Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jewel of the Seas Aft Balcony 1102 12.15.11



Almost got an eyeful there at the end...which is why there is another video showing the bathroom :-)

Mrs. B

The Jewel is a Gem!: Part One

We're back from our cruise; actually, we returned B&E this past Monday am. Alas, it was too, too, short BUT it sure was a lot of fun. I think there is something about having to cram a bunch of enjoyment into a short period of time that tends to make the days more memorable.

We dropped The Kid off at Tampa International around 11:00 am. Sorry to see her go; Mr. B was sad, of course. I was very glad that we were heading to the ship, otherwise, it would have been pretty darn depressing.

It took less than 20 minutes to get from the airport to the Port of Tampa. As it was when we took Jewel's sister ship Radiance out of Tampa this past January, embarkation was a total snap. They really have it down pat. We were on the ship before noon!

Now, here is a somewhat odd thing. Although we were told by one of the bartenders that the ship was full, it seemed amazingly empty throughout the entire cruise, even on the sea days where there is nowhere else for the PAX to be but on the ship. Our new friend Pam said maybe there were a lot of Florida residents on board (read:old) who were staying in their staterooms because it was a bit chilly that first day.

In any case, we went up to the Windjammer (buffet) for an early lunch. Other than going in there on occasion to get a quick bite to take back to the pool area, we stayed clear of the Windjammer. No matter how uncrowded the ship may be, all of the rude and pushy folks seem to end up in there.

Directly after lunch, we headed to one of our favorite bars, The Schooner Bar, on Deck Six. I ordered my first Frozen Mojito of the cruise but for some reason, it wasn't exactly right. Too much lime, no mint. Anyway, we chatted with the bartender for a bit. As is the case with the majority of crew members, he was not from the U.S., but, rather, from Estonia. He asked how many cruises we've taken (this was our 4th together), he said he's taken over 500! Well, of course! It's his job! Anyway, he highly recommended we consider one of the cruises that goes from London to Paris to Norway to Russia.

A bit after 1:00 pm, we were able to get into our stateroom up on Deck 10 (aft balcony). Being Jewel is a sister ship to Radiance and our room was right next to the one we were on in January, there wasn't much surprise with our accommodations. The one difference was a very positive one; the shower had a door instead of the butt-crack invading shower curtain that was on Radiance.

Although I just posted a video of our stateroom, here are a few pictures of #1102.
No pole dancing in this room!
I wonder why they even bother with those "tables"?
Dinky but serviceable bathroom
Best part of the room
Port of Tampa
Already on the phone (actually, he was talking to our vet about some shots Lucy needed)
Wiped out already?

As usual, I'd ordered a bottle of Champagne for our room. It was there (along with our bottled water and coupon booklet) but what WASN'T there was ice!
Ice-less Champagne. First time this has happened! Note the "Contact Stateroom Attendant If You Need Ice" sign. DUH!

This actually became an issue as it took forever and a day to get ice and then the ice we got was pretty scant in quantity. As it turns out, we didn't end up drinking the Champagne until the next night and, in fact, I ended up drinking it with my new friend Pam while Mr. B smoked a cigar with her husband and their friend Fish.

Yes, The B's made some new friends on this cruise! We'd told ourselves prior to sailing that we were going to branch out; rather than keep to ourselves, we'd attempt to meet and mingle. Weeks before the cruise, I signed onto the thread for the sailing and met and chatted with many people online (similar to what I did for the Enchantment sailing where we ended up meeting a few people and going on a private excursion with them in the Dominican Republic).

Turns out there were to be several ladies all born in 1963 on board plus a few other people celebrating b-days. There were also some pretty interesting characters posting on the board; I can't resist copying one post here:

"DH wants me to drive his new truck from Grand Rapids for my flight instead of my old car. So, I boiled him a cow tongue this morning to use for lunch meat or quick dinner while I'm gone. I will be wearing some Mardi Gras beads and an elf hat".

Not to be mean or catty, but, she was an unusual lady. More on her and our new friends and cruise adventures next posting as I gotta run now.

Mrs. B


Monday, December 5, 2011

Update on LIFE

I've not forgotten my pledge to write more often however LIFE is getting in the way. Is it such a bad thing, to have so many activities going on that I don't have time to sit on my butt in front of the computer and write? Probably not. There's always Busy Season for that (when I become a CPA Widow).

Of course, this year (or, next year), will be quite different from that regard. And, speaking of such, we've both been busily working to get Mr. B's official website launched. Soon! Quite a bit of re-writing/editing, but, the end result will be, hopefully, exactly what we want. More on that later.

The B's had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend spent with both the Senior B's (and extended B Family) and Mr. H (Mrs. B's Father). Lucy came along for the weekend and also had a grand time. Unfortunately, Mrs. B forgot to take ANY pictures of that fun weekend, save one I took of my first attempt at making a Pumpkin Pie Martini and one taken after we got home and one of Mr. B and Lucy wiped out after several full days of Thanksgiving cheer.
That evening, we went to an Advent service at our new church. Not only did we go to the service, we participated in it; the "Hanging of the Greens" tradition. I was trying to recall if I'd ever done this before in my youth (back when I used to go to church); I don't think so. In any case, the B's hung a wreath and I'm happy to report that (at least as of yesterday morning), it's still hanging! We also discovered that it's indeed a small world. One of our neighbors on The Loop also attends this church, as does a business contact Mr. B recently made.

Now we're into the full throttle of preparations for the Christmas season. We're both trying, though, to keep it simple; no need for us to get caught up in the frenzy. Even so, there is plenty enough to do. I've started the holiday cookie baking; I wasn't going to do this, however, I received a few special requests, so, I buckled! Honestly, I do enjoy it.
Mickey Doodle! My Snicerdoodles were spreading upon baking more than usual. Pulled the sheet out of the oven to find this! Mickey had an emergency ear amputation and all is now well.

This past weekend, we got serious about decorating. Mr. B brought all of the Christmas boxes down from the attic and we spent several hours putting things up and about. Although our space is smaller here, we managed to get the majority of it placed. It did take a bit longer than usual,though, since we were working with new space and had to figure out WHERE things look best. Frankly, some stuff may get moved around some :-) The big thing remaining is our tree. Dilemma! In year's past, we've ALWAYS had a real tree. However, two things posed a problem here. First, the real trees are very, very expensive plus I'm not sure how fresh they really are since they have to be shipped (probably from NC!) Second, there is not an obvious place in our new home for a tree. After quite a lot of consideration, we decided to buy a fake tree, but, no just any fake tree, we purchased a flat back tree so we could place it up against a wall, thus saving on space. Hopefully after it's all decked out, it'll look real enough. I guess though, this means I have to go out and buy some of those balsam/fir air fresheners so our house will smell like a tree.

Maybe next year, we'll buy a small real tree for the lanai. We'll see.

All the pets are doing well, as evidenced by this picture (Athena DOES exist, she's just camera shy!) And, yes, Pete really does look this grouchy all of time.
Busy week ahead; I have an Opera Guild holiday lunch to attend Tuesday; that night, we were invited to go with a group of neighbors to dinner and a Christmas Pageant. We're going to a holiday open house held by our pool ladies Friday night. Our new tree should arrive Thursday so we'll be able to decorate it this coming weekend. The Kid arrives on the following Tuesday for a quickie visit; we'll drop her off at the airport on the 15th and then head to the Port of Tampa to get onto Jewel of the Seas for our four night cruise.

When we get home, it'll then be time to prepare for Christmas, house guests, good meals, etc., etc. It's a bit busy, but, it's all good!

Mrs. B




Friday, November 18, 2011

Hay. Soar. Murder.


She edged out the door, hoping not to disturb her sleeping mother. The door squealed in protest; she held her breath and turned to glance back to see if this had awakened Mam. Poor Mam, she looked so dreadfully grey and tired lying there on the small cot. And old. She looked old. But, she was not awake, thank the good Lord. Elizabeth went out into the grayish late November afternoon, closing the heavy door softly behind her.

She made her way over to the barn, which loomed in front of her, dilapidated, sagging at its sides, but still surprisingly strong and erect for such an abandoned structure. And, abandoned it was; ever since Papa died and that one never-ending late summer/early fall three years ago when she and Mam attempted, fruitlessly as it turned out, to reap the harvest and keep the barn stocked with hay for their meager menagerie of live stock.

She wasn’t sure why she was interested in going to the barn; she hated the barn. Not just because it was a physical reminder of their failure; in fact, it had nothing to do with that at all. She hated it now because she used to love being inside its wall so very much. That was ages and ages ago, when she was a young and foolish girl of eleven. After her chores were done, after the mid-day meal was eaten and the dishes were cleared, washed, dried and put away into the old Hoosier pie safe; Mam would nod her head at Elizabeth, signaling it was fine for her to go the barn to explore, play and dream.

Now, as she wandered into its musty depths, she had to brace herself against the involuntary shudder that rolled over her. How could she have ever loved this terrible place? She closed her eyes against the rush of painful memories; those that had completely overtaken the pleasant ones from her girlhood. Overcome, she leaned against one of the empty stalls for support. She closed her eyes and could still smell the scent of long gone animals. Ghost horses. What were their names? She couldn’t recall.

The sound of scuttling overhead brought her back to the present. Her eyes snapped open and upwards towards the hay loft. She didn’t want to look there and it wasn’t for fear of seeing a rat or two. Yet, as strangely as she was drawn to the barn in the first place, she found her feet moving her towards the creaky ladder that led up to the loft.

As she climbed, she got a glimpse of the double doors at the far end of the hayloft. Amazingly, despite the multitude of storms they’d had over the past several years since the barn had been in use, they were still tightly latched. Still sitting on the ground next to the closed doors was her old beat-up steamer trunk, the one that had once belonged to Mam’s younger sister.

How she’d loved to kneel in front of that ancient thing, using it as a desk of sorts, and pretend she was a famous writer. She’d written a lot of silly pieces there, young girl starry eyed notions of adventure, romance and true love conquering all. Still, she’d also enjoyed the view from that vantage. She’d open up the doors and stare out at the great wide open; looking west towards the trees that stood silent sentry in the distance or glancing up into the blue skies while dreaming she was a mystical creature, a girl with wings, who could soar like a bird over Coozie’s Creek to the south.

Now, her trunk was covered with cobwebs and rat droppings.. And, all of those silly, silly dreams? Those stupid, stupid stories? The person that she was now, the woman that she’d become, looked back into the past and felt both scorn and an immense sadness for the young girl who had no idea what was to come.

She walked over to the doors, undid the rusty latch, and flung the doors open with such force that both doors crashed into the side of the barn with a loud THUNK that echoed across the quickly darkening evening sky. She approached the edge of the loft floor; as close to the gaping opening as she dared, and peered out. The view was still breathtaking. She could see miles in every direction. To the south, the glistening silvery trail of Coozie’s Creek. To the north, the spire of the town’s church. And to the west, just visible arising from the tops of the trees in the forest, wisps of smoke from the Childress’s cabin.

“That family”, Mam had declared one day when Elizabeth was still in the habit of playing with dolls on the kitchen floor while Mam fixed supper, “Is decidedly odd”. Papa, sitting nearby, grunted; whether in agreement, disagreement or just his Papa grunt which usually meant, “Yes, my dear”, Elizabeth never knew.

As her eyes grew accustom to the growing darkness, she watched the smoke from their cabin continue to drift up, up, up to where she couldn’t distinguish where it ended and the loaming sky began. She stood there a very long time remembering what Calvin Childress had introduced her to in this very loft the winter after Papa died. Mam had been right; and Elizabeth knew now exactly how odd and how disturbed at least one of the Childress clan was.

As she recalled, her eyes narrowed sharply and her thoughts turned to murder.

Mrs. B

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing Exercises


Over the years, I've both attended classes and read books that purported to teach one how to write, or, if one already knew how to write, how to either instill discipline to the writing process, develop a personal style, publish something that's already been written, etc., etc. Like many explorations and excursions in my life, I would typically go gang-busters for a month or so afterwards, only to have the enthusiasm eventually peter out, to be replaced by some other new adventure.

This morning I opened up my Blog and was somewhat aghast to see I've not posted anything for almost two weeks and what I have posted in the last month or so has been relatively weak. In all seriousness, I do have things to write about; in fact, several things, many of which are in mid-production and floating somewhere on my hard drive. I also tend to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a dream I just had and say to myself, "Wow, you should write about THIS!" But, by the time I get around to sitting down at my computer, either the ability to recall the dream or the desire to write about it has vanished; replaced by thoughts of "What is on my to do list for today?"

I do have many things I'd like to accomplish today; but, I told myself while out walking Lucy this morning that I'd allow myself until 10:00 am to "dork around" on the computer with email, Facebook, checking out various web sites, reading the morning paper, etc. After doing much of these things (except reading the paper), I clicked on my Blog and thus began this particular entry/train of thought.

My first inclination after seeing that my last post was Friday November 4th was to go to my stock pile of past writing pieces and post something, anything, that appeared (to me at least) to be relatively interesting. Of course, in fact, this is something like cheating; somewhat similar to someone using a picture from many many years ago to represent what they look like today. While browsing through these files, I came across a spreadsheet I haven't opened up in a very long time. The idea came from a class I took at Duke way back in 2004; a bunch of random words listed in columns. For the life of me, I can't remember now if the words are supposed to follow any sort of pattern and I don't know if I came up with them or they were provided by the instructor (likely a bit of both). What I do remember is, you're supposed to put each of the words on a slip of paper, put all of the slips into some sort of container, and, when you want to write but you are stuck for ideas, pull out two or three of the slips of paper and free write for fifteen or twenty minutes about whatever comes to your mind. So, pulling a few random words of my spreadsheet by way of example, I might end up with "Hay" "Soar" and "Murder" as prompts.

And, speaking of free writing, I also recall from a book I read that it is a MUST to sit down every day and simply free write. Whether it be from prompts or just what may be running through your brain, you must do it to keep in shape; similar to what working out at the gym does for your body. This is easier said than done; it's a challenge not to get distracted. Case in point, as I'm writing this, Mr. B just came home from his morning meeting and the dog is wigging out. He's going to come into the kitchen soon and start talking to me (I have 10 more minutes to go before it's 10:00 am!) and I'll, well, peter out.

I just remembered another writing exercise; it also uses prompts but instead of random words, the prompts are statements or questions, such as, "Your first car". Or, "What makes you happy?" I've actually written and posted quite a few pieces from this exercise but I think my stash of prompts has gone missing so I'll need to recreate them.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that, since I can't seem to come up with anything really fresh and intriguing to write about on my own, I think I'm going to go the writing exercise route on this Blog for a while. There may be some weird stuff that comes out of it, I'll warn y'all in advance!

Ok, time's up for now!

Mrs. B




Friday, November 4, 2011

Apollo...You've Come A Long Way Baby!

I was hanging out with Apollo this sunny afternoon and shot a quick video of him, which brought to mind THIS video of him from over two years ago when he was still a foster kitten and we had him sequestered in one of our bathrooms attempting to "socialize" him. Check out the final thing I say. Famous last words!

video
Apollo June 2009

Please excuse my fingers in the video below. He kept grabbing the camera string!
video
Apollo November 2011

Mrs. B

Monday, October 31, 2011

Howling Pete

Pete doing his weird howling/kneading thing with his favorite toy in his mouth. He does this almost every single day. Usually when one of us walks in on him, he immediately stops. Not so this time!
Mrs. B


video

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Silliness


It's, well, Sunday! Mr. B's out puttering in the garage. I just finished throwing together a batch of Cincinnati Chili Mole into the the crock pot; now it gets to simmer 4-6 hours. I should, yes I should, be doing something productive. Like, clean. Or, go through my ever present and ever growing To Do list and knock off an item or two. Yet, probably because it is Sunday; lazy day, I'm going to Blog silliness instead; and, my favorite way to do so is to answer a bunch of random questions. Maybe they won't all be silly!

  1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4: Green Light: Lights when the system is disarmed and ready to be armed (ok, I didn't have a book handy, this is the User Guide for our alarm system).

  2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?: Nothing. Air.

  3. Before you started this survey, what were you doing?: I played one game of Microsoft Hearts (current win percentage is an amazing 71%).

  4. What is the last thing you watched on TV?: We watched two episodes of Dexter (via NetFlix).

  5. Without looking, guess what time it is: 3:15.

  6. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?: 3:02.

  7. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?: The fountain in the swimming pool.

  8. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?: I went into the garage to ask Mr. B to drain the fat off the hamburger. I stayed out with Lucy while he went into the kitchen. She promptly laid down on the mat by the door and pouted and pined.

  9. Did you dream last night?: Yes.

  10. Do you remember your dreams?: Yes. Wait, don't you want to know WHAT I dreamed last night? I was back in our (recently sold) house in Durham. I was upstairs opening up all the doors to the bedrooms, which, for some reason, were all closed. I went into what had been Cailyn's room and found a very large white cat inside. I immediately worried that it had peed and popped all over the carpet; then, I stopped to ask myself, "WTF? Why is there some strange white cat in Cailyn's room?" I have no idea what this dream meant.

  11. When did you last laugh?: Hmmm...? I think it may have been at a church (newcomers) meeting the other night. Turns out one of the other newcomers plays for the Baltimore Oriels; a very young guy with a wry since of humor. After he introduced himself, the lady next to him said she was originally from Jamaica but had lived in Rochester NY for most of her adult life. She turned to the Oriels's player and said, "Sorry, but I'm a Yankee's fan" to which he quipped, "No problem. So is my entire family". That just struck me as funny.

  12. Do you remember why / at what?: See above.

  13. What is on the walls of the room you are in?: Believe it or not, nothing, yet.

  14. Seen anything weird lately?: Some of the get-ups of the muckity muck ladies at the opera the other night. Whew.

  15. What do you think of this quiz?: So far, so good. It's killing time, anyway.

  16. What is the last film you saw?: Thor. It should have been called Thud (and, yes; you warned me, Father!)

  17. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?: Right where I'm at.

  18. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?: Maybe a new car. I don't know, I can't really think of much I'd immediately want to buy.

  19. Tell me something about you that most people don't know: I don't have many secrets.

  20. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?: Everyone would respect everyone else's religions, politics, beliefs regardless of whether they agreed.

  21. Do you like to dance?: Yes.

  22. Would you ever consider living abroad?: Probably not.

  23. Does your name make any interesting anagrams?: Yam. Is that interesting?

  24. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?: My Father.

  25. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?: Mr. B downloaded a new version of Quick Books.

  26. Last time you swam in a pool?: About a month ago.

  27. Type of music you like most?: Depends on what I'm doing.

  28. Type of music you dislike most?: Rap. Blech.

  29. Are you listening to music right now?: No.

  30. What color is your bedroom carpet?: Sorta aqua-ish. I think it's called Sea Foam.

  31. If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?: Put granite on the kitchen counters/island.

  32. What was the last thing you bought?: Groceries.

  33. Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?: Yes (this must be a British quiz).

  34. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?: No.

  35. Do you have a garden?: No.

  36. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?: Yes.

  37. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?: Whether or not the dog is on the bed.

  38. If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?: Elizabeth I.

  39. Who sent the last text message you received?: Mr. B.

  40. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?: I wouldn't.

  41. What time is bed time?: Around 11.

  42. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?: You're kidding, right?

  43. How many tattoos do you have?: Exactly none.

  44. If you don't have any, have you ever thought of getting one?: Yes, but, I probably won't now.

  45. What did you do for your last birthday?: Mr. B made me a lovely dinner.

  46. Do you carry a donor card?: Not a specific donor car but it is indicated on my license.

  47. Who was the last person you ate dinner with?: Mr. B.

  48. Is the glass half empty or half full?: Full.

  49. What's the farthest-away place you've been?: Australia.

  50. When's the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?: Couldn't tell you.

  51. Have you ever won a trophy?: Won? No, but, I did receive several trophies for playing softball when I was growing up.

  52. Are you a good cook?: I'm a good cook, yes. Mr. B is a good CHEF.

  53. Do you know how to pump your own gas?: Are you serious?

  54. If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?: Elizabeth I.

  55. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?: No.

  56. Do you touch-type?: I have no idea what this means. I can type quite rapidly and I don't have to look.

  57. What's under your bed?: Usually a cat or two. Definitely a few cat toys and sometimes an ear plug or hair elastic.

  58. Do you believe in love at first sight?: No.

  59. Think fast, what do you like right now?: Hot Tamales.

  60. Where were you on Valentine's day?: At home with Mr. B.

  61. What time do you get up?: 7:30. Oh, ok, it's starting to be closer to 8:30 these days!

  62. What was the name of your first pet?: The first one I really loved was Buda.

  63. Who is the second to last person to call you?: Who cares?

  64. Is there anything going on this weekend?: There almost always is. However, it's quiet at the house of B.

  65. How are you feeling right now?: Lazy.

  66. What do you think about the most?: There is really nothing I think about more than anything else. I'm an equal opportunity thinker.

  67. What time do you get up in the morning?: Running out of questions, are you? Around 8:45.

  68. If you had A Big Win in the Lottery, how long would you wait to tell people?: A Big Win in the Lottery? Seriously? Ok, probably a long time.

  69. Who would you tell first?: Mr. B.

  70. What is the last movie that you saw at the cinema?: True Grit (no, not the one made in the 60s!)

  71. Do you sing in the shower?: Not really.

  72. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?: Haven't we been through this already?

  73. What do you do most when you are bored?: Answer silly questions.

  74. What do you do for a living?: I am Mrs. B.

  75. Do you love your job?: Yes.

  76. What did you want to be when you grew up?: An ice skater.

  77. If you could have any job, what would you want to do/be?: Pretty much exactly what I'm doing now.

  78. Which came first the chicken or the egg?: Egg Beaters.

  79. How many keys on your key ring?: One.

  80. Where would you retire to?: Here.

  81. What kind of car do you drive?: Hyundai and Ford.

  82. What are your best physical features?: I don't know; probably the fact that I am relatively healthy.

  83. What are your best characteristics?: Organized and disciplined.

  84. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?: A really long back to back cruise.

  85. What kind of books do you like to read?: Varied.

  86. Where would you want to retire to?: Still here.

  87. What is your favorite time of the day?: Depends on the day, meaning, what's going on.

  88. Where did you grow up?: San Diego.

  89. How far away from your birthplace do you live now?: Let's see, about 1500 miles or so?

  90. What are you reading now?: Shanghai Girls and The Sandalwood Tree.

  91. Are you a morning person or a night owl?: I can be both or neither.

  92. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?: No.

  93. Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?: Yes.

  94. Do you have pets?: SIX.

  95. How many rings before you answer the phone?: Depends on where the phone is.

  96. What is your best childhood memory?: Way too many to write down. I had a great childhood.

  97. What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life?: Pretty much Human Resources with a little ESL teaching.

  98. Any new and exciting things that you would like to share?: There are a few fun visits/trips to look forward to coming up this month and next!

  99. What is most important in life?: Living a good one.

  100. What Inspires You?: Every day's a new day with the opportunity to be better than the day before.
Mrs. B

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Night At The Opera

Mrs. B at Mattison's City Grille 10.28.11

Last night was our first experience at Sarasota's Opera House. What a charming venue! It seats about 1,200 so it's not at all huge but large enough to garner a good crowd. We heard there were recent renovations/upgrades to the tune of several million dollars. Mr. B commented that it felt like Italy inside (he's never been to Italy, but, he's heard me talk about it enough that I guess he could hazard an opinion!) Well, he was right, it did have a look of Italia.

Anyway, let me take a step back and say yesterday-day was HECTIC, as in, I felt frazzled all day. This due primarily to the fact we were woken up before 6:30 am by Lucy. She kept jumping off the bed plus she was panting like wild. I figured something wasn't right; so, we got up to take her out for her morning walk. She must have squatted fifteen times on the walk, definitely not normal Lucy behavior. Thankfully, we'd already selected a vet (our vet in Durham, Uncle Chuck, strongly advised us to do this BEFORE we had an emergency; great advice!) so we had a place to take her. We were still somewhat undecided, though, until I discovered a little puddle of red-tinged pee in the utility room. So, off to the vet went our Goose while I went to have my hair done (BTW, I like the stylist I went to much better than the one I saw a few months ago).

As many of you who follow this Blog know, we've had our share of health problems with Lucy. So, anytime she goes to the vet usually translates to beaucoup d'argent being spent; not to mention, totally frayed nerves. Her new vet, Dr. B, confirmed that she had a bladder infection but since there were crystals in her urine, he wanted to do an x-ray of her bladder just to make sure there wasn't "something else going on". I fretted and fretted and prayed and prayed. Thankfully, she's ok; it was just an infection. When we picked her up, we got to meet and talk a bit with Dr. B, who told us what a great dog Lucy is (and in really, really good shape). Lucy's already made friends with the staff there, which is nice since she'll be returning in a few weeks to board. Oh, and we got out of there spending far less than we usually do :-) Would have been pretty cheap all in all if there hadn't have been x-rays.

Ok, so, after we got Lucy home (at 4;30!) we dashed about getting ready for our evening out. Mr. B couldn't find his tux accessories (note to self; find them before our cruise in December) but turns out he didn't really need to wear a tux; I only saw a few men in them at the opera. We made it to downtown Sarasota (which takes about 20 minutes if we hit the lights right) in more than enough time for our 6:00 RSVP at Mattison's City Grille. I picked this place primarily because it was within walking distance of the opera house. I had no idea the entire restaurant was OUTSIDE! Thankfully, the rain had turned into a drizzle and there wasn't enough wind to drive the drizzle anywhere near our table. We enjoyed a nice enough meal, but, I have to say, so far, we've not yet found a restaurant whose food blows our socks off. We'll have to keep trying, I guess!

We met our neighbors Stan and Alma in the lobby of the opera house at 7:30. They invited us up to the "muckity muck" lounge on the 3rd floor for a glass of Champagne. We ended up going up there with them at both intermissions as well; this was a great opportunity for Mr. B to meet some of the other opera guild members and start that whole networking thing :-)

The opera itself was very nicely done. Our seats were superb; didn't even need the binocs I'd brought along. Who can argue that "Madama Butterfly" isn't just one of THE best operas, ever? This was the 3rd time I'd seen it and I couldn't have picked a better opera for Mr. B to see for his inaugural. I'm really glad we went to the lecture Monday night; it added quite a bit to the experience having learned a few things or two that I didn't know. Time seemed to fly by; the opera was over before we knew it.

We ran into Stan and Alma on the way out and they invited us to go somewhere for an apres opera nightcap. So, off we went to a very loud Irish pub (about the only place within walking distance that was still open). Over Irish drinks and beer, we chatted about the performance, the guild, our neighborhood, and the possibility of us co-hosting a cocktail/dessert party sometime in December. After living in a neighborhood where we did nothing but wave and nod at our fellow neighbors, it's really a delight to make some friends in our new neighborhood.

Now it is Saturday; Mr. B's off at his favorite place (Lowes) and I'm doing laundry. We hear there's been snow in the East (and in Colorado!); here, it is quite balmy and the sun is starting to come out after a drizzly/dreary start to the day. Lucy's on day two of her antibiotics and seems to be doing fine. All the animals are sacked out; it's 1:15, so that means nap time for the pets in the house of B. Since we were out until 1:00 am, a nap is sounding pretty good to me, too!

Mrs. B


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mystical Game of Self-Improvement Week Four: Page of Cups


Ok, this is starting to get COMPLICATED! Why oh why am I not drawing low hanging fruit cards? Believe me, I have several tasks on tap just waiting for an, oh, 2-8. And, please, another Cup? Cheese. Yet, once again, I must take a step back and contemplate that there is likely a reason why I'm drawing Pentacles, Cups and (mostly) high cards.

So, recall, Pages are messengers. What are these little dudes trying to tell me? What news are they bringing? Or, what message? As in, "Change THIS, you moron!"

The specific divination for the Page of Cups is:

(Upright): "This card signifies a meditative, loyal, spiritual and sensitive person who will be helpful. A reflective situation. News or knowledge of art or culture is brought".

(Reverse): "Insensitivity to others. A flatterer and deceiver. Selfishness".

And Cups, once again, signify relationships in the game of 52.

Because I'm running the risk of biting off too much to chew, I've decided I'm going to tie the Page of Cups in with the Queen of Cups's challenge (the Queen of Cups's challenge is, in short "when in doubt, be nice, and, if you can't, walk away and let someone else deal with it") by taking it a step further.

Rather than taking the time to stew over something/dwell on it/be negative/thinking of ways to "get back" or "get even", take that energy and devote it to something spiritual, artistic, or cultural.

Maybe this is stretching it, I don't know. However, I got to thinking about how much time I spent writing that review on our Realtor; probably over two hours, not to mention the time spent attempting to figure out how to get it posted in multiple places. I ended up feeling frustrated, irritated, angry and was in a totally negative frame of mind. All for what end? It won't really change anything. We made a mistake by selecting them. They are jerks. If anyone asks us, we'll advise them not to use them. If it turns out they swindled us out of some money (this is a pending question), we'll report them to the BBB. The bottom line is, the house sold and we no longer have to worry about it. Do we have them to thank for selling it? No. But, we're thankful it's not sitting on the market still and having to continually deal with them. Does this mean I'm not going to get annoyed each time we get a request from them asking us for information (for the new owners) that we already provided? No, I'll get annoyed. But, I just don't want to get so hung up on every mistake people make; even when said people sure appear to make a hell of a lot of them.

Ok, this is a long way of saying the following. When something happens that I decide to shrug off, I'll take the time I would have spent bitching about it and put the effort into something spiritual, artistic or cultural.

On to a recap of my other chores:

Five of Pentacles
Doing great. Probably should talk with Mr. B soon about recreating the business side so I can take over. It's way too difficult trying to figure out why he did what he did. On the other hand, taking the time to do so would be decent preparation for eventually working through the muddle some potential client comes to us with.

Queen of Cups
I'm a-trying. Man, is this tough. I think adding in the Page of Cups's challenge will assist in this regard. On the pro side, I've not been nasty to anyone lately. I was a bit sarcastic with Regan & Co. yesterday morning, however. Sigh.

Page of Pentacles
I've not yet researched the patent thing. I did spend a goodly amount of time with Mr. B discussing the pros and cons of a potential business arrangement. In doing so, I thought of a lot more marketing ideas. Now, I just need to get my butt in gear and start planning.

BTW, I can't help but think these Pages in my Tarot deck look like vapid little zombies. I think I prefer the Hello Kitty version!

Mrs. B

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lovely Sunday!


The weather was picture perfect! We headed to Lido Beach, which is roughly 20 minutes from our house, maybe a bit closer but the snowbirds are back so everything takes longer now.

There were a ton of people on the beach. We took a nice walk and found a few pretty shells. It was obviously a tad breezy (check out my crazy hair) but really, really pleasant out; I'd say it was close to 80 degrees. Look at that white sand and the blue, blue sky!

Now that we've been, I'm gung-ho to go back (before it gets too chilly) and lay out for awhile. We have to go buy a few beach chairs and an umbrella first, though.

Afterward, we went over to St. Armands and to Daiquiri Deck. This is the sister joint to the one at Siesta Key. Pretty crowded there; a band was playing, the weather was great, everyone was in a jolly mood.

What did I fill my Coolie Cup with this time? Cadillac Margarita! Yum! A lot better than the Monkey-Berry concoction I had last time (banana/strawberry).

Mrs. B

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Been Sorta Quiet...But That's About To Change!


All in all, we had a low-key week this past week. About the only new thing I did was attend an opera guild meeting Tuesday morning at the invitation of my neighbor, Alma. Both Alma and her husband Stan are heavily involved with the Sarasota Opera, which, considering I truly enjoy opera, seemed like fate. Anyway, the meeting was interesting; well-run and many, many members. Although not all were at the meeting, there are over 500 guild involved. Well, they just got two more as I signed us up. I have to admit, it's unlikely we're going to go to many of their fund-raisers right now; a bit steep cost-wise. I just checked out the cost for the opening night gala next February. $250 PER. OUCH. And that doesn't include the price of the opera ticket either. But, I figure what with going to the operas and some of the cheaper events (like a lecture on Madama Butterfly tomorrow, it's only $10 per person and there will be wine :-) ), Mr. B can rub shoulders with the area's muckity mucks. Part of my master plan.

We ARE making an evening of it this coming Friday; I bought very good seats for the opening night of Madama Butterfly; partly because I love this opera, but also so that Mr. B will be able to truly appreciate it (his first opera! We'll try out one of countless downtown Sarasota restaurants prior and then meet Stan and Alma at the opera at 7:30. Since they are muckity mucks, they are able to get into the special lounge for muckity mucks and invited us to join them (you must be invited). Again, not a bad opportunity for Mr. B to get his name out there.

Speaking of getting one's name out there, it turns out it's pretty important to have calling cards around here (different from business cards as a lot of the people here are retired and no longer work). Yes, sort of a throw-back to a long forgotten time, but, quaint. I found a deal on Vista Print; 250 cards FREE; only had to pay shipping and handling. I really wish I'd had them Tuesday at the guild meeting as I was asked several time for my card! Well, we have them now.

As for the first part of the week, we plan on going to the lecture Monday. Tuesday is a meet and greet with the Pastors of a church we started attending (yes, yes, yes; this will be the subject of another Blog entry at some point for those of you who just fell off your chairs!) They are a husband and wife team and it's a dessert/coffee gathering for new members (or those still considering such as us) at their home (they live in our community). Thursday night is 648 (a one hour church service; very informal) and Friday is Madama Butterfly! There is a beer festival in Lakewood Ranch on Saturday but I'm not sure we'll be up for that after (likely) a quite late evening Friday.

Today is another totally gorgeous day here in Florida. Mr. B's doing some stuff out in the garage but we're hoping to get out this afternoon; maybe a walk on the beach followed by an afternoon cocktail or beer somewhere by the water.

Don't feel too sorry for us :-)

Mrs. B

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sunny Sarasota Homes: Just Say "Wen!"


I don't want to have only negative stuff up on my Blog. Here is the polar opposite of our experience with the agent in North Carolina!!!!!

Mrs. B

Late last year, my husband and I made the decision that, due predominantly to the fact we both have aging parents in Florida, we should make “the move”. We were initially considering three areas; Ocala, Tampa/St. Pete and Sarasota/Bradenton and, in addition to looking to buy a house, we were also interested in acquiring a CPA practice for my husband. That’s about all we knew.

I hopped onto the Internet to do some general “house hunting” in these areas. I poked around and poked around and eventually stumbled across Wendy Lynn’s site, http://www.sunnysarasotahomes.com/wendy-lynn/. Being a person who appreciates the ability to take care of the majority of my business on-line, I’ve seen my share of web sites. I was immediately drawn into this site; its ease of use and the amount of information it contained without being overwhelming. We later found out that the web site design and development was the brain child of Wendy’s husband and co-worker, Josh, so, a family business! Even better! Through the site, I sent an email to Wendy explaining our circumstances and preliminary thoughts on where we might want to live.

Within a day, I’d heard back from Wendy. From the get-go, her approach in working with us was an effective combination of professionalism, efficiency and genuine warmth and friendliness. Despite the fact that we had not committed to living in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, Wendy jumped right in to help us find our potential “dream home” by having us send her a list of “must haves”, “would like to have”, etc. home requirements. She signed us up for Listing Book, an effective on-line tool and resource to look at homes/neighborhoods, indicate favorites and reject others, change search criteria and post comments/messages for her to see and respond to.

In addition to assisting us while we “virtually” explored her area, Wendy located agents for us to work with in Ocala and Tampa/St. Pete, as well as hooking us up with local business brokers. Not only did she do this willingly, she went above and beyond in finding us DIFFERENT folks to work with when two of the agents were not as responsive as we would have liked.

All of this was very positive, of course, but we knew we had a winner in Wendy when we took a short trip to Sarasota/Bradenton in late January to both explore the area and do some very preliminary house hunting. Wendy made herself available for two days, showing us houses in a multitude of areas in both Sarasota and Bradenton. Many of these houses were ones we’d identified via Listing Book, although some were Wendy’s own suggestions. I should highlight that she did this even though we had not yet committed to move to the area.

Shortly after that trip, we decided that Sarasota/Bradenton was where we wanted to be. For the next several months, we continued to communicate with Wendy, check out the listings on Listing Book, and work towards our eventual move date. During this time, Wendy proved time and time again to be helpful and resourceful in connecting us with people and organizations that we would need to facilitate our move, both from the personal and the business aspects.

Right after the 4th of July, we headed back to the area to find our house! Once again, Wendy was tireless in her efforts and conscious of our timeframe; taking us to see over 20 houses our first day out and then several more, including repeat showings, the next day. Now, one might think this would be “too much”, but, you have to understand we were looking at homes we’d already been tracking on Listing Book in areas we knew we wanted to be in. My husband and I are both seasoned home buyers and know what we want and what we don’t. Wendy complimented our styles and rounded out the process by doing an excellent job of listening to what we were saying; to her, to one another, and then feeding it back to us at appropriate times, even if it meant playing devil’s advocate. After all was said and done, we ended up making an offer on our number one choice, which, coincidentally, turned out to be a bit different than what we originally thought we wanted; another of Wendy’s talents.

Throughout the offer, acceptance, inspection, closing, etc. events, Wendy continued to be there every step of the way (sometimes even when we were not); ensuring things went smoothly. She was in constant contact with us while we were packing up our home in NC. Even now, she continues to check in with us to see how things are going, provide us information on the area, tips on where to go to get great pizza, restaurant deals, special events, etc.

We would have absolutely no qualms in recommending Wendy; and, in fact, would encourage anyone who was interested in the area to sign on with Wendy. We have no doubt that she would take care of them the same way she did us, regardless of their own particular needs and circumstances.

Professionalism, courtesy, adaptability, effectiveness, warmth, humor and friendliness; if this is what you’re looking for in an agent, “Just say Wen!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Regan and Company: "We're never too busy for your referrals (but we are too busy for you!)"

Following is our review of Regan & Co., a real estate agency we used to sell our home in Durham. We hope this information proves helpful to any and all who may be considering using this firm.

Mrs. B.


Like many people in this current housing market, my husband and I were concerned about our ability to sell our home in Durham. Adding to our concerns was the fact that homes in our neighborhood simply were not selling and they were listed at prices far below what they’d originally sold for. Someone in our neighborhood told us about a house near theirs that had sold within 23 days; almost unheard of. The listing company was Regan & Co., and after checking out their website, I called them in early May to discuss the possibility of listing our home with them. I spoke directly with the owner of the company, Mike Regan. Although he was polite, he asked some fairly pointed questions and informed me that our neighborhood had really taken a hit.

We met Mike at our house a few days later. After touring our home and telling us there wasn’t much we’d have to do to prep it for sale other than to perhaps add some flowers to the front, we sat down to discuss the details. Mike had brought the typical numbers along with him and we had a very painful conversation regarding the best price point to list our house at so that it would sell and sell quickly. Unfortunately for us, the price point for our house meant that we were going to have to bring money to the table. Although we did not intend on going the short sale route, Mike should have brought up the possibility of a short sale. Much later in this process, a few weeks prior to closing, my husband contacted the bank to ask if they’d be willing to meet us half-way. The bank told my husband that, in order for that to even be a possibility, we’d have to scratch the contract we had with the buyers and, in essence, start all over again but this time with the bank being involved in agreeing to the price, agreeing to the offer, etc., etc. Obviously at that point we were not going to do this, but, it became apparent that Regan & Co. had not covered everything with us that they should have. If I had to hazard a guess, they likely would not have done business with us if we’d told them we intended to do a short sale.

Another thing that Regan & Co. stresses at the outset is that the home be properly staged. This is an issue for a lot of people because it sometimes means they have to put thousands of dollars into the home in repairs, paint, and temporary storage for overflow furniture, etc. Additionally, pets in the home are extremely problematic; Regan & Co. recommends they, and all signs of them, be removed for all showings. Going into this, we already knew our pets would pose an issue so we’d decided before we even met with Regan & Co. that we would not put the house on the market until we’d moved out. This made Regan & Co.’s job a lot easier. In fact, many of the things that Mike (and later his crew of home stagers recommended) we’d already decided to do on our own, such as power wash the outside of the house, clean all windows inside and out, have the carpets and house professionally cleaned once we’d moved out, etc. This goes a long way of saying that WE made THEIR job considerably easier.

At Regan's strong suggestion, we paid $450 to the stagers; for this we received a few (loaned) pictures on the walls and a couple of items on the counters and in the bathrooms. They also made use of an outside patio set we intended on leaving behind for our lawn maintenance man; bringing it inside into the sunroom. So, we paid them to use our things! We don’t believe the house even required staging since it was empty, it was sparkling clean, and the floors positively gleamed.

Back to the initial meeting. Encouraged by Mike’s opinion that, given the upgrades we’d made to the home and the excellent condition it was in that it would likely sell quickly, we decided to sign with Regan & Co. Although we had a figure in mind after that meeting, we didn’t settle on the final listing price because the house would be in “Coming Soon” mode for several months while we worked through the process of buying a house in Florida and moving out. What this meant was, there would be a sign in our yard but it would not be on MLS.

Regan & Co. processes their documents electronically. After digitally signing the listing agreement, my husband couldn’t get our copy to print out (after a period of time, the documents are no longer available online). This later became a problem when we saw a $395 fee to Regan & Co. on the closing statement for “Closing Assurance”. We were told it was in the agreement we signed (which we didn’t have to refer to). As of this writing, we still do not have a copy of the listing agreement.

From May-July, not much else happened; mostly because we were not yet ready to put the house on the market. We did meet/talk several times with Mike’s assistant Laura. Although Mike WAS our listing agent, he pretty much assigned all of the work associated with our listing to one or more of his employees. Unfortunately, these employees changed over the course of our involvement with Regan & Co., leading to several miscommunications.

In mid-July, we contacted Regan & Co. to discuss the final steps in getting our house on the market for mid-August. Mike came out to the house and told us that, in the two months since we initially spoke with him, the market in our area had suffered even more, and, consequently, he was recommending that we price the house $15,000 less than we’d originally been discussing. We’d been paying attention to what the homes in our neighborhood were doing so we were not totally surprised but still were incredibly disappointed and heartsick. After discussing several details, Mike left and, once again, we were in the hands of his assistant, Laura.

Over the next week or so, we talked to Laura numerous times; mostly regarding our concerns of how the property would be managed after we had left the state. For the most part, we heard “we won’t do that” or, “we can’t possibly be responsible for that”. Additionally, they were not happy that we had an alarm system; citing that a lot of agents won’t show a house if there is an alarm. I became sufficiently annoyed about this lack “care and feeding” on Regan & Co.’s part and the fact that it was taking several days to hear back from anyone regarding our questions. I sent a quite pointed email to Mike (whom, by the way, we hadn’t heard anything from other than a standard thank you note with (yet another) of his business card magnets).

After receiving the email, Mike came back out to the house for a few minutes (literally) to talk about our concerns. But, as with a lot of things to do with this transaction, we’d already decided on our own to turn off the alarm when we moved out, to have family and neighbors check on the house, etc. Mike’s primary concern at that point appeared to be that it was unfortunate we couldn’t have flowers out front because there wasn’t anyone available to water them.

We moved out Monday August 15th. That week was a whirlwind of activity that had previously been arranged between us, Regan & Co., and independent contractors. We’d been told the house would be on MLS by Friday August 19th; the weekend at the latest. We’d also been told that there would be a flyer placed in the house, along with copies of the MLS, for potential buyers to take away with them. Finally, we’d been told by Laura (who was now no longer with the company) that we’d have input into both and if there were things we wanted added or removed (in particular to the flyer), that could be done. When we finally saw the flyer, it had grammatical errors and it hardly did anything to highlight the features of the house. We recommended several changes to it and the MLS; some were made but others were not. The pictures were nice, at least.

The house officially went onto MLS on Wednesday, August 24th. Our first showing was Sunday August 28th. Early Monday morning August 29th, Mike called (the first time we’d heard from him in weeks) to tell us we’d received a full price offer but they were requesting we pay $2,000 of their closing costs. This is where things really started to fall apart. Obviously, we were very pleased to get an offer so quickly. However, we felt extremely pressured by Mike to accept this offer; he suggested we not risk irritating the buyers by pushing back on anything. Even though these were only the first people to see the house, it was very apparent he did not think we should hold out to see if any other offers might come in. He told us to review the offer and call him back. This was around 7:30 am.

When we checked our computer for the offer, we saw that we only had the first three pages. Neither of us felt comfortable agreeing to it until we’d seen the entire offer package. I called and left Mike a message to this effect. He called me back and left a message in essence saying it wasn’t all that important to see it but he ‘d get it to us, that he’d worked with this buyer’s agent before and he trusted her, and that we didn’t want to delay too long with accepting it because buyers were pretty fickle in this market.

My husband finally spoke with him (after reviewing the entire offer). He asked him why the due diligence period (when all appraisals, inspections and repairs had to be complete) was as late as a week prior to closing and requested this be shortened. Mike said 30 days was about normal, but, he’d see if he could get it pushed back a week (from October 10th to October 3rd; closing was set for October 17th) and he’d let us know. We’d also not seen proof of the buyer’s prequalification; he assured us the other agent had it and would fax it to him later that day. This phone call was around 9 or 9:30 that same morning. We told Mike to tell the other agent they had our verbal acceptance, even though, as it turns out, the buyers had given until 5:00 the NEXT DAY to respond.

From the point until closing was, if possible, even more of goat rope. Given how sloppy everything was handled, we’re actually surprised the house closed on time.

Mike assured my husband that any repair requests from the inspection would have to be things that were not functional. Instead, we received a long list of items, many of which were cosmetic and some bordered on the inane, indicating to us that Mike never even looked at it/discussed it with the buyer’s agent. Additionally, Mike did not follow up with us regarding the due diligence period. In fact, the last we ever heard from Mike (with the exception of a note with yet another of his business card magnets) was the evening of the day we received the offer. Regan & Co. never seems to have more than 15 listings and there are now at least five agents plus Mike. They don’t do any real marketing of their listings, choosing to work instead by smoozing other agents. So, we’re not entirely sure WHY Mike never had time to follow up with us/see how we were doing. His motto appears to be, “I’m never too busy for your referrals”. Yes, because he drops his existing customers like a ball of lead once they sign, so, he’s got all the time in the world for potential customers.

"I am never to busy for your referrals! However, I am too busy for YOU".

As closing drew near, we were asked for information that we’d already provided. We received forms that had to be signed in front of a notary and sent back on the THURSDAY before the Monday closing, which meant we had to pay almost $40 in FedX fees to ensure it got there in time (and then no one was around to accept delivery; we got a call from the closing coordinator, Jim Ellis, on Monday, as in closing day Monday, telling us it hadn’t been delivered. Luckily, it was later that morning).

In summary, the bottom line is this. We’d be hard pressed to recommend Regan & Co. It started out ok, but, in the end, it felt like the proverbial bait and switch situation. Plainly stated, the house sold itself; Regan & Co. had little to do with that. They gave almost zero consideration to how we were handling this difficult circumstance of both losing a considerable amount of money AND dealing with a real estate transaction from another state. We also believe that certain information was deliberately withheld and that we were pressured into accepting the first offer we received so that Regan & Co. could advertise that they sold our house in six days. After the offer was accepted to the point when we closed, it was just one thing after another that led us to be completely dissatisfied with Regan & Co. in general and Mike Regan in particular.

The Good:

Initial meeting, although painful, was informative and productive. Decent data was provided to assist us in determining the appropriate price point.

The photographer did an excellent job with the pictures for the flyer/MLS.

The closing coordinator, Jim Ellis, was mostly helpful.

The Bad

All possible options regarding listing/sale were not discussed/disclosed.

The stagers were a total waste of money; it should have been more than apparent they were not required in our situation.

Regan & Co. did not go over the listing agreement/all charges with us nor did they provide us a copy of the agreement once they found out we couldn’t print it.

There were ridiculous fees. $395 for “Closing Assurance” my foot! Given what happened later in the process, this is an oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one. WE should have been paid this as a mental health fee for all the headaches they caused us.

Negligible at best interaction with our agent Mike Regan; we were in essence delegated to his (ever changing) flunkies pretty much from the get-go.

No genuine concern for our concerns; we were made to feel as though we were being unreasonable.

Mike Regan was far more concerned about being able to slap a “Sold in Six Days” sign on our house than he was about our concerns and our best interests; in fact, after that sign was put up, we never heard from him again.

A sloppy, careless and slapdash approach to just about anything related to transactions, documents and follow-up.