Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sonic Boom Alarm clock review

Note: (I should probably add these in front of all my reviews)

I am not affiliated in any way with the company selling these items nor any companies making them. Nothing has been given to me in return for my review.

I bought two alarm clocks for my sons. The eldest is struggling with himself and his fiance getting up and not being late for work. Since he's never done well getting woken by an alarm clock, I thought this was a good solution. Since my 9 yr old is also struggling with getting up in the morning, and they were reasonably priced, I got a second one for him in the hopes to improve our mornings.

The buzzer is loud, but not sonic boom loud. But it's loud enough and irritating enough that it should be almost enough on it's own. Knowing just how much my eldest could sleep through though? It wouldn't be enough on its own.

BUT. The KEY piece of technology that makes this alarm clock awesome? Is that there is a little disk that's attached by cord to the alarm clock. You stick the disk under the mattress and it will SHAKE the bed when the alarm goes off. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

Sadly, I still have to give this a mixed review. Don't get me wrong. So far everyone has RAVED about enjoying the vibrating alarm clock. But the problem is that they are enjoying the little 'massage' so much that they aren't getting out of bed - lol! And our first go with it with the 9 yr old? He woke up to the vibrations, enjoyed it. When it stopped vibrating, he fell back asleep. Um. Not exactly what I had hoped for.

But, I'm thinking my eldest is going to do better with it. Because it DOES wake you up. And he WANTS to get up and get to work on time. It's just that nothing usually would do the trick to wake him up. So far, so good. With the littlest, he didn't want to get up... so, being woken up wasn't a 'now I need to get out of bed' kind of thing. Which is understandable. I think at least what it does help for our morning routine is that he's at least not in the middle of a deep sleep when it's time for me to tell him to get up and get dressed and hopefully as he gets older I can expect him to become more responsible about doing it on his own.

Trying something old

One of the recommendations (next step) is to start doing something twice a week to cause you to sweat.

Right now the chronic fatigue is so severe that exercise isn't going to happen right now.

A sauna isn't practical and with my frugality goals, a fitness club just to get to use their facilities isn't going to happen either.

So, another option was to take a hot soak with Espon Salts.

OMG. Seriously? Why hadn't anyone ever suggested it to me before? It seems like an old wives tale or something that people quit doing back in the 1920's.

But, holy cow.

My calf pain was at an 8. My arm & chest pain was at a 5. And I had a 3 for upper back pain.

During that 20 minutes? My arm/chest and back pain was gone, completely. And my calf pain dropped to a 1. A 1! It doesn't drop that low when I take pain killers. And they never work as quickly as 20 minutes, ever.

18 hours later, I am still not in as much pain as I was before the bath. I will definitely be doing this again!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Roku review

OMG! This device is AWESOME.

Streaming to tv from Netflix has never been that challenging, but I wanted more than just Netflix. To me, netflix has very limited options and there is so much live streaming on the net, I just thought that there must be a better option.

When I got my Kindle, I test ran it with Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime and while I enjoyed streaming video to the Kindle, I really would have preferred watching a lot of it on my tv. I knew I could get some cables to hook my laptop to the tv for streaming. But either you would have cables hanging around to the laptop, or your up and down waking the laptop up (or turning off your screen saver). Or hopping up and down to pick the next show to watch. All of which meant that I didn't think I would enjoy working with it.

So, I researched online. And I found I'd read a lot of reviews from other sites and asked around for opinions and heard only good things about it.

Within five minutes, I had it up and running, hooked up to facebook, my netflix account and was able to find custom content I wanted to watch on (knitting podcasts). I haven't found all my favorite podcasts just yet. Nor have I figured out if I need to set some custom channels up (nor how to do it if I want to).

BUT I've used it long enough to know that it is EXACTLY what I wanted in a device.

It's wireless and using your home wifi connection to connect to your internet provider. It's a small box with a remote. You can flip through your channels and watch your home movies from your hard drive and flip through any of the streaming options including several free options. Pay for use options include Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus. There are others that are pay per rental - like vudu and Flixster.

For a simple device, it's quite easy to set up and configure. I think it's the bomb.  It also seems really flexible. Since I'm debating switching to Amazon Prime, it carries an Amazon Prime app as well. So, so cool. It was under $50 and it was a great deal, in my opinion. Simpler and easier than setting up the wii or setting up Bluray players and much more flexible. It even allows you to search across multiple channels for the movie you'd like to watch.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas spending got a little out of hand.

I ended up having to take about 700 out of emergency savings to cover the overage. Which did not make me happy. Is it just me? Or is everything SO MUCH MORE expensive this year? I got a few deals and a few savings along the way.  I got $15 in Kmart rewards that expired on Christmas Eve that I've encouraged my son to use for his shopping, so they can have a pinch more for Christmas.

I think I did better for saving up for things when I had the envelop system in play.  I didn't use my checking or savings accounts. I cashed my paychecks and bought money orders. Whatever was left went into 'spending', 'Christmas', 'Emergency' and 'Vacation' envelopes.

I've tried earmarking my savings account... but even with a spreadsheet that said x$ went to y expenses, it just merges together. I did keep some of the money earmarked for Christmas in my checking account, but then in a couple of weeks before Christmas shopping started, I spent a little more on non-christmas stuff than I should have. Leaving me a little short. Add that everything added up faster than I expected and hence we ran a little short.

Hopefully tax refund will help with the recovery and rebuilding of the account, but I hate waiting for that. I'm fully expecting my car won't make it until Spring and I really wanted to use tax refund for a replacement.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


So, I've cut clear back on all dairy products - no milk, no ice cream, no cheese, no cream cheese, etc. Which means that my once-a-week pizza just doesn't happen.

I was quite happy to see that the online Pizza ordering system allows you to order half the pizza (or more) with no cheese. What a great option. I could order extra cheese for my son's half of the pizza. Get the toppings I like with no cheese on my side.

Yeah. soooo not worth it.  Pizza just isn't pizza without yummy, gooey cheese. sigh. What a let down. I knew it wouldn't be 'as good'. But it just doesn't taste very good at all. :-(

MTHFR - under methylation, over methylation

So, one of the things I'm trying to do is slowly work up to the recommended supplementation for MTHFR. According to everything I've read so far, it's best to take it slow and not rush into things. I started really low with Methyl-B12; but since I'd taken it before - I only did that for a few days before going on to a full sublingual tablet a day.

When it was time to start samE, I took one tablet every other day (as the tablet is hard to divide with it's coating). No issues.

So, when it was time to start methyl folate, I started with a tablet a day. No symptoms for the first five days. Then - wham!

My heart was pounding, I was anxious, irritable, on edge. I just happened to have a dental procedure that very day - and they took my blood pressure. It was 140/110. Which is high for anyone. But sky-high for me. In fact, my doctor had specifically asked me to start adding more salt to my diet to try to bring my blood pressure up enough hoping it would help reduce my dizzy spells. These symptoms are apparently text book over-methylation symptoms.

I didn't have any niacin around (supposed to help bind the methyl folate) that night, but I picked some up the very next day so that I can carry it with me in case I have another episode.

I skipped the methyl folate for a couple of days, then I started taking 1/8th of a tablet daily. I spent a week at that dose, and am now at the 1/4th of a tablet a day.

I haven't had any episodes again, so I'm thinking that I'll stick with the 1/4th of a tablet for another week and add a different supplement this week.  Then I'll try a half tablet in a week. Add another supplement in the third week. Then maybe I'll try the whole tablet the week after that. I'm hoping the long, slow build up will help me with my symptoms and see if I can avoid the over methylation symptoms as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Planning - two more weeks

Christmas shopping... eek!

Goals for the next two weeks:

1. Lunches to work
2. Not planning on putting money into savings this next two weeks, but also not take any money from the savings account either.
3. Try two new recopies with healthy options.
4. Work with doctor to try to get some test result copies sent to me to forward onto a new specialist.


1. Get all the shopping finished without breaking the bank
2. Get the gifts wrapped BEFORE the 24th (instead of wrapping gifts at midnight Christmas Eve)
3. Plan for Christmas dinner and try to avoid over-doing the food prep. There's likely to either be 2 or 5 max of us for the meal, and I don't need to cook for ten like I usually do.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


So, I've gone beyond my initial free trial of Netflix and have paid for a month of programming. I almost cancelled it before the charge came, but got distracted and sure enough - like clockwork along comes the first month charge. And, I'm sure if one isn't careful - along comes the second month charge and so on. Which is exactly what most of those monthly plans count on.

I am really not finding much shows on Netflix that weren't also on Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus. And when you do the math - it's the one of the most expensive options - it just doesn't seem like it until you do the math.

Netflix & Hulu Plus are both $7.99 a month, which is $95.88 annually

Amazon Prime is $79.00 annually.

The "instant queue" feature is much more user friendly and easier to find the items you've found in the past and wanted to make sure you get to watch in the future. I also find that the recommended shows which were based on your previously viewed choices were pretty good fits.

What I didn't like is that there isn't an advanced search. I want to be able to pick something like 'for kids' 'animated' and then put in something like 'lego' or 'turtles' or 'trains' and that just wasn't a feature built into their system.

Before I bought the Roku, I was almost certain that I was going to go with Amazon Prime because the Amazon Prime service is the simplest to use on the Kindle. But with Roku, the vast majority of my watching will definitely be on the two tv's we have. Which means that Amazon Prime loses the advantage that they built into their device. To be honest I have a hard time with devices/software that likes to pin you down like that (my primary reason I don't like Apple products). But, with the device being free and the Amazon Prime being the lower cost option of the three services I've investigated... it seemed like the winner regardless of usability.

I might still go with Amazon Prime in the end, but I want to keep Netflix long enough to try on the Roku. Since it's a monthly service... I can keep it one more month, use it on the Roku - then switch to Amazon Prime. The only issue with that is that I'm not eligible for a second free trial month... so if I spend the annual fee, I'm not going to be able to cancel during the first month and get 11 months refunded. But, I do know how well it works with our other devices and am certain that since Roku includes Amazon Prime as a selling point in it's channel options, that it should work equally well on the device.

Weeks 10 & 11 - progress

1. Basic Steps, continuing
a. Take lunch to work MET
b. Roku has arrived - will be testing after Christmas MET.
c. $200 into savings FAILED - I actually had started off putting $400 into savings. But then had some unexpected expenses (dental work) which required pulling $550 out of savings to cover. So, down $150. But it's still better than I was before
d. Try at least one (hopefully two) new recipes that are healthy alternatives to prepared, frozen dinners FAILED  - things got hectic, and this really didn't work for me.

2. Move the revolving list to Google Calendar - chores to be done and when - easier to set up tasks in Google FAILED  - this didn't work as well either. Need to find another tool that might work better for me.

3. Keep learning more about MTHFR, add an additional supplement to my list to take. MET - though supplement #3 methylfolate ended up being a bit too strong... so I'm cutting it down to take smaller amounts.

4. Install the window insulation as planned last week MET - and the house is MUCH warmer and I've noticed the furnace running a lot less often. For as warm as it is outside? The furnace was still running almost non-stop before and now isn't. Hoping this helps financially!

5. Break my shopping trip into two stops. FAILED - sigh. Things had gotten pretty busy. I do want to start doing this, but it might take until after the Holiday's when things are less hectic for me to start dealing with trying to plan better on my shopping trips.

All in all? Not a great two weeks... but I do think that it's something I can still feel pretty good about accomplishing what I did. It could have been much worse.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Window Insulation in position

The most drafty spot was absolutely in the living room by the sliding glass door. Right now the plastic is like an over-inflated balloon... the plastic is taught from the pressure from the air seeping through the door frame. We put the plastic up and left the house for a cub scout meeting which lasted one hour. In that hour the living room temperature went up four degrees. AND it's not that cold out right now AND the wind is NOT coming from the South (it's really REALLY cold here during a South wind). But the room got a ton warmer just that fast. Which I hope means that my furnace isn't going to be running non-stop all winter. I'm very pleased and that's before I even see the financial benefits. I'm just happy the apartment is warmer.

For the record - I only have two windows - one in each of the bedrooms; and a sliding glass door in the living room. I had to buy a window kit made for sliding glass doors for the living room. And then I bought a kit for oversized windows... one kit was enough to do three windows, so I'll hang onto the extra for next winter. Total cost? $18.00

Sunday, December 02, 2012

MTHFR - next steps

So far....

I've eliminated colabolamin B12 injections and stopped all alcohol intake.

I've added methylcobalamin B12, samE, and methyl Folate.

I've been pretty forgetful about taking my supplements... so I've got a 7-day pill box that is going to work with me to help me during the week. I'm putting the methyl B12 into my purse... and hopefully between the two, I'll be better at remembering.


In addition, I've found a doctor of chiropractic medicine that practices in another state, but does skype consultations and specializes in nutritional therapy as well as the most complex cases. She's come highly recommended. I've just finished filling out a 20-ish page form that asks a million and one questions about anything one can imagine. What I like about this - is that it's detailed enough to dig into the things that I might not include on a typical symptom list. But that might be part of the puzzle.

With my regular doctor, if I list off ALL the symptoms - his eyes start to glaze over about mid-point and then he'll pick ONE symptom and only one symptom... and that's what he'll focus on trying to treat. While I get why... the problem is that the symptom he'll randomly select will usually be one of the ones that I'm the least concerned about. So, I've gotten to the point where I only list off the two or three symptoms that are bothering me the most when I go in... so that he'll focus on what I want him to focus on. And of course, he has no memory (with hundreds of other patients) of the whole list of symptoms. When he reviews his files - he mostly just looks at the test results, which look so normal - he doesn't understand why I might have any concerns about my health - sigh.

The new doctor is starting off with the conception that I've been chronically, severely ill - and that she's hoping to help me find a way to manage my illness and try to feel better.  I have high hopes, even if it is early days.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Planning - with frugality in mind

So, I'm looking at making my list and checking it twice.

And I'm still a little torn about it.

There are some electronics on the list. But probably not as many as last year.

There will still be clothes. Every year both of my sons and my grandson can still expect a complete outfit at Christmas, along with some long johns and/or other items that I can find that I know they will need and/or appreciate.  My daughter-in-law to-be usually gets a gift certificate at a clothing store. Besides having trouble finding clothes small enough to fit her (she's a size 2 for heaven's sake); I wouldn't presume to select them for her as my style is definitely much more old fashioned.

There's usually a handful of other gifts under the tree including over-flowing stockings.

My mother saved up all year to splurge at Christmas for me, and I've certainly always wanted to do the same for my children.

Last year, I hit all the sales and ended up getting quite a booty of items for minimal cost... but then again. Not all the gifts were really worth what I spent. Last year I was worried that there wouldn't be quite enough presents under the tree. Toys R Us had a set of toys that are more fun when there's a lot of sets purchased. Which would normally be a turn-off. But they were not only 75% off, but buy 1 get 3 free. I think I read that sign ten times before it sunk in and I started to do the math. For right around $20 I ended up with twelve 'sets' that all connected together... pretty much every set they had. It made a large pile under the tree. But for over-all fun to be had? I think he played with it about four times over the past year... only maybe ten to fifteen minutes at a time. While the $20 wasn't that much out of pocket, these sets take up a lot of space in toy storage. Get in the way all the time because he never seems to want to put them away. And drive me nuts every time I find them out again because I know that he got them out primarily so he could get to something else and that they weren't even played with (yet again) even though they were all over my floor (yet again).

I really want to focus on value this year. Amount of time spent playing with the items over quantity. That doesn't mean that my tree is going to be bare. But there probably won't be quite as many 'bargains'. I might even end up spending slightly more than I would have last year as a result. But I think finding the items that will actually get played with the most really comes down to fewer, higher quality items.

Oh, and there might be a couple of small, hand-knit items - but not very many... for a few choice members of my family. Again, more careful thought over 'just something'. We'll let you know how it turns out.

Weeks 10 & 11 frugality planning

1. Basic Steps, continuing
a. Take lunch to work
b. Invest in Roku to expand use of Netflix/HuluPlus/Amazon Prime - for about $50 each we can stream to television which means that whichever streaming tool I invest in, we can both enjoy it on the tv. The boxes have been purchased, expect them to show up under the tree.
c. $200 into savings
d. Try at least one (hopefully two) new recipes that are healthy alternatives to prepared, frozen dinners

2. Move the revolving list to Google Calendar - chores to be done and when - easier to set up tasks in Google

3. Keep learning more about MTHFR, add an additional supplement to my list to take.

4. Install the window insulation as planned last week

5. Break my shopping trip into two stops. I've gotten lazy and I shop at HyVee which is a great store and always has my favorite brands and often has good sales going on. However, it is definitely not the low cost shopping store. Fareway and Aldi's are both close by... but neither tends to carry all the items I want to purchase. (We won't discuss Walmart... I'd have to be unemployed to think about supporting them again).  When I was first divorced, I would stop at Aldi's first, pick up the basics at a discounted price - then go to a different store that had higher prices but carried some of the brands I wanted. In general, the second stop saved a few dollars a week, which was critical at the time.

I'm going to try to do it with a little more planning this time around. If I look through the sales flyer first and identify the sales prices for the items I might buy at HyVee... and still stop at either Aldi's or Fareway first... I can pick up the items at Aldi's/Fareway if the prices were still less than the sale prices. If the sale price is better or the item I need can only be found at HyVee, then it can wait on the list until the second stop. I'll price items at both stores to see what I'm really saving.

Since they are both really close to my home, there shouldn't be much expense as far as gas prices for the savings.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Week 8 & 9 Progress

Basic steps:

1. Continue with the basic stepping stones I've outlined before.
  a. Take lunch to work - GOAL MET
  b. Explore a low-cost option for entertainment/hobbies/the like - GOAL MET - upcoming post on Netflix
  c. Put $200 per payday (bi-weekly) into Emergency savings - GOAL MET
  d. Try at least one new recipe to expand my list of go-to meals to cook that are healthier than the frozen dinner stand by's - GOAL MET

2. Try out the Remember the Milk tool
  a. Set up my financial long-term goals, along with the phased steps of where I want to be and what I can do to get there.- GOAL MET
  b. Set up a vision board/list for long-term esoteric goals - GOAL MET
  c. Set up a rotating to-do list for household chores/cleaning tasks - In progress

3. Set aside a large amount of time to start educating myself on MTHFR and what it means for me.
- GOAL MET, still a lot to learn

4. Apply for a new position with built-in promotion and raise GOAL MET,  a second job is getting posted in about two weeks and I will be applying to it as well

5. Identify the next cost-cutting *small step* I want to try. GOAL MET - Adding window insulation this weekend.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wrapping the windows/sliding glass doors

In my previous homes, I would often buy plastic to put over the windows.

It's kind of a hassle the day you do it. But if you have extremely drafty windows, it's hard to heat the house with that much of an air leak. The harder it is to heat, the more you are going to spend to heat the house.

I've done both kinds - the temporary and disposable kinds. And the re-usable strips kind. I did find that some of the re-usable strips didn't work out quite as well in subsequent years, but for the most part, weren't that much more expensive so as a result they did tend to save you a little money as opposed to buying disposable every year.

But what mattered more? Was that the thickness of the plastic counted more than if it was reusable or not. Also what counts? How it's mounted. If it's mounted entirely within the window frame and not including the edges of the windows? Then there's a good chance that most of the draft will still get through.  I've never had much luck with the plastic that shrinks with use of a hair dryer in making it more efficient. The plastic tended to be thinner and more prone to tearing... and I found that the thicker plastic kept rooms a lot warmer.

I haven't done it in the apartment (yet) for many reasons.

1. My energy costs are low to start with
2. It's kind of a time sink (for at least a few hours every fall)
3. You can't use the sliding glass doors while it's on - but my sliding glass doors are barely useful in the best of times due to age and disintegration of the moving parts.
4. There's a deep well around the windows. I only have three options - cover the window panes (won't help much); try to cover the window wells entirely (means the cat can't sit in the windows); or try to attach the plastic within the wells within a half inch of the frame  (probably won't work quite right)

Will I do this?

I'm thinking I will try putting up plastic this weekend. I figure that it will cost approximately $20 for the insulation kits, take about two hours to pick up supplies and install it, and save me approximately $20 per window - x 3 windows. Reasonable savings for a small investment of time. Since I know these windows are particularly drafty, it's definitely going to help. Especially when I think about those nights when the wind blows just-so and the furnace runs almost non-stop and can't get the temperature up to the setting.

Reducing the heat during the day while at work?

I'm still on the fence about this one.

What I know I don't want to do, is I don't want to manually adjust the thermastat every time I leave for work and every time I walk in at night. I don't want to wait for the apartment to warm up in the evening. I certainly don't want to adjust it down at night because I REALLY DON'T want to wake up in a cold apartment in the morning.

In three of the last four homes I owned (not counting ex-husbands where he insisted on wood heat) - I installed a programmable thermastat. I love these things.

You can program them for weekday and weekend settings. You can set the warm up time to be about thirty minutes before you usually get up in the morning and before you get home at the end of the day. You can set the cool down time to about the time you leave in the morning and about a half hour after bedtime.  If you find yourself at home during one of the cooler times? You can simply set the over-ride and it'll return to the warmer setting until the next time it's set to cool down again.

What I like about these is that once they are installed and set up, you really only have to mess with them a little with each change of the season. And from then on, they just automatically save you money. PLUS you aren't sitting in your own home freezing to death (note: horrendous flashback to wood heat days).

Why haven't I done it yet?

Because I live in an apartment building. It's not my home. Also, I don't pay that incredible much to heat my home. It's about 1000 square feet and even being on the first floor? We really only have trouble heating the apartment when the wind comes in from the South (see future post on insulating windows).  I'm on budget billing and spend around $70/month which includes heating, air conditioning and all electrical. I know there are lots of folks out there who dream about spending that little on heating. So it hasn't been a high priority for me to focus on it.

However, I might still do it anyway.

a) If I keep good track of the thermastat I'm replacing - I can always put the old one back on before I move out.
b) I've installed three of them already, installing a fourth one has little to no risk that I'll mess up
c) Worst case, if I can't find the old thermastat - these new ones are really reasonably priced - it's not like I couldn't leave the programmable thermastat for the next tenants
d) It really is wasted energy and money
e) The benefit will show up in the repeated monthly expenses... I can expect to recoup the cost of a basic thermastat ($40) in savings within the first winter I replace it. Albeit - on budget billing I won't see the difference on my bill admittedly, but it will show up when they recalculate the billing again which they do on a fairly regular basis. It will show further benefits in summer when I can set it to slightly warmer temps during the day and night.

I could get in trouble with the apartment maintenance and/or manager. Honestly not too worried about this one. They only come in about twice a year to replace furnace filters. They don't seem to be all that focused on the apartment nor on what's going on around the complex. They come in, they do what they gotta do... they leave. My risk of messing something up is pretty low as these things are really easy to install. As it is, the worst they can do is ask me to leave (I could put the old thermastat back in instead) and keep my deposit. I can guarantee I won't be seeing my deposit back as it is when I do leave.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Not coupons, at least not this month

I spent several years collecting, using and saving with coupons.

I'd monitor the ads that were coming out, the web blogs that cover the savings options, I'd get extra copies of the Sunday paper (especially the free with gas options).

I'd clip and sort. I'd even buy some online from a clipping service.

I also sent expired coupons to the military if I didn't use them.

When you combine sale prices with in-store coupons and/or manufacturer coupons you really can save money on most of the beauty products and quite a few groceries. I especially loved using coupons along with the previous program Walgreens ran where they offered rebates. If you agreed to get the rebate in the form of a Walgreen gift card, you got 110% of the rebate value. Since a lot of the items I got were free with rebate, it was like earning money for taking things home. With time, I built up quite a balance on my gift cards, and would primarily use them to get more rebates - churning that same money over and over again into more products.

But, they discontinued it. And they started adding a lot of new policies in the store which limited the ability to really get the savings that were there before.

K-Mart does still offer double-coupons days. However, it's not all the time. AND they've added a lot of limits to their program as well.

I don't have any grocery stores in the area offering double-coupons.

CVS still has (as far as I understand) some great options for piling up some savings... but sadly, there aren't any CVS pharmacies within 100 miles... they've pretty much been blocked from the area. Which saddens me when I view the deal options that are offered there.

Long story made shorter. Couponing is an investment in time. Even if you do it well, there's still planning and organizing and having the right type of ocupons at the tirght time challenges. Since at this point, I can't quite get the GREAT deals for the time, I've decided that this won't be the money-saving-method of choice just yet. It might be something I add in the future, especially if I either get better at planning my shopping lists first OR if I had better storage options for buying larger quantities of items.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt

The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt

This was in the news recently again and I went back out to check it out again. Apparently, if a company owes you money but doesn't know how to get the money to you - they turn it into the State Treasury. The state department doesn't have the manpower and resources to track people down... so they hang onto the name and address and file the money away. Iowa (and many other states as well) has built a web site that you can search by name for this money.

It's free to search and free to claim the money.  If you find money, you just need to fill out the form and provide copies of identification to prove it's really your money - perhaps notarized signature for larger sums of cash... and they'll mail you a check.

I check it out every few years, just in case.

This year I found a little under $70 for my 24-yr old son who is a new father and living on a super tight budget.

His fiance's father though? Had over $600 sitting out there. I joked that I wouldn't be averse to accepting a finding fee.... lol.

But, really? Why not go out and see if your state has a site like this. You might find some money just sitting there.

Friday, November 16, 2012

MTHFR - Planning next steps

I'm still absorbing a ton of data, finding things that make me go 'hmmmm...' and other things that make me go 'geeze, really, is that something I really have to do?' along with a few 'but I don't wanna do that' things.

While there are literally HUNDREDS of studies about MTHFR, not a whole lot of them focus on whether or not certain treatments, supplements, lifestyle changes and/or diet changes work for patients with MTHFR. Even the experts in treating MTHFR indicate that treatment has to be highly individualized. One theory as to why it has to be highly customized falls along with another theory as to why this genetic condition impacts some patients more than other patients... that there might be OTHER genetic components that reduce the methylatioin process - which compounds the condition and complicates the treatment needed.

What do the studies I've read and experts agree on?

They agree that if MTHFR A1298C homozygous patients have reduced methylation processing capabilities compared to people without that genetic mutation.  What does this mean? It means that there is an impairment in the process that breaks down and processes nutrients from your diet. It also means that there is an impairment in the ability to process and eliminate various toxins.  The experts do not agree to the severity of this impairment.  Some experts claim that patients with these genetic markers get only 7-10% of the nutritional value processed that they take in. Other experts say that it's much better than that and estimate it at 40-60%.

Let's go with the BEST case scenario. 60%

Let's pretend like I have a twin - who doesn't have these genetic markers - but who eats what I eat, sleeps when I sleep, gets the same toxic exposures that I get.  Side by side. Let's use numbers... and let's pretend that the 'sum nutritional value' of what we both eat equals 500 (an average diet that includes some junk food, some frozen dinners, some good stuff... middle of the road diet). My twin has good methylation - so her net intake is still 500 - what she eats gets processed and appropriately nourishes her. Me, I'd get 60% - so only 300 nutritional value goes into my body. So, in my mind... even if some of the experts question the role of MTHFR in various health issues - if my twin and I were standing side by side. Common sense tells me that I would be more tired and fatigued than my twin. But, experts will still want to point out that there are folks with my genetic markers who don't suffer any illness nor ill symptoms. But, what if... what if they have already made lifestyle and/or diet decisions different than I. What if their initial 'arbitrary nutritional value' of their diet is 1000. Even if they only absorb 60% of that nutrition - they'd be absorbing 600 - which is better than people with an average diet. I just think that it's more complicated than MTHFR is not involved at all with health issues OR it's everything to do with health issues. I think there's just more to it.

Especially if you also look at the other side of the coin. My body will have a decreased ability to handle toxins. Examples given of people who have issues with this include people who have lots of food intolerances (um, yep - that's me... lactose intolerant and I have a reaction if I get too much citric acid).... people who have a lot of allergies.... (um, yep, me again - it's easier (and faster) to list the pain medications I am not allergic to than list my allergies, I'm allergic to mosquito bites for goodness sake, half a dozen other medications that aren't pain meds, as well as wool... for goodness sake, I'm a knitter and I'm allergic to the most-common material used for knititng... sigh - as well as allergic to most perfumes, lotions, detergents, etc).  Another concern is a sensitivity to taste - I can literally taste metal in most water - even though everyone else in my family thinks the water tastes just fine. My theory is that my taste is reflecting things that I don't tolerate as well... though it's just a theory. I'm allergic to a ton of different types of metal.... including the mercury found in contrast as well as what used to be in saline solution years ago for contacts. Could that be because unlike folks without the genetic condition - I can't eliminate even low level exposure to it - like most people?  I know there's a lot of controversy around mercury used in amalgam fillings. And I know that part of the reason I decided to get tested for MTHFR is because I'm concerned about my fillings... but what I'd really like to know is if the people who swear that removing the mercury fillings helped them recover from chronic illness that they blame on the fillings have the MTHFR genetics?

Again... if on a daily regular basis we are exposed to a .10 level of toxins - whereas someone who is working and/or living in a heavily toxic area is exposed to 100 level of toxins. They are likely to get SERIOUSLY ill quickly with things like cancer, luekemia, etc. A .10 probably won't cause serious, severe illness in most people, ever. But if a regular person can eliminate 100% of the .10? But I can only eliminate 60% of it? It just makes perfect sense to me that all other things being equal - the person more likely to have issues is the one who is not getting as many nutrients and is unable to eliminate toxins as well. And as we age, people's ability to process nutrients and eliminate toxins decreases... so I could see people with this condition not experiencing as many symptoms at a young age, but getting worse as they get older. I also think that if they might have been exposed to some toxins at various points in their life, but the toxin not getting eliminated at that time - that they could have worse symptoms over time as the every day little toxins add up and get built upon that early exposure. For example, I had broken a mercury thermometer as a child and played with the mercury for about 20 minutes before my mom found me. That might not have been enough to cause issues - but add the mercury in fish that I eat, add mercury from the multiple contrast IV's for ct scans I've had, add the exposure to mercury from when I first wore contacts, a mouth full of fillings, and a reduced ability to minimize the impacts of the mercury? I could see that with time this might all add up to an issue that someone else might not experience.

With all this said and done... I'm looking at a really LONG list of suggestions for 'treatment protocols' for MTHFR. I know my regular physician is convinced that there is no cause for concern based on my genetics and that there's little to no reason to change anything. One of the really good warnings on one of the web sites is... to avoid extreme thinking.

A) Don't let anyone tell you that MTHFR causes NO ISSUES.

I agree with this statement - because it is only common sense to me that reduced methylation (proven in studies even by the experts) which means a reduced nutritional value and decreased ability to eliminate toxins could put you at risk for illness. Not makes you automatically ill - but would put you at risk.

B) Don't assume every issue is MTHFR.

I'm already guilty of this even before I had a label. I've had a 'chronic undiagnosed illness' for six years.  Four years ago I started having recurrent pain in my upper back between my shoulders. I doubt I even mentioned it to my regular doctor. I was already seeing a chiropractor for treatment. He'd adjust my back, I'd feel better for a little while... it'd start bothering me again and I'd have the chiropractor adjust me again. Three months ago I had my gall bladder out. I haven't experienced upper back pain since. Not once. Now, upper back pain isn't a typical symptom of gall bladder issues, but it is one of them. If I hadn't assumed that pain was related to my undiagnosed illness and had brought it up to the doctor he might have gotten around to doing an ultrasound and finding the gall bladder issue before I needed urgent surgery.

My plan.

I see my doctor at the end of December. I will try to get him to agree that A and B above are both not appropriate and ask for his help with keeping me from falling into the B trap and I will help keep him from assuming A is true by doing my due diligence and research.

If he can't agree with throwing A out - then I'll end up switching to a new doctor who is open to the fact that A isn't going to work for me.

There is a long list of supplements that are recommended. But, (and thankfully) it is recommended that they get added slowing and incrementally without too many changes at once. I plan on adding one new supplement a week OR increasing the dose of a single supplement during that week (but not both). I will monitor my symptoms extremely carefully with an eye to identify if some supplements become too much for me or maybe aren't good for me.

There's also a long list of lifestyle and diet changes. The vast majority of these changes do not have a lot of scientific studies that MTHFR + this change = improvement. It's more anecdotal than that. But some of them really are the common sense recommendations that everyone knows it's good for you, but it's hard to convince yourself to do it. Like eating more fruits and vegetables. Eating less processed food. Getting a good sweat going a couple of times a week.  Some are easier to do than others... like giving up alcohol, giving up dairy, giving up gluten, etc.

When it comes down to it? The vast majority of us could eat more fruits and vegetables... and there's not many doctors who will tell you it's a bad idea to add fruits and vegetables. I can take each questionable item with a grain of salt and do research to see if there are studies on it. If it's proven to help MTHFR through good, scientific studies OR if it's just plain a good idea for everyone... then those are the changes I'll make first. Next will come the changes that offer little risk. I.e., most doctors don't tell you to eliminate gluten unless you have Celiacs disease... but, I don't think there's much risk to your health by eliminating it from your diet. Lastly will be the more extreme changes that might be a little more off the wall and might even have risk associated with them... those I'll work through with my doctor and implement them only after either some testing and/or at least long discussion around potential risks and signs to look for if it's not a good choice.

My plan is to introduce only ONE major life change/diet change a month. Given that it's a LONG list, it'll take me years to get through the list. But hopefully, by taking changes slowly it will become easier to make them habits and not just "I tried, I gave up, it's too hard". In my symptom log I'll track what I'm doing differently over time and see if these things help or not.

Lastly, there are also some tests to be ran and possible treatments based on that testing. My goal is to spend the next four to five months to understand those tests, the results and what they mean and what getting those results might mean to me for treatment and/or health issues. Then once I get there - that's when I'll start asking the doctor to start running the tests that make sense given my symptoms and concerns. Then I won't be testing blindly and my doctor won't make decisions on treatment based on old information and hopefully between us we'll get some good answers.

Anyway, that's my plan. Take it slowly, educate myself, research everything.

So, what's first?
Sigh.... First one is pretty easy to conceptualize. Eliminate things that are proven to be an issue - i.e., eliminate the things that cause harm.  Makes sense right?

This includes elimination of folic acid, b6 and regular b12. The first two are pretty easy. I'm not taking them as supplements... but they do come in various fortified foods. So - no more fortified cereals, juices, etc. The last one? Makes me want to cry a little. April/May/June I was just convinced how awesome my B12 shots were. But honestly? they aren't helping now as much as they helped me when I first took them. I'm taking them twice as often and I'm worse for fatigue than I was in June.  Per the experts cyanocobalamin (the injections I'm getting) isn't processed well by people with MTHFR. And in fact, will build up in the body because the body doesn't break it down, process it and excrete the excess properly or fully. My right side is starting to experience the tingling and numbing again. It might be that like the person with MTHFR who gets extremely high nutritional diet? that the extra B12 helped initially because at least the 60% I was processing was more than I was getting. But that over time the excess that wasn't getting processed started to build up like a toxin. When I was taking methylcobalamin I didn't get as good a results as the B12 injections... but it might have  been simply that I wasn't getting enough of the other supplements that are on the list and that the short term benefits of the injections hid that issue.

While I'm at it, I will also eliminate alcohol. I don't drink much and I don't drink very often... so it's not a major lifestyle change. So there's no reason I can't start that now. I'm keeping my biggest vice - drinking Pepsi for now... but eliminating the intaking of bad first seems like a good first lifestyle change to try to make.

I'll start the methyl B12 in very low doses this week. And start adding the other supplements before trying to increase the dosages of any of them. Again, slow and steady with symptom tracking the whole way through.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

MTHFR - issues with placenta and miscarriages

FWIW - I have no recommendations at this point to help achieve a successful delivery if you have MTHFR and are pregnant. This is just a 'what-happened-to-me' post.

I am still learning a LOT about MTHFR. For the record, I am homozygous MTHFR A1298C and also have Protein C Deficiency. Both of these can contribute to multiple miscarriages and issues with placentas.

My first pregnancy ended before 12 weeks. I was 18 and single and had been doing a lot of partying (alcohol and drugs), tried smoking, and ate very little nutritious food. I was dealing with a lot of brain fog and fatigue and my mother had recommended getting tested for diabetes. I wanted birth control pills. Doctors wanted to screen for the diabetes before prescribing the birth control pills. I tested positive for diabetes before we realized I was pregnant. It ended up being gestational diabetes as I no longer had it after the pregnancy ended.

My second pregnancy resulted in a live birth of my eldest son. I was 22 and married (though not for long as I divorced him shortly after the baby was born). I did my best to eat healthy although we were exceptionally poor. During labor, my placenta abrupted (separated from the uterine wall). They rushed me into the operating room to do an emergency c/section... but during the move I finished dilating and delivered about two minutes later. Thankfully, the placenta presented on top of my son (and delivered with him) so he didn't lose much blood in the process and he was exceptionally healthy. Looking back, lack of early medical care during pregnancy meant that I had never gotten tested for gestational diabetes during this pregnancy. My son was a BIG baby - at 9 lbs 9 1/2 oz and 24" long (well it was big for our family, at that point he was 2 lbs bigger and 3" longer than any baby born in three generations). But it's possible this is just genetics from his father's side of the family as opposed to being related to gestational diabetes as he was the smallest baby born on their side of the family (like ever, they averaged 11 to 12 pound babies in their family).

My third pregnancy also resulted in a live birth for my youngest son. I was 37 and single (again). This time around I ate a LOT better and was very good about getting great prenatal care. Due to my age, I was carefully screened and had early and frequent ultrasounds. It was during my first ultrasound that they identified that there was an abnormal placenta. It was shaped like a figure 8. Fortunately, the umbilical cord was attached to the larger of the two sections of the placenta and my son was born very healthy. The biggest risk factor was that of abruption or only delivering one section of the placenta. However, since I had a c/section with this son, they were able to remove the placenta during the procedure with very little risk.

During my c/section I had the doctors proceed with tubal ligation as this was my third unplanned pregnancy. Unfortunately one of the clips that were used didn't stay clamped and I had a fourth pregnancy about two years later. This pregnancy ended before 8 weeks. I'd had all the symptoms but wasn't supposed to be able to get pregnant after the tubal. It took some doing to convince the doctor to test me as he was convinced I hadn't had a miscarriage because I shouldn't have been pregnant in the first place. But hormone tests proved that I had been recently pregnant which proved my point.

During the third pregnancy I also had to get treated for endometriosis (severe level 4) which wasn't identified until the c/section. As well as the removal of a grapefruit-sized tumor. They also found additionally about 200 other small tumors that lined the inside of my uterus. All-told they told me that my pregnancy was a complete miracle. Of course it was... how could it be anything else?

I did break down and have a hysterectomy in 2011 after being diagnosed with adenomyosis and am thankful to have eliminated the debilitating cramping that was associated with that.

As I continue to learn more about the symptoms and risk factors (as well as treatment protocols) for MTHFR - I'm going to continue to share my story.  I've known for a while that Protein C Deficiency had risk factors for miscarriage and placenta issues - but now knowing that MTHFR A1298C also has those risks? It explains a lot. No wonder I was four-for-four. Thankfully I did luck out in having two amazing sons as I know others who have struggled with infertility and recurrent miscarriage who dream of having success.

I can't even imagine how difficult it is to have the strong desire to be a parent and struggle with loss. I hope that if you've struggled with recurrent loss you get tested for MTHFR and find a high-risk ob/gyn to help with appropriate protocols to help you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 8 & 9 Planning

OK - I am not sure I'm gaining much ground. But, I've definitely manged to stop losing ground financially (well, we're going to chose to ignore the hidden medical debt that is scheduled to get paid next year).

So, what's up for the next two weeks?

1. Continue with the basic stepping stones I've outlined before.
  a. Take lunch to work
  b. Explore a low-cost option for entertainment/hobbies/the like
  c. Put $200 per payday (bi-weekly) into Emergency savings
  d. Try at least one new recipe to expand my list of go-to meals to cook that are healthier than the frozen dinner stand by's

2. Try out the Remember the Milk tool
  a. Set up my financial long-term goals, along with the phased steps of where I want to be and what I can do to get there.
  b. Set up a vision board/list for long-term esoteric goals
  c. Set up a rotating to-do list for household chores/cleaning tasks

3. Set aside a large amount of time to start educating myself on MTHFR and what it means for me.

4. Apply for a new position with built-in promotion and raise

5. Identify the next cost-cutting *small step* I want to try.

I used to clip coupons, should I start that again? What about buying window insulation for the leaky windows in the apartment? Or maybe just decrease the heat in the apartment when I'm out during the day.  I'm not sure that all three aren't great ideas... I just don't think I can ~manage~ to take on too many changes too quicly right now. But I do think that some of the original small steps are closer to habits than they've been before. So, if I'm frustrated by lack of progress - it's only me standing in my way. So, one more - another small baby step. I'm probably going to write a few blog posts debating the pros/cons of each to help me think out loud - or at least - think publicly about it. For some reason - writing this all out helps clarify things in my own head so much better than just rehashing them over and over in my head.

Monday, November 12, 2012


My gut-drove me to getting tested for MTHFR - and sure enough the test came back positive.  I'm heterozygous  CORRECTION - homozygous (doctor didn't even read off the number of copies of the gene correctly on the phone) for MTHFR, A1298C.  Just eight years ago, I was told that I probably had this, but that there's no sense in getting tested for it, because it's pretty harmless - just leads to an increased risk of high homocysteine levels. Since (at the time) I already had high homocysteine levels - there was no sense testing me for it.

Now, however, they've learned a lot more about it - although the testing is little known. But they have identified a high risk of vitamin deficiencies and toxicity due to this genetic defect.

The fact that I started to get extremely ill within three months of starting to take Folic Acid, B6 and B12 is now starting to make a lot of sense. That's the typical treatment for folks with high homocysteine values. But, certain people have trouble absorbing these vitamins and become ill from taking the standard over-the-counter doses. In fact, I tested positive for B6 toxicity within two years of starting to take it. My B12 levels are often off the charts - but I have all they symptoms of B12 deficiency - which made my doctor's think I am making things up... but which tells me that while I'm getting plenty of B12 nutrients in my diet, my body can't break it down to a usable form.

I have SO much to learn at this point. I have more questions than answers. There are dozens of lab tests that might help figure out the next best treatments to persue. There are some treatments that are recommended - but aren't recommended immediately - because I might be too ill to tolerate them. Go figure.

My doctor wasn't even sure what the test for MTHFR would be - and in fact, his lab said that they had never drawn for it before - with over ten doctor's in the office. They sent the labwork out and I got the results back in less than a week. The doctor suggested that I take folic acid, b6, and I don't need the b12 because I'm already on injections. Um... if I'm reading the newest testing and following it correctly - I'll get sicker by taking Folic Acid and B6. So, I don't think so.

There are other forms of the vitamins that are more usable given this condition - so I'm investigating what those are and if everyone should take them, or just some folks. So much to learn.

Apparently this condition is quite frequent. And apparently the vast majority of individuals who have it don't have any issues. But considering it's been identified as a possible contributor to a TON of chronic illnesses and I've been chronically ill now for 8 years? I'm thinking that this is the right first step for figuring out the next step to helping me feel better.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Week 6 & 7 - progress to report

My goals were:

1) Take lunch to work every day (that I work) for the next two weeks.
Goal met. 
I ate a lot of my frozen leftovers for supper on nights I didn't feel like cooking. So as of Saturday, I was down to two meals left in the freezer. Made Ghoulash on Sunday and have three more meals added to the freezer. Plan on cooking another meal on Monday (my day off) which means I'll have a nice stockpile started for the coming weeks.

2) Trial run with Netflix to see if it will work for my family.
Goal met
I'm on my trial run now. It's not any better/worse than Amazon Prime as far as selection goes. Still can't watch it via the Kindle as easily as the Prime worked. Yeah, I know. that probably has to do with the way the Amazon Kindle was designed to work with Amazon products, you think? And that would also be why if I had bought it, I probably would have bought a generic droid device instead of a brand-specific one that locks you down. But, I didn't buy this - it was a prize won... but now I'm still trying to decide a good way to use it.

3) Find ONE new recipe to try, maybe with chicken again - only this time, we might try canned chicken.
Goal met
Tried the PF Chang's Lettuce wraps at the beginning of this phase. It ended up being better after I froze the leftovers and when I reheated them, I threw them over some lettuce I picked up in the break room for $.60. I probably won't make it again though. It was ok. Not 'yummm'.

4) Put another $200 into savings.
Goal met and exceeded
I ended up throwing $400 towards savings.

When it comes down to it, I was less stressed these last two weeks. Part of it was because I ended up having oral surgery and that took away some of the pain and discomfort I've been experiencing. Part of it was that the money wasn't quite as tight. Which is weird, because I was still spending more than I wanted to... but at least it wasn't to the point of having to take back money from savings. Plus not buying lunch every day has really helped financially. Funny how that small step has made the biggest impact to date.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Simple Dollar

This is one of my absolute favorite blogs about being frugal, making smart decisions and figuring out what works for each of us individually.

The guy actually lives fairly close to me, so a lot of his anectdotes resonate with me.

But, he's ultra-smart about being smart about money.

I've learned a lot from him. Some of it is really common sense... but he's gone from being overwhelmed by debt to being debt free. He and his wife own their own home. She's still working full-time, but he's working out of his house as a writer and independent contractor so that he can have more time with his children. So, he really has walked his talk and learned a lot on his own.

I'm posting a reference to his web site here (the Simple Dollar)... because he had an excellent article today about his to-do lists.

How I Get Things Done article

But it's so much more than just getting his to-do lists organized and projects done on time.  He uses this method to KEEP his mind on the big picture. To track his goals, visions, and life choices on track with where he wants to be. By keeping an eye on the big picture, he finds it easier to find satisfaction in taking the small steps.

I've done the big picture thing - where I wrote down my big goals - and then did nothing to get there.

I've done the small step thing - where I try to figure out what-I-can-do-today to help me get to my big goals.

But then I really hadn't found a good way to tie them all together.

I'm thinking that this system might need a little tweaking for me, personally... but it might just help me when I have tough weeks to keep my eye on the prize and keep my motivation from flagging.

I know that towards the end of my rough weeks I started spending money a little more... and in fact, we've since eaten out a couple of times. Things have gotten mostly back on track and I'm feeling better. But there's been a lack of commitment lately on my part. I'm still meeting my little goals. But there's just too much space between my big goals and my micro-stepping goals to feel good about what I have accomplished and help me move to the next stage.

So, I'm going to take a couple of his ideas - specifically the goals and visions and put my BIG long-term goals there.

Then I'm going to do a 5 year goal list.

Then I'm going to do a 3 year goal list.

Then I'm going to do a 2013 goal list.

Then I'm going to do a next month goal list.

Then I'll still do my bi-weekly micro-stepping goals here online.

By reviewing these lists every week and making adjustments where necessary - I think I'm going to find it easier to keep my head in the game. At least I hope so.

Thought I'd share the idea in case it helps someone else.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Frustrating experience trying to use Hulu Plus on the Kindle Fire

Hulu Plus offers a discounted option to watch 'premium' shows online... and it says it works with the Kindle Fire. Awesome. Their free trial only lasts seven days though.

And here's the rub.

After I signed up for the trial, I clicked on the first 'show' to try to watch it from my Kindle.

I got directed to a site to download a fee app for watching Hulu Plus. Great. Off I go.

I download the free app.

I go back to Hulu Plus and try to watch the show.

I get directed to a site to download a free app. ... hmmm.... ok.

I assume that it didn't install correctly. So I try to download it again. I can't. It says I already have it.

Ok. So, maybe I need to start the show from the app itself, right?

Now finding the app.....

It's not on the main home pages.... but I finally find the place where I can find the list of applications on the Kindle. No Hulu Plus.

I had to cancel the subscription to Hulu Plus before I could get support and before they automatically charged my account with the fees.

I have had a lot of issues with downloading apps to the Kindle. So far? Not that impressed unless I use Amazon Prime. Right now, I use it if I don't want to grab my laptop from another room to browse the web or to pull up a PDF knitting pattern that I haven't had a chance to print yet. 

I have started my Netflix free trial - but haven't been able to get it to work on the Kindle Fire just yet. But I have a few weeks to experiment, at least.

New recipe tried - PF Changs' Lettuce wraps

RECIPE - Diced chicken, mushrooms, water chestnuts, onions and garlic stir fried with a soy sauce mixture and some special sauce.

Served on lettuce gives a good counterpoint for the salty/sweet sauces.

It turned out pretty good. But it took a good 30 minutes to make, with too much left over sauce that won't keep. Plus the ingredients were a little expensive.

I froze a little of the leftovers with some of the special sauce and I might try it over rice.

But I don't think I would make it very often - as-is.

I'm thinking that the four main ingredients might taste better with a different sauce - something less salty - less soy. I mean it was good and all. but I'm thinking it could be better.

I did end up eating leftovers a few days later at the office. I went downstairs and bought a small amount of cut lettuce $.60 worth... and heated the leftovers in the microwave and threw it on top. It was much better the second time than the first. I still think I would adapt the pattern a little... but it was pretty good.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Feeling better, trying to find some balance in my planning

Found out this week that the Flexible Savings Account maximum deposit for Medical or Dental/Vision is going to be capped at $2,500 for 2013.

I had been thinking that my Dental work which has a $8,000 bill AFTER Dental insurance attached to it would be able to be partially paid by around $5,000 from a Flexible Savings Account (close to last years limit) and that I would only need to save $3,000 to pay for the dental work I want to get done.

Not going to happen.

I do have a couple of alternatives.

The first one that came to mind was to borrow the approximately $5,500 I was short from my 401K account at work and open a $2,500 Flexible Savings Account dedicated to Dental Vision. AND then contribute to a Health Savings Account (I can save around $4,000 there)... that money would be made available to me every other week and would cover the majority of the 401K loan payments.

But, it isn't REQUIRED dental work. And I'm uncomfortable borrowing the money if the procedure COULD wait.

My next thought. The primary reason I'm considering this (aside from the pain - which is pretty hard to tolerate) is due to the fact that I believe I have a medical condition - MTHFR that if I really do have - means that I should replace all the metal in my mouth (and there is a lot of it).

I'm thinking that IF I get tested (ideally this month) and IF I do indeed have MTHFR - that if I find the right specialist that understands the condition.... that removing teeth that contain metal MIGHT JUST FALL UNDER medical necessity. I'm not 100% sure about this. And honestly, the only advantage of trying to do it this way is I have an INCREDIBLY HIGH deductable. And using up almost all of my Health Savings Account to pay for dental work means that I still have to cover that ENORMOUS deductable, only out of my own pocket instead.  Which could lead to some serious trauma to my savings plans.

Last alternative. And honestly... it might happen EVEN if I do get tested as positive for MTHFR.

Wait a year (or maybe two).

I can still deposit over $4,000 towards my Health Savings Account this year. If I need it for medical expenses - so be it. I can also start a Dental Work savings account. By January of 2014, I could have 90% of the cost of the procedures saved.

I know this is the fiscally responsible choice.

I just don't like it.

In the meantime, I might invest in stock in Orajel. Might as well get something for all my purchases.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week 6 & 7 planning - what comes next?

Things got a little rough and I've had three weeks where things just didn't seem to go my way.

To help me with my motivation, I'm going to post the long-term goals here... and then pick a couple LESS micro-goals for the next two weeks and see if I can't make some progress anyway.

1) Pay off all debt - I keep getting close, but there's still some medical debts haunting me.

2) Have a better emergency fund set up than I had when everything fell out from the bottom a few years ago and I came so close to bankruptcy.

3) Save up enough money for a decent down payment for a house (previous house had been foreclosed on).

4) Raise a happy, healthy son.

5) Find healthy, easy-to-cook meals that we enjoy.

Micro goals:

1) Take lunch to work every day (that I work) for the next two weeks.

2) Trial run with Netflix to see if it will work for my family.

3) Find ONE new recipe to try, maybe with chicken again - only this time, we might try canned chicken.

4) Put another $200 into savings.

Week 4 & 5 - ugh - rough couple of weeks

Things did not work out very well over the past couple of weeks. I didn't do very well with several of my goals and was incredibly busy. But, I DID manage to put away a few dollars for savings and even though I failed a few micro-goals. The key is to not give up.

So, what went wrong? First - I have been putting off some dental work for a while with the knowledge that I have some heavy-duty dental work expense coming up and I wanted to plan for it. While I was waiting two of my teeth (that I've had root canals on, no less) decided that they aren't ok with getting ignored. What do I mean by that? I mean that the root canals had been a failure (they didn't get all of the nerve) and they'd been uncomfortable for a really long time. Well, a little over a week ago, they went from not comfortable to extremely painful quite suddenly. A third tooth is also bothering me quite dramatically. I'm taking pain killers which is making me tired. And with my allergies, the only pain killer available to me is Ibuprofen or Alleve... and, honestly? It's not cutting the pain very well. I've been running around with ice, and discomfort.

As a result, plans kind of fell to the way-side. Lunches weren't very well planned out. I'd forget things and it just all kind of fell apart.  I go in on Tuesday to get the problem molars pulled and hopefully will feel a lot better shortly thereafter.

Anyway - here are the goals I had set for the past two weeks and my results.

Goal 1: Verify and pay off medical debt from 2008 Goal Failed

I did work out a short-term 'good-faith' payment plan of $50/month and they are hoping to settle for 80 cents on the dollar in January. It's at least managed - just not handled, unfortunately.

Goal 2: Continue to take lunch to work and spend just my $1/day for breakfast Goal Failed

There were two days where I forgot my lunch at home and was able to run home to fetch it. However, there were a couple of other days where I had forgotten my lunch where I didn't have that option. I ended up eating lunch at the work cafeteria one day and at the mall on the other day. As I had taken some time to volunteer with the Race for the Cure process fundraiser.

Goal 3: Find at least two new meals to try to cook. Goal Failed

I spent more than I planned on groceries due to the ingredients I needed to try a couple of new recipes. The problem was that I was going to grill up several chicken breasts one evening for several of the recipes... and I didn't get to it. Then I worked 12 hours the following day. Then I worked 9 hours and drove for 4 hours the following day... then next thing you know, I had raw chicken in my refrigerator for six days... um. Yeah. NOT edible. I should have left it in the freezer - but I thought it would cook easier if I had thawed it out first...  which resulted in all of it going bad.

As it was, next thing you know my teeth started to bother me... and I didn't feel like cooking anyway. I was too tired and groggy and the last thing I wanted to do was deal with it.  Thankfully there were lots of meals in the freezer, so while we still ate more fast food than is probably good for us this week - we also ate lots of leftovers as well.

Goal 4: Add $200 to savings  Goal Met

I still spent WAY more than I should have on way too many things. I feel guilty about a lot of it... but I can't let it keep me from trying to move forward anyway. It was just that we ate a lot of junk food. We spent a ton of money on some charity items... some of the food wasted... etc.  The good news is that because I've been doing better the other weeks, there was some money available still to add to savings. My goal is to keep repeating my micro goals as they make sense and keep adding to savings.

Goal 5: Try the new Red Heart Love yarn Goal Postponed

I'm going to put this exercise off until after November. I've got enough knitting planning going on that I really don't want to mess with this just right now. The good news is that at least I haven't spent any money on yarn in the meantime... so it's not that I bought more expensive yarn to experiment with. I did start a sweater with KnitPicks Brava Worsted weight acrylic - this had been bought a few months ago and not used. I don't hate it. But I also don't LOVE it. So, it's not going to be a great replacement bargain yarn for the yarn I'm choosing not to use any longer. In the future I'll try this new Red Heart yarn and see if it'll be a better option in the end. We'll see.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Amazon Prime Review

When I got my Kindle Fire last month, I signed up for the free trial with Amazon Prime which has free instant streaming of videos.

'a', my 9 yr old son - LOVED IT! For me? it was an 'eh'. And I think that for the cost, it's too expensive for providing more cartoons to my son who could benefit from LESS tv addiction.

He did watch entire seasons of cartoons that were no longer broadcast on television over and over again.

Me? I enjoyed a few of the early seasons of Dr Who. There weren't many on there, but there were some of the good ones. I didn't find any movies that I hadn't already seen that I wanted to see. There weren't any current television shows that I had missed that were available. My list of want-to-see items was pretty short.

Using Amazon Prime with the Kindle Fire was so-so. Once we were able to pull up our watch list (which took navigating to Amazon, and a few more clicks on the web site than seemed appropriate, hence the so-so ranking)... we were able to select the episode we wanted to watch and enjoy it quite well. There was a place to get to the watch list quicker - but it wouldn't include the things you wanted to watch and hadn't started yet. And you couldn't add to it from there.

But it would pop up asking if we wanted to watch it with the right viewer (which of course, we did). It just would have been nice to have easier access to the watch list right from the device without navigating to the web first; which would then let the episode pop up with the right viewer in the first place. (yes, I consider this unfriendly user experience a negative).

You can't use the micro-USB to USB cord to plug the Kindle to the Digital TV to play the video on the television monitor... BUT you can buy a HDMI cable for the laptop. Since Amazon Prime works from any web enabled device, that means that I could have my laptop hooked up to the big screen for streaming television. So, I'll put this down as neither a negative nor a positive.

BUT - the vast majority of the movies and/or television shows that I watch on a regular basis aren't available without a long delay on Amazon Prime. This won't ever replace my cable service, no matter how much money it would save. Big negative.

Also, live streaming is free, but downloading the episodes to watch while offline? Not free. Not incredibly expensive - many of the shows/episodes were priced around $.99 - $2.49 each. Which is about the cost of a one or two-day RedBox rental... and you would own the episode to watch repeatedly. I was dissapointed that this was as expensive as it was though. My thought was that it would be useful to have some downloaded movies/television cartoons for my son to watch on long drives.  Also a negative.

I do love that once you get to the viewer you have the list of the seasons and/or episodes right there and it's dead easy to start the next episode. This ease of use meant my son didn't require a lot of assistance to get to watch what he wanted to watch - though he did need my help every time we had to find the watch list again and any time we wanted to add something to the watch list. Big positive.

For pricing, while it's at $80/year (which seems high because it's all paid at once) -- it's actually almost a bargain compared to Netflix and Hulu Plus (which at around $8/month - are $96/year). It comes with free shipping on all (I think all?) Amazon purchases for the year. As well as the ability to download one book-at-a-time from a specific library of digital books for free.

I'm planning on experimenting with Netflix and Hulu Plus (which both have free trials as well) to see if I have a preference between the three services I'm aware of.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nothing like catching the flu to put things in perspective

When I was struggling so bad with chronic pain and fatigue... I would periodically catch a bug, a cold or the flu. But I HONESTLY did not feel any better or worse... I just had a few more symptoms... i.e., a cough or sneeze, or runny nose and/or fever.

I'd end up going to work more often than not unless I realized that it was the flu for sure (usually only understood once "a" would start complaining about not feeling well.

Now that I'm no longer having chronic pain throughout most of my body. And now that I  no longer feel exhausted 24/7?

I am coming down with the flu. I'm tired and achey with a headache and a slight fever.

And I've never before had a 'good' feeling when I started to feel ill.


It's highlighting just how much better I really am.

I have NOT been feeling this way for a really long time... since I started the shots at the end of April of this year.

So, I'm working from home today and trying to drink lots of liquids and take it easy.

It's SO MUCH EASIER to tell if it's the flu or what it is because I feel the symptoms.

I know? Who on earth besides me would ever be happy to have the flu. I'm not happy about it... but I am happy that I can tell that I feel worse... which means that when I'm over it? I'm going back to feeling better.

And that is WONDERFUL.

Proposed debt settlement was rejected

So, first things first, it's $1400, not $1200. So when I came in at 45% on $1200, they weren't exactly in a receptive mood. Secondly, they refused point-blank to discuss any settlement option at less than 80% (which would require digging into savings and I'm doing my best to avoid that).

But they did agree to work with me. I explained my situation of paying $600/month on my current medical debt (which isn't in collections and I have EVERY intention of keeping it that way). Ergo - my medical debt from 2008 which HAS been in collections for a while takes a back seat.

They agreed to good-faith payments of $50/month until my hospital debt is retired and then we can discuss settling for 80% of what is left at that point.

I'm exceptionally frustrated by the fact that they wouldn't even consider any other offers for settlement as I have had a lot of luck in the past with settlement offers and working things out that way.

But, I owe the money - I don't have an issue with paying them money. I just can't afford all of it now and as long as they are willing to work with me, I'm willing to work with them. In the end the difference between the 60% I would have liked to have paid and the 80% they are going to insist on is only a few hundred dollars (not thousands). And that few hundred dollars is mostly fees and interest. So, it would still be a win if I can get any little bit knocked off. So, off to adjust my little ticker a little more for a) understating the debt and b) another payment to get to add.

Monday, October 15, 2012

That old debt - yuck

So, I looked through the paperwork I got from the lawyer's office. There was about $1200 in medical debt from 2008 from when I tore my ACL. In the Spring of 2008 I was treading water, but flailing in debt. I'd spent over two years dealing with all the expenses that had piled up since 2005 and I thought I had things under control as of the beginning of the year.

By summer of 2008 I had bills coming out of my ears and everyone had decided simultaneously that they were no longer going to except small payments from me, but instead needed me to settle out 100% of my debt with every company. In 2008, that totalled over $45,000. (I had paid down $5,000 worth of debt between 2005 and 2008). But it was all due NOW.

I got scammed by one of the debt consolidation gimmicks. Who told me to stop all payments and pay only them x amount - then they would start negotiating settlements on my behalf.  The idea being that by stopping payments, the companies would be more willing to negotiate and by paying them the difference - that would give me a chance to save up enough money to make it interesting for the other companies to settle. About two payments in, I started getting garnished - which meant I couldn't make the payments to the settlement company. I never saw the money back either.

By Fall 2008 I was convinced I was going to have to file bankruptcy. The collection calls were constant. I didn't have the money to make anything but mediocre payments. My debts had been bought and sold so many times I couldn't keep track of whom to make the next payment to. I'd get calls from companies and wouldn't know what debt they were calling about. It was bad.

I talked to the lawyer and we started the process for bankruptcy. This would have been right around the time that the debt for the spring 2008 surgery probably would have gone to collections for non-payment. I couldn't find any record of it at all in the documentation I prepared for the bankruptcy process. And of course, one of the benefits of starting the process is that collections can't breathe down your throat while you're doing it. So, they couldn't send me a statement of the amount owed.

When things started to take a turn for the better during Spring 2009 and I finally could start making a dent in the mess I'd gotten myself into... I ended up not filing for bankruptcy. But instead I took the debt list that I had prepared and used a work bonus and tax refund (which was a GOOD tax refund) and used it to start knocking off debts. I got enough folks off of my back that I could start making payments... I worked on the little debts. Between the garnishments, getting rid of the smaller creditors, etc. I got to the point where I had less than $10,000 in debt by Spring 2010. We went to Disneyland to celebrate.

By Summer 2011, the only debt I thought I had left was just my car payments... which has since been paid off, died, replaced by another car and more car payments.

But now, out of the ashes of my former financial fiasco rises this 'oh, but what about us' debt. sigh.

I am going in with a plan this time, though. I have $800 in checking before my last payday. That's more than 50% of the debt total. I'm going in there and offering them $540 (45% of the debt) and asking them to write off the balance. If they counter offer higher (which I would expect) I'll go up as high as $720 - 60% of the debt. Though I'm hoping since they've never seen a single payment in 4 years, that they'll settle at closer to 50%.

Sooner or later I have to dig back through my credit score again and make sure there aren't any more of these hidden gems. I was going to wait another year or two because that would be around the right time to start contacting companies to get them to remove out-dated information from the credit report and I could start cleaning it up. But I don't want any more nasty surprises.

Travel plans - Eastern Iowa

We've been trying to head out to Eastern Iowa for quite a while now. "A" proposed in February and we wanted to introduce her around to the family. She's actually met a couple of cousins, and two of my three brothers simply because they've actually been in town (which never happens). My nephew's wedding certainly counts as an exception. And my brother and his family came into town for a school event for one of their daughters and ate at the restaurant where my son and his fiance work. My nieces and nephews come into town a little more often (guess they aren't the stay-at-home homebodies the rest of my family is.

"a" is spending this weekend with his father and one of the things I liked to do in the past when I was often in the area was meet his father at my parent's house... saves him some driving time and I get to visit with my step-father while I wait.  Since mom has passed, this hasn't happened as often as it used to and "a" keeps asking me when he gets to see pa-pa.

So the current plans are to take off a little before noon on Sunday, "A" wants to take her to a few places and point out some 'scenery' in small town Eastern Iowa... we'll probably point out the house in Mt Vernon, at least one of the schools he went to, point out the sights (haha) in Olin... maybe hit Jungle Town. We'll definitely get a chance to visit with dad for a while. We might poke our heads in at our brother's houses... We'll definitely grab supper at Hale Supper Club. And if I was a good girl, we'd even call my sister and see if she was up for a visit as well. Maybe hit her house on the way home.

It's about 40 miles each way further to drive around and visit family than it would be if I were just picking "a" up at our regular meeting place... but this gives us all a chance to visit... plus it'll be a lot cheaper than if we tried to make a weekend out of it.

So, an inexpensive trip to Eastern Iowa - coming up. Something to really look forward to for family time. And if I plan things right - my son will be doing the driving and I can sit in the back seat and knit. Double-win.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weeks 4 & 5 Planning

Last week was the roughest of the three weeks. Which I think is pretty typical. Being frugal often requires doing things that might take more effort. It takes postponing purchases that you might want to make immediately into a - maybe no, let's think about it wait.

Those aren't typically the fun things to do.

But if I managed to do frugality for three years and manage to work off a ton of debt, I can manage a few more to get to a point where I'm going to be where I want to be financially in the future.

So, more micro-stepping goals.

Goal 1: Verify and pay off medical debt from 2008

Either I already paid it off in 2009-2010 or it got lost in the midst of all the chaos. Between my checking account buffer and my current balance in checking, I should be able to propose a settlement offer. Either way, it should be history before these two weeks are out. My goal will be to pay 50% of it and get them to agree to that offer (if it's truly not already paid for ages ago). While dipping into the buffer isn't my ideal solution, I'm still not dipping into savings, and I can live with that option.

Goal 2: Continue to take lunch to work and spend just my $1/day for breakfast

Goal 3: Find at least two new meals to try to cook. My slim-list of meals I can cook from scratch are already starting to get old. is my new best friend.

Goal 4: Add $200 to savings EVEN with my expenses for cub scouts (woops), two long drives next weekend, plus payments for medical debts. Right now, I have more than enough money in checking to cover all upcoming expenses, plus the pay-off for the old medical debt.

Goal 5: I've been pointed to a new inexpensive yarn option that isn't supposed to be as nasty as lot of local shops acrylic yarns are. I'm going to try to pick up a single skein (under $5) to make a couple of charity hats and see how I like it. (The new Red Heart Love yarn) I've never been much of a lover of Red Heart, but if it's as nice as it's claimed to be, we'll see. Vast majority of my current projects are using yarn I already own and the rest of the year will continue in that vein, but I do have some projects starting in 2013 that will need an easy to get, affordable option... so this will be my test to see if it'll work.

Weeks 2 & 3 - progress post

Goal 1: Cook 6 from-scratch meals at home in two weeks

Sunday - Taco Soup - not very good, tossed most of it (1)
Tuesday - Grilled Chicken and Mashed Potatoes  - didn't happen - ended up eating Frozen dinners
Wednesday - Chicken Tortilla Soup - made Grilled Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans instead - (2) but I did cook up the Chicken Stock... am planning on making the Tortilla Soup on Friday night instead.

Friday - not planned - but made the Chicken Tortilla Soup. (3)
Saturday - Shepherd's Pie - didn't happen. I was just TOO tired to move. We ate leftovers.  Shepherd's pie for Sunday day instead.

Saturday - Spaghetti - didn't happen, again just too tired to think. 'a' had macaroni and cheese and I had leftovers.
Sunday - not planned - Shepherd's pie - divine. (4)I tried chili beans instead of standard veggies. Yummy! - only enough for 2 leftovers for lunches, but yum,yum, yum.
Sunday - Yummy Chicken Alfredo (5) - this was more of a throw things in and see how they turned out - they turned out pretty good. I'm not a huge fan of alfedo to start with, but 'a' loves it and he hasn't had that many dishes of the new recipes I've tried that he likes.  He picked out the corn and peas, but ate the broccoli, so I'm still calling it a win.
Tuesday - not planned - was originally going to teach; but class got cancelled - Spaghetti will fit in here instead. (6) - plus 3 leftovers for lunches - woot!


Goal 2: Take left overs to work for lunch every day - 10 meals

Week 2 - 5/5 days took lunch to work
Week 3 - 5/5 days took lunch to work


Goal 3: No yarn buying, no 'fun' buying, no browsing online and indulging any purchases
Tempted... I did find out that my 'knit-in' is accepting registrations. I've gone two years in a row. It'll cost a little over $100 to take full participation in the knit-in. This is a LOT less expensive than a lot of other options. I will probably be signing up, but not this month. I'll sign up in November instead (when hopefully most of my medical bills have stopped arriving). I avoided all yarn shopping sites and browing.

I did flip through the catalog for gift card wrap and candies and odds and ends that my son is asked to sell for school fundraiser. I don't need the odds and ends, nor the cookie dough, nor the brownie mix, nor the candies. I could use more wrapping paper. But I could also buy less expensive wrapping paper at the store (albeit lesser quality as well). Given my current finances, I'm resisting the urge to order any thing.


Goal 4: Identify opportunity for a weekend in Eastern Iowa - October or November
It won't be a full weekend, but we'll be driving to within 60 miles on Sunday, the 21st as it is. So, we're going to try to arrange to enjoy lunch at my favorite haunt - Hale Tap and visit with my step-father. Everyone is going so that the newest members of the family can be introduced around.

Goal 5: Don't dip into Savings

Not only did I NOT dip into Savings, but I spent far less than planned. As well as had two unexpected deposits to my account for $300.  In fact, I was able to build up the $400 checking account buffer that has been absent for over six months. My checking balance at the end of week three was:    $770

I am going to leave the $400 buffer in the account and was planning on moving the difference into savings.  But that was before I got the 4 year old medical bills. I'm spending a few hours this weekend verifying that I haven't already paid them. And then I'll use the amount I have in my checking to attempt to reach a settlement. I *might* owe about $1200 on the debt, and if I can get them to settle for $600 or just a little over, I can avoid dipping into my savings (still) AND I can mark it off as being settled.


Payment tracking - honesty, and helps keep me on track

Nothing like posting your spending list on a blog to make you think twice about an impulse purchase!


Expenses already spent:
$790 Rent - actual
$350 Month of daycare - actual
$60 Car Insurance - actual
$100 medical bills - actual
$20 Tickets to Living History Farms for son - actual

$100 on gas to get my son to get to see his dad, picking him up and gas for the two weeks
$30 on 9/29 Sat
$40 on 10/2 Tues (should have filled up sooner, but oh well)

Saved $30

$10 breakfast
-- skipped Monday 10/1 (worked from home
-- $4 for week 2
-- $5 for week 3

 Saved $1

$100 Take out meals - buying for extended family (includes effective compensation for babysitting)
$12 on 9/28 Fri - driving to Iowa City from West Des Moines and back
$12 on 9/30 Sun - driving to Iowa City from West Des Moines and back
$17 on 10/4 Thurs - teaching night, bought dinner for three plus latte for my son who was babysitting
$6 on 10/6 Sat - 'a' spent two hours outside in the cold selling popcorn for the scouts, he got a well-deserved treat for his hard work and stepping out of his comfort zone by asking strangers if they want to buy some popcorn to support the scouts.
$9 on 10/10 Wed, too many errands and too exhausted to face cooking
$18 on 10/11 Thurs - teaching night, bought dinner for four

Saved $26

$175 Groceries and dog food for two weeks
$115 on 9/29 Sat

Saved $60

$25 Dye and supplies for dyeing yarn for Sweater
--Postponing this project - Nothing spent

Temptation fought:

I really want a new vacuum cleaner. My old one works. But clogs up all the time. Taking it apart with a screwdriver and dislodging the clog works. But it's an annoyance. For now, I'm living with the annoyance (and dirty carpets when I'm too annoyed to fix it).

I really want to support my son's school fundraiser. But most of the things being sold aren't needed. And the other things are excessively priced. I have a dear friend who likes the wrapping paper because it is of higher quality (it is). So, my support this year is going to be limited to reaching out to her to see if she's bought any from someone else yet, and if not, if she'd like to buy some from us.

I did NOT sign up (yet) for my Knit-in. I'm re-evaluating my expenses and budgets. If I can't afford to sign up between now and December, so be it. Then worst case, it will be a December gift for myself. It might mean I miss out on some of the options that I'd like to participate in, or it might already be filled and no room, which means I might not get to go. But, if that's the case, it isn't the end of the world.

A friend wanted to go camping this weekend and I thought it would be fun to join her. I don't usually do much fall camping as I don't care for the cold. But over the weekend I thought about all the expense for some of the camping equipment that needed to be replaced, the menus, the cost. And it occurred to me that if I don't do much fall camping because I don't like cold... then why would I spend so much money to get to go camping this weekend (which is forecast to be cold and rainy) when money is tight. This became pretty easy to say that I had a change of heart on Monday.

Temptation lost:

I am supporting my son's popcorn sales for the Boy Scouts. I have about $90 worth of Military donations and caramel popcorn coming my way next month. I only bought one bag of caramel corn last year and regretted that decision for months afterwards. I am not going to have any regrets at buying five bags of the addictive, sweet, stuff that I have no intention of sharing. I know I didn't have to go that crazy with buying the caramel corn. I know I didn't have to do the Military donations either. But it helps him achieve a goal he set for himself, and he's taken great pride in working hard at this... I want to be supportive of something that helps with the scouting and gives him so much benefit (assuming we don't end up dropping out before the year is out). This is all coming out of next time-period's check. ... plus I really do love the caramel corn. And that's saying something because I rarely eat any popcorn at all of any kind. But this stuff is REALLY good.