Coffee heat rising

Karma heads south in the afternoon

Sorta seemed like things were going O.K.

I should’ve known better.

dwmagicLast week when the dishwasher dude came over, to the tune of $70, I whined him into submission by crying about the alleged pending layoff, and so instead of charging me $380 plus parts plus tax to replace the impeller motor, he clued me to his theory that you can sometimes clean out whatever is obstructing the motor by running two or three bottles of Dishwasher Magic through the machine. This miracle elixir can be had at any Ace Hardware for about $4.00.

It seems to have worked, in a desultory way. However, now the dishwasher has decided that it won’t turn off at the end of the wash cycle. When its “countdown” reaches 1 minute, it just keeps on running. Makes its noise, too. It no longer makes the noise anywhere else in the washing process. But it makes it as it struggles unsuccessfully to shut down. To bring a stop to that, I have to enter the “cancel-&-drain” code. Helle’s Belles. We have 10 people slated to descend on my house for Christmas dinner, and so the prospect of letting the problem go until the dishwasher craps out does not appeal.

Because, as you know, this will guarantee that the dishwasher will die at 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

So it looks like we’ll be enjoying a $300 or $400 dishwasher repair bill, after all.

A decent night’s sleep—more than 10 hours!—ended a two-week-long spate of insomnia. Nevertheless, I felt tired. Did the laundry. Precious little food in the house: made do with a cheese sandwich and coffee for breakfast.

The pool needed to be backwashed, its pressure having risen from its normal 6 or 8 psi to about 14 psi. It needed other attention, too, as signaled by some green patches of algae. The techs at the pool store claim the growth of algae when the chemicals are correctly balanced indicates that the pool should be drained and refilled, another little operation I can’t afford just now. They suggested that I let the pool pump drain the water as far as possible for several backwashes in a row. So I flooded the alley (illegal! on Sunday, though, the City’s enforcers will be home doing their own weekend chores), creating a model of Lake Superior out there. It took over an hour with the hose running full blast to raise the water line back to normal.

In the interim, I noticed a fine bathtub ring of white calcium all around the tile. So had to get down on hands & knees, with my head hanging upside down over the water, and scrub this stuff off with vinegar and a scouring pad. One 45-minute tour around the perimeter didn’t suffice. Had to do it again. I scrubbed in the icy water until my fingers were numb and my knees wouldn’t hold my weight anymore. Then I brushed the algae off the walls and steps. To accomplish this latter, I had to take off my shoes, socks, and jeans and climb into the December water, a bracing experience indeed.

When the pool was full, I turned the pump back on and poured eight pounds of diatomaceous earth back into the filter, via the pump intake.

And what might I have forgotten?

What, indeed. I forgot that I hadn’t turned the backwash valve off.

Oh yes.

All the time I was dumping pound after pound after suffocating POUND of D.E. into the intake, the pump was gushing it out the other side. By the time I realized this, the backwash hose had dug a hole in the desert landscaping and sprayed DE all over the side yard.

What an incredible MESS. Now I’ll have to pay Gerardo to come over here and repair the landscaping. Merry Christmas.

So now I shut the pump down, turn off the backwash valve, and turn the pump back on.


For godsake.

Now the pool water is opaque. Not only that, but the pump is running at 10 psi, well above normal.

I call the pool service people and get a human. Of course, the dispatcher hasn’t a clue. She recommends that I turn off the pump, though I suspect that over time it will suck the stuff back in and catch it in the filter.

The pool guy will be here on Tuesday, minimum $85 charge plus parts plus whatever else they can dream up.

It took another hour to refill the pool back to its normal water line.

So, it’s off to the grocery store. I’m feeling too depressed to go to the Safeway and the Costco and the AJs, so I decide to cut it short and go only to AJs, where I can pick up the coffee and the bacon I happen to favor. The rest of it: later.

I’m starved. Consequently, against my better judgment I buy a take-out dinner of vegetarian pesto Yuppie gourmet lasagne and a bottle of wine. I’m freaking depressed, too. So I buy not one but two bottles of my favorite bubble bath, of which I’m about out. They have a new scent. How can I turn it down? And some gelato. Double chocolate. And carmel de leche.

While I’m feeling sorry for myself in the grocery store, I run into an old friend from Arizona Highways.She tells me she’s out of work, sliding into debt, and anxiously searching for a job. Do I know of any PR openings?

Dear god. This lady is highly professional, very good at what she does, and has an impeccable track record. If she can’t get a job, times really are tough. I tell her about LinkedIn, promise to send the names of every spy I can think of, and stumble off to the cash register. The bill for all the indulgences I’ve picked up comes to something over ninety bucks.

Back at the Funny Farm, I decide to turn on the pump no matter what the Leslie’s dispatcher says. The D.E. has settled. I run the brush over the steps and bottom by way of getting the stuff back into circulation, stirring up more VAST CLOUDS of opaque fog. Too late, I realize that if I had let the powder stay on the bottom, I could have simply taken the manual vacuum and schlepped it into the filter that way. Duh!

I bolt down the take-out, two glasses of wine, and a bowl of ice cream. At this point I’m shivering cold, three sheets to the wind, and dead tired. I lay down on the sofa in front of the space heater. The dog jumps up and settles in next to my feet. I fall asleep but soon am awakened by the dog fussing.

Two pillows have dropped off the sofa onto the floor, where they’ve come to light (heh) directly in front of the space heater.


I leap up, grab them, and toss them across the room. Luckily, they haven’t yet caught fire.

cooktopNow I put a trio of chicken thighs into a pot of water to cook for the dog. I go into the back room to work on Quicken. A bit later, I figure the meat’s cooked. It is. And the pot has splattered greasy water all over the top of the stove and the tiles, baking the chicken grease on around the burner.

Last night after the yard sale, I used the last of the stovetop cleaner to scrub a week’s worth of grease and crud off the top of that G.D. stove.This, you might note, left me left with no stove cleaner and little vinegar.So we’re talking a brand spanking clean stove that is now covered—again—in baked-on grease and calcified water.

I try to clean it with Windex.


Now I sprinkle on some baking soda and scrub the stove clean with that and the rest of the vinegar. Works, but it’s a hassle.

Feeding the dog uses up the last of the cooked rice. I decide to use the chicken broth to cook up another cup of rice—which, we might add, uses up the last of the dry rice, necessitating a trip to Sprouts. Later. I put the three soiled burner grates into the dishwasher and turn the washer on to its full cycle. Then I go back into the office to make a couple of online transfers and finish Quickening while waiting the 25 minutes for the rice to cook over the one remaining undefiled burner.

By now, mind you, the dog is loaded and cocked.

Twenty-five minutes later, I walk into the kitchen to find the rice has overflowed all over the damned stove.

So I get to scrub the stove again, while the dog campaigns for a walk. I finally finish this project, take the dog out into the MIGHTY CHILLY night, and hope she will do her business quickly.


We have to sniff every blade of grass, every stone, every freaking crack in the sidewalk. Not only that, but I swear to god, every third neighbor is stumbling around his garage and eyeing us balefully as the dog threatens to dump on his lawn.

Of course, I have bags with me to pick up after the dog. But I’d just as soon not be glared at by the proprietors while the dog tries to make up her mind which lawn to use as her personal doggie loo.

Finally she releases her ammunition on Harriet’s yard. Freaking freezing, I drag her home. She is unhappy, since she wishes to journey southward, not turn back to the house.
And as I sit here bellyaching about all this, the dishwasher is making its vibrating/grinding noise.

Three hundred eighty bucks, plus parts, plus tax.

Lemonade from a financial lemon

Can I Get Rich on a Salary tagged me a while back with a challenge to tell a story of making lemonade from a personal finance lemon. Since iWeb doesn’t do pings or pingbacks, I didn’t notice, and so I have to apologize for running a bit late with this. But…do I have lemons? Let’s raid the tree.

Tartest: is that a word? The tartest lemon I’ve picked to date was when my father disinherited me. He disapproved of my leaving my husband of 20 years, a gentleman I married largely because he exactly fit the description of the kind of man my parents wanted me to marry. While divorce proceedings were under way, my father secretly got together with my soon-to-be-ex and engineered a revision of his will.

The original terms were that when he died, his wife would get the interest from his investments and then, after she was gone, I would get the principal. He had about $100,000.

When I left the marriage, I took almost $100,000 in community property, plus a small amount of alimony and $40,000 of sole and separate property. I had no job. In early 1980s, $240,000 was not a bad grubstake. Relying on what I expected to inherit from my father, I figured I could grow my freelance writing business so that by the time the alimony ran out, in about six years, my earnings plus interest off investments would carry me all the way through retirement. This, it must be admitted, was one of the stupidest ideas to which I have ever subscribed.

Luckily for me, a full-time teaching job came along at a satellite campus of the Great Desert University. It was pure serendipity. Little did I know how broadly God was smiling on me: I had no idea my father had effectively written me out of his will, and, with my pending-ex’s collusion, had done so in a way that I had no chance of breaking the new will. Neither he nor the ex ever told me that he had changed his will.

He died of a stroke at 84. Not until then did I learn that $1,500 a month went to his wife, whom I disliked with some fervor. Her mother had lived to be 103 years old, and so it was reasonable to expect that the widow would live long enough to collect the entire pot and nothing would go to me. By way of delivering one last back-handed slap across the face from beyond the grave, my father made me the executor! This meant I would have to write a $1,500 check every month for the next five and a half years to a woman who had long made a hobby of making me miserable whenever she found an opportunity.

After about five years and six months, the fund would be drawn dry.

Even though I had a reasonably decent job, nontenurable English faculty do not earn much. I was in my late 40s when I started working and contributing to the university’s 403(b) plan, leaving me nowhere near enough time to accumulate a decent retirement fund. Because I had been a society matron most of my adult life, I had few credits toward Social Security; no matter how long I worked, I could never come close to the (modest!) maximum Social Security entititlement. If I was not to spend old age in dire poverty,Ineededthat money.

I called my financial advisor and asked him what to do. He suggested putting it in a short-term corporate bond fund at Vanguard. In the early 80s, the fund was doing quite well, and as investments go, it was conservative enough that no one could say it violated my fiduciary responsibility to the widow. My lawyer revealed that I could pay myself a thousand bucks or so each year as compensation for serving as the estate’s executor, which helped a little.

Each month the fund returned an amount that was about 30% to 50% of the monthly drawdown. Thus although the balance dropped steadily, it did not dwindle to the disappearing point as fast as my father planned.

There was nothing I could do about the will, despite the circumstances in which it was changed. The wife’s daughter was a Superior Court judge, one renowned for making capricious decisions, and so not a lawyer in the county would touch the case. Although several agreed that my ex had committed malpractice by representing my father while we were engaged in divorce proceedings, I could not get any lawyer to represent me.

My father’s widow survived him by about five years, falling short of her mother’s longevity by some fifteen years. When she passed, about $40,000 remained in my father’s estate.

Forty thousand was a heck of a lot better than the nothing my father had in mind. Thanks to some smart investment advice, I managed to retrieve almost half the money.

Meanwhile, the teaching income was not quite enough for me to cover the $840 mortgage payments and have enough to live without running up debt. My plan had evolved so that it had me saving all the after-tax alimony payments toward retirement; in fact, each month I was having to use one or two hundred dollars to make ends meet. Nevertheless, I managed to save about $60,000.

So, when the alimony ran out, I pooled the inheritance and the amount I’d saved from the five years of alimony income and used a chunk of it to pay off the $80,000 mortgage on my house. This left about twenty grand still in savings while it gave me a de facto raise in pay of $640 a month, after I had set aside $240 a month for taxes and insurance.

Just before the bubble started to inflate, my house was worth three times what I’d paid for it; I sold it and bought a more nicely renovated place with a bigger yard and a pool, a good long way away from the noisy intersection and crime zone that had cop helicopters parked over my roof at 11:00 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night, and I paid for the new place in cash.

No matter what anyone says, it’s great to have your house paid off. That ain’t lemonade: it’s fine white wine with overtones of summer citrus.

Beelzebub Central

Great Zot! What have I done to tick off Lady Karma?

Last night I encountered a vast fly infestation in the house. Thought I’d killed them all off-something over a dozen. Disinfected the kitchen countertops with Mr. Clean, I product I just loathe for its vile perfume, and so went to bed with the whole house stinking of that stuff.

This morning: MORE flies! The place was just swarming with them! After swatting and swatting and swatting and SWATTING, I finally gave up and got out the spray. I hate that stuff far more than I hate Mr. Clean, and I really, really don’t want to use it in the house-especially with a famously sick dog at hand. But there really was no choice. Flies quickly learn to avoid a fly swatter, and my hand-eye coordination and speed are no match for the little guys.

So I sprayed around the arcadia doors and then opened them up with the screens shut. This didn’t come anywhere near killing all the critters, but at least slowed them down so I could hit them. Did in about three dozen flies.

I found more of them clinging to the security door in the garage. Spraying in there is highly problematic, because of the gas heater, but the door is a distance from the heater. So I sprayed the security screen and then slammed the wood door shut on it.

Off for the morning walk. When I got back: MORE FLIES. More inside the house, and another gigantic swarm inside the garage, clustered in a great buggy mob on the closed wooden door.

I guess the spray in the garage had stunned the survivors enough that I could whack them: I killed over two dozen in there.

So I’ve done in about seven dozen flies, all told. . .and counting.

But WHERE are they coming from? The dog mounds are picked up outside and stay picked up. There’s no garbage inside the house. The trash in the garage, yes, was a little ripe (yesterday, it was 109 degrees outdoors, hotter in the uninsulated garage, whose big door operates as a radiator), but there’s a screen door between the garbage and the outside, and I don’t leave the door between the kitchen and the garage open. ????

Dragged the garbage out, along with a few dried-out flowers, to find an enormous stench in the communal garbage can in the alley. The neighbor behind me uses adult diapers, and her companion dumps them in the garbage. And of course there were plenty of flies there. I doubt if they’re breeding there, though: Sally wraps everything up tight in plastic bags. At any rate, I sprayed the rim and lid of the giant garbage can.

It’s almost as if they’re breeding inside the house. There just aren’t that many flies in the yard for seven dozen of them to get in while the dog is wandering in and out the door. I wonder if they could be breeding in one of the plant pots? Guess I’ll have to haul those outside and inspect them.

Meanwhile, it was hotter than the hubs of Hades when we went for our walk. I haven’t been able to get in the pool (which needs some tending, too) because of the fly fiasco.

I had to disinfect the countertops and dishes in the drainer all over again.

Then I put my back out-again!-wrestling with the dog while trying to medicate her nether parts. She threatened to bite-again!-so I had to muzzle her-again!-and personhandle her down to the floor. That was jolly fun. Dang! My back was almost better. Now for another week or ten days of that…what fun.

Guess I’d better drag the plants onto the patio before breakfast. If the flies are coming from a plant pot, the sooner it’s outdoors the better. It’s already close to 100 out there, and the house plants won’t tolerate much of that. So…better get moving.

Then I have to clean all the windows where I smashed flies, vacuum up some more corpses, and take the fly-splattered curtains down and wash them.

<<Chortle!>> Woe woe pore li’l me!

Well…it’ll be a good excuse to have a beer this afternoon, eh? By 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., I’ll have earned it. :-))))