Monday, February 1, 2016

Smart Phones and Credit Card Fraud

About six months ago, I was perusing the Cracked website when I came across an article in their "personal experience" series. The personal experiences range from being a professional dominatrix to what it's like to have a hand transplant (that's rejected).

Six months ago, the personal experience series was about a guy who spent $9,000 playing Game of War, famously advertised using the breasts of Kate Upton and Mariah Carey.

And can I just say that it's awesome that they're using Mariah Carey as a sex symbol? I mean, aside from the whole "objectifying women to get money" thing, she's 46 (or 45, depending on who you ask), and she totally rocks that metal bustier. Look out, Wonder Woman, she's gunning for you!

More to the point, though, I though that someone spending $9,000 to play a game on their phone was absolutely stupid. How the hell could someone sink that much money into their phone? I thought there was no game on earth that could make me drop that much cash - or, you know, credit - on a silly game. That was what happened to people who had no self control.


No, I haven't lost $9,000 to an iPhone game, but I did spend about $50 over the course of 3 days, without even realizing it. I was playing Bejeweled a lot, and kept seeing ads for Township, which seemed like a more involved version of the Farmville game that initially launched on Facebook 8 years ago (and which I enjoyed playing for a while). I thought, 'That would be a nice change. Something I can dip in and out of periodically throughout the day." I downloaded it. It was free, after all!

Within about three hours, I was out of the valuable T-Bills (not treasury bills, but Township bills) that are required for... everything. Almost everything. I'd misunderstood how they were used, and only realized my error when they were all gone.

No worries, I thought. I'll just buy some more, just this once. Two dollars later, I was charged up, again. Easy.

But things have a way of snowballing, don't they? Instead of checking it occasionally, the game is timed so that some things are ready to be harvested after 1 minute, and some after hours have passed. So if you didn't constantly check in, you might miss the harvest, and with it the opportunity to earn more coins - not T-Bills - that were needed to do... stuff.

You could pay to build a market using the coins, but when you don't have enough building materials at the end of construction - and no contractor to chew out and threaten with a lawsuit - you have to use the T-Bills to buy materials.

And they go quickly.

One building required 100 T-Bills to complete, because the damned train kept delivering the wrong materials. (100 T-Bills is about equal to $5.00)

Fortunately, despite the fact that I eventually spent $50 on the game, I stopped myself after only three days. Three obsessive, can-hardly-watch-Sherlock-because-I'm-playing-the-game days.

This morning, I deleted the game - and the 1500 citizens for whom I'd worked so hard to create a lovely town. I'd started thinking, the night before, 'I need to delete this app. It's a money pit." But I didn't, because then the money I'd already spent would be wasted.

But I decided to drop the game at 6 am, after suffering a night of severe insomnia, possibly (probably) worsened by the game that had become somewhat addictive.

And then it happened.

At 9 a.m. I received a phone call from my credit card company, alerting me to possible fraud.

'Oh, good grief!' I thought. 'This is just what I need!'

Can you see where this is going?

The credit card company had noticed two suspicious transactions from 'a record store' (also known as the iTunes App Store), close together and for larger amounts than were typically charged 'at that location.'

So this afternoon, after guiltily informing my husband that the app had been deleted, and looking sheepish when he said, "It's not like you spent $20 on the game, or anything, right?", I called the credit card company and said, "Nope, that was me."

Except I said it to an automaton, not a real person.

Granted, I downloaded Tetris for my phone, but that doesn't require in-game payments to get ahead, just quick fingers.

Hey, a girl needs some variety in her digital life, right?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Just Okay" is Sometimes Awesome

One of the things about being chronically ill is that I have a lot of bad days. There are a lot of days where I'm stuck in bed all day, feeling as if a vise is squeezing my temples, and the pain medicine I take only gives me so-so relief. And don't even get me started on migraine medications... Triptans are useless.

So when a day like today comes around, and I'm headache-free (knock on wood), and my neck is only hurting a little bit, it's an okay day.

Before this all started - AKA 6 years ago - if I woke up bloated and hormonal, with two or three zits sprouting on my forehead, it was disastrous.

Now, if I wake up bloated and hormonal, with a single zit on my forehead (being Paleo means I rarely break out, now), some slight back/neck pain, and sore legs, that's an okay day. It isn't great, but it's okay.

Okay has become, for me, the new great, is what I'm saying.

Okay is when I have the energy to go to the grocery store by myself, to put a roast in the crock pot, to clean out my car, and work on our taxes.

I need to take a moment to just process the fact that I'm filing an income tax return with a husband this year. Ack!

The thing about being "okay", though, is that I still have to pace myself. When I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the car, my plans to take the groceries home and head out from the house again had to be cancelled. I realized I needed to rest, lest I work myself into a migraine, so my trip to Williams-Sonoma would just have to wait.

So, today was "okay", and I'm fine with that. I'm fine with the burning in my back muscles and neck from leaning over a pile of papers that desperately needed to be filed properly.

I'm fine with the fact that cleaning out my car left me winded - despite the fact that I sat down the whole time.

I'm fine with the sore legs, and the puffy stomach that's retaining water.

I'm fine with it all.

In fact, I'm more than fine: I'm great.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Role in a Jane Austen Novel: Bedridden Lady of Leisure

I'm lying in bed with my dog, Frederic, curled up next to me. In a few minutes, I'll be working on a story I've started - for the tenth time, actually, but I think I really have it, this time - and drinking water.

I'm married, now - Frederic is actually my step-dog, I guess - and my husband is in the living room of our tiny three bedroom house in Houston. I can hear the narrator of Ken Burns' "Civil War" faintly, and last time I peeked into the living room, my beloved husband was working on a needlepoint project: a pillow with "Home Sweet Home" in blocky text at the top, with two palm trees flanking a smiling Predator below.

It's amazing.

No, he didn't know how to needlepoint before he met me. He learned about two months ago, first starting with a kit geared towards 5-year-olds that depicted a dog. The dog is named Toby, and will eventually be framed. The Predator is named Theodore, because we have a thing about naming stuff. (Frederic's current favorite toy is a stuffed fabric bone that has a handle for playing tug-o-war. It's named Bonaparte, because it's a bone that comes apart).

The last time I wrote was about a year ago, I think. Maybe a little less. I was still planning a wedding, at that point, preparing for the best day of my life.

That day has come and gone, and I still feel amazingly blessed. Even more so than I did before.

Our first 6 months of marriage haven't been easy. I was suffering chronic migraines - still am, actually - and my doctor at the time had decided I was faking it, seeing as she couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I guess she thought struggling to live on the 60% pay that came with my short-term disability insurance while paying $500 per month in medical bills was a walk in the park.

I (and my migraines) went back to work, and I averaged 3 days per week, for a while. Then that dwindled to two days per week. I was struggling to make the 30 hours per week I needed to keep my insurance.

I have since found a doctor who believes me, but we aren't any closer to my migraines going away. I was able to take Family and Medical Leave for three months, but when those were up, I ended up resigning my position, with support from my husband.

I have mercury toxicity, which could be contributing to the migraines, and I've since quit eating fish - unless I know where it comes from - and had the mercury-containing fillings in my mouth removed.

Despite all of that, I've had no relief. Occasionally, I'll feel awesome, but if I'm not careful, awesome can turn really quickly into just-kill-me. So I tend not to get out and do much. I'm afraid I'll be thirty minutes from home in my 10-year-old Civic and not be able to get back to our little bungalow.

I'm also seeing a new neurologist, whose office is five minutes away from Chez StrainedConsciousness. She specializes in headaches, unlike my old doctor who treated headaches alongside other neurological illnesses.

So we're still trying to figure out what's wrong with me, and hoping we'll find out sooner, rather than later.

And if that's "sooner", then my old job is still waiting for me. My wonderful boss told me, the day I cleaned out my desk, that the firm wants me back, once I'm healthy again. Even if it's just part-time, at first, I have a place (barring some economic catastrophe that wipes out all of the company's work).

I'm incredibly lucky that my boss is a kind, caring man, who I believe truly cares about his employees. It probably doesn't hurt that he has a daughter my age, either.

While I've been home, I've done a lot of reading - lots of different genres - and a lot of writing. I want to simultaneously write three different stories, but I don't know if I'm capable of that. I'm afraid I'd have difficulty maintaining the individual "voices" each book requires, because one is a young-adult fantasy book, one is an adult fantasy book (but not, you know, bow-chika-bow-wow adult), and one is historical fiction, set in the 1910s-1950s.

I've also considered opening an Etsy shop - don't laugh, now! - to sell embroidery. Not needlepoint, because I doubt people would want to pay $400 for a Christmas stocking, but simpler embroidery that could be framed. I'm still considering it, though my sister's voice is in the back of my head reminding me that I have yet to finish the needlepoint stockings I'm making for my niece and nephew.

So there's simultaneously a lot going on, and nothing going on. Lots of different stressors, but not a lot to do.

So if you have any ideas for what I could do without having to stare at a computer screen, all day, and also ones that I can do while completely horizontal (because sometimes, just sitting up hurts), I'd love to hear them.

Hopefully, they'll give me more to write about than just, you know, whining about my health.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mawwiage is what bwings us togevah today.

I mentioned in my last post - just yesterday! - that I'm engaged to be married.

For a while, it seemed like it would never happen. I contemplated buying the China I wanted bit by bit, because I started to see myself as hip, single Aunt StrainedConsciousness for the rest of my life.

I'd been dating a fellow for a few months, and had informed him, on our third or fourth date, that I had some health problems, and that they weren't fun to deal with (I went whole hog and told him about the intestinal fungal infection, because that's attractive). His response was, "No problem."

At least, it wasn't a problem until it was a problem, until I didn't want to go to a concert because my infection was back, and I felt awful and exhausted and nauseous. And then, he just... stopped calling. Because five months of dating didn't warrant more than that, apparently.

When I realized that he had no interest in continuing to date me, I was pissed. Pissed that he didn't have the cojones to tell me himself, and pissed that I'd wasted my time on him, particularly since I'd straight up told him, in detail, how the infections affected me, when they happened.

I got on eHarmony that night, and responded to several messages that had been dropped into my InBox in the past two weeks.

One of those messages was from the man I will marry on May 30, 2015.

He was cute, judging by the picture, and wrote exceptionally well, and seemed to have a well-developed sense of humor. We met for coffee a few weeks later - we began corresponding over the Christmas holidays of 2013 - and I liked him immediately.

Except he needed a haircut. But hey, that's easily fixed, right?

He had a good sense of humor, a wide range of interests, and he was exactly like his picture on the eHarmony website. Except more handsome, so hooray!

Our second date was at the Museum of Natural History in Houston. I'd been wanting to see their Egyptian Hall, so we went. We also went through the butterfly exhibit, which was fun, but the best part was definitely the Egyptian Hall.

Why? Because of all of the amazingly hilarious jokes that can be made at the expense of mummies.

Yes, I know, I'm going to hell for mocking dead people. Or, at least their canopic jars.

As we wandered through the gift shop on the way out, a Triceratops mug caught my eye. Not just any triceratops mug, though: an over-sized triceraCHOPS mug, showing the different cuts of meat on a triceratops. My Future Husband bought it for me, and I still use it every day at the office.

By our fifth date - when he made me dinner at 9:30 at night because I was exhausted, on my anti-candida diet, and had just left work - I was hooked. I had to drive to my parents' house, the next day, and when I got there, I cancelled my eHarmony account. I'd found the one.

By our fifth date. Because I didn't feel like breaking my dad's record (He told my mom on their third date that he was going to marry her. She laughed at him.)

Jump ahead fifteen months, and I'm two months away from our wedding.

It's going to be pink. If you'd told me two years ago that I'd be having a pink wedding, I would have laughed in your face.

However, My Future Husband and I attend the Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston, and its interior is painted in two different tones of pink, with soft green accents and beautiful mid-tone wood paneling. It's a very Frank Lloyd Wright-ian building (as are many Unitarian Churches), and I'm thrilled to be having our ceremony there.

My niece was initially excited about it, because that means that her flower girl dress will be pink. Except she just told my sister/Matron of Honor that she wanted a gold dress.


Anyways, we're having a morning ceremony - 11:00 a.m. - with a luncheon to follow at Ouisie's Table, a Houston institution, and also site of the one and only instance in which I've had a waiter pour a drink on me (it was a Bloody Mary, for the record, on my birthday. I think I was 22).

And then, the next day, My Future Husband and I will leave for almost a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of my absolute favorite places to visit.

We've been living together since shortly after our engagement - I was very ill, unable to work, and could no longer afford the rent on my apartment - and My Future Husband has been doing an excellent job of dealing with Wedding Decisions.

For instance, he chose the wedding invitations. I stood in the living room, with six different invitation samples in hand, hemming and hawing about which ones I liked, and he took them, sorted through them, and held up the one we are about to mail out to our guests. "I like this one," he said.

It's pearlescent pink with black lettering. I would never in a million years have thought he'd pick it, but he did! And I like it.

When we went to pre-shop for our registry, I couldn't decide on the Formal Flatware I wanted, and he opened a drawer of flatware, said, "I like this one," and voila! It looked better with our China than any of the others I'd seen.

And then we bought chocolate at the fancy candy counter in the store where we registered (if you're ever in Houston, check out Bering's Hardware: you can buy chocolate, Herend porcelain, William Yeoward crystal, and lawn mowers).

It's nice to have someone who can defuse some of my OCDesign. And he hasn't built a bonfire out of my design magazines, either.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sisters. Sisters. There were never such adoring sisters.

I received a message via Facebook, today, informing me that I had been granted a "Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award." The awarder...


The awardor...


The award giver? Granter? Grantor? Grantor, according to Merriam-Webster.

Okay, here we go again. The award grantor is my third cousin, the daughter of my Cousin Thom. After Thom's death, she took over his blog, To Gyre and Gambol, and has definitely lived up to his legacy.

Since I blogged about Thom, I haven't written another entry, although I've meant to do so. I've mentally composed several posts, but then didn't get around to writing them.

I've been busy. I met the man of my dreams, and on May 30, 2015, I will marry him in a smallish ceremony here in Houston. We now share a home, and he has been through a round of everyone's favorite game: "Megan's Bedridden Again!"

So we have the whole "in sickness and in health" thing covered.

Lots going on. And that's part of why I haven't blogged: I felt there was too much to catch up on.

But now, I've been given an award, and so I will blog, tonight, for the first time in six months.

So here are the questions Amy sent me to answer:

  • Why did you start blogging?
My sister suggested it. I was unemployed in 2008, and had nothing to do. I would write these loooooooong emails full of details about what it's like to be unemployed to her, and she told me how funny they were. I was reading constantly, and wanted a way to "discuss" my books with people, and so when my sister (also named Amy, by the way - total fluke in the family naming thing) suggested I start a blog, I decided to do so. I initially had a schedule: Monday was a review of the bar I went to on Friday for Architects' Happy Hour, Tuesday was some amusing anecdote related to being unemployed, Wednesday was also some amusing anecdote related to being unemployed, Thursday was often a book review, and Friday was either another random story or a picture of alcohol, because I was too busy going to Happy Hour at 5:30. Don't knock it. It's how I got my next job. "You can hold your booze and won't put up with alcoholics' shenanigans? You're hired!"

  • Do you have a favorite scar? Tell us its story
I actually have three favorite scars. Is that cheating? Maybe? I never claimed not to be a cheater, you know.

Three favorite scars: one beneath my right breast - 1.5" long and 1/8" wide; quasi-symmetrical ones fanning out from my waist down to my hips. The fan-shaped scars used to be bright red, then purple, but now they're a shiny flesh-tone, almost invisible unless you see them in the right light. Or wrong light, depending on your feelings about scars.

All three come from chemotherapy treatment as a 17 year old. I got all of them within a three month period of time. On December 4, 1999, I had surgery to implant a port-a-cath, which is usually implanted above the breast in teenage patients, so it doesn't interfere with brassieres. When I was diagnosed, however, I weighed a skeletal 105 lbs, so there wasn't enough fat over my rib cage to implant the port-a-cath above my breast. So the placed it below my right breast, but out of the way of the band of my bra.

The other two scars are also related to my being 105 lbs of nothing when I was diagnosed with leukemia. My doctors put me on steroids, you see, as part of my treatment, and I proceeded to eat all the food ever. I would go through a gallon of whole milk and 1.5 lbs of ham in two days. And that doesn't include the 3 a.m. scrambled eggs I would make for myself, or the Oreos, or the microwaved frozen broccoli.

I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time, and after three months of chemotherapy and steroids - and the puffiness that comes with being on steroids - I noticed that I was getting funny marks on my hips. Stretch marks. From gaining weight.

I used to be ashamed of the scars on my hips. It's helped that they've faded, with time, but I also see them as a symbol of what I went through, and who it helped me to become.

  • Are you sunrise, daylight, twilight, or night?
I am the walrus. Koo koo ka choo.

I used to think I was night. I'm still a bit of a night owl, but something I've learned in the past six months is that I crave sunlight. I've actually cured migraines by sitting in the sunlight and resting, so I think I'm now daylight.

  • What's the best meal you've ever had?
The best meal I've ever had... I've had lots of great meals, memorable meals, but I think the best one was on November 1st of 2014. That was the day The Love of My Life asked me to marry him, and we went to Ruth's Chris for dinner, that night. (I thought he was going to propose at dinner, but then he stole a march on me and proposed before we went to lunch.) When we arrived, one of his friends had called the restaurant, told them what had happened, and paid for us to have a bottle of champagne. At first, I thought Robert - the fiance - had ordered the champagne. But then he asked if I'd done it. Nope. There was a card on the table, and that straightened things out pretty quickly. I had filet mignon, mushrooms, and asparagus with hollandaise with creme brulee for dessert.

It wasn't the best food I've ever had, but the company couldn't be beat.

  • If you wrote a book, what would it be about? Write the inside front jacket.
I've actually written a book, but it's nowhere near being publishable. There's a ton of work to be done on it. If I had a year without a job, I'd work on it, and probably get it polished up in a couple of months. It's a fairy tale about a benevolent witch - it's a matriarchal society, and men are kind of (really) looked down on - who has to go on a journey to find a cure for the coven's matriarch, who will die without this cure. So she leaves, and eventually finds the cure, and on the way decides that neither humans nor males are so bad (in fact, some of them are smokin', but in a totally PG way), and she is also disappointed in some things. The character, as I initially wrote her, is too perfect, though, too cold, and too remote. She isrelatable characters, in the intervening years (I wrote it 5 years ago), so I think I could turn it into something publishable, if I had the time.
n't someone you really want to read about. I've grown better about having

But as for writing the inside front jacket? I don't know if my late-night mental muscles are up to that taxing task...

  • Tattoos: yea or nay?
I certainly don't have any! Long ago, I wanted to be tan, but then I had cancer, and I decided I didn't want to get cancer again, so now I'm perfectly happy being fair-skinned. It isn't pale, it's porcelain, and I'm rocking it. And I work pretty hard to keep it nice, especially after the time I ended up with a striped sunburn after floating the Comal River in San Marcos, TX. No ink shall mar this creamy canvas.

  • What do you wish you were better at?
Wow. There are so many possibilities here. One: getting off my duff and exercising. Two: socializing. I sort of have social anxiety, especially after bouts of illness, and then the idea of going out with a group of people can send me into a panic. Fortunately, my lifemate is good at talking me down (even when he thinks it's just me "not having anything to wear", which is a very convenient excuse for me). Three: riding a bike, snapping, and whistling. That's I lie, I wish I could actually do those things, not just be better at them. That's right: I refused to learn to ride a bike. I need three wheels under my caboose, or it's game over.

  • Which young-adult bestseller-turned move do you dislike the most?
I can't really speak to this one, since I haven't seen any of them. I've heard the Hunger Games movies are actually really good, but I'm so madly in love with the books that I'm afraid I'd be disappointed if I saw them.

  • Public school or private? Interpret whichever way you like.
I went to public school. I found out, within the past two years, that a lot of students in my district perceived my school as "ghetto". I couldn't figure out why, initially, and then I realized that we were one of the few schools on my side of town that had a racially diverse population. We had Hispanics and African Americans at my middle school! Gasp! It was good for me to be in a diverse population. I didn't realize until my parents pointed it out that two of my friends were Hispanic. ("Huh? Oh. I guess they are. Whaddaya know.")

  • What fashion decision do you most regret?
Dream-catcher earrings in the sixth grade. Hands down.

I'm supposed to pass this on, now, and award it to someone else. The difficulty there is that I'm out of practice with reading blogs. I never really read other peoples' blogs, much. This blog was just a way for me to vent, and to be creative and maybe have 100 people read an entry on Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam series (which she finally finished. Helllo! That took a while!).

So I'm going to be a bad sister, in this Sisterhood of Bloggers, and break the chain.

Hopefully I don't have 7 years of bad luck.

Friday, September 5, 2014

For Thom

I haven't written since January.

There's a reason for that. Not a good one, necessarily, but here it goes.

I essentially wrote for one person. And that person was not, at least after a time, myself.

I wrote for my second cousin, Thom, who encouraged me, laughed at my posts, and made me feel like I had some impact on people out there in the great beyond. His own blog posts were funny, poignant, insightful, and witty (not necessarily the same as funny, mind you). He was a wonderful and warm human being, and I hadn't seen him since I was about 15 years old, when he swung through Texas for some reason or another from the state of New York, where he was a professor of psychology.

Thom and I reconnected after a span of years when he joined Facebook and "friended" me. He was funny and conversational, with excellent jokes and commentaries on society, and I enjoyed getting to know him through an electronic medium that made him feel close by, despite the physical distance between us.

Thom sent me all the figurines from the Happy Meal's partnership with the Ice Age III movie to decorate my cubicle when I worked with Oldsmobile, Radio, Pacman, and Scooter (I'd received a couple because, um, I used to eat Happy Meals for lunch on the way back from the construction site). He sent me links to migraine research he'd dug up when I was so very, very ill in November and December of 2010, along with humorous Facebook posts that made me laugh (a difficult feat to accomplish, at the time).

And then, on February 9, 2014, Thom died suddenly. And I was completely and totally devastated.

As is the case when I am upset or experiencing great loss, I shut down whatever portions of my life dealt with that loss. In this case, my blogging went by the wayside.

Without Thom to read it, what was the point? For me, there wasn't one. Not for a very long time.

This wasn't a decision I consciously made, however. I just avoided StrainedConsciousness. I would think about writing, but then all the emotion I felt thinking that Thom wouldn't be around to read it would overwhelm me, and I'd decide not to.

A couple of months ago, my mom mentioned that I hadn't written in a very long time, and I softly told her that no, I hadn't written since Thom died. She teared up, and asked why, and I told her he wouldn't be around to read it. And I cried.

And then I realized that Thom would still want me to keep writing, even if he isn't around to comment on my posts. And I decided it was time to get back to it.

Part of the reason I've decided to get back to it is that, at present, I'm in another period of time where I'm unwell.

I'm back to daily migraines, again, albeit not ones as traumatic as those of 2010. They're still debilitating, though, and I'm currently on leave from work while my Wellness Doctor tries every trick up her sleeve to see what's wrong with me (my neurologist performed Botox, but he's stumped, otherwise).

My micronutrient assays are fine, for the most part, so it's not something there that's causing the issue.

My candidiasis is in control (woohoo!), so that's not the culprit.

But still, I'm chronically exhausted and have awful migraines.

By now, I have tears streaming down my face, and my migraine is hellacious, but I'm pressing through for a few more minutes before I take my drugs - I'm back to "snowing" myself, because acute migraine medicines aren't working.

And I need some sort of outlet. So I decided, at a point in the afternoon that my migraine wasn't raging (about an hour ago, honestly) to get back to blogging.

Not only for myself, but for Thom.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Wee Bit Productive

A blustery cold front hit Houston, Thursday afternoon and evening, accompanied by the ever-dreaded 'sleet'. I was aware that it was a possibility, so I arose earlier than usual to check the weather and road conditions before heading to work.

At 6:30 a.m., there were five wrecks on Houston highways caused by ice on the roads, and the roads leading from my little apartment to my office were hella iced up.

I emailed my supervisors and our receptionist to tell them that I would not be in the office, due to ice. Did I mention that the drainage runnel that flows through the middle of my apartment complex's parking lot was also full of ice? And that the funny fabric awning over my balcony had icicles danging from its scalloped edges in a slightly obscene manner?

No? Well, there was ice and icicles everywhere.

So. Home.

I did get out around 1:00 pm to pick up a feather-bed I'd had dry-cleaned, and I briefly considered going in to the office. It didn't happen, though. Instead, I will be in the office on a Saturday - hopefully with heat, but possibly not. I'll make sure I take my gloves and a hat.

Instead of going to the office, I stayed home, cleaned my kitchen, un-bagged tons of dry cleaning that never quite made it into the closet, and pulled a few things out of my closet that I can't wear, these days (mostly because my chest decreased in size, along with my waist and twigs - er - thighs, and so they're now obscenely low cut).

Saturday morning, prior to going in to the office, I will run to the recycling center and then to a goodwill depository, because I'm not going to bother trying to consign two silk blouses.

In repentance for staying home from work, I worked on my taxes, too.

Did you know that $10,000 of medical expenses when you've made more than $40,000 in a year will get you absolutely jack squat of an income tax return? But add in $6000 of tuition paid, and voila! Enormous return.

Hopefully, that return will pay off the $3000 of health expenses that have been sitting on my credit card, accumulating interest, for the past few months. And, hopefully, TurboTax's return estimator is as accurate as it seems.

After I pay all of that business off, I'm going to try to go credit-card free for a while.

I've been paying for everything with credit cards, but I'm starting to realize that I don't pay as much attention to my monthly spending as I do when I pay with a debit card or cash. So I'm considering switching to a debit card, even though it means I won't get all of the free money - er - points, that I get when I use my credit card.

We'll see if this actually happens, because those points sure are handy when I want to buy, say, two chairs and a ceramic garden stool so I can sit out on my balcony on beautiful days the week before we get an ice storm.

Hooray, Houston.