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Archive for February, 2016

Really not crazy about the new pop up ads

February 25th, 2016 at 08:46 pm

Now it requires an extra step to delete the long horizontal ads at bottom. This is how they're monetizing the site.

Storm damage

February 25th, 2016 at 06:52 pm

Last night we had a terrible (and totally unexpected to me)storm. It was driving rain and high winds, even a thunderstorm. It was the storm that brought all the tornadoes to the south.

Even though they said CT would be marginally affected, I have some storm damage now. I THOUGHT i heard something crash down last night, but in the pitch black I couldn't see anything. The power flickered several times, but stayed on, and I saw nothing on the lawn.

This was the view from my front door a few years ago (sunrise):



It was a large white pine that stood with others along the roadside. One of its two main trunks had been taken down in a prior storm when my neighbor's tree across the street crashed into it. Last night, the one remaining trunk came down and it managed to avoid hitting the power lines, which are directly under these trees, and it also fell in such a way that it only hit my huge burning bush.

Here's the view now:



Kind of like looking at someone who's lost a front tooth.


I know this doesn't look like much, but it's a pretty big tree trunk, probably 18" plus in diameter.



I could see by walking around the huge burning bush that it took some damage by limbs broken under the weight of the white pine.

My neighbors behind me are just getting by, financially. He was laid off from a very high paying job a few years ago and is now driving a school bus.

He doesn't sound thrilled with it. He said the kids are always screaming and carrying on, once there was a fight on the bus and there are so many narrow back roads in town that you can get lost, or get stuck on a narrow cul de sac with no room to turn around.

So I called to see if he'd want to cut the tree up for me and I'd pay him $50/hr. I would think there's a good 4 hours of work there. I just wanted to try to help them; they've been so helpful to me over the years. He said yes, probably next week.

Walking in mom's footsteps

February 23rd, 2016 at 11:01 pm



A woman from a local arts group in my mother's town called me back after I'd asked last week if I could exhibit some of my mother's work in their upcoming non-juried spring show with the theme of "flowers."

They had already told me yes, but i was just trying to get more details, like when the drop-off date is. I also knew I'd need to become a member ($30).

I was so taken by surprise when the woman who called back said that while they don't allow the work of a deceased person to be entered in a juried show (they have 1 juried show this spring, and 1 in the fall), she invited me to do a solo show of my mother's work this fall. A solo show is kind of special.

Not only that, but the board decided that the big juried show this fall would be dedicated to my mother's memory, and while I couldn't have my mother's work actually entered in that show, she said I could select 1 to 3 pieces to hang in the front lobby, with her bio, and it would also go in their program.

My mother was very well known at this group. I was so blown away, and touched. Of course I started getting choked up. I so wish she was here to enjoy this and I can only hope that somehow, she can.

I think this is one of those groups that might not get a lot of people from the general public coming in to see their shows. I don't really know, but am just guessing that. Especially with a non-juried show, you can safely assume the caliber of the work will be somewhat less than a juried show. So i rather doubt i will sell my mother's work in either of the 2 shows they've invited me to enter, but I'm still going to do it anyway, becus mom would be so happy to do it if she were alive. And I don't want her, or her work, to be forgotten, as I've said before.

I remember how much work the 31-piece show at the spa was last October, so in the solo show this fall, I won't have that many. I may also have to enlist someone with a vehicle to transport larger pieces that won't fit in my Honda.

Anyway, I'm very excited and it's something to look forward to. It's really lifted my spirits. As a writer, I will offer to do the PR for the shows.

I really do feel like I'm walking in my mother's footprints, going where she's gone before, meeting so many people, mostly for the first time, who knew her and were a part of her life. It's a strange sensation because by meeting these people, I learn a little more about my mother that I never knew before.

A pretty nice Saturday

February 20th, 2016 at 10:37 pm

There was a definite hint of spring in the air today. I believe we had a high of 50 degrees, so although I was feeling a little lazy after a busy morning, I made myself take an hour-long walk on the town walking trails, and evidently so many others were feeling I did. The dog walkers were out, the moms with their strollers and the families on wheels. I met an amazing white bulldog.

I started off my day at my mother's bank. Yesterday I finally received written confirmation from the probate court that I am indeed approved as executor. It took about 50 days just for this first step.

So I brought all the paperwork to the bank, in need of 2 things:

a) to have them close out my mother's 2 checking accounts and open 1 "estate" account. I will still be able to write a few remaining checks for medical bills on this account. The nice woman at the bank printed out 8 checks for me so I didn't have to spend another $30 or so on hundreds of checks I would never use. Actually, we left about $10 in 1 of the 2 accounts so the sole check that hasn't yet cleared (I wrote it today without thinking, a $5 fee to the probate court) will clear without bouncing. Once it clears, then I'll close out that account too.

b) To fill out the next form for probate, an inventory of assets, I needed to get from the bank the exact balance in both those checking accounts on the date of death. Now I can complete and return this form on Monday.

After the bank, I stopped at the health pet food store, a local family-owned shop that actually has slightly cheaper prices on all the premium cat/dog food brands than the larger national franchises. Not sure how they accomplish that, but I'm happy to give my business to a local family.

After that I went to the Rug Works store to pick up the small oriental (Pakistani) rug I'd brought in for repair about a week ago. I was happy with the results. It's very clean now (!) and the new fringe is full and fluffy....makes it look like a new rug.

After that, let's see..oh, I wanted to get rid of another gift card taking up real estate in my wallet, earned a few months ago from one of my points rewards cards, so my mission was to spend about $66 at Home Goods.

It actually was hard to find things to buy. I feel like I have everything I need/want. However, I made a yeoman's effort and came away happily with some pretty blue ceramic pottery, some Easter-themed with a little bunny, from Portugal and, because I really was searching for something I could use, some gourmet-type food, including some yummy pesto sauce from Italy, honey from Germany and some hemp seeds. Smile Everything was so reasonably priced, although they have way too much stuff Made in China.

After that it was lunch time so I treated myself to a 3 veggie side sampler at Boston Market. After that I think I went home to relax for about an hour and feed the cats, and then I headed out again to the local library to hear a professor from Yale lecture on the Bronte sisters. This was the 1st of 3 lectures, one on each sister, and this was one I wanted to catch because Jane Eyre was one of those seminal novels I read when I was very young and it stuck with me for many years. I was amazed to hear him interpret the whole novel, based in the context of Victorian culture, and all the symbolism which supposedly contains references to feminism, the "hysterical" which was what they called women who didn't really fit in, the classic Victorian plot (tough times followed by a happy ending), etc. It was pretty interesting and there was a full house, maybe about 50 people, attending.

The next talk will be on Wuthering Heights, which I never read. Is it worth it?

While at the library I checked out 3 books but I have to read them fast; one of them was from the "new book" section and so i technically only have 2 weeks to read a pretty thick book. Another book is a book club selection so if I want to attend the discussion, I've got about 3 weeks for that one.

The 1st book is called Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. I have often thought that too many people seem to forget the Holocaust, and the lessons we should learn from it, and in this book the author talks about how the early 21st century is coming to resemble the early 20th century, when Hitler rose to power. Growing preoccupations with food and water, ideological challenges to global order. This is the new book.

The book club book is called Brooklyn and I assume it's going to be good because it's a book club selection.

The 3rd book is one that I picked up while attending the Bronte lecture; it's called Becoming Jane Eyre and it's about the 3 sisters, all writers, and is historical fiction.

Looking forward to an equally productive Sunday. I hope to wash my car and trim a large viburnum tree that's growing too close to my driveway. As well as make a big pot of vegan chili.

This day made me feel like I am reclaiming my life (time) a little. I guess I hadn't realized how much my mother's illness had consumed my time. The last 6 months especially were a real blur, I mean, it was like driving in a car with the windows down, without my glasses at 70 mph. Scary, really scary.

But even before that, my free time revolved around checking in on her every weekend and making sure there were no unpaid bills, and trying to do some fun things with her too. Now I am so glad that I did on occasion do those fun things with her, and I wish I'd done more.

But today I felt an inkling of "freedom," freedom to do whatever I want. It feels exciting. There's nothing like the death of someone close to you to give new (real) meaning to the oft-heard expression, Time is short. It has stirred some thoughts in me about what I want to do with the rest of my life, and a sense of urgency to start doing those things NOW, even though, of course, I've heard "time is short" dozens of times. But I never took it to heart the way I do now.

I'm certainly not over grieving, I can tell you that. And there again, I had no idea pre-December 28 that the grieving process could take many months or years. You really don't get it til it happens to you. And when I was browsing in Home Goods, I started feeling sad looking at all these pretty little Easter dishes because I won't have my mom this Easter and my mom was the one I sometimes bought these things for, and now I can't do that. By the time I had grabbed my lunch at Boston Market, I had begun to cry again, and so I sat there in m y car with the tears running down my cheeks and my mashed potatoes getting cold because I was too upset to eat. Ugh.

Mom's birthday is coming up in early March. That's going to be a very tough day. I guess I'll continue to teeter between the possibilities within my new-found time and a continued sense of profound loss.

Thursday thoughts

February 18th, 2016 at 07:16 pm

This is one of those posts where i really don't have much to talk about but want to anyway...

Working at home today; was able to pack up and ship two Facebook orders for my mother's yarns this morning, netting me about $25 and that much less "stuff" in my dining room.

Had a briefish phone call with someone at work who needed to make some edits to a case study I'd written. As usual, when there's someone not accustomed to working with a writer with revisions, they make it sound worse than it actually was. He made some changes, but nothing radical. However I did need to spend more time on it since he's not a writer (but he has the product knowledge/experience I lack as a relative newcomer to the bank).

I have another similar scenario coming up tomorrow where 5 of us need to meet to discuss one person's "concerns" about something else

My latest reading material was delivered by Amazon today. "Proteinaholic, How Our Obsession with Meat is Killing Us."

Amazon once again made good on their customer service ranking, #1 in my mind. On Tuesday I had ordered a yoga mat at Amazon; I wanted it by Saturday so I could use it at a yoga class that has begun at the town hall. Becus I'm a Prime member, I was counting on them to deliver it in 2 days time, by Thursday, but as soon as I ordered it the note said I wouldn't get it til Monday. This was annoying, since if I knew they wouldn't be able to meet their 2-day promise, I would have just gone and purchased a mat from someplace local, like Sports Authority.

So I called Amazon and calmly explained the situation. At first she said all she could do is issue a refund or a replacement. The latter wouldn't do anything for me since I haven't received the yoga mat yet and it's not an issue of it being defective. After I then reiterated my position, she offered me a refund without canceling the order, so this I happily accepted. The 2-day shipping is 1 of 2 big reasons (the other is Prime TV) I was willing to spend the $100 for membership, and in fact it's up for renewal in a week.

In the meantime, though, I have to figure out what to do without the mat at the first yoga class on Saturday. Obviously I don't want to buy a 2nd yoga mat but I need something to sit on. All I have is a small bamboo bath mat which won't offer much cushioning, or a 3 foot square carpet I use in the bathroom; might look a little silly when everyone else has regular yoga mats.

I'm doing the 1st of 2 loads of laundry. This is why I love working at home. I can get personal stuff done without it really interfering with my work. Smile

I felt so good about the results after I got down on my knees to clean every square inch of my kitchen floor that I might try to do the same elsewhere, one room at a time. Most of the rooms actually have too much of my mother's stuff in them to easily do that, but I think I can probably try the dining room next. Somehow a vacuum doesn't really get all the dust, even without rugs on the wood floor.

The newsletter editor for a local arts group my mother belonged to sent me this month's newsletter because it contained news on my mother's passing. I thanked her for it but also in reading it I noticed they have a spring art show coming up in early April with the theme of "flowers." My mother did some gorgeous flower pieces so I'm hoping I can enter 2 pieces for mom. She would be so pleased to see me continue to keep her work, and her memory, alive, and it would be nice to sell a few pieces.



(As you may remember, I did a 31-piece solo show for mom with the help of a local art curator who arranged the exhibit at a local health spa. That was while my mom was still alive, but she was in rehab at that point. I remember hoping she would be well enough to see it in person but the show ended Oct. 31 and my mother had not really ever recovered. Very sad. That show was also way too much work, given the number of pieces, all of which had to be packaged in bubblewrap for safe handling.



The upcoming flower show permits just 2 entries, so that's just fine. My mother's flower pieces are among my favorites, but I counted 8 that I have so I think I could part with 1 or 2.


Baby steps forward

February 15th, 2016 at 11:47 pm

This weekend I feel like I made some (very) incremental steps toward, well, just moving forward.

Saturday morning was the bereavement support group. I was surprised to see about 15 people there, though 4 of them were moderators. Everyone was super nice. Some of the people didn't say anything at all, but I was able to see that most of the people there had lost a spouse. I can also see that kind of loss would be much harder to get over. The man sitting next to me had lost his wife to ovarian cancer just 2 months ago, and this was just his 2nd meeting. I really felt for him. The woman on my other side had lost her husband. I got a workbook and a little homework assignment. I joined the group about mid-way through their normal 9-month cycle but I can stay as long as I like. Too bad it only meets monthly.

Saturday I also dropped off a small (about 4 x 6') oriental rug for repair at a rug place. The guy had an interesting set-up in a separate building behind his house, with these giant pulleys from which hung several large rugs. Anyway, he seemed to know what he was doing. All told, putting on new fringe and making some other repairs to fraying threads on the ends, along with the cleaning, which with cat barf, etc it could sorely use, is going to cost me $175! With that money I could easily buy a brand new rug but this one has sentimental value.

My mother bought it many years ago on a trip to Morocco. I basically grew up with this rug, and I like its compact size. Anyway, I was a little surprised when the rug guy immediately told me the rug was not Moroccan, it was Pakistani, and he even told me the name of the style the pattern was.

Well, I do hope the new fringe looks ok. They don't actually remove the old fringe, they just sew the new fringe on top. The color is pretty close, basically an ivory, although his will look newer.

Anyway, I am happy to spend the $$ on something near to my heart. It's something I'd wanted to do for a while now, along with a hundred other things, so soon I'll be able to check this one off my list.

I find that as I get older, I have a greater interest in preserving what I have than buying ever more new stuff.

The only thing that annoyed me about this guy was that when I was ready to leave, I wanted some sort of receipt showing I dropped something off. We'd had a nice chat but still, I don't know him at all, and initially, probably due to laziness, he didn't want to. Not very professional...

On Sunday afternoon I went to a fun presentation in town on rabbits...how to raise them, good for those thinking of adopting one. It was put on by a rabbit rescue group. Who knew such a group existed? I kept thinking of Lucky Robin but I don't think she would be welcome in this group.

It was mostly parents with little kids who went. I personally have a big interest in all things natural history, so I love this sort of thing. Right after this program there was another one on woodpeckers sponsored by the Audubon Society, but I decided to go home.

Later on Sunday a man stopped by my house. His wife sat in the car in the driveway while he came in to collect a great photograph of his dog my mother had taken years ago. He was a neighbor in the same condo complex. It was a very nice framed photo, about 12 x 12". I vaguely remembered my mother telling me about a dog painting a neighbor in the complex had asked her to do but later when it was done, he told he he couldn't afford to pay for it. I never found any painted dachshund portrait, so this will forever be a mystery. I am sure my mother would have been very disappointed to have spent all that work and time doing the piece only to have the guy say he couldn't pay for it. However, I don't think it would be like her to destroy her own work. Especially since I did find the dachshund photograph, which had always hung in her stairwell.

I was a little bothered that this man asked my mother's other neighbors, the couple who regularly visited my mother for months, to ask me for the photo/painting, and the husband of that couple approached me during my mother's calling hours on behalf of the other neighbor. I think he should have asked me himself, and maybe my mother's funeral was not the best time. But whatever, not everyone enjoys going to a funeral (least of all me). I wish that at the time my mother told me about this years ago that I had paid better attention, because I might have clearer guidance now on how to deal with this situation. In the end, though, I feel the photo should go to the owner of the dog. The dog had died just a few days after my mother. It had been a therapy dog and the man was very close to it. He actually choked up at my house when I asked him about it.

Today I met a meet-up group of women walkers at the mall and about 8 of us did a fairly brisk walk around the entire mall to get a good hour of exercise in. Afterwards, I spent some time at Sears and William Sonoma to try to use up some gift cards I have; i did use up the Sears one but still have a balance of about $2 on the other one, and I could find nothing affordably priced at W-S that I actually needed.

I had hoped to see The Martian at the $2 movie theater this afternoon, but by 1 pm it started snowing and I'd rather not be out in snow.

I also made up my mind to call the women's center in the city where my mother lived and see if I can inquire about donating some of my mother's art. My mother and I had talked about this in general terms. Nothing specific, but she expressed an interest in having me donate some of her art to various public places where people could still enjoy her art after she was gone. A library, for instance.

You might think that trying to figure out where to donate would be a huge task. At least that's how it sort of felt to me. Unbelievably, out of all the paperwork I tossed and sorted in an extremely rapid manner last May/June (with 12 file cabinet drawers, I feared I would never get through it all), I came across an envelope from this women's center. On the envelope was a small sticky note upon which my mother had written: Donate art?

I mean, how much clearer a sign do I need? So I plan to call them, maybe tomorrow. I tentatively decided on two framed pieces that seemed suitable for them since it's a women's center (for battered women and so on) and these 2 pieces are figures of women done in my mother's own unique style. I have more of these women figures (each one is different) but they are matted, not framed.

Right now I've got a split pea soup cooking on the stove; supper will be ready by around 8:30 pm when I plan to watch the Grammys.

I got a raise...i'm so under-excited

February 13th, 2016 at 01:00 am

My annual raise was even lower than last year, at 1.85%. I think it works out to about $56 per biweekly paycheck, or $1500 annually.

We're going to have bitter cold temps here in Connecticut starting tomorrow afternoon through Sunday. Minus 20 or 30 degrees at night! As long as my car starts, I don't plan to let it interfere with my plans, which include going out tomorrow morning into early afternoon but that's about it.

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work and so I can make a nice split pea soup this weekend.

I have a very small (about 4' x 6') oriental rug that is in need of repair and very likely a good cleaning. I'll be dropping it off at the rug works tomorrow. Between the cleaning ($55) and putting new fringe on ($75) plus repair of the 2 ends ($45) I could easily buy a new rug to replace it, but it has sentimental value, since my mother bought it when she vacationed in Morocco. I have to look at the label on the rug but the guy i emailed photos to said it was not Moroccan and that it was either Pakistani or Indian. Either way, it's a pretty little rug and I basically grew up with it.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s and I fondly remember our living room which my friends who came to visit thought was totally cool....in place of a couch, we had jumbo-sized floor cushions finished in burgundy and purple velvet covers my mother made, along with the little oriental rug I just mentioned, a black Baldwin baby grand piano, my step-father's huge cacti collection and lots of books, art and records. There was also a small black plastic cube table which I now have in my office.

I also like that the rug is fairly compact in size and so seems more versatile as a result.

I've been wanting to get it repaired for a few years now so I finally got around to looking into it.

On the other hand, I have a much larger oriental rug (about 12 x 12' and the same dark red color scheme that's so common with these types of rugs) in my bedroom. It was the rug my grandmother kept in her dining room for years. I've lived with it for years now, too, but honestly I'm tired of the busy pattern and it's not really my "style," or my color, so when and if I do ever move, I won't take it with me. It has served me well these many years and grandma please forgive me if I get rid of it! It can be hard to let go of "family" stuff without feeling guilty.

The one great thing about this rug is that however it was constructed was not with the usual loops, which my cats have delighted in totally shredding with their claws on other rugs I long since had to trash. This rug has stood up to 5 cats now who regularly scratch it and I long ago got tired of yelling at them to stop. The rug looks none the worse for wear. Amazing, really, although it still doesn't make me want to keep it forever.

A spending question

February 11th, 2016 at 01:35 pm

You may have read some of my earlier posts where I talked about getting estimates for the repaving of my driveway.

The current drive, a good 75 feet long, is not in good shape, with all sorts of "alligatoring" and large cracks through the asphalt. The slope end of it also developed a raised hump in the middle, so if you drive a car and don't drive slightly to the side of that hump, you may bottom out, like I do. Frown

So it needs to be dealt with, and I figured now would be a good time 1) because oil prices have dropped so dramatically, and asphalt is a petroleum-based product and 2) having a nice new driveway would not scream "maintenance" to would-be buyers of this place and would enhance rather than detract from its curb appeal.

As I thought about how to approach this project, I thought of how wonderful it would be to have the top half of my driveway, where it's completely level, redone in paver bricks, while just the lower half with the upward slope would be repaved in asphalt.

The top part is surrounded by stone walls on 3 sides as well as the side of my garage, so it would be completely enclosed, like a courtyard. I might include 1 or 2 large circle patterns with the pavers, similar to what I did at the top of my front entry landing. Smile

The mason who did my front entry landing said he could match the grayish color of that to the pavers used on the driveway for a unified look, and of course he did a great job on the front entry so I would trust him to do same on the drive. He also assured me the pavers could take the weight of cars or even heavier trucks like the oil delivery truck on them. And if I never needed to rebuild another section of my stone walls, it would be very easy to pull up several rows of the pavers to do so, as compared to wrecking any paved asphalt. Pavers in general are easier to maintain if, say, the water table raised them, whereas asphalt would just crack.

I think the look would just be lovely. But now here are the prices:

To repave the whole driveway: $6,615 (I consider this a very good price as I vaguely recall at least 10 years ago getting a price of about $10K to do it when I inquired about it then...I found the current guy on Angie's list and he got good reviews.)

To repave the slope half of the driveway and then just pull up the old asphalt on the top end for the masons, who would then install their pavers: $3,715

Cost of mason doing the pavers on top half of driveway (which does widen out considerably) $9,200. He originally told me $9,800 but called me later and took off $600.

So I'm looking at a cost of $6,616 to repave the whole thing with asphalt versus $12,915 to do the pavers and the asphalt together...double the cost.

Yes?
I have a very strong urge to do the pavers because I believe it would be LOVELY and, as I said, it would make what is now the typical ugly asphalt driveway more like an elegant courtyard.

I do have the money, especially given my recent inheritance.

Getting the courtyard effect and doing the pavers would no doubt make this a more attractive property to sell to prospective buyers.

This is my emotional response.

No?
However, my logical response is that it is extremely hard to justify spending an extra $6500 to make it "pretty" when I really do want to sell this house and move sometime before I turn 60 (4 years).

Why spend the extra money here, only to enjoy it for a few years before I sell, when I can spend that extra money on something else to improve whatever condo I end up in? (Continuing to make improvements to my house could also make it psychologically harder for me to leave, which I really think is in my best interests.)

Would everyone tell me no, don't do the pavers? I'm sort of hoping there will be someone who sees reasons why I should do what I want.

The fact is, I've been talking about moving for probably 5 years now. I feel a little "stuck," especially after acquiring all of my mother's stuff, but long-term I think it would be better in many regards if I moved: I'd reduce my property taxes, eliminate responsibility for outdoor maintenance (major storms bring down big trees and scare the heck out of me and I worry one will hit the house one day, not to mention the expense of disposing of the fallen tree), one level would be better as I get older, especially with MS and the list goes on....

From a strictly dollars and cents points of view, aside from a one-time savings taking the purchase price of a condo vs what I'd likely net from the sale of the house (I figure maybe $15 to 25k) my ongoing expenses would probably not change that much, because the few thousand I would save in property taxes would be eaten up by common charges that I don't pay now.

What do you think?

Would you give up your car?

February 11th, 2016 at 12:49 pm

I heard an interesting report on public radio this morning, that not only are a growing number of young people in their teens and 20s not getting driver's licenses (this has apparently been going on for years) but now more people in their 30s and 40s are giving up driving too.

Of course most of these people live in urban areas with excellent mass transit options.

I would love to give up my car but it just couldn't happen here in Connecticut, which is infamous for its lousy mass transit system. Our cities are probably better, but much of the state is suburban and far-flung. My town doesn't even have a train stop and the only buses that come through here are those little shuttle vans for seniors. Uber hasn't arrived here yet.

Well, it's an interesting thought.

Taxes: done

February 9th, 2016 at 12:05 am

No refunds this year. I paid $364 for the federal and just $8 owed on the state of CT tax return. Both are filed and done with til next year. Doing my taxes has become much more manageable since I stopped working freelance, since I now have but one employer (not 3) and since I stopped selling mutual funds.

It snowed all day today but when I went out to shovel, there was really only about 3 inches on the driveway.

I had a lull in my work today and I had a thought that this would be a good time to call my mother. Of course I can't, and the thought of that sent me into tears.

This happens regularly. Don't want to sound like a baby, but I miss my mother terribly. This Saturday I will finally be able to go to a bereavement support group about 45 minutes south of here. None of the groups closer to me meet at the right time, and this is the only one that meets on a Saturday. I hope to gain something from it by talking to others who are going through the same thing.

A few days ago i had the young mason here who had redone my stone stairway last year; i was getting a price from him for possibly redoing part of my driveway in pavers. He remembered I had talked about my mom last summer and he asked how she was. When i told him she had passed, he commiserated, but told me his own mother died when she was just 37. He suggested that losing one's mother at such a young age is harder than losing your mother after she's lived a full life. It's not, and it's stupid of people to try to make comparisons, like my loss was harder than your loss. It makes no difference how old someone is when they die... you still miss them just as much.

I got the big ($11,461) final bill from Masonicare, and was happy to write out the check and be done with it. I silently thanked my mother for having enough money to pay all these final bills; imagine how stressful it would be if, on top of your grief, you had to deal with the monetary pressures of not having enough money to pay these massive expenses.

There are still 3 or 4 providers I owe money to (for services ordered by the doctor at Masonicare, for the month of December, which I didn't even know about til i got the Medicare statement) but they will be smaller bills totaling a few thousand, I think. I am so anxious to put this aspect behind me, but it has to all play out as it will. The hospital and other service providers take a while for their billing departments to process everything. It's just draining, emotionally.

Unfortunate plumbing bill

February 8th, 2016 at 06:39 pm

I had the best of intentions in trying to fix my leaky toilet yesterday.

I replaced the rubber flapper but i could hear the trickling of water leaking anyway and the water line continued to visibly drop until the whole thing tank filled up again.

I knew that if it wasn't the flapper, then it was beyond my ability to fix it, especially since I could not turn the water shut-off valve.

So I caved and had a plumber over here this morning. He explained that the generic rubber flapper I'd purchased for $6 at the local hardware store was defective and not really "universal" like the package claimed. He actually showed me an area of the seal that was very slightly curved up when it should have been flat, allowing water to trickle out.

The price I paid for the plumber was $110. It was an expensive and unfortunate incident. How would I have known it was a defective flapper? I assumed it was something else.

At the least, I'm going to return the flapper to get my $6 back, but I also plan to call "Korky" the manufacturer of the defective flapper. Not that they will refund me $110, but still.

I talked to Korky and the only thing she could do is send me another flapper.

Taxes: 1 down, 1 to go

February 7th, 2016 at 07:06 pm

Today I dealt with 2 unpleasantries: toilet and taxes.

Taxes: I did my federal tax return today but since you have to wait a day to make sure the IRS accepted your return (it was bounced back to me twice last year due to tiny errors), I won't file the CT return until I'm sure the federal has been accepted.

But anyway, it wasn't too, too bad this year, mainly because I didn't sell any mutual funds (no Schedule D) nor do I any longer do freelance writing, so that saved me 2 additional schedules to do. Plus, no more healthcare subsidy. So I only had the tax return, 2 schedules and 4 worksheets.

I owe $364. Well, I paid it already.

Regarding the toilet, I've noticed for a while now, usually at night, that it's been running. Not constantly, but maybe every 10 minutes or so. I didn't have food dye around the house, so I brewed up a cup of hot black tea, let it cool, then dumped it in the tank and waited 15 minutes. I didn't see any tea-stained water in the bowl, but I could see how the water in the tank had fallen below the normal fill line. So while the water wasn't overflowing into the tube thing, I suspect it was leaking from the rubber flapper gasket, which I replaced years ago. I tried to turn the water off at the valve under the toilet so I could do that replacement, but it was really stuck.

Went to hardware store and he advised, don't do plumbing jobs on a Sunday. Good advice. I let the shut-off valve be, lest I should break it and instead was able to replace the rubber flapper without turning the water off.

HOWEVER, I'm not sure I fixed the problem as I could still hear a tiny trickle of water sound intermittently. I suspect the "Douglas valve" needs to be replaced. Which means I have to call a plumber because it will require shutting off the water this time for sure. Sigh.

Now it's time for a well-deserved walk in the sunshine!

Confessions

February 6th, 2016 at 12:37 am


A cedar tree near the driveway that was once just a few feet tall.

Housekeeping is not my forte. There, I've said it. With two profusely shedding cats and my mother's stuff propped up all over the place, it's hard to keep the place clean.

I did manage to do my once-every-two-weeks vacuuming. Today. I'm not sure what came over me. I had the energy to go further, so I got down on my knees and cleaned the kitchen floor with just a sponge. I'd gotten tired of all the dusty cat hairs that seem to collect underneath the cabinets. I wiped everything down and then decided to rotate my small kitchen island on casters to create more room. I even pulled out the refrigerator and cleaned up all the dust behind it, don't ask me why.

I have to admit the kitchen floor looks so much better. Not sure how much of it is psychological, and only because I know I scrubbed every square inch, but I do really think it looks cleaner.

Now another completely different kind of confession: Since my mother passed, I've lost interest in my work. I feel distracted. My heart just isn't in it anymore. I've also been feeling a sense that I need to make some big changes in my life, to do the things I want to do, that life is too short to waste doing anything less.

Part of it is due to the loss of my mom but part of it is also due to the recent restructuring of my job where I now report to someone new and work with a team that is located in Massachusetts. This was supposed to be a pretty small add-on to my existing work, since my current responsibilities, customer communications, haven't gone away, but between the meetings and the work that follows, it seems like it's taking up half my time. So now a job that I enjoyed is not so much fun.

I'm not especially liking it. I did revisit my financial status with the thought of leaving. While I'm doing very well by probably most people's standards, it really would be premature and probably a mistake to leave such a well-paying job just a few years earlier than planned. Three-and-a-half more years, I keep telling myself...three-and-a-half more years.

I went so far as to peruse other internal openings at the bank but of the 4 writing jobs posted, I either didn't qualify or wasn't interested. I probably won't do much more than that, but I do feel that old familiar feeling of being disenchanted with work, disinterested and disgruntled. Nothing new, but oh well.

The one fortunate thing is that the physical distance between me and the rest of my "team" helps to camouflage my dissatisfaction since they don't/won't often see me.

I'm glad the weekend is here and that the four-inch snowfall gave me a reason to stay home today.


This is the view at the foot of my driveway after I made one pass with the shovel.

The driveway is mostly shoveled so I can maybe pay a visit to the local healthy pet food place where some animals will be up for adoption. Not at all looking to adopt, but I would love to look.

I want to at least start doing my tax returns this weekend. Ugh, but it would be great to have it out of the way.

Totally random thoughts of not much

February 4th, 2016 at 12:38 am

I have not done very well with my 365 Days of Gratitude but I haven't written it off yet.

It was a warm but rainy day all day at work today and since getting home, the wind and rain have really picked up. I see it's due to continue for another 96 minutes.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to a follow-up to discuss the blood work results from my physical 2 weeks ago. I'm really curious to see whether the positive effects of a mostly vegan diet will be apparent, although I can tell you my blood pressure was great at 110/60, I believe. Smile

Glad to be working at home tomorrow. I TREASURE my 2 work-at-home days, trust you me!

Tomorrow I also meet with a fencing guy about putting in a hand rail for my new outdoor stairs. I already got a decent estimate from a guy I found on Angie's List to repave my driveway. If he only repaves the lower slope but rips out the asphalt for the entire drive, so that the mason guys who did my stairs can do pavers at the top of the drive, creating a "courtyard," the fee from asphalt guy would be just $3700. If he repaved the whole thing, it would be just $6,600.

I vaguely recall many years ago trying to get estimates and remember them being in the neighborhood of $10,000. But I REALLY would like to get the paver courtyard to replace ugly asphalt, and I'm afraid the mason will be very expensive.

I scanned and emailed him a copy of the asphalt guy's estimate so he can see he needs to come in really low if I'm to be persuaded to hire him for the pavers. It otherwise would be hard to justify that kind of added expense.

The handrail and the driveway...these are my two 2016 projects.

I collected all the paperwork for my mother's 2015 tax return and emailed it to her accountant. Later down the road as part of the probate process I'll need to have the accountant do an "estate tax return." Because of the timing so close to end of year, I'm guessing it will be a repeat mostly of her 2015 return, making it easier for her accountant.

I called probate court earlier this week because it had been a month and I hadn't heard anything from them since filing the initial paperwork. Turns out I had not completely filled in one page; it didn't appear they were planning on calling me, and if you think about it, they probably figure they don't need to becus any executor is going to be pretty anxious to get thru probate and so will be calling them. I was annoyed, though. I completed answering the questions and put it in the mail yesterday.

I can wait....I'm still getting reams of paperwork and statements from Medicare, Part A and Part B, and it's rather confusing knowing what they will pay and won't pay because one mailing appears to contradict the mailing that came a week later.

I find it excruciating waiting on hold to get answers, so I can sit tight for now and see what bills may appear in my mailbox.

There should be only 3 remaining bills: 1) the accountant doing mom's taxes, 2) Masonicare and 3) the hospital.

I hadn't originally planned on taking a fee for my role as executor, but I am entitled and I'm thinking now maybe I will. In Connecticut they don't establish the fee but it needs to be "reasonable." I'll have to determine what % that is.

Last weekend I went to see 13 Hours with my Dad. It was very, very violent as you may imagine, given the subject matter. Not at all the type of movie I'd pick for myself, but I like to indulge dad. Smile

Last night I went to a presentation on songbirds at the library. Much more my style, and I was amazed at how many people showed up. There were about 60 people there, as many men as women, and I was probably the youngest person there! Probably because the library was in another town that has a very large retirement community with several thousand residents.

This weekend I hope to start my own tax return. Yuck. Hate it. I would like to get my hands on a hard copy booklet of instructions at local IRS office but I'm not even sure they're making them available that way anymore. Maybe it's all online? I just find it easier to underlie and mark up a hard copy.