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Archive for March, 2016

Now the driveway is ALL done

March 31st, 2016 at 08:11 am

Here it is, showing both the paved lower end that was done today and the upper paver section.





I'm very happy with everything. I had asked the asphalt guy last night, very last minute, if he could widen a somewhat narrow section of the lower end of driveway, where the slope is, by about 4 inches. It's hard for me to notice if he did that but i should be able to tell when i drive up it (not til Monday).

He charged me $300 for widening it just in that section. (He had said $200 to $300 on the phone.) I didn't bother to argue to point.

When he was wrapping up, he asked me if I wanted an asphalt curb along the left slope side, to kind of keep the pachysandra in. I said sure, sounds great, but then he said that would be another $300. I'm sure he was trying to make some more $$ with the leftover asphalt. Once I realized there was a price attached, I said no; I've already spent plenty of this driveway. Then he said he'd do it for $200 but I kind of feel it would be a waste of $200. So he left with his leftover asphalt.

I hope they did a good job; it's hard for me to tell if they did or not. They did the whole thing in just 3 hours time. He said he has 2 more jobs to do today.

I'm just thrilled to have this lovely driveway all done at the start of the season so I can enjoy it all summer long. I will have to park elsewhere through the weekend.

I was reading up on new driveway care online and learned that it can take up to a year for new asphalt to cure, so during that time, I need to prevent any large, heavy trucks (oil delivery or landscapers, eg) from driving on it, and when i turn my car around on it, I have to make sure not to turn the tires when the car is NOT moving, or I'll create gouges in it. Actually, I only have room to turn around at top of drive, which has the pavers, but probably still good advice.

As for heating oil delivery trucks, they usually park on the road and carry the long hose up to the back of my garage, where the fill-up port is, but on occasion they have backed up the driveway. For that reason, I'll make a point to have oil delivered on one of my work-at-home days, becus while I could give them instructions over the phone not to drive up, who knows if that would actually happen or not. By being home, I can run out and prevent them from driving up.

I'm to wait at least 6 mths before doing a sealer, and best time to seal is in fall anyway, so probably around September I'll call around for prices. You can spray water on the surface and if it beads up on the asphalt, it's not cured yet and you need to wait longer before sealing.

Top half of driveway..done!

March 29th, 2016 at 11:20 am

Here's what it looks like, top half finished in pavers:


Note the lovely 9-foot diameter circle.


This shows the area to left of garage.


This photo shows the gray border that encircles the whole area. (The portion of the stone wall is one of the original old stone walls I couldn't afford to rebuilt right now. As long as it stands, I don't plan to do anything to it although it's not very attractive with the large concrete joints.)

This really motivates me to get around to repainting the concrete lower half of garage a nice taupe color to match house instead of the icky old green.

It's really all very lovely, and my mason really surprised me after I paid him the balance in cash. He fished out a $50 bill and returned it to me, his way of saying thanks for the reference I made for him to a coworker looking to redo a walkway, and for the good Angie's List review I said I would post. I've never had a contractor do that before!

I've been in touch with the asphalt guy who MAY be able to come tomorrow(!) to pave the lower half of drive. I can't drive on the pavers on top half until he puts down asphalt that's completely level with the edge of the pavers, or that paver edge will begin to pull away from the weight of the car tires.

He said I could drive on the pavers after that, but as far as heavier trucks it wouldn't be a bad idea to let it set for another few weeks. I had a charity lined up to pick up an old couch I can't wait to get rid of (the one that was refused by another charity) so I reluctantly emailed them and said i'll need to reschedule. I didn't want to do anything that would cause them to get annoyed and not come at all since otherwise getting rid of that couch will be a real pain. But it should be okay; i haven't heard back from her yet.

Easter plans

March 26th, 2016 at 04:36 pm

Although none of us in my family are very religious, I am finding that facing the upcoming holiday without my mom is kind of tough. With our fragmented family (early divorce) I also never felt we had very strong family traditions like some families do, but now that mom's gone I foresee many lonely future holidays if I don't make an effort to find something to do.

Turns out dad is having Easter dinner at my sister's, where I imagine sister's significant other will also be. It makes me feel like an outsider because I have not been invited. Would I have gone if I was? No, definitely not without having a long overdue talk.

Neither one of us has called the other. It does make me angry she can't even bring herself to call me, but I imagine, after finally seeing my mother during the last week of her life with advanced Alzheimer's last December, she must surely understand how angry I must be that she just walked away from us. But still, ZERO communication. Not one effort to try to clear the air, or heck, just to see where we stand. That one could so easily throw away a relationship with a sister astounds me. (Although it wasn't much of a relationship to begin with.)

I don't think my dad says much to her about things I tell him. He seems to prefer to stay out of it and he isn't taking sides.

But anyway, I called dad tonight to see if he might have an interest in the small pile of driveway pavers that the masons set aside; I think they were cut incorrectly or otherwise imperfect. I thought dad might be able to use them since he had plans to build some raised beds at my sister's.

The masons also left 8 empty wood pallets which the pavers were delivered in. I'm pretty sure they're untreated wood, since they're considered disposable and not meant to be reused. So you could use them with veggie beds, altho i guess they would also rot quickly as a result.

He suggested Easter breakfast at the diner, which we'll do. And he'll come over on Tuesday, my next work at home day, to see the completed driveway and pick up the imperfect pavers and pallets (after I doublecheck with my mason to make sure that's ok).

I picked up a nice pot of jumbo grape hyacinths for R.'s niece, whose dinner I'll be going to. I also settled on a side dish to make, one that's super easy and attractive to look at, my corn/blackbean/tomato salad. I can throw it together in the morning. but oh no. I think i should have picked up edamame for it and now i realize i don't have it. Darn.

My downstairs TV with Roku is suddenly not working due to "failed connection" error. The Roku upstairs works fine. It's so incredibly annoying when a company sells a product they KNOW has some bugs in it and sells it anyway!

Today while the masons were working their magic, I ran my errands. I got the low air pressure indicator as soon as I left the house, something which has happened several times. I had purchased a cheap AARP air compressor which i don't like using becus it sometimes gets stuck on the tire valve and i can't get it off. So I decided that despite the nearly mandatory 2-hour wait at Town Fair Tire on a Saturday I HAD to bring the car in there since i have a 50-minute drive tomorrow for Easter dinner.

While they checked out the car, I walked over to Boston Market for an early (11 a.m.) lunch. This place always has a bittersweet feel for me becus I often stopped here after stuffing my car with my mother's stuff, exhausted, as I was trying to empty out her condo, and I also picked up lunch here a few times to bring it to my mom's when she was still living up the road. So it always conjures up these memories.

After lunch, I walked to Walmart to kill some time and happily, they were through with my car earlier than expected. They found a nail in the tire (!) so guess I'm real glad I didn't just keep driving on the tire.

After that I went to Lowe's where i bought the Easter plant, and then BJs. Also filled up the gas tank, went to the transfer station with my trash, and yoga

My driveway in the works -- beautiful!!

March 26th, 2016 at 10:39 am

Here it is, the first day of laying pavers and they've done so much already:



I knew it would look good, but it's even better than I imagined...

Happy Easter, everyone

March 25th, 2016 at 02:27 pm

Just want to wish you all a Happy Easter, if you're celebrating.

I feel fortunate to have somewhere to go. Well, ok, I actually invited myself to my friend R.'s Easter dinner as I know his family pretty well (tho don't see them often) and this would be his sister, niece and her 2 young kids. They lost both their parents.

I assumed my sister would be cooking for dad, though when i called him today to inquire he didn't know. I would prefer to do something with him, have him over for dinner, for example, but he said no, go ahead and go with your friend. I don't think the holiday is a big deal to him. I just didn't want to spend another holiday alone with no cooking to do or anything.

So now I have to come up with a side dish and I'll pick up some Easter lilies tomorrow for the niece. She knows me from 30 years ago when I was dating R.

The driveway redo has begun. They lay down a layer of this fine gray grit and perfectly leveled it with long pieces of lumber they dragged across its surface. Today the delivery of about 8 pallets of pavers arrived and is sitting in my driveway. They didn't do any work today becus it was raining but tomorrow they will start to lay pavers...the exciting part!

On tomorrow's agenda:

1. Pay 1/2 the cost to mason before I leave on my errands.
2. Dump run: I loaded the car up this a.m. with trash but the transfer station was CLOSED due to it being Good Friday so I had to drive to work with smelly trash in my trunk!!
3. Yoga
4. Gas
5. Lowes - pick up Easter lilies with my gift card
6. BJs: i have a bunch of coupons to use
7.When i come home, figure out an Easter side dish to make
8. Yardwork!!
9. Make granola
10. Fill bird feeders

I'm meeting R. early Sunday afternoon at an area hotel and then following him to niece's house in my car so I can leave whenever I like and it saves him a lot of extra driving to pick me up and drop me off.

I was happy to leave work around 1:15 pm today. Not that I did anything terribly productive when I got home.

Really great news for dad

March 24th, 2016 at 10:03 am

OK, so for the last few days I've been very worried about my dad. He told me his doctor found blood in his urine and in his words, "they're looking for cancer." He was going through a bunch of tests.

The prospect of losing my dad so soon after my mom was extremely upsetting, not to mention that a close friend/ex-boyfriend, R., and another friend, K., also have serious health issues and may not be around in a year or two. Plus my older cat waldo is getting on in years.

ANYWAY....i finally worked up the nerve to call him. I knew he was having more tests done Monday and that Tuesday he was meeting with the doctor to review the results.

When he casually dropped this news, I tried not to show how worried I was. It's so characteristic of my dad to downplay it and make it seem like no big deal. Last night I was crying about it. Just pure, unadulterated fear. I woke up in the middle of the night from some very bad dreams. I don't remember the dream but there was a grown man screaming, and it made me wake up.

So I talked to dad today. He said he has no cancer. He has gallstones. I told him how relieved I was and I could hear the relief in his voice too.

I need to call him back tonight (he was driving back up from Jersey when I called) to get more details. It appears if you aren't having any symptoms (pain in the abdomen) they don't do anything for treatment. It didn't sound like he was having any pain but I will have to quiz him on that.

I forgot to ask him if he would be having Easter dinner at my sister's, which I assume she'll be doing. I haven't spoken to her since the funeral. I have made tentative plans to spend Easter with my friend R. and his sister, niece and her 2 kids.

R. is giving me leeway to back out of dinner with his family, who I've met many times over the years, if it turns out dad doesn't have plans.

I can't tell you how relieved I feel. (Guess I've said that already but, wow.) So, so relieved. I can't think of much worse than of losing many of your loved ones. I just got thru the loss of my mother and I'm not ready to let go of dad yet.

I think we need to go out and celebrate.

A Tuesday Treat

March 22nd, 2016 at 10:22 am

Now that the weather is very gradually improving, I decided that on my work-at-home day (today) I would walk down to the end of my street (a good 10-minute walk with 2 hills) to visit the brand-new Dere Street Bakery.

I would get my exercise and some delicious baked good at the same time!

As with the adjacent restaurant, they took a dilapidated historic building and renovated it inside and out. It's lovely to look at with its rustic exposed beams and granite step. It's a tiny little shop, probably no more than 300 square feet. I chose a great little salad made up of red sprouted quinoa with soaked raisins and carrot ribbons on a bed of greens with a great lemon vinaigrette. This is one I will try to replicate myself. Really good, and so simple to make.

I also got a crusty loaf of whole grain bread which is quite good dipped in the vinaigrette. Finally, I got a blackberry mini pie. Yum. Does anyone know how to make a fresh loaf of bread like this not stale? They always seem to go stale on me quickly. Airtight baggie?

It was fun to walk there and it reminded me of the days when I used to walk to work when I worked on Main Street about 8 years ago. I'm also delighted beyond belief to have a bakery in town that actually makes breads, not just the usual sugary frosted cakes and cookies.

I will be a weekly customer!!

Work will begin on my driveway this Thursday. Can't wait.

Last night i went to see the movie Brooklyn, which was pretty good. I could have also walked to the theater but chose not to since it would be dark when I got out. I had an old punch card in my wallet and was able to see the movie free with the punch card. It was nice to see the movie so soon after reading the book. A lot of details from the book were left out but it was still enjoyable.

So as you can see, I am beginning to realize that various fun things that can be easily incorporated into my routine now that I'm working from home twice a week. Normally i would be too tired to catch a weekday night movie, but when i've worked at home all day, it's not a biggie (provided it's at our local movie theater, in our old town hall here in town).

I guess, too, that when I was caring for my mother, I gradually let go of various social things I might otherwise do becus i simply didn't have the time or if i did, i again was too tired and way too distracted to do them or actually enjoy doing them. Now I am "rediscovering" I can do different things, and it's a nice feeling.

Unhappy retirement conclusion

March 20th, 2016 at 11:17 am

So for a long time I planned to retire at age 60 but transition into retirement by working part-time for at least a few years.

The more I study this particular plan, the more I realize I'd be better off just trying to put in 1 additional year of f/t work at the bank.

Mainly because, when I think about it, there don't seem to be many part-time jobs that would pay more than $15/hr. So based on working a 20 hour work week making $15/hr, I would make more money working full-time for one more year at the bank than I would working part-time for seven years!

Also, I was under the mistaken impression that I could get health insurance at the bank as a part-timer. I learned at some point that no, you have to work at least 30 hours, which is pretty much the same as most other employers.

So the smarter choices would be, after working the expected 3.5 more years til I turn 60:
1. Work 1 more year full time with full benefits.

Or if i absolutely felt i needed a break, I could ask for:

2. Work 1 more year at 30 hours with full benefits.

This would come with a commensurate 25% decrease in salary, I assume, at about $61,500 based on current income. Assuming they even went for it. Assuming they don't lay me off before this time!

Saturday doings

March 19th, 2016 at 01:51 pm


There's a new restaurant in town. If you look down at the far end, my street starts in between the end of the building and the white steepled church you see. Yes, I could walk here. This is a real foodies restaurant Smile Can't wait. They even have a standalone bakery behind the restaurant, where a small florist used to be. This is a very old building and they did a beautiful job renovating it.

Oh, my carrot ends are sprouting leaves!


The leaves are edible and would be good in a soup or salad. Use the stub ends of organic carrots you would normally throw away and just let them soak in about an inch of water. It will take about 2 weeks before they begin to sprout leaves. I refresh the water frequently. Just a fun experiment to keep my spring-searching soul occupied.

After yoga this morning, I filled up the gas tank, returned something at BJs, picked up another matted piece of my mother's I had framed (see below) and then used a $50 gift card at Whole Foods.


This is Galaxy.

Came home, read the paper and went out to dinner with dad. It's fun trying out new restaurants with him. He's partial to diners but about half the time we enjoy a great meal.


The case of the flying laptop

March 18th, 2016 at 04:10 pm

Earlier this week, after a day working at home, I unplugged the laptop and put it at the top of the stairs, as I always do, so I could bring it down to my briefcase next time I went down the stairs. This is usually the next morning.

The next morning, in my half awake stupor, I accidentally KICKED the laptop,enough to send it tumbling down the stairs. It must have hit the stairs 5 times, and it hit so hard that it left 3 noticeable dings in the last stair at the bottom and my beautiful fir floors! No, they are more than dings..they are gouges, too deep to sand in fact.

Oh no! Laptop fried.

I brought it into work and lo and behold, it worked just fine. Amazing. So amazing, I had to tell our IT guy the story. He casually mentioned someone who merely dropped their laptop from a height of about one foot and it ruined it.

Wow, was I lucky! I'm upset about my floor and stair, though.

Monkey in the middle and a "lost" wheelchair

March 17th, 2016 at 11:17 am

I got a bill last week from Liberty Rehab, an outfit that rents medical equipment like the wheelchair my mother used during her stay at the 2nd assisted living place.

The bill was for about $76 for a wheelchair and leg rests for a period of time AFTER my mother died in December.

I got them on the phone and they informed me that Masonicare never returned the wheelchair, hence the bill.

The woman on the phone was very customer-unfriendly, and she seemed unwilling to pick up the phone herself to call Masonicare. I've had to do that myself several times becus, as the Liberty Rehab woman informed me repeatedly, "You are responsible for the bill." Okay, fine, but can you help me out here? She knew Masonicare has the chair. What am I supposed to do, go over to Masonicare and start searching for the chair? She told me to have Masonicare call her and she could give them the chair's serial number to help them locate it more easily.

When I spoke to Masonicare, she said they wouldn't have needed to rent the chair because they have their own, and she wanted proof of the rental in the form of the name of the Masonicare person who placed the order. I called Liberty back, they gave me a name even I recognized, and then I called Masonicare back with that info.

Apparently when Liberty came to collect both the wheelchair and a bed last fall, the wheelchair was not there to be picked up, and someone, or several someones, at Masonicare dropped the ball and never bothered to find it.

I've informed them I don't plan to pay for this bill -- a recurring monthly rental bill until they return the chair -- because this was 100% their responsibility to return the rented items. Heck, I didn't even know the chair was rented.

I guess I'll have to keep on top of them to make sure they (hopefully) find the chair becus legally I probably am responsible for the chair, even though mom did not use the chair during the time period they're charging me for and I'm not in possession.

Masonicare contact did indicate they would help me out with the bill, although I'm not sure what that means. They should pay the entire bill, not a portion of it. I think anyone would assume that an assisted living facility has procedures for such commonplace things as returning rented items in a timely manner. If they don't, they can't make me pick up the tab. Can they?

For Lucky Robin

March 15th, 2016 at 12:38 pm

http://www.offgridquest.com/recycle/free-swing-set-becomes-the-new-rabbit-tr

Great way to recycle an old swing set into a rabbit home.

Early retirement fantasies?

March 15th, 2016 at 07:23 am

For as long as I've been blogging here (since 2008), I've talked a lot about early retirement. I reckon I was plotting my early retirement when I was 6 years old.

While I've been fortunate to have many writing jobs that I found interesting and stimulating, many things lose their luster after you've been doing it for 34 years. Especially when you cannot follow the beat of your own drummer but must do things according to the very specific instruction of the company issuing your paychecks.

It's not so much the writing I'm talking about as I am the general hierarchical structure of the workplace, inflexible work hours, the personality conflicts, the efforts one must make to be a "team player," get along or get out.

A sidenote on onerous policies: Last year my employer announced a new policy requiring employees to give 30 days notice if they decide to leave the job. Mind you, if you are terminated, you're out that day, but they now want 4 weeks notice, not 2. Hey, if I found a new job, I doubt most prospective new employers would be crazy about waiting 4 weeks for me to show up.

In any case, I called my state's Dept. of Labor today to find out if this policy is enforceable, as they say in writing you are "required...."

As I suspected, it is NOT enforceable, but as far as whether they could get away with withholding severance, for example, if I failed to give the required 4 weeks notice, the DOL spokesperson said they'd have to look into that after I filed a complaint. Perhaps worth testing just to push back against infringement on employee rights, something I feel very strongly about.

Getting back to my topic.....After my mother passed this past December, I've been struck by a growing certainty that there are more important things to do than helping the bank sell more student loans or money market accounts. Along with that feeling is the sense that my time here on earth is fleeting.

I am wanting to make changes. (They tell us in bereavement support group not to make any major life changes within 6 months of your loved one's passing.)

Now while I failed to meet the 1st year of my Retirement Countdown savings goals through my own efforts (see profile, bottom left), I was able to exceed my 1st year goal in the end after receiving about half of an unexpected inheritance from my mother. The other half is still in probate.

Mom was always most concerned with my happiness in the job, not the paycheck, so it almost feels like this was my mother's final, departing gift to me, the chance for true freedom. (Even when she had progressively worsening dementia, I remember her words to me at the nursing home: "But are you happy?")

If you read my profile at left, you see I've mapped out a path toward early retirement (at age 60) in just 3.5 more years.

However, I often conveniently overlook one obstacle that has always been something of an unknown, otherwise known as healthcare expenses.

Specifically, my MS drug. I think when I started taking it in 2000, its retail cost was about $1200 a month. Bad enough, right? Now the drug company, Teva Neuroscience, has jacked up its prices to make up for everything it spent on R&D, and it recently lost its right to exclusively market it. There's a generic equivalent on the market now, but only for the daily injections. I moved to the 3 times a week injections about a year ago and I REALLY would not want to return to daily injections. Can you blame me?

When it comes to healthcare, there are so many unknowns. If, worst case scenario, there is no Obamacare in 3.5 years when I want to retire, who knows how I will purchase health insurance for 5 years until I'm eligible for Medicare? It could be a very expensive, if impossible, proposition for someone who needs a very expensive medication.

Assuming Obamacare still exists, in some form, I have found the Obamacare plans are still more expensive than what I'm paying now with a private plan offered by my employer. It will probably always be like that.

It occurred to me that perhaps the new generic version of the drug might offer more affordable options for me when I'm ready to retire. I called them this morning to find out if they have plans to develop the 3x a week formulation, and she didn't know. I asked about a price comparison, and she didn't know that either, as it varies depending on the plan.

So while my returns to date from my 401k are something like -4%, due to lousy stock market performance, I am at least now on track to meet my goal of over $1 million by age 60. Whether $1 million is actually enough to live on for 30 years or so, I don't know. I don't want to have to scrimp and go without as a senior, because I've often had to do that as a much younger person! I am hoping that with the addition of Social Security benefits (another big unknown, right?) that will see me through.

Like many new retirees, I think my expenses will be higher in the first 10 years if I indulge a strong desire to travel, while I still can. I could see expenses moderating a lot as I got into my 70s, but they could ramp up again in my 80s, if not sooner, due to healthcare costs should I develop medical issues.

If I, someone closing in on their $1 million in savings goal, am having doubts and worries about their financial future, what must so many others feel who have considerably less in savings? I hate to turn this into a political statement, but all this uncertainty about how I will pay for future healthcare costs with a chronic health condition puts me decisively in the Hillary/Bernie camp. I would vote for either one although I lean more strongly toward Bernie, as he is less establishment.