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Archive for July, 2016

Another road trip

July 31st, 2016 at 11:42 pm

We took another road trip, me, R. and dad. R. did all the driving and kept up a running commentary of the areas we were driving through, offering a pretty good summary of historical highlights and so on. Well, he knows the area very well.

After meeting in the commuter parking lot, we headed down to Bridgeport, where I used to work, and stopped in at the new Bass Pro Shop. It's pretty impressive, with 3D dioramas and a large aquarium filled with what I'm guessing were bass.

Here's some pix:






That's dad at the right.

After that we took a long and leisurely route hugging the Connecticut shoreline through Stratford, Milford and West Haven. We saw some lovely beaches, oceanfront and homes.

Our final destination was a bierfest at one of the few remaining German-American clubs in the area. We enjoyed our bratwurst sandwiches with heaping sauerkraut and mayo-less potato salad. Yum, even tho i'm vegan.

They had a band playing polkas and some people were using the dance floor. There were probably 150 people there, a great turnout of mostly older people in the era of video games and Pokemon.

Tomorrow it's back to reality and I need to give myself a big shove to get going with the job search. There are various things I need to do. And hopefully will get a callback from the unemployment office so I can file my initial claim.

I also need to update my profile at left but I'm been a little bummed about having to do that as my fast track retirement savings will come to another grinding halt. Now the goals will be not to dig into savings, something I'm confident I can do for at least the first 2 months no problem since I've got the severance. Actually with careful attention I should be able to get by on unemployment for 6 months.

I took a walk tonight and am aiming to walk 6 days a week, at least a half hour.

Saturday stuff

July 30th, 2016 at 09:59 pm

I only really got one big thing accomplished today, and that was going out looking at ACs with dad and his ending up ordering a window air conditioner to supplement the one he's got.

It'll arrive at Best Buy Monday or Tuesday and I'll help him get it and then bring it to his place. He's going to need help getting it up the stairs.

We looked at a few at Lowes as well but they were mostly sold out of portable ACs and in the end dad seemed more comfortable with a window unit. So be it; I just wanted to make sure he's cooler than he is now.

I got some printer ink cartridges at Staples on the way back, and a jug of almond milk.

I did my end of month expense and investment report and am pleased my portfolio is up $22,000 this month, bringing my investment value up to $798,000. I'm almost into the eights!

I also blew the leaves off the patio, watered my container plants and picked another cucumber, bringing my total to 14 cucumbers from just 2 container plants. I also picked a small bowl of wineberries, which are winding down, and blackberries.

I made myself a fruit smoothie. I changed the sheets on my bed. I made another pitcher of ice tea and would like to make another batch of granola tonight, as I'm out. I also have a job to apply for online.

It's super muggy out. Very sticky. Ugh.

I got a job nibble

July 29th, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Today was my last day. All I did was attend an outplacement webinar I registered for (the company will pay for 3 months) and then I turned in my laptop, keys, badges and password fob. I left the office at 11:30 a.m. and hugged my old boss goodbye and told other laid off person I'd be in touch with her in late August, when we agreed to get together.

I was planning to say goodbye to the parking garage gate attendant (I am friendly with all) but she wasn't there. Instead a young woman who hardly spoke English was sitting in the booth. I told her I didn't have my badge, to wave in front of the scanner to raise the gate, becus it was my last day and I had to surrender my badge. She didn't understand, and i envisioned myself being stuck behind that gate forever. I repeated the same thing 3 times and then I think she still didn't understand, but just gave up and raised the gate for me. Why would they hire someone for a job who can't speak English?>>

I decided to go to Trader Joe's but even though I was on my way back by 2:15 pm, the traffic was already pretty bad headed eastbound. I had to take back roads home.

Note to self: NEVER venture out on Friday afternoon again. Not worth it.

So my spirits were lifted tonight because while I saw very little in the way of jobs I could apply for today (there is one, a temporary job), a Chicago area recruiter contacted me via Linked In about a Director of Marketing Communications position that sounded like a very good fit. Writing a wide variety of stuff, working closely with senior management, managing the PR agency relationship. I don't know the industry. I have never worked at the director level before but as we know titles vary from one company to another quite a bit.

There's just one big problem: location. This job is in Stamford, where I vowed never to even look for jobs, due to horrendous traffic and distance. As I remember from when I had a 3-month contract job down there in 2013, the commute was over an hour. I hated it. There ARE no good routes. Every road is clogged by 5 pm.

So I will learn about the position, anyway, but at some point early on I'll need to tell the recruiter I can't commute down there, at least not on a daily basis. I'd hate commuting down there period, but I suppose I could be open to a few days a week. Like maybe two.

I would LOVE to be able to tell the people at the bank, you numbskulls! You should never have let me go.

It felt weird to have the afternoon free during a time I should be at work.

I got my final paycheck today and was happy to see they included the one week of PTO (paid time off) I hadn't used.

I dropped my signed severance agreement in the mail at office so at some point in the ensuing weeks I'll get another check for $12,000, which will be a big help with day to day expenses in the months to come.

I had a phone conversation with a local insurance agent in town becus I wanted confirmation that my decision to stick with COBRA, rather than an ACA plan, was the right way to go. He agreed that since I've already earned too much money to qualify for any subsidy and based on the higher pricing of the ACA plans in general, that it made sense to stick with COBRA, at least for 2016. In November when open enrollment comes around, I could revisit that decision and, assuming my salary could be under $45K for all of 2017 if I find no new job, I could switch to an ACA plan with subsidies that would reduce my monthly premium payments to the $300-something range, saving me over $200 a month.

I TRIED to sign up for unemployment benefits but the online system wasn't recognizing my old password from 2013 and when i requested it send me a new password, it never did. When i tried to enroll via phone, it took forever to get thru the automated system, only to be told that due to high call volume, wait times could exceed 2 hours. I would have held, but it didn't give me that choice, saying "try back later" and then disconnecting me. I did try back later and this time got the option of getting a callback on Monday, which I set up.

We had some more rain tonight, which was good.

I have a ton of different things to do yet am feeling so scattered and disorganized. I have my daily planner but still, I need to get a handle on things.

Thursday Doings

July 28th, 2016 at 08:30 pm

Ugh....feeling a little sad as I continue to prepare for my last day at work tomorrow. Had my last phone meeting with new boss, who said I don't have to stay the whole day tomorrow.

She offered to serve as a reference, but I don't think I'll use her. I have my old boss and 2 coworkers who have agreed and who will sing my praises.

I have a 10 am orientation (by phone) for the work outplacement service tomorrow which is free for 3 months and I figure I'll leave around mid-day. I just have to return, to old boss, my laptop, briefcase, password key fob, desk keys and badges.

The other woman laid off in my dept has agreed we should get together for lunch or coffee in late August.

I've said goodbye to all the people who matter, about 15 people.

I completed the "final accounting" form for probate. I had to pay a $900 fee to probate, not $600 as I thought. Before mailing it to the court, though, I mailed a copy to my sister with an additional form which, if she signs, will waive the need for a hearing to review the final accounting and will just speed things up by at least a few weeks.

Then I have to wait to get "approval" from the court to disburse the estate, splitting it with my sister.

So my long held hope that i can finish this whole thing by September may be pretty well on the mark.

We'll each receive $44,000. Combined with the mutual funds I disbursed earlier this year, which bypassed probate, we'll each have received $92,376 from mom's estate. It's an unexpected gift since, as mentioned before, I thought I would spend down all mom's money for assisted living, and then the nursing home, but she died before that happened.

I still think about her...a lot...each and every day. She is never far from my mind and I often find myself predicting how she would react to Donald Trump or my layoff or any number of things.

I don't plan to do anything with the money besides invest it, especially now that I don't have a job.

So despite the loss of the employment income I expected for the 2nd half of this year, I will still easily hit my retirement savings target as detailed at left.

I connected with the Atlanta headhunting firm that got me my bank job 3 years ago, but they have nothing for me now. They do have my resume.

Dad came by to drop off the plastic window insert on which he shaved a few inches off so it would fit in my window when i use my portable AC.

I also dropped off a window screen at hardware store for repair, which will take 1 week to get back, and I mailed the final accounting to my sister, for her to sign the hearing waiver.

The other day I made myself a berry smoothie.



I have so much to do after my job ends tomorrow, and the next chapter of my life begins at 5 pm Friday.

It's a little more real now

July 28th, 2016 at 01:12 am

...my layoff, that is.

Today, five of us went out for a little farewell lunch at Captain's Cove. We all ordered seafood and sat one of the many wood picnic tables on the boardwalk area there. It was beautiful, all the boats were in the marina, and I didn't feel I was "at work" at all.

I've spent the last week-and-a-half saying my goodbyes to people I care about or, enjoy chatting with. Probably 15 or so people. It's starting to feel emotional and a little sad when so many people are saying so many nice things to me.

The other woman in my group who's also leaving said she's only planning on spending a half day here on Friday, our last day. Meaning, what's the point?

I'm going to ask my new boss is I can do the same.

I got the bill from probate court. Mind you, I'm not paying taxes on the estate or anything, this is just "a fee" for keeping me from accessing my inheritance for 7 months now and counting. I had calculated based on their rate schedule the bill would be about $600. Wrong. It's about $900. I will have to call them tomorrow to see why. Did I tell you I hate the probate court?

I have one window in my house that I can't open in this hot weather because the screen for it at some point years ago fell out a 2nd floor window and dented up the frame, so bugs could come in if I used it. I'm finally getting around to bringing it to a local hardware shop. The guy said they'll probably have to replace the screen if they have to fix the frame, so all told, not really cheap, about $40 but it would be great to get a cross breeze in my office. It makes a big difference in keeping it cool in here. I'll drop it off tomorrow at lunchtime.

The 2016 wineberry season is just about spent. I can usually pick for about 2 weeks in July. This year's berry bounty seemed a bit low, no doubt due to a very dry June. I've enjoyed them daily on my morning breakfast cereal and right now I'm enjoying a yummy peach/wineberry crisp, a modified version (much less sugar and no butter) of my grandmother's recipe.

The sign language classes will have to be deferred. So will the redo of my badly deteriorating brick patio in the backyard, with pavers to match the driveway and front entry, which I'd been toying with for next spring. Oh well. Three steps forward, one step backward. Layoffs have been the norm of my career, not the exception.

I don't feel highly motivated about the job search and I'm kind of resigned to the belief I'll have to bide my time, that beating the bushes will not uncover the perfect job and that I have no real control over when something good for me comes along. I just have to make sure I don't miss it completely due to not paying attention.

The 1939 movie Wuthering Heights is playing at our town hall theater. Should I go see it, anyone?

I am on the lookout for another juicy rewards credit card with upfront bonus. It's just such easy, no-brainer money, I can't not do something like this for a quick $200 or so, especially now.

I think I've finally found a sunscreen (SPF 45) that doesn't make my face break out. It's Neutrogena Dry Touch something or other.

Am going to TRY getting on a regular schedule of walking 6 days a week. Probably aim to do it first thing in the morning, while it's still cool, and before my day really begins. I'm sure it won't last, but we can dream.

Fridays are always pretty quiet at the office, but I think I'll bring bagels in for those in my group on this, my last day.

My old boss said that in order for me to become an "approved vendor" who can do freelance work for whoever at the bank, that I would need to become an LLC corporation. I need to verify that with new boss tomorrow and I am not really crazy about doing it becus i think once i registered with the state they would inform my town and then the town would start sending me annual tax bills for my tiny business. Which I would hate doing. They did that to me before and I promptly told them the business was over.

I'm a true blue liberal but I'm beginning to hate taxes and probate court.

I think on Monday I'll go grocery shopping at trader joe's. It's stupid, but i keep thinking about how great it will be to go grocery shopping on an uncrowded weekday. Around here, TJ's is absolutely mobbed on the weekends and it stresses me out. I may take dad with me becus i know he's never been to one and he may like it. It being a smaller store, he could get around it more easily. Dad's walking with a cane now. Actually, I'm just now remembering that day is the day of his doc appt with new primary care doc. I'll have to find out what time it is.

Another scorcher

July 27th, 2016 at 01:17 am

Today was another work-at-home day. Rather than seeing my work dwindling down, I keep getting new assignments from people who express how utterly appreciative they are, knowing that since Friday is my last day I could easily blow them off. If they're that appreciative, I feel like saying, why don't you go tell head honcho so-and-so she's making a big mistake!

Although I've known about my imminent layoff for a full week now, I've been a little slow out of the gate in terms of a job search. Quite frankly, the whole thought of the dog and pony show where I pretend to be enthusiastic about "working under pressure in a fast-paced environment" is getting old.

I've managed to update my resume and apply for all of 2 jobs; now my recruiter friend insists I have to build my own website to showcase my portfolio. It's what all the "creatives" are doing these days. He gave me 3 site options, all of which are free, which is good, but they all seem geared toward artists and graphic designers, not writers. Because when it comes to downloading your work samples, they have to be jpgs, and my copy probably won't even be fully readable as a jpg. So I don't know. I'll have to play with it next week.

Dad came over toward the tail end of the day to check out my portable AC, to see if he wants to get one for his place. He has one window AC unit which isn't quite doing the job. He needs a 2nd one.

He actually helped me with my AC because I could never get the hose to fit securely where it connects to the back of the ac and the other end that goes out the window. He fixed that pretty well and also took one of the horizontal pieces of plastic to cut it a few inches so I can actually use it to completely block the open window when the hose is attached.

It was always something that never worked very well even to the ac unit itself seems very heavy duty, at 12,000 BTUs. So maybe now I'll use it more. I prefer it on casters where I can roll it around rather than ding up my window sills everytime I have to haul the heavy window unit down from the attic.

My dad has sacrificed SO MUCH to live at my sister's. His central air, for one, a very spacious and renovated ranch with NO STAIRS for another. He's afraid to ask her if he could put in a small wood stove and so last winter with his diabetic neuropathy his legs and feet were always freezing. Now he just wants to water his plants but my sister won't let him use the hose there becus her well is in danger of running dry, so dad went to the river and filled up a heavy rain barrel with water. Geez. My dad should not be doing this kind of stuff at 83 years old, yet he never complains about anything except the pain in his legs. He is seeing his new PCP next week. I often feel like THROTTLING my sister for being so completely selfish while she collects dad's monthly rent.

My friend Ron and I are taking Dad out for a 2nd mini road trip on Sunday along the coastline, and then to a German-American festival. We're German, so Ron thought he would like the wienerschnitzel and bratwurst and all. I'm a little worried becus it seems the extreme heat will still be with us and I don't want dad to overheat.

I want dad to get the 2nd AC as quickly as possible, so I think I will go out with dad Saturday to look at the portable ACs at Best Buy and/or Lowes. I have to drop off a few pieces of art at a local frame shop for another exhibit, but that shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. I guess I will skip my yoga class again (for like the 4th time in a row) to make sure I have enough time for dad.

There is a special academic program for older adults here that's part of University of CT satellite campus in Waterbury, about a half hour away. There are a bunch of courses offered, taught by older people for older people, and while there's a fee, it's very affordable, like $50 for a 10 week course. This was something I wanted to check out but never could since I was working and most of the classes are held during the day. I think they assume you're retired. I was toying with the idea of asking dad if he'd want to go to their upcoming open house. There's a course on European History during WWI and WWII that interests me, along with a few others. My dad has always had an interest in politics and current events, too.

I'd be tempted to sign up for something though if I got a job I'd have to give it up.

Wow, 9:15 pm already. Time to take a shower and catch an episode of The Good Wife. She's thinking of running for state's attorney. You go girl.

We're having a thunderstorm....

July 25th, 2016 at 11:21 pm

...and some much needed rain.

We had an earlier round of storms while I was still at the office and I was afraid I'd come home to some soaked window sills, etc. as I had left a lot of windows open for the cats' relief.

Only a few windows got wet and I cleaned it up pretty quickly. It is still so muggy here though the temps have dropped somewhat.

Work was noneventful. Worked on version 2 of the medical practice transitions white paper. I only have 2 more days in the office (and 2 at home) and then I'm done.

I hope to have another noneventful day working at home tomorrow. Though I do want to run down to probate court to deliver the next form. This one is pretty simple/straightforward so hopefully it won't be returned.

I need to get back into family tree research. I sort of reached a point where I didn't know what else to do or was wandering aimlessly on the site. But since I'm going to let the subscription lapse in a few months due to my pending unemployment, I want to try to get as much out of it as possible, and find a way to copy all the info I did collect, which could prove to be very, very cumbersome.

I had some time at dinner Saturday night to ask Dad more questions about his time serving in the US Navy during the Korean War. He never left the US becus his boat was stationed in Bayonne NJ and in fact he went home every weekend!

One time, there was a pilot who committed suicide by aiming his plane down toward the Hudson River. My dad's crew went diving at the site to recover body parts, etc.

Dad enlisted for 4 years but only got to serve 2, much to his disappointment, after my grandmother went to an American Red Cross office and made an appeal to have her only son discharged because my grandfather had a heart attack and couldn't work. My grandmother needed my dad at home to keep the family business going (a gas station) becus grandpa, a mechanic, couldn't do anything. My dad really enjoyed the Navy but he was discharged.

In those days, the treatment for a heart attack was a year of bedrest, believe it or not. Imagine how much weaker you would feel after that!

I believe dad said that was grandpa's 2nd heart attack. And it was the 3rd one that killed him. So sad. He was a lot of fun.

When I was growing up, he used to take a forkful of food and slowly bring it around in a circle toward me and I would open my mouth up for the food, whereupon he would complete the circular motion with his hand and put it in his own mouth. I would always fall for it, and he would always laugh. Smile

It's awfully hot here

July 23rd, 2016 at 12:47 am

When i got home the inside temp was 82, which i believe is about the hottest it ever gets in here. I ran my portable AC for about an hour in the family room, which was even warmer than the main house (I closed it and the sun room off becus they have more windows and heat up more) and it managed to cool things down from 88 to 82.

I will have to take a cold shower tonight for sure. My upstairs is uninhabitable. I will sleep on the twin bed tonight in the downstairs family room.

It's awful.

My team is taking me and the other person who is being laid off out to lunch next Wednesday. I've never worked anywhere where those who are laid off get treated to lunch. Usually, you're out the same day they tell you about the layoff.

I have one more week to go and just 3 more days in office.I've emailed as many writing samples to my personal email address as I could. They could be helpful during a job interview. I also asked a friend in our Boston area office to inter office mail me some finished samples of brochures I've written, and I got them today.

I've emailed a few people who like my work invitations to hire me on a contract basis should they need a copywriter after next week. You never know if this could pan out.

I've emptied out my desk and deleted favorited websites and personal emails no one needs to see.

Not too much going on this weekend. Seeing dad for dinner tomorrow night. It's gotten to be a regular thing. I like to meet him at his place rather than have him come here becus by the time we're done with dinner, it's getting pretty dark and it makes me nervous knowing he has to drive home in the dark with his macular degeneration. My sister's town has a lot of very dark roads.

Sidetracked by probate

July 21st, 2016 at 08:37 pm

After a lot of back and forth due to scheduling conflicts, about 8 of us in my group at work are taking me and the other person laid off in my group to a farewell lunch at Captain's Cove, on the water in the city where I work. It will be boiling that day and 90 but what the heck....

My goal today was to make more progress on the job search, either by reaching out to recruiters or applying for a job.

That didn't really happen as I was sidetracked by probate issues. I got a call from the court telling me that after having the latest form rejected by them twice (over the course of several weeks, with me hand delivering each time just becus i don't trust the mail) she told me I'd forgotten to sign the return.

Blah!

I ran down there to sign the return and she told me they would then "accept" it for filing and that I'm now free to file the next form, Form 237, which reports on outstanding bills paid to creditors for expenses incurred during the decedent's lifetime. Luckily there are just 4 items on the list since when your loved one is at a nursing home, it's mostly all-inclusive. Bills incurred AFTER death, like the funeral/burial, tax returns, etc., are to be reported on the final accounting form, which comes after Form 237..

Because the court is exceedingly picky about everything being perfect, I spent at least an hour this afternoon just adding up expenses reported on both Form 237 and the final accounting, just to make sure it balanced out to what I have in the checkbook balance. It does.

I also had to call them to ask whether one particular bill, reimbursement of $7,000 to the state of CT related to a Medicare Savings Plan my mother was in for years (which lowered her Medicare monthly premiums and thus increased her Social Security checks) should be listed on Form 237. They didn't know and said I should consult a lawyer. I'm not going to incur more stupid bills, but in rereading their booklet's definition of what goes in Form 237, I decided that was the right place.

The court wants complete addresses for each creditor that was paid. There was a $90 bill for my mother's last teeth cleaning last December, done at the nursing home but billed separately to me. I remember seeing the bill and paying it but could not remember the name of the dentist. I rummaged around in the attic and could not find it; finally, i remembered I a handwritten note I'd jotted down following a talk I had with the hygienist, in 1 of 2 notebooks I kept during this awful time just to stay on top of everything.

Just having to go thru the notebook to find it made me all teary and emotional. It brought back the memories in full force of a 4-month period of time from September thru December 2015 I consider nightmarish, filled with fear, anxiety, worry and an all-round out-of-control feeling as I dealt with numerous parties at the nursing home to deal with her care.I had only a few friends to lean on for support, my dad, and my cousin Margherite.

Anyway, I found the address online after getting the dentist's name and the name of the practice, which was very generic sounding.

So I have everything I need to fill out the form but at this point I'm going to wait until my next work at home day, Tuesday, to fill it out and again hand-deliver it to the probate court. That will make probably my 6th trip there. I could mail it, but I prefer knowing it arrived intact.

The probate clerk also gave me a heads up I would receive the court's bill in the mail. I estimate it will be around $650.

This has been hanging over my head for so long and I really just want it to be over so I can truly move on.

I am going to treat myself to a good walk right after work to de-stress and calm down.

Is it Thursday already?

July 21st, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I feel like I have piles of stuff to do and so I've only applied for one job thus far and reached out to 2 former My Bank employees who moved on to other area banks to see about possible job openings. I've also played phone tag with a job recruiter friend of mine who's asked me to send updated writing samples.

So today I hope to apply to a few more jobs, touch base with 2 recruiters I know and scan website of Creative Group headhunters.

So I definitely have tons to do on the job front. In the back of my mind I am still casting about for another local non-profit I could donate more art to and I would really like to sell locally somewhere a bunch of my mother's cameras and associated equipment. I also have a diamond engagement ring which is of no use to me.

I decided to enter 3 small pieces of art in the next show (theme: landscapes) at local frame shop; I can drop them off when I pick up the one piece entered in the previous show, which evidently didn't sell. Note to self: Take pictures of the 3 pieces before you drop them off so you can blog about them on mom's blog. There's a $20 entry fee.

I still fight moments of dwelling in an unhealthy way on my mother. The last 6 months are what I always think about and dwarf the other 80 years, but to be honest, she wasn't nearly as big a part of my life when she was doing her own thing and unaffected by Alzheimers. I often struggle not to be swallowed up by depressing circular thoughts that never seem to lead anywhere. This is why I have long believed it's best to stay busy doing other things.

I sent off my DNA sample (in saliva) to Ancestry DNA and should have results back in a month or so. Dad wants to do it too but agreed we'd wait to see whether we think it's worth the $79 price based on the results I get. Ancestry encourages more than one family member to do it because genes can skip a generation and his results could look pretty different than mind.

I'm still reading Steve Jobs' biography, which is pretty good even though computers are a snooze to me. As a teen he was into drugs, Zen/enlightenment and dropped out of college but he seemed to have a gifted mind from the start. I hadn't known he was adopted. His interest in the arts equaled his interest in technology. So it's a pretty good read.

Something...I'm guessing either a chipmunk or a vole...mowed down most of my stringbeans that I was growing near my front entry. I should have fenced it but hadn't gotten around to it. These were seedlings that had been chomped much earlier but actually recovered and were just starting to form small stringbeans that would have been ready to pick in 4 or 5 days. I'm feeling disgusted. Something did the same in the fenced veggie garden and since I could see the vole hole right near the beans there, I'm assuming it was voles. That's why I was trying to grow them near my front door so I could keep an eye on them.

So gardenwise, I've had a bounty of cucumbers from just 2 potted plants. I have a fair amount of green tomatoes and now I'm picking wineberries from my yard that I eat daily over my breakfast cereal. I had one smallish eggplant from my one eggplant plant. The other plant collapsed; I suspect voles ate through the roots. The remaining plant is looking very healthy but no further eggplants.

My onions are hanging in there, though some appear to have been dug up by voles. That's all I've grown this year except for basil and mint. It's a little frustrtating. With the voles, I may give up the fenced garden entirely. I did recently sow more beans in pots in my driveway and I see some of them starting to emerge from the ground. I will HAVE to rig up some sort of protective fence around them using plastic fencing. Otherwise, they're doomed.

This week's doings

July 19th, 2016 at 01:10 am

Six of us went out for drinks after work. We mostly dished about all the other layoffs happening at the bank. Yes, there are more. I thought at first just 10 of us were laid off, but they're doing them in 8 "waves." So am guessing they're laying off about 100 people across our 11-state footprint.

Of course now that I have just 2 weeks left to go, I'm getting inundated with work. Including writing 2 white papers which I'm going to have to tell them I'm not sure I can deliver anymore since I assumed when I accepted the assignment I would have my job into August. The woman was supposed to get me her notes over a week ago before she went on vacay, but only delivered them today.

Another thought on my health insurance choices...it doesn't have to be an "either/or" choice between COBRA and ACA options.

It makes sense to stick with my employer's COBRA plan through the end of 2016, since I have already earned enough YTD to disqualify me from getting any subsidies. But it may make sense in 2017 to switch to a much lower cost plan in the $250 a month range that comes with full subsidies.

However, this is a gamble and a guessing game. If I don't have substantial income below $45,000 in 2017, then yes, I could enjoy the lower cost ACA options. But if I later wind up with a job offer or even a well paying, ongoing contract gig and exceed the $45,000 cap, I could end up having to pay back several thousand dollars worth of subsidies to the federal government at tax time. Which is exactly what happened in 2013 before I knew I'd get the bank job. I'd rather not have to pay the subsidies back if I don't have to, but I guess it's still worth it to grab them on the chance my income will be low. Otherwise, I'll miss out on this substantial savings either way.

The Tappan Zee Bridge Authority nabbed me with a $5 bridge toll bill from back in June when dad and I road tripped to his ancestral hometown in Jersey. I vaguely remember not having to pay the toll due to the reconstruction of the bridge.

I was over my father's yesterday after our lunch and a trip to KMart where we bought him a new microwave. I made sure to carry it up the stairs for him as he's so unsteady on his feet. Spending more time in his little apartment I could see it really needs a good cleaning, especially the kitchen area. With is failing eyesight, he can't really see it. He wanted to clean his kitchen floor and we went looking at KMart for a scrub brush with a hole in it where you can attach a pole, but we couldn't find one.

I told him i would wash the floor but as usual, he wouldn't let me. This is the problem I have with dad; he doesn't allow me to help him and i very much want to help him and he very much needs my help.

I called him tonight after realizing I could position my offer of help in a way that would make it seem it was benefitting me. I told him he could pay me and it would be a big help once I'm not working anymore and could use the cash. He said ok, when your job ends, we can talk about it. Smile I really don't care about the money as much as I care about helping him. He still has boxes he hasn't unpacked since a year ago and I know he doesn't have the energy.

It's been hot as hell here. May catch some relief tomorrow. Been sleeping downstairs in the family room.

I was all wrong on the healthcare insurance prices

July 14th, 2016 at 09:32 pm

OK, what a dummy..I miscalculated something big time.

For some reason when projecting my income for 2016, I didn't count what I've earned YTD at the bank. I just was figuring out my income from my last day of work forward through year's end. This would include severance and the unemployment benefits and whatever freelance/contract work I may find.

But that all was incorrect since for purposes of seeing if you're eligible for a subsidy on the healthcare exchange, you have to figure total income for the year, because that's what will be showing up on my tax return when I file and that's what will be used to determine whether or not I'm eligible for any subsidy.

So I already earned a gross of $43,215 and I have 2 more paychecks to go in July. Add in the 8 weeks severance totally $12,723 plus unemployment benefits for October through December and I'm already up to $60,000, which clearly means I get no subsidy.

So now looking at the healthcare exchange is much scarier. Most of the silver plans are in the $700 to $800 a month range, and the only one that has a $500 deductible like my current plan costs $745 a month. All the other plans have annual deductibles of $2900 or more.

I may as well stick with my employer's plan at $513 a month. Now it seems like a no-brainer.

I do only routine and preventive office visits except for my MS meds and thru the drug maker's financial assistance program the copays are 100% covered up to a max of $12,000 a year, so I don't have to worry about that.

And sticking with my current plan would be SO much easier and a lot less red tape than switching to a state-managed program.

Bottom Line: My severance will carry me through August and September. I'll try to save as much as I possibly can during that time.

I also plan to do the Safeco Insurance gadget on my car that measures how safe a driver I am (fast starts, sudden stops, and time of day) and this could save me up to 25% of my car insurance.

Unemployment benefits will kick in October and continue through March 2017 (if needed). While health insurance costs will eat up 25% of my unemployment income, I will still have about $1400 a month left over (based on a gross of $1800 a month) so sticking to my austerity budget, I should only be a few hundred in the red each month.

Imagine how much harder this would be if I had a mortgage or rent to pay!

Ideally, I will find some kind of work within the 6 months, because after the unemployment runs out, my healthcare and other expenses will be a big pinch.

It occurred to me this is pretty much the scenario I'd be facing if I chose to do an early retirement in 3 years. I'd forgotten how expensive health insurance is without the good fortune of being on an employer's plan.

The only difference would be that I'd be 3 years closer to getting Medicare and have 3 years less living expenses to fund before getting on Social Security later in my 60s.

Silver linings and some bad news

July 14th, 2016 at 03:00 pm

My friend R. never fails to point out the sliver linings whenever there is bad news, like my layoff. He said to think of it as an opportunity to spend more quality time with my dad, who is getting on in years and who knows how much time he has left?

This is very true; for long stretches of my life, he was not in the picture, but now that he's moved up to my sister's barn/loft apt nearby, I see a lot more of him than I ever did.

The other thing R. pointed out is that I'm in a better financial position now than during any other time I've faced a layoff. I can see from my records that my total savings/investments at the time of my last layoff in October 2009 was just $418,000. Now I'm at $776,000. So that's comforting, but I don't exactly want to spend any of that money down now.

So the bad news is...health insurance. Right now I pay just $143/ mth with my employer plan, and that includes dental. Super cheap, and a good Cigna plan. I know my employer picks up part of my premiums for me now, but i figured even if that figure doubled once i leave company, it still would be relatively cheap. Wrong. As a single person, if I keep this plan, without the dental, i would have to cough up $513 a month. This would easily become my single biggest expenses during unemployment. This is what would put me in the red each month while collecting unemployment benefits. So I will definitely have to look into prices of plans under the Affordable Care Act. Don't even want to think of the mess that could ensure if Trump is elected and the Republicans continue on their mission to dismantle the ACA for something else. Not a good time to be dependent on the system for health insurance. Sigh.

Getting my bearings

July 12th, 2016 at 05:37 pm

A few friends, here and elsewhere, have asked whether I might be able to retire right now. I've considered that, but I don't think that would be a good idea, at all.

While I'm mortgage-free, I still have day to day expenses, including health insurance, homeowners and car insurance, food, taxes, heating bills, etc.

I also very much want to bump up my 35-year average earnings for purposes of increasing the monthly Social Security benefit I'm eligible for. Right now, when I look at my lifetime SS statement which anyone can look at online, I see there are still several years of earnings when I was in high school or college where I made around $1,000, more or less. Those small numbers are dragging down my 35-year average, which SSA looks at to determine your benefits. So by working a few more years, I can bump up my average.

I will know more details about what I have to work with when I get the exit package overnighted to me by HR, but a few preliminary thoughts:

1. Expense cutting: This is my 2nd summer hiring someone to mow for me; it comes to about $1,000 a summer. I can't bear the thought of having to haul that heavy mower around myself again, but I think I will email him to see if he could start mowing every other week, so it would cut my bill in half.

UPDATE: My mower has responded yes, no problem to pull back to cutting the grass every other week. This is good. If I was mowing myself, this would be problematic as I'd have trouble cutting long grass with my own mower, but with those big mowers they ride on, it's no problem, they could mow a woodland.

No more pricey organic foods.

No more framing of mom's matted art; luckily, I got most of the ones I wanted to frame, framed. I know I spent over $700 doing this.

It's back to careful assessment of road trips and errand running around.

I skipped the last 3 weekly yoga classes becus i was doing other things, but I might like to continue going on occasion. It's good for my health and it's only $5 a class and it's 2 minutes away.

2. Health insurance: I will definitely want to keep my current plan with my employer via COBRA; I pay just $143 a month now for Cigna health and dental. Even paying double that would likely be cheaper than getting health insurance through Affordable Care Act.

Also, I know if I stay with my current plan my copay for the MS meds remains $0; if I go thru ACA, I'll have a $50 monthly co-pay. So the COBRA is good for 18 months, and hopefully before then I'll have found a new job.

3. Income: With my 7/29 end date and 8 weeks of severance after that, I won't feel the effects of the layoff until October, by which time, unemployment will start, hopefully. I forget what the max is or what I was getting last time, especially since I was always juggling some combination of part-time work, freelance contract works or one-off stuff.

I just heard this morning from an old freelance client who will have 2 jobs for me in the coming weeks. It's not a lot of money, but every little bit helps.

I don't think I'll spend much time looking for new freelance clients as I'll be focusing on full-time employment, or at least a steady p/t job. However, I may revisit that as I remind myself I'll be looking for employment at soon-to-be age 57. A scary age to be job-hunting.

I hope to wind up the probate process by the fall, and I anticipate another $40,000 or so to come my way from mom's estate. I'm in great financial shape but I don't want to undo any of the great progress I've made in saving for an early retirement. Nor do I want to give up on the goal of retiring in 3 years time.

My biggest concern right now is I don't have any psychic energy to get into the whole job search mode again. I know I have to, and I know I should just allow myself the day, for gosh sakes, to let things sink in and get some perspective on what's happening.

Just by talking to some friends I can tell there were at least 6 others laid off, and most likely more. I may learn more at this afternoon's tele-meeting. I just attended a quarterly meeting with a head honcho who painted a very positive picture of how the company's been doing. Makes me wonder how truthful that was if they find they need to do a round of layoffs a week later.

No matter, don't want to spend much of my own time focusing on that.

A few people have already offered help however I need it. I suppose I could ask a few of them to write glowing references for me on my Linked In page, which I've done before.

I've been laid off

July 12th, 2016 at 03:46 pm

Unexpectedly, my boss's boss asked to meet with me this morning. She was traveling to another CT office so I assumed she wanted to take advantage of her time her to get some face time with me since I rarely see her, much less talk to her.

I was feeling nervous about what the call might be about. We spoke on the phone and when she said an HR person so and so was on the call, I knew it was bad. Got the usual talk about restructuring, etc. I know at least 2 others who were also let go.

My last day is July 29; I'll get 8 weeks of severance after signing an agreement, which I think is pretty fair since I've only been perm there for about 2 years.

This sucks.

The very first person I told was the heating oil delivery guy as he happened to arrive right after the phone call. He patted me on the shoulder and said I would be fine. Then I called my dad and after that I sent out 4 emails to my old boss and 3 coworkers I like very much.

Ahh, Friday

July 9th, 2016 at 01:09 am

It's the end of a long work week. OK, a 4-day work week. Posting here is one form of relaxation for me, a time to reassess the day, my thoughts.

I noticed my employer's 401k plan sponsor upgraded their retirement income tool so of course I ran through my numbers for the umpteenth time. (Plus, it was a kind of slow day at work.) My employer does a 4% dollar for dollar match and another 2% discretionary match, which comes out to nearly $5,000 extra in my 401k balance annually, or $15,000 over the 3 remaining years I plan to be there. Pretty good, huh?

I only went perm in the job in the summer of 2014 and already I have a 401k balance of $52,000.

Next week is my mid-year performance review. I'm curious what she'll say, as this is my "new" boss and I never really get any feedback from her since we work in different states and our weekly chat lasts about 5 minutes. I don't really know what she thinks of me. She's always rushed. I don't feel like we've "bonded," which concerns me a little.

It's been about 6 days since I contracted poison ivy. It's still mostly confined to one arm and I don't think it will spread much at this point. It lasted a full 2 weeks last time before it really showed signings of going away, so I'm halfway there. I think it was a MINIMAL brush with a leaf i was carrying on the end of a shovel, wearing gloves, but when i turned to carry the poison ivy to where I was dumping it, it kind of swung around and touched my arm. It's last revenge, you might say, for having me dig it up by the roots.

I started reading the biography of Steve Jobs. A friend gave me the book. I wasn't especially interested since I don't care to read a book about computers, but it appears so well written that I am already into it after starting the 1st chapter. My aim is to read as many books as possible by end of August so I can enter mini book reviews to win raffle prizes at the library. SmileSo far I have 2 entries.

I have a few SLR cameras of my mother's I'd like to sell. Does anyone know of a good way to sell used camera equipment? I'm leery of shipping it off in the mail to some online place but I really don't know its value and don't want to get less than what it's worth.

I was reading an article in the Times about how those little brain game websites, like Luminosity where I have a subscription, don't really do much. They recommend something where you can really learn something new. Like a foreign language, which I would not be good at. But then I came upon the idea of learning sign language. I think I might enjoy that.

When I was in grade school and our teacher went on maternity leave, our long-term substitute taught us sign language. Or at least how to sign the letters in the alphabet (as opposed to full words) so you could spell out things. I guess the individual letters are used mainly for proper nouns? I did find a place that offers classes on Monday nights in next town over.

But I need it to be super convenient in order for me to actually make the meetings. I don't think Mondays at 6:30 pm would work for me as i don't get home til 6 pm and I'd be tired. But I'm going to keep this in the back of my mind as something to consider. It would be even more fun to take the classes with a friend so that we could practice in between classes, but i don't know anyone who would want to take it with me.

Weather and other ramblings

July 7th, 2016 at 11:39 am

I've slept poorly for the past 2 nights. Last night, I decided to try sleeping downstairs on the twin bed I bought my mother last year. It's in my family room as a sort of day bed, but the main thing is it's considerably cooler in my downstairs compared to upstairs.

Still, I slept terribly. I had a large fan going hoping the noise would cover up the sound of the crickets, but it didn't, really. Plus with the poison ivy on my right arm I had to keep being aware of not resting my other arm on it.

I really like my foam mattress upstairs. This one is the more conventional coil spring mattress.

Gallery owner offered a solo show to me of mom's work for month of December, just in time for holiday shoppers. Not at all sure which pieces I'll choose for her pretty small space, but I was thinking of at least one woven tapestry and maybe some woven paintings. I will write the press release for the show. She also offered to do the usual opening reception, but these are usually done so people can meet the artist, and since I'm not, I don't think I'll do the reception, which I probably wouldn't have attended anyway.

Working from home today so I can set up shop in the kitchen or family room and do what i can to keep the heat tolerable, mainly by opening windows and drawing blinds on a rotating basis that follows the sun. I don't like leaving the cats alone on days like this, and even though the basement is much cooler, I'm not sure they have the sense to go down there.

It's been only 2 weeks since Waldo was traumatized so he could get an allergy shot and already he is completely congested and having difficulty breathing again. The vet had said the shot would last 4 to 6 weeks. He can only give those shots at certain intervals, so now what? I have to call him this morning.

FINALLY, my elephant ear bulbs are starting to come up in their pots, way behind schedule. At this rate, I'll have nice plants by the time frost comes. This time, though, I'm determined not to lose them as I did one year when I tried to overwinter them in pots, in the garage. I think they'll do better and not rot if I lift them out of the pots, shake off the dirt and store in basement in shredded newspaper. I had actually already contacted the grower to complain about them since I spent $8 on each of the 3 packages.

I've been eating cucumbers from my container plants and am waiting for the green tomatoes to ripen. Picked a smallish eggplant yesterday so I can make baba ganousch. The only other thing I'm growing this year is onions and stringbeans. I just sort of ran out of time to plant. I may plant more stringbeans soon. Is there anything else you can plant mid-season with a short grow time?

Now, TWO bunnies in my yard

July 5th, 2016 at 06:15 pm

Ha! I know where this is going. Soon it will be 3, 4, then 27 bunnies in the yard.

Really, if they can assist by eating all the weeds on my property, I don't mind at all and in fact enjoy seeing them around, more so than the woodchucks who devour my sedums, among other things.

This weekend I finished a big landscaping chore, which was to clear out all the weeds flourishing under a large rhododendron shrub in the backyard and then spread 6 large bags of black mulch with an application of Preen to discourage new weeds. In the process I've acquired poison ivy, 2nd time this season. Tecnu did not deliver as advertised. Within an hour of suspected leaf to skin contact, I scrubbed and scrubbed my arm with Tecnu but I broke out in the rash anyway. I also scrubbed 2 single spots in other locations. Darn it.

I had to load those 6 bulky bags of mulch from Lowes onto one of those flatbed carts, then load them a second time into my car then load them a 3rd time from the car to the backyard. It was a lot of work but with all the weeds it was getting so unsightly and it I let them grow another season it would be that much harder to clear out.

I often liken yard work to a struggle of Me vs. Nature as I attempt to keep invasives and weeds from overtaking my property. I'm usually never really "caught up" and it's a constant battle to maintain my ground.

From Danbury to Kenya

July 3rd, 2016 at 11:40 am

I found the perfect way to donate the last cones of my mother's yarns and some crochet hooks. I read in my local paper how 2 high school girls were seeking donations of certain items for a summer camp program at an orphanage in Kenya for children who lost both parents to AIDS. The 2 high schoolers will be traveling to Kenya to deliver the items this next month.

I packed up a box of yarns and the crochet hooks and dropped it at the donation box at the library. I didn't include the wool yarns becus well, this is Kenya so not sure they could use the wool.

As dad and I were leaving my place to meet my friend R., I accidentally flushed a baby poult (turkey) from the pachysandra. I heard more clucking and we saw mama and the other 7 or so poults in the backyard. Glad to see them around.

So R. gave me and my father the grand tour of the Gold Coast towns of Westport and Fairfield, as well as what Paul Newman famously called "the armpit of Connecticut," Bridgeport. We stopped along a boat marina, drove by some beaches, showed dad where I work, had lunch at Captain's Cove and all round had an interesting day. I think dad enjoyed it, especially with R.'s running commentary on notable events or history of the areas we were driving through. He's always enjoyed playing tour guide.

After reviving at home afterwards for about an hour that afternoon, I was able to rally and return some library books before they closed at 5. I also wrote a brief review of one of the books I read, thereby entitling me to a chance to win one of several prizes offered as an enticement to people to read over the summer. You can enter as many times as you like so I also picked up another book to read while I was there.

Once back home, I also did some yard work, mainly concentrating on clearing out all the weeds under a large rhododendron in my back yard. I made good progress but also exposed myself to a fair amount of poison ivy under the shrub. I was wearing gloves, but it's still easy to brush against the plant, so I tried mostly to use a shovel to dig up the poison ivy and then walk with it balanced on the shovel and fling it into the woods. As a precaution, I STILL scrubbed my hands and arm vigorously with Tecnu. Later I sprayed the remaining poison ivy with 100% vinegar mixed with a lot of salt.

I hope to finish the weeding today, then maybe make a quick trip to Home Depot or Lowes for maybe 6 large bags of mulch. Could probably use more, but will try to spread it around with just the 6.

Yesterday was another spectacular weather day. Brilliant sunshine but very dry, so comfortable. I think today and tomorrow will be the same so I would like to do a very long walk today, maybe in late afternoon after I'm done with the gardening.

Waiting for the change of sugar water to cool before putting it out for the hummingbirds. Am feeling happy that I have nothing "big" planned for the rest of the weekend, though of course I hope to get stuff done while still minimizing running around or leaving hometown for errands.

Like, I need to continue cleaning up the garage which still has a pile of garage sale stuff in it. Last night I did move my mother's large easel from the garage to the house. I decided that since it didn't sell, I would keep it, at least for now, and I put it in my family room and it's now holding one of her larger pieces.

I also moved plastic shelving back into the garage. Little by little. I tend to do just a little bit on on one project but not complete it before moving onto something else that captures my attention. I guess that's what you call "puttering."

Happy 4th of July!

July 1st, 2016 at 08:26 pm

In my last post I expressed reluctance to peek at my investment portfolio since I expected the Brexit would have affected it.

Well, Dido was right. My portfolio was actually up, not down, to the tune of $8,461 since June 1.

I also noticed my personal rate of return since inception at T. Rowe Price is 7.40%, while my personal rate of return at Vanguard, where I have quite a bit more money, is 10.3%. I've only had my Vanguard accounts since 2009 but the T. Rowe money goes back much further.

The baby robins have fledged and are out of the nest. I didn't get to see them on their inaugural flights, but I think it may have been them I saw in the large mulberry tree outside my office window. I say that because their breasts were mottled, which I think is a sign of an immature robin. The birds go nuts over the mulberry tree. I think of all the fruits and berries in my yard, including the apple trees, crabapples, viburnums, etc, they love the mulberry best. I've seen birds gulping down the berries while they're still white! They turn red, then black when ripe.

Since the robins are out of the nest, I was a flurry of activity this morning, using my blower to clean all the old leaves off the patio in that area, using my electric trimmer to prune 2 boxwoods on that side plus a spirea on the back patio and hanging 3 new macrame plant hangers I bought under the dense shade of the rhododendron. I hung the pots of impatiens I have there for the resident hummingbirds, and it also keeps slugs out of the impatiens.

I've had to do a lot of watering of all my container plants becus we're in a mild drought now and I just got my second call from the water company asking me to conserve water. Luckily, my garden hose/faucets use my own well water, so I am feeling free to use it.

I also did some weeding on the back patio, which is pretty much a never ending job.

I climbed out on the shallow pitched roof of my family room out my bedroom window so I could gently hammer in a screen on the bathroom window that didn't quite fit, so i couldn't open the window since bugs could come in. The screens I think may get a little warped over the winter when I store them on their sides. Not sure.

Today was pay day. Hooray! Also got paid $65 for some easy freelance work I did.

The last form I filed with probate court was returned to me due to errors the accountant made in listing non-probate monies in my mother's brokerage accounts in with the checking account. This is on top of the careless errors I already caught earlier (using a 2011 form, not checking 1 question "no" and not dating their signature). I got the accountant to fix it and hand-delivered it back to probate court on my lunch break yesterday.

My potted cucumber is producing very well. Today I picked my 3rd cucumber. Commercially grown cucumbers are fairly heavily sprayed, but good luck finding an organic cucumber in the store; and if you do, they're quite pricy. Not to mention, most are soft to the touch, a sign they're not very fresh.

Being a big salad eater, at least in the summer, I really like the cucumbers in the salad. I have green tomatoes also in a pot, but it's hard to keep up with the watering. Sometimes it seems they'd benefit from TWICE daily watering, not just once daily.

Last night after work I went to BJs. I was going to hit Trader Joe's today since it's a day off for me, but i really can't fit anything else in the fridge/freezer. They're pretty well packed.



Just got my property tax bill. Oh no.