#FOWC – A SCINTILLATING MATTRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC – Scintillating Mattresses

Scintillating. I suppose that depends on how you happen to feel about mattresses because I was not home all day. We were out buying a mattress. While whining and complaining about the pain in my back, I commented that we really need a mattress.

When I mentioned this to Garry, he nodded wildly and said “YES!” which is not how he usually responds to my wanting to spend money.

After some serious checking on prices, i realized that no matter what you do, you are going to spend about $1000 on a mattress. A little more or a little less, but that’s what it will cost. Here, it was a bit more complicated. We have 100 pounds of latex mattress and just getting it off the bed and out of the bedroom — where it will lay waiting for further action in the basement was an issue. We don’t have a dump here in Uxbridge. Many towns don’t and those that have dumps are not happy about taking mattresses.

Why? Because they are BIG, that’s way. We have a lot of trash in New England. We were building up trash before the rest of the country was settled, so there aren’t a lot of places left for dumps. It would cost us a solid $200 – $300 to get rid of the current mattress and Owen would need at least one big strong friend to get the new mattress upstairs.

We paid a couple of hundred dollars more than we would have online, but I also think we got a good mattress with a good warranty. They will deliver the mattress this Thursday. They will unpack it, put it on the bed, take away the old mattress, then clean up all the rubble left by unpacking. Garry will get to have his surgery and come home to a really comfortable bed. Or so I fondly hope.

AND we got to try out the mattress for 90 days, so if it isn’t quite the thing, we can pick the other one. I like this one because it’s just 12 inches and our bed was not really designed for huge, overstuffed mattresses. Also, I thought the 12 versus 14-inch versions felt much the same to me.

The answer for everyone who needs a mattress (other than a twin)? It will cost about $1000. Whether you buy it online or buy it locally, it will still cost just about $1000. You can spend less, but how soon do you want to replace your mattress? This one has a 20-year warranty and we have 90 days to test drive the mattress. If we don’t like it, we can exchange it.

And that’s where we were all day. I wasn’t answering comments or writing. We were scintillating ourselves into a new mattress. To be honest, I’m kind of excited about it. I’m hoping this is going to improve my life.

Nothing can improve the quality of life more than a really comfortable mattress.

THE BANE OF HOUSEHOLD CHORES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

As I get older, I’m having a harder time accepting repetition as a big part of my life. I don’t mean cosmically or philosophically. I mean plain old boring repetition of everyday tasks like doing the laundry, washing the dishes, making the beds and cleaning the bathroom.

It always feels like ‘I just did that’ when it’s time to do it again! How many dirty dishes and how much dirty laundry can two people create? Apparently, quite a lot.

I never liked routine chores but I surrendered to their inevitability. Now they seem like an affront to my sensibilities.

What do you mean I have to unload the dishwasher AGAIN??!! I JUST did that!! I used to find sorting and folding clothes soothing and zen. Not anymore. Instead of sighing and resigning myself to another round of laundry, I rebel. I procrastinate; seriously procrastinate. I just had to do three loads in the washer and dryer just to find the TOP of my hamper!

Maybe the political upheaval in the country will help me appreciate anew the reliable, familiar tasks that make up my days. If not, what is going to happen as I get even older? Am I going to be one of those people who is discovered in a pile of filth and garbage in a house that has to be condemned? I’m not there yet. But I worry.

 

EVEN GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE HAS ISSUES – Marilyn Armstrong

My son ordered a label maker from Amazon. Not terribly expensive and not an obscure product. He got it on time, but when he opened the crate, it turned out to be an empty case. No label maker in it.

He was going to return the empty box.

I said: “Don’t be silly. You don’t return empty boxes. That will confuse everyone. They will want to know what happened to the label maker. You get in touch with them. They will fix it.”

I said that with confidence because they always try very hard to fix problems at Amazon.

“You can’t get in touch with Amazon,” he said.

“Oh yes you can,” I said.

“How?”

“Ask for the number or to chat live. They really will fix it.”

“How do you do that?”

The answer is not complicated.

Go into the customer service area. That is a bit circuitous, but if you use Amazon a lot, you figure it out. It needs to be about an order, so you should know exactly what your problem is and what you want them to do about it. That is pretty much true for all customer service.

After you are in the right area, type: “Need telephone number for Amazon customer service.”

They ask if you want them to call you (which they will do literally instantly) or would you prefer a chat? They prefer chats and so do I. It’s faster. Also, I can copy and paste information from the order into a chat file. That’s harder on a phone call. Not impossible, but harder.

I got the chat. Explained what happened. She said “Oops, sorry. Tell him he can keep the box and do whatever he wants with it. We’ll send him a new one.”

The would ship it as soon as possible. I called Owen back.

“But how did you know who to talk to?”

I explained I had talked to the guy at customer service and the new order was already in the order file, price $0.00. Shipment probably overnight.

Good customer service does make a big difference. Well-served customers keep coming back. Angry customers don’t. You hear that Dell? You hear that Apple? Got that Microsoft? Anyone listening at DirectTV, Charter, or AT&T?

Happy customers come back and sometimes bring their friends. And family. If you make us mad, we go elsewhere. Just saying.

The shipment arrived yesterday and guess what? It was another empty case. One empty case was not a big deal. Two? They have a shipping problem. Especially because this second box came with a big label on it that said: “CASE ONLY!”  I have to assume the shipping picker either had no time to recognize that the label maker had to be taken from another shelf and put into the case, or couldn’t read English.

I gave up. Although they offered to ship it again, there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t show up empty again. They refunded the money. Sometimes, you have to know when you’re beaten.

Good customer service helps, but so does getting the order right.

BROKEN? ALSO, DISCONNECTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Broken

I got up this morning in a pretty good mood. Bright sun, not humid. Looks like a nice day as spring heads into summer. Put up the coffee, gave the dogs treats. My son came over to install the new router and that’s when things started to go downhill.

The new one is exactly the same but bigger.

I hate new routers. It means everything which connects to WiFi is going to need a new password and a full restart. The phone started ringing … and that was when I realized we still have one, single hard-wired WiFi item in the house — my husband’s caption phone. I couldn’t get it to hook up and it turned out that this was because I had not yet fully installed the router itself.

To make this just a little more difficult, Garry’s phone is at the back of the house in his office. The router is in the middle room which used to be my office. And my computer is in the living room where I mostly live. I needed my computer. I needed information off the bottom of the previous router and I needed the serial number from the new router. It’s easily a dozen numbers long and probably 6-point type. Does anyone try to read those numbers?

I unplugged my computer and kept moving me and it from room to room.

Of course, this is the week that I had to reinstall everything on my computer and that meant I have new passwords and I don’t remember any of them. Although I used to have a NetGear account, I’ve apparently changed email addresses since then, so I had to register as if it were the first time.

I did that. Then I had to reinstall Garry’s caption phone and of course, it had a whole set of new software on it (we don’t reinstall it often, so inevitably when we do this, there’s always new software). Yet, I got all this done and somewhere in here, I vacuumed the floors, too.

I still hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee — was cruel and unusual punishment. I needed coffee!

The doctor’s scheduler called and lucky for me, that was exactly when Garry emerged from the bathroom. I set up his dates for pre-op and the surgery. Plus the first follow-up post surgery — and realized, I also had to arrange for him to get a meningitis shot. Which, it turned out, I have to get at the pharmacy, but not our usual pharmacy because the vaccine for people over 55 is different than the one for everyone else and requires a nurse practitioner. Which means CVS. Which I couldn’t speak to because they only have recorded messages. No humans.

I tried to call the hospital, but kept getting disconnected. By now, I’m breathing slowly and deeply because this is stuff I simply must get done, no matter how aggravating. It’s important. In the case of the vaccine, also expensive!

For reasons best known to our government, vaccinations (except flu) are NOT covered by medical insurance. Don’t ask. I don’t have an answer. A lot of our medical care is senseless and this is one of the more irksome items.

Garry wants a list of grocery to get and I feel brainless. I can’t give him an answer because my head is swimming with vaccinations and appointments and computers and I really, really need coffee.

It’s two in the afternoon. I still haven’t cleaned Bonnie’s eyes and I have no idea where I’m getting $150 for Garry’s vaccination. Some credit card, I assume. Lord knows how I’ll pay for it. I also have to change the post surgical checkup because it’s on the only day Owen can’t drive us there.

If I drink some coffee, I’m sure this will all work out. I’m sure of it. No, really. I’m sure.

It’s all about the coffee.

DONE! Marilyn Armstrong

We are perpetually in a state of “it’ll get finished any day now.” Everything seems to be in process. Getting rid of the mice. Getting the car appraised — forget about actually repaired. The appraiser actually showed up today, two full weeks since I reported the accident.

But you should see it from the back!

“Wow,” he said. “Someone really smacked that corner.”

“Yes,” I said. “They did.”

“Did you get a picture?”

“I was in the store. I didn’t see anything. I have a lot of cameras, but they don’t help much when you aren’t there.”

He will get back to me. In a day or two. I’m not holding my breath.

Painted!

Then Owen came today and put a second coat on the inside of the front door. We still need new  trim, outside and inside, but at long last, it’s fully painted. Just to really make my day, Owen also mowed the back lawn.

He said “Your back lawn looks like a wheat field.”

No kidding. You think?

Lawnmower and Owen – scything the wheat field!

It’s not elegant, but it’s something resembling flat and he got rid of a lot of the broken pieces of trees that fell during the big storms we’ve had. As far as the chimney goes, that’s not happening soon.

It’s not badly damaged and I’m out of money. Moreover, Garry’s surgery and rehab is going to take up a lot of the summer. But at least we are moving along. Forward into the future!

The last lilac

So now we have a painted front door! Imagine that! In and out, painted! We have nearly killed off or forced evacuation of thousands of mice. The ants are gone.

Did I mention the contractor came and replaced the front of the house and the window? And he did a great job. Neat, clean, perfect. Nice to get good work from a competent contractor. I would hire him again, if I ever actually have any money to hire anyone. Ever.

I like it so much, I feel i should get them ALL replaced. How I wish I could.

We still need to get the car repaired, but we’ll get there. One step at a time. One step, two steps, three steps and a frantic run to home base.

PLEASE DON’T LET THE CHIMNEY FALL ON YOUR HEAD – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is killing all of us, but it seems to be killing some of us faster than others. Maybe it just seems that way.

Mystery bricks are falling

Right now, my house is killing me. When we moved in here, we put up a new roof. We put up vinyl siding. We put in French drains. We removed the old rotting back sliding doors and put in French doors. We replaced all the toilets and sinks. We painted almost every room, though it took another ten years to get around to the floors. We never got to that kitchen restoration or repaving the driveway. Both are still on my agenda (ha, right, sure).

Meanwhile, we are doing what we can. We installed the new roof in 2000 — 18 years ago. It is in reasonably good shape.

Mayflowers – in May!

And of course, there’s the heating unit. It  was installed 12 years before we moved in. Add another 18 years we’ve lived here and suddenly, you’re looking at a moderately well-maintained 30-year-old boiler.

The front door is in round three as of last summer and just got its first layer of paint on the inside yesterday. It was my mother’s day present along with Owen putting together my new Oreck vacuum cleaner which, though they promised me it was better than the old one, apparently is exactly the same. Isn’t there some kind of bad joke about women who get vacuum cleaners for mother’s day?

The new – identical to old – Oreck vacuum cleaner. Turns out, I’ve got a spare in the attic I can use for extra parts.

Have I mentioned that advertisers lie? It is almost exactly the same machine with a bigger motor and a fancier handle, but the main difference is that it says “Commercial” on the box.

We replaced the steps to the deck right before I got to where going up that many steps was no longer an option. We put in a stair lift, but it needs some kind of fixing. It works, but only sometimes.

The el cheapo flooring with which we replaced the ratty old rugs is beginning to peel and the house needs painting … which is not happening anytime soon.

Ever, actually.

A few days ago, bricks from the chimney landed on the front stoop which I commented was “not a good thing.” We don’t own one of those old charming houses with 12-foot ceilings and tall windows. This is a 1970s bread box of a house that is getting old and tired. It’s not a bad place to live, mind you … but charming? Not so much.

When they say “They don’t build’em like they used to” they are NOT referring to this house.  They build houses today exactly like this, only worse. Regardless, all houses need repair and maintenance which costs money. Unless you are luckier than most seniors and have money.

We had a bit, for a while but it paid for the restored septic system and the well. Last week, we had to add a replacement window and a substantial piece of the house’s front wall. There are lots of other damp spots on the house. Turns out, vinyl siding is not a cure-all for your house. It looks good, but it doesn’t mean the walls underneath aren’t damp or crumbling. It is, as the pest control guy said, “cosmetic.”

See the round white thing in the sidewalk? That’s the well-head.

We are on round three (or is it four?) of the hot water heater. It’s an expensive one because it runs through the boiler and keeps the boiler working all year round. If it didn’t do that, our heating system would croak.

I live in holy dread of having to replace the heating system. We are way beyond wood. No one able to chop it and haul it into the house not to mention that buying wood is not cheap.

They were new just one year ago … time flies!

I also need new glasses. Wouldn’t you think weaker glasses would cost less than stronger ones? I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. Although larger size clothing always costs more, petite clothing never costs less. So it also goes with glasses.

Politically, the country is revolting and three are too many stupid people living in it. They are busily trying to take away the few things that are keeping us alive.

I’m curious about what they think they will do with the vast majority of aging baby boomers if they take away Medicare, Medicaid, low-cost senior housing, food stamps, et al. We’ll have entire cities full of grumpy, pissed off sickly boomers mugging you. Not for your wallet but because they are in a really lousy mood and they don’t like your face.

I’m not sure what is going to finally kill us. It might be keeping the house, trying to get up the stairs, a stroke, heart attack, cancer. Who knows? We’re all going to go sometime. Most of us would prefer to do it in a heated house with dogs, WiFi and a modern television. And computers, too.

Never underestimate how lethally angry a senior can get. Or how dangerous. We’ve got nothing left to lose except what remains of our crumbling chimneys, so we might as well enjoy clubbing people who think they are immune to “the bad stuff” in life.

BRICKS ON THE STOOP? – Marilyn Armstrong

A Slight Chance We’ll Need Some Major Chimney Repairs?

Only slight?

What was (I hoped) a slight chance that our home insurer would reject our claim to fix our chimney became a much more solid reality when I got an 8 am call this morning. They are coming tomorrow to take a look at the roof. I need them to do that anyway because someone needs to go up there and see what’s happening and it sure won’t be Garry or me. Or, for that matter, Owen, who is afraid of heights.

What were the odds that this would be the month the chimney started falling apart? Slight? More than slight? If I could actually see the chimney from anywhere on the property I might have a better grip on it, but sadly, I don’t.

So here is the story. You’ve all heard it — or some similar version of it — before, so you are welcome to sing along.

Life comes in waves. One year, everything is about dogs or cats. Or bugs and the trees. Another year is an automotive year, as one car leaves and we need to start again. One year was about furniture. All the old stuff left and the new stuff arrived.

And from the backyard …

One year was plumbing. Pipes broke. Toilets and sinks were replaced. And the basement flooded.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – In the blizzard

This is “the house is crumbling” year. Last summer, we put in a new front door. Which was a very big deal. We also replaced the water heater — which was a huge deal and a financial wipe out. Oh, and then there was the washing machine and installing the lift chair, two minor and one not so minor car accidents — without any injury to life or limb, but considerable pain and suffering financially.

This year, we attacked the ants and the mice (who knew there were so many?) and the bathroom, at least to the extent we could afford it (so much more needs doing (sigh) — including the shower outlet and the lighting. The builder came and replaced the window in the front of the house and a good piece of the whole front wall of the house too. Also, the new vacuum cleaner arrived today, but we’re too tired to take it out of the box.

A computer sort of died — and new computers arrived. During this period of change, I have spent more time talking to people in customer and technical services than most people spend in the better part of a lifetime. I breathed a sigh and thought: “Maybe now we can relax for a while.”

Until  I found the bricks.

One more payment, honey, and it’s all ours!

I was coming in the front door yesterday and I looked down and saw bricks.

Bricks? There are no bricks in this house. It’s wood (or something related to wood), vinyl siding, and asbestos tile. Except … the chimney is brick. A part of the chimney was laying on the stoop.

What were bricks from our chimney doing on the front step? “This cannot be good,” I said to myself.

It’s hard to see the chimney. Even if you back up all the way to the fence, you can’t see the whole thing. I went inside and pondered the meaning of storms, blizzards, and wind events. How we had three huge storms in a single week in March. How the trees broke — and many remain broken — and how the branches flew around in hurricane-level winds.

Then, I collected myself, realized there was no reason why we should be different than everyone else who is replacing pieces of chimneys and roofs and siding. You live in New England and deal with the storms, physically and architecturally. The only remaining issue is who will pay for the repairs? It would be nice if it were insurance, for which we pay big bucks annually, but usually, it’s us.

Footsteps — mine — from house to road

This was a damaging, rough winter. March alone was worth two normal winters. I thought we had miraculously escaped serious damage. Not.

The bottom line? Was it “officially” storm damage or will they deem it something that was due for repair anyway? When I talked to the guy at the insurance company, he asked me if anything else had gone wrong “up there.” Like I would know?

“I have absolutely no idea,” I assured him. “I’m 71 and my husband is 76 and neither of us is going up on the roof to look around. I’m pretty sure someone is going to have to go up there and see what happened. I know a big tree didn’t crash through the roof. I’d have noticed that. But did tiles blow off? And how much chimney is damaged? No idea.”

Oh the irony. We haven’t used our fireplaces for a long time because using the fireplaces raises heating costs. The heat from the fire turns off the thermostat. When the fire dies and the house gets cold enough to trigger the heat, it has to reheat the whole house.

We have terrific insulation and if we keep the house at a low, but even temperature — like about 68 — our heat costs half what it used to when we used fireplaces. It has been at least five years since we lit anything in either fireplace, so it is just one more piece of household money-pit irony that we need to fix chimneys we don’t use.

We got away with years of minimal repairs to the house. Mostly because we had no money. It’s amazing what you can live with when you’re broke. But we are in a bit better shape now — though by the time we’re through with this summer, I have a feeling we won’t be. Expensive summer just beginning.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I suppose it’s time to set it to rights, within the limits of what we can afford. I wish I thought insurance would pay for the chimney, but it’s unlikely. I suspect they already made the decision — and they haven’t even looked at it yet.