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Archive for August, 2012

Holy Guacamole! August expenses + >$5,000!

August 31st, 2012 at 09:55 am

My august expenses were a whopping $5872!

Although my income was also unsually high ($4063), it wasn't enough to cover expenses, so for this month alone I'm in the red to the tune of -$1809.

I'm not too, too upset as the high expenses were due to the following one-time reasons:

1. I had to pay my twice annual property taxes ($3362).

2. Annual sewer assessment also came due ($638). Can't wait til that loan is done with, in 5 years.

3. I bought new frames and progressive lenses ($344) for the first time in probably 5 years.

4. I spent an extra $200 on grocery story gift cards, just to stay on my spending goal to earn rewards from Amex Premier Rewards Card.

In other news, I'm so exasperated with the account manager at the PR agency I'm working for on a first assignment. She is SO unhelpful. No use going into all the detail, but she has consistently failed to respond to any of my requests for information, source materials that the client listed, etc. etc. first she said she wanted a first draft by today, but then said in same conversation it could go til early next week. So today, she says, where is the first draft. It's a good thing I'd worked on it anyway, despite the extended deadline, so i was able to turn it in.

I am sure they will have lots of changes, but this is the very best i could do with the information that was given to me.

It's surprising to me this woman is so unhelpful because when I met with her during the interview process, she was super, super nice, very personable and I thought she'd be great to work with.

I don't know if her workload is truly so bad that she can't pay attention to my project (she did apologize for not staying on top of things already) but I sure hope she's not always like this.

I'm a big girl and know how to write, but there are times when i do have a question or two. If she could just respond to them. Geez.

Went to see an opthamologist this a.m. and my eyes are still dilated. Years ago Dr. Y. told me my eye pressure was "on the high side of normal" and he marked me as a glaucoma suspect although nothing further was ever done about it.

Then, 2 years ago, i decided to go see a more affordable optometrist, and I mentioned to him what Dr. Y. had said and he said my eye pressure was fine and not to worry about it.

This year, I went to another optometrist at Pearle Vision becus i knew i'd want to glasses and i figured the exam and the glasses might be cheaper if i went to a national chain, so i went to Pearle Vision. That optometrist said my eye "cuppings," the optic nerve cells, were wider than average, and she referred me to the opthmalogist again as a glaucoma suspect.

He didn't rule it out but he didn't say I have it,either. He said lots of people get referred in to him for the same reason as me. Maybe I was born with those kinds of cuppings, or maybe it's the result of glaucoma. The only thing they can do is take pix of my eyes and measure some other baseline things, and then check again with me in 6 years to see if anything's changed.

Glaucoma was always a scary word to me, but the good thing is, after doing some quick research on it, is that it is treatable. It's just eyedrops or pills. That being said, according to what I read, even those people who catch it early and get treatment, of them, about 10% still experience some vision loss.

Hopefully I will be fine. I have to go back for an acuity field test in october and after that the doc will tell me when i should return to just monitor my eyes.

I am looking forward to marching in the parade Monday. I want to bring my camera and take pix of the crowd taking pix of me! It will be an interesting angle to take pix from.

DANG! I hate it when I do that!

August 30th, 2012 at 05:22 pm

Gosh darn!!!

Last week I registered to attend what to me was a very interesting program at the local library by the author of a book on preserving your food (freezing, canning, drying).

The talk was tonight, 7 pm. Of course I forgot it and only realized I wanted to go at 7:30 pm. Yes, i could have rushed over to catch the second half, but by the time I made myself presentable, well, I just canned it. (No pun intended!)

I'm doing something very Americana this Labor Day weekend

August 29th, 2012 at 05:26 pm

Yes, I, PatientSaver, will be marching in my town's Labor Day parade Monday. My neighbor who lives behind me called and explained that another woman, who I'd met when I was a poll worker in the town budget vote, needed a few people to carry a banner in the parade. She has an organization that raises funds for wounded vets to help them pay for making their homes handicapped accessible.

So I figured it wouldn't be too hard to march down our historic Main Street and wave to the crowds of cheering and adoring parade watchers.

Our town parade is a really big deal. It's a great slice of Americana. It's hugely popular and thousands show up, including many from out of town. If you want to feel patriotic, this will really do it.

I try to be open to new experiences and new people and actually it would be very meaningful to march in the adopted hometown that I love. The last time I did that was 40 years ago!!! when I marched with my church youth group. My mother, ever the artist, even back then, made the colorful felt banners that we carried.

In other news, The Author and I will be going to Newport, Rhode Island for an overnight visit to tour the mansions. It's something I have never done. It will actually be very helpful for her because some of her books take place around turn of the century when that period of decor and furnishings were used, so it will help her ensure her writing is all historically accurate.

We're going in October and fortunately J., the guy who I'm driving to and from work these days, is fine with it.

I am struggling with the big brochure for the NY state agency/PR agency. Still getting bad vibes about how they're handling the project, which is to say, not at all. Several weeks into it and she still hasn't been able to answer my questions, preventing me from finishing the brochure. She did apologize today when we spoke, but geez. Still don't have all the resource materials the state agency said I should use for reference. And then she actually said I should plan on having a first draft for them to send to the state agency by end of week. I mean, come on!

It would be great money, but if i end up not getting the regular 2 day a week job, que sera sera. AFter working so many years and putting myself through infinite angst, stress and ogida, I'm just going to do my best and try not to sweat it. If they don't like what I do, we can both go our separate ways.

Today was a drop dead gorgeous day. What I like to call "California weather." No humidity, brilliantly bright sunshine and cloudless blue skies and a coolness in the air. Tonight it will be in the upper 40s but back again to mid 80s tomorrow.

Wow, I got a lot done this weekend

August 26th, 2012 at 05:34 pm

How did I get so much done? I felt like I was 35 again with boundless energy. Why, the humidity is way down!

I spent the weekend doing a little of everything: editing The Author's next book, eating, reading the Sunday paper and doing yardwork.

The yardwork is where I really got stuff done. The latest invasive around here to make big inroads is the stilt grass. It's easy to pull out, but it spreads everywhere.

I cleaned out several perennial beds absolutely swallowed up in stilt grass. I considered planting grass seed to reduce future maintenance, but I decided that it would be a lot of work because I'd want to move what perennials remained to other parts of the yard, so it would be digging and trudging around with the wheelbarrow and so on.

I have some Preen which is a weed suppressant. It works by preventing many different weeds from germinating. It won't work with something that spreads by undergrounds roots. I have mixed feelings about using it because I'm not sure if it's safe for amphibians and I do welcome toads and garter snakes. Anyway, i may sprinkle some of that. It works for about six weeks and is activated by rain.

The last thing I was working on as it got dark out was the increasingly jungly area alongside my driveway. This area consists of an extra large viburnum (we're talking about 15 feet wide by as tall; this baby's huge), a butterfly bush and a silky dogwood. It's the silky dogwood which is becoming a problem. I planted it myself over 5 years ago. It's a native. All good. But it spreads by sending out underground roots and then you get the sprouts of new silky dogwoods coming up all over the lawn, creating a miniature forest over time. This is what's happening near the driveway, and it's too overgrown looking for the front yard.

It's a good plant, but one better planted in an area where you want a hedge-type shrub on your border or somewhere out in a field. I hadn't counted on its spreading capabilities. I'm thinking I'll pull out all the suckers, which are about three feet tall and higher, but leave the mother plant and then just stay on top of it, mainly by mowing, to keep the new suckers in check.

I don't want to get rid of it entirely as it producees black berries the birds love and I am all about gardening for wildlife. I think it will work ok as I have another silky dogwood elsewhere in the yard and while that one also sends up suckers, it seems easier to control by running the mower over it. With the one by the driveway, I hadn't really been doing that because next to it there were the remains of a large pile of woodchips on the lawn from when I had the black locust tree cut down and chipped. The chips are mostly gone but the grass had died where the pile was and that's where the suckers were coming up. I hadn't been mowing there on account of the wood chips.

So tonight I used a hard rake to rake out what wood chips remained and a bunch of weeds and I began pulling suckers out. There's also a large pokeberry in there that has to go, along with a butterfly bush. After that, I will throw some grass seed down to try to stabilize and neaten the area.

I planted so many things over the years to feed the birds. Now, after 17 years, a lot of things are getting huge and I'm beginning to realize I have no more room for some of these things and I want to introduce a little more air and light to certain parts of the yard. Which also happens to be good tick control.

I still have a small bed right in fromt of the house that looks pretty ugly since i ripped out 4 large shrubs, but I'm waiting for tulip bulbs to go on sale and plan to get about 50 to plant en masse in the front of this bed. I am excited about how good that will look, and I can use a Home Depot gift card to buy the bulbs. I have never been able to plant tulips on account of the deer, but this location lies next to a set of stone stairs leading to my front door, with just a small slate landing upon which I suppose a determined deer could stand to munch on tulips. I'm going to take that chance; if i saw evidence of deer browsing, I could always put a chair in the one spot a deer could access the tulips from.

A representative from Target called me tonight (Sunday night?!) to verify I was who I said I was in my credit card application. Yes, I decided the Target card is a pretty good deal with 5% off everything plus free shipping.

An $8 pair of curtains

August 25th, 2012 at 04:16 pm

Actually, it was $8 for TWO pairs of kitchen curtains with the valances. Got them at Christmas Tree Shops; I'd forgotten they have a curtain section. I had time to kill before an eye exam at Pearle Vision, and I ended up getting two pairs, 100% cotton, simple vertical stripes of varying widths. i have three windows in the kitchen, all of different sizes: a smaller casement window over the sink, the window in the door and a full size double-hung window next to the table.

I spent over $300 on a new pair of glasses with frames (roughly $85 for the frames, the cheapest in the place, and the rest was for the progressive lenses), and that was WITH vision insurance. The exam itself was just a $20 co-pay.

I have to go see a specialist about something. Let's hope it's nothing.

I met the author yesterday for lunch (her treat) at a very good Italian restaurant. She also gave me an autographed copy of her first book, which I edited. It even includes my name and email address as editor.

She also gave me an advance partial payment to start editing her second book, which I'm already about 6 pages into. When I told her I'd already begun, she begged me to send her just the first few pages so she could see what I was doing.

Her response; OMG, I love it! I have read it so many times and changed things that your eye finds it all.

So that was nice. At lunch, I had a delicious parmesan tilapia with green pea risotto and garlicky spinach. It was really good.

Today I pulled up the rest of my soybeans, boiled them for a few minutes and then shelled them for another delicious salad featuring my cherry tomatoes as well as corn, black beans, chopped onion and a little Trader Joe's Goddess dressing. So good.

It was hot, but not crazy humid, so I rescued a small perennial bed from stilt grass and pachysandra gone wild. I'm debating what to do with it now that it's mostly cleared. If I do nothing, the invasives will take it over again within a month's time. I'm generally trying to reduce the outdoor maintenance around here, so I'm thinking I should just move the two peonies and two astilbes elsewhere and then just plant grass.

I spent several hours decluttering around the house this morning and put a bunch of things in my spare bedroom as tag sale items. I'm thinking of having one in September. Probably don't have enough for it yet, but so far, I have old record albums from the 60s, some nice plastic glassware, books, a space heater, a charcoal grill and grill utensils, and all sorts of knick-knacks.

Calm before the storm

August 22nd, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I have a feeling my life's going to get pretty hectic again, very soon. (Bring it on.)

I was just getting ready to walk out the door this a.m. on my way to another product study ($40) when i look down my stairs and through the open front door to see someone's legs sitting in my outdoor chair on the front porch.

It was my dad, who made an "impulse" visit after 3 hours of driving!

Actually, he stayed the previous night at my sister's and had stopped by to say hello before heading back home. He usually stays there because I don't have a second bed anymore, and while I was happy to give him mine last time he stayed over, I don't think he wants to do that again since I slept on the floor.

He will have to put his cat Louie down very soon. The cat is showing signs of kidney failure. He had a vet appt. booked for next week but said he wanted to see if he could move it up. The cat is 16 years old.

My dad will need time to deal with that, but after that, I want to encourage him to come up for an extended visit of 3 or 4 days; usually I see him a half day up here and then he's off. I'd like to have my dad hang out with me here; I've never really had that kind of time with him, and I'm very conscious of the fact that he is getting older and may soon be unable to drive. I was always working f/t or just too busy, but now it's just freelance work and I can work around that, at least until and unless the PR agency tells me they want me in the office 2 days a week.

Speaking of DREAM jobs, I applied for one yesterday. It was a company that had created a Facebook app that allows users to create a memorial page for loved ones. As the writer, I would write engaging testimonials/bios based on input they provided. The job was full time WITH benefits but 100% work from home. This really would be my dream job.

Back to dad: he doesn't really like to sleep in a bed anymore cus it bothers his back. He sleeps every night at home in an old recliner.

I'd like to take him to La Z Boy and buy one with him. We could take it home in his pickup and then he'd be comfortable. Since I sold a large teak cabinet and rearranged things a bit on the first floor, there'd be plenty of room for the armchair in my family room.

So I'm going to call him tonight and propose that.

So, after giving my dad a full pound of string beans from the garden and helping him load the firewood I'd saved for him in my driveway, we said goodbye and I did my product study.

On the way over to it, I stopped at the landfill and shoveled a large container full of mulch for my latest landscaping project (front of house). On the way home, I dropped off 7 or 8 books to donate to the library book sale (decluttering in the works).

Back home, I found that after a full week's delay, the client finally got back to me (and the PR agency that's hired me to write the brochure) with edits/comments on my 2 paragraph positioning statement. I reworked it and sent it back to the agency in about a half hour.

The whole process reminds me of why i don't really like working for agencies. I'm used to working in a corporate environment where decisions are made quickly and copy reviewed or edited quickly by an authorized decision-maker without the use of outlines, positioning statements, etc. Sigh. It can be like doing a high wire act trying to figure out exactly what the client wants, and it can also be frustrating, depending on how articulate the client is in communciating what their issues are. Sometimes they make vague statements and you're left to wonder what you should do.

It just seems much easier writing for your own employer instead of a client becus then you can simply ask pointed questions, whereas with an agency, you have to go thru the agency people first and vet things with them before going to the client.

I am not sure I am cut out for this, but all i can do is do my best and see how happy the agency is with me.

So the NY agency brochure is "on" again, and so naturally, I've heard from the guy with the powerwashing business, who is now anxious to finish up the manual (after being unavailable the last 2 weeks) AND I also am getting phone calls and emails from my #1 real estate client, an exec who after several false starts in years past, is again trying to write a huge paper that will qualify him for a very prestigious and coveted real estate designation. He wants me to edit and polish it.

It's nice to be busy, but stressful to be TOO busy. Let's hope I can strike a balance between the two.

Tomaotes are ripening gangbusters. I'm picking 5 or 6 daily. And I'm behind in freezing the current pile sitting on my kitchen island.

Ugg. $1,000 more to spend...

August 20th, 2012 at 07:19 am

I THOUGHT I had timed it so that I'd be able to pay both my car insurance and homeowners policy renewals with the current Amex Premier Rewards Card I'm using to earn $250 in gift cards after spending $2,000 in 3 months.

Seems I pulled the trigger too quickly by opening up the card in early July. I figured the month's end would be determined by when I opened the card, but my first month ended July 26, which means the last month will end September 26, about 5 days before I get my homeowner's policy statement.

I called met life to see if they could send my renewal a week or so early, but they said no, it's computer generated.

So right now my spending on this card is as follows:

1st month: $511
2nd month, so far (which ends August 26): $415
3rd month: Will need to spend as much as $1,000!

And the 2nd month's spend includees $200 in grocery store gift cards, too! (Shopping at aldi'a a few times doesn't help, since they accept cash/checks only.)

Needing to be incredibly frugal, the only things I can use the card for with any regularity are 1. groceries, 2. gas and the aforementioned car and home insurance. Darn.

I now have about $560 in grocery gift cards.

I should really get on the ball and get my vision checked. I've been wanting to get a new pair of glasses, and I could charge that.

The Year of the Bean

August 17th, 2012 at 11:57 am

Each summer's vegetable garden produces a surplus of some vegetables and a shortage of others, usually due to the vagaries of weather, insect pests and my own random planting patterns.

This year is definitely the Year of the Bean.

I planted four long rows of yellow wax beans and green string beans and I just can't keep up with picking them.

I also tried growing edamame for the first time this year.

I made this beautiful and delicious summer salad with the edamame I grew, along with my tomatoes:

I pictured myself eating this salad all summer long, but in truth I've only had it twice, mainly because the edamame takes so long to mature. And that's its main drawback, as far as I can see. I also failed to plant anywheres near a sufficient number of them to really enjoy them en masse. Mine are a little tiny; I may have harvested a tad early, but I read so many warnings that there's just a narrow window of time, about 10 days, to harvest the pods before they become inedible. So I watched them closely once they appeared, trying to determine if they were "bright green" (when they should be picked) or "yellowish green, when it was supposedly too late.

Unlike the yellow and green beans, which mature rapidly and can be picked for quite some time, the edamame takes up valuable real estate in the garden but is only harvestable right about now.

They're said to ripen all at the same time and so you're supposed to pull up the whole plant by the roots, as I did, and then boil the whole pods for five minutes. After that, you can easily push the beans out of the pods.

I have only so much space in the garden, so I don't know whether I'd want to plant them again next year. It was a novelty growing them, but perhaps it would be easier to buy them frozen and save space in the garden for faster growers.

In other garden news...

My single zucchini plant and single yellow squash plant bit the dust a few weeks ago, victims of the squash vine borer. I did manage to get 9 zucchinis and 3 yellow squashes, though.

My three cucumber vines also are gone due to wilt. Enjoyed 12 English cucumbers beforehand.

I'll have a complete wrapup of the season's total harvest and its monetary value, based on the organic equivalent found in the supermarket.

Right now, it's Tomato Time and I've been freezing them every other day now.

Anyone have a Target red card?

August 15th, 2012 at 03:38 pm

I've been thinking of getting one for a while now. What's not to like. Free shipping and 5% off all purchases? i think that's pretty great. Not that I shop there all that often, but I do from time to time, and free shipping is music to my ears.

Not a whole lot accomplished today

August 15th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I am feeling frustrated.

I have $50 worth of Amazon gift cards and I have TRIED to shop several items there but all of the items I want must be purchased from external websites, which means the item isn't eligible for free shipping. Since I'm determined to maximize use of the Amazon gift cards I earn through online forums, I don't want to waste them on shipping.

I was looking at room darkening curtains for the bedroom, as the mini blinds are useless for that purpose and the floor-length curtains are too sheer and too tempting for Luther to scratch at. I think the 63" length would work.

I also admired Martha Stewart's Living Solutions shelving,and I was even hoping to find a plastic basement window well covering that fit my small window well, but no go.


I'm at a lull in the big PR writing project as we wait for the client to sign off on the positioning statement I wrote in advance of the brochure itself. It reminds me of why I don't like working for agencies. Now mind you, the client hadn't actually asked for a positioning statement, but the PR firm that's hired me wanted me to do it. Perhaps because I am new and she wanted to be sure I "got" it.

I had to revise it several times based on the PR firm's request I add something, and I noticed her comments were rather vague, not specific, which made me struggle to figure out what her objection was.

Oh well. We shall see how it goes.

The guy I drive to and from work gave me the afternoon "off" as his aunt is picking him up for dinner. He had originally said that he would pay me $200 a week regardless of whether I actually drove him each day. Then a day came last week when he had to do something and his girlfriend drove him to work. He paid me the full $200 and I decided to give him back the $20 I hadn't really earned the next day.

It was hard to do as i could use the money, but i realize he really does too. So unfortunately tomorrow there is something else coming up, and something next week, which will relieve me of my driving duties and put a little less cash in my pocket. Oh well.

I've decided to use the new Barclay's online savings account as the repository for my property tax money. It's a big chunk of cash...$6600...paid in two annual installments. That's $550 a month I need to set aside so I have it to pay the taxes when due. At least it will earn 1% rather than nothing in my checking account.

I have been swatting flies in the house all day. I hate them! I think they are reproducing here and that's the problem. I have a bad habit of leaving my garage door open day and overnight. The cats' litter boxes are in the basement, and the smell is probably attracting flies who find their way in, probably under the closed door in garage leading to basement. Luther likes to poop in the gravel French curtain drain that encircles my basement around the walls. The flies were probably laying their eggs in that poop as I keep the litter boxes fairly clean. And from there it's Fly City.

Back from Jersey

August 12th, 2012 at 05:48 pm

I got back from visiting my dad in Jersey early this afternoon. I really felt zonked from the drive, as I'd driven the 3 hours straight through without stopping.

While my dad still has vision problems, they don't seem as bad as my dad's ex-significant other said. She tends to exaggerate and get a bit histrionic. He also didn't seem depressed at all, although I know he likes to vist with his children, so maybe I wasn't seeing my dad on a typical day.

Thank you to Analise for the links to the eldercare resources; I'm going to call and see if there's anything they can do vis a vis transportation/driving.

I was able to watch my dad driving as I followed along behind him on the way to breakfast this a.m. as I was headed home after that. He did fine. He has already voluntarily decided not to drive at night, as he has trouble with the glare of lights, so for that I am thankful.

We had a good visit. We talked alot and hit Home Depot so he could help me find some cement caulk. We had 3 meals out. Lunch on Saturday was just me and him at a seafood place on the Tom's River; I had some very good salmon. Dinner that night with K. joining us was a steak and garlic mashed potatoes at Charlie Brown's. And breakfast, with K. again as well as male friend of my dad's who often joins him for breakfast, was a hash and cream cheese omelet. We had breakfast at a place where all the waiters and waitresses wear pajamas. The place is called Shut Up and Eat. It's pretty unique.

So my dad says he has broken up with K. over an argument they had a few weeks ago, but he invited K. to join us for two of the meals out because he knows she and I like each other.

She is upset about the break-up. Her problem is that she keeps trying to get my dad to do what she wants him to do (spend time with her, stay together as a couple, etc) and it backfires becus she keeps trying to MAKE him do it by cajoling him, talking about it and basically pursuing him. It's just aggravating to my father. If she would just back off and leave him alone for a while he might begin to miss her and approach her of his own accord, but she's nearly incapable of doing that.

Ahh. I used to think that by the time you got older, you'd have relationships all figured out. Not true at all.

My dad is a very independent person and at 79 he's still darn cute; he's now sporting a full white beard and looks like a cross between Santa Claus and Ernest Hemingway. K. is just way too pushy and when things are said and my dad starts getting antagonized, she won't stop going at it.

The Friday before i left was very busy here at home. I was trying to print out several large (80 to 100 pages) brochures that I wanted to take with me to Jersey to read and prep for writing the brochure assignment I got. Yes, i could read them online but i like to underline and jot notes as I go. Not only were they humongus files, but when i tried to print them out, they came out in grayscale and very small font. The only solution I could see was cut and pasting everything into a word document where i could change the ink color to black.

Of course, my printer jams up when more than a page is inserted, so i had to print everything out while hand feeding the printer. It took forever.

Then I got a press release out for real etate client and thought I had cleared my plate for next week to focus soley on the PR agency assignment. But then my real estate contact said she was going on vacation for 2 weeks but before she left she wanted to leave me another assignment, writing a brochure for land that is for sale (250 acres of farmland in Massachusetts).

It was a bit of a different project and looked interesting, but she wanted it done fairly soon. Not one to pass on any work if it can be avoided and concerned I'd become too immersed in the PR project next week, I decided at 8:30 pm to just bang the thing out that night, which I did. So I turned that in as well. I hope my clients appreciate it!

I was supposed to let the power washing guy know when i was home tonight so we could start on the next part of HIS project, but i'm afraid i have blown that off. I just feel i need and deserve a break. I'm glad I went to see my dad but I am kind of wiped out.

It'll be back to the grind tomorrow driving J. and then settling in to write a positioning statement for the state agency.

All weekend I was feeling very stymied and blocked and grappling with how to synthesize a huge amount of info about this state agency I'm writing a brochure for, knowing I need to do it quickly. I had been referring to the conference call meeting notes of the account manager and just feeling understanding was not coming easily to me. Then i thought i should revisit my own notes from the conference call and as i read them, everything started making sense to me.

What did this teach me? That I should trust my own instincts! The other person's notes did not emphasize what I had emphasized in my own notes, even though we were on the same call. I need to write this thing the way I think best and not worry about making it conform to someone else's interpretation.

So I wrote a killer intro this a.m. as my dad still slept and hopefully the rest of the brochure will come more easily as well.

I always drive down to Jersey with just a half tank of gas so I can fill up with the much more cheap gas when I'm down there. My dad was with me when I filled up, and he very kindly (and unexpectedly) paid for it. So my trip down there cost me nothing except the $15 in tolls. Yes, that's a lot of tolls on the Garden State Parkway, plus $5 at the Tappan Zee Bridge. Geez.

I have a ton of ripe tomatoes ready for boiling down and freezing. And string beans.

More parental health problems

August 10th, 2012 at 07:10 am

It has been a really crazy week, both professionally and personally.

My mother is still having issues with the arthritis, but at least it doesn't seem like absolute crisis mode. She has started physical therapy. I don't know how physical therapy will alleviate arthritis pain, but that's what the doctor ordered.

In the meantime, I got a call yesterday from my dad's significant other that my dad wasn't doing so well. He will never talk much about his macular degeneration, but she thinks it's getting worse, that he can't see the details of someone's face unless they're standing right in front of him. and he's still driving. And she thinks he's depressed. He also broke up with her.

I made arrangements to go see him in New Jersey this weekend. I'll stay the night and then come back next day. My goal is to 1. Cheer him up, and 2. Have "the talk."

"The talk" has to do with urging him to give up driving before he hurts himself or others. I don't know how to have that conversation with him but I have to try. We've talked before and he's said it's going to be very hard to give up driving. At that time, I tried to focus on practical ways of getting around not driving, like thinking about people in his life who could take him grocery shopping. The local senior center might have transportation.

The problem is that he has 4 kids, and none of live near him on the Jersey shore. My 2 half-brothers are closer, about an hour and a half away, but the one brother just had a baby with his wife and i don't think they seem him that often.

My dad's the polar opposite of my mother. My mom will readily complain and vent about her health issues while my dad puts on a cheerful demeanor and volunteers much about how he's doing unless you ask and dig for details.

Yesterday also I wrote a long letter and mailed it to my sister, basically asking her to step up to the plate and be more supportive to my mother. I also asked her to commit to calling dad, as I have, at least once a week.

Aside from worrying about my parents, things have been rather crazy workwise.

The policy and procedures manual for the power washing company is halfway done, which is great, and thankfully he paid me the balance due me today, but we need to get started on the other portions of it before I get totally absorbed in the huge new project for the PR agency.

I told him it'd be great if we could talk Sunday night.

Then there's the press release I want to get out today for my real estate client. It's ready to go but I need the go-ahead; there was one guy I could not get a hold of and was rude enough to tell my client i could call him (again) last night, but again he failed to pick up the phone. Good riddance, I give up.

The PR firm job turned out not to be re-writing an annual report at all. It's writing a brochure for the same NY state agency.

This looks like it's going to be a huge job and i'm a little worried about how i'll do as i'm completely unfamiliar with the agency or what they do. They have pointed me toward a half dozen different things, including the annual report, that i can use as source material to write the brochure, but there's a lot to absorb. They have a 50 page document just on their brand and how things should be expressed. So I'm in the process of printing stuff out so I can take it to my dad's with me and read it all over the weekend, but of course, a lot of their stuff is printed online so that if you try to print it out on your printer, it comes out gray scale or very tiny so I can't read it. Copying it all onto a word document would be very time-consuming, but since i don't have a laptop, I would like to print it out.

On a completely unrelated note, here's a pretty good T. rowe Price article on preparing for retirement and at the end shows different scenarios based on 3 different people retiring at different times.


Got the test assignment: $40/hr Yahoo!

August 8th, 2012 at 07:16 am

Spoke with the PR firm owner this a.m. about the "test" writing assignment and I have a few more details.

The client is a NY state agency that gave another firm their annual report to write. They're very unhappy with the results (not sure why at this point). So they've given it to the PR firm I interviewed with, and this is the test assignment the PR firm wants me to do.

There's a conference call tomorrow a.m. between the client and the PR firm, and I'll dial in from home.

After telling me what little she knew, the PR firm owner said let's talk about money. Do you have a rate in mind that you want to get paid?

Now, I don't know if she remembered telling me her usual range was $30 to $45 an hour, but I had already decided I wanted to shoot for $40/an hour. I don't need to insist on getting in at the very highest rate, but my experience should get me higher than the middle, which would be about $37/hr. So that's how i came up with $40.

After a moment's hesitation, she said that $40/hr was fine, no attempt to whittle me down or bargain, which was very nice.

I also noted when browsing their website weeks ago, in preparation for my interviews, that they actually posted the hourly rates they charge their clients. It may be a requirement to do so when you're working for federal govt clients. But she is charging way, way more to them than what she's paying me. She charges clients $125 an hour for writer/editor services. So I guess she can afford it!

So if this job goes well, I could then hope to get an offer of ongoing work to the tune of 2 days a week.

Now that my mortgage is paid off, working just 2 days a week at that rate would cover ALL my essential monthly expenses (COBRA, gas, groceries, car and homeowners insurance, property taxes and all utilities) PLUS I'd have about $700 left over each month.

OK, wait. I haven't calculated self-employment taxes in this equation, so I guess I'd have less, but STILL, if you factor in additoinal income from my real estate freelance work (averaging maybe $400 a month) and if i ended up still driving J. to work 3 days a week instead of 5 ($480 amonth) then I should still net an extra $700 a month after paying expenses.

I could actually begin to contribute to my SEP IRA, rebuild my emergency fund and even start a New Car Fund.

Wouldn't that be grand??

It ain't over til it's over...some good JOB news

August 7th, 2012 at 09:10 am

Do you remember me talking about the PR agency I interviewed with twice, and then never heard from them? (My last interview was like 3 weeks ago.) I had pretty much given up on them.

She emailed me today and will be talking to a client about a new project via conference call on Thursday and wanted to know if I wanted to attend the conference call in their office and then take on the writing assignment as a "test" writing assignment. She would pay me, but we haven't worked out those details yet. She's going to call me after lunch today to discuss.

She views this as a final precursor to hiring me for the 2-day-a-week writing job.

Yippee!! This could be great. The 2nd woman I interviewed with 3 weeks ago had indicated the woman, who owns the PR firm, is not always the easiest person to work with, but I am of course highly motivated to make it work. The pay should be pretty good.

Now this makes me anxious to wrap up as much as I can with the press release I just started work on and the operations and procedures manual. I'm feeling all nervous and wierd now.

I FOUND the hornets nest, Part II and hypertufa photos

August 7th, 2012 at 07:21 am

Yesterday I really needed to mow the back lawn. We had a break from the awful humid weather (we're having one more nice day before it regresses back to sticky tomorrow) and so I wanted to get that lawn mowed while it was still relatively comfortable to do so.

I've been stung twice by hornets in this one area, but I looked and scanned the grass for insect activity but couldn't find anything.

Yesterday, I found it. A completely nondescript hole in the ground where single hornets were coming and going. Not in large numbers, just one at a time, every few seconds. It was very hard to see. I tossed a large woodchip near the entrance to the hole to mark it.

I could have run to the garage for the can of wasp/hornet spray and dispatched them when it grew dark, but I've decided to just see if we can both "co-exist" for the rest of the summer.

I will leave an area of roughly four square feet surrounding the hole unmowed. They can live out their normal lifespan and contribute to a healthy ecosystem in my backyard. Everyone gets to live.

I'm starting work today on a new project, a press release on a new upscale subdivision (house lots up to 20 acres) and over 80 acres being donated to local land trust. Waiting for a callback from someone so I can ask a bunch of questions.

I did a load of laundry and it's hung out to dry on clothes racks in my driveway. Yesterday I planted lettuce and broccoli rabe. I made another batch of three bean salad with beans from the garden as well as pesto sauce, using my basil plants.

Here are a few hypertufa pots i made and planted recently. They are meant to look like centuries old concrete. They are fairly lightweight because the cement they're made from is mixed with peat moss and perlite, which also give it a mottled, crumbling effect. I also want to try growing moss on them to accentuate the "rustic" look.

The hyptertufa is the one on the left. I used a plastic garden pot as the mold; it has some nice vertical lines on the sides which you really can't see here.

Here's a round one; I think like the square one better.

For this one I think I used a plastic popcorn bowl as the mold.

I didn't make this one but I love it just the same!

The power washer operations manual

August 5th, 2012 at 03:07 pm

I worked yesterday on my latest freelance project: an operations and procedures manual for a power washing company.

Well, they actually use a "low pressure, high temperature cleaning system" but it's basically the same time of operation.

He was so happy with my work that he now wants me to write the rest of the manual, which he originally was going to do himself becus it's more technical. I think I can handle it.

He really had no idea how to work with a writer, and in fact when he first advertised the job on Craig's List, he said he needed someone who typed fast. Upon interviewing him, I told him that what he really needed was a writer, and he agreed. Then by suggesting we just do this all over the phone rather than in person, I boosted what I would make on the job becus he wouldn't have to pay for my mileage or lunch in his kitchen with him and his wife, which, frankly, seemed a little wierd, but that's how he envisioned this thing working.

So I talked to him on the phone for several hours yesterday (his dime) where he basically did a "brain dump" of what should go in the manual, but he needed someone to organize the material and write it. So I learned there's quite a bit more to the power washing business than I realized.

I probably should have made more on it, but I originally responded to his ad where he named his price. But now that he wants me to do the rest of it as well, same length as the first section I did, I told him my charge would be the same, $200 ($400 when I'm done with both parts).

It was a little dicey at first because I don't know this guy from Adam and I wanted to make sure I didn't get burned, which has happened now twice before, so I suggested he pay me half upfront and half upon completion. Which he was fine with, but he was going to mail a check, which I wouldn't have time to receive, deposit and have clear at the bank before i turned my work in to him.

So i needed to get payment somehow without coming off sounding like i didn't trust him. I suggested Paypal, but he was new to it and didn't seem like he trusted it. We went back and forth some more on the issue of payment and i'm starting to wonder if this would all blow up in my face. Finally, he decided to open the paypal account and i got my $100, although after paypal took their cut, it was about $96.

When we finish up with the operations manual, I'm going to suggest I do a little vest pocket sales brochure for him as a leave-behind for customers, as well as a website.

He knows the business inside and out and from what I understand, he has a friend who wanted him to set up a business for him and is paying him $5k to do so. I'm not sure if he'll have any stake in the new business once he sets it up or not.

But anyway, he was very appreciative of my work, and I'm appreciative to have a new client!

Now I can honestly say I've done some technical writing. It's similar to an employee handbook for new employees except that it also contains detailed sections on how to power clean a roof, siding (different procedures for vinyl, wood and brick/stone) as well as patios and sidewalks.

In between talking to this guy for hours on the phone and writing the manual yesterday, i was also having to keep tabs on my mother, who had called me earlier that day saying she thought she might need me to take her to the hospital because of the pain.

She seems to do better during the day and evening, and is worst in the a.m. Luckily she didn't need to go and finally today took a Tylenol and said she is feeling much better. Yeah! She took a Tylenol! Wonders never cease. I will stop in to see her tomorrow after dropping J. off at work.

She'll be back at the doctor's tomorrow as I know her problem is not 'cured' or gone for good. It doesn't really seem like they know why this is happening to her.

It's incredibly hot here and has been so for a week now. I sit in my second floor, un-air conditioned office with humidity today at 92%. It's stifling.

So yes, today, August 5, my dear late grandmother's birthday, I finally did cave and drag down a small AC from the attic to put in the dining room window. I allowed myself to run it for an hour, after which the inside temperature dropped by 2 degrees, to a very steamy 79 degrees. But then I turned it off, cognizant of my next electric bill.

I see no end in sight to this heat, or the humidity. the cats are hot, I'm hot. I have been very unproductive, save for writing that manual that weekend. Poor Luther INSISTS on being whereever I am, even though it is 5 degrees cooler downstairs and even cooler, 70 degrees, in the basement.

He will stay with me no matter what, all day long, trailing me from room to room. He is a very loyal cat. You would think that the more I stayed home, the more used to having me here he'd get and he wouldn't see the need to follow after me, but it's not that way at all.

I am looking forward to a cold shower tonight and then tomorrow it's back to "work," driving J.

Always happy when i'm making money.

Happy birthday?

August 3rd, 2012 at 03:29 pm

I have to say it's been a very strange and sad birthday for me.

I do want to thank all of you for your suggestions and support in the matter of my mother's arthritis. Thanks to Snafu's mention of cherry juice, which I hadn't heard of, i did some quick online research, found a good research article on it and sent it to my mother, who went out and got some. So I am hopeful it could help!

I'm also going to forward her the info on the Arthritis Society. I know she has been using cold paks but i will tell her about alternating with the warm paks.

Aside from what's going on with her, I picked up J. tonight after work, and for some reason feel consumed with sympathy for him. He doesn't have it easy. He tells me everything about his life. I sort of feel like he uses the drive time home with me to decompress about whatever's on his mind.

To be honest, my own family life certainly has its issues, so I often find it far preferable to listen to others talk about their lives rather than have to share details about my own.

When his ex divorced him a few years ago, he went on Celexa. It came up today when he had to meet with his parole/probation officer. He was really looking forward to the day becus he knew he'd be getting his "ankle bracelet" off, which he did, but once the guy heard about the anti-depressant, he said he wanted to do a psych eval on him, which will likely mean at least 3 more visits, J. said. Not a huge deal, but he seemed kind of down as it was just another delay in being able to put all this behind him.

J. only makes $45k a year. He's got his kids half the week and spends much of the remainder of his time attending AA meetings. He goes to 4 a week! Then he's paying me $200 a week for driving him to work, which is a lot of money on his salary.

I didn't have to drive him in this a.m. becus his girlfriend drove him when he was through with the hearing, but when he paid me tonight on the way home, I realized later when i counted it that he still paid me the full amount, when he should have subtracted $20. God knows i need the money, but so does he. I'm going to return it to him Monday.

He seems extremely even-keeled and from the way he talks, it sounds like he's learned an awful lot about himself in the years since his divorce. I guess he had his wild days. I do notice, though, that his kids really don't misbehave much, and I sense he's very strict with them. Strict in the sense that he doesn't tolerate any back talk. He lives in an apt. on a very busy highway, and for the past week or so, he hasn't slept well becus they've been repaving the street. I don't know, it seems like the guy could really use a break. I wish there was a way I could help him.

Then, tonight, I get a call. Do you remember earlier posts about an old, old boyfriend from 28 years ago? We used to date when I lived on the Cape, not long after graduating college. I never considered him marriage material, but we did have fun. He was a carpenter and roofer, very handsome, drove a cute little MG convertible that he let me borrow. We'd go camping and canoeing, and stuff like that.

He was a native of Massachusetts, and at some point I guess moved back to where he grew up, in a suburb outside Boston. I never kept in touch with him after we split up.

About 10 years ago, he somehow discovered where I live now and started calling me, on my birthday, on Easter, Christmas, etc. Even when I asked him to stop, told him i was getting married, etc., just to get him to leave me alone. He still kept calling, creeping me out out quite a bit. Some of you had told me to call the cops about it; I probably would have, but I hadn't written down his phone number when he gave it to me so I'd have nothing to give the police.

Anyway, when i got home from driving J., there was a message on the machine. It was the old boyfriend again, but this time, his voice sounded different. I thought he might have a cold. He said I know you told me not to call, but i just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, since I may not be able to do that this time next year. He said he had emphesema in both lungs and wasn't doing that well. And that he would never forget me.

I don't think he was making it up. He was always a heavy smoker when I dated him, and I guess he never quit. It's very sad. I don't wish the guy ill. I forget how old he was, but he's got to be at least 57 or 58 now, or maybe a year or two older. He never married, and lives with his mother.

It's a little depressing, even though I didn't want him calling me.

It's been one helluva birthday.

I'm really not sad for me. I'm sad for the people around me, to see people struggle with personal challenges, to watch my mom grow old and be powerless to stop that and yes, to hear news of what will probably be an old boyfriend's terminal illness. It reminds me that life is short, life is precious.

Mom's health issues

August 3rd, 2012 at 07:42 am

My mother's always had problems with arthritis (osteo, I'm pretty sure), but in the past year or so she's had sporadic bouts of extremely painful, full body arthritis.

It's incredibly frustrating to deal with her. She will go to a conventional doctor, who will then prescribe various meds, but she doesn't take the meds because she gets all scared after reading the fine print and the warnings.

At some point a doctor told her she "shouldn't be taking aspirin" or other anti-inflammatory over the counter drugs, but she forgets exactly why. So she's just ruled out an entire body of effective drugs that could ease some of her pain.

Then she comes crying to me about the pain and how bad she feels. I suggest she should find a good naturopath or holistic doctor. Not sure they could help, but I know she would trust them more. She says Medicare won't cover it and it's expensive.

I don't know what's more important than one's health. And that's worth spending money on, in my opinion.

So we have these circular conversations that go nowhere every time this happens, and today she's in a lot of pain. I can hear it in her voice.

I'm not sure I fully understand exactly why, but my mother's health issues cause me incrediblie stress. Part of it is my sister's lack of involvement. Part of it is trying to convince someone they should take prescribed medication. Part of it is becus I am not a physician, so when she comes to me with her health troubles, there's only so much I can do.

I didn't have to drive J. to work this a.m. as he had to go for a hearing and i think he's getting his "ankle bracelet" off. I will have to pick him up at 5, so I think I will adjust my plans and head out around 2:30 pm so I can see my mom and then stop at Aldi's before picking up J. I can bring a small cooler with icepaks to keep my food cold. I'll also bring string beans and zucchini from the garden for my mother. I'm really trying to conserve gas as driving 2 hours daily is sucking up a lot of it.

I sent my mother a bunch of links to various articles and treatment options. What she has sounds a lot to me like either RA or even fibromyalgia. But my mother is so anti-medication it's hard to know what to do with her. In that respect, she's much like my sister, who deferred hip replacement surgery for several years and hobbled around with a pronounced limp becus she doesn't trust/believe in conventional medicine. Frankly, I think it's lunacy, and much like living in the 18th century.

My sister has pretty much divorced herself from regular contact with the family, choosing instead to see us upon limited occasions like major holidays or birthdays. She doesn't communicate regularly with my mother, either, via phone or email, so my mother comes to me with just about any issue.

My mother was an only child, and grew up in a pretty sheltered household. She does not do well on her own. I have always been very much her opposite.

I worry, too, that this is a foreboding of what will happen to me down the road, as I seem to have inherited every other physical ailment, big or little, that my mother has. I try to be as helpful as possible but she doesn't seem to take my advice and it's more like she wants to vent and complain. As her daughter, I feel incredibly guilty for disliking this and feeling frustrated. I feel so much stress heaped upon me when this happens. I'm angry at my sister for not pitching in. We don't really talk except about more superficial stuff when I do see her. We three were supposed to get together this Sunday to celebrate my birthday but my mother already said she doesn't think she'll be up to it. My sister wants to live her own life, and do her own thing. She's short-tempered, impatient and full of anger that's often there, just beneath the surface. No doubt it harkens back to my parents' divorce; somehow, I think, she blames my mother. And hasn't moved beyond it.

Drumming up business

August 2nd, 2012 at 10:05 am

I managed to get 2 new freelance writing assignments today.

One is a guy who's starting a power washing business in a town about an hour from me. He needs someone to write a procedures manual for employees; we're going to do it on Saturday.

The other is a press release for a new subdivision where the developer is giving 80 acres to the local land trust. My client wanted me to attend the 3-hour event next week, but it conflicts with my driving job. So I'll have to work around it and interview various involved parties afterwards.

I also have an interested buyer for an antique cherry pitter I'm selling; she owns a vintage housewares shop; she may stop by this weekend. Decluttering, yeah!

July expenses not pleasant

August 1st, 2012 at 08:14 am

I tallied up my July expenses and they are not pretty. I spent $1200 more than I earned.

However, the bulk of that increase was due to my mortgage payoff ($2,246) which was almost like a double payment. Plus, I also had a biannual car insurance bill ($258), annual borough tax ($165) and car tax (78).

Next month's expenses will again be totally skewed because my property taxes ($3300 for half) will also be due. I do have the money, but this little driving gig I picked up just won't be enough ($800 a month). I had hoped my unemployment benefits would restart since my hearing 2 weeks ago, but it hasn't yet.

I also had hoped to hear about that 2-day-a-week PR agency job I interviewed for. I haven't totally given up hope as I recall there was a longish time between my first interview and the day she called me to come in for the second interview. She's pretty busy. If I do, those 2 days a week would cover all my ESSENTIAL expenses. I seem to always squeak by with yet another in a string of minimal, yet life-saving jobs, so I hope that will happen again.

The hornet nest has been taken care of. I suppose I could have dealt with it myself with a $5 can of hornet spray, but I think I did pretty well to find someone who did it for me for just $25 and stringbeans, plus he used no chemicals.

My knee is finally back to almost normal and the swelling has subsided after 3 days. I hope that's it for the season.

As part of my weight loss effort, I'm trying to drink my own iced tea exclusively instead of enjoying the various Snapple iced teas or, more recently, Arizona green teas. I won't drink the sugar-free kind with artifical sweeteners, but I don't think the added sugar (empty calories) is great for my weight. When I make my own tea, I usually add a very small amount of sugar, like a tablespoon to a pitcher that holds about 7 cups. This time around, I didn't add any sugar at all and it sort of needs it. I think I'll go back to using a small amount of Truvia, which is supposed to not affect your glucose levels.

In the course of clearing out all the pachysandra and cutting back those shrubs in front of my house, I uncovered two cracks in the concrete window well, where it meets the foundation of the house. It should be repaired before I go and plant anything in the now-cleared bed, and I'm going back and forth about should I try doing this myself or should I hire someone.

My research online tells me that the standard repair is using a "system" where you inject an epoxy thing with a caulk-like gun and it's a bit more involved than that. I'd like to hire someone who's done it before, but if I go and call one of those places that routinely does foundation repairs and such, you know they're going to charge a huge sum and probably make it seem more alarming than it is. Sigh.

Maybe first I'll take a photo of the cracks and bring it with me to Home Depot on a weekday and have a conversation with someone there who could perhaps show me the product to use and how to use it.