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Monday, January 31, 2011

Packing 101

I'm supposed to be in bed.  Walker and I are meeting his sister for lunch tomorrow, so I'll need to be up much earlier than normal.  I should be in bed, but clearly, I'm not.

I spent the better part of the weekend going through my warm weather clothes trying to figure out what to pack for our upcoming vacation.  I like to do that well in advance, so if I need to repair or replace anything I have plenty of time.  I usually try to pack things in the same color family, so I can mix and match.  It helps to keep the item count down. 

Well.  I lost some weight last year, so I decided I'd better try on everything before I chose what to take.  It was a bit disconcerting.   My surgery and radiation have left me somewhat.....lopsided.  Like, very lopsided.  Wearing several layers of winter clothing has allowed me to ignore the issue.  I won't be able to do that in Florida. My doctor explained that for about a year following radiation, my boob will "re-contour" as it heals.  The skin will thicken and the tissue will tighten on the treatment side. The boob will probably lift and shrink.  Those changes are permanent, even if I live to be a hundred.  I had decided not to do anything to "balance" the girls until I'm fully healed, and even then I may just let it go.  In the meantime, I have to adjust to my new body.  I guess I should have been embracing it rather than ignoring it.  I was totally unprepared when I saw my lopsided self wearing a plain summer tshirt.

The good news is that Florida is having unseasonably cold weather.  It's not likely that I'll need to put on a bathing suit during our trip.  I guess I'll call that a silver lining.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo Friday - Travels!

Walker and me at Liberty Falls, Alaska

This isn't a great photo, but the story is fun to tell.  Walker and I were doing a self guided tour of Alaska a couple years back.  We had dinner in Valdez, and wandered around the harbor looking for wildlife.  Well, a young woman approached us and asked us to jump start her car.  It had two flat tires and looked like it needed last rites more than a jump, but we were happy to try to help.  While we were working, we chatted, and were totally blown away to discover this woman and Walker are from the same home town. What are the odds of that?

So this woman, Shrades was her name, worked on a fishing boat out of Valdez.  After we got her car running she gave us a tour of the boat.  Absolutely fascinating.  When we told her we were leaving Valdez in the morning, she whipped out a Milepost and showed us a side trip to a place called Chitina, a tiny old town along the Edgerton Highway.  Along the road was a detour to Liberty Falls.  She told us to be careful if we tried to go there, as a family of bears had been making the rounds pretty much daily.  A mother and three cubs.  well, that sealed the deal for us.  Our tour was winding down and we had yet to see bear.  The year before, I'd seen a dozen bear wandering Alaska.  I didn't want Walker to get skunked.

We found Chitina, we found Liberty Falls, but we never did find bear.  This photo was a result of Walker talking me into crossing the falls from the trail on the right side of the photo, to the opposite side for photos of a different perspective.  Can I tell you?  I must have been nuts.  Those rocks we hopped across were not smooth.  They were not stable.  They were not dry.  I took a total face plant into the water right about halfway, but I managed to keep the hand holding the camera elevated enough that it didn't get wet.  The rest of me?  Soaked. And sore.  Did I mention those rocks weren't soft, either?

Now: what would we have done had those bears wandered out of the woods while we were out there in the middle of the falls?  I don't know, either.  We probably would have become lunch. 

Anyway - Walker got his photos (that's him toward the middle of the photo) and I got over my unexpected dip in the freezing water.  We made it back across the falls without incident and were surprised to hear cheering ~ we thought we were alone.  A couple from Pennsylvania  saw us and decided to stick around in case our dumb asses needed some help.  While they were watching, the wife took this photo.  She mailed it to me a couple weeks later.

Here are a couple more photos from our trip:
Walker aboard the Tanina in Seward Harbor

Me, at Anchor Point
To see more Photo Friday entries, click  here.

Just a Few Random Bits

I cut my finger opening a carton of Chobani pineapple yogurt. It's kind of like a paper cut except I got it from the foil seal, not from paper.  I can honestly say that in all my years of yougurt eating, this is the first time I can remember cutting myself.   Why, Chobani?  Why do you cut me when you know I just want to taste your pineapple-y goodness?  Yeah, it's been that kind of day.

Walker picked up my compression sleeve today.  I have to try it on yet, but the person who measured me seemed to know exactly what to do, so I'm not worried.  That was my last pre-vacation errand.  Now all I have to do is wait a couple weeks for the vacation to actually start.

Walker also picked up a cold from somewhere.  Even if I hadn't talked to his stuffy-headed self, I would still have known he was sick the minute I came home from work yesterday.  How?  Well, for starters, the little bubble packs that Day Quil caplets come in are all over the house: in the kitchen, the bedroom, the desk by the front door.....I call it "The Trail of Walker".  I pretty much know how he spends his time by the trail of debris he leaves around the house.  It's kind of like a treasure hunt, only with dishes and food wrappers and discarded mail instead of actual treasure.

We're expecting freezing rain tonight.  There's not much to be said about that.  I just hope it holds off until I get home from work.

Wow, my life is boring.  There's not much to be said about that, either.  I'll try to stir up some mischief so I have something better to tell you about tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the Winner is....

Gail Vaz-Oxlade!  I chose Gail for my financial mentor because she seems to believe in balance.  Finding balance has become my personal mission, and honestly, I think Suze Orman is lacking in that area. Here's what I mean:

Suze Orman has a segment on her show called, "Can I Afford It?" where people call in, tell Suze they want to spend money on whatever, and Suze goes through their financial profile and approves or denies the request.  Some are a no-brainer, some need to be puzzled out.  Suze always explains why she approves or denies each request.  However. Once in a while a caller will be approved, but Suze will say, "I've approved you, but now I want to talk you out of doing this.  If you put this money away for retirement now, you will have XXX in fifty years.  Your whatever can wait."  One such caller was a woman who had finished graduate school with no student loans.  She had a job that was starting in four months, and she wanted to spend the interim traveling through Europe.  She had cash saved for the trip.  Suze approved the request, but tried to talk her out of going saying Europe would still be there in ten or twenty years. 

Well, of course Europe will still be there, but really, Suze, do you think this woman will have FOUR MONTHS away from work to just go wander?  I doubt it.  She also may be married or raising kids in ten or twenty years. She might have aging parents who need her help.  She might have a dog and a mortgage and a big pile of responsibility.  Right then, she had the time, she had the money, and she had the desire.  Suze still tried to talk her out of it.

Now, when Gail counsels a family, she doesn't try to talk them out of living their dreams. She does, however, teach them how to budget for them.  No matter how tight a family's budget is, Gail always has something set aside for entertainment.  Sometimes it's only ten bucks, but it's something. She recognizes the need to have some fun once in a while.

Gail had a couple who were planning to put their honeymoon on their already straining credit cards.  Gail didn't tell them not to go, she told them not to go without having the cash first.  She helped them budget the trip, she sent them to a travel show to learn how to find the best deals, and she helped them figure out that if they really wanted the honeymoon, they would have to work extra hours for six months prior to save the cash up.  That, to me, is the better way. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Show Me the Money!

My attempts to become more fiscally stable have led me to research various financial gurus' budget plans.  I've studied Dave Ramsey's plan, I watch Suze Orman every week, and I've followed Gail Vaz-Oxlade for over a year now.  After considerable research, all I have is a headache.

The first thing I wanted to find out is simply, "How am I doing?" I have some savings, some retirement, some investments.  I have good equity in my home.  I don't have a car loan and my medical bills are paid.  On the other hand, I have a credit card balance and I don't have the recommended eight months' expenses saved in my emergency fund.  My car is over ten years old.  The next few months will bring more medical bills. My furnace is twenty years old.  I feel like I'm doing okay, but I really do not know, at this point in my life, if I'm on track for the future, for retirement, etc.  Even after my research, I'm still not sure.

No matter who's plan you look at, the basics are the same: live on cash, don't carry consumer debt, save for retirement and keep a liquid emergency fund.  Which leads me to my next question:  what, exactly, constitutes an emergency?  I know a job loss is one thing, but what about  something less drastic?  What if, say, my car breaks down?  Do I take the repair cost out of my emergency fund?    Or do I walk to work until I save enough money to get it fixed? Do I need a "big time" emergency fund and a "little crap that adds up" emergency fund?  If I ever accumulate the recommended eight months' expenses in my savings, I want to make sure I'm handling it correctly.

I think what I need to do is just pick a plan. One plan, and stick to it. I'm waffling between Suze and Gail right now (sorry Dave!) and, while their objectives are the same, I think they each have a unique approach.  While I try to puzzle it all out, I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing.  I don't have an urgent need to change anything, other than my own desire to make sure I get and stay on track financially as quickly as possible.   Cancer is scary, but having cancer without adequate financial resources is terrifying.  I don't ever want to be in that position again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Game On

Walker is snuggled under a puffy down comforter, watching the Packers smack down the Bears.  Diva is off with her daddy, hopefully having a fun afternoon.  And I am waging war against my to-do list, checking off line after line in my quest to organize my life.

I've heard that if you can take control of one area of your life, the rest will fall into place.  I don't know if that's true but it seems more manageable than trying to work on everything at once. My three big goals for the year are to get healthier, to fix my finances, and to spend more quality time with my family.  Since my family is otherwise occupied and my health is an ongoing battle, I'm going to start with the finances.  I'm assembling the necessary documents to get my taxes done, and I've gone through the mail to make sure I've got all the bills up to date.  Walker has a bad habit of bringing in the mail and putting it down "wherever", so I've made myself a spreadsheet that tells me when payments are due.  I added a column so I can mark them off when I make them.  We haven't missed any payments but we came close a couple times before I had the spreadsheet.  If I can't find the actual bill, I can go online and look it up. And if you're wondering why we still get bills in the mail, well, I've had issues with my email account.  It may be green but I don't consider it secure. 

In an attempt to simultaneously clean out some clutter and generate some cash, Walker and Diva have gone through their dressers and closets, purging things they no longer want.  We're months from rummage sale weather, but I've been listing books on Amazon and other stuff on eBay.  Things are moving right along.  What doesn't go will most likely be donated the next time the Easter Seals folks swing through the neighborhood.  It's progress.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Photo Friday - Trees!

I decided to try a new meme today.  I found the link to this one on my friend Tink's page.  The theme for the day is "Trees" and I had this photo on my memory card, just waiting to be shared.  This was taken on the bike trail near my home, on a day much better for walking than today. The high temp today is not expected to break the single digit range.  Come on, Spring!

Drizzled, Drenched, and Dusted, Oh My!

If you want to know what Heaven tastes like, you'll have to wait til November.  This is my favorite holiday treat: macadamia nuts, dipped in toffee, double dipped in milk chocolate, and dusted with powdered sugar.  Around here, they're only available at Christmas time, but a few years ago I went to Hawaii and saw them pretty much everywhere.  I give myself a jar of these every year and I just polished them off.   November's going to be a long wait.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Booking Through Thursday ~ January 20

This week's question is:  What magazines/journals do you read? 
I admit, I don't read many magazines these days. I used to, but I decided a while back that they have gotten too expensive so I rarely pick them up.  When I do, though, I usually look for People.  It's got a bit of the gossipy feel but I think it's classier than most.  I like the "real" people sections better than the celebrities.

I used to read Marie Claire, until the controversy over "fatties" on TV (sorry, their word not mine).  Occasionally I'll pick up a travel magazine or Coastal Living, which is not easy to find locally.  I used to subscribe to Glamour, too.  Not sure why I let that one go, as I seem to recall I enjoyed it.  I probably decided I didn't have time to read it every month.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For Me?

I was visiting Ms Martyr when I discovered she had named my blog as one of her picks for the Stylish Blogger Award!  How cool is that?  Thank you, Ms Martyr! 

So here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

The first two rules are pretty easy, but I don't even read 15 blogs.  Most of the blogs I do read are award free.  So I'll have to find some new sites and get back to you on that one, LOL, but in the meantime, here are seven things that I bet you didn't know about me:

1.  My favorite color is purple.  Any shade of purple.

2.  A treat I love is white rice with cinnamon sugar.  I guess I learned this from my dad, since my mom thinks it's gross. All my sibs eat rice this way. We also eat grilled cheese sandwiches with sweet pickle relish in them.  My mom hates that, too.

3.  I would rather vacation in Alaska than anywhere else on the planet.

4.  I have literally paid people to bring jars of Ghiradelli Caramel Fudge sauce home to me from their vacations. Yes, it is that good.

5.  I played the flute in high school.  I was also a candy striper. 

6.  I have a cat named Ernie.  She will be 22 years old next month.  When I come home from work I make sure she's still breathing, since she is usually in the same spot as when I left.   The vet says he has never had a cat live to see 23.  I hope Ernie will be his first.  Walker isn't really a pet person, so not only was she was my first kitty, she will likely be my last.

7.  I love to travel but hate to fly.  I fly anyway, but I have never learned to like it. If I could get there by train in a reasonable amount of time, I would. Well, I think I would.  I've never actually traveled by train.  But the idea is very appealing, LOL.

So, thank you again, Ms Martyr!  It was very exciting to see my name on your list and I appreciate it.  I'll be  back soon with (hopefully) fifteen blogs to share.

Hmmmm.....Should I be Yelling "Perimeter Breach!"?

I noticed something odd today: there are footprints in the snow around my house.  All the way around my house.  There's no good reason for someone to cut through our yard, as the neighbors on both sides have completely fenced yards.  From our yard, you can't go anywhere but back to the street.  The thing that is nagging at me is here:

This is where whoever this was apparently stopped, turned, and looked in our living room window.  YIKES!  Do I need to be concerned?  The tracks are too close to the house for someone to be, say, looking at the roof or something.  Not that anyone needs to be looking at our roof.  I just tried to think of any reason why someone would be LOOKING at our house like that.  Then I looked out the patio door and:

Same deal.  Two sets of footprints with someone stopping at the patio door and apparently LOOKING IN.  Who does that?  You want to talk to us, you come to the door. The front door.  And you RING THE DAMN DOORBELL.  You don't circle the house and peek in windows.  Ew, I have chills.

I thought maybe one of the utility companies was doing something, but we haven't reported any issues and none of the neighbors have tracks in their snow.  There's a utility pole on the lot line but no one has been near it.  Oy vey.  I'm going to wait until Walker comes home and see what he thinks.  Maybe there's a logical explanation.  If not, I'll be renting a Rottweiler until this creeped out feeling goes away.

A Minor Setback

Yesterday's doctor visits yeilded some not so great news - I have an "inflammation" in my "treatment area".  My skin has healed well, but apparently some of my innards aren't healing like they should.  The doctor didn't think it was an actual infection, but he does want to keep an eye on it for a month or so, which means more follow ups.  Yay.  I actually really like my doctors and the nurses, too, so while I wouldn't call it my favorite way to spend the afternoon, I don't mind going into the cancer center.  I just would like to step away from it, at the moment.  Maybe stop in for a visit in the spring or something.  Given that this inflammation is a bit painful, I don't think I'll be skipping any appointments.  The last thing I want is for it to get worse.

Today, I went back to the home health care place to make a second attempt at getting a compression sleeve.  I had a noon appointment, and showed up at noon on the dot.  The person behind the desk informed me that I didn't actually need an appointment.  Well, talk to you co-workers, then, honey, cause they would not help me without one.  And really: I have an appointment on the books, and I'm here.  If I didn't need said appointment, big deal!  Why even bring it up?  Just do your thing, measure my arm, and send me on my way.   Sheesh!  So then she asks me if I have a prescription.  Um, no.  Then she asked what compression rate I needed.  I have no idea, so  I offer to call my doctor, and she tells me since it's just a preventative thing I'll be a 15-20 compression rate, whatever that means.  Again, I wonder, why bring it up? You clearly know what I need, why not just get it for me?  So anyway: I get measured, which takes literally two minutes.  Neither of the ladies who could not help me on Saturday wanted to watch and learn, so the next poor soul who comes in on a weekend will also be SOL.  My measurements indicate I'm a "medium" which they do not have in stock.  My sleeve has been ordered and will take a week or so to come in. I didn't actually need a prescription, so I'm not sure why I was asked for one, other than to make sure I never, ever come back to that shop again.  It's a pretty safe bet that they won't be my first choice.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ring That Bell!

One day last December, a couple weeks into my radiation plan, I was in the dressing room at the cancer center changing back into my clothes after a treatment when I heard Kristen, one of the radiation techs, going over the procedure with a newbie: "You'll come in here, get a gown from this closet, choose a dressing room, and get changed.  Make sure you take the key when you leave the dressing room.  Go ahead and get changed and I'll come back for you in a few minutes." 

When I came out of the dressing room, there was the newbie: a woman about my age with curly blonde hair.  She looked scared to death.  I was not so far removed from my first treatment that I didn't remember how it felt.  I smiled at her and said, "Don't worry.  You'll be back here changing again in less than ten minutes and you won't feel a thing."  She didn't say anything but she smiled a little, still looking terrified.  I was thinking maybe I should sit with her but then Kristen came back and off they went to the treatment room.

Over the next few weeks I saw the newbie almost every day.  Her appointment was right after mine.  We usually passed each other in the hall and just said a few words to each other.  We never had a proper conversation and I don't know her name.  The only things I know about her are that she also had breast cancer, and she lives an hour's drive away.  I looked for her on my last treatment day, but it was December 23rd and the cancer center was closing early for the holiday.  None of us had our regular appointment time.

Today, I had follow up appointments with both the medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist.  I was hoping to see my no-longer-a-newbie friend, but I wasn't sure if she would even still be taking treatments.  My first stop was the lab for a blood draw, an ordeal that sometimes takes a good hour due to the tiny veins I inherited from one of my parents.  While I was sitting in the lab, swaddled in hot blankets and sucking water down as fast as I could (two methods thought to "plump" the veins) I saw my friend pass by the window.  I figured if the phlebotomist hit blood on her first attempt (a rarity with me) I might just get back to the waiting room in time to say hello.   Well, the phleb did, and I did, but my friend did not come out of the radiation area.  I was out there for a good half hour and no sign of her.  Eventually I was called back to a treatment room, where I waited alone for the medical oncologist.  It was there that I heard the most musical sound imaginable to a cancer patient  - the "I'm done with treatment" bell was clanging away.  I could hear everyone cheering, and I cheered, too, alone in my little room.  I was pretty much certain that my newbie friend was the one ringing that bell.  She would have had a meeting with the cancer guide after her appointment, which is why she didn't return to the waiting room.  When I came out from my appointment there was my family - my mom, Diva, and Walker - waiting for me.  Walker confirmed that the bell ringer was, indeed, Ms Newbie. 

I know how dumb this sounds, but I am so proud of her, and so happy for her!  I don't even know her name but it was all I could do to just not lose it.  I really felt like my good friend had just kicked cancer's ass, even though I doubt all our "conversations" added together were even ten minutes' time.  Somehow it doesn't matter.  I know what she went through and she knows what I went through and we encouraged each other, in our own way.  And I know she would understand what I mean when I say I hope I never see her again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Took Me So Long?

I have a guest room again.  In the interest of full disclosure, there are four boxes stacked between the window and the bed.  The boxes are full of things I need to list on eBay for my mom.  I'm doing a box a week.  This week's box was done yesterday.  Normally I wouldn't have the boxes sitting back there, but we have a contractor coming tomorrow to give an estimate on installing the exhaust fan in the bathroom.  The attic access is in the guest room closet, so I had to take the boxes out of there. No biggie. 


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Errands

Walker woke me up early today so we could pick up Diva and go see her exhibit at the regional art center.  It's been snowing for days, but today the winds were howling, too.  There weren't many people on the streets and we were the only ones at the art center who did not have employee badges.

The theme of the show was a celebration of cultural diversity, which in all honesty is not what this area is known for.  I'm glad the schools teach cultural diversity because the kids don't get much exposure to it in every day life. When I was Diva's age, our school had one family with two African American kids and one family from India.  When I was in fifth grade, we had a week long "culture fair" which I now realize was some sort of sensitivity training because a Hmong family was going to be sending two kids to our school.  What I remember most was one of the teachers telling us not to pat the kids of the head, because it was disrespectful in their culture.  The thing is, I don't ever remember us kids patting each other on the head to begin with.  This area has seen an increase in different ethnic groups in recent years, but we're still a long way from being truly diverse.

Diva's self portrait
After the exhibit we decided to go for lunch at a Chinese restaurant that has lots of shrimp dishes on the buffet.  Diva is a big fan of shrimp.  A few doors down, I noticed a reptile shop I've not seen before, so of course I wanted to go in.  At the door, the clerk motioned for us to stop outside.  It was immediately apparent that one of the larger critters had gotten loose.  We watched the cleark chase him around for several minutes before he was captured and we were invited in.  I don't think we'll be adopting any reptiles any time soon.  That lizard was jumping around, knocking stuff over, and generally wreaking havoc on the store.  It was interesting, though, to see all the snakes and lizards and to read all the info cards on their habitats.  One large scaly thing was bigger and more active than my cat.  Of course that's the one Walker liked the best.

After lunch we had one more stop to make, in the same strip mall.  I needed to get measured for a compression sleeve, which my doctor says I will need to wear whenever we fly.  Our vacation is still a few weeks away, but sometimes they have to be custom sewn.  Walker had called the store to make sure they carried the sleeves.  He also asked the store hours.  When we got there, however, the two women working told us we have to make an appointment and come back on a weekday for a fitting.  Neither of them were trained in taking the measurements, and the staff that is trained will do it by appointment only.  That information would have been more helpful had it been shared when Walker called.  Sigh.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writer's Block?

I've read some blogger pals' comments about how they're having trouble coming up with blog material.  I can relate - I've lost count of how many posts I've done about my bathroom remodel, but I'm sure it was a few more than anyone would care to read. So I wonder - would y'all ever try doing  photo memes? Every day of the week, a host puts up a list for their topic, and you post your photo for that topic on your blog and link back to it on the host's blog. Then you visit the other participants on the list.  I don't get to play as often as I'd like, but I do participate in Watery Wednesday and Ruby Tuesday from time to time. I did a few Skywatch Fridays a while back, too.  Quite a while back, now that I think about it.  My friend Tink has perfected the art of the Meme Trifecta - she will do one post that covers three daily memes at the same time.  I'm not that good, LOL, but I do have fun.  Here's a link to one of my favorites: Watery Wednesday.

Booking Through Thursday - January 13

Here's the question of the week:  Do you remember the first book you bought for yourself? Or the first book you checked out of the library? What was it and why did you choose it?

I would imagine my mom let me choose books from the public library when I was small, but he first book I remember checking out from the school library was "One Fish, Two Fish" by Dr Seuss,  When I started second grade and was still reading Dr Seuss, my friend Becky told me she was embarrassed to be seen with me while I was carrying a baby book (Becky was in third grade).  She marched me over to a stack of chapter books and told me to pick one.  I chose Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods.  I've been hooked on reading ever since. 

To see other Booking Through Thursday entries, or to post your own, click here 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water

I don't think I will ever learn.  Never. You know how excited I was to have the shower fixed?  About that.  It seems that our new fixtures have a safety valve installed on the "hot" side, so that when you install them, you don't scald yourself testing for leaks.  Good idea!  The installation instructions are very clear about how to remove said safety valve before you finish installing the plumbing.  There's just one thing:  Walker and his plumber friend did not actually read the instructions.  The safety device that prevents hot water from coming out of the pipe is STILL ON THE DANG THING.  The fixture has to be dismantled to remove it.  And yes, I had a nice, chilly shower this afternoon.  I kept waiting for the water to get  hot.  You think I'd learn by now - let Walker go first!

The other thing is, if I know Walker he will try to fix it himself as soon as I leave for work.  No worries there, right?  At least now he has the instructions.  Hopefully he can get at it without doing anything to the new, expensive acrylic wall. 

Where did I put that bottle of margarita?

It's Done!

Oh. My. God.  Finally - no more mini road trips to take a shower.  The bathroom turned out great.  Walker wanted it lighter and brighter.  I wanted it to "feel" like the beach without doing the whole room in seashells and fishie wall paper.  I think we both got our wish.  The hard part now is waiting 24 hours for the silicone to set before we use it.  My mom's basement shower is fine, but our new shower is better.  For one thing, we don't have to don cold weather gear to get to it.  The only things that still need to be done are to replace the fan light and to add two little pieces of trim wood at the bottom of the wall and the whole bathroom will have been updated. . We've asked three electricians about the fan light, so far.  None of them want to do it, as it involves going into the unfinished attic to hook up the motor to the vent pipe.  I'm so excited to have my bathroom functional again I don't even care. Here are the before and afters:

I loved the wall color we had before, but we couldn't find things to match it other than what we already had..  Walker didn't like the old shower curtain.
This is the "tent" we made inside the shower after the tile started falling off.
We put in that sink and counter top about a year ago.  The old sink was the same wonky color as the old tub.
This is what the shower looked like after  the first day of installation.
Ta~dah! The sink area now.  You can't see it but there is a new high efficiency light fixture under the shelf over the sink.
The new shower!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is it Nap Time Yet?

I forgot there was a 7 a.m.  I was reminded when my alarm went off this morning.  I guess it was morning - it was still dark.  The bathroom dude was coming back at 8 and I wanted to make sure I was dressed before he rang the bell.  I am not good at mornings.

I haven't been sleeping too well for the last week or so.  I'm hoping this bathroom deal is finished by noon so I can take a nap before work tonight.  Diva's artwork was chosen for a display at the regional art center.  There's a reception tonight for the unveiling, but it doesn't start until 5.  I could go for a just a few minutes before work, if I can get a little sleep. I don't think I even got two full hours last night.  From where I'm sitting, I can see that the new tub is in and the acrylic has been put up on the walls.  Of course, I have no idea what else needs to be done so I couldn't begin to guess how long it will take. I'm trying to stay busy so I don't doze off, but I'm running out of stuff to do.  I can only get to the kitchen and the living room without getting in the installer's way.

It's gonna be a long day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Need to Quit Making Plans!

First, the progress: 

The guest room was about half done this morning when the bathroom dude showed up to install our new tub and shower surround.  I was feeling pretty confident that I would get it done, and I was already thinking about what other projects I could post about, since this worked so well to keep me motivated.  The salesman that I worked with when we bought this shower system told me that installation usually takes two days, but since we did the demo and plumbing ourselves he thought this installation would be completed in one day.  I guess he didn't share that theory with the installer.  The dude showed up right on time.  He was very nice and got right to work.  Ninety minutes later, he left for the day.  He said he'd finish everything tomorrow. Because I expected the work to be going on all day, I took the night off work.  It was too late to change that, as my coworkers had already adjusted their schedules to cover for me.  So I burned a vacation day.  Also, the installer left all his materials and tools here.  He has a lot of stuff, to the point that I wasn't able to get into the guest room to finish the cleaning.  I was also planning to get the bathroom cleaned up and all the finishing - towel bars, shower curtain rod, etc, installed tonight.  Sigh.  There's always next weekend. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Outing Myself

Walker is not going to like this post. It's a good thing he's never read my blog. *grin*   A couple days ago, Donna over at Just Me posted a picture of the mess she made in her kitchen while making chicken stock. It got me thinking: you post a photo like that and you're pretty much obligated to clean up the mess.  I'm sure Donna's kitchen is back to normal.  Here's the thing: my house is a mess.Well, parts of the house are mess.

Things started piling up after I was diagnosed with cancer.  We were at the clinic several times a week for biopsies, tests, meetings.  I continued to work full time until I had surgery, but even when I was home for six weeks I was limited in what I was allowed to do.  Walker was working a full shift at his job, then going to training at the same job (they got new equipment and he had to learn how to use it) for four to eight hours after his regular shift.  He did this six to seven days a week.  If he wasn't working he was either sleeping or sitting with me at the clinic or the cancer center.

I've kept up with the laundry, dishes, groceries, the stuff that absolutely needs to be done.  Our bedroom is clean, as are both bathrooms and most of the kitchen.  But there are pockets of "clutter" around the house that have been growing since last fall.  Our guest room has taken the biggest hit.  We just open the door and toss stuff in there when we don't have time to put it away.

Now, of course, all the stuff from the bathroom - towel bars, the scale, a box full of shampoo and body wash and assorted shower paraphernalia - is piled in the hall.  It's pretty easy to ignore the situation when you can close the door and not look at it.  Unfortunately, the mess in the hallway is a constant reminder of the mess I don't see in the guest room.

So I'm outing myself, LOL.  I am off work until Tuesday night.  Sometime between now and then I'll post updates to the photos below.  Hopefully the updates will show a whole new view.  I can't believe I'm doing this, but I hope it will keep me motivated to deal with it.

 This is the desk in the kitchen.  That pile of notebooks and papers is all the cancer stuff I've gotten from the clinic and the insurance companies.  I bought a binder to store it all, but have not put anything in the binder.  Yet.

And here's my guest room.  I can't believe how long I've let this go.  Every time I went in there to clean up I felt totally overwhelmed and just turned around and left.  With the door closed, I could pretend the mess wasn't there. 

This is the desk by the front door.  Mail piles up here all week, until I clean on Sundays.  This bugs Walker more than anything else, because it's the first thing people see when they walk in our front door.  The bottle of margarita was a gift from some friends when I finished treatment.

I 'm off to start cleaning.  Wish me luck!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Project Update

Our shower has been completely dismantled. We have to go to my mom's house to shower now, which isn't so bad as she lives in our neighborhood, but it's dang cold out so I have to dry my hair all the way dry before I come back home. I'm not used to spending so much time bonding with the blow drier.

Walker put the old tile in boxes and left them for the trash collectors. We weren't sure they would take them, but we got lucky. Saves us a trip to the dump. Wahoo! The new plumbing was installed today, the tub and surround go in Monday. We have to wait 24 hours after the installation before we can use it. I'm just glad to be finally getting it done. Today, while I was listing to the smoke alarm go off - again! - from the plumber's blow torch, I was wishing I could afford to just go to a motel until the work was finished. I realized that technically I could, but I'd rather use that money for other things. In the end it all comes down to choices.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fiscal Fitness

My mom is a very frugal person. When we were kids, we'd travel about the country in our old station wagon during summer vacations. My mom had friends all over the place, so we usually had someplace to crash as we roamed about. When we didn't, it was pretty rare that we'd check into a motel. My mom was not afraid to pull off the road and sleep in the car parked at a rest stop or under a bridge. Unheard of now, but back then, it was not uncommon for us to hobo our way to Mt Rushmore or Disney World or British Columbia in this manner. We also grew up washing aluminum foil along with our dishes, so it could be reused, and carefully unwrapping Christmas gifts so we could reuse the paper. My mom still does those things, though she no longer needs to.

My dad had a more unique approach to money. He was unfailingly thrifty in some areas, like clipping coupons, and didn't blink at the high cost of other things, like his custom blended pipe tobacco at $40 a package. When my dad died, I found at least a dozen of those tobacco bags in his home. It looked like he would order more when it started drying out. I don't know how often he actually finished a bag of it. Yet even when he received a fresh bag, he didn't throw out the dry stuff. I never figured that one out.

I don't think I inherited my financial views from either of my parents. As with all areas of my life, I try to find a balance. In this case, the balance is between saving for tomorrow and enjoying life today. For inspiration, I like to watch Suze Orman on CNBC. A caller will ask Suze's permission to spend a wad of cash on something extravagant, like a new boat or a month in Europe. Suze goes over the caller's financial status and approves or denies the request. Sometimes, though, Suze will approve a request but then try to talk the caller out of actually making the purchase. She'll tell them that Europe will still be there in ten years, yada yada, and if you put that money in your retirement fund now, you can have XXX when you retire and won't that be great? Well, sure. But you know, my dad was only 66 when he died. He worked and saved for his retirement but never got to enjoy it. Walker's dad died in his fifties. So while I absolutely think saving for retirement is important, I also feel it's important to live some dreams out now, just in case.

With that in mind, Walker and I keep a separate savings account just for vacations.  I know some people, ahem, Suze, would tell us that we need an eight month emergency fund and all consumer debt paid off before we should even think about a vacation.  That's fine, I understand the point.  I just don't agree.  We toss our loose change in a jar, we set aside a portion of any bonuses or windfalls we get, and we forgo giving each other gifts on Christmas and birthdays and our anniversary.  At least once a year, we take a trip together.  It may not be the smartest financial plan, but like Suze always says, "People first, then money, then things."  And this year, these two people are going to Disney World.  Wahoo!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions, but I do like the idea of a fresh start.  I usually make a short list of goals for the new year and I carry them around with me in my wallet so I don't end up forgetting them by spring.  I see my little goal card every time I go for a stamp or some cash.  It helps to keep me on track.

Last year, the goals focused on three things:  getting healthier, cleaning up my financial plan, and making more time to spend with my family, especially Walker.  Overall, I'd say I made some progress but not a lot.  I lost some weight but I didn't do as much exercising as I should have.  I put aside my fear and went for my very first mammogram, and while I didn't get the all clear I was expecting, I know I would have come out much worse had I not found out I had breast cancer when I did. So in the grand scheme of things, I'd give myself a B- in the getting healthier category.  The finances.....well.  I did really well the first half of the year, working hard, building savings, paying off bills.  The whole cancer thing wiped out the progress I'd made with the savings, but then, all my 2010 medical bills are paid in full.  We had a large, unexpected expense when the shower tiles started falling off the wall, but I had the cash to pay for that, too.  We're just waiting for the installer to finish the work (he's coming next week).  I bought some stocks last year, when the market was in the toilet, and most of them have rebounded well. I opened a health savings account, and I added a chunk of money to Diva's college fund.  On the other hand, I have not contributed a single cent to my IRA for the year, and I still have a balance on my credit card.  I also bought a kit from Suze Orman that walks you through each step in making a will, setting up a living revocable trust, and a couple other vital financial documents.  I was feeling all grown up and responsible when I ordered it.  The kit arrived by UPS the week I was diagnosed with cancer.  I've not even opened the box.  Overall, I think I'd get about a B in the financial category.

Now the family category.....I guess that's the hardest one for me to judge. We have regular get-togethers with my family and Walker's.  I spend a lot of one on one time with Diva.  I worked a logistical miracle with my sister to get her kids here for a couple weeks last summer. Walker and I.....that's another story.  We don't have dates, we don't have nights out.  I can't remember the last movie we went to.  Part of it is our work schedules, but I think we could do better.  We're happy, but we don't get to just enjoy each others company as often as we'd like.  I can't give myself more than a C in the relationships category.

All that said, I think I'll just rewrite my goals from 2010 with a 2011 heading.  I'm going to change the way I approach them, though, and work toward better results. Stop back in about 364 days and see how I did. Happy 2011!