Home > Archive: November, 2017

Archive for November, 2017

$7,000 is a lot of $$$

November 28th, 2017 at 12:42 pm

That's how much I could pay for the install of the stand-by Generac generator ($5,000) and the install of the propane tank and gas lines ($2,000).

I went into this thinking I would use the electrician I've used for several small jobs over the years (he moonlights on weekends but works f/t at a generator company), so I didn't get any other bids for his end of the work.

But now I'm thinking, that's silly, because 1) he's not doing the actual work itself, and 2) he can't control my costs since it's not his company.

So I decided I would get one more bid for the electrical end of the work, since that's the lion's share of the cost. I found him on Angie's List and he has 59 "A" ratings, far more than anyone else.

He can't come out til next week, though, so this delays everything.

I now have 2 estimates for the gas line connection, although the one guy hasn't given me anything in writing, just a phone estimate, which is about the same price as the other guy.

Strategy: I will call the one guy who went to the trouble of showing up here, explain it's a "tie" between his price and the other guy's, and ask if he can do any better on the price to give me a reason to hire him. If I could save a few hundred on the price, that would be great.

I imagine the payback on this generator will be quite lengthy, but the peace of mind and comfort factor is really what I'm paying for.

A small payday
My paycheck this Thursday (I get paid weekly) will be quite small since I only worked a 3-day week.

Mouse in the House
Earlier this fall, I noticed some herbal mouse deterrents at Lowe's and picked up 3 of them. Nothing to lose by trying. I put them in the areas of the basement where I think Luther catches his mice and until last night, they appeared to be working.

I was watching TV in bed when I heard a telltale squeak. Or was it coming from the TV? I got up and walked all around, looking for Luther, and finally found him in my upstairs bathroom. The poor mouse had climbed up the vinyl shower curtain and was clinging to it precariously. Luther didn't know where it went and was nosing around.

I quickly ran downstairs to the basement where I knew I had an empty cardboard box. I came back up, hoping the mouse was right where I left it. It was. I quickly tapped on the other side of the shower curtain while holding the box up on the side where the mouse was, and it landed perfectly in the box.

I released it outside. That was one of the lucky ones. I blocked the cat entrance in the door to the basement so I could get a good night's sleep without worrying about more live mice.

Capital improvements
Once I get this generator, I hope it will be the last pricey home improvement I make for a while.

There are other things I know I will do that aren't quite so pricey.

1. Beef up my attic insulation.

2. I would at some point like to replace my wood garage door. I remember everyone was trying to persuade me to go with a metal door, but no, I liked the look of wood better, but 13 years later, the door looks kind of like an eyesore as moisture/rain/snow has wicked up through the wood and warped the plywood panels in the carriage door style door.

Of course, I've always wanted a new kitchen, but that's such an expensive, overwhelming and disruptive project I have no desire to do it now. I have white laminate cabinets and some kind of manmade counters and it's too much white for me: white cabinets, white counters, white backsplash. Everything's a little worn around the edges, but perfectly functional.

The walls in the downstairs: I would love to get new drywall walls in here, another major disruptive project. This is an old house and old beaverboard (precursor to sheetrock) had layers of wallpaper PAINTED OVER. That's why the paint keeps coming up and cracking. The wallpaper was never removed. It's a mess and there's no use repainting as it only lasts a few years and then it cracks again. I will have to address this at some point.

The upstairs hardwood floors could really use a refinishing.

I would love to replace my upstairs bathroom cabinet, another laminate type job and part of the trim is coming off (tried gluing it back on already). But I have a pocket door opening to that bathroom and I can't even imagine getting a new cabinet in there, or the old one out.

My front door: It's narrower than today's standard width. I think it's just 30 inches wide and getting stuff in and out, like furniture, can be a challenge. I'd love to get a new door and wider opening.

The minutae of my life

November 25th, 2017 at 09:51 pm

Leaves & Hornet Nest
I ran the mower over leaves on the lawn for about a half hour to mulch them. The lawn looks better than it did before.

Dad came over and he admired the big gap in the tree line, as well as a humongous hornet nest that's now clearly visible about 12 feet up in my viburnum, before we went to lunch at an Italian place.

Dad's going to bring his branch cutter pole, the kind where you can reach way up high, to see if I can get that hornet nest down. I think it would look nice on my dining room shelves. If we get it down, I'll put it in a plastic bag and close it before bringing it in the house, to make sure the warm air indoors doesn't cause any hornets to hatch.

According to National Geographic, only the queen and her eggs survive the winter, and they apparently shelter in other locations, not the nest.

We had a young, inexperienced waiter at the restaurant. We had a very long wait to get our meals, even after the other table of people, who arrived after us, and then he brought out my dad's meal first; my meal came about 15 minutes later. Then when he was clearing our plates he spilled the shrimp shells from my dad's dish right beside our table and never did clean up the 4 or 5 shells so when we got up to left, we had to avoid stepping on them.

Other doings
I did 2 loads of laundry today and vacuumed 3 levels, due to possible flea eggs, including the basement, since the cat goes down there.

Sunday shopping plans:
Tomorrow I plan to:
1. get a haircut with coupon
2. get gas
3. go to lowes for 1 or 2 6-packs of LED light bulbs
4. go to walmart for cat food and peruse the sales
5. hit Aldi's for groceries
6. stop at the craft show on the way home

Food processor?
I browsed a few websites online more out of curiosity than anything else and idly thought about getting a food processor, but some bad reviews about food getting stuck inside certain parts and then turning moldy turned me off.

I try to use a blender for most things but if it's not that liquidy it doesn't work well; it's just not powerful enough to turn drier food around. So I chop most things manually. I would use a processor for certain things like coleslaw, for instance; cabbage takes forever to chop finely.

I've been in a bit of a decluttering state of mind lately. Last weekend, I brought 3 strands of Christmas lights to Lowes for recycling. I tried selling them briefly on Facebook, but after the woman who showed up to buy them declined to do so after realizing the price was $5 for each set, not $5 for all 3 (I mean, c'mon), I decided it wasn't worth the bother to try again. Now I have a pair of heavy navy blue clogs I want to dispose of.

Bought these Dansko clogs in 2010 because I really needed navy shoes for a new job, but have rarely worn them. Guess I'm no longer a clog type of person, though I loved them in high school. They're just so big and heavy. I paid over $100 for them at a pricey store because they were the only pair of navy shoes for miles around. They will last someone for decades, I'm sure, but they do have small scuffs on the toe. I fear they won't sell with those scuffs and the only way to fix that would be to buy blue shoe polish which again makes this probably not worth selling as I'd only ask $15 for them. So they will be donated...I hope Good Will doesn't toss them.

I do have a simple glass aquarium I'll try to sell for $9, about as much as I paid for it 2 summers ago to raise butterflies in. I now prefer netting over tomato hoop cages to the aquarium, which can heat up pretty quickly and doesn't have as good air circulation. So will try to take pix and post tomorrow. I figure now's the time to try to sell anything as people are in the buying mood.

A trip to the ASPCA and home revaluation results

November 24th, 2017 at 11:41 pm

I spent an enjoyable 3 hours sitting in a decrepit room at the ASPCA "socializing" 3 kitties recently rescued and brought to the shelter.

These kitties have beautiful markings and are all females. The male sibling was adopted. The longtime volunteer there who helped me adopt Waldo and Luther sat with me for a good while talking and catching up, and I met another nice volunteer there too. My volunteer very kindly gave me a Capstar flea pill, and the snack treats to put the pill in. I didn't ask for it but do appreciate it.

If I had thought of it, I would have taken the kitten pictures to show you! The shyest cat, a gorgeous tabby, was the most energetic when chasing my string; she was really like the Energizer Bunny. Yet she would scamper when I tried to touch her. The other 2 were a bit more friendly.

Their mother is there too, but not doing as well. She's been to multiple vets and they aren't really sure what's wrong with her, but she has chronic diarrhea, is extremely bloated and is acting listless. The volunteer thinks it could be dead worms blocking things up. She's been dewormed several times already. The mother, found in nearby city where I used to work at the bank, was killing and feeding dead rats to the kittens as they found several carcasses around.

Reminds me of the North Korean who ran to freedom recently. He also had tons of internal worms because the country is so poor, they say, they can't afford to buy fertilizer and fertilize their fields with human excrement.

I researched the Capstar when I got home and see that this pill kills fleas very well, but only for 24 hours. So to maximize what you get out of it you should be ready to vacuum and launder at the same time. And I would spray inside the house again too. I don't want to use it immediately as I just Luther him the Revolution, even though she said it was ok to do so.

I gave Luther the Revolution yesterday; he is still scratching and I am still finding live fleas on him.

Aside from time spent at the animal shelter, I didn't do too much today. I did spend over about an hour cutting back vines engulfing some dogwoods in the brushy area in front of house, now somewhat more accessible after the big white pines were taken down. In fact, I thought there was only 1 dogwood in there and I saw 3! I also blew leaves off the driveway and filled the wheelbarrow with leaves 3 times.

Our town did their revaluation and my assessment went up by $20,000. I checked the details the assessors have for my house on their website and everything is correct. In fact, my central air was installed shortly after they paid a visit so they did not catch that. I would like to challenge the assessment but I have nothing to base a challenge on.

I did also do a little bit of editing for my one remaining freelance client. He's still job hunting and likes me to edit his cover letters and resume.

4 days of bliss

November 23rd, 2017 at 01:37 am

I'm looking forward to 4 days of bliss and no work. That's right, 4 days. I learned today that after mentally coming to terms with having to work on Sunday, my manager said I don't have to come in. The others, though, who are working Friday and Saturday, will still have to go in.

I'm trying not to plan too much or add to my to-do list. Probably the thing I most want to get done aside from household chores is get rid of the cut up logs in front where they took the trees down; I'd like to clear away some of the debris while the leaves are off the shrubs, it's not too cold and there's no snow on the ground. Come spring, the brambles could grow back and again make things impenetrable.

I also have a fair amount of cooking to do but I will be spending the big T-Day alone. It still seems dismal but I'm trying not to think about the many Thanksgivings spent with family. All those family dinners over the holidays was just something I took as a given, and I never thought too much about how, one day, being single with no kids and after watching my grandparents die and now my mother, that I would be spending this day alone. I'm sure those of you who are married with children could never imagine anything more depressing, because I can't.

I asked dad last week if he was having dinner at my sister's; I assumed he was but he said she didn't say anything. He doesn't really seem to care that much one way or the other. He's always been like that, which mystifies me. One year he went to my half-brother's for the holiday and he was disappointed because bro's wife, who is Chinese-American, doesn't cook much and they ordered catered food which just wasn't the same.

I thought about volunteering at a homeless shelter or similar type place, but decided I'd rather just stay home than be with people I don't know.

I am going to cook a nice meal for myself, as if I were having company over and put the Macy's Day parade on TV, the way my grandfather always watched it every year. He grew up in the city so I guess it meant more to him, but memories of the TV being turned on to the parade every Thanksgiving are burned into my brain and it feels nostalgic now.

I could have invited myself over to my cousin's in New Jersey, as I learned that she, too, is staying home alone tomorrow. (Her husband died of Parkinson's around the time my mother died 2 years ago.) Last year if you recall I spent Thanksgiving with her and she went all out to make a big traditional dinner for just the 2 of us, and I realized it must've been a ton of work for her when she probably would have rather not done it. She works full-time and never seems to have enough time and what time she has she devotes to multiple cats and dogs in her home. She is always rescuing animals.

I didn't want to burden her with that and to be honest, I didn't feel like doing the drive (1.5 hrs x 2) and most especially, I would feel really bad leaving Luther alone for yet another long day when he spends so much time alone as it is. I could have also invited myself over to my friend R.'s, who goes to his niece's with other family members and makes up a group of 5. (Both he and his sister are divorced, no kids.) His niece has 2 daughters.) I have done major holiday dinners like Easter with them more than once but I don't want to intrude on their own family thing too much and don't want to appear pathetic.

I will make 4 or 5 phone calls to family and friends tomorrow to say hello, but that's about it. I'll browse Black Friday deals on Friday, see Dad on Saturday and maybe catch a movie and get a hair cut at some point.

I have a new view on life

November 21st, 2017 at 01:27 pm

The before....

Actually, it was dark when I was writing this so I don't have an "after" from my front stoop, but suffice it to say it's all very open now. Which of course I was expecting.

This is looking up at my house, which is now suddenly very visible from the road...

This is the view from the road. Now there's a large gap in the woods fronting the road. Doesn't look great, but it will grow back quickly in spring and I won't have to worry about large pines falling on my house.

Yep, I have a new view on things, from my front door. Suddenly, I can see the starry sky at night and during the day, the less attractive view of my neighbor's house across the street.

The tree crew hired by my town took down the 3 giant white pines, all in one day. Amazing.

I came home from work last night in the dark but even then I could easily see the yawning gap where all those tree branches used to be.

I already have some ideas about obstructing the view of the neighbor's house with some new tree plantings, but not those that will grow 100 feet tall or get in the way of the power lines.

I have a smallish (about 5 feet high) viburnum I transplanted to a bad spot in my backyard. I've wanted to get it out of that place, and now I could find a place for it under where the pines were. It will only get a max of 15 to 20 feet high.

There is a preexisting paper birch that sprang up a few years back in the stump of a black locust tree, another giant tree I had cut down becus I felt it was dangerous. I'm glad I let that birch stay and grow where it was, because it happens to be perfectly positioned to obscure the neighbor's front door, at least when it has leaves on it. I also have a Japanese black pine I planted 22 years ago, but its kind of bonsai-ish with a lanky appearance and not a whole lot of branches.

I had asked the tree guy yesterday before leaving for work if they could try to spare the dogwood choking in the undergrowth under the canopy of the white pines. He didn't give me much hope and I understood; the tree cutting was taking place right there.

The dogwood still stands, and it's cleared enough so I can hopefully get in there and cut back remaining vines.

The other bit of good news is that there was another dogwood, on my driveway, which they had said last summer would have to go to make room for their cherry picker to drive on the lawn and access the white pines. The dogwood is still there! It's been ailing for years, but it still blooms each spring.

The only damage done was to a trio of evergreen trees (not white pine) that I call The 3 Sisters. The smallest one to the right got its crown nicked, which is now hanging from where it broke about 6 feet from its top. It's too bad it happened, but all things considered, I guess I'm ok with that. It if it was one of the bigger ones, I'd be more upset.

They flattened the area where the white pines were pretty well, and cleaned up all the debris, but they did leave a bunch of old logs from where a tree fell a few years ago. At the time, I figured I'd just let them rot in the overgrowth, but now they're kind of an eyesore and I will have to try and dispose of them.

The time to do it would be NOW when it would be most accessible, and when the poison ivy is dead, tick activity is low and so on. I hate to spend money paying someone to do it since they always overcharge, but since I have a few days off this weekend, maybe I could borrow my dad's truck. The transfer station will charge you $20 for a pickup truck full of cut logs, which is not too bad.

A day of progress on generator, big tree take downs

November 20th, 2017 at 02:19 pm

The tree crew has arrived with their big bucket truck to take down 3 approximately 100 foot white pines growing along the roadside. I am very happy they're here . I'm sure it will take at least several days to do the job, and right now I'm hearing the chainsaw but they're probably just using it to get to one of the big white pines; there's a lot of overgrowth in that area.

I spoke briefly to the burly handsome owner. He doubts they could work around a dogwood in the undergrowth which is in the path of where they're working. I can't have everything, I guess.

They will be on my driveway with their heavy truck but will put down some sort of pads that hopefully will protect it, as it was newly paved last year.

I would like to be around to watch the activity, but have to go to work soon.

As for the generator, I have a price for a small, 7500 watt Generac (top brand) that, with all the little incidentals, should come out to about $5,000, but that's not including the work by propane company to install the line to propane tank and the tank itself.

I have the propane guy coming out this Wednesday before I leave for work to give me a price on that.

If I get annual servicing on the generator, I would be paying $353 a year for that; they said some people have servicing twice a year! I don't think it should be needed on a brand new unit, but what do I know.

Another Kiva loan, and another reason not to drive drunk

November 19th, 2017 at 07:08 pm

Enough money was repaid to me in Kiva loans that I was able to make another $25 loan. This will be to a woman in my 7th country, Lebanon.

Fatmeh is a 41-year-old widow who lives in an undeveloped area with her only child. After the death of her husband, she became the sole income provider in the family. She took on all of her husband's responsibilities, and works hard to pay the life expenses. She started her business in selling clothes. She can’t rent a small shop in her town, so she visits her clients in their homes to sell her merchandise. Today, she is requesting a loan from Kiva's field partner Vitas s.a.l. to register her daughter in school and pay the first installment. She said that by contributing to this loan you will surely help this hardworking woman to enhance her way of living.

Other countries I've loaned to include Armenia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Moldova, Palestine, and Uganda. I usually focus on women, either widowed or single parents, those looking to further their education, build a "green" business or improve basic hygiene like putting in a latrine/toilet. I figure these are the people who most need my help.

I went out to lunch with dad yesterday, and the waitress who works there and at another restaurant waited on us. We've seen her many times before. Somehow we got on the subject of my new job and after I mentioned it was "pharma," she mentioned a friend of hers was looking for a job in that field. I gave the waitress my email and said if her friend wanted, she could send me her resume and I could see if they could use anyone like her at my office.

I've traded a few emails with the woman already. She did send me her resume and I will follow through tomorrow and also give it to my friend the recruiter. The woman is single, in her 50s, and confided she can't make her mortgage, has no savings or IRAs and her dog just got diagnosed with cancer. She lives in my town. I was surprised she was having trouble finding work as she has a very solid resume as a project manager.

I felt I was getting drawn into her tale of woe, and I just wanted to make sure her story was legit, so I googled her name. Once I did that, I think I understood why she couldn't find work. Ranking pretty high in the search results was an article in an area paper, dating back to 2010(!) saying she was arrested for DUI.

Employers always do background checks. I don't usually think twice about it since I have nothing to worry about, but I imagine a DUI, even an old one, might give some employers pause. I'm sure she was punished enough by having that go public in the paper, and it appears that was a one-time thing (of course I don't really know). But it's a shame that one bad decision can affect your livelihood for years to come. Of course, if there was someone in my family hit by a drunk driver, I would have no sympathy.


November 18th, 2017 at 01:11 am

Two does and their fawns this morning. Note to self: Finish fencing off rhododendrons and mountain laurels!

I am so happy...I don't have to work on Saturday after all. A client changed course or something. However, I may have to come in to work the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which kind of sucks since I was so looking forward to a long holiday weekend.

Ahhh, the weekend is here. Today was a long day. I prepped all morning for my bank interview. There are certain unexpected questions that have tripped me up in the past. I wanted to be sure I could respond seamlessly.

It was a 2-hour interview with 3 people. I think I did fairly well, no major gaffes, and the job surprisingly seems like a pretty good fit for me. I had initially given myself a 50/50 shot at even getting an interview; now I feel they'd be nuts not to hire me!I have 80% of what they're looking for: outstanding writer, strong background in financial services, even prior banking experience, and tons of experience writing all kinds of print and digital stuff. They're even wanting to start a new corporate blog, which I would own; this is right up my alley. They're also going thru a rebranding, and I also have a lot of experience with branding in my other bank job. So it would see to be a really good fit for me.

I guess we'll see what happens. If I get this job, not only will it get me out of a bad situation at my current job (long hours and work environment similar to a bull pen at the NY Stock Exchange), but it would also get me into a quality, affordable health plan, just in the nick of time (before my COBRA expires). To accomplish all that smack dab during the traditionally slow jobs market during the holidays would be truly awesome.

So I got out of the interview a little after 3 pm, feeling pretty drained, and then I had to drive back to work since I offered to do that. I didn't want to make it obvious I was on a job interview, so I had brought a chance of clothes with me, but I didn't want to waste time running into a fast food place to change, so I just pulled into a parking lot (ironically, it happened to be a branch of the bank where I interviewed), and just changed into my blue jeans in the car, and that was that.

I put in 3.25 hours at the pharma job and then left for home at 6:45 pm, hitting the usual nightmare interstate traffic.

My to do list is not too bad this weekend. I hope to discuss my generator with the electrician; his price, I thought, was reasonable, but I also have to get a plumber to do some work related to it. I have to tally up all the incidental costs and sales tax; it still might add up to about $5,000 when all is said and done.

The fun never stops

November 15th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Now I'm being asked to come in on Saturdays for the next few months. So I just cancel all family/personal plans for the foreseeable future? The owners are happy because they landed a few big accounts/projects. There's a lot of work. Hard to say no when every other employee is coming in. If you refuse, you stand out like a sore thumb.

Sure, they want me to be "flexible," but are there any limits? Does it work both ways?

Meanwhile, another employee went off to an out-of-state wedding over the weekend. She was supposed to return to work yesterday, but word had it that her flight was delayed. Then, when her flight did arrive here, she chose to go home instead of coming directly to the office and decided to spend the rest of the day at home. Others in the office were whispering, she's in deep trouble. (Roll of the eyes.)

My manager told me these are the kind of hours agencies typically work. Um, no, I've worked for 3 agencies before (a marketing agency, a PR agency and a strategic consulting firm), and none of them had hours like this.

Regrettably, I only learned I would be asked to work all day on Saturday AFTER I volunteered (feeling a bit guilty about the job interview) to come to the office after the interview ends Friday afternoon, probably around 4 pm. I would not have chosen to rush over there post-interview if I knew I'd be there Saturday.

What's your home maintenance style?

November 14th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

Is anyone else enjoying "The Durrells" on Masterpiece Theater? Raising your family on a charming Greek island sounds so....idyllic.

Yesterday I finally got the info I needed to dispose safely of the rest of my spent smoke alarms. Most were my mother's. (She kept everything.) They have a small amount of radioactive material in them so they should NOT be thrown in the trash. Nor does my town household hazardous waste event accept them for drop-off.

Each smoke alarm maker only accepts their own brand back for recycling. So I had to track down and call 5 separate companies. So I have 3 packages to mail off today and then I'm done with that particular chore. I wanted to do the right thing and unlike a lot of my mother's stuff, this was one item I knew I could part with.

I also ascertained that my Kidde kitchen fire extinguisher is NOT on the recall list. If you have one, be sure to check their listing of recalled fire extinguishers and/or call them. It applies to extinguishers sold decades ago, so don't think because yours is old that it's not on the recall list.

Yesterday early before work the electrician I use came over to have a look around with the aim of installing a stand-by generator.

I told him I'd calculated wattage of the key items I'd want working during a power outage (furnace, fridge, microwave, TV, computer) and it came to just 5,000 or so kilowatts. I believe the smallest generator they sell is 7500 watts so that's all I think I need and I don't want to pay more for something that's going to deliver 100% power during an outage. However, that's what he initially tried to tell me I should do. Which disappointed me a little because my past impressions have been that he's very honest. I'll be curious about what price he comes up with.

One thing I'm not crazy about is adding yet another "system" that should have annual maintenance. So far I've got the furnace, furnace humidifier and central air now, all of which should be tuned up annually. Actually, I cleaned my humidifier myself and just ordered a replacement filter for it. The problem is, you only look at these things once a year so you tend to forget actually what steps you should take. But I'm trying.

The furnace I can't do myself, of course. I almost always pay for an annual tuneup, my thinking being, i don't want to risk problems in the dead of winter with no heat. But I wonder if everyone does this. I learned my mother never had hers serviced until she had a problem with her heat and it cost over $2,000 in repairs.

I used to do a chimney cleaning every year as well, for similar reasons, even though I have no fireplace here and the chimney is the furnace chimney. Then i got a stainless steel liner in it which in my mind makes it even less likely there'd ever be a fire or creosote buildup, so I've been doing the cleanings every other year. My father doesn't think it's necessary at all, but he's no expert. I've been thinking of calling my local fire department to ask their opinion. Of course the chimney sweeps will tell you it's important because they want the business.

The one I had scheduled to come this past Saturday was a no-show. Well, he eventually arrived about 2 hours late, after I had left to do other things. My weekend time is too precious. I wrote them a bad review on Angie's List. It's Customer Service 101. Show up as scheduled. They never even called me to tell me they'd be late or anything. I just have not heard from them since!

How do you handle household maintenance issues for your furnace, whole house humidifiers, central air and generators, etc? Are you religious about annual servicing or don't you bother?

Spoke too soon...

November 12th, 2017 at 07:55 pm

Meaning, the fleas are still with us. Frustrating. Too soon to give a 3rd dose. Will never use Frontline again.

Here's what I did today:

1. Ran over leaves on the lawn with my mower to mulch them, about 40 minutes.

2. Blew leaves off the driveway, then swept them up in the wheelbarrow and dumped them.

3. Made a tomato vegetable soup and kale salad for the upcoming work week.

4. Determined that my kitchen fire extinguisher is indeed among those recalled; will call Kidde Monday to get a replacement.

5. Gathered up 3 strings of Xmas lights taking up a lot of space. Made sure all were working, then too pix and posted on Facebook for sale; if they don't sell in a week, I'll drop them off at Lowe's for recycling since they're not LEDs.

I'm running out of time now, to do everything I wanted. I guess assembling my portfolio for Friday job interview has to come first since I'm too tired when I get home from work.

Aside from that, I really wanted to go to the Historical Society program this afternoon and/or a one-day showing of Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin at the town hall theater. The former starts in 5 minutes and I'm too pooped to run out, so maybe I'll try for the 4 pm movie.

That means I have to put the portfolio together NOW. Now, PS, now! No rest for the weary.

Fewer fleas

November 11th, 2017 at 02:01 pm

I won't say we're flea-free yet, as I'm sure there are some still hiding, but it's getting harder for me to comb out any fleas on Luther. I found one this morning.

I got home at 9 pm from work last night. I've listened in on 6 doctor interviews in the past 2 days, and this last one was 7 pm on a Friday night, and ended at 8.

I was going to talk to my manager, and I did manage to express one thought, that I wanted us to stick to the work schedule he and I agreed on when I was hired, ie, 10:30 am to 6:30 pm. I was going to say more, but it's hard to have a complete conversation there, and we were interrupted.

To my surprise, instead of telling me that simply wouldn't work, my manager looked chagrined and thanked me for my help with the interviews.

It made me feel sort of empowered, that I could stand up for MY needs and discover I wouldn't be quickly axed. No doubt the thought of finding someone new is something he has no time for and thus is reluctant to do, but they do also like my work and I get along with everyone.

The chimney sweep is coming this morning. I have a variety of errands/chores to do this weekend that include recycling 2 boxes of CFL bulbs at Lowes, a dump run, mow-mulching fallen leaves on the north side of the house, getting in touch with FireSentry so I can hopefully recycle their spent smoke detectors by returning them and returning some shoes to QVC. I also have to prep for the bank job interview next Friday.

I would like to treat myself to a Historical Society presentation tomorrow at the library, if I can carve out 2 hours of free time.

I've been trying to find out when this month the tree company hired by the town to take down the 3 giant white pines along the road will perform the work. It's very frustrating when they call you back but don't leave a message! Must we talk in person on this matter? I can't easily take calls on my cell at the office and I have just a single window of time each morning before leaving for work to call them. Doctor's offices tend to do the same thing: they call you and then ask you to call them back, even though I've signed the little forms saying it's ok to leave me a confidential message.

Yabba dabba do

November 10th, 2017 at 10:13 am

Lo and behold, an interview has materialized with the bank that phone-screened me on Tuesday.

I still give myself just a 50/50 chance. But, the phone interviwer told me it would take them 2 weeks to screen the rest of candidates and that I wouldn't hear from them til after that, and then 2 days later, I get word they want me to meet with 3 people, so that's all good.

The interview is next Friday smack dab in the middle of day, so I had to bite the bullet and just tell my boss (via email) at current contract job I couldn't come in that day but could work from home after 4 if he needs me. I will need the time beforehand to prep. I am sure he won't be happy about that. I told the guy who manages the office calendar as well, and his first response was, did you "clear it" with J.? I'm taking that day off come hell or high water.

My boss asked me if I could take some notes of a gastroenterologist being interviewed for market research purposes on his opinions of various bowel prep products used when doing colonoscopies. My firm has been hired to work on some training materials for a specific bowel prep maker, and my notes will be used by the owner of the company to design a workshop.

There's actually a series of physician interviews over several days (they get paid for their feedback) and naturally the ones they want me to listen in on take place first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. So yesterday was a very long, 11-hour+ day for me, from 8:30 am to 8 pm. And it will be the same today, getting home around 9 pm.

I don't like eating such a late dinner. I feel like i have no control over how long my workday is, nor do I like having to "ask permission" to leave each day, and the answer depends on whether they have anything else pressing. It's impossible to plan anything, or count on being able to do anything, cus you just don't know.

They do try to keep the employees happy with Bodega Days on Tuesdays, and on another day you can order whatever you want from Organika Kitchen, and yesterday it was delicious baked goods from a top-notch French bakery.

Working here has probably been a good exercise for me, becus wherever I go after this will feel like a cinch as far as time commitments go! But I need some sense of work/life balance, and this just isn't the place for it. It's a shame, because I find the industry very interesting and could learn a lot, and I almost wish this job came along earlier in my career; at this point, I would like to "wind down," and this job is just the opposite.

If my manager questions me about my taking that day of the interview off, I will just tell him it's an interview. He had said they would make me an offer but I don't have a clear idea of when that will happen, and with my health insurance issues, I ca't afford to wait.

I was chit chatting with another employee there yesterday and learned that everyone gets just 1 week of vacation (!) but yes, they do have a 401k. I'd be curious to know whether bonuses or profit sharing exist. Surely all their employees deserve bonuses for their exceedingly very long workdays. There's one longtime employee who spends 3 hours (RT) daily driving back and forth, gets there around 8:30 am and never has left before me, so that means after 8 pm at night. And that's routine, not a one-time thing. What kind of a life is that?? How do they do it? Why? I really wish I could ask her these questions. Is the paycheck that good? The benefits sure don't seem to be.

I'm beginning to think this company could never match any offer I might get from the bank I'll be interviewing with. So that's why I need to take the upcoming bank interview very seriously, and take the time I need that day to prep even if it makes J. wonder what's going on.

An offer is coming

November 7th, 2017 at 02:22 am

Last week I emailed my boss, asking if we could schedule a meeting to talk. I wanted to tell him that after getting a more precise idea of how expensive my health insurance would be, worst case scenario, on the healthcare exchange in 2018, that if he didn't feel there was a (perm) place for me there, I would have to begin a job search asap since my COBRA runs out in February. (I already have, as you know.)

The little speech I had planned was intended to put a bit of pressure on them since he had left things very open-ended as far as my contract assignment duration, and he didn't know about my health insurance situation.

He didn't respond to my email last week so today I popped my head in the door and asked if he'd gotten the message. (He's very busy and I suspected he just hadn't seen it.)

That was in fact the case and he just said let's talk about it now. Gulp. I didn't get a chance to say I'm going to be looking for another job because when I told him i needed health insurance, he said, well, there are only a few perm employees here and so they never felt the need; they may have to reconsider that, he said. But in lieu of health insurance, what they've done for others is pay about half their insurance costs, meaning, around $4,000. He said he would talk to the company owner and make me an offer, although he also said he wanted me to experience a little of their "busy" season, which should be starting any day now. Basically between now and January.

I also talked to him about the challenging work environment, ie, the noise and distractions. I asked if i could work at home at least part of the time for that reason. He said he would not say no outright, but that he was reluctant to let me since he feels everyone needs to talk to each other, etc., and it's easier to do when everyone's there. He did say I could move my desk to share with a different person than the one I'm with now, who has a booming voice and never tries to lower it when people come in to talk. Sometimes I just have to stop what I'm doing and wait til they're done talking. I said, I can get away with that now becus we're not super busy, but I'm wondering how it'll work when work picks up. (That drew his attention.) In a roughly 12 x 12 room with someone like that 4 feet behind you, it's impossible to concentrate.

I honestly don't think changing to another small room right next door is going to make much difference,a nd I told him so. All the people yell back and forth to each other in the 4 upstairs offices. My boss kind of agreed, but said let's try it first and then if that doesn't work, we may have to think about putting you downstairs with so and so. (Downstairs would probably be quieter.)

So I was really counting on some kind of work at home arrangement to make me feel this job was doable. So I'm very disappointed about that. I'm very concerned about the long hours, but one thing in the back of my mind is that if I really hate it, I can stick it out for just a year or so and then move on. In the past i would have said i could just RETIRE in a year or so but with the cost of health insurance, I don't know.

I'll be quite interested, of course, to see what kind of offer they make me, and you'll be the first to know. They described my job as "Editor/Proofreader." I'm going to ask the title be just "Editor," becus editors do it all while proofers do only proofing, and I'm really doing a lot more than proofing.

I don't think my employer knows what hourly rate the recruiting agency is paying me, and am wondering if they will call them to find out. It would give them something to go on when determining a salary range. But what I'm making now ($32/hr) would be on the very high end for a proofreader, but very low for an editor.

Poor Luther would spend so much time alone if I take this job, with Waldo gone.

Time, and how we use it

November 6th, 2017 at 11:34 am

A comment by Dido on my last post got me thinking more about priorities. Time priorities, that is.

Since returning to f/t work, I watch with dismay as my weekend "to do" list grows longer and longer. Part of what makes it that way, of course, is the fact that I live alone, so things just won't get done unless I do them. I am housekeeper, cook, laundress, a do-it-yourselfer, gardener and more.

I often ponder ways to simplify my life to make things easier. That's the reason I gave up that composter I just bought. It was so in tune with my lifelong interests. For most of my life I've been the "back to the land" homesteader who saw the challenges of solo home ownership as a challenge, not a burden. That is changing, and it makes me a little sad, actually.

For the same reason, when Luther passes, I will not be getting more animals. I grew up with a dog and have had cats all my adult life. I am really sort of looking forward to less spending on cat food supplies and cat litter (not to mention hauling 40 lb boxes of litter and the canned cat food), cleaning up hairball messes on my carpets, battling fleas, the endless vacuuming and hairs all over my clothing, having to be careful about houseplants (they get chewed), not to mention the inability to have my cloth shower curtain hanging down, or long drapes or nice carpets or nice bed comforters because the cat will either claw them, knead them or otherwise destroy them over time. And I'm usually reluctant to take extended overnight trips away because I worry about him.

I have loved each and every one of my animals, but for everything there is a season, and I think it's time to start a new one.

Another thing I've done is given up the lawn mowing. I think this was the 3rd summer where I hired someone to do it. Even then, I find the yardwork in constant need of attention and is never, ever "done." There are all sorts of invasives around here, the worst being bittersweet, which are constantly encroaching on other stuff.

Even in the yard, I've given a lot of thought as to how else I could "simplify," or minimize my work. I've thought about "undoing" certain perennial beds and just turning them over to grass again so I wouldn't have to be weeding and mulching all summer. (And to think there was a time in my 30s when I sought to plant as many beds, shrubs and trees as possible so there'd be less lawn to cut and plus I wanted to live in a forest.)

The back patio is an ongoing problem. It's an old brick patio I had already redone once, and I should have used pavers like the guy urged, but at the time I loved the look of old brick. Well, that old brick does disintegrate over time, and being so small, there are a lot of weeds that come up between them. It looks like a real eyesore; every time it rains, new weeds.

I've thought about having the guy who did my beautiful driveway in pavers come and redo the back patio. He uses some kid of substance between the pavers that hardens when it gets wet and I've had no problems with weeds in either the driveway or my front stoop, which he also did.

However, he's enormous expensive, and I have so much space for gardening and puttering in my "courtyard" driveway, I don't really need a patio in back. But there are plenty of plants and shrubs out there so going back to grass would take some planning. Sigh.

After only recently deciding in sort of a gradual way that I would stay put in my home here, after so many home improvements just the way I like things, I did feel a tinge of maybe wanting to change my mind.

I would feel more "secure" in a condo, becus there would be people around me and no doubt my neighbors would be friends. I'm talking about security during bad weather. Condos and other multiple household dwellings rank higher on the list when the power company is deciding who gets power restored first. And there are some condos around here with underground utilities, which rarely lose power (like my mother's old place).

I'm so happy with my paver driveway and my dining room bookshelves, but truth be told, every time there's a storm here, it's a very scary thing. I worry about huge trees coming down on the house, and this is no idle fear, as off the top of my head, at least 5 have come down over the past 20 years. Five big ones. One giant white pine only 10 or 15 feet from the house would have caused major damage.

These are just some of the random thoughts swirling in my head sometimes.

There are a lot of ways to simplify one's life and chores specifically, but many also cost money. Like, it would be simpler if I paid for garbage pick-up here, but I did that once and found the haulers were so picky about what they took, charged more if you had more than 2 trash bins and if it didn't fit inside the bin, well, you were out of luck.

I'm delving back into the well of combined wisdom here at SA. Do you have any creative ideas for saving time in your life? I'm not willing to eat fast food or stop cooking for myself.

Plenty of doings!

November 5th, 2017 at 09:09 pm

Today, I:

1. Took a bunch of area rugs and seat cushions outside and beat them mightily across a folding table I set up in the driveway to get rid of all the diatemacious earth I'd sprinkled on them 3 weeks ago. Tired of tracking the white powder all over the place and concerned it would fry my vacuum cleaners.

Now I just have the powder on my family room carpet and bedroom carpets, both too large to take outside for a shake. (Not sure exactly how I'll get rid of the powder. I might try a stiff whisk broom and see if I can get some out without creating a dust storm. I have a mask I will wear.)

2. Then I sprayed the upstairs and basement with a flea spray recommended by someone at the animal shelter. It has no odor and you just have to keep pets off it until it dries. Then it kills fleas on contact and lasts for 30 weeks!

I closed off both areas for 2 hours and have just now regained access to my office. I plan to spray the downstairs and lock me and Luther up in the upstairs after dinner.

We may have turned a corner with the 2nd Frontline application this past Wednesday. Today he is not scratching much. I'm amazed.

3. I switched out about 20 CFL bulbs throughout the house with new LED bulbs, including ceiling fixtures and even in the basement. I could use another 10 or so.

I've packed up the CFLs and they're destined for the next household hazardous waste dropoff, probably in the spring.

4. I made a kale salad with orange juice, dried cranberries, scallions, walnuts and raisins for work week lunches.

5. Whipped up a double batch of my granola, which will last about 2 weeks.

6. I drove to neighboring town to return the composter I'd purchased. The woman was supposed to meet me there but she never showed up. She had said she'd already refunded the charge on my credit card. I will continue recycling my kitchen organic waste at the transfer station.

7. I changed the bed sheets.

8. I did 2 loads of laundry.

9. I did an inventory of 5 spent smoke alarms I have (some were my mother's). They're from 5 different companies. I'll have to call the companies tomorrow to see if they'll accept them becus household hazardous waste drop-off does not take them. I've determined that I can throw away one of these in household trash. Hooray for me.

I've decided there are 3 home improvements I'd really like to do in the next 6 months:

1. Get a whole house generator.
2. Beef up my attic insulation.
3. Replace my warped wood garage door with a metal one.

The time to do these is while I'm working.

And the weekend is here!

November 4th, 2017 at 08:52 pm

TGIF. It's been another long week. That being said, the weeks have flown by.

I made it to the dentist during the work week without it really impinging on my work time. I love not having to be at work til 10:30 am. It really helps me get stuff done.

Along the same vein, I realized I could go back to dropping off my trash during the week, avoiding the mad Saturday rush there, by stopping there in the morning and just driving to work via the interstate instead of back roads. Since it's after 9 am, the traffic is just the usual kind of traffic, nothing crazy.

So that will mean one less chore to cram in on my Saturdays and it will be quicker and less stressful to do it this way.

I also decided to see if I could return the $40 composter I bought from an area group, for a refund. A few people were asking if there were anymore to buy at the workshop I went to last weekend, and I began having buyer's remorse after purchasing it, thinking about the mice it would encourage to stick around. It was a difficult decision becus composting is the kind of thing I've been interested in all my life and it aligns with my interest in the environment and being self sufficient and so on, but I began to think that overall, I'm trying to simplify my life a bit, and going out in winter to stir the compost is maybe not what I want to do. I initially jumped at the chance to do this as a way to simplify my life in another way, by avoiding having to make one less stop at the transfer station on Saturdays when it's a zoo there zigging in and out of long lines of cars.

But since I've decided/realized I can go back to weekday drop-offs, dropping off my kitchen organic waste at the special bin reserved for this won't be a big deal. I can still get free compost each spring if I want. I really didn't use the compost I got last spring. I'm doing only container gardening and just didn't need that much.

I have a phone interview scheduled for next week with a well-known Connecticut bank. I think I'm lacking some of the skill sets this particular job (digital content strategist) calls for, but the sheer volume of experience I have working at banks and other financial services companies no doubt made them decide to at least give me a look-see.

Open enrollment started Nov. 1. There are just 2 insurers in CT exchange and bronze plans ONLY. Most affordable one I could find was $765 a month. Scary to think I may have to do that. In any event, there is now a generic Copaxone with a different pharma company, and it's 30% cheaper than Copaxone. I will switch to the generic in any event. This pharma company also offers a patient copay assistance program, so as long as you have private insurance (Medicare doesn't allow discounts) you pay $0 for your copays.

You may think this is a good deal, and while I do benefit personally, discount programs like this one (there are many for the very expensive drugs) don't help the country get a handle on healthcare expenses, becus the patient copay assistance encourages patients to keep using expensive drugs instead of generics. The new generic for my drug just got FDA approval. Meanwhile, the company that makes my Copaxone raised the price of Copaxone 3 times in the past year, simply becus they could get away with it and they knew the generics were coming. I hate corporate greed.

Today I ran a bunch of errands, met dad for lunch, and treated myself to a stop at DSW. Wound up buying a very comfy chair of brown suede shoes. When I got home, I decided to squeeze in a little yardwork, something I've neglected really since 2015. I didn't do that much, just blew the leaves off the driveway, pulled out some bittersweet and put plastic fencing around some rhododendrons so the deer don't eat them this winter. I have one more I forgot about.