Thursday, October 30, 2014

Frank Pumpkinstein



I can think of a few things we would have done differently if we'd actually planned this out a little better. Maybe buying something for the ears and nose (these are just green 'stones' from a mancala game)... but it turned out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.

We sprayed the pumpkin green and let it sit to dry while we went back inside to sort out the ornamentation.

The eyes were circles cut out of cardboard with black magic marker.
The teeth were cut out of the same box.
The ears and nose were mancala pieces (hey, they were green and roughly the right shape).
The bolts were in a pile of bits and pieces of hardware.
The hair was me taking black fun fur and crocheting a little rectangle.

We used stick on velcro and attached that to all the pieces... when the pumpkin was dry we brought it in and added the black stitches and mouth with a black magic marker and stuck on the opposite side of the velcro a place for all the pieces to attach. I'm sure I could have found an easier (cheaper) way to attach everything - but this was something we threw together in about two hours (mostly drying time) with what we had in the house.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Moving houses next week - with MTHFR

Thankfully, I'm not moving far. Thankfully my new house will have very few steps, the bedroom is just off of the kitchen as is the master bath and laundry. (Woot!)

But, Moving houses is a HASSLE.

Being sick while moving? PIA

This will be my third move and hopefully the last one for a really long time.

Both of my previous moves involved a lot of decluttering (though there's always need to do more) which involved selling good furniture/items and/or donating useful items and/or tossing things that were no longer of value.

The first time I moved after becoming seriously ill, I worked in a town 45 minutes from my home. While the rent payments in the new town were the same as the house payments, the savings by not commuting would help me pay more overdue bills. The savings in time for the cummuting time was useful for spending valuable time with my then 3-yr old son.  I would pack two or three boxes into my SUV every evening. Drive to work. Drop the boxes off at the new apartment and unpack them. Then take the empty boxes home. I repeated this for about three weeks before hiring a truck and getting a friend to help haul out the big furniture. (I was abandoning the house to foreclosure, so not paying rent and house payment at the same time bought me extra moving time).

The second time I moved, I couldn't afford to pay the current months rent if I was paying the deposit and first months rent at the new apartment - so while there was a week overlap, I had to come back later to pay the landlord a few months later.  But, I spent an entire month, packing one box an evening and making a massive pile. Found a great discount for a moving truck, hired some guys off of craigslist to do the carrying. I stayed on our then third floor apartment, my son down by the moving truck or helping carry things up and down the two flights of stairs. The new apartment was on the ground floor (thank goodness) - so the unloading went much better.

This time? I started to pack about two months ago. Again, a box or two a night after work, more perhaps on the weekend. That went well for about two weeks. Until my last house purchase fell through. Then I took about three weeks off of the packing duties. Right now I have a handful of things that we don't need to pack yet. And about two or three boxes of items to be moved the day we'll start sleeping in the new house - which I'll wait to pack until the night before.

I did hire a truck, this time with movers as while the last deal went through very inexpensively, hiring a moving van and movers in one go is much easier to manage and they are often insured (the guys moving me last time were not).

I get the house on the weekend, and am moving during the week (got a discount for that). Since my son often works weekends, this works better for him as well.  Saturday and Sunday will be spent moving a few things on our own ahead of time (things like a bunk bed that needs to be dismantled and reassembled), lamps, some of the food, the new cat litter system, new rugs, etc. We'll also draw a little floor plan out and make some decisions about some of the furniture destinations and add that for directing the movers.

On Monday the internet gets turned off at the old apartment and turned on in the new house... so we'll move the tv's, wifi, and rokus ourselves on Monday and get the network established. We'll spend the night 'camping' in the living room Monday night.

Between Sunday/Monday I hope to take a few things that we use regularly but that are getting thrown out (old microwave - there's a new cabinet mounted one at the house), a few broken lamps, an old, busted headboard, etc. to the dumpster.

Tuesday morning the movers arrive early... we'll meet them at the old apartment and 'direct' them and let them handle the big items. We'll leave all the cleaning products behind and come back the following weekend to clean up the old apartment before turning the keys in.

After the last move, I unpacked a box a day for about a month to 'settle' in slowly and gradually and I think that will work again with this move. If we move all the immediate need things on our own and unpack on Sunday/Monday - then the things in the boxes the movers bring can be gotten to over a period of time.

The only real difference, is last time, I left it to the then 20-yr old son to 'decorate' as I didn't have the spoons left after the moving and unpacking and it kind of showed. This time I've got a 23-yr old daughter-in-law and I'm hoping she'll be willing to lend some advice on placement. I'll still probably leave them to 'handle' the placement... but I'm pretty sure her opinion will have a better end result.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Frugal Shopping in the new Internet Age

With a new house comes new expectations. For the most part, my existing furniture is fine.

But not perfect.

I've got a list of 'need to have soon' items - a new tv stand, an end table (or three), etc.

And a list of 'hope to have' items - a better organization system for my craft supplies and for sorting laundry.

I'm doing a lot of online shopping... and I started with free Craigslist listings.

And then I proceeded to not-so-free Craigslist items.

Then I started searching some of the alternative 'new' options....

wayfair.com
amazon
Kmart
Bed, Bath, and Beyond

etcetera, etcetera

I'm not in the new house yet (which my son - who is doing a lot of the moving - tells me, means that I should wait for furniture delivery until AFTER I move).

So, I still have a few weeks to browse and consider where and what I think I need.

Ideally, I'll find exactly what I need in near-new condition for virtually no money at all ...

But, let's face it... that might not be going to happen.

If I do end up buying new, I realized that when I search these different web stores - that I'm seeing the same products over and over again. And of the ones with brick and morter stores, most of the products are only available online. They are listing stock that they don't maintain... but want to be able to 'sell' the item and have the manufacturer ship directly to the customer.  There are a few items on each website that aren't always on all websites... but of the items that are listed on multiple sites - the prices are usually within pennies of each other.

BUT, some sites are offering 10% discounts on some products. Some sites are offering reward points which can be used for cash towards future purchases.

So, it does seem like this research time is beneficial. If all other things are the same, but you can get 10% off immediately? That's probably the best 'frugal' option - as the quality of the item, shipping, etc won't vary from website to website. If the prices are the same and no sales? The next bet would be to pursue the purchase with the company you may have rewards options through.


Monday, October 06, 2014

MTHFR treatment - week 2 and now starting week 3

Week 2:

B complex
ALA
Vitamin D drops
Potassium
1/2 pill of daytime muscle relaxant twice a day
1/4 pill of nighttime muscle relaxant at suppertime

Added 10 mg of sublingual B12 (using up enzymatic therapy and switching to Jarrow)
Added 5mg of Thyroid Armour 
Added Vitamin C

--- 
So far so good (i.e., no negative side effects), but I still really tired ALL the time. If I miss a muscle relaxant I notice it  in increased pain. Still doing epsom salt baths 3 times a week. But I'm more achy than usual... so I either need to up the magnesium OR start chiropractic care soon (still debating).

___

Week 3:

5mg of Thyroid Armour
B complex
ALA
Vitamin D drops
Vitamin C
Potassium
10 mg of sublingual B12 (using up enzymatic therapy and switching to Jarrow)
1/2 pill of daytime muscle relaxant twice a day
1/4 pill of nighttime muscle relaxant at suppertime

Added 5mg of Methylfolate with my morning supplements

Next week: add another 5 mg of Methylfolate and NAC

___

Adding the Methylfolate in the past has been a big BOOST in treatment, and I'm hoping this time around as well. I'm in the middle of packing the apartment and everything is messy and unorganized and -ugh-worthy-crap. My plan is to move a couple of things the weekend of the 18th. Have the movers move most of the things on the 21st. Taking the 20th and 22nd off to move all the things I don't want the movers moving (tv's, lamps, fish tanks, etc).  Big "A" is off work on Sunday and Tuesday and those are the dates that I could use the most help with. I'm hoping this gives us the weekend of the 25th to deep clean the apartment. I can't fix all the broken things that the apartment manager wouldn't fix... and I can't fix the carpet that we stained irrepairably... but I can do what I can to remove the 'yuck' that gets built up when you are ill and unable to function at even 40% of normal capacity.

FWIW - I'm still in recovery mode. I had a bit of struggle this weekend following a late night disturbance next door... but I'm up to working in office 4 days a week and working from home 1 day a week. Which was where I was right before all of this happened. So, that's pretty good. I'm thinking I'll try working a full week in office at some point in the coming weeks and as long as I'm still in recovery go back to working from home only occasionally. If it doesn't go well, I'll simply start working from home more often as needed.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Starting my treatment (yet AGAIN) - posting here to keep me honest.

OK...

I had a pretty bad flare up. Symptoms of nueropathy-like pain, painful lumps throughout my body... no ideas from any doctors.

I did get my regular doctor to agree to help me start managing my symptoms (which he had failed to do very well for the last several years)...

But he put me on potassium supplements (my potassium has been mildly low for the last several tests, but he hadn't felt the need to treat it before I pushed him on it). And I'm on two different forms of muscle relaxants - one that knocks me out at night and one that I take during the day.  I didn't think they were helping with the nueropathy-like pain (still don't know) BUT I have noticed that the over-all achiness (think flu-like symptoms of whole body ache) is better and in fact, if I forget a pill, I notice it worsening - take the pill, it improves. SO ... YEAH! something that is helping with something.

I've been on those three for almost a month.

And I've noticed mild dry patches of flaking skin on my face - which I'm led to believe can be a folate deficiency. So, it's time to start back on my methylation protocol.

I'm probably going to end up taking a lot of the same things I did before. Only I'm going to try to mix it up a little differently. To this day, I don't think that my supplements are responsible for my flare up. However, I stopped taking them as a better safe than sorry type of thing. I also think I'm going to 'schedule' in a week off of supplements every month and a month off every year or six months. I think that it's unlikely to be harmful and that if I only take a month off - I won't do the 'restart' progress... I'll just resume where I left off. BUT, that said... I've been off for about three months now... so ... tapering up from the bottom is where I'll be.

STARTING TODAY (and for the rest of this week)....

B complex
ALA
Vitamin D drops
Potassium
1/2 pill of daytime muscle relaxant twice a day
1/4 pill of nighttime muscle relaxant at suppertime

House buying on a REVISED budget

Sadly, I was trying to negotiate with the seller on the home... to fix a repair that the FHA mortgage company had deemed REQUIRED, while also pursuing the option of determining if I could qualify for a conventional mortgage. In the meantime, I had offered to pay the entire cost of the remaining repair.

AND the seller pulled out of the transaction.

This was the second home I had paid for an inspection for, but which wouldn't pass FHA standards.

There was a third home. Priced the same as the last home - but VASTLY outdated (needed a new kitchen, some pretty serious remodeling). The last home was in better shape, but almost 500 sq feet smaller. Given how dated the kitchen, appliances, carpeting, etc was. My concern with even looking into that property is that we'd end up in the same situation. House needing something more involved required of it, seller not interested in putting the money into it.

Sigh.

Smart money would go to waiting for a third opportunity that had a little LESS intense effort. Sometimes it's the waiting that pays off the most.

Smart money would go to determining if I can get a conventional loan with money for remodeling.

Yeah. I'm sick and tired and tired and sick and don't want to live here any longer.

Instead. I kept looking and after only one weekend of feeling really sorry for myself and looking at the exact same houses I had already rejected for not being the type of home I wanted, nor the right area, or too much money.... I got an email for a brand new listing.

This one is a 1 1/2 story townhome. There's a first floor master, first floor laundry, open concept kitchen with 2-car attached garage. It's not perfect. But it's definitely in the range of having several things I really like about it. It's further away than I want to be, but nowhere near as far away as I feared I would end up. It's very close to my favorite grocery store and my work. Far enough away from my son's school which involves driving him to and from school every day (I was already picking him up daily).

It's also about $30k more than the townhome I wanted to buy. The benefit is though, that there isn't going to be a punch list of repairs and upgrades that need to be done immediately. I've got a very tiny list of very small repairs (new plumbers tape for the shower hook ups, new caps for the deck railing, new ceiling fans)... and only one thing on my longer-term plan (replace carpeting with laminate wood flooring).

I had hoped to buy for less and invest slowly in the upgrades/fixes needed. But the last thing I wanted to do was invest more money into housing inspections on a house that I couldn't buy. Lack of patience being a downfall.

But, I'll have a nice house that meets my needs well, and who knows what will happen in ten years.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

House buying on a budget

I'm hopefully closing on a townhouse before the end of the month (well, we'll see if we will be closing at all... this has been a 'challenging' transaction).

In my house we have a mom, an 11 yr old boy, a dog, and a cat.

Visiting often are the grandchildren, though only the 7 yr old tends to spend the night right now... the newborn is still pretty dependent on mom and dad... but if the new house works out and if I can keep it clean, I'm hoping for some baby sleepovers in the future.

Primary concerns for me were that with my health and issues with my knee... that I wanted the kitchen, bathroom, main bedroom and laundry all on the same floor. I didn't want a house too big for me to keep clean. And I wanted enough space for me to be able to comfortably work from home.

Several bonus factors would include:
 - a nice wood cabinet-based kitchen
 - non-stainless steel appliances
 - wood or wood laminate floors
 - attached garage
 - a family room in addition to the living room (that the boys can play with toys in)
 - no need for a formal dining room
 - a bonus room that I can use for crafting so my bedroom isn't filled to bursting with craft supplies
 - an open concept area

SUPER big bonus factors would include:
 - an HOA (I've got enough fun things I'd like to do with my free time if I had the energy to enjoy it, yardwork and shoveling snow isn't on the list)
 - a neighborhood pool
 - a view of a pond/lake/creek/river - anything water
 - a sunroom with a hot tub - OR AT LEAST room for that as an improvement

The house I'm buying has ALMOST ALL of the things on my list and is priced around $10k less than a lot of the other townhomes in the same area, AND $40-60k less than two story homes that only have some on my list.

What doesn't it have? Well, the kitchen has a bit of a mash-up of appliances - the refrigerator is stainless steel. But, it's working and the stove and dishwasher aren't stainless steel... so, I'm just putting the kitchen remodel (so I can do a side by side refrigerator and get some decent counter tops) on the five year plan. It also has a little more carpeting than I prefer. So, within a year I hope to replace the carpeting in the basement (family room, bonus room, second bathroom and hallways are all carpeted..... sigh) with laminate flooring. And in my three year plan, I hope to replace the upstairs carpeting with laminate flooring (living/dining area, two bedrooms, and bathroom ... all carpeted). And no sunroom, :-( ... but there's a beautiful deck off the living area and with the walkout basement there's a patio area that needs some work. In my five year plan we'll also plan on updating the patio area and see if we can screen in the patio at the same time. It's not a sunroom, but it might keep me going and giving me a chance to explore some 'outdoor' without the mosquito bites until I can afford to update the deck to a sunroom/deck area.

What am I giving up that other people want in their homes... I'm not getting all new carpets (I'd end up ripping them out anyway). I don't have all new top-of-the line stainless appliances (I don't want stainless anyway, have you ever had them with kids? You can never keep the fingerprints cleaned off)... the refrigerator and dishwasher are pretty new... the stove is completely outdated... but new electric stoves aren't that expensive - and I can buy a new stove next year.  The kitchen hasn't recently been remodeled. But it GORGEOUS just as it is (well, with the exception of the old stove, ugly stainless fridge and countertops)... but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cabinets. And I love that it's got wood flooring in the kitchen. And there's an oversized, very interesting kitchen island with the sink and dishwasher in it. I plan on investigating the cabinets (that I LOVE) and seeing if there's a way to move the fridge (with water for an ice maker to the side wall, and add new cabinets where the refrigerator used to stand (so I can have a bigger fridge), replace the counter tops and add a breakfast bar to the current island. I'm thinking my five year plan includes the kitchen remodel. Bonus is that I get to keep the things I love about the kitchen that others would have replaced if they had updated it, and really make it mine.

I'm not getting a walk in closet. I'll miss the walk in closet I have now. I will. But there is a ton of closet space in the house... just none of it walk in closets. I've thought about it a lot, and I can totally live without it in the master bedroom. I've thought about ways to add one and I just think it would cost too much of the square footage of the bedroom. The spare bedroom in the walkout basement is a little larger than the master and if I really decide to do it (and my knee doesn't expire first) - I could consider updating that bedroom to replace the current closet with a walk in closet. But it's just not that important to me. And that's the key - finding the 'bonus' items that other people want to pay more to get - decide which aren't important to you, and take those things off your house-hunting list.

First floor laundry was a MUST HAVE (note, my townhouse is a ranch with w/out basement)... if I was buying a two story (which I wouldn't really want, then I'd want the laundry on the same floor as the master bedroom). Sadly, this particular laundry is an older stackable unit. I've investigated the closet it's in... and I think I can fairly easily upgrade to the newer stackable front loaders... so that'll be in my plan for the coming year. I'm investigating a single-unit washer and dryer in one... and that's still on my maybe list. I wish they weren't quite so new to the market so that the technology was a little more 'sure' ... but if I can get one that I feel confident that it will work - it will free up space in the laundry center AND at the current prices ... save about 33% on the replacements. PLUS then you can decide if you want the washer to stop after it's done washing (if you have delicates you need to lay out to dry) or let it go from washing straight to drying without even having to move the load (wow! how cool would it be to skip that step.... now I know... most people examine the clothing before putting it in the dryer so they don't 'set a stain'.... but I never do... and if one appliance can take up half the space and do the job of two appliances? Well, I'm interested in learning more about it).

The house has great distinct architectural features, an open floor plan from kitchen through dining 'area' through living room (If I got a dining room - it would be used as an office anyway). The two bedrooms and the bathroom are off of the living area - no hallway except for the front door through to the living area (and beside the garage). AND there's a pond in the BACKYARD. Seriously. Really. Views from most windows of the pond. And it's not one of those nasty bordered with white gravel man-made ugly ones, either. Technically it is man-made - there's a dam at the other end. But it would be wet ground anyway if the dam wasn't there.... and it's old enough (from the 70's 80's era) that it has things like weeping willows and cat tails and all other lovely pond-living things. They did put an aerator at the other end of the pond (the deeper end) and I'm at the more shallow end... but I can't wait to sit by my window and just gaze out at the pond. Something about a view of the water just eases my soul.

The biggest challenge with the buying process has been that the current owner didn't want to do any repairs. It's been difficult as an FHA loan requires that the home meet a certain safe and sound criteria that this house misses by a couple of things. But, we're slowly, but surely working through those changes... and in the meantime, I'm trying to work through seeing if I can't qualify instead for a conventional loan just in case things don't work out the other direction. For the couple of things left on the owner's to do list - if they fall through, I'd insist on lowering the selling price so that I can do the repairs myself (assuming I can go through a conventional mortgage).

NEGOTIATION. not my strong suit. But I'm trying.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On the road to remission

I'm back off of coumadin. Now I have no idea why I was on it if it wasn't because the surgeon had convinced my regular doctor that I should be on it for life.  I think they were just playing cover their you-know-whats-its. But it's a pain being on it, so I am not fighting them to keep me on it.

I'm still getting lumps all over my body, my arms and legs and torso... they come, sometimes they go... and they hurt. But the fact that they do sometimes go... well, that means that they shouldn't be anything cancer-related. And now that the worst of the pain is backing off and the pain I'm left with is mild enough... I'm going to be taking a wait and see approach with them.

I'm able to be active for a few hours every day now (whereas 10 minutes sitting in a chair was too much for me only a month ago). Still not 100%. BUT SO MUCH BETTER THAN BEFORE.

I'm going to try to go back to work (well, work from home) on Monday and see how it goes. My doc would prefer half days. But insurance doesn't want to work that way - either I'm too ill to work altogether or I'm well enough to go to work. Thankfully I can work from home so we'll do that for a few weeks and if I'm still in recovery mode, we'll start trying to do some time in the office.

The doctor finally did come back with an unofficial diagnosis - so I can put a label to things. He truly believes it's Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). Only putting that in the paperwork can really screw me over with the insurance company and future doctors. It's a seriously misunderstood and underdiagnosed condition. And there are far too many doctors who either believe it doesn't exist OR who treat it like it's all in your head. Millions of people are getting poorly treated who have this. Millions of dollars in research have been fraudulently taken and applied to other conditions - which means that they still don't really know how to prove it exists. Unfortunately, until research is available - it can continue to be dismissed by doctors and left untreated.

BUT, the good news is that my doctor did FINALLY (it's been over 9 years) agree to start helping me manage my symptoms. I've started muscle relaxants to see if that will help with the lumps and pain from the lumps (in case it's just knotted up muscles - I don't think it is - but I'm tired of not trying anything because we don't know what they are). And shortly I'll be starting some potassium supplements for my low potassium levels which I am sure is a result of my long-term diahhrea.

After that, I'll start restarting my other supplements that I stopped because I couldn't be sure they didn't cause some of the issues.

I'm also going to start tracking my symptoms and supplement changes again in a spreadsheet... it's kind of a pain to do it... but I miss things if I don't try.

___
And in the meantime, I'm back to get yet another diagnostic mammogram next week. Boy am I sick and tired of getting lumps in my breasts. They always end up being cysts (thank goodness). And I'm sure the four new lumps are just that, yet again. But it's better safe than sorry to check. It just gets really old (and expensive). As more often than not the mammo is followed by an u/s... and between the two it tends to run around $1k in expenses. I guess the good news is that I've hit the high deductible limit so I'll only have to pay around 20%. But geez... it would be nice to go two full years without going through this.