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Archive for June, 2014

What My 1st Half Share from CSA Looks Like

June 29th, 2014 at 04:46 pm

I was so excited to pick up my first half share of organic produce from the farm here in town. I paid $420 last fall, so now I'll be able to enjoy ultra-fresh organic produce every week thru Mid-November.

Here's what my first pick-up included>

* A head of red leaf lettuce
* a bunch of garlic scapes
* A bunch of spinach
* A bunch of Swiss chard
* A head of bok choy
* A dozen farm eggs
* A $25 gift certificate to buy whatever I want throughout the season





An OMG bull market

June 28th, 2014 at 06:05 pm

This is an amazing story about the power of a bull market.

First, a look at my investments (not my net worth) for the past 5 years:

Jan 2009 $315,226
Jan 2010 $434,872
Jan 2011 $486,302
Jan 2012 $461,436
Jan 2013 $519,228
Jan 2014 $587,831
June 29, 2014: $642,770

If I hadn't mentioned "bull market," you may have looked at these numbers and thought wow, she's a great saver. Truth be told, I was not only not saving any money until 2014, but I was also spending sizable wads of cash on some major home improvements (and a new car).

So despite FIVE YEARS of not saving any money, I managed to more than double my net worth!

I was laid off in September 2009, and immediately after that I stopped contributing to savings of any sort. I did, however, complete an already started screened porch-into-sun room renovation and spent $6,176 doing so.

Then in May, 2011, I plunked down $14,000 for vinyl siding and in October of that year, I threw $17,000 at a mortgage prepayment, eager to pay the darn thing off. (I finally did pay it off in 2012.)

In January 2013 I paid off a pesky sewer loan for $2900, and in May, I spent $20,000 cash (no car loan for me) on a new Honda Civic. That summer, I spent another $5,800 for a new roof.

I didn't restart saving until January 2014.

My asset allocation is pretty plain vanilla. I mostly use low cost index funds with Vanguard and T. Rowe Price in the following allocation:

Domestic stock: 45%
Small Cap 12%
Large Cap 33%

Bonds 23%

International Stock15%

REIT 7%

Cash 10%

Total 100%

The start of my week off

June 28th, 2014 at 04:42 am

Next week is my mandatory contractor furlough. The company has so many contractors working for them, it saves them money to furlough them during holiday periods like the upcoming fourth of July.

This should be my last furlough before I become a permanent employee.

My plans for this time include the following:

* Visiting my dad on the Jersey shore
* Tackling some small home improvement projects, like interior painting, re-staining an outdoor stockade fence so it doesn't rot, stuff like that
* R&R
* Making a rare trip to Ikea, which is far enough away that I make the trip maybe once a year or so, though I love browsing in the basement level for stuff.
* Getting 2 appliances repaired
* Getting estimates for either central air OR a generator that would keep critical things like the fridge/freezer operating in the event of another outage. I have felt insecure about this every since two weeklong outages during Irene and Sandy.

Trader Joe's charged me for some very expensive organic grapefruits I didn't buy. I bought organic plums, and somehow the cashier screwed up, so I will make a point to get a refund for that. I'm also returning some moldy cucumbers to BJS; none of the 3 cucumbers were fit to eat the day I brought them home, but being in a package, you can't really tell. Every time I buy bagged produce from BJs, I end up with a fair number of bruised pieces.

I still have poison ivy. I feel it's a recurrence of the original outbreak, because after I took the last prednisone pill 1.5 weeks ago, I STILL felt a little itchy, and i had the sense it wasn't COMPLETELY gone. Now i have plenty of spots all over again. I spoke to doc last night who felt I must have re-exposed myself becus she said the meds were powerful enough to have gotten rid of it. And that the only thing she could do is another course of prednisone, which I don't want to do. Prednisone leaches the calcium out of your bones.

So for now I plan on toughing it out and am hoping this new outbreak could be fairly mild. I'm not really scratching it, i have nothing like blisters, just red spots on my face, shoulder, neck, hand, behind my ear, etc. The itch, of course, is bothersome. I have some over the counter stuff for that which works pretty well but is impractical to use on my neck, for instance.

People in my dept. have been congratulating me this week following the surprise announcement by my boss's boss that I would become an FTE (full-time employee). It still isn't final since I have not discussed salary/benefits with HR and I have no idea when they will call me. I asked my boss if I'll have to finish out the original 10-month contract term before making the transition to FTE, and she said she didn't think so but that it still may not take place til September.

When I return, I will follow up with my boss to try to get some kind of time frame for how things will happen, should I expect a call from HR, etc. When I said goodbye to her yesterday and asked if she would miss me (with a smile) she actually did seem worried, so I said she could call me at home if there was any kind of "emergency." Truth be told, I'd rather not think about work at all during my week off, but knowing I will soon be perm, I wanted to score some brownie points for doing so. Plus, I will charge for any time spent on work, as I always would, as a contractor. It IS nice to feel needed, and I certainly do feel needed at this job. Not only have I seen many old letters there were grammatically inept, impersonal and unfriendly, but some were even written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, so it appeared the bank was shouting at them. I shake my head, but it makes it easy for me to add value.

If they made the announcement, I guess it's official!

June 25th, 2014 at 07:15 pm

So my boss was urging me to apply for my job online, as soon as it posted online. That happened this morning. My boss said it would only be up for 48 hours, so apply for it asap.

Later this morning, my boss's boss chaired our monthly team meeting with about 40 people present. I was totally surprised when she brought up the contractors' status. She said that of the 153 contractors working for the company, they can "flip" only 9 to FTE status. (That's full-time employee status.)

I am one of the 9, and I'm the only person she referred to specifically, saying, we NEED a f/t copywriter, we put the bank at risk without one, patientsaver's been doing a good job and she's going to be a f/t employee.

It's all a little weird and maybe a tad premature as I have yet to negotiate salary with HR. I guess in a way this gives me more confidence going into the salary negotiations becus they wouldn't want this person embarrassed by not having the deal work out after she announced it. Smile

I have done my research on Glassdoor and found a handful of writers working for other banks, all making fatter salaries than me. So this I will present when the time comes.

Most of the people I work with directly (about 5 of them) all sent me personal emails with congratulations. Another person who sits next to me wants to take me out to lunch. Even the coworker I don't get along with congratulated me. Oddly, the one person who DIDNT say anything, although she was at the meeting where the announcement was made, is another contractor who joins me for lunchtime walks on a nearly daily basis. I've been talking to her all along about what's going on although nothing seemed certain until now. Her job is ending in August after a 2-year stint with the bank. I'm wondering if she's jealous, but geez, you'd think a friend would be happy for you.

She is a bit of an odd duck in that way. She doesn't reach out to others in a supportive way. I like her, but I have noticed this about her.

It gets even better

June 23rd, 2014 at 05:16 pm

I had my weekly status meeting with my manager today. I hadn't PLANNED on talking job title or salary of the new position, but yes, it did come up.

I told her that while a job title is unimportant in a contract position, I hoped we could improve on my title when I move to the perm position. Like for instance, putting the word "Senior" in front of "Copywriter." Just to reflect my experience (and possibly affect raises and/or promotions).

She said my title WOULD be different...probably Marketing Manager, not becus that's really what I do, but because they have a range of job titles and that's the closest one that fits.

It would be Marketing Manager I, II or III. This is apparently being determined by my manager's boss. The title comes with a salary range attached to it. That is why they needed to match my title to some preexisting title. I know that a number of other people in my dept. have that title. I cannot start the job at anything higher than midway in the range.

I also told her I had heard that when moving from contractor to perm, it usually comes with a pay cut, and that i was concerned about how big a cut that might be, particularly because I felt my current pay was already below market rates.

Mind you, I would be a fool, of course, to pass on this job, I know that, so if the pay cut was firm, I would, in the end, accept it, but I have learned THE HARD WAY that you should try to negotiate compensation whenever possible or you'll lose thousands for being the polite and passive female.

All the more important given that she mentioned that for the past 2 years, everyone making over $75K has received no pay increases, while those making under $75K received 2% pay increases. So whatever salary I wind up with at the starting gate may be something I'll have to stick with for a while.

I was surprised when she told me she didn't even KNOW what I was making, that they just paid the agency a certain fee and what I made was between the agency and me.

She said if you want to tell me what you want to make, I can tell you if I think that's in the ballpark or not. I wasn't quite prepared to name an exact number, so instead I told her I was now making just $35 an hour. She told me that while moving to perm does typically involve a pay cut for some more senior level people, she was pretty sure that my perm salary would not fall below what I'm making now.

SWEET! I was thrilled to hear that. There may even be a small INCREASE.

Right now I am still waiting for the job posting to appear on the website.

The wheels are in motion, and I feel an incredible lightness of being

June 21st, 2014 at 01:43 pm

After a long five years of underemployment and well over a dozen part-time, contract or freelance jobs, I stand at the threshold of reentering the world of the gainfully employed.

On Thursday my boss told me her boss, who manages a team of about 30 staff, was working on securing funding for a permanent writer position for me. Yesterday after work, I went out for drinks with my boss with one other coworker, and when the coworker left for the restroom, my boss said the position would soon be posted on the careers section online and that I would have to apply for the job. The job will still have to be advertised internally and externally (which makes me nervous).

I asked her if this was all sort of a perfunctory thing and she said yes, they'd been wanting a writer in Marketing for a long time and I'm the one they want. Smile

I still have no idea what kind of salary they will offer. I have heard from others that when you go from contract worker to perm worker, they make you take a pay cut and justify it with all the benefits you'll get. But I'm worried about how much of a pay cut it would be. Some quick research online and it appears it could be anywheres from a 10% pay cut to 50% paycut.

I'm making $72K now but feel this is already under market for my experience, by about $10K.

I have thoroughly reviewed their benefits and they ARE very good. You get 18 days PTO (paid time off) and you can use these for whatever you want: vacation, sick time, whatever. There are 10 paid holidays and 3 excellent Cigna health insurance plans to choose from. The one I want costs just $400 a year (compared to $2100 with the plan I've got now with the agency) and I can set up an HSA with it. I'm very excited about that as I've never had an HSA and I understand you can save money in that account, pre-tax, for future medical expenses, even after you leave the company. So I could actually save money for medical expenses in retirement. They give you an HSA debit card that you can use whenever you have an uncovered medical expense to pay.

There's also a 401k you can start immediately, with a company match of 5% after you've been there a year; it fully vests after 3 years. There is another employer contribution of 2% of your pay made after you've been there a year.

I calculated that the benefits are worth at least $10,000.

I am very, very excited. There have been so many anxiety-filled days when I wondered if I would EVER find a permanent job again. I took up so many extremely frugal habits; some I may not drop, some I think I will.

I'll be happy to stop doing Pinecone surveys at $3 a piece. So tedious. I'd like to begin my Netflix subscription again or maybe even basic cable.

I am still a contractor now, and we have a mandatory furlough for all contractors coming up the first week of July. I am heading down to the Jersey shore that Monday to visit my dad, and them come back the next night. It's just a brief visit, but I am SO looking forward to just a break in my work routine, as I've been working steadily since last October with just occasional single holiday breaks and i really need some downtime.

Hopefully next Saturday, the tree guy will be coming to take down a 65-foot ailanthus tree that towers over my house. It's a peace of mind thing that is costing me $1500.

They added close to $100 in tax to the invoice, which I hadn't been expecting, but they said I could avoid it if I paid with a personal check instead of a new rewards credit card i just got. So that's what I did to avoid the tax charge, plus I'm now using that rewards card on other spending to earn another $100 back in bonus probably in a month's time.

Pursuing credit card bonuses is another frugal habit I adopted when I really needed the money, but as long as I can keep finding cards like this, I'd like to continue doing it since I'm spending anyway.

So, I feel an incredible lightness of being knowing that I should soon have this job in my pocket. The job is not too stressful, people generally all leave there around 5 pm and not much later, my boss is very nice, my coworkers are pretty nice and I find the work interesting. They really seem to value the work I do. I also don't have to stress out on bad winter weather days as everyone there has a laptop and you just work from home. They have a small free gym there I have yet to use.

The only things i DONT like about the job is that becus there's no real privacy in the cubes, it's not possible to make a personal call that others cant overhear. You'd have to walk into the garage or the stairwell to do that. I also can't access my personal email account during the day, which I hate, but the bank has super tight security on stuff like that. Oh, and I don't like parking in the garage; my car has already been scratched by someone who parked like 4 inches from mine and then jammed their car door into my passenger side to get out. Now I make a point to park on the top level, just to avoid stupid people.

Still, I could see myself coasting into retirement from this job in just a few years. Like 5 years. Sweet.

What do you think of this land sale?

June 18th, 2014 at 02:43 am

When I bought my house, it came with an easement running across my property. My neighbors, who have an interior lot behind my house, have rights to use that easement, which is a very long strip of land about 10 feet wide (6 feet for the driveway and an additional 2 feet on either side) to access their house.

I wasn't crazy about the easement when i bought the place, and didn't really understand what legal ramifications it might have.

I am on very good terms with the people who live in this house. They have had their over-improved house on the market since last year becus they can no longer afford their mortgage or property taxes after he lost his job.

They have lowered the price of the house at least once, and hope to move to Tennessee to start over, where real estate prices are much lower.

Years ago we briefly considered my selling them the land their driveway occupies. Their driveway had been deteriorating for years, but they had resisted fixing it because technically they didn't own the land, I did. They finally were forced to becus in the winter they couldn't make it up the hill and had to leave the car and walk to the house a distance of over 100 feet on a treacherous slope. It cost them $50,000 to repave the entire driveway.

Fast forward to today. They're having trouble selling their house. They doubled the square footage of the house to 5,000 sf and it is magnificent (in a very modest neighborhood), in a very private setting, but i am sure the long rather steep hill is a detriment.

I was also thinking recently that the existence of the easement would be a negative in any would-be buyers' minds, and I was thinking of again offering to sell my neighbors the easement, this time for basically nothing.

It could help facilitate a sale since their realtor would no longer have to "explain" the easement thing. For my part, I would also benefit by not having the easement on my deed AND my property taxes would at least somewhat be lowered becus I'd have less land. Their driveway runs at least 300 feet long and as mentioned, 10 feet wide.

So I was thinking of saying you could buy it for $100 plus whatever legal and remapping fees would be involved.

Do you think this is wise? Years ago when I first offered to sell it to them, I'd talked to a few realtors to try to determine the value of the land I was selling. I had hopes of getting $5,000 to $10,000 for it but after brief consideration (the husband liked the idea, the wife didn't) they declined because while we didn't get to the point of even discussing numbers, they felt it would be spending a lot of money and not getting anything tangible in return.

On my end, the land could never be built on, obviously, since it's not a lot, and the realtors basically said the value is established by the owner and buyer. The land is of no value to me and i treat it, for all intents and purposes, as their land. I don't use their driveway or maintain it in any fashion.

Reducing my property taxes, if only by a few hundred a year, would be a big plus in my book as I currently pay $5800 a year.

Today, given my neighbors' precarious financial position, I am pretty sure they would not be interested in buying the land from me for anywheres near $10K, or even $1K. But if they only had to pay the associated fees involved (so I wouldn't be out of pocket in anything), they could be interested in doing so as a means of facilitating the sale of their home.

The other thing to know about this situation is that the husband has huge money-making potential. He was working for a toy designer for a well-known company when he was laid off, and after the layoff he started building his own company. He knows a lot about the business and used to travel to the factories in China to oversee production. Last time I spoke to them, their business was looking very promising, he's gotten lots of orders from different toy stores, etc, but they don't feel he can take any salary for a full year until the business takes off.

So I don't know, but another possibility would be to arrange the deal would be to say you owe me $X in 1 or 2 years from now, presumably when they could afford to pay me. Although even that is maybe too iffy.

Stuff with mom today

June 14th, 2014 at 06:38 pm

This morning I picked my mother up and then we went to another town about 40 minutes away where she was dropping off her art for an exhibit next week.

After that, we went to Whole Foods and wandered around, sampling all sorts of things including the king salmon!

We both did some damage there. Then I filled up her gas tank for her, we went home, I carried all the groceries up and while she made us a salad for lunch, I vacuumed her condo. After lunch, I helped her deal with bills and forms.

It was all kind of exhausting and by the time I got home, not having done many of my own errands, it was already 3:30 pm.

I chilled out some with a bottle of beer, did a little bit of garden work, refreshed the hummingbird water and made a vegetable slaw for next week's lunches.

A friend of mine called and he's coming over in the a.m. so we can take a longish drive to get get some new fish for his pond. The other fish were all killed after his neighbor sprayed insecticide on her patio that washed down into his pond. Not sure why that won't happen again. My friend is not a confrontational kind of guy. I will have to ask him.

So I won't get too much more done from my long list of things to do, but anyway....one needs to get out and do something fun. We'll probably get lunch after he gets his fish, but he'll have to drop me off after that becus the fish will be in oxygenated water and need to go in their new home fairly soon.

On becoming your mother's parent

June 8th, 2014 at 05:38 am

When I first started blogging here over 5 years ago, my big thing was saving for retirement. Now, I can see a real shift in focus to taking care of my mother's personal finances. It's not a little thing.

I never really imagined I would be assuming control of my mother's personal finances, nor was I prepared for what it involved. It's certainly been a learning experience. Here are some of the nitty gritty details of my efforts to come to grips with it all.

My mom turned 80 this spring. I have noticed some serious memory problems and she has great difficulty understanding different bills (too many numbers) or even things like reading the instructions on her new cell phone. This has been a gradual decline. She's not ready for assisted living, but she definitely needs help in the areas of managing her finances and housework, for instance.

Last winter I took my mother to my own attorney, who happened to be an elder law specialist, and accomplished some very important things: I became my mother's power of attorney (POA), we got her a living will and we updated her regular will, which still contained her old married name. (I can imagine the probate delays that might have caused.)

More recently, my mother agreed to let me handle her bills after months of weekly phone calls telling me she couldn't make sense of this bill or that one. It was stressful for her, as, like me, she has always been extremely punctual and careful to pay her bills on-time, and it was stressful for me, because it was nearly impossible to troubleshoot things over the phone, and working f/t doesn't leave me much time to go over there.

So after getting the POA, the next thing I did, just 2 weeks ago, was to go to her bank with her to turn her checking account into a joint checking account, with my name on it. I doubt I'll need many physical checks, but I ordered some anyway, just to be sure.

I spent more time at my mother's yesterday calling different creditors of my mother's, waiting on hold to talk to a rep to get myself added as an authorized user to my mother's account. For her homeowners and car insurance, I had also faxed in my power of attorney paperwork earlier last week.

With each creditor I called, I spoke to them a while explaining that I wanted to begin paying my mother's bills and to have them either emailed (preferably) or snail mailed to me. Then I had to put my mother on the phone to give her permission. Then I got back on. It was a pain in the neck, but I did manage to get myself added as authorized user for:

1. Her Amex card (which automatically pays 3 of her bills)

2. Cable TV

3. Her homeowners and car insurance, through the same company

4. AARP Roadside Assistance (automatically renews and billed to her Discover card)

All the paperwork will be either mailed or emailed to me now so I have to be really careful these things get paid. It does feel strange since, not having children or even being married, I've never really been responsible for another person's finances before. It feels a little scary, to be honest.

So now I can access my mother's checking account online. At some point soon, I'm going to need to balance her checkbook. It hasn't been balanced in over a year, and that's a big source of concern to my mother (as it should be). However, I don't have the time or energy to try to find the error or errors in over 12 months of statements. I mentioned to her before that one way to determine the right number is to not write ANY checks for a full month, but she has too many bills that are automatically debited from her checking. So I don't want to mess with that.

The good news is that the roughly $2,000 difference is in her favor. I still think it may be helpful to not have her write any checks for a month, and then I can monitor her account online and see when any automatic debits go through. Once they do, I can then give her what is hopefully the correct account balance to use in her checking account register.

I may also call the bank guy who helped us put my name on her account, and ask him for his advice on how to reconcile her checkbook.

I have so many phone calls to make related to my mother, and some of them can't be made in the evening. I recently learned that I will have the first week of July off from work becus it's a mandatory furlough for all contract workers.

Note to self: This would be an excellent time to take care of issues like this.

My mother can't find her Discover card so i couldn't take care of that one yet. I also still have to transfer over her AT&T bill (internet and phone), CL&P and one other credit card.

My mother gets less than $1,000 a month from Social Security, yet I see from her Amex bill online that she spent over $100 on vitamins last month, plus $54 on a stupid emailed health newsletter which I'm pretty sure she's not even aware she was billed for. I will have to talk to her about that later. Much of the vitamins are probably a waste of money because she is very nutritionally aware and eats extremely well.

Sorting thru all this stuff is definitely a time suck. I am still going into her email on a daily basis (without her knowledge) and deleting junk email and unsubscribing to as much as I can.

The need for me to step in and get involved with all this has been building for the last year or two. If nothing else, I hope to reduce the number of stressed out phone calls she makes to me about her bills.

Most recently, she withdrew $100 cash from the bank and then lost it. Of course, I have to listen to the whole story and there's little I can do except ask if she looked thoroughly in the car, etc.

Then yesterday she called to tell me she "thinks" she found it. She found over $300 in a stash of cash in a certain place she'd put it to keep it safe. She's not sure if this is the money she lost from the bank or if this is money she stashed there earlier. I'm guessing it probably does include the money from the bank.

I didn't get as much accomplished at my mom's yesterday as I'd hoped, partly because my mother's central AC broke. (She said she was waiting for a call back from a neighbor whose friend does HVAC work, etc.) But it was 82 degrees in her condo becus the windows are hard to open (for her) and they were all closed. So I opened them all up to cool down the place a little; i don't know if she slept with them open or what. I also called her neighbor to see what was going on and he agreed to call his friend again, but I told my mother not to wait too long for him and that she might have to call someone else to fix the AC becus the weather will be getting very warm soon. She's on the 2nd floor of her condo building.

I took her shopping for a lightweight vacuum at Best Buy 2 Saturdays ago and we got one i thought would be great for her as it was cordless, lightweight and bagless, but she had trouble putting it back in the charging station so i wound up buying it from her yesterday for $95. I didn't especially need it but i will keep it as Best Buy has a strict 2-week limit on returns.

I already know my mother should really be hiring a housekeeper to do that kind of heavy cleaning. I have brought this up with her repeatedly, but unless i take charge of finding and hiring someone myself (and I would feel obligated to be present during the cleaning to make sure they didn't steal from my mother with all the little tsoskes laying around there), I know it's not going to happen.

Maybe I'll just plan on vacuuming next Saturday.

I've also begun surreptitiously grabbing small handfuls of old newsletters and magazines she picks up free from the health food store (dating back to 2011) to throw away. She has too many piles of paperwork all around the condo and i actually feel the piles in the bedroom constitute a safety hazard. She says she's going to read the stuff, but if she hasn't read things from 2011, i doubt she ever will. I may also start doing the same with the piles of books on her bookshelves, not enough that she would notice them missing, but i know she won't read the old encyclopedias and stuff like that. The more I do now, the less I'll have to do later. She has piles of old records but no record player, so I'd like to sell them and get a little money for her. That is something I'll have to talk her into.

I also grabbed one of those Chase Bank offers where they give you $125 if you open a checking account with them. Being on a fixed income, I know $125 is a lot of money to my mother, and I could see her opening an account with them just to get the money. Heck, that's the kind of thing I do with credit cards, but having another checking account would really complicate things just when I'm assuming control of everything, so yes, I grabbed that little Chase offer and tossed it. Call it tough love.

As you can see, attending to my mother (as much as one can 1 day a week) is becoming a job in itself.

At some point I may want to inform my mother's brokerage, where she has her mutual fund investments, of my power of attorney status. I don't think it's really necessary now as she makes only infrequent withdrawals from her accounts there, as far as I know, anyway. But it would be good for this to be taken care of now, because if or when my mother's health deteriorated to the point where I needed to move her to assisted living, that would be a whole new pile of paperwork and issues to deal with, and already having the rest of her finances under control would make it easier.

Lessons learned so far? Getting the power of attorney was the most important thing I could have done. A good friend of mine had been telling me repeatedly to get this done, and soon. It was a process. As with other things, my mother didn't agree to this immediately.

The POA really smooths the way and facilitates a great deal when you are dealing with creditors or anyone else.

The one thing I meditate on is finding more patience within myself to handle all this with grace and kindness. I am a very impatient person.

Credit card rewards: $390 YTD

June 7th, 2014 at 03:38 am

Year to date, I've earned $390 from credit card bonuses:

Feb: Discover card bonus $150
May: Capital One: $32
June: Bankamericard Susan G.Komen and Amex card bonuses: $208

I'll be starting to work on a new NFL card bonus soon that Bankeramericard issues. Actually, I'll be able to earn the $100 bonus for this one in one fell swoop as I plan to use it to pay for the $1500 tree takedown in my yard in a few weeks.

Tiny green mulberries are already beginning to form on the mulberry tree outside my office window. the birds will be picking them off soon before they're even ripe. I love being able to watch them from my vantage point at my desk.

Oh, crap. I have poison ivy

June 6th, 2014 at 05:01 pm

I had to go to doc tonight after work to get some prednisone pills which I'll take for 12 days, starting tomorrow. She said it will make me irritable but energetic. It's ITCHY! Welt on my eyelid, behind my ear, neck, upper chest. Not fun.

I am still working on getting my mother's creditors to start sending me the bills. I discovered that it would probably be easier with most of them to just call them with my mother present and then have her get on the phone to add me as an "authorized" user. I had been trying to fax my power of attorney paperwork and it was just a pain waiting on hold for someone to get the fax number, etc.

So tomorrow for the 4th Saturday in a row i am schlepping over to my mother's. It's the only day of the week I can do this unless i take time off from work, which I'm not about to do.

At least I now have access to her bank account online, and the new checks have been ordered.

Speaking of time off, there is a mandatory furlough for contractors at the bank for the first week of July. I'm not happy about going without a paycheck that week, but I have no say in the matter. So I've arranged to spend an overnight at my dad's on the jersey shore for 2 days, and then hope to get some home improvement-type work done around the house. And squeeze in some MUCH needed R&R.

Three of us walked at lunchtime today, and we were all looking forward to the ice cream truck that parks outside the bank every Friday from 3 to 4. We were so disappointed to not see his truck there....he is on vacation. I did grab Chinese to go for dinner tonight as a consolation prize.

Another rewards credit card to work on, coworker issues and a big tree takedown

June 4th, 2014 at 03:54 am

OK, let's face it...I'm a flipper. No, I don't flip houses but I sure to love to "flip" credit cards to earn those lucrative upfront rewards.

Since 2013, I've gone through 19 rewards credit cards. Currently, I have 7 cards:

1 & 2: USAA VIsa and Amex Cash Card are my oldest cards, and so while they both have lousy rewards, I'll hold onto them to maintain a decent credit score.

3 & 4: I'm partial to my Cap One Visa Platinum and BankAmericard Cash rewards card because with the former, I got to personalize the card with my own design (a peacock feather closeup) and with the latter, a small portion of every dollar I spend benefits the World Wildlife Foundation.

5. Citi Forward

6. Discover

7.BankAmericard CashRewards

I finished the spend requirement on my Barclaycard MasterCard and should get the $100 bonus soon.

Then it occurred to me that since I am having a large tree taken down in my yard in a few weeks, to the tune of $1,500, this would be the perfect time to get another bonus reward card to defray a part of that cost.

So I applied for and was approved for another "spend $500 in 90 days, get $100 back" card...the NFL card where you get to pick your team logo for the card. I'm not a big sports fan, but I'm running out of card offers, so what the hey.

As for the tree, it's a 65-foot-high ailanthus tree. This is considered a "junk" tree and it was the tree featured in the story, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for its tenacious ability to grow right up through a concrete sidewalk.

This one is a little too close to my house for comfort, maybe about 25 feet, and in Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, several large branches were shorn off and carried by the wind to land even closer to my house.....like 10 feet away. I've also noticed some kind of insect damage that extends from the base of the trunk up about 10 feet. This alone is reason enough for concern, I think. This is a humongous tree. At the base, it looks to be 3 feet in diameter.

I had been pricing getting this tree down last summer, but while the estimates I got then were in the $1200 to $1400 range, it didn't include taking the wood away, and I've got so many old tree stumps, logs, branches and other debris in the woodsy periphery of my property, that I just want this wood taken away. Leaving logs here would attract ants and termites. So $1500 with removal seems in the same range.

And when I researched the one guy I was thinking of hiring last year, I discovered online that he had come here from Pennsylvania with a long string of customer complaints about taking people's money and not finishing the job. Then I think I was having money issues as I wasn't working steadily, so nothing ever got done.

The tree is on the shared property line with my neighbors. If my neighbors weren't senior citizens, I would ask them to go halfies with me on the cost, since the tree is very close to their power lines coming in off the street. Or at least to chip in something. But I know they're on a fixed income and I don't have the heart to ask. They have given their permission to have the tree crew drive their truck across their yard to access the tree, cus on my side there's a whole lot more overgrowth and it's just tighter quarters. So at least that's something.

I've asked them to do the work on a Saturday so I can watch and take pix. I've had trees taken down before, and there are many different ways I've seen it done, but it's amazing how well they can control the drop of tree limbs so they don't crash down in the wrong place.

I had to have a talk with my boss about a coworker I sit next to who is difficult to work with. She gets very personal and sent me a nasty email last week and she's very emotionally unstable, coming in crying and sniffling one day and then all chirpy happy the next so I can't concentrate on my work. I had a lightbulb moment yesterday about it and I really think she's schizophrenic, meaning she has extreme highs and lows. (This used to be called manic depressive.) It fits her to a tee.

My boss (a woman) was very receptive to what I had to say. I'm not the first to complain about her. She actually decided to tell the other woman she can work at home 2 days a week (she now works at home 1 day a week but takes extreme liberties by leaving work early using various excuses) and that i could work at home 1 day when she is in, so that we'd only have to work together 2 days a week!

You would think it would be easier to move someone's seat, but that's not really true where I work. I told my boss that while I appreciated the offer to work at home, the 2 of us should be able to work things out, and personally, I'm not sure that inability to get along with a coworker is a good reason to work at home. Our boss is incredibly understanding. She encouraged me to get together with the coworker to talk things out. Which I will do, but i think there's a risk of a big argument, but it needs to be done, becus every time she's made a sarcastic comment to me or sent her snotty emails, I've not responded at all, because i care about my reputation where i work and if i were to respond, there would a cat-fight which EVERYONE could hear. We work in cubes with very little privacy. I think things have gotten worse with the coworker because she interprets my non-reaction as not defending myself, and it's emboldened her to say whatever she likes.

My coworker once told me she found her job to be "incredibly boring," and she likes to dabble in my job, which I don't appreciate. As project manager, she's supposed to shepherd various writing projects, usually letters that I write, through the review/approval process. She's supposed to review the copy and is able to make SUGGESTIONS to me if she sees something amiss, but she acts like she has the final say, which she doesn't. She also can be very arrogant and makes a big stink if I don't take her edits. My boss has reiterated that as the writer, I make the call on anything related to the copy (punctuation, grammar, style etc). That's what they hired me for, after all.

The good news out of all of this is that my boss reiterated that my coworker's job is definitely done by year's end, while they want to make my job permanent. My boss said her boss is working on getting the funding for the position. (I do hope it's a decent salary, but guess I'll deal with that when the time comes.)