Tuesday, April 26, 2011

...ALWAYS read the fine print

Sometimes, being "careful", [OK,OK... anal...] has its advantages.

If I hadn't compulsively forced myself to read all the pages of the Chapter 13 documents I recently signed, I wouldn't have found what might have been a costly error.

I had filled-out l-o-n-g financial disclosure forms for the lawyer and had a long meeting, discussing my answers, line by line. We discussed one problematic entry and I thought that we were "clear" that that monthly deposit by a "holding company" for the school district was merely a reimbursement for the monthly medical insurance premium taken by "the state"health insurance provider from my state teachers pension check, which the "district" will continue to pay, monthly, until I'm 65.
I received no W2,W4 or 1099, since it wasn't considered income, just a benefit agreed upon by the district and the teachers union years ago. I couldn't choose to receive a cash payment if I wanted to. They agreed to pay the "lowest" monthly premium for my medical insurance until I'm 65, period.

When we had a different insurance provider, they sent the check each month for me and all my colleagues under 65, directly to the provider. However, when we changed to the "CALPers" health insurance plan in November, 2009, things became, "complicated"...

Complicated, because my teachers pension is paid by CALSTRS, also a statewide organization. So CALPers insisted that all monthly medical premiums for their insurance paid by current retirees, be deducted from the CALSTRS benefit check,
before the monthly check was mailed or direct deposited. That didn't really bother me but school districts, like my former employer, now had to put aside the premiums they were paying for us into a holding company, which would reimburse us for the amount withheld by CALPers from my monthly CALSTRS pension payment, and the fun began...

Since these premiums were always paid directly to the insurance provider, there was no danger that they might be misunderstood as income. The IRS doesn't even require them to be reported. But apparently, the clerk, whose job it was to transfer all my financial info onto the Chapter 13 forms, had never seen anything like it before.
She reported my gross CALSTRS pension[including the amount deducted], as well as including the "reimbursement amount" each month, ballooning my "annualized income" from $25 K to over $32 K... so I called the lawyer's office.

It took some time for the lawyer on the phone, looking at my papers to understand the problem. I told her that I had had my 2010 taxes done, since we met, and could prove that I didn't make anywhere near $32 K... then she saw the problem. The reimbursement was reported as income, while listing the gross pension amount before taxes, deductions, etc... so they are doing an,"amended financial statement", which I will be going in to sign before my court date on May 4. At that time, any creditors can show up and complain about the settlement, but once the judge accepts the settlement amount, it stays for the 36 months as long as I pay the amount on time each month. At the end of 36 months, all the debt is expunged, although my credit rating will be bad for another 5 years. If I hadn't caught this mistake now, the case might have been contested for a larger settlement, which I can't afford, or the papers might have had to be refiled, which is expensive.

It has been a long, strange & frightening trip... and it's not over yet. I'm SOOO not looking forward to the court date. If creditors show up, it will be unpleasant, to say the least, but I'm told that often, no creditors show and the judge accepts the case into Chapter 13 with no real drama. I could use a little less drama.

More news as it becomes available.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

...overcast, but looking better

I am really enjoying the benefits of making myself prune the roses this year. This "Mr.Lincoln" has really had some nice, deep red blooms.

the fact that I took most of these pictures on an overcast day, helps to intensify the depth of the colors, but makes it harder to get really clear shots.

The buds always have such a promise that the overcast skies help prolong.

When it is very sunny, the buds open so quickly that you can miss them entirely.

These "Cecil Breuners" in the back exploded with the sunny, warm week we had recently and are now mostly "spent", though more buds will come.

I got this nice "salmon" geranium for only $.98 at Port Mudville Nursery. It's a replacement for one I lost to the cold, dry winter we had a couple of years ago.

I also added a "Crimson" dianthus and some white lobelia to the "Crystal Palace" lobelia that has reseeded itself for the last several years. When the summer sun hits both the intense blue of the lobelia and the dianthus, it is spectacular !
I can't wait.

When OSH was having a, "25% off all plants sale" last weekend, I picked-up some petunias, as well as some "Easter Bonnet" salvia, more lobelia & a couple of dianthus. They are waiting for me to put them into containers, but being "festive" in their waiting.

the "Margaritas" surprised me by reappearing, I thought that they were dead.

and this "Bay Laurel" seedling is trying to survive transplantation. It was a volunteer from my tree which did not survive the dry fall & early winter.

While the "Meyer" lemon perfumes the front,

the grapefruit tree is covered with buds...

and the lime tree is already starting to bloom.

The "Virginia Creeper" is covering the southern end of my house quite nicely.

The cherry tree has, "set"...

as has the peach tree, now a framework for the grapevine...

the apple tree is a later bloomer and is just starting to set.

I planted an assortment of bulbs several years ago, but only these returned this year. I think they are "Freesias",[sp?], but I'm not sure. I do, however, enjoy their happy colors amongst the rubble.

Then there are the camellias... both red,

and variegated...

I managed to plant some pole beans without totally crippling myself. The earwigs have already gotten to them, so I put out snail & slug bait. That won't stop the earwigs, but hopefully they'll soon move on to other things...

I found a 6pack of both "Brandywine" and "Mr.Stripey" tomatoes, which is why the plants look so small. They seem to be growing well already and I hope to have some good tomatoes around July.

I did get several larger tomato plants, mostly "Beef steak" types which need more time to mature anyway.

I'm hoping that these 2 "crookneck" squash plants survive.I've already lost 2 zucchini & 2 crookneck sets to snails this spring, so these are surrounded by snail & slug bait. The problem here will be rats when the fruit starts to set.

All the recent rains have really encouraged the wild violets. I'm hoping for blooms, both white and purple, this year.

The violets inside are thriving, however...

I love spring !

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

...good spring-y things

a yellow rose in a perfect moment...
surrounded by others in various states of bloom...

the first pink bloom on the climbers...

red geraniums enjoying the sun...

one of only 2 spears of iris to bloom...

and by the next day, several buds open at once...

my neighbors' lilacs are blooming...

a "beef steak" tomato eager to be planted...

the cherry and yellow pear toms on the front porch...

and look! ...2 cherries set already!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Someone hacked into my computer/e-mail account, either from my phone or from my computer. My entire e-mail contact list was spammed and a fictitious blog post was posted by someone other than me. I've changed my passwords and hope there will be no further problems.