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My Life is Officially Surreal

July 16th, 2007 at 08:32 am

Good grief, where to start...

Remember this cat?



Well, two days after my last blog post, Summer's rear-end exploded all over me when I picked her up from the floor. There was still a deep-tissue infection below the nicely healed top layer, and it just sat there and festered. There are no words to accurately describe the smell that eminated from this cat, so I won't even try. Suffice to say the stench was so bad that I immediately packed her up and took her to the emergency after hours vet clinic rather than waiting 14 hours and taking her to the normal vet.

They kept her overnight and had to do surgery to remove dead and/or infected tissue. The hospital stay and two rounds of antibiotics they gave her were $726. The three follow-up visits and extra round of antibiotics to my regular vet were $34...

So, four weeks, four vet visits, three rounds of antibiotics, and $750 later, she's healing up well.

Ancient bill rears it's ugly head
DH had visited the emergency room in early '04 after a traffic accident. He gave them the insurance information, paid the co-pay, and all was well. Right?

Wrong! The day after Summer's explosion we got a call from a collection agency. Turns out the insurance company took too long to process the claim and the hospital never got paid. For whatever reason we never heard word one about it until now, over three years later.

Because of the situation we negotiated a payment for half of the total and insisted upon a letter that this payment would have the debt marked paid in full on the credit report. Got the letter, gave them $595.

June turned into a very expensive month...

Had to testify in court
Not really a big deal, except I was asked to be a witness for my parents divorce hearing at the end of June. To make things super weird, the three of us had lunch together afterwards. What the foo...

Ran away to Asheville
So, since things in life were getting weirder and weirder, I took some extra vacation time around the 4th. Even though June was expensive, I still have vacation money saved every month, and we like to take a couple of mini-vacations throughout the year. Plus, we had concert tickets. We enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins show, but I can say that at 29 I'm getting too old for this crap. I'm such a geezer...

Opened a store on Etsy
Since I've starting making incense again for my local customers, I had a ton of it drying and needing a good home. It takes the same amount of time to make hundreds of sticks instead of fifty, so I always make a larger batch. Things are going well so far.

The most surreal thing of all
Life was getting back to normal. I was thinking about my blog, and feeling bad because I had neglected it. Since I felt bad about it, I kept putting off posting a new entry, thinking I had to come up with something really great to make up for all the time I'd missed.

Am I the only one that's done that?

Well, I huge wakeup call on Friday.

I didn't check my email on Thursday. Don't ask why, I'm sure there was a reason but I don't remember it. When I logged in on Friday, there was an email from a reporter from ABC in my personal inbox asking for an interview. Sure... My spam-o-meter was ringing off the charts.

Then I checked the email for my hosting company. The same person had filled out the contact form there, again asking for an interview. Curiosity got the best of me, so I did some Googling.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. The guy was legit.

Even more surreal? He wanted to interview me about a post I had made here on my blog from the beginning of May '

Text is Confessions of a Customer Service Rep and Link is http://tinapbeana.savingadvice.com/2007/05/03/confessions-of-a-customer-service-rep_25608/
Confessions of a Customer Service Rep'. How the heck did an reporter get to my blog in the first place?!?

So Friday afternoon I did a half hour phone interview with ABC.com about what it was like to be a customer service rep. Surreal doesn't even begin to cover it... The article is supposed to come out at some point today. When it does, I'll edit this post to include a link.

---------------------------
EDIT: Here's the link to
Text is the article on ABC.com and Link is http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Story?id=3381382&page=1
the article on ABC.com. The reporter had me as Tina Beana throughout the whole thing, so I emailed him to get it corrected. Who would actually name their kid Tina Beana? Smile
---------------------------

So, there you go. My life is surreal, and I'm one of the world's biggest blogging slackards. I promise, I'm going to try to be better about this. After all, you see what happens in life when I don't blog like I'm supposed to?

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes Week 8 and 9

June 13th, 2007 at 06:55 pm

Have no fear, the tomatoes are still here!

Actually, we're down to one, but boy is this one hearty.

Here were the two remaining tomatoes on Saturday, after 8.5 weeks. As you can see, once has a bad end (that could so be cut off and the rest of the tomato could be used).



For comparison purposes, here is the remaining 8.5 week old tomato hiding in a basket with week old tomatoes from the flea market. Can you tell which is which?



Today at 9 weeks and 1 day, the final creepy mutant tomato is still holding strong. Here he his hiding with the remaining flea market tomatoes, now 1.5 weeks old. Can you find him? Hint: he's not the one on the left!



Here he is in full glory: a tomato I've had in my posession for over 9 weeks, which makes it easily close to two and a half months old. CREEPY!!!

Confession: I am a Design Junkie

June 8th, 2007 at 07:19 am

Hello.

My name is Tina, and I am a Design Junkie. (Hi Tina)

If you don't know what I mean, then read on and it might get a little clearer.

The concept of a junkie can apply to any type of design, really. Do you collect paint chip cards, fabric and wallpaper swatches, and pages from magazines with pictures of great rooms? Then you, my friend, are an Interior Design Junkie (IDJ). If you watch shows like "Pimp My Ride" or "OverHaulin" and get hyped up when the Discovery channel runs a show on future cars, the you are an Automotive Design Junkie (ADJ).

Personally, I'm a Graphic Design Junkie (GDJ). The symptoms:

1. I belong to a website called

Text is ColorLovers and Link is http://www.colorlovers.com
ColorLovers where people put together color palettes and you can collect them. I have 128 on my 'favorites' list and I want to find ways to use them all. When I look at some of these palettes of color, I can instantly see a business card or website or brochure made out of them. I just need to find a client to go with it.

2. I have over 1300 fonts. This isn't enough. When I have nothing else to do I scour the web looking for more. Got any good ones? Wanna trade (like baseball cards)?

3. I have so many fonts, I use a separate program to organize them. It's called
Text is The Font Thing and Link is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~scef/tft.html
The Font Thing. I can group them together in whatever method makes sense to me, so I have a groups like 'retro', 'futuristic', 'classic', 'funny', 'typewriter', etc. I can temporarily install a font, use it, and then uninstall it to keep things like MS Word from having 1300 fonts in it's list.

4. I have willingly browsed the
Text is Flickr set on business card design inspiration and Link is http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/sets/72057594104389710/
Flickr set on business card design inspiration.

5. When I get bored and can't find any good fonts, I do weird things like make web 2.0 badges (aka 'violators' aka those star shaped sticker lookin' thingies on websites), glassy orbs and globes, cartoon flowers and people, and logos using Open Source software like
Text is the GIMP and Link is http://www.gimp.org
the GIMP and
Text is Inkscape and Link is http://www.inkscape.org
Inkscape. Just for fun, you know.

6. I can completely rationalize my desire to spend a couple hundred dollars on a used Wacom digitizer tablet (where you draw with a stylus instead of a mouse). After all, think of the money I'll save on co-pays and wrist braces by NOT developing carpal tunnel...

Edit: Can't believe I forgot # 7!
7. I have visited three online color picking and combining websites within the past month. Two of them are still up in one of my browser windows.
Text is Color Jack and Link is http://www.colorjack.com/sphere/
Color Jack let's you combine colors and then download the palette in several different formats.
Text is Well Styled's picker and Link is http://wellstyled.com/tools/colorscheme2/index-en.html
Well Styled's picker gives you fewer color combination options but more palette downloading options.
Text is VisiBone's ColorLab and Link is http://www.visibone.com/colorlab/
VisiBone's ColorLab has been around for years and is still one of the most popular pickers around. You can't download the palette, but it is the only one I've seen that will show you how one color will look like on another when used for text. Too neat...

*Sigh*

So, there you have it. My dirty little secret is out: I am a Graphic Design Junkie.

OK, enough writing. I'm gonna go drool over some pretty colors and download some more fonts!!! Big Grin

Paycheck Update

June 6th, 2007 at 05:52 pm

In case you missed the drama, I found out today that

Text is my paycheck from 5/31 bounded and Link is http://tinapbeana.savingadvice.com/2007/06/06/my-paycheck-bounced_26930/
my paycheck from 5/31 bounded. Ugh...

Well, for a bit I thought I was the only one. At lunch, a co-worker called from the office and said someone else's check bounced. By the time I got back from lunch, two more met the fate for a total of four. Bear in mind, we only hand out seven paychecks, so this is over 50%.

Our office manager (who also cuts our payroll, and yes her check bounced too) spent the afternoon on the phone with the CFO in Florida and our overseeing VP in Chicago. See, my current company was bought a year ago by a company based in Chicago who uses a bank from PA and the accounting is overseen by a CFO in Florida. Confused yet?

At any rate, we're expecting new paychecks overnighted for all seven of us, so we should see them tomorrow. Their story? They're in the middle of switching bank accounts and payroll was drawn on the old one... Rolleyes

Perhaps it's just me, but that sounds too much like the "I forgot to sign the check" gambit when someone can't pay their electric bill.

At any rate, I made a call at lunch to my former boss. Yes, the one I'm doing contract work for. He's in the middle of starting a new venture (hence the contract work) and he and his new partner have already expressed interest in luring me away from my current job. My phone call was basically to let them know they could get started with the luring.

See, this company I'm at now was this guy's baby, and was in great shape when he was there. Things started to go downhill fast once it got bought last year, even more so when he left the organization in December/January.

The partner I mentioned? He's another cigar store customer we've known for about 7 years now who has been running his own successful local business since retiring at 50. I know several of his employees (also cigar store customers) and can confirm that this business hasn't once had a financial hiccup thus far. To put it in some kind of weird perspective, he drives a Lamborghini and paid cash for it...

Lessons readers may want to take from my odd-ball day:

1. It pays to keep some cash locally, not just in an online savings account.
Having cash meant I could get gas today with no worries (yeah, I'd been riding the light for a day). I could have used a credit card, but what if they check thing didn't get cleared up for a month and I couldn't pay the bill in full?

2. Apparently it's easy to meet future employers at a cigar store.
OK, not exactly. My family's cigar store is where I 'network' with a lot of people from a lot of different industries, and as a result I can quickly and easily put out feelers when it comes time to look for another job. If I get hired on with Mr. Lambo's company, that will be the third job I've gotten from that store. Not to mention the contract work it helps generate.

Networking isn't the bad word some people seem to think it is. And there's nothing smarmy or unseemly about it, it's simply being friendly and personable, listening to people and getting to know them. You might know it under another name: "fellowship". No matter what you call it, it's getting to know the folks around you, and being there for one another when needed.

Take the cigar store: we've been there for customers during marriages and divorces, births and deaths, illnesses and celebrations. We have a lunch crowd, a Friday afternoon crowd, etc. Customers come in and hang out for a couple of house, and many of them bring their computers and work (they call it the field office!). We even have potlucks once a quarter. People bring in their pets, their kids, and friends and family from out of town.

If we have a customer who has a widget for sale, chances are we'll hear of someone this week looking to buy a widget. Need a plumber, carpenter, electrician, mechanic, police officer, golf pro, realtor, computer guru, or doctor? I know one (or more) of each, and every one of them has had dinner at my house or my parents'.

You probably don't network at a cigar store, but the principle is the same no matter where you do it. Trust me, it's not a dirty word.

The Secret of Money Saving Sleep

May 31st, 2007 at 07:37 pm

Your parents always said you needed your rest, but did you know that not getting your Z's could actually be costing you big bucks?

That's right, folks: not getting enough sleep can hurt more than your health.

- Poor sleepers spend an average of $4200 more on medical costs.

- Insomniacs visit both doctors and hospitals twice as often as those who sleep properly.

- People with poor sleep habits are three times more likely to miss work.

- According to a US Navy study, insomniacs are promoted less often and are more likely to leave their job.

- Essential job skills like problem solving, creativity, and ability to handle stress are severly affected when you're deprived of sleep.

- Going 24 hours without sleep impairs a driver as much as a blood alcohol level of .10. Remember, in many states DWI means 'driving while impaired', not driving while intoxicated.


So, anyone care to do the math?

Take into consideration co-pays for office visits and possibly a prescription sleep aid. Perhaps even a new space-age mattress, a white noise machine, or over the counter sleep-aids.

Add in the effect of missing work and lackluster performance on the job and the resulting lack of promotion and raise

And heaven forbid a car accident while groggy, resulting in hospital bills and possibly even a DWI conviction.

Think staying up an extra hour is still worth it?

For those of you that have a hard time sleeping, try some of these ideas:

- Try meditating when you lie down to go to sleep.

- Create a sleep ritual of relaxing activities before you go to bed (i.e. a cup of tea, a hot shower, brushing your hair) that you do every night. Not only will they help you relax, but they will eventually be activities that cue your body that it's time to go to sleep.

- Tell yourself a goodnight story. Even better, try playing the scene out in your head. Chances are the story will turn into a dream in no time.

- Investigate the concept of the power nap. Some researchers think our bodies are designed for a little cat-nap sometime between 1pm and 4pm, often called the 'siesta hours'. Try taking a 15-20 minute nap sometime during those hours. Personally, I take a later lunch around 1pm anyways, so it's easy to set the alarm on my cell-phone and rest my eyes during my lunch hour.


Selected Sources:

Text is Wise Bread and Link is http://www.wisebread.com/give-it-a-rest
Wise Bread
Text is CnnMoney.com and Link is http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/2006/11/01/8392430/index.htm
CnnMoney.com
Text is WikiHow and Link is http://www.wikihow.com/Fall-Asleep
WikiHow

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes: Week 7

May 29th, 2007 at 06:17 pm

You read it, folks: we're on week 7 of these creepy, space age tomatoes!

Two more are down, but the remaining two are looking AOK for now. Anyone want to wager how long these tomatoes will hold out?



I've decided that if they make it to week 8 (2 months!), I'm likely going to have to send the whole saga to the Bloom company.

Top 7 Reasons Businesses Need a Website

May 27th, 2007 at 07:08 pm

OK, as someone who hosts websites I realize I have a vested interest in convincing people that they do in fact need a site. I've been doing the internet thing for a while, so it comes second nature to me. But the fact remains that if you have a business you really do need a site. Not just any website like the freebies you can get some places, but one that is specific to your business (aka branded)

1. Your customers probably expect you to have one.
Simple, but true. Web sites are today what business cards used to be. Nowadays anyone can have a website, even the 9 year old daughter of one of my co-workers. With so many easy and inexpensive options available, there's no reason to leave your customers wondering "Why don't they have a site?"

2. A website with your own domain name is an easy 'branding' tool.
Even though it's not hard, having your own domain name makes your website seem more professional and established. Plus, it usually ties in to your business name or what you do, which means it's easier to remember. For instance, which of these example web site addresses strikes you as more professional? Which would be easier to remember?

TinasBusiness.freehosting.com
OR
www.TinasBusiness.com

3. The email address.
A huge reason your business needs its own domain is the email address. Even if you have nothing more than a single page website, you can still use your own email address when running your business. Think about it: which email address looks more professional and established?
tinapbeana1978@freehosting.com
tinasbusiness@freehosting.com
sales@tinasbusiness.com

4. Having a site makes it easier for your business to do business.
How much time would you have to spend on the phone explaining what you do to 100 prospective customers? At 5 minutes per call, that's 500 minutes or almost 9 hours. How much time (and money!) would it take you to drive to see 100 prospects and give them your 5 minute presentation? I'm guessing days. With a website, prospective customers can learn about you and your business 24/7 without you ever having to be involved. This frees up your time to do other things, things you get paid for.

5. Reach customers you couldn't get to before.
And I'm not just talking about people from around the country or the world. Take a minute to think about the types of people that live in your area. Are there shift workers who sleep during the day and work at night? What about a deaf population? Or perhaps your services would be of use to people who are disabled and aren't able to come o your office or location. Having a website opens your business up to a whole new world of customers right in your own back yard.

6. A business web site makes it easy to relay information at little or no cost to you.
If you don't have a site, how do you let your new or existing customers know if you're running a special? Chances are you call them or send out a flyer or post card. Either way, you're spending a relatively large amount of time, money, or both to relay this information. If you have a web site, you just post the information on your front page (or news page, or specials page) for prospects to see and send your existing clients an email.

7. You can save money on software and protect your ability to run your business.
This is probably one of the least thought about perks of having a web site for a business, but it's definitely worth mentioning. When you have a website for your business, you can install Open Source software that is intended to help you run your business from your website. Invoicing, scheduling, trouble tickets, accounting: the list goes on.

As an added bonus, you'll have the option of running these aspects of your business from any internet-capable computer, not just your own PC. This might not seem like a big deal, until your computer crashes and you can't create invoices or balance the books! By using web-based software you've installed on your own website, you could just head to the local library and continue business as usual.

Slush Fund: Third Time's the Charm

May 27th, 2007 at 06:05 pm

You ever hear that old saying that bad things come in threes?

Well, after taking cat number two to the vet this past week, I was joking with DH that I was going to hide my third and final cat in the house until June arrived.

We both had a good laugh.

Then, yesterday afternoon, DH reached up to pull off his glasses and clean them. The arm fell off right in his hands, and is designed so that it cannot be repaired. Believe me, we tried superglueing everything back together.

He's had this problem with these frames before and took them back and had them replaced. Unfortunately, the optomitrist where we got them is not open on Saturday's. Plus, there's only a 1 yr warranty on the frames that is about to run out, so getting them fixed would have only been a stop-gap.

Add this to the fact that he was due for an eye exam anyways and he HAD to have glasses because he has to drive a large delivery truck for work tomorrow (a holiday), and you get the two of us at the only place that both participated in his insurance and had an exam appointment available Saturday afternoon: the Lens Crafters one county over.

GAH!!!!

He has a big head, so we're limited in the frames that'll fit him. And since we had to have the glasses ASAP, we had to take the in-stock featherweight lenses instead of the less expensive version. Finally, he got the other frames just last year so we didn't qualify for a full frame benefit only a partial on the insurance. Grand Total: $241.18 for frames, lenses, and co-pay for the visit.

127.00 - cat one at the vet
115.75 - cat two at the vet
241.18 - DH glasses
------
483.93 - total damage to the slush fund in 2 wks

Oh my....

Seriously, me and the other cat are going to hide out somewhere and wait out the rest of the month.

Slush Fund Strikes Again!

May 25th, 2007 at 06:17 am

So, apparently 2 of my 3 cats were involved in some kind of massive turf war street fight the weekend of Mother's Day.

The boy, Samson, was gimpy on his paw so I took him to the vet Monday of last week. Sure enough, puncture wounds. A few days of forcing antibiotics down his throat and taking my life in my hands by spraying his paw with wound-wash, and all was well.

See, here he is, all regal and fit as a fiddle.



This past weekend we started to notice that Summer was getting a little swollen on her back, right by her tail joint. It looked like she'd been stung by a wasp the way it swelled a bit. But, she didn't act like it was hurting her and was moving and eating as normal, so we didn't think much of it.

Wednesday night while I was in the shower, DH yells "Tina, Summer's butt exploded!". Uh-oh...

Apparently where she was swollen was starting to abcess, and wasn't a wasp sting at all. Abcess ruptured, and there was goo oozing everywhere. At 11:30 at night, when there are no real options to get it looked at.

So, call yesterday morning and set up an appointment with the best vet clinic ever (which happens to be the one 1 mile from my house). DH takes her in, and she comes out looking like this:



Poor kitty! They sedated her to shave her rear, cleaned the abcess, stitched it up, inserted two drains, gave us more antibiotics, and added the collar as a stylish finishing touch.

Our total for the visit was $115. I LOVE MY VET!

She'll have to go back on Tuesday to have the drains removed, which will probably cost another $25 for the visit. I'm happy to pay it, though, because I want to do whatever I can to make sure this vet stays in business. They offer mobile pet vacinations and very low cost spays and neuters for our area, and I think they do a great service.

At any rate, two cats to the vet within a week and a half. Once again, the slush fund comes to the rescue. Woohoo!!

More important, I think, is the fact that DH saw first hand that having extra cash available (well, in savings, whatever) made it much easier for us to weather these two small emergencies. There was a time when an extra $250 expense in a month would have put us over a barrel, and it really wasn't that long ago. I'm hoping that by seeing this situation, he'll understand the concept of an 'emergency fund' just a little bit better.