Tuesday, August 16, 2016

hawaii 5-0 for my big 5-0...

I blame my travel anxiety on not being very helpful when it comes to planning a trip far, far away.  I’m actually even anxious about travelling nearby – I think of my cats, I think of the possibility of never coming back, getting into an accident; let’s not even talk about all the anxiety surrounding air travel.  The drudgery of packing, making sure you have everything you’ll need…but not OVERpacking.  Then the drudgery of coming home and having a pile of laundry that it will take days to wash, fold, put away.  The house always seems dirty when you get home, even though you cleaned it before you left - closed up – like it died while you were gone – temporary suspended animation.  Besides, unlike what one of my friends had suggested when I posted pics on Facebook during our last short trip, I actually do really like my house.  I’d like to spend all of my time there; cleaning, washing windows, organizing, working in the garden on those oh.too.few days that are PERFECT to work in the yard.  Not too hot, not too humid, not too windy, not rainy.  You don’t get many of those days and because of that and other things that I will elaborate on in this post, my garden and yard look like I have abandoned them…and I have to an extent.  I can’t wait for retirement!

The computer is a HUGE time waster…you realize as you are reading this ;-)  I am addicted.  Click, refresh, scroll, endlessly.  Oh, comment!  Like! Heart!  Sad face.  Stealing my life.

The other time hog is what we acquired while in Maui, Hawaii.  It’s a time hog!  But it has to be in order to be successful.  Any business will take a lot of your personal time.  And all the spreadsheets that I want to create about this investment takes time too.  I like spreadsheets!

OK, so this is what happened.  You already know that we have a couple, 2, 3 rental properties, so we have some experience with this.

Jerome started planning the trip to Hawaii for my 50th birthday in December of 2015.  I think that’s about when we purchased the tickets…actually, because he had some air miles and then he read that American Express would give you a huge amount of air miles if you spend a little bit of money and pay it off – our tickets to Hawaii ended up being something like $17 each.  Hard to beat that.  He researched things that we could do like a helicopter ride, things to eat, snorkeling, biking down a volcano crater, driving a windy-twisty road.  I hardly helped.  He finally asked me for some ideas, so I posted on FB to see if anyone had suggestions.  Renting a replica Porche Roadster was one suggestion that we took.  We got suggestions about where to eat.  I told him I wanted to go to a luau.

I was trying to remember what the Brady’s did while they were there.

Anyway, the time came quickly to head out on our trip to a set of islands in the dead-center of the Pacific Ocean.  Crazy that anyone even found these things.  They are not all that big.  I imagine “island fever” for lots of people who live there.

First we visited Oahu.  As we flew over the island, I noticed a cool crater that had some monuments inside.  I took note that was one place I wanted to see. 
Slightly disappointed that we didn’t de-plane on the tarmac.  Slightly disappointed that no one came up to us and gave us a lei.  You could BUY a lei, but no one gave you one.  Apparently you have to arrange that with the airport before you arrive.  It’s not very Brady anymore.  

It was a lovely evening and the sun was setting on our way out of the airport.

First impressions were that Honolulu is busy and crowded, a bit dirty.  But when you are on top of Diamond Head, it looks pretty cool.  The BLUES of the ocean are amazing!  There has to be like 7 or 8 different colors of blue.  And that against the skyscrapers jutting out.  Cool.  Be prepared.  There are a lot of homeless people that have made make-shift homes of tarps and plastic bags, shopping carts, etc.  Reminded me of NYC in the 90’s.  Oahu seems a little “depressed” as wherever we went, there seemed to be a lot of poverty or lower-middle class housing.  A lot of litter.  Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed ourselves by eating off food trucks (a must), snorkeling, hiking up Diamond Head, visiting the North Shore, watching surfers, watching sunsets, Punchbowl, Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation, Polynesian Cultural Center for a luau and show (HIGHLY recommend the show), oh! and we got lei’s; 3 of them! Flowers, shells and nuts.  We stayed at a couple of Airbnbs where we met a former Brazilian pro-surfer and also a family that have been on the island for generations.

But, not to bring the room down, it just wasn’t what I was expecting from ‘Paradise’.

We were there for almost a week and then we flew to Maui.  It’s different on Maui.  It feels more ‘vacationy’.  We joke that it takes about 20 minutes to get anywhere on the island.

We were on Maui long enough to get our rental car and find out where our Airbnb was located.  We couldn’t check-in because it was 10am and check-in time was 3pm.  So, we started driving around.  I noticed an Open House sign and said that we should take a look.  We walked through the house and were not really all that impressed.  After another couple was done talking to the realtor, we were approached.  We talked about that we were only looking, wasting some time before our room would be ready.  We told him that we own rental properties in Michigan and that it never crossed our mind but it might be interesting to have something here.  He said that he would dedicate his whole week to us, showing us some places to see if anything peaked our interest.

As we walked away, I asked Jerome “so, what do you think?”  He said “I think I would be disappointed if we didn’t get something”. eyebrow raise.

So, over the course of the next few days, in between activities, we looked at maybe 6 or 7 different condos in Kihei.  We got pre-approved and we put in an offer.

We were torn between two condos; one had a nice view of the ocean but desperately needed to be updated; the kitchen and the bathroom – the two most expensive updates.  Lots of money, lots of challenges to take care of something like that from Michigan.  The other one had a “peak-a-boo” view of the ocean, which we hadn’t even noticed until we had already put in an offer.  It had been updated in 2006 and the owner lived in Boston and rarely used it.  It was in good shape, came fully furnished and appointed.  So, we went for it.

We were able to do all of this real estate stuff remotely.  My mother tells me that is how my grandparents had to do it once in a while when they were buying their rental properties in the US when they were still living in Belgium.  But when that was happening, it was sight unseen.

It took a couple of months of e-signing things when we finally met up with our mobile notary and signed the closing papers!  Now it’s ours.  How fricking RISKY!  OMG!  We are not risk takers…until now.  It was sometime in the middle of the paperwork that I had decided to see how much money we would be left with every month after everything is paid and the outlook was not rosy.  We started working on a budget.  We need all of our tenants to pay on time, every month.  We need both of our paychecks (super risky if you know me).  If something happens, we’ll have to start selling off properties.  The only “extra” money we have coming in that isn’t budgeted is our Airbnb money from renting out two rooms in our house.  Plus whatever we make on this new condo.

We have to have an ‘On Island Agent’ that has a real estate license to take care of any emergencies.  Luckily, we have a good relationship with our realtor.  He offered to help out with stuff.  We offered him a week a year for his family at our condo.  During our vacation on Maui, we stayed at a condo with a 180o view of the ocean.  It was an Airbnb and we enlisted the help of the woman who was the Property Manager of that place.  Then finally we had to hire a housekeeper.  Jerome had looked at a lot of websites and called a lot of places but no one ever responded.  Finally I thought of Craigslist.  I found a lot of people who were interested in being a housekeeper.  We phone interviewed about 6 ladies and really liked one of them.  Of course, she was the most expensive; twice the cost of anyone else.  We felt confident with her and since we were going to expect a lot from her, we felt the money was well worth it.  She was going to have to do an initial clean, set up the place, receive packages by the millions from Amazon, etsy, IKEA and Lowe’s.  She will also have to keep the place stocked, shop for us, keep inventory, let us know if anything is amiss and be a good communicator.

We made the Airbnb listing ‘LIVE’ on June 15.  Blocked the dates to make it so that the first available date would start on July 1.  Nearly immediately we had a booking for 2 months in January->March 2017.  Right now we are almost completely booked to the end of this year.  We have a couple of weeks open in November and a couple in December.

Our plan is to go in March 2017 to take care of a few small things like painting, backsplash, decorations/art and hopefully still have time to do some travelling around.

While we were there this year, we rented the Roadster and took it on the Road to Hana, we went to see the sunrise on the top of Mt. Haleakala and biked down, we went on a sunset sailboat ride and saw whales…and we bought a condo.

Monday, August 15, 2016

the happenings over the past year...

I have written down everything of note that has happened over the past year, and they fall under a few specific (main) categories; Milestones, Rentals, Relations, Creativity, Volunteering.

I’ll start with milestones.
Jerome turned 40!! (October 10, 2015).  We had a party with friends, family and co-workers.  You could call it our Annual Pot Luck with a twist.

I turned 50!! (April 18, 2016).  In March we went to Hawaii (5-0) for my big 5-0!  Jerome and my sisters threw me a 50th birthday party in May.  So, I pretty much had a 3 month long birthday J

I guess the next big thing that happened this year is that while in Hawaii, on Maui, we bought a condo!  We are already using it as an investment, vacation rental property on Airbnb (and other websites too, such as VRBO/HomeAway, Flipkey/TripAdvisor).  More on this in a different post.

In other Airbnb news, in 2015 we hosted 2 students.  One was from Ireland and was working as an intern at an engineering facility in Romeo and the other was from Canada and she was a third year medical student working at Crittenton Hospital.

We also have had 28 other bookings in our home since this time last year.  It seems that the biggest reasons bringing people to Romeo are weddings, visiting family and central stop between Canada and Chicago.  It’s nice to have people come and visit us, getting to know people from all over and it’s also nice to have the extra money.  Airbnb brings money into the area as the people that come and stay with us typically ask us where they can eat and shop.  Support local businesses.

Since we’ve started (July 2013), we’ve had 58 bookings which included hosting 4 international students.  Other than the students, we’ve had 6 return guests.  Mom says that we must be doing something right otherwise they wouldn’t come back.  We have also finally convinced my sister to list her place in Sagamore Beach, MA on Airbnb.  She started in February and the last time I looked, she’s had 10 reviews.

We still have our three rental properties that come with their own little dramas…maybe I’ll elaborate in a different post.

Family and relations; we’ve had the French invasion since November of last year starting with cousin Noemie.  Then Jerome’s brother, SIL and kids, finally last month it was Jerome’s sister, BIL and daughter.  We’ve also had my sisters at different times this year, including my birthday party.

Mom’s been in and out of the hospital and re-hab.  After putting a down-payment on a place at a luxury senior living unit, she decided she’d rather stay in her home.  We have cashed in her Long Term Care Insurance and so she now has aides that come twice a day, seven days a week – except the evenings that my brother comes and cooks her dinner (3x a week).  The LTCI will likely last her the rest of her life – smart investment (note to self).  I still take her to her doctor appointments and have been taking care of her finances/bills for nearly a year.

My favorite cousin/niece has decided that she wanted to end her long distance relationship with a boy she met while visiting family in Belgium.  She moved to Belgium last month and I’m afraid I’ll rarely see her again.  Makes me sad.  But as long as she’s happy.  Our kitties are sad as well since she was becoming our primary cat-sitter.

Speaking of cats, (I’m sure you were on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear) we found all the kittens homes.  Two went to one home and two went to another.  It was a little harder to find a home for Bubbles but we finally did.  I have no guarantee that she is still with the person who adopted her.  I can only hope she’s happy.  We loved Bubbles…Smokey, not so much and eventually Bubbles didn’t want to put up with Smokey’s sh!t, so there was trouble.

Creativity was another category and I have a few entries to talk about.
I had entered 15 photos into the art competition at work and 3 were chosen!  I can’t say that they were my most fantastic pics but someone liked them.  FCA had a dinner, honoring the winners where I got to meet Tyree Guyton, founder of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.  I was gushing all over him.  He didn’t even notice, I’m sure.  The art pieces will now go on tour for the next 2 years.  They will be displayed at different FCA (Chrysler) facilities.  Right now they are here, at CTC.

At the end of the year last year, our suite at work had a pot luck.  I suggested a “decorate your door” competition which got totally upgraded to “decorate a conference room”.  I got a large conference room to decorate.  As much as I thought I would win with my “Winter Wonderland”, I was totally “upset” by the “Grinch that stole Christmas” room.  It was a bummer to say the least but I guess ‘Kitsch’ wins over ‘Class’ these days…which hopefully won’t be repeated in November (elections).

My wreath making workshops were a big hit last year, completely due to my husband who apparently is my Agent.  We went to an open house of a local landscaping/gift shop/event barn and when we were talking with the event coordinator, my husband really sold her on my wreath classes.  They were so popular; we ended up having 3 at the #eventsinthebarn which also spun off another in-home workshop + one at my own home.  I made so much money that I had to pay employment taxes as though I worked for Heritage Oaks.  We are starting to shop for old bulbs right now so we will have enough to have another workshop at Heritage Oaks this year.

Finally, Volunteering.  FCA (Chrysler) allows each employee; contract or direct to volunteer 18 work hours to charity.  I have been the key person in my group to schedule team volunteer activities for the past two years.  This year my hours went mostly to Meals on Wheels for Auburn Hills.  I volunteered during lunchtime, twice a month to deliver to 8-10 senior citizens or shut-ins.  I only had enough hours to do this for the first few months.  I wanted to keep some of my hours so that I could also attend the team activities.  This year our team activities included the Flint Water Crisis, where we passed out bottled water, water test kits, filters and recycling bags.  Our team also stopped to have lunch in Flint, so as to boost the local economy.
Another activity close to my heart is the lake clean-ups.  As a team, we cleaned Lake 16 at Orion Oaks and we also cleaned Buhl Lake at Addison Oaks.

A sort of ironic thing happened this year regarding the whole volunteer activities and had to do with our PLM (Performance & Leadership Management) a.k.a. Goals (which I hate…I think I’ve talked about this before).  One of the Vice Presidents of Powertrain made it his goal this year to have 100% Powertrain participation in a volunteer activity.  He even made it into a Scorecard metric.  Forced volunteerism.  Blows my mind.

blogs and pregnant nieces...

An old friend of mine just contacted me over FB messenger asking about the checkers I painted on one wall in one of my bedrooms many years ago.  She wants to share it with her cousin – hopefully so that the cousin has an idea how something like that looks…So, I opened my blog to send her the links of the progress.  That’s when I noticed that it’s almost been a year to.the.day that I have updated my blog.

So, here’s a post about some things that have happened recently, such as this weekend.

One of my two pregnant nieces had their baby shower on Saturday.  It was held at her mom’s house, which used to also be my brother’s house.  Even though we’ve been there a couple of times since the divorce and have also met up with our old sister-in-law, it is still a little weird to be there.  Everywhere I look, I see my brother’s handiwork.  But I also see her very colorful decorating style.  It’s such a nice place – somewhere you’d just like to ‘be’ to look at all the pretty things.

It was nice to see her side of the family too.  It’s been since my sister-in-law’s father passed away in December of 2012 since we’ve all seen each other.  It was nice to see her mom, who seems to be doing well, but frail.  That’s sad.  I hate that that happens.

The other notable thing that happened, one of my two pregnant nieces had their baby this morning.  1:30am.  I was sent a picture and he is adorable.  A boy; Parker Simon.  He was 7lbs. 14oz.  Born in a birthing pool at their home.  Hippies. 😀

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Kittens at the rental house again...mama had them in some plants by the breezeway door. Saw them right away. Collected them when they were a week old and now they; mama and babies are all living in our storage room above the garage. 
Here they are at a week old. 

Bubbles is a very attentive mama. Nibblet being held by Bubbles. 

I take them on field trips almost everyday, to explore the house and the yard. I show them to everyone that comes over so that they get used to people. 

However, they feel most comfortable in the storage room, where they have grown up. 

Cuddles is the most adventurous!

Tippy is Cuddles "twin" and these two boys are inseparable. 

Mama is getting very bored in the storage room. She is in jail but gets to go for leashed walks around the property and into the house but is very nervous when her kittens are with her in the house. For the moment, Sparky and Smokey are "dealing". 

Finally, my son had some time away from his busy schedule to bring my granddaughter to see the kittens. It's interesting and familiar to watch her interact with them. She's a little rough but really trying to be gentle eventually.

They are 5 weeks old and will begin to be adopted out around Labor Day weekend. I weighed them last night and they are all almost a pound and a half. Surprisingly, Nibblet is the heaviest even though she looks like the runt. She helps her mom eat the wet food, so that may account for her extra ounces. 

Nibblet - 1 lbs. 6 oz. female - all black
Felix - 1 lbs. 5 3/4 oz. female - black/white
Cuddles - 1 lbs. 5 oz. male - brown/white
Tippy - 1 lbs. 4 3/4 oz. male - brown/white

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

interesting AirBnB experience...

We now have the rule in our house rules "only registered guests allowed to stay overnight". 

The girl from L.A. The Italian model. The restorer of expensive cars. The travel blogger.  It's ALL her. 

She had booked with us 6 months prior. She was going to her good friend's wedding. She had booked for 2 guests but then informed us the day before arriving that it would just be her. 

The first night was fine - that was the rehearsal dinner. She arrived home by 12:30am, no biggie. It was the night of the wedding that she arrived home at 2:30am, stumbling up the stairs with "someone" who drove her home. 

In the morning, we set an extra spot at the breakfast table and eagerly awaited meeting our surprise guest. She brought home a guy that she claimed to have known for a couple of years. We awkwardly went with the flow. She even had him hang out with her for the entire day in the room.

To top it off, you would think she would know a thing or two about etiquette since she is a travel blogger...ah well, she's young and beautiful and for us it's a learning experience :-). 

Other than the whole surprise guest thing, she was a nice enough girl. We won't get into the whole check-in/check-out time thing and having to ask her to leave...had the "guest" thing not have happened, we would have recommended her to other hosts...but alas, we did not.

so little time...

Over the past 4 months we've found out the movie Concealer will NOT be made at our house; it will NOT be made at all. We've had a number of AirBnB guests, one of which left an indelible impression and I will tell you the story behind her visit. We've gone on a couple of vacations; A week in Texas and 2 weeks in Canada. Jerome became a U.S. citizen. We have an Irish student intern staying with us this summer and we are in between renters at the Riverside house...and so, we have kittens! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

silly russians...

In 4 days, I've received nearly 50 spam comments to my last posting; radio silence.  What a bummer.  I rarely get regular comments and to be inundated with so many spam, I just can't imagine why.  They are all from Russia.  They all have a link attached.  

Of course, I have this blog set up with securities and I have to moderate the comments before they are posted and blogger realizes they are spam and immediately puts them in a spam folder.  The only reason I even know about them is that I get an email.

I guess they figure that at some point, either I or blogger will allow one to be posted and then someone will click on their link.  Silly Russians...

Friday, March 27, 2015

radio silence...

I don’t want to get away from updating this blog…3 months is a long time to be away.  If I had any followers, I would have surely lost them by now.  

Also when I wait too long, my posts become soooo long.  Too long for the average reader.  Oh well, this is for me - to keep a record of all the cool stuff that has been going on.

Why haven’t I been updating?  With my new job, I have had very little energy, not to mention time to be creative in my writing.  Plus winter and the seasonal affective disorder that we all go through, I’m sure.  Above that, for the past 5 years during slow times I was able to update my blog while I was at work.  Working a full time job takes some getting used to…again.

So let’s see, what have we been up to for the past 3 months?

  • JOB
  • CAR

The job…a lot more.
It’s different.  It’s different working for Chrysler (FCA US) and being a direct employee.  There are a lot more requirements; a lot more accountability. A lot more workshops and “lunch and learns”.  I get a lot more snail mail (work related).  I get a lot more email (work related).  I work a lot more hours.  I am a lot busier; thus, a lot more stressed and anxious.

Not to mention “Goals”…don’t get me started.

I was “sun downing” when this new work arrangement (opportunity!) happened…the last few months at VM, working only two days a week.  I was loving it!  So, it’s taking a while to get used to working full time again.  Luckily the HR department knew I was a special case so they were the ones who approached my management about me working part time here.  We tried to figure out if it would be better for me to do the Flexible Work Arrangement or do the Family Medical Leave Act.  I chose the FWA because the FMLA is for when you have a family member that requires your constant attention and aid.  My mom is doing OK right now so I would use this time to take her to lunch, take her grocery shopping and also to her many, many doctor appointments.  I will also use some of this time for ME!  So, it just seemed appropriate to use the FWA at this point.  FMLA might need to be put into effect sometime in the future.  Either way, I wouldn’t get paid for that time off.  So, as of the beginning of March, I am working 4 days a week.  Still twice as much as before but a little easier to take.

The Car…bye bye Miss MINI, Hello Earl!
We were driving home from work one day in Miss MINI when her odometer clicked over to 175,000 miles.  I jokingly said “Gonna have to trade her in for a newer model”.  That’s when Jerome told me that he’d show me the cars that he’d been researching.  Surprise!  Within a couple of weeks, we were driving down to Cranberry Township, PA to buy a new (to us) MINI.  

A couple of years ago, Jerome and I were at Motor City MINI for a little club event.  I had seen the MINI Cooper Coupe at the MINIs on the Mac(k) and I thought it would be cool to take a test drive.  We did and I really liked it.  I said (as I sometimes do) “this will be our next MINI”…little did I know that a short time later, it would come to fruition.

Earl with his notorious summer wheels and tires.
Jerome found a 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe S in Auto Trader.  A 2+ year old car that only had 7000 miles on it.  Our rule was that if we were to buy a used car, it would need to have as little miles on it as 10,000 miles per year.  This one had MUCH less than our requirement.

We drove to CarSense in PA on Valentine’s Day – during a white out (dangereux!).  Took us an extra 2 hours to get there.  We took it for a test drive, but because the roads were covered in snow and the car had summer tires, we really didn’t go very far.  There is a very long story regarding the tires that goes along with this but I will not bore you with the details.  Let’s just say we paid them an extra $500 to deliver the car the following week.  Also, once the review is written about CarSense, I will post the link here.  It was not the best of experiences.
Earl and his super hot winter wheels and tires.

Miss MINI, I forgot to tell you what happened to Miss MINI.  We were told that trade in value would be crazy low so we decided to put her up for sale on Craigslist.  We had a lot of responses.  We met with the girl who was the first positive responder.  She test drove Miss MINI and LOVED her!  So, we met with her at the Secretary of State and did the exchange of cash for title.  We hope that they will both live happily ever after.

Maple syrup…
We’ve had some luck this year with the amount of sap we are collecting.  We started tapping at the right time I guess.  Last year I didn’t even get to ordering the supplies until after I had seen a neighbor doing it for a few days.  Could be why that last year we only got enough to make about 2 tablespoons of cloudy syrup.

Just yesterday we collected about 2 ½ gallons of sap!  This is from three trees; two that are ours and one that is our neighbors.

Last Friday we did our first boil.  We boiled down 22 liters of sap to make about 2 ½ cups of syrup.  We started putting together the boiler and filtering the sap for the first time around 6:45pm.  We were done cleaning the kitchen and going to bed at 3:30am!  Not great planning, as usual.  We had never had so much so we didn’t realize that it would take nearly a full work day to boil it down.  Now we know and we have even more sap than before so we’re going to do this on Saturday and start early enough so that we can boil it all down by Saturday night. (**oh, and after all of that boiling down - all that time, I ended up bumping into the container where we were filtering the syrup and spill a good 7 oz.!).

Also last Friday, we stayed with the (turkey) boiler for a good portion of the boiling time because there is a safety timer that shuts off the propane every 15 minutes.  We have to push a button before the gas gets shut off otherwise we may risk losing our rolling boil.  It reminded us of our all-time favorite TV series; Lost.  Only they had to press the button every 108 minutes.  Eventually we figured out that we could sit in the nice warm house and set an alarm on our device for every 13 minutes.  The alarm goes off and we go outside to check on the sap and press the button.

Not much else...
Other than all of that, over the past 3 months we've gone to a couple of MMMC events; Holiday Party, Planning Meeting and Kart2Kart (where Jerome came in 2nd).  We've worked on different things on a couple of the rentals, I've forced flowers, Justin and Sam had their birthdays in February, We've done Extreme Winter Sports such as snowshoeing (only lasted until Jerome's snowshoe broke, then it became just walking).  We were lucky when we decided that we wanted to walk on Lake Huron on probably the absolute last day that you could have without falling through.  We were able to celebrate our friend Linda's son's Bobble Head Day at Joe Louis Arena and got to see the Red Wings win!  Jerome was treated to making a glass blown icicle and we did a small tour of the Historic Pewabic Pottery in Detroit.  Oh and TV....a LOT of TV.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

blue badging it...

With the new year come new challenges...or as my fortune cookie said "There are big changes ahead for you".

I have been working in the auto industry since August of 1991.  Working either as a contractor or as a direct supplier, but always for Chrysler.  From a green badge to a red badge and now, as of January 1st as the subject implies, I am a BLUE badge!

I have moved up the food chain from my humble beginnings as a receptionist at a Chrysler design shop to what I am doing now; Product Data Management Administrator...actually, I know that was what I was doing at the end of 2014, but I'm not 100% sure what I will be doing in 2015 and beyond.  My official title is Diesel Integration Program Support.

From the time I started working as a contractor for Chrysler, I have yearned to be a direct employee.  The powers that be that were directing me had always kept that like a carrot, an unreachable goal, which made me want it more.

After much frustration, in August 2006 I moved on to the supplier side of things.  I was forewarned by a recruiter that once you leave Chrysler, it is nearly impossible to come back.  I had never known this to be true as I had seen plenty of people I knew coming and going.  But the warning always stuck in my head.

In June 2009, Fiat and Chrysler aligned and at the end of October 2013, Fiat purchased the remaining 50% of my company (VM Motori) from Penske.  Prior to that, Fiat had already owned half.

Things started getting strange for those in our building starting in April 2014, when the Italian portion of the company, located in Cento, Italy were converted to FGA (Fiat Group Automobiles) and Chrysler changed their name to FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)...and the rest of us in the North American portion of our company were not being told anything.  We were being asked for our resumes, which was unsettling.  Rumors started flying and anxiety was the dish of the day.

There are only 21 employees in my building and I've been through something like this before when I worked for FEV.  At Brown Road #2, while working for FEV, there were 15 of us working on a new engine for Chrysler and then Chrysler went into bankruptcy.  Our engine was shelved and our building was closed.  Some people were assigned to the main FEV building, some were reassigned to be on-site Chrysler and others...namely me, were laid off.

In November 2014 we had a large meeting with Chrysler's HR.  They informed us that they would be transitioning all of us to Chrysler, with all the benefits that come with it. AMAZING.  It's like I was just sitting there and an awesome opportunity, one that I had longed for in my earlier years, one that I was sure would never happen to me, happened.  It was handed to me on a silver platter. 

Now to make something of it.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank those that were instrumental in getting me this far in my career.

Tech Row - My dad is the one who told my mom of a full time job position at the design shop he was working.  I had just been separated from my then husband and was living in my parents basement since January.  My mom prodded my dad to get more information about it.

My first boss, Chuck Martin.  He was a kind man and wasn't a micro-manager.  When our building was shutting down because all of the employees were being moved to Chrysler's new building, he along with my contract house, found me another job.

Liberty & Technical Affairs - I had a really bad boss here.  Luckily I also had some nearly retired guys that liked me and utilized me, Del DeRees, Don Jay, John Argeropolous.  Eventually taking me away from the reception desk and offering me an Executive Secretary position.  Later, the same nearly retired guy, Del DeRees wrote up a lovely referral letter for me so that I could move on to another higher paying position at CTC.

LCP, Chassis - I had an even worse boss here than I did when I first started at L&TA.  I want to thank the recruiters at my contract house, Jim Imrick and Rick Wisnewski for temporarily placing me in a position and then getting me an interview with a couple of managers at JTE.

Truck Interior and BIW - My boss, Steve Jakubiec gave me the opportunity to learn the Chrysler database VPM so that I could move away from being a secretary and move into a role that would utilize my design studies.  Steve Swailes was assigned to set up training for me.  Both guys were amazingly nice and forever patient with me.  That leads me to Chris DeMartini.  He is the most awesome and patient trainer.  Funny too.

Jeep Chassis to Truck Interior...again - I want to thank David Ramirez for putting in a good word for me and Dana Warehime (sweetest man ever) for (re)hiring me to be their VPM Coordinator.

FEV to VM-NA - John Blacklock heard from his wife (at the time) Kimberly that VM was looking for a VPM Coordinator.  I had just been let go and with that information, I was able to get an interview and got the job.

VM-NA (in general) - Thank you for only hiring me part time for the past 5 years.  It gave me the opportunity to be with my dad for the last years of his life and especially his last 6 months.  It gave me the opportunity to spend meaningful time with my mom taking her shopping, lunch and just basically getting her away from the house.  It gave me the opportunity to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels every other week for nearly 5 years...something that I had always wanted to do.  It gave me the opportunity to stay home and enjoy some of what that means.  Now, thank you again for giving me this opportunity to finally work "direct" for Chrysler, without having to jump through any hoops.

Also, thanks Jerome for being fine with me working part time and for never giving me a hard time about bringing home less money.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

OK, done!...

Purchased this little condo at the beginning of May...

Living Room Before:

Living Room After:

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen After:

Eat-in Area Before:

Eat-in Area After:

Take a walk down the hall:

Bathroom Before:

Bathroom After:

Bedroom Before:

Bedroom After:

Utility Room Before:

Utility Room After:

We put in 350 hours of work in 7 months.  Now we're ready to accept tenants!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

they tried to make me go to rehab but I said, 'no, no, no.'...

Just a little tune that comes to mind whenever I say that my mom is in rehab.  Perhaps when she was younger, she might should have gone to a real rehab, but this is just a nursing rehab after surgery.

She is doing very well, better than we all thought.

We've all brought her cookies; no worries!  She's going to be cookied out.

Her biopsy came back last week.  The golf ball sized mass that was in her colon...you guessed it...cancer.  Colon cancer stage IIc.  They give her 5 years.  She gives herself 3.  She will not do any treatment for it.  She's too old and frail, so quality of life was a key factor for the decision to not have treatment as it would not be good now and up until the end.  They didn't see any evidence of further issues in the lymph nodes, so perhaps they got it all...?  Who knows.  We don't want to find out.  Mom doesn't want to find out.

My sisters have gone back to their worlds on the east coast and so now mom is our responsibility.  That is, me and my brothers.  Hopefully the little schedule that was agreed upon will work, so that no one has to be there every day.

Her appetite is back and I haven't heard her yell at someone like she did me the other day since my dad was alive.  Ahhhh, the memories...

I'm in charge of her bills and things.  Not easy taking control of these things when you have no idea how she handles it...and how she wants to keep it handled.  I'm also in charge of calling companies, people and setting up appointments for her and her car and the such.

We had a little dark cloud hanging over us last week.  Among other things, my mom's dog Tootsie died while my brother was taking care of her during my mother's hospital stay.  Last week, I met up with my brother to take Tootsie to the animal hospital to have her cremated.  I pick up the ashes and a little plaque sometime in the next week.

We're thinking mom might be released within a week.  She'll still live on her own.  Maybe we'll be able to put the Long Term Care Insurance to use.  Not sure if now is the time, or if it should wait.

Anyway, she's doing great in rehab and I've walked in on her during her PT while she's pedaling a bike!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

she was just fine a week ago...

The last time I visited my mom, she was fine.  Her kind of fine, which includes shortness of breath, bent over...basically a little curmudgeon.

I couldn't see her on Monday because there were a bunch of things on my schedule,...she knew that and didn't call me to let me know that she had blood in her stool.  She didn't call me on Tuesday either...she wanted to see if she could take care of it herself by eating things such as bananas.  She waited until Wednesday morning (10/15) to call me at work to tell me what was going on with her.

Just my luck, we drove in to work with our new German student, Tilo...so now it was a little tricky since I didn't have a car, but I was able to leave work early and get her to her doctor.  Of course we knew that he would make her go to the hospital.  And he did.  He did a rectal exam on her and determined it was higher up.

Took her to the hospital where they had a room for her in observation.  She was not allowed to have food; only clear liquids.  She had been hungry when we arrived.

They made her do the prep work that night and the next day she had a colonoscopy.  After her colonoscopy, we found out that she had a polyp that had aggravated, large (size of a golf ball) and actively bleeding.  This needed to be removed.  Mom has COPD and is weak and frail and doesn't like the idea of old people being cut into because they have a tendency to get infections.

Took a couple of days before we were all convinced by the doctors that this is something that she SHOULD have done.  If she waits, she'll have all the risks she faces now, plus a bunch more because it would then become an emergency.

My oldest sister arrived on Saturday afternoon and is still here ~ spending all day at the hospital with my mom.  Here is her blog post from yesterday.

Sunday morning mom had the surgery.  She did very well and didn't need a ventilator after the procedure.  But, she is in a LOT of pain.  So, they give her plenty of pain meds such as codine and morphine...which were making her completely loopy.  She was counting ceiling tiles and telling us that she was up there cleaning them.  She did not believe that she had had the surgery and was still anxious about having it done.

Tuesday afternoon, I brought my sister with me to look at after care facilities.  We looked at three and two looked very nice,...and one looked sort of horrible.  Reminded me of everything you don't want your parents to live in.  However, on-line reviews of these places and from what I hear from our Sister-in-law who works at the hospital, the one that looks bad is one of the better ones.  Decisions...

Yesterday (Wednesday ~ a week after arriving), she was having trouble breathing, not getting enough air, they think she has a UTI and is becoming septic.  They moved her into ICU.  They put a huge, high-powered oxygen mask on her to force air into her lungs; kind of a less invasive ventilator.  Now, no food whatsoever and no IV.  She hasn't eaten real food since last Wednesday.

When you visit her, she wants to talk but you can't hear her because of this mask...it's very frustrating.  We downloaded an app that she could use to write out what she wanted...she only did it once, and what was the thing she wanted to tell us?  "Get me a cookie" !!! Glad she has a craving for "real" food!

We asked the nurse if we could bring her dog in.  She told us that they only allow that if the dog is a worker dog or if the patient is in hospice....and your mom is no where near that!  Very glad to hear that!

Today looks a little better.  She is off the high-powered oxygen mask and can have some semi-solid foods such as applesauce and cream of wheat.  Her vitals are pretty good, the blood ox is good and the respiratory are good...her heart rate is a little high.

My other sister will arrive on Saturday, along with her son Nick.  That will free up my other sister to finally go back home and get some rest.

Once she's all better, I'm going to get her the best tasting chocolate chip cookie I can find!