Friday, January 08, 2016

A Pain In The Foot

I've always had problem feet.  Narrow feet are hard to fit, and a AAAA heel makes wearing almost any slip-on style shoe nearly impossible.  I also have very high arches, and after years of suffering,   finally discovered that prescription orthotics are worth every penny.  Luckily I am also a very practical person, who places comfort above fashion.  For this reason I don't mind not being able to wear high heels, and am only occasionally sad about not being able to wear cute sandals and flats - alas, my orthotics just don't work in anything less than a lace-up shoe.  Not a big deal, really.

I'm very picky about the way my shoes fit.  After years of aching arches it wouldn't be right to have my feet hurt in others areas too, like getting bunions from wearing too tight shoes.  I love to walk and having feet that work with me instead of against me is a wonderful thing!

About two years ago, after being unable to walk at our usual place, the crushed-limestone walking trail at E.P "Tom" Sawyer State Park, for nearly 3 months during the winter, Art and I resumed our daily walks in March, 2014.  As we resumed our walks I noticed my left foot was bothering me.  It felt as if my sock were scrunched up inside my shoe, rubbing on the area at the base of my toes.  I repeatedly took my shoe off, but never, ever, found my sock to be where it felt like it was.

I trip to my podiatrist ultimately revealed that I had a Morton’s Neuroma, caused not by high heels and narrow shoes, but simply by having narrow feet, and probably by the very orthotics that were helping my painful arches.  There were treatments available, including surgery, but I didn't want to be laid up for 6-8 weeks, so I decided to try a series of three injections of cortisone, which I began in the summer of 2014.  None proved effective, but by this time I had learned how to manage the pain: I learned that I could initially walk for 1.5 miles before the pain began.  Removing my shoe and putting it back on was all it took to walk for another mile, so I simply stopped after each mile.

Unfortunately as the bones rub on the nerve, causing the neuroma, the neuroma just becomes larger and larger, so the problem will never go away, never get 'better', and will almost certainly get worse.  Although a second podiatrist had been able to replace my orthotics with ones that would not exacerbate the problem, the neuroma was still there.  It was time for surgery, which involves removing the neuroma, and the section of nerve surrounding it.

I should have had the surgery last winter, when we were still in Louisville.  The gray, cloudy/snowy/rainy days of January and February could have been spent snuggled on the couch, fireplace roaring, while I watched movies on Netflix or did research for our next vacation.  Unfortunately, and for reasons I still don't remember, I did not have surgery last winter.  I knew it had to be done sooner rather than later, and I also never there would never be a 'right' time, so I had the surgery last Tuesday.

We haven't been in the house a month yet, the Florida room is still a bare shell, there are still many things packed away in boxes, and I'm about to lose my mind, sitting here on the couch, a virtual prisoner in my own home.  Except it doesn't even feel like home yet!  I am, however, determined to stay off my feet for as long as possible.  To keep my foot elevated about my heart, and to keep an ice pack behind my knee.  One of the worst things about getting older is that things take f.o.r.e.v.e.r to heal!  I do not want to hinder my recovery in any way, so I've been camped out here on the sofa, watching "House of Cards" on Netflix, renting moving from Redbox, and fast-forwarding through all the commercials.

The doctor said I must have a high tolerance for pain, but that is NOT true!  I am an absolute baby about pain, which is why I began taking my prescribed pain meds not long after I got home from the surgery center on Tuesday afternoon.  I took one pill (rather than two) every four hours that first day, and never felt any pain.  I sat a pill next to the bed in case I woke up in pain in the middle of the night, but that never happened.  I took the pill first thing on Wednesday morning, thinking that the pain would kick in now that the anesthesia had completely worn off.  But the pain never came.  I didn't take a pain pill after Wednesday morning.

Because the doctor told me my neuroma practically jumped out of my foot, I thought the lack of probing might be the reason for my lack of pain, but the doctor doesn't seem to think so, noting that my skin, muscle and nerves were still cut, which should equate to pain, especially for me.  Weird, huh?  Unfortunately all this sitting has made my backside sore, and I guess because I have my foot propped up, my lower back is killing me!  I resumed taking my pain medication this morning, and I'm trying a different position on the couch.  I figure the sore bottom is inevitable, but if I heal my foot only to have screwed up my back I'll be very, very unhappy.

I see the doctor next Tuesday, but the stitches don't come out until the 19th - by which time I expect to be feeling pain from the pull of the stitches if nothing else.  The pain in my backside and in my lower back are only enhanced by the pain of only being able to look at the disarray of my new home without being able to do anything about it!  This is an exercise in patience, which for me is a real pain in the....foot!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Surprises Galore!

Moving to Florida has been quite an adventure so far. The plan was to pay cash for manufactured housing, up to $100,00, including any renovations and purchases like new appliances.  We put almost all of our furniture in storage, so we have the basics and then some, and most houses come with appliance these days, so this all seemed very doable.  And then we started to learn about manufactured housing parks.  

We learned that we wanted to buy in a park where you also own the land, rather than renting the lot, or even owning a 'share' in the park.  And then we learned that those parks are few and far between.  And prices are generally higher.  And then Art, who'd never been comfortable with the manufactured housing idea in the first place (still thinking 'trailer park') said "If we're going to pay this much we might as well buy a 'real' house", which started us down an entirely new path.

We eventually jumped in feet first, not just buying a house, but also getting a mortgage, and having to go through the slow and painful process that entails.  After finding what we thought was a great credit union in Clearwater, we discovered that their mortgage department was not only slow, but also rather inexperienced and definitely NOT customer service oriented.  Luckily we found a professional, helpful and VERY customer service oriented loan officer at BB&T and she worked her magic to close our loan only one day past our original date.  

The fact that our house was bank-owned only added to the stress, because we weren't dealing with a homeowner for needed repairs, or for house related questions, we were dealing with a bank.  Again we lucked out with a fabulous realtor who was as calm as I was panicked, and who made sure everything kept moving until the deal was done. 

Of course now we're finding out that our Florida room is completely illegal, and that there's some questionable wiring, but every house had hidden surprises, and now that we're committed we just have to deal with the issues and make the house comfortable as well as safe.  Sometimes I feel like I'm living out an HGTV special about what-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong, but it's slowly....VERY slowly, coming together.

The kitchen, such as it was, was original to the house, built in 1969.  The sink had leaked, rotting the cabinet bottoms and causing mold on the walls.  The only appliance that remained was a microwave, and the layout was not only inefficient, it was downright dangerous, with the stove sitting right next to the doorway into the dining room.  The ceiling in the 'work' part of the kitchen was lowered, mainly to allow for the fluorescent lighting, much like we'd had in Louisville. The good news is that we have room for a kitchen table, albeit a small one, and once we decided to make the entire kitchen ceiling one height the space feels much larger.

Of course all this costs money, but in for a penny, in for a pound, right?  We want the house to be comfortable and to our liking, and of course cheapskate me will keep an eye on costs, but it still adds up quickly.  The kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities. granite counter tops and sinks run just over $11,000, including installation.  Then we bought lighting, and faucets, and new mirrors, and a new toilet, and all the millions of other little things you need for a house, and little by little I'm getting a handle on the situation.  

Unfortunately when the kitchen cabinets were ordered the bathroom vanities were NOT, and the shipping container with our flooring was selected for a random check by Customs.  And of course the counter tops won't be in for another week or two, making the kitchen unusable, which Art just doesn't get.  We wants me to start unpacking boxes and loading the kitchen cabinets, but until I can get in there (on a wood floor, not concrete!) and see all my stuff and get a sense of where I want the dishes to go, and the glasses, and where I'll work, and what sort of stuff should go in the lazy susan, it's just not happening.

We're planning to move in on Monday, after spending one night in a motel.  Our landlady graciously extended our rental term, but unfortunately for us, her realtor found another renter who wanted the unit on December 15, and we simply have to move. We'll have one working toilet, but the first bathroom should be tiled on Monday, the other on Tuesday, and the vanities, mirrors and lights should all be done by the end of the week.  We still have to figure out what's going on with the walk-in shower in the master bath - is all that caulking there because of a leak - and how do we even know?  And what's involved with replacing the fixtures in the hall bath, and what will it cost to have the tub reglazed?  Thankfully we have a utility sink in the garage that will have to do until the counter tops and sinks are installed.

Both bedrooms are piled high with boxes and furniture since those are the only two rooms not getting wood floors.  The house had new carpet throughout when we bought it, so we decided to keep it in the bedrooms. I think I'll have to get out of bed by crawling down to the bottom of the bed since there are boxes stacked up in between the bed and the wall. The flooring guy will have to move the couch, love seat, bookcase, washstand and entertainment cabinet to put down the floor, but we just don't have anyplace to store everything.  The garage is half full of boxes and furniture, and we had to leave room for all the contractor's stuff, and for them to be able to move in and out of the garage when they're working.  We also had to make room for the china cabinet we bought for the kitchen, and to allow enough room to paint both the top and bottom of the cabinet.

We still have to make the Florida room legal, and we'll build a new wall on the inside of the room, and take down the acoustical tile in favor of a dry-walled ceiling. that project will be time consuming and more money than I want to think about it, but it has to be done.  After that we'll replace all the windows, add an awning to keep the afternoon sun out of the laundry, and add a small  (covered) patio, assuming we still have any money.

Our impressions of Florida are these:  although Publix is a company I would proudly work for, they just don't have the variety that Kroger does.  Gas is a little cheaper here, but almost everything else is just a little more expensive. There's always something going on, and the unseasonably warm weather allows us to enjoy the outdoors.  We attended an outdoor Bluegrass Music Festival a few weeks ago, an opera last weekend,  and next week we're going to The Salvador Dali Museum, mainly to see the Escher exhibit.  Once we in the house full-time we'll visit some Italian markets in St. Petersburg, Mazzarro's and the Locale, and the weekly Saturday market in downtown St Pete.  Our new neighbors share our political and philosophical ideals, so my fear of being surrounded by super-old, super-stodgy, super-conservatives was unfounded.

For now we're inching our way to the finish line, learning our way around, meeting new people and loving the fact that we can wear shorts in December!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The New Adventure Begins!

Yes, I know I should have been documenting everything that happened since we visited Florida in February, starting us down this new and very unexpected path, but things were just too hectic, too crazy and too stressful.  I'll recap briefly:  In early February our friend Nedra called to invite us to see her new place. She'd sold her house and bought a manufactured home in a 55+ community in Sebring, Fl and was loving both the community and the savings.  Because Art hates the long, cold, dark (and snowy!) winters in Louisville it didn't take much encouragement to get us down there.

Once we saw her community and her house (adorable!!!) the wheels started turning.  We figured we could sell our house in Louisville, move to Florida, pay cash for a new place and have not only snow-free winters, but also more money to travel.  Win-win, right?  We had a five week vacation to Italy and England scheduled for June/July, so our plan was to get the house ready, go on vacation, and once we'd returned, put the house on the market.

Being the planner that I am I contacted a few neighbors to see what, if anything, we needed to do before listing our house, i.e. notifying the Board.  Before we knew it one of our neighbors called to say he had two people who wanted to the our!  Things just snowballed from there.  We bought a "For Sale By Owner" sign, printed a few flyers and within eight days we had a nice offer from an all cash buyer.
Additionally this buyer knew about our vacation plans and was willing to delay closing until right before we left.

Now life being what it is things didn't go quite as smoothly as we would have wished, but the obstacles we encountered were eventually overcome, and in the end we packed up the house, put everything into storage, closed on the house, went on vacation, returned to Louisville then drove down to Florida with a car filled to overflowing!  We'd contacted a real estate agent we'd met when we visited in April for a scouting mission, and he'd arranged a three month rental for us.  Although we'd seen pictures we had our fingers crossed that our temporary home would be suitable, and it was/is.

Our landlord, who's bought another house in the area and has this one on the market, left us with all the conveniences of home, right down to the dish soap, paper towels. toilet paper, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.  We have basic cable for our 42" digital TV (which we upgraded, at our expense, to include WiFi and more channels), a washer and dryer, bed and bath linens and a fairly well-stocked kitchen.

I'm slowly discovering what I miss from my own kitchen:  my scale, my juicing tool, and rubber spatulas!  I brought quite a few disposable plastic containers to use for storage, my stick blender, a few cookbooks, and each trip to the grocery adds a few more staples to my pantry.  I'm really, really missing my water softener because the water here is very hard - I'm sure we'll go through a lot of hand and body lotion!

Right now we're staying in Clearwater, but we seem to be gravitating to Largo, just south of here.  It's a slow time of year, with not much on the market, but we're hoping that by being here and contacting as many real estate agents as we can that timing and opportunity will be on our side.  If we haven't found our new home by the end of October we have no idea what plan B is.  We may stay here and continue the search, or we could take the hint and begin a new search elsewhere.  Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Fiscally Conservative And Socially Liberal

I just read this article, posted as a link on Facebook (where else do we get our news from these days?), and it struck a nerve.  Here's the article:  7 ideas completely lost on people who are “fiscally conservative but socially liberal”.

In my profile to the right I've listed some of my qualities, and among them is "Fiscally conservative and politically liberal".  Needless to say I was curious enough about the article to read it, and here's what I think:  The term "fiscally conservative" does not mean I think people should live in poverty.  I do NOT.  I support raising the minimum wage to be a LIVING wage.  I think the tax code should be overhauled, and that the richest of us should pay at LEAST - preferably more - the same tax rate as the poorest of us, without loopholes and off-shore hideaways.  I think everyone is entitled to healthcare.  And childcare.  And a decent education.  Free college works in other countries, why not here?  How can you get any job without a basic education?  

I could go on and on, discussing all seven points at length, but maybe I should just tell you what economic conservatism means to me.  It means not spending more than you have, either as an individual or as a government.  It means having priorities.  It means we take care of those who need it, and don't give handouts (or tax breaks) to those who don't.  It means churches should pay their fair share of taxes, and most churches should do a LOT more regarding feeding and housing the poor, instead of buying their televangelist preacher a new jet, or a vacation getaway, which would really help take the strain off the government-funded social services.  

Being fiscally responsible means not funding 'bridges to nowhere', or hiding special projects behind important legislation.  It means not building equipment the military does not want or need, but it DOES mean keeping our infrastructure in good repair.  Being fiscally responsible means that everyone should have the ability to earn a decent living without worrying there is no safety net.  We, as a society should make sure that the poorest among us have a fighting chance, and as we all know, that takes money.  Let's spend OUR money wisely.  Let's invest in our future by educating our children, making sure they go to school well-fed and well-rested, not hungry and sleep-deprived.  Let's decide to make our standard of living for ALL Americans one that is the envy of the rest of the world, not one that's an embarrassment.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Nester Without A Nest!

Last time I wrote about being a nester, of wanting my own home, but also about the importance of who I share my nest with.  Now, as I continue to pack and to plan, I've realized that once the movers arrive and we leave our house, we'll be homeless for the next several months.  We'll be living out of a suitcase for a full week before we leave for Europe...then homeless once we arrive back in Louisville five weeks later.....then still homeless as we wrap up loose ends in Louisville for another week....and basically homeless once we arrive in Florida...although we do plan/hope to have a furnished place waiting for us once we get there.

After having lived out of a suitcase for the previous seven weeks (yikes! - what will I forget???), living in a furnished rental will be nicer, yes, but still not home. I'm hoping that I won't be desperate and ready to buy the first property I see - but on the other hand I hope that we see properties that are not only affordable but also desirable.  Searching for the perfect nest is not a task for the faint-hearted, but I know we're up for the challenge!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Confessions Of A Serial Nester

I'd never thought about it before, but while we were living in Italy there was a discussion about renting versus buying.  To be honest, we never considered renting, and although in hindsight it might have been better, at least from a financial point of view, I've just always been an owner, not a renter. Others pointed out to me that this was because I'm a nester, and I guess it's true.  As we prepare for yet another move - a move that took both of us completely by surprise - I've thought about what being a nester means, and how it's not exactly what  I expected.

I always loved our house in New Albany, Indiana.  I lived there from the first grade through the seventh grade, and for years I dreamed of buying that house.  When my kids were little we bought a house in Crescent Hill, in Louisville, and I thought that would be my forever house, the one my kids would bring their kids back to for Christmas and Easter, but that didn't work out quite as I had planned. Once Art and I got married he was really the one to push for a house, and of course if it made him happy it made me happy, so we bought the cutest little house, and I thought we'd live there forever. And then we went to a new home show, and decided to build. Although I poured a lot of myself into that home I don't think either of us thought we'd be there forever - the lot was large, and hilly, so eventually the maintenance would be an issue, but we just enjoyed the house until it was time to move....

When we did move, it was into a patio home - one we loved, one we thought was perfect, and one we thought we'd live in forever.  And then we went to Italy.  As we'd said so many times before, we didn't choose to move to Italy;  it was really beyond our control - it was just what we were supposed to do, and sometimes you just have to follow the path life sets out before you.  We hadn't expected our path to turn towards Italy, but when it did we embraced it completely, sold everything and took the plunge without ever considering whether or not this would be our forever home.  At that point we realized that life would take us where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there, and that all we had to do was pay attention.  I also realized that it really didn't matter where we lived as long as we were together, so the 'where' was much less important.

Eventually the decline and continued weakness of the dollar forced us to re-evalute.  We'd moved to Italy as much to enjoy Italy as to travel throughout Europe, and our travel funds were being eaten by the disastrous exchange rate.  Once the house in Italy sold we talked about where we'd move to in the United States.  We eventually decided to move back to Louisville for several reasons.  Cost of living was a big factor, as was the climate.   Further norther would mean more severe winters, further south would mean hotter, more humid summers.  We didn't want to go west of the Mississippi because we didn't want our transatlantic flights to be any longer that they already were, and although I would love to live on the East Coast it just wasn't financially practical.  The fact that we had family and friends in Louisville, as well as the fact that we knew our way around made Louisville feel like a comfortable fit, like we were really coming 'home'.  We bought a patio home and both of us said we were never moving again.  Although it wasn't my dream home, it suited us in many ways and I didn't mind the compromises.

Maybe I watch too much HGTV, but last fall, for reasons unknown, I announced to Art that I thought I had one more home renovation in me.  He got excited, and was ready to start house-hunting - he'd always wanted a single-family home with a yard, and thought the time was finally right.  But I really didn't want the hassle of packing and moving, I just wanted a project - but not enough to go through the pain of moving.  In the end Art really didn't want to leave our neighborhood - mostly because of our proximity to Tom Sawyer Park - and the idea just sort of faded away.

And then a friend called from Florida and invited us to visit her in her new digs - a 55+ retirement community in central Florida, where she'd bought an adorable 3 bedroom, 2 bath manufactured home for $55,000.  Something clicked in my brain.  I'd never liked the idea that we had equity in our house that wasn't serving us.  Sure we had an equity line, but you have to pay yourself back every month, and what I wanted was fewer monthly obligations, not more.  It seemed to me that if we could buy something for $55,000 free and clear we'd have extra cash in hand PLUS we'd have more cash available every month for fun things like travel.

Of course things are never as simple as they first appear.  We discovered that although we loved our friend's house, and even her subdivision, living in the middle of the state was not where we wanted to be.  We knew that proximity to a large airport was important to us:  we want to travel as much as we can for as long as we can.  Eventually we won't want to endure those long transatlantic flights, so being somewhere with lots to do would be important, both for the short term and the long term.  We'd always been attracted to the area around Tampa, so we began to search the internet.

As you might imagine, living in or near a large metropolitan area is more costly than living in a smaller, more remote community.  I was afraid that we might not be able to afford what we wanted in the Tampa area, and I worried about the lot rental fees.  Our friend pays $700 per month, with an expected 3% increase every year, and most of the communities we looked at were about the same.  If we had to pay more for the house itself, plus $700 in fees, our monthly savings would be minimal. Even if we were in Florida avoiding the snow and ice, we might end up like we were in Italy - loving our home and our community, but unable to travel, so only half our wish list would be fulfilled.

Knowing the questions to ask is always the biggest challenge.  Initially we had no idea that moving to another state could be as complicated as moving to another country.  We discovered that there are different types of 55+ communities:  in some communities you own the home but rent the lot, while in others you lease the lot.  Lot fees vary, as do the Home Owner Association fees, based on location, amenities, and who knows what other factors.  In some communities you lease the lot and have the option of owning a share of the community, which gives you voting rights.

Eventually we discovered that there are resident owned communities - basically condominium associations where you own a percentage of the entire community, much like our current home.  This dramatically reduces the chance that the subdivision will be sold and razed to make way for another Super WalMart.  Anyway, the point is we're learning a lot, trying to educate ourselves and trying not to move too fast.  We're hoping this home will be our last home purchase, and realize we've said that many times before. This time we're trying to consider what we need to make this home for a long, long, time.  As always we'll try to learn as much as possible so that we can make the best decision for now and for later - and hope for the best, since life always has a way of changing the best laid plans.  Yes, I'm still a nester.  I still want to own a home rather than rent, but where we nest isn't nearly as important as who I share the nest with, so as long as I have Art I know wherever we settle will be home.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


I have to admit my head is spinning, and right now I'm trying to take a breath and make a long list of priorities.

We've sold our house.  We really didn't mean to sell it this soon, or this quickly, but the whole thing just sort of assumed a life of its own.  When a cash buyer makes you a reasonable offer and  agrees to postpone closing to suit your schedule it would be foolish to refuse, but now I have about a million questions running through my head.  The packing itself is an overwhelming task - I know from experience.  Every time you think you're almost finished, and that another 5 or 6 boxes should do it, you pack TEN more boxes and still need more.  And more. And then a few more after that.

And our situation is just a little more complicated because just days after closing we'll leave for five weeks in Europe, meaning that we'll need to separate our vacation supplies and clothes from everything that's being packed away.  And then we we get back from vacation we won't actually have a home to return to...and I'm not sure how much 'stuff' we're going to need to keep accessible.  Sure, we'll need more clothes that we're taking for vacation, but also we'll need 'stuff'.  Stuff like computers, laundry stuff, cooking supplies, toiletries.  What else?  With no place to call home in Louisville it's a safe bet that just a few short days after we return from vacation we'll head south fro Florida, where we won't have a home either.  

We are making an exploratory trip to week because you can only learn so much from the internet.  What we've learned so far is that yes, we can afford to buy a home in our desired area around Tampa, but we need to figure out what towns and areas we like, and why.  I'm hopeful we can also arrange for a furnished apartment for a few months so we can take some time to find the perfect home.  Due to the flurry of activity surrounding our decision to sell - eight days from the sign in the yard to a signed contract - I haven't even thought about this trip since initially booking flights, a rental car and a motel.  At least I had all that taken care of before the craziness started.

The good news/bad news about our upcoming vacation is that all the reservations were made long ago.  So long ago, in fact, that I really don't remember the details.  Normally I can tell you what time we fly out, and where we're staying, and what the rental car company is, but this year I'm going to have to hope that I did a thorough job and kept all the email confirmations.  Oh, except that I haven't made any reservations for our time in Umbria.  I know we'll stay with friends, but I'm just not sure which friends and what nights.  For me, returning to Umbria doesn't require a whole lot of planning - it's like when we lived in Italy and came back to Louisville for a visit, it was just coming home.   Except that when we're in Umbria I want to maximize every waking moment, and that does require a little thought.

Now lest you think I'm complaining, let me assure you I am NOT.  Who could complain about selling their house in eight days, going to Florida for a week, vacationing in Europe or moving to Florida?  No, I feel very fortunate, and very blessed to have so many wonderful things going on in my life, and I feel very grateful for the many wonderful friends who've helped make all these things possible.  But of course, me being me, I do feel overwhelmed, and stressed, and worried, it's just my nature.  I hate to say it's just too much of a good thing, but I won't because too much of a good thing is definitely better than not enough, right?  In the back of my mind I've been wondering what our next adventure would be, and this is it!  But I really do need to start making some lists, and maybe pack another box or two.