Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mortgage Update for May 2016

Mortgage update and last day of junior year for my nephew!  (I wrote this on Thursday) He wanted to know when he is considered a senior, after the last day of school or on the first day of senior year?  I said after the last day of school assuming he passed all of his classes.  Next school year is going to be a very busy, fun and scary year for him as he makes his way towards college and independence. 

I put another extra $1,200 towards the principle of my mortgage.  New total is $33,542.  1 year and 11 months left at this rate.  It is very tempting to stop the extra mortgage repayment and work on new projects instead but the heat will probably deter me for a few months, at least.  I find myself often watching youtube videos on installing a metal roof on a mobile home and dreaming of block walls for a secure yard and garden.  All in good time.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Almost Over

So many responsibilities... Next month will slow down, right?  Nope.  The days just keep filling up.  Last Monday I attended my nephew's choir performance.  It was nice but long.  On Wednesday, I brought my mother to the airport for her flight to California.  On Friday, my nephew and I went to his awards banquet for choir.  They said it would be 3 hours.  I thought it might end early.  It ended up being 4 1/2 hours long and I got home at 11pm.  My nephew stayed for the all night movie lock-in while I went back to the mobile home and set my alarm for 7am so that I could pick him up at 8am sharp.  We loaded up the car with luggage and dogs and drove to the house where I took a nap and he didn't crash until 4pm.  Then, I met my sister for dinner.  She was driving through on her way to vacation in Texas.  On Sunday, I finally tired of looking at my nephew's tattered and paint splattered shoes and took him to Kohl's where for $130 we bought shoes and two pairs of jeans, one black and one dark blue, which he can wear to dressy-casual affairs such as the up-coming wedding of his cousin.  The items were on sale but, still, I hate spending that much money on clothes.

Sunday night we drove back out to the mobile home for the last time of the junior year (and hopefully forever if my plans go well).  This is finals week until Thursday and then we get to go back to the house for a long time.  It will be nice to give my brain a break although I seem to be coming up with all sorts of plans for the property now that it is too hot to do anything out there.  Building a deck, planting trees, finishing the skirting...  All of that needs to wait for later.  What I really need to do is finish painting the barn-shed, figure out how to make the tie-downs tighter (I'm not sure if they need to be tight or not), and put some sort of drip edge over the front door in an attempt to keep rain from leaking in like it did last year.

June is filling up now and I don't even want to think about July because school starts up again in July.  So, I will just think about this Thursday, the last day of school, and be happy for a little while.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Another Year

I celebrated my 44th birthday on Wednesday.  There wasn't much actual celebrating because Wednesdays don't allow for such frivolity if I want to be able to stay awake at my desk the next day.  My co-workers and I went out for ice cream sundaes at lunch.  I love ice cream but if I don't eat it almost totally melted I get horrible tooth/nerve pain around a half an hour after I eat it, thus I was in pain for an hour or so afterwards.  I did finally take some Tylenol, which helped.  After work I stopped by the house to do the usual watering of the plants/quail, filling of water jugs, and collecting the mail.  I also got the tall ladder that I used to get on the roof because I need it back at the property if I am ever going to finish painting the barn-shed.

Birthdays always make me melancholy since my plans are usually based on my age.  I want to be retired by 43. No I'm already 44.  45 probably not.  47 maybe?  I have two more years to pay my mortgage at an accelerated rate plus $8K to pay back my mother and $8K I hope to contribute to my nephew's college.  Today at work there was more grumbling about our new boss because he was hired to cut costs.  Everything is getting scrutiny which makes people squirm.  I probably shouldn't be writing this from my work computer.  Thoughts go through my head like, what if I was laid off now?  What would I do?  Would I sell the house, rent out the house?  Get another full time job?  I despise looking for jobs so I hope to hang on to this one for another 3 years at least.  Job unrest, political unrest, stock market unrest, plus another year older.  I think I want to take a nap. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cool Breeze

Three weeks to go!  Even less if you consider that the last day of school is on a Thursday.  My nephew made a comment that we will have to go back to the mobile home for the first week of school because he won't have his license yet.  Whaaaat???  Did I miscalculate?  I asked him to look at his driving permit to see if it had a date.  It did, January 20th.  School starts July 22nd.  Since he has to wait 6 months after getting his permit, that gives him 2 days to pass his test.  If he doesn't pass the first time then I will probably just drive him to school for a week until he can try again.  I think he would be able to ride the bus but it would be a bit late to notify the school district that we need bus service.  Oh well, we will deal with that if needed.  I am optimistic that he will pass. 

Last Friday, I took the day off.  Sassy went to the vet for her Valley Fever test.  Her results came back today and, unfortunately, her numbers are even higher than last time even though she is not limping at all.  The vet recommended changing pharmacies for her pills since the vet has noticed a decline in potency of the medicine they supply.  So, I ordered through a different pharmacy and changed to capsules instead of tablets.  Hopefully, the medicine will work this time.  After that, I headed over to my nephew's school to help judge the senior career projects.  They were all very interesting and I learned a lot of great tips for my nephew's senior project next year.  The best presenter brought in her clarinet and played for us.  Another girl brought in glass pendants from her time learning about glass blowing.    The other students had photos in a powerpoint presentation but bringing items for the judges to see made it so much more interesting.

On Saturday, I thought I was going to tackle some yard clean up but first priority was getting the evaporative cooler started and it wasn't as easy as I had hoped.  My nephew and I went on the roof and took the metal panels off. 

 I poked around and finally figured out how to turn it on, plug in the hose, turn the water on, etc.  The only problem was that the water was not getting to the cooler pads and it wouldn't send out cool air.  After many frustrating trips up and down the roof and watching how-to videos, I was still stumped.  I decided to write a desperate email to my old HVAC repairman.  He replied by the next morning which surprised me because he isn't even working in the HVAC business anymore because of bad knees.  He told me that I need to make sure the two pumps are plugged in to the correct outlets.  I never would have figured that out.  I didn't see any markings anywhere.  Anyway, so after we spend a nice afternoon with my mother for Mother's Day, I went back up on the roof and switched the plugs. 

I marked them for next time.

 Voila!  Cool air!  I was so happy!  Now I really should go back up there and do a better job of cleaning out the hard water deposits but it is supposed to get to 100F this week and, now that it is working, the priority has gone down.  I'll be sure to clean it up well when I shut it down in the fall.  I saved $75 by doing it myself which makes up for the expensive Mother's Day lunch we had by mistake (note to self, look at prices BEFORE going in to a fancy restaurant.) 

This week is normal.  On Saturday, I get my 40 pounds of chicken and then next week is super-busy.  I'll just try to take it one day at a time as usual.   

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May Days

May is already jam-packed full of projects and commitments.

5/6 Day off!  Volunteering at nephew's school.  I should also try to finish painting the barn/shed as the weather will only be getting hotter.  Sassy has a vet appointment for another Valley Fever test. $$$

5/8 Mother's Day, spending it with my mom.

5/11 My birthday.  I don't have anything planned because it's a Wednesday.  Maybe pizza.

5/14 Pick up my order of chicken from Zaycon Fresh.  Yes, I ordered 40 pounds of chicken thighs.  I will have to split it up and figure out where to put it all.

5/16 My nephew's end of year choir performance.

5/18 Take Mom to airport to go to my niece's graduation from Vet school. Yay!

5/20 Take nephew to choir end-of year lock in.  That should be fun although he should be studying for finals.

5/21 Have dinner with my sister who is stopping by while traveling to Texas.

5/24 Don't forget to pick up Mom from the airport.

5/26 Last day of nephew's junior year.  Everyone goes back to the house in town!  I will be back to keep things maintained, tree watered, and the cat food filled.

5/31 Nephew is getting his wisdom teeth removed.  I have planned to take the day off.

Then June begins.  Eek.  I hope it isn't as busy but we are going to my niece's wedding in Washington so that is expense plus travel stress but it is only 3 days so I think I will survive.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mortgage Update for April 2016

April mortgage update.  Another extra $1,200 went towards the principle for a total of $34,980 left.  2 more years to go at this rate. 

April is almost over which means I will do my usual denial through May that summer is here.  Then 4 months of 'too hot to do anything' followed by pretending that the weather cools down in October but usually it doesn't cool down until November.  I have shade cloth up at the house for my bedroom sliding door and for the little patch of garden that is growing very well since we had an early spring.  I have tomatoes, pole beans, and sweet potatoes growing together with sunflowers for shade.  Most of them are volunteers from last year.  I love low maintenance gardening.

The mobile home still needs some weather protection around the front door and window.  Maybe just more caulk and a drip edge above the door will do it.  I had better plan a Saturday soon for those chores or else it will be 110F before I know it.  I hope to employ my nephew to help me with some improvements on the property next year.  I would love a little porch on the mobile home for shade.  I have pictured it in my head a thousand times but I have never built a porch and it seems like a daunting task.  Maybe with his help I can get it done. 

My projects always outnumber my available weekends and energy.  I still haven't finished the tie-downs for the barn-shed and had the final inspection yet.  Plus, I haven't finished painting.  I have plenty to do and in the meantime I am chipping away at the mortgage so that very soon I will have the time and money to do all of these things I've been dreaming about.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Like Sand Through an Hour Glass

These weeks are flying by again.  Only 5 weeks to go until school is out.  That means only 5 more weeks of being at the mobile home during the week and only 4 more weekends of traveling between the house and mobile home.  I wonder if the dogs will miss the car rides.  I will not miss being at the mobile home as it is now.  I am looking forward to the day that I can move out there permanently and have the time and money to fix things up the way I have been dreaming about for years. 

Last week, my nephew took the ACT test.  It will be a few weeks before he finds out how he did but he is hoping for a score higher than 21 which is the score he needs for the college that he wants to go to.  If not, he will take the test again.  We spent the last 3 Saturdays going to his ACT prep class so I hope that preparation paid off.

On Wednesday, we went to the county fair to see TobyMac in concert.  I was not impressed with it but then hip hop and rap are not my style of music.  It was so loud.  I wonder if my hearing is permanently damaged.  My nephew thought it was ok.  He has to write a 2 page review on it for his choir class.  We didn't get home until 10 and I didn't get to sleep until 11:30 because of the caffeine I drank for dinner.  The rest of the week I was dragging.

So, last Sunday, I finished my taxes and it turned out that I am getting $150 back from Federal and $500 back from the state.  I was worried that I would owe money like last year but I think that my rental house being vacant for 2 months and then having to pay the maintenance costs for the tenant turn-over reduced my tax liability.  For state, I pre-paid $400 last December, half to my nephew's school and half to our parish school so I get that money refunded.  That was a huge relief that I didn't have to pay. 

I really wanted to stay home last Saturday, and, since the tax worry was over, I decided to treat myself to a little present.  I could stay home if I had a plan for finishing the barn-shed painting.  I used my credit card rewards to buy an electric paint sprayer to paint the grooves on the barn-shed.  The idea is that painting will go much quicker with the sprayer which made it ok to stay home on Saturday.  We will see if that is true.  The paint sprayer arrives today.  Saturday was lovely.  I napped, pulled weeds, attempted to get on the roof to start up the evaporative cooler but found that my ladder was too short.  Next week I will bring out my tall ladder.  I've never started up my evaporative cooler by myself but everyone tells me it is easy and I can do it myself rather than pay someone $50-$80 to do it for me.

This week I am looking forward to getting my paint sprayer, starting up the evap. cooler, and attending a meeting about the career-shadowing project that my nephew has to do next year.  A meeting for next year's senior parents already!  He wants to do the project on playing video games professionally but he doesn't know anyone who does that so he might have to pick a less glamorous occupation to research.  Reality gets in the way of dreams sometimes.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pizza and Progress

Another hard-working Saturday. But first, we filled up with a slice of pizza, a very, very big slice. Not a bad price either. Only $6 for a super-sized piece of pizza and a drink.  I've driven past this little pizza place hundreds of times and finally thought to look up the reviews, which were great, so we stopped in.

Before this, my nephew went to his ACT test prep class (the last of three Saturdays, yay!) and I continued painting the grooves in the barn-shed. A very slow and tedious process. 

After lunch, my nephew tried out the paint roller while I filled in the grooves. He is a did well for his first try but his clothes and shoes will have yellow splotches forever. Luckily, the paint came off his forehead.  He thought I should have painted the barn-shed red because of the green roof but I am trying to make it look more like a cottage and less like a barn.  It's more yellow than I wanted it because I expect the sun to fade it quite quickly.  We will see.  

After he finished paint rolling everything that could be rolled without a ladder, I introduced him to my reciprocating saw. He enjoyed lopping off tree branches much more than painting.  Every few minutes he was saying "what can I cut now?".

I have a lot more to paint and very little motivation at the moment. The upper loft walls, front and back, need to be painted, for sure, as well as the rest of the grooves. The porch area can be last because it is covered and shaded from the sun. I have very few weekends left before the weather gets unbearable. I was hoping to take next Saturday off from painting chores. If I want to do that I had better start painting after work instead.  I think I'm going to run out of paint too.  I haven't decided what to do with the porch itself.  The floor should be stained again, I think.  The beams and ceiling could be white.  I'm having trouble picturing how it will look.

Anyway, 6 more weeks of school and then a very short summer break.  I keep looking forward to a long summer break but school starts back up July 20-something.  Well, any break will be welcome.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Back and Forth

The days are so busy, I'm afraid blogging and taxes are getting shoved to the back although I'm going to have to make finishing my taxes a priority next weekend or the IRS will not be happy with me.

Last week my niece came to visit and my mother spend 2 nights in the hospital for a racing heartbeat. I used a day of vacation time so that I could take her home. Half day of vacation on Thursday, then the doctor decided to keep her another night, and another half day on Friday so that I could leave work as soon as she was set free.

On Saturday, my nephew had ACT test prep in the morning, same as last Saturday and next Saturday. While waiting for him, I spent my time painting the barn-shed yellow. Hopefully, with his help next week, I can finish the job.

After his class, he drove us to visit my mom for her birthday lunch. He is getting better at driving now that he has 17 hours of experience. He needs 9 more hours of night driving before the end of July. That will take some effort to accomplish since I rarely go out after dark.

I am sitting here on the couch, trying to decide if we should go out to the mobile home like we usually do or stay at the house another night because it has been raining all day and the dirt roads will be muddy.  If we wait, then I have to get up early to take him to school and go to the house after work to pick up food and the dogs. Decisions, decisions. Only 7 more weeks of this back and forth stuff. I can hardly wait.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Saga of the Table

Do you remember when I bought my bar-height table for the mobile home back in July?  The box arrived with holes and chunks missing.  

The instructions said to contact the manufacturer instead of returning it to Home Depot, so I did.  Since it was the table top that was damaged, they said they would send a replacement but that it was back-ordered.  I assumed that meant that they wouldn't do anything, but they took my information and I forgot about it.  That was around 8 months ago.

Yesterday, I arrived at the house to water the plants, check on the quail, get the mail and fill up my water bottles.  There were two large boxes under the carport.  First, I checked the name because I thought they might be at the wrong house.  Nope.  Then I called my mother to see if she had something shipped to my house.  Nope.  Then it dawned on me.  The table top.  But why were there two boxes?  For a moment, I thought they might have shipped me two whole new tables.  I opened the first one.  It was a very well wrapped table top.  I opened the second one.  It was another very well wrapped table top. 

We use the original damaged table top at the mobile home.  It sits against the back of the couch and has a table cloth so the dent on the side is not noticeable.  Now I have two more table tops.  Well, since I have to buy legs, I guess I could make them any height that I want.  I could have a matching coffee table and computer table.  More projects!  But more cost for legs.  For now, they will sit in my living room taking up space.  I haven't exactly embraced tiny house minimalism just yet, so I just keep everything for now.  Downsizing is on my to-do list for next year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mortgage Update for March 2016

March was a big month for extra bills since my nephew and I took a trip and I had my dog's teeth cleaned (cleaning was the cheapest part.  10 extractions and 2 growths removed were the expensive part).  Yet, I still made an extra $1,200 payment on my mortgage for this month.  I could have skipped a month and paid the bill all at once but I would rather borrow from my emergency fund and pay myself back over 3 month's time. 

The new mortgage total is $36,412.  If I can continue at this rate, I will have my mortgage paid off in 2 years and 1 month. 

At the vet's office last week, I asked if I could receive the "dental awareness" discount which is for the month of February but since my vet had the flu and had to reschedule to March, they gave me the discount.  Then, while waiting for them to bring me my dog, I reviewed the itemized bill and saw that they had charged me $14 for a cone collar even though I declined it, and $10 for pill pockets which my dog hates and they didn't give any to me anyway.  They gave me a refund.   

On Saturday I stopped by the hardware store and bought paint for my barn-shed.  Usually I go to the store close to my house but they don't carry paint in the 5 gallon buckets.  I checked my credit card statement just for fun today and noticed that I had been charged twice for the paint.  The computers were offline when I made the purchase and it looks like I got charged again when they came back online.  I called the store and was told to call the corporate office.  The corporate office said the store should have handled it so corporate called the store and straightened it out.  I still have to return to the store to get the credit put back on my card.  So many little things that need to be monitored.

And there were two other instances of being over-charged this month.  One was for Tracfone minutes.  I tried to buy minutes for my nephew's phone online and I got a message that said the transaction could not be completed and I needed to call Tracfone.  I called them and the customer service person completed the transaction over the phone.  When I checked my credit card later, I was double billed.  It took an online chat and another phone call to get it straightened out.  Then, my internet provider, CenturyLink, sent me a card that said my credit card was declined.  Called them and got it fixed but I still don't know why it was declined.  The agent told me I could increase my internet speed for only $5 more so I agreed.  Two days later a new router/modem showed up at my door.  Another phone call got me a return number and I sent it back but I still have to call to make sure I am not being charged for a leased router/modem.

Anyway, it was a lovely spring break at the house but now we are back to the school schedule, the mobile home during the week and the house in town on weekends.  9 more weeks until summer break!  I'm looking forward to it, except for the up-coming heat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Time Zone Hopping

What a week.  Sorry I have been gone so long but traveling wears me down.  We left for Ohio last Tuesday.  The day started at 4:30am and we arrived in Pittsburgh at 4:30pm three hours ahead of Arizona's time zone.  That would make it 1:30pm AZ time.  We met up with my sister and her children, checked in the hotel, went out to eat at Bob Evans (I had never been there) then dropped my nephew off with a student at the dorm who hosted him for 3 days.  The next day consisted of a campus tour, sitting in on classes, eating at the cafeteria and a leisurely walk down memory lane for me.  My nephew had a great time.  He met fellow anime and video game aficionados with whom he could converse until all hours of the night or morning.  Hopefully, this experience will motivate him to bring up his grades so that he can go to college right after high school.

I was reminded how much I dislike travel.  I will not fly American Airlines again if I can help it.  I could not believe that I had to pay for a premium seat for two of the flights because I did not know that I had to choose my seats before all the free seats were gone.  There was nothing "premium" about the seats either.  I did not get to sit next to my nephew on any of the flights.  Snacks were for purchase only.  No free peanuts or pretzels.  Boarding took forever as the gate agents read off the list of preferential groups, gold members, elite status, credit card rewards members, there must have been around 10 different groups that boarded first and then the remaining folks were lumped together.  The only reason I picked American was because the flight arrived close to my sister's flight.  She took Delta and got free cookies but they damaged her bag so I can't say that was better.  I will go back to flying with Southwest whenever possible.

I am glad that I went and have the memories but I am happy to be home.  My mother did a wonderful job of looking after my dogs.  They were all happy to see me and I could tell that they were more relaxed because they were familiar with the person caring for them instead of a stranger.  It is going to take a month to get back on track with the bills.  I travel so rarely and when I do I tend to spend money more freely than normal.  I paid for dinner for the group and handed out gift cards to my nieces and nephew and the kind students who showed my nephew around.  I am glad that I am careful with spending other times so that I can spend money on things that are important to me, like this trip.

I am back at work this week and my nephew still has another week of spring break.  Next week we will start the last quarter of his junior year.  Only 9 weeks until school is out!  Yes, I am counting the days.  If all goes according to plan, my nephew will be able to drive to school next year and we will live in the house in town.  The mobile home will be sealed up against the pack rats and that project will be put on hold for a year or so depending on how my life goes.  Then, once my nephew goes to college or whatever he chooses to do, I'll continue with my plan to move out to my property full time.