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Archive for April, 2014

I love spring

April 28th, 2014 at 04:37 pm

I spent a good part of Sunday working to clean up a large, fenced-in area to the north of my house. The old pine picket fence has begun to fall apart, so I made the decision to dismantle the whole fence instead of repairing it.

I became fascinated when I saw this:



Can you tell what this is? These are tiny lichens in bloom! They are no more than one-quarter inch in height. I never realized lichens "bloom," nor that those blooms are a bright red against the pale grayish green on the lichens themselves.

Here's another shot, looking down:



Fascinating!!!


This is a pot of hens and chicks I put in the basement on a lower shelf, not really expecting it to survive. I'd totally forgotten about it until its pale foliage, starved of sunlight, caught my eye in the dark basement and I realized it was coming alive.

And, of course, I can always count on my daffs to brighten a day in April.


I can't complain

April 25th, 2014 at 05:42 pm

Well, it seems I just don't post here anymore unless it's the weekend. Frown

But I'm happy to report my f/t job is still going very well. I do rather enjoy it and I am growing more hopeful that there will indeed be an offer of a perm position come September.

If they only extend the contract assignment (likely, 3 months at a time) that would not be terrible, because as of May 1 I will already be on the agency's health plan and paying MUCH more affordable rates, so the only thing I'm losing out on is the ability to contribute to a 401k and the paid vacation/holiday time. Which is not a small thing.

My preference is still the perm job, of course, though i do worry and wonder how much lower the offer would be than what I'm making now. Because I do feel what I'm getting now $35/hr, or $72k on an annual basis, is lower than what I should be getting, by at least $10K.

I guess we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. For now, I am still so exceedingly grateful to have been getting a regular paycheck for the past 6.5 months. It feels great! And it is super wonderful to be earning it after having paid my mortgage off. The money goes so much farther! Most is being funneled into retirement savings.

This weekend I am feeling blissful because I have no real obligations to anyone, for a change. I have the weekend all to myself.

So I started things off with Chinese takeout tonight and I've been considering how best to spend my time, just doing fun stuff. I hope to fit in the following "fun" activities:

1. Checking out a condo open house I've had my eye on for a while.
2. Renting some DVDs movies at the library.
3. Trying out a new craft, turning regular clear glass vases and such into mercury glass with a special spray and following directions I found online. (I love mercury glass.)
4. A little yard work.

I have a pile of cut hardwoods (dogwood, crabapple and birch) stacked in my driveway. It's got to be at least a third of a cord. I've love to sell it on Craig's List to recoup part of the $100 I paid the guy to cut it down for me, but I have a feeling not many people are thinking of buying firewood now, even if it is a bargain price. So I may have to live with it til fall. But firewood on the East Coast is always in demand as there are many wood-burning stoves around here, so I'll periodically post ads until I get a taker. I'm only asking $50. A full cord goes for $200, sometimes $225, although that may be delivered, so $50 for a third does represent some savings.

I called my dad and his ex, Kathy, to make sure they were ok as I've been seeing reports in the news of a large brushfire very close to where they live. They are fine. Had a good talk with Kathy about coming down for a visit first week of July (a mandatory week-long furlough for contract workers). Due to my cats, I would not go down for more than 2 days, but it would still be fun, and it would be the first long distance road trip with my nearly one-year-old Civic.
I want to see if it really gets 41 mpg.

No more unwanted phone calls

April 16th, 2014 at 03:57 pm

For some reason, today after work, something compelled me to do a Google search of that old boyfriend from years ago that I've blogged about, the one who kept calling me at Christmas or my birthday, for years, even when I asked him to stop.

We dated when I was in my 20s, and he was 30-something, when we both lived on Cape Cod. He was a carpenter. We had a lot of fun doing things like camping and canoeing. He let me drive his MG convertible around town a lot. I still have his recipe for chicken soup, as well as a simple jewelry box he made me with his own hands. But we had a bad break-up; he hurt me in a parking lot when I tried to break up with him, someone at the restaurant called the police, a chase ensued and they filed charges against him for assault (against a cop) with a deadly weapon (his vehicle). I'm not sure whatever happened with those charges, but they may have been dropped.

Fast forward to his phone calls some 20 years later. Somehow he got a hold of my phone number. Maybe not too difficult since I'm not unlisted. I thought the calls were intrusive and I told him I didn't have an interest in renewing anything. He seemed to have forgotten about our bad break-up and kept calling, even after I told him I was engaged and/or married.

The last time he called me was probably a year ago. He told me he had emphysema and that the doctor had told him he had a year to live. I wasn't sure whether or not to believe him and wondered if this was just a ploy to get me to talk to him. But he had been a lifetime smoker.

So I googled his name tonight; i have no idea why. The very first thing that popped up in the search results was his obituary.

http://www.eagletribune.com/obituaries/x1767996312/Michael-Joseph-Nartiff

He died this past January. For some reason, the family chose to use a photo of him from when he served in the Army in the Vietnam War. I honestly would never have recognized him if it didn't accompany his obituary. When I met him, he had longish curly hair, a mustache and very long sideburns, which were the style back in the 80s. In the Army, of course, he had a crewcut, but I did recognize that smile and his teeth.

I have to say I feel very sad, as well as guilty that I didn't have a few more kind words for him. I had hardened my heart against him and now I feel very sad for him.

The 20-mile bike ride

April 13th, 2014 at 05:37 pm

Today was another picture-perfect weather day. We had a lovely ride on the rail trail, which started in the commuter parking lot in Wassaic, the very last stop on the Harlem River line, which ends at Grand Central Station in NY. But this was about an hour and a half north of the city, in a very small town, to put it in perspective for those unfamiliar with NY State.

Here's a few shots:


This photo doesn't really do it justice, but all along the way (10 miles up and 10 miles back) we had great views of the surrounding farmland.


I loved seeing these stone walls with moss.



There were a lot of people out on the trail. We ended the 10 miles up there in the small country town of Millerton, NY. It's the home of Hanley & Sons Teas, so we stopped in and sampled some exotic teas at the "tea bar" and briefly browsed their store. We had a nice lunch outside, and then returned to the bikes for the ride home.

Once back at my place, I invited Mike in for a beer. He brought up the subject of "us," again, saying he'd sensed for a while that I am somewhat ambivalent about us, or holding back. Which is true, for all the reasons I told you about in my last post, but I hadn't realized it was somewhat transparent. He basically said he's fine with whatever I decide, if I want to be just friends or whatever, but he was also telling me he wants me to make up my mind fairly soon because he's been down this road before and he's not getting any younger. He had told me previously about the woman he dated for 4 months who was also ambivalent for that entire time.

He basically doesn't want to waste time on something that's not going to go anywhere, and I can't say I blame him. We agreed to talk again after Easter, since we both know we're both going to be busy with family stuff next weekend. But I've pretty much decided I have to let him go. It's not really fair to string him along, and while my initial impression of him was very positive, I just don't feel a strong attraction to him. He said two people should feel like they can't wait to see each other, when they're first starting to date, and he could tell that I didn't really feel that level of enthusiasm.

I'm depressed about having to end it becus this has been my problem in the past: it's hard for me to find a guy that really excites me. I really wonder if there's something wrong with me. I could be commitment-phobic, since my own parents divorced early on and my mother was married 3 times, so I didn't exactly have good role models.

I am somewhat reserved when I first meet someone but I also often feel that men want things to progress to sleeping together long before I'm really comfortable with that. And if I sense there's a real possibility things might not last, I certainly don't want to sleep with them, although it seems that for the guy, it's very different.

One thing I liked about Mike's profile is that he'd said he wanted to "take things slow," but then he brought up the subject and said so, you like to take things slow? and i said, well yeah, and i thought you did too since it was in your profile and he said well i usually go by what the other person wants to do. So i felt like he was basically trying to get at how long it might be before we slept together. I just don't feel at all ready to sleep with someone when I'm not completely sure I'm into the guy. I mean, today was only date #6.

Oh well. Meeting him was really great for my ego becus it had been a while since I'd dated anyone and it was very nice having someone who was interested and attracted to me. So, even though it didn't really work out, he has sort of spurred me on to want to find that elusive great relationship somewhere else.

Relationship questions

April 12th, 2014 at 05:46 pm

Today I picked up my new eyeglasses at BJs. Honestly, I didn't see any cost savings. They're progressives, and they cost about $350.

But, I do like them. The frames are a maroonish color and the part that goes on the sides to your ear have an interesting art deco style design to them. I'm glad to get rid of the frames I'd worn for over 2 years. Truth be told, I NEVER liked them and they seemed too big for my face. But I'm pretty near-sighted, and couldn't really seem them well when i picked them out.

So now I'm thinking I want to update my sunglasses, too, as i have a very old prescription in them and they hurt my eyes when i put them on. The frames are fine, but the lady at BJs said I wouldn't really save much by not replacing them. However, they just didn't have that shape at BJs becus they're not on trend. Which I really don't care about. Trends, that is.

Today I also got some pyrethrin spray at Agway (used for horses) that I've read is much more effective in actually killing ticks than any DEET or Off spray. I never spray on my skin anyway, so I'm happy to have the pyrethrin.

I also spent a very nice afternoon working in the yard. The weather was perfect, and will be again tomorrow, when I will be doing a 20-mile bike ride with Mike on an off-road rail trail in the area of Millerton, NY.

While I'm looking forward to the bike ride (sort of) I'm having some doubts about Mike. Initially, I noticed some common interests, but now I've also noticing some major lifestyle differences. He's retired, I'm not. (Hence he has a lot more time than me to do things he needs to do during the week.) I have a house, he has a condo. (My house requires a lot more upkeep and especially outdoor maintenance.)

He's not the kind of guy who likes to hang around the house. He likes to keep doing things like long hikes (5 hours last week), bike rides, etc. I like to do those things, too, but I simply don't have the time to do them every weekend.

He was telling me last weekend of one woman he briefly dated. It didn't work out, he said, becus they'd often discuss doing something like a hike, but he'd go over her house and they'd wind up doing other things and she treated the hike as if it was optional, if they had time after everything else she had to do. He became resentful that they never seemed to get around to doing things he wanted to do.

Well, that woman sort of sounded like me. While I was hugely into hiking most of my life, especially in my 20s and 30s, I have gotten away from it in recent years in light of my 2 cases of Lyme. And, well, life also gets in the way.

I would love to date someone who had an interest in spending time at my house, helping me with various things, and I've also come to enjoy rather leisurely Sundays when I stay close to home and cook, among other things. I just don't feel a driving need to go out on long hikes and bike rides every weekend. Occasionally, yes, but I sense that Mike wants to do it regularly.

I also feel bad leaving my 2 cats alone on the weekends after they're alone all day long during the week when I'm at work. Mike doesn't have pets, and he had a pretty noticeable allergic reaction when he spent some time at my place last weekend. He seemed to be speaking in a rather disapproving manner when he was talking about how some people let their cats have full run of the house, including on the bed. Well, that would be me again, and if I tried to shut my cats out of the bedroom, there would be scratching and wailing.

Mike is extremely outdoor-oriented. I'm not sure I can keep up with him, physically, nor do I have a lot of free time to do all these things. I had forgotten that new relationships require a fair investment of time, and gosh, get together every single weekend? Once lawn mowing season starts, that just won't happen, especially if he's not willing to just "hang out."

I did talk to him about it a few nights ago. He sounded a little disappointed and maybe a little on the defensive, but better to bring it up now rather than later. We left things sort of unresolved.

I don't know if I'm "creating" an issue or making a mountain out of a molehill, or maybe I shouldn't spend so much time thinking about the future, and about all the "what ifs" and just enjoy the present more, like my Chinese fortune cookie from last night said.

I guess that's why i decided to proceed with the planned bike ride: It will be a gorgeous day and I have the time to do it now. I have never been on this particular rail trail; it's about an hour north of us.

The other thing is, I HATE to say this, is that I'm not sure I'm physically attracted to him. It is SO hard for me to find ANYONE I'm attracted to, so when I met this genuinely nice, intelligent, not bad-looking, not overweight and upbeat guy, I noticed he wasn't my physical type but figured, I'm an adult now, surely I can overcome physical issues becus there are more important things. Well, I'm not sure that's going to work since we did get a little romantic last weekend and it wasn't really doing a whole lot for me.

So i don't know. I guess it doesn't sound too good. Even at this early stage, it will be awkward to break things off with him. Although i guess the best opportunity to do that would be after Easter as I know both of us will be busy with family stuff next weekend. It would be easier to do over the phone.

My friend Ron told me something I don't agree with at all. He said I'd be better off on my own because the kind of guy who would be attracted to me would be very hard to find, plus, he said, if I'm moderately happy now, say at 6o or 70% (I'm not sure I agree with the exact percentage), then meeting a guy will never make me 100% happy, it will only boost my happiness up to, say 80%, becus no relationship is ever perfect. So in his rather warped way of thinking of relationships like a numbers game, he feels it's not worth the effort for me, even though he has started dating someone himself.

The life coach from Las Vegas whose manuscript I began editing (I did the first half) is back from her vacation and is very happy with my work. She already recommended me to more than other person, she said, so that's great. Word of mouth is better than any advertising,and since I don't advertise, it's a great way to expand my client base.

Hooray for me in the moulah department

April 4th, 2014 at 05:34 pm

I got 2 very good bits of $-related news yesterday.

1. I learned my contract job is up Sept. 2, not in July, as I'd thought. What was the cause for the mix-up? Well, I was told it was a 10-month assignment, but the agency tracks your time according to hours worked, not weeks. So all those holidays I fretted about because I couldn't work them, and all those smaller paychecks also due to the the half days BEFORE the holiday I didn't work, and a times I took a few hours off for a doc appointment, well....I will earn all that money after all.

It's really just 1 extra month, so I don't know why I'm so happy about it, but I am. Smile

Also, I had a meeting with my boss today and she asked me, IF there was an offer of a permanent position, would I be interested. I said yes, absolutely, you don't have to ask!! Everyone at the bank has wanted an in-house writer for a long time, she said, confirming what others have told me.

I'm just afraid that, what if they do what another contract employer did, decide they should advertise the position outside the bank to make sure they were getting the very best? I HOPE that wouldn't happen. There have been a number of other contractors who got perm offers at the bank, so fingers crossed.

I've also heard that usually when they hire a contractor, your salary DROPS compared to what you were making at an hourly rate, because they argue that you're now getting full benefits, paid time off, etc. I'm not thrilled about that, because I feel I'm quite a bit underpaid for the industry, my years of experience and this part of the country....I'm making $35/hr, which is about $72K a year. I feel I should be making around $85K.

I hope they wouldn't drop it below $65K, but who really knows?

2. The other good news I got was that, after working 6 months at the bank, I'm now eligible to get on the health plan offered by the recruiter agency that found me. I got the PPO paperwork this week, and after the agency chips in roughly half the monthly premium, I will have to pay just $175 a month!!! It's an Aetna plan with a $5K deductible (mostly all I ever use a plan for is the usual stuff that's 100% covered now anyway, like a physical, mammogram, gyno) and co-pays of $25 for PCP and $50 for a specialist. It covers meds. For other stuff, it covers 80/20%. I will be fine as long as, say, I didn't need surgery or some expensive procedure, because 20% can be quite a lot of money.

Anyway, I can't wait to get on the plan. Compared to the $404 a month I'm paying now, $175 will feel like nothing! I'll be effective May 1.

Now that I know I'm working til Sept 2 at the least, I anticipate having to repay about $1400 to the IRS when I file my taxes next year, to pay back the subsidy I got for Jan - April. Sometime in the fall, my earnings will exceed the income limit for the subsidy, which is about $46K.

I am doing well on my retirement savings plan (see sidebar, bottom). I aimed to save at least $800 a month toward my retirement, and I've already saved $6,100, not $3200, for the first 4 months of this year.

So I am finally loosening up the purse strings, just a little, paying for lunch when I was out with Mike last weekend, an occasional lunch at the office cafe, and some clothing and vitamins.

Now I can daydream about how wonderful it would be to get a perm job this fall. Even with a pay cut, I can easily live while making $60K-something, without a mortgage. Heck, not too many years ago, I lived on a $50K salary while I still had my mortgage!

So, knowing that, I would immediately max out my 401k, including the catch-up contributions for age 50 and above. And then I would really look forward to some paid vacation time, an excellent health plan and still a very reasonable work day. A lot of people leave there right at 5pm and at most, some stay til 5:30 pm. No workaholics there!

Today after work I had an optometrist appointment. I only went there because I want to get a new pair of eyeglasses. I've had my current frames for just 2 years, but I NEVER liked them. The problem is that I'm very near-sighted and really couldn't see them that well when I was trying them on. So my eyes didn't change much. I will take the prescription to Costco at the next opportunity (maybe Saturday).

I also hit Trader Joe's tonight.

Tomorrow is errands day, including major house cleaning cus on Sunday, Mike is coming over, we're doing a big hike somewhere and then we'll be at my place for a light dinner. I won't feel like cooking after a hike, but I plan to make a wheat berry salad tomorrow with celery, apple chunks currants, and orange zest. It's quite good. I'll pair that with some yummy tomato soup from TJs and some great croutons. For starters we can nibble crackers and guacamole. And I bought some Hawaiian beer to try as he enjoys drinking beer.

Tonight I'm really pooped and am glad I can turn the alarm off for tomorrow.