Monday, January 01, 2018

Getting My Affairs in Order

If I have any resolutions (I don't really do them unless I do), it is all about 'getting my affairs in order.' People who are given a fatal diagnosis are often encouraged to do this. But we will all die. And I worry about troubling those I leave behind with pesky details.

I'll probably live another twenty years. (And outlive my money.) But you never know.

When FFP and I were first married, we read an article in a magazine. An elderly man had 'willed' himself to live during his wife's last fatal illness and then lived long enough to see her memorial headstone erected on her grave. I told FFP he needed to do that for me. I'd like to hold him to that only I worry about the things I do in our domestic and financial partnership that I haven't sufficiently explained. I worry about possessions that I'd leave behind that would seem burdensome. I went through first my mother's possessions, then my dad's and then FFP's parents.

We are taking down the Christmas decorations. The ones above are on top of a cabinet that you have to get the ladder out to reach. I haven't done that yet. What will someone make of all those bendies when I'm gone? And even more so, when both of us are gone. I'd like to get a jump on tossing stuff. (Although I think the Christmas 'toys' I put out this year are going to stay until I'm gone.)

I'd also like to feel like FFP could figure out the bills I pay, the WEB space and domains we own, how I organize various things, how I continuously balance our cash accounts, how I account for his Subchapter S business and communicate with the CPA to get all the tax forms done.

I don't know how many times I've started on this task and how many ways I've tried to do it. But maybe 2018 is the year. If I'm lucky.

Speaking of luck I ate black-eyed peas and cornbread and collard greens. We attended two 'good luck' New Year's Day parties. At one they grilled sardines which, I learned, some believe to be a good luck food. Fine by me because I love sardines and these were delicious.

And good luck to all the Holidailies folks out there who've been writing this month. I've enjoyed reading a few. Until next year.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


I had a Christmas List (which was a combination of goals and stuff). In the past I've made lists of resolutions (both for the holidays and the new year). And I made 'to do' lists all the time. Posting every day on Holidailies was not included on any of these. Not this year certainly. Probably not in the past. It was something I tried to do once I'd signed up. Failed a couple of times this year, though. Like yesterday.

Yesterday was actually a pretty nice if not productive day. I goofed off working puzzles and watching TV and we walked to have lunch and buy YAB (yet another book) on South Congress. In the evening we walked to Rainey Street and attended a party for New Year's Eve Eve. A warm-up to the over-hyped day that included drinks but no champagne toasts. There were snacks and a lot of friends to visit with. Met a few new people, too. One who swore she knew me from somewhere.

We were home by 10:30 including the walk back. The weather is turning sharply colder today, but yesterday it was still tolerable. For the earlier walk, I was in shirt sleeves at one point. A sweater and jacket and a muffler kept me toasty in the evening. We are going out tonight, to return before midnight, and I think I'll riffle through the extra closet for my overcoat. The temperature promises to be close to freezing and the wind gusty. We are only walking about five blocks, however.

One of the things on my 'to do' list, amidst the tax forms to work on, our business checks and bills, etc. is making display thumbnails for the slides I digitized for my aunt. This has made me sort of sad and nostalgic on her behalf. She is in a retirement apartment, tethered to an oxygen source. Fluid has to be drained from around her lungs three times a week. But here she is, on the left, greeting her two older sisters (next to her) and another woman after they landed in their PanAm plane. Dressed in suits and hats for travel. The aunts are gone now. She was in Hawaii in the Navy. I'm sure the woman on the right was a Navy buddy.
Time does fly. And 2017 is fast-disappearing. I need to shower and get ready to go out tonight.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Almost Done with The Holidays

Soon I'll try to gather all the Christmas characters up from their places on the apartment shelves and I'll take down the displayed Christmas cards. (By the way, I ended up sending 81 cards and receiving 42, not counting businesses and charities.) Some cards will go into recycling, along with family letters and such. I'll save a few with the Christmas things. The tiny tree will go into a box along with the tiny 'ornaments' (really little tiny rubber critters and such).
The puzzle is disassembled and in the box. Although I did leave as many pieces intact as possible since someone expressed a desire to own it and frame it "in the Beatles room." Ah, collectors.
Now just have to get it to them so it isn't taking up space in our abode. 

I have already started on my end of year tax and financial duties. That taints the holidays for me, but I feel worse if I don't get started on it.

We have dinner at an old favorite restaurant tonight with a friend. Fonda San Miguel in our old neighborhood has been the scene of many a great meal, serious libations, and great conversation. We'll visit with the owner tonight we hope. Tomorrow night is the eve of New Year's Eve. Some friends have claimed the day as a party. Weather permitting we'll walk to Rainey Street for that one. New Year's Eve we will entertain a friend at our downtown club for some drinks, apps, dinner, and music before coming home a few hours before 2018. On New Year's Day, we plan to go to one of those New Year's Day come and go parties. We were invited to two, but rather than try to make both we will only go to the first one. We used to have one at our house long ago. Bloody Marys, blackeyed peas, sausage, other snacks. I used to have a guestbook and also this book we trotted out for this party where people wrote resolutions, predictions, hopes, and dreams. I wish I could find those. I bet they are stuck in some box in the storage cage.

But, then, it will be Tuesday. Life will be back to normal. Won't it? I'll be adding taxes to my usual duties. I'll be planning a trip to New Orleans and maybe New York and some other places in the Northeast. And another year will rush by. I used to visualize the year's calendar as an almost oval that was sort of wide and flat on the bottom (that was the three months of summer) and a little flat at the top (the weeks of the holidays). The months unfolded counter-clockwise from the top. This made January through Spring sort of a plunge downwards. Still seems right to me somehow.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Collecting 101

As you go through life, there is an acquisition curve. You want things of all sorts. The advertisers encourage it.You particularly want things if, growing up, money is a little tight and you don't get everything you desire.

Some of us collect things. Maybe bendable, posable figures with an emphasis on Christmas, particularly Santa. Maybe we collect barware and glassware. I've also collected world globes. That collection was mostly given away to a charity garage sale. I collected construction toys. (Only the Erector Set I got when I was nine remains.) I collected Legos. (Most went to my great nephews and, by now, have undoubtedly moved on from there.) I collected other old toys. When we moved into our downsized apartment, I figured I could keep some of the bendables. They stored easily. The Christmas ones would make a whimsical display for the season.

A lot of people collect things and become major experts on them. I am not so driven. But I did notice a few things about the bendable toys. Today, they are all made in China. But old ones were made after WWII in Japan and even Germany. If you were to find some cheap bendable Santas at a store today, there's a good bet they would not be carefully painted. Compare the two toys below. One has a flesh-colored face and even a sprig of green on his cap. His boots are black. The other got a minimal swiping of white and black.
Also, in collecting you go for the rare. The ones that are a little different. A Christmas Tree or Reindeer. A different take. Rarity makes for a collectible.

But at the end of the day, collections are cool because you have a lot of similar objects.

And it's time, I think, for all these guys to disappear into a box in the storage cage. It's only the second time in nine Christmases that they've made an appearance, I think.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Unmet Obligations

Hmm, yes, I was supposed to write in this blog every day, but, alas, I didn't make it a priority, did I? Oh, I wasted Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day on other things all right. We finished our jigsaw puzzle on Christmas Day. It was a secondhand 1000-piece affair depicting that iconic Beatles album cover. These things are real time-wasters and I only allow us to do them once a year. As I mentioned last time we spoke (on the 23rd) jigsaws have many lessons to teach, especially when worked on by more than one person. There are the different approaches: looking for a particular piece outlined wholly or partly by the partially-finished puzzle vs. picking up a piece and looking for where it might go and what pieces it might go with. There are the different tolerances for spending time with the puzzle: hours intently assembling a section as opposed to walking by occasionally and finding a fit and walking away. There's the grabbing of the box top with the completed picture by the various participants. This puzzle had the picture top and bottom but the top, while bigger, was partially obscured. In this house, we assemble the edge first. I sorted the pieces a little while doing this. At first I forced some pieces into the wrong places and thought pieces were missing, but finally figured it out. One loses oneself in the puzzle and it drives out the worry about everything from posting to Holidailies to starting to worry about taxes. I think this is why people do them in ICU waiting rooms, nursing homes, etc.

Christmas Eve was busy with our new traditions. We visited the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar to walk around and look at some booths selling various oddments and to hear Christine Albert and Chris Gage do a set.
A collage from old circuit boards at the Christmas Bazaar.

Chris and Christine on stage.

Since I'd climbed to the top of Doug Salm Hill last year on Christmas Eve, we made it a tradition and did it this year, too.

Things looked different last year before new buildings were rising:

We continued with our Christmas Eve traditions by stocking up for staying home on Christmas Day. (Two trips to Trader Joe's: one to buy eggs, bananas, salad greens, sourdough bread; and one to buy flowers and Guinness.) We met two other couples for dinner at Second Bar and Kitchen. Then we went to one set of Jon Blondell's Christmas Eve show at the Elephant Room. Our friend Butch Miles was in our group and sat in for a couple of tunes.
Christmas Day we did not leave the house. We worked on our puzzle, read papers, worked crosswords, watched the documentary about Roger Ebert ("Life Itself"), and watched "BBC World News" which always calms me in today's awful news cycle (I think it's the accents). The day withered away. I have no idea what else I did. I never took off the sweatpants and old T-Shirt I slept in. 

Boxing day (the 26th) we didn't give anything to the help. (Who would that be? The concierges, maintenance guys? Already contributed to their bonuses.) But I played tennis. The day was drizzly and cool and cloudy. The hard courts were unplayable. Only one other clay court had people having some fun. Later the day turned a bit more bitter. There was a fiercer wind from the north and more drizzle. We didn't venture far. A couple of blocks north of the apartment to Austin Wine Merchant for a Boxing Day Tradition of tasting Siduri Wines. Then a couple of blocks south of the apartment to see a movie. ("Call Me By Your Name.") Then one block north again later to our 'local' (the bar at Fixe) to meet a friend for an early supper and drinks. Home to vegetate with mindless TV and newspapers and, finally, a few pages of my current book before sleep. 

Today I started tax season by preparing stuff for the CPA for our Subchapter S Corp and mortgages we own. The looming taxes spoil the holidays every single year. FFP has been working on our charity deductions spreadsheet for weeks even though we won't be able to file a personal tax return for months because of late K1's. I'll spend lots of time between now and the 1040 filing worrying about it. Ah, well, there's always a spoilsport. Death, taxes, health, finances. It's always something.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

All I Want For Christmas

Earlier in the month, I wrote an email to FFP with a sort of facetious Christmas list. But it was also kind of true.

  • Some nice bar soap.
  • A French word-a-day calendar
  • A drive to Dallas to see Anna again give her some pictures I scanned (or show them to her electronically). We can go some off day after Christmas or New Year or ?
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle (I have one I think)
  • Put together a Lego (have it)
  • Get all the newspapers out of my stacks (will require time and dedication)
  • Have a couple of nice meals (Lenoir? Counter 357? Wu Chow?)
  • See some movies at VC or Alamo and watch some vids (Giant? new Crown?)
  • Go to some jazz shows
  • Do our annual visit or visits to Armadillo Bazaar and see Christine or ?
  • Go to Headliners or Austin Club for drinks
  • Do some more clean-up, clean-out of closets, cabinets, storage, etc.
  • Some long walks on days nicer than today
He has a gift bag for me. It's from a boutique on 2nd Street called Mercury. I'm sure it has some nice soap in it. Am I becoming an old lady or what?

He bought me a French 'Daily Phrases and Culture Calendar' at BookPeople. It's not wrapped or anything. It's here ready for my use. He also got me Sam Shepard's "Spy of the First Person" which I later said I wanted. Maybe I'll read that on Christmas Day. Nothing like the last work of a dying man on Christmas Day. Or New Year's Day perhaps.

The drive to Dallas is still pending. Some of my cousins promise to be around for my aunt and I've been watching the weather.

The puzzle (a secondhand one someone gave me) is out of the closet and coming together. He stayed up late last night working on it. Jigsaw puzzles have many lessons to teach (especially when worked on by multiple people!). 

I have a complicated Christmas Lego. I thought it would make a great decoration, put together. Might be too late on that. Next year!

Maybe I will conquer the newspapers on Christmas Day. Love having time to make it through all the Wall Street Journals, New York Times and our local rag, The Austin American-Statesman. 

We've had a few nice meals, but not at the suggested restaurants so far. We've already been piling in movies. Saw "The Darkest Hour" and "Wonder Wheel" at the Violet Crown. Have streamed and watched some movies on DVD. Maybe we'll get to "Giant" on Christmas Day.

We saw a set of jazz with friends last night and will do the same tomorrow night. We plan to go to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and see Christine Albert and Chris Gage tomorrow at noon. Then dinner and the Christmas Show at the Elephant Room for more jazz.

He made reservations to go to the Headliners Club for drinks and dinner on New Year's Eve. We'll do the ringing in at home.

Wouldn't it be nice if I cleaned out some more stuff? Well, at least I haven't acquired too much this holiday season.

We've had some nice walks when the weather permitted. More to come I'm sure before the 'holidays' are officially over.

Meanwhile, my niece sent some actual presents. A book of crossword puzzles, a couple of fun books,
 a page-a-day calendar of strange facts and these shoelaces that you just slide tight and they can never come untied. I'm fearful of losing the exercise I was getting bending over and tying the laces on my hikers. For some reason, they came with these round laces that seem to come untied even when I double knot them. I tested them out today. Perfection! I'm easily pleased.

Real physical presents don't matter. It really is the thought that counts. FFP said all he really wanted (bearing in mind that he already bought new pants, a new leather jacket and I forget what else for himself) was a new floor lamp by his reading chair. We shopped (buy didn't buy) for one today. (FYI: no one is shopping in furniture and lighting stores!)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Missed a Day Again

Well, yesterday was busy. Yeah, that's my excuse.

Today's picture is my Dad at a Christmas celebration at my in-laws' house. We no longer have to entertain with elderly parents because they are all gone. (Last one six years ago.) But the season and our lives can be busy.

So, yesterday I played tennis. Good to get to do that in spite of the holiday looming. One gal couldn't make it and got a sub and she was a lot of fun. When I got home, I started on a project to make thumbnails our of the 89 slides that I had digitized for my aunt. I didn't get too far with that because I was distracted by other things. Then I had to have some leftovers and salad for lunch. It was necessary to lay a base because we were going to be confronted with a bunch of Mexican food. We went to a memorial party at a Mexican restaurant in the early afternoon for our friend's son who recently died of a heart attack. There were margaritas (too early) and a Mexican buffet. We had water and talked to our friend and his wife, to the widow and to a few other folks. We said the things you say that don't really do any good. We came home. I might have fiddled with the jigsaw puzzle I've set up for holiday fun. (It is secondhand and, I think, missing a few pieces if trying to get the edge together is any indication.) We got the mail and there were three holiday cards. But I was winning because I'd already sent a card to each family. There was also a 'thank you' note for a gofundme donation for a dog's surgery. It had a cute dog picture on it so I put it out with the holiday cards. I might have worked a crossword puzzle. I donned a red jacket (festive) and we drove a short distance through traffic to go to a holiday party at a house where the folks put up all these lights and characters and have a personal trail of lights. We talked to friends. I drank water and had one of those iced holiday cookies. (A Christmas tree. A Jewish couple joined me in selecting the tree cookies. She said, "This is the only Christmas tree I'll have.") There was a buffet. Of Mexican food. I eschewed that. When we got home, we went to our favorite bar and I had one Manhattan and fried chicken with kale slaw. I gave myself a gold star for passing up two Mexican buffets. Have I mentioned that I have conquered food? For some reason, I find it easier than ever in the holiday season. Don't I? I hope so. The fried chicken was a smallish portion which and I shared a little bit with FFP.

And, well, our holiday continues. I have to get showered and dressed and go to the annual holiday party at our downtown club. (It is always over the noon hour on the last workday before Christmas.) There are Bloody Marys (I plan to have one) and there is a buffet that usually includes tamales, shrimp, etc. We will visit with friends and then come home and rest up for (wait for it) a Feliz Navidad party in the early evening! Yep. We will go. I am not made of stone. I'm having the buffet of, no doubt, Mexican Food. We have to drive so FFP won't drink and I probably won't either (see Bloody Mary above), but we plan to leave the party a little before the finish and come home and go to a jazz club and meet four friends. Perhaps I will have a Guinness or two at the club. Well, party, party, party. We have a big day planned for Christmas Eve, too. A music thing at noon at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and dinner and back to the same jazz club as tonight with some friends. The good news is we have nothing on Christmas. We plan to make a breakfast and maybe snacks later. (I'm thinking of trying a recipe for Welsh Rarebit aka cheesy toast). We might mix some drinks or open some wine. Or I might put some amaretto and Kahlua in a coffee. We will read the papers and our books and fiddle with the jigsaw. We will watch old movies on TV or some Netflix. We like to pull out 'Giant' and watch that. Christmas scene is amazing.

Well, that's sort of the plan. Maybe I won't miss writing again. And maybe I'll find time to read some more of the offerings in Holidailies.