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
 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

It never hurts to ask

DS2 turns 26 this year, that magic number when big kiddos are dropped like hot potatoes from the parental health insurance. I started wondering whether there were any concessions to the rule for disabled adults who are still dependents, so a month or so ago I called our insurance company. After some back and forth, I was given a short list of what they needed: his marital status, a letter detailing his disability from his doctor and a copy of our tax returns (I think to see whether we claim him as a dependent, which we do.). I faxed those over to a black hole and didn't think much more about it. Honestly, I expected it to be a no-go.

Today, a letter came saying he meets their requirements and they have extended his coverage for three more years, at which time we can reapply. I am blown away that it happened so quickly and without the drama that usually accompanies these requests. Now I can breathe easy until 2022!

We followed that up with a trip to the oral surgeon as his dentist had recommended he have a wisdom tooth removed that is growing in wonky. The surgeon didn't take long to put those plans on hold. The tooth isn't causing any problems now and it was clear to him that DS presents some challenges that he didn't want to risk unnecessarily. DS wheeled out of that office like his chair was on fire - not often that he goes for a consult and surgery is taken off the table!

All in all, not a bad day. Kind of makes up for the fact that it is nearing 97 degrees and it is still May.

Hope it's cooler wherever you are!

Sarah
 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Creeping toward the end

Our ticker is below $40,000!! When I look where we started, even I am blown away that we are successfully beating down the monster. Back in the beginning, when I was forced to call creditors and negotiate payment plans, more than one of them strongly suggested we declare bankruptcy and move on. We don't fault those who choose bankruptcy, but it didn't feel right for us and so we decided to give this game a go. I sure will be glad when we have officially won it!

Things have been tight lately. We have lost a significant amount of income this year (about $20,000 annually) for various reasons and while we have a healthy salary, we also still have unhealthy debt payments. So it's been slower going than I'd like, but we are powering through.

Our older son is getting married in July, so we have been putting away extra funds for the rehearsal dinner. I will be wearing the dress I wore for our daughter's wedding 6 years ago. It was only worn once and still looks lovely, so I'm happy I can squeeze into it. My future DIL's shower is next month and I have been working hard on her gift. I am making a recipe book filled with her groom's favorites.  If she hasn't already, she will soon find out that food is the way to that boy's heart.

I am more focused on an upcoming trip with DS2. We will be traveling to a medical conference for his disease and because it is on the other side of the country, will have to fly. We have never flown with the wheelchair and I am a nervous wreck. I spent hours researching nonstop flights and which planes were being used as we need one with a large enough cargo door to get the wheelchair through upright. I finally settled on the best option, bought the tickets and, two weeks later, was notified that the nonstop had been canceled and they had put us on a flight with a connection. My worst fear. (OK, not my worst, but it's up there.) I've spent gobs of time talking with the special assistance department and we are just going to have to pray the chair makes it through the transfers and to the final destination in one piece and working. I made a point of telling the airline that the chair cost $46,000 and I'd hate for them to have to replace it. Whatever it takes ...

Spring seems to have finally sprung here and I couldn't be happier. I heard a rumor that it will be May next week. I haven't had time to confirm.

Cheers to all,

Sarah