. I'm also doing a paid skin care study.

Also want to make it to the Monday afternoon thing at library where a guy offers his help in family tree research. I want to find out details of my grandfather serving time in state prison in 1930. I did call Elmira and they only have inmate records going back to the 1970s. They suggested i call the county where he lived at the time of his conviction, which was New York County/Manhattan. They didn't know anything but later online I found the NY state archives, and the guy who answered the phone took grandpa's name, DOB and year of incarceration and told me he'd see if he could find anything and get back to me next week. Just like that.

Sometimes I'm amazed at the relative simplicity of learning something, or conversely, how difficult it can be to find something that seems fairly simple and straightforward.

The state archives man said he won't positively have anything as their records are apparently spotty and there are many different kinds of records and lists, all related to prison. So we'll see.

I knew from what Grandma told me the 5 brothers were involved in things like racketeering, with possible mob connections, so this would be very interesting to learn; I'm pretty sure my mother knew nothing about itt. My dad didn't.

This month I didn't do too well attending meetings of interest to me. I skipped the genealogy meeting, the historical club meeting and the garden club. I did make it to the book club and I did attend the 2nd session of the bereavement group meeting.

Credit card rewards

October 14th, 2016 at 11:27 am

Another roundup of credit card rewards for those with good credit.


I scored at the dump!

October 11th, 2016 at 11:37 am

I was dropping off some stuff at the metal recycling area of our local transfer station/aka "the dump."

I was so excited to find this!

It's in really great shape! The only thing wrong with it is that it was missing one of its 5 casters. So I threw it in the back seat (you're not supposed to "scavenge") and when I got home, I took one of the identical black plastic casters off my existing office chair and put it on the new (old) chair.


I am happy to replace my current chair, which actually I also got for free when an office I was working at in town closed about 8 years ago. Both of its arms have been chewed on by Luther, during his early days when he "explored" his world by trying to eat everything. I think he has outgrown that stage now.

I had put black duct tape around the 2 armchair ends and that helped patch it up somewhat, but over time the duct tape is unraveling and it's looking a little shoddy. The new chair also has a much smaller footprint overall, which works and looks better in my small office.

This morning, dad came over to return a trowel i left there when we planted garlic and I showed him his DNA results from Ancestry.com. We have concluded that my dad's father's family must have emigrated from somewhere in Eastern Europe before they landed in Germany. My grandmother's family, on the other hand, is about as Irish as they come.

Interestingly, my dad does not share the 6% Jewish European component that I have, so that part must have come from my mother's family, also Eastern European. One thing my dad did have, albeit at less than 1%, was some DNA showing Finnish/Russian descent.

After dad left, I went to the dump and then for a walk. I stopped at the farmer's market and bought a bunch of organic arugula, tomatoes and dark purple peppers.

It's a gorgeous day.

Sticker shock at the vet's

October 10th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

So instead of the vet just pulling the one tooth that was sticking out of Luther's mouth, he said he needed to pull 4 more. He also cleaned the other teeth.

I came home with antibiotics and pain meds.

The bill was $837.

I'm pretty upset about it. I compared the bill to Waldo's bill from 11 months ago when he had 6 teeth pulled and I see the vet raised his price on most of the itemized procedures by $10. The cleaning alone cost $150.

The vet is good. He went to Cornell, but these prices are ridiculous, plus it's a longer drive, about 15 minutes with a stressed out cat, and his office is small, not segregated between cats and dogs, and his 2 gray parrots are always screching, which just adds to the chaotic feel of every office visit.

I had stuck with this vet becus he was the one who cared for Waldo before I adopted him, so for the sake of continuity, I stayed with him.

But at this point I feel ready to try the local vet who's much closer to my home. He may not have the same nice bedside manner, but as long as his skills are there, I can't imagine he could be pricier.

Luther's going to the vet today

October 10th, 2016 at 09:51 am

It's a very odd thing. Just yesterday I noticed that it seemed like a tooth was sticking out of Luther's mouth, which wasn't normal. I thought it was just the way he had closed his mouth.

I noticed it again today. I think it's a front lower tooth that needs to be pulled. He doesn't appear to be in any pain and I think he's been eating okay, but it's obvious the tooth needs to come out. We'll be leaving in an hour or so. Worried about the expense but oh well.

In other news, dad I went down to nearby town to check out the wood bins and display racks I had seen on Facebook yesterday. The display racks were gone; the store guy said they had been there when he left the store yesterday at 4. There were 2 bins left, but they were stained, pretty heavy and dad said he couldn't use them.

However, we wandered around the largely empty store for a bit and I did spend $5 on something that could function as a metal plant stand. It has a sturdy metal base and a large basket is screwed into the base. It was used to hold I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

I can use it indoors for houseplants during the winter and then outside where i have my veggie plants in the driveway in summer. I found a large plastic dish I bought a year ago for hypertufa purposes and it fit perfectly in the bottom of the basket.

Any other ideas for it? It would work wwell as a laundry bin, but don't really need it for that.

I don't think that basket could hold a very heavy, large pot filled with soil, but I see that I can unscrew the basket on the bottom and then use an equally large plastic pot in its place.

Inside the store there was an interesting, fairly large wire bin with 2 levels on it, about the size of a kitchen island; the top shelf was about waist level. That would also be great for putting potted plants on, but its legs did not have rollers and I decided it was too much to ask dad to help me move it. It was marked just $12.

I got a surprise call from the newest gift shop where I have mom's stuff, and she sold a piece. Gross was $350, my net is $210. I think she was pleased since she sells mostly lower priced stuff like jewelry there. She wants me to bring in a few more pieces that match what's there in terms of color, so on Thursday I'm bringing 2 or 3 she can choose from. She has very limited space.

I watched the debate last night. I just cringed throughout the first 15 minutes, which was the ugliest part.

Oh PLEASE let them be there

October 9th, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Today is a very dark, dreary rainy day.

I happened to see a very interesting post on a small nearby town's garden plant swap Facebook site. An Adams grocery store about 30 minutes from here has closed and is giving away FREE:

1. About 5 good sized, slatted wood bins, the kind you might find watermelons in, and

2. Two wood display racks with about 4 rows high about the width of a large sofa. This would be GREAT to put in my sun-baked driveway. Not only would it save space but it would keep my potted plants off the ground away from critters that like to eat them. And make it easier to water everything without having tto bend down.

I first thought of my dad and how he uses raised beds.
Then I thought how GREAT those display racks would be for me.

I called dad. He has a pick-up truck. He didn't want to go out today due to the rainy weather (actually, it has stopped) but agreed to pick me up after his breakfast tomorrow, which will be before 9 a.m.

I am REALLY hoping we get something and they aren't all gone. The good thing is the Facebook site I saw this on has only 180 members, although anyone local who went to this store would see the "Free" signs on the bins and display racks as well.

Crossing my fingers!


October 6th, 2016 at 05:00 pm

Last night I talked for over 2 hours with an old friend from high school who I haven't talked to for 35 years.

On top of that, when last we spoke, we parted on very poor terms, all based on miscommunication from our high school days, believe it or not.

I am so glad we've reconnected. He is now living in Ecuador and likes it very much. He lives in Cuenca, which is actually known as the retirement capital of the world. Over 8,000 Americans in that city alone, so altho he's been there 7 months now, he has yet to learn Spanish, becus, he says, he doesn't need to. Everyone speaks English.

I was the first person he came out of the closet to; we were both just 16. We were very close, and the only thing I worried about was how was his being gay going to affect our relationship. I guess I didn't articulate my feelings well enough, becus, unbeknownst to me, he felt I had rejected him, when that was the very last thing I would have wanted to do.

I only learned this was how he interpreted that day when I saw him years later....i guess i was in my late 20s...when he was visiting my sister and he told me that, for years, he had hated my guts. It totally floored me. I had no idea. I always had fond memories of those high school days, and for him to tell me that was devastating. I tried to talk to him about it, but he was not receptive. Shortly after that, I went off to an out-of-state college and we gradually lost touch with each other.

So all these years, when i thought back to those days, there was this great sadness over what i had learned.

The other day i was going through old photos in my attic i wanted to scan before they disintegrate, and i found a card with his name on it. I brought it downstairs with me becus i noticed it showed his middle initial, without which my search on Facebook would have been much harder. But I did find him on Facebook that night and we agreed to talk. Which by the way was totally free becus he had gotten a Magic Jack phone when he still lived in the Northeast and that's the phone he used to call me. We had a very clear connection.

Everything is good between us now. He said he thinks he took his anger and rage at all the people who had treated him badly for being gay and directed it at me, the person he was closest to, the person, he said, he needed the most. Since that time, he had some serious drug and alcohol issues, but he has been sober for over a decade now. We both apologized for the pain we caused each other. He sounds like he's in a very good place now.

In other news...
Remember the man who bought 5 pieces of my mother's art? Well, the gallery owner called me back a day later and said he needed more for the space he's decorating. So I delivered 4 more small pieces this morning to the gallery, and hope to learn as soon as tomorrow that he's purchased more.

So I took a small check from the gallery owner with the agreement that she would pay the larger balance of a few thousand she owes me in January, when I expect it will be possible my salary could be much lower than it was this year. If that's the case, I could drop into the 15% tax bracket and thus would have a reduced tax bill for the sold art next year.

I don't have an urgent need for the money now since i have the unemployment benefits coming in.

I started with a new bereavement group this afternoon. It's a 10-week commitment which I can do as long as I don't find a new job, since it meets 4 to 5:30 pm every Thursday.

I had gone maybe 3 or 4 times to a different group a while ago that met only monthly, and I didn't think there was enough continuity between meetings to continue.

It's tough to get through as you hear everyone else's sad stories. A man who lost his wife to cancer 2 months ago. Two other women who lost their mothers, one of them also to Alzheimers, one whose mother lived to be 104. Other women who lost their spouses after 30, 40 or 50 years of marriage.

I don't know if I'll be able to stick it out, but I'm going to try. After 10 months, I feel better than I did after 4 months, certainly, but I still do not feel free of my sorrow. I am working hard to move on with my life but I often feel like this great sadness is always with me, just under the surface.

Little pesky chores: done, done & done

October 5th, 2016 at 09:18 am

I'm a compulsive list maker. I have a notebook where I write my daily to-do list of things, both work-related and personal.

For years, I kept WEEKLY to-do lists, but when my mother became ill last year I was so overwhelmed with things to do and remember that I started keeping a DAILY to-do list. It really helped keep me on track and not forget important things.

The sense of urgency in needing to do that isn't so bad now, but I chose to continue the daily lists because it really keeps me organized and on top of things.

I will cross items off the list when I do them, and when I do everything on the list, I mark a big "X" across the page. Once I complete the to-do list on the other side of that page (for another date), I rip it out and toss it, but if there are items left undone on any to-do list, I keep that page in the notebook until it's done.

So I had about a half dozen pages in my notebook containing one item that was undone, from months ago. There are certain chores, I guess, I just don't feel like doing. But these undone chores were from an older notebook, and I've already moved on to a new notebook with new dates, and I disliked having these last remaining chores.

I finally took care of 3 of them this morning, and a few were so simple you're going to laugh:

1. Put basement key on key chain. Um, yeah, this sounds simple enough. I wanted to make sure that if anything happened to my front door key (like it breaking in the door...it's pretty old), I would have another way of getting in the house.

So I wanted to put my 2 basement lock keys on the keychain as well. But first I had to find them in the jar I keep with extra keys. I had a key for one lock, but not the other. Anyway, I did find them, labeled them and now they're on my keychain. Phew.

2. Put up 3rd shade in dining room. I saved my mother's handmade window shades from her condo. She put so much work into them and I always liked the way they looked. Some time ago i managed to put 2 shades up, one in my front facing living room window and the other in the front facing dining room window. I wanted to put a 2nd shade up in the dining room but it requires a bit of attention since my mother's windows were much, much wider than mine, and not as deep.

So I had to actually carefully cut the wood bar holding 2 shades in half. (She stapled velcro tabs to the wood bar and attached the shades to the bar in that fashion. Thus I can launder the shades if they get soiled. She also created an ingenious pulley system to raise and lower the shades.) After a bit of action with my cordless drill, it was done. SO happy. The room looks better and I didn't like storing the unhung shades (there are still 3) in the basement becus eventually they'll get mildewy or something. The attic isn't great for the same reason so not sure where to store the remaining shades. Have to think about where else to hang them.

3. Some time ago, the Bluetooth in my car suddenly stopped working. Actually, the system told me there was no longer any phone connected to it, so I must have pushed the wrong button at some point.

I thought I vaguely remembered the dealer saying you have to pay to subscribe to Bluetooth after an initial free period, but aside from one feeble attempt, I couldn't get the Bluetooth working again. I called the dealer and they said no, there's no subscription. So at that point I sat in my car with the manual and very slowly figured out how to reconnect it; then I deleted my mother's phone from the speed dial and added voice calling (so neat) for the coupla phone numbers I have in there.

And to think I went without this convenience for months!

Now I just push a SINGLE button on the steering wheel and I can command the car to call wherever. So cool.

That's all I did, but I feel so satisfied I got those things done. I did also want to hang the smoke alarm on the ceiling at top of my stairs, but haven't done that becus I see the paint is peeling a fair amount and should really be scraped, sanded, primed and painted before putting the smoke alarm back up. Ugh. The smoke alarm is operating, but it hasn't been hung in that location for well over a year. That's how long these dumb chores hang around. I hate to see them "accumulate."

Do you have any dumb chores you know you need to do but for the life of you just can't (or won't) get around to?

Tuesday to do list, and a gripe

October 4th, 2016 at 06:19 am

I'm off to pick up a check from the art gallery, drop off some stuff at the dump, stop at BJs because they incorrectly charged me for something and then to the bank.

This afternoon I need to focus on drumming up some freelance work. I may also take pix of some returned art items from the one gallery to pitch to one of the others galleries.

The CT Dept of Labor CT is horribly understaffed and under-resourced.

The week before last, I tried to file my weekly claim as usual, online. I answered the 7 or 8 questions but when i hit the Submit button, it froze up and remained depressed. On the 4th try, it "appeared" to go through, and that was that.

Except it wasn't. I only discovered late last week that I wasn't paid for that week and thus the system prevented me from filing last week.

I tried calling DOL yesterday, but the recorded message said that due to an unusually high call volume, they couldn't take my call, wouldn't let me wait on hold and actually disconnected the call.

I called again this morning at 7:30 a.m., as soon as they opened, and the calls did not even go through. I would dial the number and then, nothing happened. After about 10 minutes of trying, the call connected, but I heard a recorded message entirely in Spanish. I tried calling back several times and got the Spanish message, until finally I got the English version, went thru the whole automated system again and the system gives you the option of getting a callback in an hour to an hour and a half, so that's what i did.

When i got the automatic callback, I still had to wait on hold until an operator came on. Geez. I recognize that as an unemployed individual, I am the low man on the totem poll and I guess I'm not entitled to any better service, but c'mon.

Recurring expenses: something to avoid

October 1st, 2016 at 05:48 am

Aside from essential recurring expenses like one's mortgage, gas for the car and utility bills, I have long tried to avoid discretionary recurring expenses at all cost. It's the kind of expense that's easy to lose sight of when you're watching your costs and the bills will keep coming forever.

I thought I had done a pretty good job of avoiding this kind of expense, but I realized recently when tallying them up that I do have a fair amount. These include:

1. My Amazon Prime subscription which I think cost me $99. I think this one is probably worth it because not only do you get a channel full of free entertainment on the Amazon channel on Roku (I really likee the Transparent show), but I also get free shipping (or shipping credits if you don't need your purchase in a hurry).

So, not including the one-time cost of the Roku device at I think $80, my TV watching is costing me just $8.25 a month, SO much better than the high cost of cable or satellite. That being said, I settle for not seeing certain shows I'd like to see and watch exclusively free content on this channel and others.

I don't like being made to buy a "bundle" of channels, and the only way I would return to cable is if they let you buy channels a la carte.

Plus, for years I've belonged to an online forum sponsored by a major credit card where you give your opinion just 4 times a month and you get $10 in Amazon gift cards each month. It's much easier to achieve than all the Pinecone and Tolusa surveys, so I've stuck with it.

2. Cell phone: I don't have a contract but have to buy a minimum x number of minutes annually or you lose your previously saved minutes. This is a lot of minutes and I never use them all. The minimum purchase comes out to about $9 a month but at this point, not working, I can't justify keeping this active when my current year expires in February. I STILL have not gotten into the addiction of cell phone use; i just had the phone for emergency purposes, but now I'm driving so little so will drop this unless i get a job.

3. Ancestry.com: This is a new "addiction" for me although it's been a few weeks since last time I was on it. I've done as much research as I could fairly easily. I will let this subscription lapse in late November; the good thing is that the results of all your research and the "tree" that you've built is saved, so when I'm ready to return, I can. The bad news it would be very hard to try to save all this info for my own records. You can't print out screen. I'm sure they do this intentionally. You'd have to manually copy all the info. Which I might try to do.

4. I did recently renew a subscription to my local newspaper. In fact, I paid $80 for 2 years to save $5 because I read this paper cover to cover and I like knowing what's going on in town. Some might not consider this a recurring expense, per se, but when i think about an expense like this, i tend to pro-rate it to calculate the per month cost. I'm paying for the whole year, just all at once instead of in increments, so to me it's a recurring expense...or worse than a recurring expense because you usually can't get a refund if you decide mid-stream you no longer want the product.

5. Angie's list: I decided to renew this one becus it's only $10 for the year and it's the first place I go if i need to have a home improvement/repair done.

6. Magazines: I used to get a lot of magazines here, like 3 or 4 at a time, but I didn't renew most of them when I was last out of work. Right now, I'm only suubscribing to one, Better Home & Gardens, becus it was so ridiculously low priced, I figured why not? I could do without it though.

What discretionary recurring or subscription expenses do you have, and do you think it's worth the cost?

Big art sale!

September 30th, 2016 at 11:20 am

I dropped off some more woven tapestries of my mother's at a certain art gallery first thing this morning, before the rain began. The gallery owner had told me there had been a certain man looking at my mother's woven pieces in the gallery, and she told me to bring more in; she was pretty certain he was going to buy something.

It took us some time to decide on the pricing. The prices we agreed on were quite a bit lower than my mother's prices and I did feel a little guilty doing that, but I do need to move some of this art out, I don't want to spend a lifetime doing so and I do know my mother changed her prices quite a bit.

The gallery owner called me back this afternoon. As soon as I left, she called the man who had been interested in the weavings and he went back to the shop very quickly. He wound up buying 7 pieces!

The gross sale was $2,785, and after the gallery owner takes her 30%, I'll net $1,950, which I'm pleased about.

For me, though, it's not really about the money, though of course I welcome it, especially not working right now. It's more about moving some of this art out, making room in my home and knowing that new people will enjoy the art. That's what it was created for. In my home, I daydream about having the room someday to really highlight certain favorite pieces I have, but right now there is just so much here I can't do that.

Here's one of the tapestries that sold: Village at Sunset.

Mom would have been very excited about this sale. Whenever she sold something, she would always call me to tell me about it and then I'd ask her to describe which one it was, how much it sold for and how much she netted. It often made her day.

The pieces were purchased by a man who loves art, especially abstract art, and happens to own 2 area nursing homes. The pieces he purchased would go in a conference room and perhaps some offices. He especially liked mom's weavings, as opposed to her woven paintings or paper construction or oils.

There was also a smaller sale ($135) to a customer who had purchased my mother's art before, and before the customer moved to Florida, he came in and bought some more of mom's art to take with him..

I'll head back up to the gallery on Tuesday to collect a check. Smile

After I dropped off the tapestries at the first gallery, I went to the 2nd gallery and picked up some very small stuff that hadn't sold, and she accepted 3 new pieces which we priced together. I also got a small check from this gallery, which takes a 40% commission.

So I'm pretty happy, although I do feel a certain sense of loss and sadness that I'll never see those sold pieces again. It's irrational because at the same time I KNOW I must make room in my home and I can't hang onto everything.

Got the results back from yesterday's blood test. I tested negative for Lyme disease but was instructed to continue taking the antibiotics I just started. It's possible the test was taken too early for the Lyme to show up and it could also be one of the other tickborne illnesses, which she didn't test for. I'm to repeat the blood test in 7 to 10 days if I'm still feeling headachey.

Potential big art sale

September 29th, 2016 at 05:24 pm

So tonight I went to an after work hours retirement party for someone I barely knew at the bank; I usually shy away from these sorts of things, but i was touched that my old boss thought to invite me, so I went. And I did enjoy seeing all the old familiar faces, along with a number of people who, like me, had been laid off, some much earlier than me, who had already found new work.

The party was at a brand new brewery in a bad part of town, but there was plenty of security in the parking lot and apparently one of them even followed me to my car in the far end of the parking lot. I had parked in a cornerr and was nearly boxed in and so as I was backign out I saw the security guy standing right there, ready to help.

I left there feeling recharged and upbeat after seeing all the old coworkers. I began thinking again about an interesting article Dido posted on Facebook about introverts who don't like to mingle at these social functions. The article said that maintaining relationships with family is the easy part; the harder part is maintaining relationships with friends, and that we spend the majority of our time with casual friends and acquaintances. Which really is true. Most people don't have a ton of best friends.

I also got a call tonight from a gallery where my mother's work has been; she said a man who was familiar with my mother's work was looking at some of my mother's weavings in the shop, and asked to see more. She's pretty sure he'll end up buying something. So I'm heading up there tomorrow with 6 or 7 other tapestries he may like. Smile

Then I got an email from another gallery where she was asking me to pick up most of the small stuff I have there, except for 2 items, and that if I wanted to bring some new stuff to switch out, I could do that. Not sure how much more small stuff I can bring up there (I donated a lot) and I can't bring the larger stuff becus the prices would exceed the price range of her shop. She does also have a small check for me so something sold.

So tomorrow I'll be running around. I want to stop at BJs on the way back and also fill up the gas tank at BJs, using my Amex card as it will be last day of their 10% back gas station promotion.

The interview

September 28th, 2016 at 11:50 am

This morning I had my in-person interview with the marketing agency that is in the business of building brand management software.

I met with two men and I thought it went ok; toward the end one of them asked me what kind of salary I was looking for. I hemmed and hawed a little bit and then he came forth with what they were thinking of paying: $55K. Which is way too low for me since I was making $83K at the bank.

I still emphasized what I'd said before, that I am flexible and that I would look at the entire compensation package altogether, but this is a $28,000 pay gap.

I think there would be a fairly steep learning curve with the job as I'd have to familiarize myself with HubSpot and learn how to apply data to my copywriting. I've done that before, with keywords, but in a very limited sense. I feel it would be a bit of a stretch for me because I am not so familiar with all the analytical stuff.

So this may not be the right job. I can come down a little from my former salary, into the 70s, but not sure I want to take a $28,000 pay cut. And since they now know what i was making, they may not even bother trying to offer me the job.

My friend R. said I should take it and said they'd probably come up to $60K. But i think i'll ignore his advice. As an IT director, he once made well into the 6-digit range, but now he's working p/t making $18/hr, so $55K sounds like a lot to him, and he knows I don't actually need to make a lot of money, to pay a mortgage, for example.

But I think it would be hard to feel enthusiastic starting a new job swallowing that much of a cut, especially since I still have 4 months of unemployment benefits left.

My other iron in the fire is a job that couldn't be more different: it's a contract job that lasts for 3 months, maybe longer for the right person, and pays $50/hr for a large, international pharma company writing employee communications. (The other job mentioned above has just 12 people in their CT office and I noticed when I walked in that they don't even have a receptionist.)

The pharma job is much more interesting to me. I sent the recruiter my resume and writing samples last Friday and learned today that I've been "shortlisted," meaning I've been chosen as one of the finalist top candidates and my resume will be sent to the hiring manager. HOLDING MY BREATH!

I would be happy to work a $50/hr job with no benefits. It's not ideal, not having an employer health plan, which to me is the gold standard, but I'd be making more than enough money to pay the higher health care costs via ACA.

I briefly made $50/hr when I was working for a big annuity company around 2010...loved the paycheck but it was a 3-mth contract job so it was rather short-lived.

By way of comparison, 8 years ago, I took a job where the most they could pay me was just $50K, but the job was within walking distance of my house and since I hate commuting, this was a big deal to me. Plus my boss was a super nice guy who used to surprise me with a drink from Starbucks every now and then. In fact, Starbucks is where I interviewed for the job.

Moneywise, I made the job work, and that was BEFORE I paid off my mortgage, so I know it's doable, but I don't think I want to go back to that salary.

Sunday stuff

September 25th, 2016 at 04:11 pm

We paid a visit to my favorite garden center today.

They have a super cool shop. I could spend hours here.

They make a lot of gorgeous succulent arrangements in unusual planters.

Lots of great, warty pumpkins but $18 is a bit much.

Also stopped at the organic farm and got some apples and tomatoes.

Gave dad a bunch of small daffodil bulbs the voles dug up; I replanted about 50 myself and then divided a large gazania plant in brittle resin pot into 3 new plants.

Veggie Garden Roundup

September 23rd, 2016 at 05:31 pm

It wasn't the biggest garden I've ever had, and half of it was in pots lining my driveway, but given the small effort I put into it, I was pretty satisfied with what I reaped.

Eggplants: This was my greatest success, considering I think I only grew eggplant once before. I had 2 plants; one of them was destroyed by voles, but the remaining plant gave me 9 wonderful eggplants, all of which I used to make my favorite eggplant recipe: baba ganouch.

Cucumbers: This was another great success. I had just 2 cucumber plants; one of them gave me 22 cucumbers (!!!) and the other, a pickle cucumber I accidentally bought, gave me 7 pickled-sized cucumbers. Both of these were potted plants.

Tomatoes: I didn't a ton of tomatoes from my 2 potted plants, just 19 cherry tomatoes from one and 8 small to medium sized tomatoes from the other plant. Believe me, I watered daily for most of the summer.

Stringbeans: Sigh. The string beans I sowed in fenced garden were destroyed by voles. The string beans I sowed near my front door were mowed down by voles. The string beans I sowed in 3 pots in the middle of the driveway, surrounded by fencing, looked absolutely pristine until a woodchuck discovered them late in the season, destroying most of my crop. I had just one good meal with string beans as a result.

Onions: This was a waste of time. I figured the voles would not bother these, and for the most part, I don't think they did, but they took up a lot of space and never really seemed to grow much. I ate them all in a single meal of potatoes, onions and broccoli. I think one problem was they probably didn't get enough water. I dislike having the drag the hose over the driveway stone wall and down the front of the lawn and stand there with the sprayer; it was difficult getting the new sprinkler to send water exactly where I wanted it.

Wineberries: I picked about 2 cups worth of wineberries and blackberries from the thickets surrounding my yard.

I also grew mint, basil and parsley in pots. I will have at least 3 pots of parsley next year to attract more butterfly caterpillars, hopefully earlier in the season, becus it was very special to watch them emerge and make their very first flights.

Earlier tonight I brought all my houseplants indoors as it's going to be much chillier tomorrow morning and overnight. I used the garden hose to thoroughly spray each plant, underside too, to avoid bringing any bugs indoors. Most of them wound up in my upstairs sunny bathroom. Most of them seem to have benefitted from their time outdoors (especially my copper plant, a succulent, and something in the cactus family, although the pothos ivy is looking a little beat up and the aloe looked better inside and was actually very sun-sensitive.

I would like to try to divide a crowded gazanie daisy plant that's resided in a pot for at least 5 years now, successfully overwintering each winter in the garage with 2 other pots of the same plant. They all look great, very bushy, but the one resin pot is crumbling and the plant is big enough I could create 2 plants if I can figure out which pots to use.

I also have a ton of daffodil bulbs, like 50 or so, that were dug up by voles earlier in the summer. Annoying. I have a potted lavender plant I may as well try planting in the ground.

I made a trip to Whole Foods today for just a few things I can't find elsewhere, including organic dried apple rings from the bulk bin, vegan mac and cheese and organic lemon juice in a jar.

I'm feeling a little concerned because the guy who interviewed me for that job on Tuesday had said he would be in touch toward the end of the week to schedule an in-person meeting with me, and I never heard from him. I sure hope he didn't meet other candidates he feels are more qualified but I think that's a possibility.

I was going to do another beach cleanup tomorrow about a half hour away but it starts at 9 and I am feeling a little lazy right now. I always have so much to do at home but seem to always leave that and do shopping errands or something else instead.

I did hang some laundry out to dry outdoors today and I checked in briefly with my job coach. I made more baba ganouch.

Dumb recruiter

September 22nd, 2016 at 05:54 pm

Yesterday morning I saw a new job posting, a 3-monthh contract for a writer to do employee communications at a healthcare company. I sent in my resume, and while I was out hiking, the recruiter who posted the job called and left me a message.

I called him back when I returned home from the hike, which was about an hour after he called me. I got his voice mail and left a message; he didn't respond back until after 5 that night, via email, saying sorry, I could only submit 2 candidates for the job and I already found them.

I mean, I called him back just one hour later and it was already too late? Usually a recruiter chooses the top 3 or 4 best candidates for a job; this guy said that 45 people had applied for the job and he was calling all of those who qualified. So instead of getting my resume submitted based on my qualifications, looks like he was submitting resumes based on who could get back to him quickest.

I've never had that happen to me before. I was really annoyed because I had gotten excited about the job, only to be told I was too late. So i told him don't bother contacting me for any more jobs.

Wednesday words

September 21st, 2016 at 08:02 am

Not sure how I'm supposed to get any work done here...

Hairy monster.

Yesterday's Meals:

Breakfast: My own granola with generous serving of fresh raspberries and unsweetened almond milk.

Lunch: An entire Trader Joe's pesto/broccoli frozen pizza. Dessert: Soy ice cream sandwich. One Brazil nut (supplies the day's requirement of Vit. E)

Dinner: Strangely did not feel hungry but I did make a banana/nectarine/almond milk smoothie and then around 9 pm I sliced up a half a cucumber and ate it plain, including the antioxidant-rich skin.

Waiting for the furnace guy to come and clean/tune up the furnace for the winter season. Once he's come and gone, I want to head over to a nearby Audubon center to do a LONG walk. I'm a bit behind on my walking for this week. I'll stop at Shop Rite on the way home and deposit a $212 check I received for freelance editing.

What your job would be like if your boss was a cat...

September 20th, 2016 at 04:14 pm


Phew. Got thru the interview

September 20th, 2016 at 09:16 am

I just got through with my phone job interview. It was a 30-minute interview that actually continued for 55 minutes, which I guess is a good thing. I was feeling nervous because I knew this was a writing job where simply being a good writer would not be enough; I would need to understand how to interpret and apply analytic research about online customers' shopping behavior (in terms of clicks here or clicks there, what pages they view and so on) to what and how I write.

I didn't understand a lot of what he said, to be honest, about how their business model works, but this has happened to me before and I did okay. I could tell he was prepared and had a list of specific questions (what salary did I want, why do you want to work for us, are you willing to use analytics in the writing, am I familiar with SEO, why did you leave last company, how do you juggle competing deadlines).

He did ask the dreaded salary question and to my surprise, after I answered in a way that basically avoided answering the question (I'd like to be compensated at a level that's competitive with the industry, based on my background and experience), he did not push for more and he did later say it was a competitive pay with medical/dental, PTO and so on, leading me to believe I might not have to take a pay cut from the $82,700 I was making when I left the bank.

Their CT location is very small, I think, probably no more than 10 people, though I could be wrong. This is based on how many people came up when I searched Linked In for that company. They have more people in their PA location.

When he asked me the question about would I be open to using analytics to inform my content, I came up with a really great metaphor while answering that question which I think he liked. I said, think about a masterpiece painting, like a Picasso. There's not a single brushstroke or dab of paint that is unintended; everything is deliberate, and there for a reason. That's really how I approach my writing, I told him. Language is a tool, like any other tool, that I use to achieve very specific goals.

I thought it was a good metaphor and when I relayed this to my friend R. after the interview, he agreed and thought it was great.

Toward the end I started getting good signals from the interviewer becus he told me in very basic terms what their compensation package includes and the work environment, and I felt like he was trying to sell me on the company a little. He said in all his 25 years of working it was the best work environment. Or maybe I was just the first person he interviewed. He even said something a little complimentary about my resume. He's going to call me during the end of the week to schedule an in-person interview, at which time I will be even MORE nervous than I was this morning.

Job interviews are one of those things that no matter how many times I do them, they don't seem to get any easier. Even when the stakes aren't that high. Meaning, I still have 5 months of unemployment benefits left, I'm in great shape financially and just have a few more years to go before I'll seek to retire. But still, I feel so nervous about interviewing and getting the job and not stumbling over some answer or just blanking out.

In other news...
If your yard's in need of attention or you want to do some planting but are unsure what will work in your area, click on this link below and type in your zip code and email, and you'll get a list of plants (berry-producing shrubs and trees as well as perennial flowers) (with color photos) appropriate for your area, along with the different bird species that plant will attract.


It's part of their drive to plant 1 million native species to help feed birds.

When you see plants you like, you can build your own list of favorites. It's a pretty neat tool.

A little of this, a little of that

September 19th, 2016 at 03:01 pm

I spent most of the day, on and off, prepping for my phone interview tomorrow. I'm reading their website and their case studies, researching certain marketing terms I'm not familiar with, and reviewing my own job history becus I'm a little rusty and not sure what he'll ask.

In between that, my dad came over in the morning and with him here I attempted to access his Santander checking account by creating an online account. It took an hour; we went through the whole long security questions with one rep and then when she was nearly done, she disconnected us and she never called me back so I had to call again and start all over with someone else who got me access to the account.

Dad's had trouble with The Hartford becus they cancelled his auto insurance after claiming they never received payment from him, even though his bank shows the amount due was electronically withdrawn from his account.

I wanted to access a copy of the actual cancelled check so I could email it to The Hartford, but it didn't appear on Santander's site and so they have to retrieve this manually, and that will take up to 2 days.

What a nuisance. Meanwhile, dad has been driving illegally and is takign a risk getting stopped by a cop.

My dad had even gotten his bank and the insurer on the phone together but that did not immediately resolve the problem.

I also was able to find an old friend (husband/wife) of my dad's on Facebook; he remembered they live in CT and now that he's up here, too, I think he would like to reconnect. They were friends when my dad's second wife was still alive.

So I found her on FAcebook and becus she listed where she worked, I called her there and confirmed that it was her. She seemed nice and gave me two of their phone numbers; I know my dad will be excited about it once I reach him on the phone.

I also picked up 3 pieces of unsold art at a local frame shop after the end of an exhibit there.

I attended yet another webinar on creating "SOAR" statements that can be used on your resume and at an interview.

Yesterday we did the 4th road trip with my friend R., this time driving up to Burlington to briefly meet R.'s niece and her 2 girls and then to Collinsville, where we lunch on the patio.

As we were driving, we went past a private home with the most spectacular gardens. I made R. turn around so we could get a second look. It was a busy road so I didn't get out of the car, but this should give you an idea:

Look at the size of those window box plantings!

These manicured and carefully pruned plantings completely surrounded the house on both sides, which you can't really see here, as well as a backyard that sloped uphill, so the view from the road was really stunning.

Here's Luther, wondering what's for dinner.

Oh, and here is me with the other volunteers at the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday. I'm in the front row, the only one not wearing their t-shirt. (I arrived late and couldn't figure out how everyone managed to change into these shirts when they arrived.)

Busy AM; now it's time to relax!

September 17th, 2016 at 11:14 am

There were 2 events I wanted to do today and I had to choose one: either the Int'l Coastal Cleanup Day at a beach an hour's drive from here, or the annual health fair here in town.

Since I go to the health fair every year, I decided to push myself to do the litter pickup on the beach. I've participated a few times in past years and found it very enjoyable.

However, I had to leave the house by 8 a.m. to get there in time, which I did. Everyone got a free t-shirt along with garbage bags and gloves, and we were told to form teams.

I was looking forward to wandering up and down a long beach, but this particular park was part picnic grounds and trails and only had a small town beach. Not only that, but it was pretty darn clean to begin with! We had to content ourselves with picking up piles of cigarette butts, for the most part.

At other locations with the usual trash problems, particularly when it washes in with the surf, we'd haul car tires and all sorts of much larger debris, which I have to say is more satisfying when you clean it up.

I did get to talk to a few very nice women about my age, and I especially enjoyed talking about upcoming retirement plans with one of them who was still working full time at age 67! That will not be me! She revealed that she rents, so I can see how forever having that big expense could cause one to hesitate when it came to retirement.

There were about 30 volunteers, and they rounded us all up toward the end for a group photo which I guess will appear on a website somewhere.

There being so little litter, I headed home earlier than expected and found I was home in time to catch the tail end of the health fair, where I got my flu shot, my cholesterol and glucose checked. All good!

I HAD eaten breakfast so my glucose, at 99, was fine.

Normal is less than140 for a non-fasting person.

My overall cholesterol was 186 with HDL at 81 (great), trig at 116 (als0 great) and LDL at 81 (still great). My ratio was 2.3, very, very great.

Having gotten all these key numbers, I may feel more comfortable skipping my physical next spring (or until I get a perm job). Because even though preventive healthcare is supposed to be "free," it's a fairly expensive proposition to get a physical because my doctor's office requires you to come in to discuss the results and while you don't pay anything for the 1st visit, you do pay $25 for the 2nd one. (It's worth it to discuss those results in an unhurried manner.) However, you then have to pay the lab fee for all the bloodwork and I recall that being another $90.

So I saved myself $115 in fees going to the town health fair.

After the health fair I went home and remembered my dad's DNA sample was sitting there and needed to be mailed. I hadn't wanted to leave it in the hot car while i was collecting litter, so I didn't bring it with me, but I also just wanted to get it out in the mail, so I drove it to the Post Office, then stopped at grocery store to pick up a few things and when I got home I made a nice corn, tomato and black bean salad, supplemented with some very colorful organic tomatoes and a small bell pepper I got at the organic farm.

You don't even need to cook the frozen corn, you just dump it in the bowl and let it dethaw. I love cold salads like this. I just add a little salad dressing to coat all.

Now I'm really pooped. There's something about spending a few hours in bright sunlight that just wears me out.

Just going to relax for the rest of the day since tomorrow we have another "outing" planned.

Patient Saver's List

September 16th, 2016 at 07:16 pm

Ooh, I played this game once before but I don't remember what was on my list then.

1. I never married and have no kids. (See #19 below for a hint why.)

2. I LOVE to travel and did a fair amount in my 30s, mainly to Europe, about 5 or 6 times, and also at least 3 major trips thru Canada (Canadian Rockies, Yukon, Montreal, Nova Scotia, Laurentian Mts), Mexico, Costa Rica, US Virgin Islands. My favorite state is Alaska.

3. I'm an amateur naturalist and love studying insects, birds, butterflies, critters, you name it.

4. I'm a liberal.

5. Probably the most interesting thing about me are the many unusual jobs I've held, including 2 fun journalism jobs and another one working for a company that investigated insurance fraud cases. I also worked for a nonprofit environmental group that was very hands-on, requiring me to pack and sort over a dozen different types of tree seedlings, and also manage a trout fingerling sale we did as a fundraiser.

6. I also went to law school in Boston, but dropped out after a year (probably a mistake).

7. My favorite color is turquoise.

8. I'm a history buff.

9 I'm a genealogy fanatic.

10 Social injustice bothers me a lot.

11 I am proud of having paid off a 30-year mortgage in 17 years and all the progress I've made saving for my retirement.

12 I'm probably an atheist. Agnostic at best. If I had to pick a religion, it would be Buddhism, and I am interested in Eastern philosophy, yoga, meditation, healthcare, etc.

13 I've been writing for a living all my life, marketing, mostly.

14 My favorite kind of writing happens when I can act as an advocate for others, which is something I did in what was close to my dream job when I worked as a personal finance writer for a consumer website that has since gone belly up.

15 I have had chickadees and wild turkeys eat out of my hand.

16 The beauty, symmetry and synergism of the natural world will always fill me with wonder.

17 I like to record everything I see (using a camera)

18 I am a vegan-in-process with a strong interest in diet and nutrition

19 When I was very young, I was kidnapped by my father during a contentious post-divorce dispute between my parents over visitation. Since that time, I've had 3 step-parents (2 step-fathers and 1 step-mother). My parents outlived them all.

20. I've met one fellow SA blogger here, twice! And would do it again.

Phone interview lined up; mixed feelings

September 16th, 2016 at 06:19 pm

I got an email from a job I applied for, asking me to chat on the phone next week.

I haven't really had too many parameters on what kind of company I'd want to work for, although one of them was to shy away from start-ups or very small companies because my past experience has been they can be very unstable, plus pay and benefits are not as good as with a larger firm.

I need to do more research, but this looks to be a very small company that, while not a startup, isn't that old. The company has two businesses, and the one I'm guessing I'd be working for was just rebranded as a separate company in 2013.

The office local to me would be a decent commute; they also have an office in PA.

I'm guessing the main purpose of the phone call is to tease out what salary expectations I would have, and my job, according to a webinar I just took today, is to obfuscate and avoid naming a salary range if at all possible. Get them to share their salary range. If I honestly told them what i was making at the bank, i don't think a small company of this size could match it.

They are not a public company and don't even show up on glassdoor.com, so hard to find out much about them. A few press releases, and news of their acquiring another small company, a number of Linked In profiles, stuff about the business with a few business bios on the website, that's about it.

I will devote as much time as possible to prepping for the talk and trying to come up with an acceptable, accurate salary range. This is my 1st "interview" in about 3 years and i do feel rusty.

Honestly, I don't feel like I have to marry the company, only work there for 3 years before my planned retirement. If I love it and wanted to stay longer? Sure, that's always a possibility but right now the game plan calls for an exit after 3 years. So the pay probably doesn't have to exceed or even match the bank salary, although that would very desirable, of course.

I think my goal during the phone call is to make sure I get invited to an in-person interview, and not allow them to eliminate me from consideration based simply on salary. So this is the big question.

Last night we saw Sully, the movie about the United Airlines pilot who landed the plane on the Hudson River in an emergency landing. It was pretty good, with Tom Hanks playing Sully.

I want to go back to the movies next week (with dad) to either see the Snowden movie or Paper Lanterns, a movie about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during WWII. The latter one is one-night only.

My revised projected income/expense scenario

September 14th, 2016 at 04:09 am

Whenever I have a major change in income, I like to update my Projected Income & Expense Sheet; it helps me develop a roadmap for the months ahead.

As anticipated, the weekly unemployment benefits I'm now receiving (yes, I discovered 4 weekly checks had been deposited in my checking account already...i thought this would be delayed another month due to my severance) will help me squeak by on essential expenses for the 6 months I can expect to receive them, thru January 2017.

But just barely.

Unemployment benefits in CT for someone with my previous income are $598 a week gross, or $520 a week net. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

My total essential monthly expenses come out to $1,936. (Thank goodness I paid the mortgage off years ago.) I think that's a pretty accurate figure since I based it on the average of the first 8 months of my actual expenses in 2016, year-to-date through August.

Seems like nearly every expense rose at least a little, and some things, like my car insurance and food, rose a lot. However, I anticipate getting a fairly significant discount on the car insurance after signing up for Safeco's "Right Trak" program when my policy renews in October.

My food costs seem astronomical for a single person who doesn't even eat meat or cheese (I'm budgeting $300/mth though I have spent more!), but I do buy a lot of organics. I know I can scale back some of the pricier things I buy. I just need to be more careful, and go back to doing more of my shopping at Shop Rite, not Whole Foods! (Not that I shopped at WF often; it was more of a treat, maybe once every 2 months.)

My biggest single expense increase is my health insurance (no surprise there), which went from about $175 a month while I was employed at the bank for both medical and dental to $513 a month, sans dental, now. I will probably go with the Affordable Care Act during open enrollment this November, though I am worried about how competitive prices will be after hearing how United Health Care and Connecticare both are dropping out of the marketplace. Not sure how many insurers that leaves (maybe just one??), but it is never good to reduce the competition! They were all so eager to do this becus they envisioned millions more captive policyholders who would be required by law to buy their health insurance. Now they find they're not making as much money as they thought, so they want an out. Doesn't seem fair if people still are legally forced to buy health insurance.

I'm fairly confident I will benefit this winter from cheaper heating oil prices. I filled up my tank this past summer and that should last me through December with just one more fill-up needed to get through the worst of winter. (Furnace tune-ups have risen quite a bit over the years; I get it done every fall. This year it will cost me about $170.)

So as mentioned, I will do okay through January. I have NOT included any freelance income in my calculation, to supplement the unemployment benefits, because unlike last time, I no longer have the one big freelance client I had before, a real estate brokerage I used to work for. I basically cut the cord when I joined the bank.

It would feel awkward reapproaching them now because what I basically did in my last contact with him was to tell him I couldn't do a job when he gave it to me. It was ghost-writing a long magazine article, something I did every quarter for him. I should have told him in advance so he wouldn't be left in the lurch, and that's why I feel guilty, but I was working f/t at the bank by then and just wasn't thinking that far ahead.

I have just 2 small clients now; one gives me fairly regular work but it pays peanuts and the other is more substantial but rarely gives me work. I am looking for other freelance opportunities, of course, along with p/t, contract and perm jobs. I find that Craig's List is a surprisingly good source of freelance gigs.

Of course, to make ends meet, I'm following the routine I developed last go-round: eliminating entire categories of spending, including clothes, dining out and purely discretionary stuff like that. I'm allowing myself 4 haircuts a year but only when Great Clips has their sales.

Still, I am loosening the reins a little, allowing for my $5 yoga classes on occasional Saturdays.

Working the polls on Election Day for some cash

September 13th, 2016 at 05:24 pm

Last Saturday I got a 40-page document to edit from a freelance client. Editing her work is always slow-going as there are a lot of punctuation issues.

Anyway, I was plodding along today and she sent me ann email asking how it was going; I told her I was not quite halfway through and did she have a specific date she needed it by. She replied back she had to send it in tomorrow at 2! I had figured I'd wrap it up by the end of the week.

I was able to finish it up today, thank goodness.

This morning I attended a meeting at the registrar's office about working in the polls on Election Day. Yes, I will be paid $175, but the day will stretch from 5:15 a.m. to 9 p.m., we cannot leave the premises for any reason, yet they don't have a fridge or stove to make lunch or dinner. (My district votes in the middle school gym.) So you must bring your meals in a cooler or have someone you know bring you food during the day, but for voter fraud purposes, they would have to bring you the food when they come to vote, because once they vote, they won't be allowed back in again.

My cats will be fed in the morning but then go without their normal meals til I get home.

I've done this before; the hardest part for me is getting up that early; by November, it will be dark, too, which I hate. I'll have to use an alarm clock. But (sigh) I am a master at making money when I don't have any, and this was one of the little tricks up my sleeve through my long period of unemployment during the recession.

They're expecting a 90% turnout because it's a Presidential election.

Today's walk

September 12th, 2016 at 08:40 am

Just a local nature center, 60 minutes.

If you build it, they will come:

Luther likes boxes and enclosures of all kinds, and even an 8/5 x 11" copy paper box will do.

I began editing a 40-page assignment from a guardian ad litem who gives me freelance editing to do, very rarely now, so I especially appreciate this assignment.

Last night Dad and I watched The House on 92nd Street, a 1946 spy thriller that was said to be a groundbreaker in that genre back in the day. The reason we watched it is because had said he remembered seeing the German-American Bund camp he attended as a child, in the movie, but we did not see it. Perhaps the movie was edited. We did see a very brief glimpse of a compound which he said looked familiar, but I don't think that was the whole thing.

I see that my sister cashed/deposited her inheritance check, so I went to the bank this morning to close out the account, the very last step in the process. There was $7 and change in interest accrued since I filed the final statement with probate court telling them the amount of the 2 checks I would write. I can't imagine this extra $6 will cause any problems.

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