Friday, December 21, 2012

SSDI

As you all know, I "retired" from working in October of 2011.  I immediately applied for SSDI (Social Security Disability).  As expected my first application was denied...60% of all first time applications are.  Over the past year my health has been declining at a steadily increasing pace. 

These days I am happy if I have TWO GOOD HALF DAYS A WEEK...days where my pain level is as low as a 5 out of 10 (my doctor has told me that there is little hope I will ever see a 0 out of 10 pain level again), when I'm not spending the biggest portion of the day in bed under a doubled electric blanket to combat the severe pain, when my fatigue is not completely debilitating and my neurologic issues are not precluding me from performing fine motion activity with my hands, typing on the computer, holding items with only one hand, turning pages in a book or walking more than a short distance at a time.  As they say, "If it's not one thing, it's another." 

Given the progression of my symptoms and letters from four of my physicians stating that I am not capable of any type of gainful employment, I expected my upcoming SSDI hearing to go well.  If four separate physicians put their names to a statement that I am not capable of working, how could SSDI rule against me?  That many doctors are not, realistically, going to be willing to put their good names and licenses at risk by falsifying facts. The fact is...I'm not able to work.  Period. 

In mid November I received a letter stating that my hearing would be on December 3rd.  Since I am unable to go down to the city on my own, and my husband could not take off that day, I had  my hearing rescheduled for December 10th.  I followed all of the instructions that came with my notification.  I filled out several enclosed forms.  I was told to send copies of all of my medical records since mid March to their office for the judge to review prior to my hearing.  I contacted all of my doctors and managed to get copies of all 25 visit notes.  My wonderful doctors jumped through hoops to circumvent the normal administrative process and make the copies available expediently...and my poor parents ran from office to office to obtain records as they became available if I was not up to leaving the house on that day.  I needed to get them mailed off quickly.  When my large stack of records and completed forms were gathered and collated I rushed to the post office and mailed them overnight (at a cost of $17.10). 

On December 10th my husband and I headed to the city for my hearing.  We fought traffic on a killer expressway, paid through the nose for parking in the heart of the city, and shoved a rotten fast food meal down our throats just prior to the hearing.  As a diabetic, I can't go too long without food and we had no idea how long my hearing would last.  Better to be safe than sorry.  We arrived at the appointed time (actually early) and waited our turn to appear before the judge.  Ten minutes before my appointment time a woman came out and handed me a packet of papers and told me to complete them when I got home and mail them back to the office.  I placed them, unopened, in my briefcase.

At exactly my appointment time we were called into the room.  After a brief introduction the judge informed me and my husband that my hearing will be in April.  Huh?  What?  TODAY is my hearing!  Nope, it's not (despite every paper I received stating that it was).  The judge called me down to tell me that I can get a lawyer if I choose, but I need to get the lawyer now.  If I wait too long and the lawyer can't get the case together in time, there will be NO postponement.  "THIS is your postponement."  Oh, and she is retiring at the end of the year and another judge will be hearing my case.  End of meeting.  We were out of there in 10 minutes.  And the paperwork the lady gave me while I was waiting for my "hearing"?...the same paperwork I had received in the mail (TWICE), had already completed, had mailed overnight and they had received five days earlier!

My husband and I walked out of the building dumbfounded and furious.  He had taken a day off of work, we had wasted our time and money for 10 minutes in front of the judge while she informed me that I can get a lawyer.  Well, duh, it says that over and over during the application process and the appeal process.  I KNOW I can get a lawyer, I just didn't think I would need one since several of my doctors say I can't perform any gainful employment.  But, if THIS is an example of how the system works...maybe I DO need to fork out money for legal representation!

So later on this afternoon I will be speaking with an attorney to discuss the possibility of him representing me at the hearing.  I often wondered why people who were truly disabled got lawyers to represent them.  Now I know.  The system is broken, and the only way to be assured things are handled in a timely, efficient and effective manner is to hire someone who can duct tape the system back together to make sure the decision is made based on the actual FACTS of the case.  For that I guess I will be more than willing to fork out money for legal representation... 


DAD'S QUILT IS DONE!

Hi everyone!

I did it!  I finally finished my dad's quilt.  No more worries of wrapping an IOU as his Christmas gift!  Now I can fully relax and enjoy what little time is left before the holidays, lol. Here it is, in all of its glory!  Please excuse the faded out beige pinwheels on the bottom row.  They show up much more distinctly in person than they do in the picture. 


Dad's quilt is made of flannel and faux suede.  The faux suede matches the beige of his leather recliner, while the other colors (the flannel) are pulled from elements in my parents' home.  I wanted something "masculine" for dad, yet pretty enough that it would look okay lying out in the family room. 

This quilt reminds me of flannel shirts and argyle socks.  Since flannel shirts have a placket down the front, I used a double line of stitching in the sashes to pick up the same feel.  And, of course, all flannel shirts have to have buttons on the plackets...which I centered on the intersections of the sashing.  The rectangles of flannel on the border reminded me of argyle socks...so I stitched an "X" of quilting into each rectangle.




For the center of each block I wanted a quilting detail that would mimic the round button shape...but it had to be angular enough to pick up all of the other straight lines in the quilt.  I think the quilting pattern I found is just perfect.  Thanks again to my wonderful hubby who bought me a Baby Lock Embroidery Machine for my retirement!  My quilts can still have beautiful stitching, just sewn by machine now that I can no longer sew by hand!


The last detail to be added to the quilt was my label.  I didn't want just a "normal" quilt label showing my name and date, etc.  I wanted something that would communicate to my dad just a bit of the love that went into his gift.  A few months ago he came down with a bug that was making the rounds in our area.  Suffering from a relatively high fever, my father, the man who is NEVER cold, borrowed a quilt I had made 20 years ago...so he would have something warm to snuggle into while he watched TV!  I knew then what he was getting for Christmas.

Now he will have his own special "hug" from me... to keep him warm and cozy, always.  

I can't wait to give it to him!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

CLIMBING BACK IN THE FRUGAL SADDLE

You know how sometimes in life things just seem to "get away from you".  Well that has been the case with my "frugality" lately.  I've been trying to remain frugal on some of the bigger stuff (like getting multiple estimates for household repairs), but falling off the saddle horribly when it comes to the everyday, mundane things that add up to big frugality!  Our goal this coming year is but an extension of what DIDN'T get done this past year...purge through the entire house, sell any unwanted items that we can, and boost our savings accounts as much as possible...all necessary and Oh So Frugal!

With that in mind, yesterday DH and I decided to start "The Household Purge".  I have still not bought my dear husband any Christmas gifts, and really needed a good close look at his closet to know exactly what it is that he needs... so that I am not duplicating things he already owns (NOT frugal to duplicate by mistake!).  While I sat on the edge of the bed, hubby pulled out clothing item after clothing item...trying it on if he was unsure of the fit, while I looked for stains, rips, and shiny bums.  The items that fit well and still had a good amount of life in them were handed over to me to put back onto the hanger (Why is it that men don't like to hang or fold clothing? Lol) and then were put right back into his closet.

In the process we found several pairs of brand new pants that do not fit.  Unfortunately, in the garment industry your size is not always your size!  It all depends upon the manufacturer!  As they are "new with tags" I will try to return them, or list them on Craigslist to try to sell...and pad out our savings account with the money recouped.  At worst case, I will donate them to our local thrift shop and get a receipt for our taxes.

We found quite a few clothing items that were not in a condition that I would want him to wear to work.  He is, after all, a professional in a large corporation and he needs to "look the part".  Even though his company has gone "business casual" most days, his clothes still need to be well matched and well cared for.    For now, these items are in bags on our garage floor waiting for trash day.  In the "frugal" mindset I really should have pulled off all useable buttons, do-dads and zippers and torn apart clothing that could be used for my sewing and quilting projects BEFORE I put the clothing into bags, but we had neither the time, nor space, for such a diversion while purging yesterday.  I will, if time allows, dive into those bags within the next four days and add some useable fabric and notions to my sewing room stash.  That is how our frugal grandparents would have handled it and it is high time I harken back to their thrift and wisdom!!! 

Today we will sort through DH's chest of drawers to see what "non work" clothing needs to be sold, tossed or replaced.  Since there is a bit more time and space today I will try to glean the useable sewing items before I throw them into the trash bag.

Next week we will begin purging my closet, shelves and drawers!  I just know there are quite a few things that should have made it to the trash bag (post deconstruction for the stash containers) years and years ago.  The time has come to admit that I will never again be that thin.....not even in my dreams!  And, "NO, I really don't need any new clothing, dear"...no matter how many items are purged from my room.   I am sure I still have WAY more than I need, lol. 

So, after a good day of purging yesterday, I woke up with "frugal" on the brain this morning.  For breakfast I poured the dregs from two different boxes of cereal into my bowl.  Tiny dregs each, but more than sufficient for my breakfast.  I pulled the waxed bags out of the cereal boxes, emptied them good and folded them into a drawer for use when breading meat or coating potatoes.  While I could/should have salvaged the boxes for use in making templates in my sewing room, I have to draw the line somewhere on what I can effectively and frugally store.  Unless they are big enough to be converted into magazine holders, cereal boxes are not useful enough to warrant saving at this time.  It is, after all, a balancing act between keeping what can be reused and adding to the clutter I am trying desperately to reduce! 

I have been doing laundry since soon after I rolled out of bed.  Our laundry is washed in cold water with half the amount of detergent recommended by the manufacturer.  Stains are pretreated with Shout, or Greased Lightening if they are of an oily nature.  When fighting REALLY tough stains I add a Tide Booster pillow to the wash load.  Even using multiple stain fighters, salvaging stained clothing is much more frugal than replacing clothing!

Since today is laundry day we will be spending all day in the house...and I will stay in my jammies until all of the laundry is done.  Then I will take a really quick shower and get dressed.  My jammies and undies will be the first items in the hamper for next week.  Since we are staying in all day, our meals will all be made and eaten at home.  Hooray for us!  Breakfast was cereal for me.  I'm not quite sure what DH had.  Yesterday we had our usual Saturday breakfast out and the restaurant gives such huge portions that we almost always bring home leftovers.  The leftovers are my tasty lunch today.  DH will be having leftover pizza that has been in the fridge for a few days and really needs to be gone soon.  For dinner I am making a packaged "hamburger helper" type meal.  I am making a boxed garlic beer bread to go with it.  Both items were bought at Big Lots for $1 each and I am using $.98/lb ground beef.  So, with extra ingredients I am figuring dinner tonight is going to cost us about $4.  I really, REALLY need to get a handle on our wasting of money on take out or restaurant food!  I also need to begin purging through our kitchen closet and basement pantry.  I know there are items in there that are getting quite old and I don't want to waste a penny of the money spent to buy them! 

Now that my belly is full from lunch I think it is time for me to work on my handmade Christmas gifts!  Time is flying by and I sure don't want to be handing out IOUs on Christmas Day!  Hopefully I will be checking in over the next few days to continually update my frugal activities!  How about you, are you staying frugal in this holiday season?









Thursday, December 6, 2012

LONG TIME, NO SEE!

I walked into my sewing room this morning, "blurry eyed" and miles away from "bushy tailed"...in desperate need of a steaming cup of coffee.  After a few sips the room began to take shape around me and my monitor jumped to life in front of me.  OMG, can it REALLY be December 6th?!?  I rubbed my eyes to make sure that the number on my desktop wasn't a 3 masquerading as a 6 just to see me squirm.  No, definitely a 6.  What?  When?  Where did all that TIME go?!?!?  It wasn't even Thanksgiving yet when we left for sunny South Carolina!

My dear sweet hubby and I returned from vacation a mere five days ago.  We knew when we made the reservations that we were "cutting it close" with Christmas preps, but it was the best time for him to be out of the office given the project workload.  But THIS close to the big day already? My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about the things that still need to be done before the big day.  Making my schedule even more difficult,  I have four medical appointments to go to by the end of next week and a Social Security court hearing on Monday! What was I thinking, or drinking, when I made that many appointments in the small window of time between our return from vacation and the holiday?  Somehow I will have to muddle through and try to get the absolute necessities done...and maybe fall very short of my usual Christmas verve.  But Christmas will come, whether I am ready or not. 

However, on a good note, today is the first day since our return that I can honestly say I feel like I have settled back into my home and routine.  I have been extremely fatigued since we have been back, taking several hour naps in the middle of the day...just to survive until I can drop into bed sometime after 6:00 PM.  My pain level has ramped a bit higher now that I am not spending my days sitting on a balcony staring at the ocean.  In the past five days I have accomplished ONLY the absolute necessities. 

But, my steaming cuppa jo' this morning chased away the cobwebs and primed my engine to accomplish as much as possible between now and then!  Time to get the lead out and move my bum!  I still have two handmade Christmas presents to finish (I have pared down my list a bit), a Christmas menu to plan and order, a house to straighten/clean and gifts to buy.  I sure hope my guys are up for a challenge as I will be dragging them kicking and screaming into my whirlwind, taking advantage of any and all help I can get, lol.  Christmas is a time of sharing and caring...and believe me I intend to SHARE the load, and don't really CARE if they like it, lol. In all honesty, though, my guys are really GREAT about helping me around here when I need it.  I just hope there is enough time for all THREE of us to get it all done.

Before I head off to work on my dad's quilt I want to give you a quick update on the things I HAVE accomplished since my last check-in.

A scarf for my aunt (completed):


Dad's quilt (in-progress):


I promise a "completed" picture of dad's quilt will be forthcoming in the next couple of days.  Then I have to turn a pile of miscellaneous parts into a scarf for my mom...I hope...


Off to work on the quilt!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

DESIGNING NOTEBOOK

As any quilter can attest, there is never just ONE "future quilt" floating around in your head, but zillions of designs and color combinations...all vying for the prominent place in your brain so as to be the next quilt started!  I decided that what I really needed was a "Design Notebook" in which to draw up all of my quilt dreams for future reference and completion.  Goodness knows, I wouldn't want to have one of my creations fall into the deep dark holes in my brain and never come to the light of day!

After a thorough search through all of the nooks and crannies of our storage closet for a suitable tablet of graph paper, and finding NONE (I would have sworn there were at least two or three in there!), I was forced to head to the store to purchase a spiral bound notebook.  Since I figured the notebook would be permanently out on my cutting table, I chose a blue cover to match my sewing room. 


As soon as I got home from the store I rushed right up to my sewing room, opened my new book, grabbed a pencil and waited for inspiration to strike.  Nothing!  Not even a split second flash of colors entered my brain.  Where had all of my beautiful ideas gone?  Had I lost them all?  Or, worse yet, had I suddenly lost all vestiges of creativity?  I closed my book and stared.  What was the problem that had blocked my Picasso moment?  As the blue cover of the notebook filled my vision a light bulb slowly took shape above my head.  That was it...my notebook was BORING!  How could I expect to create within the pages of such a bland book?  Creativity inspired creativity!

Thinking back to the pre-"book sox" days when my school books were covered in brown paper bags, I did a few quick measurements and decided on the amount of material I would need to make a jacket for my notebook.  I needed it to be sturdy, of a dark enough color so as not to get "grungy" from frequent use, but "fun" all the same.  A quick scrounge through my fabric stash brought forth a "happy" and colorful material that reminded me of Scandinavian design.  A remnant of a long ago Ikea pattern?  Since I get most of my materials from fellow Freecyclers, I was unsure of the source (or fabric content)...but I was absolutely certain that I wanted this material for my notebook.  Now I just needed a dark material that would hold up well to constant use and abuse.  A brown "suiting"? type fabric fit the bill and would pick up the brown stems of the flowers nicely.  A light bluish/aqua linen look material matched perfectly and would be ideal for the lining and a small pencil holder on the front.


Now for the trim.  Although the patterned material sported both red and a "watermelon" pink color, I decided to accentuate the pink with a thin grosgrain ribbon and thread.  The pink thread would look nice against the brown cover.  I had always been a sucker for brown and pink.

The book jacket itself was surprisingly simple to construct and within an hour I had my notebook covered and ready to use.  Even better, it was now a self contained designing tool that I could take on vacation with me...ready to call upon the ocean view off of my balcony for inspiration. 






But, how was I going to carry a large selection of colored pencils with me?  I could store them in a zippered pouch, but then I would be juggling numerous pencils on my lap as I searched for the specific one I needed.  Not good when you are sitting on a balcony 11 stories up!

My dilemma was solved by a freebie I received yesterday.  I had placed an order for ink from Office Depot.  Because of my timing (I never order unless there is a "promotion" I am interested in) and the order amount, I was able to receive a set of 10 colored highlighters...FREE.  These highlighters came in a plastic pouch...all self contained and all visible at a glance.  While the highlighters didn't provide a very wide selection of colors, I could probably use them to illustrate a general coloration in my blocks.  AND, if I had a specific quilting pattern in mind, the dotted quilting lines in my design would be visible through the highlight color.  Eureka!

I had left the inside flaps on my jacket large enough to accommodate various thicknesses of notebooks.  The back flap would be more than sufficient to hold the pack of highlighters, but how would I secure them inside the flap?  I decided on a button attached to the inside of the jacket, a sufficiently sized hole cut into the back of the cardboard notebook for the button to fit through and a hair tie to attach the flap to the button.  My ideas worked well and I look forward to carrying my designing notebook with me so that I can draw out my ideas whenever and wherever I'm inspired!

Now I just need to find the lead for my mechanical pencil!  I'm sure it is here someplace........

Monday, November 5, 2012

A FEW BIG STEPS FORWARD...

I woke up at 5:00 this morning feeling...GOOD!  Considering how rotten I had felt yesterday, how good I was feeling today was a complete and total shock!  I have learned over the past year that when I have a GOOD day I need to grab it with BOTH hands and make the most I can of the infrequent occurrence.  So, after a quick shower and breakfast, I immediately dug into my massive ToDo list.


One of my goals for the next few months is to re-evaluate our monthly expenses and research cheaper alternatives.  I made a phone call this morning to an alternate electric supplier in our area and discovered that switching suppliers would save us around $25 a month, or more.  Within a half hour I had switched suppliers and locked in the reduced rate for one year.  I am looking forward to a little bit more money in our pockets starting in December!


Yesterday I found a copy of a vision claim in my "Pending" file.  There was no notation of payment received anywhere on the xeroxed claim, nor any type of Explanation of Benefits attached.  While I do forget more these days, it is usually only short term memory and I found it hard to believe I had failed to follow through with correspondence, had I received any from the company.  This morning I made a quick phone call regarding the claim and verified that it had NOT been processed, and they have NO idea how it fell through the cracks.  I don't really care as long as it was THEIR cracks it fell through and not mine, lol.  A check for $100 should be arriving at the house within the next four to six weeks.


On Wednesday we are scheduled to have our roof damage from Hurricane Sandy repaired.  However, current long range forcasts call for rain that afternoon.  I phoned the contractor and questioned how and when I would be notified if the appointment needed to be cancelled.  The wonderful woman I spoke with suggested that she pencil me in for an appointment on Friday just in case the weathermen are correct and Wednesday is a wash-out.  That way I can get on the books before all of the other customers call her on Wednesday to reschedule.  Works for me!  Hopefully we can get the repairs done before we have any additional damage due to a leak through the missing shingles.


Dear hubby and I need to have some routine blood work drawn in January.  We have all of our labs drawn at an independent laboratory facility.  We have discovered (the HARD way) that we can wait up to two hours when arriving as a walk-in at the facility upon opening.  EVERYONE wants to have their fasting blood work drawn as early as possible.  So, today I scheduled appointments for us at 7:00 and 7:15 AM.  We should be eating breakfast and sipping hot coffee by 7:45!  While making an appointment won't save us any money, it will save us time...and some days that is even more precious than money! 

A year and a half ago we had our air conditioner and heater replaced.  As part of our contract with the company who installed the units, we have a free yearly check up and maintenance of the equipment at the beginning of each season.  I usually wait for the HVAC company to call me to schedule, but since today was my day to focus on organizing our lives and saving us money, I decided to call now to set up the appointment.  Our heater will be serviced the first week of December...thus I know it will be running at peak efficiency when our weather starts to get REALLY cold!

Today I had one of my prescriptions transferred to a different pharmacy.  While it won't save me any money on this particular prescription, as my son works in the store he will be able to pick up my refills as needed and save the gas I would have wasted driving to pick up the prescription.   In addition, once another one of my prescriptions has run out I will be able to get that medication transferred over and filled at no cost...it is one of a group of maintenance medications that the pharmacy offers FREE to its customers.   Like I said, I am reigning in every penny, nickle and dime that I can...while simultaneously seeking any and all freebies I have coming my way.

I am once again focusing my attention on "freebies" and "trickle income streams".  To that end I visited several sites today that offer free samples upon request; and also did several online surveys to earn points...which can then be redeemed for gift cards.  When I opened my mailbox today I  was happy to find a freebie four pack of Green Mountain K-cups.  Since I drink one cup of coffee per day in my Keurig, these freebies will cover half a week's morning beverage at no cost to me. 


I keep all of my coupons for freebies in a separate zippered pouch in my purse.


I go through it every couple of days and make notations on my calendar of when my free item is expiring.  Then when I plan my necessary errands, I add stops to redeem as many of these coupons as possible.  My goal is to only leave the house one day a week, as saving gas is a high priority these days and less wear and tear on the car is always a good thing!  Beginning today, Dunkin Donuts is offering free medium iced coffees and iced teas with a special card.


Since I had to drop off a form at my doctor's office, I planned a stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home.  I also had a coupon for a bag of Lindt truffles, which were on sale at Rite Aid and would be FREE with the coupon.  I plan to add the candies to a relative's Christmas gift as they are her favorite candy!


My next stop was at the beer distributor's to cash in the lottery tickets I received on my birthday.  In my family we have stopped giving greeting cards, but rather put lottery tickets into an envelope instead.  We are spending just as much, but at least giving the recipient a chance to win something!  I cashed in my tickets for $8; which I immediately placed into my savings envelope!

So, all in all, today has been a wonderfully productive day.  I did have one bit of a "step back" when a Christmas gift I was working on was ruined beyond repair and had to be thrown away.  Fortunately I had gotten the base item that I was embroidering with my machine for a really, REALLY reduced rate...so I am not out too much money.  Coincidentally, yesterday I found another gift for the same person...something they had mentioned wanting, and that I had just about ruled out EVER being able to find...and was able to purchase it with a $10 OFF coupon at Kohl's!  While I am disappointed that my project didn't work as planned, I am thankful that my learning curve didn't cost me too dearly!

And now, some 14 hours after getting up, I am beginning to feel really sore and fatigued.  Time to snuggle down under my warm electric blanket, still smiling over the amount of progress I was able to make with just ONE feel-good day!  Just think how much I could accomplish if my health would cooperate!  Oh well, maybe someday....




Thursday, November 1, 2012

FINALLY, A FINISH!

Well, it is finally done!  My "Memories of Myrtle" quilt is finished and ready for snuggling.  


Attaching the buttons was really straight-forward and easy on my machine.  So much so, that I didn't even bother doing a practice button!   I must be getting daring in my old age, lol.  By dinner time yesterday the embellishments were all sewn on, the quilt was labeled and it was folded over the arm of the sofa waiting for someone to wrap themselves in its warmth. Now that Hurricane Sandy is over I can't wait for the patio furniture to be moved back out of our family room so that I can sit before a wonderful cozy fire, all wrapped up in this snuggly goodness! 

BE GONE, SANDY!! Our Preps...What Worked and What Didn't......

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving a trail of destruction up and down the east coast.  We were fortunate, escaping with very little damage...for which we are oh so grateful.  Other than some lost shingles and loose siding, our home is intact.  Getting through the storm wasn't easy, though, as we lost power for about 20 hours.  We had plenty of candles, batteries, flashlights, water and food, but we had failed to plan for the most critical of our needs. 

Hubby and I both have sleep apnea and use CPAP machines at night to keep us breathing.  We have used these machines every night for years and years, and had never considered our inability to sleep without them.  When the power went out we realized that our CPAP machines were inoperable!  Every time we started to doze off we would stop breathing and our bodies would wake us!  Thank God the human body has these automatic responses built in, but it made for a completely sleepless night for both of us.

Obviously, during the outage we also had no electric sump pump.  We had been proactive and had a "backup" sump pump installed in our home.  It is, I believe, the reason we had so little damage.  Many of our neighbors, some sitting on much higher land than our own, had up to 4 inches of water in their basements because their electric sumps were out of commission.

Two years ago when we had our basement "finished" we had a backup sump pump installed.  It is one that uses water pressure from our household pipes to flush the water out of the sump pit.  In theory it sounds like a wonderful solution, and in reality it is...almost.  Early Tuesday morning we noted that the amount of water in our sump pit seemed to be rising.  I could hear water running and our son verified that there was, indeed, water flowing out of the sump pipe in our yard.  So, why was the water rising?  My fear was that the water pressure sump was simply pumping out our expensive household water and not flushing the flood water with it.  So for five minutes we turned off the municipal water flow into the sump pump.  We got our answer quickly as the water in the pit rose one half inch in 5 minutes!  The pump was obviously working, but was having a hard time keeping up with the deluge of water Sandy had dumped!

So every 25 minutes we would use a Red Solo Cup to scoop five or six buckets of water out of the pit and carry them up the stairs to dump into the kitchen sink.  It was exhausting, back breaking work...especially since hubby and I are both in poor condition physically.  But, it had to be done if we wanted to avoid flooding.  After a few hours of taking turns bailing, my hubby and son both headed out to look for some type of "pump" that could empty the pit without scooping.  My knees were killing me from kneeling on the concrete floor near the sump and my back was breaking in two from bending down to scoop the water.  I never again want to look at another Red Solo Cup unless it is filled with a liquid libation that will erase all memories of Sandy!  Hubby returned a short while later with only a 5 gallon bucket to use instead of my cleaning bucket.  He had found no pumps of any kind.  Yippee!  A larger bucket meant less trips.  But it also meant that I could no longer run the steps to dump the water.  I am just NOT up to carrying 5 gallons.   Several phone calls from our son verified that he, too, was having no luck finding any type of pump.

Then hubby had a brainstorm!  One of his better ideas, if I may say so.  Years ago we had a gadget called a "Paint Stick" that we used when painting our walls.  It is a giant syringe with which you draw paint out of the paint can and then depress the syringe to apply paint to the roller from the inside out.  It is truly a timesaver when painting, but it proved to be a real lifesaver when bailing.  Our Paint Stick had died years ago, but hubby thought his brother still had one.  So, after a quick phone call, our dear brother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived to save us.  They had TWO Paint Sticks and they worked WONDERFULLY!  Whoever was pulling water from the pit was able to sit on a folding chair and pull out the water.  No more sore knees and aching back.  And, with two Paint Sticks going, the water was being pulled out of the pit twice as fast!  I made a quick phone call to our son and his girlfriend and told them to stop searching for pumps and come home to begin the "bucket brigade" of the small and large buckets up the stairs. Thank goodness for their young bodies; as I think dear hubby and dear brother-in-law were exhausted after only eight buckets between them.  None of us are "spring chickens" anymore, and I can't imagine the strain on them carrying 5 gallons of water in one haul!

Eventually the power came back on and our electric sump pump made quick work of the water.  In less than 10 minutes our sump pit level was way down and the water that had been filling the French drains almost to overflowing was completely gone.  We had survived the storm, virtually unscathed.

So, what did we learn?  Overall our emergency preps were adequate, except for our water scooping and our inability to sleep without our CPAP machines.  Hopefully before the next emergency we can procure either a generator or marine batteries to power our electric sump pump and our two CPAP machines.  I would also like to buy another Paint Stick just in case.  Prior to Sandy we had very different ideas of what in our home needed preservation through a storm.  After a long sleepless night and battle with rising water I cared very little whether the food in our fridge or freezer spoiled.  Yes, I would hate to see that much costly food ruined, but a night filled with apnea events and water on the verge of spilling into our basement set our priorities straight.  As long as we have adequate stock in our pantry and adequate bottled water we can survive the length of the storm and its aftermath; even if we had to eat our canned food cold!  But, maintaining our health and a dry shelter over our heads are necessities that can't be compromised.

One other "prep" item that proved invaluable during the storm was a package of 3 "head lanterns" that we picked up right before the storm (another one of hubby's brilliant ideas).  Having light projected in front of you, while still maintaining use of both hands, was an absolute godsend.  Dear son had also picked up a few glow sticks, which we hung around the family room to provide some light once the power went out.  While not enough light to read by, there was certainly enough illumination to safely walk through the house.  I think I will pick up a set of head lanterns for my folks and aunt and also a few packs of glow sticks for both of our household emergency kits. 

Live and learn..... 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

SUNDAY SEW-IN

Sunday is laundry day at my house.  My laundry room  (actually only a closet) is located on the second floor, outside of my sewing room, making Sunday the perfect day to dedicate to sewing and crafting while my washer and dryer churn away.



What better way to start the week than with a day spent in calm creativity?

While I would LOVE to spend today working on my dad's quilt (Christmas is getting mighty close, you know!), our area is under warning for Hurricane Sandy and the room where I usually set up the folding tables to sandwich and baste my quilts has been taken over by outdoor furniture hiding from the storm.  So, instead, I am trying desperately to finish up my "Memories of Myrtle" quilt...a project I began back in March.  WIPs are taking over WAY too much space in my small sewing room!  I only have a few more feet of binding to sew on and then I can begin work on the button embellishments I have planned for the center of each hourglass.
 
















In an effort to conserve my blood supply and my first aid supplies, I hope to use my sewing machine to sew on the buttons, a feat I have never attempted before!  I anticipate a bit of instruction manual reading and testing before I get down to attaching buttons to quilt, lol.



While sewing on the binding I have also found a few "oops" areas where I somehow failed to catch and lock lines of stitching (who knew that was what the dot next to the stitch display meant on my machine?).  It is way too late at this point to make any adequate corrections, so I will fix the problem as best I can...I am thinking a tiny bit of Liquid Stitch will do the trick.  Thank goodness this quilt is only for our "snuggling" use at home!  I look at this quilt and I am amazed to see just how much I have learned since I began a mere 7 months ago!  In addition to learning how to operate my new machine (somewhat), I have learned any number of tips and tricks to make piecing and quilting easier (i.e. locking the beginning and end of a line of stitches!).  I have learned the rules to be kept and the rules that can be broken...all of which will hopefully improve the quality and creativity of my future quilts.  And, speaking of future quilts, my "To Be Made" list continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  I will be dead a good 50 years before I can finish every quilt I have set my sights on!  I can only hope that my version of Heaven includes a sewing room!

So, what's on your sewing table on this spectacular (or in my case, soggy) Sunday morning?

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

SLEEP...or lack thereof...

WARNING....WHINE ALERT!!!!

Ugh...  It's 3:24 AM on a Thursday and I am in my sewing room - awake!  Like many women of my age, I seem to be having more and more difficulty getting my nightly eight hours of sleep.  Whether it is all from hormonal changes, or partially related to my pain syndrome, is up for grabs.  Not that it really matters.  The end result is a lot less sleeping going on!  Gone are the days when my bed was a haven and sleep a destination at the end of a long blink. 

Unfortunately my dear husband is suffering from my insomnia also.  If I am not waking him up moaning in my sleep from pain that even invades that place of peace, I am bouncing him around as I toss and turn in bed trying to find a comfortable position.  As I said, neither one of us is getting much sleep these days...and the poor man has to get up at 5:00 AM for work!

So tonight, (or this morning...whichever way you want to look at it), when I woke up at 12:50 AM (after just 2.5 hours of sleep...grrrrrrr) I decided to move to the futon in the guest room and give my poor. sweet, suffering husband a chance for a good night's rest.  While moving to the futon may seem a sacrifice, I find the futon (still in the upright position) infinitely more comfortable than many beds I have encountered while traveling.  So all should be right with my world and I should be sailing off to dreamland with ease.  Right?  Wrong.  You see, I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine to keep me breathing regularly while I sleep.  Although the CPAP machine computer proves I am the "poster child for CPAP use with 100% compliance" (my doctor's words, lol), I figured one night of not using the machine wouldn't do me too much harm.  But, after six years of nightly CPAP usage I have discovered it is totally impossible for me to doze off without the constant flow of air!  I could go back into my bedroom and disconnect my machine and bring it into the guest room...but that is absolutely certain to wake hubby and then there is a strong possibility he would be unable to get back to sleep for the remainder of his night!  No sense both of us being awake.  I could try to go back into our bed and fall asleep...but that would likely cause him the same problem.

So...here I sit.  Cold.  Exhausted. And BORED OUT OF MY MIND!  I have checked my emails numerous times, visited all of my favorite blogs, spent hours on Pinterest and have finally decided to spend a few minutes grouching and griping here on my blog.  Remember, I did warn you this was going to be an honest account of the ups AND downs of my life, lol.

I guess there is only one thing to do...head back to the guest room futon, snuggle back down under my warm denim quilt and mentally plan my "To Do" list...until my hubby is awake and I can crawl back into bed and collapse.  First thing on my mental ToDo List...buy a backup CPAP machine for the guest room! Or better yet, see if I can have my extra, very old machine reprogrammed to my current flow setting.  Yes, definitely a more frugal way to go.  Here's hoping there is a "free" fix to my problem and future sleepless nights are cut down to a minimum. 

Sleep well my friends!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

MY THRIFTY LUMBAR PILLOW

Between time spent at my computer, time spent at my sewing machine and time spent in my rocking chair resting, I spend a LOT of time sitting down!  Whether the results of genetics, posture, my neurologic issues or alignment of the stars, lol, I have a bit more "swayback" to my lower spine than most people.  As a result I find it uncomfortable to lie on my back, or sometimes even sit, without a little something to fill in the gap.  When I finished the cover for my sewing machine (you can see a bit of it in the photo below) I had quite a few scraps left over.  The scraps of each charm square could easily be cut to yield two additional 2" squares, finally leaving me with only a very small sliver of material to discard.  I believe in getting the absolute MOST I can out of any piece of material!  Fabric is too expensive to waste!  Because the back of my chair is really curved (see picture) I needed something to fill in the space right at the bottom of my back... my lumbar spine area.


Using the scrap 2" squares, some FREE batting and stash muslin I pieced and quilted the front of small lumbar cushion.  Frugal, right?  It gets even  better!

 I used some more of the FREE blue "linen-like" material I had gotten from a fellow Freecycler to make an envelope style back to the cushion. This blue material also lines my sewing machine cover. 


I made a pillow insert from some muslin I had lying around for eons.  But now it was time to "stuff" my insert and I wasn't quite sure what I would use.  I needed the pillow to be very pliable so that it would curve to fit the contours of the chair and my back.  No firm overly stuffed pillow would work.  Then I remembered a "frugal tip" regarding using "old stockings" to stuff pillows...and I thought I knew just where I could find some "very old", but never worn knee high stockings!

About 26 years ago I was working in a medical office and wore knee high stockings to work every day under my white uniform pants (this was before the days of "scrubs, socks and sneakers".  For anyone who wears stockings on a daily basis you know how expensive replacing torn hose can become!  A local store was going out of business and was offering a 4 pack of generic knee high stockings for $1.00.  I bought 20 packages of stockings, figuring 80 pairs of knee highs would last me for years!

I had only used 6 packages of hose when our son was born and I stopped working outside of the house.  My new "mommy" uniform was shorts, t-shirts, sweats, SOCKS and sneakers! My "dirt cheap" stocking supply sat untouched.  Just a year and a half later I found myself boxing the stockings for a move to our new house.  And there they sat...forgotten in a sealed box....until a little "memory" nudged at the corner of my brain.  Could it be?  Maybe I had plenty of knee high stockings that I could use to stuff my pillow (if I hadn't already sold them at a garage sale, lol)!  After 25+ years it was probably all they were really good for anyway, as I'm sure they would have ripped from dry rot within a few hours of slipping into my shoes!

Sure enough...the box containing 14 packages of knee highs was still there.  I quickly emptied out all of the stockings, mixed them with a bit of FREE cut up batting I had gotten from a Freecycler and stuffed my muslin pillow form.  When I thought I had reached the right ratio of firmness and pliability I folded over the open end and used masking tape to seal the muslin.  I can add more torn up batting or polyfill as needed.   Smiling to myself at my thrifty accomplishment I stuffed the form into my new pillow cover, placed it on my chair and sat down.  Perfect!  Just one more instance when ingenuity and frugality solved a problem AND added to the decor of my "Scrappy Happy Place".





Saturday, September 22, 2012

MIA...

Sorry I haven't been around for a while.  I had plenty of good intentions when I started this blog.  I was going to post every couple of days and work my way through the projects I have already completed, showing pictures of the completed items and detailed explanations.  Then I was going to post detailed "in process" instructions, pictures, etc. as I started new projects.   I guess I forgot that the whole reason I am now retired is because of my ongoing health issues.  No, I didn't forget...I just chose to ignore that little fact, lol.  But, as this blog is a way to chronicle the "ups" AND "downs" of my retirement I'll give you a little clue as to what has been keeping me away...

video

Hard to do much of anything when your body just won't cooperate!  Fortunately, at this stage in the game, the symptoms come and go on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and I'm hoping this latest episode will slink away to some nasty dark hole and I'll be back soon to let you all peek into the life I REALLY want to be living!

Friday, September 14, 2012

MY SCRAPPY, HAPPY PLACE...


When I dismantled my business in 2010 I emptied out the small bedroom that I had used as my "office".  I decided that the room would become my sewing room.   I had always been "crafty", as my mom put it, though I had not engaged in any significant hobbies in many years.  There just wasn't time!  The only sewing or crafting I had undertaken was the denim quilt I made for my son when he went away to college four years earlier.  And between my proofreading job and my own health issues, there really wasn't much time to devote to hobbies.  I had the "room", but didn't have the time or energy to put it to much use. 

Shortly after retiring in 2011 I realized that my brain needed stimulation!  I had worked long and hard for many years and I would go NUTS if I didn't find something to keep me occupied!!!  I just wasn't the TV and bon-bons type! So I decided to work on making my sewing room into a place where I could rest, relax and pursue hobbies as my physical limitations allowed.  However, now that I was no longer working...there wasn't much money to spend on creating my "Scrappy, Happy Place".   Soon, though, I discovered I could still have the warm, comforting sanctuary I wanted and needed...I just had to rely on creativity instead of money!

Join me for a tour of my sweet little haven as I share my creative, FRUGAL alternatives to high priced decorating!

Freecycle:
Before I get into any pictures and explanations, I want to mention a word or two about Freecycle.  It may be one of the best websites ever developed for all of us Frugalistas!  Many of the items used in my "Scrappy, Happy Place", along with many of the supplies used for my crafting, have come from this wonderful FREE resource!  For those who are unfamiliar with the Freecycle network, www.Freecycle.org is an online site where you can "Offer" items you no longer want or need to people in your general vicinity; or place a "Wanted" for items you do need.  There are Freecycle groups throughout the United States and other countries.  You simply sign up (free) for the group in your local area and then receive email notifications when people place items up for giveaway or ask for items they need.  If you wish to keep your email under control you can visit the Freecycle site for your locale and read the posts there.  I, personally, like to receive an email notification, as some things are taken quickly and I just hate to lose out on an item I really want or need...for FREE...simply because I didn't hear about it soon enough.   If you see an item you want, simply reply to the email.  The "Freecycler" will then choose who is going to receive the item and notify you by email of the address where you can pick up your freebie!  Most times I reply to posts that list "porch" or "curb" pickup, that way I never need to physically interact with the giver.  I always "Offer" items with "easy porch pickup" at my home.  If it is an item that is too large to move to the porch (furniture, etc.) I never schedule a pickup when I am home alone...only when I have my husband and/or son here with me.  As always....YOUR SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT!   Stop by www.freecycle.org to join and take a peek at the items listed.  It doesn't take long to feel comfortable with the process and begin to receive many of your own "wants" and "needs" at absolutely no cost. 


My "Whiteboard":
Despite being a family of only three adults, we live very hectic lives...where days can sometimes go by without seeing a family member face to face.  I needed a way to be kept up to date on my DH and DS's lives, along with being reminded of things that they needed me to handle.  A whiteboard on the outside of my SHP (Scrappy, Happy Place) door would be a perfect solution.  However, I refused to spend any money to acquire one!  So, with the hint from Karen at "Sew Many Ways" that unpainted aluminum works well as a whiteboard, I went searching my home for something of the required size to make my message center.   Inside my master bathroom vanity I found a pretty pink tin that once held a perfume and lotion set.  The lid was about the right size and I quickly discovered that the base would nicely hold my stash of business envelopes.  My new computer station had MUCH less storage capacity than my old office furniture and the pink tin was a cute way to corral these necessary stationery supplies on an open shelf.  Plus, the color was an exact match to a pink and green metal toy stroller (Or was it a ride on toy? Hmmm...will have to ask my mom!) I had as a very young child.  It is probably my earliest memory from childhood and those two colors evoke a "warm and fuzzy feeling" whenever I see them.  Not surprising that they are two of the three dominant colors in my home!


I then searched through the stash of free Home Decorator fabric I had received from a fellow Freecycler.  I wanted to make a "pouch" (almost like a fabric picture frame) that would hold my tin lid, along with a dry erase marker (freebie scored online) and a small scrap of batting (Freecycle score) to use as an eraser.  I made the pouch a loose fit for the lid, leaving room to tuck in the pen and eraser.






Using the remaining scraps of Home Decorator fabric I made a small stuffed heart to hang on the 3M hook already on the door.  For years the hook had held a small plaque that read, "Nothing is as overrated as natural childbirth and owning your own business!".  Oh How True!  But, as my business was now a memory, I wanted something that would express my feelings for my new SHP,... my haven,... my sanctuary...the place where I would spend most of my days.  A heart seemed just about right!



So, finally, WELCOME to my "Scrappy, Happy Place"...where my body can rest, my heart can soar and my mind can contemplate the ups and downs of daily life...with a creativity that has been dormant for way too long!


More of the tour to come!






Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A LITTLE HISTORY...


Up until July 1, 2010 I ran my own medical transcription company.  I started the business in 1998 because our son's health issues required more flexibility than I could find working for someone else.  Oh, sure, at interview time former employers had professed an understanding of his health and a willingness to be as flexible as I needed...as long as the job was getting done.  And, the job ALWAYS got done (I tend to be perfectionistic and anal about my responsiblities), even if it meant being in the office at 5:00 AM to work my full 40 hours a week and stay on top of the work load.  However, my employer still found the frequency of my son's illnesses and need for rearranging my schedule problematic.  So much for understanding!  I have worked in the medical field since 1980 and can honestly say that the healthcare field has no more understanding and empathy with regard to illness than any other type of employer.  A business is still a business and their bottom line is still their bottom line.  The only solution I could see was to become the employer myself.  I knew I understood the needs of business and of my family and was absolutely certain I could find a way to give work the priority it deserved and my son the priority I had guaranteed him the day my husband and I decided to start a family.  My family was, is, and always will be the most important thing in the world to me.  And so...I took the leap from employee to employer. 

For the next 12+ years I worked hard, routinely working 8 to 14 hours a day, 6 days a week.  At one point I typed 8 to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for three months straight before I took even one day off.  The only "holiday" I took off without fail was Christmas Day.  My vacations were timed to those of my big clients and my cell phone rang even on the beach.  I was well known in the local medical community for quick turnaround, almost 100% accuracy, and a willingness to go the extra mile.  The business grew and I actually began turning down prospective customers as I held the balance between my personal needs and the level of performance I expected of myself and the people who did work for me.  Compromise on either front was unacceptable.   

Then in late 1999, early 2000, I began to have health issues of my own.  I threw that ball into the mix and began to juggle a little faster.  By the time 2004 rolled around my health was heading downward fast...and 2009 found me barely holding on.   I had a myriad of documented medical conditions/diagnoses, constant pain from Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and neurologic symptoms of an unknown cause...that were progressing.

In 2010 my largest and longest held client announced a business merger that would eliminate the need for my services.  It was the break I desperately needed.  I made the decision to close my business and accept what I thought would be an "easier" job, working for someone else...a 37.5 hour a week position simply proofreading the work of other transcriptionists.  Surely my body could handle that!  Right?  Wrong.  Unfortunately my health continued to decline and just 16 months after starting my new "easier" job it became apparent that I couldn't handle even a less physically challenging position.  My working days had come to an end. 

On October 21, 2011 I left my job and began my new life.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A HANDMADE CHRISTMAS...

Okay, today is September 7th...which means I have less than four months to plan for, save for,  purchase, or make Christmas gifts this year!   Eeeeekkkk!!!!  WAY less time than I would like to have.  I am seriously unprepared for this holiday season.  But, as I am still learning to pace myself and my life, I guess I will have to "make do".  In fact, the "making" part of "make do" is what I hope to accomplish in the next 3+ months. 

In my family we have all reached an age and wisdom where we really have everything we need or can justify wanting.  When something breaks or wears out throughout the year we find a way to fill that need at the time, because it is, well, a need...and we can't wait until a future holiday to receive it as a gift.  Now that we are in our twenties, fifties, seventies and eighties...short of the extravagant "dream" purchases that we still talk about at every multimillion lottery drawing, there is very little within a reasonable budget that we want.

So, I have begun to think about gifts I can make for my loved ones that will show a level of thought and caring that comes close to matching the love and gratitude I feel for the most important people in my world.

This summer my dear aunt mentioned in passing that the small cosmetic pouch I had previously made for her wasn't big enough to take on vacation with her.    I am hoping this tapestry toiletry bag and matching zippered pouch will hold all of her beauty supplies.  It was my first attempt at sewing a boxy type bag and I am happy with the results!


My dear mom has been complaining about how quickly the washcloths she uses to wash her face are wearing out.  I have taught myself to knit and have completed 2 washcloths so far.  I want to do one more for my mom, a stripe of the white and beige colors.  If she likes them I will make more for her as I can throughout the year.  I am still deciding if I want to knit up a few to give to my aunt also.  I guess it all depends on how much knitting my body will allow me to complete between now and December 25th, lol.



My mom likes to drink iced tea with her meals as opposed to tons of diet soda.  She likes her iced tea (and hot tea, too, come to think of it)...sweet, SWEET, SWEET.  Ick!  Through trial and error she has found a combination of Sweet'N Low and Equal that satisfies her sweet teeth (yes, TEETH - too much for one tooth!).  Unfortunately a lot of restaurants carry only one type of sweetener.  Soooo....I made my mom a sweetener wallet to carry in her purse so she always has her drinks just the way she likes them. 



My daddy dear has had some health issues recently and "the man who is never cold" now finds himself chilly when sitting still watching TV.   I have just started working on a masculine looking quilt in Wool & Needle Flannels by Primitive Gatherings for Moda and a poly faux suede to match his recliner.  This is going to be the biggest challenge for Christmas this year!  Quilts take a LONG TIME to complete and given my limited endurance for doing any one thing for more than a few minutes, I really worry I won't be able to get it finished in time.  If not, I guess I will be wrapping up the pieces along with an IOU for delivery some time in 2013!  I am using 5" charms to make half square triangles.  Today I managed to sew 8 half square triangles using (4) 5"charms and (4) 5" pieces of faux suede.  Eight machine sewn seams...40" total in one whole day.  Gosh, I'm SLOW!

Here is the list as it stands today (and I have been working on this for MONTHS!):
  • Toiletry bag and zippered pouch for Aunt
  • Sweetener Wallet for Mom
  • 3 Washcloths for Mom (2 done)
  • 3 Washcloths for Aunt 
  • Quilt for Dad (1/10000th done, lol)
  • Embroidered scarf for Mom 
  • Knitted scarf for Aunt
  • Dear Hubby...He will be easy this year as he wants his car detailed, but I am thinking of also  embroidering something patriotic onto one of his golf shirts.  He is a PROUD American!
  • Dear Son...NO CLUE!
  • Dear Son's Girlfriend...NO CLUE!
  • Best Friend...NO CLUE!
  • Best Friend Birthday (right near Christmas)...NO CLUE!
So...Where do you stand on your Holiday Happenings???

HELLO!

Welcome to UggaBear Cottage!  As you can see in my "About Me" section, I am an early retiree, forced to stop working due to multiple health issues and slowly learning to fill my days with the important things in life, including my family, home, friends, and hobbies...all within the restrictions placed on me by my body and my much lighter pocketbook!  Not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination!  However, over the past 10 months I have discovered that life is only as good as you choose to make it.  I may not be able to control my physical issues, but I can certainly choose my reaction to them.  I may not have the income I once did, but I can find thrifty and creative solutions to meet our wants and needs.  I may not have the ability to do all of the things I want on a daily basis, but the really important things seem to work themselves out in the end...and taking time to smell the roses is a pleasure too many of us have long since abandoned.  

So, feel free to hop on board as I chronicle my days...the ups, the downs and the sometimes hellacious curves in this fabulous journey called life!