Greatest Rummage Sale Ever

Today was the drop-off day for our church rummage sale. Greatest rummage sale ever! Nothing is tagged; people just bring items to the cashiers and make an offer.

Can someone lowball and sell an item later online for a much higher price? Sure, but who cares?

The needy get what they need, the Ladies Guild raises funds for the parish, and no one can tell the difference between the poor and the thrifty.

During my second drop-off (don’t judge me!), I told one of the ladies how great it was that there are no tags. She got a gleeful smile and told me that many years ago, another group ran the sale and would spend hours tagging everything. But when the Ladies Guild took it over and let the buyers set the prices, the sale doubled in earnings.

That’s including the final hours, when it’s two dollars a bag. She told me a very funny  story – complete with pantomime – about fitting an electric typewriter into a plastic grocery bag for an astonished customer.

If you’re wondering where I’ve been for months, I’ve been luxuriating in an exhilarating bath of stress. No, the Young Human Factory hasn’t laid me off or closed.  Yes, the Old Man and His Better Half (aka my parents) are alive and kicking. The brothers are fine and the sobrinos aren’t suffering from anything they didn’t bring on themselves.

It’s just a little slice of change here, a smidgeon of inconvenient timing there, a trio of groundpiggies under my shed, and voila! le stress. (Seriously, “stress” in French is “le stress”.  In Spanish we know that it needs another syllable and some emphasis because it’s just that bad: el estrés.)


The Triumph of Trash Day

I came home Friday after a long day at The Young Human Factory and saw something beautiful – an empty garbage can on my neighbor’s lawn. Oh, happy day! All but one garbage bag and various loose debris have been cleared.

I haven’t blogged about him because, frankly, it’s a depressing situation. The family next door let their house let the bank foreclose. The bank removed the wood stove and put on a new roof, then sold it fast and cheap. ( So fast that when my parents called the bank, it was already a done deal.)

For the past two years, the “new” neighbor has been letting it fall apart. Continue reading

Soliciting indentured servants

This is probably an American-centric rant, so feel free to ignore.

In January I started getting credit card applications in the mail. They weren’t from my bank** nor from stores from which I’ve made purchases.  These are strictly third-party creditors who have no relationship to me.

The amounts are staggering! A ten thousand dollar credit line?!?  Worse, most of these applications offered a balance transfer with a limited-time low interest rate before bouncing up to 13.99% APR.

So let’s say that the new chump cardholder (NOT me) transfers the debt and during the grace period gets the principal down to $6000 (rounding up the average debt in my state). Thereafter he or she sets $200 as the monthly payment. Using a debt calculator, I figured that it takes 38 months to pay off the debt. So the cardholder paid $7,600 overall.

It’s worse for someone who maxes out the card. For a $10K debt at the same payment schedule, the poor sap is in debt for more than six years and pays $5,200 in interest.

Related links

  • Federal Trade Commission information on opting out. Unfortunately, the permanent opt-out process takes one to a non-government secure site and requires one’s personal info including Social Security number.
  • The American Center for Credit Information’s advice if a unsolicited card (not just application) arrives in your mailbox.
  • Feed the Pig’s 4-Week Financial Fitness Challenge

**I cancelled its card after it was compromised and the thief racked up $250 in make-up in Ann Arbor by an international student. Probably the same one who stole my friend’s card information, as she had a similar problem with repeated cash withdrawals in Turkey – with her bank’s permission, despite her noticing the first withdrawal and asking for a hold on her account.

Readin’, Writin’, and Recuperatin’

I’m happy to report that The Old Man aka my father came through the operation with flying colors. And I seem to be well, too.

“Seem” being the main verb.

March 2017 will go down in local history as the Month of Pestilence. My colleagues at The Young Human Factory were dropping like flies, succumbing to every virus and bacteria our young humans brought us. When the rascals weren’t incubating more diseases, they were raising pets like lice and Scarcoptes scabiei.

Continue reading

O, padre mío!

My father aka The Old Man has to have surgery next this month. On March 15, the Ides of March, to be precise.  I told my mother that since his name isn’t César, he shouldn’t worry too much – unless the surgeon is Dr. Brutus.

I went home for a day visit. He was in the road, digging trenches to drain the meltwater. (February was unseasonably warm, so the roads were turning to mud.)  He directed me to park on sort-of solid ground and followed me inside not long after, where he promptly put on a blood pressure cuff.

“Did your mom tell you what’s wrong with me?” he asked.

“Well, she has been hinting for years,” I said.

They laughed, although it turned out I ruined the timing of his own joke. Turns out he’d gone to the doctor a few days earlier with intestinal pain, and he declared, “The doctor told me, ‘You’re full of shit.'” (It seems in addition to his heart, his digestive system was acting up. It never rains but it pours.)

I learned young that when you have troubles outside your control, the best thing is to joke about them. But I forget.

When my mother suddenly leaned on the kitchen counter and said, “I feel dizzy”, I was concerned. Then my father said, “I did the same thing yesterday, in the same spot. There must be something wrong with this counter!”

My mother cheerfully agreed.

So I’ve been trying to view my own troubles through the same humorous lens.


February already?!?

Please consider this my State of La Casa Address.

For the past several weeks months, I have thought of post-worthy topics. Then I’d become enthralled by whatever calamity struck, whether it was at work or en casa, or regarding…. politics.

Hoo boy! Whenever I speak or write of the presidential election, I shall refer to it as The Meltdown of ’16. Jill Stein’s recall attempt was bad, but I had no idea how many of my friends and family are lunatics.  I felt terribly stressed not by the election itself (I slept through the tallying), but by the subsequent denouncing, crying, gloating, and apocalyptic fantasizing.*

As luck would have it, I was distracted by work-related concerns. The latest is that the Young Human Factory is approaching a critical moment. After regular work hours, we front-line employees sat down to discuss our very limited options. Older co-workers can consider early retirement. Me? I’m less concerned with an exit-strategy than a re-enter-the-workforce strategy. I hear that there’s a program to train drone pilots for delivery services…

But on happier news, today I delivered my latest sculpture to its unsuspecting recipient. She exclaimed, “I’ve never gotten anything so beautiful from anyone!” (And to answer the question my readers will be thinking: No, I can’t sell my sculpture. I tried. Even at a gallery, interested parties balked at paying $75 – a price just covered my cost in materials and studio time.)

Meanwhile in La Casa de Tontería, I had a falling out with my Internet provider. I don’t want to name names, but its initials are A, T, and T. When I called about a loss in service (possibly due to an ice storm), the representative immediately declared my modem was bad and I could now rent a newer one for $7 plus tax per month.

Ha ha! Try pulling the other one! I called my pal the Attorney General (well, his office) and found out that the FCC doesn’t regulate providers. Drat.

When the technician came, he reinforced my belief that there’s a strange philosophy at work in that company. Customer service reps are paid evil-doers, while their co-workers work for the good of their customers. Thus is the balance maintained and the Universe doesn’t implode.

Anyway, the tech informed me that my modem was fine (although a refurbished model – what?!?) and he moved my connection to a closer box down the street (rather than in the neighboring town – WHAT?!?)  He also let me know that I still had DSL, not high-speed. I told him what I was paying, and he told me that newer customers had better rates. He suggested I cancel my service for two weeks and then offer to return for a better price.

Unfortunately, I can’t be without service that long. In the summer, I’m going to do it! In the meantime, I talked the price down $35. And that’s not even the deal that the neighbors get.

*Honestly, I laughed  at those who viewed Canada as a sort of bunker to outlive the new administration. First, Canadian immigration guidelines are much stricter regarding marketable skills and sponsorship. Second, there are less than 35 million Canadians, the minority population tends to be Asian immigrants, and pretty much no one speaks Spanish. The last time I took a long trip in Canada, the joke was “We brought our own diversity.”

Book Review: The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke

Gerke, Jeff. The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers and Set Up Your Novel for Success. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2011. Print.

Summary: A guide to writing a novel beginning that hooks readers.

Jeff Gerke writes fiction under the pseudonym Jefferson Scott but teaches at writers conferences and writes advice under his own name. I bought a few of his guidebooks on the recommendation of honest-to-published authors. This is the first I’m reviewing for my ongoing Book Project. Continue reading