April 2012 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

April 2012 - Posts

  • Running Update #8: Epic Fail Edition


    Entering into April, I had the grand scheme of running 47 miles for the month.  This was complicated by the fact that I was out of town from April 22-28, and started taking LO to swimming lessons twice a week during my usual running time.  So, that meant I had to run five miles a day Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week I was at home, and run another two miles today, in order to make it.

    Piece of cake, is what I told myself.

    And how many miles have I run this month?


    If you'll recall, 13 of those miles were run in the first week.  That means since the last time I updated you, I have run a grand total of 3 miles.

    What makes me really hang my head in shame is the fact that my parents happened to have set up their treadmill right next to the guest bed I was sleeping in while I was in Baltimore.  Theoretically, I could have been running in Baltimore.  I think, however, that like my weekly Friday "heck with it!" reaction, my body decided that since I couldn't possibly get to 47 miles this month, I might as well deepen the butt-prints on my sofa.

    I'm actually proud of the fact that I'm feeling pretty calm and zen-like about this epic fail.  Normally, I would be freaking out about how behind I am and how likely it is that my least favorite charity in the world might be receiving a check from me.  But there is a great deal of time left.  I have gotten to where I can run five miles at a stretch--at around 5.5 mph.  I'm having fun with the running, when I do it.  Life's too short for that kind of panicking.  There will be time enough to panic later.

    In addition, a neighbor told me that Lafayette will be hosting its very own half-marathon in October.  I'm planning on signing up--and that will take care of 13.1 miles in one fell swoop.  I can almost add that to my total already.  (Okay, not really).

    And, I doubt that even at the height of my running bug I could claim to have run 122 miles by the end of April in any given year.

    Somehow, I've managed to make an Epic Fail feel like a big win.  So, this is either a sign of personal growth, or complete and utter delusional thinking.

  • Road Tripping With LO--UPDATED

    LO and I are currently in sunny Norfolk, Virginia to meet the newest Mensch in the family, the Menschlette, who is not quite five weeks old. (Picture to come when I am no longer stuck with fershtunkiner technology that doesn't allow me to post images.)

    In order to get here, LO and I drove from Baltimore (where LO's Grandma Mensch is recovering from her pneumonia at a rapid pace and is thrilled to be entertaining a certain 2-foot tall gentleman caller). The drive between Baltimore and Norfolk is about 4 1/2 hours, provided you avoid the DC rush hours, which last from midnight to 6 p.m. and from late Wednesday through early Tuesday. LO and I were lucky enough to miss pretty much all of the DC traffic and made it to my sister's house in record time.

    We did, however, have both the requisite drive-through stop for my large Diet Coke and the subsequent Code Yellow emergency stop halfway through the drive. I must tell you, restroom breaks when traveling by oneself with an infant are possibly the most difficult part of parenting I have yet encountered.

    The problem is thus:

    1. The child is sleeping when the Code Yellow signal is first tripped meaning you have two impossible choices:

    A. Wake up the child when you stop, thereby subjecting yourself to angry crying for much of the rest of the drive.

    B. Leave the child in the car while you run into the restroom, which can't possibly end well for anyone.

    2. The Code Yellow signal continues to go off as you make deals with yourself as to how long you can drive before you have to stop. "I can make it another 50 miles...I can wait until 12:30." All the while, you are hoping against hope that the child might wake up on his own before you reach a critical Diet Coke mass.

    3. When you finally do stop because you must and discover to your delight that the child has, in fact, awoken on his own just moments before the wheels stopped moving, you will find that you have waited long enough for your Code Yellow break that you must hurry, but that your child is still in the lethargic non-hurriable state that he only enjoys immediately after a nap when you are in a terrible rush.

    The non-anxiety inducing fun of such moments is the reason why I'm limiting my liquid intake starting at midnight tonight in preparation for tomorrow's drive back to Baltimore. No need for this barrel of monkeys to play itself out twice in three days.

  • Is It Too Soon To Make a Steve Jobs Joke?

    Regular readers may have noticed that my last few posts have been lacking in photos/formatting/links and other things that improve readability. It's because here in the hinterlands (that's the East Coast, in case you're wondering), I only have Apple products to use for my posting, which means I'm having some compatibility issues. So, until I can convince my iPad and the internet to go on a coffee date together to see how much they really have in common, Live Like a Mensch may be out in public without its makeup on. Thanks for your understanding!
  • Debt and Emotion--UPDATED

    You may recall that I have been considering selling my hair.

    Pictured: Not my hair.*

    Well, actually, I was considering donating my hair to Locks of Love. Then, I learned that it is possible to earn anywhere from $500 to $1000 for a foot long ponytail of untreated hair, provided someone is looking for your particular hair color. $500 to $1000 is quite a chunk of change. When I tell friends and family about this particular cockamamie scheme (because I have several, including showing off my skills as a walking encyclopedia of useless information as a contestant on Jeopardy), they tell me that I really ought to do it. Because who else can say that they sold their hair?

    The problem arising from this cockamamie money scheme is my plans for the filthy lucre I will get in exchange for my flowing locks. Unlike Jo March in Little Women, I will not use the money to help my ailing father after he is injured in the Civil War. (I can just hear him now: "I'm not *that* old!")  Nor will I purchase an ironic watch chain like Della in The Gift of the Magi. J doesn't even own a valuable pocket watch, and he would never pawn it even if he did.

    No, I plan to send that cash to my student loan. As my sister said, "How romantic."

    It should probably come as no surprise that a blogger specializing in personal finance should hate debt. What's ridiculous is my inability to be rational about it. I've already talked about how it makes much more sense for me to send my student loan the minimum payment and send the rest to my retirement. Yes, I may know that that's true. But I just can't *feel* it. Right now, I finally owe less than $10,000 to the terrible bank that currently owns my student debt--$9,800 and change, to be exact--and every part of my psyche is poking at me to ramp up the paydown until that bad boy is deader'n a doornail.

    Hence, my interest in selling my hair. $1000 would take out 10% of my debt in one blow. And talk about your easy money. Those same friends and family members who are encouraging me to go ahead and sell my hair? They think I'm nuts to use it for that purpose. Because it's only 10% of the total, and think of all the cool things I could get (a vacation, a major deposit in the kid's 529 plan, lots and lots of really nice toothbrushes) that I could tell people was paid for with hair. (That might be a little creepy with the toothbrushes, sadly.)

    Since the world will not end if it takes me until 2015 instead of 2013 to pay off my loan, I'll probably heed my family's advice and put my hair money in our France vacation budget, or buy a really fabulous hat.

    I just wonder if there's any market for the fingernails I'm going to chew off between now and then. They could make a nice addition to my debt paydown plan.


    *Photo courtesy of Girls hair.  And no, I'm not making that up.

  • This Is The Reason Why I Love Science

    Apparently, scientists have now decided that the rise of fatal allergies can be at least partially attributed to cleanliness. Because the immune system gets bored when Purell is doing its job for it.

    From now on, whenever I have a guest over who is curious about why I'm collecting cat hair tumbleweed on the stairs and three different varieties of sticky on the kitchen floor, I can now tell them it's because I want to protect my child from potential allergies.

    Science: Providing mediocre housekeepers with convenient excuses since 2012.

  • Air Travel Punctuality is Overrated

    Yesterday afternoon, LO and I flew from Indianapolis to Baltimore.  We were a little late to the airport.

    Those simple statements do not convey the bullet-sweating anxiety that results from arriving at the airport at 4:22 in the afternoon for a 4:40 flight.

    I will not get into the reasons why LO and I were so delayed in making it to the airport.  No good can come of describing the circumstances behind our lateness, which were myriad.

    However, I will tell you that running full tilt through the airport after checking one's bag and picking up one's boarding pass and one's lap-child boarding pass does tend to make one forget the fact that the ticket agent mentioned in passing that said bag might not make it onto the flight.  (And also, the shoes that are most appropriate for a quick trip through security are not the self same pair that are most appropriate for a full on sprint on slippery floors.  Just FYI).

    I was so relieved to make it to the airplane on time, that I didn't even think about the fact that my baggage and I might be heading towards a trial separation.  I made it onto the plane, even though I had to juggle a toddler through a jam-packed TSA screening--why wouldn't my bag be able to make it the same distance?

    Then, of course, came the moment of truth.  It came, as so many do, in the baggage claim department of the BWI airport.

    Photo courtesy of Intothewoods29, who, it should be noted, has not actually photographed the BWI baggage claim.

    My suitcase was not the first off the belt.  (One of the wonderful side effects of being late to a plane is that your bag is always the first one there.  Those responsible individuals who actually allow two hours for security have to wait around for their bags, whilst us lag-about time wastrels are already hailing cabs because we got our bags first.)

    I waited for the entire circuit of bags to emerge, as it seemed very barely possible that my last on, first off bag would also be a last/first bag onto some sort of intermediary transportation between the airplane and the baggage carousel.  But of course, my bag was not on my plane.  It was mingling with strange bags on another flight, probably enjoying some tiny bottles of alcohol, and I was simply out of luck.

    Luckily, airplanes fly between Indianapolis and Baltimore with incredible regularity.  My suitcase arrived a mere two and a half hours after LO and I did, and I was not forced to brush my teeth with my sleeve last night.  (Not that the GrandMensches would have allowed that to happen, seeing as there are just as many pharmacies and grocery stores in the greater Baltimore Metropolitan area as there are elsewhere in the civilized world.  But still, it was good to have my stuff.)

    So, I'm here to tell you--even if you find yourself dreadfully behind when rushing to make a flight, know that it is still possible to get to your destination on time.  Out of breath, perhaps, but on time.

    Just don't count on being able to brush your teeth when you land.

  • A Charity Request You're Afraid to Refuse


    Photo courtesy of Dan Brady

    Despite the fact that I am both under the age of 50 and living in the year 2012, I happen to have a home phone in addition to our cell phones.  This makes it easier to own cell phones, as we always have the home phone available to call the errant cell phones wandering around the house.  In the past, when we were a cell phone only family, we'd just have to shout "Marco!" when a phone was lost and hope against hope that the cell phone would have both developed the ability to shout "Polo!" back and that the neighbors would not have us committed.

    In addition to cell phone retrieval, I find that owning a home phone is quite useful for fielding unwanted charity requests at dinner time, because otherwise I would have no outlet for my urge to be borderline rude to people who really are trying to do something good.  

    J and I are on the Do Not Call list, which means that we no longer have to deal with telemarketers, which I am a little disappointed by, to be honest.  I have no problem being borderline (or even downright) rude to telemarketers, and I have always wanted to try a friend's game of attempting to get the telemarketer to hang up first.  She would ask the telemarketer personal questions, like what type of unmentionables they were wearing.  When they would sputter and object, she would correctly point out that they had dialed her.  They were free to hang up any time they wanted.

    Charitable calls, however, are a horse of a different unmentionable.  Even if I don't necessarily agree with the charity that is soliciting my donation, I do appreciate the fact that these individuals are doing what they can to make the world a better place.  I just wish they would not be asking me for money while I'm juggling a pot of boiling spaghetti and expecting guests over at any minute.  Because those individuals who call asking for money for a charity are about as tenacious as the telemarketers.

    I do not have any extra money in our charity budget right now, since I'm saving up for either my good or crappy charity to complete my 2012 Crappy Charity challenge.  When I quickly told our most recent solicitor that I had no money in my budget, he started in on the second part of the script: that any amount, no matter how small, would be helpful.  I told him I was sorry and hung up.

    Now I'm a little worried.  That was the Fraternal Order of Police asking for money on Wednesday.  Last night, the Fire Fighters called, also requesting a donation.  Saying no to both of them makes me a little nervous, as I have just neglected to donate to two organizations that are armed with guns and/or axes.  And they know where I live.

    Of course, I know that the police and fire fighters will not do anything to us just because we didn't make a donation this year.  That's just the crazy sort of idea that runs through my mind because I have a sick sense of humor.  So I know I have nothing to worry about because I told them no.

    They might be annoyed that I was inquiring about their underwear, though.

  • If It's Thursday, I Must Be Anxious


    Photo courtesy of M.Minderhoud

    I begin each week with a lofty to-do list rattling around in my brain.  This is the week I will run 30 miles, write five articles each day, make a working papier mache submarine with LO, finish the multiple craft projects I am working on, and find time to work on the Great American Novel.

    By Thursday, when it has become clear that it's next to impossible for any of these things to happen, I go into anxious energy mode, frantically trying to check off one of my items on the to-do list. (Considering the fact that I rarely write down this to-do list and it is a constant work in progress in my noggin, it's pretty much impossible to actually accomplish anything on the list.)

    By Friday morning, I have calmed down again.  The weight of the week is off my shoulders, as it has become clear by Friday morning that I cannot possibly complete my to-do list, so I might as well spend my time wisely by reading advice columnists, snacking, and planning my takeover of the following week.  Because by then, I can get it all done!

    Thursday, however, is the day when my overwhelming to-do list meets my delusional sense of time in order to create a day of anxiety.  I know I'm not alone in this.  As Arthur Dent mentioned to Ford Prefect on the day the Earth was destroyed by Vogons, "I never could get the hang of Thursdays."

    I'm just thankful that Friday is coming.  And it's a Friday before a week out of town.  So I can give up on my lofty goals with impunity.  What relief.

    I just hope I remember to shower.

  • Cheap and Dirty

    I'm talking about home improvement.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

    I mentioned several weeks ago that we were looking into re-ducting our house, since the upstairs does its best impression of the equator in the summer and one of the poles in the winter.  (They're both really spot-on impressions, but the equator one really brings down the house.)  J did a little DIY investigation and we called in an expert for an estimate.  The estimate was not pretty.  In order to improve the duct situation, it would cost around $3000-$4000.  To give upstairs and downstairs their own independent heating/cooling controls, which J was quite keen on doing, it would cost another $2500.  None of this included the cost of messing around with the walls, which would be necessary in order to install adequate ducting.  (Mr. HVAC actually asked J "How attached are you to the way your walls look?")

    In sum, it looks as though getting our upstairs comfortable will require tearing up the house, a veritable butt-load of money, and it will ultimately be an invisible improvement.

    And so, as of next week, our upstairs bedrooms will each be sporting one of these stylish bad boys:

      Photo courtesy of Andreyanov D

     Luckily, that means that there's money left over from our windfall to do a little work on the downstairs bathroom: 

    Because subjecting people to colors like these is considered cruel and unusual punishment in some circles.

  • The Danger of Free

    As you may or may not know, last week was Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the Exodus from Egypt by eating extremely crunchy cardboard for eight days.  While I truly enjoy eating matzah for the first day or two of Passover ("It tastes like spring!"), by about day 4 I'm pressing my nose against bakery windows and wondering if I'll ever be able to remember the taste of freshly baked bread.

    Traditionally, J and I celebrate the end of Pesach by going overboard on the leavened carbs.  When I asked him what he wanted for dinner Saturday night, J informed me that he would be drinking a beer the very nanosecond the sun went down, and otherwise he didn't really care.  We considered making spaghetti and meatballs with bread pudding for dessert, but we ultimately fell back on our post-Passover standby: pizza.

    Photo courtesy of Axelv

    One of the benefits of ordering pizza was that neither of us had to cook.  Since we were getting it delivered, neither of us had to drive.  And since we can now order pizza online, neither of us even had to talk to anyone other than the delivery driver.  (I do wonder if today's children will need to always have a device with them to text to people they're in the same room with.  Because even those of us who remember the bad old days when you had to place a phone call to order a pizza prefer to keep our person-to-person interactions to a minimum.)

    The problem with this set-up, however, was the delivery fee.  Oh, fiendish delivery fee!  We order the cheap pizza, meaning we can get two pies for about $12.  But with the $2.50 delivery fee and buck tip, the cheapness fades away like the snows of yesteryear.

    However, the pizza website offered us an opportunity for free delivery.  We just had to sign up for a free 30 day trial of Shoprunner, which means we get free delivery tonight, and owe Shoprunner 80 bucks in about 30 days.

    On all other nights, I would say "The heck with that!" and just go pick up the dang pizza.  What made this night different from all other nights?  This was a night of infinite laziness.  I signed up for Shoprunner, and I put a reminder on my Google Calendar to cancel that bad boy in another two weeks.  (I figure we might some other kind of free delivery before the end of the free trial.)

    I hope that once I cancel my free $80 service, it will be the end of it.  Most of these free trials count on the fact that people forget to cancel until after the credit card has been charged for the first time.  I know I'm savvier than that--provided I actually check my Google Calendar regularly.  And yet, despite my smug sense that I have outsmarted the free trial, I'm also worried that Shoprunner now knows my email and where I live.  They could conceivably continue to make me offers I can't refuse until I slip up, and they get my hard earned money.

    Yet again, more proof that there ain't no such thing as free delivery.

    The pizza was awesome, though.

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