Friday, February 26, 2010


Helping other people always helps me feel good. While my favorite spot on the couch gets sad when I'm not sitting there at least 6 hours a day, I think it's nice to be in more than one area in the house and to actually get out of the house.

My volunteering is going well. I have been basically taking 3 seniors a week (one a day for 3 days) to doctor's appointments, sitting in a waiting room or in my car while they see the doctor, and then driving them home. It's not rocket science. But it does get me out of the house and is a way to help out people who can't drive. I've met some interesting people and have even driven a couple women who were in wheelchairs. I've got a handicapped sign I can hang from my rearview mirror when I need to, but I've only used it twice so far (with the women in wheelchairs). Next week, I will be driving my first male client. I'm getting reimbursed for miles driven, so I figure I should put the money I get from them into a new car/car repair/gas expense fund. I'm so exciting, I know.

I picked up the ceramic pieces we painted for Valentine's Day. Joe's wizard bank turned out nicely. Mine was quite disappointing: the red didn't show up very well at all. I'm glad I went over and over the heart on the front.

We got the futon for our guest room (YAY!) so it is *almost* officially done and ready for guests. We need to get some pictures or something up on the walls, clean out the dresser and closet, and install a ceiling fan. But it's usable! Come visit us!!!! We rock!

Today I spent about 3 hours down at the church building helping get it set up for the adult activity (dinner) tonight. I know I could just show up and eat and leave, but helping set up (and I volunteered to help with the dishes/clean up as well) will help me appreciate it more. So much work has gone into getting it ready!

I looked up some more specifics related to additional classes that will help me with my career, and I have some options. 1) I could use my master's degree and take some supplementary classes (and complete a 400 hour internship) to help me become a school counselor. 2) I could use my master's degree and take some supplementary classes to help me register as an associate therapist. I'd still have to work under a licensed marriage and family therapist to be able to be licensed as such myself, or I could look into (possibly) taking more classes and then working under any kind of therapist and becoming a generic therapist. 3) I could take a medical transcription program online and possibly even work from home part (or most) of the time. 4) I could take additional classes and complete an internship to become a teacher.

I know I have other options, but these are the same kinds of options that have been rolling around in my head for the past couple years or more. When I started looking into costs for the different options, I realized that #3 would be the most cost-effective. I think #1 would appeal to me more, but I don't know how hard it would be to get a job as a school counselor after all of that extra work, and I don't know if I'd be able to find a job that would allow me to work and still complete the internship. Also, when I talked with someone at a local school about that program, they said my transcripts would have to be evaluated, but I'd probably have to take about 5 units. And the cost for each unit is almost $3000, which is more than the entire medical transcription program.

So I'm thinking I can start with #3, and if I'm able to get a job doing that and decide I want to save up money for one of the other options, I can do that. Hopefully I can find either a part or full time job while I'm going to school for medical transcription, but the program is self-paced, and I suppose I could just work my butt off to finish it ASAP if I don't find a job in the meantime.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I didn't shoot my eye out

Hope you all had a nice Valentine's Day or at least survived it without feeling too depressed.

Joe and I had a nice 4-day weekend. He took 2 mental health days off of work and we decided to do some things that were a little different than usual. We slept in on Friday, Saturday, and Monday (he did a little on Sunday, but I tend to sleep in anyway).

On Friday, I picked out our activities. We started by going bowling, where Joe kicked my butt at both games. I told him it tends to take me a couple games to "warm up" where I play terribly (my high score out of the two games was 69. Ouch, lol) and then I have maybe one or two good games and then I start doing poorly again. Well, he said his first game was his best game ever and he was very close to getting a turkey! His second game wasn't quite as good, but still better than mine (I was robbed from a couple strikes!). He isn't a big fan of bowling and we'd never done it together, but hopefully this might make him change his mind, because I enjoy it and hadn't gone bowling for well over 3 years.

After bowling, we hit up a Japanese sushi (& other Japanese foods) buffet. I wasn't all that hungry, but I piled my plate up before I sat down. And then I saw a sign that said there was a 20% charge for uneaten food. Joe had to help me clean my plate. The sushi was mediocre, but Joe said he wouldn't mind going their again. I should've looked harder for wasabi, which makes me enjoy sushi more.

Next we headed to a painting ceramics store. We didn't have anything specific in mind to paint, but he ended up painting a wizard bank for me and I ended up painting a vase for him. He wished he hadn't chosen something as detailed as he did while I wished I had chosen something that wasn't as much of a blank canvas. Our "creations" will be picked up today, and they are no masterpieces, but it was something neither of us had done before and enjoyed.

We decided to head home after painting and ended up staying home the rest of the evening. It was nice relaxing at home after having an active day together.

On Saturday, we didn't have anything major planned. We ate lunch at Red Robin and went futon shopping. First, we checked out futons at a local store, and then we went to Ikea. The products didn't compare at Ikea, so we decided to do a little more investigating online but figured we'd probably buy from the local store. We shopped online a bit but ended up going back to the first store to place our order. We were able to set the futon up to be delivered and set up for a very reasonable rate. We should get it in a couple weeks when the cover we ordered is available. We're really excited, because this will make our guest room more usable, and the futon seemed quite comfortable and sturdy.

After purchasing the futon, we went to a church Valentine's dance for adults. We snacked, chatted with some people we knew from church, and danced. It was the first time we'd really danced since our wedding (I say "really" because after we returned from our cruise without dancing-- and much to my dismay-- I made Joe dance with me in our family room). We only danced on the slow songs because Joe said he couldn't remember how to swing dance without a refresher class and he said he didn't know how to do any other kinds of dances. So we literally danced in circles. It brought me right back to dances as a teenager. We are definitely going to take a dancing class.

On Valentine's Day, we made breakfast together (German Oven Pancakes) and then headed to church. Joe didn't have any church-related meetings, which was very unusual but nice. So after church, we headed home, made lunch together, watched some TV, made dinner together, watched more TV, and played games. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Yesterday, Joe got to pick our activities out. We headed to Bellevue to go to an indoor shooting range. I had never fired a gun before in my life, but Joe wanted me to feel a little more comfortable with one, so he reviewed usage and safety information with me, showing me how to aim and all that fun stuff. Then he let me have a shot at it, literally. I swear my heart was beating so loudly in my chest that I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. I got less than a dozen total shots off, but felt like that was plenty for my first time through. He said I did pretty well for my first time, but I was just glad to have that done with.

After the shooting range, we headed to an indoor go-kart racing track. We paid ridiculous amounts of money to ride in electric cars with 4 other people (including one young boy who kept getting in my way and annoying the crap out of me) around the track for a total of about 16 laps and then that was that.

We headed to downtown Bellevue to shop and eat. We wanted to eat first, but our first two choices for food were places that weren't yet open, so we ended up at Bellevue Square. While trying to figure out where we'd eat, I decided against shopping. We ended up having fabulous Italian food in a restaurant where we were literally the only customers there. Afterwards, we headed to Video Only and Best Buy to look for a blu-ray player (we couldn't find one we were interested enough in buying) and then headed home.

When Joe asked me yesterday what activities I liked the most, I had a hard time answering that. While everything we did was okay, nothing was spectacularly fun or anything. On the other hand, it was very nice spending so much time together without time restraints or specific obligations strewn throughout. The only thing that we'd planned that had a specific time frame was the dance on Saturday night, and that didn't come close to interfering with anything we were doing. I told him I liked being out of the house (I swear that doesn't happen nearly enough these days), enjoying the sun (yesterday, anyway), and just spending time with him. I even told him that getting out made the sitting at home and watching TVs and DVDs more enjoyable for me because it was more of a way to relax than just a way to pass the time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Here goes...

While we're on a tight budget right now (for various reasons, such as potentially owing money to the IRS, me not having a job, wanting to save up for a futon and some other home-improvement items, debt repayment), I am not against trying to lose weight. I know I need to. No one needs to convince me of that. I have doctor's recommendations that I'm following, but I have been curious about Weight Watchers and their points system for a while.

Still, I don't know how I feel about paying $40 a month to go to meetings. I have thought about joining the local community center, but that's $40 a month also. With the wii exercise games, workout DVDs and VHS tapes (yes, I still have VHS tapes: don't judge me), and the treadmill, I think I'll be okay with workout options (I'm a wuss from Arizona who doesn't really like to go walking in the rain, even if it isn't much more than a drizzle).

I got information about how to figure out Weight Watchers points from an anonymous friend (do they castrate you if they find out or something?), and I'm pretty excited about it. I LOVE charts and graphs and math and visual aids (I'm surprised I'm not some sort of accounting geek or something). So Joe and I sat down together and did some number crunching. I had some junk food today (bad girl!) and figured that into my daily allowance. I have enough points left to eat dinner (phew!) as long as I don't go crazy with what I eat. But I love that I can workout and gain more points that way. It's like instant gratification! I have been on the treadmill for 20 minutes so far today (I say "so far" because I don't want myself to think I'm off the hook now for the rest of the day) and earned 2 more points as a result. YAY!

My short term goal is to lose 30 pounds by May. I wanted to do 30 pounds by my birthday (the big 3-0), but I didn't really start with a bang in January. So hopefully I will take advantage of all the tools I have been given (I know what to do and have for a while as far as exercising and eating healthy is concerned, but it's harder for me to put it into practice when I get those chocolate cravings!) and make some progress! Cheer me on! I need all the support I can get!

Photo courtesy of Pavel Losevsky

Busy, busy bees

Even though I'm not currently employed, I am trying very hard to stay busy. And I don't just mean stalking friends and family on Facebook, but I'm talking about being productive.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to paint two of the upstairs bedrooms. When we first moved into this house, we didn't have much use for four bedrooms, but we thought we might use them anyway while waiting for additions to our family to show up. Since I would soon be working from home, I got the largest non-master bedroom room for my home office. The smallest bedroom was dubbed Joe's office. Both of those rooms are carpet-free and face the front of the house. The fourth bedroom, furthest from our room, carpeted, and right next to the upstairs bathroom, became our guest bedroom.

I have wanted to do a lot of painting and work on this house, but I have learned that with an ever-growing list of house projects to work on and limited finances, it's not always easy to plan for or carry out renovations. When we decided to rent out our carpeted room, we allowed our tenant (my friend from church, Marie) to paint the room however she wanted. We helped her with the painting and removing of the border. And, eventually, Joe replaced the light fixture with a small ceiling fan.

Joe's office was more or less unused space, and he eventually sold his desk and it became the cats' room. While it was nice having a place to store their food, litter boxes, and toys out of our living space, it really wasn't necessary that they have their own room. The did, however get a lot of use out of it when they had fleas and were in quarantine!

Finally, we made painting and renovating the two offices more of a priority. Part of this was motivated by the fact that we no longer have the carpeted room as a guest bedroom and therefore have none. Another part was motivated by the possibility of flooding in a nearby town and a desire to help temporarily house someone if that happens. A third, but not final, motivation was Joe's mom and step-dad deciding to put their house up for sale and move to San Diego. We didn't know if they would need a temporary place to stay while finding jobs in San Diego or not, so we decided we'd offer up a bedroom for their temporary placement if needed. (It turns out that they declined our offer after considering it for a brief period of time, and they are already in San Diego with their house sold.)

So a couple weeks ago, I painted the cats' room (or Joe's old office). One wall is a shade of brown while the other three walls are a tan(ish) color. The following day (Saturday) Joe and I took apart my office desk and desktop and moved them into that room. The following Friday, I painted a wall in my old office a plum color, and the next day, Joe and I painted the other three walls gray. Joe's mom and step-dad have "loaned" us their treadmill, which this past Saturday found a home in the new guest room. We are hoping to purchase a relatively inexpensive futon for that room, give both the rooms new door handles and ceiling fans, and otherwise cozy up the room for future guests.

In addition, Joe sold his beloved Toyota Celica for another sporty car (a Dodge Neon SRT4), upgrading from a 1990 to a 2004 and two doors to four doors. He may try to sell the Neon and purchase a cheap commuter car that he enjoys driving so we can put the money toward paying off debt (like my student loans), but I'm not holding my breath on that happening.

I decided to start another blog here where I can share some organizational tips, preparedness tips, and other such items people might find useful to help them be more frugal. Of course, I'll be chronicling for better or worse some of our DIY household projects such as painting and renovating to help us save money. I am proud to say that we got $20 in rebates from the paint used in our project (BEHR paint and primer combo, purchased at Home Depot) and put $50 toward our purchase on a gift card given to us at Christmas, so not only did we save money by painting ourselves, but we also saved money by waiting to get paint when it would be cheaper and maximizing our gift! :)