Saturday, August 29, 2015

I got a raise!

Everyone lives on a fixed income.

Seriously.

People who leave their homes and go to work at a "real" job, unless they are in a position where they get bonuses and commissions based on production/performance, meet their needs with the same resources month after month. They get small raises, just like Social Security recipients do, and manage to make it on their fixed incomes, just as SS-ers do.

One of the best ways to create more money coming in is to reduce the amount of money going out. And that's what I did this week.

Putting my walking activity on hold has opened up a couple extra hours every day. This week I spent one of them – just one! – on the phone with the providers of my wifi, my satellite service and my mobile phone. The result was impressive.

It started when my old phone kept dropping my home wifi signal. Every time it flipped from wifi to 3G or 4G, it ate data. I have a very low data plan, because I'm on my home wifi most of the time. But this month I used 75 percent of my data after only two weeks of the billing cycle.

At the tech support person's suggestion, I backed up and restored my phone to factory settings – a traumatizing experience – but doing so didn't solve the problem.

Last Sunday I went to the nearest retail location to try to figure it out. I also planned to visit the AT&T store, since that company just bought DirecTV (which is my satellite provider). I planned to look into what kind of discounts were available for bundling.

Without going into all the gory details, my cellular provider wasn't especially helpful and the AT&T person was. I was ready to switch. But I had to find out what the payoff was to get out of my contract. And that's what started the Monday morning phone odyssey.

  • I called US Cellular and spoke with an agent who did not want to lose a loyal customer. 
  • I spent some time speaking with a DirecTV associate who also rewarded me for my loyalty.
  • Ditto Frontier, although their contribution to my income was smaller, presumably because they know they're the only wireless game in town.

Here's how it went down.

The payoff from US Cellular was prohibitive, and the discount offered was impressive. They replaced my Samsung Galaxy S4 with an S6, beat AT&T's offer by $20/month, and doubled my data. Total savings over the old plan was more than $70 per month. And a new phone!

DirecTV gave me a $10/month discount, two new receivers – allowing us to watch a heckuva lot of free content with their OnDemand service – and I dropped HBO, resulting in about a $30 reduction in my monthly bill.

Frontier couldn't do much, but they did come through with a $10/month discount because I've been a customer for such a long time.

We're looking at a net savings of $110 per month. FOR REAL!

I feel bad about the AT&T agent. She was terrific, very helpful, and I know she was counting on a sale. I'm going to stop in and talk with her next time I'm in that neighborhood. I feel fairly certain she would have taken the same deal I did, though. And when my US Cellular contract ends, I'll have some bargaining power. And the promise of another $10/month discount on my DirecTV bill.

If you're feeling an economic pinch these days – I know it's getting better, but who couldn't use a little more money? [cough-theDonald-cough] – carve out an hour and make some calls. Find out what your provider can do to help you remain a happy customer. The deals are out there, but they're not generally offered – you have ask.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Opening a door

Thank you for reading that last post. And commenting! I love comments!

Gingerzingi's last comment, about new opportunities, deserves another post.

I know I will get there. I do. I know I'll need to find some way to move (without hurting) and to stay fit. And I know yoga will probably be it, especially after MadAnne's ringing endorsement.

It sounds silly, but I'm going through some kind of grieving process right now, one that has me completely wiped out.

It's. Not. Brain. Cancer.

I have to keep telling myself that. I'm not going to die from osteoarthritis.

But every time my husband takes off for his daily walk, I'm sad.

Every time I think about all the pictures I used to take, I'm sad.

Every time the humidity is low and the sun is high and the breeze is gentle and I think I'd like to go for a walk … I'm just so sad that I know it's going to hurt and do more damage.

Having just learned about this, I suppose I should expect to feel something. I've no choice but to accept it. Cartilage doesn't miraculously regrow.

Right now, though, I'm missing my walking more than ever, and not quite ready to go through that door. Maybe just writing it down will spur me to at least investigate possibilities.

Maybe.

It's not brain cancer.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

30 days

I just took a look at my Daily Mile dashboard, and I last recorded a walk 30 days ago. I had no idea it had been so long. I've been telling myself a couple of weeks. Maybe three.

I stopped walking because my hip hurt. I continued to do four miles a day as long as I could, but those days consisted of whatever I had to do before the walk, followed by the walk, followed by resting. Sometimes for the remainder of the day.

It finally occurred to me that walking was aggravating the pain, and I needed to stop. I put on my big-girl running shorts and made a doctor's appointment. And went to it yesterday.

Where I learned that I am, apparently, officially, old. And maybe I should change the name of this blog again.
Not my own personal hip x-ray, but illustrative of my problem.
I had two x-rays that cost more than my first car and way more than my new dishwasher, and learned that I have a misalignment of my spine, along with some degenerative disc disease, and a cartilage deficiency in my right hip. Bone on bone.

I saw the Physician's Assistant instead of my family doctor, and she was great. She knows my history and said, "We see this a lot in athletes, both men and women." Athlete! She called me an athlete! As I've mentioned to a few friends, at least I didn't lose all that cartilage by being a slug.

But still. No cartilage = no cushioning, and until you experience it personally you really have no idea of the pain. I've tried all the recommended OTC pain relievers; ibuprofen seems to do the best job for me.

What I haven't been doing is exercising. To me, exercise is walking. Both the PA and Dr. Google recommend stretching. I also learned that yoga, bicycling and swimming may be beneficial. I don't have a bike, nor do I swim, so I'll be taking advantage of the apps on our new smarter-than-I-am TV to find some gentle yoga routines.

The other word for what I have is osteoarthritis – such an old-lady word. I'm not old. In fact I'm so not old that I have to pay for those expensive x-rays out of pocket, because I haven't met my insurance deductible and I'm too young for Medicare.

I see my family doctor week after next to discuss treatment options. There's no cure for osteoarthritis, but I've been assured by Dr. Google that I can live a long and comfortable life. Heh.

My grandmother had it, along with osteoporosis and COPD. She sat in a chair the last 10 years of her life, tethered to an oxygen tank watching soap operas. That, of course, is what I think of when I hear the word 'osteoarthritis.'

But my bones are dense and my lungs are clear. I only have a third of her problems. My total mileage for the year may be stalled at 624, but I'm certainly in better health than she was, and I've taken better care of myself than she did.

I'm trying to find the bright side.

It's a cartilage deficiency.

Not brain cancer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A writing prompt I can actually use

I subscribe to a daily e-mail that offers ideas for blog posts. My posts are always fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, spur-of-the-moment drivel. Even in the old days, when I did a quote on Fridays, I searched for and wrote about the quote on Friday, usually 15 minutes before I hit the Publish button.

So I largely ignore the prompts that land in my inbox every morning. But today, one of them really spoke to me:

2. Write a blog post inspired by the word: cheap


My county Democratic women's group is hosting the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women Annual Meeting next month. Our county is large in area, but small in population, as West Virginia counties go, and so our club is tiny – just 35 members – and we have a treasury to match.

Planning a convention for women from around the state is a huge job, and we need all hands on deck. Fortunately, we have some stalwart volunteers who always get the job done, no matter what. You know those women from your own clubs and groups: the ones who pitch in, make the calls, stuff the envelopes, recruit the speakers.
A teaser shot of the
convention bag: it has
a zipper! And a pocket!

Fill the goodie bags.

I've been to four of these statewide gatherings in the past, and I have the tote bags to prove it. Each registered delegate, alternate, and guest receives a convention bag with a program book and a little goodie bag filled with whatever the host club can find, make, or beg for from local businesses.

The state organization provides no financial help for filling the goodie bags or stocking a hospitality suite. West Virginia's counties are split into three Congressional districts, so the counties in our district have been generous in donating a bit of their just-as-meager-as-our treasuries to make sure we look good.

Because, you know, it's better to look good than to feel good. (Cue Billy Crystal, SNL, "Fernando's Hideaway.)

I prefer the word "frugal" to cheap, and I also prefer utility and function over just "stuff." I don't want to give away any secrets prior to the meeting, since I know some of our guests will probably read this. We are not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Our swag bags will not contain Prada clutches, Jimmie Choo pumps, or Apple watches.

Let's just say my inkjet printer has been working overtime creating little something-somethings to tuck into those bags. I've also found some great deals for useful printed items from online vendors.

And Pinterest is my friend.

If you're a Democratic woman who lives in West Virginia and you haven't yet registered for the WVFDW annual meeting, you should probably get yourself over to our website and sign up: REGISTER HERE. Otherwise, you're going to miss out on electing new officers, hearing a terrific keynote speaker (click that link!), and snagging a really awesome – if frugal – goodie bag.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Update ...

Sick. Again.

Two summer colds in one year is two too many.

My hip still hurts, and I'm not walking.

(The biggest shocker from not walking is I'm maintaining my April weight loss. I haven't lost anything since, but I haven't gained anything either. Scary to me to think that a strict Whole 30 plan – which resulted in a 10-lb. loss in April – is the only way for me to lose weight.)

I'd planned to have company this weekend, but when I got sick I had to cancel those plans. But my house is clean!

So there's that.

I'm improving. No more fever, only a hacking cough once in a while, combined with X-treme lack of energy. I'm going to put some food in the slow cooker and hope it turns into dinner.

And then I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Paris with palm trees

So THIS happened nine years ago today …

Yes, after a whirlwind 13-year courtship, my husband and I tied the knot. He likes to say it's been mostly good since then. I like to say SHUT UP! It's ALL been good!

Heh.

It was hot as hell in Las Vegas. August, after all, is pretty hot in the desert. I was training for my first half marathon, I think, or at least I was running daily, and some random guy I saw a couple early-early mornings (because early-early morning was the ONLY time to run in August in Las Vegas) in a row invited me out for coffee the third time we saw each other.

I had to get married to get hit on by a stranger.

And how is the old married couple marking the occasion? Well, we're not. We're each very busy with separate projects. He has to go to a meeting for his tonight, and I'll be working on mine all day (and all day tomorrow, and the next day, and blah, blah, blah, until the event, which takes place in September, is over). I also have a miserableawfulhorrible summer cold. His event happens Saturday, but we're having company this weekend, so no anniversary-date opportunity in the foreseeable future.

Which is fine. We promised we would do something really special next year, for our 10th anniversary. The only way it will happen is if we make it happen. We have a year to plan it.

Film at eleven.