Feliz Ano Nuevo!

May yours be healthy, happy and wise!

If I could give my readers one gift with which to start the new year it would be this book:

love letterDuring the last few months this work single-handedly shifted my philosophical perspective from a long-held atheism to full blown animism ala The Dancing Wu-li Masters. I now whole-heartedly worship the ground I walk on!

And all the critters who walk it with me.  Let’s start 2013’s countdown:

During the fall my San Miguel de Allende foster girl Mia went to her forever home in Calgary, Canada. Here she is with Mom Lynn in her festive new home:

mia christmas 2013While I was in San Miguel my black miniture-schnauzer Asher stayed in Louisville with my friend Peggy and his one-true-love Foosie Mae Belle from the holler. We are all together again.

Here’s Peggy with Foosie looking beautiful in her sparkly pink and Asher looking miffed in his Santa hat.

CIMG2408~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the “Who Knew?” department, I’ve been turning in to a baker and a cook. As readers know, I’m in Wait Mode for my low-income senior apartment, it’s cold, and without a car (lower carbon footprint!) I have few places to go.  Thus that old thudding feeling of eating too much processed food [isn’t it all!] grew louder and suddently I’m baking quiche, meatloaf, apple cider beef stew and making cookies, pies, and fruit loaves. Today I’ll start on a pear-cranberry crostada –

Oh, yum!

Oh, yum!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Louisville Pride

Peggy’s 20 y.o. niece Elizabeth is writing for a local web site and getting paid for it. Liz, who grew up here, wrote a good piece on some of Louisville’s charms.  As I read it I realized that I’m living in an incredible little city which is to Kentucky, culturally speaking, what San Franciso is to California, or Miami is to Florida – diverse, artistically alive, foodie-ville, and celebratory with the fabulous Kentucky Derby.

KentuckyDerbyRace

People are friendly. The park system spreads out before us. There’s a roaring local music scene.

Yes, the Ville has the same ills as other U.S. cities its size: a lackluster public transportation system, strip-mall-itis in the burbs, a disappearing tree canopy, and unsafe neighborhoods, but there’s nothing to single it out as being boring, intellectually retrograde, or rigidly conservative.  It’s a surprising place and, while it may not be my end-game (who can ever tell?), I’m proud to be a booster while I’m here.

Y’all come down, now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During Wait Mode I’ve mentally redecorated my upcoming 526 sqf apartment in several color schemes. Initially I promised myself I’d go with a pared down, simple Zen environment. Upon returning and looking at the few pieces of furniture I have to move it was obvious that wouldn’t work. The stuff is all consignment and it has scrolling legs and sleighbed looks. Hmmmm.

I’ve decided to let my inner glam loose.

Small interiors cry out for reflective surfaces.  Mirrors work to enlarge a space but I’ll be painting my black 4-drawer dresser SILVER. Here’s a photo from a blog titled “My Champagne Tastes Beer Budget” and she actually used faux silver leaf.

MY CHAMPAGNE TASTE

Martha Stewart [yes, that madwoman!] has a line of paints titled Precious Metals. I’m going to go for a more dialed-back look ala this example from a blog titled Petticoat Junction.

mixed-metallic-pic-monkey_thumbHa ha! And I just treated myself to 2 years of DIY Magazine. Whee ha!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cooking, mentally painting furniture, playing with the dogs.  Nothing earth-shattering here as I fold myself back into an American city after nearly a year and a half in Mexico. My fall health visits put me as healthy as a 67 year old woman who still smokes could be, give or take the cartilage that’s failing in my knees, the fact that I need new glasses again, or that my hair grows alarmingly thin. Like most people my age who tell the truth I am a failing wreck, trust my self-wisdom very little, and muddle through old age a little bit dotty and many times surprisingly happy. I don’t expect this will change, even in a “new” year.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now if you’re determined to have new revelations in the year to come, then –

happy new year 2014

Advertisements

Days of lint and kleenex

Winter goddess by Gargantine at deviantart.com

Winter goddess by Gargantine at deviantart.com

Although she won’t be officially welcomed until December 21st, Winter has come. She is young and lean, almost surprised that once again she must hunt.  Last week she threw an inch of ice down in Louisville gilding every tree and sidewalk, then added a fillip of four inches of snow. It’s made for treacherous walking. But, the girl can’t help it.

Often pictured as an old woman, I envision Winter as sinewy, athletic, and hungry.

In Scandinavia she is Skadi, queen of winter, mountains and the hunt.

In Scandinavia she is Skadi, queen of winter, mountains and the hunt.

But then I’m Celtic by descent and we have rough winter in the bone.

The air is so dry her voice is a rasp. Thus when she speaks she leaves lint. To her its a downy echo, but I am now single-handedly supporting the pet roller industry trying to keep corduroy and wool from the minutely tarred and feather look.

God knows she’s the Queen of wet. One minute the world is an icy diorama, the next it’s slush. True to form, whenever I go outside my nose runs. The vast sums I have left after pet rollers are supporting the pocketbook packs of Kleenex industry.  Sometimes I can’t reach them in time so it’s good to have washable gloves.

Yet, I adore her.

Admire might be more accurate. In all that ice and woe, she brings gifts!

The Christmas tree is strung.  Asher and Foosie have posed for their portraits.

CIMG2388And I have the Blind Boys of Alabama singing “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

Wheee!

During these cabin-fever months I’ve discovered a penchant for baking. I admit I was defeated by my first pumpkin pie, a tasteless sad affair, but I recovered and am turning out spiced pumpkin pie to die for. I’m mistress of quiches. I’m making a wild crazy pfeffernusse.

I’m watching the scale with trepidation.

And, I wait. Who knows when my new (to me) low-income senior apartment will come available? I have redecorated every square inch several times in my mind, which shows you how little of importance I actually think about. A blue of course.  But which blue? Oh, the challenges.

Of course I do think of other things. But right now I’m thinking of whoever is reading this. To you and yours in the northern hemisphere I offer winter greetings. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, could I come visit around mid-February?

I’ll bring Pfeffernusse.

pfeffernusse2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn in da’ Ville

They’re here.  The days when your breath floats on the air and the fading afternoon light glows gold.

Louisville-Autumn-950-5

This year isn’t as dramatically gorgeous as past; possibly it was too wet this summer? Most leaves are yellowing and falling, but the air is as crisp as high meadow and the rain raw with foreboding.

I’m acting like a squirrel acquiring stores. Yep, buying flannel pajamas, snuggly slippers, and snow boots. When I moved to San Miguel de Allende a year and a half ago I let most of my winter clothes go.  I came to regret it when San Miguel’s winter dropped down. Loo’vulle’s winter will not find me unprepared.

I like this time of year.  Far from feeling autumnal, Fall makes me feel bountiful. It summons the holidays, makes memories around a fire, transforms the earth in her cycles from summer matron to slender, wintry hunter.  I want to eat anything with pumpkin, ginger or nutmeg! So, tomorrow I’m making these soft Pumpkin Gingersnap cookies with – yum – unsulphered blackstrap molasses. Whee Ha!

pumpkin-gingersnaps1

Last week I revisited the senior low-income apartment on Richmond Drive to measure the rooms.

CIMG2337

Because the carpet installers came at the last minute I was foiled, but I can tell you, sans furniture those rooms look small. This will give me an opportunity to experiment with tiny dwellings. I won’t have a pink couch, but I like the idea of these shelves.

modern small aparment

While the name of the senior low-income apartment building is Highland Court Apartments, Peggy has taken to calling it “Happy Acres.” I am sure this is her image of living there; in fact, the manager in charge looks eerily like the standing woman in this Internet grab photo:

happy acres retirement homeMe, I just see the peonies and hope Highland Court will give them out to all us low income seniors come spring.

My time now is spent in spray painting old lamps and hopefully soon refurbishing an entertainment center into a contained office/t.v. space. Oh. And investigating Medicare Supplement Plans.

There are 22 Medicare Supplement plans in Kentucky. Each one must be explored singly and applied to individually. It’s a friggin’ full time job.

tearing-your-hair-out

So, I went with an anonymous agent from the anonymous Internet site EHealth.com and provided ALL of my personal information to get an app into Mutual of Omaha – at $120.00 a month the most reputable at the least expense. I found out that if you choose a supplement plan when you turn 65 and first get Medicare you can get a policy without being medically underwritten.  After that the jig is up and, trust me, companies are looking for any reason to turn you down. I should know if Mutual wants my money within the next day.

Arggggggggggg,

Richmond Drive

CIMG2337This is the “high-rise” for which I’m on the waiting list. Peggy and I had a 5:00 appointment yesterday so she could see the interior and figure out if she’d like to apply too and I could see a now vacant apartment and measure before the resident moves in. Tra la la, here’s the rear entrance:

CIMG2338

The manager, with whom I’d reconfirmed our appointment earlier by voice mail, was nowhere to be found. Errrrrg! We don’t have a car so a friend of Peggy’s took us over. The manager’s absence made us both furious but, trying to make the best of it, I showed Peg the common rooms and asked a couple of residents about mail boxes [yes] and individual climate control in the apartments [yes].

Here’s the lovely sun room, which I imagine on a winter day with snow gently falling:

CIMG2339

And, what respectable over-62 income-based apartment building would be without a crafts and Bingo room?

CIMG2342

So much for the common areas …

Damn it, I want to measure an apartment! So …seeing residents about, I start to schmooze. “Oh gee, we had an appointment to see Janet at 5:00 … she was going to show us a vacant apartment so I could measure and Peggy can see if she likes them … we don’t have a car, so it’s difficult to get here … and Peggy works during the day …”

The first woman looked suspicious and wiggled out of showing us her apartment with, “Oh, I don’t think I should. I might get in trouble.”

Excuse me?

On to the next woman inside the laundry room and out of hearing range (I hope) from “I might get in trouble.”

Success!

Joanne cheerfully showed us her apartment which, because she’s on the fourth floor and her windows look out at trees, I immediately coveted. No, I didn’t take pictures because that seemed rude after I’d self-invited us up, but she is such a nice woman that she showed us every nook and cranny – which I measured. 

Doncha love that feeling of “mission accomplished”?

O.K., so this is not your dream home. I, on the other hand, think of it as an apartment building in Brooklyn.  My grandparents lived in a similar building way-back-when with all those lovely things like mailboxes on the wall, elevators, love seats on each floor opposite said elevators so you can rearrange your packages – everything except the bingo room – so I’m o.k. with it.

Besides, I need some time to ‘calm my ship’.

Painting by Horatio Ordoza

Painting by Horatio Ordoza

[Yes, the canoe would approximate the size of my ‘ship’ right now.]

The rent on Richmond Drive is right, and it’s location, location, location.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now I’m calling the manager-who-doesn’t-write-her-appointments-down so I can see a vacant apartment and measure properly!

I’m on the list!

If you’re in your 30s with a decent job downtown, maybe married with kids and a dog, there are two safe, trendy neighborhoods in Louisville where you want to live.  The first is The Highlands with its main corridor Bardstown Road dense with services, boutiques, restaurants, and bus lines. If you want to be within reach of the city’s downtown core, this is the place to be. It’s also a very good place to be if you’re in your 60s because – it’s walkable!

The Bristol Bar & Grill is now a long-time almost staid member of the hip restaurants lining Bardstown Road in the Highlands.

The Bristol Bar & Grill is now a long-time almost staid member of the hip restaurants lining Bardstown Road.

The Highlands was the last ‘near-downtown’ neighborhood to be urbanized. Up until the Civil War a few wealthy families owned plantations here while the city built its industry on the banks of the Ohio.  Eventually the landed heirs began formal subdivision of farm land and meadows, a horse-drawn street car line was added in 1871, and in 1891 Frederick Law Olmsted gave the Highlands its justly famous Cherokee Park. With the park, more of the rich moved to The Highlands; more modest homes followed for the new middle class.

scenes Cherokee postcard

The photo below shows what the wealthy built.  Many are still privately owned, but a good number have been converted to condos or apartments commanding some of Louisville’s highest real estate rates.

Louisville_highlandsOff of Cherokee Park Road, which is kind of Louisville’s Park Avenue, more modest homes line leafy streets and it is these homes that our mythical 30 y.o. wants to buy.

simple Highlands home

When I came to Louisville a few years ago I lived in The Highlands and am currently staying here with my friend Peggy until I move into a senior, income-based apartment on Richmond Drive – in The Highlands.

Happy face

Happy face

The thing is, after my recent adventures in Mexico I need to stabilize

my financial boat

MY FINANCIAL BOAT!

To sit tight, as it were, for at least a year or two, and just see what happens.

So, one of my first tasks upon arriving back home, beside the numerous doctor visits, was to explore senior income-based apartments through HUD and the city’s department of housing. Until I received a PDF of a 120 page booklet called “Housing Choices” through the local HUD office I didn’t know there was a Highland Courts Apartments in this highly desireable neighborhood. I visited and applied the first day I learned about them.

I’ve never been a fan of highrise living …

This is NOT Highland Courts Apartments

This is NOT Highland Courts Apartments. Evidently no pictures exist, so I’ll take some when I go over to measure next week.

and, while there are 99 apartments in Highland Courts it’s really only four stories tall so it’s not a highrise. Still, it’s a big building and the biggest building I’ve ever lived in was a two story apartment “square” with a pool in the middle of it in Miami. I’ve always shied away from buildings with a lot of apartments because of the traffic.  But this traffic is 62 or older and, perhaps some of them, like me, are over-educated and under-funded. If they’re not, well, old people don’t scare me because I can run faster than most of them.

These are all 526 sq feet one-bedroom apartments with galley kitchens and big bathrooms in case you use a Jazzy scooter. On Tuesday I’m going over to measure for furnishings.  I’ll take pictures and tell you more soon.

There is a 3 to 6 month waiting list, though my move could happen sooner because the manager told me “Nobody wants to move at Christmas.” [Except me.]

Thankfully my old friend Peggy is willing to put up with me until I get the call.  The good news is that I qualify for a $300 rent – including utilities. I just knew it could be done!

I’ll leave you with one more image.  Among the laundry, work-out, computer facilities, craft rooms and sitting room on the first floor, there is the most glorious Sun Room you could imagine.  I imagine curling up with a book as the snow falls outside the windows. When twilight comes it will be magic.

It's even prettier than this one.

It’s even prettier than this one.

I’ll take pixchas!

 

 

 

The nuts, the bolts, and the screws

social-security-checkNo one ever wants to talk about money, one of those curious taboos in America we tip-toe around. But if you’re following my Adventures in Social Services we need to be clear.

It turns out that the average Boomer’s social security check is around $1200 a month [and I am nothing if not average.] With no other income, 48% of the boomer demographic are 100% reliant on their social security.

So I looked into what the government calls the “Medicare Savings Program.” There are ceilings under which some retirees can have their $104.00 Part B premium, all co-pays, and all prescriptions paid for. At $1,216.90 per month (deduct the $104.00 monthly premium from that), I don’t qualify at the $937.00 per month cut-off for that program. But I do qualify to become what’s called a Ql-1 SM-1 Premium Buy-In Only, which means that as long as the sequester/debt ceiling doesn’t queer the deal, I can have my Part B premium paid for. As far as co-pays and prescriptions, I’m on my own.

Before you become dizzy with joy at the thought of the extra $104.00 a month I’ll have to travel the continents, let’s look at Medigap policies. These are licensed by the state, so every state is different, and there is no guarantee that anyone can buy one, at any price.  [Well, there’s guaranteed issue in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, but all the other states underwrite based on your pre-existing condition(s).]

Why seek a Medigap policy, known widely as Medicare Supplemental Plan F?

Medicare pays 80%. You pay the remaining 20%, a yawning chasm if you're hospitalized, eh?

Medicare pays 80%. You pay the remaining 20%, a yawning chasm if you’re hospitalized, eh?

It’s a no-brainer, but as of today – in Kentucky – you can’t know (a) if you’ll be accepted or (b) what it will cost, because it’s NOT OPEN ENROLLMENT, stupid.

Come October 15 we can begin to shop. I figure I ‘might’ be able to obtain a gap policy at $131.00. Deduct the $104.00 currently paid and I’ll only be an additional $27.00 a month out of pocket.

But no one can escape the do-nut hole.

evil do-nutWell, they can if they draw less than $937 social security a month.  For the rest of us lucky pensioners, even with a Medicare Supplemental Plan F, we’ll need to purchase a Plan D for prescriptions.

Ha, ha, ha!

While the Affordable Care Act has tinkered with the percentage of payments for prescriptions in the do-nut hole, climaxing in a projected year 2020 low, low twenty-five percent (wait, there’s more!), I just saw a hepatologist who recommended a treatment consisting of three drugs over the course of 12 weeks, one of which costs $4,000.00 a pop. I didn’t ask what the other two cost.

But o.k., let’s ration treatment and go for status as a Ql-1 SM-1 Premium Buy-In Only person. For this I have to have a caseworker who must have many documents to prove I am not cheating. Honestly, I have one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met.

You know the movie.

You know this movie.

O.K., she’s a little scattered, but who wouldn’t be with the mass of poor, disabled, and/or old huddled at her door? If YOU ever have to manuever this system I advise that you do not mail or fax anything. Like me, be prepared to go in person, wait your mandatory 90 minutes or more until she/he is free, and hand-deliver the information. I suggest casual chit-chat until you see the person actually type in the desired data. After that, you’ve done your best.

Now for the bright side! Under my chosen method of Positive Poverty I qualify for $16.00 a month in food stamps! But wait, there’s more. I also qualify for elderly, low-income housing in which one’s rent can be no more than one-third of one’s income.  And for Section 8, though the waiting lists are so long I probably won’t live to see it. AND, much to my surprise, a free, life-line cell phone which a worker signed me up for yesterday.

Applying for housing is a separate process though, so I’m just beginning that. OF COURSE there’s no one-stop integrated social service.

Ya big silly.

Well, I’m off to hand deliver another piece of information to my caseworker.

I leave you with a photo of the August 1971 Womens March on Fifth Avenue for which I was an organizer and, at one point, exhorted the masses from the kick-off stage mic to knock over the wooden barricades halving the street and FILL Fifth Avenue with our demands.

Those demands included universal, single-payer healthcare paid for by taxes exactly as we pay for police, roads, the fire department and other Public Goods. A system in which there would be no Medicare Plans A,B,C,D,E,F, J or Affordable Care Act bronzes, golds, or platinums, or a myriad of Explainers to assist navigation through what is, in my opinion, a deliberately confusing system broken at nearly every level. And that’s if you’re not sick.

My, we were optimistic.

August 1971 march