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Archive for June, 2016

In the red for month of June

June 28th, 2016 at 03:25 pm

I did my expense report a little early. I'm in the hole for $324 this month, meaning expenses exceeded income by that amount. Bummer. That hasn't happened in a while.

I had a lot of atypical expenses all the way around, including my $150 annual borough tax, a $196 tab for framing mom's art, I blew $100 taking dad out for Father's Day, my $149 Ancestry.com membership, $160 in co-pays for physical therapy, Waldo's $330 vet bill and oh yeah: $438 in groceries this month!

Not great.

I think I may skip doing my monthly investment report. I don't want to see how much I lost, on paper.

This 'n that

June 28th, 2016 at 10:38 am

Here's a better picture of one of mom's shades on my window. Still like? I do!



I'm just wrapping up 2 loads of laundry. Also had a big salad for lunch with a chopped hard-boiled egg and some delicious miso scallion sesame seed dressing i really like a lot.

I have fun plans lined up for this weekend with dad and my friend R., who expressed an interest after meeting my dad for the 1st time at my mother's funeral to do something fun with him.

So my dad has asked me twice for us to take a drive down to the city where I work or some other place along the shoreline where the fishing boats go out. He likes to go bass fishing.

He just wants to scope it out with me, not go out on the boat that day. So R. expressed an interest and willingness to do the driving if I meet him with dad at a commuter rest stop on the way down to work. It's convenient for both of us so he wouldn't have to do extra driving to pick us up where I live, and after showing dad where I work and the waterfront, the touristy area where the fishing boats go out, we'll do lunch somewhere and tour some of the beaches on Long Island Sound.

It's all new to dad who has spent his retirement years on the Jersey shoreline.

The little bunny

June 27th, 2016 at 05:37 pm

Happily, the little brown bunny I've been seeing is still around. I was reading up on Eastern Cottontails and see their home range is usually about 1.4 acres, so it seems my yard is their existence. Smile

Interestingly, they don't dig their own digs but reuse other animals, burrows, such as woodchucks. Well, I certainly have a lot of those! And I have plenty of dense cover and escape routes for them.

May you prosper and multiply! I say that after 20 years of nearly no bunnies.

Finally, we're getting a little rain tonight,and more for tomorrow is expected. We've had weeks of perfect summer weather, but it's also been very dry, and my lawn is showing it.

In the meantime, the offering of a small dish of raisins has been enjoyed by somebody, not sure who. I left it in the driveway near the robin nest. Didn't want to put it too close to the nest in case it attracted predators, like crows, but near enough they may get to it first.

I would love to see the smart and fearless Elizabeth Warren as Hilary's running mate.

Countdown to the long weekend begins! Only 1 more day in the office. Smile

Mom's window shades

June 26th, 2016 at 08:19 am

One of the very last things I took from my mother's condo, after the buyer had already committed to the purchase, was my mother's handmade window shades.

I always liked them and I know it was a lot of work for her to make shades for all the windows in her condo. So I took them, not being at all sure they'd be the right size for my windows.

This morning as I lay in bed trying to decide on the day's agenda, it suddenly occurred to me that I should delve into the shades which were dumped in my basement 9 months ago. The longer they sat down there, the more dirty/dusty and possibly unusable they'd become.

That spurred me into action and I'm happy to say, I got my 2 front, east-facing windows covered. These windows have been problematic for me because while I have wood shutters covering the bottom, I chose to leave the tops bare. No privacy issues here. Yet the summer sun is quite strong and pours in these windows from sunrise to about 1 p.m., and ever since one of the giant pine trees in the row along the road came down in a storm, there's a big gap in the middle of that row of trees and even more sun hits the house. Good in winter, not so great in summer.

When you don't have central air, covering up sunny windows is very important. These should help the house stay cool

Here's what it looks like now:


This is the front window in the living room. Do you think it looks funny to have bottom half shutter, top half blind? Be honest.

I'll try to take pix this afternoon when sun changes position so you can get a better view. One of the dining room windows had a white lacy curtain on top, but I think it looks too granny-like:


I like a more contemporary look.



The fabric is a nice canvas type muslin or something, off-white, and she used a wood beam at the top, which I screwed into the wall, and little wood dowels that span the width of the curtains for the rows between the square-shaped blocks.

Her condo windows were much wider than mine, but not as long, vertical-wise. I had to (bravely) cut the wood beam at top in the middle and then I had 2 shades that covered my windows pretty well width-wise, but are about 5 inches too short. That's why it's good I already have the shutters up, becus you'd never notice they were short and I would never have them down all the way.

So I have 2 curtains up and would like to do the 2nd window in the dining room. That would still leave me with enough curtains to cover 3 more windows but I may stop there due to their being short and just save them in case I do ever move.

Looking at these shades more closely I now realized, in my mother's sewing supplies, why she had so many small white plastic circles. She used them to thread the strings in back of the shades. Smile I thought they were very cleverly made. She used velcro to attach the top of the shades to the wood bar at top, which in turn is screwed into the window.

In other news, I found a new place for "Celebration."


I moved this piece from mom's condo last May, and it was so big and bulky my handyman and I just parked it in front of an old wood chest I have, and there it stayed, blocking the chest and taking up a lot of space. But I've had so many other things to attend to. Now that a big chunk of the artwork has been donated, I was able to move Celebration from the living room to the dining room hallway. It doesn't seem in the way there.

For the first time I was able to get a really good look at the baby robins today. Each time I'd looked before, mama Robin was on the nest, and I didn't want to disturb her. This time, I'm guessing she was off hunting. Still couldn't see much with the naked eye, with all the mountain laurel branches in the way, but with the binoculars, wow, what a difference. I was able to see there are 3 baby robins, and after just 1 week since fledging, they are pretty big. The 3 were all sitting there with their mouths wide open and I could see clear down their throats! Waiting for food to arrive.

By next weekend, they should be ready to leave the nest, and I'm very anxious for them to do so becus then I can clean all the leaves that have collected on the patio below them, hang up 3 new macrame plant hangers in the shade of the rhododendrons and prune some nearby boxwoods. And vacuum my car, and water some plants. I've been trying to not make a lot of disturbance in their vicinity.

So for the rest of today, not sure what I'll do. I was trying to push myself to visit Promisek, a garden that is only open 1 day each month in the summer. But I'd be perfectly happy spending the day cooking up something good for the coming workweek, reading, tending to my garden and what not. Which is what I'll probably end up doing.

I'm taking this Friday off from work which means I only have to drive in to the office 2 days and work at home the other two. Sweet.

Yesterday's doings:

1. Drove up to gallery to collect 3 pieces she framed for me. We always have a nice talk when I go up there. I also gave her some of my mother's art supplies I thought she could use, including a large roll of plastic to wrap framed pieces in, and panes of 12 x 16 glass. I am trashing and recycling some old used metal frames.

2. Stopped at the organic farm and bought a head of lettuce. The Farmer's Market begins this Tuesday for the season and now that they're open til 6 pm, I can scoot over right after work (on a work from home day, conveniently) and browse the market, which they've expanded to include homemade foods and food vendor trucks.

3. Stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond, wanting to use up the $55 balance on an old gift card. I spent it on one of those new outdoor garden hoses that's made of a very lightweight fabric that is a heck of a lot easier to drag around than the rubber hoses. It was very expensive for what it is, but I think it will be worth it becus I HATE dragging heavy 100 ft. long hoses around the driveway and lawn.

4. Filled up the gas tank at BJs.

5. Stocked up on cat food at WalMart, plus cat litter.
I had a bit of a scare after bringing Waldo back from vet becus even after he got his allergy shot and was breathing so much better, he wasn't eating all day Friday, so he missed getting both his meds. I spoke to vet and scheduled another visit for Tuesday for full body x-ray to look for cancer. I was very worried.

Then, like magic, Waldo appears famished by Saturday afternoon. Vet had said the shot, which is a steroid, increases appetite, but maybe it takes a while for this particular effect to kick in. He seems like his old loving self again. So I'm pretty sure, as long as nothing else changes again, that I can cancel the Tuesday afternoon appointment with vet.

Britain left the EU; brace yourselves, investors

June 24th, 2016 at 02:33 am

My mind is still foggy as it's only 5:30 a.m. but i caught the headlines: Britain has left the EU, which I think is a big mistake. Already, world stock markets, which soared in anticipation of a "no" vote," have begun tumbling.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned. Unbelievable. The future of the British Empire is in doubt, as Northern Ireland and Scotland have voted to remain in the EU.

It's going to be a rough day on Wall Street. Hang tight.

From the AP:
LONDON (AP) -- Stock markets crashed, oil prices tumbled and the pound fell to a 31-year low on Friday as Britain's unprecedented vote to leave the European Union shocked investors and dragged the region, the world's largest economic bloc, into a new era of uncertainty.

Investors rushed to dump European shares as soon as markets opened, following earlier drops in Asia, and Wall Street was set to fall sharply amid concerns about the economic consequences of the vote. The move could drain confidence among companies and business in Britain and the wider EU, which some fear could even face more defections.

Britain's decision to leave the EU launches what will be years of negotiations over trade, business and political links with the EU, which will shrink to a 27-nation bloc. Above all, it creates uncertainty, which is toxic to businesses looking to making investments or consumers looking to make purchases.

It could also threaten London's position as one of the world's pre-eminent financial centers as professionals could lose the right to work across the EU. The U.K. hosts more headquarters of non-EU firms than Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands put together.

Waldo's trip to the vet

June 23rd, 2016 at 02:16 pm

Waldo's appointment was scheduled for 3:15 today, but I had no idea if I'd be able to catch him and get him in the carrier.

I knew I had just one chance to get a very quick and squirmy cat becus after that, he'd be too frightened to let me near him.

Around 1 pm I got my chance as he was on TOP of the bed, not under it. I scooped him up and got him in the carrier. I hate having to do it that way becus he is so trusting and then I do THAT and he deeply mistrusts me for weeks.

Now I had a very unhappy and vocal cat in the carrier 2 hours ahead of schedule. I called the vet's office to see if i could come earlier, but the vet was in surgery.

so poor Waldo wailed for 2 hours straight and shook the gate of the carrier in a big way.

Very stressful. Vet checked his blood and said he doesn't have kidney disease, which is what I suspected since he spends a lot of time sitting in front of the water dish and he does throw up a lot.

He agreed that being all congested due to allergies could be why he hasn't been eating becus he can't smell his food.

So he did the bloodwork and urine sample will be back tomorrow. I got some antibiotics becus his white cell count was high and it's possible he has a UTI. He also got his allergy shot.

He seems to be breathing easier. He did eat, but not a lot.

Now I'll have to figure out a way to ensure he gets both his hyperthyroid pills 2x daily plus the antibiotic. Easier when I work at home, not so easy when I don't have time to watch him. I have to be careful Luther doesn't come up and eat his medicated food when I'm not looking. So I'm constantly picking up and putting down plates.

The bill was $330, which hurt, but what are you going to do. It's my Waldo.

It was a little chaotic in the vet's office so i never really got to ask him if his kidney function is normal, why the throwing up and why is he sitting in front of water dish all the time.

I hope this was all a false alarm. He is 15, so I thought this might be it.

9 pm UPDATE: Waldo has forgiven me. He's been very relaxed and affectionate and he is breathing so much better. His whole demeanor seems to have changed.

In other news, I posted something on a local tag sale site that hadn't sold in my tag sale, and it was picked up today. That brings my tag sale total to $150. I will probably keep trying to sell certain things piecemeal, altho i already have the car loaded up with a 2nd batch of stuff going straight to Good Will or dump tomorrow. I need to make room for my future.

Wednesday

June 22nd, 2016 at 06:21 pm

I'm worried about Waldo. Made an appointment with the vet for tomorrow afternoon, but I'm not at all sure I'll get a chance to grab him and put him in the carrier. All I get is one shot and after that he'd be too terrified to let me near him.

I finally got him to eat a few small mouthfuls tonight by sharing my Alaskan wild sockeye salmon, his favorite meal.

If you remember I mailed a letter to someone on the board of directors at Masonicare asking him to intervene on my behalf with all the people over there who allowed this outstanding bill for the month to month rental of the wheelchair they lost.

He did promptly send my letter to the president of Masonicare, who in turn contacted a certain someone at Masonicare in my town and magic has happened. Today I got an emailed letter which I'd requested stating that I'm not responsible for this bill. They also said the amount past due would be paid this week.

He was pretty nice and I was very appreciative. I'm sure I have few fans at Masonicare becus I raised such a stink, but if I hadn't, this 6-month-long saga would have continued even longer. I need to move on with my life.

Yesterday someone came over to the house to look at my garage sale leftovers and bought a few things, so my total now for the sale is $130. I brought some items to Good Will this a.m. on my way in to work and put some things in the trash as well.

There is so much more still in garage, but I need to stop and figure out how to dispose of it. No rest for the weary.

I got a heads up on an upcoming assignment at work I'm actually interested in, that will engage me. Writing 2 white papers for the bank's Healthcare sales team. To be perfectly frank, writing direct mail stuff (letters and emails, mainly) is not that challenging, and the marketing stuff, well, I've done it for years. I like something i can dig my teeth into and takes some writing finesse.

The baby robins have finally hatched. The ones in the nest just outside the sunroom and directly above my new sitting area on the paver driveway. I've tried to avoid that area entirely so as not to alarm them, but chipmunks, known to eat bird eggs and even fledglings, live nearby. But anyway, they are very, very quiet. I hear crows overhead every morning, and they of course would kill them. So it must be a survival instinct.

It takes 2 weeks to fledge and so I've marked my calendar to watch when that happens so I can prune some shrubs in that area, hang 3 macrame plant hangers I bought a while ago and use my blower to clean all the fallen leaves there.

I can't really look at the nest from inside the sun room without them seeing me as I peer from behind the blinds, which I lowered to give them privacy and so the cats wouldn't freak them out. I left one blind up just a little so I can periodically check on them but I don't have a great view.

Yesterday I got the state of CT estate tax return from accountant (or his assistant) and there were 3 different careless mistakes I caught, any of which would have surely caused the probate court to reject the filing and cause delays. One was to list and count my mother's condo as an asset upon death when I had already sold it months earlier, thus greatly increasing the size of total estate (and my probate fees). The 2nd mistake was not checking one question "no" in a series of questions that were all marked "no." The 3rd was using a form for people who died in 2011! Geez.

Becus we were just days away from the deadline, I decided to run down to the court to hand-deliver it in person.

Now I have to wait until mid-July to file the next form.

I am toying with the idea of getting 2 or 3 quotes for central air conditioning, although I hadn't planned on doing that this year, or even at all, necessarily.

Garage sale results and a pet peeve

June 19th, 2016 at 04:18 am

I had my garage sale yesterday, 9 to 3. As usual, I had most people coming in the morning. Even though I said "No early birds" in the ad, I had at least 3 groups of people arriving as early as 8 a.m. while I was still setting up, which was annoying and a little disrespectful. I could see people showing up 10 or 15 minutes early, but to arrive an hour early just tells me they are accustomed to disregarding the seller's request, and so on behalf of all tag sellers, I turned them away, knowing I was likely turning away possible sales.

Dad came over and sat with me for a few hours, which was nice.

Even though I had all kinds of big stuff I dearly wanted to get rid of (a twin headboard, some large foam core and poster board sheets, a mat cutter) and a bunch of photography equipment (tripod, studio light stands), I mostly sold the stuff priced for less than $5, like quite a few spools of thread (.50 each), a fair amount of low-priced jewelry and so on. I also sold some stuff that I frankly thought was worthless, like a glass florist vase that I "painted" by pouring paint inside the clear glass, or 2 pieces of plexiglas sheets.

I did sell 2 pieces of my mother's art. I felt a little guilty selling them at a tag sale, but I know my mother's style pretty well, and these 2 pieces seemed like unfinished works and in fact were not signed. She could have been experimenting with something or she just never got around to finishing them. A young woman immediately noticed them upon arriving and was very excited to get them, so that made me happy too.

And yes, after feedback from all of you, I did last minute launder and then put out the twin comforter my mother used for 3 months. It sold for $10 (value about $20).

So I grossed $114 and my newspaper ad was $10, so net was about $104.

After the sale was over, dad came back after having gone home and I took him out to an early Father's Day dinner at a new British/Italian restaurant in town.

The garage sale was probably not worth it. Now I have to clear out the stuff in garage that I spent so much time arranging. I will now trash some things, donate stuff to Good Will but will still hang on to unsold stuff that I still think I should be able to sell (given the right venue), like the photography stuff.

Continued decluttering efforts

June 17th, 2016 at 05:11 am

I relish getting a leisurely start to my days when I don't have to run off to work. Today's my last vacation day. Frown It went pretty quickly but I did get a lot done this week.

The biggest things I did this week are related to decluttering: Donating 48 pieces of art to the nonprofit I've blogged about and also getting ready for a big garage sale tomorrow!

Still, if there's stuff left over unsold after the garage sale (and we know that will be the case) I then will have to figure out what to donate to Good Will and what to hold onto for even longer, until I figure out how to sell it. That would be the more valuable stuff like my mother's older cameras, lenses, her mat cutter and so on.

There's a twin-sized comforter I need to push myself to donate. I'm not sure that people ever buy used bedding. It's something that neither my mother or I liked much when I bought it for her new bed at assisted living, but she needed something right away and that was the best we could find at Target. So now I have it, a perfectly good comforter, but I'm not crazy about its appearance. I could turn it over on its back side, which is like a dark teal. Or I could donate because my closets are overflowing and it doesn't even fit in any of my closets anymore. It's sitting on the floor of my spare bedroom. The closet is filled with mom's computer, monitor, printer and all my stuff, etc.

I just have a hard time letting go of things I think/know I could use. Although I already have another queen sized comforter I'd bought for my mother for a recent Christmas, but at least 3 or 4 of my own. So again, closets are over-filled as it is.

Right now (and for foreseeable future), i'm using my mother's twin bed as a sort of daybed in my family room. (I was finally able to sell my 20-year-old couch earlier this year to make room for it.) I have a nice lightweight Indian print on the bed with a bunch of pillows. Using the comforter on it would make it look too bed-like.


I took down about 10 framed botanical fruit and flower prints that hung above the couch (now the daybed) and put up more of my mother's art, solely to get the art off the floors so I can more effectively vacuum. I've lived with the botanical art for years; I think I'm ready to try to sell them at my garage sale for maybe $40 each.

Another problematic item: I have a large rug my mother bought in Morocco or someplace else, possibly. It's like a super shag with fairly bright colors in the orange family that aren't my colors. It's in rough shape and the edges are all frayed, worn off, so I don't think I could sell it. Not sure it would look good if I layered it on top of existing carpeting in the house since there's so much color going on with my mother's art and in any case, the cats would shred it even more. Yet I feel somewhat "attached" to it and am not sure I could throw it away. However, it WOULD cover up some ugly yellow stains on my old wall to wall carpet in the family room.

Can someone talk me into getting rid of it or doing SOMETHING with it? It's also taking up too much space in spare bedroom.

Here's the living room, which still contains some matted art on the floor, which I guess I will also bring up to attic.



Here's the dining room, also looking a bit better than before.



Snafu had suggested putting all my mother's art in ONE room so I'm tripping over it less elsewhere. I can't really do that as none of my rooms were especially "empty" to begin with. Also, you can't just stack the framed items one on top of the other. My mother's work was either behind glass, Plexiglas or on canvas, and each of those materials must be dealt with carefully.

You shouldn't stack anything on top of canvas, or it will stretch it out. You can rest 2 or 3 items at most on top of glass, if you're careful to stack so the item on top rests on the frame of the item underneath, not directly on the glass. And Plexiglas scratches very easily, so you have to be careful with that.

But with the recent art donation, my family room looks pretty good. I also hauled up to attic a number of matted pieces that I think I have to acknowledge out loud I will probably never want to spend the money on framing. I have framed most of my favorite pieces, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

I'm fearful about what the super hot temperatures in the attic will do to matted art, but I need to reclaim my living space.

I took about 5 large pieces on mounted on foam core for sale in my garage sale. These were interesting abstract designs that look like they were done in magic marker or gel pen, and I don't think a lot of people will spend much money on that, since it will fade. So all will be priced at $50 or less. I'm also selling a dozen or so of some of my mom's miniature framed works at very affordable prices. I would never do this with the better art, and I do feel some guilt for trying to sell some of this stuff in a garage sale, but this is definitely an artists'-themed sale which I called out in my Facebook and local paper ads, so hope it will attract crafty people who might like it.

Also selling the twin headboard I'd bought for my mother's twin bed at assisted living last year. At the time i was thinking, choose carefully becus you will likely end up with this, and of course that's what happened. Unfortunately, the furniture place delivered an ugly dark brown headboard instead of the white version I'd ordered, and I took the discount they offered instead of holding out for a corrected order. So now I'm hoping to sell the ugly headboard for $30. I think it cost $80.

So I'm just sitting here sipping tea and trying to organize the day ahead. Trying not to overload my schedule with more than I can accomplish. Here's what I have planned:

1. Trip to Trader Joe's
2. Get Father's Day card.
3. Post signs for garage sale this afternoon.
4. Continue researching sale item prices.
5. Bring down to garage some final pieces for sale, including mat cutter, stick vacuum, botanical prints
6. Squeeze in a walk.

I'll skip the movie matinee as I'm afraid I'll run out of time.

Taking matters into my own hands

June 15th, 2016 at 01:32 pm

We've had 3 or 4 perfect weather days this past week. I'm so lucky I have the week off from work. Yesterday the sky was so pretty, and the moon was already out.



I have not blogged about this problem lately because it causes me so much stress I can't deal with it.

I have written earlier in the year....much earlier....about how Masonicare "lost" a rented wheelchair it obtained for my mother last October 2015. I didn't even become aware they rented a chair for her until she passed in December 2015 because after she died, Medicare would not pay the bills for the wheelchair and so the wheelchair rental company started sending the bills to me.

I obtained a copy of the contract and as I understand from reading it, they will bill month to month for a full one year unless Masonicare ends the contract by returning their equipment.

Masonicare cannot find the wheelchair and last spring there were a lot of back and forth emails and phone calls as I tried everything I could to get the matter resolved.

They told me verbally and in writing "don't worry about it" and "we'll take care of it," but I am still getting the bills and I'm honestly not sure who's legally responsible in this kind of scenario and I'm not sure those kinds of vague reassurances would stand up in court if I relied on those statements to not pay the bill.

I don't think I should be held responsible for a contract I didn't sign for a wheelchair that was never in my possession and which it's really impossible for me to locate myself. In entering into the contract on behalf of my mother, I believe Masonicare was also responsible for returning the wheelchair after my mom passed.

The contract was signed by a Masonicare employee but of course it was for my mother's benefit.

Two months ago I asked the rental place to direct the bills to Masonicare and that's what I thought they were doing so I assumed the matter was finally taken care of, but then yesterday I got another bill from them. Later, in talking with a Masonicare rep, she said the rental place told her they don't bill institutions, they only bill individuals, and that they would continue to bill me.

This started another round of emails and phone calls by me to various people at Masonicare and the rental place.

I am concerned that my good credit could be damaged if the rental place still considers me as the responsible paying party (since it is still sending me the bills) and now they are tacking on finance charges. I told Masonicare if they continue delaying payment, it will go to collections and I could start getting nasty collections phone calls.

I am also near closing out my mother's estate and want to see this issue resolved so I can finalize things.

As before, Masonicare told me they were still looking for the wheelchair, and this time the nursing head suggested that maybe the rental place did in fact get the wheelchair returned becus they can't find it anywhere. I mean, who knows? This could go on forever!

At this point, I would think they would give up looking and just pay the darn bill since it's now incurring late fees. I doubt they've truly been looking for the wheelchair these past 6 months and I also feel like no one's really taken ownership of the problem.

It's just gone round and round and it's frankly ridiculous and very stressful to me at a time when I am still mourning my mother's loss.

So a few days ago, as I warned the head of nursing, I mailed a written letter to the vice chairman of the board of directors at Masonicare for the entire state. Why the vice chairman? Because he was the only one, a CPA, whose business address I could find online. They are not very transparent and do not provide contact info for any members of the board, but this is just what I could find online with some digging.

I asked him to intercede on my behalf and help me get this matter settled after 6 months of aggravation. I did also imply/suggest that if I had to I would contact the state of CT, Dept of Social Services, Office of Legal Counsel to seek help. It's what I call a "carrot/stick" approach.

I was very gratified to get an email from him today. He said he forwarded my letter to the president of Masonicare who said he would immediately contact so and so at my local Masonicare where all this happened and would let me know when he gets a response.

I had even considered calling the attorney who closed on my mother's condo last summer for help, but while the sale of that condo was super cheap (about $500, becus a paralegal did all the work), he told me his hourly rate was $750 an hour! A letter from an attorney would have been very helpful but I'm certainly not going to spend that kind of money to do so in a situation that really shouldn't require it in the first place.

So I am hopeful with the board of directors help this may finally be taken care of.

In other news, I had 5 people over here from the nonprofit healthcare center to pick up mom's art. I had spent several hours carefully bubblewrapping everything, and when they came I instructed them on how to safely transport, store and clean the art. Mom would be proud, I think. I also put it in writing and gave it to them. You can't just grab a framed piece with one had on the top or you risk separating the frame. You have to support the weight using 2 hands. I had cringed when one of the women who was here last time propped up a tapestry I'd given her on the floor. Not good.

So my family room looks much more tidied up and cleaner.



But the living room (and most other rooms in the house), still have a lot of art to deal with:



Obviously still a lot of art, but at least I can walk around and vacuum the family room more easily.

Now that 48 pieces of art are gone, I can turn my attention to the garage sale I'm having this Saturday. I brought more stuff into the garage, dragged down a folding table from my office, starting putting price tags on stuff, and created a bunch of signs. I also spent $10 on an ad in local paper.

I still have to go to the bank for small bills and put the signs up Friday night.

It sure is a lot of work and it may not be worthwhile, but I just wanted to give it a try before donating any unsold stuff to Goodwill or perhaps trying to sell more expensive items individually on Facebook.

I have mostly art, sewing and photography supplies and equipment, along with the usual household goods and some ethnic-looking beaded jewelry. My prices are very cheap becus i really want to move this stuff out of here. I got out of the habit of going to tag sales myself becus it just seemed people were trying to sell absolute junk and old stuff that no one in their right mind would want, you know, the ubiquitous clear glass vases you get when someone sends you flowers, and ugly old dishware and so on.

I may catch a matinee tomorrow.

Great family tree trip to Jersey

June 13th, 2016 at 05:58 pm

So dad and I spent the day yesterday exploring the 2 little towns where he and my mother grew up, along with my grandparents and my great aunts and their families.

These are 2 kind of dumpy, gritty towns and very small in terms of square miles but very densely developed. Garfield, for instance, is just two square miles in size but has a population of about 30,000. Adjacent to Garfield is Saddle Brook, which is a little bigger, at 2.7 square miles, but with half the population. The real estate values there are pretty high, though, becus of the area's proximity to the city, which is right across the river. There are a lot of jobs on both sides of the river, now and at the time the families first settled here.

There were thousands of immigrants getting off the boats across the Hudson: German, Italian, Slavic, Russian, Hungarian, Polish. They landed at Ellis Island, looked across the river toward Jersey and decided the other side was as good a place as any to put down roots.

So we looked up a bunch of addresses where various family members lived. Dad's memory and directions were flawless. We were looking at places where family members lived from about 1929, when my grandfather first stepped off the passenger ship "Dresden" at Ellis Island, into the 1940s.

If we hadn't gone on this trip, dad probably wouldn't have remembered a lot of details, and he was telling me so much I couldn't keep up and I was driving so I couldn't take notes.

One of my favorite of his recollections was when he showed me the old brick apartment house where he lived from about pre-school age to 4 years old.


They lived on the 2nd floor of this building, facing the street. They didn't have a refrigerator but they had an ice box that was made to fit in the window and face out, like an air conditioner. If you wanted ice, you put a little sign out on the box so the ice man would know. He would then carry up a big block of ice for you.

Dad asked me to walk into the lobby and see if the original white marble steps and walls were still there. They are.




So strange to imagine my grandparents collecting their mail here, years before I was born.

Across the street is another brick building where they sold live chickens to the housewives. That's all they sold, live chickens. They were kept in cages stacked from floor to ceiling and you'd go in and pick the one you wanted; they they'd go out back and kill it for you.


Here's the chicken store now. It looks like it's being used as an apartment building. This is also the spot where a really cute photo of my dad was taken when he was a little boy and he was sitting with a neighbor's girl who was playing with a litter of kittens inside a giant truck tire.



We had lunch at a diner on Rt. 46 that dad said existed back then, though it looked a little different. Just think that my grandparents could have sat and eaten there 20 years before I was born, and now I was eating there 39 years after my grandfather died. It's almost like the Twilight Zone or something.

Here's where one of my great aunts lived with her husband.



I don't know why, but I never met my 2 great aunts, grandpa's sisters, although they were still living in the area. Both came from Germany, after my grandfather did in 1923. Dad said the one sister married a Nazi and that when she got pregnant, they made a point to return to Germany to give birth so the child could have dual citizenship. However, the year she gave birth to her son was 1934, at a time when the Nazi party was just gaining political power; I don't think anyone then could have foreseen what would unfold.

This was the aunt who brought my dad to a German-American Bund camp.

We met a friendly neighbor who talked to us at length.

The other sister of my grandfather's lived with her husband here:


They didn't have any children. He was a foreman at Forsman's Woolen Mill.

Switching to my mother's side of the family, here's where my maternal grandmother's family home was when she grew up.



I had never seen any of these addresses, nor did I realize during all those years of visiting my mother's parents home that everyone else lived so close!

I got quite a shock to see my maternal grandparents' home, where so many happy memories were made, no longer exists. They built a new house there.



There was a little walkway to a small park in the back and you can see it here to the right of their house. Behind the house is a big ugly old factory building which is still there.


This is the view after having walked back into the little park. The spot where my grandparents' house stood is now occupied by a new house at left, and you can see the factory building at right. Grandpa used to grow veggies in his backyard but the new house takes up much more space.

My grandfather built that house himself. It was a one bedroom, one bath brick ranch with a spare room (no closet) and a super large Florida room where they practically lived in the summer.

I spoke to a friendly next door neighbor, a Pole, who said they knocked down my grandparents' brick ranch house a few years after he bought his house in 1995.

I hadn't known that my dad grew up for his teen years on 4th Street while my mother lived literally around the block on 5th Street. In a 2.7 square mile town, is it any wonder they met and married??

Also no longer in existence is an earlier address where dad lived in Garfield. There's a brand new duplex condo there completed in 2015.



The unit on the right is for sale right now for a little over $500,000.

We looked for the big maple tree in the backyard, but it's not there anymore either.

It was a great trip. I enjoyed my dad's company. I'm not sure I ever took such a long trip with him, just the two of us. He still knew his way around so well, there was no need for the typed directions I had painstakingly prepared to get us from one address to the next. I knew the area was densely populated and I thought there might be a lot of missteps getting around, but that really didn't happen.

I do feel a little regretful that my grandparents never felt a need to stay close to their extended families that all lived so close by. I never actually knew they were alive and well and living close by. I was aware all my grandparents had big families but that's about it. Aside from very occasionally seeing some of my maternal grandfather's brothers and their families over the holidays, there wasn't any other family socializing. It strikes me as very odd.

Before heading home we stopped in Rutherford, about 15 minutes south, to see my half-brother. He was home alone; his wife was out with the kids. It was the 1st time I saw his house.

48 pieces

June 12th, 2016 at 04:18 am

I started out earlier this year thinking I might take a small baby step in donating art, maybe 3 or 4 pieces, and see how that went before committing to more. Maybe I wasn't quite ready to let go of it.

But now I am and I've committed to donating 48 pieces of art (!!) to the nonprofit healthcare facility in my hometown. The doctors and nurses who work there all volunteer their time to provide free healthcare (locally) to those who can't afford it.

Three people came to my home today to see the art, including the doctor who founded the organization. I could tell they weren't really people accustomed to looking at art, but they said they would take it all. They are moving into a 5,000 sf space this fall and have a lot of wall space to fill. They would take it now and keep it in storage until then, and they were open to my helping to "curate" and offer some guidance on how to hang it, grouping what with what, when the time comes, which I might like to do.

I spent considerable time beforehand, not only cleaning my dusty first floor but gathering in the family room all the art I was ready to give them so they could just pick and choose what they wanted in that room. I told them I would be happy if they took it all but indicated they could be more selective, if they wishes. That's when the doctor, after being silent for a moment, said that in addition to the clinic itself, they also have a large conference room where doctors and other healthcare providers meet. Just recently they had some meeting there where doctors from U Mass. came. They want to hang art there, too, and I think mom would be happy and honored by that.

So my donation includes about a dozen tapestries to hang on the wall, some quite large, as well as photography, oil and watercolor painting and my mother's signature "woven paintings."

I found the prices for about three-quarters of the pieces in my mother's price book, and going strictly by what she listed them by, their estimated value is close to $13,000.

I probably won't try to claim a tax credit. Art appraisers aren't cheap, and could cost about $1,000, according to gallery people I spoke to. I'm still inclined to just give this group the art without trying to get any tax break, although I did document all I'm giving them and took pix, just in case.

I don't think I could just claim the $13,000 as a tax credit simply becus that's what my mother valued them at. I mean, people could then place any kind of value they wanted on the art. I think an appraiser would assign a value by carefully looking at past sales of like items, along with my mother's reputation, and that's where it would become a pain for me to try to dig around and find that kind of info.

And if I am truly making a gift of something, a part of me says I should do so freely, with no idea in mind of somehow benefiting from it monetarily.

And I already agreed to let the healthcare facility people come back here this Wednesday to pick everything up. The doctor said they would make a little plaque indicating all the art was made by my mother, which is nice.

I am thrilled to see how relatively empty my family room will look once the art is picked up. And to be perfectly honest, the art I'm donating is the stuff I feel would be difficult to sell, just based on my own subjective opinion that these pieces are not as attractive/marketable as other pieces. I suppose I could spend a lifetime trying to sell them, but I don't see this as my mission beyond another year or two or three at most.

I am keeping the best pieces for myself and will try to sell another group I am a little less attached to.

Today's my road trip with dad down memory lane in New Jersey where my extended family lived. Later this summer, I would like to do the same kind of trip to Philly, where older generations lived.

My new obssession

June 10th, 2016 at 03:57 am

Well, I've talked about it before on this site. A month or so ago I began researching my family tree, and boy, am I hooked!

I am content for now to still be researching just the 1st 4 generations back. As the genealogist at the club meeting i went to last night said, you don't research individuals..you research families.

She also said don't bother paying extra for the international version of Ancestry.com until you have done thorough and comprehensive research on the domestic part of your family.

Here are some of the latest tidbits I've found:

1. My grandfather went to prison! When I researched his name, of course I got back a gazillion results. Even if you think you have an unusual family name, you will still get many thousands of results. You can scan these results by looking at an abbreviated summary of each result, to save time. So when I looked at these results weeks ago, I remember coming across an entry indicating someone with my grandfather's name lived in Elmira, NY. I passed that entry by because I knew he lived in the Garfield/Saddle Brook area of New Jersey.

Well, that entry popped up again in a search last night and I just decided to open it for more details. For one thing, it indicated the middle initial was W., and I had since found out that my grandfather did indeed have a middle name starting with "W", which I hadn't known before.

But anyway, when I opened it up, the address given in Elmira was the New York State Reformatory!

The ONLY reason I discovered this is because he was there in 1930, a census year. As you may know, the federal census is only done every 10 years. So if, say, he had been in prison in 1929 or 1931, I would likely never have known about it because there was no census done in those years.

I couldn't find anything else indicating how long he was there, or for what. I do know my grandmother married him in 1933. I wonder whether she was dating him before prison and decided to stick with him anyway. Perhaps more likely, she met him after he got out of prison...I'm thinking people may not have dated for extended periods of time before marriage, as they may do these days.

I vaguely remember my grandmother telling me my grandfather and his 4 brothers, born and raised in the Harlem area of New York City, were involved in criminal activities like racketeering and loan sharking early on, with possible connections to the Mafia (we're not Italian) and their mother urged them to leave the city, and most of them did eventually go across the river to New Jersey.

I also remember my mother's first cousin, who I connected with after my mother died, telling me her father (my grandfather's brother) had gone to prison.

So my grandfather would have been 22 years old at the time.

I am sure this will surprise my dad. This happened a few years before he and my mother were born and I doubt he knew of it, although he was intrigued by my earlier comments about criminal activities in the family. He told me that when he and my mother were dating, my mother applied for a job with the FBI, but she failed the background check! He was surprised then, but it's quite possible her father's background was not to the feds' liking.

2. In the 1920 federal census, the same grandfather (10 years old at the time) and his family were all listed as being Jewish! This would be a surprise if it was correct since my mother's mother, who married my grandfather, was Roman Catholic and when my mother married my father, his parents were Catholic/Lutheran, and my sister and I were raised Lutheran. My grandfather never went to church.

Subsequent censuses didn't reference any Jewish connection again. I wondered if possibly my grandfather was Jewish but given widespread anti-Jewish sentiment across Europe well before WWII if they just decided not to identify themselves as Jewish anymore, especially if they weren't especially religious. Or was it simply a clerical error, which seems quite possible given these censuses were all filled in by hand.

3. I was able to locate the old movie my dad remembered seeing where he recognized a German-American Bund camp he attended in New Jersey before the war. The spy movie is called The House on 92nd Street and I would like to buy it (just $8) so my dad and I can watch it together.

I am collecting a great deal of paperwork and handwritten notes that could be confusing to make sense of if I don't do something with them soon.

I need a better way to organize all my research findings. You can build a family tree on ancestry.com, but I don't want to be paying $200 a year forever. I need a way to create my own documentation to better organize my data and help make it easier to see where the gaps are. So I'm thinking I'll make an Excel spreadsheet, one tab per person, with individual cells for each key piece of info including name, DOB, known addresses, date of marriage, name of spouse, names, DOBs of siblings, date of death, military service, etc. etc. Many times I'm researching for something specific but I forget the birth date or death death of someone in the middle of it. I need handy reference sheets that organize all of that.

4. Another little puzzle is that in the 1927 Perth Amboy, NJ, city directory, it lists my grandfather (the same one referenced above) as living at a certain address in that city. In 1931, he is still listed there but this time with my grandmother's name next to his. Yet I know they married in 1933, so what gives?? I can't imagine my grandparents would live together before getting married. So this is something I'd like to spend more time on figuring it out.

This Sunday, my dad and I are driving down to New Jersey to check out 4 or 5 key addresses where my dad grew up and where my grandparents grew up before they married. I've already checked the addresses on Zillow and while the Philly addresses where my great grandparents lived still exist (built around 1900), many of the homes in Jersey have been razed and rebuilt.

I got quite a shock last night when I looked up my mother's parents house, of which I have many fond memories. I'd forgotten the street number but found it in an old address book I have. I found the listing with a photo and it's a totally different house. In fact, the whole street would be totally unrecognizable save for the fact there was an access road to a park alongside the house, and that is still there. But soon after my grandfather built that brick house, a huge ugly factory building was erected right behind it. It was always so ugly. But in the Zillow listing, it looks like it's totally gone! Maybe one reason why the current property is valued at $500,000! My grandfather's house was a one story, 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with a spare room and a huge Florida room.

So, yeah, this obsession may last for a while. As I learn more about my ancestors, they become more like real people to me, and it reminds me that the world does not revolve around Patient Saver, that many came before me and many will come after me. I am just a small cog in the wheel of life.

It also really reinforces how people were on the move in those days. Life must have been pretty hard for so many people to be willing to, in many cases, leave family and friends behind to cross continents in search of a better life.

You learn all this in school, but when you learn about it it in the context of your own family background, it becomes so much more meaningful.

Having been thru this experience I can see how homeschooling, a highly individualized method of teaching, could be so engaging.

It makes me feel like I wish I could have known them. Of my 4 grandparents, I only remember ever meeting relations of my mother's father, the one referenced above. All of my grandparents came from large families, but strangely, with a few exceptions, they mostly didn't keep in touch with siblings after they married...at least it didn't appear so to me.

Tomorrow the non-profit healthcare center people are coming to my house to peruse my mother's art and hopefully gratefully accept my selected donations. I am fully prepared to give them 25 or more pieces, including a lot of woven tapestries which seem to be of earlier vintage. I'm trying to clean the downstairs of the house so it looks presentable.

After my trip to Jersey with dad on Sunday, I've got next week off from work and I have a slew of things I want to do, including some maintenance work around the house, a matinee or two, maybe another trip with did to a rare waterfowl sanctuary in Litchfield County, planning for my tag sale next Saturday, and of course, more family tree research.

Attic find

June 6th, 2016 at 06:44 pm

I was rummaging around in the attic this weekend and came upon this old photo.



This is me and my friend Diane in the mid-1980s. I'm thinking I must have been all of 23 years old! She was a fellow journalist with me at the Eagle Times in Springfield, Vermont. I vaguely remember we took a trip north somewhere, maybe up to the Burlington area, during the time when Bernie Sanders served as governor.

I'm the one on the right, by the way. I still remember that cow t-shirt made by a famous Vermont artist, and the Montreal sweatshirt, too.

Diane was fun to be around. We used to spend Friday nights together talking and drinking and eating nachos with refried beans, cheese and chopped tomatoes. I still think of her when I make those, once in a great while.

I need to spend more time scanning old photos like this before they totally fade away.

Grumpy vent alert

June 3rd, 2016 at 04:46 pm

Sorry, this is mostly a series of complaints culminating in a Bad Mood.

I was having an okay Friday most of the day, working in the office on a massive pain-in-the-butt project involving a 9-page document I wrote back in March which now my boss says is "hot" and must be deconstructed and put into Excel spreadsheet form by next week.

I was trying to make good progress on it but then at around 3:30 a bunch of guys descended on the floor to change out all the overhead fluorescent bulbs with energy-efficient, overly bright LED bulbs. Like, surgery-bright light. Apparently I wasn't the first to remark on it.

Not sure whose bright idea (no pun intended) it was to have them start while we're all supposed to be working. This proved impossible; when one guy asked me to move so he could install the light, i told him i was on deadline (true) and kept going. They were treating it more like a construction zone than someone else's workplace. So things are crashing around me, loud conversations, very distracting. I gave up and headed for home around 4.

On the way home, the young lady behind me decided she didn't want to remain behind me as the 6-lane highway turned into 2 lanes, so she sped up, passed me on the right and cut me off to slide in ahead of me. We exchanged fingers. Some 18-year-old who thinks she knows how to drive. I swear I run into idiot drivers nearly every day, at some point on my route. There are a lot of places where traffic really backs up and otherwise, it can be a 15-mph crawl, so aggressive drivers will take opportunities they see to get one car ahead or worse, risk an accident. People are SO impatient.

I had to stop at the local Sunoco station as I had a low air pressure light go on again this morning and I didn't have time to check the tire (only fill it) this a.m. on my way in to office. So while they checked out the tire, I sat on a bench in front of the gas station and read a book I need to finish tonight cus it's due tomorrow and I have book club next week.

Some guy pulls up in his car right up to where I was sitting. I mean, real close, as if to annoy me or something. Any closer and he would have hit my leg. I purposefully did not look up from the book. Then when he gets out of the car, he wants me to move my legs so he can pass. If he hadn't pulled up so close, it wouldn't be a problem. He laughed and expressed his surprise that I hadn't looked up when he pulled up. A few minutes later, he's joking with the guy who works there and suggests that I should go walk to the deli to get this guy a sandwich. Really weird. Anyway, $30 and a new valve stem later, I'm finally on my way home.

When I got home, I saw my lawn hadn't been mowed. I had asked mower guy to come on Friday (today) instead of Thursday, his usual day, since the pavers had showed up to repave the asphalt driveway at lower end. And I realized belatedly that I forgot to mention to mower guy in my phone message that a tape would be across the driveway. That is to prevent delivery trucks from driving up it but the lawn mowers are fine. I'm wondering now if he was annoyed for showing up and seeing the tape decided not to mow, even tho i told him to come today. Now I have to wait and wonder if and when he will show up. The grass is pretty tall.

I'm feeling very tired in general today and decided to collapse on bed and upon doing so, felt something on my foot, and that's when i saw the cat throw up on the sheet. Luckily it didn't soak through, but then I had to change all the sheets before I could relax.

It's the little things that drive me nuts!! In the grand scheme of things, not too important and all will be forgotten tomorrow.

What's the most expensive pair of shoes you've ever bought?

June 2nd, 2016 at 07:32 am

Even though there was grass growing up through my just-paved new asphalt driveway (bizarre) the paver guy has been very responsive. After blow-torching the grass and melting the asphalt in that area did not work (the grass grew there again) they came up yesterday and when I came home I found them preparing to repave the last 4 feet on the lower end of the driveway. For good measure, one of the crew told me they actually dug up the grass and sprayed weed killer on it as well.

My neighbor across the street let me park my car in his driveway. They said keep vehicles off it for at least 2 days, so I called my lawn mower guy this a.m. to ask if he could mow tomorrow afternoon instead of today. Hopefully he'll get the message before he shows up here.

It is a bit of a pain because I often have delivery trucks coming here and I'm never sure if the driver will actually walk up my long driveway instead of leaving a package by the curb. I can put a sign there that walking on it is ok, but not driving. If I had known they were going to repave it yesterday, I would not have ordered things online, like the 3 macrame plant hangers I found on Etsy.

A throwback to my younger days, I fondly remember making macrame plant hangers in my teens. Not sure I'd remember how to now.

Today will be my 4th physical therapy session for the toes. After the last session, which included electrical stimulation on foot/leg, it did seem like my toes weren't nearly as stiff as they have been, but that feeling only lasted for about 20 minutes. I will make sure and tell them that.

My dad and I are planning a day trip in a few weeks down to Garfield/Saddle Brook/Passaic, NJ, where much of my family settled (there and Philadelphia) after arriving from Europe.

Once we settle on a date, dad suggested I invite my mother's cousin out to dinner with us before we head back to Connecticut as she lives down that way.

I discovered that a robin has built a nest in the very near vicinity of my new side driveway patio that I was enjoying so much. Now I feel I should avoid using it until the robin's babies have fledged. I'm not even sure it has eggs yet, but I have seen it sitting on the nest. I feel I should do whatever I can to help it achieve success since I remember a few years ago a robin that built a nest on the other side of my house abandoned its nest after a crow discovered it. I was able to shoo the crow away from it by banging on the window, but by then, it was too late. The robins must have known the crows would return sometime when I wasn't around.

As it is, the nest is in a very iffy area, if you ask me. I think the birds know instinctively that building a nest so close to the house is helpful becus predators are less likely to roam that area. However, the nest, while it's about 6 feet high if I'm standing in the driveway looking up at the shrubbery along the retaining wall, it's only about 2 feet off the ground if you're in the backyard, and a raccoon could easily reach the nest. So I don't know what its chances are.

I've lowered the shades on the 2 windows in my sunroom facing the nest so the cat doesn't spot it and harass it from inside. I'm also going to relocate the hummingbird feeder away from that area so I have no need to go in and out through my sunroom door every few days. And I'll stop feeding birds in that area too, although I like to watch the birds from the sun room. The seed would just attract critters.

This Saturday is CT Trails Day and while I have a bunch of art-related pickups/dropoffs I have to do, I'm considering skipping yoga (again) so I can squeeze in a few hours for either a hike or trail maintenance on a nearby trail. If I do that, I can then get a trails patch. Smile Which is what's motivating me to participate.

I have really not been spending much money these days, aside from the redo of my driveway and a trip to PA to meet up with Dido, but I must say I fell in love with a pair of leather woven sneakers at Bloomingdales for the ridiculous price of $248. And there's a pair of really nice sandals for $145 at Nordstrom's. I rarely if ever spend more than $100 on shoes but I must say I'm tempted. The nearest Bloomie's to me is down in White Plains, where I don't envision myself going, and it's too much of a risk to buy them online and they don't fit. I don't like the hassle of returns and would rather have the ability to return something like that to a store. There IS a Nordstrom's by me at the mall, so I could check out the fit of the sandals there. I've had back luck buying shoes online as to fit/comfort.

I've settled on a June Saturday later this month to have the doctor from the local non profit healthcare center and some others come to my home to look at the art I'd like to donate. I want to donate a ton of weavings which I don't really care for, but I'm not sure they will like them either.

I'm also for some reason feeling very self-conscious having these visitors come to the house so I'm going to have to really clean the main level they'll see. I'm also hoping it won't be sweltering hot since I don't have central air and it could be uncomfortable in here.