Home > Archive: April, 2018

Archive for April, 2018

Plant sales bonanza

April 30th, 2018 at 10:59 am

Yesterday I hit the $200 mark for selling perennials from the yard, 3 days' time. Every time I had a customer leave with plants, I went out to dig more up, putting them in my own temporary containers and storing them in a shaded area of my driveway.

Here's what I'm selling:

Lady's mantle

Leaf detail...note the interesting scalloped foliage which collects rainwater so prettily.

Lungwort, now in bloom.

Goat's beard, sometimes confused with astilbe

Blue sedum groundcover

And people are STILL coming this week. I have one woman traveling 40 minutes to meet me tonight and she said she'd take "everything you've got." Which means probably most of the rest of my lady's mantle and 1 large sedum, plus a 48-star flag I posted ages ago.

So hopefully she'll make it. Her purchases tonight will push me close to $300 in sales! Nice. But now these sales have given me incentive to find other little plants to divide or dig up to sell. This is just too easy.

I've been paying $70 a month for landline phone and Internet with Frontier for over a year, but recently noticed an online deal with AllConnect and Frontier for $40 or $50 a month, depending on what Internet speed you want.

So I'm going to call later this week to see if I can take advantage of it, as that would be a big savings. I'll call Frontier first to see what Internet speed I have now; curiously, this is one detail they don't bother to list on my bill, which I find annoying and strange.

So last week I checked the Health Dept website daily to see if my tick tested positive for Lyme, and while they got up to tick #30 by Friday, I should know about mine (Tick #31) today.

However, I've been having ongoing dull headaches since probably Friday night (the only symptom I've ever had in the past when I had Lyme), and I rarely get headaches. I decided not to wait anymore and ran out to Walgreens to fill the prescription last night and started the antibiotics, reluctantly.

After off and on rain all weekend and a chilly day today, we're looking at temps in the 70s and 80s all week!

Selling plants at a brisk pace

April 28th, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Several times in early spring I've sold plants growing in my yard and had good luck doing so. So I decided to post some for sale since I'm clearing out the patio area for the rebuild, which may take place as early as next week.

Yesterday I offered lady's mantle, coral bells, goats beard and a blue sedum groundcover, and posted pix from earlier years. I priced them cheaply at $5 a plant.

Oh my gosh, what a whirlwind of interest. Over 20 people have inquired about it. Three people stopped by yesterday and one this morning. I have 4 more people scheduled to come Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

I have to laugh. One of the people who came to buy was a young person tethered to her phone. She pulled up in my driveway and I was standing outside my front door for several minutes, patiently waiting for her to emerge; she was busy texting me to tell me she had arrived. Smile

Then, when I was standing with her and showing her the plants, instead of actually looking at them, she had her phone out and was looking at the photo I had added to my for sale post....strange!

Apparently everyone else in Connecticut is itching to plant as I am. But I know from prior experience that if I try selling the same plants a month or so later, I'll get a much less robust response. There's a narrow window of opportunity to really grab gardeners early in the season.

So far I've made $150 from just 2 days of selling plants!

Sky-high tree prices

April 26th, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Here's a trivia question for you: what do tree work and medical procedures have in common?

Prices for both can vary wildly. The same medical procedure at different hospitals can be thousands of dollars apart.

I've found the same applies to yardwork, brush cleanup and tree work, too.

Here are the quotes I got for cutting up a crabapple tree brought down by a storm, along with some white pine branches, and just throwing all debris into an overgrown area.

I figured it would be about 2 hours of work and that about $200 should be plenty.

Estimate 1: $480
Estimate 2: $700
Estimate 3: $1,488

I was blown away by Estimate #3 and was so miffed by the outlandish prices that I decided to just keep calling people until I found a price I could live with, and that if I had to use my little hand saw all summer to dispose of the tree myself, I would.

The final estimate #4, the guy who stopped by tonight? $200.

He'll be doing it next week.

You know there's something wrong when prices for the same thing vary so widely from one contractor to another. I think it's because some of these contractors have invested in lots of heavy equipment, cherry pickers, etc. (even though my job wouldn't require that), while others are basically just a guy with a chainsaw with next to no overhead.

I did get back to Estimate #3 guy and told him I thought his price was cray-cray. He immediately came down $200, and when I said that was still out of the ballpark, he came down another $538, claiming he misunderstood the scope of the project.

I was able to use the coupon for 3 months free membership at BJs. I wasn't sure if they would take it or try to tell me it's for new members only. I let my membership lapse in February and wasn't sure the membership was worth $55.

So I bought just 4 things: walnuts at $5 a lb, frozen organic strawberries, guacomole and sockeye salmon.

On the patio project, I dug up 2 goat's beard and most of the rest of the phlox, and I posted some of the perennials for sale on facebook. Got 3 interested replies so far; hoping some translate into visits as I just don't have the space for these plants but hate to see them go to waste.

MRI test results: the good and the bad

April 25th, 2018 at 01:13 pm

With the advent of electronic record-keeping in the medical world (welcome to the 21st century), I was able to access my MRI test results online about 48 hours after my MRI.

So I didn't need to wait for my doctor to tell me, and in fact, I'm not sure there's a need for me to see him again in June since I was able to stay on my current medication and I know the MRI results. So why spend the $50 copay?

But back to the results. They did both brain and cervical spine. While there are still multiple brain lesions (indicative of MS), there are NO NEW, ENLARGING, OR ACTIVE demyelinating plaques that have occurred in the 13 years since my last MRI.

That means NO disease progression. Which makes sense, since if you don't count my stiff toes (the new neurologist is not so sure it's MS-related), I've been largely asymptomatic for a long time.

This is excellent news. I must be doing something right. As you may know, I do focus a lot of energy on getting regular exercise and eating vegan. This won't change.

An even more intriguing test result, and perhaps one reason I'd be tempted to see my neurologist in June so I could talk to him about it, is mention in the report of resolution of a previously noted lesion identified in 2005. "Resolution" means the lesion/plaque identified in 2005 is no longer there (or at least is too small to show up on the MRI). Lesions shrinking or disappearing means that the inflammation responsible for the lesion is resolving and the blood-brain barrier resealing.

So that all is great news, and the reason I got the MRI done.

The not-so-good news is that the cervical spine MRI showed degenerative changes/stenosis in several areas since my last MRI in 2005. This is also known as osteoarthritis, aka, aging. So it's not my imagination that for the past few years, I've felt very stiff and creaky when I get up out of bed in the morning.

Really the only thing I could do to slow the process, in addition to what I'm already doing with diet/exercise, is to LOSE WEIGHT.

While not overweight in the past, with each passing decade, I have gained a little weight. This trend became more pronounced after menopause. To get back to what I weighed in my 30s and 40s, I would need to lose 20 pounds.

You would think this wouldn't be that hard, especially being 95% vegan, but I have not lost any weight. Hence my newfound interest in intermittent fasting, which someone else just posted about here. I'm going to try it tomorrow.

Spring cleaning

April 22nd, 2018 at 11:48 am

I made it to 8:30 am yoga today. Glad I went; I walk tons, but am not that flexible. They were giving out free packets of flower seed because of Earth Day.

Tick Ranger came shortly after I got back to spray the yard with organic cedar oil. I told him to be as thorough as possible and showed him the boundaries of the yard. I'm so happy he came and I really hope the 4+ sprayings this year will make a difference.

I want to put the hummingbird feeder out this weekend.

I continued digging up perennials in the back patio area so I can save them before the masons come to rebuild the patio. There's a lot to do, but I got all the Autumn Joy sedums.

I was running out of room in my existing perennial beds in the front yard, so I decided to divide and plant them in the very large clearing near the road where the 3 white pines were taken down.

Thing is, I realized, I'm just creating yet another area that will need constant weeding and/or mulching to control weeds. There are a lot of roots of something in there; the whole understory of those pines was brushy overgrowth: bramble and wineberry, poison ivy, Virginia creeper and bittersweet.

I feel like I have a unique but very limited window of time to take back that area and tame it as the guys who took down the trees did a good job with cleanup, removing a lot of the brush. I can see that a lot of roots remain, though, and probably some plants were just flattened down by the equipment they used in there, so I'm going to have to keep pulling roots and seeing what comes up. So far in that area I've planted 2 small viburnums, 5 peonies, and 5 sedums.

I spent my $25 Whole Foods gift card in a flash on some very expensive honey, organic lemon juice, apples, vegan butter and soy yogurt. I was curious to see how prices seemed since it's been said Amazon has lowered them, but I really couldn't tell. Whole Foods will remain for me a rare treat when I earn the occasional credit card gift card, but maybe not even then.

I still have no symptoms from the tick I pulled off last Tuesday (headaches, fever, achy joints) though I am super sore from yesterday's yoga.

We're rounding out the weekend with another beautiful repeat of yesterday but 5 degrees warmer, so I will be continuing The Great Perennial Dig-Out and taking a walk on the rail trail.

Medical meanderings

April 20th, 2018 at 12:02 am

I got through the MRI. Not my favorite thing to do: it's so noisy and I had to lay perfectly still for over an hour. I think I was stressed, actually, and his injection was very painful.

On the up side, he asked me what kind of music I wanted to hear, something I don't think they did when I had my last MRI in 2005. Belatedly, I saw a sign on my way out that they also do aromatherapy, which would have been fun, but perhaps there was a charge for that.

Very glad I got this done for $75 with this particular plan I have. Hopefully I won't have to repeat it any time soon. I left with a CD in hand that I can bring when I return to the doctor's in June.

I also saw my PCP about the tick bite. My plan was to get a written prescription which I would fill and begin only if I get symptoms. I haven't yet. Maybe I'll get lucky and learn next week from the Health Dept. that the tick tested negative.

She said my blood pressure was great: 120/60.

My PCP said that after the one beautiful weather day we had last Saturday, there was a big uptick (no pun intended) of people coming in with tick bites. So I wasn't the first.

I noticed that in one of the two garage light fixtures my electrician installed recently, that one of them has collected a fair amount of rain water in the bottom. If it builds up, I imagine it could short out. The other fixture is bone dry. I called my electrician, but then worried he might charge me for coming over, so after talking to my dad, I decided to tell the electrician not to come because I feel I've been spending the big bucks left and right lately. I might try drilling a small hole in the bottom (plastic) to let the water drain out.

Electrician wrote back saying he wouldn't charge me and could be here over the weekend. (Relief) He's a good guy; I had a feeling he might say that, but I didn't want to count on it. Yay for me.

The cable company came by and removed an old cable wire that was hanging too low; I wanted it done before the mason arrives with some kind of heavy equipment that would get snagged under it. I haven't had cable in at least a decade and I don't know why when they came to disconnect it years ago that they didn't remove the wire then, but they didn't.

After the MRI, I really feel like doing something to baby myself, and I will, tomorrow, when I enjoy a free lunch and stops at Whole Foods (to use a $25 gift card earned from credit card rewards), Walmart (for pots) and maybe Aldi's for a few sale items (cantaloupes and mangoes).

I also want to pick up a glass vase at $1 store so I can bring in a bouquet of my own homegrown daffodils for my employer Tuesday. I have hundreds in bloom or near bloom and they are so cheerful to look at. She lost her mother this week and I can relate to everything she's been through.

The week after next I have a dentist appointment.

I've been thinking about what to do vis a vis a colonoscopy. I had one before and she removed 2 very small polyps. Now I'm due for another one but I've been reading and thinking a lot about how Americans are so over-treated with a lot of unnecessary tests and procedures. There's a lot in the press about how Americans pay more for healthcare, but actually don't have better health as a result. In Europe, colonoscopies are not so commonly done and their rate of colon cancer is no higher. I did the Colonguard fecal test last year and that certainly was easier. Plus I've gone vegan since that first colonoscopy and I do believe that makes me less likely to develop colon cancer.

I must say I have similar feelings about annual mammograms and annual dental x-rays. I've often caved into pressure from doctors to do those annual mammograms but again, there's a lot of debate about whether they really improve the odds of finding breast cancer. The dental x-rays are definitely not needed if you have an otherwise health dental picture and yet i always feel like i have to fight my dentist about this when I see him. I think they just want a return on their investment in a very expensive x-ray machine, to be honest.
At some point this year, I'd like to get a physical (solely for the bloodwork, which is always so interesting and informative to me) and a Shringix vaccine at Walgreens.

Tick season has started

April 18th, 2018 at 10:00 pm

Don't read this if you're easily grossed out. Actually, I am thoroughly grossed out myself.

I made the most disgusting discovery last night. There was a fully engorged tick embedded in my right shoulder.

If you remember, I spent an hour or so on several days last week doing tree cleanup with my fallen crabapple and pine branches.

This is what it looks like now that I've removed many of the smaller branches:

(Plus there's a bunch of white pine branches.)

I do remember one night after showering of sitting in bed and feeling the back of my neck and upper back shoulder were itchy, so I scratched, but didn't think anything of it. Next day, my shoulder was still itchy so I used a magnifying mirror to look at it and what I saw was an oval-shaped, dark thing partially attached to my skin.

As hyper-aware of ticks as I am, I have never had one attached to me and am used to finding one occasionally crawling around. So when I saw this thing, I actually thought I partially scratched off a mole on my back! It sounds stupid, but I could only really see it from a certain angle, and I didn't see it moving or any legs! So disgusting!!!!

During the next several days, it was feeling kind of sore; it was right where my bra strap would rub and I didn't want to irritate it further so I carefully put a band-aid over it!

Yesterday, I even went to the store to get some Neosporin as it was still feeling sore and I was afraid I'd scratched off the mole and it might be infected.

Oh my God. I looked at it again last night and by touching it just a little it rolled off and into my sink. That's when I could see what it was.

I am just beside myself, believe me, and just so DISGUSTED and incredulous I could be so stupid.

I brought the tick to my town's Health Dept this morning on my way into work. For engorged ticks only, they will send them to the state to test for Lyme. Their website said it takes several weeks to get results; the woman said it would be a week or week and a half, and they only call you if it tests positive.

They also give you a number for your specimen, and then post the results on their website. I looked at the test results from 2017.

Of the 372 people who brought in ticks for testing, 126 of them, or about one-third, tested positive, 162 tested negative and 84 were either dog ticks and thus not tested at all (becus they don't carry Lyme) or not a tick at all, or not engorged. (They only test engorged ticks.)

So there's a chance I'm okay, but as a precaution and somewhat reluctantly becus I've done antibiotics for ticks so many times, I made an appointment with my doc for tomorrow and plan to start the Doxycycline. My doctor has often started me on 2 weeks of Doxy without waiting for test results. It doesn't even pay to do a blood test now because it takes at least 2 weeks for it to even show up in your system.

Really don't like the idea of doing it because there are risks involved in repeated use of antibiotics, but in this case the risks associated with Lyme or other tick-borne diseases is probably worse.

After seeing my doc for that I'll quickly get the prescription filled and then run up to where my MRI will be done. I called my insurer to double-check that it's pre-authorized and that my copay is just $75.

In the meantime, I also decided to spend $350 for 4 separate tick sprayings of my property this season (Tick Ranger) with an organic spray of cedar oil, so it won't harm bumblebees or other beneficial insects. It's a largish unanticipated expense I haven't budgeted for, but I'm seeing the local herd of deer in my yard nearly daily, and I feel it would be a good idea to at least try the spray one year and reassess for next year.

I also decided I'm done messing with the treework myself, so I'm collecting bids now.

Today after work I ran up to where a local jeweler was doing appraisals and I decided to sell my mother's engagement ring; I got a good price for it and the money was deposited in my account and will help defray the cost of my patio redo. My mother was married three times, so I don't know which husband gave her this ring (!), nor do I know what happened to her other 2 engagement rings.

She may have sold them, as I encouraged her generally to sell any unwanted jewelry when gold prices were very high because she sometimes complained money was tight when art didn't sell. She had savings but didn't want to dig into it so I know she did sell some things.

Interestingly, this same man gave me a higher price last year when I brought him the same ring. I declined at the time becus he was the first place to appraise it and I wasn't sure of its value. This time, he quoted me a price that was $400 less than what he said last year! When I pointed that out, he said the price is partly based on what's already in his inventory, yada yada yada, and I said that's ok, I have no sense of urgency to sell itt, at which point he said well, he could "do a little bit better," which turned out to be an extra $200, so while it was still $200 less than what he said last year, I decided to just let him have it becus I am feeling a little pinched with the patio redo and have already gotten appraisals elsewhere which didn't come close to matching his.

Where's the day gone?

April 15th, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Today sure flew by; I stayed inside all day as the weather is raw again and overcast.

I had a nurse come to the house this morning to give me a "refresher course" on MS injections. It pretty much confirmed I'm doing it the right way. She's a contract employee of Teva Neuroscience and does this p/t while she works a f/t job at a local internist's office. She was very talkative, maybe a little too much about her personal life, but that's ok.

After she left, I tried once again to make my own granola bars but they fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan. I may try increasing the amount of peanut butter, which holds them together.

I also potted up 2 very small plants I got from the annual Cacti & Succulent Show yesterday. Brought my father with me but he didn't walk around too much. I brought a lawn chair for him as he tires easily, and perhaps the crowd was too much for him. He said he had trouble seeing the cacti because many were so small. This is really sad to hear as it's hard for me to gauge just how much vision he has left.

The main thing I want to do is keep his spirits up and not let him get depressed. He never complains and doesn't seem prone to depression, but I don't know how he is when I'm not around. He is really a role model for me, though, in the way he stands up to whatever s*** life doles out to him. I don't know too many 85-year-olds who would still be willing to even go to a cacti & succulent show. He has trouble walking and seeing, but he is still game, and I hope that never changes.

So I spent about $36 on 6 different plants including a crown of thorns, another euphorbia, rhipsalis bacrifera, crassula saramtosa (in the jade family), haworthia, etc. I got some very unusual items. Now let's see if I can keep them alive.

I whipped up another batch of granola yesterday and did the laundry today.

Friday was another MS lunch and learn program that was more interesting than usual becus the pharma company that makes my Copaxone couldn't get the slide show to work, so the doctor speaker just ad libbed and answered our questions, mostly. This was much more informative than the carefully scripted slide program that has to go by the book becus it's FDA-approved.

As often happens, I see various people I've become friendly with over the years I've gone to these lunches/dinners, more so lately now that I'm working fewer hours.

I sat with a couple who's always been very friendly. He's about my age, has MS and is on disability. He's ok, but pretty early on he starts acting like we're old friends and he kept giving me these big bear hugs and kind of flirting with me.

His wife is from the Phillipines and is much younger. She's always working a variety of p/t jobs that pay very little. One of them is a marketing survey company. At the lunch she said, Oh, PS, I've been trying to reach you. I'm apply for a new job as a home health aide and I need 3 references; 3 people with MS whom I've taken care of. I said I'd be happy to be a reference and talk about how I met her and what a good candidate I think she would be. She said no, it can't be a personal reference, it has to be a client. Well, she hasn't had any clients and I am not interested in lying for her to get a job. So I just politely said I was sorry I couldn't help her.

Then today she texts me and after a little chit chat, she asks me if I'd like to make $35 doing a survey about chocolate. I said sure, that doesn't sound too hard (tongue in cheek), and then she says ok i just need your full name, address, and email. I gave it to her and then as soon as I did, she said I'm going to do the survey for you so you don't have to drive to such and such. I was a little shocked. And a second later, she's apparently filling out the survey form and she tells me, you have a 15-year-old daughter...I wrote back, please don't do that...then she texted, and you have a son, by which point I said DO NOT do that.

I started panicking, thinking she was taking my identity to do the survey and possibly pocketing a little more than $35.

Her next reply was a little sullen: well ok, but it's such a waste of $35. Why would she care so much if she wasn't somehow benefiting from this? I wrote back that I would call the research facility tomorrow and come in to do the survey. I wanted to gauge her reaction because I realized she could have just gone ahead and completed the survey using my info, pocketed the money and not told me. Letting her know I would call them tomorrow ensured she didn't do that.

I don't really have that much interest in it but I was becoming concerned that this person who I know only very casually could be hijacking my ID details and do this moving forward. So I managed to register with the company (I'd done work for them years ago) and I changed my email contact info.

Friday I also had my one on one consultation with the CFP as a followup to the class. I was a little was mostly a sales pitch for why I should engage his services and there was one part where he sketched out an interesting little chart showing the different buckets for my taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free monies, using separate asset allocations for each, but I noticed he kept that paper when he gave me all the others, as if he didn't want me to use it by myself.

Interestingly, he told me that while the paperwork I'd earlier received from him indicated advisory fees as high as 2.75%, he never charges more than 1.25% (of the total portfolio value). In any event, I have no plans to use his services but didn't say so, so now he's going to call me and I'll tell him then.

I don't like the idea of having to pay a fee every year, regardless of whether the stock market (and my portfolio) had a crappy year or a good one. He would be paid, regardless, and I guess that's what I have a problem with. I think he should EARN his money, not just collect it automatically. So instead of paying a % depending on how much $$ I had with him, why not create a scale where I paid him only if he actually made me money?

Yesterday was a gorgeous weather day and hit low 70s here. I did some more yardwork, but did not continue with my fallen tree branches cus my neighbor saw me working on it and offered to come by with his chainsaw, a huge relief to me. I planned on paying him $50 for the hour, but didn't say so.

He said don't kill yourself, let me do it, it will take just an hour. He said Sat am, and for some reason, he called me on my cell phone, which is never turned on becus i don't give out the number to anyone. So i missed the call. He usually just walks down, and by the time I called him back, he was busy doing other things. He said ok, maybe Sun a.m., but he called me back later and said he couldn't get the chainsaw to start so he couldn't do it. I was very disappointed becus if I have to hire a "professional," it will probably be about $200.

So that's a big mess that will need to be dealt with before it's time to mow, but at the same time, I need some decent weather days when I can move more perennials from the back, where my new patio will be going, before they begin work end of April, probably. So far I have managed to move the baby viburnum and several sedums. I still have a ton of lady's mantle, goatsbeard and alyssum to move.

Wednesday words

April 12th, 2018 at 12:01 am

I love starting off my "weekend" with a productive spurt of stuff done, and indeed, I did do that, starting off this afternoon around 4 pm when I got home.

I wanted to transplant a "small" viburnum (about 5 feet high now, one I already transplanted once, but to the wrong spot) to the large area fronting the road where the town took down 3 humongous white pines last November. I need large shrubs that will block the view of the neighbor's house and of passing cars.

I dug the hole in front first, but had a heck of a time digging up the viburnum in the backyard. It had a pretty thick and strong root growing directly down from exact center.

I finally got it out and moved it to its new spot, then watered it well. I do hope it has enough roots to survive. I'm not 100% sure. It is still dormant, so a good time to move it.

I'll water it daily for the next 4 days and see how it does.

After I got done with that, I went to work on the storm damaged, fallen tree limbs, continuing where I left off last time, and managed to work on that for 1.5 hours before running out of steam.

But when I last left the crabapple tree, one large trunk was still upright; now that limb is also down (crashed into white pine) and so it's a total loss, which is sad, because it had such a brilliant mass of fuchsia-colored blossoms in May.

I'm going to have to hire someone with a chainsaw, but I'm doing as much as possible myself first to reduce the bill.

I rolled up 2 tarps and returned to the garage all the pots I put over the daffodils to protect them from frost. We're to have frost-free days and nights for the next few weeks and, I guess, for the rest of spring.

Unfortunately, I was so involved in the tree work that I forgot 2 meetings I was going to choose from tonight: the garden club in town and an MS dinner about a half hour from here. I didn't make either...too pooped.

Tomorrow I'll be getting my hair cut ($7 before tip with coupon from Great Clips), vacuuming, and hopefully transplanting another smallish shrub to the front roadside before rain in the afternoon.

I also want to return a Transfer on Death form for my checking account to the bank. This was one of the few very useful pieces of info I got from that class I took: you can designate beneficiaries on any kind of bank account (TOD, or Transfer on Death) and when you pass, the monies go directly to your beneficiary and bypass probate. Which saves your heirs time and money. I knew you could do this for any kind of brokerage account/mutual funds, but didn't know you could do it with banks, too. So after I do my checking account, I'll do my numerous online money market and CD accounts.

I told my dad about this too because I don't think he knows that much about estate planning stuff but I haven't known how to approach him about it to discuss these things. So I told him about the TOD thing as something I was doing myself, and then he asked me to let him know if I was able to do it, and I could see he was interested. And since my bank is also one of his bank's) and they emailed me the form, I have printed out an extra copy for him.

Now I don't mean to pry into his estate planning although I am pretty sure the 4 of us kids will be beneficiaries. He often has me write things for him, fill out forms, etc because his vision loss is so profound he has trouble writing even his signature.

So I will carefully offer to fill out the basic info part of the form for him and leave him to do the rest if that's what he wants.

Having been my mother's executor, I really do wish my father would be open about his plans with me/us because it would just make things easier when the time comes. At this point, I don't think any of us knows who will be executor, or anything else, for that matter. I am guessing the executor will be the older of my 2 younger half-brothers (and praying it's not my sister).

Inheriting a good life, or a bad one

April 9th, 2018 at 12:04 pm

It being near the end of heating season, I poured the last of my kerosene in the heater, burned it til nearly empty, and then proceeded with a "dry burn" outside my front door. This helps remove the carbon build-up.

Later in the week I'll disassemble the heater, just by unscrewing and removing the top, to inspect the wick and scrape off remaining carbon so it burns well next season. In addition to the user's manual, watching a lot of You Tube videos helps.

Since I've only used it a total of 9 times this winter, I don't think it's necessary to replace the wick yet.

So of the 5 gallons I bought, I got 36.5 hours of run time. I had no power outages this winter (thank goodness) so I ended up just running it on weekends or when I was otherwise home, and it typically would keep it at a very toasty 71 to 73 degrees inside when temps outside were in the 20s, 30s or 40s.

There's really no way to regulate heat flow. It's either burning or it's not.

Familly complexities
Talked to my cousin J. in PA. He has major relationship issues with his 2 daughters. They sound like terrible human beings. They are in their 40s now (living with boyfriends, kids) and he continues to heavily contribute to their finances, paying for a house, a car (totaled, then he gave her another one), paying their cell phone bills and I'm sure there's more I don't know about. And yet they treat him terribly. Very entitled, presumptuous and demanding, not at all appreciative.

After I told him the story of how my dad told me, when I was a senior in college, that the modest child support payments he'd been making directly to me when I entered college would end when I turned 21, it inspired my cousin to stop the outflow of monies to his grown children. It's time they took responsibility for their own lives.

I suspect part of the reason for his largess is perhaps an unconscious desire to compensate for the lack of mothering his daughters got when she was still alive.

It strikes me that bad fortune, mental illness and addictions persist and continue on from one generation to the next. And I have to think back to my grandmother's sister, and what a bad choice she made in marrying my cousin's father (mental illness and alcoholism), which I think somehow influenced my cousin's choice in a wife (mental illness, painkillers and alcoholism), which in turn really messed up cousin J.'s 2 daughters' lives, finally leading to his grandson, who is now in jail after shooting at my cousin at point blank range 3 times. He would have shot a 4th time, but the gun jammed, possibly saving my cousin's life.

My grandmother and her sister could have passed for twins. They were both very pretty as young women. They didn't have to settle. But sometimes women go for the bad boys.

Although some feel we are masters of our fate, I think often there are forces at work with origins well before our time that remain invisible to the eye and beyond our grasp to change.

I'm sure my great aunt had no idea how her choices would impact her as-then unborn son, her granddaughters and even her great grandson. I hope the cycle can be broken.

Sneaky ways to pad a bill

April 6th, 2018 at 02:06 pm

Lately I'm finding more and more businesses pad their bills with all sorts of nickel and dime fees which really add up.

Today, I encountered two such fees having to do with my plumber and the local movie theater.

My plumber was here and is gone, and I have nice new shower trim in the bath/shower. I was a little perturbed about the bill. He was here exactly 1 hour and I knew their rate was $100/hr., but he wrote 1.5 hours on the bill. This is the part that really bothers me. That extra half hour appeared on the bill as if it was part of the labor they were charging me. When I brought it up, he explained that they bill for driving time.

I know their location and it's 15 minutes away. Why should I pay $100/hr for driving time? So after writing the plumber a check, I let him go and called their office, spoke to the manager there and he agreed to void the check I'd written if I paid him over the phone, and he would not charge me the $50 driving fee.

I was glad about that, but am thinking in the future I should make a point to find a plumber right in my home town and ask on the phone whether they're going to charge for the drive over. It just seems rather sneaky since the office manager did not mention this fee when I asked him about cost over the phone, and even on the invoice, it did not disclose that fee; it just indicated "1.5 hours" when I knew he'd been here exactly 1 hour.

The only time I remember ever having to pay an extra driving charge was when gas prices were really high, years ago. It just seems like another opportunity for them to pad the bill. I mean, they're going to have to drive somewhere for every customer call; it comes with the territory. What will they have customers do next, pay extra for the electricity in the office?

Today is my dad's birthday, so as a treat, I'm picking him up later today so we can catch the new Chappaquiddick movie. It wouldn't normally be my first choice, but he likes historical dramas, and this was the only thing of that genre playing at the new theater in his town.

Their new "order online" feature was available, so I thought, great. I can avoid making dad stand around when i wait in line for the tickets. But then I saw the theater charges a $1.50 "convenience charge" for each online ticket ordered, so an extra $3.

I wrote and complained about that too. You would think they would want to encourage people to order online since that lessens the needs for a live person standing behind the counter selling tickets. Perhaps with enough online orders, they could get by with 1 person selling tickets instead of 2.

I've also run into convenience fees when I pay for my heating oil with a credit card. In fact, I only accidentally discovered it would be cheaper to pay by check. So now I always ask various service providers if they offer a discount if you pay "in cash," which often includes paying by check.

Have you encountered similar kinds of fees that often fall under the radar if you're not careful?

Thursday things

April 5th, 2018 at 11:56 pm

I saw the new neurologist today and liked him well enough. I asked him how many other MS patients he has, and he said 40 or 50, so I guess he's got the experience I wanted to see. He's a solo rare these days. Not sure I'm definitely switching to generic Copaxone. He said generics are NOT identical and sometimes can be as much as 20% different ingredients.

Sure enough, I went home and found this:

However, my new insurer requires use of generics, if they're available, and I told him that. He said he'd talk to the Copaxone rep who happened to be stopping in later today to see if anything can be done. He said he's seen some patients switch to a generic and then went on to have troubling side effects. Not good.

We also agreed I'll have an MRI since it's been 13 years since my last one. It should only cost me a $75 co-payment, which to me is pretty cheap.

While in the doctor's waiting room, I couldn't help but notice how stark the walls were; no art anywhere. I got the office email from the front desk and may propose they consider purchasing some of my mother's art; I have jpgs I can send. You never know.

I hit Aldi's for their $1.19 cantaloupe (they were so sweet last week) and their .49 mangoes, among other things. Bought a birthday card for my dad next door and filled up the gas tank before dropping off some book donations at the library. Vacuumed the house. I found a FLEA on Luther. Gave him Advantage Plus yesterday.

I had another assigned survey from my local bank so went to use their teller and then filled out the survey online when I got home. Each time I do this sort of thing it's an easy $10.

Also went to the hardware store to replace 2 faucet washers as both my kitchen faucet and the downstairs bath faucet have had slow drips for ages. My local hardware store didn't have the right size so now I have to go to a plumbing supply place. My chores never seem to end. Sigh. But it's a cheap fix (.49 each) and could save on my water bill. It just was never really on my radar til now.

I went to a lot of trouble to cover up as many daffodils in my front yard as possible becus it got down into the 20s last night and many are ready to bloom. I used plastic sheets, a tarp and lots of large flower pots turned upside down.

Then this morning I had to pull all of them off and then put them all back on tonight because it will be another cold one. I'm not sure it's needed because the ones I couldn't cover look fine, but freezing weather is freezing weather, right? I have several hundred daffodils I've planted over the years and they are a cheery sight I'd rather not lose this year.

Plumber coming tomorrow bright and early, 8 am.

Light bulb moment

April 1st, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Roth IRA withdrawals are not counted as (MAGI) income when withdrawn.

I have been so focused on treatment of Roth IRA CONTRIBUTIONS, and how that affects your current year's taxes, that somehow I overlooked this important point. I mean, I knew the withdrawals would be tax-free, but I did not consider exactly how that would work in practice.

This would make it even easier to remain within a lower tax bracket in retirement. And regardless of how big your retirement kitty is, you could really wind up paying much higher taxes if you're not careful how you withdraw.

For instance, let's say you know you'll need $42,000 a year in retirement. And you also know that the 12% federal tax bracket is for incomes between $9,526 and $38,700. So you could simply withdraw:

1. $38,699 from your traditional IRAs, and
2. $3,301 from your Roth IRA

This totals $42,000.

In this way, you'd pay just 12% federal income taxes on the first $38,699 and $0 on the $3,301 (if you're single).

But if you weren't paying attention and simply withdrew all $42,000 from your traditional IRA accounts, you'd pay 22% tax on a portion of your withdrawals, or $5,369 total (an extra $726), just for withdrawing from the wrong accounts.

Conversely, if you chose to withdraw $42,000 from only your Roth IRA accounts, you'd pay no tax this year but, unless you have ALL your retirement funds in Roth IRA accounts, you'd wind up paying the piper in higher taxes come RMD time because the only way you'd be able to remain submerged like a contented frog in the depths of the 12% tax bracket would be by lowering your standard of living. (Don't know where that frog metaphor came from, but let's go with it.)

Your Roth monies could do much more good, taxwise, if you conserved them and doled them out to top off your income needs year in and year out rather than shooting your wad after a couple of $0 tax years.

Not 1, not 2 but 3 plumbing issues in a 24-hour period

April 1st, 2018 at 04:04 pm

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all my SA friends.

I went to see my friend R. yesterday. He was supposed to go for his 4th chemo treatment this past week but the doctor thought his tumors were getting bigger after 9 weeks of treatment. If he confirms this on Monday, he'll be switched immediately to a different chemo drug. Apparently, roughly half of cancer patients don't respond to the first chemo drugs and have to go on the next one.

All things considered, R. is probably doing as well (mentally) as could be expected. His focus is very much on wrapping things up, decluttering his condo so his family doesn't have to do as much. He shared with me earlier this week his very irreverent obituary, which he wrote himself. He has lost most of his hair, and what he has left has gone completely white. That was a little bit of a shock to me.

He said it's still possible the 2nd cancer drug could put the cancer in remission and he could live another 5 years. Or he could die within the year.

Plumbing woes...
The other day I cleaned the bathtub, and to rinse it out, I pushed the lever on the tub valve down to get water from the lower faucet.

That lever has been very stiff and hard to move for a while (it's about 20 years old) and when I went to take a shower that night, I couldn't pull it up. Wonderful. I was thinking I would have to call a plumber and replace the fixtures, paying probably $200 for the plumber's time and another $200 for a very nice fixture I picked out at Lowe's.

But I'd rather defer replacement for as long as possible, so I researched stuck shower/tub valves and decided to try soaking the tub valve in vinegar, contained in a plastic bag with rubber bands to secure it, overnight.

It worked!

I was able to pull up the lever so I get water coming out of the shower head. However, it was still hard to pull up, so I'm going to try never pushing it back down again.

Now, amazingly, I have a second plumbing challenge.

I came home yesterday to hear loud banging noises and sputtering when I turned any of my faucets on/flushed the toilets, and the water was brown. Kind of alarming. Like there was air in the pipes. I doubt the water company was doing any work on them on a Saturday.

After a few minutes of running the water, it turned clear and stopped the banging noises. However, I still had a significant loss of water pressure in the bathroom faucet, which could mean some corroded bits of old galvanized pipe could have broken loose and created a clog. I also tried to check the aerator on the bathroom faucet but it didn't seem to be the type that you can pry off or remove. I soaked it overnight in vinegar anyway.

Then after reading more online, I went to look at the faucet again, and this time I realized what looked to be one piece was in fact not, and I could unscrew the aerator off. It was clogged with sediment and very rusty. I tried turning on the water with the aerator off and lots of rusty water splashed out. At least I solved the low flow problem! I cleaned up the aerator and put it back on. Problem solved.

Smugly, feeling I had now resolved TWO problems which could easily have led to a call to the plumber, I decided I wanted to try flushing out my electric hot water heater, which I know you're supposed to do once a year, but haven't in the 5 years I've had it.

I printed out instructions from online although I "generally" knew what to do. First step, shutting off power at the circuit breaker. Check. Next, shut off the cold water inlet valve at top of heater. As soon as I did that, I noticed it leaking water right from the shut off valve. Great. I tried to shut it off more tightly, still leaking. I used a set of pliers to try to tighten the nut and that did help a little and it's now a very slow leak, but i had to shut off the water entirely or it leaked more.

So i think that's a temporary fix (i have a glass under the valve and will monitor how quickly it fills up) and I will still have to call a plumber, I think. An easy fix for a plumber to replace the valve, but not for me.

If I call a plumber just to replace that valve, I'll be billed for the service call, probably the full hour, even if it takes him 10 minutes to replace. So now I'm thinking maybe I should go ahead and replace the shower/tub fixtures since he's going to be here anyway.