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Archive for September, 2018

Home maintenance and pushing for a raise

September 28th, 2018 at 12:17 pm

It being fall, there are certain home maintenance things I do each year:

* Schedule a furnace cleaning
* Schedule a chimney cleaning
* Clean out the gutter over the family room

And this year,
* Get prices for resealing my driveway

There was one chimney sweep I called and couldn't reach until the other day. I was surprised when he told me that I really don't need to clean a furnace flue, which is all that I have. I don't have a fireplace. He said I'm basically wasting my money because furnaces burn much cleaner than, say, a wood-burning stove.

I won't say I had the chimney cleaned every year, but I wouldn't let it go more than a year or so...just for peace of mind. I also had a stainless steel insert put in years back.

In 23 years of home ownership, no other chimney sweep has ever told me it's unnecessary. Not doing this will save me about $70 to $125 each year. I may call my local fire department, just to see what they say.

Mindful meditation classes are going okay; I spend just as much time meditating as "homework" as I do in class. The time commitment has grown with each class: now I'm supposed to do a 45-minute body scan, 10 minutes of breathing meditation as well as another "mindful" activity of my choice, which is washing dishes.

I can't say I notice much difference in anything, including my sleep. I sometimes drift in and out of consciousness while doing the body scan, since I'm lying on my back. And I just don't do as well with the other "unguided" practices I mentioned. But I will soldier on.

As it turns out, I easily met the spend requirements of both of the 2 new credit cards I got, even without the spending on my biggest bill of the year, my combined home and auto insurance ($1300). I've already redeemed one $150 bonus as a statement credit and the second one will become available to me at the next statement.

Now that it's dry, I could more closely inspect the 1st coat paint job on my family room floor. It looks pretty good, although you can still clearly see some significant scratches probably caused by moving furniture.

I expect to be doing the 2nd and final coat of paint tomorrow; it's raining today.

I'm having a little trouble, for the first time, finding an electricity provider. My one year with Ambit Energy expires next month, so I went online to my state's website where you can compare all offers. I applied to two 4-mth fixed deals (the best I could find) one from Public Power and the other from SunWave, but was turned down for both because I didn't meet the "load factor criteria." I'm not sure if I use too little electricity to make it worth their while, or if my electricity usage is too variable (becus I have central air). Anyway, my latest application is pending with SunWave. With each successive rejection, the remaining available offers are becoming more and more expensive, but not much I can do.

I have been (gently) pushing my manager at work to put me on the company payroll. Right now, as a contract employee, I'm on the agency's payroll. And I'm pretty certain I would fare better as far as raises go, not to mention eligibility to contribute to a 401k, with the company itself.

He seemed receptive to doing so, but he said a few weeks ago he was having trouble getting the contact at the agency to call him back. He seems like a straight shooter, so I have no reason to doubt that's the case, but at the same time, moving on this does not seem like a high priority for him.

So, rather than languish around waiting for him, I decided to call the agency myself and ask for a raise of some sort since I've been there a year now. At the same time, I would wait around to see if my manager does anything. If he doesn't, at least I got some sort of pay increase.

I don't know how pay rate increases work when you're working for an agency, but I'm guessing it will be minimal; I would hope for at least 3% since that's what inflation is running at these days (2.7%, to be exact). By getting no raise, I'm actually falling behind, and I can see that with prices for everything rising.

I'm just a number to the agency, and since my liaison there, a personal friend of mine, left the agency 6 months ago, I haven't heard a peep from them, not even to let me know who my new contact is. Really poor communications, but maybe their attitude is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My job began as something for a month or two and then my manager would basically reassess how he liked my work, and so I've just continued on for a year now.

So I spoke to someone at the agency who seemed receptive to a raise, but he doesn't manage my account and the person who does is out of the country til next week. She's supposed to call me next week.

I don't know if, as part of the process of reviewing a rate increase, the agency will contact my manager at the company, at which point it might be a little embarrassing for me since last thing he told me a few weeks ago was that he was having trouble contacting someone at the agency, but had agreed he'd look into whether there would be any penalties/payoff the company would have to pay to take me on as a perm employee.

Embarrassing only becus I haven't shared with my manager that I called the agency to ask for a raise, but I was beginning to feel impatient with nothing happening with my situation after talking about it, off and on, for a few months now. I know another contract worker with the same agency also desires to get on the company payroll, too.

What's also a little problematic is that getting a raise from either the company directly or the agency will make it more likely that toward year's end, I may have to tell the company I can't work for rest of year if my gross income exceeds the income cap for subsidy eligibility for the ACA health insurance I have. This would not make my manager happy as their busiest time is end of the year, although the person I share my job with could probably pick up any slack.

I told my manager this could happen, and that this was one reason why I wanted to get on the company payroll, becus by then making traditional 401k contributions as a regular employee, I could lower my reportable income enough to avoid this whole scenario. Meaning, I wouldn't be in danger of having my reportable income exceed $45k a year. (I'm working p/t.)

So far, I have NOT turned on the furnace yet; nights have been cool, but not cold. I just threw an extra blanket on the bed.

The Home Heating Contest

September 25th, 2018 at 11:58 am

Does anyone want to play the home heating contest this year? You know, where you try to avoid turning on the heat for as long as possible?

A Saturday Surprise

September 22nd, 2018 at 04:20 pm

Today's very big accomplishment was getting the first coat done on my family room floor. Looks great; I picked out a nice dark brown which I would describe as a cocoa color, and let me tell you, using the whole paint roller-on-a-pole routine really makes the job go fast and saved my back.

It will have plenty of time to dry before the next coat; if the weather cooperates, that will take place in a week, but I see rain is forecast, so it may have to wait.

I still have to find 2 strong men to move the large cabinet at left in photo.

So, getting to my "surprise...."

After all the laborious prep time on the floor, the actual painting went pretty darn fast. I realized when I was done that i had plenty of time to go to my town's health fair, which I like to do each fall.

I left, possibly looking a little disheveled, with some dried brown paint on my arm, but no matter, I thought, I probably won't see anyone I know.

When I got there, I wandered among the different booths and filled out a few raffle tickets. About 15 minutes later, I hear someone on a microphone calling my name, mispronouncing it multiple times. The thing was, I couldn't find where the guy was who was on the microphone. Apparently, I'd won something.

Then I found him; he was one of my town's state senators (a Republican). I know him well because he's always in the paper. He was emceeing our little health fair!

I won $30 gift certificates to a local burrito place. But the real surprise was when the senator said he'd been wanting to meet me for the last 15 years! He even showed me my name and contact info on his phone!! Boy was I surprised. He said someone had told him I was a very good writer, and that he wanted help writing some political stuff as English is a second language for him.

He talked a while about how he wants to bring people together to diminish the polarization which seems to have taken over so much discourse today.

He kept telling me he was so happy to meet me, and after I told him where I was now working (in the town where he lives), he insisted we get together for a coffee since I work nearby. I gave him my updated phone number.

He was so personable, with what I would describe as a magnetic personality, I forgot to tell him I'm a Democrat.

Catching up...

September 15th, 2018 at 12:15 am

Saving on Phone and Internet
So recently I dropped my Frontier (formerly AT&T) phone line and took a chance on Magic Jack. I'm happy with Magic Jack, although I notice if my computer is not turned on, neither is the phone. I now have 4 phones working with it and my annual bill for it will be about $40 a year, as opposed to my $62/mth for combined phone and Internet with Frontier. A big improvement.

So today I decided to see if could do better with the Internet; since I dropped the phone with Frontier, I lost some bundled discounts, and the Internet alone with them is $45. I felt I could do better elsewhere, but after speaking to their retention department, I was able to get it lowered to $35 a month with a 1-year contract. I'm pretty happy with it. It's a pretty slow speed (12 mgps) but it works for me and I watch movies/videos all the time.

I love lowering recurring bills.

Bonus Credit Cards
I recently did a temporary lift on my credit freeze at all 3 bureaus (only 1 charged me for doing so, $10...I think they will all be free moving forward? not sure...). I did this to apply for a new bonus credit card, to defer the cost of my annual home/auto insurance.

I didn't qualify for the card I wanted (Cap 1 Savor Rewards) but I did qualify for 2 others with smaller bonuses of $150 each: the Chase Freedom card, which I've had before, and an HSBC card.

Current home improvement project
Haven't made much progress on repainting the family room floor, mainly becus it's been humid and hot. I plan to work on it this weekend. Not the first coat, but finishing up with the sanding and priming.

Mindful meditation
I've had 2 MM classes thus far. It's a bit more of a commitment than I initially realized, but it should be okay. Our instructor has a PhD in psychotherapy and a master's in something else, plus she trained with a Buddhist in Japan. I love using the FitBit. My sleep patterns seem kind of wacky. I need to research what is "normal" as far as the amount of deep and REM sleep you should be getting.

We have daily homework assignments.

Tomorrow is International Coastal Cleanup Day, and a friend and I are going to one of many Connecticut beaches with organized cleanups. Ocean trash is a real problem and hazard to marine life.

Aside from that, the weekend's priority is working on my family room floor project.

I discovered 9 more black swallowtail larvae on my parsley plants.. It's rather late in the season and Ii suspect they will overwinter and emerge in spring rather than now; this is something they decide on their own. I anticipate keeping them in the garage during that time, for their own protection.