Home > Archive: June, 2017

Archive for June, 2017

Friday fun

June 30th, 2017 at 11:55 pm

We're in the middle of a pretty powerful thunderstorm now. Well, the thunder has moved off to the distance but it's still raining pretty hard. I had to bring a bunch of cacti inside.

Yesterday I spent some enjoyable time at the cat shelter when I donated Waldo's favorite scratching post and 3 bags of cat pill pockets. The volunteer there, the same one I worked with when adopting Luther/Waldo, walked with me from room to room to show me all their cats. The place was so overcrowded 8 years ago; now they only have about 25 cats.

I think she was hoping I might adopt another one. There were a few nice ones I liked, but I don't think I will be tempted. She also suggested maybe I could start coming to socialize the cats until I find a job, as they've lost some volunteers. I might consider it.

I did practically nothing today. I actually drove out to Aldi's and Walmart just to have something to do. Picked up a few things at each place.

Dropping in on Bill and Hillary

June 29th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

Dad mentioned he planned to drive down to Jersey yesterday and invited me to come along, so I did. I don't especially look forward to the drive, but I will take the wheel to keep dad from doing so on some very heavily congested roads in heavy traffic.

We paid a visit to my half-brother. He was working from home because his wife, who was recently laid off, had a job interview to go to and someone needed to stay with their young daughter.

So we got to see everyone but their son, who was in daycare. We only stayed about a half hour as they had things to do.

Afterwards, we stopped at the bank and then Bendix Diner, a local landmark near Teterboro Airport which has been there for years and is your typical greasy spoon diner.

It struck me how ethnically diverse New Jersey is, especially compared to where I live in Connecticut. The woman who helped us at the bank was Egyptian, the guys at the gas station were Sikh Indian and the owner of the diner was probably eastern European.

My dad has mentioned several times when we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge how proud it makes him feel to be an American. A new bridge is being built next to the existing one and it's very striking to see. There are a million cranes in the Hudson. I told dad that seeing how ethnically diverse Jersey is made me proud to be an American. It is, after all, how this country was built.

Dad learned that the Clintons live in tony Chappaqua, NY in northern Westchester, and had expressed curiosity to see where they lived. I figured the way back would be a good time to do so since we go right through that area.

I easily found the address online and warned dad we wouldn't see much because of a tall white fence/gate around the property, which is only 1.1 acres, smaller than mine! They live in a 5,000 square foot Dutch Colonial mostly hidden from view. It was built in the 1880s.

So we drove down the short dead-end street and as expected, we found about 6 black Secret Service vehicles, all with tinted windows, clustered at the end of the dead-end in front of the Clinton home. I couldn't tell if anyone was in the vehicles or elsewhere. I'd also read that the Clintons bought the house next door so Chelsea would have a place to stay with the kids when she came to visit. We could see that house, an unremarkable ranch which I'm sure is quite nice inside.

I didn't want to attract any Secret Service agents, so I didn't even stop as I slowly turned around in the cul-de-sac, but Dad still got a chuckle out of seeing it. Instead of getting back onto 684, we took back roads through the wealthy horse country of northern Westchester County, then crossed over into Fairfield County and on home.

We came back to my place and I sent dad home with a delicious slice of orange cake I got at the farmer's market the day before. So it was a good day with dad and it kept my mind off Waldo.

In other news...
Amazon customer service is always good. I was able to get a refund of several bags of cat pill pockets I no longer need, and they didn't require me to return the bags either, so I will donate them to a local animal shelter.

I am meeting the volunteer there this morning who helped me adopt Luther and Waldo 8 years ago. I had kept in touch with her all this time, sending her Christmas emails with their photos. I'm donating Waldo's favorite scratching post. She was happy to take it as it's a "deluxe" post that set me back about $60, but it's very sturdy and won't tip over. I suspect she is hoping I'll adopt another cat but I've already told her I don't want to. Still, it will be enjoyable to see all the kitties there. I just hope I'm not tempted.

I finally heard back from someone at the fire department sponsoring the fiddling contest that dad wanted to attend. They have ample handicap parking which shortens the walk to about 100 feet, which is on level ground, and they do plan to spray for ticks prior to the concert. They also have "gators," which he said is like a golf cart, so he said just ask at the front gate and drop my dad off there directly and then go the lot and park my car. So it all sounds doable, especially if we could get some help with the lawn chairs we'll want to bring. The only remaining concern is if it's a hot or humid day and there's no shade (forgot to ask him that) it could be uncomfortable and my dad doesn't use sunscreen.

Family matters and cat dynamics

June 27th, 2017 at 02:14 pm

Fawn "spotted" in my side yard this morning. The doe comes daily to eat the fallen fruit from the apple tree, and now she's brought her fawn.

Thanks, everyone, for all the condolences. I spent all day yesterday moping around. I forced myself to go and run some errands to try to regain a sense of normalcy. I kind of felt like I was just going through the motions.

I also took a walk at Fairfield Hills last night because it was such a beautiful summer day. It's where I used to go when my mother was still battling dementia, and I do find nature to be a comfort. It reminded me that while I am wholly absorbed in my loss, there is much in the world that is active and alive, buzzing, vibrant and healthy. The beat goes on.

I feel like there's a big hole in my life that Waldo used to fill. It sounds silly, but we used to be a threesome here, and now it's just me and Luther. I was very much aware of my cats' presence in my home. I might be busy doing other things, but I always knew they were there, somewhere, lounging in the sun room or pattering around in the kitchen, or wrestling each other in the family room. And periodically I would take a break from the computer, my job search or whatever I was doing to wander downstairs and see what they were up to, rub a chin or toss a toy.

So now Luther is the recipient of all my attention and I feel myself becoming anxious to know where he is and what he's doing all the time instead of taking him for granted. He must be aware of Waldo's absence, but I don't know that he misses his presence. When I brought the empty cat carrier home, I let Luther sniff it, and the towel inside, before I put it away.

The only other clue I had as to Luther's thought process, if you can call it that in a cat, is that when I fed Luther yesterday, he looked around for Waldo. Both cats did that if I happened to crack open a can of food with only one of them there. They were both concerned about getting to the food first, Luther especially, since Waldo was very food-oriented and would enthusiastically push his face toward the bowl whether Luther had begun eating or not. This was off-putting to Luther, who would then retreat and wait for Waldo to finish before going back to the dish. They were chums, but he preferred to eat his meals solo.

Luther is a very handsome cat, but truth be told, he played second fiddle to Waldo, who captured my heart with his affectionate nature. It was also incredibly rewarding to be able to "tame" an essentially feral cat.

Luther suffered from his time at the shelter in his own way. He was there for a much shorter time than Waldo (months vs years), but you can tell he didn't get much attention there becus he has always disliked getting touched much. It often drives me nuts when he slinks away from under my hand, not wanting to be touched. He is always in good spirits and happily accompanies me from room to room or bounds up on a table if I am looking at something there. To Luther, life inside this house is a grand adventure. If I go in the basement or to the attic, he often races ahead of me, reaching the destination before I do.

He wants to be "involved." He will seek out affection, sometimes jumping on my lap, and only then will he accept being pet.

He never gave any indication that Waldo getting to the food first bothered him. (I would later feed them in separate bowls but even then Luther preferred to wait til Waldo was done.)

When they were both in the kitchen and I was preparing their food, Waldo would get so excited he would sometimes circle the small kitchen island, meowing in excitement, and for some reason this would irritate Luther, who would swat at Waldo as if to say, "Cut it out, bro."

So when I cracked open a can of food yesterday, I thought I caught Luther looking up and into another room, as if expecting to see Waldo come running.

Things are quiet here. This morning, Waldo did not wake me up in the morning, demanding breakfast. I actually slept til 7:30, which is unusual. After spending the night downstairs, where it's cooler, Luther had jumped up on the bed in the early morning, but he was content to lay there quietly while I slept.

I heard back from the shelter volunteer who helped me adopt both Waldo and Luther 8 years ago. Waldo had always been one of her all-time favorite cats there, so I would send her Christmas emails with photos and updates on both. She thanked me for letting her know, and she said he couldn't have had a better home. She had come here to do a house check when I adopted, at the time when I was getting the sun room done, putting built-in benches there just for the cats!

Shortly before Waldo got sick, I had renewed both of his meds for the maximum quantity, 90 days. One prescription was from the old vet I no longer plan to use; I had simply renewed the med as I thought it easier to do since the new vet would not give me the same med without bloodwork and an exam. I realized there was a seal on the bottle and I decided to see if I could return the bottle. They said yes, so I drove down there yesterday and was able to get a $55 refund.

The other med from the new vet was not sealed and cost half the price of the first one, so instead of asking for a refund I asked if I could return it so they could use with either animal rescue groups they work with or low-income patients. They said yes, thank you, they do that all the time. So it made me feel a little better knowing Waldo's leftover meds would help others who maybe couldn't afford them.

I got a really nice phone call from my cousin last night. Strangely, I had been wanting to talk to him about losing Waldo. I say strangely because at first blush we wouldn't seem to have a lot in common and you might not think him particularly sympathetic.

He's an avid gun collector, including semi-automatic things, Uzis and the like, something wholly anathema to my entire community post 12/14. And also to me, but I haven't really expressed my opinion on that.

But just having the family connection, of knowing he is my late grandmother's favorite sister's son, somehow creates this instant bond, a sense of loyalty and fondness for someone I don't remember ever meeting. He said he met both me and my sister when we were very little and visiting my grandparents, and in fact my grandmother scolded him for teasing my sister when my cousin was about 14.

But anyway, he told me how much he enjoyed his little visit here and how he wished we had all reunited years earlier. I've had the same feeling, because there is so much more we all could have done. It makes me feel a little wistful. But later is better than never. He also said he wished we lived closer together.

He lost his wife years back. She was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was very successful in his work, but his home life for many years was hellish. He has two grown daughters. He said he has a decent relationship with them but was envious of the relationship my dad and I have, that the caliber of the relationship he has with his daughters is nothing compared to what dad and I have. He also said that I have all the qualities that he is lacking, that I am kind and tactful, organized and thoughtful. It is a curious thing to see yourself through others' eyes.

And I feel very fortunate to have a good relationship with dad. From age of 6 on, I saw my dad (divorced from mom) very little, and as a teenager I drifted apart from him, knowing he was busy raising his second family. There was well over a decade when I had no contact with him at all. So yes, dad is precious to me and in these past few years since he's been living near me I have gotten to know him so much better.

While J. was visiting, my dad has asked me if I would mind if he invited my sister to our final dinner out with J. I said no, not at all. Neither of us were sure she would want to come because if there's one thing I know about my sister, she won't do anything that makes her the littlest bit uncomfortable. She won't do things purely to please others; there has to be something in it for her.

It occurred to me after my dad asked me that this dinner could be an opportunity for me and my sister to come closer to a reconciliation without necessarily having to deal with each other one to one. We really haven't had anything to do with each other since my mother's death in December 2015. Once or twice my father gave me a dozen eggs, compliments of my sister's chickens, and there was one time my sister and I politely said hello to each other when I was picking my father up for dinner.

As it turned out, my sister declined dad's invitation. I know he was disappointed because he wanted her to meet J., knowing it might even be the last opportunity to do so. Everyone is getting older. He told me he wanted to say something but decided he'd better not. Dad is always very careful not to tell any of his kids what to do; I think he has a fear that doing so could alienate them. I've told him I don't think that would happen and that in fact I would welcome his opinions and thoughts whenever. He has good relationships with 3 of his 4 kids. My younger half-brother doesn't seem to have much to do with him and I'm not sure why. My dad is not the type to force himself on people if he feels he's not wanted, so that's the way things have been for a while.

Relationships are complicated.

Today, and this week in fact, I have very little planned. I keep a daily calendar listing things to do,and it's very light. Today I'll go to the farmer's market for the first time this year, and also to the dump. When you recycle organics (kitchen waste), you want to get rid of it quickly before it attracts fruit flies. I'll also walk, and maybe do all 3 in the same trip.

Waldo: a great cat

June 26th, 2017 at 02:59 pm

I had to have Waldo euthanized this morning. His kidneys were failing.

I thought after losing my mom in 2015 that anything else would be easy, but of course that's not really true. The vet did a good job, remained calm yet compassionate, and the whole procedure went smoothly. I very much appreciate that since I can't say the same for the prior 3 times I've been through this.

I am very sad and miss my baby. He was the most affectionate cat I've ever had, and the only one who would repeatedly head butt me in affection, or lay down on my pillow wrapped around my head, or climb onto my shoulder in a recliner chair, just to be close. He truly was a love bug, and while he learned the joys of chasing a string or even a live mouse every now and then, he much preferred to snuggle up and be petted.

I got him when we were both in middle age. He was 8, only knew the shelter and was afraid of people. For months he lived under a small cabinet in my office and I would bring his food up to him and lay on the floor while I talked to him. He would only come out late at night, when all was still. It took a full year for him to come around and let me touch him. When I first tried to play with him, he was frightened of the string over his head and ran off. He was basically afraid of his own shadow.

But he came a long way since then. Incredulously, I noticed at one point he no longer was bothered by thunder and lightening. Even my noisy blender didn't faze him. Still, he would hide when people came to the house. My mother saw something gray once as he raced from the room. Interestingly, he came out a few times when my father was here, but no one else ever saw him in 8 years' time.

He bonded with Luther and they often groomed each other and were always in each other's company. He would chirp with pleasure as I gave him a massage, and he especially loved that little spot on the lower back, just above the tail. He lived to be petted and rubbed, as if making up for lost time.

The hairbrush, catnip and a piece of Alaskan salmon every now and then were special treats.

I didn't think I'd have him this long as none of my prior 3 cats lived to be 16.

He had a good life, and I miss him dearly.

Watching and waiting

June 26th, 2017 at 01:11 am

There's not a whole lot I can do for Waldo right now. I am waiting until tomorrow when I hope to get him in to see the vet ASAP. Waldo has continued to refuse all food, including things he usually loves, like tuna and those little Fancy Feast packets of anchovies and other delectables.

He is very lethargic, sleeping all day with frequent trips to the kitchen to drink water. Lots of water. Which means either diabetes (which could be reversible once I taper him off the prednisolone he's been on for his asthma) or kidney failure, which is not. The alternative treatment for his asthma would be a steroid or other drug inhaler, which I didn't think WaLdo would tolerate on a twice daily basis.

Although these things don't really explain why he's not eating. He was pretty stuffed up (congestion) Saturday morning, but it's not so noticeable now and the pollen count is low today/tomorrow. He has refused food any number of times before but until now I could coax him to eat with tempting little meals.

I am mostly worried about him not getting his 2 meds becus he is not eating. This morning I got up at 2:45 a.m. (or was it 3:45 am) and decided to try to pill him a half dose of the prednisolone because there can be serious repercussions if you don't taper off this steroid over a period of weeks. I succeeded in getting that down his throat, but he would not let me pill him the 2nd med he's on for his hyperthyroidism. The more time goes by, issues with that could arise.

I know they'll do bloodwork but doesn't that take days to get the results? He needs to eat.

I have been mentally preparing myself to euthanize him tomorrow. I will see what the problem is first and then make a decision. I am not one to spend untold dollars to keep an animal going til the bitter end. I think that's kind of selfish. It's going to be hard, no matter what. He's been a good cat, the most affectionate I've ever had, and he's lived longer than I expected, since I got him from the shelter when he was 8. He's been with me another 8 years.

I've stayed pretty close to home today. Felt terribly tired all morning. The woman did stop by at 9 and picked up the headboard I was selling. I did some pruning of shrubs in the afternoon and puttered with my outdoor potted plants, but otherwise, felt distracted and unable to do much other than call my cousin, who has numerous dogs and cats, to talk to her about what's going on.

Getting Waldo to the vet tomorrow is my only priority. Scooping him up in time to make an appointment can be tough, since I never know where exactly he'll be and I don't want to grab him so early that he has to sit, terrified, in his carrier for an hour. I will have to grab him when he's coming or going to his water dish, because his main resting places would be hard for me to reach: behind an easel and under a twin bed in the family room. I don't think he has any energy; that may work in my favor.

Summer fun

June 24th, 2017 at 08:34 pm

I got my 1st electric bill since using the central air. I was kind of pleasantly surprised as it was up maybe $10, at $81. Granted, I didn't use it daily, only when the humidity was oppressive, like today. For a total of about 5 days.

My cousin has returned to PA. Gosh, what a talker. I have grown fond of him, and that won't change (I kind of miss him already), but I find it very tiring to spend extended time with someone who talks nonstop.

So we ate all our lunches and dinners out except for one lunch I had at my house. My dad and he ate breakfast each day at the diner across from his motel.

I have lots of leftovers now. Smile Otherwise, all we did besides eating out and the river cruise was after lunch yesterday I took him and dad to get an ice cream cone at the farm ice cream stand. They even have diabetic ice cream.

After that, I did the grand tour of my home town; we stopped in at the old town hall so I could show him the beautiful painted wall murals of different spots and historic buildings and homes around town, plus the theater, which is pretty unusual.

We also made stops at Fairfield Hills, the organic farm, the new school built after the shootings, historic Main Street, Ram Pasture and The Pleasance and our two lake boat ramps, the Victory Garden, the solar panels all over town, and where I go hiking, the new fire station, the new volunteer ambulance building. I guess I could have been a realtor.

He had never seen CT before so he came away with a favorable view and said he'd have to drive all over his county to show me comparable things.

Earlier this week, just in time for the cousin's visit, I got a call that my bench cushion was ready.

It's an old, out of print Waverly pattern. It looks great and I guess she over-calculated how much fabric I'd need because there was a full yard left over...enough to cover the 2 seat pads on 2 very old chairs of my mother's. I did the seat pads myself and they came out fine. I used a staple gun and glue, as they had been done before, but I removed some small nails in the chair that seemed like they would puncture the new fabric when I put the seat back down on it; so I hope the seat pads will stay in place if people sit on them.

I STILL have enough left over fabric to make a pillow, although I don't sew, don't have a machine and I don't want to pay for a pillow. Anyone have any easy pillow construction methods where I can sew my hand?

I have someone coming over tomorrow a.m. to hopefully buy a twin wood headboard. I'm only asking $20 after having no takers for a long time. I don't like the dark wood but it could be painted and I think new it would be about $50.

Got paid $105 from a freelance client. Smile

I'm a little worried about Waldo. He hasn't eaten all day, and as a result, he also hasn't had his morning 2 meds. This kind of thing has happened before, and then he comes around and eats, but it usually doesn't last this long. He was sounding stuffed up/congested, so if he can't smell his food he won't eat. I already have him on meds for the allergies and cant' increase the dose. I had the windows closed with AC on and AC brings in air from outside. But it rained this a.m. which should have brought the polllen count down.

I tried fishy smelling food. Not much else I can do. He shouldn't be off his meds and he's pretty old.

Great day for a river cruise

June 22nd, 2017 at 11:02 pm

We had a picture-perfect day for our river cruise. Sunny and warm but dry, not muggy.

It was pretty relaxing and interesting to listen to our captain and mate talk about the river, historical points of interest, the comeback of the ospreys and eagles and so. There are hundreds of osprey nesting on the river, the Gillette Castle, the unusual truss bridge that opens perpendicularly for boats to pass (not upright). One of the osprey nests is on a pillar of that bridge that opens out across the river whenever a tall ship goes under. The birds don't seem to mind.

I brought water and some grapes to snack on. It was fun to look at the sonar results on a large TV screen showing little markings where all the fish were. There were a lot of fish.

Another cruise boat...ours was much smaller with just one level but very comfortable.

This is the East Haddam Bridge as it's swinging open to allow a tall ship to pass. The white building at right is a historic opera house which was saved from the wrecking ball and continues to host theater shows, many of which began there and made it big on Broadway, including Annie.

Here's a closer view of the backside of the opera house.

We hit a lot of traffic coming back and had a late lunch at one of the better restaurants in my dad's area.

I'm so pooped.

My black swallowtail caterpillars are coming along nicely, having grown from the first instar (all black with a single stripe in the middle) into a larger version of themselves with the more colorful striped variations you see here. They will get larger yet. I have two separate pots protected from parasitic wasps with tomato hoops covered with paint strainer netting: 1 with 4 caterpillars and 1 with 8 caterpilllars.

Family matters

June 22nd, 2017 at 11:32 am

My cousin arrived yesterday and we met for dinner last night at a local diner with dad.

I felt bad because while he didn't run into any major snafus on the trip out here (4.5 hrs), he followed his GPS and took I95 north, right through NYC, which I would have avoided at all costs due to traffic.

I have gone online and printed out directions for a different way home to Harrisburg area via the Tappan Zee, not the GW Bridge.

This morning is our trip for the Connecticut River cruise, about an hour's drive from here. I made a 7 am wake-up call to him this a.m. as he asked, but I got his recorded message; hopefully he was just in the shower.

I am already feeling a little fatigued, perhaps mentally more than anything, as I feel responsible for the welfare and comfort of both my father (84) and my cousin (70).

Both have major vision problems (my cousin has had 11 eye surgeries) and trouble walking, getting about, and even just getting in and out of my car, as Hondas sit a little low to the ground. I am doing all the driving and basically orchestrating events during my cousin's visit.

He is staying at a local motel because dad doesn't have much room at his apartment above my sister's barn, and I would not be able to medicate Waldo (2x daily) if someone were staying here. Waldo would just not come out from hiding til he left.

Friday they will be over for a vegan lunch (a sweet potato, string bean and black bean salad with cilantro dressing and a wheat berry salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, scallions and chopped apple) and after that I figured we'd hit the local farm ice cream stand (they have diabetic flavors) and then a brief driving tour of my town.

My dad was here the other day to show me some paperwork he got from his lawyer. Poor dad has had a long running problem with his tenant, who has paid every month's rent late for over a year, and she has not vacated the premises by end of April as was dictated by an earlier court order.

This has all resulted from my dad failing to do a background check on this woman before he rented to her. So he had no idea she's done this before and never could afford to rent his old house on the shore in the first place. He's been trying to evict for about 6 months now and recently changed attorneys because he didn't feel the first one was paying attention. I'm not sure I would have done that since now the new attorney is not familiar with the history of this case.

The problem is my dad just makes his own decisions unilaterally and I only hear of what's happened after the fact, when it's harder to fix things or possibly steer him in a different direction.

He has trouble reading things now and the paperwork he brought over I read out loud to him so he knew what he was signing! He had the stamp on the envelop and was ready to mail it. As it turned out, the papers incorrectly stated the tenant was $8,000 behind in rent; dad said she has only not paid for May and June rent to date. So I had to get on the phone with the attorney's assistant and explain that; she sent revised paperwork over to me via email, I had dad sign it last night when I picked him up for dinner, and then I emailed it back to the attorney last night when I got home. This greatly expedited things since without me, my dad would be mailing stuff to the attorney and vice versa.

Now dad wants to go to a "Pickin' and Fiddlin'" concert coming up in July in my area. It's an annual fiddling competition and we both like that kind of music. I had considered taking him but had decided it might not be a good idea since it gets a large crowd and involved a bit of walking to get to in a park on an uneven surface. Dad walks with a cane and is not steady on his feet. Someone brushing up against him could knock him off balance. Plus if it's hot and sunny it would not be pleasant since it's an outdoor event.

So I had decided against it without mentioning it to him but he saw it in the paper and said he wants to go. We'd need to bring lawn chairs with us; we only have one that folds. Dad can't carry one with a cane. Ugh. I tried to invite a friend to join us (and help carry stuff) but they can't come.

Trials and tribulations.

Waiting for a phone call

June 19th, 2017 at 04:20 pm

I realized I'm running low on both of Waldo's medications, which I get from 2 different vets. The one vet makes it kind of a hassle because when you call to renew the med, they make you wait for a return phone call that the prescription is ready.

Usually they call back in an hour, but today I called them at 9:30 am and I'm still waiting! I like to consolidate all my driving trips and I had a bunch of other things to do today. The vet is on the way back from the other vet, but I don't want to leave if it's not ready.

It's too hot and humid to work out in the yard doing my pruning chores. I have the AC on, but set at at a high temp of 77. If it weren't for Waldo's allergies, I would just open a bunch of windows and see how it felt.

I did a little dusting and cleaned the cat hair off some upholstered furniture. Otherwise, I've been playing Luminosity word games rather obsessively with other players.

I had the brilliant yet obvious idea to get the 2 very worn and dirty seat pads on my mother's chairs redone in the same fabric I'm using for the new bench cushion in the bookshelves. I should have the bench cushion done in another week or so, but I learned they don't do chair cushions. However, they recommended someone else; I'm guessing it'll be $50 a chair plus material cost.

The interview

June 16th, 2017 at 01:19 pm

Yesterday morning I had my job interview. It was with 2 people I'd be working with, one of them being my manager. Both are around my age. They are part of a team of 5 writers.

They seemed pretty nice. I was there about 1.5 hours. He gave me a brief writing assignment summarizing an actual "Situation Report" of what this organization is doing to help with the drought in Vietnam. I did this when I got home and sent it on in to them last night.

My friend thinks I did a great job with the 1st writing assignment (the answers to 5 key questions) and he thinks I'll get the job. But I kick myself for answering one of the questions (what was your favorite job, and why?) by describing several job I liked a lot because they allowed me a fair degree of latitude in how I performed the job and that in some jobs I was able to define my role as I went along. He emphasized in the interview that this job was not really like that. I hope this doesn't make him think I'm not the right fit. I emphasized my strong interest in an email following the interview.

He also did say they will be talking to 3 other people besides me. I'm the 2nd one they interviewed. He's away next week so he expects to be making a decision shortly after the 4th of July. Which I don't mind, as it gives me 3 weeks to enjoy the summer. I am also still applying for other jobs if I see something. Technically I have just a 25% chance of getting the job.

He said it was a given that whoever they hire is a good writer/editor, but beyond that, they want to make sure that the person they hire can get along well with the rest of their team and is "unflappable" in dealing with their field offices in far-flung locations and can deal with stressful situations. He also mentioned that all the writers have to be on call on a rotating schedule on weekends in case some humanitarian crisis situation develops. When there's an emergency, they have to write something up really quick that can be sent to their current roster of donor corporations, asking them to help with recovery efforts. He also wanted to be sure I was ok with an "open office" setting. Which means they all sit very close to each other without much privacy.

The job does sound very interesting, unique, even, and certainly very different than anything I've done. I'm sure it would be a real eye-opener.

In other news, I had my well pump recharged this morning; it services my outdoor water only. I won't have to carry buckets of water from my kitchen to water all my outdoor plants anymore. I let it go too long but was procrastinating as I didn't want to spend the money. I feel like I've been spending, spending, spending. It came to about $130 and I got a 5% Angie's List discount. If I'd had exact change, I could have gotten the 10% discount for paying in cash; I had the money, but only in bigger bills. Darn.

I've schedule my cousin from PA's visit for a few days next week. I need to tidy up the downstairs, go grocery shopping to buy snacks/drinks and maybe even tidy up the front gardens outside. I've done next to no yardwork this year, and it shows.

I continue to get mailed solicitations from various groups addressed to my mother; she was fond of donating very small amounts to lots of different charities, and these charities share their mailing lists with other groups, so it all just proliferates. I had to call another one today to remove her name from their list.

For Carol....(butterfly talk)

June 14th, 2017 at 08:02 pm

I read about an easy way to build a butterfly habitat that is inexpensive and easy for even a klutz like myself to do.

I bought two 2-paks of "paint strainers" in paint area of Lowes for about $3.60 each. You carefully pull the netting over an upside down tomato hoop. Not a jumbo-sized hoop, which is too big, but a regular sized hoop. You will still need to bend the 3 prongs on the bottom all the way down. You want to make sure the netting covers all the way to the bottom, to prevent parasitic wasps from getting in there.

I used an old pizza pan on the bottom covered with paper towels. You will want to keep the bottom clean of caterpillar poop, and they do poop a lot.

These do seem lightweight enough that they could blow over on a stiff wind, so you may have to keep an eye on it, or simply keep it indoors.

I stocked up on fresh ORGANIC parsley plants at my local organic farmer. The parsley MUST be organic or the caterpillars will die.

This is what the first instar looks like. At first, you will see tiny, pale green round eggs. The first instar comes next. I counted 7.

I should be prepping for my job interview for tomorrow, but I'm having too much fun. Smile

A new interview

June 13th, 2017 at 05:57 pm

After a phone screening and an exercise that involved my answering 5 key questions in writing, I've been invited to interview for the international nonprofit group I mentioned here earlier. This week!

I took a LOT of care in answering those questions; it came out to 3 pages. Hopefully it demonstrated my overall intelligence and interest in the job.

So I'm excited to get the interview so quickly and I'm feeling very bound and determined to get this job, one, because I think it would be an interesting job, and two, because a perm job with health coverage would get me out of this endless loop of worries about health insurance and how to keep it.

During the phone screening, she asked what salary I wanted and I sidestepped the question, saying I understood a nonprofit job would pay less and that I was okay with that. Still, she persisted, so I'm glad I did my homework and researched what similar jobs at this nonprofit paid on Glassdoor. When pressed for a number, I said something in the $50s and she said yes, we were thinking mid-50s. So no worries there. To be honest, if I hadn't done the research on Glassdoor, I might have been afraid to suggest anything higher than $45 to $50K, simply because I didn't know the going rate.

Thirteen years ago I took a job with a starting pay of $50K, and that was when I still had my mortgage. Not only that, but I was still able to contribute to a 401(k). Not the max, but it was something. So my years of hard work in prepaying that mortgage early will pay off for me here; I'll be able to take a lower-paying job (if offered) and apply all the income that would otherwise go toward paying the mortgage and invest it in the 401k instead.

Working as a contractor for any length of time is not an easy job. You have to prove yourself to people who don't know you or your capabilities, over and over again. And just when you're settling into the job nicely, the contract is up and you have to scurry and find something new. It's also hard to form any lasting connections since a lot of people don't seem to want to invest the effort in getting to know someone new when they know you're only there a short while anyway. So it can be a little lonely.

The beat goes on...planning for summer fun

June 10th, 2017 at 03:45 pm

Yesterday I got an email from a national non-profit HQ'd in my area about a job I applied for there. They work with children. I think the job would be very interesting as I'd be writing lots of communications for high net worth donors. That's why they're interested in me, I think, because I have a lot of experience in all my financial services jobs writing for affluent and high net worth audiences.

She wanted to set up time for a brief phone chat, possibly later that morning, but I had already left the house earlier and by the time I saw it, it was 4:30 pm and she never responded back after I replied. I am hopeful we will talk on Monday, her alternate time slot.

I think this could be a very interesting job; it would pay less that what I'm used to (maybe in the $50s?) but as I've been saying, affordable health insurance is more important than earning top dollar. I see from reading Glassdoor reviews that they have Aetna, every other summer Friday afternoon off and liberal vacation time. On the downside, according to reviews, there are frequent layoffs, no meaningful pay raises or room for advancement, and it can be hard to take time off. I take all these comments with a grain of salt since everyone's work experience can be so different.

I'm really hopeful about this one.

My driveway guy sent me a note last night saying his guy would up here bright and early this morning to reseal the driveway. He finished up around 10 am. I'm hoping we won't see any of the pop up thunderstorms too soon, but with this heat it should dry quickly. Still, I can't drive on it for 2 days, so before he got here, I blew off the driveway and parked my car on a side street down the road.

Problem is, there's no way for me to get down to the street without walking on the driveway. There's all brushy growth and a steep slope on either side of the drive, and it's all overgrown on the side of my house where I could walk down my neighbor's drive.

Maybe by the time I go to dinner with dad tonight it will be dry enough to walk on (but not drive on). I could wear my rubber garden boots, just in case.

I finally have time to plan the get-together with my cousin and dad dad for later in June or July. Dad wants to take cousin on a river cruise, on the Connecticut River. I checked out the cruise dates, and my own calendar, and came up with 4 different time periods that would work.

The cruise is 90 minutes long and takes you by Gillette Castle and you can bald eagles and stuff. I've never done it so it would be interesting. Afterwards, I'll have to research nice places to eat for lunch. It's about an hour and a quarter from here.

Now that I'm not working, we can go during the week and feel less crowded/rushed. There's a senior discount and otherwise it costs $20.

I'm going to call my cousin today or tonight.

WE are definitely tick infested around here. Seems like everytime I pick up my outdoor watering can, I find one on it. I think ticks must have a natural instinct to climb on top of anything, and on the large, flat expanse of my driveway, I guess that was one of the few things to climb. I'm no longer going to leave it on the driveway, but will keep it on the front stoop which is a few steps up. Don't know if that will make a difference but I have NEVER seen anything like this. Ticks everywhere.

Spoke to my neighbor last night and she agreed, but she said her husband picks up more ticks than their 3 dogs. They sold 3 lambs to a wealthy couple in a nearby town that wanted to keep them as pets. Sold for $200 each. I'm so happy for the lambs. But now she has a lot of male lambs, which she doesn't want, because they will soon be sexually mature and cause problems. These are known as hairless lambs, a special breed that doesn't require shearing. They don't look hairless though.

I'm done (!) and so are the bookshelves!

June 9th, 2017 at 12:01 am

I finished my last day. It wasn't so bad. I turned in my laptop and badge, faxed in my final time sheet to the recruiter and said goodbye to a few people.

For some reason I was anxious to move on once I learned the job would be ending.

When I got home, I decided the painted bookshelves had long enough to dry (I gave them a few extra days because it was rainy every day this past week) and here they are:

I love them, because for the first time in my life, I can attractively display so many possessions near and dear to my heart, including, primarily, my grandfather's woodwork and some of my mother's art.

The paint job is not perfect; I see some drip marks I missed, and so on, but it's good enough. The small pewter knobs I bought for the 2 cabinets below came with 2 screws, one shorter and one longer. Neither of them works right. The shorter screw is too short to hold the knob and the longer screw is too long so it doesn't sit flush against the cabinet door. I will have to go to the hardware store to see if they have an in-between size. Once I get the cushion in there, I think that window will be a cat magnet.

Still to be done is a trip to the fabric store to see if they could create a custom cushion for the windows seat with foam insert. I have to take measurements; maybe I can find the size somewhere without paying extra for "custom."

I now have 4 mortar and pestles and about as many cutting boards, all made by grandpa. All of it reminds me of loved ones lost, and I sobbed like a baby while I was picking out items to display on the shelves. I don't know how people handle it. I do a terrible job.

Anyway, I feel "liberated" now and have all sorts of things on my to do list for tomorrow and beyond. I'm looking forward to having my dad over for lunch next week so he can see the bookshelves.

I am looking forward to getting back on track with more walking for exercise and getting things back in order on the home front, even as I continue looking for work.

1 more day

June 8th, 2017 at 12:16 am

It's funny how quickly your attitude can change.

When I thought I'd be working at this job all summer, I was happy to be there, no doubt helped along by visions of so much money to be made.

This week, knowing that tomorrow would be my last day, I've felt impatient to be gone and just get on with yet another change in direction in my work life.

Another exceedingly boring day today but at least no one suggested I leave early. Well, actually, at my 4 pm meeting the other writer did when she learned I didn't have much else to do besides the one thing I was editing, but since I told her I wanted to finish the full day tomorrow, she is having the junior writer give me some of the sell sheets he is working on. So tomorrow should be easier and I won't feel any particular pressure to finish what he gives me, or not.

One surprise thing I learned was that the person who hired me is leaving for another job very soon. We all just found out. I liked him.

It was very upsetting yesterday to learn that my neurologist's office is no longer going to be able to accept Cigna patients after mid-August due to some sort of contract dispute.

I have Cigna thru COBRA, and that will last til January of next year. I called the prescription company to see how many months worth of my medication remain; my doctor authorizes the med a year at a time so I can renew it each month. I have just 4 months left.

I plan to call the doctor's assistant to have her fax in a re-authorization early so this doesn't cause a problem 4 months from now, in October, when I need re-authorization for the meds.

Aside from that, I need to find out how much he charges for an office visit so I can determine how much more it would cost me to continue seeing him, if needed, on an out of network basis. So instead of a $40 copay, I'd pay 40% of the tab.

As long as I get his office to renew the meds prescription, I may very well not need to see him again before my COBRA expires in January. If I did, I might go to a different neurologist who accepted Cigna and then I'd have the option of returning to the original doctor once I had different health insurance, or sticking with the new one.

It's so hard to say what will happen, if I'll get a new perm job with new insurance, or a contract job, many of which how offer insurance if you get the job thru a recruiter. Or if ACA will still be around in some form so if I had to, I could buy it there.

I am thinking more and more that after my current job ends tomorrow, I may not return to the freelance job I had writing those college and university summaries. Before I left that job, I told her I did want to return when this contract job was up, but it just seems like so much work for the $300 or $600 I made per project. The $600 projects, for example, keep me fairly busy for a good part of the day for 5 or 6 or 7 days, so i average about $15 an hour. After taxes, it's even less, and it then complicates my tax return by having to report the freelance income.

It just doesn't seem like there's much to be gained by it aside from the money, and it demands so much time that I wonder if it makes me "feel" like I'm accomplishing something when really it's taking time away from a more directed job search.

On top of that, the company recently instituted a ranking system for all of its writers, and each one of us has received a "score" based on our writing and they are keeping notes pages personalized for each of us with admonitions to do this, not that. I rank 12th out of 43 writers. It annoys me, given the low pay I'm receiving; there is no incentive to "try harder." In fact, the net result is that it takes me even longer to finish each project because I have to check the notes pages to make sure I'm following their style and all their little rules. I mean really!

This might be a good job if I was in my 70s and didn't want to commute anywhere and was willing to just do it for pocket change, but I feel I need to make a more concerted effort to get either 1) a perm job with benefits or 2) a contract job thru a recruiter who offers health insurance to its workers. Even if that contract job was for just a few months, it would "restart" the COBRA clock, ensuring 18 months of coverage compared to the 7 months I have left now.

So in this light, any freelance writing gigs I find myself offer very little reward. As I've said before, it's the health insurance coverage, not the money, that is most important to me.

An excruciating case of lame duckitis

June 6th, 2017 at 11:05 am

As you know, I learned my job would end early last Friday. Yesterday (Monday) I had absolutely nothing to do. Am I already a lame duck?

It was one long day, sitting at my desk and pretending to be busy when I really am not. The highlights of the day were getting a half hour walk in on my lunch break and a few trips to the rest rooms, a trip or two to kitchen to replenish tea or water. Seriously.

I don't want to say I have nothing to do because then they might say okay maybe your last day is today. And I don't want to give up $1320 for the 3 remaining days there!

To sort of justify my time yesterday and hopefully trigger something for me to do today, I did at day's end turn in a revised version of something I'd written with some revamped language they hadn't asked me for.

It was excruciating.

Random stuff

June 4th, 2017 at 08:23 pm

I had dinner with dad last night at a new-to-us restaurant, which was pretty good. He had swordfish, I had scallops.

Afterwards, in the car, I read him the article I found on the region in East Germany where grandpa was from, an area known as being a violin-making capital of the world, prior to WWII when the Russians clamped down on everything.

Today began as a bright and sunny day, just perfect. I paid my federal and state estimated taxes for the 2nd quarter. I just winged it and paid 15% as the calculations using their forms rivals the 1040 form and is just ridiculous. For the amount I have to pay, it just doesn't feel worth it to spend hours figuring it out. If anything, I overpaid, and I'll get it back when I file my regular taxes.

I spent a few hours in "the courtyard" (aka, my paver driveway) potting up some parsley seedlings in hopes of having a black swallowtail caterpillar population explosion. Also planted a few more cucumber seeds. I have now used up every available pot.

I used the blower on the driveway and swept up a pile of fallen rhododendron leaves.

I used the trimmer around the yard since the mower did his thing Friday.

I watered assorted potted plants.

I contemplated throwing down more grass seed on some bare lawn spots, since I've got the seed and it's going to be off and on rainy into Thursday, but i just didn't get to it.

I sprayed all known areas of poison ivy with a straight vinegar solution. It works, but you have to spray several times and be patient.

Now it's cloudy and it already rained a bit. I've just been tidying up inside, nothing special.

Plans for after I wrap up this job on Thursday:

1. Call plumber to recharge my well so I can use my outdoor faucet/garden hose again, to water my many potted plants. I'm loathe to do this as it will cost over $100 and hopefully not too much more but right now I've been making due filling up my watering can indoors and then carrying it outside, 3 or 4 times a day.

2. Inviting dad over for a weekday lunch; I feel bad because since my sister's at work all week, he has nothing much to do. He has a garden which is engulfed in kudzu and probably loaded with ticks. I see him every Saturday but weekday get-togethers are nice too.

3. Get my driveway sealed for free by the guy who paved it last because I've had weeds growing thru the new asphalt!

4. Use a $5 coupon from Kohls plus a $15 gift from them on account of my having an account with them for 15 years.

5. Deep clean: When looking for Luther's live mouse, I was pulling furniture away from the wall and noticed how dusty it was back there. I'd like to wipe things down with a damp paper towel.

6. Call my cousin J.from Harrisburg, PA area and schedule his visit for later in June for a few days.

7. I'd like to get some impatiens started as they do so well in the shade by my Stairway to Heaven. And it's so easy to root clippings once they're established.

8. I'm sure I'll think of more.

Garden report: Peonies and mountain laurel now in bloom.

Moving toward my goal

June 3rd, 2017 at 05:52 pm

So, in May my savings just barely spilled over into the $900K range, at $900,308. As of June 1, I am now solidly in the $900s, with a net worth at $917,462. This is what's so magical about saving a wad of cash; the month-to-month gains (or losses) can add $17K to your investments without too much trouble.

My goal, of course, is not to see that number go south.

This is kind of exciting; it means I have achieved about 92% of my goal of saving $1 million for retirement.

I'd be too young to retire and live on that money now but I'm getting pretty close. Ideally, I'd like to save another $131,000 (see my sidebar) purely for healthcare expenses over my remaining lifetime, and not having any idea what the state of our healthcare system will be in the 8 years before I can pick up Medicare.

On the face of it, saving another $213,538 (for healthcare costs and to hit my remaining goal for retirement) in 3 or 4 years seems like a herculean task. But thanks to an incredible bull market and the power of compounding, I've come this far already, so who knows?

Well, there are a few good things about my contract job ending soon. I can attend the MS lunch the following week. I can go ahead and schedule a visit by my cousin in PA and generally enjoy the summer. I can try to do more things during the week with dad.

My cat drove me nuts the last 2 nights. I had just turned the light out, dead tired, at about 10:30 pm when, lying in the darkness, I heard the telltale scamper of little cat feet. A certain kind of scamper I have become familiar with, the light-hearted dance of a very excited cat. I got up to find a live mouse hiding under my dresser which Luther had carried up from the basement to show off. Sigh. When Luther retrieved him, I yelled at him with the aim of getting him to run down the stairs into the basement, mouse in mouth. He did, and I then closed the door to keep Luther in the basement.

Later, I went down there so I could remove the mouse, but it was nowhere to be found. Luther lost it.

Last night I went to bed and again heard the scamper of little cat feet. Luther had a mouse again, and I assume it was the one he caught...and lost... the night before. He'd brought it up to the main floor of my house and it was hiding by the sewing machine. This time I used a broom to sweep it into a cardboard box and dumped it outside. It was dead.

I went to bed again and unbelievably, Luther caught a 2nd mouse. Got this one in the box in the sun room and released it outside, still alive.

I'm not getting much sleep.

I went to see my neurologist last week. The one I usually see for my MS. I felt that my numb toes had gotten worse, that it's not really numbness now but extreme stiffness involving all 5 toes and part of the pad of the foot, just under the toes. His nerve conduction test a few months ago showed no lasting nerve damage from a pulled hamstring a few years ago and I just wasn't clear on what exactly the problem was. Arthritis? MS? Something else related to stepping on glass years ago? I had seen 3 podiatrists about that, years ago now, and all 3 said there was nothing in my foot.

My neurologist said he didn't think it was arthritis since part of the ball of my foot is affected, and he doesn't think it's related to the pulled hamstring of years ago since any inflammation caused by the pulled hamstring would now be gone. He thinks it's my MS.

I was surprised, since I've had no major issues for the past 9 or 10 years. He explained that as part of the normal aging process, we all lose "reserves,"
so little deficiencies or ailments are magnified.

I guess this may be true, becus the fact is, nearly every MS I've had involved my right side. Lesions in the brain, depending on their location, cause certain symptoms. He said to come back about it only if the stiffness spreads to my ankle or up my leg; it would be a sign my current medication is not working and an MRI would then be warranted to see what's going on.

I forgot to ask him if this could go away spontaneously or am I stuck with it forever. With relapsing/remitting MS, which is what I have, symptoms do come and go; with progressive MS, symptoms gradually worsen over time and don't disappear. Some MS people who start out with relapsing/remitting MS go on to develop progressive MS over time.

At this point, there are more effective MS drugs available now than the one I'm on, but all of them come with much more serious potential side effects and may require regular checkups to ensure no kidney damage, for example, and stuff like that. I'd prefer to avoid those drugs as the Copaxone is nearly side effect free.

Disappointed, but not surprised

June 2nd, 2017 at 10:30 pm

My contract job, in flux since I started 4 weeks ago, will come to an end next Thursday. This, just 2 weeks after my manager told me I could expect to work all summer.

The client bank decided to eliminate the 4th marketing piece I was to work on, and the junior writer they hired shortly after me can handle the sub-projects, apparently. So after next week, there will be nothing left for me to do.

At least I got 4 days notice and was able to gross an estimated $9,680 from 21.5 days of work, spread over 5 weeks. My net of about $7,000 will at least cover my recent bookshelf construction and replenish my coffers for living expenses for about 2-3 months.

I managed not to waste money on buying lunch at the cafeteria for all but 2 days.

I am really disappointed, but there's nothing to be done. I asked if he was happy with my work performance and he said yes. He explained that the bank client is not on retainer but calls them every so often with projects out of the blue, so it's my hope, after confirming my departure has nothing to do with my performance, that they might call me back down the line.

However, I can't help but feel, too, that their decision to let the junior writer finish the sub-projects was based probably on his lower rate of pay. When I checked his Linked In background, I could see he has about 2 years of experience in the field spread over 2 jobs. But they like him, and I'm guessing he wasn't making as much as me.