Saying Goodbye To 2023 A Little Early

I am in the midst of a difficult time, a crossroads of sorts as 2023 comes to an end. I apologize in advance for not being my usual upbeat self. I have been taking care of sick people for about ten years and it has not been easy, especially the past two years with both Mother and Kuochun nearly losing their lives. I feel like I have aged ten years these past two years. We lost Dad in September 2019 to Alzheimer's and it was the most heartbreaking thing to witness his decline over a period of five years. None of us knew what was to come in 2020 as the pandemic was right around the corner but I was determined to come up with a way for us all to try and enjoy life again. Even though I was not quite ready for it financially and not quite old enough at the time for a 55+ community, my idea was to make an investment in the future as my parents had done with their Wisconsin home. Dad always said he would never retire, well maybe at age 90. Sadly it was not meant to be. When he realized he was not able to work anymore and manage two homes he phased out of work and sold the Wisconsin home. The profits from the sale covered his memory care. It was as if he knew it was time to go as it only would have been a couple of months before the money ran out and he would have had to go to a state facility. I have a huge concern about my future as I have no children to take care of me and likely no loved ones remaining or willing to help me out if I follow the path of my paternal grandma and Dad with dementia.

When I purchased my home in Mount Prospect in 2001 my dream was to live there forever. When Dad went to memory care, I encouraged Mother to move from their townhome in Northbrook to a little home on one level close to a thriving downtown and we made it happen in 2018. Her Arlington Heights home really fit the bill. At that time we did not know what the future would hold. Circumstances have changed, we need to live together as much as possible and unfortunately neither home is large enough for all three of us to live in. It is doable in Scottsdale, although Kuochun and I are kind of cramped with just two long narrow bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. Kuochun's room was used as an office by the previous owner, it does not have a door and has three large open sections which look out onto the front hall and living room so he never has any privacy. It is a good setup for Mother as she is able to have her own primary suite with a large closet and attached bath. The kitchen is nearby and the back patio is just steps away. She can keep her oxygen machine in her bedroom and reach all of these areas fairly well with a 40-foot long extension. The property tax is a fraction of what I pay Cook County and everything runs on electric so there is no gas bill. The electric stovetop is completely flat and so easy to clean. The kitchen is so much more spacious than what we have in Mount Prospect, where countertop room is pretty much non-existent. Even the garbage is convenient with 300 gallon cans in the alley just behind the patio. We only need to put out a recycling can once a week. However living here full time would have a couple of challenges. The very hot summers are the biggest issue, Vivi and Margot could not take walks which they are used to doing. Vivi could go in the yard as she did when she lived with Mother but Margot has been pampered and will only go on walks. Also, a lot of the drivers are terrible and we constantly have to be on guard. They take U-turns out of nowhere, never stop when we are backing out of a parking space and weave in and out of traffic like a video game.

Although this is not what I originally planned, it has turned out to be a financial challenge to keep up with two homes due to unexpected expenses. I spent half of last year and eight months of this year paying back loans I had to take out to pay for a couple of problems in Scottsdale, the first of which was the massive sewer issue of early 2021 which I should have been compensated for by homeowner's insurance but the insurance company refused to pay. After retaining an attorney, trying other avenues and more than a year of fighting to try and get what I deserved, I finally gave up, let the attorney go and changed insurance companies. I never would have done any remodeling in Scottsdale until I paid off the Mount Prospect home in 2025 but was forced to when most of the first floor including the laundry room, bedroom and bathroom was destroyed in order to fix the plumbing. In addition, in the summer of 2021 the garage completely flooded and I lost everything inside, including the wall of original built-in storage cabinets and the carpeting which was glued to the floor. The company I hired to watch over the home while we were gone did not detect the problem, a neighbor told us about it. I had to have a remediation company come clean up this area as well. The largest expense was the remediation, and then the epoxy chip floor but I am so glad I did the floor. When we returned here in October the garage floor had evidence of water leakage from under the door and dirt where the water was. It was pretty easy to clean up. To prevent the flooding problem from occurring again, I have to have landscapers come every other week to keep the drain and the rest of the front yard and back patio free from debris. The next door neighbor has a tree which is beautiful but sheds thousands of very tiny leaves year round.

I fought to keep up with everything for about a year and a half but it finally came to the point where I had to take out the loans. Any money I earned from estate sales this year went to these loans so I had to work harder than ever to be able to pay all my other bills with the money I earned from jewelry sales. It has been a lot of sleepless nights, waking up in the middle of the night to check the bank balance six days a week and I am still not out of the woods yet. As long as there are no more major surprises for a while, things will continue to get better.

I have always put my whole heart and soul into anything I work on and it may be perceived as I am just busy "buying a lot of things" and "doing a lot of things" but it is all part of the constant pursuit to keep these businesses going strong. This blog is jewelry-focused and although I do not talk about the estate sales here as much, the estate sale business is always my first priority and what I spend the vast majority of my work time on. Other than the pop-up sale in Mount Prospect in early October and the downsizing sale in Scottsdale in early December, I have not had time to work on jewelry projects for three months. The plan for the new year is to balance everything more.

I started both of these businesses from zero and what I have achieved is the product of sheer determination, relentless hard work and valuable experience in two different careers, accounting and IT. I followed a predictable path when I was younger - graduating high school at 17, undergrad four years later and earning an MBA while working full time and having a side hustle six years after that. Everything changed when I ended up getting divorced in 2001 and losing my job in 2002. I never relied on my former husband financially but we were sharing the household expenses. I had to start over and was determined to figure out a way keep my new house and never go back to corporate life. It was a scary but liberating moment to leave that office for the last time as I was not happy there and especially hated the office politics. It took a while to find the path where I could make a living but I am so happy I did not have to go back to the 9-to-5 grind and intend to keep it that way.

Coinciding with the past two years of helping Kuochun and Mother through their worst times and fighting through financial struggles, it has come to light that some folks in my life have taken advantage of the situation and have been dishonest. I will not elaborate but the mere thought of this is extremely sad and has been weighing very heavily on me. The holiday break could not have come at a better time this year. It may be time to take that leap of faith once again and start over. Only time will tell.