Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why I wear skirts and sandals on Mondays and Thursdays

Here is a rambling post with lots of back story. It's kind of a window to my odd mind.

Back Story to the Back Story: For the 2012-13 school year I signed up for $60/month to come out of my paycheck each month for the medical flexible spending account. You get reimbursed for medical expenses on a pre-tax basis from the payroll deductions when you submit receipts. This is higher than I have elected in past years, but I knew J was having surgery in September so we would have higher medical expenses than usual. Well, for some weird reason, her surgery only cost us $250 out-of-pocket (I had thought it would be more like $500), which I submitted reimbursement for. Then J and I got pink eye, with multiple doctor visits and prescriptions. That helped make a dent, but we have only used about $450 of the $720. So I need to spend $270 on medical between now and the end of August, or I forfeit it completely. Which I don't want to do.

Back Story: I wanted to find an acupuncturist. Kind of like a chiropractor, acupuncturists (at least from my experience) try to get you to come for visits multiple times per week - which is a copay each time. I don't mind being pricked with needles (high pain tolerance...bet you would have never guessed). And I figure I can get some relaxation done while I'm there. From my one acupuncture experience last year, I know they leave you in a dark room with soothing music while there are needles in you. I'll take a nap mid-day multiple times per week.

My Decision-Making Process: Did you know that there are a lot of acupuncturists in my city? I went to the provider directory, and there's something like 30-40 acupuncturists in my city. I suppose I could have gone to the lady I went to last year, but I dunno...she was kind of eh. And since I can have my pick from 30-40 different ones, I decided based on address. I have lived in this town for over 20 years, and I can pretty much pinpoint where any location in the city is just based on the address. One of the acupuncturist addresses was for the building I used to work in at my first job: the Merrill Lynch building. It was just a normal office building, but ML took up about 1/4 of the building so I guess they were important enough to get their name put up on a big sign in front of the building. They have since moved, and now I don't know what the building is called but I certainly remembered the street address. I hadn't been in that building for 18 years because I haven't had a reason to go into it. Now that I had a reason to go in, I wondered how it changed...or how my perspective has changed. You know, kind of like when you go back to your old school after being gone for so long and you see it with different eyes. I called, he was willing to schedule me during lunch in a few days, and I was looking forward to my first acupuncture visit with him. I stated my reason for going was allergies because I thought "using up my flexible spending account money" may not be the best response.

The building didn't really change much in the past 20 years. With ML not there anymore, they converted their portion of the building. At some point it was a dentist's office based on what I saw when I drove past about 10 years ago; now it looks vacant. I put my nose to the glass and saw empty rooms. Kind of sad. Other than that, the smaller offices rotated names after all this time, as you would expect, but the layout and lobby seemed nearly identical. Maybe new carpet at some time along the way, but doors and trimwork were definitely the same.

Acupuncture--the reason I have been visiting this building twice per week for the past two weeks--is intimate. Intimate in both the literal and figurative way. Maybe it's because he's a guy that it feels kind of awkward. But I think he does his exams different than the lady last year. He runs his hands down my hands and legs. The first day I just happened to be wearing a skirt, sandals and a t-shirt. But it was nice happenstance because I didn't have to take off any clothes and put on the hospital gown (which would be even more uncomfortable for me). His hands went up up up my naked legs and down them, almost like kneading me. He asked me embarrassing questions. The whole things was very...intimate, as I said.

To make things even more ... intimate, he's the only person in his office. He's the receptionist, insurance biller, acupuncturist, medical assistant. As in, you would have to scream really, really loudly to get anyone else's attention in the event that something weird happened. The offices next to him are vacant. So your scream would have to go through three walls between the exam room in the back to the hallway, all the way down a long hallway, and through the door to another office.

Every Monday and Thursday I have a few rules:
- Must shave my legs in the morning.
- Must wear a skirt and sandals.
- Must wear short sleeves or a shirt where the sleeves can be rolled up.
- He always asks me how it feels as he runs his hands up and down my legs. I must say the standard, "Fine" instead of "OMG, this is weird to be in this tiny room with you and a thermostat that says 75 degrees with your hands going up my skirt...but you're kind of cute, so I suppose I should just relax and go with it." 

He's kind of compulsive with his hand sanitizer, which I kind of admire because gosh I like his germophobe ways, but I'm thinking acupuncture might not be an ideal occupation for a germophobe. And then I wonder if he uses more hand sanitizer with me than he does with his other patients. Am I grimy?

And then I add a couple new rules:
- Wear twice as much deodorant as I usually do.
- Rub hand sanitizer all over my exposed skin before I go there just in case the 4 hours since my shower have made me a toxic mess.

I have more rules for a visit with my acupuncturist than I did back when I was dating. Seriously.

As far as the acupuncture goes, which is why I am there after all, it's okay. He does this test on me every time I visit. It's with electrodes and meridians and other things I don't understand. Apparently this test tells you all about the imbalances in your body. The first visit I was really interested until I got the results: bad heart (not my real heart, but the meridian going to/from my heart), my spleen, my lungs. I got this weird "report" that didn't really say anything. I guess it kind of gives a Western diagnosis to Eastern medicine. Basically it said my symptoms will be fatigue, stress, and anxiety. Which ARE my symptoms, but isn't everyone else in the country tired, stressed and anxious? Ah well, acupuncture is supposed to cure all that.

On the second visit he re-did the test, and I was like a completely different person than I was on the first visit. I had completely different organs that weren't not balanced. On my third visit he re-did the test again, and now I'm back to my first visit's imbalances. Let's just say that now I'm skeptical about this whole thing when the readings are so different from day to day.

Does acupuncture work? Heck if I know. I changed allergy medicines, and I do feel better. But it's hard to determine if it's the switch in medicine or acupuncture. But I'm keeping with it because, after all, I still have about $200 to spend in co-pays that I need to get reimbursed for.



The Lesson: If you're torn on how much to put in your flexible spending account, go low instead of going high.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Selective Hoarding

My laundry detergent stash

Confession: I am a hoarder. But not the type that gets her own episode on Hoarders. No, I don't have piles four feet high and a few dead cats lying around the house. Sorry to disappoint in case you were waiting for that.

You see, I have selective hoarding. I don't hoard everything. In fact, I'm pretty good at keeping an uncluttered closet. However, I do have some hoarding specializations:

1.       Food—a ton of food. I'm prepared for the apocalypse.
2.       Pens—I don't get it either. I have gobs of pens on me at all times. Must. Have. Ink.
3.       Laundry detergent

The laundry detergent preoccupation is a little odd. Here is my stash of laundry detergent. Based on what the bottles say, this represents 850 loads of laundry. We do about 4 loads of laundry per week (3 people), so this roughly represents 4 years worth of laundry detergent.

I can understand having food helping you to feel safe. Pens and laundry detergent? I don't necessarily "get it." Clean clothes and writing instruments…apparently they rate just below food.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bountiful Baskets

I've been trying to eat cleaner--i.e., less processed foods, staying away from dairy & gluten. On the whole, I don't eat out much, avoid a lot of freezer--> microwave food, and stay away from milk. But I DO have a penchant for high fructose corn syrup (candy mostly) and cake, and I will occasionally eat a frozen dinner. And I may be able to eat my body weight in cheese and ice cream.

My strategy before now was to buy more fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. After years of this (and slipping when I even hear a whisper that there's cake in the lunch room), I've found that I get the same fruits and veggies week after week. I rarely branch out from the lettuce, celery, carrots, cucumber, strawberry, apple, orange refrain.

A week ago we signed up for our first Bountiful Basket, which operates in several states. For $16.50, you purchase into the food coop that week. Like a CSA, you are just guaranteed that you will get a selection of fruits and veggies, not specific fruits and veggies. And each week the selection changes. I see this as a great way to bring some novelty into my produce for the week, and I see it as a way to essentially guilt myself into eating the Bountiful Basket for that week. Eating more produce = less room for "junk."

Last week we got a nice assortment of produce, including bananas, yellow peppers, plums, lettuce, tomatoes, chiles. The only "weird" item we received was fennel. Not that fennel is that odd, but I only know it as a spice and not this big thing that resembled celery with little grass-like fronds coming off it. Hey, I still tried it. (Yay me!)

This week we didn't get anything "weird," but we got a few things that I really, really like and a few things I don't really like. I love nectarines, butter lettuce, melon, apples, peppers and bananas. I'm not so hot about mushrooms, avocados and brussel sprouts. It's all good because we gave those to my mom.

It's also a good deal because what you get in the basket is usually worth at least $25 if you got the same items at the supermarket, and you get it for $16.50. They will also be a bit fresher because Bountiful Baskets cut out the middleman.

We are really enjoying the Bountiful Baskets each week. Aside from ending up with something you may not like or know what to do with, the only negative is that you will likely have to wait to do your produce shopping after you get your Bountiful Basket for the week. Then you can fill any produce holes and don't risk duplication.

I highly recommend it if Bountiful Baskets are in your area. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two Weeks

When I graduated from college in 1998 and went into the real world (which, unfortunately, wasn't anything like the movie Reality Bites...I say unfortunately since I really like angst), I was thrust into a certain loss of freedom Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. After having a relatively flexible school schedule for years, this new regimen was hard to adjust to. I mean, this is what I was coming from. Let's pick a sample Tuesday from when I was in college:

9am wake up
10-11am class
11-12 class
12-3pm video games
3-5pm hang out with friends or nap
5-5:30 dinner
5:30-8:00 video games, computer, TV
8pm - 11pm work, includes study time
11pm-2am hang out with boyfriend
2am-3am study/computer
3am-9am sleep

And then going to this:

6am wake up
7am leave house, commute
8am - 5pm work
5-6pm commute
6-7pm wind down/dinner
OMG I'm tired, too tired to play video games so I stare at Wheel of Fortune with a glazed over look
8pm fall asleep

It wasn't that work was hard. It's just that I wasn't used to spending 9 consecutive hours doing ANYthing, and it was daunting to figure out how to fit in my normal amount of goofing off into my day. I suppose it doesn't help that when you're in an entry level job, you don't get to dictate how you arrange your time, so you're at the mercy of everyone else--who love to dump work onto the newbie.

The schedule adjustment is rough. Even rougher is that new employees rarely get much, if any, vacation time. So not only are you adjusting to a way different schedule, it also never stops repeating. No vacation days for you! 

I had a bit of wanderlust in me when I got out of school. I switched jobs frequently--not just jobs, but careers. I was in HR, then accounting, then customer service, then databases/IT, then research. When you career hop like that, you really never accumulate much in the way of vacation. So by the time of our wedding and honeymoon, I was pleased to have earned 5 whole vacation days, which I used for our honeymoon. After 2 years of steady work, I had that one week off and that was it. Not that I'm complaining; it's just what it was.

When I started working at my current employer in late 2000, I was excited to find out that they were closed for a week in December and TWO WEEKS in July. And you still got paid for those 3 weeks. AND you got 4 more weeks off that you could take off whenever you wanted. The Christmas week of 2000 I don't remember. We probably had the in-laws staying with us or were busy with other things.

What I do remember is having TWO WEEKS off in July of 2001. It was beyond awesome. Waking up whenever I wanted, going to sleep whenever I wanted (I seem to recall watching Nick at Night until 3am), napping, reading, walking, exercising, hanging out with friends. It was a vacation that I so very much wanted and needed. I still remember my joy at having the time and not wanting to waste a second of it. Well, you might think I wasted it by watching Nick at Night. But I don't think I did. I relished the freedom of it, but, unlike college, I realized that it would come to a jarring end and back to work I would go.

I am so looking forward to our week off in July. It has been shortened over the years to one week off in July. That's okay because the other week we used to have you can now use whenever you want. Despite being able to use my vacation time whenever I want, I see the mandatory vacations more like real vacations. When the office shuts down for the mandatory vacation, e-mail stops, calls stop. It's like you left work on Friday and those 9 days until you show up again didn't even happen work-wise. As opposed to the other vacation when the e-mail just stacks starting the hour you leave. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

What I really don't understand

I don't understand much in this world, but I really, really, really don't understand my own body.

June has pretty much been a bust health-wise so far. We had family in town, two parties, I was experimenting with a strawberry cake and cupcakes and then strawberry cream cheese frosting from scratch (i.e., lots of tasting). I have been eating crap on top of crap. I have exercised some but not as much as usual.

I try to weigh myself once a week. Keep myself on track but not be crazy obsessive about it. Believe me, I CAN be crazy obsessive and I often AM crazy obsessive. But about weight? I don't really see the point in getting too wrapped up in it, unless you're morbidly obese and need to lose quickly for health reasons.

So I get on the scale this morning with lots of trepidation. It's like when I'd go to Catholic reconciliation back in grade school, and the nun would tell you to confess your sins and I had SO many sins to confess that I was paralyzed in fear about where to start and if I started to list them all, I'd surely accidentally miss at least 5. And then was it a sin to forget your sins??? Cue need for Xanax.

I started to silently list all of my sins of the past week, realizing that I was in for a 3 pound gain. I mentally calculated what would be a realistic weight after eating probably 3,000 calories per day for 4 days in a row and then 2,200 calories per day for the next 3 days. Yeah, a 3 pound gain was realistic.

And then...the scale tells me that I have a 2 pound LOSS. I'm so confused that I can't even process it. How does that math work? Or is my body just behind? Is the loss really from several weeks ago when I was good: having clean days, working out for 45 minutes+ per day? Is it water weight? Will the 2-3 pounds I should have gained show up next week or the week after?

I'm so confused.

Monday, June 3, 2013

May

My May was pretty good (see last post). I read a lot, I ate clean for 6 days, I exercised for a little over 20 hours. I did quite a bit of walking, but the vast majority of the walking is with weights or it's scaling the hills we live on. So I think it really does count as exercise. I was weak on exercising my abs. I have to do better in June on that in particular. I wrote 6,000 words toward my current writing project. All in all, it wasn't too shabby--a lot done and most toward good goals. Except for my weight. I went up a pound. So, since January 1, my total weight loss is 1.4 pounds. Umm, yeah, that sucks. And in May I really kept it together when it comes to eating. My one indulgence were nut clusters. I did have a slight obsession with them. I ate two whole packs of them. 24 servings each x 2 packs x 170 calories per serving = probably a week's worth of calories.

Thus far, June is abysmal. Exercise = zilch. Food = oh geez, I have probably eaten a week's worth of calories on just June 1st and 2nd. It was J's birthday weekend, and we had family in town (hosted several meals), and then J had her friend party today. When I host, I get nervous. When I get nervous, I eat.

I have really got to pull it together starting Monday. Eat well, exercise, although it seems like I gain weight when I exercise a lot.

So it starts a new week, and I'm in a major sleep deficit. This will be *fun*.