Monday, March 23, 2020

It's a whole new world

Has it only been a little over a week since the world turned upside down? Seems like months.

I lost my job today. In only a week's time, the company has suffered such devastating financial losses that today was much like a blood bath. A company that expected to double in size this year has just cut half its employees. I am more fortunate than many, in that our family did not depend on my income for survival.

I made a grocery run for my parents this morning. It was eerie. No one was talking. Most were wearing masks. One woman even apologized for stopping behind me in an aisle. The shelves are still empty here. And not just of toilet paper. Everything is picked over. They say our supply chain is fine and everything is being restocked, but I sure don't see it. I was able to get most everything my folks' wanted - well, I told Dad he would be having Cheerios instead of the cereal he requested because that's what was there - but it took stops at 3 stores to find eggs.

We have plenty. They have plenty. We are fine. We got takeout this weekend to try to help out a couple of the local places (restaurants here can only do takeout/delivery - no dining in).

I was doing OK until I got a message from the hospital saying that if DS were admitted for any reason, we would have to drop him at the door. No one would be allowed inside with him. My mind played all kinds of scenarios at that, beginning with envisioning him lying in bed, unable to turn, pick up a phone, or even press a nurse call button.

So we have upped the at-home protocol to keep DS safe. My husband the UPS driver no longer touches him - or me. At all. Which means the caregiving is now left to me 100%. At least there is plenty of time for naps these days after being up and down during the night :) In between, I am cleaning like a madwoman. On the plus side, DS doesn't touch any surfaces in the house. He's in his wheelchair when awake and uses his wheelchair tray. Theoretically, it should be easier to keep him safe. But this virus seems to have a mind of its own.

I am exceptionally thankful for technology and blessed that we could listen to our pastor preach yesterday from the safety of our home.

Today is cold and dreary. I'm hoping for sunnier days ahead. For all of us.

Sarah
 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Hunkering down

COVID-19 is the topic of the day, week, month ....

The first case in our state was in our town and was announced the day after I voted in the primaries at a polling place where the infected person had visited. We now have quite a few cases nearby. 

I am not worried about myself. I'm young enough (ahem!) and healthy enough that my odds of recovering are high. But my son and my father are both high-risk. My mom, too, because of her age, but she is in very good health. 

My son and I had tickets to see Les Miserables on stage Thursday night. At about 4 p.m., he decided not to go. (The theater credited our account without question.) He is well aware of the risks if he contracts a respiratory illness. There would not be a question that he would have to be treated at the hospital - probably in the ICU. And he knows it could kill him. He's not playing.

So he is self-quarantining. He knows it could be a long haul.

I know the shutdowns are bound to hurt many people financially and that not everyone will be able to work remotely. My husband is one of them. He is a UPS driver and his hours will likely increase with more people staying in and ordering necessities online. While that means we don't anticipate losing income, it also means he is at high risk for exposure. He is doing what he can - he showers as soon as he gets home and we immediately put his browns in the wash. Again, we are more worried about exposing our son than ourselves.

I have stayed away from the buying frenzy, but I needed Advil and Advil Migraine - both essential for the men in my house. So I braved a stop at Walmart yesterday. I had seen the images on the news, but I was stunned. Empty shelves everywhere. Even the Advil aisle was nearly wiped clean. I bought two of the last bottles. And what is it with the toilet paper??

So we will keep on keeping on. My daughter is a public school teacher and 8+ months pregnant, so I have her to worry about as well. Our schools are not closed - yet. My parents are staying in and I will deliver anything they need. 

I did make the mistake of looking at our 401k balance and was nearly sick to my stomach. I imagine I'm not the only one. 

We will get through this. Stay safe, everyone.

Sarah
 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

What a week

Is it Friday? I've lost all track of time.

DS2 had a business trip this week to Philadelphia. But since he refuses to fly since the summer fiasco, he needed a driver. That would be me. It's about a 7-hour drive from us so it was doable. He recruited his caregiver and his caregiver's wife to meet us there on Monday night.

As it turns out, this was almost like a vacation for me. DS had arranged with his CEO to have two rooms at the swanky hotel - one for him and his caregiving team and one for me. Me. All alone. For 3 whole nights! My only job was to provide the transportation to the city and back home. In between, I was footloose and fancy free. I work remotely, so I was able to do that in my jammies in the mornings. By late morning, I was done and ready to explore.

On the first day, I set out on my own. I've done a lot of traveling in my day, but I don't think I've ever been in an unfamiliar city by myself. I think I did quite well. I was lucky that the hotel was in a great location - a safe area and a little over a mile to the historic district. I visited Love Park and then stopped at Reading Terminal Market and poked around a bit and then had a Philly cheesesteak for lunch (that's almost required, I hear). I went to the Betsy Ross House, where I was the one and only tourist. Apparently, the first week back to school is the perfect time to visit a tourist area! I much enjoyed the tour and "Betsy" spent extra time showing me everything. I tried to go to Christ Church, but it is closed on Tuesdays in January. By then, it was starting to rain and threatening snow, so I headed back to the hotel.

I had been invited to the company dinner that night at the hotel so that was a no-brainer. I didn't expect how good it would be. Steak that could be cut with a fork and wine to die for. I sneaked a look at the prices and about passed out. The company spared no expense.

The next day, a dear friend took the train in from Hershey and spent a few hours with me. We lunched at an Irish pub, visited the Constitution Center (great place!), Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

All in all, it was a good trip. I even had time to read a book! We got back last night and hit the ground running this morning.

I had to take my granddaughter to her 3-year-old checkup. On the way, I was calling the equipment supplier to report that DS's BiPap had a broken piece. The afternoon was spent at PT and we wrapped it up with a call from the hospital saying an insurance snafu was delaying a needed ultrasound for DS. Yippee.

Well, Friday got away from me and now it is Saturday. My 20-year-old dryer is acting wonky, so I need to figure that out. Who said the senior years were boring?

Happy Weekend to all,

Sarah
 

Friday, January 3, 2020

New Year, same story

I know. You thought I finally went over the edge, never to be heard from again! It's been months since I posted.

But I didn't disappear, nor did I stop reading your fabulous posts (How could I go that long without hearing the tales of Kim and Sluggy?).

There have been some things going on that have put blogging at the bottom of my list. I just couldn't find the energy. Plus, I work part time from home and take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter full time while our daughter works. And there's the care I provide for our disabled son. I would probably do better with a good night's sleep, but that went away with menopause :)

My Dad has been having some serious health issues. He had heart surgery in December and, so far, there has been no change. He has become mentally fuzzy at times, meaning we have to keep a close eye on him. Mom is worn out.

My in-laws, who up and moved across the country - like ALL the way across the country - a few years ago for no apparent reason, are also in declining health. And there's not a whole lot we can do to help them. On top of that, they got their feelings hurt when my brother-in-law (their son), was in Hospice last summer and have not spoken to his widow since. No wonder their health is declining. Bitterness can do that to a person.

My husband and I often marvel at the fact that we have all four parents still living at our ages (56 and 57). But we know that we are also facing the possibility of all four needing our help at the same time. And for reasons I cannot explain, both sets have named me as the executor of their wills - oh, the irony.

On our end, we are still plugging along. We were reminded on Christmas Day, when we had all of our adult children and their families with us, how very blessed we are. They are all functioning, productive adults who are making their way in the world. Our granddaughter is the light of our lives and we are expecting our first grandson in the spring. Life is good.

I've been blogging here for nine years. When I first started, I could barely breathe because the weight of our debt was so crushing. It really is nothing short of a miracle that we came out of those early years still in one piece. We still have debt, but it is slowly going away. In a couple months, there will be a 2 at the front of our debt number. That's shocking, even to me!

So I haven't disappeared, and since our debt hasn't either, I'll still be around for awhile. And I'll be following your stories, too. Maybe Kim will give me a few tips in her refocused blog!

Happy New Year, all. Let's make this the best decade yet!

Sarah
 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Another one gone!

Student Loan (A) is now history! That moocher stayed way too long and I am glad to bid him farewell.

With that, I have paid off just shy of 80 percent of my starting debt. Eighty percent. I am doing this. It is taking forever, but I am doing it.

We had to replace the alternator in one of the cars last weekend. And when the new alternator went in, the battery balked. So we got a new one of those, too. It was an expensive visit to the shop, but we paid the $700+ bill in cash. There was a time when that would have been as far from the realm of possibility as a visit from an alien.

The tortoise is winning. The tortoise is winning.

Sarah
 

Monday, August 5, 2019

New month, new plans

July was an emotionally draining month. There was the whole flying with a wheelchair thing, which is still not resolved. Then there was DS's wedding (it was beautiful), my BIL's death (a blessing, given the circumstances), and a new job for me. Throw in a UTI that took a week to properly diagnose and medicate and that about sums it up.

Oh, and my in-laws came and stayed for 11 days. Let's just say they are the most high-maintenance houseguests known to anyone. They left yesterday and I am still making my way through the mess. And restocking my household supplies which were diminished at an alarming rate.

It was just a crazy month.

I mentioned my new, somewhat unexpected, part-time job. Because it came up so fast, we hadn't really had time to break down what the extra income would mean. Thus far, I have put every penny into a savings account because I didn't want it to get "lost" in the regular budget. Now that we've been able to put some thought into it, we've decided to keep my paychecks separate and use them solely for needed work on the house.

We live in a home built in 1972. While we have tried to keep up with it, some repairs/work/updates have fallen to the wayside as medical bills (and debt) ate up our savings. With retirement looming in the next 6 years or so, we would like to have as many of those big projects taken care of sooner rather than later. This is the house we will have forever, because it has been tailored to our son's needs.

First up is removing a tree from the front yard. It was struck by lightning years ago, and while it is not 100% dead, it is most definitely not healthy and clearly is not going to recover. I have a call into a company recommended by several neighbors to get a free estimate. I'm expecting it to run close to $1,000 with stump removal.

Other items on the wish list are:

  • Kitchen renovation. Seriously, some parts of the cabinets are held together by tape. 
  • New HVAC - we bought the current system in 1996 so we know it could go at any time. We won't be replacing until it is kaput, but we want to be ready. 
  • Retile DS's bathroom. It's a huge bathroom, built in 1998 to accommodate his wheelchair, ceiling lift and other equipment. Tiles are cracked and because it's an open concept, water tends to wear down the grout way more than is typical. We need to make sure the extra moisture doesn't seep down and damage the joists. 
  • New windows. Ours are originals and awful.
All of those are extremely pricey and we've never been able to bring ourselves to throw so much money at mundane projects. So now's the time. I am only working part time, so it will still take awhile to save up for each project. If it looks like we will fall short of wiping out the debt in time for retirement, we will stop the projects and focus on that. 

So there's the plan. So far, so good. 

Sarah
 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Life goes on

A lot has happened since I last posted.

We took the trip to the medical conference for DS2. The conference was fabulous, he was able to network with more adults than he has ever met with his disease, and he did a great job speaking on the closing panel.

The plane trip, not so much. As you may remember, I was nervous about flying with the wheelchair for the first time. I did everything possible to prepare. I contacted the airline. I booked the easiest flights I could find. I bubble wrapped the heck out of the chair. I taped notes showing where to pick it up, how to set the brakes, and - most importantly - a big one that said the chair weighs 415 pounds so be careful!

The process of getting DS on and off the plane multiple times was anxiety-inducing enough. I counted 10 transfers by the time we reached our destination and awaited delivery of the chair.

I saw it coming. And I could tell it was not good. The arm was bent so badly inward that there was no way to get DS in it. Upon inspection, it was clear the chair had been dropped, likely on the tarmac, on its side. Goes without saying that it was the side with the electronics. Miraculously, DS's caregiver was able to pull back the arm into a usable position and the chair still turned on. He couldn't use his tray - which holds his cell phone and his only means to contact people - but he could drive it. We filed a report and went on our way.

On the return trip, we had a nonstop red-eye flight. We arrived in plenty of time, sailed through security and got settled on the plane. Ten minutes later, we were told we had to deplane due to mechanical issues. More transfers. Back to the chair, which the airline had now had for 20 minutes. A man in a suit accompanied it with an apology that they had dropped it. Again. More damage. We departed four hours late and by this time I had no faith at all that the chair would be in the same condition when we arrived home. I was correct. This time, I got to watch from the plane as the chair was dropped on the tarmac by the two guys who didn't bother to read the note stating its weight. We added to the report and headed home. Our wheelchair guy was able to find used parts to get it working for the time being and the airline's third-party company is supposedly coordinating the purchase of new parts and repairs.

Needless to say, DS is done with flying.

Two other major events have occurred. The first is that I started a new part-time job! I'm able to work from home copy editing, which was my career before having to leave to care for DS. So far I am loving it and the extra income is greatly appreciated.

The other event is more somber. My husband's brother has been battling colon cancer for some time. He is now in his final days (today might actually be the day). My in-laws and their youngest son arrived this morning and are staying with us. BIL will have to sleep on the couch as I am out of beds.  Our church is providing some meals. I took them to the Hospice Home this morning and they are still there. It's very hard to watch someone die, but it will be a blessing as he is in such pain.

We are living highs and lows around here. We are two weeks out from DS1's wedding. I'm trying to keep that upbeat and exciting for him despite what is happening with his uncle.

On the financial front, I have been hitting the first student loan hard. I have it down below $1,000 now and plan to have it gone in the next couple months. Then on to the next one! Trying to shrink that debt list!

Sarah