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Back and broker but not with a broken back

August 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 pm

The neighbours left on vacation. They took the third best option and left their senile incontinent lonely whining dog inside. Better options are kenneling and taking the dog with them.

I left on vacation with my family. We took the 2nd best option and left all our cats with 24/7 housesitters. The best option would have been kenneling one cat and keeping two cats at home.

Semi-frugal: had free tickets for the Botanical Gardens and for OMNIMAX and Planetarium of the Science Center, and free breakfasts for most of the travel days. Also many dinner entrees for under $10, unheard of in Seattle unless there is a drive-thru and caloric information posted above a uniformed front-counter person.

not at all frugal: Hubby locked the car keys in the truck, requiring a locksmith, and the boy unbuckled his seatbelt when a state trooper approached us after pulling us over. Yes the car had stopped before the boy extricated himself but apparently that did not matter and cannot be proven in court.

Car got 30.5 mpg mileage -- not terrific, but it does terrific speed as we learned through Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Idaho.

more expenses: higher car insurance, boy requires three teeth extracted, ticket for the unbuckled seatbelt -- we were NOT ticketed for speeding, though we were pulled over for doing 88 in a 75 zone. We were not ticketed because my husband was driving: he had not exceeded the speed limit at any time in our marriage prior to this incident, and we had a rental car we had not spent much time in.

Not looking forward to credit card statements, no sirree.

More Spending, and most not on fun

July 23rd, 2012 at 01:01 pm

DS has three adult teeth coming in, two of his baby teeth are not giving way -- his mouth again resembles that of a shark with a second set of munchers. 31 days from now the baby teeth get removed by dentist. Kaching Kaching. Weep.

Went out to Ivar's Acres of Clams as our guests, on a Sunday night, vacillated between seafood and pizza (show me a restaurant that does both well) -- getting reservations for six on short notice in tourist season is tricky. But I managed it. Brother knows pizza is four blocks away if he wants it: very fresh, like from the water to the pier, seafood is not. On days like that I am reminded how small our city is.

My waist is finally at 34", a one-inch reduction. I keep reading that women with waists 35" in circumference or thicker are at increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease: what if you are taller than 98% of women? What if you are over 40 and your tummy naturally thickens as part of the aging process? What if your waist is still slimmer than your thighs and your breasts and you can look down and see your toes?

Roadtrip will damage my diet. That is why I have protein bars, trail mix, and spring water for food supply. Pondering taking coconut oil for insomnia and sleep issues, but I would need something portable as an oral debriding agent.

One cat has adopted my brother's family. The one that jumps on people ran back to us on the first cool evening and has not left the bed sixteen hours later. No he is not dead.

No dead pool news: Julius Pierpont Patches has died, which saddens those of us who grew up watching him on TV. Andy Williams is dying and I am sad about that too.

In dry weather, the money deluge

July 19th, 2012 at 01:15 pm

Too bad it is outgoing and not incoming.

My aged automobile's engine does not turn over when it is hot. This started a week before my relations arrived, but as I saw the engine temperature indicator narrowly near the red zone, I thought it was heat -- it was the first hot day of the year. The second time it happened was on Tuesday that week, I took it in for its oil change and asked the mechanics to look at the starter problem. They did not reproduce the problem of the engine not turning over when it was hot, but mentioned the starter lock cylinder and ignition switch were worn, and I hesitated as I did not see the connection between those worn parts and our engine. I had to go to Vancouver BC to pick up people and the car failed in Bellingham after I refueled. No rental cars available at the agency five blocks from the gas station because it was late afternoon Friday. My schedule was off and I did not get to see people because I arrived too late. A few more incidents of the vehicle not starting led me to call the shop in desperation and I authorized the replacement of the ignition lock cylinder and switch which is performed today. NOW, after driving it in hot weather, the shop owner says they have reproduced the problem and now it will cost me double.

The landscaping has been done on the new lawn but not on the garden which desperately needs weeding. My relatives will not take the car out for sightseeing because it is flaky and my brother will not drive if he is not licensed to drive in North America. Which leaves me to drive the piece of junk to places where it will naturally overheat, like the Dragon festival in the International District, or Tulalip outlet stores where my sister wants to visit.

I would babysit my nephew and let my brother and sister-in-law have time together but he does not understand English, and I do not speak much Japanese.

The bright spots is that my brother has not yet succeeded in picking a fight with me. The other bright spot: he arrived when my relatives are here so I was able to introduce everyone so no one will call 911 and erringly report a burglar when he shows up to paint our house. Thirdly, my nephew really likes our cats and our cats have, surprisingly, not fled in terror but let him touch them. My sister-in-law does not like cats but she is warming up to the idea of having one, which pleases my brother. She even did not mind when one cat jumped on her. I have warned the painter that my cat may try to jump on him if he enters our house. I know it is not cool or funny to let pets jump on visitors or strangers but the cat does not bite or scratch and we have to CATCH him in the act to correct his behaviour. We can't control him if we are not around to witness.

The painter has taken his deposit. This week has cost me $2500 and it is not even the end of Thursday. If it were not for Greg Proops taping an episode of "QI" for its tenth series with Stephen Fry, and my husband needing someone to share car-driving duties (RENTAL CAR: I AM DESPERATE BUT NOT COMPLETELY STUPID) for 4200 miles, I would do serious harm to myself.

The gift cards I mailed to what I thought was the Cafe Racer survivor's address did not reach him. They were not returned to me. All today has told me is how much I fail at life.

Getting Replacement Printer

June 26th, 2012 at 10:16 am

As long as I am ranting about people who are in denial about their animals' age-related decline, I admit that my HP inkjet printer is not worth maintaining anymore. We are shelling out $20 big ones for a laser printer and a USB keyboard from the University surplus.

More in cheap deals: my credit union generously reduced the ticket price to minor league baseball so I could save $32 while I see my hometeam lose 2-12! We invited my kid's best friend to come along, which was a bad idea, as he brought lots of money and bought sugary things for him and for our own boy. At least my kid cannot claim we don't take him anywhere fun this summer.

I Don't Understand Some Homeowners

June 23rd, 2012 at 08:31 am

Some people in my neighbourhood are still doing cash-out refinancing of their houses. I suppose it is marginally better than having outstanding home equity lines of credit if the balances are large, but doesn't one have to pay application fees, discount points, credit checks, appraisal fees, documentation fees, title search costs, et cetera? A regular refinance here could cost $4200-$6900. And the terms are usually for 30 years, regardless of the ages of the mortgagees. So four mortgage refinances over a decade, not uncommon where I am, cost close to $22000. Now, if the mortgages were for shorter terms and smaller interest, the costs would not be so cumbersome. I paid close to nothing for my refinance and neither shortened nor lengthened my term but I saved $8700 in interest. But if the amounts are larger and the terms remain constant, that is prolonged, the interest saved is not as significant.

Our newspapers used to present "oh woe" articles of people who have lived in their houses for most of their lives, but somehow did not mention the frequent mortgage refinances, always for larger amounts. And articles of the "we are underwater on our mortgage and have lost our equity" sort and it turns out they got 0% down or interest-only mortgages. Values in our area dropped from the 2007 peak by 30% by 2011, which is not long ago.

I weep for the future of your country. About half of these people vote too and nearly all have good, professional jobs. Or maybe it is just that many people in my neighbourhood are clueless. That seems most likely to me.

Money Musings

June 22nd, 2012 at 07:49 am

Having a lot of equity in the house helps only when you are trying to sell it; nowadays you cannot borrow so much from it.

We learned that a house down the street is scheduled for public auction. The owners had gone to India to take care of an ailing relative, but rented the house. I do not know how it is that the rental payments, for there are people living in the house, are not applied to the mortgage and that the mortgage is not paid. Maybe the mortgage is with a lender who went under or who is notoriously inept or the owners died or something. The amount owing is a trifle above what we owe on our house, I did not know if the renters knew about the notice of trustee sale so I printed a copy out, along with some advice and links on renters' rights. If they get booted out they can live in our house if they do not smoke. Their cat comes over almost daily to hang out with one of our cats. My husband fantasizes about buying the house by covering the outstanding amount so we save on moving expenses.

Gold slid 2.5% on deflationary fears. This bums me out but it is not like I have not already profited, and I expect some volatility. I am relieved my obsession with buying a car and keeping as many assets liquid as possible kept me focused away from gold buying.

An Eureka moment: the neighbours who are negligent dog owners are probably too clueless to suspect that their animals are at the ends of their average life spans per breed, and do not think animals can get dementia. Google will give the average life span for a dog breed, and calculating how long the people have been in their houses with their dogs leads us to conclude that these are old dogs. Having had a 19.75 year old cat, I can tell you that elderly animals can wander in the dark and moan, whimper and whine because they are disoriented or feel alone. Even without dementia, elderly animals suffer from separation anxiety and the pointer next door has ALWAYS suffered from separation anxiety.

Tip: do not get a Burmese or Siamese kitten if you are over 50 years old. At one time the world's oldest cat was a Burmese cat, 35 years old. We had no idea about the life spans of Orientals when my mom bought kittens; we told a couple who once owned a Siamese that we wanted to wait until my very possessive Burmese had died before having a baby, and they said "they can live into their 20s, you know."

I walked from Convention Place to Boren and Madison, then to 5th and Madison, then to Columbia and 4th, and saw no coins anywhere. The beggars must be especially keen-sighted or baselle must have beaten me to it. I was hoping for eleven cents to make up for my mortgage increase.

Disorganization Blues

June 14th, 2012 at 08:28 pm

Today I found a recent 401(k) statement for the spouse. This set me off on a hunt for the retirement statements I have. I have piles of papers scattered in the spare room, our bedroom and in the living room. Never mind I have three crates for filing these.

In rooting for these statements like a blind pig who trapped her snout in lavender oil for a half-hour, I learned I miss investing. I have not invested for three months, instead saving $$ for house, taxes, laptop, family vacation. I must return to dropping envelopes of hot love to my brokerage of choice, and dabble in foreign currencies and precious metals.

I have also learned I cannot have control over my life until I tame my clutter. Then I will have organized and prioritized. Everything is a wildcard right now. I want so much to keep things simple, but the monkey mind reigns supreme. I hate this because I set a bad example for my child who is even more organizationally impaired than I.

But in also rooting for the statements I have found a library book I feared I would never see! That goes back tomorrow.

$306.13 optometrist bill today. I wonder what kind of high deductible we have in our health savings account.
He understands though, and spots me some prescription medication when I visit for my regular examinations, saving me $89.

What else: oh I was tabulating the finance statements for our bridge loan application outside a closed cafe (no, baselle, not THAT one) when the killer's dad (TKD) comes up. We are alone as the spouse had gone across the street for cheap roadtrip reads. I give TKD a hug, we talk about the grieving process, bridge loans, nuclear detritus washing up on the West Coast (note to self: do not move south) and why the cafe is closed: owner hastened downtown for a permit to participate in the local farmers market which started today. I did not tell TKD that I bought gift cards for the recovering barista/cook (RBC). Some stalking, errr, research showed that RBC was threatened with foreclosure three years ago so he presumably is not a wealthy person. I got a Target card for him and a Petco card for his little cat friend who could well be his "cheap therapist" as he recovers to return to work. A man who rides a motorcycle and owns a cat melts my heart.

A fearless, organized life filled with vitality and love: that is my goal to work toward.

My rough challenges for June

June 4th, 2012 at 02:50 pm

Cafe One is closed because of a horrific murder on Wednesday. Cafe Two will be closed by noon tomorrow as the owner is going to the Oregon Coast for scuba diving. Dare I attempt weaning myself off coffee? I heard coffee drinkers live longer but not where I am.

Challenge #2: the glorious thing about my travel was that I went with a menopausal woman who is dealing with spongy tummy, hot flashes and surreptitious weight gain just like I am. If you're a gay man like Dan Savage you can say that weight loss is easy when your diet is mostly fruits and vegetables, you lay off HFCS, and you exercise. If you're a woman of a certain age, your experience is that exercise and diet are key, but not the complete cure. We lay off HFCS but we suffer progesterone loss. So I will try to reduce my weight. Maybe five pounds this month. I am using Energy Medicine for Women which my friend bought at Powell's.

Challenge #3: Going outside to do gardening/yard cleanup while my neighbors let their dogs bark. This is a sanity challenge as after a few years the barks become close to torture. Better to have two months of prolonged torture and a lifetime of relief afterward than slow torture for years. I guess where I live the odds of dog owners stepping up their care regimen when their pets become geriatric are as likely as criminally insane people voluntarily committing themselves or voluntarily giving up their firearms.

---------
coupon book for 2nd year of mortgage arrived. Taxes went up, no surprise, and we are now paying eleven cents more a month.

What's Bleak this Week

June 1st, 2012 at 08:32 am

My family and I lost some friends on Wednesday at one of our hangouts. At the other coffee hangout I would see an elderly man and chat with him, and come away happier or more filled with knowledge from the experience: that man is the father of the person who killed my friends. I hurt, but not as much as the family and best friends and fans of the dead, the man whose jaw, lung and armpit were shot, the cafe owner whom I have known and rode scooters with for years, and the elderly man who could do nothing but tried everything to prevent this from happening.

I paid $756 of our credit card bill. DH bought a laptop. Since August 1 I have paid $10225 principal of mortgage debt.

DH finally fixed his tax withholding so we are living on 6% less cash. This doesn't wreck me, but wherever we land next I will most definitely start working. And no more skimping for eight-ten weeks to come up with tax money.

I am going out of town for a few days. This was planned before the shootings and I need some time away from home. My friend is paying for the hotel, we are going dutch on food, and I am paying for my transportation there, back and around. I don't intend to be too frugal: I need sleepwear, would like some books at one of the largest brick-and-mortar bookstores in the country.

I still dislike my son's school. It employs an evaluation tool for teachers from the Northwest Evaluation Association which is very uneven and unreliable: my kid has scored from 60 percentile for his grade to, I kid you not, off the charts in the same subject. This tells me nothing. Nobody tells me anything, very few read my sentences, most interrupt or talk over me. I am waiting for education professionals to tell me how these behaviors and actions foster trust and communication and cooperation between parents and teaching staff. I do not put forward anything to the staff that is not evidence-based or documented or undiscussed with my in-laws, with a half-century of teaching experience between them.

My state really sucks for education and funding for public health. Do not move here.

Two Year Schadenfreude anniversary

May 26th, 2012 at 03:23 pm

I started tracking the values of twelve properties in my region, including mine: ten in my city, one in the same county, and one in a different county. My criteria for tracking: did I work with the individual homeowner, were we close in age? One I stopped tracking last year because the house was sold. One condo, one townhome, ten houses. Replaced that with a 3 bedroom house one town over.

COUNTIF(Houses with depreciating equity): 8
My equity went up by 0.17% over two years. That's with a 20-year mortgage, then a 12-year mortgage. Only two people refinanced over that two-year period. One refinanced four times over 100 months prior to May 2010, so she's probably due.
Median mortgage paid: $10702.96 from inception of mortgage. $16167.38 average.
Loan to Value ratios vary from 109.79 to 43.62.
Percent of mortgages paid year to date: 2.6683% to 17.2567%. I'm ranked fifth from the top, not bad for nine months mortgage.
Median mortgage balance remaining: $257614.13; average is $253945.84.
The Median Mortgage Debt in my state is $225581. This is one of the most expensive counties for real estate.

Median equity: $64205.97; average $69271.85
Median Value of Home Equity nationwide is $181189, so you can tell we suck bananas here. Lengths of mortgage range from 179 months to 9 months. Lengths of home ownership range from 179 months to 70 months.

Median equity percentage: 21.07%; average 21.78%.