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Spring has arrived on the heels of the storm

May 20th, 2018 at 04:53 pm

Some pix of the yard, now in bloom!


Allium


Azaela


View to the northeast...a forest in the making.


Hard to believe I planted this giant doublefile viburnum when it was just a wee stick seedling. Now I've planted some of its seedlings, too!


Closeup of the viburnum flowers.


North side


Ground phlox

And that's just the front yard!


Feeling the warmth

May 20th, 2018 at 03:53 pm

I'm "feeling the warmth" after 3 days of no heat. We had a scary storm here this past Tuesday, and when I got home from work, just after a macroburst had come through my town, I had no power. There were 2 tornados in my dad's town and an adjacent town, and the tree damage there was much worse; most of the town was without power.

My property and my immediate neighborhood was spared, but certainly not the town. Coming home that day was dicey, with a few detours around downed trees, or under trees that were held up only by the power lines.

I bought a few big bags of ice and continued eating food out of the fridge, but after that, I decided it was a losing battle. The only thing I threw out, actually, was a package of 2 salmon steaks, which had completely dethawed.

On Friday I helped my friend declutter by packing up about 6 boxes of mostly valueless knickknacks and glassware for Good Will and brought them to my car so I could drop them off on my way home. I also walked his dog for about a half hour. He has no energy with the chemo treatments. He was very appreciative. I will do the same thing this week if he wants me to.

I also found him an organization that networks with local housekeeping services and makes it possible for cancer patients to get free housekeeping. It was actually for women only, but when I called, she agreed to arrange it for him.

On the genealogy front, I found another new cousin! Actually, she found me as she was researching a specific family line. She's my grandmother's sister's great grand-daughter. She's in her 20s and very interested in textiles and researching the Slovakian line so she can make an authentic ethnic costume and wear it. She lives in NYC but grew up in the same little town my parents were from, a town known for its significant Slovak population.

She got me excited enough that I renewed my Ancestry membership for another 6 months. I'd been planning on doing it at some point soon, and although I was going to wait til Father's Day as they may have a promo going on, I just didn't want to wait. Smile

We exchanged a flurry of notes back and forth. I printed all of hers out and brought them to my usual dinner with dad. I read them all out loud while we were waiting for our dinner. Dad really enjoyed hearing the latest; when I first started getting into genealogy, he wasn't that interested, but as I began discovering all sorts of fascinating tidbits, he "got the bug" and looks forward to new finds as much as I do. I must say genealogy wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable if I didn't have a close family member to share it with.

I was going to do some yardwork today, but I found 2 small ticks on my boots and then felt way too squeamish putting them on, so I'll forgo the yardwork for now. We've gotten tons of rain, every day, since Tuesday, it seems, and they love this kind of damp environment. Will wait til things dry out a little.

To the Toshiba loser

May 19th, 2018 at 02:32 pm

Dear loser who keeps posting spam to my posts:

We are automatically notified when we get a reply on our blog, so it's very easy to go and delete yours!

Friday Doings

May 11th, 2018 at 05:44 pm

I'm posting more stuff for sale for my dad on Facebook Marketplace. I was over there today to take pix of a canoe, a kayak, a dozen old earthenware jugs, an old rocking chair, a steamer trunk and an old table.

He's gotten very strong interest in the kayak, some interest in the canoe and even some interest in the old jugs, which surprised me. (They're pretty beat up.) Evidently, Friday night is when everyone shops on Facebook Marketplace.

It's kind of a pain in the neck becus a lot of people ask if it's still available and when i say it is, would you like to see it, i never hear from them again. It's a lot of back and forth with people who may or may not be serious.

So far, I have two guys scheduled to come tomorrow afternoon, and one person coming for the smaller jugs. It's supposed to rain so I hope that doesn't cause some people to cancel out.

UPDATE: We sold the canoe, kayak and more than half the jugs.

Had a nice chat with my lawnmower guy, who surprised me by telling me this would probably be his last season mowing. He invented a deicer product so he wants to spend more time marketing it at trade shows. I have someone in mind to take his place next year, and I think this may be an opportunity for me to possibly reduce the cost from $45 per mowing to $40 per mowing. As it is, I only have it done every other week, to save money, and to give the many interesting wildflowers a chance to bloom.

My new 56 volt cordless battery blower was delivered today. I have a 20 volt blower now, but as much as I love using it to clear debris and leaves off my driveway, it lacks the power to use on grassy surfaces.

Hence the new 56 volt blower, which I plan to try out tomorrow. I was considering hiring the guy who cut up my fallen crabapple tree to do a spring cleanup, which is basically using blowers to blow leaves off the lawn and perennial beds. He never did tell me what he'd charge, but I'm pretty sure the blower I just bought will pay for itself in 1 or 2 seasons.

So I'm charging up the battery pack now. Compared to my 20 volt battery, this one is a monster! It looks capable of sending a small child into outer space.

I'm getting impatient waiting for a start date from my patio guy. He's running behind schedule. He promised a start day for me by tomorrow, and I'm hoping it will be sometime next week. I'm expecting an out-of-town visitor, hopefully this month, and I'd like the patio to be done before she gets here! And yes, she's an SA member. Smile

Here in Connecticut, plant sales abound this time of year. Usually, it's the local garden clubs that do this. There are 2 tomorrow I am thinking of checking out after my early morning yoga class. Then there is the Tractor Supply Market Day, where local craftspeople will be set up in the parking lot. Later that night, dinner with dad, and meeting a guy I sold a light stand to last year to give him a tiny lightbulb I found that I think goes with the light stand. It's an unusual bulb, and he said yes, he wanted it, so I'm meeting him in the parking lot of the restaurant I'll be going to with dad.

So..another busy day, for sure!!

The fuse it is!

May 10th, 2018 at 06:12 am

OK, I've had my share of embarrassing, not to mention needlessly costly, service calls when something stops working.

I scheduled a service call for today when I discovered first that my central air was not working, and then the heat.

Luckily, the HVAC guy who installed the central air suggested I check the fuse, and that's what it was. Saved me over $100 for a service call.

Always check fuses, circuit breakers and furnace on/off switches before making that call!

The guy who bought some plants for me was back again yesterday to dig up a few more shrubs and some blueberry plants. Kind of sorry to see them go, but they would never thrive here with browsing deer unless I fenced them in, which is not in the plans.

Just having him take 3 shrubs roughly 3-4 feet high running alongside the outer edge of existing patio really opened up the view from kitchen window or the patio, which always felt kind of closed in to me. Once the new patio is done, I want to just plant grass where those shrubs were to keep things open and to allow space for pergola posts to go in next year. Either that, or perhaps a row of small boxwood that wouldn't exceed 1 foot in height.

He also dug up a cherry tree stump that was still alive despite my trying to hack it down last year, so he took that, making it easier for my lawnmower guy to cut the grass.

Another guy was here to clean up the crabapple tree; he disposed of 90% of the all the tree branches as I wanted him to in a large brush pile, but inexplicably left a few large ones. I decided not to say anything since his price ($200) was dirt cheap compared to the other estimates I got, so I really can't complain.

Mower guy starts this Friday...so yardwork is well underway.

Also found my newly transplanted sedums, near road front, has been muched on. Deer don't usually do that, and I suspect it is the resident woodchuck, although I have yet to see him this year. Darn, I'll have to use some plastic fencing to protect them.

I need to do something about weed suppression at this new, and fairly large, planting site. Instead of buying a few yards of mulch, I will try Preen after using a hard rake to pull up the many garlic mustard weed seedlings.

The outbreak of hives I had Sunday night, turns out, is apparently due to the Doxycycline antibiotic I was taking for the tick bite. I have stopped taking all Doxy and both of the 2 herbs I'd been supplementing with. The hives subsided when I first stopped the herbs becus it was my assumption it was the herbs causing the hives. But when I took another dose of the Doxy, it only took a half hour for the hives to act up. So I've taken none of the 3 since Monday night and I notice the hives seem to subside but then reassert themselves, albeit much less severely, at night. That last dose of Doxy Mon night was good for 12 hours, and probably take at least another day or two beyond that to fully leave my system, so am hoping the hives go away soon.

I skipped 2 meetings last night that I wanted to go to, but I just didn't feel like cleaning up quickly after all my yardwork with the plant guy, and in fact it was so nice out I just felt like continuing with it, so I did. Truth be told, I'm not much of a "joiner," although I try.

On today's agenda: getting 2 nice hanging flower baskets for the front entry. I think I have a small gift card left I can use. Also returning some chewable aspirin to Walgreen's becus I see it has RED DYE in it, a known carcinogen. Also really want to vacuum and wash my car, and rake and Preen the new front perennial bed, fence the sedums and continue pulling out pachysandra roots from around where the plant guy took the shrubs so it doesn't grow back.

Also change the hummingbird water, get gas, go to BJs, and continue moving lungwort and phlox away from patio area.

In short, a busy day. I hope with all this yardwork I start feeling "in shape" soon.

Poison ivy AND hives

May 7th, 2018 at 06:20 am

I've been doing lots of yard work lately, and while the poison ivy wasn't even up, leaves-wise, even touching the roots will get you, and I think that's what happened.

So on Friday I found a big welt on my chinny-chin-chin, my finger, inside my wrist and my right side. I scrubbed everything well with Tec-Nu, and for the next few days, nothing spread from the 4 primary locations. It was mostly a pain in the butt as I tried not to rub it when sleeping.

UPDATE: Woke up last night around midnight to discover, to my horror, that I have red, itchy hives over most of my body. The only place I don't have welts is my lower legs and lower arms...my extremities, while my trunk, front and back, is most affected. It really seems systemic, not a spread of the rash.

I was up all night and couldn't sleep. Discovered I didn't have any aspirin or anti-inflammatories in the house, but I did make a paste of baking soda and water which helped quite a bit, but i couldn't apply that to my back, which was the worst of it.

So around 2 am I took a very, very hot shower (online research actually suggests this) and that also helped quite a bit, allowing me to at least lie in bed with much less itchiness. I popped some kind of pill that made me drowsy and probably got a few hours of sleep in.

I think the hives are hives, not worsening poison ivy as I first thought, and are an allergic reaction to 2 Chinese herbs I'm taking for the tick bite.

As you may remember, I'm taking antibiotics now but also decided to take 2 of the 3 herbs I've frequently taken in past years when I had a tick bite, because there were times the herbs seemed to alleviate my symptoms that were still ongoing when the antibiotics were done.

One of those 3 herbs, andrographis, caused me to get a much milder case of herbs once before, so I have not taken it since. Now, either the cats claw or astragalus is causing the hives, I'm pretty sure, even though I'm taking it at a much lower dose than I have before.

Even though my online research says both herbs are sometimes used to TREAT hives, it says hives could be an allergic reaction to anything.

My usual APRN isn't in today, but got an appointment with someone else, not til 10:30 am.

I emailed my boss telling him what the problem was and asking if I could come in late and work late. He wrote back expressing sympathy but saying it was going to be a slow day and I could take the day off. I wasn't planning on doing this as i work so few hours as it is, but I was also sort of relieved, wondering how bad the itchiness was going to be through the day.

So I'll see the doc today but otherwise stay home. It will also give me time to contact my plumber. I spoke with them briefly on Friday because my central air is not working. They had their answering machine on all day becus they were super busy and one gal in the front office had left the job, so they were shorthanded. I was supposed to get a callback to schedule an appointment.

I have since found out my heat is not working either, so whatever the problem is (I heard a loud noise when I turned the a/c on last week), it's likely something with the furnace, not the a/c specifically. I hope it's not a cracked heat exchanger.

I'm through with the plant sales but still have some plants I already dug up. So I joined 3 different local gardening swap and trade Facebook sites, but only one of them seems especially active, and I haven't really gotten any responses. I'd love to get a blue hosta with the jumbo sized leaves, for example.

Do you remember my friend with prostate cancer, who recently started chemo? He wound up on the hospital a few days ago because he got pneumonia, since the chemo knocks the heck out of your immune system. He'll likely be there a few more days as he is very weak.

He is totally distracted from his own problems, however, because he accidentally learned that his niece, the one who he's gifted so much $$ to over the past 5 years to in the form of a big house down payment and lots of home improvements, secretly took out a loan and refinanced her mortgage with an iffy mortgage outfit, adding $75K to her debt when she did so.

The Plant Stand

May 4th, 2018 at 12:36 pm

For the past few days, I've been browsing for plant stands on places like Houzz, Overstock and Amazon. I saw some metal ones priced at around $58, but they had to be assembled, and that is SO not my forte. I saw some others made out of renewable materials like bamboo and fir but they were higher priced at around $80.

This is not a stand for a single plant, but with 3 tiered shelves for multiple plants. I envisioned putting my growing collection of cacti and succulents on them.

Then today I did my grocery shopping at Aldi's, and what do I find? A metal plant stand for just $19.99! I grabbed it, and spent way too long putting it together this afternoon, but it's done!



It's just outside my front door. I'm hardening off all the plants for a few days until they acclimate to the stronger sunlight. This spot does get strong morning sun so I may have to move them in the morning, but I like them here because they are also protected from rain by the overhang. However, in a very strong thunderstorm, they would get wet.

Anyway, for $19.99, I'm very satisfied.

Dental visit and other things

May 4th, 2018 at 05:23 am

Visited the dentist yesterday. Paid $126 for a cleaning. The dentist's exam is, I think, an extra $90 or so, but he was busy with another patient and I didn't want to wait too long as I was expecting a callback from my neurologist sometime after 11 am.

So I decided to pay and leave, and the dentist then came over to tell me (again) that I really need to get on his dental plan ($264 a year, for those who don't have dental insurance). It's a good plan, covering 100% of 2 cleanings a year with his exam, plus x-rays (if you want them) and 25% off fillings and crowns.

He told me this last time I was there and I guess I didn't really focus in on it since it was 6 months ago. He can be a little pushy, just like the way he is with x-rays, which I resist getting annually.

I've made $318 in plant sales now (!!), and I think I'm just about done. I had one customer and a few no-shows yesterday. I have just a few remaining plants which I guess I'll hold for a few more days to see if anyone wants them, but otherwise, I plan to shut down the sales very soon.

The one customer I mentioned earlier is supposed to come today to dig up one rhodie and one mountain laurel (free for the digging). I decided to offer him 5 mature blueberry bushes for just $25, but he'll have to dig them out too. I hadn't considered selling them before because I didn't think anyone would want to dig them out, but he does.

They've been there about 20 years and some get lots of berries, but the picket fence that somewhat protected them is falling apart and i don't plan to replace it. So the deer browse the bushes mercilessly, and my lawnmower guy just sort of sideswipes that area due to the bushes being there, and bittersweet and poison ivy grow there too.

I feel bad losing the blueberry bushes but just want to tidy up yet another "maintenance issue" near the house, and knowing the bushes are being taken by a groundskeeper at an aroboretum makes me feel like they're going to a good home.

I'm really worried about my friend R. He called 911 2 nights ago and is still in the hospital,, with pneumonia, a side effect from taking chemo which lowers your immune system. He said it was really hard to call 911.

A nurse came in with breakfast so we didn't get to finish our phone conversation, but that will happen later today.

He told me the reaction he had from the chemo (shortness of breath) was so bad, he wanted his life to end right then. His doc had told him he could divide up the once-every-three-weeks chemo dose into 2 smaller doses, to hopefully lessen the reaction, but my friend R. says he reached a tipping point last night and just doesn't want to do it, says he needs to face the fact the cancer's terminal, help his niece with her credit card debt and make the best use of his remaining time.

Say what? Help his niece with her credit card debt?? He's already paid for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of home improvements, not to mention the down payment on the house itself, which she could never have afforded on a school teacher's salary.

But he says being a single mother (recently divorced) she feels guilty for shortshrifting her 2 kids, so she's leasing an expensive SUV and is flying down to South Carolina again so the kids can visit their grandparents (her ex's parents).

It kills me that he is so obsessed with helping her out. She's nice, but her 2 young girls are really spoiled. I remember bring over Easter baskets when I had dinner with them last year, and they spent about 10 minutes on them before losing interest and moving on to something else. I guess that's what kids do, but her kids really seem like they need to have limits set. JMHO.

So my friend said he's ready to take me up on my offer to help him dispose of more of his personal stuff so his heirs don't have to deal with it. His condo is kind of a mess.

Garden stuff

May 1st, 2018 at 05:30 pm

Well, the plant sales from this weekend continued into the work week with people coming over Monday night after work right before dark and Tuesday morning before work. People are still asking for more plants. You'd think this was the only game in town.

To date, I've sold $280 worth to 15 people, plus a 48-star flag I was also selling. I expect to wrap it all up by Friday (surpassing $300) because scheduling visits and digging up plants is taking up all my free time; plus, I'm nearly out of inventory. Wow.

Overall, I'm very pleased and sales greatly exceeded expectations, especially since at first I wasn't even sure I was going to bother. It will all go toward defraying the cost of the patio.

But wait! It's not over. There's a guy coming tomorrow to dig out BY HAND 2 large-sized shrubs about 4 feet high and 3 feet wide: a mountain laurel and a rhododendron. It will be back-breaking work but he seemed up for it, since I offered them free. He works at an area arboretum and knows his plants. If he takes them, it's one less thing the mason's crew has to deal with to just clear the area before laying the pavers.

In addition, 2 more plant buyers are coming tomorrow afternoon and that night i have another free dinner at an Italian restaurant.

I loaded some bricks into my car tonight so I can drop them at the transfer station when I bring the trash tomorrow before work. The mason said his crew would do it, but it's such a mess back there and it's easy enough for me to do since I'm going there anyway. I've pulled a lot of bricks up as I dug out plants because many of them found a way to grow up between the bricks. I don't know what the carrying weight is of my car, though, and they are pretty heavy.

I can drop another load of bricks off Thursday morning since I'll be passing right by the dump again on the way to the dentist.

After using my new 3-month BJs membership pass just once, I've managed to lose it. I've looked everywhere. Can't figure out where it went and I was there just last week. I guess I can get another card at the courtesy desk.

The bank just sent me a new ATM/Visa card after I told them I lost that!

Plant sales bonanza

April 30th, 2018 at 03:59 am

Yesterday I hit the $200 mark for selling perennials from the yard, 3 days' time. Every time I had a customer leave with plants, I went out to dig more up, putting them in my own temporary containers and storing them in a shaded area of my driveway.

Here's what I'm selling:


Lady's mantle


Leaf detail...note the interesting scalloped foliage which collects rainwater so prettily.


Lungwort, now in bloom.


Goat's beard, sometimes confused with astilbe


Blue sedum groundcover

And people are STILL coming this week. I have one woman traveling 40 minutes to meet me tonight and she said she'd take "everything you've got." Which means probably most of the rest of my lady's mantle and 1 large sedum, plus a 48-star flag I posted ages ago.

So hopefully she'll make it. Her purchases tonight will push me close to $300 in sales! Nice. But now these sales have given me incentive to find other little plants to divide or dig up to sell. This is just too easy.

I've been paying $70 a month for landline phone and Internet with Frontier for over a year, but recently noticed an online deal with AllConnect and Frontier for $40 or $50 a month, depending on what Internet speed you want.

So I'm going to call later this week to see if I can take advantage of it, as that would be a big savings. I'll call Frontier first to see what Internet speed I have now; curiously, this is one detail they don't bother to list on my bill, which I find annoying and strange.

So last week I checked the Health Dept website daily to see if my tick tested positive for Lyme, and while they got up to tick #30 by Friday, I should know about mine (Tick #31) today.

However, I've been having ongoing dull headaches since probably Friday night (the only symptom I've ever had in the past when I had Lyme), and I rarely get headaches. I decided not to wait anymore and ran out to Walgreens to fill the prescription last night and started the antibiotics, reluctantly.

After off and on rain all weekend and a chilly day today, we're looking at temps in the 70s and 80s all week!

Selling plants at a brisk pace

April 28th, 2018 at 05:42 am

Several times in early spring I've sold plants growing in my yard and had good luck doing so. So I decided to post some for sale since I'm clearing out the patio area for the rebuild, which may take place as early as next week.

Yesterday I offered lady's mantle, coral bells, goats beard and a blue sedum groundcover, and posted pix from earlier years. I priced them cheaply at $5 a plant.

Oh my gosh, what a whirlwind of interest. Over 20 people have inquired about it. Three people stopped by yesterday and one this morning. I have 4 more people scheduled to come Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

I have to laugh. One of the people who came to buy was a young person tethered to her phone. She pulled up in my driveway and I was standing outside my front door for several minutes, patiently waiting for her to emerge; she was busy texting me to tell me she had arrived. Smile

Then, when I was standing with her and showing her the plants, instead of actually looking at them, she had her phone out and was looking at the photo I had added to my for sale post....strange!

Apparently everyone else in Connecticut is itching to plant as I am. But I know from prior experience that if I try selling the same plants a month or so later, I'll get a much less robust response. There's a narrow window of opportunity to really grab gardeners early in the season.

So far I've made $150 from just 2 days of selling plants!

Sky-high tree prices

April 26th, 2018 at 04:28 pm

Here's a trivia question for you: what do tree work and medical procedures have in common?

Prices for both can vary wildly. The same medical procedure at different hospitals can be thousands of dollars apart.

I've found the same applies to yardwork, brush cleanup and tree work, too.

Here are the quotes I got for cutting up a crabapple tree brought down by a storm, along with some white pine branches, and just throwing all debris into an overgrown area.

I figured it would be about 2 hours of work and that about $200 should be plenty.

Estimate 1: $480
Estimate 2: $700
Estimate 3: $1,488

I was blown away by Estimate #3 and was so miffed by the outlandish prices that I decided to just keep calling people until I found a price I could live with, and that if I had to use my little hand saw all summer to dispose of the tree myself, I would.

The final estimate #4, the guy who stopped by tonight? $200.

He'll be doing it next week.

You know there's something wrong when prices for the same thing vary so widely from one contractor to another. I think it's because some of these contractors have invested in lots of heavy equipment, cherry pickers, etc. (even though my job wouldn't require that), while others are basically just a guy with a chainsaw with next to no overhead.

I did get back to Estimate #3 guy and told him I thought his price was cray-cray. He immediately came down $200, and when I said that was still out of the ballpark, he came down another $538, claiming he misunderstood the scope of the project.

I was able to use the coupon for 3 months free membership at BJs. I wasn't sure if they would take it or try to tell me it's for new members only. I let my membership lapse in February and wasn't sure the membership was worth $55.

So I bought just 4 things: walnuts at $5 a lb, frozen organic strawberries, guacomole and sockeye salmon.

On the patio project, I dug up 2 goat's beard and most of the rest of the phlox, and I posted some of the perennials for sale on facebook. Got 3 interested replies so far; hoping some translate into visits as I just don't have the space for these plants but hate to see them go to waste.

MRI test results: the good and the bad

April 25th, 2018 at 06:13 am

With the advent of electronic record-keeping in the medical world (welcome to the 21st century), I was able to access my MRI test results online about 48 hours after my MRI.

So I didn't need to wait for my doctor to tell me, and in fact, I'm not sure there's a need for me to see him again in June since I was able to stay on my current medication and I know the MRI results. So why spend the $50 copay?

But back to the results. They did both brain and cervical spine. While there are still multiple brain lesions (indicative of MS), there are NO NEW, ENLARGING, OR ACTIVE demyelinating plaques that have occurred in the 13 years since my last MRI.

That means NO disease progression. Which makes sense, since if you don't count my stiff toes (the new neurologist is not so sure it's MS-related), I've been largely asymptomatic for a long time.

This is excellent news. I must be doing something right. As you may know, I do focus a lot of energy on getting regular exercise and eating vegan. This won't change.

An even more intriguing test result, and perhaps one reason I'd be tempted to see my neurologist in June so I could talk to him about it, is mention in the report of resolution of a previously noted lesion identified in 2005. "Resolution" means the lesion/plaque identified in 2005 is no longer there (or at least is too small to show up on the MRI). Lesions shrinking or disappearing means that the inflammation responsible for the lesion is resolving and the blood-brain barrier resealing.

So that all is great news, and the reason I got the MRI done.

The not-so-good news is that the cervical spine MRI showed degenerative changes/stenosis in several areas since my last MRI in 2005. This is also known as osteoarthritis, aka, aging. So it's not my imagination that for the past few years, I've felt very stiff and creaky when I get up out of bed in the morning.

Really the only thing I could do to slow the process, in addition to what I'm already doing with diet/exercise, is to LOSE WEIGHT.

While not overweight in the past, with each passing decade, I have gained a little weight. This trend became more pronounced after menopause. To get back to what I weighed in my 30s and 40s, I would need to lose 20 pounds.

You would think this wouldn't be that hard, especially being 95% vegan, but I have not lost any weight. Hence my newfound interest in intermittent fasting, which someone else just posted about here. I'm going to try it tomorrow.

Spring cleaning

April 22nd, 2018 at 04:48 am

I made it to 8:30 am yoga today. Glad I went; I walk tons, but am not that flexible. They were giving out free packets of flower seed because of Earth Day.

Tick Ranger came shortly after I got back to spray the yard with organic cedar oil. I told him to be as thorough as possible and showed him the boundaries of the yard. I'm so happy he came and I really hope the 4+ sprayings this year will make a difference.

I want to put the hummingbird feeder out this weekend.

I continued digging up perennials in the back patio area so I can save them before the masons come to rebuild the patio. There's a lot to do, but I got all the Autumn Joy sedums.

I was running out of room in my existing perennial beds in the front yard, so I decided to divide and plant them in the very large clearing near the road where the 3 white pines were taken down.

Thing is, I realized, I'm just creating yet another area that will need constant weeding and/or mulching to control weeds. There are a lot of roots of something in there; the whole understory of those pines was brushy overgrowth: bramble and wineberry, poison ivy, Virginia creeper and bittersweet.

I feel like I have a unique but very limited window of time to take back that area and tame it as the guys who took down the trees did a good job with cleanup, removing a lot of the brush. I can see that a lot of roots remain, though, and probably some plants were just flattened down by the equipment they used in there, so I'm going to have to keep pulling roots and seeing what comes up. So far in that area I've planted 2 small viburnums, 5 peonies, and 5 sedums.

I spent my $25 Whole Foods gift card in a flash on some very expensive honey, organic lemon juice, apples, vegan butter and soy yogurt. I was curious to see how prices seemed since it's been said Amazon has lowered them, but I really couldn't tell. Whole Foods will remain for me a rare treat when I earn the occasional credit card gift card, but maybe not even then.

I still have no symptoms from the tick I pulled off last Tuesday (headaches, fever, achy joints) though I am super sore from yesterday's yoga.

We're rounding out the weekend with another beautiful repeat of yesterday but 5 degrees warmer, so I will be continuing The Great Perennial Dig-Out and taking a walk on the rail trail.

Medical meanderings

April 19th, 2018 at 05:02 pm

I got through the MRI. Not my favorite thing to do: it's so noisy and I had to lay perfectly still for over an hour. I think I was stressed, actually, and his injection was very painful.

On the up side, he asked me what kind of music I wanted to hear, something I don't think they did when I had my last MRI in 2005. Belatedly, I saw a sign on my way out that they also do aromatherapy, which would have been fun, but perhaps there was a charge for that.

Very glad I got this done for $75 with this particular plan I have. Hopefully I won't have to repeat it any time soon. I left with a CD in hand that I can bring when I return to the doctor's in June.

I also saw my PCP about the tick bite. My plan was to get a written prescription which I would fill and begin only if I get symptoms. I haven't yet. Maybe I'll get lucky and learn next week from the Health Dept. that the tick tested negative.

She said my blood pressure was great: 120/60.

My PCP said that after the one beautiful weather day we had last Saturday, there was a big uptick (no pun intended) of people coming in with tick bites. So I wasn't the first.

I noticed that in one of the two garage light fixtures my electrician installed recently, that one of them has collected a fair amount of rain water in the bottom. If it builds up, I imagine it could short out. The other fixture is bone dry. I called my electrician, but then worried he might charge me for coming over, so after talking to my dad, I decided to tell the electrician not to come because I feel I've been spending the big bucks left and right lately. I might try drilling a small hole in the bottom (plastic) to let the water drain out.

Electrician wrote back saying he wouldn't charge me and could be here over the weekend. (Relief) He's a good guy; I had a feeling he might say that, but I didn't want to count on it. Yay for me.

The cable company came by and removed an old cable wire that was hanging too low; I wanted it done before the mason arrives with some kind of heavy equipment that would get snagged under it. I haven't had cable in at least a decade and I don't know why when they came to disconnect it years ago that they didn't remove the wire then, but they didn't.

After the MRI, I really feel like doing something to baby myself, and I will, tomorrow, when I enjoy a free lunch and stops at Whole Foods (to use a $25 gift card earned from credit card rewards), Walmart (for pots) and maybe Aldi's for a few sale items (cantaloupes and mangoes).

I also want to pick up a glass vase at $1 store so I can bring in a bouquet of my own homegrown daffodils for my employer Tuesday. I have hundreds in bloom or near bloom and they are so cheerful to look at. She lost her mother this week and I can relate to everything she's been through.

The week after next I have a dentist appointment.

I've been thinking about what to do vis a vis a colonoscopy. I had one before and she removed 2 very small polyps. Now I'm due for another one but I've been reading and thinking a lot about how Americans are so over-treated with a lot of unnecessary tests and procedures. There's a lot in the press about how Americans pay more for healthcare, but actually don't have better health as a result. In Europe, colonoscopies are not so commonly done and their rate of colon cancer is no higher. I did the Colonguard fecal test last year and that certainly was easier. Plus I've gone vegan since that first colonoscopy and I do believe that makes me less likely to develop colon cancer.

I must say I have similar feelings about annual mammograms and annual dental x-rays. I've often caved into pressure from doctors to do those annual mammograms but again, there's a lot of debate about whether they really improve the odds of finding breast cancer. The dental x-rays are definitely not needed if you have an otherwise health dental picture and yet i always feel like i have to fight my dentist about this when I see him. I think they just want a return on their investment in a very expensive x-ray machine, to be honest.
At some point this year, I'd like to get a physical (solely for the bloodwork, which is always so interesting and informative to me) and a Shringix vaccine at Walgreens.

Tick season has started

April 18th, 2018 at 03:00 pm

Don't read this if you're easily grossed out. Actually, I am thoroughly grossed out myself.

I made the most disgusting discovery last night. There was a fully engorged tick embedded in my right shoulder.

If you remember, I spent an hour or so on several days last week doing tree cleanup with my fallen crabapple and pine branches.

This is what it looks like now that I've removed many of the smaller branches:



(Plus there's a bunch of white pine branches.)

I do remember one night after showering of sitting in bed and feeling the back of my neck and upper back shoulder were itchy, so I scratched, but didn't think anything of it. Next day, my shoulder was still itchy so I used a magnifying mirror to look at it and what I saw was an oval-shaped, dark thing partially attached to my skin.

As hyper-aware of ticks as I am, I have never had one attached to me and am used to finding one occasionally crawling around. So when I saw this thing, I actually thought I partially scratched off a mole on my back! It sounds stupid, but I could only really see it from a certain angle, and I didn't see it moving or any legs! So disgusting!!!!

During the next several days, it was feeling kind of sore; it was right where my bra strap would rub and I didn't want to irritate it further so I carefully put a band-aid over it!

Yesterday, I even went to the store to get some Neosporin as it was still feeling sore and I was afraid I'd scratched off the mole and it might be infected.

Oh my God. I looked at it again last night and by touching it just a little it rolled off and into my sink. That's when I could see what it was.

I am just beside myself, believe me, and just so DISGUSTED and incredulous I could be so stupid.

I brought the tick to my town's Health Dept this morning on my way into work. For engorged ticks only, they will send them to the state to test for Lyme. Their website said it takes several weeks to get results; the woman said it would be a week or week and a half, and they only call you if it tests positive.

They also give you a number for your specimen, and then post the results on their website. I looked at the test results from 2017.

Of the 372 people who brought in ticks for testing, 126 of them, or about one-third, tested positive, 162 tested negative and 84 were either dog ticks and thus not tested at all (becus they don't carry Lyme) or not a tick at all, or not engorged. (They only test engorged ticks.)

So there's a chance I'm okay, but as a precaution and somewhat reluctantly becus I've done antibiotics for ticks so many times, I made an appointment with my doc for tomorrow and plan to start the Doxycycline. My doctor has often started me on 2 weeks of Doxy without waiting for test results. It doesn't even pay to do a blood test now because it takes at least 2 weeks for it to even show up in your system.

Really don't like the idea of doing it because there are risks involved in repeated use of antibiotics, but in this case the risks associated with Lyme or other tick-borne diseases is probably worse.

After seeing my doc for that I'll quickly get the prescription filled and then run up to where my MRI will be done. I called my insurer to double-check that it's pre-authorized and that my copay is just $75.

In the meantime, I also decided to spend $350 for 4 separate tick sprayings of my property this season (Tick Ranger) with an organic spray of cedar oil, so it won't harm bumblebees or other beneficial insects. It's a largish unanticipated expense I haven't budgeted for, but I'm seeing the local herd of deer in my yard nearly daily, and I feel it would be a good idea to at least try the spray one year and reassess for next year.

I also decided I'm done messing with the treework myself, so I'm collecting bids now.

Today after work I ran up to where a local jeweler was doing appraisals and I decided to sell my mother's engagement ring; I got a good price for it and the money was deposited in my account and will help defray the cost of my patio redo. My mother was married three times, so I don't know which husband gave her this ring (!), nor do I know what happened to her other 2 engagement rings.

She may have sold them, as I encouraged her generally to sell any unwanted jewelry when gold prices were very high because she sometimes complained money was tight when art didn't sell. She had savings but didn't want to dig into it so I know she did sell some things.

Interestingly, this same man gave me a higher price last year when I brought him the same ring. I declined at the time becus he was the first place to appraise it and I wasn't sure of its value. This time, he quoted me a price that was $400 less than what he said last year! When I pointed that out, he said the price is partly based on what's already in his inventory, yada yada yada, and I said that's ok, I have no sense of urgency to sell itt, at which point he said well, he could "do a little bit better," which turned out to be an extra $200, so while it was still $200 less than what he said last year, I decided to just let him have it becus I am feeling a little pinched with the patio redo and have already gotten appraisals elsewhere which didn't come close to matching his.

Where's the day gone?

April 15th, 2018 at 03:26 pm

Today sure flew by; I stayed inside all day as the weather is raw again and overcast.

I had a nurse come to the house this morning to give me a "refresher course" on MS injections. It pretty much confirmed I'm doing it the right way. She's a contract employee of Teva Neuroscience and does this p/t while she works a f/t job at a local internist's office. She was very talkative, maybe a little too much about her personal life, but that's ok.

After she left, I tried once again to make my own granola bars but they fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan. I may try increasing the amount of peanut butter, which holds them together.

I also potted up 2 very small plants I got from the annual Cacti & Succulent Show yesterday. Brought my father with me but he didn't walk around too much. I brought a lawn chair for him as he tires easily, and perhaps the crowd was too much for him. He said he had trouble seeing the cacti because many were so small. This is really sad to hear as it's hard for me to gauge just how much vision he has left.

The main thing I want to do is keep his spirits up and not let him get depressed. He never complains and doesn't seem prone to depression, but I don't know how he is when I'm not around. He is really a role model for me, though, in the way he stands up to whatever s*** life doles out to him. I don't know too many 85-year-olds who would still be willing to even go to a cacti & succulent show. He has trouble walking and seeing, but he is still game, and I hope that never changes.

So I spent about $36 on 6 different plants including a crown of thorns, another euphorbia, rhipsalis bacrifera, crassula saramtosa (in the jade family), haworthia, etc. I got some very unusual items. Now let's see if I can keep them alive.

I whipped up another batch of granola yesterday and did the laundry today.

Friday was another MS lunch and learn program that was more interesting than usual becus the pharma company that makes my Copaxone couldn't get the slide show to work, so the doctor speaker just ad libbed and answered our questions, mostly. This was much more informative than the carefully scripted slide program that has to go by the book becus it's FDA-approved.

As often happens, I see various people I've become friendly with over the years I've gone to these lunches/dinners, more so lately now that I'm working fewer hours.

I sat with a couple who's always been very friendly. He's about my age, has MS and is on disability. He's ok, but pretty early on he starts acting like we're old friends and he kept giving me these big bear hugs and kind of flirting with me.

His wife is from the Phillipines and is much younger. She's always working a variety of p/t jobs that pay very little. One of them is a marketing survey company. At the lunch she said, Oh, PS, I've been trying to reach you. I'm apply for a new job as a home health aide and I need 3 references; 3 people with MS whom I've taken care of. I said I'd be happy to be a reference and talk about how I met her and what a good candidate I think she would be. She said no, it can't be a personal reference, it has to be a client. Well, she hasn't had any clients and I am not interested in lying for her to get a job. So I just politely said I was sorry I couldn't help her.

Then today she texts me and after a little chit chat, she asks me if I'd like to make $35 doing a survey about chocolate. I said sure, that doesn't sound too hard (tongue in cheek), and then she says ok i just need your full name, address, and email. I gave it to her and then as soon as I did, she said I'm going to do the survey for you so you don't have to drive to such and such. I was a little shocked. And a second later, she's apparently filling out the survey form and she tells me, you have a 15-year-old daughter...I wrote back, please don't do that...then she texted, and you have a son, by which point I said DO NOT do that.

I started panicking, thinking she was taking my identity to do the survey and possibly pocketing a little more than $35.

Her next reply was a little sullen: well ok, but it's such a waste of $35. Why would she care so much if she wasn't somehow benefiting from this? I wrote back that I would call the research facility tomorrow and come in to do the survey. I wanted to gauge her reaction because I realized she could have just gone ahead and completed the survey using my info, pocketed the money and not told me. Letting her know I would call them tomorrow ensured she didn't do that.

I don't really have that much interest in it but I was becoming concerned that this person who I know only very casually could be hijacking my ID details and do this moving forward. So I managed to register with the company (I'd done work for them years ago) and I changed my email contact info.

Friday I also had my one on one consultation with the CFP as a followup to the class. I was a little disappointed....it was mostly a sales pitch for why I should engage his services and there was one part where he sketched out an interesting little chart showing the different buckets for my taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free monies, using separate asset allocations for each, but I noticed he kept that paper when he gave me all the others, as if he didn't want me to use it by myself.

Interestingly, he told me that while the paperwork I'd earlier received from him indicated advisory fees as high as 2.75%, he never charges more than 1.25% (of the total portfolio value). In any event, I have no plans to use his services but didn't say so, so now he's going to call me and I'll tell him then.

I don't like the idea of having to pay a fee every year, regardless of whether the stock market (and my portfolio) had a crappy year or a good one. He would be paid, regardless, and I guess that's what I have a problem with. I think he should EARN his money, not just collect it automatically. So instead of paying a % depending on how much $$ I had with him, why not create a scale where I paid him only if he actually made me money?

Yesterday was a gorgeous weather day and hit low 70s here. I did some more yardwork, but did not continue with my fallen tree branches cus my neighbor saw me working on it and offered to come by with his chainsaw, a huge relief to me. I planned on paying him $50 for the hour, but didn't say so.

He said don't kill yourself, let me do it, it will take just an hour. He said Sat am, and for some reason, he called me on my cell phone, which is never turned on becus i don't give out the number to anyone. So i missed the call. He usually just walks down, and by the time I called him back, he was busy doing other things. He said ok, maybe Sun a.m., but he called me back later and said he couldn't get the chainsaw to start so he couldn't do it. I was very disappointed becus if I have to hire a "professional," it will probably be about $200.

So that's a big mess that will need to be dealt with before it's time to mow, but at the same time, I need some decent weather days when I can move more perennials from the back, where my new patio will be going, before they begin work end of April, probably. So far I have managed to move the baby viburnum and several sedums. I still have a ton of lady's mantle, goatsbeard and alyssum to move.

Wednesday words

April 11th, 2018 at 05:01 pm

I love starting off my "weekend" with a productive spurt of stuff done, and indeed, I did do that, starting off this afternoon around 4 pm when I got home.

I wanted to transplant a "small" viburnum (about 5 feet high now, one I already transplanted once, but to the wrong spot) to the large area fronting the road where the town took down 3 humongous white pines last November. I need large shrubs that will block the view of the neighbor's house and of passing cars.

I dug the hole in front first, but had a heck of a time digging up the viburnum in the backyard. It had a pretty thick and strong root growing directly down from exact center.

I finally got it out and moved it to its new spot, then watered it well. I do hope it has enough roots to survive. I'm not 100% sure. It is still dormant, so a good time to move it.

I'll water it daily for the next 4 days and see how it does.

After I got done with that, I went to work on the storm damaged, fallen tree limbs, continuing where I left off last time, and managed to work on that for 1.5 hours before running out of steam.

But when I last left the crabapple tree, one large trunk was still upright; now that limb is also down (crashed into white pine) and so it's a total loss, which is sad, because it had such a brilliant mass of fuchsia-colored blossoms in May.

I'm going to have to hire someone with a chainsaw, but I'm doing as much as possible myself first to reduce the bill.

I rolled up 2 tarps and returned to the garage all the pots I put over the daffodils to protect them from frost. We're to have frost-free days and nights for the next few weeks and, I guess, for the rest of spring.

Unfortunately, I was so involved in the tree work that I forgot 2 meetings I was going to choose from tonight: the garden club in town and an MS dinner about a half hour from here. I didn't make either...too pooped.

Tomorrow I'll be getting my hair cut ($7 before tip with coupon from Great Clips), vacuuming, and hopefully transplanting another smallish shrub to the front roadside before rain in the afternoon.

I also want to return a Transfer on Death form for my checking account to the bank. This was one of the few very useful pieces of info I got from that class I took: you can designate beneficiaries on any kind of bank account (TOD, or Transfer on Death) and when you pass, the monies go directly to your beneficiary and bypass probate. Which saves your heirs time and money. I knew you could do this for any kind of brokerage account/mutual funds, but didn't know you could do it with banks, too. So after I do my checking account, I'll do my numerous online money market and CD accounts.

I told my dad about this too because I don't think he knows that much about estate planning stuff but I haven't known how to approach him about it to discuss these things. So I told him about the TOD thing as something I was doing myself, and then he asked me to let him know if I was able to do it, and I could see he was interested. And since my bank is also one of his bank's) and they emailed me the form, I have printed out an extra copy for him.

Now I don't mean to pry into his estate planning although I am pretty sure the 4 of us kids will be beneficiaries. He often has me write things for him, fill out forms, etc because his vision loss is so profound he has trouble writing even his signature.

So I will carefully offer to fill out the basic info part of the form for him and leave him to do the rest if that's what he wants.

Having been my mother's executor, I really do wish my father would be open about his plans with me/us because it would just make things easier when the time comes. At this point, I don't think any of us knows who will be executor, or anything else, for that matter. I am guessing the executor will be the older of my 2 younger half-brothers (and praying it's not my sister).

Inheriting a good life, or a bad one

April 9th, 2018 at 05:04 am

It being near the end of heating season, I poured the last of my kerosene in the heater, burned it til nearly empty, and then proceeded with a "dry burn" outside my front door. This helps remove the carbon build-up.

Later in the week I'll disassemble the heater, just by unscrewing and removing the top, to inspect the wick and scrape off remaining carbon so it burns well next season. In addition to the user's manual, watching a lot of You Tube videos helps.

Since I've only used it a total of 9 times this winter, I don't think it's necessary to replace the wick yet.

So of the 5 gallons I bought, I got 36.5 hours of run time. I had no power outages this winter (thank goodness) so I ended up just running it on weekends or when I was otherwise home, and it typically would keep it at a very toasty 71 to 73 degrees inside when temps outside were in the 20s, 30s or 40s.

There's really no way to regulate heat flow. It's either burning or it's not.

Familly complexities
Talked to my cousin J. in PA. He has major relationship issues with his 2 daughters. They sound like terrible human beings. They are in their 40s now (living with boyfriends, kids) and he continues to heavily contribute to their finances, paying for a house, a car (totaled, then he gave her another one), paying their cell phone bills and I'm sure there's more I don't know about. And yet they treat him terribly. Very entitled, presumptuous and demanding, not at all appreciative.

After I told him the story of how my dad told me, when I was a senior in college, that the modest child support payments he'd been making directly to me when I entered college would end when I turned 21, it inspired my cousin to stop the outflow of monies to his grown children. It's time they took responsibility for their own lives.

I suspect part of the reason for his largess is perhaps an unconscious desire to compensate for the lack of mothering his daughters got when she was still alive.

It strikes me that bad fortune, mental illness and addictions persist and continue on from one generation to the next. And I have to think back to my grandmother's sister, and what a bad choice she made in marrying my cousin's father (mental illness and alcoholism), which I think somehow influenced my cousin's choice in a wife (mental illness, painkillers and alcoholism), which in turn really messed up cousin J.'s 2 daughters' lives, finally leading to his grandson, who is now in jail after shooting at my cousin at point blank range 3 times. He would have shot a 4th time, but the gun jammed, possibly saving my cousin's life.

My grandmother and her sister could have passed for twins. They were both very pretty as young women. They didn't have to settle. But sometimes women go for the bad boys.

Although some feel we are masters of our fate, I think often there are forces at work with origins well before our time that remain invisible to the eye and beyond our grasp to change.

I'm sure my great aunt had no idea how her choices would impact her as-then unborn son, her granddaughters and even her great grandson. I hope the cycle can be broken.

Sneaky ways to pad a bill

April 6th, 2018 at 07:06 am

Lately I'm finding more and more businesses pad their bills with all sorts of nickel and dime fees which really add up.

Today, I encountered two such fees having to do with my plumber and the local movie theater.

My plumber was here and is gone, and I have nice new shower trim in the bath/shower. I was a little perturbed about the bill. He was here exactly 1 hour and I knew their rate was $100/hr., but he wrote 1.5 hours on the bill. This is the part that really bothers me. That extra half hour appeared on the bill as if it was part of the labor they were charging me. When I brought it up, he explained that they bill for driving time.

I know their location and it's 15 minutes away. Why should I pay $100/hr for driving time? So after writing the plumber a check, I let him go and called their office, spoke to the manager there and he agreed to void the check I'd written if I paid him over the phone, and he would not charge me the $50 driving fee.

I was glad about that, but am thinking in the future I should make a point to find a plumber right in my home town and ask on the phone whether they're going to charge for the drive over. It just seems rather sneaky since the office manager did not mention this fee when I asked him about cost over the phone, and even on the invoice, it did not disclose that fee; it just indicated "1.5 hours" when I knew he'd been here exactly 1 hour.

The only time I remember ever having to pay an extra driving charge was when gas prices were really high, years ago. It just seems like another opportunity for them to pad the bill. I mean, they're going to have to drive somewhere for every customer call; it comes with the territory. What will they have customers do next, pay extra for the electricity in the office?

Today is my dad's birthday, so as a treat, I'm picking him up later today so we can catch the new Chappaquiddick movie. It wouldn't normally be my first choice, but he likes historical dramas, and this was the only thing of that genre playing at the new theater in his town.

Their new "order online" feature was available, so I thought, great. I can avoid making dad stand around when i wait in line for the tickets. But then I saw the theater charges a $1.50 "convenience charge" for each online ticket ordered, so an extra $3.

I wrote and complained about that too. You would think they would want to encourage people to order online since that lessens the needs for a live person standing behind the counter selling tickets. Perhaps with enough online orders, they could get by with 1 person selling tickets instead of 2.

I've also run into convenience fees when I pay for my heating oil with a credit card. In fact, I only accidentally discovered it would be cheaper to pay by check. So now I always ask various service providers if they offer a discount if you pay "in cash," which often includes paying by check.

Have you encountered similar kinds of fees that often fall under the radar if you're not careful?

Thursday things

April 5th, 2018 at 04:56 pm

I saw the new neurologist today and liked him well enough. I asked him how many other MS patients he has, and he said 40 or 50, so I guess he's got the experience I wanted to see. He's a solo practice...so rare these days. Not sure I'm definitely switching to generic Copaxone. He said generics are NOT identical and sometimes can be as much as 20% different ingredients.

Sure enough, I went home and found this:
http://fortune.com/2013/01/10/are-generics-really-the-same-as-branded-drugs/

However, my new insurer requires use of generics, if they're available, and I told him that. He said he'd talk to the Copaxone rep who happened to be stopping in later today to see if anything can be done. He said he's seen some patients switch to a generic and then went on to have troubling side effects. Not good.

We also agreed I'll have an MRI since it's been 13 years since my last one. It should only cost me a $75 co-payment, which to me is pretty cheap.

While in the doctor's waiting room, I couldn't help but notice how stark the walls were; no art anywhere. I got the office email from the front desk and may propose they consider purchasing some of my mother's art; I have jpgs I can send. You never know.

I hit Aldi's for their $1.19 cantaloupe (they were so sweet last week) and their .49 mangoes, among other things. Bought a birthday card for my dad next door and filled up the gas tank before dropping off some book donations at the library. Vacuumed the house. I found a FLEA on Luther. Gave him Advantage Plus yesterday.

I had another assigned survey from my local bank so went to use their teller and then filled out the survey online when I got home. Each time I do this sort of thing it's an easy $10.

Also went to the hardware store to replace 2 faucet washers as both my kitchen faucet and the downstairs bath faucet have had slow drips for ages. My local hardware store didn't have the right size so now I have to go to a plumbing supply place. My chores never seem to end. Sigh. But it's a cheap fix (.49 each) and could save on my water bill. It just was never really on my radar til now.

I went to a lot of trouble to cover up as many daffodils in my front yard as possible becus it got down into the 20s last night and many are ready to bloom. I used plastic sheets, a tarp and lots of large flower pots turned upside down.

Then this morning I had to pull all of them off and then put them all back on tonight because it will be another cold one. I'm not sure it's needed because the ones I couldn't cover look fine, but freezing weather is freezing weather, right? I have several hundred daffodils I've planted over the years and they are a cheery sight I'd rather not lose this year.

Plumber coming tomorrow bright and early, 8 am.

Light bulb moment

April 1st, 2018 at 04:32 pm

Roth IRA withdrawals are not counted as (MAGI) income when withdrawn.

I have been so focused on treatment of Roth IRA CONTRIBUTIONS, and how that affects your current year's taxes, that somehow I overlooked this important point. I mean, I knew the withdrawals would be tax-free, but I did not consider exactly how that would work in practice.

This would make it even easier to remain within a lower tax bracket in retirement. And regardless of how big your retirement kitty is, you could really wind up paying much higher taxes if you're not careful how you withdraw.

For instance, let's say you know you'll need $42,000 a year in retirement. And you also know that the 12% federal tax bracket is for incomes between $9,526 and $38,700. So you could simply withdraw:

1. $38,699 from your traditional IRAs, and
2. $3,301 from your Roth IRA

This totals $42,000.

In this way, you'd pay just 12% federal income taxes on the first $38,699 and $0 on the $3,301 (if you're single).

But if you weren't paying attention and simply withdrew all $42,000 from your traditional IRA accounts, you'd pay 22% tax on a portion of your withdrawals, or $5,369 total (an extra $726), just for withdrawing from the wrong accounts.

Conversely, if you chose to withdraw $42,000 from only your Roth IRA accounts, you'd pay no tax this year but, unless you have ALL your retirement funds in Roth IRA accounts, you'd wind up paying the piper in higher taxes come RMD time because the only way you'd be able to remain submerged like a contented frog in the depths of the 12% tax bracket would be by lowering your standard of living. (Don't know where that frog metaphor came from, but let's go with it.)

Your Roth monies could do much more good, taxwise, if you conserved them and doled them out to top off your income needs year in and year out rather than shooting your wad after a couple of $0 tax years.

Not 1, not 2 but 3 plumbing issues in a 24-hour period

April 1st, 2018 at 09:04 am

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all my SA friends.

I went to see my friend R. yesterday. He was supposed to go for his 4th chemo treatment this past week but the doctor thought his tumors were getting bigger after 9 weeks of treatment. If he confirms this on Monday, he'll be switched immediately to a different chemo drug. Apparently, roughly half of cancer patients don't respond to the first chemo drugs and have to go on the next one.

All things considered, R. is probably doing as well (mentally) as could be expected. His focus is very much on wrapping things up, decluttering his condo so his family doesn't have to do as much. He shared with me earlier this week his very irreverent obituary, which he wrote himself. He has lost most of his hair, and what he has left has gone completely white. That was a little bit of a shock to me.

He said it's still possible the 2nd cancer drug could put the cancer in remission and he could live another 5 years. Or he could die within the year.

Plumbing woes...
The other day I cleaned the bathtub, and to rinse it out, I pushed the lever on the tub valve down to get water from the lower faucet.

That lever has been very stiff and hard to move for a while (it's about 20 years old) and when I went to take a shower that night, I couldn't pull it up. Wonderful. I was thinking I would have to call a plumber and replace the fixtures, paying probably $200 for the plumber's time and another $200 for a very nice fixture I picked out at Lowe's.



But I'd rather defer replacement for as long as possible, so I researched stuck shower/tub valves and decided to try soaking the tub valve in vinegar, contained in a plastic bag with rubber bands to secure it, overnight.

It worked!

I was able to pull up the lever so I get water coming out of the shower head. However, it was still hard to pull up, so I'm going to try never pushing it back down again.

Now, amazingly, I have a second plumbing challenge.

I came home yesterday to hear loud banging noises and sputtering when I turned any of my faucets on/flushed the toilets, and the water was brown. Kind of alarming. Like there was air in the pipes. I doubt the water company was doing any work on them on a Saturday.

After a few minutes of running the water, it turned clear and stopped the banging noises. However, I still had a significant loss of water pressure in the bathroom faucet, which could mean some corroded bits of old galvanized pipe could have broken loose and created a clog. I also tried to check the aerator on the bathroom faucet but it didn't seem to be the type that you can pry off or remove. I soaked it overnight in vinegar anyway.

Then after reading more online, I went to look at the faucet again, and this time I realized what looked to be one piece was in fact not, and I could unscrew the aerator off. It was clogged with sediment and very rusty. I tried turning on the water with the aerator off and lots of rusty water splashed out. At least I solved the low flow problem! I cleaned up the aerator and put it back on. Problem solved.

Smugly, feeling I had now resolved TWO problems which could easily have led to a call to the plumber, I decided I wanted to try flushing out my electric hot water heater, which I know you're supposed to do once a year, but haven't in the 5 years I've had it.

I printed out instructions from online although I "generally" knew what to do. First step, shutting off power at the circuit breaker. Check. Next, shut off the cold water inlet valve at top of heater. As soon as I did that, I noticed it leaking water right from the shut off valve. Great. I tried to shut it off more tightly, still leaking. I used a set of pliers to try to tighten the nut and that did help a little and it's now a very slow leak, but i had to shut off the water entirely or it leaked more.

So i think that's a temporary fix (i have a glass under the valve and will monitor how quickly it fills up) and I will still have to call a plumber, I think. An easy fix for a plumber to replace the valve, but not for me.

If I call a plumber just to replace that valve, I'll be billed for the service call, probably the full hour, even if it takes him 10 minutes to replace. So now I'm thinking maybe I should go ahead and replace the shower/tub fixtures since he's going to be here anyway.

Friday Doings

March 30th, 2018 at 01:15 pm

It's in the low 50s today. So I put on some light-colored clothing, work gloves and a baseball cap to start cutting up some tree branches that came down in the last snow storm.

I went straight for the biggest mess, a crabapple mostly taken down by a fallen locust tree branch. I will have to pay someone to do the big logs, but I'm "cleaning up" the many smaller branches with my loppers and bow saw. I worked til I was tired, 1.5 hours, slowly and methodically cutting whatever branches I could, then dragging them to the brushy area where I flung the branches as far in as I could.

There is much, much more work to do, but at least I got a start on it. There were many piles of deer turds around thee tree mess as they're drawn to sheltered areas. So I need to be careful not to brush up against stuff.

Oh, in my younger days I could work all day. I am really noticing the difference.

In fact, tomorrow, I'm thinking instead of paying $5 for an hour of yoga, why not actually put my exercise to practical use, and continue working in the yard?

I'll do the yardwork for another hour or so in the morning, rest, have lunch with dad and then visit my friend R., who just had his 4th chemo session this week. He has written his own, very irreverent obituary, which he has shared with me.

Last night was my 3rd and final class in the financial retirement strategies class I took. In my evaluation of his class, I wrote that the title of the class didn't really seem to accurately reflect the contents...meaning, most of the time was spent on defining very basic concepts, like what are stocks, what are bonds, what is life insurance, estate planning, etc., in very broad brushstrokes. So it wasn't much in the way of strategies, though we spent a small amount of time talking about how helpful Roth IRA conversions can be for early retirees, a topic I am newly fascinated by. I asked a lot of questions.

Probably the best part of the class is that we can each meet one on one with the instructor (a CFP) if we so wish, after having turned in very detailed forms revealing our assets, liabilities, income, etc. I expect to be hearing from him within a week. I guess for this complementary consultation alone, the $40 I spent was worth it, especially if he can give me personalized recommendations.

I cleaned the bathtub today and did a 35-minute walk. I re-registered with a focus group company since I now have more free time. Sure, if I wanted to make more $$, I'd could do better by working f/t, but it's all or nothing at my office and I'm good with the new schedule. I find doing one off things like the focus groups fun.

The weekend is here

March 28th, 2018 at 04:48 am

My "weekend" starts today (hooray!), and as usual, I have no shortage of things to do.

I work just a half day today, so on the way home I can hit Trader Joe's (I'll be bringing some ice paks in a cooler since it'll be a 40-minute ride home); it's easier doing this than going to my usual Trader Joe's from home, a 20-minute ride out of the way.

There are always lots of products I want to try after seeing them on the Trader Joe's Facebook page I subscribe to, but I can never seem to find them.

I'll also be making a stop at the dump on the way in to work and bringing in some Easter candy for my coworkers.

So now that I am on the healthcare exchange as of March 1, I needed to find a new neurologist since my old one is not in network on my new plan.

Another neurologist I met at an MS lunch recommended a certain doctor, so I called his office to schedule an appointment. His staff wouldn't do that until I had my medical records transferred, so I dutifully did that, waited over a week, and then confirmed with my current doc's office that it was done.

I didn't know it at the time, but just reaching the new doc's office that one time was a fluke, because I have been unable to reach them again since that first phone call, regardless of what time of day I call!! I even tried pushing the extension intended for physicians's offices calling in, and still I got the recording!

They never called me back, and I don't have a lot of time to waste since I'll want to renew my meds prescription fairly soon. I just couldn't believe that no matter how many times I called and left messages, I got no callback. How can you respond to patients' needs if you don't answer the phone? What would happen if I had an exacerbation of my MS and needed prompt medical attention?

So I picked the only other neurologist who's in network and in my immediate area; I had passed him up initially because he's a solo practice. The woman answering the phone said he did have other MS patients, but I'm going to have to "interview" him when I see him as I want to make sure he's up to date on MS drugs, research, treatments, etc. Certain neurologists specialize in certain things, like migraines, for instance.

But I did feel grateful that when I called his office, a woman answered promptly, she was very nice and didn't require the medical record transfer before I made an appointment. This will save me time, and the appointment is for next week. I had been expecting I'd have to book the appointment at least a month in advance. I do hope his availability is no reflection on his general expertise.

I'll bring my MS journal with me and I already mailed the form to old doc to have my official medical records transferred. And I do believe I have a CD with my last MRI images on it.

My main goal in seeing the new doc, as mentioned, is to switch to the new generic Copaxone, made by a different pharma company, and get a year's prescription. My new plan requires use of generics if they're available. When you're on a specialty drug, this all takes extra time to set up. (In fact today I also want to call Accredo and the pharma company.)

If it turns out I don't like the new doc, I have the option of going back to my current doc in a few months time. He is supposedly starting a new practice in a different city in May at a clinic that is under construction, and will be in network at that location. But there seems to be a lot of iffy things attached to this and it's very difficult to get information from office staff. (In fact, they knew nothing about it.) I don't want to take the risk of just waiting for him in case there are delays. Hence the runaround to find a new doc who may or may not be temporary.

Otherwise, things are going fine. My work hours have been a cause of some concern because we're entering my employer's slow season, so instead of putting in the 20 to 25 hours weekly I determined was needed to cover my ongoing expenses, my manager is letting me go an hour or so early each day, so thus far I've been working more like 17 hours a week.

But because I was still working full time for the 1st 2 months of this year, i don't think this unexpected further cutback in hours will affect my bottom line. It irks me that while I thought we agreed on my work hours, the "schedule" apparently only pertains to how LATE I'll work, but is not binding on how EARLY I may leave. I can't do anything else about it. My boss says he does feel some obligation to make sure me and other contractors get in a certain minimal amount of work time, but he also has been tasked by the company owner to not keep us there all day if there's nothing to do.

So this year my gross income should fall pretty much where I projected it would, but next year may be different. The slow season runs from roughly March through October but then gets busy again from November thru February. So hopefully the busy 4th quarter will make up for shorter work hours in spring/summer. I keep doing a lot of guessing but will just have to be patient and see how it plays out. I'm not too worried but I definitely monitor my YTD gross.

Decluttering day & a boatload of memories

March 26th, 2018 at 05:30 am

I was in a decluttering mood yesterday, maybe partly because it was a little too chilly to do much outside.

I decided to go through the messy pile of loose recipes I've torn out of magazines, gotten from friends or printed from online. The vast majority of these recipes, mind you, I have never gotten around to trying. And some of them are 6 to 8 years old!

So I threw out some that no longer interested me and started making category piles of the rest so I could more easily find them if I was looking for something.

I decided to try one recipe for a vegan "cheese" sauce that I was very happy with. It's easy to make: just blend together cooked potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic powder, paprika, those fortified yeast flakes and raw unsalted cashews. It looks very much like a creamy cheese sauce and it was great poured over broccoli. Would also go well with other veggies or pasta. It's a keeper.

Trying out more of my recipes is one of my goals in semi-retirement.

The other decluttering activity I started was cleaning up in the attic. I had been collecting empty cardboard boxes for years in anticipation of the day I would move, but I've sort of decided I'm staying put. So I carried out most of those boxes, which took up a lot of room, and put them in my car so I can drop them off for recycling later in the week.

I organized some other stuff, but really just scratched the surface. It needs a vacuuming of there too, and there are lots of dead insects. It's a finished attic, so it could look a lot tidier once I commit to spending some time, but at this point, I'm not ready to part with old love letters, cards from friends and family or the several filing cabinets full of writing samples from a 30+ year career as a writer. They're not really needed now but it's hard to let go....it's part of my identity.

I came across a note scribbled in pencil from a torn sheet of paper. It was from my mother, and upon reading it, I instantly realized she left this note for me when she was midway in painting a large wall mural in my home. That was in 2001. She was letting me know it would look different later when she had a chance to do some highlights and add some colors and so on. Couldn't throw that away, either. Imagine...if she had been Picasso talking about La Vie, that note would have been worth a million. Mom's note is priceless to me.

While in the attic I came across a beautiful pen stand my grandfather made for me 35 years ago. It was meant to be a gift upon my graduation from law school, but I dropped out after finishing one year.

I remember my grandfather as a very taciturn, grumpy old man and I can't remember a single time when we even had a real conversation. At the time I announced I was headed to law school in Boston, he didn't really say much at all. I think he said, "Really?" in a surprised kind of way.

There were multiple reasons why I didn't continue with law school, but one problem is I really didn't have my family's support.

On the day I announced I had dropped out of law school, my grandfather asked why, I responded, and that was that. It was never really discussed. My grandfather still gave me this beautiful desk set done in marquetry; he was a master craftsman.



It was only in hindsight, many years later and with the benefit of further reflection, that I realized that my grandfather was disappointed I didn't continue in school.

If he could have just said a few words of encouragement, it would have made a big difference, but he was not a talkative man. My father was not in my life at the time. I have a few old photos (2, to be precise) of grandpa and grandma together and smiling. I don't know if he wasn't happy in the marriage or what, but during my entire childhood he was a cross old man who spent most of his retired life in the basement, creating his marquetry.

My grandmother tried to shield us as children against his irritability by shushing him and saying "not in front of the children." A shy kid, I was always a little afraid of him.

I believe he was a good man (despite my genealogy work revealing he spent time in state prison in the 1930s and was basically a gangster in his younger days), but he just didn't know how to express his feelings.

This is why decluttering can be such a painful process for me; it stirs up old memories that have no resolution.

I've now run the kerosene heater for 19 hours, and am pretty sure I'll get 24 hours out of it when the can is empty. Still, power outages around here can extend far longer than that, which means if the kerosene heater is really to serve its purpose, then I'd be having to run around to find kerosene (which could be iffy in a widespread outage) just to keep the thing going for longer than a day. So it's still an imperfect solution.

Hmm, what else? I've identified a velvet pillow in need of a hand wash. The bath tub still needs a good scrub.

Marching for Our Lives

March 24th, 2018 at 02:21 pm



I joined the March for Our Lives today, not in New York City, Washington, D.C. or any other large American city, but in bucolic Roxbury, Connecticut (pop. 2,136). I think it says a lot that even in a sleepy rural community, known mostly for its annual pickin' and fiddlin' contest, a lot of people have had it with the death and violence caused by paramilitary firearms.



We sang, we chanted and we created a traffic jam. A snow plow truck drove by with the Easter Bunny giving us the thumbs up. I saw many marchers in their 60s and 70s. I spoke with an 80-year-old woman who spoke passionately about lax gun control laws. We may not make the evening news, but maybe we'll make a difference.





In other news...

1. I cleaned the windows in my sunroom and wiped down the window sills (the space between the window and the screen), which always gets so dirty over the winter. I decided I will do a fresh coat of floor paint in there before I move all the furniture back in because I dinged up the floor with my lounge chair.

2. Washed the salt off my car.

3. Went to lunch with dad at the Chinese place after discovering our intended destination, the German restaurant, has closed. Bummer!

4. I vacuumed the whole house.

5. I walked on the walking trail.

6. I did my food shopping at Aldi's and filled up the gas tank. I am sort of waffling about my expired BJs membership. I MAY renew it because there are certain items I buy there all the time and they really have the best prices on those items, but I'm not sure my walnuts/organic frozen fruit/cat litter/macadamian nuts/Bai/unsweetened cocoa/Vermont Farm applesauce alone is worth the $50 membership fee.

I kick myself because I discovered a half-price special deal on their memberships which expired March 7. I hope to find another similar deal in the next month or so.

Successful retirement strategies, part 2

March 22nd, 2018 at 05:50 pm

OK, so the 1st 2 classes of this 3-part program have been reviewing very basic concepts (dollar cost averaging, asset allocation, diversification, etc). Here and there are glimmers of things that interest me but he's got so much ground to cover we haven't lingered on any one thing too long.

Surprisingly, our instructor is not a big fan of annuities, immediate or variable (or insurance products in general), because you hand over control over a large chunk of money, on the insurer's terms, and they are, after all, in the business of making money. So I considered this a good sign.

He is, of course, emphasizing that tax-free money is the best kind of money, and so he likes Roth IRAs and muni bonds.

Our "homework" assignment in the 1st class was completing an extensive survey of our current assets/investments and when we plan to retire, etc. I turned it in today. He said each of us would get a free 1-hour consultation with him, so I will be very curious what recommendations he may have for me. I have no muni bonds in my portfolio.

I probably should investigate ETFs, which we talked about in passing.

I guess the final class will be most interesting.

Wherefore art thou, snow?

March 21st, 2018 at 12:17 pm

We're supposed to be in the grips of a nor'easter right now but nothing's come down out of the sky for several hours.

We were all told we could work from home today. I just finished up so I'm free until Monday. Smile

The oil delivery guy called and wants to deliver tomorrow instead of Friday, so more pressure on me to have the driveway shoveled.

Dad wants to come over tomorrow so we can place the order for his new adjustable bed together. He thought we'd have to drive back to the store (45 min). I don't think we need to; we can just pay by credit card over the phone and schedule the delivery. I'm happy he's buying it, and I hope it will result in a better night's sleep.

Also tomorrow, I am scheduled to have my tires rotated at BJs at noon, and tomorrow night I have part II of my retirement strategies class. I just hope the snow isn't so bad that I have trouble clearing the driveway for all these events.

A small herd of 6 deer passed through the backyard a little while ago: some does and older fawns. Can't imagine what they find to eat this time of year (besides my rhododendron bush).

I'm doing my 2nd load of laundry and am hang-drying it indoors.

I'm going to have a very small paycheck for last week; I only worked about 12 hours, and this week, 18.5 hours. I'm not too concerned; I'm still ahead of where I should be for March because I worked full-time for the 1st 2 months of the year. Things will no doubt even out by year's end. Like the story of the 3 bears, I need to earn "not too much" and "not too little." The sweet spot will be between $36K and $42K.

4th nor'easter in 3 weeks coming

March 20th, 2018 at 06:06 am

Yesterday they said there was a chance the storm would pass far enough south of us that we wouldn't see any snow. This morning they're telling us we'll get up to a foot.

I happened to notice recently that my hometown newspaper, which I love and read cover to cover, is looking for a copy editor.

I would have a good shot at the job if I wanted it. Since they cover only my town, they'd want someone who lives in town, and there are a limited number of qualified candidates.

It would be a less-than-5-minute commute and the job offers full benefits, which I presume includes private health insurance and a 401k, 2 things I'm lacking now.

While tempting, I decided I would be better off remaining where I am, even though it's a 40-minute commute and the hours are still irregular and unpredictable. The deciding factor is, I'm working 2.5 days a week now but at the new job I'd be working 5.

The newspaper job would pay very minimally, probably in the low 30s, so I'd be working much longer for a little less money, although I would have the security of private health insurance and wouldn't have to worry about what's going to happen to Obamacare availability or rates in future years.

On a related note, I did a bit of research and discovered that per the IRS, part-time employees CAN contribute to their employer's 401k plan, subject to any plan-specific minimum hours and/or time period worked, but these requirements cannot exceed 1,000 hours a year (that's just 19 hours a week) and/or up to a 1-year wait time before participation. But p/t employees cannot be excluded en masse from participation.


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