It's 6 a.m. Right now, I should be winging my way down to the Jersey shore with my father but instead I'm sitting at home, wondering what happened. My father's left for the 3-hour trip without me.
The plan was he would be here at 6 a.m. and we'd drive down together. By now he knows I will nearly always say when we go out somewhere that I want to drive. And he nearly always lets me, no big deal.
By saying I want to drive, it means I don't have to say, dad, it's not safe for you to drive with macular degeneration. You can't see the face of someone 10 feet away from you who says hello, but you feel it's perfectly okay to make the 3-hour trip (1 way) down the Jersey shore.
I'm not saying he should give up driving entirely. He can get around town well enough. But um, driving down I-684, the Saw Mill Parkway, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, I-287 to the Garden State Parkway covers some of the most heavily congested roadways in the Northeast.
When I told dad I wanted to come on this trip (he has an 11 am appointment to see the court constable and then I set up appointments with realtors for 1, 2 and 3 pm), we agreed he'd be here at 6 a.m. to pick me up.
I asked him if he had an alarm clock. He said no. I asked him if he wanted me to call him. He said yes. I asked what time, and he said 5:15 a.m.
So I got myself organized last night for a quick early morning departure, set 2 alarm clocks and went to bed early. I called him at 5:15 a.m. He did not pick up. It went into voice mail. I called another 4 times and the same thing.
Now what? This happens all the time. He uses an old clam shell phone he doesn't really know how to use and half the time he doesn't hear the phone ring.
I debated having to get in the car and drive the 15 minutes over there to wake him up. I could have called my sister and asked her to walk over there to wake him, but we're not dealing with each other and I wasn't sure she'd be awake that early.
I decided to just stay put, realizing if we got a late start we'd hit all kinds of traffic, making an already long drive even longer.
Close to 6 am dad called me from the road and said he'd be here in 5 minutes.
He pulls up in my driveway and I go out with a box of cleaning supplies and some pruning tools I wanted to bring along. With his vision issues, he couldn't really see a dirty countertop or smudged walls. He had his cleaning woman there but I'm sure she didn't do everything.
Since we wouldn't be returning to CT til tonight, I figured I'd make myself useful.
In the driveway, dad's sitting in the driver's seat and tells me to get in. I tell him I want to drive. He says, get in. Why he chose to dig in his heels this time, I don't know, but honestly, there was this time he was driving us south on the Saw Mill Parkway, which is an old 2-lane, twisty highway that has way more volume than it was built for.
The exit ramps onto the highway have no acceleration lane; people have to come to a complete stop and wait to cut in. That's why dad likes to drive int he fast lane on that road.
It's a dangerous road, and this time dad was driving i was really fearful and afraid for my life. He can't read the odometer and so he doesn't know how fast he's going but he tells me he just keeps up with the traffic. Well, the traffic always goes way too fast. He's like inches away from the guard rail, swerving around these curves. There was nothing I could do but grit my teeth and hold on, and I silently told myself I wouldn't do that again.
So, back to me and dad in the driveway. We have a standoff. For whatever reason, he does not want to yield, and I don't want to drive 3 hours with him because I feel it's unsafe. He says I don't have time, get in the car or I'm leaving. I stood and looked at him and he started to leave. I walked back in my house, really disgusted and angry.
Dad is 84 but you just can't tell him what to do. I'm angry, because I've gone out of my way to help in so many different ways, and then he pulls something like this. I cater to him in every conceivable way, and I am always thinking of his best interests.
He doesn't want to admit there are things he can't, or shouldn't, be doing anymore. Driving in particular is a huge thing that gives him independence. I get that. He doesn't want to hear me tell him it's not safe to make that drive anymore.
I am fuming. I am also worried, realizing that with the last realtor appointment ending around 3:30 or 4 pm, his choices for getting home will be either to leave just in time for massive rush hour traffic, or wait til after rush hour and drive home in the dark. Which is what we would have done, except that I would have been driving. Or at least, I planned on driving. Maybe he will spend the night and return tomorrow. I have no idea.
Archive for July, 2017
It's 6 a.m. Right now, I should be winging my way down to the Jersey shore with my father but instead I'm sitting at home, wondering what happened. My father's left for the 3-hour trip without me.
July has not been a pretty month for me. My expenses exceeded income by the largest amount ever since my layoff a year ago. I guess it was bound to happen, but I admit to being fairly lazy about reining in my expenses.
I've done such a good job of that during previous unemployment periods but perhaps I've been lulled into a sense of complacency being so close to retirement. Not smart! There are so many expenses between now and then!
My total expenses for the month of July came to $2,305, an amount I'd consider quite manageable were I working f/t at even the lowest paying job.
But now it's wiped out much of the $3,000 or so in savings I managed to accumulate YTD, mainly due to the 1 month I worked for that high-paying marketing agency job in May-June.
My income in July was a paltry $229, earned from my first focus group of the year, some credit card rewards and the sale of a few items on Facebook Marketplace.
But let's take a deeper dive into my July expenses, shall we? This always helps motivate me.
Property taxes: I pay twice a year but it comes out to $492 a month.
COBRA: $520. This hurts and it will get much worse in January if I don't find a job.
Car tax ($271) and registration ($90) = $361. Ouch. All required to keep my car legal on the road. The registration is good for 3 years I think. The tax is an annual thing but slowly gets smaller as the car depreciates. This is one disincentive to buying a new car in Connecticut.
Electric: $84. This is higher than my pre-central air summer bills that usually came in around $65 or so, but is so worth it when I ran the AC about a week or so during high humidity days here. I think these higher summer electric bills are just going to be a new fact of life.
"Household" This is a catch-all category for expenses that don't seem to fit elsewhere, and it came to $94 this month, including $52 for the used day bed frame and new slats for it and $20 to renew my computer anti-virus protection another year. (So glad I shopped this price instead of accepting the $55 auto renew from McAfee!!!)
Clothing: $3 for a cami top at Walmart.
Dining out: $55. Should be $0 when I'm not working, but $33 of this was splitting meal costs during my recent visit with a friend in Jersey.
Entertainment: $26. Again, by rights, this should be $0 but most is coffees i bought my dad after our weekly dinners; just doesn't seem right to let him pay for it when he routinely pays for very pricey dinners out every week. Also included $10 for Amazon books, totally not needed, and $11 on food at that vegan festival I went to recently. That $8 vegan hot dog was way overpriced and I should have resisted.
Gardening: $149, which includes 3 bi-weekly lawn mowings. Usually not that high.
Cat: $93 for food and litter. Now that we're down to one cat, I hope to see these bills come down a bit more.
Food: $322. A big disappointment. Seems way high for one person. I shop Aldi's as much as possible but this does include $16 on 1 cucumber and 1 cake at the organic farmers market...too much.
I need to get religion on my expenses again.
I used to be so strict with myself. Because once again, I wonder if I will ever find another f/t job.
Overall, my net worth, including the house, stands at $1,222,215. It's still up since June 1, and it's up $7,800 this month alone. Still, that's all due to the stock market and I feel uneasy relying on that to boost my bottom line since it can change at any time.
I am truly loath to return to the higher education freelance job again. I put her off the week the tree came down on my property. Shortly after that they suspended assignments to catch up on backlog, but they've again sent us new detailed instructions and critiques and I just don't feel the energy to jump through their hoops for a $15/hr job where I get so little in return. It was a ton of work for little payback.
It's just that if I basically quit that job, I'll need to remove it from my resume becus while I consider it a relatively unimportant job, prospective employers will want to call them for references since it is the most recent thing I've done. And I wouldn't want my contact there telling someone I quit; that would open a can of worms.
But without that job, I would need to account for my time since my layoff. Aside from the 1 mth contract job in May/June, I suppose I could say I've just been doing random freelancing without specifying with whom and not spelling that out on my resume.
Anyway, I do hereby pledge that I, PatientSaver, will revert to my uber-penny pinching ways for the month of August.
Back last night from my trip to the Jersey shore to visit a friend. We had a nice time but as usual, it was a very long ride. Since dad wanted to clean up a little at his house (the renters left a lot of trash, a spare tire in the yard, etc), we drove down together. He dropped me at K.'s house and he went on to his place.
On the way home we stopped at dad's attorney's office to see if he thought it worthwhile to pursue civil action against his evicted tenant, who stole about a dozen items, including a washing machine.
The attorney concluded that since the tenant doesn't appear to have any assets, it would be pointless to spend the money to pursue the matter, but we have 6 years to file a civil suit if, for instance, my dad learns she suddenly has money. Yeah, we could garnish her wages, at maybe $50 a month, not really worth it.
The attorney agreed the theft was very "in your face," since she took so many things, but it just wasn't worth it for dad to pursue. You have to choose your battles.
So now dad has decided to sell the house, as 3 of his kids including me have been urging him to do.
Today we scheduled to have the local constable come next week to execute a lockout. My dad had skipped this step thinking it wasn't necessary since he has an alarm system on the house if she tried to come back, but that's not really the point. It provides legal protection for my dad and the attorney said he really needs to do it.
After that phone call, we settled on 3 realtors we found online and I scheduled for all 3 of them to come look at the house, so they can do a CMA, on the same day dad is down there to do the lockout.
I'm not really looking forward to immersing myself in all this, after having sold my mother's condo, but of dad's 4 kids, I'm the only one not working. It's quite a bit harder doing it from a distance since I'm in CT and the house is in Jersey and I'm trying to minimize the number of times my dad drives down there.
His 2 sons are in Jersey (about 1.5 hours north of Dad's house), so if there's an opportunity, I'm going to ask them to help out with specific tasks if something comes up they can handle more easily than I.
I suppose it's better we try to dispose of the house now while dad is still alive becus I don't even know if he has named any of us as executor of his estate, and that is the person who would have to do all this if he wasn't around.
I haven't decided whether to go with dad when he goes down to meet them all. He hasn't asked me to, but I do feel better doing the driving. And I really have nothing going on that day anyway.
He plans to leave very early that morning since the meeting with constable is at 11 am and it's a 3-hr drive. To avoid leaving during peak rush hour, he plans to leave earlier, I'm guessing around 6 am.
While he dealt with the constable and realtors, I'm sure there would be things for me to do, cleaning or decluttering the garage, for one.
Then, instead of spending another overnight (and leaving Luther on his own again), we could have a leisurely dinner down there around 6 and hit the road for return trip home at 7 pm, after the worst of rush hour, getting us home around 10 pm. It would be driving in the dark, which is not my preference, but it would get us home sooner.
Tomorrow I scheduled with a local hospital for both me and dad to go for free skin cancer checks.
I saw a bobcat in my yard! This was yesterday early evening. It had been a rainy, cool and overcast day. I was making dinner in the kitchen around 5:45 pm. I looked out the window and there it was.
It was just 20 feet from my front door and where I often sit outside, near the apple tree, which is a wildlife magnet. It looked to be very healthy with a thick coat of fur. I watched it from behind and could see its little bob tail wagging from one side to the other...almost dog-like, but slower, more measured.
An apple fell from the tree and the bobcat stretched one paw toward it, the way cats will do. It remained in that position for several seconds and then confidently sauntered into the brushy undergrowth, exactly where the woodchuck is raising 2 little ones I see daily.
I wonder if it will lie in wait for them. Until recently, I had 2 rabbits in the backyard but have not seen them for a while now. I noticed them missing at some point after I'd heard coyotes fairly close to the house one night.
Coyotes, bobcat, rabbits, woodchucks, skunks, raccoons, does with their fawns (never an antlered buck), red and gray fox, red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, garter snakes and many bird species have all crossed this way. This is the second bobcat sighting here, and the first one was in almost the same exact spot. About the only thing I haven't seen here is a bear.
It really pays to be always looking out a window here, a habit I got into years ago. PS I didn't pick wineberries last night.
6:45 pm Update: The 2 baby woodchucks emerged from the undergrowth to forage fallen apples. The coast seems clear.
This morning the doe came down from the woods and after grazing apples in the same area, walked into the undergrowth exactly where the bobcat went. It's practically an animal highway there.
This is not my photo, but the one I saw looked similar to this:
The other day I bought some perennials (daisies and butterfly weed) from a woman who has a nice side business selling a bunch of perennials through Facebook. They were super cheap at $2.50 and $3 each for the plants, which is less than half what you'd expect to pay at Lowes.
I have actually gotten good responses the few times I sold perennials divided and dug up from my own garden, but I didn't like digging up and potting plants until the customer got here since I don't have extra containers laying around and then I'd have to keep watering things until they sold. And half the time people cancelled. Just dealing with people was the biggest pain. In this woman's case, she had grown everything from seed, so no digging required, and she had so much inventory I guess she didn't mind the daily watering routine.
Dad expressed interest so I brought him along for the ride, and he bought some irises.
Now I want to go back and get some more as I am really interested in attracting pollinators and we still have half the summer left.
I feel that I have pretty much mastered Instagram. Too bad that particular job is no longer an option. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram, my name there is NewtownNaturalist.
I saw a pretty yummy recipe I want to try (vegan) called Cowboy Caviar. It has tomatoes, black beans, black eyed peas, corn, bell pepper, red onion and cilantro with an oil/vinegar/lime dressing. How long does chopped avocado last in a cold salad before turning brown?
I have a dinner/lecture to attend tonight.
I've given up on an idea I had to create a kind of living room divider using elephant ear plants outside on my courtyard.
Here's the "courtyard," which is really just the area to left of my garage.
I wanted to delineate the courtyard space from the driveway and i thought a row of potted elephant ears would be cool, but I've found after 2 years of trying that the elephant ears seem to come up really late, like July (!). I thought by planting the bulbs not as deep this spring I would fix that, but that didn't work.
Then I got excited about using clumping bamboo since it would grow much faster and taller and can possibly be overwintered. The only drawback is that bamboo offers no particular wildlife benefit, unless you happen to be a panda.
So at least for this season, I think I'd like to buy more inexpensive, tall flowering perennials known to attract bees and butterflies. I guess I became more motivated after going to a vegan festival. I parked on a side street in an urban area and had to walk down another street where 2 of the residents had postage stamp-sized front lawns but really lovely wildflower gardens.
I liked that the owner of this garden even planted the grass strip closest to the road, which technically is town property. But it makes for a much more lush effect when you're walking down that sidewalk.
The local woman I mentioned above was selling bee balm and other stuff I can't remember that I know is good for pollinators. It gets a ton of sun in the area where I want to put them.
I learned today I will not be getting an in-person interview with the Catholic high school.
I went to a local garden center to practice taking photos with my smart phone and a video as well, and then transferring them directly to Instagram. It is super easy, and the videos are something I want to do more of, when I have something interesting to shoot.
Here are some of my smart phone photos;
I was shooting another video around my yard while walking down the driveway toward a copper bird bath I have. I was shocked to see a large, dead garter snake there on the drive. It must have just died because when I saw it there was only one fly and 10 minutes later there were many.
I looked it over and saw no injuries, so I don't know what happened to it. I'm afraid it could have been the baby garter I saw come out from underneath a board my carpenter was going to cut for my built-in bookshelves back in May or June.
I just am a little puzzled about its death. I don't use any kind of pesticides or herbicides here. And I like having them around to eat mice. And its mother was killed by Luther in the basement in the early spring.
I've begun eating a few ripening cherry tomatoes from my potted plants, and the string beans are winding down. I've decided it's not worth it planting string beans in pots unless you really plant a lot of them, because I can only plant a handful, not even enough to cook with dinner, so I tend to eat them raw.
My father's deadbeat tenant is finally gone, after a year of delays and the eviction process. She started paying her rent late right from the get go,and it all ended up with her stiffing my dad for 3 months' rent and I'm afraid to know how much money in legal expenses he had to pay his lawyer. I'm guessing the lawyer charged around $300 an hour so it wasn't cheap.
The woman, a waitress, should never have rented the house in the first place as she couldn't afford it but was too stupid to realize that. Or m aybe she did. She sweet-talked my dad who was naive enough to think a conversation and a hand shake could seal the deal without a credit check.
What really galls me is that when she left, she and the other people living there stole alot of stuff that didn't belong to them. Two mirrors, a mahogany chest, 2 Ikea shelf units, 2 deep sea fishing rods my dad had left for their enjoyment, and a washing machine.
He's driving down there today for a doctor's appointment and plans to file a police report on the theft. I typed up the list for him yesterday because his handwriting has deteriorated due to his vision problems. It's doubtful he'll recover anything. Or maybe his lawyer, better versed in landlord/tenant law, knows what to do. I'd like to see her prosecuted just for the satisfaction of it.
My sister, half brother and I have all told my dad he should sell the house (on the Jersey shore) instead of trying to rent it again. The house is 2 short blocks from the Toms River and will probably be underwater in 20 years.
He had decided not to sell it originally because he wanted to get $200K for it and his realtor told him prices had dropped and $185K was more realistic.
Most of the places I checked for prices online indicated $210K and that was erroneously listing it as having 1 bath when it has 2. So I'll have to work on dad and have him "interview" 3 realtors after they provide CMAs.
In other news....
My phone interview with the Catholic high school went "okay." If she hasn't realized already, she will at some point realize that while I'm a great writer, my weakness as far as this job goes is that I don't have a ton of experience analyzing social media performance and aren't familiar with the social media out there. I know Facebook very well and of course I blog here, but I just don't have time to post on Twitter, Instagram, You Tube, etc. so I'm less familiar with those although I did yesterday create an Instagram account and post a few photos there with commentary. It was pretty easy.
I should know by tomorrow if I will get an in-person interview.
I did in fact check out my local BJs and Costco yesterday for p/t jobs becus they are some of the few places that offer health insurance to part-timers. The job openings they have would include customer exposure; I was wanting to be a back room stocker becus to be perfectly honest, I'd be embarrassed if someone I knew saw I was working there. I'm sure they would assume I was "desperate" for work and it would just be really embarrassing. I shouldn't care, but I would.
In the meantime, there is another p/t job I plan to apply for, as a marketing copywriter. It's in an affluent area; perhaps I could make a concession on some of the paycheck in exchange for getting on their health plan?
I've heard that you have to work "full time," or at least 30 hours, to be eligible for health insurance, but then how do certain companies like Costco and Starbucks and Home Depot offer coverage to part-timers? Is this a federal law or something?
After my phone interview yesterday, dad needed help faxing the eviction court order to the NJ electric company so they would not turn the power off. Apparently the former tenant also owed them a lot of money and they want to make sure my dad is who he said he is. So I drove to his place, picked up the court order and the fax number, told him to stay home cus it was too hot outside, drove to his local library and paid their stupid fee for the fax. Then I drove back to dad's to return his paperwork and went home.
I am glad to help him, but I would be even gladder to see him unload the house becus being an out of state landlord is not easy for anyone, let alone an 84-year-old. He makes that drive too many times and he really shouldn't be driving at all with his vision problems. It's a 3-hour drive along some of the Northeast's most congested highways, in the area west of the Hudson River.
We are transitioning from letting dad make his own decisions to gently coaching, prodding and persuading him to do it a different way.
When he returns from Jersey tomorrow, I'm going to share with him the favorable online market value prices I found and urge him to get the house on the market this season, because it it goes unsold by October he will likely still have it until next spring.
A competent realtor can help get the place ready. Dad has already hired a housekeeper to clean up the inside as well as someone to clean up the outside. The security alarm will be reinstated tomorrow; it was something the tenant didn't want to pay for even though my dad was paying half the bill.
I had told him to also have the locks rejiggered because she still has the keys, but at least for now if she tries to return tomorrow, the alarm will go off and police will arrive. I figure she's stolen as much as she wants but you never know.
Baltimore Orioles and robins are still hanging out in my mulberry tree. The berries are 95% gone but there are plenty of berries on my nearby massive viburnum. They are all red; it took me years to realize that the berries are actually black when fully ripe, but the birds picked them off long before they turned black.
I startled the doe early this morning who arrived to get her share of fallen apples when she spotted me picking wineberries for my breakfast cereal. She snorted her displeasure after disappearing in the cover of the undergrowth but returned a short time later to munch away on her favorite summer food.
The heat wave won't break til Sunday so until then I'm going to mostly hunker down at home and not go anywhere.
My 30-something Chinese sister-in-law easily found a job weeks after being laid off by a pharmaceutical company. She was making a six-figure salary traveling to various hotels and putting on a PowerPoint presentation to 4 or 5 doctors at a sitting about her company's drug and answering the doctor's questions.
She got multiple offers and took one she said she couldn't refuse becus it was "a ton of money." She'll work at home 2 days a week and travel an hour commute on the other 3 days. My dad told me this. I have to admit to being jealous and feeling totally inadequate in my job search.
Tomorrow I have a phone interview lined up with a Catholic prep school (high school) about 35 minutes from here. They're a well-respected school, and I had to write a fictitious press release and email on one of three topics they provided.
I spent a lot of time on my cover letter and the assignments, and it was worth it since they want to talk to me.
I don't have an educational background but I have "dabbled" in education at 3 jobs writing about college-related topics or marketing student loans while at the bank. There are certain job responsibilities that could be a stretch for me: using data analysis to drive design and strategy, "demonstrated knowledge of" Instagram, Google Analytics, video. Everything else I could do.
It might be a more junior level job but i don't care too much about salary. Well, I do, of course, but I'm more focused on affordable health insurance.
Tonight I'm going out to a free dinner.
Today I've stayed inside all day...too hot outside. Didn't accomplish much but I will start prepping for the phone interview tonight.
Currently bleach cleaning the mildewy mat that sits under my dish drainer. Did a little reading. Wasted time on the computer. That's about it!
The wood slats for day bed were delivered by Amazon this morning. I got the "heavy duty" slats which cost a little more but I think were worth it.
While the slats seem sturdy, not flimsy. they are about a half inch too narrow. I knew that before I ordered. There are 2 bars running down either side of the day bed, and the new slats are supposed to lay across them. While they do, they don't extend all the way up to the edges, so if, say, I bounced around on the bed, I'm thinking it's possible one or more of the slats would fall through if enough weight was thrown on them.
I plan to sleep here on very warm nights so I'll have to see how it goes, but otherwise, I'm happy with them.
Here's how the bed looks all made up.
Yeah, I know, the pillows don't match but I don't really care right now. I don't get that many visitors. So what do you think, does it look any less "bed-like with this new frame?"
In other news...
An acquaintance of mine here in town has asked me to cat sit for her for about 8 days in August. Of course I'm happy to do that as it takes no time at all and she always paid me a ridiculous amount of money.
I am no longer able to participate in the 2nd focus group I'd hoped to do this week. I guess I wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Part of me doesn't care as it was an hour's drive down there.
I went to BJs and somehow spent $120. I shouldn't have bought Fancy Feast there becus I see Walmart's price is cheaper by a buck or two.
I spoke to our borough's tree warden about the tree that came down Saturday and my fear that any of the other white pines fronting the road could do the same. Since there was no storm, no wind, no rot and the tree ripped off about 2 feet above ground (it was not uprooted, in other words), my fear is that the same thing could happen with one of two directly in front of my house; if it fell the wrong way, they could directly hit my house.
I wasn't as concerned about this before because I imagined that if a BRANCH of one of the pines came down, it would fall near the tree, but now that I've seen that the entire tree could come down at nearly ground level, without even a breeze, now that's scary.
So he said some of those trees would be on town property. (I thought it was state property, but it is town.) I explained my fears and said that the utility company just keeps pruning the trees, making them spindly in the middle and top heavy.
He's going to send someone out to look at the trees and he said they MAY be able to take down one or two of the white pines. That made me jump for joy. He said he couldn't promise anything, but would see. The borough has a $75,000 budget for trees and he said that money can be gone in a month. The town at large has its own budget.
I would be thrilled to be rid of those 2 trees becus white pine in particular regularly sheds heavy branches or, like on Saturday, the whole tree comes crashing down. The tree warden said they are "self-pruning." Crossing my fingers on this one.
There were a number of things I wanted to do outside today but it's very warm out. And Wed-Friday will be a heat wave ....90+ temps. I had wanted to wash the exterior of my downstairs windows, which could really use it. I need to cut back brambles, pick wineberries, and use the trimmer on the lawn.