: Widows & Widowers

So, You’d Better Watch Out…for Pick Pockets

Hello everyone:

Well, my visit to Orlando International Airport did not go as expected yesterday. I went through the TSA checkpoint, got patted down and my britches opened, and then got my university ID card stolen by someone who brushed by me.

I didn’t realize it immediately but, a little while later, I noticed that my university ID card was no longer hanging from my purse. It took a little longer to realize that the person who banged into me, right under the eyes of the TSA, had clipped it off and walked away with it.

I hope the individual enjoys getting into the communication faculty office area because that’s really the only place I am authorized to go. After he or she arrives, the offices in the inner sanctum are locked and the card will only take the person that far. Knock yourself out, thief.

I guess you thought the card was for some big company that had a lot of stuff on computers. Well, in some ways you were right but I don’t have access to that kind of information. Too bad for you.

This did make one thing clear: the importance of being aware of your possessions while traveling. What if that had been my passport? My credit cards? It was quite a bit of time before I realized what had happened and the thief was long gone by then.

I was traveling alone and it really could have been a whole lot worse than my needing to walk across campus tomorrow, to cancel that card and get a new one, after paying $25.00 for the card.

Folks, please be vigilant this holiday season, and all year round. The bad guys (or gals) are out there and they know how to grab and run (or walk). So, you’d better watch out.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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The Car Insurance Blues or How to Spend an Hour and a Half Trying Your Patience

Hello everyone:

Well, it had to happen. That one task that my hubby always did has finally fallen to me. Or perhaps I should say “has fallen on top of me.”

I had to get new car insurance yesterday. Be still my soul! I also had to arrange for some other insurance, for the home I will be living in. This is the tale of that challenge, with the hope that you will be able to steer your way clear of some of the pitfalls that I fell into.

First, make sure you know EVERYTHING about your car. I mean everything. Next, make sure you know everything about your new home.

The car was relatively straightforward, after the agent was certain which car, model, make, year, (and, probably, the birthday of my vehicle). Then we moved on to some “easy” house questions.

What kind of pipes does it have? What kind of shingles? Siding? Roof? Flooring? Walls? Heat? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have a pet? (No, but I have a plant I’m fond of.) Do you have kids? Do you have a pool? (Mister, you’re looking at the Zillow listing for the house- does that tiny backyard look big enough for a pool, other than a little kiddie’s wading pool?) How about a trampoline? (Mister, I confessed how old I am- how old I REALLY am- do you really think I jump around on a backyard trampoline???)

Do you have a washer and dryer? What kind of appliances do you have? How old are they? Where are they? (In the house, thankfully.) Do you have a garage?

How many bedrooms do you have? How many bathrooms? Are they full bathrooms? (You’re looking at Zillow, you tell me….)

I started wondering, one hour into the conversation, if we would ever be finished. Apparently not. It felt like the Spanish Inquisition, minus the blood, guts, and gore…but I digress. We still had a mere twenty minutes to go, though I did not realize it at the time. He kept saying, “Only a few more minutes…”

Do you have a fence? Well, there are three tiny fences around three baby trees. The deer were trying to eat the bark….Oh, you have deer? Well, not personally. He lives in Ohio, so I didn’t tell him about the coyotes in the area. They have been known to eat things- like the dog I don’t own.

Please tell me your tale of insurance woe, so I don’t feel quite so alone….What have you experienced in the world of “Let me bet I’m going to have a tragedy befall me” while the insurance company bets I won’t. Hence their willingness to insure us in the first place.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Planning Ahead to Survive the Holidays

Hi folks:

The holidays will be here before you know it. Thanksgiving is followed very quickly by Christmas. How do the newly-single make it through? Although the focus of this website is usually practical in nature, here is a slight twist on that practicality for you, in the form of making it through the upcoming family-oriented stuff.

First, keep your focus on the point of the holidays: being thankful and celebrating the birth of our Savior. How do you do that? Get involved in something a whole lot bigger than yourself. Do you have any programs at church that will take up a lot of time, will be fun, and will be a blessing to others? Do them.

Yes, I know you are busy. Perhaps you are just making it a day at a time, but “stay local” for a minute. What are you going to do every evening if you don’t do this program? Stay at home and watch endless reruns of HGTV? Yes, I love the shows as much as anyone but do you really need to watch the same couple repeatedly agonize over hardwood versus laminate? A tile back splash in gray versus black? White kitchen cabinets versus brown?

Tarek and Christine’s have post-divorce arguments over the smallest of things. Although I really love the show, the early divorce (aka “Breaking up is Hard to Do”) reruns are the hardest Flip or Flop episodes to watch. And as much as I adore Chip and Joanna, their decorating style is not my taste.

(Now, as far as Hilary Farr and David the real estate guy go, those shows are move-in ready and right in line with my idea of decorating, but there are only so many times the couples can say “Love It” as we watch David get crushed and defeated yet again.)

So what can you do? Audition for a part in a program, if you are so inclined. Offer to paint the sets, fix the food that keeps everyone happy, or volunteer to sew costumes as part of an on-site team. The point here is to get involved. Don’t sit at home and mope about how you are alone and nobody cares. Meet new friends and have some fun. Go for it!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do, even if it’s with Your House

Hello everyone:

Have you ever been in mourning? For a house? That’s what I have faced recently, as a home that has been in our family since 1948 is being sold and the house where I raised my two sons is also on the market. Breaking up is hard to do, even when you’re talking about brick and mortar.

There’s the tree where your kids played cops and robbers or the porch where you swung on swings while chatting with your aunts and drinking iced tea with so much sugar that the spoon to stir it almost stood bolt upright. The front yard of your family home is there, neatly trimmed and running over with deer each evening. The tiny yard where you caught your first fireflies in mason jars is carefully pruned to show the house to its best advantage.

And there you stand on the outskirts, knowing that the properties have to sell but almost praying they won’t. But they must. So there you have it.

It doesn’t even have to be a house that you’ve owned for a long time for you to regret having to sell. I spoke to a couple this morning in such a situation. He kept telling me how much he loves his house. Present tense. He is going to sell it, to move near the grandchildren, but he worked so hard on the house that he has bonded with it. His wife stood nearby with tears in her eyes, but knowing that their path has been set in a different direction. They are moving hundreds of miles away.

Someone told me recently that, if someone is too busy looking back, he or she can’t see what God has for them in the future. The Bible talks about the man who puts his shoulder to the plow and how the fellow will mess up his plowing if he looks behind himself.

Simply put, we can’t see the blessings ahead if we look backwards all the time. They say that you shouldn’t cry over something that can’t cry back. While a house can’t tell you what it’s feeling, it is okay to grieve. But afterwards, you need to move on.

What are your thoughts on moving?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Watch out for Real Estate Agents Who Don’t Have Your Best Interests at Heart

Hello everyone:

The majority of the real estate agents I know are superb folks who work very hard. They focus on getting sellers top dollar for their homes and help buyers get into the house of their dreams in a financially responsible way.

And then there are those you need to watch out for. The latter are the folks I will be writing about today. (Let’s face it, this story is much more interesting!)

One of my suddenly single friends placed her out-of-state house on the market with a local real estate agent who appeared to be the top in his field. He wasn’t. Almost one month after listing her house, the agent had not done anything to market the home, including not having put the home into the Multiple Listing Service, not placing it on his website, not taking any pictures of the home’s interior, and not showing the house to anyone except his son, who was a flipper.

It gets worse. The son made a low-ball offer on a house that had been valued by the real estate agent. They then insisted on a quick close. And the house still hadn’t been listed on the MLS. When the home owner and her hubby called the real estate agent out on the issues, the realtor’s son withdrew his offer, the house was immediately placed onto MLS, and an offer was made by someone else. Someone who insisted on an immediate decision.

What do you think my homeowner friend should do? I would love to hear what you think, and then I will tell you “the rest of the story” in a future blog posting.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Flying out of the Airport Closest to Your Home Might Not be the Way to Fly

Hello everyone:

It seems like a no-brainer: You live near an airport, so you automatically book your flights from there.

Not so fast, dear friends! Let me tell you about my experience. I moved to a relatively rural area. The nearest major airport is Richmond. The nearest small airport is right next to my employer. Neither makes financial sense for me to utilize. Here’s why:

I looked into booking a flight from Richmond to Nashville, needing to go there on business. Because there were no direct flights, it would take me 6-8 hours to get there and it would cost about $400, one way. It would also take me at least two hours to drive to Richmond. Total cost: $800+ and about ten hours.

If I drove from my home to Nashville, I could get exactly where I wanted to be, without renting a car, and could get there in eight hours. I don’t want to drive but I need to go, so I looked further.

If I flew out of Baltimore-Washington International, the flight would cost less than $400 round trip and would take two hours. Yes, I have to drive to Maryland, but I can do other things while I am there. I am also used to making that drive, so I would be traveling over very familiar roads, instead of driving who knows where for who knows exactly how long. Total cost: $368.96, 1 1/2 tank of gas for the complete trip, a two hour flight, and a five hour drive.


(Yes, they let us get off the airplane to get food and stretch our legs.)

Even though the weather cleared up pretty quickly, the planes that had landed earlier than we did got to take off first, so we sat on the tarmac, waiting for our turn. It came and we ended up in Orlando, four hours late.

A friend was telling me today that his wife had a flight last spring where she had a layover. Her connecting flight from the tiny airport was canceled. The next flight was 24 hours later. Her hubby drove down and picked her up, in the middle of the night.

I think this is a case of bigger being better, since larger airports have more planes to choose from, if yours develops a problem. The take-away here is this: It might work out better to fly out of an airport that requires a bit of a drive. You will save money and you might save time, as well. Would you rather be sitting in an airport in the middle of nowhere or driving through a beautiful countryside? It’s your call. And your money.

What do you think? Have you had an experience like this?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Falling Back or Springing Ahead

Hello everyone: C

In the fall, we “fall back” and in the spring time, we “spring ahead.”

You will need to know how to change the clocks in your house, unless you are fond of being either habitually early or always late, depending on the time of year.

If you have challenges figuring out how to change the time on your current clocks, you might want to purchase some clocks that automatically adjust for Daylight Saving Time.

You also need to change the time in your car; look at your owner’s manual for tips on how to do that; it’s easy, do not fear. If all else fails, go to your place of worship and ask one of the tech-savvy teens to change it for you.

If you cannot adjust your watch, go to a jewelry store in the mall and ask the folks there to give you a hand. Another option, and one I confess to using, is to have two watches. Keep one set on Eastern Standard Time and the other on Daylight Saving Time. Problem solved.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Money, Money, Money

Hi Everyone:

I was talking with a gal not so very long ago- a widow who had an attorney who wanted her to sign all of her money over to him. Fortunately, she took her time getting back to the attorney and talked the idea over with a trusted male friend, first.

“NO!!!” he shouted. “Do not EVER sign over your money to someone else’s care.” It turned out that several widows in that area had done that, with this very same attorney, and he left them bereft.

She demurred and still has her money today. Folks, and especially ladies, you may have been taught as a young woman to always submit to male power figures in your life, so that they could “take care of you.”

It’s time to put your big girl pants on. Yes, you may have had your financial interests “taken care of” by your significant other, but now you are on your own, sweetheart. Nobody cares for your money like you should.

Yes, I know that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Copy that, friends. Gotcha. I am not suggesting hoarding money or becoming a penny pincher. Nope.

What I am telling you is that you no longer have the protection of a male, most likely. You have to become financially savvy and you have to do it pronto. (Gentlemen, perhaps your wife always took care of the finances, so I don’t mean to exclude you, but my years of business experience and interactions with many wives at home decorating parties showed me that some of these women could not spend $5 without asking for their husband’s permission (which was never, ever granted), so bear with me here.

Double-check figures from all sources. Balance your checkbook. Keep track of expenses. When you get any legal documents, double-check those figures and do not be afraid to ask questions, even if you have to ask more than once.

You could be talking about a substantial chunk of change here, so you absolutely must be vigilant about the whole thing. Be nice, be firm, and get your questions answered. Keep asking until you understand what’s happening.

Nobody else will care as much as you do. Nobody else is going to be responsible for paying your bills. You are going to have to pay your way, and you may have to do so for the rest of your life. Ask, ask, ask, and be like the squeaky wheel until you get the answers you need. You’ve got this!

Do you have any suggestions to offer my readers on how you have handled this? I would love for you to share some tips that have worked for you. That way, we can learn from one another. Thanks in advance.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Lawn Mowers versus You

Hello everyone:

Lawn mowers are necessary evils, if you have a lawn. I once talked to a suddenly single gal who had no problem with lawn mowers, but she considered the weed wacker to be a frightening instrument of torture. She asked her brother or father to come over and use it for her, she was so frightened of it.

But what about lawn mowers? I have never used one, always having had a father, brother, husband, or son whose job it was to keep our lawn looking nice. For this blog, I turned to my nephew, who owns a landscaping business.

If you have your own lawn mower, make sure you know where the repair shop is before you need it! Your mower takes regular gas, unless otherwise noted. You also need to make sure that the mower has engine oil. The type of oil you will need depends on the type of mower that you have; google your kind of mower, if you cannot find the owner’s manual. The mower itself should have a sticker that tells you what kind of oil it takes, if the mower is clean enough for you to read it.

If your mower needed service, how would you get it to the shop? You need to figure this out before the lawn mower gives you problems. Would you use a small trailer, or would you seek out a repair shop that makes house calls? The former might be excessively bothersome and the latter might be unavailable in your area. I suggest googling this, to see what type of service is in your location.

Make sure that whoever services your lawn mower is reputable. We once had a friend do the service, trying to help him get started in his own business. After spending a couple hundred dollars with the man, my hubby took the mower home, used it to mow one line of grass in our yard, and the mower stopped. Permanently. Since a friend had fixed it, he was too embarrassed to say anything, so he took the mower to the dump and bought a new one. Friends are wonderful but sometimes they are not the best choice for getting something fixed.

One way to forestall any challenges is for your mower to have regular checkups. Your regular service for the mower includes changing the oil, changing the sparkplugs, sharpening the blades, getting the mower winterized if it will be sitting unused for more than one month, and draining the gas when the mower is not going to be used for a while. 

You need to have a trusted friend or neighbor that you can ask about the mower and its needs. Find him or her now, pre-need. Then get a professional to take care of your mower.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Tools are Great Tools: Focusing on Wrenches and Screwdrivers

Hello everyone:

Wrenches: These are not Renaissance Festival Gals

Wrenches, according to Wikipedia, are used to “provide grip and mechanical advantage in applying torque to turn objects- usually rotary fasteners such as nuts and bolts- or to keep them from turning.”  While they may sound similar to those barely-dressed women at Renaissance Festivals (aka wenches), they are not. You need to have one or two on hand (the tools, not the scantily-clad women), in case of mechanical difficulties.

Wrenches would be helpful to have in your tool box, if you need to put something together, such as furniture or a bike, and if you need to be able to hold onto something with one hand and turn something else with the other hand.

Wrenches give you enough strength (aka torque) to tighten the bolts well enough so that the baby seat that you put on the back of your bicycle doesn’t leave the baby dumped out on the street when the whole thing falls apart because you didn’t use a wrench to put it together correctly.

(Yes, I did put one together many moons ago, but I used a wrench, did it correctly, and my son never got unceremoniously chucked into the street. For that, he was extremely grateful and I was greatly relieved.)

Screwdrivers: Don’t Use Them As Chisels

Screwdrivers are good for screwing and unscrewing screws. They should not be used as chisels or crowbars because that will damage the tip of the screwdriver.

This means that, when you go to use the screwdriver as a screwdriver, it won’t work because it will no longer fit into the place where it needs to go.

If you need a chisel for something, buy a chisel. If you need a crowbar to get into something, buy a crowbar. Don’t use your beloved screwdriver.

Use the screwdriver to tighten and loosen screws. If you use a screwdriver in place of a crowbar, you can damage the shaft, making it useless.

Two of the most common types of screwdrivers are the Phillips head screwdriver which looks like a star on the tip and the flat head screwdriver looks, well, flat. Look at whatever it is you wish to screw to see what type of screwdriver it will need.

Please note that screwdrivers come in different sizes; the screwdriver you use to fix your eye glasses is not the same size that you would use to fasten the screws on the picnic table you are putting together, for example.

Use caution when using a screwdriver because it can slip off whatever you are using it to screw on (or off) and end up puncturing your skin. (Voice of experience.) Take your time and don’t rush things.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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