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Archive for August, 2016

My DNA Results

August 31st, 2016 at 01:52 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 08:01 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 26th, 2016 at 11:06 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 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 04:01 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 01:25 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 12:47 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 01:07 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 08:25 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.

Another road trip

August 22nd, 2016 at 12:51 am

Me, dad and R. went on our third road trip together. This time, we visited Chester and Essex, Connecticut, two quaint little towns along the Connecticut River.

There was a fun little Farmer's Market going on in Chester when we arrived.

My dad grows elderberries, so when he saw this guy selling elderberry syrup, he got talking to the seller and I think was hooked on buying it before learning the price was $20 for a small 8 oz jar. But he bought it anyway.

Then we had lunch at a pretty nice restaurant. It was a tiny place; when I walked to the rest rooms, I basically walked right through the kitchen.

After this we swung by where the ferry departs from one side of the Connecticut River to the other. The ferry holds about 6 cars only. On the other side is Gillette Castle, a fun place to explore.

From there we went on to Essex and had an ice cream cone at a place recommended to us by the people who sat next to us at lunch. She recommended the strawberry ice cream in particular,and dad didn't regret getting had real strawberries in it.

During the trip we stopped at a farm stand and we all bought something. I saw this box of roma tomatoes and wound up buying it becus it seemed like such a good deal. It was filled to the top when I bought it.

I paid just $15. Dad said it had to weigh at least 15 lbs. When I got home, just becus I was curious, I weighed it. It weighed 26 lbs! So I got a whole lot of tomatoes for .57 a lb. I cooked down about 12 lbs of it tonight. I'm freezing it all so I can use it to make my soups and chilis this winter.

It's now raining pretty hard so i ran out because I was afraid the caterpillars would get soaked again. When I got home from the trip I sopped some rainwater that had collected in the bottom of the aquarium and accidentally jostled the parsley and one of the caterpillars fell into the water. I scooped it up in like 2 seconds and lay it down on the dirt but it looked dead. I ws horrified. I remembered reading that if this happens, don't toss the caterpillar out. Just let it be. Sure enough, I checked on it again a half hour later and it was no longer in the dirt.

But it was really raining hard so with a flashlight in the dark I went out and very carefully lifted the entire aquarium and carried it inside the garage, at least for the night. It keeps raining too much. The rest of the caterpillars all look like they're ready to turn into chrysalis anyway so I may keep it in there for a while as I keep doing daily checks to see if any emerge.

I thought this was an interesting picture...the old and the new....

Eight months later...

August 20th, 2016 at 02:01 am

I got a surprise notice in today's mail: the probate court formally accepted my estate financial report and decreed that I distribute the remainder of the estate.

I was so relieved. Since I began this endeavor last January, I was never fully sure I could handle executor duties on my own, with no legal counsel, and there were probably 3 times the court returned forms to me they said were incorrectly completed. If you peppered court clerks with too many questions, they would tell you to consult a lawyer, which was the last thing I wanted to do.

Although it was what I'm sure would be considered a simple estate (2 beneficiaries and 1 single asset, a checking account...thank god I sold the condo beforehand), it still took 8 months to complete.

We recently had elections for probate judge and I was sorely tempted to write a letter to the editor since in all the endorsements the candidates received and in everything they said, NOTHING was referenced about the lengthy probate process.

Granted, there's not much that can be done about the 5-month wait for anyone who's owed money to step forward, but the additional 3 months seems excessive to me since I know I never delayed doing my part and submitting various forms by more than a day or two. And then, on top of that to have to pay a $900 fee, which as my dad pointed out, is really just a tax for the privilege of having them muck things up. I know there's a reason for all of this but I just wish it was a more efficient system.

I've been really anxious to finish this process as another step in moving forward with my life. Today's notice in the mail indicated I could.

I wasted no time. I went to the bank because I only had one blank check left, and I needed one more so I could write two checks, one to myself, one to my sister.

After that, I deposited the check I wrote to myself at my own bank and dropped my sister's check in the mail. Driving home, I silently thanked my mother once again for this unexpected windfall. My total inheritance, including the mutual fund distribution I already received earlier this year, is $92,381. I am humbled and grateful to receive this gift and I want to use it wisely.

I can't begin to imagine how my sister will feel receiving the identical gift when she treated my mother so badly for so many years and turned her back on her for the last 8 months of her life when she had Alzheimers. What kind of daughter does that? I don't know if she's capable of feeling guilt, remorse or any regrets.

I would never have thought it possible that my family, fragmented due to my parents' divorce so many years ago (and why I suspect my sister was so angry with my mother, decades later, believe it or not), could ever be more split up than it already was. But because my sister declined to get caring for my mother during her illness, or even visiting her in the last 8 months until i told her she was in hospice, I've been too angry to deal with her. We have barely spoken since my mother's death. She knows I am angry with her but has chosen not to try to talk to me at all, which is still something that shocks and upsets me and makes everything worse. It tells me she would rather not have a relationship with me than have to deal with the discomfort of trying to clear the air and help me to understand what happened.

Since dad is living in an apartment above her barn, on her property, he spent last Christmas with her. On Easter, I got no invitations from him or my sister, so I invited myself to join my friend R. and his sister and nieces and their kids. But I can't expect to do that every year, so the thought of the upcoming holidays...any holiday.... is just dreaded and dreary, because I honestly have no family now except dad.

I don't want to create a big tug of war trying to get dad to spend a holiday with me.

But back to what I'd been talking about, the inheritance...calmer thoughts...Unlike years back when I "blew" a small portion of an inheritance I received from my grandmother on some very nice but overpriced cabinetry furniture (an entertainment center and matching oak bookcase from Renovation Hardware), I will be investing all this money with no current plans to spend it.

The only thing I can think of is that having this extra money might make it easier for me to consider having the masons back here next spring for a third time, this time to redo the deteriorating brick patio in the backyard.

I have to do something about it as weeds spring up between the bricks and grow so rapidly after every time it rains. It's a constant chore to weed there and if I don't, the entire area will be overtaken. It would be wonderful to have them do it, but it would likely be another $10,000 based on what he charged me for the front stair redo and the paver driveway. Gosh, I could put his kids thru college!

Although the back patio is exceptionally private, I don't spend a lot of time back there now that the upper half of my paver driveway functions as a jumbo-sized patio, and I have happily puttered away many hours watering my potted veggies and flowers, and more recently, watching my black swallowtail caterpillars in their aquarium home.

With the new blower I bought this year I can clean off all the leaves that fall in about 5 minutes and keep it perfectly clean. Whereas the back brick patio is always unkempt looking, weedy and probably has ticks creeping about.

I've been saying for years I want to sell this place and buy a condo, but honestly I am always looking at condos coming on the market (I have various email alerts set up with area real estate brokerages) and I rarely find any condos that offer everything I want. Actually, my current home has nearly "everything I want," except the property is a lot of upkeep. I already have someone mowing for me, which costs about $1,000 if he mows weekly, but even with that there are is constant weeding of various perennial beds, cutting back aggressively growing vines and shrubs and periodic take-downs of huge trees required for safety reasons. So I continue to waffle.

Today I also got 2 checks from my 401k so I wrote a memo to Vanguard with detailed instructions for their investment (totalling about $55k) and they'll go out in tomorrow's mail. Once the 2nd half of my inheritance clears at the bank, I'll have to carefully consider where to stow that. Being unemployed, I will likely keep a greater amount liquid in an online money market than I would normally, so I can access it easily if required.

But the best case scenario for me would be to find a job within the next 6 months. I've been gradually attending more job search webinars with the consulting firm my ex-employer engaged for me, and it did motivate me to totally rewrite a much stronger summary statement on my resume. I made other more minor formatting tweaks they recommended as well.

I have more webinars scheduled and am especially looking forward to 2 courses on how to leverage Linked In during a job search.

So, I am feeling rather flush with cash but have to remind myself how long I'll remain unemployed is a big unknown. And this time around, I won't be able to do freelance writing for the real estate company that gave me so much work in the past. I gave that up when I got the job at the bank 3 years ago and I know he found someone else to do the job. It would feel awkward to approach him.

I do have a few money-making ventures lined up. I will be a poll worker on Election Day, but that's not til November, obviously.

I have one small client I still edit emails for, but that's a very, very small check. I have another client who was going to have a legal report for me to edit but she never sent it on so not sure what happened there. She may have gained a deadline extension and is still working on it.

I am keeping an eye out for interesting studies which around here are put on by Yale or U Conn. And now that I have my car and homeowners insurance bill, I'll be looking for another bonus rewards credit card to compensate for some of that expense, ideally by $200 but I would settle for $150 or even $100.

On the caterpillar front, a 3rd caterpillar has begun to form a chrysalis. Interestingly, the 1st to do so is hanging suspended underneath a grayish brown twig I put in there, and the chrysalis itself matches that color perfectly. The 2nd chrysalis hangs suspended under a green parsley stalk and that chrysalis is green. The 3rd chrysalis still sports caterpillar colors of green and black stripes with yellow dots but it will change by tomorrow, probably.

So I started with the terra cotta pot planted with parsley. When that was all eaten up, I added a narrow mouthed container filled with cut organic parsley, then the other. Narrow-mouthed so a caterpillar doesn't accidentally fall into a cup and drown.

The remaining 5 caterpillars alternate between feeding on parsley leaves and resting. Resting and feeding. Feeding and resting. What a life. I tucked them in for the night with a new batch of parsley and they will have all the green leafies they could want. If you're a caterpillar, at least, life is good.

Today's walk...

August 19th, 2016 at 12:12 am

...was very abbreviated because 2 large dogs were barking furiously at me and seemed a little too eager to have at me. I've heard of dogs leaping over invisible fences, so I turned around.

Feeling lazy, I turned in at the police station, where there is a small gem of a park facing Main Street. It's really very charming and is filled with unusual plantings. It's probably no more than 2 acres in size.

It had been awhile since I've been here. The last time was probably 3 or 4 years ago, with my mom.

The iconic water fountain which my mother loved, photographed and painted.

Fall is near.

Kids love climbing on top of this fella.

There's a small grove of river birch.

I attended another webinar, this one on personal branding, and met with my coach. We went through my resume line by line and I am making a few changes.

Caterpillar Report

August 18th, 2016 at 12:50 pm

There are 6 "getting large" swallowtail caterpillars up and about. There are now 2 chrysalises. I've marked my calendar so I can keep a close eye on things when they might emerge as butterflies, so I can catch it all with my camera, though honestly, now that I'm not working, I check the aquarium several times daily because I love watching them.

In addition to the 8 caterpillars, there were two more very small caterpillars but I'm afraid I may have tossed them when I snipped off a few small pieces of parsley plant so I could more easily sop up rainwater that collected in the bottom of the aquarium without disturbing or jostling other caterpillars on parsley branches. I looked for and found the parsley branches I tossed, but no caterpillars. It's possible they're still in the aquarium.

Can you see the chrysalis here? There are 2 branches in the aquarium. Look at the one on the right. See how it's v-shaped. Look at the branch on top and you'll see a weird oval-shaped thing hanging underneath it. That's one of the chrysalises.

I got a little yard work done after 5 yesterday. I wanted to cut back some shrub foliage that was touching the front of my house. It was getting overgrown. Well, in doing so I discovered an underground burrow, which I'm pretty sure is where one of the 2 rabbits hanging around here made its home. As with the woodchuck burrow a few years ago, it's a little too close to my home for comfort. Literally, one foot from the foundation. And to prove my point, it looks like the little rabbit did some digging in another spot right at the foundation. I live in an old house and I don't need bunnies in the basement!

So I cut back the overgrown shrub to just a nub. It will grow back; it's impossible to kill. The bunny will have time enough to find another home before winter sets in. Critters around here sure do seem to like living in close proximity to humans. I guess the walls of the house feel "safe."

Not much happening on the job search front. I've applied for only 10 jobs since my last day of work nearly 3 weeks ago. It feels like ages since I've been gone! I feel I should be applying for more jobs, since it's a numbers game, and in fact I haven't heard back from anyone. But I've seen very few jobs I could do.

I've attended a few webinars at the outplacement consulting group and will continue with weekly meetings with my assigned counselor there. I guess it's helpful but I don't really feel motivated, that's the real problem.

I am also somewhat distracted by other competing things I want or need to do: wrap up probate (totally out of my hands now), get back into researching family tree stuff and continue disposing of mom's art, which I am the next 2 weeks I'll be meeting with and donating up to a dozen pieces at the new local farm sanctuary (construction starts next year on their building) and meeting with a new shop to sell art.

I continue to be amazed by a single cucumber plant in my driveway that has gifted me with 15 cucumbers so far and is still going strong. Those soft, store-bought cucumbers have nothing on these. My lone eggplant is also going full guns with no less than FOUR small eggplants growing now and numerous other blossoms. I've already harvested 2 eggplants. Let's pray the voles don't destroy the plant.

I harvested what I could of my onions which had pretty small bulbs. I'll cook them all up in one batch with rice or something.

My one potted tomato plant petered out and is done. I have one cherry tomato plant doing pretty well. I'm tracking produce of all and will summarize everything in a few weeks. Late-planted stringbeans are now loaded with blossoms. Everything's in pots because of voles, which no fence can deter since they go underground and pop up wherever they like. To try to exterminate them would be a massive job since i have an acre and a half.

My 401k rollover check should be on its way to me now; I wish it could have gone directly to Vanguard but it hasn't.

I sent in my check for my 1st month of COBRA. It's going to be $513 a month as I decided to drop the dental insurance.

I heard the scary news that Aetna has pulled out of most states' ACA offerings. I'm afraid this will raise rates this November for those who remain, at open enrollment time. I can save a lot of money in 2017 by switching to a lower cost plan for $300-something instead of $513/mth at ACA, but I'm very worried about security and stability of my plan and having it work as seamlessly as my current plan.

To top things off, my longtime GP decided to turn his practice into a thing where you have to pay an annual lump sum figure in order to get his undivided attention and top notch care. I knew he'd wanted to do this years ago becus I responded to some telephone surveys he did and I said in no uncertain terms I thought this was a terrible thing for patient care because it turns quality healthcare into something only wealthier people can afford.

I called in to see what the fee was and while I don't remember it exactly, it was well over $1,000. I assume that would be in addition to the usual co-pays.

HOWEVER, i almost always see the nurse practitioner in his practice, and the office said she would NOT be a part of that plan. I see her for my physicals and minor ailments like a bad cold or poison ivy, etc. But I really should be seeing a doctor, and should have a GP to turn to if I need one for something more serious. Although I'd wind up seeing a specialist if that were the case. I really like the nurse practitioner. So I don't know. I'll be skipping next spring's physical if I'm still unemployed.

I'm not quite halfway toward meeting my $500 charge goal on my Bank of America bonus credit card. I'd like to wrap this up fairly soon so I have time to get another bonus credit card, maybe one with a higher charge required as my homeowners and car insurance come due in October. I could meet a big chunk of any big charge goal in one fell swoop. Otherwise, I'm mostly limited to groceries and gas while I'm unemployed.

I've been thrown off the normal exercise schedule I'd been building by the extremely hot weather of the last 2 weeks. It's still muggy, but in the 80s, not the 90s, so I did squeeze in a small walk last night, and want to go for a longer walk this morning, while the day is still young.

Another Jersey road trip with dad

August 16th, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Dad invited me to join him on another trip to Rutherford, NJ, where my half-brother lives, so dad could collect his mail. In the eyes of the state of NJ, he is still a New Jersey resident. There was something he was waiting to see, and although it would be far simpler to have my brother mail dad his mail every week or so, dad prefers to drive 2 hours to get it. I think it gives him something to do.

So I joined him. It was more quality time with dad, that's why I went. But first before leaving we shopped at an exorbitantly priced organic grocery store where my sister, the health nut, has encouraged dad to shop. We bumped into someone who noted that the medium-sized zucchini she was buying was costing her $6 and from there we had a conversation where she told us her recipe for eggplant parmesan. She was younger than dad, but older than me. Turns out she's had a lot of auto immune health problems and thus she's shopping at this grocery store. Dad eventually went on to shop while I continued chit chatting with this incredibly nice woman, who gave me a hug. It was just one of those random encounters where you feel perfectly at ease with a total stranger and can tell them anything.

We dropped the food off at dad's apartment and then continued toward the Tappan Zee Bridge. I really prefer to drive when I'm traveling with dad and take every opportunity to do so, but he was behind the wheel and said I could drive on the way back. For the most part, he seemed to do ok except that while I anticipate things by looking ahead at people braking, I don't think dad could see that far in the distance and so he often didn't slow down til rather late, but that could just be me, back seat driver.

We arrived at Rutherford; my bro and his family were on vacation on the Jersey shore but B. knew dad would be coming for the mail, which he leaves in a basket inside their screened porch. Well, the porch door was locked. The window was open and dad could SEE his mail in the basket but could not get to it.

Sigh. I suggested to dad he might do well to get a spare key to B.'s house so this kind of thing doesn't happen. I doubt he'll follow up on doing that.

After that, we had lunch at the diner on Rt. 46 and then took a drive up to the "Paterson Mts." which was frequently scrawled on the back of many old b/w phots my mother had saved all these years filled with friends and boyfriends who seemed to have a real fondness for this place. My dad bluntly told me it was where everyone went to "make out."

Today, it's known as the Garret Mountain Reserve. We actually found an old stone tower featured in my mother's childhood photos(!) and I would have liked to explore it and get out of the car but it was a one-way road, I knew dad has trouble walking and so I let it go.

After that we pulled up to the lookout which dad was also familiar with. You get a bird's eye view of the city of Paterson, NJ.

Not quite Manhattan, but still impressive. At night it must be something to look at.

After that, we just headed home and dad continued to drive, much to my chagrin.

It was kind of a wasted effort as far as his getting his mail, but I consider it priceless, like other trips I've taken with him now. We talked A LOT and I have a deeper understanding of my parents' marriage, and why it came apart. It's very sad it all had to happen the way it did. My life could have been very different.

Unlike my sister, who dad agrees is a very black-and-white person who forms an opinion quickly and never deviates from it, I believe in gathering as much information as possible when forming any opinion, and even though the truth hurts, I would rather illuminate my understanding of life events with The Truth.

How many caterpillars do you see in this photo? There are four.

A view from the top of Garret Mt. Reserve of the very urban Paterson, New Jersey, pop. 149,000 and the state's 3rd largest city.

Driving home with dad on the Tappan Zee Bridge, which they are rebuilding.

My elephant ears are doing great in this heat, but they were SUPPOSED to be a dark purple color and I was very disappointed to get solid green!

My gazania daisies are looking very lush and healthy becus I am being more conscientious about daily waterings.

Not sure how best to pull off the baby plants but i guess i should before winter.

Last night's early evening sunset, when I was surprised to see the moon out so early.

On a roll

August 15th, 2016 at 02:24 pm

4 accomplishments today and it's only 10 a.m.

1. Clarified some confusing directions from the people who will manage my COBRA health insurance and was able to get the check and enrollment form ready for mailing.

2. Was able to direct the company handling my 401k rollover to prepare to send me 2 checks (1 for traditional 401k money and 1 for Roth IRA money) made out to Vanguard, where the money will go, but mailed to me. I guess I then have to forward it to Vanguard myself.

3. My much loved and used "Pocket Hose" sprung a leak after a month-and-a-half of use. I became alarmed after seeing a lot of criticism of this company and how poor their customer service is. However, I was able to get a live person on my first try and she said while they don't now have any 100 foot hoses like the one i bought, they will replace with 2 50-foot hoses which I can connect together. I think I will just use them unconnected to prolong their life as I have a feeling the fabric exterior will become scratched again on my driveway and eventually fail again. I don't think they will refund the money.

I've used the hose daily to water all my potted plants on the paver driveway and have dragged it around to this spot or that spot. But it did cost me $50 and should last longer than it did!

4. I also got a full refund of $49 from another product, an online subscription that I tried to undo 2 days after purchasing for 3 months instead of 1. I had already gotten my credit card issuer involved but I see just now the company issued a credit. I hadn't expected they would on their own after finding they had no customer service telephone anywhere on their site, which made me suspicious of their legitimacy. No customer service number and they make you hunt all over to find a way to contact them via a little pop up box.

In other news....

I called and left a message to be a paid volunteer in a U Conn study on health behaviors and employment. They're looking for people who are looking for work. It requires a number of interviews and meetings over a period of 3 months but they have locations throughout CT, so hopefully there'd be something nearby. The pay is $672 so worth it to try.

Went out to dinner with dad last night and this morning he dropped off a small bucket of queen anne's lace for my butterfly caterpillars. I may have to pick more once i find it growing alongside the road somewhere. The smallest ones are now much bigger. There are 7, not 6. Smile

After the storm

August 14th, 2016 at 02:47 pm

Last night we had thunderstorms. It brought temps down a few degrees but today's forecast calls for another day of it feeling like 110 degrees.

Early this morning I went outside to check on the caterpillars. There was less than a quarter inch of water in the bottom of the aquarium, but I imagine it could be enough to drown a young caterpillar. I took a dry paper towel to soak up water and then wrung it out about 15 times.

All 6 caterpillars were accounted for.

One of the smaller ones.

As seen through the glass.

The aquarium I scored for $8 on Craig's List and the flimsy cover I made by staple gunning screening (roll, $6.49 at hardware store) to 2 wood yardsticks ($1.40 each) I cut up. It all should have worked just fine but inexplicably, the staples only went into the wood of the yardsticks about halfway, making the whole thing very flimsy. I hadn't thought yardstick wood would be that hard, but it is. I covered the cover with the black duct tape so I wouldn't cut myself on all the half inserted staples. Luckily I don't need this long term so I'll just be careful handling the cover, although I could see myself enjoying the whole butterfly thing enough to get lots more parsley next spring to attract more butterflies to raise. I might end up getting the cover at some point down the road at Pet Choice on Federal Road ($15). Normally wouldn't think twice about buying it but harder to justify discretionary expenses like this when I'm not working.

I got my severance money deposited in my checking account. How disappointing to see $12,000-something gross whittled down to just $7,700 net after taxes.

With this insane heat and humidity, I haven't done ANYTHING the last few days except create my butterfly home and read my Steve Jobs biography. I cancelled a get-together tomorrow to put mom's art in another shop simply becus when I'm dripping sweat I just don't have the energy to clean and gather together and list the art I'm bringing over there. I haven't heard back from her but I'm sure it will be ok to defer my visit for another week when more moderate weather comes.

I think I'll brave the outdoors to cut some queen anne's lace for the caterpillars. An excellent online resource for raising caterpillars, "Berkeley swallowtails," said even organic store-bought can kill caterpillars if traces of pesticides were carried over to the plant by wind. They also said an empty toilet paper roll is appealing as a place to form the chrysalis because it sort of mimics the underside of a leaf.

Another interesting factoid: the caterpillar purges (ie, throws up) a lot of liquid right before it forms the chrysalis. It's part of the process of preparing for its metamorphosis.

And after it becomes a butterfly, it will only live for 2 to 4 weeks.

Raising swallowtails!

August 13th, 2016 at 11:27 am

I'm so excited.

Last night I watered all my potted plants, as I do every evening, and this is what I saw:

Black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars!

And then I noticed these:

Earlier "instars," I think, of the same black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.

So I have 2 of the larger caterpillars (funny I never saw them even though I water the parsley daily) and I think 4 of the smaller caterpillars.

I was going to just let them be and take pix of their development, but after reading online about the very high mortality rate of caterpillars due to predators like birds and those disgusting parasitic wasps, I decided to do better.

I went online looking for small glass aquariums I could put the caterpillars in with a screened top to protect them and yet be able to see what's going on. Petco has these ridiculous prices of hundreds of dollars on fancy aquarium "kits." The cheapest I could find was about $60, but I don't need all the bells and whistles and I really can't be spending much being out of work right now. Surely I could find a plain glass rectangular aquarium.

I tried Pet Choice and the woman who answered IMMEDIATELY suggested I try Petco becus she thought they were having their "$1 per gallon" aquarium sale. (They weren't.) I mean, she went on and on about how I should go to Petco. I actually had to prod her to tell me their lowest price anyway. It was $15 for the aquarium and another $15 if I wanted to buy a screened cover. But anyway,that woman is hurting sales at Pet Choice.

I tried a few other local pet stores but didn't do much better. Then I decided to try Craig's List and lo and behold, I actually found someone about 35 minutes away who was selling both a small and large sized aquarium. I called him up and asked for the small one, for just $8, which should do just fine. He's supposed to call me this afternoon as he's heading for an adjacent town to me and can meet me at the library parking lot then. Hooray on saving money!

For the time being, until I get the aquarium later in the day, i don't want to take any chances with natural preduators. I was thinking about it when I went to bed last night and woke up with a viable solution. (Yes, I tend to get a little obssessive once I'm interested in something.) At around 7 am i walked out back to my tool shed and retrieved one of my smaller tomato plant hoops. I put that over the small pot of parsley with the caterpillars and then draped the bird netting over the hoop to encase and protect the caterpillars until I get the aquarium set up later today.

Next I'll need to figure out the top. I am not at all "handy." Again, don't want to spend anything if I can avoid it. I do have a small piece of bird netting but I'm not sure if wasps could get through that. Screening would be better and I may end up at hardware store to see if they'd sell me just a small piece.If I could find the right size wood to cut for the border, even on just the 2 ends, I could staple gun the screen to the wood edges. I was thinking of buying a wood yardstick and the cutting it with my bow saw for just the 2 ends.

After that I'll need to call around for ORGANIC parsley, as the small plant I have won't be nearly enough. It must be organic or they could die. I'll try Caraluzzi's grocery store first and they're right around the corner.

One thing I'm concerned about is whether or not if I'm seeing caterpillars now whether they'll pupate and become butterflies this late in the season or want to overwinter. I read one person's account online that some will "hatch" in late August while others won't.

I'd rather not be responsible for keeping the chrysalises alive over winter, as they could dry out or alternatively, have mold issues if it's too damp, so it's a bit iffy. And of course I would love to see them emerge this summer.

Anyway, it's kind of exciting. I've always been an amateur naturalist.

I had actually purchased the parsley back in May with the hopes of attracting butterfly caterpillars. I don't really use the parsley in cooking but am much more interested in watching the caterpillars develop.

Jersey days

August 11th, 2016 at 11:18 pm

Today was another blistering hot and very humid day. It reached 85 inside my house. I could have gone out somewhere air-conditioned, but I didn’t want to leave my cats to fend for themselves. So I retreated to the basement, where it is much cooler, and looked around for something to occupy my time.

I pulled out a box of mom’s memorabilia from some plastic shelves. I knew it contained school stuff, but I hadn’t really examined it. I don’t really like to collect a lot of “stuff,” so I was hoping I could maybe winnow the contents down to a more manageable size.

The box was filled with black and white photos, some yellowing and on the verge of disappearing forever, from about junior high through to the early years of my mother’s marriage. I did throw away countless photos of friends, but sorted through everything and kept photos that had either mom, dad or family in it.
But I had a hard time just tossing the friends’ photos out, sometimes their wedding photos. I had to keep telling myself, I never knew these people. They never knew me, and most are probably dead.

Still, it was hard to do, because I knew these people were very important to my mother at one time. And now she is gone, so to what purpose would I hold onto these?

There were pictures taken on the Jersey shore, hiking and picnicking at “Paterson (NJ) Mountains,” which I looked up online and found no mention of, so I’m sure what used to be a frequent getaway is now developed into residential homes or something. There were lots of photos taken of everyone all dressed up before a prom, at what I recognized as my grandparents’ house, the one I discovered was torn down when dad and I did a road trip there a month ago.

There were a lot of girlfriends! They even called themselves the “Kleen Teens,” whatever that was all about. And I discovered mom had some pretty special beaus before dad. One handsome boy named Eddie showed up a lot in the pictures, and there was even a fake wedding certificate for them. It made me wonder why it didn’t work out between them, and if my mother would have still gotten divorced if she had married him instead of my father.

There were a few others, too, who showed up frequently in the photos, which doesn’t surprise me since my mother was very pretty.

There were a few newly discovered photos of mom and dad that I had never seen before, some very special, so I will be scanning those for posterity. Pictures of both the outside and inside of their first home in Lincoln Park, a simple brick ranch on about 2 acres, just below the hill from my dad’s parents’ home.
Also in the box was a giant embroidered letter “B,” for the Garfield (NJ) Boilermakers. The name is still used for the sports teams there today. Not sure what it means but I do know Garfield was an industrial town.

This was my grandparents' house in Saddle Brook, where mom grew up and so filled with happy memories for me. Grandma was Czech, Grandpa was Austrian. The house was torn down and a new one built in its place, alas. This photo, faint as it is, clearly shows that what dad told me recently was right: that grandpa hadn't built the house with the large patio I knew so well. It was added on later.

My handsome dad. I will have to ask what year and model car this was!

Here's a sweet one of mom and dad. Notice the cigarette in dad's hand. So many of these old photos have people holding a cigarette! It was really the norm.

The trees don't seem to have any leaves on them yet they're not dressed that warmly. It must have been early fall.

Dad at the beach! Somewhere in Jersey!

My much loved grandmother, mom's mom. Don't know who the man sitting next to her was.

My dad's parents. He was German, she was Irish. Always thought grandpa was so handsome too.

Wow. That's quite the fashion statement, mom. Before you laugh, please know that MANY of my mother's girlfriends dressed the exact same way! jeans rolled up to below the knee with a kerchief and the socks. Funny...

Mom on the beach...somewhere on the Jersey shore.

And yours truly, looking mischievous.

Today's walk: hot and steamy

August 10th, 2016 at 05:00 pm

55 minutes. Sweaty. Lightly raining.

I found a new venue to show and sell mom's work. It's a small high end shop that features the work of local craftspeople. It's located in a nearby town that is a bit more affluent than my town. I sent her jpgs, she indicated which she liked the most and I'm meeting her Monday morning with the work.

I will bring about 8 pieces. It's a bit of work becus mom used some artists' tape on the back of most pieces to cover the seam where the little nails stick out. The problem is, while this apparently worked in mom's climate-controlled condo, the tape on a lot of pieces is curling around the edges in my humid home. Luckily I have plenty of the tape mom used so I have been carefully pulling off the old and putting new tape on as neatly as possible.

I also have to type up a list of each piece, size and price. I'll also have to clean the ones with glass fronts becus they've gotten dusty/dirty sitting around here. But anyway, the more stuff I get out on exhibit the better the chance SOMETHING will sell. And now that I'm not working, I have plenty of time to do this and it is sort of an adventure. While I helped my mom install many shows in the past, I didn't really handle the talks with gallery owners and so on. This one gets a 40% commission.

So with this one I will have mom's work for sale in 5 places. I'd say about 30 smaller pieces.

I met friend R. at a Starbucks between us so I could give him 2 old VCR tapes of family movies he converted from Super 8 many years ago for me. Now he's offered to convert the VCR tapes to CDs, and he wants to take the little TV I have with built-in VCR player which I really have no use for becus it has only a cable plug and I never plan to get cable again. I had thought it would at least have plugs so I could use my Roku with it, but it was made pre-Roku and I guess they figured since the VCR is built in, there was no need for any other plug-ins.

Yesterday I went to Macy's and used up a gift card, getting 2 fall tops. I also used a $5 birthday gift card at Kohls on a 6 pak of those low-cut socks so out of pocket was just a few dollars. I also went to trader joe's (with a small cooler to keep frozen/refrigerated items cool on the ride home) and stocked up on 5 Amy's veggie pizzas, which are $4.25 at TJs but close to $8 elsewhere!

Today's walk

August 8th, 2016 at 09:56 pm

No pix today becus i forgot the camera! But I DID walk for an hour. And I can tell you that it's still blazing hot between 5 and 6 pm in August. I hadn't realized it was 87 degrees and I went somewhere different today, a dirt and grassy path through woods and meadow that was very sunny. I did not enjoy it, it was just too hot.

Grocery prices, etc

August 8th, 2016 at 04:22 pm

This morning I returned the bamboo shade for my sun room door, which I inadvertently ordered in a different pattern from my sun room windows. Both patterns had the word "Dali" in them.

You would think the company would recognize this could cause confusion or ordering problems when they only have about a dozen different patterns. It would be easy enough to change one of them.

But anyway, they did agree to refund me 70% of the cost for that reason, or about $61 of an $87 order. When I reordered the correct pattern shade today, I was able to make use of a $15 e-gift card they sent me in exchange for me posting a photo on their website of the shade installed in the sun room. So I saved some money there, although postage to return the shade was $16. So I guess I'll have spent $22 more than I needed to, but considering these are custom blinds that they don't usually give refunds for, I'm happy. At least now all the shades in the room will match. I wish I hadn't been so careless when ordering but I do think they share some of the blame for that.

This morning I did my grocery shopping at Shop Rite. Instead of using a gift card I got from a previous credit card bonus, I charged the purchase to my latest credit card with BOA where I'm working on charging $500 to earn a $200 statement credit. Easy peasy.

I don't remember how, but somehow I got out of the habit of shopping at Shop Rite. I think becus Stop & Shop was on my way home from work and other grocery stores were just more conveniently located as well. Anyway, now that I'm unemployed, I have the time and motivation to shop more carefully.

Shop Rite does have the best prices, if not selection. I bought two albeit small cantaloupes for .99 each, broccoli crowns were .99/lb and a large whole watermelon was $3.88 (I think I paid $over $5 at BJs)

When I go to Trader Joe's, I will DEFINITELY stock up on Amy's vegan pizzas, which i have grown fond of. (DO you know how hard it is to find a vegan pizza that tastes decent?) TJs sells Amy's vegan pizza for $4.29 vs $7.80 and $8 at Stop & Shop and Big Y, respectively. I had never noticed this when I was making the big bucks at the bank, but this is a BIG difference on just one item! I will buy 4 or 5 at TJs since it's furthest from home.

I spent all day yesterday working on building my Coroflot portfolio pages. I found another site, this one 100% free, where you can convert an unlimited number of PDFs into jpgs. It was still a time-consuming, multi-step process to be sure, but I loaded a bunch more writing samples onto my page broken down by format categories (PR, sales brochures, customer communications, magazine articles, web content, bios and anything else I've written).

It looks much more professional now. I still need to spend time writing descriptions to go with each category and possibly improve on what I've already written.

I've applied for 8 jobs to date. A few I wouldn't take unless i could telecommute part of the week. It could be a waste of time, but you never know until you talk to them, and at least they'd get to see how much experience I have.

Tomorrow I also want to call the voter registrar to sign up to work the polls on Election Day in November. It's a very long day, starting at about 5 a.m. and ending around 7 pm, but they pay you, not a lot, but it's cash. (Many of my extreme money-earning techniques from the 2008 recession are coming back to me now. Smile) I'd like to also work the Republican primary this month, which would be great, as there are only so many times a year when there's an election. This one's for probate court Republican primary. But I'm not sure they'd allow me to work if I'm not Republican.

The probate court called me today. I shuddered mentally because there have been so many issues with them. Forms must be filled out perfectly, even though there are no real instructions for doing so. The clerk questioned me about the inventory of assets and apparently I filled it in incorrectly again, but this time, she asked if she could just cross something out and I said YES. Instead of making me resubmit the whole thing. She said she would now "put this on the calendar," which I think means the calendar for the judge to look at it before they give me the okay to disburse funds. I should have asked how long that would take, but i was just to relieved I wouldn't have to refile the form that I let it go.

Hallelujah I think we're near the end of this thing. I only have one blank check left for the checking account and so when the time comes when I cam disburse funds (to me and my sister), I'll have to go to bank and ask for one more check. This was a special estate account I had to set up, and it was only used to pay bills incurred after my mother's death. I don't think they'll make me pay for a box of checks.

I can't wait to cross this off my list of things to do. I am also waiting for my ex-employer to inform 401k company of my termination so I can do a rollover of about $56K into a Roth IRA. And am also waiting for my $12K severance check. So I will have a LOT of money coming into my accounts in the next few weeks.

With the 401k money, I just decided to more or less evenly divide the money into 2 of my existing 3 roth IRA accounts. I really didn't want to have to open yet another mutual fund account. I have so many as it is. The severance check, since I intend to use it to live on, combined with my unemployment checks, for the next year or more, I think I will just put in my Barclay "Dream" money market, which right now gets only 1.05%. However, you can get a little more by doing this, which I do religiously:

1. Deposit up to $1,000 a month in your Dream Account
2. Every time you make consecutive deposits for six months, we’ll give you a 2.5% bonus on the past six months of interest earned
3. Make no withdrawals for six consecutive months and earn another 2.5% bonus on the past six months of interest earned

To make sure I still get the #3 bonus, I could make one withdrawal that I think will last me for 6 months. That could be tricky, but i will have ongoing income from unemployment checks too.

Yesterday I wound up not walking. Lazy. Since I am letting myself have ONE non-exercise day each week, the pressure's now on for the rest of this week. Oh boy.

Trump Drops Out!!!!

August 7th, 2016 at 11:33 am

Did people really believe that I could build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and get the Mexicans to pay for it?” Trump asked, “and that we could deport 11 million illegal aliens? That’s ridiculous. How could we possibly do that?”

Trump said he wanted to show just how gullible the far-right wing was and how weak-kneed Republican leaders were.

“Even after I made racist statements about that judge and attacked a Gold Star family, the Republican leadership continued to endorse me,” Trump said. “Man, what does it take to get tossed out of the Republican Party?”

He also pointed out that he had offered no real solutions to any of the country’s problems and nobody, even the news media, took much notice that “there was no there there in my campaign,” he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, while expressing shock at Trump’s announcement, said, “After I thought about it a bit, I realized this made a lot more sense then the campaign he was running. The joke’s on us.”

Fifty-one Republicans immediately announced their candidacy to replace Trump on the ballot.

Asked if he felt any remorse about fooling so many people, Trump answered in typical Trumpian style: “No. They’re all losers.”

Read more here:

OK, guess it's not real after I could not confirm this anywhere else, but it sure had me excited for a while.

Today's walk

August 7th, 2016 at 12:12 am

Today's walk was 65 minutes long. This is the last day of the week, so I can tell you I exercised 313 minutes this week, or 6.2 hours. That's a lot for me. All of it was walking (6 out of the 7 days) plus for 1 hour of yoga today.

It's positively tropical like, inside and out, and despite a brief rain shower, it's still muggy.

Out of habit i went to walk the grounds of the old state mental hospital.

This area is known as the High Meadow.

They've begun tearing down one of the old buildings on the campus. I don't think they have any special plans for the ground it stands on. I do know they are saving the cupolas of each building they tear down. I saw three of them all sitting together like so many giant chess pieces. They could do something very creative with them. I am sure they will rehab them.

For Dido or anyone who wants to know how to post pictures, here are some brief instructions:

Write your post as you normally would. Then click on "Save and Add Images" below.

Click on the "Browse" button, find the photo you want to post in your computer files, and hit attach. You'll see the photo pop up below. Click "Save as Draft" and then wait for it to show up with a code that looks something like this: [img]a number here[img].

You need to copy that code and paste it in your post.

Then you can click Publish.

Let's get moving

August 5th, 2016 at 01:49 pm

I'm going to try to post a photo of each day's walk here, to make myself more accountable and more likely to follow through on my plan to walk 6 days a week.

Somehow, the weight has crept up on me. It's 146, making me heavier than I've ever been. I was in my 120s in my 20s and 30s. At age 50, I weighed 131 lbs. And now, 7 years later, I'm 15 lbs heavier. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? I'm still not wholly vegan, maybe 75%, and it's usually eating out fairly often with dad that is when I go off vegan fare.

Aside from that, I still must be doing something wrong to be gaining, instead of losing. I must admit that while I rarely eat meat or dairy or white flour products, I do consume a fair amount of olive olive oil. This may be the culprit. For instance, one of my favorite things in summer is to pick the basil from my garden and make some pesto over whole grain pasta. The other way I consume oil is through salad dressings, and I do eat a lot of salads. I do have an oil-free salad dressing recipe I tried, which is pretty good, but I haven't made any lately.

I also have an oil-free pesto recipe but haven't tried it yet. Maybe it's time.

Today's walk was 45 minutes. I had to make a detour as the park I was planning on going through was filled with throngs of excited little children on some sort of summer school outing. I could hear their delighted shrieks and screams as they played a game clear across the meadow. Maybe they know they have only one more month of summer left and so many more games to play.

This is Ram Pasture in the center of town and about a mile from where I live. The local farmers used to communally graze their sheep here pre-Revolutionary War...hence the name.

This is the trail that leads to a park set up to attract the kiddies, with a pavilion that can be used for various activities, tennis courts and a little kids' playground, plus a skateboard park.

Purchase mess-up

August 4th, 2016 at 07:45 pm

About a week before I was laid off, I spent $80 at Payless Decor on a bamboo shade for the door in my sun room. It gets VERY hot and sunny in there and I actually can't use the sun room becus it gets so hot. About a year or two ago I had gotten bamboo shades for all 6 windows in the sun room from Payless Decor.

I had a sample of the shade pattern/color I wanted called "Dali Tuscan." When I went on the site, I did not see Dali Tuscan but I did see Dali Natural. I guess becus they shared the same Dali name, I assumed it was the same shade.

It was not. I have the shade up and it fits perfectly, but it's noticeably darker and also a different pattern than the others shades on the windows. I guess I could live with it but I wanted it to blend in with everything else in there and instead, it kind of stands out.

So I called the company to see if there was anything they could do. The shades are non-returnable since they are custom cut and measured, but I'm sort of hoping they could give me, say, a 50% discount if I order the shade again, although the Dali Tuscan is now out of stock and I don't even know if they'll get it back. And I don't know if they would be that generous. Kind of a bummer.

It was a careless mistake, and I should have called before ordering, but I also think it was not very smart of them to have more than one shade called "Dali."

In other news...

I got my newest bonus credit card in the mail, the Bank Americard Mastercard with my choice of baseball team logo (the Yankees) printed on it. This one is as easy as can be: just charge up $500 worth of stuff in 3 months and get a $200 statement credit back.

I went with dad to pick up his AC at Best Buy and then we went to lunch, but he would not let me come and help him move the AC up the stairs into his place. Men can be very stubborn. He has a dolly, but is very unsteady on his feet and walks with a cane.

My library has a program where they want to encourage summer reading so for each book you read and write a brief review about, you get a shot at winning one of a half dozen prizes, gift certificates from local merchants.

An old boyfriend of mine, with whom I still stay in touch, lost his mother around the same time as I did. Like my mother, his father was a professional artist, a painter of horses. I would say his father achieved more success than my mother did. His mother managed a catalog business of prints of his oil paintings, and he also illustrated many children's horse books.

He is faced with the task of emptying out his mother's home, which contains a lifetime of stuff and his dad's art; he has a sister in California who hasn't been able to assist that much. This is what I went through with mom's condo, albeit on a smaller scale. He called me last night for my birthday, and he was also donating and selling art but still had so many prints left, he said he would just give them away. I immediately said I would love to have one. Not that I have the room for it, but it would remind me of my friend and his dad was a very nice man, and very talented. I am sure his art is worth quite a bit. It just can be very difficult to find the right market, especially when you're working f/t.

Do you live in California and shop at Kohls?

August 4th, 2016 at 12:07 pm

If so, be sure to click link below (or copy and paste in your browser) to become a claimant in this class action settlement over pricing labels.

Adjustment in progress

August 4th, 2016 at 12:08 am

It still feels weird to be home all day with all this unstructured time. I am still adjusting.

Today, for instance, was doubly weird. It was the first time my mother didn't call to wish me happy birthday. I've been kind of mopey and sad ad teary-eyed since yesterday. My dad wished me happy birthday yesterday, but was planning on driving down to Jersey today to pay his property taxes. My sister and I don't speak anymore (my choice). A few friends called me, but that was about it. It was kind of a business-as-usual day.

The day's biggest accomplishments were driving down to probate court to return more forms to them (they returned another form) and going for a long (75-minute) walk on the very back roads of my town, past the horse farm, down gravel roads, past Cherry Hill Farm, through the woods and on and on. I love the old country road names, names like Ox Hill and Beaver Dam Road and Mt. Nebo Road. It was very nice to take a LONG walk, something that challenged me physically more than my usual 30-, 40- or 50-minute walks.

I am not religious, but I consider the woods my church, and the tall trees that form a canopy overhead, my steeple. At times, walking along a country road, it is a religious experience when I hear nothing but the sounds of summer: the breeze, the birds, the crickets. If anything will pull me out of my slump, it will be spending time outside in nature. I have to push myself to venture further to other spots I used to visit. It is easy to forget what you've given up.

Otherwise, I spent most of the day at the computer, mostly working on the Coroflot site to build my portfolio pages. I think this is largely a waste of time. A commenter here did very kindly send me a link where you can easily convert PDFs to jpgs, but the many steps involved in scanning items, creating PDfs, converting to jpgs and then uploading the jpgs to the coroflot site is crazy time-consuming. The jpgs do look much better than the photos I attempted to take of printed writing samples outside. I may wind up redoing those. Eventually, if I ever get to finish uploading what I feel are an adequate representation of my different writing styles, I will put my Coroflot address on my resume. Although many places let you send attached documents with your resume anyway.

Hopefully Best Buy will have dad's AC in tomorrow so we can go pick it up. I did also finally succeed So in getting the new DVD player I bought working with my TV so we can watch a special movie I purchased, a spy movie dad said he remembers watching decades ago that featured the German-American Bund camp he went to as a child. I wanted us to view it together as part of my family tree research. So now we can do that; I hadn't realized that I had to completely unplug the 3 Roku plugs before the DVD player would work.

I'm keeping busy

August 2nd, 2016 at 02:03 pm

Today I saw a job posting in search of someone who was "relentlessly creative." Big eye roll. Another one specified that I "must love data." Who writes these things?

Yesterday I vacuumed but spent most of the day working on building my page on Because I'm posting examples of my writing, which are not jpgs, it required me to keep running outside to photography my documents in daylight. One little jiggle of the camera messed it up, as I needed to get as close as possible for legibility purposes, but I didn't want to cut off any corners. If they had just made it possible to download MS Word docs, all this wouldn't be necessary. Sign.

I don't think I'll spend a whole lot more time on it. I've loaded a bunch of case study writing samples, a sales brochure and some web writing. But not all of it is readable so anyone interested would need to request a URL from me, which I could much more easily provide. So despite what the recruiter said, I don't think this is the be all and end all. I doubt I'll ever use it. Easier to email URL links or bring actual hard copies with me on an interview.

I now have connected with a 2nd worthy nonprofit in town who has expressed their desire to take some of mom's art. I sent them a detailed email with links to some online stories about mom with photos of her work about a week ago and explained what my intent was.

You may not know this if you live outside CT, but a number of the families of the 12/14 children have started various organizations or foundations that in some way honor their children's interests. The one I am donating to had a little girl who was very fond of animals. They are building a farm sanctuary for neglected or abused farm animals. Actually, they are well on their way to renovating an old barn where the animals will be housed, and construction will start next year on the offices of the organization. I believe the wooded land was donated by the state of Connecticut.

I am very happy they have graciously accepted and now I need to schedule a time they can visit me at my home and see the art, either picking and choosing what they want from a certain selection I'll put together, or taking it all. I have at least another dozen pieces for them in a variety of sizes and mediums.

Mom would be very touched, I think. She loved children, and she loved animals of every sort.

I am also dropping off 3 pieces at a local frame shop today for an upcoming exhibit (theme, "Landscapes").

And if Best Buy gets my dad's AC in, I'll be taking him there to pick it up and get it up the stairs into his apartment and in the window. More warm days ahead, I am sure.