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Fun afternoon

January 17th, 2019 at 04:55 pm

My neighbor, who is on disability after the school bus he was driving was t-boned, invited me to check out a Habitat for Humanity store in a nearby town. While we didn't see anything interesting there, we also hit an estate sale I heard about. Everything was way overpriced, but when I asked the price on this unmarked wreath, he said I could have it for $6.



I just liked it for some reason..because I like birds, and there are 7 of them here on what's made to look like barbed wire and bittersweet vine.

After that my neighbor treated me to lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. I know he's very bored sitting home. Both he and his wife are both very extroverted people who like to be around other folks, and they're both very interesting to be around.

Much of our lunch conversation centered around what we would do if we won the Lotto. (He bought us each a ticket when he filled up for gas.)

When I heard last Tuesday they were going to blow up the old Tappan Zee Bridge that morning, I quickly called my father as I remembered he was headed across that bridge for a doctor's appointment. They were closing all ramps leading to the bridge in both directions, and there would be major traffic delays. I got him on the phone but he sounded noncommittal. I know when he gears up to do something, he doesn't like to change plans. Luckily, though, he cancelled the trip and rescheduled for one of my days off so I can drive him there in a few weeks.

So when I got to work that day, I watched on live TV all the viewing parties going on, on either side of the Hudson River, people drinking Bloody Marys at 10 am and making it "an event." Then when it imploded, it was over in about 9 seconds.

I had my heating oil tank filled up today at a pretty good price, $2.44/gallon. Many places have a minimum 150-gallon fill-up, and now that I was down to a half tank, I wanted to fill up while prices were still reasonable. Bad weather and subzero temps this weekend will surely raise prices as early as next week, so this was a good time to buy; this fill-up should last me through end of February, possibly longer.

We're expecting some really nasty weather here Saturday night into Sunday. Lots of snow and/or freezing rain which will make driving treacherous. So I'll be spending a good part of the weekend hunkered down, cooking, cleaning and shoveling. And hoping I keep my power on.

I may need to work at home on Monday.

For those of you looking for ways to earn a little extra cash, check out SaverLife.org. I enrolled last year and earned $40. This year they have a different "Scratch and Save" program where I should be able to save something just by ensuring that I save more than I spend in my checking account from one week to the next.

In line with my resolution to eat a more varied variety of foods in 2019, I found a big bunch of dandelion greens in the salad section at my local Big Y a few weeks ago. I was curious to try it in a salad, and it wasn't bad. I want to get some more tomorrow, as I've read very good things about dandelion greens.

I also bought a large fresh papaya at Trader Joe's, but it's still mostly green; hopefully it will ripen soon.



Catching up

January 14th, 2019 at 05:47 am

Not much new in Patient Saver's world, but I've always appreciated routine and structure.

The crazy hours at work seem to have abated last week, and this past weekend was the first one in a while where I didn't have to work. I'm not sure we're completely in the clear now as I heard some people had to work on Saturday, but I guess I'll find out more when I go in today.

I am anxious to get all my paperwork together to do my taxes, as I may end up doing them twice....with and without the new standard deduction...just to understand how that might affect my bottom line. I'd love to just make it easy and take the standard deduction, but I want to make sure I'm not needlessly leaving money on the table.

I have already noticed longer daylight hours. Have you? There's still a little light left in the sky at 5 pm, and that's an improvement from the darkest days of December. We haven't even had any major snow yet, and I'm already pining for spring! Wouldn't it be grand to get through the winter with NO snow? Alas, weatherman this morning said some kind of significant snowfall may be coming this weekend. Thankfully, it won't happen on my scheduled workdays.

My local library has begun a yearlong Reading Challenge; each month, you need to read a book in a given genre; they have a recommended list if you don't have anything in mind. Once you read the book, you get your form stamped at the library and are rewarded with a small gift.

The January gift is a library tote bag, so I'm going for it! I checked out a book called Wave, written by a woman who entire family perished in the tsunami wave that hit southeast Asia in 2004. My first choice had been Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, but surprisingly, my local library didn't have such an important book. I will have to save that read for a time when I can wait a week or so to have that book sent here from another area library.

I am SOOO interested in decluttering and have been taking baby steps in doing so. A few articles of clothing here, or some paperwork in my desk drawer there. Really small stuff. I admit to having an overflow of office supplies, but these I can and do use, so I'm not disposing of them. Clothing, too, I hate to throw out, even if it doesn't fit me now, because I DID lose 10 pounds last year and believe it's doable to lose a few more, which would mean some very nice clothes I have may fit.

My weekly pay is fairly variable, and it makes it hard to estimate a year's worth of income in advance. I was surprised when I put down an annual income number when doing the online application for ACA healthcare that my monthly premium rose by about $20, and I realized later, after determining my gross for this year, that I greatly overestimated my income for next year.

So once I get my paycheck this Thursday, which happens to be for exactly 20 hours of work time, I will take the occasion to modify my account at ACA, with the paycheck as backup documentation, if necessary, and this will likely lower my monthly premiums.

I have wound up doing nothing at all with the Christmas gift of money I got from my father. It is nice just having that extra cushion available, and it makes me a little less worried about spending a little more on quality food, for instance. Yet I still feel myself procrastinating about calling the HVAC company that installed my whole house humidifier just a few years ago, because I realized it has not been working this season. It's very, very dry in my house (around 37 on the barometer), which is not great for my dry eye syndrome.

I think my inherent frugality is borderline cheap, sometimes, when I frown on paying $150 or more on a service call to fix something like the humidifier. I guess I will cave, eventually, but first I want to take a closer look at it and make sure it's not something real simple, like maybe the tube that carries the water is connected. The water valve is open and the switch at the control is on, so I don't know.

So my neighbor friend is working more hours at her p/t job, and she took me up on a casual offer I made to OCCASIONALLY walk her dog on Thursdays when she's at work; it was something I said after she told me she was worried about the dog being left alone for 3 long days in a row. (She also asked me if I'd be willing to walk the dog Saturday as she had plans to go into the city with her niece, and I agreed to that.)

As far as the walk during the week, she asked if i could let her know the day before if i could walk him so she could in turn let her sister know she wouldn't have to come to let him out in the yard. I was a little leery of doing that because I wasn't ready to commit to walking him EVERY Thursday, just on occasion when the weather was decent and I had time to do it. I think she wanted to give her sister a break from coming over, too.

I didn't want her to totally depend on me because I doubt I would want to do it every single Thursday; I don't like to walk in very cold weather, I might have more important things to do or I might just not feel like it. I wanted to do it, on occasion, just as a favor to her.

So I suggested she just have her sister keep coming , and if i was able to walk the dog on any given week, to just consider it a bonus for the dog. She reluctantly agreed.

Has anyone been able to update their sidebar?

January 1st, 2019 at 09:01 am

I haven't been able to do it for a while. If I make changes to it, I click Save but it doesn't take.

Assessing the (stock market) damage

January 1st, 2019 at 08:20 am

Happy New Year to all at SA, and may your financial resolutions come true!

It being January 1, I took a peek at my investment portfolio to assess the damage.

It actually wasn't TOO bad since my portfolio mix has been 45% stocks/45% bonds/10% cash for a while (an asset allocation I wouldn't recommend for most people under 50.)

Most recently, in October, I moved another $8,000 of stock shares to 'safe harbor' at the persistent recommendation of my late friend, R. I will surely miss the many frank conversations we had about money. He was very supportive and full of praise when it came to that, and he provided many positive affirmations about what a great job I've done managing my money. He knew, more than anyone, what it took to accumulate those savings!

Getting back to my portfolio: I'm down $22,000 compared to a month ago (ouch) and down 3% compared to 1 year ago. However, I'm still up 9% compared to 2 years ago. It's really just a matter of how you want to look at it, from a short- or long-term perspective.

To be honest, the milestone that is more important to me is one I haven't reached yet: millionaire status. I came closest to that goal in February 2018, when my investments stood at $993,984. I thought hitting the $1 million mark in a month or more would be easy, but that's when the market started going sideways, and today I'm even further from that goal at $935,741.

Counting the value of my home, my net worth stands at about $1.2 million.

My only financial resolution for 2019 is to stay on the path I've mapped out for myself for the next 6 years: pay as close to 100% of my ongoing expenses with the income from my p/t job. Last year, as mentioned in my previous post, I covered 96% of all expenses with earnings; theoretically, covering all expenses this year should be easier to accomplish because I got a raise to $34.50/hr.

To further ensure I can do this, I plan to more closely watch money spent on capital improvements to my home; I'm thinking $5-$6,000 at most. Looking at my Home Improvement Wish List on my sidebar, I think I can easily tackle at least 2 items on the list; which ones exactly, I'm not sure yet.

In other news...

New Year's Eve was just another quiet night at home. I had to work yesterday and didn't get home til about 7 pm. My friend had invited me over to watch a movie, but I know I'd be getting sleepy in just a few hours, so instead we'll be doing the Inaugural 1st Walk of 2019 this afternoon. Smile

Income and expense breakdown, 2018

December 30th, 2018 at 10:38 am

Earlier this year, I wanted to downsize my job from full-time to part-time, and I wanted to see if I could cover most or all of my ongoing living expenses working part-time.

The answer is YES, I covered 96% of my expenses, which this year totaled just $38,822. There was a shortfall of about $1,600.

UPDATE: The agency paid me my last paycheck for 2018 on 12/31; the paycheck was late because my boss failed to sign off on my timesheet on time with the holidays and all. So that added an extra $897 to my income, and bottom line, my 2018 expenses now exceeded income by only $690, not $1,600. So I actually covered 98% of expenses!!

I didn't start this little experiment until March, so my income this year had the benefit of 2 months (January and February) of full-time income. So I anticipate that in 2019 it will be harder, unless I rein in my spending some.

Of my Top 10 Expenses:

7 increased from last year (property taxes, food, out-of-pocket medical/dental, lawn & garden, maintenance, heating oil and gas for the car).

1 category stayed about the same ("Household").

1 category (health insurance) decreased by 35%. This is my 3rd largest expense, so I'm happy about this!

Here's a rundown of my Top 10 biggest expenses this year with some extra analysis thrown in:

1. Stone patio, $9,200: It's beautiful, and something needed to be done in back, although yeah, awfully expensive. I had a party last summer to celebrate it and hope to enjoy it more this summer with various friends and family. This was a one-time capital improvement, and the most expensive one on my radar, so not having this one expense could by itself fix my current income/expense disconnect.

2. Property taxes: $6,294. Not much I can do about this unless I move.

3. Health insurance, $4,098. I'm happy to say that this is a 35% decrease from what I spent in 2017, when I was still paying for COBRA.

4. Food, $3,900: This is 16% more than I spent in 2017. I had hoped to wrestle this number lower, but truth be told, I feel that eating quality, wholesome, organic food is important.

5. Out-of-pocket medical/dental, $1,722: This represents 69% more than I spent in 2017, and it was mostly due to about $745 incurred in doctor visits when I scratched the cornea of my eye. Because I have dry eyes, I am much more careful to not sleep if I think there's something in my eye. And to use eye drops more often than I do now.

6. Lawn & garden, $1,547: This is 43% more than I spent in 2017, and I'm unhappy with this number! I thought I could keep it down by having my mower do the lawn for every other week, but I also spent some money on these neat little acrylic shelves with suction cups I bought for my growing cacti/succulent collection. I also had to spend $200 to have someone clean up a crab apple tree that was damaged by a storm.

This year I'll continue bartering with my neighbor to do some yard work I can't do, in exchange for my editing services.

7. Household, $1,394: This is my one "catch-all" category for items I don't know where to put; usually, routine things for the house fall in this category.

8. Maintenance, $1,303: This included some new outlets in the garage, new ceiling fixtures wired indoors and new fixtures on either side of the garage.

9. Heating oil and furnace cleanings, $1,236: It is what it is....heating oil prices really fluctuate. I was able to take advantage of one promotion where if you wrote a review on the oil company's Facebook page, the 1st 50 people got .10 off per gallon.

10. Gas for car, $1,025.

Oh, crap, I fell in love

December 21st, 2018 at 03:18 pm

So I heard about a promotion Hyundai was running where they pay you a $50 visa or amazon gift card if you take one of their vehicles for a test drive.

Why not, I thought.

I fell in love with their IONIQ SEL, a hybrid hatchback that gets 58 mpg with heated seats, heated side mirrors, blind spot assist, LED headlights and various other things. I really like the cargo space, which is much more practical/usable than my small Honda Civic trunk, which my bike no longer fits inside becus they shrunk the hole between the trunk and folded down seats. As a result, I haven't done much bike riding in the last 5 years.

Hyundai also offer LIFETIME replacement of the battery (as long as you get your servicing done at the dealer); as some of you may know, the battery would likely need replacement after 200,000 miles and costs several thousand dollars, so it's not an insignificant expense. They also provide free oil changes and the price of this car after the $1,000 rebate was around $21,000, which, compared to any other hybrid, is fantastic.

I was basically regretting I purchased another sedan ever since buying it in 2013, and I wished I'd taken a little more time to research it and get a Prius instead.

Not long after I came home, my dad called and told me he wanted to stop by, which he did. We chit-chatted, and I told him in detail about the car I'd just test-driven. After I had finished, he said, well maybe this will help you make up your mind about it and he handed me a check for $5k. Talk about timing!

My dad is not in the habit of giving Xmas presents, and this is the first time I've received one from him in probably 15 years. So I was quite surprised. (My 3 siblings will also get the same thing.)

He encouraged me to get the car because, he said, I'd mentioned a few times now how the sedan didn't really fit my needs. And he likes to trade in his vehicles after about 5 years' time.

But, after feeling excited about the whole idea, I've pretty much chosen to just rein in my impulses. (And I recall how in 2013, before I bought the Civic, I also "fell in love" with a Ford Fiesta and even signed the purchase contract which I was fortunately able to undo the next day.) My current car runs perfectly and has just 60K miles on it, and I typically keep my cars for 10 or 12 years.

I suppose the IONIQ will still be around in another 5 years' time. The dealer did also say they'll be introducing a hybrid SUV in 2019, and the big appeal there is that it will have all-wheel drive, though with a substantially higher price tag I am sure.

So I just deposited dad's check and will let it sit there for the time being. There are probably better uses for that check. And I have to say that my expenses have exceed my income this year by just about....wait for it....$5,000. So by banking the money (or most of it), I should be in the black, or close to it.

After my boss asked me a few weeks ago if i would be willing to work full-time through early January, things have not been all that busy. I did work an extra 6 hours this past week, but that will pretty much be wiped out next week since Christmas falls on a Tuesday and the office is also scheduled to be closed Monday, which is also one of my scheduled work days. So next week if I get no extra work hours, I'll get all of 4 hours of work.

But just now someone at the office called and wanted to know if I could work TOMORROW...Saturday. Very late notice, but that's how it usually works around there. I had some things planned but I could use the work so will have to drive to the office tomorrow; she said i could expect to get in close to a full day.

I asked her how the Christmas dinner was last night, which I didn't go to. She said she heard it was nice. I said oh, you hadn't planned on going? She told me 3 or 4 of them had to stay back and work in the office while everyone else went to dinner!

I had a UPS delivery of my meds scheduled for today, which I guess because of the Christmas rush, has now been scheduled for tomorrow. In summer, I like to be home when they arrive so they're not sitting out in the sun all day (they're packed with ice paks) but in winter I also don't want it to freeze, either. It's inside a styrofoam container so I sure hope it will be ok.

I wanted to go to yoga tomorrow but now with work I can't. Every Saturday there is something that prevents me from going.

After going over my YTD income again today, I went ahead and did a Roth IRA (back door) conversion for $7,000. I could have done quite a bit more, but I was concerned that if I converted too much, it could boost my taxable income enough that I could end up paying a penalty for under-withholding.

For lunch today I made a big pot of pea soup, which I'll bring to work with me tomorrow.

A party and a funeral

December 16th, 2018 at 01:35 pm

It was a strange week, one that started with a funeral and ended with a party.

The funeral, well, I got through it. I went alone and wound up sitting with my friend R.'s best friend, who gave a great eulogy, one that brought many smiles to my face because he so accurately depicted the R. that I knew. I also said hello to many other lifetime friends of R.'s that I haven't seen in 30 years, along with the woman who ran the driving school where R. taught kids how to drive, and a bunch of people from the helicopter museum where he volunteered. I think he would have been very pleased at the turnout.

Another female friend of R.'s approached me at the funeral; I had seen her last at R.s wedding 3 decades ago, and she reminded me that a year or two ago, R. had tried to orchestrate a dinner with the 4 of us (me, R., she and her husband) but it never happened because she said that's when R. got sick. We briefly talked about possibly doing that dinner now, after the fact.

R. wrote his own obituary, which started with the announcement, "R. XXX kicked the bucket on (date). He had an irreverent sense of humor. He also prepaid for a pizza lunch for everyone after the burial.

I would have liked to go, but I had told my boss I'd be in to work right after the funeral.

So it was an emotional day.

I am still wondering if R.'s niece is going to contact me about doing something R. asked me to handle: clean out his condo and work with a realtor to get it sold, so his family wouldn't have to. I know he talked to his niece about it.

I had readily agreed at the time because I wanted to help R., but now that he's gone, it does feel a little funny that the family wouldn't take care of that themselves. It is not a small thing, and his condo is 40 minutes away from here.

Well, it is their decision. I am still prepared to do it.

And the very next day after the funeral, my cousin from PA arrived for a 5-day visit. My dad and I took him out to a great dinner that night at a new, trendy restaurant which we all enjoyed. The next day, we hung around my home for the afternoon with a great chili, cornbread and salad I made, with an apple crumble dessert.

The next day I drove us out to the northeastern-most town in the state of PA as we wanted to show him it was possible to move much closer to us here in CT (cutting his drive time by more than half) but remain a PA resident, thereby still enjoying state tax-free IRA distributions and Social Security (unlike here in CT).

It's actually a cute little town in the Poconos, a little touristy, but with the short daylight hours, we couldn't stay long because while I was driving, I didn't want either of them driving back to dad's place in the dark after I drove us all to my home. They both have vision issues. (My cousin took a wrong turn each time he's come out to visit, which added 2 hours to his trip this time around.) So the drive to Milford was 1.75 hours each way, and we had just enough time to have a nice lunch, poke about in 2 shops and do a quick drive through the downtown area. And plenty of time to talk in the car. We can always return in the summer, I guess.

Yesterday morning after breakfast we did our gift exchange. He gave me a very nice set of 3 ceramic knives, along with a sharpener for non-ceramic knives. He had asked for (and got) an atomic clock.

Last night I went to my friend, walking partner and neighbor's party around the block, and since my neighbors behind me were also invited, they picked me up and I rode with them.

There were about 10 people there and it was a pleasant few hours. I'll be returning there on Christmas day for lunch; I must be one of several "orphan" friends she has with no particular place to go on Christmas. My dad travels to NJ for an overnight stay at his brother-in-law's house (from his 2nd marriage) so I don't usually see him. So thank goodness for the Xmas lunch; my only other plan that day is to open presents with another NJ cousin over the phone together.

The "busy" time at my office has started, and they called me yesterday to see if I'd be able to do some work this morning for them. It was from home, so it was a pretty painless 4 hours ($138).

I decided to skip the office Christmas dinner at a restaurant we went to last year. Part of the reason is that it takes place on one of my days off this week, and it's a 50-minute drive.

I happily remembered recently that the agency I work for offers a 401k to its long-time employees, and you're eligible to participate if you've logged at least 1,000 hours in a year. I checked my last paycheck and I logged 1,019 hours, so I just barely qualify!

The benefits person hasn't returned my call yet, but I'd like to find out some details about the plan. I highly doubt my employment agency (technically my employer) offers any kind of match, and I'm wondering what the fees are.

It might not be a slam-dunk decision, but I'm also thinking it might be smart to contribute part of my pay to a tax-deferred account and then draw from some of my taxable accounts to pay ongoing living expenses. Not a good time to draw from taxable mutual funds, given the market, but I do have $21,000 in online money markets with another $25,000 in taxable CDs maturing at different times within the next 4 years. However, this essentially serves as the bulk of my emergency stash, so maybe I'll have to limit any 401k contributions.

Farewell to a friend, and a special visitor next week

December 9th, 2018 at 02:03 pm

Today was a pretty productive day. I'm preparing for a very busy and somewhat stressful week ahead.

My friend R.'s funeral is Tuesday. I hope I didn't make a mistake by telling my boss I'd be into work right afterwards, but this is their busy time and he just asked me to work full time for the rest of December and early January. I couldn't really say no since I just got a raise.

I'm sure the funeral is going to be very upsetting. I knew all of R.'s close friends and family, and just seeing them all as upset as I am, is going to be too much. His best friend asked me to say a few words in the eulogy, but I chose to decline.

The next day after the funeral, my cousin J. is traveling from PA to visit for 4 days. I didn't want to defer his visit because the weather will soon be getting dicey and it could be hard to find a relatively benign weather pattern soon. Christmas traffic should also be better now than later, and I think it might be good to be distracted from thinking about R. for at least a little while.

So today I put some green garland around both the columns outside at the front entry, and it looks pretty good. I always wanted to do this but never got around to it.

I also vacuumed and cleaned the downstairs, did some laundry, dusted, and went grocery shopping for everything I need except a few things I'll buy Wednesday, and decided on a menu for one of the days he'll be visiting. We'll also be taking him out to eat at a new restaurant my father and I discovered, and I reserved the private room with fireplace. Smile

This was a butternut squash and feta cheese flatbread I had there that was very good.



I wanted to make something easy so I decided to use both my slow cookers: a chili in the big one (it's one of J.'s favorite meals) and an apple pumpkin crumble in the small one. Also will make some cornbread and a salad. I'll have to get the chili going by 8 am at the latest, and then the dessert, but after that I can "relax."

I have all my Christmas shopping done. I really just had 4 people to shop for, and J.'s gifts are wrapped so he can take them home with him. He's also getting a calendar.

He'll be leaving Sunday, but I'll be saying goodbye to him Saturday as I have a Christmas party to go to at my neighbor's and walking partner's home. And she's also having a Christmas lunch on Christmas day that I'll be attending.

A casual friend of mine wanted to stop by Saturday night as they were going to a party in my town, but I was busy prepping for my other visitor, so I told her I'd have her and her husband over another time during the holiday. Now that the house is decorated, I'd like to entertain, and she is Filipino so the whole American Christmas experience is no doubt fascinating to her.

I also recently heard from R., a different old boyfriend, with whom I share an unusual similarity: we both had a parent who was a professional artist. While my mother achieved success, R.'s father was on a whole different level, and was actually one of the most prolific equestrian artists in the country. He's in the process of selling and gifting an even larger inventory of work than my mother had, and he offered me a choice of several signed prints, so although I have absolutely no wall space left, I am happy to get one of his father's works, as it kind of reminds me of my boyfriend as well. I'm not sure when he'll be coming up to drop it off, but hopefully around the holidays.

So I actually have quite a full plate of visitors and places to go in the upcoming weeks.

I went against my dad's wishes and bought him something for Christmas, but it's not a "thing," it's an experience, so that's my excuse. Smile It's an hour-long massage. He had one a while ago and he really liked it, so that's what gave me the idea.

After dinner, I think I'll spend some time reading, which is something I rarely do at home and feels like a real luxury. I always have other, more pressing things to do.

My boss gave me a rather expensive bottle of wine for the holidays, so I'm looking forward to cracking that open with my cousin and father. I also bought a very cheap but great-tasting bottle of wine my friend shared with me, so we'll play a little game and see if my guests can figure out which is the expensive wine and which is the cheap wine.

A candle extinguished

December 4th, 2018 at 05:52 pm


Me and Ron, Luzern, Switzerland, 1987, in front of the famous Lion of Luzern.

Today around 5 pm I got a phone call on my cell, but since so few people have my number, I mostly don't answer, because it's spammers, usually.

Then I saw it was my friend's niece. I called her back, thinking that my friend R. had been in really tough shape when I saw him Friday.

She told me he died. The rest of what she said was a blur; I'm not even sure if it was today or yesterday. I guess it was the pneumonia, not the cancer, because he was having a lot of trouble breathing, even with the oxygen tube.

I feel very sad that in the end, a nurse held his hand in the hospital. None of his family was there.

He was one of those larger-than-life people, and he had such a big impact on my life; that's why it came as such a shock that he died. Even though he's been fighting metastatic prostate cancer since his diagnosis in 2008, I thought he would pull off a recovery and hang around a while longer.

He was always the one to take charge, run the show, step up to the plate, organize the day or a trip to Paris. Intelligent, witty, a great conversationalist with a soft spot for old people and his one and only dog, he spent much of his time in retirement volunteering at a helicopter museum and teaching kids how to drive. He spoke fluent German, which really came in handy during our trips abroad. Once, when we were disembarking from the plane and headed for the terminal, fatigued and glad to be on US soil again, he broke out singing God Bless America, creating ripples of laughter among the other passengers. He could wow a crowd with an impromptu stint at the piano.

Years ago, when he picked me up one day for a date, he suggested picking up my grandmother and taking her out for a drive in the country and an ice cream cone. She loved him for it, and so did I. More recently, he organized several day-long road trips with my dad to show him what Connecticut looks like after dad moved up here from New Jersey to be closer to me and my sister. During one of those road trips, he thoughtfully arranged a stop at a summer German festival where we enjoyed schnitzel and sauerkraut while watching the polka dances.

We often clashed and had disagreements, but we always found a way to tell each other "Friends forever." And so we were.

Such luck

December 4th, 2018 at 04:51 am

So, with the year's end approaching, I've been carefully tracking my gross income YTD, for a couple of reasons.

My income has tracked a bit lower than anticipated, and so my gross income from the job as of Dec 1 is only $32,000 with 1 more month to go. My gross would have been $,6500 higher, but I already made a traditional (tax-deductible) IRA contribution.

This is significant, since if I kept my total income (which also includes dividends, capital gains and interest) below $38,600, I will pay 0% on long-term capital gains tax and fall into the 12% federal tax bracket!

My hope was that by mid-December, with just 1 or 2 more weekly paychecks to go, I could have a pretty certain feel for whether I'd be far enough below that $38,600 figure, so that I could also do a small Roth IRA conversion which would not exceed the $38,000.

But alas, to muddy the waters, my boss today approached me and asked if I'd be willing to consider working close to full time starting probably next week through early January as we have a lot of work coming down the pike and he wants me to do quality control.

I'd really rather not, for the reasons just stated above and becus I value my free time, but it's kind of hard to say no when you just got a raise, so I tentatively agreed, provided I could carve out some blackout dates for things I've already planned.

Hopefully it will all work out. It's only a few weeks. If I have to, the first thing I'd forfeit is the Roth IRA conversion, but I'm still hoping I can remain in the 12% tax bracket and pay $0 capital gains. What a nice Christmas present to myself.

My cousin from Pennsylvania is coming out for a visit next week for a few days, weather contingent.(His trip was one of my blackout dates.) It's been about 6 or 7 months since we saw him and hopefully we can squeeze in this visit before the snow really starts to fly.

I got a raise

November 30th, 2018 at 08:56 am

I got a raise at my contract job. My one-year anniversary there was late September. I hadn't realized that when I approached the agency to discuss a raise that they would make it wholly contingent on whether or not the employer I'm working for wanted to give me a raise.

Luckily, they did. Although I had pushed for a much higher raise, based on the fact I do as much copyediting as proofreading, I am actually thankful I got what I got, and it was more than I anticipated I'd get if I was wholly reliant on the employment agency to give it. I'm paid on an hourly rate, so it works out to a 7.2% raise, to $34.50/hour. Which is also a lot more than I'd anticipated I could earn working p/t in semi-retirement. So I'm thankful. Smile

Since I only work 18 to 20 hours a week, it'll come out to just $50 more per paycheck, but that's $200 more a month. This should make some difference.

I just spent an hour with my father familiarizing him with the new Jitterbug phone I got him. He has major vision issues. Even with the larger keypad, he had some trouble reading what the buttons said, and same for the screen.

The phone with activation fee and 1st month of service was $108, and each month thereafter will cost just $20 and he'll get 200 minutes each month, which is more than enough. It comes with a built-in flashlight, magnifier and camera.

This afternoon is my last meditation class. I learned some valuable stuff about mindful meditation, but what I liked more was the yoga. I hope to keep this a part of my life, albeit not on a daily basis. So now I have just 2 more visits with the doctor running the study, and then, finally, I get paid $200.

I'll be seeing my friend with the prostate cancer before the meditation class. I hope he is doing better today, but as of late, he is not. He got multiple blood transfusions and some special injections to try to boost his red blood cell count, which is very low, and he's still reliant on an oxygen breathing tube and living alone at his condo.

My friend's best friend and I have have now both contacted his family (his niece, sister and brother) and suggested he should no longer be living alone. At the least, they could have the VNA and aides come to the house daily to check up on him, and he could get Meals on Wheels. I guess I will learn today when I see him if there are to be any changes. The purported purpose of my visit today is to continue helping him declutter and take stuff away, but I of course I am there for emotional support and will urge him again to consider his options.

My walking partner friend is having 2 Xmas parties, one on Xmas day. She seems to have a lot of friends, and I guess I will be meeting them soon. She's the one who likes to bake, so this will be good. Smile

I did some Xmas shopping online this past week, but I really don't have much to do. I'm having a gift shipped directly to my cousin in NJ, and we plan to open our gifts for each other over the phone together. Smile We met at Chris Ruth's Steakhouse, a restaurant midway between us for Thanksgiving, and we both liked the food a lot, although I felt gouged on beverages. They charged us $17 a glass for the Pinot Grigiot and $5 for a cup of tea. That's crazy.

I told my cousin if we did this again, I'd bring a bottle and some glasses, and we could drink in the car before going in. Smile

There are a ton of holiday-oriented craft fairs, festivals and teas around here now that we're officially in the holiday season. I plan to hit 2 of them tomorrow before I see my dad for lunch. I love homemade items and little old ladies who knit or quilt.

Think twice before buying tires at BJs Tire Center

November 19th, 2018 at 03:14 pm

I headed off to work this morning only to find a completely flat front right tire on my car. After my local garage ascertained that the puncture was on the sidewall and thus not pluggable, I drove off to BJs Tire Center where I'd bought the tires just a year ago.

Unfortunately, I did not have an appointment there, but then, when do you know a flat tire is going to happen? The man told me I was in luck because the tire was in stock, but the bad news was, they were all booked up and they would be unable to put it on my car until Dec. 6...3 weeks from now!

So they advertise on large posters in the shop lobby that they are ready to give you new tires same day...apparently, that does not hold true for repairs or replacements.

I need the car to get to work and I'm traveling for Thanksgiving. So I cajoled and pleaded with him to squeeze me in, and he did, but I wound up waiting there all day and didn't get home tl 6 hours after I got there.

There was just 1 guy working there when I arrived, and although he was doing his best to work on my car, someone walked in the door about every 10 minutes, either wanting to buy some propane gas or buy new tires. Each time someone walked in, he came back from the garage where he was trying to work on my vehicle to wait on people who needed advice on new tires or this or that. I guess he had no choice but it was really amazing to me that BJs has so little regard for staffing its tire shop and the resulting chaos that results from one man trying to do the job of 3 or 4.

The man who waited on me agreed, and told me simply, people don't want to work here, becus the pay is not that great and the hours are bad.

I lost a day's worth of pay since I'm paid by the hour. I did get an $80 credit off the purchase of a new tire, which did not go far enough considering the hassle and time spent.

What's going on...

November 5th, 2018 at 05:35 am


My back yard

Yesterday was a lovely fall day, in the 50s but bright and sunny. I decided to mow my lawn myself again, mainly to chop up all the leaves. I ran it for as long as the battery lasted, about 35 minutes, so the lawn is by no means finished and we will have rain off and on this week.

I also used both my blowers to clean some leaves off the lawn and driveway, so I felt like I got plenty of fresh air today.


My street

Later in the afternoon I met an old college roommate at a local diner. She used my town as a midway meeting point to meet up with a man who was adopting a cat she was fostering. She lives 2.5 hours away from here, and he lives in Massachusetts. So we spent a few hours catching up.

I cut a lousy deal with my neighbor, who very much wanted me to edit a children's book he's written. I gave him a really cheap price, knowing his writing needed a lot of work, and also offered him an option to barter if he would cut down an old, half-dead apple tree on my property. That's what he chose, but in the meantime, I'm spending way too much time editing his book. I'm only on page 15 and already spent 7 hours on it, so that means it's taking me an hour to edit 2 pages.

It's the usual thing where someone writes something and then doesn't read it again. So I'm catching a lot of stuff he could have fixed himself if he had just read it over again.

I'm wanting to get this mostly done before the new job comes through and I need to start that work. Not really sure when that will be, but I did receive word last week that the employer finally signed the SOW.

We've passed "peak fall foliage" although everything is still quite lovely.


My town

Nice visit with new cousin

October 28th, 2018 at 05:33 am

Yesterday i met for the first time another cousin I've discovered through Ancestry.com. She came with her husband, who is Norwegian and still trying to get his green card.

They are both in their 20s and live in NYC, though my cousin said they expect to live in Norway in five or 10 years; in the meantime, he wants to find a teaching job here. His expertise is Norse mythology. She has a big interest in historical textiles, and she was the one who uncovered the town, Hunkovce, where my Slovakian ancestors came from.

Here is the church in that town, which is across the street from my ancestors' address, and where they are buried.



I made a lasagna and big salad, plus a nut pie for dessert.

I let her pick out a few pieces of art, but I think she was more interested in my small collection of my mother's woven clothing. She took home a long loom-woven jackets and shawl my mother made. None of this clothing fit me, and so they've been hanging in my spare bedroom for 3 years now. I thought it was very fitting that my mother's mother's sister's great-granddaughter should wear and enjoy these.

All told, I've made meaningful connections with 3 new-to-me cousins I discovered through Ancestry; they each represent 3 of the 4 different family lines. And I've met once or at least connected on Facebook probably a dozen more.



This and that...

October 18th, 2018 at 04:30 pm

Cold weather puts me in a mood to cook, so last night, I made lentil bolognese over quinoa. Tonight it was creamed carrot and cauliflower soup.



I also made a lemon chia pudding which is setting as we speak.

Tomorrow I'll make a tofu chocolate pie.

I'm trying out a few new recipes, casting about for what to make for lunch next weekend when my 3rd new-to-me cousin comes up for a visit with her husband, from the city. Maybe a lasagna would be easiest. I don't want to force my vegan food choices on anyone who may not be receptive.

I did something this week I haven't done in several years...mow my lawn. I have long been dissatisfied with how my mower guy does the lawn. He rides one of those very wide mowers and he skirts the edges all the time. I've noticed by looking at various markers...an old tree stump here, a drainage pipe there....that his skirting the edges has allowed weeds to encroach inward on the lawn about a foot! And there's one part of my lawn in the far front corner where I haven't been all summer that he just didn't mow at all.

So I mowed myself and then called and told him not to come this week. I'll probably keep using him next year because I don't have time to mow every single week, that's the thing. Plus, I don't like mowing in the heat of summer.

Unfortunately, as I was pushing the mower back toward the garage, one of the wheels came off. The bolt that kept it locked in place was lost. This happened to me once before and it was a pain to find just the right thing to fix it at the hardware store. Took several trips and frustration to fix it. Sigh.

I turned the heat on, guys. Frown

The new job offer is still not official yet, but the recruiter said he'll begin the background check. I am hoping to get the phone interview tomorrow; otherwise, due to my work schedule and jury duty next week, I won't be able to talk to hiring manager til Thursday.

So it doesn't quite seem real to me yet becus I haven't had an interview, and it's the hiring manager I want to speak to about the job, not the recruiter, who really has very limited info about it.

I can tell you I'm not looking forward to giving notice, but hey, maybe if he'd been more responsive to my earlier requests (in August), I wouldn't have considered this position. But it's really hard to turn down a 30% pay increase.

Oh, and after the 2nd coat of paint on the family room floor finally dried (it took 2 weeks, but there was no heat on in that room), I could see all kinds of marks from the roller.

I painted a 3rd coat this past Monday, and while I haven't walked in there yet, peering through the closed French doors I can still see some marks. Maybe not as bad, but there are still marks. And I give up. I will just throw a large rug down and call it a day. I can't devote my life to painting the floor, and apparently I don't have the technique down. I read you're supposed to "lay the paint down," not rub the roller back and forth, and that's what I tried to do. I think it's harder with a dark color and high gloss, which is what I have.

I spent some time with my friend with prostate cancer. He has run out of options and is being offered palliative care. When I got there, he asked me to stay the night because he was having a panic attack. He later got his sister to come over.

While I was there, there was a knock at the door and my friend asked me to get the door, since he is hooked up to a very long oxygen tube that snakes all around the house. It was a woman and her young son. She was the daughter of one of my friend's neighbors, and her father had told her about my friend, and she asked me at the door if she could pray with my friend. Kind of a gutsy thing to do. I let her in and they prayed together. My friend appreciated that.

He has already given his dog to his niece, because he doesn't feel he can take care of it anymore. He really loved that dog, and I feel bad he had to do that.

My friend has a very good network of people who care about him and are pitching in to help him. Besides me, he has 2 guys from childhood who have driven him over a dozen times already to Yale New Haven. He has another male friend, his sister, and his ex wife, all of whom are there for him. Still, I think he was having the panic attack because he does live alone, and he had recently learned he was no longer able to participate in a clinical trial of a new drug, he can't take the chemo anymore and he felt stranded.

I'm afraid I wasn't much help. His illness has revealed to me that while I want to be supportive, I don't always know the words or ways to express that. I need to try harder.

Still no heat...how 'bout you?

October 13th, 2018 at 05:48 am

It's been very easy not turning the heat on as the Northeast has had a very warm October. That may end tonight with a frost advisory overnight. Ahh, this is the sweet spot between seasons, when I am running neither the furnace nor the air conditioning. My wallet thanks me.

Nothing definitive yet on the possible new job. Recruiter says a phone interview could come Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, which would work out well since I have that week off from my current job. Recruiter said he's 95% certain I have the job, but his agency is also trying to fill 2 other positions with this employer and they're trying to put it all together in a package deal.

Meanwhile, my manager at current job will be going overseas next week on business (Munich...damn, he's lucky), so it's conceivable I'll have to email him "notice" while he's away. I'm not even sure contract employees typically give "notice" like perm employees do, but I would like to do that anyway.

I wrapped up my 6 mths with the SaverLife program and earned $40 out of a possible $60 for saving a small amount of money each month. I made the mistake of using a checking account, so I lost out on saving the monthly $10 in 2 months because various checks I'd written were processed, eliminating my actual "savings." Not a biggie.

I'm still continuing to do 2 monthly surveys with my local bank, which earns me $20 a month. It usually involves a lobby visit to do something along with using the drive-up teller. I've done this all year, so again, a nice way to earn some pocket change.

Here's the SaverLife link for those who didn't see this earlier...

https://saverlife.earn.org/#/register

I am savoring a week off from work next week. I plan to see 2 matinees, one with dad, one by myself. I want to see The Old Man with a Gun becus I do like Robert Redford, and I think my dad would like First Man.

Here's what else is on my agenda for the week:

1. Stop by the farmer's market; this may be the last week it's open and I never get to go since it's on Tuesdays, when I normally work.
2. A furnace cleaning
3. Two MS dinner lectures
4. Yardwork, weather permitting
5. (sigh) I need to do a third coat on my family room floor. Sun glare kept me from noticing I was not evenly rolling the 2nd coat, and now I can see all sorts of roller marks on the floor. I didn't know a roller could actually leave marks, but it can. I was either not applying even pressure with each stroke, or I was not being careful to roll out all the paint. Have to admit I kind of rushed through it after all the prep I'd done and was feeling like I just wanted to be through with it.
6. A new (free) mindful meditation class at the library each Thursday, which will dovetail nicely with the classes I'm taking as part of the clinical study.
7. A few walks with my friend
8. Hopefully a phone interview for the new job

Our meditation classes are continuing, now with a yoga supplement. At this point, I doubt I will continue with it once the classes end as I don't really feel I'm getting anything out of it, but I know it's important to stick with it and give it a really good try since this is what the study is about. I think my next assessment with the neurologist running the study is not til December.

I finally have a setup in my upstairs bath that I think is adequate for my cacti collection and which I can live with in that tiny space. I have a floor lamp with 3 different shades which can be swiveled in different directions, and I'm using 3 plant grow light bulbs.



All the plants on the 2 small coffee tables here are grouped according to how much light they require, and those requiring the most light are directly under the light, which ideally should be as close as 6 inches away.

The ones I have repotted using my own soil mix are doing soooo much better. I didn't appreciate what a different the soil mix makes, and my pencil cactus in particular is grown at an astonishing rate this fall once I changed the soil, after a full 3 years of barely hanging on.

I really enjoy tending to them.

I have quite a few tiny plants I'm propagating on the window sill, which you can't see, and also on top of back of the toilet. My 3 jades are by a west-facing downstairs window, there's a pothos in my office and some more echeveria leaf propagation growing in little jars at the kitchen window. Oh, and the aloe and peperomia in my bedroom. The air is clean in here!

I may jump ship

October 10th, 2018 at 04:54 am

I've been coasting along at my little p/t job, feeling fairly content. To recap, it's about 20 hours a week, pays $32/hr and is pretty easy to do. It's still a 40-minute commute (1-way) 3 days a week.

The game plan was to stay with this job for the next 6 years until I can get on Medicare.

More recently, I've been feeling a bit frustrated since I've been pushing to be moved from the recruiter agency payroll to the company's payroll, becus I feel the raises would be much better with the employer and I could contribute to a 401k.

I began this conversation with my manager back in AUGUST and while my manager hasn't said yes, definitely, he hasn't said no either. My coworker says he's just super busy.

In the meantime, I went straight to the agency last week and asked them for a raise. I just felt that if my manager is not sharing with me some reason they're reluctant to put me on the payroll, then I should still get some kind of COL adjustment from the agency then. The agency is supposed to be talking to my manager this week. I'm not expecting much from them; maybe 3% tops.

I thought my manager was a straightshooter, but I recently caught him in a little white lie; while it's of no consequence in and of itself, it bothers me that he did that.

When I last asked him a few weeks ago about the status of my possible switch, he said he was having trouble getting through to the woman who is his contact at the recruiter agency, and that she was "hard to get a hold of" and wasn't calling him back.

He wanted to find out if the company would have to pay any sort of fee to "buy" me out. He didn't think so, as I've now been there for a year although there's a sliding scale of a fee they have to pay if they want to permanently hire a contract worker within less than a year's time.

Well, when I called this same woman on a Friday to ask for a raise, she was out of the country on vacation but called me back the following Monday, which I think is pretty darn responsive. When, after talking about a raise I casually asked her if she'd been in touch with my manager recently, she said no, but she'd been meaning to call him. So he wasn't being truthful.

So yesterday, out of the blue, I hear from my old friend, the headhunter who found me the job I'm at now but who now works at a different agency.

He has an opportunity for a contract writer to work for a health insurance company (coincidentally, it's the one I buy my health insurance from) which he thought might be great for me to "supplement" my income with. It's 15-20 hours a week at $45/hr and work from home.

At first I was intrigued and sent him all my writing samples, but then I realized it wouldn't work becus the extra income would quickly put me over $45K, which exceeds the threshold for ACA subsidy and I'd have to pay the subsidy money back at tax time. It certainly wouldn't be worth doing this for just an extra 2 months worth of extra income in 2018.

But then I started thinking about leaving my current contract job for this one. With the substantially higher rate of pay, I could actually work around 18 hours a week to make the same amount of money as I would be earning at my current job working 25 hours a week.

There's a sweet spot of work and income for me, and it's about $40K a year. Work too few hours and I won't cover my typical living expenses, but work too many hours and I risk losing the healthcare subsidy.

I don't want to go back to f/t work becus I still want to help out my dad. He's been doing ok but his doctor recently told him his vision is deteriorating more rapidly. There will come a time when my dad will need to be ferried to all doc appointments, grocery shopping, etc. and I plan to be there for him.

THIS year I will have no trouble earning right up to about $41K (I have investment income and taxable interest too, so can't go much beyond that), but I worked FULL TIME the 1st 3 months of the year. It wasn't until April that I began the abbreviated work hours.

So in 2019, I'll work all 12 months p/t, and I think my income at this current job will be considerably lower as a result, which could be problematic.

So the new opportunity with the health insurance company comes at a a very fortuitous time. I've been so focused this year on not working too many hours that I forgot that next year, I'm going to potentially have the opposite problem: not enough income.

The new job would make that easy to achieve, in less time, and from the comfort of home during nasty winter weather and all year long.

But I need to find out how temporary or perm this contract work is...if they only envision needing someone for a year or so... or less... it probably wouldn't be worth it to walk away from my current job and income, which is fairly certain and secure.

My recruiter friend is submitting my resume this morning. I know it would be sweet payback for him if he poached me from my current agency, the one that laid him off. He didn't think it fair that he had just brought in me and another contract hire to our jobs at my current company only to be let go by his own agency a short time later. I would be happy to inform them of my new agency contact. Smile

This and that

October 7th, 2018 at 10:33 am


Haworthia coarctata, the latest Haworthia in my collection

I went to get my car's oil changed last week; I was sitting and sitting and waiting and waiting. Finally, at the 2 hour mark, I walked up the counter and asked them what was going on. Turns out they put the paperwork for my car in someone else's car, and they hadn't even started my oil change. Another 45 minutes later, I was finally out of there, and they paid for the oil change to make up for the inconvenience.

Not sure what got into to me today, but when I was folding laundry, I finally decided I'd had it with my overstuffed linen closet. I mean, it is just stuffed.

I sorted everything out, matching flat sheets to fitted sheets, and counted 6 sets of flannel sheets and 3 sets of cotton sheets. I don't need so many, but it's hard for me to get rid of items that are perfectly usable "eventually." Some of these I acquired 3 years ago when my mother passed.

I did put aside for donating the following items:
* a set of flannel sheets in a pink color I didn't like
* 3 or 4 mismatched pillow cases
* a few sheets where I had just the flat sheet but not the fitted sheet
* a very bulky duvet cover that took up a lot of room (I still have 2 other duvet covers)
* a curtain

Sigh. This filled up 3 garbage bags full of stuff for Good Will (which includes some clothing items, too), though the closet is still quite full. Just not as full as before. At least now I can find stuff in there.

Now that it's getting cooler outside, all of my cacti/succulents are inside, and probably 80% of them are residing in my upstairs bathroom, because that's the sunniest room in the house, with both south and west-facing windows. I also bought a floor lamp with 3 flexible light fixtures you can turn in various directions, and I've ordered 3 plant light LED bulbs for use in them. The bulbs, purchased from Amazon, are being shipped direct from China, so it's a 3-week wait.

I'm also really liking these acrylic window plant shelves I bought and will likely get more:


These are over the kitchen sink, and I already have 3 more in the upstairs bathroom for maximum sun exposure.



The person I job-share with has various reasons to be out of office this coming week, so I've agreed to work all this week full time. The only good thing about it is that I will then have the entire following week off, as he wants to make up for the lost time. I'll be glad to get back to the normal schedule after that.

We've begun doing yoga at the meditation classes. Our daily homework requirement is also growing, and this has become problematic on days that I work. I just don't have time for an hour of meditation, 15 minutes of mindful breathing and now, a few more assignments as well.

I'm still walking with a neighborhood friend usually twice a week. I would do more, but we both have busy schedules and it can be difficult to coordinate. I'm holding steady at about 8 or 9 pounds lost, depending on the day, but I would like to lose more and I'm not sure how to get off the plateau.

On the days I walk with my friend, I usually get in 11,000+ steps.

Couldn't sleep last night and watched a fascinating Frontline episode called Trump's Showdown. It was around 4 am so I guess it was a rerun. It did a really good job of piecing together the long sequence of events related to the Russia investigation and everything related to that. I find it hard to connect all the dots when I'm hearing mostly headlines here or there in between the rest of my life.

Home maintenance and pushing for a raise

September 28th, 2018 at 05:17 am

It being fall, there are certain home maintenance things I do each year:

* Schedule a furnace cleaning
* Schedule a chimney cleaning
* Clean out the gutter over the family room

And this year,
* Get prices for resealing my driveway

There was one chimney sweep I called and couldn't reach until the other day. I was surprised when he told me that I really don't need to clean a furnace flue, which is all that I have. I don't have a fireplace. He said I'm basically wasting my money because furnaces burn much cleaner than, say, a wood-burning stove.

I won't say I had the chimney cleaned every year, but I wouldn't let it go more than a year or so...just for peace of mind. I also had a stainless steel insert put in years back.

In 23 years of home ownership, no other chimney sweep has ever told me it's unnecessary. Not doing this will save me about $70 to $125 each year. I may call my local fire department, just to see what they say.

Mindful meditation classes are going okay; I spend just as much time meditating as "homework" as I do in class. The time commitment has grown with each class: now I'm supposed to do a 45-minute body scan, 10 minutes of breathing meditation as well as another "mindful" activity of my choice, which is washing dishes.

I can't say I notice much difference in anything, including my sleep. I sometimes drift in and out of consciousness while doing the body scan, since I'm lying on my back. And I just don't do as well with the other "unguided" practices I mentioned. But I will soldier on.

As it turns out, I easily met the spend requirements of both of the 2 new credit cards I got, even without the spending on my biggest bill of the year, my combined home and auto insurance ($1300). I've already redeemed one $150 bonus as a statement credit and the second one will become available to me at the next statement.

Now that it's dry, I could more closely inspect the 1st coat paint job on my family room floor. It looks pretty good, although you can still clearly see some significant scratches probably caused by moving furniture.

I expect to be doing the 2nd and final coat of paint tomorrow; it's raining today.

I'm having a little trouble, for the first time, finding an electricity provider. My one year with Ambit Energy expires next month, so I went online to my state's website where you can compare all offers. I applied to two 4-mth fixed deals (the best I could find) one from Public Power and the other from SunWave, but was turned down for both because I didn't meet the "load factor criteria." I'm not sure if I use too little electricity to make it worth their while, or if my electricity usage is too variable (becus I have central air). Anyway, my latest application is pending with SunWave. With each successive rejection, the remaining available offers are becoming more and more expensive, but not much I can do.

I have been (gently) pushing my manager at work to put me on the company payroll. Right now, as a contract employee, I'm on the agency's payroll. And I'm pretty certain I would fare better as far as raises go, not to mention eligibility to contribute to a 401k, with the company itself.

He seemed receptive to doing so, but he said a few weeks ago he was having trouble getting the contact at the agency to call him back. He seems like a straight shooter, so I have no reason to doubt that's the case, but at the same time, moving on this does not seem like a high priority for him.

So, rather than languish around waiting for him, I decided to call the agency myself and ask for a raise of some sort since I've been there a year now. At the same time, I would wait around to see if my manager does anything. If he doesn't, at least I got some sort of pay increase.

I don't know how pay rate increases work when you're working for an agency, but I'm guessing it will be minimal; I would hope for at least 3% since that's what inflation is running at these days (2.7%, to be exact). By getting no raise, I'm actually falling behind, and I can see that with prices for everything rising.

I'm just a number to the agency, and since my liaison there, a personal friend of mine, left the agency 6 months ago, I haven't heard a peep from them, not even to let me know who my new contact is. Really poor communications, but maybe their attitude is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My job began as something for a month or two and then my manager would basically reassess how he liked my work, and so I've just continued on for a year now.

So I spoke to someone at the agency who seemed receptive to a raise, but he doesn't manage my account and the person who does is out of the country til next week. She's supposed to call me next week.

I don't know if, as part of the process of reviewing a rate increase, the agency will contact my manager at the company, at which point it might be a little embarrassing for me since last thing he told me a few weeks ago was that he was having trouble contacting someone at the agency, but had agreed he'd look into whether there would be any penalties/payoff the company would have to pay to take me on as a perm employee.

Embarrassing only becus I haven't shared with my manager that I called the agency to ask for a raise, but I was beginning to feel impatient with nothing happening with my situation after talking about it, off and on, for a few months now. I know another contract worker with the same agency also desires to get on the company payroll, too.

What's also a little problematic is that getting a raise from either the company directly or the agency will make it more likely that toward year's end, I may have to tell the company I can't work for rest of year if my gross income exceeds the income cap for subsidy eligibility for the ACA health insurance I have. This would not make my manager happy as their busiest time is end of the year, although the person I share my job with could probably pick up any slack.

I told my manager this could happen, and that this was one reason why I wanted to get on the company payroll, becus by then making traditional 401k contributions as a regular employee, I could lower my reportable income enough to avoid this whole scenario. Meaning, I wouldn't be in danger of having my reportable income exceed $45k a year. (I'm working p/t.)

So far, I have NOT turned on the furnace yet; nights have been cool, but not cold. I just threw an extra blanket on the bed.

The Home Heating Contest

September 25th, 2018 at 04:58 am

Does anyone want to play the home heating contest this year? You know, where you try to avoid turning on the heat for as long as possible?

A Saturday Surprise

September 22nd, 2018 at 09:20 am

Today's very big accomplishment was getting the first coat done on my family room floor. Looks great; I picked out a nice dark brown which I would describe as a cocoa color, and let me tell you, using the whole paint roller-on-a-pole routine really makes the job go fast and saved my back.



It will have plenty of time to dry before the next coat; if the weather cooperates, that will take place in a week, but I see rain is forecast, so it may have to wait.

I still have to find 2 strong men to move the large cabinet at left in photo.

So, getting to my "surprise...."

After all the laborious prep time on the floor, the actual painting went pretty darn fast. I realized when I was done that i had plenty of time to go to my town's health fair, which I like to do each fall.

I left, possibly looking a little disheveled, with some dried brown paint on my arm, but no matter, I thought, I probably won't see anyone I know.

When I got there, I wandered among the different booths and filled out a few raffle tickets. About 15 minutes later, I hear someone on a microphone calling my name, mispronouncing it multiple times. The thing was, I couldn't find where the guy was who was on the microphone. Apparently, I'd won something.

Then I found him; he was one of my town's state senators (a Republican). I know him well because he's always in the paper. He was emceeing our little health fair!

I won $30 gift certificates to a local burrito place. But the real surprise was when the senator said he'd been wanting to meet me for the last 15 years! He even showed me my name and contact info on his phone!! Boy was I surprised. He said someone had told him I was a very good writer, and that he wanted help writing some political stuff as English is a second language for him.

He talked a while about how he wants to bring people together to diminish the polarization which seems to have taken over so much discourse today.

He kept telling me he was so happy to meet me, and after I told him where I was now working (in the town where he lives), he insisted we get together for a coffee since I work nearby. I gave him my updated phone number.

He was so personable, with what I would describe as a magnetic personality, I forgot to tell him I'm a Democrat.

Catching up...

September 14th, 2018 at 05:15 pm

Saving on Phone and Internet
So recently I dropped my Frontier (formerly AT&T) phone line and took a chance on Magic Jack. I'm happy with Magic Jack, although I notice if my computer is not turned on, neither is the phone. I now have 4 phones working with it and my annual bill for it will be about $40 a year, as opposed to my $62/mth for combined phone and Internet with Frontier. A big improvement.

So today I decided to see if could do better with the Internet; since I dropped the phone with Frontier, I lost some bundled discounts, and the Internet alone with them is $45. I felt I could do better elsewhere, but after speaking to their retention department, I was able to get it lowered to $35 a month with a 1-year contract. I'm pretty happy with it. It's a pretty slow speed (12 mgps) but it works for me and I watch movies/videos all the time.

I love lowering recurring bills.

Bonus Credit Cards
I recently did a temporary lift on my credit freeze at all 3 bureaus (only 1 charged me for doing so, $10...I think they will all be free moving forward? not sure...). I did this to apply for a new bonus credit card, to defer the cost of my annual home/auto insurance.

I didn't qualify for the card I wanted (Cap 1 Savor Rewards) but I did qualify for 2 others with smaller bonuses of $150 each: the Chase Freedom card, which I've had before, and an HSBC card.

Current home improvement project
Haven't made much progress on repainting the family room floor, mainly becus it's been humid and hot. I plan to work on it this weekend. Not the first coat, but finishing up with the sanding and priming.

Mindful meditation
I've had 2 MM classes thus far. It's a bit more of a commitment than I initially realized, but it should be okay. Our instructor has a PhD in psychotherapy and a master's in something else, plus she trained with a Buddhist in Japan. I love using the FitBit. My sleep patterns seem kind of wacky. I need to research what is "normal" as far as the amount of deep and REM sleep you should be getting.

We have daily homework assignments.

Tomorrow is International Coastal Cleanup Day, and a friend and I are going to one of many Connecticut beaches with organized cleanups. Ocean trash is a real problem and hazard to marine life.

Aside from that, the weekend's priority is working on my family room floor project.

I discovered 9 more black swallowtail larvae on my parsley plants.. It's rather late in the season and Ii suspect they will overwinter and emerge in spring rather than now; this is something they decide on their own. I anticipate keeping them in the garage during that time, for their own protection.

Be mindful!

August 31st, 2018 at 06:04 am

I learned yesterday I was accepted into a study to determine if mindful meditation helps with insomnia among MS patients. Well, I knew I was in the study but didn't know if I'd be in the control group, which attended no classes, or in the study group itself. So I'm in the latter, which means 13 weeks of classes each Friday afternoon, plus 3 "assessments."

The benefits for me include learning a lot more about mindful meditation, a subject that interests me, getting paid $200, and a free FitBit, which I'll be using during the course of the study.

My only expense will be the gas money for driving to and from the hospital, about a 30-minute ride one way.

I recently cancelled my (Frontier) phone service and bought Magic Jack, which has a new phone number. I noticed today that my old phone number is still in service, so I had to call them back. It should be gone in 1-3 days, which is good for me because I noticed since cancelling the old number that I'm getting lots more spam, since my new number is not registered on the Do Not Call list.

I was unable to register the new number because the system "recognized" I was calling from the old number! It also appears that while I can make outgoing calls from any of my 7 phones (2 sets of cordless phones and 1 regular), I only receive incoming phone calls from the 1 regular phone. If I'm on a phone call on that line and I pick up one of the cordless phones, I get a dial tone.

I suspect (hope) that this is also caused by the fact that Frontier hasn't yet terminated my old phone number. I checked my Panasonic cordless manual to see if there was anything I need to do to "format" when you change phone numbers, but there doesn't appear to be anything....it's all kind of confusing but I hope it straightens itself out shortly.

As far as the carpet/floor painting project in my family room, I decided to remove ALL furniture in there and do all the prep and paint for the whole floor instead of trying to do one half at a time. It just seemed like it would be double the work. Of course, that means all that furniture is piled up in my living room and dining room,and it's generally a mess on the 1st floor now. I have just one more piece of carpet/padding to remove, and then I'll drop it at the dump today since I have little room for it to just sit here.

Here's what the room looks like right now...you can see in back the large entertainment center..it's actually 2 pieces but still heavy as heck.





I was able to move all the furniture out MYSELF except for a sold oak and very heavy entertainment center, which would take 2 brawny men to move. I suppose I could try calling a moving company and ask for 2 men to move just that (and move it back without scratching a newly painted floor), but the cost would be ridiculous for just that, and the whole idea of me doing this was to save money by doing it myself.

So while it sounds totally tacky, I'm kind of resigned to just cutting away the carpeting around the entertainment center, and painting around it, leaving a rectangular piece of carpet in place under it. Totally tacky, right??

I guess my desire to get rid of old stained carpeting was greater than my distaste for painting around the entertainment center.

I actually even considered just leaving the current "battleship gray" paint with white splatters AS IS, calling it "urban chic" and leaving it at that.

On today's agenda I hope to do the following:

1. Rip off remainder of carpeting and padding, including around the entertainment center.
2. Use tools to pry up the tack stripping around rest of room.
3. Bring all this ripped up stuff to dump
4. Vacuum
5. Begin using wood putty in the many holes and maybe some of the larger scratches, cracks. Let dry.
6. Do a 2nd lead paint test, just to be sure. The 1st one came out negative, but I'm not positive I exposed all the paint to swab, so want to do again for peace of mind, and I should be getting that 2nd lead test today via Amazon.
6. Do a light sanding.
Vacuum again.
7. Prime some spots where there's bare wood.

This should take most of the day, if not tomorrow.

I'd also like to hit the paint store to get color swatches. I have 2 options I can't decide between:

1. Use the same light taupe color I used in adjoining sun room, or

2. Use a very dark brown (almost black) with high gloss as a contrast to the medium oak brown furniture, white walls and taupe trim. I've seen this beautiful look in home decorator magazines.

One writer cautioned against using glass paint and suggested at most semi-gloss because the high gloss looks "like plastic." Not sure if I'd agree or not.

Please weigh in on the issue of painting around the entertainment center instead of trying to move it, and the color choice for floor.

All my news...

August 26th, 2018 at 04:35 pm

It's been a while since I posted here.

This morning I visited a beautiful Japanese garden on a country estate.



This afternoon (I don't know what got into me), but I began ripping up the wall-t0-wall carpet in my family room. It's 23 years old and has many stains and I really couldn't wait to get rid of it. I think what motivated me was that I finally got around to doing a lead test on the paint, because I wasn't sure if I would just paint over it and use area rugs or, if it had lead, just replace with new wall to wall carpet.

Turns out it tested negative, so that inspired me. Ripping up the carpet, and the spongy thing underneath, then rolling them and cutting into small pieces so I could take in my car to transfer station was the easy part.

The harder part was pulling up the gazillions of nails and staples. I used a hammer and another tool that I used as a crow bar to pry up the tack strips along the wall perimeter, and used a pair of pliers to pull up the staples.

The game plan is to putty holes and deep scratches, then lightly sand and paint, probably in the color of the baseboard, to make it easier. I'll have to repaint the baseboard becus once I removed the carpeting, you can see the different color on the bottom half-inch of baseboard.

Once that's done, I'll move the furniture on this half of the room back in place, then start moving furniture on the other half. A big project!!

Yesterday my cousin from Jersey came up for the day (just the 2nd time she's been here), and I had my father over too. She's a talker. Smile I did a ton of cooking for just the 3 of us, so now I have plenty of leftovers. My dessert came out really great: vegan ice cream which had a great ice cream-like consistency. So easy to make and great for anyone who's lactose-intolerant. You just combine in a food processor: frozen cherries, 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a dash of vanilla, a teaspoon of honey, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa and a small amount of almond or soy milk.

I have a new walking partner who I try to walk with twice a week, in addition to my other jaunts. She has a German shepherd, so she walks twice daily regardless. She used to live on my street when she was married, but now she's divorced and lives very nearby but on another street. So I can walk there when we go. When I walk with her, we walk much longer than I would otherwise do, so this is good.

The only problem is, she's used to walking from her house, and we both live in an area that has limited places to go for walks that don't involve busy 2-lane highways or a very steep hill. We have ended up walking along the busy highway for short distances, or even crossed it, but I really feel uncomfortable doing that on a regular basis. Drivers just don't expect to see pedestrians in these areas, and it only takes one distracted driver. Even her dog was spooked the other day when we were trying to cross.

I did say I wasn't crazy about doing this and that there are nicer places to go if we hop in the car, but somehow we've ended up always walking on these streets. So I really need to be more firm about it, I guess.

Together with some adjustments to my diet, I've lost 7 pounds! My neighbor asked me if I'd lost weight. The adjustments involved reducing my portion of (homemade) granola for breakfast, mostly staying away from pasta and watching those portions, too, and eating not quite as many nuts.

My latest news

August 13th, 2018 at 06:32 am

I finally took the plunge and got Magic Jack. It was very easy to hook up. Initially, I decided to save myself $20 and have them randomly assign me a new (free) phone number, but once I did that, I regretted not porting over my existing number, because now I'll have a gazillion people to inform.

On the plus side, having a new number should vastly cut down on the amount of telemarketing calls I receive. Plus, Magic Jack has a free service you can opt into for call screening, where the caller is asked to dial a one-digit number before the call is patched over to me and my phone rings. Robocalls can't do that, so that's a plus, too. Finally, I don't think my Magic Jack call will be listed in public phone directories like my Frontier (formerly AT&T) number was, so that again, would be helpful.

Why did I go with Magic Jack? Because I was one of those very few people who still maintained a land line, and I was tired of having to renegotiate my phone bill every year or every other year with Frontier, with certain "discounts" I never knew about until I threatened to leave. More transparency would have been nice.

My current bill with Frontier for both phone and Internet is $61 and change. Roughly $30 for each. Note huge, but I dislike recurring bills and knew there were many other options available.

I had discounts for bundling my phone and Internet with Frontier so I knew my current bill for both would not be cut in half when I dropped the phone. I called them this morning, and in fact, cancelling my phone service with Frontier (effective end of the month becus they bill in cycles) will only save me $15 a month, so my current $61 bill will drop to just $47 (inclusive of taxes/fees).

Once I and everyone who knows me gets used to my new phone number, it will still be worth it, because phone service is one of those things you don't tend to think about much from day to day. So the $15 a month savings will become $177 saved annually, or $885 saved over the course of 5 years, without really thinking about it.

Magic Jack cost me $47, which includes shipping fee, plus another $6 for 911 service. The 911 fee varies in price and is not set by Magic Jack. I will pay to renew Magic Jack service each year, I'm assuming after subtracting the $8 shipping cost referenced above.

I will feel more comfortable once my Frontier phone service is disconnected, as I want to make sure clarity and operability of the new service works fine. I tested, dialing my new number from my cell phone, and it seemed to work fine.

I have a new walking partner who lives within walking distance of me. She's one of the neighbors I invited to my patio party last month and like me, she loves to walk. (And she's VERY trim!) I am aiming for now to walk with her twice a week. Maybe in the fall when it cools down we can do more. She goes daily, often twice daily, as she has a German Shepherd.

I can't tell you how much more enjoyable walking for exercise is when you have someone to talk to. So we are enjoying getting to know one another. Last night, after our walk, she invited me in for a glass of wine. And I lost another pound!

I made a delicious cold salad to bring to work today, perfect for these hot weather days: chopped fresh pineapple, chopped cucumber, chopped cilantro and lime. Yum.

My father's vision is getting worse. My father knew this all along, but now his doctor, who's been giving him the monthly eye injections for some time now, has informed him so, and I think my father is finally resigning himself to not being able to drive "soon." He still has to get the eye injections because while it doesn't stop the deteriorating vision, it will slow it down. My father will not be blind, but nearly so. It's very sad.

I told him I'm available to take him to all his doc appointments, and I can do grocery shopping with him too. It's going to require a significantly greater commitment by me to help him out, but this is one reason why I scaled back my work hours, because I saw this coming. My sister works full-time and is not around during the week.

I also prodded him to complete the process of getting all local doctors where he's living now; at the moment, he still travels 1.5 hours to New Jersey to see his podiatrist and his dentist, who happens to be his brother-in-law. Totally unnecessary, and while I have to drive him down there to replace a broken tooth, I'm not going to make a habit of ferrying him down there when he can see doctors up here.

Even so, I worry about my dad's mental health. To feel confined to your apartment except for very occasional outings (we also go to dinner every weekend), cannot be an easy thing. I need to think about this and what else I can do to help him. Maybe looking into senior center transportation options and contacting his town's senior center for info.

Two black swallowtail caterpillars feeding on my parsley have formed their chrysallises, and I expect them to emerge as butterflies very soon. Smile

I also spotted 2 Monarchs nectaring on my Joe Pye Weed, and I'm hoping they laid eggs.

Bunnies and brass

July 31st, 2018 at 06:34 am

I spent a lot of time over the weekend polishing my brass door knobs, believe it or not. But they do look great. It took a lot of polishing to remove 23+ years of tarnish. I don't know how long the "new" look will last, but it does look like new right now.

I've discovered that I now have THREE bunnies living in the yard: 2 in back and 1 in front. I love watching them; they will happily munch on grass or just about anything, so I'm not too worried about my flowering annuals because it's a pretty big yard. They come out pretty reliably every dusk.

The co-owners at work belong to a CSA, and lately they've been bringing in assorted produce each week for anyone who wants to help themselves: cucumbers, zucchini, corn and eggplant so far. Smile

With August right around the corner, I'm coming up on my 1-year anniversary (end of September) at my job. I plan to ask if we could now put me on my company's payroll, which would be possible now without having to pay the agency a commission. Once that's done, I'd like to ask for a raise and if I can contribute to a 401k. My manager had previously indicated this was a possibility, but then he didn't say anything and I didn't pursue it because I know if we did not wait the full year, the company would have to pay extra to hire me outright.

Unearthed some more cousins

July 27th, 2018 at 05:17 pm

Yes, someone I tried to contact fully 2 years ago via Ancestry, when I first got my DNA results, finally wrote back to me with an apology for being so late, but he said he wanted to retire first.

Anyway, he's the son of my grandmother's brother. He is one of 14 children! He said most of them live within a 25-mile radius of where he lives in eastern PA, and suggested we all get together soon. I can only imagine the crowd with the siblings, their spouses and possibly some kids. Wow.

I already got some truly wonderful photos from him of my great-grandparents, and 2 of my grandmother, which are really precious to me, because I have never seen her at such a young age, in the 1940s.

Despite the heat/humidity, I squeezed in a half hour walk earlier this evening. Mostly, I wasted time today on Facebook groups.

We'll get relief from the humidity on Sunday, for 2 days.

I bumped into a neighbor, a woman my age who came to my recent patio party, and we agreed to walk together (with her dog) this Sunday evening, so that will be a nice change. The thing is, she walks VERY fast.

I did lose 4 pounds in recent weeks, which I'm very happy about. It's not enough to notice on my frame, but just the fact of losing it is something. I can never lose any weight, but I recently began using cronometer.com, which I love and is so easy to use. You can input exactly what you've eaten and immediately see how many calories each food item is, and the same thing with your exercise. So if you're trying to lose weight, you know exactly what you're dealing with, and it tracks not just calories, but all the essential nutrients you need, fiber, protein, etc.

I enjoyed the 1st Japanese eggplant from my potted plant by making ratatouille. I also tonight made my own salad dressing, a recipe I like a lot that involves walnuts, raisins, balsamic vinegar, thyme and garlic. It's otherwise hard to find an oil-free salad dressing, or even one using only olive oil, not safflower or cottonseed, which isn't healthy. Plain oil and vinegar is a little boring to me.

I'm also getting a few cherry tomatoes here or there, and 1 cucumber.

Luther loves to feel snug.

Weekend retrospective

July 23rd, 2018 at 05:24 am

Another week of the muggies are forecast, and yesterday was the first day of it. UGH. I stayed inside all day except to weed a garden bed for about an hour.

Otherwise, I picked up a little around the house and spent too much time on Facebook again. BAD HABIT.

I need to start buckling down on the spending. Year to date, I've spent $23,916 but only earned $19,053, a shortfall of $4,863. Although I feel I've been too spendy the last few months, it's probably mostly due to the patio redo. I think by most people's standards, my spending is really pretty reasonable; I'm not buying a fancy new car or going on lavish trips, just spending on my growing cacti/succulent collection, trying out different potting mixes and buying pretty pots and always on the lookout for interesting new shelving systems. That and probably more shoes than I need.

In any case, I would like to get the spending more in line with income. I was never sure my newish p/t hours would cover 100% of living expenses, but am confident it will cover at least 80% of expenses, and preferably closer to 95%.

It's only July, and already I'm starting to feel a little anxious about what's coming up in November: announcement of new ACA premium amounts for those of us who get our health insurance that way. I know there will be an increase; I just hope it's reasonable, given what's been happening in the death-by-a-thousand-cuts effort to dismantle Obamacare.

First there was Dido's visit, then my happy hour for the neighbors, and dad, of course. Next up, to help me enjoy the patio, I've invited my cousin from New Jersey, the one I connected with after my mom passed. I would have invited her a long time ago (I've been down to see her at least 4 times), but she has so many animals I thought it would be too much of a hassle for her to find someone to look after them. But I vaguely remember some comment she made a while ago that she might like to come up for an overnight visit at some point, so I figure September might be nice....cooler, but not too cool.

Like some other people here, I am trying to improve my social life..something that can be more challenging if you are single, I think. And it seems easier to create your own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to do it. Smile I'd love to do some travel, but while Luther is still around, I guess I'll try to be content having people come to me.

Back to work today....

Gosh, I'm so out of the walking habit.. I haven't walked at all for at least a week, mainly because either the weather was not cooperating or I just didn't make it a priority and ran out of time. This past weekend I did get a few yardwork chores done, something that is becoming more and more difficult as I seem to have lost interest in yardwork. Mainly becus of my fear of ticks. I don't think it's worth the risk so I do only what seems absolutely necessary. And I keep looking for small ways to simplify or reduce yardwork, like a current project to get rid of one small portion of the old brick walking path from old patio and just reseeding with grass, because having the guy I pay mow it all is much easier than me having to keep a path weeded/trimmed which I rarely would use anyway.

I was working on that project and hoping to have it all reseeded in time for this whole week of rain we're expecting, but I wasn't able to do that. I DID reseed areas running the length of the new patio that had all bare spots along the edge. So I reseeded and then threw hay on top of it to reduce seed lost to birds. The aforementioned little path project was, as usual, a bigger project than I realized. I had to use a shovel tip to dislodge all the brick mostly buried in the ground, toss them in a wheelbarrow and then cart 4 full and very heavy wheelbarrows full of briks to my driveway, then unload them there (then eventually load them again into car trunk to drop off at dump...all told, I'll have moved those bricks by hand FOUR TIMES).

So most of the bricks are down by driveway. Next I need to dig up some weeds growing adjacent to the old brick path and shake them all out, then rake everything smooth before seeding. It all takes a fair amount of work.

So many other yard projects calling for my attention. Invasive vines overtaking my little tool shed. Bittersweet popping up in the pachysandra beds, to climb more shrubs/trees if I don't at least cut or dig it up (hard to do in established pachysandra). Finally getting rid of brushy overgrowth and poison ivy in north corner by old picket fence. I used to enjoy doing this kind of physical work, but now it's become harder and it's all such a production to even get ready to do it becus I "suit up" (due to ticks) in special white clothing, pants inside socks, boots, hair in pony tail with baseball cap and of course gloves.

This week's doings

July 20th, 2018 at 06:19 am

Things with my friend with prostate cancer have not been going so well. The chemo's been knocking him for a loop. They found a blood clot in his lung which was causing him difficulty in breathing. They wanted to try a 4th chemo drug becus the others haven't been working; either that or a clinical trial. He has oxygen at home now and is going for a blood transfusion next week becus his white cell count is too low.

I was planning to go over there this morning to continue to help with the decluttering, but he said he was feeling too tired.

A trip to the Social Security office
Yesterday I helped my dad apply for a replacement Social Security card at the local SS office. There's a form online you can print, fill out and then bring to local office to avoid having to mail an original document showing proof of ID in the mail. (They won't accept copies.)

I sure hope his old card, which he just can't find, didn't fall into the wrong hands. He has a very worn Medicare card (the original one issued 20 years ago) and I was able to file for a new Medicare card, too, although they are already phasing in new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers printed on them.

I actually reported on the decision to phase out of SS numbers on Medicare cards when I worked as a personal finance writer 8 years ago, and it's taken that long for the US government to implement. Wow.

Lowes and Applebees
After the Social Security office, we went to Lowes for a few things, and for the very first time, on his own initiative (!), Dad tried out one of those battery-operated carts you can drive there (and other places). He walks with a cane and I knew he'd be fatigued trying to walk any big box store. I think it worked very well, although those carts run at just one speed....slow. Dad has resisted many things in the past that would make his life easier (including the cane), because he doesn't want to be viewed as "disabled."



I picked up this begonia on markdown for $3 at Lowes, and liked it so much I was able to get another one on this trip with Dad. I never thought I cared for begonias that much, but the plant looks so healthy and bright red that it brightens my days. Now I have a pot hanging on either side of my front entry.


Key getting stuck in lock!
After Lowes, we had lunch at Applebees and on the way home I was able to find the graphite powder (sold out at Lowes) I read can be used to blow into a keyhole where the key is not sliding in smoothly. My front door lock is so bad I can barely get the key in now, and I initially assumed it was just an old lock and I'd have to pay a locksmith to come and install a new lock. I squirted the powder in the keyhole just once, and voila...the key slides in much easier now. I never even knew a product like this existed, and if it wasn't for the Internet, I would have spent $100+ instead of $2!

Stung by a hornet!
Yesterday I decided to do some long-neglected weeding/yard cleanup in a certain area. I wasn't out there for 5 minutes before I was stung by a hornet, in the neck. I hadn't noticed the ground nest that I had gotten too close to.

I usually have swelling for a week, so I popped an antihistamine right away, and I think that helped a lot. It's still pretty itchy and red, but I don't see much swelling.

So I was pulling weeds in another area of the yard last night around 7 pm, when it was cool, and I must admit to looking over my shoulder a few times lest there should be the bobcat. Luckily, none showed up.

Today, I really need to hit Aldi's for the basics and then maybe BJs. In this hot weather, I like to bring my small cooler with 4 or 5 frozen ice paks to keep food cold; if there's a shady place to park, I grab it, but that's usually not the case.

Unchecked spending spree
Unfortunately, I've been on a bit of a spending spree this month. All small stuff, but it does add up. I decided to get some insulated curtains for my family room as it really heats up in summer; they look fine, but due to the way the curtain rings are (built into the fabric), they don't cover the entire bank of 3 windows I have in a row. The only solution will be to order a 2nd set of the same curtains, and use one of them so the entire windows are blocked.

So while the price of the original set of 2 curtains was great ($20), now it will be $40. I did at least offset my cost a bit by loading $100 onto my Amazon gift card balance, thereby earning $10.

I've also been spending on terra cotta pots for my succulents, along with rather pricey succulent soil formulas. I bought chicken grit from Tractor Supply as a more affordable alternative to the super expensive Bonsai Jack.

The Miracle Gro formula you see widely sold, especially formulated for cacti/succulents, is NOT good at all for cacti/succulents, and I've killed my fair share of plants sitting in this soil, which retains dampness far too long. So you have to mimic desert soil, which is more grit/pebbles than true soil.

I also spent on some Japanese Sencha green tea, a few books and a pair of pretty new cushions for 2 rattan chairs I snagged on my local Facebook marketplace last month.

Rattan furniture is one of those things I love, because it reminds me of my grandmother's dining room set on the patio. I find that most anything I remember from my childhood is something I crave as an adult. Wierd, but true for me, anyway.

I also spent too much money on 2 large plastic trays that look very much like those trays you used in the school lunchroom, except that they are much bigger and perfectly fit the top of my built-in benches in the sun room.

I'm using them for my cacti/succulent collection, which after a lot of trial and error, I've mostly brought indoors again. Everyone says put them outside in summer, but while they may thrive in the hot dry heat of the southwest or California, muggy summers in the Northeast are not ideal. I also can't always protect them from rain and a few already got mealy bugs; once the plants have mealy bugs, it's rounds of spraying and segregating from other plants so they don't spread. I think it simpler to just keep the plants inside, where I can enjoy them more anyway. And Luther, now solidly middle-aged, does not seem as interested in nibbling or biting the plants.

I spent on a small $20 metal plant stand after a trip to Ikea, which I had a heck of a time assembling. I overspent $60 on my McAfee antivirus protection, but it was on auto-renew and I should have fixed that beforehand becus I know you can get it much cheaper.

So, lots of things to spend on; I did sell a few small items of my own including a Rubbermaid outdoor trash bin, a shoe stretcher, and a patio table planter.

Neighborhood party, and bobcat sighting!

July 13th, 2018 at 02:12 pm

The more exciting news first...I saw a bobcat in my back yard this past Wednesday night!

It was by no means dark. It was about 7:45 pm, and about 10 minutes prior, I had been weeding in the exact area where I later saw the bobcat; there was also a small bunny I noticed as I walked inside.

Anyway, I was in the sun room watering my plants when my Early Warning System (aka, Luther) alerted me with his tail all bushed out and looking very wide-eyed. From inside the sun room, I glanced in the direction of where he was looking, peering through a thicket of hydrangea branches, and the first thing I see is the rear end of an animal and I saw it was a tufted tail.

Then it rounded the bend, skirting my newly rebuilt patio, and I could see it was a very healthy looking bobcat, maybe 2 or 3 times the size of my cat (small but fearsome), but with a shorter body and longer legs, tufted ears, tan with black spots.

I was surprised it didn't see me, but at that time of evening, the interior of the house is very dark compared to outside, and I was hidden by the large, bushy snowball hydrangea (which by the way I need to trim).

It walked the length of the back yard, alert and purposeful, before disappearing from view. Luther and I both raced to the kitchen to follow it, but lost it.

This marks the 3rd bobcat sighting in my yard in the past 3 years!! Last year I also saw a bobcat (perhaps the same one?) in July. I've read that a female bobcat range is about 6 miles while the males can range as much as 30 miles.

So awesome, and disconcerting at the same time since I was so recently outside in that exact same spot.

So I'm having a party, kind of impromptu, tonight! More like a neighborhood Happy Hour. I was just going to have my neighbors who live behind me over for a glass of wine, to show off the patio, and one thing led to another. I invited another couple I'm friendly with from further up the street, my neighbor (a widower) from across the street and a divorced woman who used to live on our street but now lives on an adjacent road. Plus my dad. So, 7 people, a nice small group. Everyone except my father can walk here. Smile


Getting ready...

I ran around yesterday for food/drink supplies and am just having assorted micro-brewed bears, 3 kinds of wine and gin/tonic for dad, along with nonalcoholic drinks if anyone wants.

Food-wise, I'll have 3 dips: hummus, guacomole and salsa with nachos, plus cheese and crackers, red grapes, carrots, pistachio nuts. I think that should be do it. No cooking, voila.

I realized I would really need some of those domed food covers to keep insects away, and I had seen them at Aldi's for several weeks. Of course, they were out of them when I went there yesterday, but I found them at TJ Maax in town, where I bought the last 2 in the store.

I have just barely enough seating (all mismatched but it'll do), including a wood bench I bought at a yard sale on my street last summer, which I had to drag out of garage and to back patio. I haven't really used it much because it's painted wood, and it'll get ruined if exposed to the rain. Eventually, like next year I hope, I'll get a pergola up on the patio and maybe that would offer some protection from elements. My mason told me about a pergola "kit" that includes louvers you can operate to open/close.


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