I’m Back!! (I think.)

(Apparently it’s been so long that WordPress did some sort of update and now looks completely different. 🙂 It’s almost like they want me to follow the rules of getting blog traffic, instead of writing for a handful of faithful readers.)

September has been a wild month. Nothing bad happened, a few good things happened, but it was exhausting. The refinance closed on Thursday and the cash out should hit my account this week, then let the home improvement projects begin!

I have a lengthy list of things I’ve been living with because I didn’t have the money to fix. After Sophie passed and my financial hemorrhaging ceased, I then had an unplanned month without pay because being a contractor is crazy. I’m back at work and getting paid again, the refinance is done, so LET’S START TEARING OUT THE BATHROOM!

Not quite yet. Step one is getting rid of the debt. Step two is taking inventory of all the small broken things I’ve been living with and working around for the last year or more:

  • Dead garbage disposal. It died in the last few months. I managed to fix it twice, but now I think the motor really is kaput.
  • Busted icemaker line. I bought ice cube trays and soldiered on.
  • Garage door opener keypad fell apart. Low priority. I can still use the garage door opener remote.
  • Various light fixture issues. Again, low priority.
  • Ancient toilets need replacement in both bathrooms. Low priority until something major happens, because they’re over 40 years old. The toilets are on borrowed time.

Not so small things:

The 40+ year old windows need replacement. They’re in bad shape. The first owner applied some sort of UV film to them decades ago, which is now clouded and discolored and makes them look filthy. I thought it was me, but nope, that cloudy, dirty look is literally baked in. We will not speak of the condition of the screens, but I dare not open the windows – they might not close again. New windows will be far more energy efficient and save $$ on my power bill as well.

The master bath shower is way past its life expectancy and needs a total rebuild. (I’ll do a separate post with photos of my trashy bathroom.) The hall bath is just as old but was basically unused for nearly half a century.

I’m only the second owner of this condo in 40 years. It was originally purchased by a couple in 1983, and then after he passed, she lived here alone until she took a fall and had to move to safer quarters before she passed, too. It sat empty for a while until I bought it ten years ago. The hall bath is original, blue and white wallpaper and all, but immaculate; it was rarely used. It’s still rarely used, it’s the home of Ellie’s litter box, and human guests occasionally use the facilities.

It needs a new toilet, but otherwise it’ll be cosmetic changes there, maybe a new countertop and sink and lighting. I need to find the nerve to try removing that ancient wallpaper, it has some popped seams and I’d really rather have nice clean painted walls. Oh, and also hang some new towel rods. The flooring and cabinet and tub are in fine shape.

So in the next month or two I’ll get the plumber in to replace the toilets and give me a price on the shower remodeling, get the garbage disposal fixed, get my favorite electrician to put up some new light fixtures, etc. The small, annoying shit will get done first.

This place is also going to need a new AC unit eventually, this one is at its life expectancy. I’ll have cash in the bank for that instead of having to finance it!

This is such a relief, I can’t even tell you. As I’ve said, I’m pretty dense about obvious solutions staring me in the face. Though to be fair to myself, I’d been so focused on running a veterinary ICU for Sophie for the past year (around my stressful and crazy day job) I really didn’t take time to think of anything else. As soon as I had a little breathing room and a few weeks of decent sleep, the path forward appeared. Onward.

President Biden Has Had It With This Bullshit.

And I am SO glad. The Right is throwing fits about how requiring vaccines isn’t ‘MERRICUN. They are, as usual, entirely wrong, both in law and in history.

Mandating vaccines started with George Washington, who, even before he was President, ordered that the Continental Army get a goddamn smallpox vaccine because he didn’t want them to die before they could do the Revolution. And if you’ve ever read a description, the smallpox vaccine in that time was a MUCH, MUCH more unpleasant experience than the teeny tiny mosquito bite that is the COVID stick today, side effects included.

(There is also Supreme Court precedent, not that this SC knows what that means.)

And this move to require vaccines (OR TESTING – but I hope to GOD that the holdouts will be charged for weekly testing) will give cover to employers like The Place Where I Work That Does Not Pay Me – they are tippy-tippy-toeing up to requiring vaccination, I can see that this is their long range plan, but this will shorten their timeline considerably.

This is clearly an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) issue, as well. Workplace Safety is LITERALLY what OSHA does – workers didn’t voluntarily wear hardhats and steel toed boots and attach tethers when working up high, employers didn’t care – until OSHA was established because those guys were getting maimed and dead in horrifying numbers.

I work in an industry (that must not be named) where safety culture is very strong, and also for some employees, literally a life and death kind of thing. Yet, we have people out with COVID, some have been out for a while and are recovering but still sick, because they are not vaccinated, because get their “news” from sources that are literally LYING to them. We had that guy saying that the vaccine changes your DNA and it’s a government plot, and we don’t need to think too hard about where he gets his information.

President Biden has pulled the car over and is now yelling into the back seat, ordering the lunatics to knock off the shit. I am so here for it. I would like to be normal again, someday.

I suspect next week’s team meeting is going to be lively.

As God Is My Witness, I’m going to start making a sweater this weekend. I have a couple of pattern options, knitted and crocheted, and I will pick one and start. My nerves need it.

Hi! Sorry for the radio silence. Here’s a Rant. More Ranting to Come.

Nothing bad has happened, except I did go back to work on Wednesday, and by Friday I was already grateful for a holiday weekend. But enough about that –

I don’t know where to begin about the shitshow we are all living through this year. I’m in Florida, so, yeah, but we don’t just have homegrown stupid, y’all.

I was in a virtual meeting this week that discussed the company’s plans for return to the office (maybe the first of the year, it keeps getting pushed out) and then a discussion of maybe, possibly, asking people to disclose their vaccination status. Approached so delicately, like, you won’t be fired if you don’t want to get vaccinated, but we want to know so we can make accommodations for you.

One of the guys spoke up. He’s working from home. He thinks he probably had COVID earlier this year, but he didn’t get tested, and now he’s sick again, and his doctor is pretty sure it’s COVID, and he’s gonna get a COVID test and no, he’s not vaccinated, because he doesn’t trust the government and believes the vaccine changes your DNA.

And wait, back the fuck up?! He saw his doctor, who thinks he has it, but the doctor he allegedly saw didn’t test for it, and he’s going to get a test “tomorrow”? Yeah, I will call bullshit right here. If he saw a doctor, the doctor would have tested for it.

This. Man. Is. An. Engineer. He is not from Florida, or the South.

[A separate rant about Florida and The South being the butt of all jokes when this absolutely is a national issue needs to follow.]

[And also for the last time: We can’t recall DeShithead, the FL Constitution doesn’t have a mechanism for recall, so STOP FUCKING ASKING US ON TWITTER.]

[Also Also: This is not the guy who was wondering out loud to me about taking that deworming medication months ago and “just didn’t trust” Dr. Fauci for some reason he couldn’t articulate. This is different guy.]

We have a real problem in this country. A substantial chunk of this country lives in a separate reality fed by disinformation. They are not all uneducated toothless cousin-marryin’ rubes, and are not all in the South. I don’t know this”Government changing my DNA” guy, but I know he’s respected for the quality of his work and I never expected him to launch a “I won’t take a vaccine that will change our DNA, I don’t trust the government,” thing on a routine team call.

I didn’t say a word, neither did anybody else on the call. He eventually wound himself down with, “I don’t know, maybe I’m paranoid….”

Because you told your coworkers and your manager on a meeting that you probably have COVID right now, may get tested tomorrow, maybe, and are scared of getting vaccinated because you believe this is a government plot to change human DNA? You think that might have been a bit over the top?

Nobody was sure what to say, so nobody said anything. Our manager paused a bit, said something bland and corporate, and moved on. The subject was changed.

So, I’m back at work, it’s as crazy as I left it, but apparently nothing went too off the rails. I did have to pull a rabbit out of my hat in the first two days back to schedule a thing nobody had discussed before I left, and it had a happy ending, and I owe a local counterpart lunch, if I can do it without getting the place I work in trouble. There are rules. But seriously, I cringed even asking her if we could do this thing on really really short notice, and she made it happen, and I feel like I at least owe her coffee at a new trendy coffee venue between our two work locations. It has shady outdoor seating.

The refinance is moving along, I got the appraisal back. Remember when I said that when I’d been asked for the property value I’d pulled a number out of my ass that was probably $40K below reality? I was off by $2k. It appraised $42k higher than my asstimate. I knew it wasn’t relevant because the loan to value is still less than 50%, but I’m kind of proud that I called it that closely.

Tomorrow we have plans to do fireworks at Magic Kingdom. I haven’t been there in many months, and haven’t seen fireworks in years.

More to come. I’ve been back in the crazy for three days and already welcome a three day weekend.

I’m freaking out about Ida.

Because there but for the grace of random weather patterns goes Florida. I am not feeling “Whew! Thank GOD it’s not going to hit Florida!!” Because I know it could be us, another time, another path.

This is going to be bad, bad, Katrina bad, with pandemic frosting piled high on top.

In other news: I am now at my last three days of my 30 days off. Back to work on Wednesday, which should be interesting. I’m considering ending my month off as I began, with a short trip to Animal Kingdom. The baby gorilla has a name: She is Ada. (Pronounced AH-da) I’ll decide tomorrow if I want to do it, but I’m kind of craving lunch at Flame Tree Barbeque. I haven’t been there in a couple of years, and they do mobile ordering. Mobile ordering at quick service restaurants is one of the best things Disney has added ever. You pick your time, order your food, you get a text when it’s ready. Flame Tree is outdoor seating, but it’s a huge tiered deck area along the water, and so peaceful.

Tuesday, the appraiser will breeze through for a 15 minute visit to make sure I haven’t trashed the interior of this condo. My ballpark figure I gave them for property value was $40K lower than reality, and again, tons of equity, so the appraisal won’t change anything, it’s just required. He’ll have done 90% of the appraisal already, and just needs to be sure I didn’t remove the kitchen or turn the second bathroom into a ritual altar, or some crazy shit. I actually love the appraisal process, but this one is a yawn.

Tuesday Gidget will also visit her stylist to get a new ‘do. I, unfortunately, will look unkempt until September 20th. My stylist had the nerve to have a baby, without thinking about MY needs!

She’s already back at work two days a week, but when I called the salon, the (new, and Bless Her Heart) receptionist struggled to spell my name, then was confused by the calendar, and, yeah. Nearly a month more shaggy mess, but that’s okay, I’m still working at home.

And really, all of this is trivial, privileged bullshit, because there are so many awful things going on, and poor Louisiana is about to go through hell, again.

OMG, It’s SO HOT!!

[Today, a happy update about how things are working out for finances and home repairs, and I’m very glad. Tomorrow I will rant.]

I actually had a park reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios today. I woke up after an unusually long night’s sleep and saw “feels like” temps of 105, then walked outside with Gidget into a solid wall of humidity, and came back in and canceled it. I will ride the Star Wars rides someday, but not today, when the air is coming straight out of Satan’s Dry Cleaning.

I slept nearly NINE hours last night, which is a record I haven’t hit in over ten years. I celebrate anything near 8 hours. I am a chronic insomniac since childhood.

The refi on this condo is racing along at, ahem, Rocket speed. I signed my new contract for my return to the job I don’t love, but that I will now be decently compensated to do. And in a weird way, I’ve found myself missing it a bit this week. My subconscious had some breathing room and I have some ideas about how to better manage the crazy, as well as wondering what I’ll return to. Within the next week or so my stress level may actually drop to what normal humans in my age and education and profession cohort experience. It could happen!

The new A/C at the “investment property” that doesn’t actually put money in my bank account is splendid. My daughter reported that they came home yesterday to 76 degrees indoors, instead of the Brave Old Trane from 2001 doing its best to cool at peak hours. And they have a programmable thermostat!

So I’m not at all whining about my situation. All I needed was some breathing room to think about other things, and the plan to fix the shit appeared. I’m hoping when I step back into the job next week it’ll also make more sense. Not sure it will, but I’m hoping.

So, In Entirely Non-Disney Drama…

I’m going back to work next week, God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise. I already knew my contract would be renewed, I’d been called by my rep from my contracting company: raise, new title, a few days of PTO, etc., all good. I peed in a cup at a very nice inside slightly sketchy outside doc in a box a few miles away.

When I did this for my initial hire and my last contract renewal three years ago, it was at a lab. This was not quite so lab-like, though as far as I could tell the young woman managing the process seemed to be doing everything right.

I don’t know if you all can tell from a distance, but I have anxiety. I pre-worry my ass off about everything; I was trained to do it by two anxious parents and a childhood of drama.

That’s a subject for an entire book, but anyway, I’m going about my days this week wrapping up my month off, doing what I have to do to go back to work next Wedneday. Absolutely nothing is amiss, absolutely nothing indicates that there are any barriers to returning to work, the raise, etc. I am fretting 24/7 anyway.

The AC at the house is fixed. I had to put over $6400 on a credit card because I don’t have that kind of money in ready cash, especially after being without a paycheck for a month.

So I’m refinancing this condo, because once again, I’ve been somewhat dense. I’ve been not quite living paycheck to paycheck, but I have a boatload of credit card debt (none of which was from having fun trips to anywhere, but was from other repairs and vet bills and such) and this place still needs some work since I started remodeling 9 years ago. It needs windows. It needs some plumbing work. Paint and wallpaper removal. It needs stuff. I have no cash flow for stuff.

It was only after Sophie was gone for a month that I realized why my Discover card bill looked like I’d bought a used car with it. The charges to it for prescription food and meds and vet stuff just stopped, and it was dramatic. While I was in the middle of it I knew it was a lot, but I was so focused on making her feel better, I was just sort of aware of the cost.

Seriously, never judge people who have to surrender pets, or put them down, because they can’t afford the bills. While I don’t regret giving her every chance she could have to get better, between her prescription food and meds and the potty pads for accidents and all the drama, I was spending at least $600 a month on the low end. I was too stubborn to give up on her until she was ready to go, and I don’t regret it at all, but DAMN.

Thanks to my only smart investment in my freaking LIFE, I have a ridiculous amount of equity in this place. I can refinance and pull out some money, rebalance the scales, pay off the house AC and all the other debt I had no fun accumulating, and still have a ton of equity. Even if the housing market “adjusts,” as I expect it will, I’d be fine. Pay off the credit cards (there are only two, but they have been doing some heavy lifting). Plunk the rest into a high interest savings account and dole it out carefully as needed, to fix shit that needs fixing, and just LIVE, and breathe.

But right now I’m in the pause between starting my new contract at the new rate at my familiar job, I just shelled out $6k+ on a dead air-conditioner, and I’m stressing over nothing weird going wrong between now and Sept. 1.

I didn’t picture my last week of my first time off in three years being quite this way. But, 2021.

More Disney Drama

You can blame this post on my friend and frequent commenter Caroline, who linked in comments to yet another blogger hot take on Disney’s announced new Genie+ system. I wasn’t going to inflict any more Disney on my few and loyal readers, but my response in comments sorta became an essay. 🙂

First, for those of you who don’t know what this is about: Disney has abandoned the former Fast Pass system, where you could make a reservation for a shorter line for a ride for free, for a new Genie system, which charges a flat $15 per person per day for the ability to make short line reservations.

Paying for a faster trip through the line is what the other theme parks do to manage crowds – Universal and Sea World have charged to jump the lines for YEARS, and their options are more expensive.

From what I’ve read so far, Genie is far more sophisticated than simply “paying for a fast pass,” and I will reserve judgment until I see it in action for a few months. From the description, it’s designed to provide advice to help tailor your visit as well as manage crowd flow on rides. Again, I want to use it before I roll on my back kicking and screaming about it.

I will speak heresy: The old fast pass system didn’t work all that well. Local passholders could set multiple fast passes from their couch with little intention of using them, just playing around on the app, and any guest could set them intending to use them and not release them when they no longer wanted them.

Disney had no way to know who would and would not use that hard to get FP for Peter Pan or whatever, so while it somewhat helped with traffic flow, it was easy to game the system. The fast pass lines would be shorter than the regular, especially at peak times, but “fast” was often relative. Disney is an expert at moving huge crowds of people efficiently, and I’m willing to see if the Genie system helps traffic flow.

As for the cost, yes, as the other blogger pointed out, it adds $60/day to a family of four’s cost, IF THEY CHOOSE TO USE IT. It is not required. If the entire system works to smooth traffic flow it’ll help even the people who don’t want to pay.

But honestly, after the first rage and tantrums on the Disney boards I follow, they kinda shrugged and went back to planning their multiple sit down dining options, where a family of four usually can’t eat for less than $100 without alcohol, and discussing whether Old Key West is better than Saratoga Springs resort.

Disney is very expensive. So is Universal, so is Sea World. There are ways to do it slightly cheaper (stay offsite for sure, bring a damn water bottle instead of paying $4 for shitty Desani water, bring some snacks in a backpack so you aren’t paying $20 every time your tummy rumbles). But it’s expensive. No way around it.

Disney did not just whip this system up during COVID “to gouge people to make back what they lost”, they’ve used it in France and I think in Japan? Or Hong Kong? and even in California for a while. Disney has been collecting this sort of traffic data for years, and I’m confident they’ve figured out that this is the best way to make sure fast passes actually get USED and manage traffic flow, which at peak times is tens of thousands of humans.

Before Fast Pass went away, the Disney boards online were full of weeping and wailing about being unable to get any fast passes! OMG, why is it so hard to get Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? And let’s not even talk about the daily drama of the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance.

There are ways to manage it if you still want to save the $$. Pick a day or two of your stay where you’ll pay the Genie for your favorite rides, so you’re sure you’ll get on them, and do it for just a day, or two. The rest of your stay, wing it, you’ll still get on a lot of rides and maybe find other things to do that you’d otherwise sprint by as you’re racing to a ride.

Disney is a corporation, and the primary function of a corporation is to provide value to shareholders. I’m not sure why anybody is shocked that they have re-evaluated their systems to try something new. If it doesn’t work, they’ll watch the numbers and change it again.

And if all the people on Facebook actually follow through on their threats to cancel their passes because Disney is just greedy and OMG, Walt must be spinning in his grave now (because Walt was not at all a shrewd businessman who bought a huge swath of Central Florida via shell companies and built an empire), and if all the other bullshit 48 hour hot takes come true, well, that’ll also thin the herd. I’m betting, and obviously Disney is betting, it won’t.

My Time Off Is Winding Down…

I go back September 1. I got a new title and a raise and a few days of PTO, so that’s all great.

But of course, the AC just died at the house my daughter rents from me while the heat index is 110, because of course it did. The entire system has to be replaced this time, because it has been on borrowed time for YEARS. It’s close to 20 years old, while the lifespan is 10 to 15. I knew this day was coming. I will never, ever be out of debt.

I got the notification that I have to go do the drug screening for my return to work. I will start my Saturday peeing in a cup at an urgent care a few miles away. They also do COVID testing and vaccines, so I’m hoping if I go early on Saturday I won’t be in a mob of plague rats.

I have not been wildly productive for the last couple of weeks. I do have a load of stuff for donation tomorrow. I went to Epcot again Wednesday, but OMG, it was just sooo hot, I ate some stuff and bailed.

What I ate was worth it, though. I don’t have a picture of my favorite plant based treat, the Impossible Burger with wasabi slaw topping, because I was so hungry I just ate it without taking a picture. (I suck at this blogging stuff.) I stopped at the Spain booth which wasn’t even on my radar, and had a very tasty little seafood salad with an honestly not all that memorable wine flight.

I didn’t do any desserts. We expect to be back there in mid-September and I’ll be all about the desserts that trip, I swear.

And I went back to the American Pavilion:

I may have a lobster addiction. I do not consider this to be a problem. It was hot. it was insanely hot, and while there was a breeze at times, even the breeze was hot. Happily, the park was not very crowded and I was able to eat all my little snacks in the shade, often with a nice view of the water.

So, has my time off been magical and relaxing? Not even a bit. But I do have a plan for getting through it to the next shit. I’ll take it.

Thursday’s Mission:

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival. It was very, very hot and I only stayed a few hours, but I GotTFO of the house, sampled food, walk miles in the brutally hot sunshine and fresh air, and maybe came home with some festival merch. I did get the passholder exclusive glass cutting board I’d been considering, because it’s something practical I’ll actually use every day, and it’s colorful and cute as hell:

My current cutting board is stained and scratched plastic and over a decade old. This will be much loved and used. It doesn’t quite fit with my otherwise classic Mickey and Minnie kitchen accessories, but it is a bright splash of color. For the non-Disnerds: the purple dragon is not Barney. That is Figment, star of the Imagination Pavilion in Future World at Epcot. He was my son’s favorite character over 30 years ago, and don’t get me started on how they changed that pavilion and made it so much less cool now. I think Figment is now a nostalgia thing for 80’s kids and their parents.

And then there was the 50th Anniversary merch:

I didn’t even remember that the 50th Anniversary of Disney World merch would be available on Thursday, but there it was, and I fondled these Corkcicle tumblers in a beautiful blue with tiny gold flecks, like lapis lazuli, and the 50th Anniversary logo, and one just had to come home with me. I’m drinking my mineral water from it right now.

It was a splurge, but when you consider that their classic tumbler is $30 and this was around $35, plus I got a 20% passholder discount? I couldn’t resist. I’m going back to Epcot next Wednesday, and my daughter has asked me to pick up a tumbler for her.

Lunch was a lobster roll with herb mayo and a wee glass of chardonnay, outdoors in the shade on a random Thursday. It was lovely.

When I go back next week (provided we’re not having the NEXT storm after Fred, its name is Grace) I may focus on desserts. Or go back for another lobster roll, because damn, that was good.

I’m writing about lobster rolls and cutting boards to try to calm my constant fucking state of rage about the shitshow we are all living with in Florida.

It’s not working.