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Archive for August, 2016

My DNA Results

August 31st, 2016 at 02:52 pm

A hard day's night, and working like a dog.

I joined a few months ago and after doing some family research and some road trips with dad, I decided to plunk down $99 for a DNA test that could further enrich my discoveries.

So to begin, my 2 paternal grandparents were born in Ireland and Germany, while my maternal grandfather was born in Austria. My maternal grandmother was born in the US, but her parents were born in Czechoslovakia.

So you would expect to see in my DNA roughly 25% representing each of the 4 ethnicities.

But my results showed instead that i am about 50% Eastern European, 20%, more or less, Irish, 7% Scandinavian, 6% European Jewish, Western European 6% and 4% or less Iberian Peninsula, Great Britain, Italy/Greece.

Due to intermarriage, migration and war, Ancestry does not list most countries individually; they list regions instead. Ireland is one exception because it is relatively isolated by the seas.

So put another way, I am 96% of European descent. But where's the German part? That was a surprise, however, I know my German grandfather's family was from a little town called Reichenbach which is in southeastern Germany, very close to the Czech border. So it could be possible if I went back a few generations in his family that I might discover they also came from Czechoslovakia. I really don't know, but this is a guess looking at the map.

Another thing to remember is that just because something like my German lineage didn't register much, it doesn't mean I'm not German; it just means I didn't happen to inherit many German genes. Also to keep in mind that Ancestry. com gives you a range as well as an average, based on multiple DNA checks. So while my "average" Irish lineage is estimated at 20%, the range of possibility is 7% to 33%.

When you get the DNA test done, automatically checks their vast database of other subscribers, and it came up with 29 individuals who were "extremely high," "high" or a "good" chance of being related to me as a 2nd, 4th, 5th or 6th cousin. Looking at some of their family trees, I get all twisted up when i try to figure out how exactly we might be related, and not everyone makes their family tree public. I did write to 3 people inquiring about it. There was only 1 person whose tree had a name shared by someone in my tree, on the Irish leg of my tree, so I did write to them. It's all very interesting.

It could be very helpful to have my dad do his DNA test, because if there are any shared matches with other people between us, that makes a much stronger case we are related to that person.

I have learned so much about my family since deciding to research my family tree, and I really haven't gone further back then 3 or 4 generations. There is just so much to learn and one thing leads to another, from the road trips with dad to his childhood hometown to the DVD I bought that we still plan to watch that has footage of a German-American bund camp in New Jersey that he attended. Reading up on these bund camps and their role before and during WWII was very interesting and all new to me.

Conversations with dad and going through my mother's old childhood photos also led to new insights.

Last night I did the mock jury duty focus group. I can't talk about the case now but it was a very sad case involving a lawsuit against several doctors and a hospital. We all agreed they were negligent but differed in how much and how much $$ should be awarded, to the tune of about $7 million. I would think the hospital would want to settle out of court becus it inspired a lot of sympathy for the plaintiff.
They fed us a very nice hot, catered meal and paid us in a single $100 bill as we left.

Several of us were annoyed because when we arrived in the parking lot, we saw you had to pay to park and the people running the focus group mentioned nothing about that. When we inquired, they seemed unsure if the meter maids came around after 5 pm or not. Since they're in the business of running focus groups, you would think this was something they would know, but they didn't. So a few of us had to go back outside and pay $5 to ensure our cars would still be there when we left the focus group.

Today I'm meeting a friend for lunch, someone else who got laid off.

Yesterday I made a decent dent in cutting back some incredibly invasive brambles growing in my pachysandra (also invasive) and threatening to encroach on my lawn on the north side of my house. I cut the brambles wearing some leather work gloves, the only gloves I've ever found that allow me to pull out brambles without getting stuck. I cut the brambles about a foot high and then sprayed the cut ends with a vinegar/salt/dish soap solution to inhibit regrowth if not kill it. I hope to continue this work this afternoon after my lunch.

A trying day

August 29th, 2016 at 09:01 pm

Last night, letting me know it's time for dinner.

I tried to renew my MS prescription and of course I immediately ran into problems doing so with the changeover of my insurance from employer managed to COBRA managed, by Sentinel Benefits.

Express Scripts tells me my policy is inactive, even though I sent my COBRA paperwork in to Sentinel and I see they cashed my premium check. The Sentinel rep said she straightened it out so i call Express Scripts back and this time they tell me my pre-authorization by my doctor, which is usually good for a year, expired.

I talk to my neurologist's office and later she calls me back to say they have a letter on file from Express Scripts saying my pre-authorization is good through October 2018. So what gives??

Meanwhile, I get a letter from Sentinel in today's mail telling me my next premium isn't due til Jan 1 2017, it will be in the amount of $30 a month and to use the enclosed coupons, which were not enclosed. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

I call back Sentinel and after a while on hold, she told me there was "an internal glitch," aka human error. Instead of cancelling my dental insurance as I had directed (which was for $30 a month), they cancelled my medical and kept the dental. Which accounts for all the wrong numbers.

I'm waiting to hear back from Express Scripts with hopefully some resolution so I can order my med. I hate this kind of stuff. It's taken up half my day. Can't people just pay attention and do their job?

This morning I donated 19 more pieces of mom's art to the mom who is spearheading the construction of a new animal shelter in town for abused and neglected animals, in memory of her daughter. She came over and was super nice. We hugged about 4 times and she gratefully took all the art; i had told her she could pick and choose if she liked. Most of the art was what i would call small, meaning around 10 x 12" in size, except for three pieces, which were larger. It was one large framed sunset over water photo and the rest were oil or acrylic painted, mostly of flowers and trees, and one with water fountains.

She invited me to meet her at the building site, all woods now, this fall and she would show me around where everything will be. They'll start with small farm animals and companion animals first. They will do outreach to veterinarians. They hope to have construction completed next year sometime. It's the kind of place I might like to spend time at, even without donating the art, or even volunteer.

So all told, I've donated 67 pieces of art to two non profits. I also gave 1 dog photo to my mother's neighbor, its owner, after his dog, the subject of the photo, died. He was very grateful.

It didn't occur to me til very recently that both of the non profit groups I decided to donate to were each founded by parents who lost a young child, and both of these groups are named after the child. I didn't plan it this way, and in fact it was a process that took me most of the past year to get through. I just felt these were two organizations that both mom and me could believe in, and would want to support. And I think it no accident that when you lose someone very dear to you, it can be healing to pursue a venture, or some kind of work that helps others. I know that donating mom's art just feels good.

Thinking about it now, this just gave me another awesome idea. What if I approached my town's high school with the idea of establishing a small annual scholarship to be awarded to some worthy student pursuing a career in the arts? I love the idea as a way to keep mom's name alive, although I don't have unlimited funds. Maybe I could do a $1,000 scholarship for a few years, but then what? Maybe there are more productive things to do with that money. I don't know, just thinking....

I also gave 3 or 4 pieces to my cousin and have 2 more to give her that she picked out if she ever invites me down to Jersey, a trip I've been wanting to make all summer.

So I've donated or given away many more than I've sold. Since mom was ill late last year, I exhibited her work in 6 shows and nothing has sold yet thru a gallery. I did sell 2 pieces myself to coworkers at the bank, and I sold another half dozen very small pieces at one gift shop.

I now have her work in 2 galleries/frame shops (they knew mom very well), 1 crafters' coop (new) and 2 gift shops. I should do more but I have so many things to do I often feel overwhelmed with stuff and end up doing very little. The newest outlet, the crafters' coop, did invite me to send jpgs of mom's larger work so I want to do that next. At least probate is over. Still, I am often torn between spending time marketing mom's art or looking for a job.

At least between the donations and the art out on exhibit, my house is feeling much more "livable," though there is still too much art here.

I had a 2nd butterfly emerge 2 days ago. I've been watching for the next one and moved the aquarium into the house, but so far, all is still.

I can't believe it's 4 pm already.

First butterfly emerged!

August 27th, 2016 at 12:06 am

So we went from fat caterpillars about a week and a half ago....

to my first butterfly, newly emerged and drying out its wings.

I had checked on my 8 chrysallises yesterday several times throughout the day, and all was quiet. This morning around 8 a.m. I went into the garage and found this first butterfly quietly sitting and no doubt getting its bearings.

I took all the branches out of the aquarium so it could more easily fly out but it seemed to be having a little trouble getting airborne. So I got it to climb on my hand and then after taking a few selfies... Smile

i gently transferred it to a sedum in my yard.

But then my batteries ran out and I had to race inside to get more, and I think my presence scared it a little because before I knew it, it had fluttered above me in the air, headed toward some large rhododendrons.

It was all very exciting.

Eight more to go!

Court room focus group

August 26th, 2016 at 05:01 pm

Hooray...I got a call out of the blue from a focus group company that specializes in reviewing actual pending lawsuits. I vaguely remember registering with them 4 or 5 years ago but this is the first time they called me.

They are hired by the attorneys representing either the defendant or plaintiff to see how a jury might react to their case. What they learn from the focus group may affect how they present their case.

It's next week, they feed you dinner and pay you $100. Smile It happens to be in the town where I used to work so I know exactly where it is.

1st butterfly emerged!!

August 26th, 2016 at 02:25 pm

So we went from fat caterpillars about a week and a half ago....

to my first butterfly, newly emerged and drying out its wings.

I had checked on my 9 chrysallises yesterday several times throughout the day, and all was quiet. This morning around 8 a.m. I went into the garage and found this first butterfly quietly sitting and no doubt getting its bearings.

I took all the branches out of the aquarium so it could more easily fly out but it seemed to be having a little trouble getting airborne. So I got it to climb on my hand and then after taking a few selfies... Smile

i gently transferred it to a sedum in my yard.

But then my batteries ran out and I had to race inside to get more, and I think my presence scared it a little because before I knew it, it had fluttered above me in the air, headed toward some large rhododendrons.

It was all very exciting.

Eight more to go!

Wednesday wisdom

August 25th, 2016 at 01:47 am

So today I wanted to re-register/reactivate myself with a few area focus group companies. Of the 3 I worked with in past years, one no longer has an office near me.

So in addition to reactivating the other two, I did a search online for "CT focus group companies" and wound up registering for another 4 or 5 more I hadn't known about. So hopefully this will results in some small income.

Tonight I went to an MS dinner meeting sponsored by a drug company. It's not the drug I take but I like to stay abreast of all the MS drugs should I ever need to use them, and so I don't need to just rely on my doctor's advice.

Plus it's a free dinner. Smile And I enjoy the social aspect of meeting others there and even practicing my public speaking by asking the doctor questions. This one was at a hotel about 35 minutes away and I must say, everything at the buffet was excellent, including the mushroom salad, chicken, mashed potatoes and broccolini and apple crisp for dessert.

I made a habit of seeking out these meetings when I wasn't working in the past by going on the drug makers' websites.

I attended a Networking with Linked In webinar. She went thru a lot of important stuff very quickly but it's apparent I need to spend a LOT more time on Linked In, especially to identify my "target" companies. Right now, I don't really have any target companies, ie companies you've decided you want to work for.

Tomorrow, dad may possibly come over in the afternoon so we can take some large boxes of art supplies that won't fit in my honda up to a certain gallery owner who said she'd take them.

This is one thing I really like about not having a regular job. Every day is a little different. It's not the same boring routine.

I also need to cook up the 2 eggplant i picked, to make more baba ganousch. Once I find a recipe I like, i stick with it. Smile

Terrific Tuesday

August 24th, 2016 at 02:07 am

Terrific from the standpoint of, it was one of the best weather days of the entire year and it motivated me to get some stuff done, including:

1. Vacuuming out my car and cleaning the trunk mat

2. Attending a Linked In Basics webinar

3. Went to ophthalmologist for annual dilation (fun)

4. Changed the hummingbird sugar water.

5. Made a double batch of granola.

6. Hung the new bamboo shade for my sun room door after it was delivered.

I did not have time to walk, and after the dilation it was still too bright.

All of my caterpillars are now hanging, suspended and upside down from a small mountain laurel branch or parsley stalk. Still hopeful at least some will emerge within days so I don't feel such a sense of responsibility for keeping them alive over the winter.

I made plans with another woman laid off from the bank to get together for lunch next week. The funny thing is, we sat just over the cubicle wall from each other and we were, for a while, on the same "team," but we never really got to know each other on the job. Mainly because for a very long time I sat in a different aisle than most of the people in my group.

My town has hired a company to go door to door as they update house records for the 10-year revaluation. They want to get inside your house and look at it from top to bottom. My place is such a mess and truth be told I resent the intrusion, so if I happen to be home when they come, I'll tell them I'm on my way out and don't have time. Because if they see anything that's changed inside, it will probably cause an increase, not a decrease, in the valuation. I haven't updated much of anything inside anyway. But I just would rather not have them come inside here snooping around.

I need to start thinking of ways to generate income. It will be harder this time around because at some point not long after I got the bank job 3 years ago, I turned away my one main client. He was having my ghost write these quarterly magazine articles for him on the housing market which were quite a lot of work and although I had raised my rates I still didn't feel I was getting paid fairly for them.

I had been mulling over whether or not I should tell him I couldn't freelance anymore since I had the f/t job, and then he called me to write the magazine article. I should have given him some sort of notice, but I just couldn't write anymore of these stories, so I turned him down and explained I couldn't do it anymore. I always felt bad about possibly leaving him in the lurch, but to be honest, that's the risk you take with a purely freelance writer, right? I had suggested to him years earlier that he was giving me so much work, why not hire me on a perm, p/t basis? He declined, said it wasn't in the budget, etc. but he probably knew he was getting quite a lot from me for a lot less as a freelancer.

But anyway, I would feel funny approaching him now for work and I know he found someone else to do the stories anyway. I essentially don't have any regular freelance clients, just 2 clients who are very, very sporadic.

I just haven't felt especially alarmed or motivated as I have been in the past when laid off. I know it's because 1. I just inherited a bunch of money and 2. I feel so close to retirement that psychologically, I guess i feel lazy or something. But I definitely still have expenses! Health insurance being chief among them.

There is an interesting fair coming up in my area that I never went to before. It's a volunteer fair where any groups that need volunteers set up a booth and talk to you about the opportunities. I would like to have something good to do that I could put on my resume, meet new people and feel good about what I'm doing. So I plan to go. I think it's this weekend.

I picked 2 luscious eggplants today from my one plant and there are STILL 4 other eggplants growing. This is one productive plant!

Monday musings

August 22nd, 2016 at 09:25 pm

This morning I met with the owner of a new shop I hoped would take some of mom's art for exhibit and sale. Success! She took 4 of the 6 I brought with me, ranging in price from $175 to $425. This makes the 5th outlet for her art so I'm hoping that eventually, SOMETHING will sell.

Unlike the handcrafted jewelry and other stuff at the store, she said she would give the art 6 months to sell, instead of three. Becus people don't usually buy art for other people as it's such a personal thing. This was her opinion.

She takes 40% of any sales. She is Scottish. I love her accent.

She had told me on the phone she had very little wall space so everything must be small. Once I was there, I had mentioned I had a lot of much larger pieces I was finding it hard to sell becus most retail shops don't have a lot of wall space. She said she had one large space behind the cash register where up to 4 larger pieces could go. She invited me to take jpgs of my larger pieces and send them to her with the dimensions. The wall is lime green, so I don't know.

Plus a larger piece is going to require a higher price, and she had already told me the price points for her kind of gift shop are lower than art gallery prices, which I perfectly understand. That being said, she mentioned one artist who did very well selling stuff and it ranged from a guess a few hundred to $1200, but her art was truly unique and different. She she is very careful to take only items she really feels will elicit "wow" reactions.

I stopped at BJ's on the way home and got both gas and groceries.

When I got home, I cooked up the second half of the 26 lbs. of plum tomatoes I bought yesterday. I'm just waiting for the last of it to cool before freezing it in plastic freezer bags. I will be well stocked for winter soups and veggie chili, which I love.

I did a load of laundry and since it's an exceptionally lovely day out, I hung it all out on 2 folding racks i have in the driveway.

The last of the 8 caterpillars is showing signs of looking to form its cocoon. The first one did so on Aug. 13, not quite a week-and-a-half ago. I'm checking daily to try to catch the metamorphosis if it happens.

Not much happening on the job front as far as good jobs to apply for. I am continuing to attend various webinars; tomorrow I'm doing one on Linked In Basics. I also am still meeting with my job coach weekly, and my resume is looking much better.

All the money from my inheritance cleared the bank so I was able to direct some to existing mutual fund investments as well as 3 new laddered CDs of 3, 4 and 5 years in length. The APY is abysmal at 1.55%, 1.65% and 1.75%, respectively but I have to put it somewhere and I don't want it all in the stock market and this laddering affords me some access to the money should I need it. (This is not my only cash money available.)

It's disappointing how certain websites once lauded by the personal finance media can let things go neglected. Networth IQ for several years now will not allow you to update your age, income or job type in your profile. This is especially important info when a big part of the fun of this site is comparing yourself and your progress to others in your own age range, occupation, income, etc., so if this info can't be updated, the whole site is useless, as far as I'm concerned. I sent them another note this week but never got responses on it in the past. Maybe they're being sold too.