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.