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Archive for November, 2009

Project Complete!

November 27th, 2009 at 07:37 pm

Between Thanksgiving, my super-mini-vacays, and all this health stuff, I have not completed the bath projects.

I figured I'd get our shower up and running (haven't used in years), BUT as I finished the shower I noticed grout falling out of another seam. IT was very small, but decided I should go over that with caulk. (Went over the seam - top to bottom - tall shower).

I also had to go around the tub, where if meets the floor. I decided against ripping out the old caulk around the tub, since it is rarely used. I didn't need to finish the tub, to use the shower.

BUT, it had been so long, today I did the final shower seam, and around the tub.

It needs to dry for 24 hours (will aim for days to be extra sure). & the tub may need another layer. But by next weekend we will have our shower back! I am so excited.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the kids' bath, BUT, I am investing in some caulk remover and hope that helps.

I dread working on the kitchen sink. It's just so big around. You'd think the tub would be larger, but at least it is all straight, and not all the way around, etc. I will also have to work quickly on the sink - it will be hard to cook without it!

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We were introduced to a new game called Munchkin. It's pretty fun and we now own a couple of variations. Another birthday present for me. (Was curious who the Munchkin fans were - Big Grin )

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Got some fun/frugal things planned for tomorrow (utilizing memberships), and Sunday will be "home improvement day" as I start tackling the other bath.

Financial Round-Up

November 27th, 2009 at 10:43 am

Dh woke up with hearing loss, again, this morning. Ugh!

His appointment was Monday, but I could not make it. We postponed until Tuesday. Regretting that a bit - did not expect he would have issues since it had been 3 years in between his first and last episode. (He lost and regained most hearing, twice). We are starting to wonder if surgery will be rushed to try to preserve hearing. I am not sure how early they could possibly do the surgery. Tuesday seems a million years away.

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His family is intent on cashing out retirement to send him to the world-renowned place I mentioned. Ugh, on that.

We did discuss it and I said I could see borrowing the money, because he could return to work and pay it off in a few years' time. Could be worth it. Though, we both are leaning towards sticking close to home and sticking with what is covered. Just thinking to if we are not impressed with our covered options. Of course, the risk is that dh could become disabled, and could not ever work again. Then we are just stuck with a six figure medical bill. I just gotta hope our HMO has good options. I don't really see why they wouldn't...

Of course, MIL said she already talked with this surgeon and he would come up here. This is not anything I have read, and sounded odd to me. I had to wonder if the economy had less people cashing out their savings and left with less equity to borrow with, for this type surgery. (Everything I read was that everyone who could, went for this surgery there. Seems there would be a waiting list of sorts?). If we lived down south it is reasonable we could be referred there. But since we live up North, if we are referred "outside" our HMO, I am sure it would be somewhere up here. Which I think we would prefer anyway.

Just to say, we have gone down the "six figure medical bill" road a bit. Obviously I hope we feel extremely warm and fuzzy about our covered options. Would be a lot easier.

On the flip side, it may be more important to save money to save hearing after surgery. Though it's apparently far more cheaper to gain hearing back than to remove a tumor. More amazing technology. Who knew, that regaining lost hearing was "affordable?" In our world, much more affordable.

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2009 is not quite over yet, but my brain is in 2010. Financially.

All of our December bills will be carded and paid in January, so I guess in some regard, 2009 is about over for us, financially.

I sat down to see where we were at. Before all this mess, I wanted to stop ROTH contributions while the market was high, and tackle our cash savings goal. I also figured I would just put aside our $3k deductible at Jan. 1, and only contribute to "mid-term savings" for 2010. I have been contributing to mid-term, medical, and retirement. I just wanted to make 2010 simpler, and achieve my goal.

Of course, obviously if the market fell, ROTHs would become more of a priority.

I guess it works out to be already in this mind-set.

In the end, our medical deductible remains $3k, but our out-of-pocket was doubled to $6k. I suppose after the deductible, we are relegated to smaller co-pays. But if there is a year we will manage to get $3k in co-pays (in addition to exhausting our deductible), 2010 would be it!

Of course, I am starting to worry that dh will have surgery end of December and we will max out 2009 and 2010. I suppose we have $1500 deductible remaining for 2009, which isn't huge. But would save $1500 if we could just do it all next year.

So, anyway, I just threw $6k into the "medical fund," (on paper - I don't have separate savings accounts). I already had $1k in there, which hasn't been billed yet - but will cover most the MRI. So really, $7k in the medical fund, should cover 2010, for now.

We still have $12k emergency fund. Obviously, all this stuff falls under the realm of emergency.

The sad thing, is I only have about $1k left in mid-term savings. I built it up from $0 to $10k, in 2009. Guess I will just have to try and do the same, again for 2010.

Of course, this year, the ROTH will probably be sacrificed. We were on track to put $5k away, and even as I built up cash, I was sure I would transfer some to the ROTH at year's end. Or if the market dropped substantially, etc.

It looks more likely we will just ignore the ROTH this year. We still put 10% away to retirement, and that has ALWAYS been our "bare minimum." To face all this and still be able to put away 10% is a blessing, in my opinion.

If all goes well, I should be able to save $15k-ish this year, cash. Who knows, we may make our cash savings goal and/or put some money to the ROTH anyway. I know it is likely some of this will be diverted to daycare and more eating out/convenience.

The only other large expense on the horizon is we need a few thousand to paint our house exterior. I worry how much it will cost. & why I am not happy to see me mid-term savings dwindle to $1k for a time. (DIY is not an option - house is too large. I don't do heights!!! Would need some super-sized ladders and some bravery to boot. Plus the time to tackle the whole thing). Willing to pay more for a good job that would last a while though. Original paint job sucked.

Of course, I have always said I wouldn't touch my efund with a 10-foot pole. But this is precisely the kind of exception an efund warrants. & you know what? It feels awesome to have that $12k sitting there. Big Grin The kind of emergencies I always envisioned were job loss or major house destruction (flood, etc.). I suppose its hard to foresee every possible emergency.

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That's the long and the short of it.

Thanksgiving went amazingly well and we had a great time.

Not sure what we will do this weekend. Not much planned. Will enjoy any "peace" we can before the storm. Though it kind of sucks we pretty much have 3 days with "nothing to do" as we eagerly await dh's big doctor appointment next week.

Another Update

November 26th, 2009 at 07:22 am

I saw the SA blog and it showed what we have learned this week. I did comment on it.

[url]http://www.savingadvice.com/blog/2009/11/26/105446_at-the-end-of-your-life-you-arent-going-to-want-to-spend-money.html[/url]

Dh and I had a long talk about all this the other night. & he said all he wanted to do was take BM rock climbing. Because he had been meaning to and hadn't got around to it (indoor rock climbing, that is).

It is possible he would maybe want to travel a bit, but we feel his last flight set all this off. (Flying put some pressure on his ear). So basically, he doesn't want to fly anywhere. & I think on some level he rather just be home.

The interesting this is we concluded our lives were fulfilled and there wasn't much to do. If the important things are family, that is what we have focused on all along. We have always prioritized heavily in our life - meaning we don't tend to put off important things. Which is an awesome feeling. He actually told me his only regret would be missing seeing the kids grow up, etc. What more could you ask for, as you face mortality at such a young age? No other regrets?

There is not a high chance of death in his scenario, but it gets you thinking very seriously about your life, and death, regardless.

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I laid off the computer yesterday. Which was a good thing. Can be information overload.

Today I did some research on the hearing side of things.

Looks like hearing prognosis is good. I even found that as of the last year or 2, our HMO covers "bone attached hearing aids," which they refer to as BAHA. I am not 100% sure they would cover it if he only loses hearing in one ear, but I guess there have been a lot of advocacy groups fighting for the "right to hear." & they said his specific tumor led to more acceptance of full coverage of implanted hearing aids. It looks promising, and looks like it could be a hell of a lot more expensive and not covered, if this was just a few years ago.

Just, interesting. Glad to know there are options. Of course the hearing device is $5k-ish and we could swing it. Seems surgery is usually approved - the truly expensive part. Though I am not sure why an insurer would pay for surgery but deny the device. But, whatever...

Hopefully dh will *not* lose his hearing, and will all be moot. But it is good to know he will have options to hear again, if it comes to that.

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Our final headcount is about 21 for today. We lost 2 people but then gained 4.

I made fudge and eggs in the end. (The fudge took seconds to make, it seems).

Dh did some cooking, but most of it is more of a potluck. So not a huge amount of T-Day stress here. Never is. We try to make it easy on everyone.

It's kind of cool how we all work together. Great-Grandma is the stuffing master, and Grandpa does the gravy. Grammy picks the turkey apart afterwards. Grandma makes the pies, and on and on. IT's like a well-oiled machine. Somehow I am the egg and fudge master. It's nice just to be responsible for what I am good at. Big Grin

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling Down

November 25th, 2009 at 07:38 am

I suppose my blog will veer off into "life with brain tumor" for a while. Particularly since we haven't told many people yet. Not until we *know* more. I've got to brain dump here!

Oh yes, and thank you so very much for your kid words and thoughts. It all does mean a lot.

Per further research, it's pretty clear that dh will have surgery within 2 months' time. Highly likely. Faces large chance of permanent hearing loss and facial paralysis (on one side).

Yesterday was hard to keep upbeat. Though I did dream it turned out to be cancer. I guess it could be HUGELY worse. At least it's not spreading and cancerous! This is what I have to think of to remain upbeat, I suppose.

Mortality rate for surgery is less than 1%. The fear comes from the permanent damage, and the intensity of it all. Brain surgery recovery will be long and difficult.

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Dh is the one you want around when someone is sick or in the hospital. He just knows what to do and say. I wish I could say the same for the rest of us. He deserves the same in return. The rest of us are not so good with the whole thing. He's already frustrated with me and his family. Boy, it's going to be a LONG few months.

Though I personally dread the hub bub of Thanksgiving, with all this going on, he looks forward to it. Hopefully his family will be comforting.

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I haven't thought too much of the logistics if he does have surgery. One thing at a time, I guess. I can't let that crash around me yet. BM would be thrilled to go to before and after school care (he is always begging to stay) and LM could live with relatives, at face value. Has its pros and cons, but probably beats thrusting him into daycare. He is not nearly as social as BM and not so into the whole daycare thing. (BM thrived with it, which is why he so wants to be in daycare even still).

The practical side of me thinks I should sign up BM for the school care, ASAP. They have drop-in care, which is expensive considering LM can't go. (Then they both cost $10/hour, as opposed to $12 for the two of them, other places). BUT, with all these doctor appointments and such, would be useful and needed. My mom mentioned neighbors for help. Neighbors are no help. All of our close friends and neighbors work full-time! Makes them rather useless in times like these. (You could argue they have evenings and weekends - but the people we know can barely function in their own lives, much less help other people out). We will have to rely on family 2 hours away, and paid care. I *so* wish Ms. Preschool was still here. I need her back!!!! I just can't fret about all this at this point - I know it will work out.

The thoughts did start to creep in my mind that it will be quite expensive with daycare considerations, and someone like me having to take care of careful meal planning and shopping. I haven't perfected that art, like dh. Though I suppose it is nice that he does not have a job to worry about, the fact is he saves us a lot of money being home, and him being out of commission will display just how expensive it will be to not have him performing his duties.

These thoughts are on the peripheral of my mind, but it's all too much to worry about at this point.

Of course, if dh had the decency to be diagnosed in the spring, I could have taken a couple of months off with state "paid family leave." As is, we can time the surgery so that I can take a few days off, but that's all I can really spare. My employer is very flexible and will work with me. BUT, we simply don't have enough staff to get the work done. BUSY season begins in just a couple of weeks. That stress is a bit much. I'd probably lose my mind thinking about it, and stressing about the whole thing, but I know our family can step in and take care of dh and the kids. Thank goodness!!!!!!!!!! I can't imagine where we would be without their support. If my boss gave me his blessing, I would be home worried about work, or just slammed beyond oblivion upon my return. Between now and May, I just can't do it all. & I need my job to pay these bills!

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Today I have to set it all aside.

I haven't done a thing to get ready for T-Day!!!!!! Thankfully, dh is taking care of most of the food. Today will have to clean house. We will probably feel less obligated to get the house sparkling. People will understand.

We have been eating out a lot this week. Dh had the meals planned, but no one felt like cooking the other night. Which threw everything off. I just noticed no one put the food away last night. Usually dh is - wasted food sitting out. Ugh. (I hope dh pulls himself together a bit!) Today we figured we'd eat out. Something cheap like Taco Bell. No room for leftovers in the fridge - it's jam packed with turkey and such.

I think today and tomorrow will be filled with distractions. I've got to think about other things. Nothing else I can really do at this point.

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I do hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For us, we still have tons to be thankful for. Food, shelter, health, family, etc., etc.

The News is Pretty Terrible

November 24th, 2009 at 04:31 am

I am SO over 2009. My foundation has been rocked!

Dh went in for a MRI Friday and we knew it wasn't good. He was in there an hour (as opposed to 20 minutes). I asked if he had moved, etc. Wondered if he was just too fidgety or something. He said, no, that they had injected him with die mid-way through to look at something closer.

This put us in a tense mood. We still went away for the weekend and figured if they didn't call him to emergency before we left on Saturday, that maybe it isn't so bad.

They called him in yesterday for an appointment with his ear/nose/throat doctor - the one who ordered the MRI in the end. Neurologist didn't think the MRI was warranted. Fair enough, since his brain seemed totally fine. Even his hearing tests did not seem to warrant a brain tumor - though that seemed to be mostly what they were ruling out. This early follow up didn't sound very promising - he was supposed to go in Wednesday.

Of course, wires crossed, and before he met with his doctor, Neurosurgery called him for an appointment next week. We still had no idea what is going on, but that did NOT sound good! Should have called after he met with his doc, but they seemed eager, which was also scary.

I came home to watch the kids. I would have like to have gone with him, but it was so last minute. I am glad I didn't go - his ENT doctor is an IDIOT! She diagnosed this, sure, but her bedside manner is terrible. I am glad I wasn't there - hearing dh's rundown.

His appointment was short and he called me in an upbeat mood about 10 minutes after he was scheduled. I was relieved to be called so fast. Though, admittedly, his upbeatedness was probably just shock.

In the end, he does have a brain tumor. A large one. (1.5 inches or about 4cm)

There is a lot of good. They have said all along it is 100% benign due to his symptoms (if he had one). They still say it is 100% benign. It is a very slow growing tumor, etc., etc.

We don't know much at this point. Doctor said he is not necessarily being rushed to surgery - may try to shrink it first (radiation, drugs, etc.). Though perusing online, most people with tumors his size seemed to be RUSHED to surgery. It's overwhelming to think he may undergo brain surgery before the year is up.

But, who knows. We basically don't know much until we meet with the neurosurgeon next week.

Though I am extremely happy with our HMO, all I could think was I want the best damn neurosurgeon we can find. Talk about intense! In the end I looked up his doctor, and he looks excellent on paper. Hopefully we like him so much in person. So far, I am pleased. He performs all the tumor removals of this type, for our HMO, in Northern Cali. That sounds good to me. Plus he has been there 20 years. So many of the best doctors seem to come and go, so like I said, on paper I am pleased.

Anyway, what we gather is though the tumor is benign, it is a bit of a misnomer, because it can cause so many problems as it grows. & brain surgery is no easy fix. It is possible he will lose hearing in one ear - facial paralysis is another concern. The good thing is I didn't really see any other mention of any side affects, from surgery, etc. Though it would certainly suck to lose hearing in one ear, I am glad that more important brain functions seem to be preserved with this type of brain tumor. Heck, hearing technology is so advanced - who knows if "loss of hearing" means much in this day and age.

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It's a lot to digest. I am glad they called him in Monday so we had a few days to digest it, before Thanksgiving.

I do know we will have all the support we need from our crazy family. 4 of them are coming up Tuesday to watch the kids, so I can go to his appointment with the neurosurgeon. Overkill? Perhaps. But, gotta love family. I am not worried about what we will do if dh is out of commission for a while. Family will be there.

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I have always been particular about our health plan (Employer offered plans have always been crappy and expensive). This pickiness hopefully pays off. This is why I am PICKY!

I don't know if dh is insurable any longer. We have private insurance, and so as long as our HMO stays afloat, and we can afford the bills, insurance coverage is there. None of this switching jobs/losing coverage business.

Of course, I couldn't sleep and woke up around 3am. It occurred to me in all this mess that I never got our new premiums for 2010. I must have a rogue e-mail setup for the notification. I logged in and sure enough, the info has been there about a week.

All I can say, is Ugh! Our premiums are going up 20%. $100 per month increase.

Health insurance has been a nightmare for us the last decade. With the introductions of HDHPs, we had a calm couple of years, and is precisely why we had a couple of good financial years, recently.

All along I felt our HDHP was a little "too good to be true." That they were phasing it in to higher deductibles, etc.

I called it! It looks like our deductible will remain at $3k. BUT our out-of-pocket is increasing to $6k.

I've read through everything a million times in the past and I told dh I felt I understood our health plan. This will really put it to the test. I guess if all we pay is $6k for brain surgery, I shouldn't complain. I always feel wary that maybe I am missing something. Who trusts these insurers???

Anyway, not that we have used our deductible any given year. BUT, obviously we are heading to an expensive 2010. Which means we could end up paying $14k next year - for premiums and deductibles/out-of-pocket. But what else is new? We are used to double-digit increases, and large raises being eaten up by health insurance. I've got to find another $5k for next year. (There goes our ROTH? At face value, not sure where else I could cut $5k - is a pretty hefty sum).

I had wanted to hoarde cash next year, to get to our long-term cash goals, etc. Guess I will be hoarding it for medical expenses instead.

This is why I feel like we have been spinning our wheels the last few years. For everyone who has put me down for being too stingy, it's time like these I feel we haven't been stingy enough! Does no one else have these large $$ surprises??? What others call "stingy," I call "keeping afloat!"

Oh, anyway, lower deductible plans all cost about twice as much, and I am not sure dh could switch plans at this point, with his newfound pre-existing condition. Still seems like we have the best option available.

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I actually had a client whose young spouse (close in age) had a brain tumor. Looking back, I always assumed it was cancer, and I really think it was, from the way they talked.

Talk about intense! He's been on disability a couple of years, at least. He was not well enough to watch their children.

Though they were well insured, at some point there was a mix up and they were sent over $1 million in bills. !!!! They felt very blessed to have such good insurance. They were on the hook for very few dollars.

I try to remind myself this is precisely why we pay for such catastrophic insurance. I need to keep my perspective in these times. $14k per year is a bargain compared to how financially devastated we could be right now, without health insurance.

Holiday Update +Turkeys

November 19th, 2009 at 06:18 pm

**Dh went shopping for T-day today. My mom slipped me $40, and he spent about $40. It's potluck-y, so not like we needed to spend much. We may feed 25 people. We will have more food than we could ever eat. Dh's family does the holidays BIG! (Since we moved to cheaper lands, we are the only ones with a big enough home to host everyone. But we also like not having to travel for the Holiday - so we always host. We travel for the rest of the holidays/year, plenty).

Our contribution was $10 for a bit of gourmet cheese. Dh has this rasberry/brie thing he likes to do, but never enough people to really make it for. Of course, he didn't remember paying $10 for it before, but it was some top of the line sort of cheese. I told him if that is all we are providing financially, fancy cheese it is! (So he spent $50, total, but I had to point out the cheese - holy cow).

I am sure I will pick up bread at the bread outlet and dh said he still had to get sodas. There may be more - but the bulk is ready. I am actually due free bread, which may be enough.

I'll be making deviled eggs and cake. That's all I remember, for now. Dh does more of the cooking since it is his thing - though the grandmas do the turkey and all the classic T-day fare.

At this stage in the game, this time of year, I am always most grateful we have another year to all be together. This year will be meaningful since my dad has gone through so much medically this year. The kids are lucky to have so many loving, healthy, alive, grandparents and great-grandparents. We are lucky too!

Anyway, my job is to pretty the house, but it's mostly been done. So I think this year will be easy. I think it will be more work to clean up after. I have a few days off for that.

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**Christmas is throwing me for a loop. It's been a spendy year and Christmas has become quite low-key for us. So I figure I really don't have anything to buy so why even sweat it?

I was reading blogs about donations, and remembering, "Oh yeah!" I usually do a few donations. I forgot I had replaced donations for gifts, for a few people.

Today at work we did a drawing for the Christmas exchange, and then for the new person, discussed all the gifting we do, etc. We usually pitch in for something nice for the boss. & I am usually pretty generous - since I feel well paid - I don't mind getting the boss something NICE.

Then there are teachers and stuff.

I think it's time to break out the old "Christmas budget" and remind myself how expensive Christmas really is. Big Grin Silly me, I thought I wouldn't spend anything?

The biggest piece of the "budget" is that we usually give my Christmas bonus to charity. We already advanced that to BM's school this year. They really could use it, and they don't make it easy to contribute. With the last fundraiser I just wrote a check. It's not much to speak of, overall, so can foot the bill even if the bonus doesn't materialize. BUT, it is usually 50%+ of our Christmas spending. With that out of the way I just didn't think there would be much else. Another reason I had written it off as "done."

I'll break out the old Christmas budget and see how much we will be hurting after all... My guess is about $250. Mostly donations and gift cards. I really don't have anything physical to buy.

Will see!

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Not great pics (I was going to get closer but another co-worker came by and scared the turkeys off when she rounded the corner!). But, the turkeys...





One of these days I will get a close-up of the Turkeys! They like to hang around the office in spring and fall. They can be quite loud too (more loud in the spring - mating season and all). Just across the road is the creek where they live. Otherwise it's just very "city," so kind of odd.

& a beautiful picture from a bike ride with my dad, while the fam was in Florida:



Heat & Banks

November 19th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I'm officially out of the heat challenge - a week earlier than last year.

I am not dissapointed at all - it's all the weather's fault. Big Grin

In fact, I was starting to wonder if I was getting hormonal, because the cold hasn't particularly bothered me. This morning it was 61 inside, and I didn't even flip it on.

BUT, dh whimped out a few days ago. I didn't even know until I came home to the heat on, and asked why he had turned it on (usually I cave first - even if he is home all day!). Anyway, said he had turned it on a couple of times, because he was COLD. I hadn't even known - doh! So I am out as of the 15th. (We are not in the "run the heat all day" stage - that will be winter. HE had only flipped it on for a bit, so I didn't know).

Anyway, along those lines, it was flipping cold today!!!! Down to almost 30 (farenheit) overnight - which is as cold as it gets, here. Brrrr. The only difference between now and winter is we still have gorgeous sunny days. So I am proud of myself, that I didn't even turn on the heat this morning.

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I saw a pile of turkeys this morning and tried to snap some pics. Will share later. (Don't they know they should be hiding this time of year???)

They emerge in large groups, in the spring and fall. No doubt they came out to soak up some sun? After such a chilly night?

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There was an interesting question a while back - if switching banks for every promotion was worthwhile. Balance that against a post about changing a bank for the first time in one's life.

To all that - it depends. Depends on how desparate you are and your preference. I would say switching banks every 90 days for free money is well worth it if you are pretty broke.

I've personally found that I am changing banks every year or 2, on average (online savings types). I've only switched my checking once in my life, and don't plan to move that around unless I have to. Finally sucked it up and got a more local bank once the mail got slow. (I had ALWAYS mailed my deposits prior - and was never an issue until 2006-ish). But, the local CU we ended up is larger, more local, and has proven to be a good change. I am very pleased. I had never lived so close to my CU before... Never in the same city even - now I could walk if I Wanted to. But really the best perk is a better infrastructure since they are a little larger. The online bill pay at my old CU sucked, for one. The proximity doesn't really matter to me so much. Though it's nice as long as the mail sucks and I don't have direct deposit.

That pretty much sums it up for me.

I wouldn't blame anyone for jumping from promotion to promotion, though. I just don't feel it's personally worth the effort, today. But I Wouldn't leave my money in a low-interest account for a long time either. Always keeping an eye out for something better... & I try to pick places that have historically high rates, because I really don't want to jump every 5 minutes.

Tales of the GPS

November 18th, 2009 at 09:40 am

My time has been filled up and busy, but a break from real life leaves me feeling pretty refreshed. Big Grin

My folks visited Sunday and stayed quite late actually. I went to bed quite a few hours later than usual!

Monday night I drove to visit them and stayed up too late again!

Woke up at dawn to get to South San Francisco by 8. Tried to stay awake for a so-so seminar. I went to an excellent one last week, so my expectations were probably too high. What a snore!

Drove into the city and glad I Was prepared for rain. IT didn't rain much at all (phew) but rained a good bit while I had an hour to wait for my friend.

I plopped my GPS in my pocket and set it to "pedestrian mode" so I wouldn't get horribly lost. Though I felt uncomfortable looking lost and touristy, so didn't touch it. (My friend later commented it would be mistaken for an iPhone - quite normal - but I didn't want to get mugged either). LEst you think I am paranoid in the city - no. I don't make it a habit to walk alone at night, and not with expensive gadgets - I live in a fairly large city myself!

Was in Union Square, and so headed to Macy's/Cheesecake Factory for some dryness and a restroom. I was sure Macy's would have one, but the Cheesecake Factory is on the top level - gorgeous view. & I was kind of curious to see how crowded it was. I've never been there with less than a 2-3 hour wait - and I knew no one would notice if I popped in the bathroom. Big Grin

It was hopping and had quite a few people waiting, but didn't look like the 2-3 hours wait of years past.

I walked around the immense building for a while and browsed insanely expensive clothing.

That was it for the rain - and I was prepared in a rain jacket. Phew.

With the weather and ambiance, the area struck me very much like NYC. I've never really equated the two cities. Was in a very NYC-like section of town.

My friend escaped from work and we ate appetizers at a little Indonesian restaurant - Yum! & talked for hours. I left the city feeling rather refreshed!

Wasn't too expensive.

Gas - $20? (Took the gas sipper - good for city parking too).
$ 6 Lunch
$16 Dinner
$ 9 PArking (a Steal!)
$ 4 Bridge Toll
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$55

In the end - really only $29 to visit my friend - gas would have paid otherwise, with the seminar and all. I could have just had dinner with my folks and gone home a different route with no bridges, and no parking expenses, otherwise.

Was well worth it!

& I have tentative plans to visit her again in a couple of weeks. LM and I are going into the city, regardless. I promised him an adventure. (& a train ride - am taking him down to the Bay Area during my next Friday seminar).

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Tales of the GPS...

It got interesting when I left. The GPS wanted me to turn on a billion streets to get to the freeway (I assumed), which struck me as odd. I gave up and stayed on the major street I Was on. I *knew* there was a freeway connection there, and in fact saw it as I passed it. I thought it was odd the GPS ignored it, but I think I was a bit turned around, and so kept going. GPS said "Go 1 mile" or something, so I figured I could catch the freeway up ahead.

After driving a while I ended up on some dark, deserted streets and realized I wasn't quite sure where I Was. I wasn't thrilled with this, but knew the freeway couldn't be too far. I started listening to the GPS and making all these turns.

As I drove through some unsavory neighborhoods I started to get more frustrated. What the heck is going on? Where am I???

I realized as I entered some sort of "expressway" with no place to stop, what the problem was. It dawned on me the GPS was in "pedestrian mode" and was avoiding the freeway! I guess it thought I wanted to WALK the 90 miles home?

I pulled over the first place I could - which was a dark neighborhood. Of course I couldn't figure out how to change it back, and was worried about getting mugged.

I finally figured it out, and went on my merry way. Except I was in a very confusing area and drove through the same intersection 2-3 more times before I finally found the freeway. Like I came to a fork in the road and ended up going the wrong way (I decided to go right when I should have gone left). The GPS was no help in that area - the intersection was confusing when I approached it from a different street - so round and round I went.

I can laugh about it now because I eventually got home safe! Took me 2 hours to drive home - ugh!

Next time I think I will remember to switch the mode!

All in all, it was my frist time using the GPS alone (on such a large drive anyway) and I was pleased with it. I just had the luck to have the mode issues and to figure it out in a very confusing area. Usually dh and I read the directions to each other. So, overall, problems aside, I Was quite pleased with it, and I Think it opens up a bit of a new world for me. I am VERY directionally challenged. & the GPS makes me open to trying new things. I probably learned not to overly rely on it and check my brain out when using it though. Big Grin

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I am only in the office a couple of days this week, and then to Tahoe for the weekend. What an exhausting week this is turning out to be! But, I am enjoying it.

Dh has his MRI Friday. I think the distractions are helpful. The weekend should help get our mind off of it as we await results.

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In other interesting news, an "America's Most Wanted" fugitive was found in the area I live.

That's just the sort of the media attention we need! (NOT!) We had a murder a few weeks ago - and all sorts of exaggerated reports about crime and gangs in the area, has been spread by the media. I find it very frustrating. (Was first murder of the year - it's freaking November - the population is large - murders are expected, and are usually domestic anyway - someone you know). Most my friends think I am a poor sap who lives in denial in "the ghetto." Which is completely absurd.

Now our neighborhood harbors fugitives! I can hear it now...

Anyway, I actually do enjoy watching AMW and always think to myself that I would never run across anyone featured on that show. I know the point of the show is that we all do run across these people. BUT, it's hard to stomach that you could be working or living next to an insane psycopath!

Um, maybe I will pay closer attention? Yikes!

Just an Update

November 16th, 2009 at 04:53 pm

**Made progress on the grocery bill mystery. (Bill was quite large last 2 months).

Um, dh went to Safeway because he had a coupon/promotion to spend $50 and get $10 off Kohls. I told him, "No Thanks" since I can't walk into Kohls and just spend $10. It's the "no spend month!" But he said he needed some pants. Well, okay then. Glad he could use it. (Ended up paying $7 for new jeans - which wasn't bad!).

He did go to Safeway and griped about it well afterwards - how expensive it has gotten. He still felt it was worth the coupon - but was reminded why we rarely shop there any more.

Anyway, that was just last weekend, so I was surprised to see another Safeway "grocery" purchase when I downloaded our credit cards into Quicken today. After all that griping? Why would he go back??? I looked closer and thought it could be a gas purchase. So I pulled up last month, and by some miracle, dh never got gas. Well - that solves that! Safeway fuel used to be labeled, "Safeway Fuel" and would go to "auto expense." I guess they are no longer differentiating Safeway gas and grocery. Lord knows how long this has been going on and how screwed up my Quicken is. Interestingly, as long as my gas and groceries don't top $800/month, I don't really care. So if any 2 categories have to be comingled - those will do.

All I can do is ask dh to keep me updated on his gas purchases, or make assumptions going forward. Will be easier to catch those now that I know...

Solves a bit of a mystery?

Though the one Safeway purchase last month hardly made a dent - groceries were still large! But it may explain the month prior to that.

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I got an e-mail that my new CU account is set up.

I noticed my online bank raised rates the last couple of days. Still, not enough.

Not too thrilled with the CU not calling me. It's the first institution that I have banked with that has not followed up on the fraud alert on my credit bureau accounts. Though I did mention that they asked for a lot of private info. I guess they assume if I have my drivers license and social security card, that I am me? Doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy.

I'll get money transferred around by December, probably.

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I've got some super-mini-vacations coming up. Will barely be in the office the next few weeks.

Work is slow and it's like "summer break" for me. December begins the insanity!

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I made progress on the baths, etc., at home. One sink repaired, and our shower is almost in full working order. Will probably err with caution and let the new caulk dry all week.

As of next weekend, we can resume using that shower, and I can work on the repairs on the kids' bath. I don't think it will take as long. I have one more sink to recaulk, as well as the large kitchen sink. I am dreading that one. It's easier to remove grout than caulk, that is my conclusion!

In fact, in less used areas I am skipping old caulk removal. I give up!

Ideally I did an awesome job that will last forever. Realistically, I put off hiring someone for a couple of years. Big Grin