Are the Financial Professionals Dropping the Ball?

Which is a silly question because I think most of us would say YES!

But I’m talking about something slightly different and yet, still a little alarming.

I have a student loan I’m still paying off. I probably should have had it paid off by now but the “professionals” I’ve been dealing with over the years are part of the problem.

I’m not going to go into detail about how the original lender didn’t even tell me I had more than one loan so while I was making payments on one loan, the other loan was going into collections. Eventually, some kind soul somewhere realized what had happened and consolidated the loans.

Oops! Our fault, but we aren’t going to do anything about the damage it does to your financial reputation. That is against our policy.

No, I’m going to vent a little about a different practice they have that I feel is downright dangerous and leaving some of us vulnerable to fraud.

I’ve spent a good part of the morning on the phone trying to track down someone who can tell me how to resolve a problem. It seems the Department of Education’s loan servicer suddenly went out of business but no one was required to let us, the payers know. Instead, I get a random letter from someone I don’t know telling me that I should be sending them money.

For some reason, I didn’t take this letter seriously and tossed it. As the loan status slowly imploded, I made a gazillion calls trying to track down what happened and who could give me information. Someone finally admitted that they didn’t tell any of us anything and I was scolded that I didn’t just start making payments to this random company who sent me a form letter.

What a great scam opportunity. Did you know you can just xerox some flyers off and start demanding payments from people? Because, apparently, I’m the only person who finds it a sketchy practice. I’m being overly suspicious of letters like this. Even though I get letters like that all time and at first, I called the senders thinking I had business with them and found out the hard way it was just a way to trick us into calling them to sell me something and this somehow meant they could sell off my contact information for more junk mail and solicitation calls.

I sat on that phone stunned. I made the call they told me I had to make to the agency that is supposed to be able to fix this and was so pleased to have this conversation:

Me: “So if I do A, will this resolve the issue?”
Him: “I have no idea.”
Me: “OK, what hoops do I need to jump through to resolve this?”
Him: “I have no visibility to that.”
Me: “Who can help me with this?”
Him: “Ma’am, you need to do A.”
Me: “I need to know if that is going to resolve this. I need to know what action will fix things.”
Him: “Ma’am, I have no visibility to that. I see no notes on your account at all.”

This is almost word-for-word. The best part is, they (the Department of Education) aren’t even entirely sure who I should be sending my payments to. Isn’t that awesome? I’m just supposed to send money to someone and hope it “counts.”

Sorry this isn’t funny or even relevant to this blog. I only have a few readers so it isn’t even like I’m revealing a scandal to the public but it was either write about it or continue to beat my head against the wall.

I’d rather be painting them.

Color on Walls!

OK, it isn’t as exciting as my title would suggest but it does always feel good to see some spiffing up in the midst of tearing everything down and out.

I got some pictures this morning in the natural light so you could see the color better. It still isn’t great because I am just taking pictures with my phone. My tripod is somewhere in the home office mess in other rooms so this will be as good as we get for a while.

I like this picture because of the cutting-in on the right wall, you can see how different the gray is from white which doesn’t always read well in pictures of just the gray wall

I ran out of paint half way through so now I have to find time to get to the paint store. That will be a bit of a challenge. I’m using a much thicker nap for the roller this time and it is putting a lot of paint on the walls. I may not have to come back for a second coat.

I was also delighted to discover a little feature on my cutting-in cup last night. This is probably well-known to the rest of the world and obvious to others but I totally missed it until I happened to tap my paint brush against the side of the cup. There is a magnet there to hold the paint brush!

It’s the little things.

When I pulled up my carpet, I did find a few fibers of what is likely the original carpet. Surprise, surprise, this 1978 ranch-style home had brown shag carpet!

I’ll tell you, it has not been easy to stay focused on this little room when this is going on outside now:

Spring. Happening right before my eyes!

Don’t worry, the project supervisor is on the job and won’t let me quit.

The Great Office Makeover – Nearly Half Way

That is a scary prospect as all I can seem to see is what isn’t done. This is exactly why I like to keep lists to remind myself of how much I have finished so I don’t get discouraged and momentum fizzles.

The painting didn’t get finished but I had built in some extra days for that so a little slippage is probably OK.

The closet holes got patched and all these walls and trim have been primed.

I’ll be cutting in and getting the first coat of color on the walls tonight. It isn’t a big room at all but my knee is bothering me so standing on tippy toe hurts really bad and a lot of standing also hurts. This slows the painting down but I just “tortoise through” as I keep saying to people. I just take a lot of little micro-breaks by sitting down, gently flexing my knee, and a few minutes later, I get back to it. It seems like this would bring things to a grinding halt but I’m finding that it just extends things a little and I’m not exhausted and sore at the end so it isn’t a bad system.

Some of the “help” I had this weekend

I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do for the floor which is a little worrisome. The subfloor was in much better condition than I thought it would be which is a relief because the builders used approximately two thousand staples per board so getting them up was going to be a challenge. I just need to make a decision about what I want to put down and then buy it. And then install it.

That’s all.

Thank goodness for being able to order a ham for Easter dinner. I’ve reserved ours and am delegating a few dishes out to family members. That should help a lot with the actual food. I might need to splurge and bring in a cleaning crew for general cleaning up. The tumble fur is threatening to become sentient again and unless they are going to start helping with the laundry and dishes, they must go.

Monday: clean out closet

Tuesday: remove desk

Wednesday: demo closet

Thursday: repair holes in closet

Friday: replace shelves, paint closet door, remove shelves

Weekend: remove carpet, replace sub-floor, paint room

Monday: paint window trim

Tuesday: paint trim, paint room

Wednesday: finish painting closet door, finish painting trim

Thursday: finish painting room

Friday: cut baseboard trim

Weekend: lay new floor, replace base board

Monday: paint desk

Tuesday: paint desk, paint trim

Wednesday: finish painting desk, replace shelves, hang new closet bar

Thursday: hang new blinds

Friday: replace stuff

Saturday: clean house

First Epic Weekend of the Great Office Makeover

Halfway into the first epic weekend and so far so good.

The carpet and pad is out:

The carpet tack strips and the base trim is out:

Things are cleaned up and waiting for the painting of the walls to commence:

A bit of a change with the shelves, I had originally planned on fixing these (one of these was the bookcase that originally started falling apart and started this whole makeover) and painting them white but as I moved them into the garage, I found they are so flimsy and loose that they are not long for this world. No matter what I do to patch them back together, I don’t think they are going to be worth the time and money to repurpose them.

They were cheap Ikea shelves. I don’t mean they were cheap because they are Ikea, I mean they were cheap even by Ikea standards. They were on super-clearance and cost $25 each so you can see why putting any money into them, if they aren’t going to hold up, it just isn’t worth it.

So quick plan adjustment and try to keep the momentum.

Monday: clean out closet

Tuesday: remove desk

Wednesday: demo closet

Thursday: repair holes in closet

Friday: replace shelves, paint closet door, remove shelves

Weekend: remove carpet, replace sub-floor, paint room

Monday: finish painting room, paint window trim

Tuesday: finish painting trim,

Wednesday: paint shelves, finish painting closet door

Thursday: replace closet trim

Friday: cut baseboard trim

Weekend: lay new floor, replace base board

Monday: paint desk

Tuesday: paint desk, paint trim

Wednesday: finish painting desk, replace shelves, hang new closet bar

Thursday: hang new blinds

Friday: replace stuff

Saturday: clean house

 

Day 3 – The Great Office Makeover

So far so good. I’m trucking along according to the plan. It hasn’t all been easy, the desk wouldn’t completely come apart and the shelf supports in the closet were attached with nearly 3 inch “nails.” I quotation mark those because they look like a hybrid of a nail and a staple and are freakin’ hard to get out of the wall. It didn’t help that there were an excessive number of these “nails.”

This corner isn’t going anywhere

Because of the “nails” the drywall on the wall got kind of damaged so I’ll have to fix that before painting.

yay

I wouldn’t have called this the sexiest part of the project. I’d better start spicing things up.

Sexy or not, this has actually been quite a bit of work already. Here is where we started at the kickoff of this project.

Here is how it looks this evening.

Frankie does not approve of what I’m doing to his room. Yes, he has always considered this his room and the futon his bed. I may actually be making over a dog’s room.

Monday: clean out closet

Tuesday: remove desk

Wednesday: demo closet

Thursday: remove shelves, repair shelves, repair holes in closet

Friday: paint shelves

Weekend: remove carpet, replace sub-floor, paint room

Monday: finish painting room, paint window trim

Tuesday: finish painting trim, paint closet door

Wednesday: finish painting closet door

Thursday: replace closet trim

Friday: cut baseboard trim

Weekend: lay new floor, replace base board

Monday: paint desk

Tuesday: paint desk, paint trim

Wednesday: finish painting desk, replace shelves, hang new closet bar

Thursday: hang new blinds

Friday: replace stuff

Saturday: clean house

Hang On, It’s Going to be a Bumpy Ride

I’ve been whinging on about the office makeover. In fact, considering the pace I’ve set, I can hardly call it a makeover. It’s more like a “wish for.” I wish my office would just spiff up when I’m sleeping.

Then I lost my marbles and volunteered to host Easter. My office is one of my guest rooms so I need it for one of the guests AND my dining room table is completely covered in several layers of detritus from the office. After all that work getting the crap out of the room, I may have just put myself in a position to have to lug it all back temporarily. This is where being a lazy person becomes a conundrum.

As a lazy person, I hate doing work when I don’t have to. Sometimes that translates into action that makes me look like the opposite of a lazy person, but I assure you it all comes from not wanting to do ANY extra work. The office was ridiculously full. It was the black hole of the house. It is where anything I had to “deal” with went in an effort not to deal with it. Stuff accumulates fast when you do that. I’ve been getting rid of stuff as I emptied the room and it is still a ton of crap. Not only is the dining room incapacitated by office crap, the living room is pretty unusable too.

Then someone made the mistake of hearing what I wanted to do in the timeframe it would need to be done and they said the worst thing anyone can say to me…

“You can’t do it.”

Which means I must now attempt the impossible.

This is so stupid on so many levels. Not only is it overly aggressive in of itself, but I am working under some unbelievably tight deadlines at work so I’m into work early and staying late and have absolutely no time during the day to do anything other than work and wolf down some food while working.

That did not stop me from writing out a schedule and thinking, “I think I can actually do this” because I tend to operate in denial. I know I’m in denial but it doesn’t keep me from genuinely believing it is possible. I amaze even myself sometimes.

What is wrong with you?

The project plan for this folly?

Monday: clean out closet

Tuesday: remove desk

Wednesday: demo closet

Thursday: remove shelves, repair shelves

Friday: paint shelves

Weekend: remove carpet, replace sub-floor, paint room

Monday: finish painting room, paint window trim

Tuesday: finish painting trim, paint closet door

Wednesday: finish painting closet door

Thursday: replace closet trim

Friday: cut baseboard trim

Weekend: lay new floor, replace base board

Monday: paint desk

Tuesday: paint desk, paint trim

Wednesday: finish painting desk, replace shelves, hang new closet bar

Thursday: hang new blinds

Friday: replace stuff

Saturday: clean house

What is not reflected in here and what I seem to be pretending won’t impact this schedule is the fact that I’m out-of-town the Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week.

Do you see that task for Monday though? Done. Like a boss. And that closet was still really full of stuff so it was one of the harder tasks.  I’m pretty certain anything I manage to get done is due to my supervisor. She’ll keep me on track and I’ll have a brand new office for Easter.

The boss. Under her supervision, all of this WILL get done!

What I’ll Never Be

The nice thing about being in your 40s is that you have gotten to know yourself pretty well. You’ve even had time to make some adjustments so you are doing more things you like, letting go of things you don’t really like, and finding that, in general, you’re OK as you are and you still look pretty good. It’s a nice place to be. However, I’m also at a point where I can confidently say, I’ll never be certain things. Cross these off the list of possibilities because they aren’t going to happen.

I’ll never be one of those fashionistas you see in the commercials with the spike heels and 1/2 ton of jewelry. I’m not a big fan of wearing most of my closet at once. I have absolutely been known to be perfectly able to start my day without buying something and I have never mistaken a rebate for free money. I’m not even a big fan of shopping in general and since I can do basic math, I’m not under the impression I’m getting paid to shop when the store has money back or discount programs.

FaceMaskDuckLips

I’ll never be an Olympic athlete. I’m too old, have lousy eyesight, and honestly, no interest, what so ever. I have held an Olympic gold medal before. I got to work at a commercial shoot with Janet Evans and she graciously brought her medals for us to see. They are heavy and it scared the crap out of me that I might drop them. I’m impressed by people who make their sport more than a full-time job but I get distracted by sandwiches. That doesn’t strike me as anyone who has the focus for a medal of any kind.

I’ll never be Amish or a pioneer woman. While I am indeed someone who can knit, spin a little, quilt, and like to grow and can food, you’ll never get my Keurig or my microwave. In fact, I might actually fashion a shiv out of a toothbrush if I thought someone was going to try to take them. If the zombie apocalypse happens, I feel confident that my latent scientific talent will emerge and I’ll figure out a way to work my beloved appliances with a bicycle. Or a broom.

DSCN0606

Potential weapons for protecting my Keurig; since I’m not using them for the yard.

I’ll never be one of those people with a perfect house and yard. Even if I hired someone to do them all, it just isn’t my destiny to live amongst that. I knock over too many cans of soda and forget about apples in the bowl on the counter until they start to do something strange with shriveling and cracking open. I have the ability to walk by a sink full of dishes and manage not to even think about them. I think that is a much more useful talent.

20120226_131809

Otherwise the help I get around the house would make me crazy.

This last “I’ll never be” also pretty much guarantees that I’ll never be on a reality show. I’m not messy enough for hoarders or one of those cleaning intervention shows but no one really wants to see much of my dirty laundry or counter covered in curtain implements that I keep there in the hopes it will jump on the wall itself.

This blog may be as close as I get to my 15 minutes of fame. Just as well. If I was famous, they’d probably expect me to wear spikey heels, 1/2 ton of jewelry and not be distracted by sandwiches.

Small Improvements

For all the work it was, I wish this was a more dramatic after picture. In the end, when all of the changes in the room come together, it will look different. In the meantime, I’ll be happy with small changes.

The fireplace before:

12895161664_6d33585740_z

The fireplace after:

13439262864_5f3398d939_z

Why are my pictures always tilted? What is wrong with my head?

Cleaner and a little more updated. I’ll be so glad to get the last wall of this room done. It’s another biggish project because of the door. Not only do I need it to be a little warmer so I can leave the door open (it opens to the garage but it is still chilly in there) but I put double-sided tape on the door to discourage Oscar from scratching it when he first came to live with me. It actually did work but now the tape is kind of fused to the door and I’m not sure how it will come off. I’ll try sitting in front of it and just peeling it bit by bit but I suspect it is going to need to be sanded off.

10411185335_864164d49a_z

In the meantime, it looks really good.

Bummer.

Most my projects I share here are all failures many times over before they are successes. Ah well. I think that is more realistic but it doesn’t always make for great reading.

In that grand tradition, this project stalled. The old kitty door was really beat up and gross looking. The doors for these exterior walls are actually pretty expensive. I thought I scored when I found one for under $70. I got the smallest one they had but it is still wildly too big. I’m not even sure what to do here. I’m not crazy about the idea of cutting a bigger hole in the wall.

13439590923_ee4abdd545_z

So in the meantime, it looks like this.

13439048423_9694c6a09a_z

Good, right? The best part is all the cold air it lets in.

The next two to three weeks are going to be insane at work. I don’t expect to be able to do much in the way of house projects but I do desperately need to get things cleaned up and several key areas organized so I can even function in this space. Since organizing is my super power, I’ll try to come up with something useful to share.

Either that or I’ll just start making stuff up. It will probably be a lot more interesting than what I’m really doing.

 

Cigar Box to Pretty Thing Box

Looking back on how I write up some projects, the information on how something is made gets spread about amongst multiple posts and may only be a minor subject of the posts so I thought I should summarize the project if it ended up working at all.

I think this one finally worked. So here is how a cigar box went to a pretty thing box in a single post…

We acquired some empty cigar boxes for free at a liquor store. They were pleased to get these off their hands and we were thrilled to get a free box. I don’t know why the prospect of having a box to put things in, ends up being so exciting for me.

Maybe I was Pandora in another life?

I scraped off the decals and sanded the dark finish off the box. I wasn’t super careful about all the nooks and crannies. I mainly focused on sanding down the embossed areas.

I didn’t take off any of the hardware. It is so small and nailed on, If you really want the hardware to remain metallic, there is a brush-on paint blocker.

Drawing inspiration from a pretty French Press coffee maker I saw (and almost bought even though I don’t drink coffee), I dug up some red paint I already had to paint some patio furniture. This is a nice, dark red and gave me great coverage.

I gave the box multiple thin coats to avoid drips. This part of the project took the longest because I made sure to give it lots of drying time in between coats. I would give it a coat before work or right before I went to bed. In the end, it probably got five coats just to give it as glossy a surface as possible. After the first coat I could see where there were some rough patches so I just sanded them a little with fine sand paper and continued the coats.

I had my heart set on a single damask (I know damask is the fabric, what do we call the distinctive pattern traditionally found on the fabric?) on the lid. I tried several different methods but, in the end, what gave me the results I wanted was a plastic stencil from Joanne’s stuck on with stencil adhesive. It keeps the edges of the stencil down but lets you pull up the stencil when you are done and you can just wash the adhesive off the surface you painted.

If you try a stencil method and don’t like how it turns out, it’s really easy to just sand it off and give it another coat of red. You can sand off the stencil without taking off all the base coat. The plastic stencil and stencil adhesive gave me a nice, crisp damask (or whatever we call it). I finished off the surface with a couple coats of an extra glossy top coat. I wanted an almost enamel finish.

I wanted to finish the inside with a little fabric to soften it a little. I didn’t pad it or anything but it kind of softened the look of the box inside. Because red is a really hard color to match, I went with a graphic black and white to give it a cool contrast. I picked up 1/2 yard of fabric which gave me almost double what I needed so you might be able to do this with some scraps you have hanging around.

I brushed Mod Podge on an inside edge and then the center to minimize wrinkles. This worked really nicely. I folded down the edges so there is no fraying edge visible. I simply folded the corners to keep the fabric flat. It doesn’t bulk up the corners much at all. You can see the corners look pretty tight here.

You could line this with felt or something softer for a jewelry box. I don’t want to use it as a jewelry box. I’ll probably use it for a set of dominos or several sets of dice. We had a lot of fun with dice games over Christmas so I think it would be a fun addition to the game stash.

This project had a lot of learning for me and was a bit of a challenge because I had such a specific idea of what I wanted but I’m pleased with it now and I kind of want to try another. Maybe some fancy script initials on the cover? The great thing about a box is it can pretty much be what you want it to be.

Progress…On Weird Things

Well, you’ll be relieved to hear I finally got the box the way I want it. I sprayed it with an ultra-glossy top coat which gave it that enameled look I wanted. Even this wasn’t shiny enough though. It is currently drying in the garage with another coat. I just need to line this and I think I’ve figured out how I’ll use the box so it finally has a purpose.

I did finally clean the microwave too so rest assured, my entire, filthy life wasn’t put on hold for this stupid, glossy box. That I can’t stop petting.

It has taken me forever to obtain decent hardware for the curtains over the sliding glass door. Have you ever noticed how many of these parts are plastic? Crummy, cheap plastic at that. I had to hunt down metal brackets and then seek out a curtain rod thick enough not to be bowed by the weight of the curtain (even with a center bracket). Just when I thought I finally had it, I unpacked it from the box tonight and found one of the end finials snapped off. Because it’s plastic. Seriously, this is ridiculous!

I could share a picture of some broken pieces of plastic or the pretty curtain fabric.

I finished the fireplace just in time. I need to get the screen back up because Scarlet Kitty has spent this whole time trying to figure out how to get up the chimney. I don’t doubt she would have eventually figured it out too.

I think this is what she is planning to do to the birdies outside once she breaks out of this joint

I updated the project list for the family room and the kitchen and it is a little depressing how much more there is to do. No wonder some people do this full-time. However, this is a good method of keeping track of the little jobs since I really only have the time and energy for bite-sized projects most of the time. The bite-size projects do add up. Slowly.

Kitchen:

Family Room:

  • Paint trim and backdoor
  • Replace sliding glass door curtains
  • Patch nail holes
  • Caulk around baseboards
  • Caulk around doors and fireplace
  • Paint walls
  • Replace weather-stripping on back door
  • Paint fireplace and mantle
  • Replace doorbell unit
  • Replace/Fix pantry doors
  • Paint pantry doors
  • Solve laundry supply storage problem
  • Dye sofa covers
  • Replace dog beds
  • Sew new dog bed covers
  • Shelving on either side of fireplace
  • Wall treatment over fireplace?
  • Rug
  • Wood holder
  • Paint TV cabinet
  • Re-upholster smaller arm-chair
  • Replace kitty door
  • Update light switches
  • Ensure all outlets are matching white
  • Update the overhead fan
  • Install lighting