Sunday, August 30, 2009

Indulging myself

I (accidentally) bought myself the most fabulous present last month (I always seem to know what I'd like!) - a Flip Ultra video camera. I bought my kids the Flip Mino last year, and they say they like it, but I guess I was swayed by the yellow and white outer shell that was only available on the Ultra

These are cool little cameras. They fit in your pocket, they cost less than $200, and they are absolutely point-and-shoot. When I'm done, I plug it - with its own little automatic "flip" plug - into my Mac and the video downloads automatically. No software to install, it just happens like magic. The one advantage to the Mino is that it has a rechargeable battery that automatically recharges while it's plugged into the computer. The Ultra uses AA batteries, but the rechargeable battery pack is available as an add-on. Because the Ultra is so small (just slightly bigger than the very petite Mino), I can take it with me everywhere. I'm taking little clips of the grandkids and they've turned out pretty well, which is amazing when you consider how fast they move!

I bought the Ultra from a home shopping network, where they encouraged me to try it for 30 days with the option of returning it. I intended to do exactly that, just to see what it was like. Time slipped away, emergency trips interfered, and 30 days came and went. Now I'm glad I didn't send it back -- after all, I have certain duties as a Grandma! The kids are growing up, and so many little accomplishments are waiting to be captured as videos. And all the cool things on Sanibel that I can show them. I must try to remember what a good idea this was when my Mastercard bill comes in the mail!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I don't know what it means, to miss New Orleans

Apologies to Louis Armstrong, but I have been here way too often this year to miss it. Here is the good and bad of the Big Easy today:

Bad: school kids spitting on us from their open bus windows as we waited for a streetcar.

Good: bread pudding with whiskey sauce and swamp water at the hotel bar when I got back to my room.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Briefly touching down

I got back home at about 1:30 AM this morning. My short trip to Sanibel was nice, in a hot and sweaty kind of way. My beach-walks were nice, the water was even warmer than the air, but I didn't pick up a single shell. We had a lot of heavy rain, which added to the sauna effect. The trailer's air conditioner - which was newly installed last week -- was broken and we spent most of the weekend trying to get it fixed. When we left Sanibel for the airport, it was still not cooling the trailer, so I was glad to get into the rental car where the air really worked.

My trip tomorrow to NOLA was stripped of any anticipation by the phone call yesterday saying that my daughter was admitted to the hospital again. Instead of going down so that she and I could do some tasks to make her life easier and have some fun together, I'm being summoned to another 'Family Meeting,' where doctors won't tell me much of what is going on but will make me feel guilty as heck while they do it. All I can do is take it as it comes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I thought I would take some time to be fully and lazily unemployed, but, as it turns out, I'm so busy that it's just a darn good thing I don't have a job.

Dr. Cranky wants to look into selling his place at Periwinkle Park. He doesn't really want to let it go, but with his failed health, he can't go down alone and it isn't worth keeping for the few days a year that he has someone to accompany him. I am going to Sanibel late this week as his driver, and return to Michigan three days later, so it will be a quick (therefore hard) trip, mostly filled with the things he needs to do. But I will be so glad to see the island, you just can't imagine.

My daughter wasn't able to get to some very important appointments this month, but her wonderful caseworker has scheduled yet another 'last chance.' I am flying down the day after I get back from Florida, and will stay there until the 2 appointments are over. Whether we get to them or not is an open question, but at least (maybe) I will feel that I've done all I could.

THEN, the day after I get back, I close on my new house in Saginaw. I will then be (1) unemployed, (2) poor as a church mouse, and (3) the owner of 2 houses, each of which needs a roof.

A couple of former coworkers have sent me emails, wondering how I fill my time and if I am bored. I tell them them that, so far, I'm finding enough to do.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Days flying by

1. Got estimates on a new roof. When I put my house up for sale last year, I was told by a roofing company that the roof was fine. Since then, it has developed an algae bloom, which I've learned is a new (climate change?) problem in my area. So I need a new roof and want to get it fixed before I sell the house. Who wants to buy a pre-existing problem, after all.

2. Put together the shop- vac I bought some time ago Putting things together is an irritation and challenge for me, but there is satisfaction in having it done. Only a few days later, finally, vacuumed the spiders from the basement, its intended use. (of course now I never want to touch it again. ick.)

3. Wrote to HR at my former job with questions about nuts and bolts - how do I cancel my long term disability policy? I need to pay my FSA medical account spending contributions in full, who handles that? How can you work for such idiots? Those sorts of things. It came back 'undeliverable.'

4. Worked on COBRA application. Thank goodness for O'Bama. It is expensive, but would have cost 3 times more under the old plan.

5. Did more paperwork on the unemployment stuff. It is almost a full-time job in itself.

6. Unburied St. Joseph, reminded him how pretty it is out here, stuck him back in the ground.

7. Wrote righteous letters to several people at former work place. Edited them until they were perfect. Deleted them.

8. Got 2 showings but no offer on my Detroit house.

9. Decided to buy the house by the grandchildren anyway.

10. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unemployed in Detroit

I am surprised at the mix of relief and stunned disbelief I feel. I have now been unemployed for 3 days. I had hated (no exaggeration) my job and disliked my supervisor's 'vision' for nearly 10 of my 22 1/2 years with my employer (I loved the first 13 years with a different boss, so I guess I was lucky). Ironically, I was eligible for family medical leave time, and had advised my supervisor that I was having difficulty at work, but it felt dishonest to use all my medical leave time until I really had to, so I put it off.

Whatever. I was plotting my escape, and expected to leave at the end of the year, move to another depressed working-class Michigan town where my son's family lives, buy a house and find a job there. Although my Detroit area house is not yet sold, I had chosen the new house and was approved for the loan, and was supposed to close the deal on August 26. Unemployment quashed that plan.

I have been mostly sitting and wondering at how the time flies by. I'm thinking about how many things I wish I'd done before this happened and - shame on me - instead of wishing I'd bought fewer things, wishing I'd bought more while I had the income. But I have taken a few practical steps in my few days off. I've make changes in my house listing and started some home improvement projects to (hopefully) make the sale more attractive. I've applied to begin collecting (meager) retirement benefits at the end of the year. I've applied for (even more meager) unemployment benefits which, in a worse case, scenario, would last until my retirement begins. I've advised my one de facto dependent that I can't afford to help her like I had been. And I've posted my resume and done some job seeking on line.

But I don't know what city to look for jobs in, because I'm just not ready to give up the idea of the anticipated new house. I KNOW what Suze Orman would say. It's what I would say to anyone in my position. But, despite her sound uspoken advice, I am thinking about pooling all my other assets (I received an inheritance awhile back that is just sitting, prudently, in an account) and buying the house anyway, at a ridiculously low price. The way I look at it is, if I'm going to be unemployed and flat broke, doesn't it make sense to be near the grandkids instead of Detroit?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An open letter to the Universe:

When I said I wanted an early retirement, this is not what I meant. Detroit's unemployment rate is 23% ---- plus one.