Monday, February 22, 2010

Inherited Behaviors...

I've been fighting this crud that's been going around for over a week now...I started feeling symptomatic last weekend, but tried to ignore the headache and burning eyes. It's easy to chalk up a headache to the TV being too loud or the burning eyes being caused by my smokey duplex neighbors.
However, by Tuesday I had a full-blown cold and it got progressively worse throughout the week. Come Thursday evening, I had convinced myself to call the doctor in the morning to see about getting an antibiotic as I had spiked a very high fever. But by Friday morning, I figured I could wait things out and call that afternoon ONLY if I had to...after all, my fever was going down and I still felt about the same. Why would I pay someone to tell me I'm sick???
After lots of sleep, Nyquil and fluids, I finally started to feel like new again when I got up yesterday morning. I spent the day catching up on things that I should have been doing all weekend long. I returned to work this morning but my chest was still killing me and my sinuses were still blowing blood. Yes, totally gross.
FINALLY, after getting a talking-to from one of my employees (she knows very well how much I resist going to the medical ppl), I called the doctor and made an appointment for this afternoon. As I suspected, I have a sinus infection and they've hooked me up with the appropriate meds...but the one thing I learned--which was probably worth the $20--was to take my inhaler 4x daily when I have a cold. That might have helped to have known last week when my lung function had gone way down!!
Everytime I get sick, my inherited "Marcene" gene kicks into high gear. My Grandma Marcene was NOTORIOUS for suffering through her ailments and going about fact, that's what everyone attributed to her living so long with complications from rheumatic arthritis. I have no clue how many times over the years we thought she was a goner, but she'd come back stronger than ever because of her fighting spirit!!! Or maybe it was just denial...
I think the best story I remember was the time Grandma was scheduled to host the afternoon Bridge Club at her house. In preparing for company, Grandma took a nasty fall in the backyard and ended up breaking her hip...she pulled herself back into the house, got herself back on her feet and wobbled around enough to host Bridge! After all her guests left, she called the doctor saying "she might have hurt herself" and eventually had surgery to repair the hip! Now that's what I call determination :-) Or maybe "determination" is what you would call it when she could no longer turn the car ignition, so she used a pair of pliers to turn it over...or use her cane to operate the gas & brake pedal when she could no longer do it with her own two feet...Ah, Grandma Marcene and her stories of determination!!!
After a scare this fall, I've wised up a bit and learned that it's not always the best to go the Marcene route. I went to the gym one Friday and did a quick circuit workout with arm weights--well, over the weekend my arms got a bit tight and by Monday evening they were incredibly swollen and unable to move at the elbow joint. At the urging of my mother (obviously, she is NOT Marcene's daughter! lol) I went to my dr the following morning--they drew my blood and I was admitted to ICU within 20 minutes of getting the results back. Yeah, probably a good thing I listened to my mom and went to the Dr...otherwise I would have had renal failure and been comatose by the next morning...but that's all a long story in and of itself!
In the end, I am still a bit stubborn about going to the doctor or even the ER unless I absoultely have to--so when I do show up, my doctor knows I'm at the end of my rope with feeling crappy. And then I wave the white flag and fork over my $20 to be told, "by the way, you're sick"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brussel Sprouts & Bulgur

In preparation of changing the way I eat, I have been researching various vegetarian & vegan of my employees loaned me a bunch of books that she had and boy, what she right! So many of the recipes call for weird ass shit--excuse my French, but that's the best way to describe it! Honestly, if I can't pronounce it, I'm not eating it. Kari's advice was to use the books for inspiration, but learn how to substitute your everyday ingredients if you want something that tastes good. For example, vegan baking uses maple syrup instead of cane sugar or honey. The reason? Bees have to work to make honey and that's not ethical...personally, the only time bees aren't ethical are when they sting me! I could care LESS about the ethical part of it all and overworking insects--I'm only trying this whole diet change in order to find a less refined, less processed way of eating that will make me feel better and provide healthier protein sources. I realized that our typical foods such as Chili Soup can easily become vegan-ized very easily. Replace your ground beef with a plant based meat alternative (such as LightLife Smart Ground brand sold at Hy-Vee), use V8 juice for your tomato sauce, add onions, beans, seasonings and you have an awesome Chili that's totally vegan! Come breakfast time, I'm always craving protein...I'm the cheesy-egg sandwich type of gal, but that's not vegan. It's definately vegetarian, but how much fun is it to experiment with recipes that already fit your criteria?! Justin created an AWESOME chorizo-based breakfast burrito when we first started dating and it's become our weekend staple...I decided to try making it vegan today and it was AMAZING! I could not tell a difference at all! In case there's any other brave souls out there, here's the recipe: SPICY SOYRIZO BURRITOS 1 lb potatoes, diced 1 onion, diced 1 lb. soyrizo (Hy-Vee carries the Melissa brand in their produce section) 1 can diced green chilies or 1/2 C. green salsa 6 eggs (this will make the recipe vegetarian, not vegan) 1 can refried black beans (the Rosarito brand is great) Guacamole Tortillas (Jalapeno & Cilantro taste yummy) Shredded Cheese (this will make the recipe vegetarian; using non-dairy cheese will make it vegan) Saute the potatoes & onion in skillet until cooked through; set aside. Cook soyrizo in skillet over high heat until brown & crispy, stir in chilies or salsa. If you want eggs, scramble eggs into the soyrizo and cook until done. Combine potatoes & onion mixture with soyrizo and salsa. Spread refried beans, gauc & soyrizo mixture into tortillas and top with cheese...Ole!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Most people look forward to tax season and have a list of items they wish to purchase once they receive their tax return...go to Best Buy and you'll see big screen tvs flying off the shelves while new cars are driving themselves out of the dealership parking lots. Oh, the joy of getting a fat check back from the government!!!
Unfortunately, I'm not one of those lucky people who get money BACK from Uncle Sam...every year I end up paying in to both the federal and state government. In fact, my first year out of school I owed almost $2,000! I had walked into the tax place with my mental Wish List and had to be pried off the floor when I was told I had to pay in...Convinced that they screwed up my taxes, I called both my jobs and sure enough--the tax people were right! At the time, I was only making $11/hr so it was beyond stressful to save enough money between Feb & March to pay off my debt...
I've since figured out the appropriate amount of withholdings to claim each month from my CASA paycheck...however, my second job with the Crisis Center always throws me into a higher tax bracket. My income with them is in the 5% tax range (obviously, they don't pay very much!) but add that to a full-time salary and the numbers go from green to red. Needless to say, I've learned to get my taxes done as early as possible so that I know how much I'll pay Uncle Sam on April 15. If you watch real closely, you'll notice all my unnecessary spending completely stops during this time as it allows me to swallow a bit easier when I write that check!
I ALMOST hesitated to file my taxes until after we close on our house next month--at least that way I would only have to pay into the state as the first-time home buyer rebate from the federal gov't would take care of what I had to pay into them...but then I realized that it no different than robbing Peter to pay Paul!
As many people are aware, the rebate for first-time home owners is no more than $8,000. I think this is the first time in my life that I will ever get a check from the government! Wait, I'm wrong--I did get that stimulus check from Bush but that money was put towards my deductible to repair the hail damage my car got during the same week I received the stimulus check. Talk about rotten luck...
Honestly, I have no idea what it would be like to receive a check of a significant amount from the government. A few weeks ago, I had a list of FABULOUS home furnishings and upgrades that I was going to pay for with the rebate money...but then my better sense kicked in. Sometimes I like to blame Mom & Dad for ruining the fun because they were the ones who taught me about money management!!! It's MUCH more exhilerating to blow money than to suffer along and save up for stuff--but in the long run, why finance something only to pay more in the end? Did you know that if a person finances a house for 30 years, stays in it the entire time and NEVER pays more than their monthly payment, they actually pay TWICE the amount of the home's value? Thus, you will pay $200,000 for a $100,00 house.
This whole world of credit & loans amazes me. When I went to finalize my home loan, I had an awesome credit score but I didn't have "enough" loans under my name--for a FHA loan, a person needs a minimum of 4 lines of credit. As I have no credit cards or store financing, the bank was a little surprised! And I was surprised about how a govt backed loan intended for young homeowners would require a minimum of 4 debts--it's almost like they want you to shoot yourself in the foot.
To wrap things up, Justin and I have found our living room set for our new home (did I mention we're getting custom pieces?!). The furniture store was really pushing us to finance the couch & chair, but why??? The more you sit on furniture, the more it depreciates...last time I checked, Flexsteel furniture wasn't made outta gold. Paying someone else extra money to sit on MY couch makes no sense. We have already started our "furniture envelope" and will go pick up our items once that envelope is full. Justin & I decided that if Uncle Sam is going to throw us $8K that we're better off to pay what's left on our car loans and save the remaining balance. As much fun as it'd be to blow the money on making the house look good, at least we'll save money by preventing future interest payments on our cars and then we can use the money we save to pimp our pad!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Purging Process

I got a call from our realtor the other day asking if we'd consider moving up the closing date on our house--the sellers were willing to close at the end of the month (eeeeeek, that's soon!) but since we had a lease through April, we weren't so comfortable doing that out of fear we could end up paying both rent & a mortgage for the same month(s). We reached a compromise of March 12!
Justin talked with the landlords last night and they're going to let us out of our lease a month early--hallelujiah! Since the house passed the inspection with flying colors, our closing date was set AND as our landlords had received notice, I decided it was time to start packing!
Oh, the dreaded packing!!! Or, maybe the unpacking is worse??? Either way, moving is not's a lot of loading a truck, driving super slow so you don't lose anything, unloading the truck, going back for more and then eventually unpacking everything and finding a new spot for the stuff. Renting a U-Haul would cut down on all the trips, but those also cost money! I'd rather fill up a couple of pick-up trucks with gas and save myself a few $100 by doing so. Aside from the hassle of moving, the upside to it all is what I like to call "The Purging Process."
As I contemplated what to pack first, I realized that it would be wise to spend a weekend going through the duplex and thinning out tons of crap! We have flower pots with dead plants in the back yard and the container has now rusted...we have a baby pool in the shed for Mitzy's summer entertainment--I think she maybe got in it once or twice??? We still have pumpkins on the front porch from Halloween and dead hanging plants from Grandma & Grandpa's funerals this past spring. However, all these items have an easy answer--just put them on the curb for Trash Day!
But then comes the beloved wardrobe. ..and the sentimental things--like my 4-H plaques from having Grand Champion rabbits or raising the pig that gained the most weight per day! I'm not the type of person to hang on to stuff "just in case I ever need it." If it hasn't been used/touched in 6 months, it's not staying in the house. Justin, on the other hand, doesn't like throwing out or donating things--he's of the thought that you never know when you'll need it and why end up buying something twice? That would be why we had 2 ironing boards and 2 vacuums for the longest! But that's what makes my 6-month rule practical...if you haven't used it, you probably won't ever need it so why would you end up having to buy a duplicate of it????
Many of my clothes do not have sentimental value--okay, I like to think they do, but really they don't...just because I was shopping with so-and-so when I bought it doesn't mean it's reason to keep it! This made my closet an easy place to start the "Purging Process." After three bags of clothes and a bag of shoes, I called it a night...and that was just going through my winter clothes. Tonight I plan to start in on my summer clothes that are down in the basement.
I am utterly amazed at my collection of clothing...I cleaned out my closet at the end of summer and had a ton of stuff pulled out then! When I was in college and first out of school, my money went to clothes--at one point, I had over 100 pairs of shoes. Not kidding. And they weren't old shoes from high school or anything--they were all less than 2 years old. Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous! I have children coming into my office wearing capri pants during snow storms and the most tattered of clothing because that's all they can afford...and I have shoes in my closet collecting dust.
Long story short, I've since matured and have cut WAY back on the purchasing...and I've come to find that consignment stores and eBay are my best friends! Not only can I sell some of my clothes, but I can find gently used items and a fraction of the cost. I found a Fall '09 Banana Republic cashmere sweater for $8 and a J.Crew sweater for $4--why, why, why would I go to the store and pay $80 for the same item??? And in consideration of the carbon footprint left by eBay, I love the new consignment store here in Manhattan, "Chic Boutique." It's not your crazy-ass hippy crap that another place here in town sells; this store has lots of work clothes and a huge variety of styles. It's my new favorite place and I can't remember the last time I went to the mall!
All in all, I am absolutely disgusted with all the clothes I have accumulated over the years and held onto for whatever reason...but this move allows me the opportunity to purge myself of all the unnecessary items and even sort through the clutter that becomes a part of our everyday life. Like, the 10 bottles of shampoo with a tad of suds left in it that I keep a hold of in case I ever need it--they're definately taking up space under the bathroom vanity but they will NOT come to the new house!