Friday, January 26, 2007

It isn't true...that Buffalo New York's weather is awful. It is only partially true. I've heard people say that they were in Buffalo once. They got stuck in a snow storm. They'll never go there again. I have memories of driving on the elevated road along the shore of Lake Erie. The brine from the water blows over the skyway. It coats the road and the streets below. It also coats the car's windows. Studded snow tires are recommended. I remember when I went downtown in the winter, that there were ropes attached to the sides of the office buildings, so pedestrians could hang on while they would not fall down. When in Buffalo in the winter, wear a hat, tuck a scarf into the collar of your coat . Wear shoes with insulated soles so the bitter cold of the sidewalk doesn't creep into your feet. Wear snow shoes over your indoor shoes...or boots. Wear warm gloves or mittens.
The trick surviving in a snowy world, is to dress for the weather. This is not the time to be fashionable. As a child, I wore snow pants. My legs were warm. The snow sticks to my boots and clothes. When I enter the house, the snow and the salt it contains, melts on the mat at the front door. Every house of my childhood friends, had a track of white salt over the rug in the hallway mixed with the dirt from the melted snow. Mothers were driven crazy trying to keep the rug clean.
It is better to be a child in a snow world than to be an adult. Adults worry about driving in the snow, about clearing the snow. It was fun to play in the snow. We built igloos and had snowball fights. Everyone had a sled. If there wasn't a hill for sliding, then you built one out of piled up snow. We made snow angels. We slid on our boots when We found a patch of ice. It was a good test of our sense of balance.
My neighbors were meticulous about clearing the snow from their driveway and the sidewalk in front of their house. When they were finished, they came again with a broom, sweeping a clear border between the snow and walking area. Walking home from school was more fun walking on the piled up snow than walking on the cleared sidewalk. All the snow removed from the sidewalk was piled high on a snowbank. We walked up and down the snowbanks between the street and the sidewalks. Such a simple activity kept school children amused. The homeowner was not amused. We dislodged some of the snow back onto the driveway and sidewalk. He came back out, muttering, and swept the sidewalk clean again.
It was safe to wander around the block alone when I was little. I loved the quiet of the snow. It gets dark early. The streetlights come on. The snow is so cold, it sparkles like diamonds. It makes a crunching sound as my feet break through the crust. I listen to the sound the bare branches of the trees make when they move in the wind.
Snow encourages solitude. This is the time to do a solitary read or be alone and to write. If the solitude goes on too long, depression can set in. They call it SAD...seasonal affective disorder. My parents called it log cabin fever. When that happens, it is time to have people in for a hearty meal and a good gab fest. Turn on all the lights and turn the thermostat up. I'm traveling to Buffalo in February.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Andy is out of the hospital. A few days ago, I had a meeting with his social worker. We planned on his discharge yesterday. It is my job to get Andy to the shelter where he will live temporarily, until subsidized group housing becomes available. Barbara (social worker) did a good job of patching together a plan for Andy. He has a place to sleep, a place to eat, a place to socialize and get out of the cold. We supplied him with maps that locate all his resources. There is a clinic for him to use if he becomes ill. There is an administrative office that coordinates all the services for my grandson. His script is covered by Medicare, minus a co-pay.
Yesterday, I picked up Andy, sat through the discharge meeting with Andy's doctor, waited at the pharmacy for his prescription. I paid the co-pay. (Andy paid me back today.) Then We drove into New Haven to find the shelter. Andy was told He had to be in line by 4PM or they may run out of available beds. We went to the address We were given, but We saw no sign on the building and there was no line of men waiting to get in. Driving around the building, driving around the block, looking for a correct door, proved fruitless. We were mystified and the clock was approaching the cut off hour. Fortunately, some men were on the front porch of a house nearby. They told Andy that the shelter has moved. (The social worker did not know this.) The neighbors gave us the directions to the new location. Andy just made it. Some of the other men took Andy in hand, offering to get him breakfast in the morning. Seeing that my grandson was going to be OK, I left for home. We made an agreement that I would meet him at this location in mid-morning. I was to pick him up and drive him around for errands: cash check, pay bills, buy clothes...etc.
The next day, I have to wait for a contractor to switch hinges on the newly installed exterior door. That is another story for another day. When the contractor left, I raced into New Haven. Andy wasn't at our agreed upon spot. I waited. A man went into the building. Is the building open during daylight hours? I went inside. There are no clients in the building. A social worker gave me the address and phone number...and directions to Friendship House. This is the place where Andy is to spent his day. They serve a free lunch. There are work therapy programs , social workers...and lots of people to socialize with. Could Andy be there? I drove the distance. He's not there. Drive back to the shelter. He's not there, either. OK, Andy. The ball is in your court. You can contact me.
I drive home. At Kinkos, I make a copy of the city that Andy needs to be know well enough to get around. I use a highlighter on the main roads and stickers with the names of the buildings and addresses. At home: Andy has left a message on my answering machine: He's up at the mall. It seems He took a bus to the mall, enjoying his freedom to move around both cities. And I was worried that he might get lost.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

As soon as the holidays are over, the work schedule takes over. Cold weather is a good opportunity to get things done inside.

When the weather is warm, I want to be outside as much as possible, working in the garden, ruining my nails, getting a red burn on my nose and sweating. Such fun!

Living in an old house means continuous repairs and upgrades. My in laws, who died before I met their son, were of strong puritan stock. They didn't spend any money if they didn't have to. The consequences of that approach is the house, that I inherited, is in sad shape. It needs everything. The in laws patched instead of replaced. They painted over instead of repaired. They ran extension chords instead of rewiring. I've spent a decade on house repairs: attached sewer lines and collapsed the existing septic systems, upgraded wiring and plumbing, removed old wallpaper and dirt and repainted. The unsafe kitchen stairs were replaced . The walks from side door and front door were widened and paved with stone. Old bushes were cut down. The garden enlarged. Slowly, a new house emerges from the old one. It is worth it, as the basic house is well built. This is the Park Circle house.

In the next town, the grandparents house is completed. I love the way it was restored. All the utilities are upgraded but the original architectural interest remains untouched. The man who rents this house also loves it. He grew up in a historic house and is sensitive to the history of the house He rents. He inherited a sum of money when his grandmother died and it may become a down payment if He decided to buy this house. I agreed that he could have first refusal when the house goes on the market again, in the spring.

The current project is annual maintenance on three oil burners. There is one in the Park Circle house and one in each of my rentals. Arranging for 2 tenants to be home on the same day and getting the oil burner maintenance man from one place to the next on schedule should be easy. ..except that T. has to leave. She left her son home to open the door for the maintenance project. S. called. Where is the truck? He's a little late because my humidifier attached to my oil burner, isn't working. This complication takes a little longer than scheduled. At S.s house, the nice oil burner man helps my tenant unclog the kitchen faucet. He doesn't charge me for that. Work that should be done by noon, takes all day. Maintenance man is back at my house. He's lost a wrench. He wore a hole in his tool bag and the wrench fell out. He back tracks to find it. We never found it.

T's rent check bounces. She is embarrassed. T. works with the elderly. It seems that one of her senile clients wrote a check on an account that was closed. T. deposited in her own account and wrote her rent check. I deposited the rent check into my account. It was no one's fault. I thought T's check was good. T. thought her client's check was good and client thought so, too. The daughter of the client knew the checking account was closed, but did not destroy the old checks. T. got stuck with back charges for this error. I had to make another bank run to cover my own checking account. Such is life with tenants.

Time for me to write checks of my own. My accountant anticipated that I would have sold the grandparents house by now. So did I. He had me send in extra money to the IRS to cover the anticipated capital gains. Doing this four times a year without the house selling, is a financial strain. January is the last of these payments.

January is also property tax month. I don't like January. Property taxes on top of estimated income taxes are a lot of taxes. Don't argue with the tax man. I paid up.

At the Melba Street house, more planned maintenance projects. Last winter saw the heating system converted from all electric to gas with hot water baseboards. It is lovely. The electric bill went way down. All that is left is to patch where the thermostats were on the walls in each room and to paint where the old electric baseboards were. I hope to get this done before Chris moves in to take care of my beach house. This house has been closed up for a year. It smells of mildew. I need to air it out and to put bleach in the basement to kill the mildew spores. Extra furniture is moved to the Melba Street house to make order in the Park Circle house. In fact, I think I have enough extras to furnish Melba Street. Should I do this? It could be a vacation magnet for any of my family that wishes to vacation on the beach. Just an idea...hmmmmm...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year! We have the opportunity for a fresh start, but I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. Instead, make an effort every day to resist bad habits, substituting a better more efficient more satisfying way of living.

When I was younger, I would party with friends until the sun comes up...or until 3 AM when eyelids would start to close. This no longer appeals to me. I work hard on my goal to stay healthy and drinking too much works against my plan.

Instead , I had a Harry Potter experience. I took the whole day off, leaving chores undone, bills unpaid, phone calls not returned. The local bookstore had the Rowling # 6 book...the half blood prince. It came home with me. There is nothing so wonderful than escaping every day life by going into another world created by a gifted author. I had read books 1 through 5 and so I was anticipating book 6 ...started reading the first two chapters, then realized that there were references to the earlier books....details I could not remember. Put down 6. Picked up 5 and skimmed it to refresh my memory. Ah, got it. Picked up book 6 and plunged in. It took all day to review book 5 and get partially into book 6. This is a wonderful experience to live vicariously through the characters in the book. There are so many characters, that I thought about writing out a list of them ...just to refer to the list when the character reappears. Then I decided that this is not necessary, as the main characters were clear to me, and as the secondary characters reappeared, the author gave flash backs so the reader could make the connection....good writing. Good reading.

I am enjoying The Half Blood Prince...looking forward to the 7th and last book in this series. I will probably be disappointed that the series will end. When you enjoy a character, you want it (him or her) to keep on having adventures so you can enjoy the adventure, too.

When all of the books have been made into movies, I will probably purchase the set so that my grandchildren can watch them on my TV.

After the book is finished, it is time to face quarterly income tax payments...and the January property taxes. Yuck. Reality can't hold a candle to fantasy.