Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Have an HSA in 2012? - before you file your taxes - you need to know this.

A new form should be coming to you from the employer - the 1099-SA which includes details that you'll need for your taxes.  You'll also want to have a good handle on the amount spent from the HSA toward qualified medical expenses.

Unspent money in the HSA may be taxable (wtf?)... and sadly, I didn't know this. I submitted my tax return electronically 24 hours before I got the form.

And even though the Federal Government isn't going to start receiving electronically filed taxes, I can't 'pull back' my submitted tax return. I have to wait for the Government to process it next month and either send it back for corrections or send me my refund... and then I can file a corrected or amended return.

sigh.

24 hours... if I'd just waited it would have been simpler....

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lack of Epsom Salt baths

My health likes to go in cycles. I can go several months of ever-increasingly improving symptoms or every increasingly worsening symptoms.

I'm in the latter right now - after having spent the summer in the former. While this set of cycles coordinates with the seasons. Careful monitoring has proven that while winter can depress me - it isn't a predictor of what cycle I will be in as I've had good cycles in wintertime and worse cycles in summer as well.

What I find interesting is that since I started the epsom salt baths - that my pain levels have stayed nice and low. This long weekend - we're staying at a hotel without a bath tub - but with a hot tub. And I spend a lot of time in the hot tub when I have one available to me.  My epsom salt baths have been every other evening for over two weeks. And by the middle of day two - my pain starts to elevate ever so slightly. So every other night works really well for me because before the pain has really built to a very high level - I have another treatment which is effective for pain management for a good 36-40 hours.

But, it's now been 76 hours since my last epsom salt bath. Mind you - I've had at least four hours spent hot-tubbing during this 76 hours.

But my pain is now at the highest level it's been since I started the baths. I will definitely be having my bath tonight, let me tell you!

Ramada Tropics Resort

One of my favorite ways to get through a long, cold winter in Iowa ... is to spend a long weekend at a resort with an indoor water park.

For the last two winters, we'd gone to Honey Creek Resort. It's a bit of a drive and the water park is a little small. But it's well planned out and it's a great getaway. The first time it was just my youngest and myself - and we got a hotel room. The issue with that was that there's really only one restaurant around and it's uber-expensive within the resort to eat. Nice if you don't want to go outside at all the whole weekend. But not the cheapest trip.

Then last year, it was all five of us. Myself, my eldest, his fiance, her son, and my youngest. And we rented a cabin. The problem with a cabin is that you have to almost drive to the resort to get to the water park - so you are in and out of the cold a lot over the weekend. Having a kitchen though? Made it much more affordable. We got to eat what we wanted, when we wanted and the trip for the five of us, cost less than the trip for the two of us when you factored in food costs.

This year, my youngest really wanted to go to the Ramada Tropics Resort instead. The advantage is that it's pretty much in town... and my eldest and his fiance could still work this weekend, but join us after work. There are lots of places to eat nearby - so we weren't stuck eating in just the hotel restaurant - however, I did enjoy a couple of meals there anyway. The food was expensive, but about half the cost of the other resort.

The water park has nicer features... more to do for the kids. BUT, not well laid out. There are two structures in the middle of the water park that obstruct a parent's view. So, there isn't a single place you can stand or sit where you can watch more than half of the water park. My youngest is a good, but not great swimmer. Which means, I need to keep an eye on him. My grandson is a beginning swimmer... which means that he's still learning how much he can or can't swim - which means constant monitoring for him as well.  At Honey Creek, you can monitor about 95% of the water park from the majority of the water park - including from a seat in the hot tub.

Also, the Ramada Tropics water park is crazy, crazy full of people at most hours of the day. There were a few hours here and there where folks were checking out or going to lunch when it would get a little quieter - but the quietest moments were comparable to the majority of the time at Honey Creek. Now, if you are a kid or a teenager - busier is better to a point as there are more other kids around to play with and interact with. But, at my age? less kids in the water makes it easier to keep an eye on my kids in the water... and frankly? We managed to bump into some rather unfriendly and rude folks this weekend. Fewer people will always get my vote.

For cost? The Ramada Tropics was only about 75% of the cost of Honey Creek Resort. The hotel rooms are very similar in quality. Great beds for a good nights sleep. A nice flat screen for the tv with dish service. Honey Creek is a newer facility, but the rooms we had a the Ramada were newly remodeled with the newest bathroom fixtures, including a over head shower head in the shower stall (no tub). The cabins we'd used had two bedrooms, two baths, a nice open living area with an amazing fireplace.

For future stays, we'll probably continue to go to the Ramada while my kids want to go there - but if they get to the point where the crowding gets to them as well ... .or once it's just me going on my pilgrimage - then I'll probably head back to Honey Creek.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Almost two months post MTHFR treatment start

Treatments:

I've adopted several life style changes. The one that seems to have made the biggest impact on my condition appears to be the epsom salt baths. I am STILL AMAZED at how much it's reduced my chronic pain. I've cut out all alcohol and obvious forms of Folic Acid fortification, all dairy as well.

Supplements:

I'm taking 1/4 tablet of methyl Folate, SAMe, methyl B12, 1/4 tablet of L5HTP, P5P, vitamin E and vitamin D3.

The addition of the P5P has been noticeable, albeit a very minor improvement in the eternal exhaustion I'm dealing with.

Symptoms:

My pain is drastically reduced. I'm still having chronic leg pain in my left calf - but at it's worst it's running a 4 on the scale of 1 to 10. And every epsom salt bath drops it down to a 1 or 2 for at least 24 hours. This is compared to a 7 or 8 before I started taking the baths. With the exception of my upper back, all of the other chronic pain sites have stopped hurting altogether.  My upper back started hurting years ago... but stopped immediately after my gall bladder surgery. Only now, it's started to bother me again... not sure what's up, but  it's mild pain at this point at least. Epsom salt baths don't seem to help nor hurt.

Exhaustion - still not good. I'm still too tired for my own good and I'm back to the state of having issues after exerting energy. Every ten minutes I spend doing housework requires about an hour of 'recovery' and even then... after about four or five ten minute sessions, I'm down for the rest of the day. I'm back to having to lay down after work and struggling to get back on my feet. Evenings and weekends are spent mostly in bed trying to recover from my work week.

My mood is still mostly just solitary and desiring to be alone. I'm feeling tired and grumpy most of the time.

My balance is still awful. I tumble a lot and fall into things with having issues if I get up too quickly.

So, now to figure out my next steps. I'm concerned about the amount of folic acid I'm getting through my pre-packaged meals and breads, pastas, etc. It is going to be really difficult, but I do think that by going grain free I can potentially avoid all 'fortified' flours sneaking Folic Acid into my diet.

My issues with going grain free has more to do with lack of convenience. It's easy to through a pot of spaghetti or goulash onto the stove top and I know my son will eat it. It's in the evenings when I'm too tired to move that I can pop a frozen dinner into the microwave and eat. I've got breakfast bars made with grains that are 12 for $5 that I often use for snacks and/or a breakfast without cooking. When you do that... then what do you do when all of those choices now become the enemy?

Sadly, I don't think that my alternatives are going to land in my lap without some time and energy working through options... I have heard that substituting with gluten-free alternatives at the shops is something that might be difficult if you attempt it before you've gone gluten free for a while first.  Because the taste buds just aren't going to accept the changes unless you cut it out first.

But, while I look for alternative breakfast, snack and fast meal options I am going to try to eat more vegetables with a greater variety. Who knows maybe some of the vegetarian meals might become new family favorites and might even become a fast meal option on nights when I can't cope?


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Short term planning - need a change up

The first few months, it was helping me to set two week goals... they fell in line with my paychecks and got me to the point where I wasn't digging into savings every two weeks. Most of the practices that helped me are going to stick around. But the problem with them was that they didn't help me with my bigger expenses that come up every year.

And I've struggled lately with sticking with the short term goals since it felt like they weren't working for me.

I have tried a couple of planning, task list, and managing tools online and none of them feel 'right' at the moment.

While I'm not giving up on living frugally right now, my health has been pretty much at the forefront of all my thoughts. It's hard to keep pushing yourself to do better financially, planning and otherwise when you feel like you have the flu every single stinking day of your life.

So, for now. My focus is health. As such, my plans are going to become monthly to fit in with my monthly 'new' lifestyle choice and to work on getting better. Since some of getting better is also to figure out what works for meals and the like, I'll still be learning new dishes and cooking more from scratch which is still something that can be done frugally.

In the meantime...

January Health goals
1. Meet with the chiropractor who specializes in nutrition
2. Get my medical records that were promised to me last month
... even if I have to raise a stink.
3. Add Riboflavin, Milk Thistle and Vit E to my vitamin regimen - as well as increase my P5P from 1/4 a tablet to half a tablet this month
... making one change a week.
4. Eat the Rainbow of colors from fruits and vegetables – daily
... well, I'm certainly going to try to eat MORE of these than I do now. Not sure I'll get to rainbow... but I have been trying new fruits and trying to eat all of the options I do like more... now I'm going to shoot for four or five servings a day instead of the two or so I've been managing.