Monday, December 29, 2008

Dr Appt

OK - so eight vials of blood later....

and my INR is low (but that was on purpose... knowing I'm never stable, and knowing that I've been very naughty and forgetting to get tested... I wasn't taking my full dose so I could make sure that if it was off, it was low)

doc is testing me for my deficiencies plus a couple of other tests for the fatigue

This doctor doesn't want me to quit coumadin... but will go along with it if I can convince the other doctor to agree that I don't need it. So, now I get to see the hematologist whom I see about once every two or three years... to see what he thinks.

AND? Interestingly? The only places that he could recommend for a "thorough" workup would be Mayo Clinic or University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics - which of course, been there. Done that. So.... he's very strongly recommending I go to this guy in NYC. He feels that if I go there and this guy figures things out; makes recommendations - that he can take the information from this doctor and follow up with his own tests. That means that instead of worrying about this guy being a bit hokey or perhaps recommending something that isn't very practical - I'd have a second doctor following up. He's really enthusiastic about me going. Isn't that interesting? Makes me feel better about the idea.

Oreo Balls Recipe

Told you I'd post this - got around to it eventually. Very easy, fun for the kids to help; well - a little fun for the kids. A lot more work for mom. BUT, they are by far my favorite! And I can only make them for special occasions because I don't want to gain 80 pounds.

3 Ingredients (my favorite recipes are always short lists of ingredients)

1 pkg Oreos (best seem to be regular, but I'd have fun trying these with mint oreos)
1 8 oz pkg Cream Cheese
2 pkgs of Almond Bark (I get vanilla... original recipe calls for 1, but I always need more)

Step 1 - Crunch up the oreos into small pieces (the kids LOVE to help here... and love to sneak eating a few)

Step 2 - Use mixer to cream the cream cheese; when soft & not sticking - add cookie crumbs

Step 3 - Using a teaspoon - form the mixture into small balls - stick in fridge or freezer ... btw smaller, the better because they are ultra-rich... but smaller means they make more & sadly, that means it takes longer to make them.

Step 4 - Melt 1 pkg of Almond bark in either a double-boiler or microwave

Step 5 - Bring out the balls from where they've been chilling & dip into the melted almond bark - place on cookie sheet with either parchment paper or wax paper (I've been known to sprinkle with red & green sugar - but it's only to dress them up & isn't needed). When you run low on the almond bark - start melting the second package. (my hint? Since this takes so long? I do one package of almond bark an evening ... and just stick the left over balls from the fridge to dip on the second night.)

Step 6 - place in refrigerator for approximately 10 minutes (minimum)

These keep well in the refrigerator; but I prefer them room temperature to eat (softer that way) - but usually? they get eaten the second they get brought out... that is assuming they make it that far. Everyone in the family takes turns heading to the fridge for some excuse or another & snitching one & popping it into their mouth before turning around. As if that fools anyone. Not that I have room to talk - I'm as bad as they are.

$5 meal for family of 4

Brauts & Fries

Sounds cheap & easy, right? My specialty.

I had to do some digging on the prices - as the brauts & potatoes came from Angel Food Ministries food... (loving them!)

4 brauts - Package of 8 was selling recently for $2.50 - so let's go with $1.25
Frozen fries - Package selling for $2.38 / only cooked up about 1/4 of the bag - $.60
Can of Green Beans - recently bought on sale for $.47
4 hotdog buns - Package of 10 (seriously? why do they do this.) - bought at bakery outlet for $1. - $.40

Total for a family of four? $2.72

Next week, I'll try to get a bit more creative - this was because I'm posting at 9:34 pm... and this is actually what we had for dinner tonight.

Virtual I've Never

From Mommying On The Fly


Have you ever played I never? Well Manic Monday is a Virtual version of I never...

What you have to do to play is:


I will pose a question beginning with I never....
If you've never done it .....
  1. Add yourself to Mr Linky, so others can come go visit.. (including me) - well go to MOTF to add your linky
  2. Post your own question on your blog...
  3. Come back next Monday.
If you've done it....

  1. Add yourself to Mr. Linky, so others can come visit.. (including me)- well go to MOTF to add your linky
  2. Post your own question on your bog.
  3. share your story in a comment
  4. come back next Monday
I've never... been to Hawaii.

Nope ... never been.

This could get interesting? But, honestly? I suck at I've never. I've been a bit "adventurous" in my youth (LOL).

I've
never gone more than two years without a speeding or traffic ticket.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I do love Google... I really, really do

But, have you ever noticed, as you type in a search, how it provides a list of "autofill" options as you are typing? It ALWAYS amazes me when I'm typing in a very odd search string and I find it showing up in the list. That means that I really am not the only person who searches for the following things:

remove Playdo from upholstery
remove acrylic paint from carpet
remove fingernail polish from toilet

Seriously? There are other parents having these self-same issues? Really? I actually feel a little better than I did 20 minutes ago when I started to clean up the paint mess.

And by the way - no, my 5 yr old does not have paint nor Playdo (anymore) nor fingernail polish. However, he seems to seek this stuff out. I've gotten the worst of the paint up & out. There's a few spots left in his bedroom... the last-ditch option is to get some brush cleaner & water it down - so I'll try to find some tomorrow to tackle the last little bit.

Sad thing is that my whole house has all these large area rugs with the hopes that 90% of the mess lands on them and worst thing - I toss those, but save the carpet. This of course, totally missed the rug by about six inches.

Dr Appt tomorrow

So, I've got my next appointment tomorrow morning to see my regular doctor. I'm writing what I want to discuss all down here in the hopes that it will help keep me focused.

1. The extreme exhaustion & chronic pain is back with a vengeance.

They were starting back about three months ago and six months ago - just barely. Three months before that? I felt freakin fantastic. So, what's changed? Well, six months ago I was having trouble remembering to take my supplements. I've gotten better about it since. Not great, fantastic take them every day better.... but better. But, I've also stopped taking two supplements. One - because blood tests showed that my levels were fine, if not great (Vitamin D). The second - because the doctor tells me not only does he have NO record of me ever having low levels, he's never EVER ordered a test to monitor those levels (potassium). Just great. Potassium is one of those things that you should NEVER take nonchalantly; should always be monitored. AND since it was his nurse who phoned me telling me to start taking those supplements because my levels were low; well, guess who thought he was monitoring them. Guessing this was a mistake. I stopped taking those immediately.

So, my thought is that since I'm better (not great) at taking my supplements, but my symptoms have gotten worse - I want him to test me for Vitamin D Deficiency (cause, oh, I don't know, maybe my levels were good because I was taking the supplements????) and Potassium deficiency. Either one comes back low, I go back on supplements and see what happens next.

2. Finding a local Dr. House... I'm still planning on saving up for a trip to NYC... to possibly see the "real" Dr House... but I'm still a bit leary. It's a long ways to go to see a specialist who is self-proclaimed good at diagnosis... but there are no guarantees in life. I'm going to ask my doctor to ask around & dig around on my behalf and try to get me to someone around here who is adapt at finding the cause of symptoms. I've tried digging around online, but honestly? "every" doctor claims to be good at diagnosis - after all, that's there job, isn't it? But, to be great at it? Well, that means people like me are going to seek them out... and people like me present certain - well challenges. We have complicated issues with lots of weird non-explained symptoms and most doctors? Most specialists? Are kind of ok with telling me.... "I don't know what it is".... not happy to tell me it, but basically it absolves them of digging further. If they don't know, they don't know and they can walk away knowing they tried. But, someone claiming to be excellent at diagnosis? Well, they don't have the same option. If I was easy to diagnose? we would have figured something out years ago. And well, if he can't find anyone - it's not like I still can't try the guy in NYC. Heck, if he finds someone I still might try both... it's just money - right? sigh

3. I want to quit taking my blood thinner - coumadin. I do, I seriously do. I was thankful to be put back on it when everyone thought we knew what was most recently wrong and when it seemed to be working. Now that we've virtually ruled it out... well, I'm not so keen. No seriously - who doesn't love going to the lab on a weekly basis to have blood drawn? Who doesn't love monitoring every bite you eat in the not quite lost hope that if just this once, it's stable from one week to the next, you might get to skip a week in blood testing. And lastly? Now that I've lost so much feeling on my right side? It's just plain dangerous. I related a tale recently where I was unaware I was bleeding from my lip. I didn't feel the blood dripping down my chin... I didn't feel the dampness on my shirt as the blood soaked through. I had NO CLUE. And, thankfully, it was a minor bleed... but with blood thinners? Lost of sensation is risky. I could have a more serious bleed occur and I may not notice it in time to prevent significant blood loss. This is NOT a good thing... not a good thing at all.

I've been to a LOT of doctors and until my last symptoms started fall of 2006; 5 out of 6 of the specialists did NOT want me on blood thinners. The Sixth one kind of had it easy - I was already on them for a "trial" basis; after convincing one of the first five that if we tried it for three months to no benefit, what was the harm... only I ended up on them for two years where it "seemed" to help. Now, it isn't helping at all.

This last one is risky; I know it. But, going back to the 5 out of 6 doctors - they didn't believe what I'm currently experiencing is associated with clotting. And they didn't believe that I was at risk for clotting again. But, there are no guarantees in life. If I clot again, I can only hope that it's a small, minor - however, easily detected clot that I can get treated for. I can only hope it's not as serious as the massive bilateral PE I had in 2004. So, yes, there's a risk. While I survived the first one, there's no guarantee I'll survive the next one.

However, there are two possible benefits to stopping couamdin... 1) Whatever I have, it's eluded doctors... if there is even the slightest chance that the medication I'm taking (which seemed to help initially) is masking additional symptoms or artificially affecting other test results - which while low probability, could still happen - then I'm more than a little willing to stop taking it and see if we can't get this buggered up shit figured out. 2) There's a possibility, slim, but there - that I truly am having health issues related to clotting... I've been tested to within an inch of my life, so it's a slim possibility.... but; if the blood thinner really is "sort-of" helping; removing the blood thinner should make my condition worse. (Doesn't sound like a very good idea when I type it out; but stay with me.) If my condition worsens... it might worsen to the point where they can friggen find the clots (since they can't find any now). Which if it did happen, it would prove the point that it is related to my clotting condition - which is not where we are now... and it would prove the point that I need to move on to other medication. Now, this would be good & bad news... good news is that new medication is more effective, which would probably solve my health issues.... bad news is that this is that expensiver than expensive stuff that I had to use before & after my knee surgery last spring. I believe the drugstore quoted it at $276/day. Yes... per day... Before insurance that's around $8,000 per MONTH.... seriously not great. But, if it meant a working cure and I could stop worrying about how much worse I'm going to get. I'll figure out a way to work with it. Thankfully, I do have "decent" medical insurance - and a maximum of $4000 out of pocket - I'd hit that in the first month and it would be free from then on. Not easy to manage; but I'd figure something out.

So, given that the current medication is not only no longer helping; but extremely risky to remain on.... and quitting the medication provides some hope that maybe, just maybe we might figure something out better without it? Seems like a reasonable idea to me.

So - positive thoughts - I will get better because I have a plan of action. Stopping this medication that requires so much of me WILL be a step in the right direction even if it causes me more distress in the short term.

I am not a stupid person

I have my degrees; I've got my awards for outstanding achievement; heck if I dig deep, I probably still have my Valedictorian award from high school (don't over-react, it was a class of 26 people ... less competition gives it a little less oomph). I've spent over eight years in my past teaching at a college. And I've now spent nine years working as a professional "problem solver". No matter what my title states. I'm not a stupid person.

But I do make so many, so very many stupid mistakes, too many. I'm blaming the latest one on being distracted. As, yes, I am exceedingly distracted.

I've got my medical issues that even though I can't resolve them in my mind I go over them and over them time and again. I practice my discussion with my doctor well ahead of time. Hoping somehow that "this time" if I just reference my symptoms a slightly different way, this time, I'll trigger a thought that will lead to a diagnosis.

I've got my financial issues. Even with the theft of over a $100 from me two weeks before Christmas by my own son and the over $3000 garnishment the month before Christmas... we still managed to have a Christmas. As soon as I can pick up my paycheck, I have enough to pay rent for January and pay at least a portion for my current bills as well as a small portion for my over-due bills. This is good. It's been unbelievably stressful. But (not to tempt the fates into thinking I'm overconfident) - but I do feel that I've brought things under control and that I'm going to do my utmost best at managing things. Yes, the fates can throw a few more things at me and yes, that may throw a wrench in my plans. And yes, I don't have my emergency funds built up yet... but I have them in my very near future. I have a chance (slim that it may be) that things are really going to work out. (barring major unaccounted for disasters - to appease the fates).

So, I'm distracted. I still shouldn't be screwing up like this. I'm 42-plus years. I'm smart & I know better. I really do.

Let me explain:

After opening gifts, I take a garbage bag into the living room & collect up the wrapping paper & empty boxes... but only those empty boxes of proven toys that don't need a box... those toys that prove they will work and aren't valuable enough to justify keeping the box longer in case of needed return.

"a" being all-in-all a really good boy (no matter how hard it is for me to remember this at times)... saw me and started helping. So sweet right?

An hour later, I'm sitting in the living room reading my new book while "a" is working his way around the room playing with his new treasures. At some point, he spies the box for my brand new digital camera. He picks it up & puts it in the garbage bag that I always leave sitting in the living room so that if we're missing a piece, or can't find something... we can dig through the trash bag. He puts the box in the garbage bag. I stop myself from saying something to stop him. WHY? OH WHY? Silly me, I was happy that he took it upon himself to (when seeing something that his mind would identify as trash) pick up something and throw it away. He's 5. He wouldn't know that to me the box was valuable.

I simply made up my mind that an hour later or so I would pick it out of the bag and take it to my room when he wasn't watching. Guess what. I forgot.

Compound those two errors with the next. "A" being of good cheer and still trying to "fix" the fact that he stole from me.... offered to take the trash out. "Are you done with this yet?" he asks. Me, I think to myself - have I thrown out everything I wanted yet? Why, yes I had. I also thought, do I need to hang onto it in case there is a piece missing from a game? Why, no I don't think so. See, I'd already dug through it once earlier (before the camera box was put in). And, there's nothing in there I need... "Go ahead". I was even grateful of his assistance. Yep, I was.

Guess what broke within 48 hours of opening? The camera of course. Guess who remembered at 8:00 am on Sunday morning where the box might be??? Yeah - so I go out - there's almost an inch of ice on the ground... ok, I might be exaggerating - but the sidewalk & driveway? - it is thick & slick. I managed to stay on my feet... but even with exaggerated careful walking I did that windmill thing with my arms three times to keep from falling. I dig through the dumpster. Nope, not there. In fact, the dumpster has hardly anything in it - which means that they picked it up on Friday or Saturday. Seriously? This sucks.

I'm going to contact Amazon and see if they can take it back without the box. Wish me luck. I just want to cry. And honestly? I've got no one else to blame if they say no. I'm the one that allowed the box to get tossed. It's not like I didn't watch both boys handle it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Last Christmas Post (at least on this blog)

From Overwhelmed Working Mom

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Gift bags - almost always

2. Real tree or Artificial? Fake - gets packed away & pulled out just as easy, doesn't shed & doesn't need water

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the first weekend of December; growing up it was the first day of deer hunting season; so other than making chili, my mom & I would be alone all day to get to do it the way we wanted to

4. When do you take the tree down? A day or two before New Years

5. Do you like eggnog? Totally gross, imho

6. Favorite gift received as a child? hmmm... ? Not sure. Most memorable was (boy, do I feel old) - the Pong video game. It was a big deal and a gift for the whole family. sigh

7. Hardest person to buy for? "A" his wants are expensive; and with my budget? not in the budget; especially since he really deserves coal this year

8. Easiest person to buy for? "a"; thrilled with everything, even hand-knit hat, scarf & mittens

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, I bought the shed many, many moons ago, before I could afford the "nice" characters; now, it's complete

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? cards? cards? knew I forgot something

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I think I've blacked those out of my memory - for the most part, my first ex-husband didn't buy me things; my second ex-husband had been well trained by his first wife and did ok

12. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Turkey!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Either day after Christmas or sometimes in August/September ... at this point, I'm just keeping an eye out for bargains that I know someone will like; I don't get serious about it until the first week of December

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, but I have bought things for one person (or made things for one person) and they ended up going to someone else.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Oreo balls - oh, so easy (I'll post recipe & instructions later) and oh, so divine

16. Lights on the tree? Yes - multi-colored and preferably blinky but not all at the same time

17. Favorite Christmas song? Silent Night

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Prefer to stay home, didn't get an opportunity to until after mom passed away

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star - bright with lots of lights ... though I do love Angel tree toppers; I've got a whole collection of 10" ones - but they are showcased on the bookshelf instead.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning... used to be able to put presents out early (all non-Santa ones anyway) but with "a" sneaking in & opening them; it's just easier to keep them all hidden until the following morning.

Friday, December 26, 2008

X-mas pics


Getting ready to color...


Playing video games

Seems happy?

"A"s position during the unwrapping; notice him playing shy for the camera



The carnage of it all

"A"s position after the opening of presents


"a" posing with his home-made Christmas gifts from mommy


Being a model is VERY tiring if you didn't know; causing one to cast oneself onto the couch.

Joy, pure Joy

Well, even though I opened Santa's* present first... I didn't get any pics of "opening" of presents.

*Actually Phil got it for me, knowing it was on my list & that I was too financially stressed to get it for myself... thank you, thank you... thank you!

Every single gift had to be pried out of the box so that we could play with it for five seconds before the next gift could be opened. I was expected to track down batteries, and cables, and cut tape, etc... and didn't have a second to get the batteries into the camera... the glorious camera; until after the presents had all been opened.

This year was a bit lean; but if either boy noticed, they didn't say anything. "A" wanted a book, he got two, he got a pack of socks, a pair of boxers and mittens. Needs, not wants. A free candy bar in the stocking along with a couple of 29 cent specials. "a" on the other hand got more than a dozen toys, along with a race track, a remote control "tough" truck (around here, it has to be tough), coloring books, markers, and the vTech vMotion video game. Although it's a "learning" game, the controller works like the wii and if you jump, your character jumps, etc. I should have also splurged on the second controller, because as much as he wanted someone to play with him, he didn't want to "quit" playing long enough to let you.

Christmas dinner was intended to be a splurge... unlike most years, this year I did not cook enough to feed a crowd of 20 or more for our little family. But I did buy the "good stuff" and I didn't even use a single coupon (ok, ok, maybe I used one coupon). But, doing the math? I didn't really over-spend even for Christmas dinner when I was trying to. Makes me wonder just how much I spend on our regular meals that I haven't done the math on yet. Ham - pre-sliced... $4.00 a packet (I bought 2); but then again, we've got enough left-overs for two more meals... so less than $3 for the meat. Velveeta Augraten Potatoes... $3.50 for the box. I'm not dedicated enough to make them from scratch; but normally I buy the generic version for $1; and add about $1 worth of velveeta after they've finished cooking. Although these are far superior and definitely ok to splurge on for a holiday (seriously? since when did I figure that $3.50 for a single ingredient of a holiday dinner would be a splurge; times for me sure have changed). But, honestly? For an everyday dinner, the others are fine, not great; but ok. Add a 47 cent can of green beans (plain, the way my boys prefer them) and a free box of Brownies (ok, here's where I used my coupon... to get my freebie). And $7 TOTAL...??? for three for a "special" meal? Seriously? Not counting last year nor my first years.... I'm pretty sure my average Christmas dinner in the past would cost around $50 to $80. I would make three different veggies, a couple of meats, buns, bought a dessert ready-made; and then had leftovers that no one would want to eat. Probably the only thing I didn't make that we would have enjoyed was deviled eggs. But I didn't hear any complaints...

We had ham & left over green beans for supper last night; I froze the rest of the ham for another meal in the future. There's still brownies left. I might try to freeze a couple as I know full well we won't finish the pan in the next couple of days and there's no sense in wasting it.

We all enjoyed the day off, I stayed off the computer, although the same could not be said of "A"... his gift to himself was a video game "hi-jacked" which is more polite than "pirated"... not that I'm accusing him of anything. He beat it by noon... :-) "a" played with toys; colored; used his imagination; played with race track; played video games and started all over again. I got "I love you" and hugs and kisses about every other 20 minutes that passed. (I think that means he was enjoying himself :-)).

I read an old (but new to me) book by a favorite blogger of mine Yarnharlot... her books are a lot like her posts; very enjoyable. And even though I'd put down the knitting needles (finished the last of my gifts on Sunday); reading her book put me in the mood to knit something for myself. And to challenge myself, and to try something new. I'd bought some sock yarn back in the day when I thought I could afford it... it's 60% superwash wool (which means they'll be washable... very important); 25% Mohair (which means that they'll be oh, so soft; not itchy); and 15% nylon (which means they won't wear out in a couple of wearings). Hand-painted yarn - color is Mountain Twilight by Mountain Colors (which means that beyond being uber-expensive ... not really, but it sure seems like it looking back at the price tag); but also gloriously pretty. I wanted "dark" - dark socks I can wear to work; dark socks that won't need bleaching if they get worn on a dirty floor. After finding this yarn; I knew the exact pattern I should use with them. The pattern name is Twilight... in the 2-at-a-time Socks pattern book by Melissa Morgan-Oakes; another blogger. I love her patterns; I love the 2-at-a-time sock method; and the sock yarn was made for this pattern. However, I wanted to try a couple of variations - hence a challenge. I'm translating the pattern so that they are toe-up. Instead of starting at the top of the leg for the sock; I'm starting at the toe. It's taking some doing to convert the instructions from "decrease" to "increase" and following from the bottom of the pattern to the top... I'm relying on Fleegle (another blogger); to walk me through the basics of the sock construction from the toe up instead of relying solely on Melissa's book. And then 'translating' the instructions to fit the pattern in the book. So far, so good. I knit about two inches on both socks before I realized they would fit Bigfoot; tore them completely back and started again. I've reached the instep (from the toe); so have about four inches done on each sock. It's fun & interesting (well, at least it is to me ... grins). And far more enjoyable than the work I'm trying to accomplish while I'm working from home today. But, I've been semi-good so far. Instead of reaching out & picking that knitting back up; I'm blogging. I did say semi-good. Pics to follow - and look, they turn out good instead of dark; or out of focus; or blurry... good pics! Thanks Phil for granting my Christmas wish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Well, it's Christmas Eve... we've made it this far, and things are going to be ok. Santa has finished his shopping; I've finished mine. Things are a bit leaner; but "a" will be pretty pleased still, I believe. He wrote up a letter to Santa with "A"s assistance (although he did print his name at the bottom). And we probably got a little over half of the list wish fulfilled. "A" on the other hand, besides a book, and some stocking-stuffers has an even leaner hall. All the more so, since he stole over $100 (by the time the last of the fees came through) from me not two weeks before Christmas.

So, tough love kicks in on Friday. He can stay until the day after Christmas. Friday morning, if he doesn't want to stay at the YMCA for the weekend (and coming months); he has to work it out with his probation officer as to where he's going to be living. I'll gladly hang onto the things that are too valuable to risk being stolen at the Y and more than willingly hand them back when he's at a location that can be secure. But, he's got to go. He seems to think that I've forgotten & forgiven the fact that he stole money from me (after all, in his words, it was an emergency). But, its just that I can't harp on it every day and still have a pleasant evening with "a"... and "a" doesn't deserve to be in the middle of all this (which of course, he is; since it's the three of us in our small apartment).

I'm still quite upset and unbelievably stressed over all of this. I know it's the right thing to do; it's just that the last time I insisted he could no longer live at home; things did not go well. Not well for him, not well for my relationship with my mother, not well for "a".... and I just don't really need the added stress on top of everything else.

But, we WILL have a happy holiday - we WILL be Merry & Bright. "a" is still young enough to believe what he sees and provide us the benefit of added Christmas Magic that we wouldn't have if he wasn't here. I can't wait to see him tomorrow morning after Santa has stopped by.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Progress at Preschool

I managed to miss the school conference about a month ago. Finally got it rescheduled and met with his teacher yesterday. "a" is struggling with a lot of his school prep work. I've thought myself that he's about a year or two behind... but some of it turned out much better than I had hoped.

He's really good at making new friends, and learning (like all boys his age) how to keep friends, share, etc. Pretty typical for his age.

He's really struggling with a lot of things and between his teacher (Ms Meghan) and I - we think that it comes down to two root causes. 1) he's afraid to be wrong. He'd rather say he doesn't know (even if he might) than be wrong. Well, have to admit, most of us struggle with this at some point in our lives. Remember being asked to put your hands up if you thought you knew the answer. If you weren't sure, you sure as heck weren't going to put your arm up in case you did get called, were wrong ... and in my day; then got laughed at by everyone. 2) his Nystagmus... he's struggling with the tasks that require depth perception. I had thought that his struggle with drawing shapes & letters weren't related; but his teacher is sure it is. So, repetition on practicing his letters it is.

Last night, to try to encourage letter recognition (as he voluntarily admits to knowing about three letters)... I told him that I would read two pages to him from his favorite book; OR if he could help me with my letters, he could get three pages. He's got the letter A down pat... little stinker. I don't know how many times I've pointed it out to him and asked him what letter it is to hear "I don't know". Goes to show that he just needed some motivation & guidance. So, we're working on our letters more.

I'm hoping that the learning system Santa is bringing will also help in that regard. I was going to mention it to his teacher to see her opinion... but in a round about way; I found out that electronic learning is definitely not something she recommends. We were talking about attention and focus... and she went on about how hard it's becoming in this day & age to keep a child focused on simple things, like listening to the teacher. She feels that all the electronic entertainment & learning games are making it harder for teachers to do their jobs. But, good news is that she feels it's ok in moderation. Which is very fine by me... I have no intent of letting him play video games in the living room all evening. An hour here or there - no problem. All night watching him move his character across the screen? Boring for mom...

5 yr old funny

Mommy is Naughty.

Mommy is making me go to school; so she is being naughty.

I'm going to tell Santa that mommy is naughty and shouldn't get any presents.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good-bye Barb


Barb Tobiason - my cousin, passed away yesterday unexpectedly. Leaving behind her husband Everette, two married daughters (can't remember their names), a son, Scott, and grandchildren.

I never really got to know you as well as I would have liked. I know your life wasn't always easy, but I also know how much you loved your children and lived your life the way you saw fit. I'm proud of the fact that you stood up to people and made your life choices your way.

I only remember a bit - you were a teen/young adult about the time I was old enough to remember... and I only got to know you after your marriage and a little better yet, when you had your youngest child around the time I had my eldest.

I did a little research on the internet - hoping against hope to learn a little more about you. I found two things... one, the auction after your father passed away. The second, was your "success story". So happy that you found something that worked for you. So sorry that it was so late in the game that you didn't get to enjoy it longer.

http://www.vitalityforlife.com/melaleuca/guests/SuccessStoryPage.asp?StoryID=20

You did look fantastic at the family reunion - I barely recognized you. I'm sorry I didn't take a minute to give you a compliment and share in your success story then.

Monday, December 15, 2008

$5 dinner challenge

Chicken & Rice

OK - so I'm busy at work and don't have time to do a lot of calculations. This is virtually identical to my last $5 dinner suggestion. But, sort-of-not. I've been seriously tempted to try this from scratch (which would be even cheaper, I'm sure)... but neither son thinks it's a good idea to go messing with it.

1 packet of Knorr Creamy Chicken Rice side-dish ($1.59 top price, I usually get it for under $1 between sales & coupons)

1 can of Chicken (and no matter how many other ways I've tried this? Canned chicken just tastes better - no clue why, but I give up... canned it is) $2.75 - $3 -- generic tastes every bit as good as brand - so I buy whatever is cheapest.

Throw the chicken & rice into a pot & cook according to directions in packet (basically add water, margarine).

Estimating the cost of the margarine at a high of $.06; and even estimating high on the dollar amounts for the two ingredients - it's $4.64.

I'm thinking though that rice, shredded carrots, and cream of chicken soup (which is probably 99% of the ingredients of the Knorr package, would be even cheaper.

How frustrating it is to be 5

So, "A" was out all night Friday & all day Saturday; and I needed to get some shopping done (now that I have a paycheck and actually have money to spend). I had hoped to pick up the towels to make hooded towels for nieces & nephews this weekend... but the dollar store didn't have any and big lots had them at twice what I would pay at K-mart... so that didn't work out.

"a" had to go along. Ugh. Knew that taking him to a store with toys and not buying him a toy was a recipe for disaster, but I tried.

I even tried to take advantage of trying to teach him the spirit of giving. Before stopping at the store, I stopped off at the hospital. "a" went with me and we dropped off a present (knitted hat, scarf & mittens) for a disadvantage mother... the lady at the information desk took them and said that she would have a volunteer make sure they got to the right place. "a" took me to the side and whispered "She's going to take them to Santa?!!!"... with a big grin. Yes, I assured him... she would see to it that they were going under the Christmas tree.

Next we went to a store (big lots) and tried to find towels. "a" was getting a little sad at walking by the toys and not picking one out. I told him he could "look" all he wanted, but that we weren't shopping for him. He asked if he could buy me something? I whole-heartedly agreed and he picked out a necklace. I then suggested that he help me find gloves for "A" -- since "A" keeps borrowing ours. It took a while to find them... in the meantime, he found a Polly-pocket doll that he absolutely had to buy for his sister (who's 20) and I could not convince him otherwise. So, of course, that meant we had to find something for his other sister (who is 22)... normally I don't shop for his gifts for his half-sisters (I don't know them well enough)... but, the good news is that he got the "spirit" of it (or so I thought); and it's the thought that counts right? I could not convince him that they would like a watch or jewelry... instead they got tiny dolls at big lots (so, unfortunately, I now look super-cheap). And then dad got mentioned... and he didn't think a toy would be right for his dad (I agreed) - talked him into a flashlight. Not that I want to be that cheap there either - but geez... hadn't planned on buying gifts for his father's side... and with money tight; I just didn't have it in me to spend more. So, since he was being really good - I said that I would pick out one of my gifts for him (the LAST time I do that). So, close your eyes (and yes, he peeked, but that wasn't really the problem), and I picked out some transformers....

He helps carry the bag out to the car... he's getting hungry. I'd picked up juice boxes & a snack as well, so while sitting in the car, I opened them up. Just as quick as that - he opened one of his sister's gifts. Then he had a serious melt-down over the fact that it was not ok to open someone else's gifts. He claimed them as his; threw his snack to the ground and started crying. I pulled the santa card out... it worked temporarily.

Since I hadn't found the towels I wanted, we went to the dollar store. I bought him a coloring book & colors in exchange for him not looking for a single toy. I didn't find the towels anyway. Note: I didn't buy anything at all that met my needs (barring the one toy I bought "a" that didn't really count) and spent over $40 between the two stores.

Grr.... on the way out of the store he's having another melt-down; I threaten with santa again (not working this time around) and threaten to take his coloring book & colors away... (this worked). He settled down and said that he would be good & color & I could go to one more store (shouldn't have tried it; but it was my last day to get free items AND it was the last day I could use my $5 off any purchase item)...

I picked up a few things, he wanted candy, was tired, but actually behaved himself fairly well. He picked out a toy he "really, really" wanted... but did let it stay behind without a complete fit.

But, by this time I was tired. Several of the things that I could have gotten free or very, very cheap were out of stock. And I managed to forget to use my $5 off any purchase reward. UGH.

We went home... I helped him "wrap" his gifts - consisting of putting them in gift bags & taping shut... writing name on stickers.

By 7:30 pm I was upset with myself. I was angry with myself for not getting the one toy at the last store (it was the only one)... upset for not using the slip and "wasting" $5... upset that I didn't get the free tape (when we needed tape). So, I drug him out one more time - we went to a different location... who had the tape, and a couple of the other freebies. I talked him into waiting outside in the car... but they didn't have that one toy.... a lousy $5 toy that he really wanted and was certainly in my budget. So, since he was asleep in the car when I went right back out (was only 5 minutes, tops)... we went back to the first store again & I used a second $5 off any purchase to pick that up.

BUT??? later that night? He opened all the presents under the tree - (searching for his, I'm sure)... Nothing that a little tape won't fix. However, he also snuck the toy that I had picked up in front of him into his room & took it out of the package after he went to bed. Grrr....

Good thing everything else is well hidden. We've had a discussion about how naughty that little act was. All the presents are now in my bedroom under my watchful eye so he doesn't do it again.

No patience, no patience at all. And being caught being 'naughty'? Well, that was the one that landed us with a response "I don't want anything from Santa!!!" Which we all know isn't true. We'll have another discussion tonight when he's not upset over having gotten caught.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back to more positive

I've been doing really well with coupons & discounts lately. And decided I would try to find a fun way to turn it into a more interesting blog post.

So, here's the challenge I'm creating for myself - anyone can join. The idea is to capture the amount of free stuff I've been able to get & track it's "value". See if I can't beat my record each month.

I'll have a post-per-month that will start at the beginning and I'll use it to track... updating the post as needed through out the month. And use that for my history.

This will be the "rules"...

a) it had to be free at purchase; given freely from a company/store/not friends/family/web site administrators/etc.; or free with rebate; free with "cash back"; etc. So, for example, my $.09 cans of cat food? Not free. Items bought with rebates? Not really free; it was the item bought at the time that gave a 100% rebate that counts.
b) it has to be "useful"... this is a general rule of thumb I use before deciding to do some of the freebies. If it's free, but I have no use for it ... nor can I donate it to charity. Then why bother. So, for example, I have an option for free "bald guy wipes" (bald head wipes with lotion and uv protection)... seriously? Don't really need these. Only know one bald guy & he really doesn't need it... let alone might be a little offended if these landed on his desk one day.

So - let's see if I can remember my freebies so far for December:

$6 - 2 Reach floss (Walgreens) -- 2/$6 (on sale, can't remember non-sale price); free with register rewards

$3.58 - 2 Revlon Nail Clippers (K-mart) -- Doubled Coupon $1 off times 2 coupons, would have doubled for $4 off (except they don't do overages, so it was $3.58 off)

$.99 Cat treats (K-mart) -- Doubled Coupon $.50 off doubled for $.99

$3.96 Ziploc Vaccuum bag starter system (K-mart) -- Doubled Coupon $2 off doubled for $3.96

$.97 Cat treats (Walmart) -- Coupon $1 off ($.03 went to cover my grocery bill)

$.99 Green Giant Steamer Veggies (Walmart) -- Coupon $1 off ($.01 went to cover my grocery bill)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some; but that's ok. I've got a few deals I want to do today... just need to get to a point of being able to go shopping sans-5-yr-old.

12/13/2008 -- Adding:

$1.38 - 1 20-foot (smallest) roll of Reynold's Wrap - on sale for $.99, coupon for $1 off ($.01 towards other purchases)

$7.18 - 2 3-packs of Scotch tape (Walgreens) - on sale for $1 each; rebate of $2 if you purchase two.

Total to date: $25.05

Final Toll

OK - good news, it didn't end up being $200 or more for the over-drafting from my thief.

Although I still don't think I'm over-reacting; the end-result ended up being one service charge for auto-transferring the $8 odd dollars still in savings and one over-draft. Total loss? about $60.

Better than I had expected. Apparently he did NOT get all the items that he attempted to run through; most of them got turned down. They stayed on my account though for a few days before disappearing.

$60 isn't going to destroy the little x-mas we had coming. It's still ticking me off. And between being as good as he can and avoiding me entirely; I haven't had any screaming fits with him over it. Just as well.

He's still out of the house. He can't life with me if he thinks that it's ok to steal from me two weeks before Christmas at a time when I can ill afford it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

$5 dinner challenge

I've been following a blog for a while on $5 dinners. This woman cooks virtually every dinner for a family for 4 for under $5. Amazing. And, apparently I'm slow on the uptake. She issued a challenge for other mother's to post their $5 dinners on Mondays. So, I'm going to do a post today (thursday)... did I mention? Slow on the uptake, yep, that's me.

So, here's my first of many.

Tuna & Noodles (not exactly from scratch, but very easy and boys LOVE, LOVE it).

1 pkg of Alfredo Noodles from Knorr (normally $1.59, but on sale for 10 for $10, and had coupons for $.75 off of 2; you can usually get the generic for a $1, but it's not nearly as good... and this sells for $1 a package about once a month - so I stock up & buy all ten, even though most of the time, I can get the $1 price even if I only buy 1). So - this time around - $.63

1 can of tuna (generic, cheapie; but funny enough, seems to taste better when I buy the cheap-o stuff, than when I buy the brand-name, good-for-you packed in water tuna) $.88

1/2 cup of frozen peas (generic pkg costs $1.00; only used about an eighth) but we'll round up and call it $.25

1/2 cup of chopped frozen carrots (purchased through angel food ministries; so can't quite figure out exactly what I paid for this portion... but if we go with the frozen veggies example) we'll call this a $.25 for now.

1/2 cup of milk ( ok, had to google this one to get the cost. There are 16 cups in a gallon; only I only used half a cup - so normally this would be 1/32 of the cost... only we've been watering down our milk 1/2 milk; 1/2 water.... buying whole milk & watering it down makes it taste more like 2%; so this works and -- doubles the amount of milk) $3.54 / 64 = $.06

1 tablespoon of butter ( no clue, shall we go with $.06??)

I follow the directions on the package of noodles which is heat the water to boiling, add noodles, cook for about 8 minutes. Only when adding the noodles, I add everything else at the same time.

TOO YUMMY, TOO EASY. How do you beat, quick, easy, semi-healthy (at least they're eating veggies) and everyone loves it & looks forward to eating it.

Total -- $2.13

Although I would say that for a family of four; this would be light for Dinner; would probably want to double-the recipe.... which would still only be $4.26. But for lunch for the three of us? this works out really well. All three of us usually have two helpings each... and then only stop because we've scraped the bottom of the pan clean.

I'll post more on Monday again.

And now theft

OK, so you'all know I've been struggling (at best) with my eldest. "A" has now beyond belief crossed another line. He knows he's crossed a line, so of course, is now on his best behavior. But, I've had it.

You'all have been listening to me complain. You'all have been telling me repeatedly I need to kick his butt out. And, I've been obstinate and stubborn and determined to do the best I can to get him back on his feet, back on the straight and narrow and then OUT of my house and back on his own (he's 20 for god's sake).

But, alas. It's obviously not working. He's burned me for the last time. He & you both know how financially in trouble I am. And he just scr*wed me. Again. And for the last time.

He knows he's in trouble. And, of course, now he decides to be on his best behavior and search diligently for a job. go figure.

Anyway, he took my debit card this weekend out of my purse and went and bought himself cigarettes, lunch & dinner. And then again on Wednesday - lunch & more money spent on something (not sure what).

What I do know is that there wasn't any money in the account (how he got the charges to go through is beyond me). So, not only did he spend about $30... but he spread it over a half-dozen separate charges. EACH of which is going to cost me about $35 in overdrafts.

I've been going along eating half a meal; eating crackers for breakfast; so that I DON'T overdraft. And he goes out and blows several hundred dollars - for a couple of meals of fast food and some cigarettes. GRRRR

So, I called the police station and reported the theft. I know beyond a doubt that when he finds out what is going on he is going to be so beyond angry, try to make me feel terrible, and possibly get violent. So, I haven't told him yet. I also know that if they prosecute, that since he's on parole for the felony, that he will probably end up serving the five years in prison for the crime. A bit overkill for a few hundred dollars stolen. HOWEVER, he stole several hundred dollars from me two weeks before Christmas. From the mother who has given him a place to live, fed him, clothed him and taken care of him for 20 years. I'm so beyond p*ssed.

I don't know if they will prosecute. He's had use of my debit card in the past (doesn't know the pin number); but has charged with it before. He doesn't need to sign the charge slip at the majority of the places where the charges were placed. However, the charges occurred in a town I haven't been to in weeks (on Sunday) and then (on Wednesday) at places I couldn't be at if I was at work (which I was). I haven't used the debit card in weeks (after all, there wasn't any money in the account).

He did return the card to me after I called him and chewed him out soundly. But, if I don't go through with this, he'll continue to treat me like a door mat. He'll continue to lie & steal.

If they refuse to prosecute on the grounds that he'd been given access to the account in the past; I'm going to call his probation officer. I'm going to tell her that she has to figure out another option with him and get him out of the house.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Stress & Motivation

Ok, I know, I've been stressed beyond stressed.

Knitting & crocheting items for X-mas... well, while that takes a little creativity; it doesn't "tax" the mind like programming does.

BTW - I figured out a way to fix my little bug earlier... (I was choosing to ignore namespaces; which should have worked. Once I made the decision to search by namespaces; and added the six to seven lines of code to handle them; it worked... go figure).

But, now I'm struggling on motivation & drive to finish the programming work. I've been taking a tool that was designed to handle (inputs & outputs) in very basic xml structure and trying to convert it to xmi (xml with metadata) handling. Using attributes, namespaces, and basically more complex xml. I've been working on it off and on for about a month (or whenever my boss doesn't pull me off to do something else).

One of the reasons we use the tool I'm working on is so that we can store xml-based data in a user-friendly tool for editing; sharing "xml segments" and be able to update the xml easily & quickly. The reason we need to modify xml easily & quickly is because the "output" xml that's generated by the tool goes into another system that is constantly under modification and requires changes to be made regularly to that xml. So, we need easy to modify.

Well, another gent is working on a tool that would "handle" all the conversions to the new system as it undergoes changes. So, my tool would output xml that another tool would "modify" so that a third tool can use it as input.

Do you see my dilemma? WTH? Everyone was jumping on the bandwagon that we could alter our xml to simple xml instead of complex xmi; because if we're going to have this second tool to convert anyway, we don't have convert the tool to the new file type... but I'm struggling with this whole convert it to convert it to use it as input. Why couldn't my tool just provide the input directly? It's designed to handle the changes to the input quickly; why wouldn't we just stick with it.

But, now? With my stress levels through the roof; I just feel like playing sodoku all day instead of working on either converting it to handle the complex file structure; or working on reverting it back to simple structure and coming up with the design of that simple structure.

I probably need to talk this through with my boss to get better direction & make a decision one way or another... but since I'm working from home with "a".... and, (obviously) I'm struggling to explain my concern with going forward with two separate tools to touch the files before using them as input... I just don't have the ambition to go forward with this project today.

Christmas on an extreme budget

I'm going to have about $200 for the entire Christmas Shopping list (I usually spend about four to five times that).

So.... we are hand-making a lot of gifts.

Sister - knit scarf (started, not finished)
Niece - knit shawl (finished)
Niece's spouse (never met him, have no clue what to get him...) - Rochet candies (sp?) and not much else; but am thinking about it still
Grand-niece (newborn) - baby blanket (finished)
Grand-niece (almost 2) and Grand-nephew (5) - hand-sewn hooded towels
Nephew (4) - hooded towel
Friend of family son (5) - hooded towel
Nieces (9 & 11) - jewelry bought on clearance two years ago
Son ('a') - hooded towel, hat, scarf & mittens (not started) plus one video game & cartridge (learning system); plus maybe 3 toys, and stocking stuffers; plus one new shirt, jeans, & desperately needed undies
Son ('A') - hmmm.... money after x-mas to go shopping for clothes, stocking stuffers; new socks -- he doesn't want anything hand-made.... so that's probably going to be it.

All nieces, nephews & grand-nieces & grand-nephews to get home-made x-mas Ornaments (they get these every year). (finished)

For the hooded towels - I'm going to big lots & the dollar store on Saturday & plan on making them assembly-line method. Should take me a couple of hours to make four. Should be able to knit up sister's scarf by tonight or tomorrow night. And another week to make a hat, scarf & mittens for "a".

Friday, December 05, 2008

Funnier




You Are No Pajamas



You are a free spirited, confident person. You do what you like, when you like.

Even though you're a bit strange, you find it easy to be open about who you are.



Without trying to be, you come across as a very sexual person. You are very appealing.

You are likely to fall asleep pretty easily. You're not an insomniac.

Board Game




You Are Boggle



You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.

You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.

You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions

You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New advice

I was getting no where fast on trying to locate the couple of companies that are not currently in contact with me and also not notified that I'm working with a debt settlement company. I got a call today from the company I'm already signed up with ... in response to my initial e-mail inquiry about the program. A little slow on the uptake there... but hey, she was nice enough once I informed her I had already signed on. And she came up with a great suggestion.

If I contact the credit bureau to dispute the items on my report... the companies that want my money have 30 days to respond. In doing so, I get current contact information from that response... and walla - it's now up to them to contact me. If they fail to do so, they basically remove all right to resume collections (so you and I both know they won't). But, when they contact them & I to keep me from being able to dispute the claim, I can then contact them and inform them that I'm working with the debt settlement company, which will provide them with the poa and the "cease & desist" request. Since 99.9% of the companies abide by that, it should keep the garnishments at bay and give me enough breathing room to be able to set aside the money to start making lump-sum payouts to settle the accounts I owe instead of paying incredible amounts of interest and fees for the next 60 years.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Computer Programming Issues

I'm stuck. It's driving me nuts.

(Normally, I wouldn't post work related programming issues... but I'm stuck at 666 posts, and thought a quick post might be a good idea).

I'm doing XQL - it's a query of an XML doc. And it's VERY BASIC. I've been doing this for YEARS. I've done COMPLEX queries for ages.

I'm very sorry to admit, I'm stuck on an easy query.

About four or five months ago I was having the same problems... however, I was able to band-aid it. It just happened that I needed to retrieve all the elements that just so happened to be at the third level. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the query to work by specifying the name of the object I wanted, nor could I get it to work by specifying the path (normal process)... but if I specified that I wanted it to look at the first level (ignore what it's called), then the second level (ignore what it's called), then the third level (ignore what it's called)... it would work. Those of you familiar with wild-cards, would know what I mean by saying "/*/*/*" worked. EVEN though I knew exactly what the names of every object was, I couldn't use the names.

This time I've got a previously working tool & function that needs to be expanded to work with a new file. It's got very generic code that works fine on the old file -- and it pulls the items through XQL by specifying the path. I call it with the new path on the new file? AND IT FAILS. UGH. The only way I can get it to come even close to working is to use wildcards... only wildcards won't work long-term as I need it to work with the right name of the object.

It be ticking me off.... why on earth can I not use the name -- say "Deal" - with the correct capitalization and everything and it NOT work. Grrr. This is so easy that there's like four lines in all the help files on how to do this - as it is SIMPLE. There's no reason for this to not work that I can figure out. It's not like I don't have the file right in front of me and can literally copy & paste the name of the item right into the query and it still fails. I am VERY irritated....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Not above Bribery

Gotta LOVE Santa Claus.

He watches & wants to make sure you're a good boy before bringing you your heart's desire.

This time of year, if there's the least little bit of crabbing, the least little bit of whining, the "I don't want to" that is a chorus I hear virtually EVERY day... all of it stops with the gentle reminder, that Santa is watching. Silence, peace, and good behavior...? With three little words? Absolute MAGIC.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Five Year Old funnies

Not sure completely why "a" wasn't introduced to the I-spy game ages ago. I guess because he wasn't that "vocal" for so long, it was hard to play I-spy when he didn't know a lot of words.

But, anyway, I tried to introduce it to him for the long drive to pa-pa's house. I started out assuming that it would be a challenge. And figured that if I said I spied something white & blue (like a sign) - then if he came up with anything that color, I would count it. But, in point of fact, he was VERY good and just about always found the exact thing that I first noticed when picking out what colors to "I-spy".

We played for a good fifteen minutes of me picking colors & him guessing and winning. And then he decided it was his turn. Only, he didn't exactly make it hard...

"I see a yellow ... ... house" (me trying not to laugh... yellow? huh?)
"I see a yellow ... ... store right next to the yellow house" (I'm busting up so hard, I can't answer)
"Oh, you missed them, they're gone now"
"I see white things - see - over there" as he points to some white tankers.
My response? Oh, I see those, are they the white tankers over there?
"Yes, very good job mommy"

Here I give up trying not to laugh - and made "A" take his earphones out so I can tell him how its going.

Too funny.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday we drove out to my step-father's. Had a wonderful meal and a chance to connect. "a" got to know his cousin Carson a little better. Carson is about 4; and the two of them had an absolute blast. We barely saw either of them the entire day, except when they were making a trip out to pick up a cookie & head right back into the action. And honestly? that was usually a bit of a blur as they probably knew that too many cookies wasn't in either of their mother's plans for them. So they made the trips FAST. Guess it won't surprise you to hear that they didn't eat much of their dinner... lol!

Carl (my step-father) surprised the heck out of me... he's VERY frugal. And he built a brand new, attached, 3-car garage. WOW. Who would have thought? Only, being frugal, as he is... his friends helped him build it. AND? He got most of the lumber (the sheeting) at great discount. Very great discount. Wonder why the lumber was so cheap? Hmm. that would be because it was recycled from a former hog house. OMG it stunk soooo bad. Thankfully, airing it out for the past four to five months has made it so that the inside of the house doesn't stink so bad (as I guess it permeated the whole house for several months). But, stepping inside the garage, calls for plugging the nose. Without doubt, very stinky.

"A" has gone almost two weeks now without his account at World of Warcraft (it got broken into by someone; and he hasn't managed to recover it yet). As such, he is now sleeping at night, he now gets up and does things during the day. He's been avidly seeking work (for a change); and he's starting to finally decide that there are things he wants to accomplish in his life. hmmm. Makes me want to make sure he never regains his account again... even if I have to hack it myself. I wouldn't. But, I'm tempted.

I've been under a LOT of stress lately as you well know. Normally, when I'm stressed, I gain weight - as I eat to cope. Well, this time around, food was a bit scarce... to make sure that "a" was able to eat to his fill, I haven't been. I also haven't had any snacks for a LONG time. Although we did split a box of shortbread cookies from Angel Food Ministries that were yummy, and lasted a good week; given that we were all considerate and didn't snarf them down the minute they were opened. But, who knew? Combine super-tight money issues with stress? And I lose weight. I've lost eight pounds in the past two months. My pants are getting baggy. While I haven't been gorging myself, even with the tight budget, I haven't really been going to bed hungry either. This is good news.

Better news? I haven't had an "episode" for the past two days. I'm kind of anxious about it, not that I don't want them to be gone. But since we have no clue about them, and no idea why the started or stopped; I'm just feeling a bit nervous about when they'll start up again. And I'm certain they will start up again, I just don't know when. It's too soon to suppose that I'm going to be good until next fall. But I guess, I can wait to find out.

Oh? and doing an internet search for "medical detective" - very disheartening; it's an official job title similar to coroner. Not exactly what I'm looking for. Diagnostician... is more like it; but not many seem to promote themselves as being that. hmmm... challenging. But, that's ok. I like challenges.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the kindness of strangers and the power of positive thinking

I was born Lutheran, but consider myself an Atheist. Wasn't always this way. But, when my step-son Patrick was shot & killed... this is where I landed.

That said, I still believe in the power of prayer. I don't pray myself, but I believe that prayer is very similar to the power of positive thoughts. And, whether its positive karma, or chi, or who-knows-what... positive thinking is good for you. It's hard to practice when things get all stressful, and things go from bad to worse... and just sometimes, you need someone else to help remind you to think positively, to want and ask for things to improve.

"A" had driven me to my sleep-deprived required medical test... the second long-shot test. We were sitting in the waiting room waiting for our turn... and there was the cutest baby sitting there with grandma (mom was also being tested). Grandma was about my age, super nice & easy to talk to. We talked about a little bit of everything including the fact that I wouldn't mind being a grandma now, only it's obviously so NOT the right time for "A". I can be patient... he needs to get his life sorted out first... but that I'm looking forward to a baby to babysit. Including the fact that her husband is an inventor... very cool. Including the fact that she home schools her teenagers. Lots of things. Somehow things came around to the story of my current medical issues. She asked me, very kindly if it would be ok for her to sit near me and pray for me. I broke into tears. She was so earnest, and thoughtful, kind, generous and giving. For a stranger, who happened to share a waiting room with her and some conversation for about twenty minutes.

So, we will focus on the positive side of things (for as long as I can try). I don't have many of the conditions that aren't treatable. I don't have a tumor, lupus, ms, large clot in my brain. I am able to get up and go to work every day. It may be all I do that day, but I am able to do it. I make a good living where I work now and although I've had a lot of setbacks on the road to getting out of debt (beyond obviously); I do believe I'm doing all the right things. I just need to toughen up a bit, and not use my bank account until things get to a better place.

"A" and "a" are both healthy and although neither is jumping with joy on a daily basis - their lives aren't actually disasters either. I believe that if I can spend more time "enjoying" myself with my boys and less time grousing from the bed - that I can improve their happiness. Enjoying time with my boys means more time on the couch -- but I can do that; and more time doing things that they enjoy doing... playing games, coloring will work for "a" -- for "A"? I'm going to have to stretch myself a bit... but then again, he doesn't really need me to do much - just give him a chance to talk more about computer games and his fantasy games... just making myself available and listening is more than I've done in the past. I can do that much.

I've also been really bad about walking the dog lately. Now that we live on the first floor, I can tie her outside and don't HAVE to walk her for bathroom breaks, I was still walking her at least twice a day until stress & health issues made that so challenging. I still won't be able to walk her as often as I'd like, but I'd like to get back to walking her at least once a day. She deserves it and needs it... and she'll be so less hyper if she got that exercise. SO, that's another thing I can do that will only take 10 minutes a day (at least at first... more if I start feeling better, but I'll build slowly).

As for my health. I'm going back to my Internist... I know that it's likely that my extreme exhaustion is back due to the stress more than anything else... but he also took me off of a couple of the supplements. As such, I really want to verify that this reaction isn't a result of taking those out... I want him to retest me and see if I don't just need to take smaller dosages. Its not a solution for everything, but its at least stage, the start of a plan of attack.

Stage two - I'm going to do some searching - see if I can find any local medical detectives. Maybe if I didn't need to go to New York to find one, I can find a solution sooner and less expensively. If not, then I'm saving up for a trip to NY. And, if nothing is figured out? Then we go to stage three.

Stage three - I'm going to monitor to see if my health follows the trend and I happen to get better in the Spring all by myself without treatment. Seems like that's been the trend - get worse in Oct - Nov; get better (somewhat) come spring. It's not like I love snow anyway, and if nothing else is figured out, but warm weather makes a difference; then I think I need to seriously consider moving South. Don't know where - guess it'll depend on locations where I can work from and keep my current employer or where I can find other work - where the cost of living is reasonable and the weather temperate.

So, a plan of attack, positive belief that any one of these stages will absolutely help me feel better - if we don't find the solution, at least I'm not just lying in bed all depressed because no one knows what to do.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giveaways

Things are wrapping up for a little while at work, so am wasting my sleep-deprived afternoon - hunting up giveaways.

The first - Purry Logic (good gift for sis for Xmas) from Robyn's Online World -- which also enters me to win an Amazon gift card (would pay for at least one or two gifts for "a")

An Immersion Blender at Frugal Mommy of 2

A $25 visa card at Living Life in the Free Lane

Land's end items at MomAdvice

$50 gift card to Target or BP at Grocery Price Blog

Coupons at Confessions of a Coupon Junkie

And finally, a chance to win $2000 gift card at Amazon - at Amazon (wouldn't that just make my holidays easier???)

Contributions

Just a positive note (I know, we don't have enough of these).

"A" contributed 75% of his paycheck to cover expenses this week and has been cleaning house & being "Mr. mom" so that I can spend my evenings and weekends in bed, lying down. He's doing dishes, helping cook dinner, helping get "a" to bed, vacuuming, the works. Today, since I have to be sleep deprived for my test this afternoon; he'll be driving me to & from my appointment.

Figure I always rant about the stress he's added to my life (not so much lately); and rant about the lack of employment... but don't spend enough time talking about how he helps me on a daily basis.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's not Lupus

Which - we didn't really think it is, just a confirmation that we were right.

Next is the seizures test. Again, not that we think it is... just trying to rule it out. Test is on Tuesday at 1:00 pm. I can't sleep the night before, nor shower. So, I'm working from home in the morning, and may or may not work that afternoon (chances are I'll be sleeping instead). Doesn't sound like Tuesday is going to be a good day. "A" is asking if he can lock me in my room since I'm really usually very grumpy if I don't get enough sleep.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Credit Counseling

OK - so, as you very well know, I had a bit of a breakdown last week. I called Employee assistance counseling in tears over everything. I didn't know what to do, where to turn, how to "cope" when my "net" paycheck post paying off the overdrafts caused by the garnishment is going to be $35.

I was told I ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY MUST file for bankruptcy. That evening, my good friend also told me I MUST IMMEDIATELY file for bankruptcy. Honestly? I'm completely freaked out by the possibility that if I did file for bankruptcy with my current income and come up with a payment plan; but then my health continues to deteriorate, that I won't be able to fulfill that payment plan; and I can't file for bankruptcy again; and I'll be in even worse shape. That's my fear. If I can put off filing for bankruptcy until SOMETHING is figured out about my health, if I was even diagnosed, or had a remote clue how bad this is going to get. Remember ? It was just four years ago Thanksgiving, when I was in pain, I was managing to get along; but within HOURS, I had to go the the ER and then into Intensive Care. I don't know what this is, but I do know that it has the potential to go from bad to REALLY, REALLY bad in little to no time. Last time I went through the same symptoms I have now, I ended up virtually bed-ridden for three months - three months without pay.

So, anyway, no matter what I do, my EAC strongly suggested I get Credit Counseling to get my budget in order. OK, well, I've got a budget... if I do the credit counseling, and they have any "fixes" for me, I'm all for that. Oh, but I was warned when they set up the appointment, that I should "gather together all my bills" - um, yeah, they're together. For the past four months (while I've struggled with overdrafts, garnishments, and a move)... I've been budgeting virtually to the nickel. They're "gathered" already.

So, last night, I had my credit counseling. There were two things...

One, she couldn't believe my kids & I weren't starving on $100 a month for groceries. Now, honestly? I'd like to spend more than $100 a month for my groceries. It's been VERY hard work for me to get our budget that low. I don't want to make everything we eat from scratch. I don't want to eat macaroni & cheese once a week (well, ever). I don't want to eat potatoes instead of steak... so that "a" can have more meat. But, I'm making do. We can eat canned fruit instead of fresh fruit. We don't have to have pizza. We don't have to have steak. But, it would be nice to have hamburger more than twice a week (as in, in something)... vegetarian chili isn't my favorite.

Second, I'm paying too much money for bank charges, overdraft charges, etc. Huh? You think? Yeah, I knew that. I'm doing everything under the sun, including eating on $100 a month to try to avoid it... Like taking out 401K money thinking it would stop the hemorrhaging... just to have another garnishment take me right back to the beginning.

Otherwise, my budget is good. If I wasn't being garnished & overdrawn every couple of paychecks... I should be able to afford not only my bills & expenses... and money towards debt. Hmmm. Really? I knew that. So, want to know what her recommendation is instead? Stop working with my creditors and just let them garnish me. ???? HUH?

Well, since only one company can garnish at a time... the others will just call me constantly over not making payments... but then I'd know whats going on every month. Seriously? This is the suggestion?

Here's what I was doing.... I was making a "good faith" payment. It wasn't as much as most of them wanted per month. But, it was a payment. I had a dozen creditors at the time, and it was $100 per creditor. Since the majority of them wanted $300-$450/month. Most of them were NOT happy. I got called continuously. I repeated myself endlessly. They complained constantly. AND? I STILL got garnished.... When I got garnished (at that time it was payroll at $550/twice a month)... I couldn't afford to pay my other creditors. Which ticked them off. And escalated the "punishment" of creditor calls. To the point where I didn't want to deal with them anymore. THAT's WHY I went to this debt settlement company.

So, I signed a contract - sent all the statements from the creditors still in contact with me. The settlement company contacted all of them, gave them my signed power of attorney, and told them to cease and desist collections from me. I've got a couple of them still sending me bills, but I just forward them to this company. Silence. No haranguing ... no endlessly repeating "I can't afford to pay that much". (Like that doesn't make you feel awful).

Here's the issue - I've lost track of who's collecting for a couple of them. They aren't contacting me anymore. They aren't calling, they aren't sending me notices, and ... point in fact, they then garnished my checking account - admittedly, I did get served notice on that one (didn't remember, and can't find it today)... but I did get notice. Last time I got garnished, it happened without warning... notice showed up about five days after I got garnished. Since this company wasn't in contact with me, I didn't give their information to my settlement company... since the settlement company didn't know who to notify, they couldn't.

Everyone keeps telling me that I should stop working with this company. But this company has done more good for me already than anyone else. They stopped the harassing phone calls. They are negotiating down the debt I owe so that when all is said and done (god, I hope we get there)... the amount I will have paid even including their fees is less than I would have to pay either paying $100/creditor/month (and getting garnished) OR via bankruptcy OR via "just let them garnish you". Yes, I am paying a fee, but 75% of that fee has been paid. The service they provide is that I don't have to deal with the collectors. This is a good option for people under stress, like I. I know that bankruptcy will give me the same benefit, only now I have to go start over with paying the lawyer his fee... AND, if things get tough? Bankruptcy won't "give" if I get ill and can't work anymore. This settlement company? They'll work with me and adjust my payments accordingly. AND, if in the end, things get REALLY, REALLY bad? I can then file for bankruptcy, only if I'm not working? Then I would qualify for a Chapter 7 and even if the debt isn't erased, it would still be reduced. To me? That's a much better option than filing for bankruptcy now. If my health wasn't at risk, then maybe, I would be more open to filing now -- but I am worried about getting locked into something and then things really fall apart. Like they did four years ago and again two years ago.

The one good thing that did come out of the counseling - is that she did come up with the solution for how to discover who owns the debt currently. It'll be a lot of work... but to call the original creditor, they should tell me who they sold the debt to... call them, find out who they sold the debt to... and so on and so forth until you find the current collection agency. If I can get the current contact information for the three or four debts currently "on hold" at the settlement company because they don't know who to contact... I should be able to get the cease & desist orders out and hopefully no one else will try to garnish me. This is important, because it's only by being able to set aside some money every month that I can make a "bulk payment" and get some of the creditors to agree to accept less money. To date, everyone who has been contacted by this settlement company has abided by the process... so, the key is finding the last few.

So, this week, I'm calling the settlement company and getting their list of whom they haven't contacted yet (might ask who they have just in case it helps me decipher the puzzle). This weekend I dig through all my old paperwork to get phone numbers & account numbers from the original accounts.... might be tough, I tossed some knowing they'd been sold to collections... but find what I can find... and then start making phone calls.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Flipping a

This s*cks.

OK - knowing I only had about $38 in my checking account... I wanted to do some preventative actions to keep it from becoming a negative amount. I knew I had an automatic payment coming out of the account for my membership at the YMCA. Since my health is deteriorating, I know I'm not really up to working out right now. So, I call them up to cancel my membership. They need seven days notice to stop the payment... and we don't have seven days.

So, next I go to the bank on the weekend - because last time I overdrew due to an auto-pay, I was told I could come into the bank to prevent that. So, I asked them to not allow payment (not like I don't want to pay the monthly payment, just that I can't afford to).

They won't... but they will reverse the overdraft charge for me.

In the meantime, I know I have $38. So, I withdraw $30... ($5 to buy groceries for the week). And I do an auto-pay at Walgreens for my prescription (with a coupon, got them for only $4).

And what do I find today? That the auto-pay for the YMCA went through first. So, now both the $30 & $4 overdrew as well... amounting to $105 in overdraft charges. And chances are? They'll only reverse ONE of them. This so f*cking s*cks. I can't win.

Thinking about the spring

My gal-pals at work are planning another weekend at a co-worker's cabin in the Rockies... would love to go, and given that it's only around $200 for the flight round trip, the food would be food we make ourselves and since no one will let me ski, then I don't even have to spend money for lift passes.

And, honestly? By the time February rolls around, I should be able to afford $200 for the trip.

But, I'm thinking that if I save up - around $400 - and then pester my NY friend Phil for a place to stay... I might be able to afford to see the "real" Dr. House... Dr. Bolte.

If they don't come up with something with these latest tests, I'm basically going to be left with no options locally for finding a solution. I've already been to Mayo... and they couldn't help me. I've already been to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics... and they couldn't help me. I was debating going to see Dr. Bolte when things weren't nearly so serious. At the time, it was a "would be nice to see if he has other ideas"... now that I'm suffering from symptoms that keep getting worse and worse and no one has any idea what to do about it... now, just maybe, this is what I need to consider as an option next. It'll take me a while to save the money up for a trip, but I do think that I'm probably going to have to consider this seriously.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saw neuro today

OK - so, we've got three possibilities.... two of them are long shots; and the other one is what I'm already being treated for.

Long shots (as in, they don't believe I have this, but the test will prove it one way or another):
- Lupus
- Seizures

What I'm being treated for:
- TIAs

If it's not Lupus nor seizures - no one knows what to do. Odds of it being either of those, less than 1 in a 1000 for either.

Next steps? blood tests, and a seizure test... after that - no new steps. No new ideas...

Penny

Friday, November 14, 2008

Still surviving

So - stopped at the food pantry, have enough food that if I pick up some milk... not much else, we should be able to eat "ok" until the 22nd. The reason the 22nd is a goal, is because that's the date I pick up the food from Angel Food Ministries... and that should feed us for a couple of weeks beyond that date. Not much "meat" - but four cans of tuna and one can of spaghettios & meatballs. ... but with peanut butter, beans, pasta, rice, and eggs... and we'll make it. It means I'm making vegetarian chili this weekend, but that I can do.

Have $35 from my paycheck. Beyond the milk, I need about $10 in gas, and about $8 for my prescriptions... I'll save the rest for some emergency I can't remember. Unfortunately, this means that "a" can't join the rest of his preschool class at "pump-it-up" field trip - which is a $7 event (ok, I know I do have the money, and I know he'll hate me for saying no... but right now? it's not in the list of things we NEED). And right now? only "NEEDS" are on my list.

If by any chance a miracle happens and the settlement company convinces the garnishing company to return some money to my account - then maybe, things won't be so tough.

Daycare - we may be ok. I talked to the director this afternoon... told her what I was going through. I've got money coming out of my check every payday into a child-care account (pre-tax) that auto-generates a check at the start of every month. It covers about two and a half weeks every month of the daycare cost, and I pay the rest out of my pocket. Since the two-and-a-half weeks from the last check covered the end of Oct... I'm going to have issues. But, since she knows there's a check coming December 1st, she's ok with not getting paid until then. Then I basically will just have to pay the whole month of December out of my checks.

The company currently garnishing my checking account was going to be going after my paycheck next, however, has agreed not to for the time being since they are going to work with my settlement company.

I've tried canceling my membership to the YMCA (auto-pay), but it's too late to stop the payment from coming to my account next week. I'm going to the bank in the morning to request that they stop the payment. Because if they don't - then I've got another overdraft charge I can't afford. Last month when I had an overdraft because I'd gotten confused about a payment schedule on auto-draft, they told me that they could have kept the payment from going through... so we'll see.

Next - investigate filing for bankruptcy. As much as I would like to have done so today, I can't afford to... I've got the debt counseling appt scheduled for Wednesday night next week. I'm thinking that it's probably a "you-have-to" situation. As much as I understand that, it doesn't mean I'm happy about it... I hate the fact that I've put $2K towards debt settlement and that if the only reason this situation happened was because of poor communication on my part (which I have since figured out it's my fault).... then there's still a possibility in the back of my mind that I can continue to count on this company to keep this from happening again. I know - that means I'm too optimistic... but I'm the one who screwed up.

How did I screw up? Because last week I got the notice for the garnishment. I'd completely forgotten this. Why? Because I was served notice the same day I'd been knocked out for a medical test and was loopy. I received the notice, read the name & put it aside to call the settlement company to "deal with it" ... figured I'd called after my brain got turned back on. And immediately forgot I'd ever received it. Late last night (still not sleeping) - my mind was churning through lots of thoughts of what do I have to do if I'm not going to have any money for two weeks, what do I need to worry about, who do I need to call, how can I file bankruptcy if I don't have the attorney fees, etc... and I remembered that I'd been served notice about something - and then I remembered what company - and it was the same company. ugh. I could have prevented this. D*MN it all!

Anyway, so far, we're going to survive. There are free meals two evenings a week if things get really bad, but I think we'll survive. I'm still majorly stressed out. But, am not crying for hours every day anymore... that's an improvement. I'm still at the point of crying at the drop of a hat - but at least right now I can bite my lip and stop crying and focus on what I need to do. Like I said - that's an improvement.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On nerve damages

I'm researching further to see if we come up with some suggestions or questions for the neuro.

On webmd... and I quote:

In one out of every three people with peripheral nerve damage, the damage comes from diabetes. In another third, the cause of the nerve damage remains unknown.


That s*cks.