Tag: home

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open

$900 objectivity…

Not everything is as it seems.

There is something called the WOW factor that realtors depend on when advertising a home. It starts with a photographer with an eye for composition and finding that WOW factor.

From wide-angle lenses to angles that omit white elephants, good photographers know how to get pictures that will pique the curiosity of a potential buyer. Then there is software that listing agents use to dress up the white elephants turning a desert into a golf course.

We authors do this with book covers, but I digress.

While a book cover should entice a reader to at least look inside the cover, these pictures are to incentivize the buyer to request a tour. A recent potential home has lots of wow. Objectivity can get lost in the ‘wow’ if one is not careful.

Once you decide this ‘home’ is right for you, get some objectivity. More importantly, be prepared to walk away.

It started with a few curiosities. An indoor pool that was in less-than-perfect condition. A building that was rusted to the point of possible structural failure. Shoddy workmanship to cover flaws with minor cosmetic repairs that did more damage to the property than help.

Then there were multiple windows with what appeared to be bullet holes. They were, in fact, bullet holes.

Hiring an inspector is one of your best expenses for purchasing objectivity. It is not his or her job to say, run, don’t walk. Their job is to locate flaws, structural deficiencies, other modifications that won’t pass muster, and cosmetic repairs that put lipstick on a pig.

Google reviews and, yes, Yelp are paramount in finding a good inspector.

The inspector recommended by the realtor had more negative reviews than positive ones. Pictures of nail holes from pictures hung vs. screwed-up roofs were their standard. Attempting to sell you services after the fact, instead of doing their job, was also part of the standard operating procedures they followed.

The inspector we found went above and beyond, pointing out things that must be addressed before proceeding.

A move-in ready home went to no less than $100,000.00 in necessary repairs before an evaluation from the mortgage lender could proceed.

Some notifications were minor electrical updates that had changed with codes. Others were a roof that had been damaged by hail. Still, others were air conditioners that had been disconnected because they were dead.

After I requested previous bills, I was shocked to see their electric bill hit $800 in August.

Finding both AC units in the home varied the input air to output air from 12 to 15 degrees on a 58-degree day, respectively, answered my questions. The winter months would not be much better, from heat pumps to heat strips.

The bottom line is this. Don’t fall in love with a property until after a quality inspector does his job. Look for reviews of your choice of inspectors, and don’t depend on your agent. A listing agent will want the one that finds holes from pictures hung. You want an inspector that will crawl through the attic or under the home looking for anything that could bite you in the future.


Leave me Alone!

Leave me Alone!

Leave me Alone!


Those were the words spoken by an elderly person, in the next bed over from the person who I was visiting.  “G..D!  G..D!  G…D!  Just leave me alone!”

Talking with my friend who had suddenly found himself in the need for assistance, he was put into a room with another elderly man who could no longer care for himself or, his kids got tired of messing with him.

My heart went out to this person. 

Think about this for a moment.  No one ever thinks about the progression of life.  We take for granted that life will simply stay consistent until we are hobnobbing with angels with harps and we hope that when that happens and we are given a harp, that magically we will know how to play it!

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Maybe you think that you will be alive one moment and with former family the next.  Maybe you think you will be with God after the “sting of death” and all of the mysteries of life will be made known to you.

Life runs in-congruent with our ideas of it, most of the time however; as there are no crystal balls that actually do anything other than collect dust.  If there were, there would be no lottery, or gambling of any sort, as the same folks would always be winning. No one other than god knows your future.


As the guy in the next bed was fussing at the staff, the reason for the turmoil is that they were forcing him to shave.  The rules as told to the “keepers of the aged” were that they must be bathed, shaved and not appear to be neglected should some inspector come around.  I do not know “who” inspects such places or if they were worried about family actually coming for their obligatory Sunday after church visit.

When do you loose your rights as an individual?


There is an entire industry that has been created for, “taking care of the elderly.”  What they are really doing is taking care of their bank account or so it would seem.

One elderly man put his wife into assisted living due to her advanced Alzheimer’s.  He was her medical proxy as well as the person who took care of her needs.  He was there every day; he dressed her, took care of her needs and only left for the night after she was in bed.  When the facility where she was had a significant rate increase, he objected.  Not too long after that, he came to visit her to find a multi-page letter on her bed informing him that they were suing to be her legal guardian, thus making all decisions for her and taking over their joint bank account.

This 84 year old man was forced to hire an attorney to fight the home and retain control of her care as well as their money!

This was a protracted court case and the judge found in favor of the husband but not before he was out an extra $10K as well as forced to pay the extra charges that the home went up per month during the entire time of the trial.  How would you like this to be your battle at 84 years of age?!

It turns out that this type of activity is common with “homes.”  If there is money involved, they do everything that they can to get it all!


There are lawyers who do this type of work, day in and day out and somehow manage to put their head on their pillow at night, and manage to sleep!

We do not know what tomorrow holds.

We get up every morning expecting a day pretty much like the one that we just had and than one day, something is wrong.  There is a new pain, or it becomes harder to bring up a memory or you place your wallet or keys in the kitchen cabinet, or fridge.

If the nursing home is not a sad enough story, we have funeral homes.

Thousands of dollars for a casket, thousands for a simple cremation, these folks are right up there with used car salespeople.

Those people however are not messing over the deceased, they are screwing the folks who are dealing with loss and, when emotions are involved you can be so easily manipulated it is unreal!

When my mother passed, she had gone to the hospital after suffering a heart attack.  Folks if you live in Arkansas, learn from this!  She had subscribed to an air flight service that if you have an emergency and need to be airlifted out; you have already paid for the cost.   One morning after taking a nitro pill and having the pain subside, she knew that she was in trouble.  She called the service that sent and ambulance who then took her to an area where the helicopter could land.  It was obvious that she had suffered a heart attack but was stable.  The care flight people took her to a hospital that did not have a cardiologist on staff.

The ER doctor anxious to perform a surgery badgered her into allowing them to place a stent in one of her arteries.  During the process, they ruptured the artery, which was the beginning of the end for my mother.  By the time I could get there, she had undergone multiple surgeries, and doctors from Little Rock had been flown in.

This was made known to me by one of the witnesses on the form, that they had to really badger her to allow this.

The Cardiologist from Little Rock informed me in the hallway to the ICU, with all sorts of people around, “Your mother is not going to make it!  You need to allow us to terminate life support.”

“In the truest sense of the word, I was Gob-Smacked!”   Her kidneys had shut down, she was bleeding out of every orifice that one has, and if by some miracle she had managed to live, she would have brain damage, lost her legs as the circulation had been cut off from them too long, and would need respiratory care for life!  Now remember that we had an audience as everyone that had family in ICU was riveted to the conversation and I could actually feel their stares!

I asked for a second opinion and walked away!

After a sleepless night wrestling with God, and another round of “what if,” the decision was made to let her go.  A technical description of how this was to happen, was dictated to me by a person of the hospital, which was as cold and sterile as the morgue itself.

Shortly “two hours or so” after her death, I got a phone call from some funeral home demanding instructions what to do with the body.  Time is money after all!  My mothers’ desire was cremation but mine was to bury her.  During the “sole searching,” they embalmed her for $2000.00.   The next day I was informed of that, while I was signing the paperwork to have her cremated for another $3000.00 and then there was transportation from the funeral home to the crematorium that had to be paid for.

Lesson learned, plan for your own funeral so your kids do not have to. 

So, what do you do with an aged family member?

Where my grandfather was concerned he came to stay with us and became part of the family until he passed many years later.  He was actually a blessing as he was a kind man who had been generous his whole life, worked hard and raised his family with integrity.


Did he cause issues within the family dynamic?  From time to time but, who didn’t?  When there are people involved, there are issues.  Family is family and you just “do!”

My cousins decided that they could no longer take care of their selves so they searched for, found and signed up for an assisted living place.  They had a room, their own bathroom and a microwave, small fridge and of course TV and books.  While there, the meds were dispensed per script, and care was given as needed to bathing and what have you.  There were three meals and the rooms and facility were comfortable.

While visiting one day my cousin pointed to an elderly man who was lost.  He was frustrated, angry and most probably dealing with feelings of deception.  His family told him to get dressed, that they were going to come get him and take him to lunch!  Lunch that one does not have to cook is always a good thing when you live by yourself.

They brought him to this facility, where they sat in the cafeteria and had lunch.  When lunch was over they left him there with his new “keepers” as they went back to gather some of his belongings and liquidate the rest.

My cousins witnessed the spectacle and shook their heads while telling the story.  The man was truly lost and anger was the least of his issues, I am certain that he felt betrayed.

I cannot begin to fathom his anger and feelings of betrayal! The fact that he was upset tells you that whoever he was, he still was.

Another “friend” had to put her mother into assisted living and everything was going good until she was told that she could not have her dog there.  At this, the elderly lady said, forget it, take me back to my house.  Little to her knowledge, most of her belongings were already gone, between the relatives and the Goodwill, her home was a shell; ready for the realtor.  There was no going home.

Working with people who foster pets I have also learned that while the kids are happy to get the car, junk and revenue from the house, the pets are another story.  One such pet was a 16 year old cat that belonged to a lady that went into a nursing home, no room for the cat!  Folks, 16 year old cats do not adjust to new homes very well.  This cat was scared and did not show well.  Had I not already had animals, I would have given her a home just to let her hide under the bed and maybe come out once she felt safe.

m-WOMAN-WITH-CAT-980x645 102 year old women battling to save her cat from being taken away..

During the human lifetime, many animals will go through their life.  The animal’s life on the other hand will only see one owner, if lucky.

What kinds of people abandon their parents?  What kinds abandon their parent’s pets?


Regrettably, some of these are simply greedy people who see this as a way to rid them of a burden and get their hands on the estate before it is an estate.  The economy is tough so taking your parents home and car and “residual” might look like an answer to some.  

Some of these are people who had parents who did not plan for one reason or another and woke up one day unable to take care of themselves. (it happens)

There are too many ways today where a person can live in their own home until they are no longer alive.  Some on the other hand may want the social aspect of living in a community of people like themselves.  The bottom line is to plan today for tomorrow.

I do not know if there are facilities which allow cats or dogs but, if that is important factor in the life of your “loved one” I would look long and hard for such a place.

Making the transition from home, to an assisted living facility should be made as thoughtfully and carefully as if it was for yourself!  It is easy to be pragmatic when it is not you!  One can only truly honor their loved ones by taking care to make certain that they are well cared for and comfortable.

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Even if your loved one has Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia, touch, soothing conversation and a warm embrace will mean something to them.  I know one lady who crawled into the bed with her dying mother and held her for most of the night.  During this time her agitation was diminished, her breathing slowed and her racing pulse throttled back to normal.  Some part of her mother’s addled brain still recognized the comfort and kindness provided her, by her daughter.


Once a man, twice a child….

As a child I learned to walk and then run

I became a man over night, while chasing the sun.

I straddled the cliffs and the peaks of life

And swam the streams of despair while fighting the good fight


Raising children to be strong both physical and of character

While leading by example and prodding, them onward.


My hair turning gray and my frame not as sturdy

My gate is for sure, not very trustworthy


Thinking back to much simpler times

When someone else led the course, or pointed the way.


Is it time to sit back and learn how to fish

Or chase little white balls with others like me?


The sounds I now make, sound much like my father

As well as the language, that sometime makes for unpleasant fodder.


My God knew me, before I was born

His plans for me however; are still an unknown.


The winter of life, I see in the distance; and know not whether to run,

Or simply embrace it.


Live life for today, as tomorrow is uncertain.

Learn to forgive and give thanks, for each memory you make


Once today is gone, its gone so don’t waste tomorrow

Spending time in the past for nothing can change it. 


Worry little, love often, and laugh whenever possible.

Life is but memories both yours, and those that you share


-Best to you and those that you care about!

Copyright Timedok 2015 All rights reserved


The American Dream.. Ha!

Home Foundations


I find it amazing what “greed” will cause man to do.


Here in Texas we have hot summers and of course cold winters.  Not as cold as some of you, but we get our fair share of cold weather.  The difference between our cold and some of you folks up north is ours last a few days and then we are back to 80 degrees.  The snow and ice that we get generally is here just long enough to cause pot holes large enough to loose small cars in and serves as a constant reminder of just how ill equipped people are regarding their skills for driving in same.


During the summer months we are asked to conserve water.  The lawn suffers, landscaping suffers, and worst of all the foundations suffer as we have a type of soil where I live that has high levels of clay content.  As it dries it shrinks causing the homes to move not only up and down but, sideways or back and forth as well.  Homes in the area can sink as much as a quarter inch per year and not recover fully during the wet season “spring” as gravity works.


It is expensive to build homes the way that they should be built, on piers, so they just don’t do it.  Piers driven to the bedrock with a house built on top of them will survive the harsh summers here much better allowing one to plant drought resistant landscaping and actually conserve water.  Not rocket science just common sense.  As the home ages and the doors start sticking etc the foundation repair specialist are called and then they install the piers at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars and depending upon where they install them they may bore through interior floors.  As you might guess they make a huge mess which the homeowner must contend with for several days.  Installing piers after the home is built is always more expensive than before it is built and if you live here, your home will at some time need piers!


Some of these foundation experts are college kids with a small amount of training and are tantamount to used car salesman.  The goal is to scare you enough to get you to sign on the dotted line.  One of these companies hired this gorgeous young lady.  By day she sold foundation work and I would bet that by night she worked as an exotic dancer! She looked more like a Bambi than a Gloria; if you catch my drift.  I knew more than she did and she was clearly there to simply get a signature.


After calling many foundation people for estimates you will get all kinds of “engineers” to give you all kinds of solutions with different prices all over the map.  Cement piers vs. Steel etc.  Unless you yourself are an engineer, you need to have many come out and take notes as to what they say and look for common qualities or solutions in what they are proposing.  Then talk to others in your area for information regarding who they used and why, how long ago and are they still happy.  It is an arduous process but it musts be adhered to as this is a lot of money that you are spending and it is on your home which, for most people their most valuable asset.


Do not be tempted by the cheapest solution as it is most probably the solution that will need to be “adjusted” the most in years to come.  Keep in mind that if you home sinks on one side or back or front and the other does not this damages not only your foundation but the structure of the home.  Let’s say your home sinks 2 inches on one side but not on the other.  The 2 inch difference on the floor translated to what is happening in the attic could be 8 or more inches depending upon the size of your home.  That pulls things apart in the attic which of course most builders put together with as few nails and boards as possible.


I am reminded of the American Airline proposition to save money.  They found if they removed one olive from each salad they would save some astronomical amount of money.  Of course they went several steps beyond the olive and just cut out salads all together unless you are in first class.


One note about the repair process is this; they will never get the home to level again.  They do what is acceptable to them and cosmetic, meaning an inch or so of slope is acceptable.


A word about “future adjustments”:   Companies will sell you a solution that says that they will install the piers to X amount of pounds of resistance.  They will tell you that if the home shifts X inches they will come adjust it for free for the lifetime transferrable warrantee.  Here is the gotcha, the shifting will not have anything to do with their piers already installed or if it does it will be negligible. They will tell you that now you need more piers in other parts of the house and give a quote including discounts for customer loyalty or some such non-sense. If you are victim of this, call a few more companies to make certain that what they are telling you is the truth and get it in writing.  Some of these folks are nothing more than opportunist, much like roofers that flock to a city after a bad storm.  Use people that are listed with the BBB, that are in the yellow pages and have been in the area for some time.


After the foundation repair folks finish you are cautioned not to repair the cracks in the walls for at least a year as the house may settle some more on the new piers.


One of the last aspects of foundation repair is, people don’t think about plumbing. As the house shifts it can cause plumbing to become pulled apart causing a leak under the slab.  Depending upon if that leak is on the supply side or not will give the homeowner a chance to determine that A they have a leak and B how bad is it.  The supply side will alert the homeowner either with high water bills or standing water where there should not be any.  It could manifest itself in other ways as well but, most probably will be detectable before it does too much damage.  On the sewer side of the plumbing, a slow leak will cause the ground underneath the home to become saturated over time and cause a lifting effect under the home.  While this too is easily detectable it happens over time and because of that may be ignored as normal movement until the damage is significant.


A monthly walk around your home looking for cracks in the brick may clue you in that there are issues.  For those of you without a brick veneer keep on the lookout for sticking doors or windows or, doors that open or shut themselves as the house is no longer level.


A plumbing test before and after a foundation repair is not only a good idea but should be mandatory by state law.  If not, insist on one, call your own plumber and have it done.


Moral of this story is this.  If you are building a home, see about having it built on piers.  Yes it will raise the cost of your home but the issues down the road will be lessened and the resale value of your home will be increased.


Currently there is a new neighborhood being created not far from here.  This was farm land for some time.  The people prepping the soil have removed all of the vegetation and leveled the land with huge equipment.  Now they are going to poor slabs on it and the dirt will settle over time and those folks will have issues.  There was also a stream that went through that land into a pond.  That too is filled in and houses will go on top of that.  The stream although not on the surface will still be there under the homes.  The pond that was filled in will still collect water underground.  Not an expert in this area but, that water comes from a huge lake not too far away.  Just because its surface path has been covered up; I am doubtful that it will just stop to exist.


So, if you own your home already, place soaker hoses around the foundation and do your best to keep the area around your home hydrated.  You should not see cracks in the soil around your home.  By the way, a sprinkler system is not enough.


As we continue to place homes and businesses on every square inch that the city owns or has control over, with insufficient resources to handle what we already have, the problems will only get worse.  The City does this for more tax revenue and could care less if you are inconvenienced “once you are here.”  I would guess that the state is the same way, once you are here; you are a revenue stream for them as well.  If you can’t water your yard or fill your pool they don’t care.  If there is not enough electricity to go around on cold or hot days, they don’t care.  They cater to business at that point as they pay a larger part of the taxes.


Case in point, we have been under water restrictions for the last few summers.  Stage 1 or 2 or what have you.  Recently a large spa with pools and all sorts of water using amenities was built.  It is owned by Koreans and in their culture one must remove all of their clothing and shower before getting in the pool, hot tub etc.  This is a public shower and this again is part of their culture.  No issues there however; how many thousands or tens of thousands of gallons of water go down the drain daily!  Yet the homeowners are asked to conserve…  If it were truly about our resources, that permit would never have made it through the city approval process.


Maybe I am old fashioned and possibly delusional but I happen to believe that the Citizen comes first, before the needs of business.  When decisions are called fore, someone should be asking “will this help or hurt the citizens of this city?” And that my friend is why it is important to vote in local elections.


-Best to you and those that you care about!




Telecommuting: Good or Bad?

While I am certain that in some cases allowing an employee to work from home would work, I believe that we may be taking it too far.


Recently I was doing business with my bank and had to be transferred to a specialist. “Due to the overwhelming response all agents are busy, please hang on.”


After about five minutes of being on hold the phone is finally answered.  The girl that handled the call was somewhat disorganized and I know this as she ask me for the same information several times as she most likely was stalling while she got to the right screen or possibly off of Facebook.


Between the pauses I could hear a baby crying in the background.  I am not sure that allowing people to work at home with many distractions is a good idea however; commercial offices are sold or rented by the square foot.  The amount each department is charged is allocated by the square footage that they occupy.  Electricity used is divided up the same way.  I.e. if sales uses X square footage and accounting uses X and IT uses X that is all split up so the bean counters can accurately assess the cost for each department or cost center.


Many companies are trying to cut cost by having people share a desk, meaning that they work from home so many days, then the other person works from home.  Personally I think this idea is really poor as your phone, keyboard and lets face it; every surface is a harbor for germs.  The phone especially as it is close to your nose and mouth.  In this day of bacteria and viruses that are mutating and becoming resistant to the antibiotics that we have, I don’t think it a good idea to provide yet another way to transfer them.


So what kinds of folks could work from home?  I think people who are self starters.  There are folks out there who look forward to Monday.  I know this as I am one of them.  While most can’t wait for Friday to roll around I am one that looks at the clock not to see how much more time that I must endure but, how little time I have left to complete what I wanted to get done that day.


That is a self starter.  That person could work out of their car or where ever.  My office was the airplane and airport for years. 


I mention this as I doubt that the bank had an excessive surge of calls today and I doubt that the cable company does every time that I call etc.  While some of this may be to understaffing I suspect some of this is people being distracted at a home office. 


Customer service is part of your brand much like the poor customer service at HP is iconic of what not to do and has been immortalized in shows like Big Bang and of course the ever famous YouTube video where the Marine shoots his printer with an automatic weapon, as his HP support was so bad.


Whether your company is public or private you must protect your brand.  Think carefully about where your employees do their job and what kinds of employees are able to work from home.


Think really hard about outsourcing your customer service to “Peggy!”


-Best to you and those that you care about!