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Archive for June, 2015

What? Halfway through summer, already??

June 30th, 2015 at 06:39 pm

I'm looking forward to a 4-day holiday weekend (Friday through Monday).

I will be kept busy.

Friday, especially. Friday is the day the weaver from PA is coming with her husband to disassemble and buy my mother's large loom. Later, another carpet guy is coming over to measure the 2nd staircase and bring some carpet samples; hopefully, their prices will be reasonable enough, or not over $400, to do the stairs, but who knows.

I'll fill my car again with stuff from the lower level, get a pair of movie tickets as a thank you to the very kind neighbors who have visited her several times and helped me out in other ways, and do some other things.

I hope to get some real yard work done, have a friend over for a beer and to admire my new entry stairs, catch a movie with another friend and take my mother out somewhere. If I can get my handyman to install the new vinyl treads on my basement stairs (long deferred), I'd be a happy woman.

At some point (no rush now) I will want to borrow my dad's pick-up, hopefully for the last time, so I can load some largish matted art pieces from my mother's basement studio, along with 5 folding tables. Come to think of it, if I borrowed my dad's truck this weekend, I could really use 1 or 2 of those tables in my dining room so that I could at least get the trash bags filled with yarns up off the floor and better displayed for eventual sale. I may just make time to do that, I think, this weekend.

My 3rd and final ad just posted tonight on the weavers' guild website with the yarn prices and photos. Crossing my fingers I get some takers because I have such a vast quantity it would be a shame to not make any money at all on it.

Not much interest in my mother's sewing table, machine and all the drawers filled with supplies. I guess people just don't sew these days. The original price was $200. My grandfather made that table 50 years ago and it is in perfect condition and very well made. I dropped the price twice and had one woman who, when i had it priced at $80, asked if she could have it for $60. I told her I already lowered the price twice and now she says she wants it at $80, but after talking to my friend at work, she encouraged me to just keep it and look into having my handyman/carpenter make a piece of wood perfectly fit in the hole where the sewing machine goes and use it as another desk/storage. It's a pretty little cabinet and I may hold onto it and do that as I feel I'm being robbed to let it go at $80. Some things are more important than money, and $80 would keep my mother in assisted living for exactly 10.8 hours longer.

Tomorrow I will talk to the realtor to catch up with where we stand. There haven't been that many showings yet although they did one condo open house for realtors and the regular open house for realtors showing is tomorrow. After that she'll do a public open house on July 5, this Sunday.

I finally finished watching the entire series of The Sopranos, from start to finish. I had seen part of it years back but missed most of the middle and the finale. Hated the finale...so indefinite. Amazing how much analysis I found online about that final episode, people likening it to The Last Supper and finding all sorts of clues pointing to not only Tony's death, but the death of Carmella and AJ. Meadow supposedly survived.

Empire Today's sleazy sales tactics

June 27th, 2015 at 04:29 am

You've all seen the commercials with the catchy little jingle, I'm sure. Buy 2 rooms, get a 2nd one free.

Well, I'm not going to talk about that promo, but I will tell you I think their sales tactics are pretty sleazy.

I had them carpet my mother's condo. The sales guy took the measurements, and amid everything going on, I overlooked a second staircase that leads to a finished basement.

The new carpeting looks great, although I wasn't thrilled about a few things that happened. Like, without asking me if it was okay, the carpet guys were throwing large rolled up pieces of the old carpet out my mother's 2nd floor window onto the sidewalk below. Umm, someone lives in the unit below and you could knock someone to the ground that way. Not to mention there were assorted flower pots on the stairs.

They also didn't bother to vacuum the unit after removing the old carpeting. They just started right in installing the padding.

The next surprise was when the carpet guy, whose English I couldn't understand, let it be known to me that he couldn't cut the carpet inside the condo becus there wasn't enough room. And that he couldn't cut outside becus it was raining. So they up and left.

They returned the next day and true to his word, he lay brand new carpeting on the filthy dirty parking lot asphalt and cut it there, then rolled it up and brought it inside the condo.

They did agree to give me a $100 credit for the inconvenience of having them come back the 2nd day. Luckily I had taken vacation time, but what if I hadn't??

The day after that is when i realized I should have carpeted the 2nd staircase going down to the lower level. Empire came back to measure and told me the price would be $381 plus a $60 "add-on" fee.

The current carpeting is disgusting and needs to go. One thing that had caused me to delay in this was the realtor's comment that i should probably check first with the management company to make sure the space wasn't considered public space, since the staircase is also used by the adjacent condo owner for access to their own finished basement.

The next day I was in touch with Empire and asked him to remind me what that add-on fee was. (I knew what it was.) He told me $65, but that I had to commit to doing the job that day.

In the meantime, management told me go ahead and carpet it but try asking the next door owner to split the cost. I left a note in his mailbox saying I'd pay for the whole thing but could he provide access/open his doors when the installers were there so they could install properly. Never heard back and told Empire the same.

About 5 days later, I decided to forge ahead without the neighbor's assistance and called Empire back.

He said it could no longer be considered an "add-on" and that the minimum cost was usually $750 but he could "probably" get it down to $500.

I never talked to him again.

Progress

June 26th, 2015 at 05:55 pm

So the condo listed a week ago today, and yesterday we had our first lookers. Their realtor said it showed well for the price.

Today was the realtor "condo caravan" for the city where the condo is located. One realtor said they may have a client who would be interested in it.

I believe next week the condo goes on the regular realtor open house tour.

After that, I'll press for a public open house.

I have not heard from the estate liquidator guy who came with his wife, the fine art expert, to peruse my mother's art. I have a feeling this is a dead end; I don't think they really know what they're doing, nor do they have any specific art dealer contacts.

Tomorrow a longtime weaver is coming over to look at the yarn supply and help me value them. That will enable me to post them for sale on various websites. There are so many different kinds, made of different materials (acrylic, cotton, wool, silk, chenille, etc) that I really need an expert's eye.

After she leaves I will embark on a busy day of things to do which include stopping at the condo and possibly recaulking the bath tub, continuing to clean out the lower level and visiting mom. Also getting a pair of movie tickets as a thank you to the neighbors who have visited my mom several times and helped me in various ways.

Sunday will be a rainy day so will plan to try to tidy up around here instead of working in the garden as I'd hoped. I can also get busy posting the yarn for sale ads. One of these ads will go on the CT Hand Weavers Guild site; I bartered for this ad and the prior two. If people lived close enough to me, they could come to my house or meet me halfway; otherwise, I've have to deal with shipping.

I can't go back to Empire Today for the carpeting of the 2nd staircase, which I'd overlooked when I had the rest of the place done. When I first asked him if we could do it after the rest of the place had been done, he mentioned a $60 fee; the next day when I asked how much was that fee (I knew what he said but wanted to test to see how honest he was), he said $65. A week later, after I'd mulled it over, I said I wanted to proceed but now he said the lowest price was usually $750 but he could "probably get it down to $500." This after the price started at $381 + the $60. So screw them.

Having worked all week my progress on other mom-related things was slow.

The slider doors were installed; I am trying to get a full refund of the $175 estimate instead of half that amount, which is what they usually do. Of course, I'm trying to get the full refund after I already paid for the job, so I don't have much leverage. I can post about it on Angie's LIst though.

Views of my new entryway!

June 20th, 2015 at 01:36 pm

I finally figured out that if I manually type in the code for photos instead of simply copying and pasting, the photos will appear in my post.

Here, then, are some before and after pictures of my front entry.

The Before:
I dug up this old picture of the staircase. Note how dark and narrow the stairs are. Not exactly inviting, is it? I think this old staircase really dated the house, which would otherwise appear to be a much newer home, thanks to the vinyl siding I put on in 2012.


My goal was to widen the stairs from 3 feet to 4.5 feet, make them less steep and rebuild the retaining walls which had large cracks in them and ugly concrete. Overall, I wanted to make the first impression of my home more welcoming and inviting.

This is what it looked like at the end of day 1 reconstruction:


The After:
Here's the finished look, standing in the driveway:

Notice how I immediately put some potted plants on the steps.

This view shows how they extended the stone facade about a foot and a half back (on left) to where the stone wall meets the garage. Prior to this, there was a funny looking strip of cement wall showing to left of stone wall.


At the top of the stairs, I had them create an 8-foot circle of pavers. It's a nice design element, I think.

If there was one teeny thing I was a little disappointed in, it's the somewhat washed out color of the pavers. I had seen photos online of a more multi-colored set of pavers, which I liked a lot. These do show some gray and reds, but I wanted something a bit more noticeable.

This is another view of the landing at top, looking down the stairs. You can see where I already began replanting the sedums I'd dug up to make way for the widened staircase. I mulched it last night.


Overall, I'm very happy with the finished product. The firm I hired, found through Angie's List, was a father and son team. Their crew was Macedonians + 1 Croatian, where I guess they got their stonework skills. The 4 workmen were all over 50, interestingly, and worked very hard.

Moms condo - listed!

June 20th, 2015 at 05:53 am

After 5 weeks of very hard work and 6 lbs. lighter, my mother's condo was listed yesterday.

I raised the price by $3,000 but am offering $3,000 toward closing costs. The net result is the same except that while buyers can finance whatever amount of money they need (in keeping with income, of course), they often seem to have trouble coming up with upfront costs like deposit and closing costs. So this could help motivate some buyers, and this is a starter condo community.

The main living area looks great, with just a few key pieces of furniture (bed, couch, coffee table, loom) for staging purposes. The new carpeting makes a world of difference.

This Tuesday a new slider door unit will be installed in finished basement, which is the one part that is still being cleaned out and looks rather a mess. Once the slider doors are in, I'll also get new carpeting for the 2nd staircase, which I overlooked when i got the carpeting for the main living area.

Another wierd thing about that staircase. It's shared with one adjacent neighbor, whose unit is the same as my mother's, with the shared staircase leading down to their finished basement and my mother's.

So to replace the carpeting on those stairs, "technically," i would need that neighbor to open up their 2 doors (at top and bottom) so installers can secure the carpeting under the door (not just squeeze it under). When the carpet sales guy was there with me, he thought the neighbor's unit was my mother's unit and accidentally opened the neighbor's door to their finished basement. It was locked but he just pushed it open. I tried it later myself and it did the same thing.

I had put a note in neighbor's mailbox saying i was willing to pay the $400 for new stair carpeting but could he find a way to open up the doors for installer or possibly have a neighbor do it if he was working.

I never heard back from the neighbor, and another neighbor said he hadn't been around lately. So I'm tempted to just push open the door like I did before and have installer quickly do his thing, then close the door. Don't know if the door at top of stairs would also open, but if it didn't, I would just ask installer to give me the tacks and strip or whatever he uses to secure it and I would keep it in case neighbor asked.

I mean, I need to sell my mother's place and it seems stupid to allow a filthy dirty carpeting remain in place just becus a neighbor doesn't respond to me. If I had to, I would just have installer install and squeeze it under the door and give him the tacks to secure himself later. Who could object to that?

Yesterday I dropped another load of wood frame supplies to the local middle school as a donation. I was next going to haul over all the glass panes that went with those frames, but the art teacher said they couldn't take it cus glass breaks and kids are always bumping into things.

I will have to make some other phone calls on the glass then.

In my "spare" time, usually in the evening, I've been shredding my mother's old bills from circa 2002.

The buyer from PA who is buying my mother's 2nd loom, the big one, also wants to get the "beater" for $45. I have listed an assortment of weaving supplies on a CT weaver's guild website. So that's great, and she's coming July 3 to pick up.

On the yarn front, the place in Tennessee I found online that buys yarns was only interested in lighter weight or "novelty" yarns. Which I have, but then she told me they only pay $1 a pound and she would pay shipping. You can imagine how much yarn it would take to get to a pound. I might as well give it away at that price. I think I'll do better to advertise it piecemeal locally, and let people periodically come to the house and pick what they want.

Now that the condo is listed, I can take a breather and try to catch up on my own stuff. Thank god i have someone mowing my lawn for me this year. I went to Costco yesterday using my mother's membership card. I also began replanting the sedums and daffodil bulbs I'd dug up to make way for the masons to widen my staircase (see earlier post).

Today I'd like to weed and then finish mulching my veggie garden before it becomes engulfed in weeds. And I'm folding laundry right now.

A friend may come down for lunch and a visit tomorrow. Was going to see Dad for father's day, but he informed me he'll be down on the Jersey shore, taking care of his own house sale business.

I will probably go back to the condo today to keep emptying out that lower room because once I go back to my regular work schedule Monday, progress on that room will be limited to weekends only, and I don't want many visitors to see that mess, even if it is an "artistic" mess.

Views of my new entryway!

June 20th, 2015 at 04:39 am

I finally figured out that if I manually type in the code for photos instead of simply copying and pasting, the photos will appear in my post.

Here, then, are some before and after pictures of my front entry.

The Before:
I dug up this old picture of the staircase. Note how dark and narrow the stairs are. Not exactly inviting, is it? I think this old staircase really dated the house, which would otherwise appear to be a much newer home, thanks to the vinyl siding I put on in 2012.


My goal was to widen the stairs from 3 feet to 4.5 feet, make them less steep and rebuild the retaining walls which had large cracks in them and ugly concrete. Overall, I wanted to make the first impression of my home more welcoming and inviting.

This is what it looked like at the end of day 1 reconstruction:


The After:
Here's the finished look, standing in the driveway:

Notice how I immediately put some potted plants on the steps.

This view shows how they extended the stone facade about a foot and a half back (on left) to where the stone wall meets the garage. Prior to this, there was a funny looking strip of cement wall showing to left of stone wall.


At the top of the stairs, I had them create an 8-foot circle of pavers. It's a nice design element, I think.

If there was one teeny thing I was a little disappointed in, it's the somewhat washed out color of the pavers. I had seen photos online of a more multi-colored set of pavers, which I liked a lot. These do show some gray and reds, but I wanted something a bit more noticeable.

This is another view of the landing at top, looking down the stairs. You can see where I already began replanting the sedums I'd dug up to make way for the widened staircase. I mulched it last night.


Overall, I'm very happy with the finished product. The firm I hired, found through Angie's List, was a father and son team. Their crew was Macedonians + 1 Croatian, where I guess they got their stonework skills. The 4 workmen were all over 50, interestingly, and worked very hard.

Done, nearly done and scheduled

June 18th, 2015 at 03:58 am

Done: The carpeting is in. I have to say they finished product looks great. He did a good job measuring and cutting, as far as I can tell. So while I actually took photos from the unit of them outside cutting the carpeting on the filthy dirty parking lot, I probably won't bother pursuing the matter. Now if I can only get rid of that awful chemical smell.

Nearly done: My new entry way is looking GREAT. The stairs are done, as is the extension of stonework to the foundation of my house. The stairs are super wide now (4.5 ft) with beautiful stone walls on either side and seem like they're more in scale with the dimensions of the house. Instead of a narrow, dark and somewhat cavernous steep staircase, the new staircase seems more fitting for a front entry way, and more welcoming.

All they have left to do is the paver circle landing at the top; he had also said he would repair loose mortar joints in the landing directly in front of the front door, and I will remind him of that.

It was quite a bit of money, but I'm so happy with the results. Now I'll never want to leave here! I'd like to share photos here, but so far I've been unable to post them.

Scheduled: The replacement of slider doors in finished basement. The guy had come over last Friday to take measurements and told me to call on Monday for the price. Well, I called on Monday, still not ready; called on Tuesday, still not ready. Finally, on Wednesday, they told me the guy who took the measurements left the company, which I guess accounted for some of the delay.

Because I was able to get contractor #2 to install the door I picked out at Lowes, I was able to save $1250 compared to contractor #1, who said they only installed certain brands. The labor both were charging was about the same, $1100 vs $1,000. So yes, it was a cheapie set of doors at Lowes, at $300 (!), but it actually got 4 star reviews, and since the place will be sold, I don't really care about how it holds up over the long term and I didn't get it with Argon gas inside.

The wanted to install this Tuesday, which would be great except that I'll be back at work at that point and it won't look good if I return after a week away from work and announce I need to take off Tuesday. So on Tuesday at 8 a.m. I'll meet the contractor at the condo to open the place up. I will give them the 2 keys needed to lock up and they will return the keys to my mother's neighbor, a few doors down. I will get them from him next time I go over there.

So much in the way of logistics, not to mention making sure Lowes knows someone other than me is picking up the door, giving them the guy's name, etc.

Yesterday I was back at the condo. I cleaned the floor and counter of the half bath. As before, I was down on my hands and knees (with a gardening cushion, what a lifesaver) scrubbing the black stuff off the joints between the tiles) but it seemed to go much faster than scrubbing the linoleum floor in the kitchen.

Onto the master bath. I also scrubbed this floor, washed down the counter and the mirror and the bath tub. The tiles in the shower surround, however, look terrible. There is some mildew/mold that just wouldn't come off, but I notice some of the tiles really need regrouting; there are some holes are gaps where there is no grout at all.

So I think I'll try my hand at regrouting. I think it's fairly easy. After cleaning anything loose, press the grout into the grooves with a spatula-type object, than use a washcloth or rag to clean any grout off the tiles. Any other tips on this, fellow do-it-yourselfers? Also, anyone know how to make an old, dull bath tub (ceramic) shine?

I have to also leave the disclosure form for the realtor today, at the condo. It's a form required for any CT real estate transactions where you disclose any known major defects. Because I'm not the resident there, my realtor's attorney advised that I might want to just check "Unknown" for every item on the list down the line. My realtor had told me earlier that buyers may be suspicious if they see "Unknown" checked, but I think if it's explained that a daughter is selling a parent's home they might understand.

Yesterday I also donated a car full of frames, matts and photo frames of my mother's to the local middle school here. A custodian there helped me load everything into a cart, an art teacher stopped by to see what the goodies were, and they were both very appreciative. I had original plans to donate to the local Montessori school and had already set that up with a woman there who said call before you come. But when I called and asked if someone could help me unload my car, she seemed annoyed and changed her mind, saying it wasn't a good time for me to donate, they had art camp going on, that no one could help me, and when I asked how far a distance I would need to carry stuff, she changed her mind entirely, saying she didn't want the stuff. I thought she was really unpleasant.

I also went to the dump yesterday and got rid of a pile of stuff. I also dropped off a few extra parts to the small loom I sold to the realtor who bought them, at her office.

In between all this I managed to shred some health insurance paperwork and other items with my mother's Social Security number onf them, going back to 2002.

At day's end, when i was reading my emails, I found a brief note from my sister informing me that my mother was back in the hospital with pneumonia.

I had called and left a message for a nurse at the assisted living place 2 days prior after my mother's neighbor told me he'd visited her and during his visit she began having trouble breathing, wasn't sure if it was an anxiety attack or allergies. So I called the nurse, she never called back and next thing I know, 2 days later, she has pneumonia.

I spoke to her on the phone last night, and the nurse at hospital, who said she's doing much better and is on antibiotics but it sounds like she'll be there several days longer.

A surprise success, and an unexpected bump in road

June 15th, 2015 at 04:12 pm

My day started at 7:30 a.m. with a phone call from Empire Today, telling me the carpet guys would be at the condo between 9 and 11 a.m.

It was 2 very young guys whose English was not so good. I told the lead guy I'd be working in the kitchen while they did their work. Before I knew it, they were throwing cut up sections of carpet out the window to the sidewalk below.

I had to tell them to STOP since someone lives in the unit below and what if they walked out and got hit in the head? Or they hit the planters/pots on his steps?

They worked very fast, and before I knew it, they had installed new padding in most of the condo. Without bothering to vaccuum, which was spelled out somewhere in something I read, about how Empire works. I mean, I could feel the grit on the floor with my hands. I may not be living there, but the idea of putting brand new carpeting down on dirt just turns me off.

I told them to vacuum and not take shortcuts.

Next thing I knew, he was on the phone with his boss and was telling him there wasn't enough space inside the condo to cut the carpet rolls and so he had to do it outside, and he couldn't because it was raining. So they left.

I have never heard of such a thing. The need to cut carpeting outside. I mean, the parking lot is filthy dirty. It's very upsetting to me. I spoke to his manager, and then his manager's manager; they gave me a$100 credit due to the inconvenience of having them come back again tomorrow, but frankly, I'm still feeling nervous about the way this will all turn out.

The other issue, apparently, was that the carpeting came in 2 big rolls and the lead guy told his boss it was too heavy for them to carry it up the stairs. Well, they knew there were stairs since they will be carpeting them, too, so why didn't they send 3 people then?

Unfortunately, to add to my carpet issues, there is a 2nd staircase leading down to the finished bonus room that I overlooked when I had the sales guy here initially to measure. I had called Empire last Friday to see if I could add this staircase on and the sales guy said he'd come over today, which he did. Price: $381, but if I don't have it done tomorrow, when the installers return, there'd be an extra $60 charge cus it's a small job.

That would be fine except that this staircase is a shared staircase also used by the owners of the adjacent unit which they use to get to their own finished basement room. The carpet on the stairs is filthy dirty and I'm sure they'd love to see it replaced, except i need them to open the 2 doors so installers can install it correctly. They work during the day but i left them a note in their mailbox tonight asking if they could make themselves available to permit access. I doubt they'd be able to but perhaps if they know the friendly other neighbor, Barry, who is retired, he could open the door for us? Only problem, I forgot to say in my note that I must have it done tomorrow if I'm to avoid the extra fee. I have a feeling that won't happen. I guess for now I'll let it go; this is all just too much for me to handle right now.

After the unexpected carpet job left undone (they just removed the old and put padding down partially until I complained about the no vaccuuming), they left around noon. I had already agreed to meet the salesguy at the condo for the estimate for the 2nd staircase, and he finally showed up around 2. In the meantime, I finished cleaning the rest of the kitchen floor. Looks SO much better, but I think I'd better wax it now before dirt gets into all those little pits again. I also cleaned the fridge, inside and out, and use a little toothbrush to get in the crevices along the seam of the countertops and backsplash. Tedious work, but looks better.

I hope to clean and polish the wood cabinets tomorrow and the countertops and then I'm done with the kitchen. Next stop: Bathrooms.

Once the sales guy left, though, I wanted to salvage the rest of my day and get some other stuff done.

I ran over to the AAA office to renew my driver's license, something that would be difficult to once I'm back to work. I regret not being able to get a "verified" license but I didn't have time to grab my birth certificate when I headed out the door.

After that I drove 30 minutes in the other direction to return my mother's pool key to condo management. They had said I could mail it to them, but since there's a $200 fee for "lost" keys, I didn't want to chance losing it in the mail, so I dropped it off in person and got a receipt.

After that I came home and finally had time to make a simple lunch around 3:30 p.m.

Immediately after that, I checked my email and happily found an email from someone who lives in PA but who very much wants to buy my mother's large loom, for $200. She's a longtime weaver and is comfortable dismantling it, and her husband will be with her to help. We agreed on a date 2 weeks from now and I should have the day off as it's the Friday before July 4.

I'm sure she's excited becus the price is very low, and I know my mother paid over $3,000 for it35 years ago. However, I went with the advice given to me my the retired doctor who said the larger tapestry looms are hard to sell becus they're not portable and not many weavers are doing tapestries these days. (The smaller portable loom of my mother's, on the other hand, sold for $700.)

I'm happy to be able to dispose of it so quickly. I had considered the possibility of not being able to sell it at all and having to get it out of the condo quickly if the condo sells.

I also needed to address 3 emails from this doctor who volunteers with the CT hand weavers guild, thru which both of these looms were sold. She will also post another ad for me with all the miscellaneous weaving supplies and yarns, so we've been trading lots of emails. I've needed her help to identify most of these parts since they are all very specialized, and we've both been checking weaving websites for ideas on pricing, generally pricing my used stuff for half what they go for new. And I haven't had to pay anything for the ads as this same woman was here last weekend to pick out a bag of yarns as payment.

Now my day is winding down and I am wiped out, as usual. I was very frustrated about the unexpected aborted carpet install and do hope they get it done tomorrow. There will be thunderstorms around 1 p.m., so she they should be able to cut the carpet outside before then. I hope to god they don't drag in dirt with it.

I plan to take photos of the guy when he cuts it outside and quite possibly using them in a complaint to the company. I shouldn't have to be worrying now about a dirty brand new carpet and i also didn't like him throwing carpeting out the window like some construction job site nor did i appreciate him skipping the vaccuuming, which he can only do partially now since the padding is down. With all these issues, it is doubly frustrating having a language barrier.

Deep Cleaning the Kitchen

June 15th, 2015 at 04:41 am

Yesterday I arrived at my mother's condo at about 10 a.m. I knew I had 3 hours to do some deep cleaning there, before I went to visit my mother at assisted living.

I thought perhaps I could finish up the kitchen in that time, and I had it in my head that I would start with the floor. Well, I spent 2.5 hours SCRUBBING it with a brush and just using hot water and dish detergent. It is covered with pit marks which trap dirt, giving the overall appearance of lots of black dirt spots.

So in 2.5 hours of constant scrubbing, no breaks, I managed to clean HALF of the kitchen floor. It really took a lot of elbow grease to get the dirt off, but oh, does it look like new now! I can't imagine that a professional cleaning crew would spend as much time on that floor as I did, or if they did, I guess I'd be paying more than I expected.

If anyone has any nifty tips for cleaning kitchen counters or wood cabinets, please let me know. I was going to try full strength vinegar on the laminate counters and try to somehow clean the cabinets first before using a wood polish on them. There's a stainless steel sink and chrome fixtures too. And the fridge to do.

Today the carpet guys are coming between 9 and 11 so I will be there at 9 and will continue working on the floor while they work. Hopefully, I won't be in their way.

After working on the floor yesterday, I went to get my mother. I took her to Shakespeare's Garden a lovely garden nursery where they have lots of interesting planters in unexpected objects. Most of all she enjoyed the laid back cat lying on the counter of the gift shop.

After that I took her to a photography exhibit at local library, and then we went to a veggie juice bar where she had a mango/coconut drink and I had beets and pomegranate.

She still talks about going back home, which makes me feel guilty as hell, because I'm making lots of decisions disposing of her stuff which are irreversible.

I feel like I've taken away everything that was precious and meaningful to her, but simply put, she couldn't take all her belongings with her to assisted living.

Holding onto her stuff indefinitely is really problematic, as my house right now is filled with it and I have narrow little passages to get from one room to the other. I could rent a bin somewhere, but then how long would I keep it? And I don't need any more bills!

What's most important are her relationships with friends and family, and I am doing my best to see her regularly, take her out on little day trips and encourage the staff to keep her engaged. It's a lot of responsibility for one person and once again I must point out my sister's lack of involvement is something I just can't forgive. I suppose we are all flawed human beings, in one way or another.

I sent an email to staff at assisted living with a link to a local place that lets groups visit their llama and goat farm. My mother would like that. I would take her myself, but it appears they're only open to groups, and they did mention senior citizen groups on their site.

The Guilt

June 14th, 2015 at 04:30 am

I've been working hard these past 4 weeks, cleaning out my mother's condo and getting ready to sell it. At the same time, I'm managing her bills, her finances and trying to ensure she's as comfortable as can be.

When I first moved her in there, I was visiting nearly every day, or every other day; gradually, this lessened to just the weekends because, quite frankly, I need all the time I can get to accomplish the above. I'm also still working f/t.

Part of what's driving me to work so hard is fear and guilt. Two unhealthy emotions.

Fear that if I don't get it on the market very soon it has less chance of being sold to families with kids who want to be settled in before back-to-school time. Fear that if it doesn't sell by Labor Day, I'll be stuck paying taxes, common charges and electric all winter and then some, draining my mother's resources. Fear that my mother will still be around when the money runs out, in about 4.5 years from now. Fear that I'll have to put her in a nursing home and she'll be miserable and unhappy.

To be brutally honest, I would rather my mother passed before that happened. People have told me that as the Alzheimer's progresses, she'll be less aware of her surroundings anyway, but I don't know.

And then there's the guilt.

Yes, my mother can hardly finish a single sentence due to memory loss. But she can still express her thoughts pretty well, and what she is saying to me with some regularity is that she doesn't like it where she is. I had a sit-down with some staff there last week and said my mother needed to be more engaged and stimulated, so now, she says, they are trying to get her to "talk about my art" in group settings. But my mother doesn't really want to talk about it, particularly (although she loves compliments and praise of her work), but she wants to create, and that's not something you do in a group setting. (Altho another time, she acknowledged NOT having created any art lately, because, she said, "I don't always feel like it." I wonder if the Alzheimer's is affecting her artistic abilities.)

Everything at this place is done in a group, because of course it's more efficient that way and they probably don't have the resources to do things individually with people.

My mother says she doesn't have any friends there, that they're all "a little crazy" and they all look like they're in their 90s and use walkers and it's all depressing to her. My mother has no physical infirmities and is very spry for her age of 81.

She complains about her lack of privacy. People who come in to clean her room just walk right in, sometimes when she's half-dressed, and they don't knock. This pisses me off. What's worse, my mother told me the cleaning person was "reorganizing her dresser drawers" and even my mother knew they shouldn't be doing that. Maybe the person was nosy and wanted to see what she had, so they pretended to be "organizing" when they need no organizing.

I have already emailed one of the directors over there about this.

My guilt comes from knowing I have plucked my mother from her home and dropped her in this facility, believing it was the right thing to do, but I have exchanged one set of concerns with another set, and there is a void here that needs to be filled.

Living alone, my mother was overwhelmed with the tasks of everyday living, I think. Even though I was managing most of the bills, she still fought very hard to stay on top of her finances and kept asking me for an accounting, and then the questions never stopped because no matter how much I explained, she didn't understand. Issues started popping up when fairly typical repairs or maintenance need to be done around her condo, and I needed to step in more and more to schedule repairs. But even then, when the plumber (or whoever) showed up, she was totally stymied becus it became clear she didn't understand what the plumber was saying. I didn't know if he would recognize her mental challenges and try to rip her off and I could only do so much from a distance, from my workplace where I can't make private phone calls, etc.

In hindsight, I'm pretty sure my mother was also forgetting to take her meds, and that's why she was having the heart palpitations, which the medication was supposed to prevent. I read some warnings on her med that says you have to be weaned off it gradually.

I worried constantly about her still driving her car. Really, really didn't like it.

These are just some of the kinds of things that were happening when my mother lived alone. Whenever I saw or talked to her, she seemed stressed, anxious, lonely, depressed and unhappy. She was always talking about her need to deal with her "paperwork," which, without the bills (which I was paying) really meant the wads of sticky notes she left all around for herself, to capture fleeting thoughts she would soon forget. There were so many sticky notes, she began trying to organize them into little piles, but when I looked at the piles, I saw that none of the sticky notes in any individual pile had any relation to one another, and so if she was ever looking for one of those notes (which she wouldn't becus she wouldn't remember it) she would never find it.

In a way, the paperwork that stressed her so much was her own creation that came from her desire to retain control her life as much as possible at a time when control was becoming harder and harder to hold onto.

So with one fell swoop I moved her to the assisted living place, where she arrived with no paperwork and she is no longer responsible for plumbing repairs, cooking, planning or scheduling much of anything.

Now, she said, it sometimes seems like all she does is go eat a meal and before you know it, it's time for lunch already.

There are all sorts of activities planned, and from what I'm told, she takes part in nearly everything, but my mother has told me after trying these things out, some are "boring," like the hours long shopping trips to local stores where "no one ever buys anything." Or the "corny" cowboy songs some guy was singing to them. Everything's done as a group activity.

The only things my mother said she really likes is whenever a dog is brought to visit (pet therapy), because she is an animal lover, and the exercise classes where they sit around in a circle and have to try to keep several balloons up in the air by batting at them.

My mother likes to go outside but is not allowed to go unless accompanied by a family member (that would be me, my sister has not gone to see her since she was admitted) or a staff person. My mother complained that a staff person was bringing someone else outside and had my mother join them too, but then for some reason they had to bring the other person back in and so they required my mother to return inside the building as well.

I feel bad for my mother becus, Alzheimer's or not, I would react the same way in many of these situations. She talks about returning to live at her condo and driving her car. If she ever learned that her condo is nearly cleaned out, that I have donated many of her belongings to GoodWill, Montessori and Make a Home and that I am about to sell her condo, she would feel utterly betrayed by the person she is closest to. This is what kills me and makes me feel like an awful person who has put their parent in an assisted living facility as much for her own convenience as for her mother's well-being.

It is true, having my mother at the assisted living place gives me a measure of peace of mind that she is being taken care of. But it is an institutional setting very different from my mother living independently. I just couldn't keep up with managing my mother's life from afar, although I live just 20 minutes away. For a short time before I moved my mother, I had set up having a home health aide visit her twice a week for just a few hours at a time. My mother had resisted that for a very long time until I finally just did it. That seemed to work ok although it wasn't without its own challenges. I wanted the aide to take her grocery shopping and to doc appointments so my mother wouldn't have as much of a need to drive herself, but my mother treated her visits as something she needed to "fit in," in between grocery shopping (which she did nearly every day) or visits to the doctor!

I was considering increasing the aide's hours, against my mother's wishes, when my mother's fateful 2 911 calls on Mother's Day and a few days later precipitated a whole chain of events leading to the hospital's refusal to release her to her home where they knew she lived alone.

Although legally they probably couldn't have forced me to place my mom, I didn't fight it because I knew they were right. They said she needed round the clock supervision. Even if she lived with me, I'd have to hire someone to be here. And I have thought about that many times, having her live with me, but I know it would be an untenable situation, even without her having mild Alzheimer's. She's always had the ability to drive me crazy in a very short amount of time. I have often thought of my mother as a high maintenance kind of person who constantly needs tending to. It's just the way she is. She was an only child and in some ways spoiled. So she will point things out to me and then I have to run and "fix" it.

I know what my capabilities and limitations are, and I know that moving my mother in here would be a disaster. Then I would have to move her somewhere else again and it would be another disruption in my mother's life.

As mentioned earlier, I had a sit-down meeting with 3 staff people at the assisted living place. They are making an effort and want us both to be happy, and they are trying, but it is a work in progress and they likely are not accustomed to having a resident artist who is used to lots of solo time and the freedom to do her own thing. Not everyone in this world is an extrovert, and so "talking" about her art is not at all the same thing as actually "creating" her own art.

They have a beautiful arts and crafts room filled with supplies at this place, but my mother has shown no interest in using it because, she has told them, "I have my own arts supplies at home."

My sister's disinclination to help out with things is getting in the way of my doing what's best for my mom. Or rather, I am aware of this and am trying to make sure that doesn't happen. I am still very angry at my sister. When I kept telling her i needed her support and help, she demanded, What do you want me to do? I encouraged her to come by the condo, if only to pick out things she wanted. She started working in my mother's upper studio, and i told her if you can concentrate on this one room, that would be a big help; I'll work on cleaning out the other rooms. Well, my sister did take all the paints, brushes and other art supplies, which I believe she will try to sell. (I told her to keep some for my mom at her new place.)

But i also emphasized that she should try to get everything up all the floor because the new carpeting would be installed by such and such date. Well, my sister came maybe 3 times and she did not finish cleaning out the studio. She pretty much came and went at her convenience and never told me when she was coming. I have been over there every day after work this past week. So yes, I'm very angry at her. Every day I came home from work around 6, fed the cats and made sure Waldo got his meds, changed my clothes and then headed out the door again for the 20-minute drive to mom's. And I wound up cleaning out that studio, along with all the other rooms, myself.

My biggest urge is to not bother interacting with her anymore, to finish up the whole process myself because she's largely useless. Yet I wanted to make sure my sister set aside some of those paints and brushes for my mother before she sold it all. It doesn't make sense to spend precious money on new supplies. So i had to swallow my urge to have nothing to do with my sister in order to send an email asking her again to set these things aside and putting them someplace where I could pick them up.

When I first told my sister I was looking to put my mother into assisted living, the first thing she said is "I think you're jumping the gun." I know those words came from someone who has little to do with my mother, and so has no basis to make that kind of statement, but those words continue to haunt me during periods of self-doubt. Did I do the right thing? Did I jump the gun? Perhaps I could have had my mother live 6 months or a year longer where she was if I'd increased the visits by the home health aide.

There is one other possible option I want to explore. If I can't have my mother live with me, and assuming that most other assisted living places will be similar in price and activities, there is one place I learned of (which has gotten both rave and bad reviews) which is local and which is not dedicated to memory care, like where my mother lives now, but they do appear to have small apartments. I'm not sure my mother would be eligible for such an apartment due to the Alzheimer's, but if she was, it would much more like her old condo where she had several rooms, not just one with a bath, and she would be able to interact with other residents who did not have memory loss issues. These are the 2 key issues for my mom, I think.

I don't know much more about this place than what I saw on their website. I have exchanged phone messages with the director there. No idea how the cost would compare with the $5300/mth I'm paying now, and of course there's the question of when and how quickly the Alzheimer's caused her to deteriorate, would she be able to age in place? I believe this facility has the apartments and a nursing home on site, but no real in-between. Would they force me to move her out of the apartment at some point when she progressed? At the place she's at now, it's all dedicated to memory care people and they have 3 floors segregated by how bad the mental impairment is, so as a patient progresses, they can easily be moved to another level with appropriate care.

Tomorrow is the carpet installation; i have to be on site for that but plan to make some important phone calls, this being one of them, while I'm there.

Yesterday morning right before I left to meet my carpenter at the condo, a woman on Facebook said she wanted to buy some shelves and said she could meet me there at 9. I figured, perfect. I didn't have to bother my friend who lives 40 minutes away to have him drive over to provide "security" when meeting to sell something to someone you met online, since my carpenter would be there. Well, the woman never showed up, so me and carpenter moved out the last 4 bookshelves and loaded them in his truck for GoodWill. We demolished a small, damaged particleboard desk. Once again he said he didn't expect any payment from me, but I gave him what I had in my wallet, which was $29. He's been a greater help to me than my own sister.

I try to make it worth his while even though he's given me a break on payments. This time, he asked to take an old stool and I offered him 2 compact cube-type tables, which he liked. (He lives in a tiny cabin about 500 sf so he can't take big stuff.) Last time I gave him an old (not flat screen) TV, a boombox, VCR, and a very good Sony stereo receiver and CD player. I had no use for it and he's done a lot for me. The CD player wasn't working, though it could be fixable, I don't know.

On today's agenda: Head over to condo this a.m. and concentrate on cleaning the kitchen and baths. Continue emptying lower level studio but since I'm going to visit my mother afterwards, I can only fill up the trunk, not the back seat, so my mother doesn't see it.

I may take her to a beautiful Japanese garden about a 1/2 hour away, or maybe just a more local garden nursery that's interesting to explore. I can give her my camera to take some pix if she likes. That's the plan for today. I hope I'm not too tired to take her out because she really needs it.

Masonry work going well

June 13th, 2015 at 04:32 pm

Work on the front entry redo is going gangbusters.

Here's what it looked like yesterday, at the end of Day 1:



Has anyone else noticed that it "appears" the problem with uploading jpgs has been fixed on this site, but for some reason, images still don't appear, although the code now does.


The Chaos Continues

June 13th, 2015 at 04:04 am

The Great Cleanout trudges on (of mom's condo).

Main Living Area: It's in pretty good shape. This a.m. my carpenter and I will meet there at 9 a.m. to haul out 4 bookshelves and a small desk. Of my mother's 7 bookshelves, I sold 3 of them for $20 each on Facebook Tag Sale (so much better than Craig's List or Patch). They are particleboard, so the Make a Home Foundation people who picked up the other furniture didn't want them.

I will call Good Will this a.m. and see if they accept particleboard shelves. If so, it will save me money I would otherwise have to spend to leave it at our transfer station/dump.

I would like to keep one of these shelves myself, so we can load up carpenter's truck, hopefully drop off the 3 shelves and small desk at goodwill and then drop off the 1 shelf at my place.

The additional challenge there is that my masons have started work redoing my front entry and it will be difficult to get up the driveway. We will have to carry the shelves up from my basement.

Yesterday, while I was waiting for one of my shelving buyers to show up, I began cleaning out the finished basement. My mother used it as a 2nd studio and it is packed with artist supplies, matted work and so on. I found 2 whole boxes filled with nothing but wood dowels that look like they came off furniture. Several cigar boxes packed with staples. Things she collected over the years.

One thing she has even more of is frames: photo frames still unwrapped in original packaging, frames for art, etc. I've been in touch with the local Montessori school and they will take the frames and miscellaneous supplies as a donation, but I still have to pack up my car with it and bring it there, next week.

My mother also kept half used or leaky tubes of paints, which I'm pretty sure qualify as hazardous wastes. So I will save those couple of small boxes in my garage until the next household hazardous waste drop off day occurs. Unfortunately,my town just had theirs so i may have to wait another year.

The glass replacement on the slider doors in lower level has now morphed into replacement of the entire sliding door unit, becus i discovered the lock was busted on it. I had a guy over there yesterday to measure for an estimate. I will likely go with this guy over the first place I called becus the first place I called told me they only work with certain brands of doors, and these were not especially cheap. I found I could get some slider doors at Lowes/Home Depot for as little as $300, and they got very good reviews to boot. The place I had measuring yesterday will install whatever you want, so i gave him the info about the Reliabilt 300 Series.

I amt thinking of calling Empire Carpet back to see if I could add on replacement carpeting to the lower staircase to the finished basement, which I sort of overlooked when I had the main living area priced for carpeting. I counted and measured the stairs. Probably a few hundred more but it would look so much better to potential buyers.

My mother cataloged all her life's work with slides. I mean, it's a small cabinet filled with nothing but slides. My house is bursting at the seams with her stuff. IMO, slides are obsolete; if someone were interested in her work, I could simply take photos and email jpgs. Do you agree? I would like to dump her slides; it will be hard to do, as it obviously took so much time to do, but I don't think they are needed. I have so many other records of her work in other forms.

This afternoon a woman from the CT Handweavers Guild is coming down to my place to see my mother's yarn supplies. It'll be about an hour's drive for her. She agreed to let me barter for the cost of the $30 ad I want to place on her group's website for my mother's larger loom and all the yarn supplies. She will pick out some yarns. She usually gets supplies at 60% of wholesale price; I assured her I would make it worth her while to drive down here.

I also contacted a place in TN whose website I found who buys yarns from people. However, the woman said shipping costs could outweigh the benefit. She will have the owner call me next week.

Ideally, I'd like to find another place just like that one that is closer to where I live so that shipping is not an issue. Selling these yarns individually isn't really a viable option, not when you have over 20 large trash bags and baskets sitting in your dining room filled with yarns.

In the living room and family room, meanwhile, I have all my mother's art propped up on the floor and against the walls. Next week an art/estate liquidator is coming with his arts expert to see if they might want to buy my mother's art as a lot. I suspect the price they may offer, if they even do make an offer, will be a real lowball offer. Not sure how this will go.

So there you have it. Still cleaning out the condo, trying to sell the big loom, yarn supplies and art. I have next week off; condo scheduled to go on MLS on Friday, come hell or high water. New carpeting in on MOnday, slider door replacement will follow.

Did I tell you I lost 5 lbs from all the work?

Whirlwind. Exhaustion. Accompishments.

June 7th, 2015 at 05:14 pm



It's hard to believe it hasn't even been a month since I moved my mother into an assisted living community. (It will be a month this Friday.)

Here's what I've done (in between working full-time):

1. Nearly single handedly emptied out my mother's condo. My sister came 2 or 3 times and then seemed to have lost interest. I had my handyman/carpenter come twice with his truck to move furniture. My friend Ron came once but didn't really help, to be honest.

I can't tell you how many trips I made with either a car full or my dad's pick-up full of donations for Good Will. My own home is upside down with my mother's artwork all over, not to mention her clothes and things too valuable to donate.

Can't tell you how much I simply trashed, dragging stuff to the dumpster at the condo.

I mean, I can't even begin to tell you how exhausting just this part of the process has been. I am DOG TIRED. And I lost 5 lbs, after not being able to shed a single pound since I passed age 50. Amazing, but that's what a double flight of interior stairs will do to you. That's a big part of what's made this so tiring, the stairs.

Most of the rooms are mostly emptied out except for what will remain for staging purposes, except for the 2 studio rooms.

2. Sold my mother's 96 Subaru for $750.

3. Terminated the cable TV and returned their stupid little box, cancelled the phone and Internet service, cancelled a few credit cards.

4. Interviewed 3 realtors and then picked one. With the help of a friend of mine who used to run a brokerage, we established the list price and a strategy to sell it quickly (hopefully). I negotiated a 5% commission with my agent and then will pay an additional 1% bonus commission to any agent who gets the condo under contract in 2 months time. If I still have this condo by back-to-school time, I'll have lost my window of opportunity and will likely have it thru the winter til next spring, and I'll be paying the taxes and common charges every month, which I REALLY don't want to get stuck doing. So it needs to sell quickly.

I already wrote the listing description (i used to do a lot of that as a freelance real estate writer) and the agent is using it.

My agent's agency will get a sneak preview of the condo later this week so they have an opportunity to make more money on it before it goes on MLS the following week.

5. I met with a carpet place and it's scheduled to get new wall to wall carpet this Wednesday. What's there is shot, looks terrible and makes the whole place look dirty.

6. The only other improvement I'm planning on doing is replacing the fogged up glass in the sliding glass doors in finished walk-out basement. I'm meeting the glass company guy there tomorrow for an estimate, but expect it will be $300 or $400.

7. Also tomorrow Make a Home Foundation is coming with 2 guys and a truck to take all my furniture donations, which includes dozens of book shelves, cabinets, desks, file cabinets etc. I HOPE they will take it all and not turn their nose up at anything.

8. In between all this, lots of visits with my mother to try to make her feel comfortable. Today, for instance, I spent a few hours in the a.m. scrambling to clean out the upper studio as my sister failed to clean out this one room as I'd asked her to. My concern is they won't be able to do replace the wall to wall carpeting in there if there's too much stuff to move. Then I drove over to my mother's to take her to a matinee and when i got home around 5:30 p.m., I sank into a lounge chair, exhausted.

Still to do: Find an attorney to represent me at closing.

Find buyers for both looms; I may have to donate the larger one to a nonprofit group in Hartford area that teaches blind people a skill (weaving). The smaller one should sell...I have a possible buyer coming tomorrow to look at it.

Next week an estate liquidator guy and his art expert are coming to my home to look at my mother's art and ideally buy it all as one lot to sell to dealers or whatever.

Later down the road I will want to sell my mother's 2 diamond rings, and 2 antique Koran holders my mother bought in Morocco that I believe are worth something.

There's also a large Moroccan rug that could be worth something.

I may also hire a cleaning company to deep clean just the kitchen and 2 bathrooms.

I need to find a place to donate a zillion photo frames, picture frames and mats and miscellaneous art supplies. I'll throw in yarn supplies to whoever buys the looms. May call a Montessori school about the frames tomorrow.

Have been in touch with mom's accountant; concerns about taxes. There's just so much to think about. My only consolation is that for most people, this kind of thing happens when their loved one passes, so then they have to do all this stuff while they're still in mourning. At least for me, my mom's still alive so it's not quite as emotional, though it is still difficult and I do feel very guilty at times becus i feel I'm dismantling her life and leaving her with very little.

From the surface, if you spoke to her, the only thing amiss would be that she can't remember anything, and even has trouble finishing a sentence. Otherwise, she's not overweight, she walks quite well and looks pretty well put together.