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Archive for May, 2015

More trials and tribulations

May 24th, 2015 at 10:52 pm

One week after starting to clean out the condo, here's what's been accomplished:

I made another two trips over to my mother's today, heading over in the morning. Discovered one entire large cabinet filled with fabrics, scraps and what-not; all of that I threw in trash bags and put in the dumpster at condo. I loaded the car up with a pile of stuff for Good Will, dropped that off, then returned to mom's condo to load up again, then returned to my town and stopped at the library to unload a trunk full of CDs, vinyl records and still more books. Went home and unloaded the rest of the stuff at my house. After 5 p.m., I returned to mom's condo again and loaded up. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Here's where we stand:

Kitchen: While there's still stuff all over the counters, most of the cabinets have now been emptied, and 2 full sets of stoneware dishes, glassware, pots and pans, et, etc have been packed up; there are 4 or so boxes ready for my next trip to GoodWill. Fridge was also emptied. The art on the wall is down.

Dining Room/Living Room: All the books on the 4 narrow and tall bookshelves have been emptied and hauled to library. Two other large cabinets and a large cedar chest have also been emptied. Most of the small stuff has been packed and taken away. What remains are a bunch of small and large pieces of furniture and a dozen or so larger framed art pieces that won't fit in my car. I emailed Habitat for Humanity tonight with pix of the furniture and will await a callback for pickup.

Small linen closet: Partially emptied; I'm using mom's many towels between the framed art pieces so nothing gets scratched. When this is all done, I can donate the towels to the local animal shelter.

Bedroom/office: My mother's office is in her bedroom, and this room is a real mess. The only work done here is the 2 dressers were moved with my handyman to her new place, and some clothing in the closet as well as some books in a smaller bookcase. STill a ton of work here that includes a large metal desk, a small desk, 2 4-drawer metal filing cabinets and her closet. This room will really slow me down. I know it will take time to sort thru the papers, and that's why my initial thought was to take it all home so i could do it at my leisure.

Studio: My mother's studio/loom room is also filled with art supplies and piles and piles of yarns. My sister volunteered to sort through this and thinks she may be able to sell it all in bulk to one or two people, but we had a testy moment because I asked her to give me the proceeds from such a sale because my mother's going to need every penny to keep going at the assisted living place. My sister looked like she was about to say umm, if i'm going to the trouble of disposing of it, i'd like to be reimbursed for it. I actually didn't let her say that. (I should have, but yes, I've known her all my life and she rarely does something without motivation, so I read her mind.) I told her I've already spent hundreds, like buying my mother her new twin bed, and don't plan to reimburse myself for it. That's when my sister said I don't have to play the martyr.

So I don't know where we stand, and it really irks me to think my sister would just pocket the money from the sale. But I'm already in over my head and need the help.

However, my mother's 2 looms, 1 large and 1 small, are worth some real money and I won't let her profit from those. I was researching the brand names and the larger one retails for several thousand dollars new.

The Lower Level: This is more art space and is filled with mostly unframed pieces. My sister also volunteered to work in there.

I know it seems like we (mostly me) got a lot done in 9 days (dare I say 4 weekend days since I worked Monday thru Friday and did not go down there then?), but once i go back to work the progress will slow. I do have 2 extra days off this week and a week off in mid-June, at which time I expect to be interviewing realtors, but I'm also considering using more of my vacation time in June to help ensure this place is on the market by July.

The car: My friend R. said he would help me out by selling my mother's car for me. But then he said he wanted a cut; he first suggested one-third, which seemed like a bit much, but he agreed to one-quarter. So if the car was sold for $1,000, I'd get $750. This money, too, will go back in my mother's account. Of course then I would need to drive the 40 minutes down to his place to drop it off, and I wound up having to post it on Craig's List becus he didn't know how to do it. And I knew his prep school reunion is coming up next weekend so likely no test drives then. It wasn't the ideal situation, but it would relieve me of having to go on test drives with strangers. Especially the kind of strangers who would be interested in a $1,000 car.

But then my sister said her boyfriend would be interested in buying the car for $750. So I'd get the same thing I'd get if my friend R. was selling it, for a lot less hassle as the boyfriend lives much closer and I wouldn't have to wait for a sale. It's possible the car is worth maybe $1200, but honestly, when you put it in reverse it doesn't sound good and sister's boyfriend is planning on replacing the transmission on it.

So hopefully the sale will take place tomorrow. Told my friend R. of all this and thought he'd be relieved, as he kept telling me he was doing me a favor (but wanted some compensation for it) and he actually sounded annoyed. Yet this is the same person who asked me if he could have a particular piece of my mother's art, not for him, but for a friend of his he thought would like it. I let him have it becus I've known R. for 30 years, but it irked me that he assumes it's ok to get something from me for free, yet he finds it necessary to build in profit to sell my car. He also said well gee, you're making $80K a year and I'm working p/t at a gas station making $15 an hour. Well, yes, that's true, but he also chose to give away most of his life savings, several hundred thousand dollars, to his niece. That was his choice. Grr.

Next step: Emptying out moms condo

May 24th, 2015 at 06:02 am

I've been to visit my mom at her new assisted living address frequently since moving her there 8 days ago. Aside from a mid-week hump where she became very upset after accidentally locking herself out of her room, she seems to be adjusting pretty well, although there are periodic, sometimes perfectly lucid remarks like, "I'm still trying to decide what I want to do, but this isn't it." She seems somewhataccepting of her current residence, if not always happy with it.

She continues to enjoy the food there, is getting to know other residents and does not seem to recollect her prior life in any great detail. She also was amazed the other day when i told her she'd only been there a week becus she said it felt like 5 months to her.

Another time she got agitated becus she started reading the discharge instructions from her time at the hospital. A nurse or someone had written "for daughter" on the outside envelope, but my mother read through everything and where it said "Likely dementia" (they apparently didn't know she was diagnosed a year ago) my mother underlined it and put 3 question marks after it.

While i was there visiting i mentioned all this to someone who worked there, and she suggested I remove the paperwork because, she said, their mind gets on a kind of "loop" and keeps coming back to the same thing. So I took it all away from her desk and she didn't notice it was gone because once again, her short-term memory is pretty shot.

She is still having trouble using the phone I set up for her; she seems to have trouble processing the simple instruction to dial "9" before the number. It's written down for her, but she still has trouble with it, although she has called me several times.

So much more I could tell you about how she's doing, but my subject here was meant to be about the next step.

I talked to one realtor, who agreed with my friend Ron that rather than wait til next spring to put my mom's condo on the market with various improvements, like painting and the carpeting, that I should get it on the market asap, because there are generally 2 kinds of buyers there: entry level buyers who are generally young people not unwilling to put in some sweat equity and do things themselves so they can have exactly what they want, and also there is some investor activity there, the realtor said, since prices are so low there.

So for an investor,then, putting in new carpeting or new anything would not make sense. They want to buy it cheaply and then flip it a few months later after making their own upgrades.

I want to sell it quickly so I can stop the drain of money for property taxes, condo common charges and electricity every month while I'm paying an arm and a leg at the assisted living place ($5850 a month). I had hoped to get $150K for it but there are several vacant units in the vicinity (the complex itself has over 200 units) and at least one foreclosure, which is now priced at $137K.

I really feel it's imperative to sell it asap, even if I get less than $150K.

So I've been over there cleaning out every day, starting with the day after my mother moved. Mostly by myself, but one day I did have my handyman with me, and his truck, another day my friend Ron came, and yesterday my sister finally came and helped.But she informed he she won't be going over there today or tomorrow because she want's to get her garden in.

It's a huge task becus my mother didn't throw anything out in the 15 years she's lived there.

I have a ton of her artwork already in my dining room, living room and family room. She has well over 300 pieces, and I will deal with disposing of much of that at some later point, when i can investigate possibly selling it as a "lot" like they do at auctions. There are a few other items that would be worth my while to research and sell separately, like the room-sized loom and her 2nd smaller loom. I can possibly advertise to some local weaving group here in CT becus I couldn't ship it. She also a ton of yarns and weaving supplies.

But aside from all that, after my sister and i have largely picked out things we wanted, there is a ton of stuff that has gone or is going to charity. I filled 4 large trash bags with just used VCR tapes and gave toGood Will, which conveniently is about 2 miles down the road. There's also one at my landfill.

I also learned that Habitat for Humanity picks up wood furniture (not upholstered stuff as they have plenty) and I was instructed to take pix of each item I want to donate; then they call to schedule a pick-up time with you. So I'll be taking the pix today of at least a dozen mostly small-sized book shelves, cabinets, chests and trunks which hopefully they'll want so I don't have to pay my handyman to move it.

I will still likely have to pay handyman to move other stuff. Like, she has 2 four drawer high metal file cabinets and it would be too heavy to get down a double flight of stairs, so will have to carry down 8 drawers individually, bring to my house so i have time to sort thru before tossing away most, and then getting him to help me move the file cabinets a 2nd time to dump. Unless Habitat would take the file cabinets after I unloaded them.

I will keep a few select items in the condo for now, for staging purposes, including my mother's bed and headboard, the above-mentioned loom, her leather couch and some of her art on the walls and art supplies.

I haven't even begun to sort through her finished, mainly one-room basement which functioned as a studio and has more art stored.

Please pray for me that I can do all this. Aiming, at least in my head, to get on market in July; that gives me 5 weeks but I'm not sure it's realistic because I still have to go to work! I am taking off 2 days after Memorial Day and 1 week in mid-June, but even then....

I put my mom in assisted living today

May 15th, 2015 at 07:17 pm

It's been a rough couple of days. I think it fair to say this was one of the most difficult periods of my life.

Well, it's been rough all week in fact, starting with Mother's Day last Sunday. We were supposed to go out for lunch but my mother was having heart palpitations and called 911. She got the heart palpitations because apparently she wasn't taking her meds. She had always told me she was, and I believed her.

I took her home Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, she called 911 again, this time for...wait for it...constipation.

This time, the hospital kept her for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. My mother was climbing the walls.

They wouldn't release her to go back home, where she lives alone, because she appeared confused and disoriented and they said it wasn't a safe environment. (Well I would too if I sat around a hospital for 4 days.) But I also agreed with them. They said she needed round the clock care, and again, I agreed, though I have been trying very hard to keep my mother in her home for as long as possible.

But the truth is, I was worrying all the time about her. Worrying about her cracking up her car. Worrying about how so many different people in so many different scenarios could take advantage of her, financially. Worried about her getting depressed and lonely and always anxious because she was trying to hard to keep it together with her million different sticky notes on which she tried to capture and retain her thoughts, but they were a jumble of thoughts.

So I knew, and I guess in a way the trip to the emergency room was an opportunity for me to get her into an assisted living place more easily than going from home, because I could use the doctor's orders as an excuse.

With a sister who is useless and unhelpful, it was all pretty much up to me as to where to put her. I had researched just 2 different places. Masonicare was quite a bit cheaper (about $500 less a month) but it did seem more like a typical nursing home with dated, old-fashioned looking furniture and darkish hallways and not really a whole lot of activity going on. It seemed more about "maintenance" than stimulation.

On the plus side, besides the lower costs, the available room there had a view of a lovely pond with fountain and a walking path around it which I know my mother would enjoy. I was nearly ready to commit to that place, but the guy really did not seem eager to help me get in, at least, not in the way the people at Maplewoods wanted to help me.

Maplewoods was just built this year and it looks like a resort, just gorgeous. All the spaces are light, bright and airy, and each of the 3 memory care floors has its own sun room, large lounge areas with a large flat screen TV and fireplace, books, etc and their own dining room that looks like a classy restaurant, with an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare the food. Each floor also has 2 computer stations where you can use it free.

My mother's studio has a good sized room with small closet and attached bath but no kitchenette. It does, however, have a great view of a pond with fountain and a lovely kidney shaped pool at the upscale condos across the way that was also very recently built.

If after some observation as to her default mental level, it's possible they could move her to a higher functioning floor where she'd have a "kitchenette" in her studio: basically a sink, small fridge and cabinets, but no stove.

My day started at 4 today due to anxiety of my own. At 1 i was at Maplewoods to review and sign the legal paperwork and hand over lots of money. I felt very much the way I felt when purchasing my home; the stress comes from making legal commitments about so much money!

After that, I met my handyman who had agreed to follow me in his truck to my mother's condo to load my mother's 2 dressers, a small but very nice table and chair. I had already made at least 3 trips on my own prior to this earlier in the week, loading up my car with stuff I planned to take to set up in my mother's new room and trying to empty out the fridge so it wouldn't smell and I could pull the plug.
Mostly I took her art because I knew that would be comforting to see on the walls, but of course I also grabbed clothing, shoes, some of her jewelery, toiletries, etc.

The Maplewood people said the kindest thing would be to tell my mother a white lie, that the doctor said it wasn't safe for her to live alone (true) and that her stay there was "temporary (not true).

My mother saw right through it and was angry and talking about people telling lies, etc. Very, very upset, with them and me. I was so emotionally drained by it all that I just dissolved into tears, and then she asked why I was crying and I said it was becus i didn't like to see her so upset. This distracted her from the reason why she was upset and about a half hour later, she calmed down and I walked her down the hall to her room, which was now pretty well stocked with her stuff. We knew she would be startled to see all her stuff there. I smiled inwardly because her very first comment was, I did a good job hanging the art. Then I said I was starving and did she want to check out the "restaurant" and we had a very nice dinner there together with no other residents around. By the time I walked back to her room with her, she was pretty calm and peaceful, we hugged a few times and I left and said I'd be back tomorrow.

I am so grateful and appreciative for the support my friends have shown me. My handyman saw what I was going through and said he didn't want to charge me anything and said he would take $20, but I gave him $35; he should have really gotten $75 for his 3 hours with me.

And my friend Ron told me he'd come up tomorrow and drive me over to my mother's old condo so I can drive her old Subaru home and more easily sell it. I'll be lucky to get $1,000; it's a '96 Legacy wagon. And we can stuff his SUV with more stuff for my mom or just more art I want to take, and then we'll visit my mother on the way back. She will be so happy to see him; she knows him from when we were dating in my 20s, so he's like an old family friend. His mother died of Alzheimer's so he knows what that's about.

Billy the handyman has agreed tentatively to make another trip to my mother's next week with me to load up stuff in his truck, whether to take to the dump like the queen bed or to just take the good stuff, like the art; most of the furniture is old and junky and not worth keeping but I will at least look into having a professional tag sale company price and try to sell it for a little extra cash.

I also ordered a new twin mattress, frame and headboard that will be delivered to maplewoods on Wednesday; right now she has a bed on loan from them.

After I clear EVERYTHING out of there, and that will be a while, I plan to have all the walls painted first. Then I'll have them rip out all the disgusting old carpeting and new neutral carpeting put in its place. If this doesn't exceed $10,000, I'd like to also replace 2 rickety old ceiling fans as well as the equally old 3 faucets in kitchen and baths. That is all I will do to update and then I will plan to put on market next spring.

I feel a little under the gun to do this quickly because the money from the sale of the condo, probably around $150,000, will be used to pay for my mother's very steep rent at the assisted living place ($5800 a month). Yes, you read that right. Comes out to $69,600 a year. If she deteriorates further and the level of care intensifies, the cost will rise even further, and i can also count on a 4 or 5% increase every year, she said.

Interestingly, they said the average age upon admittance was 86 (much older than I thought) although there are some people in their 60s there. (Sad.) And the average stay there is just 2 years. My mother is 80, so who knows how long she'll last, but the woman also said she didn't think my mother would run out as I feared; she said that in her 15 years in the business, she'd only had about 15 families who had to leave with their parent because they ran out of money. Usually, the resident died of Alzheimer-related illness or other causes. This actually makes me feel better becus I don't want to have to transfer my mother to a nursing home.

The monthly "rent" includes three meals a day plus snacks anytime, and the chef there is excellent. It really is restaurant quality food.

My mother was doing a little drawing in the hospital and I would like to find some sketch pad at her place to bring over, with some pencils. I wasn't sure my mother was capable of still creating art but at least she was drawing, and enjoying it.

By moving her there, she should have 4.5 to 5 good years before the money runs out. If she is still alive at 85, then I will have to put her in a nursing home under Title 19. I hope that doesn't happen. This place is probably the nicest place she's ever lived in and I believe that by removing her from an environment where she was feeling so anxious for so long over "paperwork" she just couldn't let go of, her more simplified life right now will allow her to just relax, let go and enjoy life.

I am exhausted, but in much better spirits than the past 3 days, when I kept second guessing myself and waffling between these 2 facilities. My friend from work assured me that both facilities were the right decision and I did the right thing. And Ron also said, after I told the long story of what I did this week, that I got a lot done in just a few days. I really did, but in the midst of it I felt nearly incapable of reaching a decision, because it came down to do I want to extend my mother's stay in assisted living 6 months longer at Masonicare, due to lower cost, or do I want to go for the place with the better quality of life and stimulating activities so she can make the most of it now while she still can and deal with what happens after that when it comes. Because I am so frugal, I was leaning first toward Masonicare, but when I thought about whether my mother would be happier at Maplewoods, that's what won out.

Feeling pinched

May 10th, 2015 at 05:27 am

Now that I'm back in a salaried f/t position, roughly 98% of my income comes from my job, and given how much time it takes out of my day, I don't have a lot of time left over for side jobs if i want to hustle for a little extra cash.

Which is something I wouldn't mind doing as it seems my expenses have been crazy lately, and I seriously question whether I'll be able to save $11,000 this year in after-tax savings (see my sidebar goals).

I'm already committed to the masonry work on my front entry, but it's quite a chunk of change, $9800. I'm also having a lawn care service take care of mowing my lawn here for the first time; that should come to close to $1,000 by early fall. (They came yesterday for the first time and I was amazed at how quickly 2 guys could mow my front and back...1.5 acres. It took them about 10 minutes, and then another 10 minutes for trimming. Seriously, it would take me 3 hours and sooo much effort to achieve the same thing.

Besides the lawn care and the masonry job, I had big vet bills for Waldo (about $500 so far) which aren't over yet. I've also begun changing their diet plan so it's only 50% cheap canned cat food (aka Friskies and Fancy Feast) and 50% "the good stuff." Currently their preferred brands are Nature's Variety Rabbit and Weruva Steak Frites, but these premium brands are 250% more expensive. A can of Friskies goes for .52 at WalMart but the better brands can go for $2.50 or more for a single can.

So aside from my f/t job, I have retained just a single freelance client who started out with me a few years ago having me edit his emails. (I think he's ADD.) These days I've also been editing copy for his new poker website. But this is very small change and infrequent work.

I also very occasionally get some income from class action lawsuits. There's a website/newsletter you can sign up to get and it consolidates all the current lawsuits. Just the other day I got a check in the mail for $15 for the Truvia lawsuit. If you qualify and have purchased the product, all you usually have to do is fill out a claim form.

I also still participate in 3 online forums, for credit cards and AARP, answering simple surveys or commenting on something or other, so I can get $30 a month in Amazon gift cards. Of course, this is not really income in that I have to spend these rewards on Amazon merchandise.

Realistically, I just can't free up any time to, say, sell more perennials on Craig's List or something. The best course of action is to continue to tone down my spending again, which I admit got a little too much with all the stuff I've bought with discretionary money. Dishes from Williams-Sonoma, a silly Choo dynasty dog from One Kings Lane, gemstone jewelry from HSN, clothes from Macy's and Kohl's, a large canvas image of a horse in snow, a stock pot. These are the many ways I have largely wasted my money. Not that most of these don't give me pleasure, but many were ridiculously priced. (In fairness, the choo dynasty ceramic dog ended up being free because it was part of a pair of dogs and one of them arrived broken when delivered, so they issued me a credit and let me keep the one. The dishes from Williams-Sonoma were purchased using some of my $250 in gift cards I earned as wellness incentives from Cigna for getting my physical and so on.)

Today being Mother's Day, I'm taking my mother out to lunch and then maybe we'll stop at Whole Foods. I redeemed some of my wellness incentives from Cigna for a $35 gift card for Red Lobster, so that's where we're going. Before and after the lunch, I hope to get some more yard work done.

I had a yard of black mulch delivered and dumped in my driveway, so I began yesterday spreading it around my many perennial beds. I should have gotten 2 yards, but oh well. Yes, I can order it again but there's a hefty delivery charge which should have encouraged me to get more in a single delivery. There is SO much work to do in my yard, even without the lawn mowing. I have less time for it now, and less energy. And maybe less interest, too.

Lately I'd been thinking that maybe I could "age in place" here without having to move to a condo. This house has everything I need except that it's got somewhat more space than I need (more heating costs, more cleaning, etc.) and definitely way too much land to maintain). But if I'm honest, I'll admit it's still a better strategy to sell and move. It's just the thought of everything that would have to be done to prepare for a sale is so draining to think about. I AM getting a few things done, like the front walkway, but it's very slow-going. I should get out my punch list again and try to get some more things targeted for doing.

So here it is May, and I have yet to do ANYTHING from my goals list #2. Well, I did go to one Alzheimer's meeting but that's it.

This week there is a historical club meeting AND a genealogy club meeting and I really want to GO.

Waldo seems to be doing pretty well on his twice a day pill routine. Thank God for pill pockets. If I remember days of yore when I had to coat a pill in slippery butter and then get it down my cat's throat, well, it wasn't easy for me OR the cat. Pill pockets make what could be a real hassle to a treat for kitty. There is the next vet visit for another blood draw next weekend. That will really tell whether the meds are working, working too much and/or whether there is any underlying kidney disease, which i guess is somewhat common from what I've read about an overactive thyroid "masking" underlying kidney disease. Well, one day at a time.

Waldo ailing but pulling through

May 7th, 2015 at 05:09 pm

Waldo was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. I started him on meds and he seems to be doing well, but I have to bring him back in 2 weeks for another check of his blood to make sure we don't over-correct the thyroid, because that can cause problems in itself.

I had been sure he had kidney disease because the symptoms for both are so similar: drinking a lot of water, peeing a lot, losing weight, lethargy.

On top of that, the vet also told me he had an injury to his back foot. I knew he had arthritis in his back legs and was having trouble jumping up or down as a result. But she said he injured his knee and it can only be corrected by surgery, which I won't put him through at his senior age of 14.

The bill for the complete exam, bloodwork and meds came to......$500.

Mainly because this is a 24-hour, 7 day a week vet. I chose to go there becus while this wasn't really an emergency, they don't require appointments and I have trouble keeping to an appointment becus I sometimes have trouble capturing Waldo when it's time to put him the carrier. Also, they are a mile away from me so it was super convenient to go there after work.

I did talk them into a $50 refund for the urinalysis because she was unable to collect the urine while he was there and I didn't collect it at home either.

I will have to take him to my regular vet for the followup in 2 weeks; I don't bring the cats to any vet "regularly," but this was the vet who saw him when he lived at the cat shelter.

I started physical therapy because I still have 3 numb toes after pulling a hamstring last September. After the first session earlier this week, it really seemed like I had 4 numb toes; all the stretching exercises seemed to worsen things. I spoke to them about it and they said skip the at-home exercises for now. But since I'll be returning tomorrow at 5:15 p.m., I got the ok from my boss to work from home tomorrow. Nirvana.


The Famous Hooked Toes - Waldo's a cat who likes to feel anchored.


A closer look...


Just hanging out with mom.

Spring has sprung. All is beautiful in Connecticut.