Wednesday, August 3, 2011
This has also provided me with significant judgement from my husband every time the ice cream truck goes by.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I got my first taste of the theatrics when I came across an internet coupon that would give me free band-aids. Free band-aids!! Most internet coupons only permit you to print two, but every now and then you'll come across one that lets you print unlimited amounts and the Nexcare band-aids coupon was one of them. Tons of free band-aids!! Now this leads you to actually ponder how many band-aids one truly needs. Surely, more than two boxes. I have a kid, after all, and intend to have another. Cuts, scrapes, nonexistent boo boos that just need to be covered to feel better. Four boxes? Hmmm. Was I going for a lifetime supply of band-aids? They do take up very little space. It's not like my house would be filled to the gills with band-aids. I settled on eight boxes. Eight felt right. A substantial amount but not enough to get me on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive (I love that show, by the way, but that's a whole other post). Eight it was. I headed to my local Shop-Rite.
I walked up to the register with my wide variety of eight boxes to suit all my band-aid needs. Waterproof, comfort fit and active fit, of course, since exercise is very important to me. It consists of walking at approximately 1.5 mph with my son as he demands that he push the stroller.
"Ummm...." the cashier says and she looks over the coupons and turns her on light to blinking. Sigh...and we're blinking. But still, I'm not worried. My coupons are legit (they always are, that's how I roll).
Enter the front end manager, douchebag extraordinaire from hell. She looks me and my coupons over, all judgemental and then tells me the coupons are fake. She proceeds to tell me that I copied them from a circular which is not permitted. I calmly and politely (you have to be super polite when you coupon because some people find your coupons annoying right from the start) explain where I got my coupons. She tells me they're fraudulent. She keeps going on and was just being such a b!tch about it. Whatever...my band-aids were a no-go. I should've thrown them at her, but I politely walked away with my head held high.
I head to customer service to talk with them. We put our heads together and concluded that I should come back with the coupon printed out in color instead of black and white and intact rather than cut out of the 8 1/2 X 11 paper. Okey dokey. I go home, follow my instructions and come back with said coupon (now #9) in hand. Customer service looks it all over, initials it as okay, but tells me I can only use four of the same coupon at a time (that's an optional rule the store can use as its discretion). I thank the customer service woman, tell her to have a great day and go back to retrieve four boxes of band-aids (two of them being active fit due to my extreme exercise regimen).
Up at the registers, I am now faced with a dilemma. Which one do I go to? I decide to go to the same girl as before because I don't want anyone to think I'm sneaking around, trying to pull a fast one with my so-not-fraudulent coupons. I say hi, show her the golden initials and on goes the blinking light again. She quietly explains that she doesn't want to get in trouble with the front-end manager so she has to have her approve it. I take this as exhibit B that front-end manager is in fact the b!tch that she appears to be.
Enter the manager, who proceeds to tell me that she still thinks the coupons are fake. And how did I get more than two of them if I didn't make copies which is illegal? And how come this one's in color when the rest are black and white? After she has exhausted her Nexcare interrogation, she tells the cashier that she has to accept them anyway if customer service ok'd them but that she was going to go look them up online tonight when she got home.
But guess what, b!tch? I've got free band-aids. And tomorrow, I'm coming back and getting four more boxes of glorious, waterproof, comfort fit, active fit, soothing, healing, bacteria-blocking goodness.
See? I can be a bitch, too. I'm just polite and smile at you while I do it.
Monday, June 27, 2011
In the last week, there have been developments here in New Jersey that have been so difficult to swallow. Our Democrat-dominant state with our Republican governor, Chris Christie, passed legislation last week that will further cut my take home pay next year. It was already cut this past year. In addition to this, I taught without a contract last year and I don't see a settlement in the near future.
Wisconsin came to New Jersey this past Thursday as a bill was passed crushing public unions' abilities to negotiate their contracts. And I rallied outside my capitol building, I made signs, I called my legislators...I did all I could and still I will make less next year than I did this year which was less than last year. I am now required to pay more into my pension and more towards my health insurance. In addition to this, any future raises (generally spread across 3 years) cannot exceed 2% and I as make more, I will be required to pay still more for my benefits. Worse off are retirees, whose cost of living adjustments have been suspended for 30 years. 30 years! I can't even wrap my head around that.
How did this pass in a Democrat-led state? I was baffled until I started reading up and learned that a key Democrat, to whom many other Democrats owe significant favors, is in cahoots with our Republican governor. Favors were owed, votes were cast and this sh!t passed. The more I begin to understand all the politics involved, the rich getting richer on the backs of the working class, the sicker I feel about the whole thing. It's disgusting.
So what now? What happens next to the paycheck-to-paycheck family who is waiting for their income to drop still further? Honestly, I don't know. We pray, I guess. That the cars keep running okay, that there are no major health issues, that we can maintain the status quo for a little longer. And we keep going because we don't have a choice.
But I can't let go of the anger. Not yet.
Monday, June 13, 2011
I spent Saturday fixated on what it would look like if my husband had a pulmonary embolism in front of me. Every time, I would try to block the thought out but the visualization kept returning. One of the doctors who had treated my husband earlier had said there would be a lot of blood. Would BabyJaguar be in the room? Would it be quick? Would my husband be terrified? Would my son be hysterical crying? The questions just kept coming. Saturday was a really bad day for thinking.
I can't even really remember Sunday. I was emotionally exhausted by that point. But I assure you it still consisted of interrogating my husband whenever he made the slightest sound. It was just such a strange weekend. Surreal.
The filter was put in place that Monday. It took a week or so for my head and heart to really wrap around the fact that my husband should be okay. The filter has stayed put and is doing its job. Mr Jaguar continues to take his blood thinners. My only worry now pretty much revolves around him getting into some kind of accident that causes him to bleed to death, but I'm rolling with that fear. That's so odd to stay, but that concern is just part of my new normal.
My husband and I are still discussing what to do in terms of testing BabyJaguar for the mutation. The hematologist has said to wait on it. The pediatrician doesn't really have an opinion on it. They just refer you to a pediatric hematologist. I'm debating scheduling that appointment sooner than later. Before testing him, I have to consider whether we want to get a life insurance policy for BabyJaguar now as a positive result could result in insurance difficulties for him later on down the road. We'll see how this all unfolds, but for now, I'm just tremendously grateful for my little family of three remaining a family of three.
Monday, April 11, 2011
If they had, they would've confidently made the diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism (a small one, thank God). They would've seen that the once stable clot they had examined a few weeks ago was no longer stable and in danger of going to his lungs. But they didn't.
My husband and I returned home and discussed the doctors' conclusions or lack thereof. We both felt he'd had a pulmonary embolism. It was the only thing that made sense of all of his symptoms. Within a few hours of moving around, Mr Jaguar began complaining that his chest felt just slightly tight. Not as bad as before but still there.
By the grace of God, my husband had a previously scheduled appointment with his hematologist two days later. The doctor was quite unimpressed and frankly, pretty pissed, that the hospital hadn't taken my husband's high risk factors for a pulmonary embolism seriously and he was shocked that they hadn't gotten another look at the clot in his leg. He ordered the ultrasound.
My husband got the ultrasound Friday morning. As he left the imaging center, his phone rang. His doctor on the other end shared the findings. The clot was unstable. He was now certain Mr Jaguar had had a pulmonary embolism and he was in danger of having another one that could be fatal this time. My husband would need an inferior vena cava filter installed as soon as possible to prevent this. The doctor would call the hospital and try to get it set up for that afternoon.
My husband pulled over to the side of the road and cried, his only thought was what if he didn't get to see Ben grow up?
Around mid-March, Mr Jaguar was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg. He'd had a clot in his bicep late last year but it was due to an injury so no red flags were raised at the time. He was closely monitored until it resolved on its own. But this one in his leg was different. We couldn't think of anything that would have caused it...no surgery, no extended rest periods, no injuries. We wracked our brains and the only thing we came up with was that about a month before Mr Jaguar had fallen down our hardwood steps. He had gotten seriously banged up but didn't injure his knee in the fall.
Anyway, the doctor actually thought this clot was a cyst and sent Mr Jaguar to have an ultrasound just to be safe. To rule out a clot. But it was a clot. And the doctor called my husband while he was still in the ultrasound room to say go immediately to the emergency room. Do not stop home. Do not go anywhere but the emergency room. She was calling ahead to the ER to let them know he was on his way. He would be admitted to the hospital. The husband called me and relayed all this to me. I, at home with BabyJaguar, quickly made arrangements for someone to watch the baby while frantically packing an overnight bag for my husband. I raced to the hospital where my husband and I then impatiently sat in the waiting room for nearly 3 1/2 hours until he was seen. They were packed and my husband wasn't having chest pain. Chest pain trumps blood clot.
Eventually he was examined and the doctor opted to send him home on injectable blood thinners. A visiting nurse would come over the next morning to go over giving the shots. Except they never actually gave us the prescription for the medicine (they gave us a Lovenox starter kit that contained no Lovenox. It wasn't supposed to but they never told us that or gave us the actual script). My husband needed to take his next shot by noon the next day and we had no meds. It was 2:30 in the morning. Not the time that I want to be solving problems like this. Also, they never set up the visiting nurse. Mr Jaguar figured out the giving himself shots part (thanks, infertility shots).
In the coming days, my husband had bloodwork done and was diagnosed with Factor V Leiden Mutation, a hereditary gene mutation that makes your blood more likely to clot. I'll be talking with BabyJaguar's pediatrician about it at his well visit next month to see about testing him. My husband continued with his blood thinner medication, notified his family so they can get tested, ordered his medical identification necklace and we settled in as his bloodwork revealed that his clotting levels were slowly getting to where they should be.
A few weeks later my husband was out helping me in the garden. He overdid it and suddenly his heart started racing, he began shaking and his leg was throbbing. Mr Jaguar attributed it to lack of activity since the clot diagnosis and that his blood pressure was up, putting pressure on the clot. He sat down, drank some water and settled down. Later, he went in and laid on the couch for a bit. He said he felt better but, also, still felt a little off, not quite himself. He ran to the market later and that's when the cough started. He got home and that was when he realized he had coughed up some blood. He showed me his reddened palm.
I would love to say that this was the moment when I was calm, cool and collected. The Grace Kelly of medical emergencies. But I can't. Because I was anything but.
I jammed the just purchased bags of groceries in the fridge and threw BabyJaguar in the car (the poor guy had just pooped and I didn't even change his diaper). My husband got in and I raced to the hospital. I was driving like, well...like I needed to get to the hospital. This would be a funny time to mention that I have this little thing from my insurance company hooked up to my car to monitor my driving habits so that I can potentially get a good driver discount. I'm not so sure I'm going to get that discount now. Damn clot.
I was freaking out. Tears streaming down my face, my whole body tensed up like I was driving in an awful snow storm. I think I was talking a lot but don't remember what I said. I dropped Mr Jaguar at the doors to the ER just as my friend Kristen called to tell me she was pulling into the hospital lot. She was going to take BabyJaguar for me. I don't even really remember calling her to set that up. We pulled up next to each other, I basically threw my child at her (I didn't even say goodbye to him which I felt terrible about later) and raced off to find a parking spot which was frustratingly far away. Apparently, I unknowingly left my flashers on at this point, but fortunately my car battery didn't die. Then I ran full speed to the ER in tears. We didn't have to sit in the waiting room this time. They took Mr Jaguar back quickly. At some point during this, I went to use the restroom and ended up in their sobbing aloud. I took a minute to pray in there. Funny, you'd think I would've been praying from the second the whole thing started but I could barely get my mind still enough to do it. I figured God would know that I was praying in spirit. And then I smiled as I realized how ridiculous that sounded but figured He knew what I meant.
After some tests and exams, the doctors felt that my husband was not having a pulmonary embolism, but they weren't really sure what he was having. They opted to admit him so that he could be seen by a pulmonologist the next day. Mr Jaguar, after resting for a while, was feeling better but still not quite like himself.
The next day at the hospital, we waited and waited for a pulmonologist to come see us. I kept wondering how much it was costing our insurance for my husband to lie in a bed and get his vitals checked every few hours but, other than that, receive essentially no medical care. Later in the afternoon, after several polite requests on my part, a pulmonologist came down and asked my husband ample questions about drug use and exposure to chemicals but continued to dismiss the possibility of a pulmonary embolism because Mr Jaguar's chest CT with contrast did not show evidence of one. Eventually, the doctors basically said that they weren't really sure what was going on with Mr Jaguar but that, since he was feeling better, he could go home.
They never did an ultrasound of the clot in his leg.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
And so every summer we're kind of....well, screwed. My husband receives a quarterly bonus check and we also have our tax return. Those things generally go to the summer-stay-alive fund. And other money pops up at different points that goes in the same direction. But still, every summer, any savings that we have established seem to get devoured.
I've really got to change that. It truly is a sh!t plan.
To be exact, I lack my regular paycheck from July 15-September 15. I work during the summer for my school district for 4-6 weeks. However, I don't typically get paid until September 1. I know, that makes for one hell of a summer job. Still, I can't beat the money for the number of hours I work. On the days I work for the district, I pay half day daycare for BabyJaguar, but that's a good deal, so we save a good deal of money on daycare throughout summer. Also, with the debt that should be paid down before summer (crossing everything), we would save $175 every month. So there are bright spots in the summer budget where we will save on bills a bit.
But we have a wedding in August. In Boston. And while I'm so excited to see a great friend get married to the woman of his dreams, I'm a wee bit (a ton) freaked out. It's going to be a costly trip. Boston is by no means known as an inexpensive city. Also, I think it will be the first (and second, two nights probably) time that I have to leave BabyJaguar overnight. Ever. (Insert visual of me looking like I'm going to vomit here.) The other bummer is that we have some really great debt reduction momentum going right now and I hate to have take time off from it. It's just a bummer.
A goal I am thinking of setting for next school year is that I take $100 out of each check to go to summer savings with the long term goal, once more debt is paid off, of gradually increasing that amount to $350. That would adequately prepare us for summer and alleviate significant stress.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
- I am tutoring on Monday and Wednesday mornings as well as Wednesday afternoons. I haven't been paid yet for the morning tutoring (will happen soon) but I brought in some extra cash for my afternoon tutoring already. I also took a part-time job distributing free prescription discount cards. I set my hours for that, work from home and move at my own pace. It will take me a bit to make any money on that though. Still, I'm happy that I'm doing something where I can not only make a little extra money, but help others in the process.
- Mr. Jaguar found some extra work on a couple Saturday nights per month. He has not started yet, so the money is yet to come in. He won't have to leave for work until 5:00 or 6:00. BabyJaguar is in bed by 8:00, so it's minimal time away from the boy. He will have to work late, but will nap when our son does.
- We bumped every single bill down to minimum payments to allow us to focus all of our extra cash on just one debt, our smallest one. This made a huge difference!
- One bill is actually paid ahead a few months (so I guess I was making a little progress before!). We made no payment to that debt this month and instead put that money towards our smallest debt.
- I called my cable company to talk about my bill. They knocked off $20 a month for the next year (just because I asked) and then I returned a cable box for a TV we never watch, saving myself $5.
- I called my car insurance company to discuss my policy. We updated my policy (only made very minor changes) and knocked money off that bill.
- I finally got my butt in gear and switched to mail order prescriptions. It was so easy and I should've stopped procrastinating about it a long time ago. This did not save me money this month but now I don't have to purchase my regular scripts in April or May.
- I cleaned out my freezers. What does this have to do with my budget? I got rid of old food. Now I know what is actually in there that I can use to make my family a meal and I have space to stock up when there is a super awesome chicken sale (was that too much enthusiasm about chicken?).
- I switched to store brand or cheaper brands on a few products. I use the Target brand Cetaphil face wash and switched to Tresemme shampoo. Some stuff I tried to switch to the cheapo brand and there was no comparison but where I can switch fairly painlessly, I am.
- I make a shopping list and stick to it. I really stop and think before I put something in my cart. I kind of hate it, but it does make shopping easier.
- We really worked so hard this month to stick to the budget. When we did something outside of the budget, we discussed it first. Here's where we strayed this month: Wawa $11.63 (I was at the ER with Mr Jaguar that night. At 2 am, we agreed to splurge on dinner so we could just get home and go to bed), Children's Place $3.18 (bought BabyJaguar 2 shirts with store credit, this amount was the difference in price), Wendy's $8.28 (this was a night we worked super late and just wanted the family fed), Mucinex $9.51 (it was needed), TurboTax $64.15 (did the taxes), propane for grill $18.00, watch battery $18.00, J.C.Penney's $2.75 (pants for BabyJaguar), McDonald's $2.14 (I had to go from work to physical therapy to the dentist and didn't bring any food), donation $12.84 (local homeless shelter was in need of streamers and balloons). That's it: $150.48 worth of straying. Still though, that's $150.48. All that little stuff added up.
- We use the Target Red Card. We have the debit version, meaning no monthly bill. It gets us an instant 5% off our order every time we shop.
- I'm really studying the grocery store circulars. Generally, I make a small list of sale stuff from Shop Rite and my husband and BabyJaguar go take care of that while I do the big shop at Target. Both places are very close to my house so I don't feel like we're wasting money on gas.
- I cancelled my gym membership. Seriously....who am I kidding? I can't even pee by myself let alone get to the gym. I take plenty of walks with BabyJaguar and that will do just fine for now.
That's all I can think of tonight. If anything else comes to me, I'll post it later. There were definitely glitches during this first month. We went over what I anticipated for groceries but I'm not holding that one against this time because I really was taking a shot in the dark when I budgeted for what to spend on groceries. I had no idea what we usually spent. Also, BabyJaguar went up a size in clothing and we realized we needed a few more items for him. Finally, Mr. Jaguar discovered a blood clot in his leg a couple weeks ago (hence the ER visit). That brought in some unexpected doctor's visit and prescription copays beyond what I had budgeted for unexpected copays. No worries, the husband is improving and should be okay. Oh, and we needed a box of diapers this month. I had less stocked up than I thought. Which reminds me....we also switched from Pampers to Target brand diapers.So what's next? Well, we have started working on our second smallest debt so we keep plugging away at it. The husband should start his Saturday night job soon. He also has several old comic books we are looking to sell and we're going to go through BabyJaguar's old toys to get rid of a few things we are not interested in hanging on to. Those are our goals for April. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there's a section on each monthly budget to list goals for that month. Giving this post a final read before I hit the "publish" button, I realize that people who aren't interested in debt and budgets are going to be seriously bored with this read.
Almost two months ago, my neighbor and friend, Angie, told me that there was a book I had to read. In the past months and over the course of a few long walks with our boys, she and I had confided in one another about the challenges and stress of our finances....feeling like we're living paycheck to paycheck even though we make decent money, worrying what would happen if something catastrophic (or even relatively minor for that manner) struck that would impact our ability to work, stressing about our retirement, just generally wondering what we could do to get ourselves into a better place financially.
Prior to this conversation, I had set a goal for 2011: to reduce our family's debt. I had previously been focusing on this, but while I was working hard at it, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I seemed to be spinning my wheels. The credit card was never used for recreation or luxuries. All of our credit debt was basically from situations where we needed money right at that very moment for something essential: dental work, vet bill, new roof (CHA CHING!). There was not a whole lot of fun in our budget, so I couldn't figure out where to trim the fat. We were already quite lean. Nonetheless, I worked furiously to pay extra on our bills. It was getting me nowhere.
You may by now be wondering, why does she keep saying 'I'? Well, the finances are my gig. I'm in charge of the bills in the house. No worries, I still have a husband.
So anyway, Angie rushes out of her house one Friday when she sees me walking by and thrust this book at me, The Total Money Makeover (why is there no underline feature for blogger??? Irritating) by Dave Ramsey. She tells me that I need to read.it.right.away. She knows how to solve her debt issues. She has a plan. It's not that hard. The book makes it simple. Just.read.it.right.away.
I read it right away (I can take a hint). I blew through ninety pages that night (usually I get through about six pages of reading before I pass out) and skimmed the remaining pages to have an idea of what was to come. My husband came in later that night and I basically tackled him. I know how to solve our debt issues. I have a plan. It's not that hard. The book makes it simple. He needs to listen.to.me.right.away.
Mr. Jaguar and I had a long talk that night and he got right on board. We took the second half of February to get everything in order so that we could get this debt diet into full swing come March. The first two goals were to create a monthly budget and make a list of our debt (I made a poster. What up, overachievers?) The next goal was to save $1,000 as a mini-emergency fund. By the start of March, we had $283.44 set aside and got started on month #1 of the budget.
March is coming to a close in just a few days and I'm proud to say that our emergency fund is complete and our first and smallest debt, Kohl's, is paid off. Beyond that, it looks as though we will save about an additional $400 towards our second smallest debt.
This would be a good spot to mention that, unlike many other financial advisors, Dave Ramsey recommends paying off your debt from the smallest amount to the largest, rather than paying off debts with the highest interest first. This allows you, as debts are paid off, to take what you would have paid to those now satisfied debts and put it towards your next debt more quickly. He calls it the snowball effect. My husband and I made a couple minor tweaks to this (we moved our two credit card debts up a smidgen on the priority list), but for the most part we are sticking with Dave.
Back to what I was saying about saving money, I am shocked that we were able to save that much money. Shocked. But we did it. And I can't wait to do it again next month. Are you wondering how we did it, especially when we were already on a super lean budget? More on that later.....
Friday, March 4, 2011
"I want my mommy!"
I'm sitting here trying to come up with the next sentence that captures how happy those four words make me, but there are no words. You will instead have to visualize me with a huge grin on my face, my eyes all squinty from the big smile and my shoulders all scrunched up in squishy, love filled joy.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
So what's new with me? Can I bullet? Let's bullet.
- Work is crazy busy. I came into this school year with a group of kids who had significant emotional needs and behavioral concerns. For the first couple months, I was a mess. I couldn't even enjoy them in their brief moments of calm because I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Insert Zoloft here. It is working wonders and I feel like my more-or-less normal self again even though I am surrounded by daily craziness. Also, one of my needier students moved and, while I miss him, it has made the year a bit easier to have one less in my crew. On top of that, the kids settled down somewhat as they have learned that my rules are the only rules in my classroom (I feel so Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds when I say that).
- At the start of 2011, I embraced a mission: to reduce my family's debt. My husband got on board and we are knee deep (okay, ankle deep) in the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. There's no magic bullet to this, just good old fashioned hard work while following some sound steps. I could not be more excited. I have made a poster of our debt (I know, I'm a nerd), created a strict monthly budget and even drew a little fundraising thermometer to help us record our progress towards our first goal (I know, I'm a huge nerd but I can't help myself). I will write more about this later.
- Ben is growing at the speed of light. He is now nearly 22 months, is putting lots of words together and is very fond of the phrase, "No Mommy", which he doesn't say rudely but rather matter of factly. He is flexible yet demanding, independent yet affectionate and the center of my world. I continue to feel so astoundingly privileged that I get to be his mommy.
Life is crazy, life is stressful, life is rewarding and life is good. That's it in a nutshell. I'll be back. I promise!