Happy Spring! New Projects

Happy spring! 82 degrees on the last day of winter…whaaatt?! A harbinger of a hot summer, I’m afraid.

It’s time to plan projects for the next few months. And we have monkey wrenches already.

We had two major goals for this year: a bucket list vacation to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and addressing the retaining wall on the south side of the garage. Weeelll, wouldn’t you know it?

During a ROUTINE ANNUAL EXAM, a tumor was found, in my abdomen, which required major surgery to remove. I cannot stress enough the value of such exams. It had been two and a half years since I’d been to the doctor, and this thing developed during that time, with no symptoms! Sometimes we think since we’re feeling fine, our bodies are fine. But things happen when you don’t even know it, and the doctors’ jobs are to be aware and find these things while they can still be taken care of. It was ultimately benign, I thank God, but the size of a large, unripe pear. It and the obsolete organ it invaded were removed. There will be a scar, a very large scar. Which no one but my husband and me will see. I’m okay with that.

Without getting political, I have a pre-ACA health insurance policy, with excellent coverage, and my out of pocket cost will be quite manageable, although a big part of our savings. I know the dollar amount, and we are just waiting for the bills to roll in. I’m keeping track of the EOBs online. I have several weeks of recovery ahead of me, doing quite well, thank you. I am trying to learn to “be still.” I have more time to plan, less time to work, and less funds. Challenge accepted!

First of all, we’ve scratched the retaining wall project. My spidey sense is telling me it will cost much more than my marked up estimate. (I usually add 15% to what early research indicates.) While this does need to be done, there are also neighbor factors involved (they have their own issues this year), and more thoughtful planning required (electric supply lines run through the area). This is not something I want to tackle this year, especially since it would take several months from first calls to completion, and be angst-ridden the whole time.

My health issue brought to mind that our self-promised vacation should be a priority for us right now. Since we’ve already saved for it, even with the medical bills, we’re going for it. We may revise our itinerary a bit, but we’ve decided to go.

Meanwhile, the funds will grow for the retaining wall project, while this year we focus on more mundane and less costly maintenance. I will be using service professionals for most, if not all, of my projects this year. My body needs to heal, and the projects are very specific. Plus, I don’t have the equipment. Landscaping will probably not be a big thing this year, except for general cleanup. I’m still developing the list, and hope to get started implementing right after Easter. I’ll be back to share that.

What projects are you planning this year? How have financial surprises changed your list?


Good To Be Home, Returning To Comfort

We’ve just returned from a week-long trip to the Washington, DC area. Arlington, VA, and the National Cemetery, to be exact.

It was for placing Col. FIL to final rest, with a ceremony the likes of which I have never before seen. It was a very befitting honor, which he deserved: Caisson, Honor Guard, Army Band, 21-Gun Salute, Riderless Horse. Col. FIL’s site looks over the Pentagon, with a pretty good view of DC. He is with his soldiers. I would encourage everyone to make a visit to this place if you are ever in the area. It is mostly quiet, and sobering, with thousands and thousands of gravesites of those who defended our freedom.

Our trip itself was fraught with challenges: weather, accommodations along the way, and some bad food. We decided we do not like city living, at least East Coast city living. But we did make it home when we expected, and were able to see some sites along the National Mall, the White House, the Capitol, the Holocaust museum, and one of the Smithsonians.

The Subs developed an awful rattling/scraping/clunking sound around Pittsburgh on our trip there. There was no smoke, no dash lights, and no apparent mechanical trouble, so we pushed on. The Subs had a thorough checkup right before we left, so I wasn’t too concerned. DS#1 had a vehicle, so we were able to drop the Subs at a dealer for diagnosis that Monday morning. Meanwhile, I called our local Omaha mechanic, Russ Garage, the best Subs people in the area, for advice on how to handle the issue. Turns out it was a loose heat shield; these things happen, especially with Interstate driving. The dealer said they would have to remove and replace it with an OEM part (ka-ching!), and they were not allowed to rig it with a clamp or tap weld (I get that, dealers, warranty and such). It was not falling off, and posed miniscule probability of engine damage, so on RG’s advice to us, they gave it another thorough safety check (all systems go), and sent us on our way, rattling all the way to the hotel. We used the Metro and DS’s vehicle, or walked, for the rest of our stay. Cost for the diagnosis/safety check was $60, but well worth it for the peace of mind. It doesn’t seem to be as loud now, but I’m still taking it to RG this week, for this, an oil change and an alignment.

On the way there, we paid about $50 in tolls! South of Chicago and Indiana were acceptable, but Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes were outrageous! And in Tyson’s Corner, VA (near the dealership), there was a $2.50 toll for driving 1/8 mile to the non-toll Interstate. Really?! So on the way back, we went a different way, with no tolls the first day and minor tolls the next. Thanks, Google Maps directions lady, and Waze app! If you travel that way, be aware, and do your planning, unlike us.

Our trip cost more than expected, because of the cost of gas Out East, and the tolls. And on the way back we stayed at a different, much better hotel for a bit more. But overall, we spent exactly what we were quoted for accommodations, less for food (because we bought groceries and had a full kitchen), and way too much for a horrible pizza delivery experience. I have never Yelped until this trip, and I have Yelped honestly.

When we got back, it was very nice to know that the new roof and ventilation had done their jobs! I had turned off the AC/heat, and didn’t know what we would encounter. We also turned off the water, learning from someone else’s experience. Normally when we returned from trips, the house felt and smelled, well, musty and dusty. This time, it was a little stuffy, but after a short time with the AC and ceiling fans on, all was well. It has been very comfortable since that work was done. The new downspouts have addressed most of the problem of water coming in at the corners of the basement (I think another round of minor grading b/c of erosion at one corner will fix it for good). Hire an expert: Done Right.

The sprinkler system guy just conducted our spring startup, but with all the rain expected this week, we won’t need them for a while. Still, they will be ready when we do. We have a contract with Hoich, so there is no additional cost for this, except for two repairs that had to be made. Right before we left town, I had T&K Plumbing come out to replace the sprinklers shutoff valve, which had been leaking for the last few winters. I wanted that done before the spring startup, of course. T&K sends very professional installers (they did my water heater last year), on time, and they do great work without gouging me. Tomorrow I’m supposed to get my AC annual check, but we’ll see. That is also covered by a maintenance contract, and is just a couple years old, so no extra cost anticipated there. So all is well, and we are comfortable in our home.

It is good to be back. I don’t plan to take anymore trips this year. This was built into our budget. But our budget is blown after the roof and ventilation surprise. The house is still calico-colored (base color, some trim color, new garage door color, primed fascia boards, raw cedar boards…), and will need to remain that way for a while until we can get the EF where it needs to be. I’ll be scrambling to rework the budgets for the coming months, and will be having a monster garage sale in June. Right now I need to schedule some contract work.

Have a great month!