<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Page: 2
 

Four Things My Cats Taught Me About Life

December 6th, 2009 at 07:46 am



1. Embrace your inner predator.
When Waldo stalks The String, I have to admire the intensity of his concentration. In that moment when his eyes lock on their target, the outside world ceases to exist. There are no distractions. All energy is focused on his quarry. Every movement, every twitch of The String is processed and adjusted for as the animal prepares to pounce at exactly the right time. In a house cat, such single-minded attention comes from instinct and genes, but cultivated by a person, these qualities could enhance one's accomplishments where patience, commitment and clarity of mind are required.



2. Life is best savored from a lounging position.
Like good old boys who never tire of telling the same story over and over again, the Fur Boys repeatedly urge the following wisdom:

"When you lie down, the pace of life slows down."

"Take time to smell the food bowl."

"You only go through life nine times."

"Stretch, roll, yawn and repeat."

"Indulging in a little catnip now and then is good for the heart."

"Decisions come easier following thoughtful meditation, preferably in morning sunlight."



3. Always make time for play.
Waldo has the long legs and lean body of a ballet dancer. He'll readily go airborne to pursue a flung mouse. His twists, turns and pirouettes would earn him points from a television dance contest judge.

Luther has the body of a weight-lifter, strong, stocky and stout. He's not much of a jumper and is more inclined to look for a seat as soon as he enters a room. At play, he prefers to have The String dangled inches above him as he lies on his back, four paws to the wind. At all times, he maintains a perpetual state of innocent, wide-eyed adorableness, a fiction he frequently plays up to get himself out of trouble.


4. Lick your loved ones.

The expression of love can take several forms, Luther told me one day, feeling philosophical. Licking, for instance. Waldo's gentle snoring, Luther confided, awakens in him a fierce desire to show his love, and he does so by firmly placing his paws around his best bud's neck and vigorously bathing Waldo's head in a no-nonsense kind of way. Should Waldo have the temerity to protest or the poor judgment to move, the licks are replaced by jaws locked on the throat and a tussle ensues.

Leisurely sipping a glass of Zinfandel in the afternoon sun, Luther was feeling expansive and eager to articulate his feelings. To prove his love to me, his Keeper, he explained, he only needed to beam and squint in beatific joy and gratitude.

When feeling particularly demonstrative, Luther expresses his love by gently gnawing on delightfully odoriferous human toes, starting with the littlest and saving the biggest (and best) for last. He'll begin by artfully gaining the victim's trust with gentle, tender nipping that lulls one into complacency. Then, without warning, the delicate sampling of the 5 Little Piggies degenerates as the victim's toes are noshed on while Luther clamps down hard with a devilish grin on his face.

Are You Better Off Now Than You Were This Time Last Year?

December 5th, 2009 at 06:20 am



Are you better off now, financially speaking, than you were this time last year?

I pondered that question while I was answering a survey from the investment management firm that oversees a good chunk of my investable assets. It caused me to stop and think a while, because the answer was not clear-cut.

Investments

Speaking strictly in terms of investments, the rising stock market has buoyed my portfolio by 27% in just a year's time. (But what the stock market giveth, the stock market can easily take away.)

Earning Power

It's hard to overlook, however, the obvious elephant in the room; my present state of joblessness means I am most certainly worse off than I was this time last year.

Debt

Here's one more angle to look at: the balance on my only debt (my mortgage) has shrunk by about $9,000 in a year's time, helped along by sizable prepayments of principal until my layoff in September.

How do you measure your financial progress and where do you think you stand?

Smart Move: Roth IRA Conversion When You're Jobless

December 3rd, 2009 at 05:04 pm



Being out of work can be a daunting experience that's mostly filled with anxious questions about how you're going to pay the mortgage and your many day-to-day expenses.

While the good things one can say about how unemployment affects your finances are few and far between, there is at least one positive scenario you should take advantage of if you've been out of work for more than a few months: a Roth IRA conversion.

For most investors, Roth IRAs have long been recognized as a preferable alternative to traditional IRAs, due to their tax treatment.

With a Roth IRA, you don't get a tax break when you make contributions, but after age 59 1/2, all your withdrawals, including accumulated earnings, can be taken tax-free.

In contrast, all or a part of your contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible, which could lower your taxes. You will be taxed, however, on withdrawals, and your tax rate will vary according to what tax bracket you fall in at the time of withdrawal.

While you must take minimum distributions from a traditional IRA by age 70 1/2, there is no such requirement associated with Roth IRA withdrawals, making them an ideal tool not only for retirement, but for passing assets on to heirs.

Many workers believe their tax bracket upon retirement will be higher than in their earlier working years, making Roth IRA conversions an attractive option.

Yet the stumbling block for some has been the sizable tax bill that can often come due from such a conversion, since the amount converted is added to your income and is subject to tax.

That's why long-term unemployment or underemployment can make a Roth IRA conversion a much more doable event with a much less painful tax bite.

In my case, I was laid off in September 2009, so I will still have significant 2009 income to report when I do my taxes. But given the extraordinarily poor job market, it's conceivable I'll remain unemployed for much of 2010; what income I do earn, aside from unemployment benefits, may come from freelance writing or other temporary work assignments.

If that's the case, or for others who have already been out of work for much of 2009, this could be an ideal time to take advantage of your lower tax bracket during this time and convert your IRA to a Roth IRA. The conversion could cost you very little.

In my own case, I've been wanting to convert at least a portion of my traditional IRAs into Roth IRAs for some time, but the subsequent tax bill made me reluctant to do more than think about it. If my unemployment continues well into next year, however, my income will be abnormally low and I could fall into a lower tax bracket.

Remember when calculating your total income to include any unemployment benefits you may be receiving.

A Roth IRA conversion now might still make sense for you, even if you've only been out of work for a few months. If, for example, your salary when you were employed placed you close to the minimum income within any of the federal tax brackets. In a case like this, even a small reduction of income could bump you into a lower bracket.

Remember, you can only convert to a Roth IRA if your modified adjusted gross income is under $100,000 in 2009. And this limit on income disappears next year.

Consider such a tax-advantageous move only if you have adequate savings and won't hurt yourself by paying the IRA conversion tax bill. But then again, if your only income is unemployment benefits or sporadic, part-time work, the tax bill could be pretty manageable.

Please consult a certified finance planner or tax professional to determine whether a Roth IRA conversion is suitable for your needs.

Important Note About the No Heat Contest

November 22nd, 2009 at 02:05 pm



I am not sure who is still in the contest. I believe at last count there were 3 or 4 of you, including ImaSaver and MonkeyMama?

If you are STILL living with no heat on in the house, could you please email lbruno@gannett.com.

She is especially interested in talking to you if you don't live in the Northeast.

She's a reporter with USA Today and she is spring-boarding off a recent story on the no heat challenge that appeared in the NJ Star Ledger.

This is a great opportunity to get some exposure for your blog and offer your thoughts on what it's like to live with no heat.

No Heat Contest Update

October 25th, 2009 at 05:47 am



Here's who has already turned on the heat:

Canoineag (Denver): Oct. 1
Dido: First week of October
creditcardfree (Iowa): Oct. 3
wowitsawonderfullife (Toronto) Oct. 8
AnnLink (Buckeye)(Ohio): Oct. 8
Boomeyer: Oct. 10
Fern (CT): Oct. 12
JoanoftheArch: Oct. 12
NorthGeorgiaGal (GA): Oct. 16
LuxLiving: Oct. 17

To Debtfreeme, Househopeful, monkeymama, imasaver, momfrommissouri, Patrick and PrincessPerky, are you still in the contest?


One Last Kayak Trip

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:19 am



With temperatures expected to reach into the low 70s yesterday, I knew it could be one of my final chances to take Little Minnow out for a fall foliage cruise. So I set out yesterday and put in on the lake at one of my hometown's boat launches.

I've learned from experience that one can look mighty foolish getting into a kayak in shallow water, only to find yourself unable to move because the hull of the kayak is wedged on the water's bottom. Unless you have a boating companion who can push you out, you really need to wade into deeper water so the kayak is truly floating before you get in. So, because I knew I would get wet, I wore a pair of sweatpants with those elasticized cuffs on the bottoms. I scrunched them up to my knees before wading in. I was expecting freezing cold water, but in truth, the air temperature was so warm it didn't bother me.

Once on the lagoon that leads out to the lake, I can only say the view was exquisite. It reminded me of a John Denver song.

Like a night in the forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses



The lake really did fill up my senses. A warm breeze riffled through low hanging tree branches and sent cascades of leaves floating down to the water's surface. That's what I heard, too...the wind in the trees and acorns raining down, some of them plunking into the water. Even the air seemed incredibly fresh and clean.



Once through the lagoon and on the lake, I decided to head south toward the dam, hugging the shoreline. The rhythmic sound of my paddles dipping into the water put me in a meditative state as I gazed upon the birch, beech, hemlocks, maples and mountain laurel with their impressionist-like palette of rust, gold, rose, red and amber foliage.

One or two motor boats made a few passes down the middle of the lake, creating broad swells that smacked against the banks of the lake. I thought it ironic that these same boaters, who evidently enjoy being on the water as much as I do, could be so disrespectful of the environment. There was quite a bit of floating debris, all of it plastic. I fished out about a dozen objects ranging from a motor oil bottle to bait containers, along with the usual food and beverage containers.

When I neared the dam, I turned round and headed back from whence I came. I considered crossing over to the other side of the lake, but in truth I was afraid of getting mowed down by one of the motor boats patrolling up and down. Kayaks are low-lying boats and I doubt you'd even catch my profile in the bright sun, doing about 30 mph, until you were practically on top of me.

So I contented myself with the same view, only in reverse. It was a picture-perfect day, so no regrets.

The cost of a kayak, roof rack, life vest, paddle, anchor, and assorted pulleys and ties about 5 years ago? About $1,500. Two-and-a-half hours out on the water in late October? Priceless.


My No Heat Date to Beat

October 1st, 2009 at 12:21 pm



I decided to look up in my old blog posts what date I finally turned the heat on last year. I figure, that's the date I want to beat this year, by at least one night, preferably more!

I turned on my heat in 2008 on October 18.

Brrr. So i have a few more weeks to go, and it got mighty chilly here last night, down to 59 degrees inside.

It's harder this year because now I'm home all day long.

As for who won the No Heat Contest last year, I see from a December 13 08 blog I wrote that I still had, as far as I knew, 3 semi-finalists:

1. sevenofseven - Northern California
2. nomorecredit- NY
3. swimgirl - Northern California

No one ever got back to me, I don't think, so I'm not actually sure who won!

2nd Annual No Heat Challenge

September 11th, 2009 at 12:08 pm



For anyone who wasn't around these parts last year this time, a bunch of us entered a challenge to see who could hold off turning on the heat the longest.

There's no special prize if you win, but it's a lot of fun (umm, yeah, right). Let me know if you're in; I'll make a list and try to update it (who's caved, who hasn't) every weekend.

May the best frugalite win!

How Green the Water Looks From the Cockpit of a Kayak

August 24th, 2009 at 10:19 am

I was really waffling on how to spend my last day at home. The weather, as I've mentioned, has not been cooperative, but today is a decent day and not as humid as it's been.

I was torn between kayaking, bike riding or tackling my "to do" list.

After reading MonkeyMama's post, i decided to do the kayaking. I've only been out once this summer, and I'd been wanting to go on a quiet weekday when I knew I'd have the lake to myself.

I was out for 2.5 hours and got another good upper body workout in. Only three boats passed me; otherwise, complete solitude. The sound of my paddle dipping into the water becomes rhythmic and so relaxing. Still, I could feel my stomach muscles tightening as I put some "oomph" into my paddling.


Saw 5 great blue herons. (It's possible some were the same bird.)


Emerald green waters


Rocky shoreline


A Good Place to Be in a Heat Wave

August 15th, 2009 at 08:06 am

Day #1 of heat wave....I decide to take the kayak out, alone, for the first time in about 2 years.

Although it's not my favorite spot, I went to the closest put-in spot in my town. I headed for the town boat ramp on Lake Lillinoah, about a mile or so past the state boat ramp on the same road, same body of water. They call it a lake, but it's really just a very wide river.

When I arrived at 7:50 a.m., the gate was closed, causing me to do a u-turn back to the state boat ramp a mile down the road.
There were about a half dozen vehicles and empty trailers already in the parking lot.

I unloaded the boat and pushed out into a channel that opens into the lake after about a half mile.



Today's the first day of at least a week-long heatwave with temps in the 90s, so I wanted to get an early start, and in fact, the fog was still overhanging the water, so much so that I worried a powerboat bearing down on me might not see me.

I hugged the shore and entertained myself by looking at all the houses.


Some are quite grand.


And some homes can't even be seen from the lake.


I startled a great blue heron on the dock (at right) who silently took wing when I came too close.


The first hour of my journey was calm and quiet, but 9 a.m. seemed to be the magic hour when a jet ski as annoying as a high-pitched, buzzing mosquito buzzed around. Mostly, there were just people fishing from their boats.


I went as far as the bridge, then turned around. I didn't want to overdo my first kayaking trip in a while, even though it's wonderful upper body exercise for me.

I made it back in half the time, due to the current.

There were more people unloading boats in the water, and an older man with his own kayak offered to help me get my boat on my car. Since I'd been paddling for a few hours, I was tired, so I said yes.

I enjoyed it so much that I hope to go again next Friday (a day off) when I think it might be quieter on the water. And I want to leave from the town boat ramp, about a half mile further north, so that I can paddle beyond the bridge. I'll have to call Parks & Rec to see when they open that gate up on a weekday.

And maybe I'll pack a simple lunch of some sort.







My Version of Winning the Lottery

July 30th, 2009 at 05:53 pm

Yes, I won the Potato Lottery!


Potatoes! Alleluia! I am blessed!

I actually returned the potato seed to the nursery because they were shriveled and wrinkled. I planted them, but then became disgusted at their black, blotchy appearance and convinced myself they were no good.

I was so surprised when healthy green shots sprung up two weeks later.

Then I endured three consecutive weeks of nightly slug picking. They decimated my once healthy plants despite my best efforts.

The tops began dying back a few weeks ago, and because they never had a chance to flower before the slugs took over, i figured there'd be no tubers.

WRONG. I harvested half my crop, only becus mosquitoes were biting. I dug up 6 lbs. of big, beautiful, red potatoes!!!!

I hereby declare tomorrow Potato Salad Day!

The Pros and Cons of Paying Off a Home Mortgage

July 25th, 2009 at 05:34 am



I'm roughly halfway through a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

My balance is low enough that I don't think it would make sense to refinance from my current 6% rate, given the closing costs.

I would love to be completely debt-free.

Yesterday, I came upon an article written by some researchers at Boston College Center for Retirement Studies.

They went into great detail and explanation, but the bottom line of their paper was that, given today's current low interest rates, it makes sense for most people to pay off their mortgage if their mortgage is more than 2%.

Tax deductions on the interest paid really don't make up for spending thousands extra on interest payments, they concluded.

For example, I'm looking at my current amortization table right now. I just sent in my August payment, and $316 of my total payment was purely interest.

So this loan is costing me (right now) an extra $300 and more in purely interest each month, month after month. In my mind, it's like throwing money away. I get nothing extra for that money. Yes, it slowly decreases, but still, why not pay it off when I have the money sitting in various mutual funds that are performing pretty horribly?

If I continue throwing extra money at it in the form of monthly prepayments, I will still pay it off in six more years.

However, if I chose to pay off the entire loan now, or perhaps a big chunk of it now, I could save up to $12K in interest.

The money I would use to pay off all or a portion of the mortgage would come from one of my taxable mutual fund accounts.

So, looked at this way, it seems clear that I'd be better to pay off a 6% loan than let the money I'd use for that sit in a fund that's earned me about 4%. I also pay an annual expense charge of 0.83% on that fund.

However, I'd probably take a loss on the withdrawal from that fund. I guess a pretty big loss since as I said, I've had that fund a while and I know most of the contributions I made to it were made during the bull market.

But I'd been wanting to move that money to another account anyway in my gradual moves toward having only low-cost index funds for investments and simplifying my investments overall.

I think that was the important distinction in the Boston College analysis. They were only considering whether it was worthwhile to pay off a mortgage using money from a money market account, which as you know, won't earn more than 2% these days. In that context, they said, it would make sense to use money market money earning 2% to pay off a mortgage.

Using stock or bond mutual funds is a whole other beast because you'd have to factor in the loss you'd lock in if you withdrew that money from investments you made near stock market peak, paying higher prices per share than now. So maybe it doesn't make sense.

Another valid concern in paying off the mortgage is the loss of a great deal of liquidity, particularly in these uncertain economic times.

Yet another risk is that while I say now that after paying off the mortgage I would throw all savings into retirement, I may not be so diligent in reality.

One alternative would be to pay off only a portion of the outstanding mortgage and so preserve a greater portion of my liquidity while still reducing total interest paid on the life of the loan.

What do you think? Your feedback is welcome!

30 Days With Waldo

June 6th, 2009 at 06:20 am

I've made a lot of progress with Waldo in just this past week. I've had him exactly 30 days today.

For the first time, he emerged from under his hiding place to eat his dinner last night while i was still standing there. I was amazed. Up til then, he'd waiting until it was dark and i had left the room before he'd eat.

He's eating more in general, not just the one evening meal.

He's also cautiously eaten a few snacks I've tossed in his direction.

Even better, the last 3 nights, we've spent a good 15 or 20 minutes playing with the cat dancer. He will paw and pounce on and bite the cat dancer and i even got him to enjoy rolling around in some catnip last night.

He also used the litter box while i was in the room, for the first time while I was there.

He will also groom himself while Lither and I are in the room and sometimes, when he looks at me, he closes his eyes. This is all BIG progress.

He also has made some cautious forays around the room while I'm in it, sticking close to the walls. I can see him eying the entryway to the room and it's clear he'd like to explore, but my shelter contact said conventional wisdom is not to let them have run of the house until they bond with you, and we aren't quite there yet.

It's tempting to just let him access my upstairs only, as i have a door at the top of the stairs. I don't know if he'd explore during daylight hours, but i may leave the upstairs closed off during the day, just to see. I decided against doing it last night because it would probably ensure a sleepless night. Luther would probably shadow and stalk Waldo as Waldo tried to explore. To Luther, who so wants a playmate, it's just a game as he is lord of this house, but Waldo is still new to it.

Waldo's brother, Scottie, was adopted by another woman who said that even after 8 months with Scottie (also feral) she could pet him, but only on his terms.

Vote on My New Cat's Name

April 17th, 2009 at 05:44 pm


Sometimes, what you long to hold is sitting right in front of you.

I picked out my second cat. No, I don't have him yet, but I hope to in another week or two. I decided to go with "Stripey," the large male tabby who time and again has been passed over by potential adoptees.

As befitting of an older male cat, these are the names I'm mulling over. Please tell me which TWO you like the most:

Arlo
Calvin
Chester
Clyde
Theo
Waldo
Bartholomew
Sebastian
Boris
Otto
Basil

I am leaning most toward "Waldo" or maybe "Basil."

Anyway, as I said, I don't have him yet. My last contact with my shelter contact was when she emailed me yesterday saying they were going to have a traveling vet come to the shelter to give him his shots and put him in the carrier for them.

Luther and I have gotten into a nice lifestyle here and while I can still see he's got oodles of energy and needs more company, I also don't want to upset/disrupt our loving little household.

On the plus side, everything is pretty much cat-proofed at this point, and I don't think an older cat would be likely to get into more mischief than Luther already has. My shower curtain is now permanently thrown over the bar since Luther clawed the bottom. Same goes for my bedroom floor-length curtains. (Unfortunately, he managed to get one down and there are small holes in one panel. I really had to grit my teeth then.) I have vinyl blinds in several rooms and I've been careful not the let the cords dangle, as that is just like waving a raw steak in front of a hungry cougar. He HAS to attack.

If I can see fairly early on that Stripey won't hurt Luther and they more or less look like they'll get on, that would be huge for me. I am prepared for it to be weeks (maybe more) for this cat to warm up to me. That's ok. I can be patient. I just would find it very difficult to have to keep the 2 cats separated for any length of time, since I could see closing myself in whatever room i put Stripey in will cause Luther to start meowing and carrying on. (Plus, my upstairs bedroom doors don't close to well; they tend to pop open.)

I plan to put Stripey in my office here. Luther and I spend more time in my bedroom, so during the time when Stripey is still acclimating, this will be a quieter area where I don't HAVE to be.

I am pleased as punch to have pushed my emergency fund over the $10,000 mark with today's contribution. (I do a transfer every payday.) I'm about 41% toward my goal of 8 months worth of living expenses. I am 2 months ahead of schedule with having saved that amount, and it's because I threw my tax refund in that.


This is part of my daily commute. These daffodils cover a wide area. (The homeowners live across the street.)

Heating Oil Prices

April 1st, 2009 at 04:43 pm

I got heating oil delivered yesterday. I thought prices might go even lower now that heating season is nearly over, but actually, prices rose a little from their low of $1.76 a gallon. (This is heating oil, like diesel, not the same as gas for the car.) I got about 140 gallons at $1.99 a gallon, still a huge savings compared to last winter and even a very decent price compared to all my winters here.

Because I'm a manic keep-track-of-everything-you-never-know-when-it'll-come-in-handy kind of girl, i can tell you the lowest oil prices i paid in the past 4 years was, in fact, $1.99 a gallon yesterday (!) and the highest was $4.24 a gallon in June of 2008. I don't think prices will stay that low, so that's why I topped off the tank, though I still had a third of a tank left.

It's times like this that i keep telling myself i should have a second oil tank installed in my garage next to the other one, and I could fill them both up when prices are low and know I'm covered for all of the next season. As it stands now, this one full tank will probably get me through mid-January.

In Super Saver Mode...

March 18th, 2009 at 01:18 pm

I have updated some of my savings goals. Well, the goals remain the same, but I've outlined my strategy in more detail, and until I did the actual calculations, I had no idea how much I was really saving from a percentage point of view. I am in Super Saver Mode, to be sure. Saving 46% of gross income is no small feat.

Now if I can just keep it up and stay the course. Of course, that's the thing that trips up a lot of people. You start out with the best of intentions and then your plan falls by the wayside. If I can just hold onto my job and keep my goals uppermost in my mind, I can get there.

It's not that I'm awash in money. In fact, my income is average. But I am extremely disciplined and a little self-deprivation is something I don't mind doing if the long-term payoff is there. For me, financial independence is the ultimate goal and something worthy of deprivation in the short-term.

Meet the Newest Member of the Family

February 21st, 2009 at 06:33 pm



This is the story of the first day of the rest of his life...

I arranged to pick up Luther around 7:30 am so I could be home with him all day on his first day with me.

They put him in a new carrier I'd bought for Sitka, black vinyl with a kind of black webbing.

We started out on the 25-minute ride home. Luther started out with little meows. I can handle this, I thought. I kept talking reassuringly to him. Then the little mews turned into alarmed, louder meows. Then without warning, Luther went beserk, desperately trying to get out of the carrier. I was trying to keep my eyes on the road, and when I looked down at him, I saw he had chewed a hole through the webbing and his nose was halfway out.

I knew I had to keep him in his carrier at all cost and I had no time to pull over, so I put my hand over the hole so he wouldn't make it bigger. Then he bit me, but good. I had two small puncture wounds which started bleeding. The cat was still doing a pretty good kamikaze act in the carrier, so, still driving, I grabbed a pad of paper with a cardboard backing and pushed it against the hole. You don't know how glad I was when i pulled in my driveway.

I let him out once inside the house. He was pretty scared. I showed him where his food dish was in the kitchen, and his litter box in the upstairs spare bedroom, then put him in the bedroom figuring he'd feel most secure under the bed. Then I went across the hall to tend to my wound. I was in there for just five minutes, and when I returned to the bedroom, he wasn't under the bed. Before I picked him up I made a point to close all closet doors, plus the doors to the basement and 1 bathroom, just so it'd be easier for me to keep tabs on him. I searched the whole house upstairs and down and COULD NOT FIND HIM. I knew he was hiding somewhere, but figured he'd show when he was ready. Still, I worried he might be stuck somewhere, so I searched the house up and down a 2nd time, a 3rd time and even a 4th time in the next 2 hours. Still couldn't find him. Finally, I did. He was squeezed under a dresser in my bedroom which had a five-inch clearance at most. That's where he spent most of the day. Throughout the day I would take breaks from work in my office, lie down on the floor by the dresser and stick my hand in there (brave, right, after getting bit?) and pet him and he'd purr like mad, but he still wouldn't come out.

Then, at dusk, he found the courage to come out of his hiding place and to move over to under the bed, which was a bit roomier but still secure.

The next day I left for work, wondering how he'd do on his own. When I got home, I found evidence of play. A toy of Sitka's that had been on the counter in the upstairs bathroom sink was on the living room floor. A throw blanket on a chair was on the floor. Evidently he had been exploring when the house was quiet, but he would still stay in the bedroom when I was home, though he was super lovable and affectionate.

He isn't used to the normal noises of the house, having been born outside. My fir floor boards creak all over the place, especially upstairs, and I think that startled him for a while.

I don't think, for instance, he ever experienced a TV before and he has been watching it curiously.

Later in the week, I came home to find some drapes covering my interior French doors down on the floor; I hope the tension rod didn't hit him.

Today, he's really coming into his own. He's been coming downstairs now to follow me and hanging out all over the house. Despite the bite, he is a super-affectionate cat. (I don't think he intended to bite me, he was just trying to get out of the carrier.)

The second night here, he stayed all night with me in the bedroom, sometimes on the bed and sometimes on the rug. I could tell where he was at all times, even in the dark, because i could hear him purring nonstop. Like a beacon in the night. He seems very happy.

Oh, about that bite. I emailed the woman at the shelter to let her know how his first and second days went and I almost wasn't going to mention the bite. She strongly urged me to see a doctor and get antibiotics because she said cat bites are easily infected. I had washed the bite wounds out very well and used peroxide on it; it looked fine to me, though it was swollen and particularly sore on the first day.

But I went to see the doctor yesterday, and I'm really glad I did. He said it was already a "first tier" infection and gave me the meds. He told me he could almost guarantee me that if I'd waited til Monday (they're closed Sat/Sun) I would have been in a lot of trouble. He said cat saliva has a bacteria that spreads very easily and cat bites on the hands are the worst because there's very little flesh there and the infection can spread quickly to the tendons. He said if I had waited until Monday to see him, he'd probably have sent me to a hand surgeon.

I was rather shocked. Also shocked at the meds. I remember years ago if you got sick or needed antibiotics, you'd get 200 milligrams, or maybe 400. I'm taking 875 milligrams twice a day! I shudder to think what it's doing to my system, but at Costco today I bought a case of Stonyfield yogurt and am also taking acidopholus.

One thing i especially like about Luther is that as a long-haired cat, he has these tufts of long hair growing out of his ears, so long they kind of curl up at the ends outside the ear, kind of like a cowlick. It's very cute. Did you ever see an old man with really bushy eyebrows? Kind of reminds me of that. Smile

He loves to play and is just today getting into wanting to explore everything. He really seems to be relishing having the space and freedom to explore more than than the tiny room he shared with 5 other cats.

I was a little alarmed the 2nd day because when i cleaned out the litter box, there was pee and no poop, but i smelled poop in my office. OH NO, i thought, i CAN'T deal with another cat that doesn't poop in the litter box. This is just not possible. This can't be happening to me. I searched the office everywhere but couldn't find the poop, but my nose is very good. I finally found it. I have a large potted dracena with some florist dried moss covering the dirt. The cat had scratched off the moss and pooped in the dirt. So I cut a corrugated piece of cardboard into a circle to cover the top of the pot with a slit for the plant's stem, then used clear masking tape to keep it on.

Next day, I found poop in the litter box. I was thrilled. It's the simple things that make me happy.

I'm still considering whether to get a companion for Luther, but I'm a little afraid of rocking the boat with another cat who either may not get along with him or else create a situation where one cat dominates the other. (I've experienced both before.) So i don't know. There was a female tortie that lived in the same room at the shelter with Luther, and i know they got along, so she might be a possibility. But Luther is a needy cat, he is constantly with me looking for attention. I don't know if he'd be willing to "share" me with another kitty.

Help Me Name the Orange Guy

February 16th, 2009 at 03:39 pm

Yes, I can say it now because it is official. The shelter checked out my references and I "passed." I am now free to adopt the long-haired orange cat I went back to see a second time today.

He is a mush. Very sweet, gentle and mellow personality. He's just five months old. He and two siblings, both of whom were already adopted, were found with their mother living under a house in a not so nice town.

He's been there about a month and I was surprised no one had taken him yet, because he's very cute, but maybe it's because his photo was not up on their website yet. So no one would know about him unless they came to the shelter, and I think a lot of people like me browse www.petfinder.com before deciding which shelter(s) to visit.

The parents are still feral and loose, but I think they caught the mother and spayed her. I'm told that my cat is the spitting image of his dad, while his mother was a calico.

So would you like to help me name him? I have settled on two names that I like, though if you have others I'm all ears. Since he is a beautiful rusty orange, i was thinking either 1. Apricot, or 2. Luther.

I always wanted a cat named Luther. Don't know why. As for Apricot, it's a bit long, but I could see myself calling him "Appy" for short, which rhymes with "Happy."




Reconnecting on Linked In

February 3rd, 2009 at 02:32 pm

I'm on LinkedIn, the professional networking site. What a blast it's been "rediscovering" old friends or colleagues from long ago. Today I reconnected with someone who worked as a news reporter at the same paper I did, about 25 years ago. Since then, he published a book (fiction) and has a contract to publish two more. He's a "success." I would be tempted to tell you his name, because he is the son of a very famous musician, but I will respect his privacy.

I also had a nice online chat with my very first editor at the very first newspaper I worked at on Cape Cod. She still works and lives on the Cape, but at a different paper. I had the opportunity to tell her how her solid editing skills taught me a lot as a young writer, and really set the stage for my future career. How often do you get to thank someone for changing your life in some way? I was grateful for the opportunity.

No Heat Contest Update

December 13th, 2008 at 07:21 am

I don't usually read the blogs during the week, so it's possible sevenofseven, nomorecredit and/or swimgirl turned on the heat while I wasn't looking, but here, according to my best record-keeping records, are the remaining 3 finalists who still have not turned on the heat:

1. sevenofseven - Northern California
2. nomorecredit- NY
3. swimgirl - Northern California

This officially ends my record-keeping duties!

Those who already turned on the heat:
scfr - Texas - Dec. 12
Ima Saver - Georgia - Dec. 6
debtfreeme - Northern California - Nov 29
monkeymama - N. California – Nov. 23
canoineag – Denver – Nov. 9
Joan.of.the.Arch – MO – Nov. 9
Analise - northern California - Nov. 9
Little gopher - Minnesota - Nov. 7
princessperky - Charlotte, NC - Oct. 30
Koppur - Massachusetts - Oct. 29
snoopycool - Florida - Oct. 28
toyguy1963 - Ohio - Oct. 27
Boomeyer - Missouri - Oct. 26
Househopeful - Delaware Oct. 23
Buckeye - Ohio - Oct. 22
dmontngrey - Massachusetts Oct. 22
Fern - Oct. 19 Connecticut
mbkonef - SE Pennyslvania - Oct 17
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - Wisconsin - October 1
homebody - October 1

I've seen other people posting their 2009 goals. I thought about mine, the financial ones, that is, and they pretty much will be what my 2008 financial goals were:
1. Continue paying down my mortgage rapidly.
2. Continue building my emergency fund.

I will also continue contributing the max to my 401k, but that's a given. I'd also like to throw more money into investments since prices are so low, but building the emergency fund in case of layoff is the priority right now.


6 Die-Hards Still Stand....No Heat Contest Update

November 23rd, 2008 at 07:33 am

I never imagined I'd still be reporting so close to Thanksgiving on those stalwart souls who haven't turned on the heat.

I give you guys a lot of credit. I'm with you in spirit. Although my heat is regularly kicking on, it's set at 59 degrees. You get used to it, for the most part. I hope I can keep it this low all winter long. In past years, my indoor high temp was set at 60 or 62, so this is my own ongoing personal challenge.

Here are the remaining 6 finalists who still have not turned on the heat (as far as I know):

debtfreeme - Northern California
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
sevenofseven - Northern California
nomorecredit- NY
swimgirl - Northern California

Those who already turned on the heat:
monkeymama - N. California – Nov. 23
canoineag – Denver – Nov. 9
Joan.of.the.Arch – MO – Nov. 9
Analise - northern California - Nov. 9
Little gopher - Minnesota - Nov. 7
princessperky - Charlotte, NC - Oct. 30
Koppur - Massachusetts - Oct. 29
snoopycool - Florida - Oct. 28
toyguy1963 - Ohio - Oct. 27
Boomeyer - Missouri - Oct. 26
Househopeful - Delaware Oct. 23
Buckeye - Ohio - Oct. 22
dmontngrey - Massachusetts Oct. 22
Fern - Oct. 19 Connecticut
mbkonef - SE Pennyslvania - Oct 17
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - Wisconsin - October 1
homebody - October 1




Nine Contestants Still Chillin' in the No Heat Challenge

November 9th, 2008 at 06:07 am

There are still nine stalwart souls who haven't' turned on the heat. Most of these folks, I must point out, don't live in warm climates!

I turned my heat on weeks ago but it really hasn't kicked on much, 1. Because it's still been mostly mild and 2. It's set at 55 overnight and 58 for about 4 hours daily on weekdays.

Still no heat:

debtfreeme - Northern California
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
sevenofseven - Northern California
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
nomorecredit- NY

Those who already turned on the heat:
Little gopher - Minnesota - Nov. 7
monkeymama - N. California - Nov. 4
princessperky - Charlotte, NC - Oct. 30
Koppur - Massachusetts - Oct. 29
snoopycool - Florida - Oct. 28
Boomeyer - Missouri - Oct. 26
Househopeful - Delaware Oct. 23
Buckeye - Ohio - Oct. 22
dmontngrey - Massachusetts Oct. 22
Fern - Oct. 19 Connecticut
mbkonef - SE Pennyslvania - Oct 17
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - Wisconsin - October 1
homebody - October 1

Talking About Car Tires

November 8th, 2008 at 05:49 am

Another big bill looms ahead.

There's still tread on my car tires, but just barely enough to touch the head on a Lincoln penny.

Car tires weren't really on my radar, but I've experienced some skidding this past week coming home from work. The road was wet and i skidded easily on a level surface, without even applying the brake that hard. I was on a busy interstate highway doing about 50 in heavy commuter traffic.

So my next stop will be at the library to check Consumer Reports recommendations. I'd rather not take any chances.

I have a set of four snow tires that have a little less wear, so I may just defer the new tire purchase until spring.

In past years, I put the snows on in fall and took them off in spring. I do get noticeably better traction with four snow tires. More recently, someone told me that frequently putting tires on and off the rims and can possibly weaken the tire. I haven't had any luck looking for an extra set of rims at a junkyard.

I see from my records that the last time I purchased tires, I bought Dunlop SP Sport A2 tires, which were ranked #1 among all-season tires by Consumer Reports in their Nov. 02 issue. The four tires cost just $240.

The tires were warrantied for 50,000 miles, but mileage was one thing I didn't make note of when I purchased the tires. By checking the mileage noted on a few receipts I saved for oil changes and rough annual estimates, I calculate these Dunlops had 40,000 miles at most. It doesn't appear I could have benefited from that warranty because I didn't have a Dunlop authorized dealer do my tire rotations all these years.

I may wind up at Town Fair Tire when I'm ready to purchase. They'll do those rotations, and fix any flats, for free.

When I bought my Dunlops last year, I wound up purchasing them from Tire Rack online. When I priced tires at Town Fair Tire, their prices were significantly higher.

But using four snow tires meant that twice a year, I shelled out $40 a pop to have the snows put on, then taken off in spring, adding $80 annually to my car expenses. So that extra traction the snows afforded me actually cost me an extra $480 over the six years I used them.

No Heat Contestants Still Toughing It Out

November 1st, 2008 at 05:08 am

I've heard from a few more contestants who have turned on the heat during the past week, so I've adjusted the list of finalists below. For all those still going with no heat, bravo.

Still no heat:
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
sevenofseven - Northern California
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts
nomorecredit- NY

Those who already turned on the heat:
princessperky - Charlotte, NC - Oct. 30
snoopycool - Florida - Oct. 28
Boomeyer - Missouri - Oct. 26
Househopeful - Delaware Oct. 23
ann link - Oct. 22
dmontngrey - Massachusetts Oct. 22
Fern - Oct. 19 Connecticut
mbkonef - SE Pennyslvania - Oct 17
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

Cable's Best Kept Secret?

October 25th, 2008 at 10:31 am

I was browsing personal finance blogs yesterday and came upon a post that really got me excited. The author was talking about the upcoming February 2009 conversion of analog TV to digital TV.

I heard before that if you already have cable TV, you won't lose your reception, but if you don't, and you have an older TV, you won't be able to get a picture without getting a digital converter box.

But what got me excited is that the author was saying you could get a picture with the digital converter box and WITHOUT cable. In other words, by getting one of those $40 coupons they're offering online for free and then spending $10 out-of-pocket for the converter box, that could give you a picture if you're willing to settle for the basic network channels. Hey, that's what I'm getting now, but I'm spending $15 a month for the privilege.

It would be great to do away with that monthly expense if I could, since I don't watch much TV.

The author of the post also noted that they got a better set of rabbit ear antennas for their TV and said they didn't have an outdoor antenna on their roof.

Still no heat:
Boomeyer - Missouri
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts

Those who already turned on the heat:
Househopeful - Delaware Oct. 23
dmontngrey - Massachusetts Oct. 22
Fern - Oct. 19 Connecticut
mbkonef - SE Pennyslvania - Oct 17
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1 - Wisconsin
homebody - October 1

No Heat Challenge: Another One Bites the Dust

October 19th, 2008 at 05:26 am



Halloween in my town is a big event. If yo want to have a rockin/ time, even if you don't have children, Main Street is the place to be. What better backdrop for pint-sized ghouls and goblins to do their trick or treatin' than among the many Victorian and Colonial era homes on Main Street? The homeowners go all out to decorate their historic homes.

One home in particular features a gigantic spider that each year sprawls across a web that extends from the rooftop of the house and across the front yard. It's all great fun.

Despite all the fun that Halloween promises, I must admit to falling asleep early last night around 10 pm. I intended to stay up late to watch Tina Fey.

I woke up rather suddenly around 1:50 a.m. for no particular reason. But this is why I know exactly when my heat kicked on. Yes, I'm afraid I'm out of the contest. However, I set the thermostat to 55 degrees, day and night, round the clock. I set it last night because temperatures were supposed to get down to freezing, statewide. I heard the heat kick on at 2:05 am, and then it cycled back on and off throughout the rest of the morning as I tossed and turned.

It'll hopefully stay there, at 55, for this month and next. When we get into the bitter cold, I'll have to notch it up, but I never go above 65 degrees. I don't like to start out at that temp since I'll get accustomed to it, so I'll do it by "degrees."

I have a bad habit of writing things down on a notepad by my bedside when I waken in the middle of the night, or early in the morning before I'm fully conscious. I do some of my best work then (!), but if I don't turn the light on and scribble down my thoughts, I'll forget most of what I "wrote" in my head by dawn.

And that's what happened last night. Actually, I was writing this blog post, but i forgot half of what I intended to say.

I watched the best movie last night. It's called American Splendour. Have you seen it? Normally, I'm pretty stingy with my 5-star Netflix ratings, but this one was really good.

Without giving too much away, it's a story about a down and out guy living and working in Cleveland as a file clerk in a VA hospital. Not much in his life is going well. Actually, there's not much going on, period. One day, while filing away records in the "Deceased" section, he reads one file which lists "Born, 1938, Cleveland. Died, 1979, Cleveland." You know he's wondering if he's going to have that kind of seemingly meaningless existence.

He starts writing a comic strip that chronicles the minutiae of his life. It's real, it's gritty, and it takes off. He lands an appearance on the David Letterman Show. He develops a following. And he ends up doing this for 20 years, although he never gets rich from it. I think it's a true story.

Anyway, if you get a chance, check it out. I loved it.

Still NO HEAT:
Boomeyer - Missouri
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts

Those who already turned on the heat:
Fern - Oct. 19
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15
Nancy - Oct. ??
MilehighGirl - Oct. 11
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

Throw on the Sweaters and Don't Turn on the Heat!

October 15th, 2008 at 03:34 pm

Here's where we stand again, with a few corrections...

Still NO HEAT:
Me, aka fern - Connecticut
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Gamecock 43 - Florida!!!
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio
Koppur - Massachusetts

Those who already turned on the heat:
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15 (You gave it a good shot!)
Nancy - Northern Colorado, turned it sometimes last week?
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

Be a Heat Miser!

October 15th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Here's who is still in the game for America's #1 No Heat Miser! There have been a few dropouts.

Me - Connecticut
monkeymama - Northern California
debtfreeme - Northern California
mbkonef - Southeastern Pennyslvania
Ima Saver - Georgia
scfr - Texas
snoopycool - Florida
dmontngrey - Massachusetts
sevenofseven - Northern California
princessperky - Charlotte, North Carolina
Househopeful - Delaware
toyguy1963 - Ohio
Analise - northern California
Gamecock 43 - Florida!!!
Nance - northern California - has a wood stove!
Little gopher - Minnesota
Joan.of.the.Arch
canoineag - Denver
Buckeye - Ohio

Those who already turned on the heat:
Creditcardfree - Oct. 15 (You gave it a good shot!)
wyozozo - Wyoming - Oct. 10
Mech - Oct. 3 Massachusetts
ME2 - Oct. 3
myenglishcastle - October 1
homebody - October 1

I'm thrilled that it's exactly mid-month and I've wasted no drops of my precious heating oil. I'll be patting myself on the back sometime in January when I squeeze an extra week out of my tank before the next fill-up.

Still, the really hard part is coming soon, here in the Northeast. Tomorrow, temps will begin to drop and this weekend I believe we're only expecting highs in the 50s. I can deal with indoor temps of 55 degrees, but not much cooler, during the day, anyway.

So the challenge is rapidly becoming, well, a real challenge! If you crank up the heat, please remember to post a reply on this post because I may otherwise miss it if you post it to your own blog during the week.

Fuel Efficiency Has Stalled in the Past 10 Years

October 12th, 2008 at 02:26 pm

I've been tracking my fuel economy for the last 10 tank fill-ups. I'm getting an average, since this past mid-July when I started taking note, of 38.4 miles per gallon with a high of 42.6 miles per gallon and a low of 34.9 miles per gallon.

I really can't complain, but what will I replace my 10-year-old car with when the time comes some day? Only a hybrid will beat my Honda Civic's gas mileage.

How important is fuel efficiency to you when you're considering a new car purchase?

Do You Have a Bucket List?

October 11th, 2008 at 01:22 pm

You probably know what a "bucket list" is, even if you didn't see the movie by that name. I didn't see it, but after a friend started talking about it, I began musing about what would be on my list.

I thought it would be fun to come up with a Bucket List made up of learning experiences.

1. Travel to every national park in the country. I love visiting national parks. Aside from unique and fantastic scenery, our national parks are an incredibly affordable vacation destination. And with park ranger-led talks and walks, it's a learning experience as well.

I get my Parks Passport book stamped each time I visit a national park. It's a nice memento of your travels. It would be fun to plan a week's vacation around a string of parks in close proximity to each other that you could hit all in one trip.

2. Read a biography of every American president, starting with George Washington and ending with President Obama. (Just making sure you're reading this.) I'm more interested in recent history that i've lived through, but I'm sure there are interesting things to learn about our earliest presidents. I'm getting more and more interested in history, and this would be a good way to go about it.

If I were really ambitious, I might add this goal: Read three books of my choice from the New York Times best-seller list each year.

In other news...
I filled up my oil tank last June, which is usually a time when prices are depressed. But when I scheduled my furnace cleaning, I asked what the going rate was now, and they told me $3.09 a gallon. That's cheap(!) compared to the $4.24 i paid in June x 192 gallons = an overpayment of $220 with just that one fill-up, but who knew?

However, the Energy Information Administration has forecast an average per gallon oil price of $3.90 this winter, so my advice to you would be, if you haven't filled up, do so now! Especially since OPEC is concerned that the dip in oil prices to around $87 per barrel is getting a little too low; they like to maintain oil prices at between $80 and $100. So they're meeting in November and will likely cut production.

Today's high was about 69 or 70 here, so I threw open all the windows at about 1:30 pm when I saw it had reached 68 outside and my indoor temp was still 60! Despite doing that, and then closing all those windows around 3:45 pm, I managed to increase the indoor temp to only 61.

This house seems to retain the cooler temps, a nice thing in summer but not so nice now. Still, with mild temps forecast through at least Wednesday of next week, I'm thrilled to continue deferring use of my heating oil. Each day I avoid turning it on now means an extra day's worth of heat I'll get in the dead of winter, when I really can't avoid using it.


<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>