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Archive for October, 2005

Halloween

October 31st, 2005 at 08:31 pm

A lot of my co workers dressed for Halloween. I went topical - a medical professional with bird flu Smile. DH, at a different office, went as Doc Holliday. He had the cough from last week. Scratch off another lifetime goal - I got on the bus in full makeup and costume and didn't die of complete embarrassment. Less embarrassment - I lost track of my bus pass this weekend. In Seattle, if you keep a regular routine, the bus driver knows that you have a pass and waves you in. Still, you have to mumble something like, "Sorry - I forgot it in my regular pants."

I ended up with 63$ for the month, not too bad because generally Halloween throws me for a loop. Without Halloween I would have ended up with 102$. With the work potluck it was very nearly a no-spend day - the only spend was a $1.65 coffee.

Got paid today, so the check has gotten farmed out - 445$ for my share of rent, 100$ to ING, 50$ to bank savings, 40$ to 3M DRP. I'm waiting now for what the I-bond rates are going to be. US Treasury tends to be pretty timely - they announce right away.

Didn't get any insights about Mr. Nut from Bugs Bunny, but I did get some laughs. Sister thinks we are at a standoff. Each side has to prove ownership of stuff, and unlike cars, equipment doesn't come with titles. Sister got some more bad news about the house - a corner of the foundation is collapsing. I don't see how she'll make the numbers work, or even why she would want to, but I support her nonetheless. Smile

This weekend...

October 28th, 2005 at 09:40 pm

could not have come fast enough.

Work is coming fast and furious and I'm now getting the onslaught of questions and little fires and puzzles to solve on a deadline. It's fun and strenuous and makes the day go fast but even after a 45 minute bus ride I'm hyper and it takes the rest of the evening to simmer down.

Then I'm at home and am following via email and phone the latest of sister's fires that she's dealing with. There is one particular farmer who really, really is aggrieved and is taking it out of our hides by "borrowing" ie stealing dad's farm equipment. I'll call him Nut. Nut was at the funeral and the funeral director warned us about him. I have to think that he's unbalanced to say the least. Nut was thinking that dad's stuff was his, he was the son dad never had, that dad was murdered. (!? - the cousin who found dad completely disproved that). Nut called sister and I "the girls" at the funeral even though he's at least five years younger than either of us. Okay, now that really, really hurt. Big Grin.

I just shake my head at all this. The farm equipment is worth more than the household goods, but we aren't talking about things like a pristine tractor, lovingly preserved and of historical value. Nope, we are talking about stuff akin to a working tractor, machine greasy, with a pelt of oat chaff and dried alfalfa, held together with welds and solders and used parts. Nut has fetched a lawyer himself, claiming that dad had some of his stuff. As I said before, he's taking our junk hostage. Nut's getting sister riled up, and he's even getting me riled up.

And finally its rainy and icky in Seattle and I got my Looney Tunes vol 3 DVD last night. I see a weekend at home watching the art of my best buds: Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freling and Chuck Jones. Maybe Bugs Bunny can give me some comic inspiration on how to deal with Nut.

300$ to an October I-bond, 50$ to Coke DRP, 35$ to WEC DRP, 4$ in the tip box.

Bird in hand approach

October 26th, 2005 at 11:01 pm

Well we decided on the bird in hand approach - the selling price of the land starts at 300K, and the executors will present the offer to the three interested parties, and we see who bites. I still think that this is the best way. The offer is a fair price, strategically low enough so we should have some sort of bidding war on it and we keep our costs at 4% flat (the executor's cut). As DH put it: we want them bidding against each other, not against us.

Sister agreed to it because I agreed to it. I'm sure she's thinking that I'm a traitor, selling our heritage on the cheap. Or maybe not. It could be that she's relieved that I made the decision and she has cover if things turn sour. That's fine - happy to help. Smile

Sister got the household inventory and the auction appraisal on that. $2500. You buy stuff and you buy a ton of stuff and then you buy more stuff. Pretty soon your house gets cluttered, and for what? Worth anything intrinsically? Nope. Buy your stuff, use it up, enjoy it. Don't assume its worth anything except for memories and enjoyment.

Tonight, waiting for my bus downtown, I was watching starlings. The starlings are very active in the twilight these days, tinseling themselves all up on the tops of trees, squawking and chirping as the tree branches would bend from the wind and the weight of several starlings. Ten or so birds would fall out of a tree and swirl around for thirty seconds then alight on the tree next door. It was strange because they were active on just this block. It was like an outtake to a Hitchcock movie.

Put 3$ in my tip box.

executor phone call

October 24th, 2005 at 09:54 pm

Well the phone call was pretty uneventful. After preliminaries about the weather (cloudy here, thank you, just like the stereotype) and football (how 'bout them Seahawks?) the executors and I got down to business.

The assessment for one parcel of land hit about $290,000. There are four parties at various levels of interest. They figured two are real buyers, the other two not. Sister asked for another appraisal and asked them to dig a little deeper to find out about the rumor of commercial zoning. We have a choice - sell now at close to the assessment price (the bird in hand approach) or wait a bit, get the title, then sell using a realtor - who might get a better price but will take a 10% cut (two in the bush approach). Would we get more, would we pay more, would we suffer more, would we have no buyers. (maybe, maybe, yes, possible.). This week the second parcel with the house, household items, barn, and buildings is going to be assessed - with two scenarios. One is house and grounds split, the other house and grounds together.

There were 3 savings accounts that they've rolled up into the money market sweep account. I figure that it was about $10,000 all told. They were still looking for some of the co-op accounts, and are rolling up mom's accounts too, including a mystery insurance account from 1969. They figure that mom's medical bills were at about $90,000.
Cars are going for auction probably for parts. Leftovers will be sold for scrap.

They figure that it will take about 15 months to wrap things up. Land is notoriously non-liquid; that seemed about right in my mind.

At the end I asked for a written summary of what we had discussed.

At lunch, my lawyer friend asked me to make sure that I clarified what these estimates are. Assessment or appraisal? We have two currents, one underneath the other. Assessments should be low for tax purposes, and are meant to be a limit (matter of fact the executors are trying to go under 675K, the limit when we have to *file* WI tax). Appraisal is for the realtor and the seller to try to get a fair (or better than fair) price. They can go high as what the buyer is willing to pay. And then what the buyer bought at will be what the land will be taxed (assessed) at.

Put $45 into savings from my tip box.

a phone call for a phone call

October 22nd, 2005 at 11:44 pm

Well Friday I shut my office door and got a lot done. That was good.

It was a nearly no-spend day, except for the coffee in the morning. Had lunch with my new boss (she took me out) at my usual curry place and we talked abit about her job and my job and how I got into my job and a little bit of the office gossip at that time. And we talked a bit about death and inheritance and probate.

Lucky thing, too. I got back and got a voicemail at work from the executor. Basically it was arrange a time to call to update me on what they are doing, have done, etc. Monday at 8:00 am my time, 10:00 am their time, and they'll call me (unless of course, it turns into 8:05 am and I call out of sheer nervousness - hah hah). I come to work a little late on Monday. I asked them whether there was anything I needed to do or to get from my end. Nothing, so I don't think I'm going to get a grill.

I talked with sister, who wants a detailed breakdown from the executors of everything that they have been doing. She passed on an email from her lawyer talking to the lawyer of the farmer who had has some of our broken farm equipment. He's asking for a list of his broken items that are on our property. In other works, he's holding some of our broken farm stuff hostage for some of his broken stuff. Just charming. It would be laugh out loud funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

Finally, I added 7$ to my tip box, bringing my current total to 40$ this month. I started the tip box in July 2004. I totaled all the savings that came from there - 756$!

Saturday was routine - a couple of grocery stores and back home to make beef barley vegetable soup.

Horseflies

October 20th, 2005 at 10:03 pm

Well only my coworkers called on the phone. Go figure. Swatted at a number of work related problems that I jokingly call horseflies because what do they buzz around? Yep, bs. Anyway, the horseflies kept me from doing what I wanted to do today. Time to call in the heavy artillery tomorrow: shut the door, and hit the DND button on the phone.

Except that I'm supposed to get more calls from the executor. Sister is now livid about the land assessment on one of the pieces of the land. At $290,000 she thinks its too low and that somehow its not taking into account the fabulous rumor of "some of it is zoned commercial". It's 72 acres of land, not El Dorado, hon. Smile ...And from her, the money realization about what inheriting the house actually means. ...And she thinking that the executors aren't telling her about mom's medical bills.

I'm finding that my lawyer friend is right. I'm riding sister's waves of emotion. She's up, she's down, she's hearing things (and worse, beginning to believe them), she's closest so she's the main contact for the executors and while she was good at finding money, she's not the money/financial mastermind, and so I think she's nervous about asking questions. Worse, I'm getting swamped by her emotions. I have to try and use dry logic to get her to step back and think about what is actually being done.

I'm feeling flashes of anger myself. Why can't she step back? I know why. 2000 miles of distance and not being bugged by that particular swarm of horseflies.

The bucket

October 19th, 2005 at 08:40 pm

I got called at work today by one of the executors in Wisconsin. He was asking whether I had gotten and filled out the W9 they had sent, which I did. It was to get me in "the system" and probably to make sure that I existed. I told him about the irony of that letter and the SSN card from the lawyer. He got a kick out of it.

It was a good opportunity to ask a few questions.

The list of funds and fee structure they sent me was for information and CYA purposes. They have been picking up and rolling in little savings accounts from mom and dad into a money market sweep account, ie a money "bucket". The original account of mom's that started sister's grudge with the bank, well, the bank executors needed a court order to roll it in and put into the bucket. I'll have to mention it to sister that it was nothing personal. Even the bank needed industrial strength legal means to get at it, and it was one of their own accounts.

The executor asked whether I knew anything about an insurance policy grampa got for mom when mom was one. Yep, no one threw anything away, and luckily it looked insurance-y enough that we stuck it in a file. I didn't know anything.

He asked about the Employees Trust piece of mail. Sister got it too and was asking about that. We mused a bit on where mom must have worked to get it - he thought she had to be a teacher, I knew that she had worked at the public library, and I think that was where it came from. I explained that I had filled it out and sent it back and that it looked like they were searching for beneficiaries. The executor told me that he'll have to explore this a bit further - it'll go to us but if a beneficiary was not named it should go through dad's estate bucket first.

Later that day I missed another Wisconsin call (I was in a meeting with my boss.). Sister later emailed me the land assessment had come in. Zoned agricultural and at 4K/acre, but I think that there are 3 estimates. Wonder which one they used? I could tell from the email that sister wasn't thrilled.

I get the feeling everyone's going to call me tomorrow.

a 4th DRP

October 18th, 2005 at 09:07 pm

The triggers were all pulled today:
Moved $250 to savings to buy the October I-bond.
Wrote a $35 check to DRP#3.
$3 in the tip jar.

Decided after several weeks of due diligence to start a 4th DRP (Marshall & Ilsley, a mid-sized Midwestern bank), so I ordered it from Temper Investment Services. I wrote a voided check and tried unsuccessfully to fax it from work. We have phone and fax issues - grrr. I found a Kinko across from where I eat lunch and it worked there. Now I wait for a few weeks. I bought it before the 25th, so hopefully I caught their schedule correctly. If not, my stocks are a buy and hold, so what's a few more weeks when your timeframe is years?

And lunch today was in the Uwajimaya food court. Uwajimaya is an asian grocery store on steroids, along with a bookstore, food court, and mini-shopping center. It was the 10th anniversary, so everything was 10% off.

Overslept

October 17th, 2005 at 09:50 pm

G*d, I hate that. 8:11! I dressed in a hurry, took a quick number one, ran out the door and made it to the 8:30 bus. Made me feel like an elementary school kid again. I made it to work 20 minutes late. At least we're not in a place where you punch in and as long as you get your projects done, you're fine. Stayed an extra 15 minutes, though.

Got the Employees Trust letter from my mom's work. You see, when my mom died two years ago, none of her estate got settled. Dad wasn't up for it. She died at 61 from breast cancer so she missed social security benefits. Sister and I were collecting papers from her too. We'll settle it all together, I guess. Anyway, they were basically beating the bush for beneficiaries - sister and I. Based on what was checked, they were going to get mom's death certificate from my sister.

I got another odd piece of mail from US Bank. It was a list of their mutual funds, with a letter from, well...let me put it this way: if the executor was Batman, this was Robin. Robin talked about "we may invest..." Hmmmph. Not at these fee rates. Since there was no application, I will take it under advisement, and have another chat with my lawyer friend.

Two pieces of mail

October 15th, 2005 at 04:12 pm

I got two pieces of mail today.

#1 - from US Bank in Oshkosh, asking me for my SSN.
#2 - from sister's lawyer. Inside was my original SSN card with my signature from when I was 11 yrs old. Found amongst father's papers. I probably popped it in a file during that paper-o-rama week with sister.

Coincidence, or does it rise to the level of irony? Discuss.

Paid $350 to credit card. With that, the debt that I took on during dad's funeral has been paid off.

They gave me my raise

October 14th, 2005 at 09:10 pm

Yippee!!!!!
Since its retroactive from the end of August, the paycheck is about $120 (net). I figure the raise will be about $40/ paycheck, and along with the net $50/paycheck salary adjustment and the original promotion it means that I'm making 20% more now than I was in January. Thank you, emergency fund!

It'll bulk up my ING account, but I'm seriously considering bumping up my 403(b) to 15% up from 12%. On the other hand I don't really like my fund choices. There's always starting a Roth, or just simply going it alone and bumping up my stock and I-bond purchases.

And then what to do when the inheritance comes in. I also got a phone call asking for my mailing address re: mom's death benefit. I called them back and gave them my address. I wonder what that is?

But as for now, I broke down and bought new shoes and ordered the Looney Tunes vol 3 DVD. Spent the $120.

Handholding

October 13th, 2005 at 09:09 pm

In the last few days:

So sister made her wishes more public to have the house, barn, and a few acres around it, and to put the kibosh on the family to get items. I'm shaking my head here - why beg me to "hurry up with that email to the family asking them about the items they were interested in..."? I put a lot of energy into writing that email. I wanted to be clear, precise and succinct. It wasn't shoveling a few IM shortcuts together Smile This jerking around made me look like a fool. Maybe that was the plan to force the issue. Of course with me in Seattle and all the other players in Wisconsin, the midwest, and the east coast my thoughts are expendable.

Sigh. When I get conspiracy thoughts I know I need some serious handholding. I forwarded sister's email to my lawyer co worker and we had a lunch and an informal (non-billable) chat. This is what I got:

a.) According to the will, I inherit equally with my sister.
b.) Nothing can happen without my agreement.
c.) I can simply "cash out" my half - in other words, take my half in cash. Sister gets a lot less cash and the grounds and house. To the executor and the lawyer, that is a very easy transaction.
d.) Sister's changes of mind and of heart are very common. She might well change her mind several times throughout this process.
e.) You will never persuade sister or get her to see your viewpoint. Lawyer friend role-played with me as a joke. Sample -
Me: Fine by me that you get the house.
Him (as sister): why do you hate us and want to torch the place and don't you have at least one good memory of the farm?
Me: Okay, I don't want to torch the place. What if I want the house?
Him (as sister): what, you're trying to screw me over, you don't think I can own and keep up this house by myself?

In other words, [O]K...yes, dear was the right response. I'm to keep saying it. Often.

In other news, the electric bill came in. $68.06. (Summer rates, and Seattle comes pre-airconditioned) I budgeted $70. Yes! Added $8 in the last couple of days to my tip box. I get paid tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see what my job evaulation has earned me.

...K...yes, dear

October 10th, 2005 at 09:45 pm

My email to the family was a big hit. Everyone wants to go, get a truck, and take everything. It wasn't what I wrote, but now we've started a gold rush that sister and I are going to have to manage.

Talked to sister on the phone this evening. Sister and her partner definitely want the house and a couple of acres of grounds for... something. Maybe a bed and breakfast (I'm shaking my head here). If they want to put the effort in, fine, it will take a lot of effort. Makes sense why she kind of doesn't want everyone coming in a truck to take everything. Why the he&& did she ask me to send that email to ask everyone about what they wanted? I feel like I'm jerked around. But she'll have to buy out my half.

The land is going to be sold and I'm guessing that we are splitting the proceeds (after debts are paid off) to give us room to manuever. Sigh. Sister was telling about one of dad's friends saying, "don't let them jerk you around, some of that land is zoned commercial. That should be priced at 10000/acre. " She was worried. Not that I'm not, but if the bank is getting a 4% flat rate and they get two offers - one at 10K and one at 5K, which are they going to pick? I told her she has to do some actual research, not taking some old fart's word for it. And she has a lawyer; she'd better be asking questions.

What was once slow now is fast

October 8th, 2005 at 05:42 pm

The executor was officially named on Sept 26. Suddenly, everyone but sister is working at warp speed to get things wrapped up. Both parcels of land will be sold, sooner rather than later. It boils down to the house and a few acres around the house. Sell it and auction the household items right away along with the land (executor position), or sell the land quickly, and leave the house for a little while (sister). I was asked whether I had the burning desire for the proceeds.

I told her no, there was no rush from me.

But I'm not sure why sister is stalling. (Like really stalling - 1-5 yr stalling). It could be that she does want the house, or that she thinks the house is worth more, or she's sentimental. She did put a lot of work into cleaning it and she just got done painting it. Selling the house to someone who will immediately tear it down despite her work is probably pretty appalling.

I'm to wrangle up the relatives who took a tour of the inside of the house and were looking around. Dad's twin sister asked for items, which I think I mostly knew about. My notes that day weren't that good - but you know, it was after the funeral, and frankly no one was saying, "I'm gonna hold my breathe and die if I don't get X." We'll see what the gang asks for. Sister will just say no. Smile like she mostly did that day. Or in her tone: NO. And there were other items in the attic we're asking around in the family about.

Put another 5$ in the tip box, but took out 1$ to go into a football pool. Sent another 40$ to the 3M drip.

Went to Costco today for the first time in months. Everything got rearranged so we were against shopping cart traffic most of the time. Picked up socks, undies, (clothes I'm leery of at the thrift store!), AAA batteries, chicken stock, cream of mushroom soup, DH's romaine and coffee, chicken tenders, and a pack of dark teal bath towels. $118. That's why I don't usually go; I can never get out with anything less than 100$.

mundane weird stuff

October 5th, 2005 at 09:51 pm

Put another 50$ into bank savings (not ING), and put another 7$ in the tip box, which eventually goes into bank savings. This is where I pull the funds to buy the savings bonds. Paid my share of the rent ($445). Saw online that I bought over 1 share of Coke stock at the end of the month and bought another third of a share by the quarterly dividend.

Yesterday was just plain weird. I forgot my PDA (Handspring Visor) so I felt naked all day. The bus was packed by mostly rude people (what kind of person can sit next to a 75 year old woman standing in the aisle?), but a few were nice enough. A car cut the bus off and parked right in front of the bus, causing it to have problems getting out of its stop. The driver was incensed enough to get out of the bus and yell at the guy for a minute or two. A few blocks later he mused (over the microphone) why are car drivers so stupid. A passenger shot back: all the bright car owners are on the bus.

I was invited to an inpromptu lunch at my favorite curry place. I barely knew the two of my lunch companions from work, but they were friendly enough. I opened my wallet and whooops -- I had to borrow some money. I was strangely unembarrassed when I asked the woman next to me for a loan.

After lunch I went to the bank, and the only place that had something cheap enough to break a twenty the right way was a Starbucks. So I bought and drank a coffee at 1 pm. Went back to work and paid off my loan. She was a little surprised to get it back so quick (45 min, no chance for interest). Right around 11 pm I knew that that 1 pm coffee was a very, very big mistake.

It set me up for a not so terrific day today. But not much happened. At least nothing weird.

sister's productive; I fell in the street

October 3rd, 2005 at 09:36 pm

Put $100 in the ING account. Still haven't gotten the heiress letter yet. Sister thinks that only one of us had to vouch for it. Since she's in Milwaukee and I'm in Seattle, if you were mailing a letter in Wisconsin, who would you pick?

Speaking of that, sister - with help from dad's friends - got bushes trimmed up, got the paper and mud wasp nests around the house cleaned up and gotten rid of, a well capped, and the big nasty sump pond cleaned up in front of the house, and the house primed, ready to be painted. She even found homes for the crew of barn cats that were our audience when we were finding paper. On the bad news, several farm implements have gone missing. We know who took them; we are making sure the bank executor knows and is dealing with it (they're earning that 4 flat, remember?). Fall is coming, though, and with it, making decisions that affect the plans of other people. For instance, a farmer rented half of dad's land to grow his crops. If we're going to sell, then the renter needs to know so he can make plans or can buy it out right.

We have a new manager at work. Talking with her a little bit, we seem to have a lot in common.

I got some bubble tea this afternoon, then caught a heel on a crack in the street and promptly tripped and fell, losing my tea. Its a sign to join the bubble tea 12-step program.

Job evaluation

October 1st, 2005 at 03:44 pm

My six month job evaluation went very, very well. I scored a 4 out of 5; 5 means we're gonna burn the building down if you leave. Smile And I only had to get a 3, which means we have no complaints about you. The COO put a note into our HR department that I qualify for a % increase according to my offer letter. And its retroactive - my six months was due a month ago.

It will be interesting though. We got a COLA adjustment in August. HR could simply shoot back that they already gave me the increase. Of course, the offer letter didn't mention a phrase like "in lieu of other salary adjustments", so I might well get the rare and elusive double raise. (triple if count the original promotion).

Last night, to celebrate and to get out of the house, DH and I went to the St. Demetrios Church Greek Festival, and I bought $26 worth of Greek foods that I never can seem to find. Taramosalata, the marbled halva, kasseri cheese, the cookie/ baklava sampler (complementary insulin shot taped inside - just kidding), a Greek candy bar. I love trying stuff like that. Always a leap into the unknown. Usually I like to try to pick up one of those charity cookbooks - the church ladies recipes - but the production values are too high so you know all the recipes were written by a professional. We went to a wine tasting - 4 whites and 4 reds for 5$. A couple of bottles were tasty but nothing worth the 15$ - 20$ per bottle.

Hit and miss at the grocery stores - romaine was at good price, chicken stock was at a high. But November, time of cheap chicken stock, will come.