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A candle extinguished

December 4th, 2018 at 05:52 pm

Me and Ron, Luzern, Switzerland, 1987, in front of the famous Lion of Luzern.

Today around 5 pm I got a phone call on my cell, but since so few people have my number, I mostly don't answer, because it's spammers, usually.

Then I saw it was my friend's niece. I called her back, thinking that my friend R. had been in really tough shape when I saw him Friday.

She told me he died. The rest of what she said was a blur; I'm not even sure if it was today or yesterday. I guess it was the pneumonia, not the cancer, because he was having a lot of trouble breathing, even with the oxygen tube.

I feel very sad that in the end, a nurse held his hand in the hospital. None of his family was there.

He was one of those larger-than-life people, and he had such a big impact on my life; that's why it came as such a shock that he died. Even though he's been fighting metastatic prostate cancer since his diagnosis in 2008, I thought he would pull off a recovery and hang around a while longer.

He was always the one to take charge, run the show, step up to the plate, organize the day or a trip to Paris. Intelligent, witty, a great conversationalist with a soft spot for old people and his one and only dog, he spent much of his time in retirement volunteering at a helicopter museum and teaching kids how to drive. He spoke fluent German, which really came in handy during our trips abroad. Once, when we were disembarking from the plane and headed for the terminal, fatigued and glad to be on US soil again, he broke out singing God Bless America, creating ripples of laughter among the other passengers. He could wow a crowd with an impromptu stint at the piano.

Years ago, when he picked me up one day for a date, he suggested picking up my grandmother and taking her out for a drive in the country and an ice cream cone. She loved him for it, and so did I. More recently, he organized several day-long road trips with my dad to show him what Connecticut looks like after dad moved up here from New Jersey to be closer to me and my sister. During one of those road trips, he thoughtfully arranged a stop at a summer German festival where we enjoyed schnitzel and sauerkraut while watching the polka dances.

We often clashed and had disagreements, but we always found a way to tell each other "Friends forever." And so we were.

Such luck

December 4th, 2018 at 04:51 am

So, with the year's end approaching, I've been carefully tracking my gross income YTD, for a couple of reasons.

My income has tracked a bit lower than anticipated, and so my gross income from the job as of Dec 1 is only $32,000 with 1 more month to go. My gross would have been $,6500 higher, but I already made a traditional (tax-deductible) IRA contribution.

This is significant, since if I kept my total income (which also includes dividends, capital gains and interest) below $38,600, I will pay 0% on long-term capital gains tax and fall into the 12% federal tax bracket!

My hope was that by mid-December, with just 1 or 2 more weekly paychecks to go, I could have a pretty certain feel for whether I'd be far enough below that $38,600 figure, so that I could also do a small Roth IRA conversion which would not exceed the $38,000.

But alas, to muddy the waters, my boss today approached me and asked if I'd be willing to consider working close to full time starting probably next week through early January as we have a lot of work coming down the pike and he wants me to do quality control.

I'd really rather not, for the reasons just stated above and becus I value my free time, but it's kind of hard to say no when you just got a raise, so I tentatively agreed, provided I could carve out some blackout dates for things I've already planned.

Hopefully it will all work out. It's only a few weeks. If I have to, the first thing I'd forfeit is the Roth IRA conversion, but I'm still hoping I can remain in the 12% tax bracket and pay $0 capital gains. What a nice Christmas present to myself.

My cousin from Pennsylvania is coming out for a visit next week for a few days, weather contingent.(His trip was one of my blackout dates.) It's been about 6 or 7 months since we saw him and hopefully we can squeeze in this visit before the snow really starts to fly.

I got a raise

November 30th, 2018 at 08:56 am

I got a raise at my contract job. My one-year anniversary there was late September. I hadn't realized that when I approached the agency to discuss a raise that they would make it wholly contingent on whether or not the employer I'm working for wanted to give me a raise.

Luckily, they did. Although I had pushed for a much higher raise, based on the fact I do as much copyediting as proofreading, I am actually thankful I got what I got, and it was more than I anticipated I'd get if I was wholly reliant on the employment agency to give it. I'm paid on an hourly rate, so it works out to a 7.2% raise, to $34.50/hour. Which is also a lot more than I'd anticipated I could earn working p/t in semi-retirement. So I'm thankful. Smile

Since I only work 18 to 20 hours a week, it'll come out to just $50 more per paycheck, but that's $200 more a month. This should make some difference.

I just spent an hour with my father familiarizing him with the new Jitterbug phone I got him. He has major vision issues. Even with the larger keypad, he had some trouble reading what the buttons said, and same for the screen.

The phone with activation fee and 1st month of service was $108, and each month thereafter will cost just $20 and he'll get 200 minutes each month, which is more than enough. It comes with a built-in flashlight, magnifier and camera.

This afternoon is my last meditation class. I learned some valuable stuff about mindful meditation, but what I liked more was the yoga. I hope to keep this a part of my life, albeit not on a daily basis. So now I have just 2 more visits with the doctor running the study, and then, finally, I get paid $200.

I'll be seeing my friend with the prostate cancer before the meditation class. I hope he is doing better today, but as of late, he is not. He got multiple blood transfusions and some special injections to try to boost his red blood cell count, which is very low, and he's still reliant on an oxygen breathing tube and living alone at his condo.

My friend's best friend and I have have now both contacted his family (his niece, sister and brother) and suggested he should no longer be living alone. At the least, they could have the VNA and aides come to the house daily to check up on him, and he could get Meals on Wheels. I guess I will learn today when I see him if there are to be any changes. The purported purpose of my visit today is to continue helping him declutter and take stuff away, but I of course I am there for emotional support and will urge him again to consider his options.

My walking partner friend is having 2 Xmas parties, one on Xmas day. She seems to have a lot of friends, and I guess I will be meeting them soon. She's the one who likes to bake, so this will be good. Smile

I did some Xmas shopping online this past week, but I really don't have much to do. I'm having a gift shipped directly to my cousin in NJ, and we plan to open our gifts for each other over the phone together. Smile We met at Chris Ruth's Steakhouse, a restaurant midway between us for Thanksgiving, and we both liked the food a lot, although I felt gouged on beverages. They charged us $17 a glass for the Pinot Grigiot and $5 for a cup of tea. That's crazy.

I told my cousin if we did this again, I'd bring a bottle and some glasses, and we could drink in the car before going in. Smile

There are a ton of holiday-oriented craft fairs, festivals and teas around here now that we're officially in the holiday season. I plan to hit 2 of them tomorrow before I see my dad for lunch. I love homemade items and little old ladies who knit or quilt.

Think twice before buying tires at BJs Tire Center

November 19th, 2018 at 03:14 pm

I headed off to work this morning only to find a completely flat front right tire on my car. After my local garage ascertained that the puncture was on the sidewall and thus not pluggable, I drove off to BJs Tire Center where I'd bought the tires just a year ago.

Unfortunately, I did not have an appointment there, but then, when do you know a flat tire is going to happen? The man told me I was in luck because the tire was in stock, but the bad news was, they were all booked up and they would be unable to put it on my car until Dec. 6...3 weeks from now!

So they advertise on large posters in the shop lobby that they are ready to give you new tires same day...apparently, that does not hold true for repairs or replacements.

I need the car to get to work and I'm traveling for Thanksgiving. So I cajoled and pleaded with him to squeeze me in, and he did, but I wound up waiting there all day and didn't get home tl 6 hours after I got there.

There was just 1 guy working there when I arrived, and although he was doing his best to work on my car, someone walked in the door about every 10 minutes, either wanting to buy some propane gas or buy new tires. Each time someone walked in, he came back from the garage where he was trying to work on my vehicle to wait on people who needed advice on new tires or this or that. I guess he had no choice but it was really amazing to me that BJs has so little regard for staffing its tire shop and the resulting chaos that results from one man trying to do the job of 3 or 4.

The man who waited on me agreed, and told me simply, people don't want to work here, becus the pay is not that great and the hours are bad.

I lost a day's worth of pay since I'm paid by the hour. I did get an $80 credit off the purchase of a new tire, which did not go far enough considering the hassle and time spent.

What's going on...

November 5th, 2018 at 05:35 am

My back yard

Yesterday was a lovely fall day, in the 50s but bright and sunny. I decided to mow my lawn myself again, mainly to chop up all the leaves. I ran it for as long as the battery lasted, about 35 minutes, so the lawn is by no means finished and we will have rain off and on this week.

I also used both my blowers to clean some leaves off the lawn and driveway, so I felt like I got plenty of fresh air today.

My street

Later in the afternoon I met an old college roommate at a local diner. She used my town as a midway meeting point to meet up with a man who was adopting a cat she was fostering. She lives 2.5 hours away from here, and he lives in Massachusetts. So we spent a few hours catching up.

I cut a lousy deal with my neighbor, who very much wanted me to edit a children's book he's written. I gave him a really cheap price, knowing his writing needed a lot of work, and also offered him an option to barter if he would cut down an old, half-dead apple tree on my property. That's what he chose, but in the meantime, I'm spending way too much time editing his book. I'm only on page 15 and already spent 7 hours on it, so that means it's taking me an hour to edit 2 pages.

It's the usual thing where someone writes something and then doesn't read it again. So I'm catching a lot of stuff he could have fixed himself if he had just read it over again.

I'm wanting to get this mostly done before the new job comes through and I need to start that work. Not really sure when that will be, but I did receive word last week that the employer finally signed the SOW.

We've passed "peak fall foliage" although everything is still quite lovely.

My town

Nice visit with new cousin

October 28th, 2018 at 05:33 am

Yesterday i met for the first time another cousin I've discovered through Ancestry.com. She came with her husband, who is Norwegian and still trying to get his green card.

They are both in their 20s and live in NYC, though my cousin said they expect to live in Norway in five or 10 years; in the meantime, he wants to find a teaching job here. His expertise is Norse mythology. She has a big interest in historical textiles, and she was the one who uncovered the town, Hunkovce, where my Slovakian ancestors came from.

Here is the church in that town, which is across the street from my ancestors' address, and where they are buried.

I made a lasagna and big salad, plus a nut pie for dessert.

I let her pick out a few pieces of art, but I think she was more interested in my small collection of my mother's woven clothing. She took home a long loom-woven jackets and shawl my mother made. None of this clothing fit me, and so they've been hanging in my spare bedroom for 3 years now. I thought it was very fitting that my mother's mother's sister's great-granddaughter should wear and enjoy these.

All told, I've made meaningful connections with 3 new-to-me cousins I discovered through Ancestry; they each represent 3 of the 4 different family lines. And I've met once or at least connected on Facebook probably a dozen more.

This and that...

October 18th, 2018 at 04:30 pm

Cold weather puts me in a mood to cook, so last night, I made lentil bolognese over quinoa. Tonight it was creamed carrot and cauliflower soup.

I also made a lemon chia pudding which is setting as we speak.

Tomorrow I'll make a tofu chocolate pie.

I'm trying out a few new recipes, casting about for what to make for lunch next weekend when my 3rd new-to-me cousin comes up for a visit with her husband, from the city. Maybe a lasagna would be easiest. I don't want to force my vegan food choices on anyone who may not be receptive.

I did something this week I haven't done in several years...mow my lawn. I have long been dissatisfied with how my mower guy does the lawn. He rides one of those very wide mowers and he skirts the edges all the time. I've noticed by looking at various markers...an old tree stump here, a drainage pipe there....that his skirting the edges has allowed weeds to encroach inward on the lawn about a foot! And there's one part of my lawn in the far front corner where I haven't been all summer that he just didn't mow at all.

So I mowed myself and then called and told him not to come this week. I'll probably keep using him next year because I don't have time to mow every single week, that's the thing. Plus, I don't like mowing in the heat of summer.

Unfortunately, as I was pushing the mower back toward the garage, one of the wheels came off. The bolt that kept it locked in place was lost. This happened to me once before and it was a pain to find just the right thing to fix it at the hardware store. Took several trips and frustration to fix it. Sigh.

I turned the heat on, guys. Frown

The new job offer is still not official yet, but the recruiter said he'll begin the background check. I am hoping to get the phone interview tomorrow; otherwise, due to my work schedule and jury duty next week, I won't be able to talk to hiring manager til Thursday.

So it doesn't quite seem real to me yet becus I haven't had an interview, and it's the hiring manager I want to speak to about the job, not the recruiter, who really has very limited info about it.

I can tell you I'm not looking forward to giving notice, but hey, maybe if he'd been more responsive to my earlier requests (in August), I wouldn't have considered this position. But it's really hard to turn down a 30% pay increase.

Oh, and after the 2nd coat of paint on the family room floor finally dried (it took 2 weeks, but there was no heat on in that room), I could see all kinds of marks from the roller.

I painted a 3rd coat this past Monday, and while I haven't walked in there yet, peering through the closed French doors I can still see some marks. Maybe not as bad, but there are still marks. And I give up. I will just throw a large rug down and call it a day. I can't devote my life to painting the floor, and apparently I don't have the technique down. I read you're supposed to "lay the paint down," not rub the roller back and forth, and that's what I tried to do. I think it's harder with a dark color and high gloss, which is what I have.

I spent some time with my friend with prostate cancer. He has run out of options and is being offered palliative care. When I got there, he asked me to stay the night because he was having a panic attack. He later got his sister to come over.

While I was there, there was a knock at the door and my friend asked me to get the door, since he is hooked up to a very long oxygen tube that snakes all around the house. It was a woman and her young son. She was the daughter of one of my friend's neighbors, and her father had told her about my friend, and she asked me at the door if she could pray with my friend. Kind of a gutsy thing to do. I let her in and they prayed together. My friend appreciated that.

He has already given his dog to his niece, because he doesn't feel he can take care of it anymore. He really loved that dog, and I feel bad he had to do that.

My friend has a very good network of people who care about him and are pitching in to help him. Besides me, he has 2 guys from childhood who have driven him over a dozen times already to Yale New Haven. He has another male friend, his sister, and his ex wife, all of whom are there for him. Still, I think he was having the panic attack because he does live alone, and he had recently learned he was no longer able to participate in a clinical trial of a new drug, he can't take the chemo anymore and he felt stranded.

I'm afraid I wasn't much help. His illness has revealed to me that while I want to be supportive, I don't always know the words or ways to express that. I need to try harder.