Sunday, February 26, 2017

mom's celebration of life...

She was very concerned that we have enough money to give her a nice party - one just like dad's.  So, a couple of years ago she opened an on-line joint savings account and put a bunch of money in there.

Three days before she died, one of her wishes was that we get the party planned right away.

We did.  We did it just like dad's.  We had Bill do the Eulogy in the chapel at the cemetery, just like dad.  We planned a lunch at Aspen, exactly like dad.  We had pictures and movies, just like we did for dad.

We invited all the same people, those that were still alive since the last time.  She ended up with the same amount of people at her celebration as dad did.

We did it the week of her birthday (she was born on Christmas, so we had it on the 28th)...we also did that for dad.  He was born on October 10 and we had his on October 13.

It all worked out and I think she probably enjoyed it too.

The collage

Some of the times mom and dad were in the paper

Deni was the MC

Bill gave the eulogy

The crowd

Some came all the way from Belgium

All the kids

old trunk updated...

A couple of years ago, my neighbors across the street were cleaning out their basement and asked me if I wanted anything. There were a TON of things that I wanted!  But you can really only take so much, right?

They gave me a couple of trunks; one was a foot locker of her brother and one was an old camelback traveler's trunk.

As with old stuff, there was a musty smell.  So, you really wouldn't want to store anything in it, especially if it was something like blankets and way.

I planned on trying to get rid of the smell and eventually I'd give it to my daughter-in-law.

I tried putting kitty litter in there.  Coffee.  Charcoal.  Nothing worked.  I ended up white-washing the inside with an oil-based paint which hides the musty smell and leaves an oil-based paint smell :-)

I would suggest to anyone who is trying to get rid of this smell, store all of your candles in it or those cinnamon smelling pinecones they sell at Michael's during the Christmas holiday.  Eventually it will smell much better.

I'm not sure that I did all that much to it that 'improved' it but it's sort of updated now.  I had Jerome install a couple of hinges so the lid wouldn't come slamming down and guillotine off my granddaughters fingers.

I was able to finally (after 2+ years) give it to my daughter-in-law this weekend for her birthday.  I had told her a long time ago it was for her...I'm sure she never thought it was ever coming.

The day we received the trunk from our neighbor - Smokey was the inspector
I started by scraping off the paper that was already chipping off

I white-washed the inside with oil-based paint.  Then I made some upholstered (in)sides with buttons
...just to add some softness and interest.  Jerome added the hinges

I added some stenciling to the top, front and some for the inside using chalk paint.  I distressed the metal embellishments by using an electric sander 

It was not very easy to do the stenciling on the inside, so I admit, it's a little messy...I wanted to keep the original paper sticker of the children.

Once everything was dry, I used a very fine sandpaper to smooth out the chalk paint and then brought it to my DIL

Thursday, February 23, 2017

i lost my mom...

Mom and I having one of our many lunches

I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s been a long time since my last post.
August 16 was my last post, who knew just two months later I would lose my mother.  October 14.  Just like when my father died, I was nowhere nearby.  I was on my way to see my sister on Cape Cod for her 60th birthday.  Best laid plans…

Anyway, here’s the story.

Who knew it would be the last time mom would call the EMS to bring her to ER.  It was Friday, October 7.  I was off work that day and typically that means that I have a standing date with my mother.  However, since she was getting help from the aides for the past few months, a little bit of the weight of having to be there every time was waning.  I had already had a pretty active day, cleaning the house in the morning, CVS, McDonald’s, English Gardens.  I had gone to the back doctor earlier in the day and then needed to stop at Chase so that I could drop off some cash to my mom.  She seemed OK when I was there, a little down.  It could have been that time that she told me she was ready to go [die] or any other time in the previous weeks.  She was on a new breathing treatment medication and she was not taking to it very well.  She was not feeling well and she was having difficulty breathing.  This was nothing new to hear.  This was something she recited to me regularly, so like the boy that cried wolf, it was taken with a shrug and a nod.

I got there around 4 and then left for home shortly after when she told me she was going to lie down.  It seemed like just a few minutes after arriving at home when I got a call from the Critical Signal stating that mom pressed the button for EMS to come.  I was in disbelief because I was JUST there!  I immediately called Ray to let him know.  I’m sure there was some whining on my part about not wanting to go to sit at the ER all night.  I then called my mom’s number and Patty answered.  She was the evening aide and really seemed to have a heart for mom.  I could hear my mom in the background ordering around the EMS people.  The chaos that she invoked; always so much drama.  I heard a loud scream, which I couldn’t determine if she was laughing or crying.  I asked Patty and she replied that mom had screamed in pain.  Sometimes EMS people just don’t grab you the right way.

And there she went.  The last time she would ever be in her home.

I spoke and texted with my siblings several times that evening.  It was determined that it was Marty’s turn to sit at the ER with mom.  He told Ray that he would head over there.

Eventually she got a room.  She didn’t know it then, but she would be there for a week.

Jerome had been coming down with something for a week or so and mom put out the decree that I was not to come to the hospital, just in case I was carrying his bug.  And in the meantime, I was starting to get this strange feeling in my mouth.  A raw mouth, like you just ate a couple of bowls of Cap’n Crunch cereal.  My mouth then erupted with several canker sores.  So strange, never have experienced it before.  I called the back doctor that had prescribed me a medication that was supposed to help my back.  It was an NSAID called Vimovo.  I had started it right when I got home from mom’s that Friday and right away started having this raw mouth.  I assumed it was a reaction to the medication.  He told me to stop using it.  Too bad, since it was helping my back pain.

So, another reason to stay away from the hospital – didn’t know if I was contagious.  It was so painful; I made an emergency appointment with my dentist.  She asked if I had a history of canker sores as a child.  I told her that yes; I used to get them along my gum line – sometimes 14 at a time.  She determined that it was a reoccurrence of that virus, sort of like the shingles – if you had chicken pox as a child; the virus is still in your system and can rear its ugly head when you’re an adult.  I guess my raw mouth; full of sores did not look like hand, foot, mouth disease to her.  I would be in meetings and just sit there with my mouth gapped open, just so I could have some relief.

This was going to become an even bigger issue because I was planning on visiting my sister in MA for her 60th birthday.  I was planning on leaving after work on Thursday.  My niece just had her baby.  The dentist told me not to go near that baby.  And don’t go near your mother whose health is already compromised.

Back to my mom – I was keeping in contact over the phone.  Tuesday morning, I was in training at work and I noticed that I received a couple of calls that went into voicemail.  I took a look at the transcriptions and one said it was “hospice”.  I shook my head in disbelief and reassured myself that the transcribers meant to type “hospital”.  At a break from the training, I had a chance to listen to the messages.  Both were from the hospital and one of those calls WAS from hospice!  I called both numbers and found that one was the nurse requesting that I bring my mom’s old breathing medication to the hospital because she’s having issues with this new medication.  The other was from the hospice that is on location at the hospital.   They told me that mom would like to have a meeting with all of us this evening to discuss her going into hospice.

I left work and drove to mom’s house, picked up all of her breathing meds and headed over to the hospital.

As I walked in the room, mom said “finally, she comes to see me”.  This made me confirm my feelings that this “hospice” thing was just for attention.  So often she seemed to do things for attention – only child syndrome.  We were always awed by how far she would go to get a little attention.  We started talking about everything and she told me that she had some instructions for me.  I felt that I should humor her, so I said that I would record it.  Good thing I did.  It’s really her final wishes – with all of her mind intact.  I stayed for about an hour.  She wanted me to take her walker home and a few other things.  She gave me her gold bracelet.  She thought that I would come right back but I needed to show my face at work.  I had not told anyone that I was going anywhere.  That evening at 6pm was our hospice meeting, so I would be back.

She summoned all of her children around her to discuss hospice with the on-call hospice nurse, Virginia.  The boys and I were physically there and Deni and Terry were on Facetime.  Virginia told us that they would put a stop to mom’s aggressive treatment that she was receiving from the time she’d been admitted into the hospital.  They would give her morphine to calm her and just make sure she was comfortable during this end of life period.  It was about a ½ hour of listening to this woman talk about mom having a hard time breathing and how she’s weak, etc.  Things we had all experienced with her for the past couple of years, at least.  THIS was no different!  Then she wanted us to ask questions.  We were all unbelievers.  We were scoffers.  We questioned the “aggressive treatments” that were only anti-biotics and steroids.  We questioned if mom were really a candidate for hospice.  And then, at the end – I got to be the signer of the document to admit my mother into hospice.  Then we left.  Surreal.

I did not go see my mother the next day.  I called.  I heard from the hospital that she was doing better and that they have a discharge day – next Tuesday.  I would need to schedule a time for the hospital bed and other equipment to be delivered.

I still had to pack because I was leaving Thursday after work for MA.  My sister’s and I came up with a great plan.  Since mom would now need 24 hour care and she only qualifies for 16 hours a day through LTC, we would need to schedule ourselves to stay with her overnight - the aides would have the daytime.  I would come up with a schedule.  In the meantime, Deni would forego going to MA for Terry’s birthday festivities and head to MI to be with mom at the hospital.  I would go to MA, do the 60th birthday stuff and then bring Terry back with me on Tuesday, just on time to be the first person to stay with mom during the first round of shifts.  Perfect.  And so, it was planned.

Thursday, I left work a little early so that I could go visit mom before I left for my road trip.  Marty was there when I got there.  We talked for a bit and then Marty left.  She was looking eerily like dad when he was sick.  Glassy-eyed.  Frail.  I told mom that I needed to leave soon too as I was driving as far as I could tonight.  I tried to explain the plan.  She seemed uninterested.  She said “Marty left and now you’re leaving?”  I said yes, but I think Ray will be here later and I’ll be back on Tuesday with Terry – do you think you can make it until then?  She was in and out of consciousness; catching some z’s…I started backing out slowly, when her eyes were closed.  Her eyes opened suddenly and she looked at me.  I said “bye mom, see you Tuesday”.  She said “drive safe”.  I didn’t touch her.  I didn’t kiss her.  I didn’t take this seriously.  I took it for granted that she was going to be there when I returned and that this new plan with this new schedule was going to be put into action when I got home.

I broke down while driving through Canada.  I felt her leaving.  She was gone.

I spent the night just outside Buffalo, NY.  There was a bit of an incident with trying to find the correct hotel that we had reserved for me.  I had driven in the hood and gone down a dark alley and ended up in an abandoned lot.  I was a bit freaked out when I called Jerome to walk me through getting back on the highway and to the correct hotel.

I called Deni, who was on the road as well, to let her know what she was walking into.  I wanted her to know that mom looked weak and frail.  Her weight had already gone below 100 lbs. which she was hoping to get the advice of a nutritionist so that she could reverse that trend.  She joked that she wished she had this problem when she was younger.  Don’t we all.  She was informed by her Pulmonary doctor (Dr. Sikand – Absolutely the BEST and KINDEST doctor I’ve ever met!) that the weight loss was due to her condition (COPD) and that it will not be corrected.

The next morning, I left for the rest of my trip, which was going to be another 8 hours or so.  I got breakfast and then headed out.  While driving on the NY toll road, I called my brother Ray to see if the hospital called him to schedule the medical equipment.  He told me he hadn’t heard from them.  Then I was going over the new schedule with him when he told me that he is not going to be able to be a caregiver for mom.  My mind raced.  Everyone needed to be onboard with this – I couldn’t do it alone.  I came to a conclusion and said to him that I can understand that he is worried about seeing her naked.  He said “she has a catheter now”.  I paused and agreed that would be difficult.  I told him that we would be trained by the hospice people.  He clearly didn’t want anything to do with that.  I said we would talk about it later, when I get back, good news is that Deni will be there this weekend and that Terry will be there for the first week.  Then he interrupted and said that he was getting a call from the hospital now, probably to set up delivery.  He would call me back and let me know.

He called back a few minutes later to tell me that it was hospice.  They were calling the family in.  She’s in decline.  Blood is pooling in her feet.

Stunned, I hung up the phone.  What do I do first?  I’m 5-6 hours away from her.  I’m on a toll road.  I need to call someone to go there.  Get to the hospital.  I called Justin.  He picked up the phone and I told him to get to the hospital.  He left work immediately.  I called Jerome and told him the same thing.  He also left work and headed over.  I called Terry to let her know and that I would be turning around and heading back.

I finally got to an exit.  I got off and told the toll booth guy that I have to turn around.  He told me that normally he couldn’t tell me that I could do that, but what he can tell me is that there are no troopers around.  I took the hint and did a U-ey.  And then I was in a traffic jam and continually on the phone.  I had Jerome update my phone so that when I got to Canada, if I used it, I wouldn’t get charged an arm and a leg.

A couple of hours later, just as I was coming up onto the Canadian border, Ray called to tell me that she’s gone.  I pulled over into the Duty Free parking lot to cry and called Terry.  Bill answered.  They were already on their way and Terry was in the McDonald’s getting a McCafe.  I told Bill that mom’s gone.  He then relayed the information to Terry when he retrieved her from McDs.  I called Deni, who was also still on the road.  She had a moment to say some things to mom from the phone a little earlier, but Ray had said that mom was really not conscious.

Turns out that Sam and the kids had just visited and left.  Ray and his kids were outside getting a smoke and the only person in the room when she died was Justin...

It’s kind of a beautiful thing.  Justin was mom’s favorite – mostly due to proximity and accessibility.  Since I came home from Virginia in 1991 and then divorced, mom had a lot to do with helping me to raise Justin.  She was who I leaned on the most to help with logistics of having a child in a one parent home.  So, there was a sweet spot in my mom’s heart for Justin and I can only assume the feeling was mutual...

He called the time of death at 12:03pm.  The doctors were called into the room and they called the time of death at 12:15pm.  They win.

Of the daughters that were all on the road that day, Deni was the first to arrive around 3pm.  I was next at about 6pm and then Terry just around midnight.

Having been her Personal Rep both financial and health care, it was not cool to be gone when she died.  But, as she told my sister Terry, she was not waiting for anyone.

Cause of death?  On record it was the end stage COPD.  But I have a different theory.  I think she could have chosen any day in the past year or so to die.  Yes, she had COPD, some kidney issues, colon cancer, hiatal hernia but the thing I think that did her in was the congestive heart failure.  I think that since her heart was already weak, when hospice administered the morphine, it calmed everything down, even her heartrate.  This is why the blood was pooling in her feet – the heart was no longer strong enough to carry the blood all the way through her system.

We are now 4 months passed that day.  I think she would be proud of all the things that I/we have accomplished in that amount of time.  She did a lot of smart things when dad died.  She changed all of her accounts from a trust to POD and TOD to her beneficiaries.  The smartest by far was filing a quit claim deed with the township stating on the event of her death, the house would transfer equally to all five of her children.  That allowed us to put the house on the market immediately.  The first guy who saw it (the first day on the market) was the person who eventually purchased it – for cash!  That made everything so much easier.  Less bills to maintain the house.  Everyone got their portion of the money before Christmas and were able (if they chose) to give portions to their children and grandchildren and whomever else they felt a need to share.

It took until a couple of weeks ago to finally close her checking account at Chase Bank.  That account had been open since the 50’s, when it was NBD (Nat'l Bank of Detroit).  We were waiting for the Social Security office to collect their money – as I understand it, if you receive a Social Security payment in the month of your death, they will expect your personal rep to refund them and usually they will just withdraw the money from the account from which they had deposited the money.  I’ve been waiting.  Not sure how long you need to but since we passed the new year, I figured it had been enough time, so I closed the account.

I sold my dad’s wheelchair two weekends ago and also gave the van to charity.  Those were two items that held a lot of emotions and memories.  The van was a 1993 Caravan that was modified to be a handicap van.  It had 103,000 miles on it.  It was driven just a little over 4000 miles a year, average.  The engine is still as strong as ever.  The radio was good too.

Now we just have to wait until the taxes are filed and see if she owes anything – and then close her final savings account with a 5-way split.

If you would like to read more about my mom and her history, my sister Deni did a really nice write up on her blog.  You can read her posts here:
Early life state-side
Mom as Mother
The Bar years
The Girl Scouts
Josephine Marceline DeBuysscher-DeYonker

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 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. 😀