reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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we’ll see. part two. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

i mean, i love calculators. really love them. i got excited the other day when i found a TI-30X IIS in a basket i was going through. sheesh. i blame my high school math teacher, a man everyone adored and for whom we all worked really hard. he’s one of the reasons so many of us ended up loving math…still.

and so i am the billpayer. i have a dollar store calendar with due date notations each month which serves as a folder for outstanding bills. i check it often and keep track of spending. i prepare our personal and business taxes in february, a task – everything line-item-ed to bring on to the accountant – that is sometimes daunting, but…ya gotta love all that math. i never really mind any of it. sometimes, though, i wish the numbers were different. it would maybe be a little easier with better numbers. sigh.

the aarp magazine and newsletter come into the mailbox and i peruse them for thoughtful advice, words of wisdom, pointers. invariably, they have some article on retirement – which is, of course, their real area of expertise. and, along with the article that lists all the things you need to “successfully retire” (aka do whatever-the-hell you want) there will be lists of IRAs and 401ks and savings pie charts and spending allowances and how they proportionately relate to each other and your life post-wage-earning.

good grief.

it is not in my best interest to take these too seriously.

by the time we are fully retired, with inflation going the way it is – gas prices and groceries, continually rising heating bills and let’s-not-talk-about-cable anymore and oh-right-then-there’s-healthcare – we might have like zilcho to spend.

i love the articles about places to retire to – small towns and lakefronts, unexpected charming villages. there’s always the question of retirement living communities with amenities and activities or planned gated neighborhoods or mobile home parks set in tropical locations.

with housing costs and rents rising ad nauseam, it is hard to think about having the resources to purchase a new home and move. we dream and look at tiny-house plans. we consider this beloved old house we live in. we wonder about traveling. we wonder about adventures. we wonder about the pacific crest trail.

we make a strict budget, planning ahead. i thank bill h., my math teacher, for the ability to think it all through and do the math in my head. and i warn d.

so in our fun and adventurous retirement, after working hard in our lives, after judicious and frugal-no-real-frills spending habits, i calculate our likely extraneous income…that expendable fluff – like reddi-whip piled high on top of a hot fudge sundae – and i tell david.

“zero,” i inform him. “we can spend zero.”

we’ll see, i guess.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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and then, the feral. [d.r. thursday]

in my recollection, my sweet momma didn’t buy flats of flowers with the arrival of spring. my mom and dad didn’t run nursery to nursery purchasing new shrubbery or plants to add to the gardens around our home. they didn’t pore over landscaping catalogs nor research shade and sun preferred plantings. though it didn’t occur to me then, i realize now – and empathize – that they couldn’t afford it.

the half-acre piece of long island on which i grew up was beautiful and natural and serene. along one side of the house – a little bit shady – were four-o-clocks and bleeding hearts. along the other side were hosta. in the front corner and along the side where the neighbors-who-had-the-nice-weimaraner lived there were forsythia. on the other side where the neighbors-who-had-the-weimaraner-who-bit-me lived there were rose of sharon. we had rhododendron and i can’t remember what else in the front garden. but they all came back; they were perennials. because anything annual, well, i don’t think that was in the budget.

and so i guess i have come by it honestly. it wasn’t a “thing” when i grew up to run out and purchase – before anyone else picked them all over – flats of this year’s preferred annual flowers. it wasn’t a “thing” to plant hanging baskets and wooden barrels or giant clay pots with flowers for the season. it was expensive then and it’s expensive now. i learned early to appreciate the simplest garden, the natural setting of a woods, the reassuring return of perennials you have nurtured and which, likely, came from cuttings someone else gifted to you.

when i first moved to wisconsin, it was a full-impact moment when may arrived and everyone was talking about the flowers they would plant. friends and neighbors would dance gracefully into planting season and the ballet seemed a bit foreign, a bit out-of-reach. the quietly-popular greenhouses were divulged to me; i purchased a small trowel and got to it. impatiens and waxed begonia and petunia flats later, to no avail i had tried to avoid the pressure. each year posed the angsty question of color – for there are trends, i found, obvious by the missing palettes at the nurseries.

my momma and my dad loved their garden. they loved their indoor plants as well. and, when they planted vegetables out back next to – but far enough away from – the dog run, they loved those too. mostly, they loved the trees canopying our house and yard, the woods out back, the tiny lily-of-the-valley next to the old shed. i never heard them utter a peep wishing for more. i never felt – growing up – that i had missed out, not having new flowers or plants each year.

yet, here i was – i am – living in a place and time where that seems to be of vital importance. and i have wondered why this urge, this spring-flower-purchasing-extravaganza doesn’t come naturally to me. i know it’s not because i don’t love flowers.

we walk and hike through the woods. no matter whether the forest trail takes us into the mountains or along the low elevation of a river in the midwest, we notice the floor of greenery, the flowers growing wild, color and shape, exquisite all.

once again this year – like last – we won’t purchase annual flowers. the plants we will add for our summer will be cherry tomato plants, basil, lemongrass, perhaps lavender. we will appreciate the tenacity of our hosta and our ferns, the spreading wild geranium, the stubborn return of our daylilies, the tender peonies, our aspen sapling, the ever-present grasses. we cheer on the groundcover sally gave us and the groundcover sneaking under the fence in its every-year attempt to take over the garden. we celebrate the simplicity and wish that our front yard – in its water-main-replacement-utter-mess – wouldn’t require neat and tidy grass replacement, a huge and costly job to remove old sod and stray cement poured from the temporary sidewalks and various strewn deposits of rubber and metal and rocks.

my sweet momma and dad adored the yard of my growing-up home. they didn’t pass on to me the necessity of more. instead, they passed on to me an embracing of simplicity, gratitude for what-we-have and the appreciation of other gardens – friends’, neighbors’, public botanic celebrations of gorgeousness. they passed on the love of feral forests of jack-in-the-pulpit and the crowning glory of trillium.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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we’ll see. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

i read it on facebook. her daughter had fallen in love with the perfect home and had made an offer, only to lose this perfect house they had been saving and saving and saving for to someone who offered $200,000 (that’s two-hundred-thousand-dollars) OVER the asking price. all cash. it’s insanity!

we ponder the next chapter often. we have dreamy homes in our mind’s eye and on my laptop screen, plans i have saved, photographs of houses over which we have lusted. out the window are mountains and space, oftentimes water. and never perfect grass. i’ve noticed a theme of more natural settings, without the greenscape of manicured lawn, edged and treated and de-dandelioned.

but i cannot imagine how any of that is possible. we are fortunate to live in our old house in a beautiful old neighborhood near a giant great lake. we don’t usually have tornadoes or hurricanes, ice storms or lengthy periods of time over 100 degrees with feels-like humidity pushing us to stay inside. we have winter, yes. we have snow, yes. we have very-late spring, yes, sort of. we have gorgeous fall, yes. we have thunderstorms and sometimes windy derechos, which are scary as heck. every now and then we have ice and every now and then there will be a period of time with hotter-than-heck temperatures. and we love our home…the creaky wood floors, the fluted glass doorknobs, the high ceilings, the six-panel doors, the nooks and crannies, the light. even with all its idiosyncrasies and the ever-present maintenance list, we are grateful for it.

but…the next chapter. i hear about people retiring and moving south – to florida, most often. i hear about people moving southwest – to arkansas, to arizona. these aren’t places we would choose. we have a short list at the moment: colorado, north carolina, vermont, maine. i think that’s about it for now. i’m not sure how we could afford any of those places. we don’t have two-hundred-thousand-dollars-cash-money-over-and-above-the-selling-price to entice a seller to accept our bid. my heart goes out to my friend’s daughter. buying a home these days cannot be easy – for most.

so every day, really, i tool around online looking at our top destinations, dreaming. i jaunt over to airbnb to see what it would be to live in those spots for a couple months, enough time to immerse and feel like we have gotten out of dodge. i show david pictures and we chat about the possibilities of someday. i look at calculators and equations and budget projections. yikes!

and we start to make a plan. our roadtrip. i guess we’ll see.

there’s a lot to consider and, clearly, we need a much bigger piggybank.

mostly, though, i’m guessing we will follow our hearts.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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black ‘dack stack. [two artists tuesday]

i was a doubter. i doubted the plastic lumbar support. but i had done my research and, with the budget we were allowing for new chairs – which didn’t include traditional wood, composite or cool new resin – and the fact that we wanted black chairs – these were what i had come up with.

so we went to the ace hardware store not holding out a lot of hope, thinking that we would have to nix this plan and move on to target or menards and get some other color.

the adirondack stacks were outside on the sidewalk. every color you could think of, stacked high against the front windows. a rainbow of adirondacks. we pulled one of the black ones down and drew in our breath to try it out.

in a surprise moment of don’t-expect-too-much-this-is-plastic-after-all it was actually quite comfortable. we bought two, loaded them into littlebabyscion, drove them home and placed them on the back patio to see if we would like them or if they would need to be returned. not shockingly, we quickly decided that we wanted a few more and, as luck would have it in our plastic-chair-budget-world, the ace was having their grand opening the next day and had given us coupons for $20 off purchases.

we went there in the rain. early. we didn’t want the black stack to be gone. you know…a lack of black in the ‘dack stack.

the dj was pumping out music, there were hamburgers and facepainters; it was quite the festival of celebration for a hardware store.

we grabbed four black adirondacks, whipped out our coupons and moseyed off into the wild grey yonder, happy as clams to have six new adirondack chairs in which to sip wine, gather ’round the bonfire, soak up the sun, ponder life and all its mysteries and support our lumbars.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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vintage. [two artists tuesday]

the last time i bought a brand new car – right off the lot – was 2003 or 2004. littlebabyscion was almost brand new – with 250 miles on it and that was in 2006. the new-car-smell and negotiating with salespersons and then, of course, their managers…both memories in the distant past.

littlebabyscion is getting up there. 260somethingthousand miles on it now. wrinkles and groans and a little rust here and there and a few mechanical issues here and there, it’s a workhorse that just refused to start last friday. dashboard lights i don’t think i have seen before appeared right before my eyes. we suspect the alternator.

but – in our one car driveway – there LBS sat…in back of big red, blocking the path out.

the jumpstart hooked up to big red made LBS chortle. starting for a moment and trying to chug the engine alive, it stalled and the handbook and google informed us to “go to the scion dealer” and do not pass go. our truly amazing mechanic steve will be its destination when the tow truck comes.

but – on friday – we were left without any transportation.

saturday we pushed the scion down the driveway toward the apron and managed to thread big red through the space between the old brick wall and the front of LBS. the only way out was across the yard, but the yard – all trenched and mounded up from the water line replacement – has seen better days anyway. we rolled our eyes looking at the tire tracks across the snow in our front yard. david suggested moving the couch out front.

we have some real old stuff. between a 1998 ford f150 and our xb and our vw and our stove and mixing bowls and corningware and this very laptop – not to mention hand-me-downs and never-been-replaceds, we qualify as our own antique shoppe. when seeking a replacement adapter cord, the woman on the apple support line told me that my computer was “vintage” and that they didn’t even carry the cord for it. (she was actually wrong about that part as i directed her attention to the correct cord on the apple store.) see…you can rube goldberg things and keep them going when need be.

and as two artists for the majority of our lives – in between and in conjunction or simultaneously with other positions and career arcs – rube goldberging is of necessity. i’d like to also think of it as having a smaller carbon footprint. admittedly, the efficient energy consumption of a new stove vs the half-life of a decomposing stove in a dump somewhere leaves much room for debate. but we, as artists, don’t always have the luxury of replacing things at whim – or even in a longer term plan – and we try to do our best at being responsible citizens of this beautiful world.

i asked steve once what we were going to do when littlebabyscion reached 300,000 miles. he looked at me, surprised, and said, “keep driving it.”

yes, yes. i suppose we will.

we pushed littlebabyscion back up the driveway so big red could fit.

it may be time to start planning for new grass.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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healthcare.gov [flawed wednesday]

healthcare.gov

this could get ugly.  it could also get too honest.  and maybe too personal.  and too detailed.

this is the week.  i’ve been dreading it for months.  it is the final week to select health insurance for 2020.  sometime this week i will wait online for probably hours to take my turn, to take my turn to sign up for a plan on healthcare.gov. i have been awake all night on and off for weeks.

we are artists.  both of us.  neither of our jobs and none of the other work that we do provide health insurance or benefits.  we live in the state of wisconsin and have four options of healthcare companies on healthcare.gov.  an insurance agent pointed out that we could opt for short term health insurance (up to 360 days) instead of a regular policy, but those do not cover any pre-existing conditions, do not provide for physicals and most preventative care and are basically catastrophic plans.  hmmm.  as a grown-up who has been working my entire grown-up life, i would really like to have grown-up insurance.

so.  four companies.  bronze, silver and gold plans in each.  none of these companies provide nationwide coverage and a couple do not even allow for emergency room coverage out of network. two of those companies do not cover our doctors, professionals with whom we have established relationship through years; last year (2018) our coverage did not allow us to go to our own doctors, so we didn’t.  we paid for coverage and never visited the doctor’s office at all.

so let’s get more mealy here.  there are plenty of arguments about healthcare out there and plenty of naysayers and supporters -each- of the affordable care act.  are you even familiar with it?  if you would prefer not to know, i would stop reading here.  but if you really want to know more, please read on… but keep in mind, i love math and research.

we are 60 and 58 and healthy.  these four companies on healthcare.gov presented bronze, silver and gold plans that will cost between $1600 and $2800 per month out of pocket, which is a total of $19,200-$33,600 per year.  the $1600 options have deductibles between $14,000-16,000.  in many cases, this is what you must satisfy before the company even begins to pay a portion.   that would mean you have paid in the neighborhood of $33,200 a year for you and your spouse to be treated on a bronze plan, without figuring in the actual cost of the treatment.

let’s explore an example for example’s sake.

let’s say you make a combined salary of $70,000.  let’s assume a meager (and understated) tax bracket of only 20%.  $70,000-14,000 = $56,000.  now let’s assume you own a house or pay rent and your mortgage plus escrowed real estate taxes are about $1200 combined (also underestimated in most cases). $56,000-14,400 = $41,600.  add to that your utilities bills; let’s just estimate that at a lowish $250 per month, which is $3000 year.  $41,600-3000 = $38,600.  now subtract out for cellphones, home phones, cable, wifi again lowballing at $250 per month, $3000 per year.  $38,600-3000 = $35,600.  at this point you have not included any of your outstanding student loans or parent plus loans, nor have you subtracted out for home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, any kind of retirement savings or a car payment.  nor have you even considered food, clothing or gas for driving to and from work, even if you don’t drive anywhere else.  any outstanding rotating credit card debt or medical related costs that you are paying on installment are not subtracted.  but you are sitting at $35,600 usuable income.

so.  if you take the bronze plan you must assume that you have approximately $16,000 in the bank for the deductible and you must subtract $19,200 (27% of your gross income) from your $35,600 leaving you with $16,400 to cover all the aforementioned items we hadn’t subtracted and maybe perhaps saving a little to cover the percentages of medical expenses you need to cover post-deductible.  OR you can take a silver plan, which is in the neighborhood of $2200 per month or $26,400 year (38% of your gross income) leaving you with $9200 to cover loans, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, car payment, food, clothing, gas, etc.  you clearly can’t even consider a gold plan at $2800 per month (the most grown-up plan) because that would cost $33,600 a year, leaving you with a mere $2000 to spend on the rest of life (as listed above).  again, that’s assuming a meager 20% income tax rate and not considering state or local income taxes as well.

i’m sure you are beginning to see my point.

and then there are the subsidies.  yes.  if you earn below 4 times the poverty rate in your state, you are eligible for subsidies for this healthcare insurance.  naturally, the more you earn, the less subsidy you are able to receive.  that makes sense.  it feathers out as the numbers go up.  and then?  there is a dollar level – one dollar this way or that – that a granted subsidy would drop from hundreds, even more than a thousand or fifteen hundred to – ZERO – .  for instance, if you are granted a subsidy because of your level of income and sometime in the year (as you have worked hard to earn more to live a little better) you go over the healthcare cliff by ONE DOLLAR, ONE dollar, you will owe back the entirety of the insurance plan.  in the above case, that would be anywhere between the difference of what you paid in and the plan total of $19,200 or up to $33,600.

we are the poster children of this so-called sweet spot in the healthcare crisis of our country.  a bit older, working hard, multiple jobs, no job-provided healthcare.  not making enough to scoff at spending say $29,000-$33,000 (silver or gold plans) or even $19,200 (bronze) for one year of health insurance, nonetheless be able to actually budget that, but making a bit more than the cliff.  no ropes.  no guardrails.  just a cliff.

the professional insurance agent on the phone said she had “a lot of people your age in that circumstance.”  she suggested considering short term health insurance, the kind i mentioned above that precludes pre-existing conditions etc etc. etc.  that doesn’t sound like grown-up health care to me.  and the deeply disappointed, frustrated cynic in me asks this question – when will breathing be considered a pre-existing condition?

something needs to be done.  is the health of the people of this country important or not?  it’s a basic question.  with an obvious answer.   where do we place value?

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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voila! [merely-a-thought monday]

something wrong with me box copy

20 rolled his eyes at himself when he told us the story.  he was at the grocery store and was looking at dish soap.  he likes dawn dish soap; it gets the best ratings, he said.  as he is peering at the shelf of containers, he can see that way in the back is a container with just a bit more…the volume of the ones in the front seem lower than this particular one in the back.  so he reaches all the way in, moving aside other dawn bottles now rejected by him and pulls out the one where he can see the soap level just-a-little-bit-higher.  he notes that the plastic bottle is not squished or dented (for obviously that would cause a rise in level) and he triumphantly puts the chosen bottle in his cart.  voila!  “there must be something wrong with me,” he said.

as a person who grew up with soap socks and leftovers i couldn’t disagree more.  of COURSE you look for the highest level of soap in the bottle.  that’s a no-duh.  penny-pinching and making things last as long as possible were unspoken mantras for me; they still are.

my sweet momma kept a soap sock.  for those of you who have no clue what that is:  as a bar of soap gets smaller and smaller it becomes increasingly difficult to use.  never to waste anything, my momma would gather all of her tiny vestiges of soap bars and put them in a clean white sock (generally a sport sock…something a little thicker with a tooth like a washcloth.)  she would tie off the end and voila! there you have it – a washcloth with built-in soap!  a soap sock!

i have inherited this trait from my momma.  i will turn bottles upside down and squeeze the life out of them in order to finish all the product.  days after d has declared a shampoo bottle empty i am still encouraging shampoo out of its depths.  our refrigerator rarely has much extra in it – we buy for what we need and we use it up, even if it ends up as some weird concocted leftover.  growing up i didn’t need the “starving children in ….” speech.  i had dna.

so when 20 told us that he takes three pre-packaged 3 lb bags of potatoes over to the scale and weighs them i listened.  apparently, 3 lbs of potatoes can look like 2 3/4 or 3 1/2 or 4 1/4 lbs.  who knew?  you can bet i’ll be trying that.  more potatoes for the money!   voila!

“there must be something wrong with me,” 20 said.  nah.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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i already have them.

fullsizerenderbeing an artist means many things to many different people, but the one thing that i am certain of that is unifying among artists is that there is a budget. hmm…a challenging budget. not a lot of space to splurge sometimes. and other times, maybe some space to splurge. but always an awareness that, although art forms are the things that people gravitate to in times of bliss and utter grief, in times of celebration and quiet, in times of unity and division, in times of conversation and reflection, these ways of making a living are way less sure (understatement) – in a budget kind of way – than most others. and so this is how we live. always aware.

he said he was about to click on the “buy it” button and complete the purchase online when he noticed an additional $10 administrative fee. it made him reconsider; it made him think of other things we might do/purchase/pay for/experience with that extra $10, not to mention the whole purchase price.   and so, he thought about it and, reluctantly, he stopped and cancelled his order.   he seemed sad to tell me this story and prefaced it with an apology. he was ordering flowers. online. to be delivered on valentine’s day. which, might I mention, is really a made-up holiday. (why shouldn’t every day be treated as valentine’s day? i choose him each and every day, not just as my valentine on valentine’s day.)

this morning he brought the newspaper along with steaming mugs of bold coffee when he woke me. we sipped coffee together and chatted as the sun moved into the sky. i found his homemade valentine’s day card that he had tucked inside the paper and felt my heart beating as i read it, tears easily coming to my eyes. it was exquisite.

knowing how he was feeling about the story he had just told me, i asked him what kind of flowers he had been ordering. “daisies and one red rose,” he said.

there’s no need to receive these at our front door. i can see them.

they are the daisies from our wedding and a long-stemmed red rose – the traditional flower of Love – the very thing that he shows me every day, in so many ways.

i already have them.