May 2012 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

May 2012 - Posts

  • Running Update #10: The Envelope Please... Edition

    You all are awesome.  With your help, I felt something like this over the past few days:

    Photo courtesy of ms4denmark.

    Never mind the fact that I looked a little more like this:

    With the wonderful encouragement of the Dollar Stretcher community, I finished out May with 183 total miles under my belt. 

    I've run 61 miles this month.

    I ran 42 miles for the Amazon Card Giveaway and racked up $21 on the gift card.

    I could not have done this without your encouraging and fun comments.  You were my inspiration on meh running days, and boy did that make a big difference.  And without further ado, the winner is....


    Cuevas77!  Congratulations to Cuevas77 and a big thank you to everyone who read and commented and sent me good vibes!

  • Our Cockamamie Real Estate Scheme


    Photo courtesy of respres


    Across the street from our house is a foreclosed home.  We actually got a chance to meet the previous owners.  The husband's job transferred him back to his home town, where he already owned a house, not long after J and I moved into the neighborhood.  According to the local gossip, the couple was underwater in this house, so when they got the job transfer, they threw the keys into the house and walked away.  I don't know if that is true, but it did seem to take a while for the bank to take possession of the home.

    J and I have understandably been a little concerned about the vacant foreclosure on our street.  We've worried about how it will affect our property value.  So we were pleased to see a for sale sign go up in front of the house in late winter.  (We were less pleased to see that the asking price was about 2/3 of what the house should be worth).  Knowing that spring is the best season to sell a house, J and I hoped we might have new neighbors taking advantage of a screaming deal within a few months.  Unfortunately, though there have been a great many showings, no moving vans have yet shown up.

    On our drive to Indianapolis on Sunday, J remarked that it was a little worrisome that the house has not yet sold, considering we are getting to the end of spring.  One of us joked that we should buy it, if J was so concerned.

    And like that, we were off and running.

    We could (somewhat) easily scrape together a 20% down payment.  There are plenty of rentals in our neighborhood, and with Purdue just down the street, we could find some ideal student tenants.  Since J is fairly handy, and I work from home, we can be available to field any property management issues.  It would be a perfect extra income stream.

    During the drive there and back, we did rough calculations of how much passive income our little venture could bring us.  It was two hours of insanity, of strange dreams...We were going to be slum lords!!!

    When we got home, rather than watch the last lap crash from the 500 that we were not able to see from our seats, J looked up the house on all the local real estate websites.  Clearly, he was pretty darn excited about this prospect.  But the house listing was nowhere to be found.  To be honest, I was just a tad relieved.

    I should point out that in our marriage, I tend to be the sobering splash of cold water that ruins everyone's fun and grand schemes.  (In case you don't believe me, read this.  And this.  And this.  Oh, and this.  And those are just from the last 6 months.)  So, in my role as official party-pooper, I had already started thinking about the possible reasons why this scheme might not compare favorably to sliced bread:

    What if we couldn't find tenants?

    What if our tenants were irresponsible idiots?

    What if the house was only held together with spit, band-aids, and the wishes of children?

    What if the house was built over an unknown Native American burial ground and we couldn't keep tenants because the ghosts kept chasing them out and then to prove that there was no such thing as ghosts we spent the night there, only to discover that we do believe in spooks and it's really scary over there and I've now exposed my family to the horrors of a ghost infestation for an investment property which we will now have to sell for a loss or destroy so as to finally allow the spirits of those poor dead people (who are haunting us so maybe I shouldn't refer to them as "poor") to rest?  What then?

    I kept all of this to myself, however.  I've learned that crushing my husband's soul is something I prefer not to do, particularly with my irrational fears, considering the fact that going from idea to actual purchase would offer J many opportunities to back away slowly.

    On Monday, J was still feeling fairly gung ho about our plan, so he looked a little more diligently for the listing.  And he found that the house is in contract.  That's why he wasn't able to locate it the day before.

    I must admit, I felt as though a weight was lifted.  While I do think that J and I ought to do more with our money--we're great at saving for a rainy day and saving for retirement, but we're not so hot on making our money work for us--I'm not sure real estate is the investment for us.  There are too many variables.  And too much uncertainty about the location of lost graveyards.  I'm really not sure it's worth the risk.

    That, and I'm way too lazy to handle the property issues at our house.  Throw someone else's house into the mix, and at least one of these properties will end up falling apart, and I suspect it will be the one we live in.   Shoemaker's children and all.

    So, all in all, I'm feeling as though we've dodged a bullet, even though we never got past the "wouldn't that be cool?" stage.  (See marital soul-crushing, above).

    J, on the other hand, is hoping the contract will fall through.  He's clearly the idea man in this relationship.

    Perhaps he and I should get on the same page. 

    Or at least start reading the same book. 

    Or be in the same section of the library. 

    Or something.



    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    It's not too late to enter my giveaway! 

    I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 5  (And let me tell you, these were "pulling teeth" miles.  Thank you to everyone who has given me such great encouragement!  You are what kept me putting one foot in front of the other this morning.)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 37

    Gift Card Amount: $18.5

    Goal: 12 more miles.  (Which I'm afraid is not going to happen by noon tomorrow.  Feh.)

    Mileage for the year: 178

    Please, enter to win!

  • The Indy 500 Makes For the Best Lemonade Stands


    Photo courtesy of Rdikeman

    For the second year in a row, J, LO and I braved the heat, the crowds and the noise to attend the most famous car race in the world.

    (Yes, we have taken our baby to the Indy 500 twice before he even hit 2 years old.)

    You can read and watch all about the race elsewhere on the interwebs, so I won't get into those details.  (Also, I don't really know them.  Since J is the officially race fan, I was point person when LO got fussy.  I know that Dario Franchitti won, that LO likes concession stand ice cream cones, and that it was pretty darn hot out there.  Other than that, I don't have a great deal of race day information to impart.)

    I do, however, want to talk about the neighborhood of Speedway, Indiana, where the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located.  This is a fairly blue collar area filled with well-cared for mid-century homes.  It is also home to some very enterprising young men and women.  For example, parking for such a large event is always quite the issue.  So, for the second year running, we've exchanged about $15 for the privilege of parking on someone's front lawn.

    In addition, it seemed every other house had a passel of kids selling ice cold bottles of water for a dollar each.  Sports drinks were generally $2.50 each.

    As someone who always longed to have a thriving lemonade stand as a child, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy for these kids.  Not only did they live just down the street from a major sporting icon, but they also had literally thousands of thirsty race fans walking past their houses when they set up shop.  In comparison, the quiet mid-century neighborhood where I grew up had no nearby stadiums, unless you counted the risers surrounding the soccer field at the local elementary school, and there were never more than 2 or 3 passersby on any given day, and one of them was usually my sister.  With those statistics, my lemonade stand was never going to be a profitable venture.

    But these Speedway kids are early learning the importance of supply and demand, as well as what sunburned and overzealous race fans look like on their walks back to their cars.  What an incredible early education!


    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Over Memorial Day Weekend: 1 (I know, it's not impressive.  But since I did next to nothing productive all weekend, I'm still proud of that lonely little mile).

    Miles Run Today: 5

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 32

    Gift Card Amount: $16

    Goal: 17 more miles  (Note--I don't think I'm going to get 17 miles in by Thursday.  D'oh!)

    Mileage for the year: 173
  • Shoot the Engineer

    Photo very precisely provided by Seidel

    As J has told me on multiple occasions, in any project requiring an engineer, there comes a moment when it becomes necessary to shoot the engineer.  This is because, if left to their own devices, engineers would continue to futz with any given project until perfection is reached, even though perfection is impossible, meaning they will continue to make tiny improvements long past the point of utility or sanity.  Since it can be difficult for engineers to recognize this moment themselves, cooler heads might have to shoot them.  Metaphorically, of course.

    We had a shoot the engineer (and wife) moment recently when trying to improve the sleepability of our bed.

    The bed on which we have been sleeping has been mine for 19 years.  It has served me very well during that time.  But over the past six to nine months, I've been finding that a night of sleeping on said bed would cause me to wake up with unwelcome twinges in my lower back.

    At first, we thought the 19 year old mattress was to blame.  According to the The Better Sleep Council (who I suspect are a little biased toward more mattress purchases), you probably shouldn't be sleeping on a mattress that is more than seven years old.  While I do think that a seven year old mattress is just barely getting broken in, I also recognize that 19 years is probably pushing things.  Since I seemed to be falling into the center of the bed, and I've been sleeping on the same side of the bed for all 19 years, replacing the mattress seemed to be the better part of valor.

    So, Grandpa and Bubbie Mensch were kind enough to give us their barely used guest mattress--the better to sleep on, my dear.

    Unfortunately, after six weeks of sleeping on the new-to-us mattress, I found myself still falling into the middle of the bed and waking up with unpleasant sensations in my tailbone.

    I started questioning the structural integrity of the bed frame.  I remembered that the movers who put the bed together when we first came to Lafayette must have done something untoward in their building because my 8-months-preggo heft managed to break one of the struts that held the bed together.  (And while I was certainly carrying some extra weight, it was still within reasonable minimums for a bed to handle).  I knew that we had braced the bed post-strut-breakage, but I wondered if perhaps we could have done more.

    So, last week J and I deconstructed the bed.  With a level in hand, we started measuring all the possible ways that the bed frame could have betrayed us.  We took everything apart and put it back together.  We measured every straight line and started measuring the relative distance between each slat.  We compared the level of the side board (which carries no weight, by the way) versus the level of the ledge on which the slats and struts rest.  We tested the straightness of each slat. On catty-corner legs, we installed those felt circles that go under furniture to protect the floor--to act as shims.  We frowned at the frame and at the slats and struts that hold up the bed.  We took the whole thing apart again, and put it back together again.

    We definitely needed to be shot.

    Because at some point I looked at our box springs--the split ones we were forced to buy from Mark's Mattress and Fireworks Warehouse because our 1940 Cape Cod was not built so that a queen size box spring could be delivered in any way up to the second floor--and realized that there was no way the split box springs had enough support in the middle.  As an experiment, we threw the box springs on top of the struts and applied the level.

    It was mulitple bubbles short of the desired level.  All that futzing with the infinitesimal differences between each leg's height was all for naught.

    On the plus side, that meant we knew what the issue was.  Instead of plain wooden struts stretching across the frame, we're going to need to have something a little more robust to hold up our box springs.

    Unfortunately, that's a solution that will take some time.  That's why our bed now looks like this:

    Yes, that is a mattress and box springs sitting directly on the floor, with a now completely aesthetic bedframe uselessly enclosing it.

    The good news is that my back feels better.  The bad news is that I feel like I now have to get into bed from the floor below.



    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 5

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 26

    Gift Card Amount: $13

    Goal: 23 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 167
  • An Ode to Cloth Diapers

    Photo Courtesy of C.K. Close

    I have been a confirmed environmentalist since elementary school. I embroidered the words "Save the Earth" on my burgundy JanSport backpack. I cleaned up Soldier's Delight Park on Earth Day. I cut six-pack plastic rings so that birds and fish wouldn't be choked by them. In short, I tried very hard to remember that we only get one planet, and that it won't last forever.

    Back then, my uncle was married to a true earth mother type who ran a daycare out of her home. My sister and I spent a fair amount of time helping out with the daycare (and being watched ourselves, but I didn't realize it at the time). Debra diapered her son, my cousin Jeremy, in traditional cloth diapers--the kind that you safety-pinned on and covered with a plastic urine-containing second layer of defense. Observing the use of these diapers, and noticing the way Debra left dirty diapers soaking in the downstairs toilet prior to laundering the nastiness, truly challenged my commitment to environmentalism. If that was what I would have to do in order to keep disposable diapers out of the landfill, then I would have to embrace my hypocrisy once I had a child.

    Several years later, I was a responsible adult with babies--two cats and a dog, to be specific. Part of the joy of pet ownership is the consistent need for dealing with animal waste. After daily pickups of Obie's contributions to the local landscape, and years of being on catbox duty, I was willing to rethink my stance on cloth diapers. If I was able to handle the incredible output of which a greyhound is capable while never missing a beat during my cell phone conversation, then I thought I could take on the challenge that is reusing the diaper in which my child poops.

    Adding to my new sense of comfort with cloth diapers is the fact that poop-cloth technology has come very far in the 20 years since I watched Debra laundering diapers in her toilet. My dear friend Erika highly recommended Fuzzi Bunz diapers, which feature snaps instead of pins, moisture-wicking technology, a waterproof outer covering, and awesome colors. While I was pregnant with LO, I got about 20 of them. I couldn't wait for LO to use them.

    When we first brought LO home, he was too small for the Fuzzi Bunz, so we started him off with the free disposables the hospital sent home with us. I started to appreciate the beauty of a disposable world. Nastiness just went in the trash. No need to deal with it. But, as a once and future environmentalist, I started covering LO's bum with cloth.

    This worked fairly well for us, until it didn't.  No one tells you that diapering a squirming toddler is a heck of a lot more difficult than a wriggly baby boy--and that disposables go on much more easily in either case.  Nothing can challenge an environmentalist-frugalista's cloth diaper convictions like the sight of a half naked toddler zipping around the house while his desperate mama runs after him with a diaper and wipes.

    Also, we've been finding that LO needs a wet diaper change in the middle of the night if he's in a cloth diaper, but not if he's in a 'sposie.  Since J and I both value our sleep more than any other high-minded principle, we've been diapering him in disposables for overnights.  I absolutely have no issues with this particular decision.

    Then, there's the problem with getting any kind of ointment on Fuzzi Bunz diapers.  The problem being that you can't, or else you void your warranty and destroy the waterproof nature of the diaper.  While we've been lucky in that LO has not needed any kind of ointment (all that airy running around the house must be good for something), but that has not stopped oil from contaminating the diapers.  Someone--and I'm not naming names here, but his initials are Mr. J Mensch--threw a batch of oily garage rags into the wash along with the diapers one cycle and thereby shredded the waterproof coverings of about half of our diapers.  I've avoided calling Fuzzi Bunz about this issue because I'm not looking forward to hearing the peals of laughter.

    So, between the ease of use, the lack of a full contingent of 20 diapers, and the fact that I seem to be laundry-challenged, I've gotten to the point where LO wears about four or five cloth diapers a week.  (This is not an improvement in any sense, considering that means there's a much longer waiting-in-diaper-pail-period between diaper laundry loads).

    I fail at environmentalism.

    Maybe this just means I need to start potty training.  I don't need this ethical dilemma.



    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 0  (I would feel guilty about this, but the decision to skip my run this morning made me feel as though a weight had been lifted, so between that and the fact that I slept for two and a half hours while LO was at daycare makes me think I made the right call.  I plan to run another 5 miles tomorrow, and I'll have a doozy of a last 7 days of my Amazon gift card challenge to get myself to 190 miles total by May 31.  Keep cheering me on!)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 21

    Gift Card Amount: $10.5

    Goal: 28 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 162
  • My Subconscious Really Hates Debt


    Photo courtesy of Frank Hebbert, who is no relation to the guy who wrote Dune.


    As I have mentioned before,  J and I use the Dave Ramsey cash envelope system in order to pay our regular expenses.  Sometimes that means that I have to re-deposit cash into the bank in order to pay for something we've put on the credit card.  This doesn't bother me at all, as it gives me an opportunity to stop by the bank, which is one of my favorite errands.  (They offer coffee and cookies!  They're so friendly!  There's an enormous calculator right by the deposit slips!  Yes, I am easily amused.)

    Earlier this week, I needed to deposit $250 in cash into my account to go toward our credit card.  While I was sorting through the cash in my wallet, I realized I still had about $35 of my fun money left for the month.  I figured I could live without $25 of it--and be $25 closer to paying off my student loan--so I added that amount to the deposit.  (I am so close to the end of the student loan journey that I look on every stray penny as a possible addition to my monthly payment.  That, and I also have thought about annoying the current owner of my loan by mailing individual pennies to them to apply to my principal.  This is how I entertain myself in slow moments.)

    Later that night, I logged onto my various and sundry bank accounts in order to send the $275 to the appropriate creditors.

    While logged onto my student loan, I entered an additional payment for the month in the amount of $50, and then went along my merry way.

    $50.  Not $25, like I'd deposited.

    Now, I should probably explain that I'm one of those to-the-penny bank account holders.  I know others like to keep a cushion in their account, but I figure that's what savings accounts are for.  And since balancing my checkbook is more like a hobby than a chore to me, I've never had a problem with overdrawing my account.  Unfortunately, that means $50 was potentially problematic.

    It took me until this morning to realize my "error."  And by now, the payment has gone through, so I can't reverse it.  Not that I want to.  I'm now $50 closer to being done with this loan forever and always.

    Luckily, even though I balance everything to the penny, I happened to have a little padding in my account this month.  I think my subconscious must have known this and wanted to make sure that all my money was being put to good use.

    I'm just glad my id and me are on the same page.



    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 5

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 21

    Gift Card Amount: $10.5 (Big money, no whammies!!)

    Goal: 28 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 162
  • Memory of a Morton's Meal


    Photo courtesy of LWY


    Several years ago, when J and I were young and carefree and could spontaneously decide at 6:00 on a Friday night to go out for a steak dinner, we spent a lovely evening at the Morton's Steak House in Columbus, Ohio.

    J met me at the door that afternoon with the $50 Visa gift card he had recently received from work and told me he was in the mood for a good meal.  We had heard great things about Morton's, so we got ourselves gussied up and headed in the direction of well-prepared steaks.

    We, of course, knew that J's gift card would not cover our meal, so we brought some cash along with us.  And since we so rarely really treat ourselves, we went whole hog.  We got an appetizer to share.  We ordered a carafe of wine.  We each got an excellent cut of beef, and we finished the meal off with a shared dessert.  The food was excellent and the service was prompt and friendly.  We felt definite warm fuzzies throughout the evening.

    Did I mention that we also had a carafe of wine?  Because that's important.

    When the check came, we were still in the midst of our warm fuzzies.  We applied the $50 gift card to our check, and then covered the rest of the meal and the tip for our wonderful service in cash.

    We walked out of Morton's experiencing the kind of smugness one feels when one has just enjoyed a phenomenal meal, and one still has an entire weekend to look forward to.

    That lasted until we reached the car.  Something was bothering me about our math on the bill. 

    "Did we leave enough tip?" I asked J.

    "Yeah, it was 20%," he replied.

    And yet, the niggling sensation that something was wrong stayed with me as I drove us home.  It took another 20 minutes after we got home for me to identify our mistake:  we left a tip based on what we owed after we'd applied the gift card.  Because even though I hadn't had enough wine to affect my other abilities, my math skills are apparently a really cheap date.  This mistake meant we'd left our server a less than 10% tip.

    J, who had consumed more of the wine than I did, and who I had foolishly used as my math backup, did not notice our error.  This is what happens when you have the easily-mathematically-confused checking numbers with the just-drank-the-majority-of-a-carafe-of-wine.

    I have never waited tables, because it seems to be the punishment most likely waiting for me in the innermost circle of hell.  I would prefer to clean the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on my hands and knees with a toothbrush than wait tables.  My anitpathy for the job stems from the fact that I know it's a difficult job that everyone seems to think is easy.  So, I try to be a good tipper.  I recognize that it can't be fun waiting on hungry people, since the hunger lobe seems to be inextricably connected to the "act like a jerk" lobe.  Thus, my realization that we had stiffed our excellent waitress of a tip made me mortified beyond belief.

    I did what any rational and remorse-filled bad tipper would do: I mailed a letter and the rest of the tip in cash to our server (whose name I remembered) care of the restaurant. 

    I can only assume that the tip and the letter reached our waitress.  I hope that it made her day.  I probably could have driven back there, but that seemed like an unreasonable amount of work, when the USPS could deliver.

    It might be because of our tippling tipping, but J and I have probably never had a better meal together than that one.  Two years later, when we wanted to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we decided to go back to Morton's, only to find it had closed a mere 3 days beforehand.  We went to another steakhouse, which simply didn't compare.  My fear is that even Morton's wouldn't compare to the Morton's memory in our heads.  Nothing can match that gold standard.

    This weekend, we have plans to go to the Indianapolis Morton's for a long overdue date-afternoon.  (Date nights are not really possible with LO-the-poor-sleeper.)  I can only hope that we have a good meal.  No matter what, we'll tip well.

    We're going to pass on the wine this time.


    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 0 (Today was a rest day, since the little petri dish seems to have given me yet another cold.  I'll make it up by running 5 miles tomorrow, promise!)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 16

    Gift Card Amount: $8

    Goal: 33 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 157
  • Anticipation


    Photo courtesy of Scott Ehardt

    I can remember the best Snickers bar that I have ever eaten.

    This feels like an odd statement, considering the fact that part of what makes candy bars what they are is their uniformity.  Chocolate chip cookie flavors can vary widely depending on the baker, the ingredients, and even the packaging.  But barring an unfortunate overheating or staleness incident, you can generally know what a Snickers bar is going to look and taste like.  I should know.  I've been an unofficial taster for Mars for years.

    However, the best one I ever tasted was from back in 1999.  I was a sophomore in college, and I had bought myself the treat one morning.   But instead of consuming it right in front of the college bookstore, which was my normal unofficial taste-tester MO, I saved it to eat that night while I read a light mystery by Barbara Michaels, one of my favorite romance novelists.  I climbed into bed that evening with my fun book and my candy bar, and proceeded to very slowly enjoy the heck out of both of them.  It was awesome.

    (No, I can't remember if I then got up to brush my teeth.  We'll just assume that I did.)

    I've been thinking about that particular Snickers bar for a few days.  I know that I was able to enjoy that candy much more because I was anticipating it all day long.  It sat on my bedside table while I was studying, like a friend that was waiting for my day to be done.  A friend waiting until the moment it could be eaten.  (That might not be quite the right simile.  I don't generally eat my friends.  And yet, that candy bar did feel like a friend).

    I try fairly hard to be mindful.  I know that life is much more enjoyable if you take the time to actually enjoy it.  Unfortunately, I also tend to be really impatient.  (My mother likes to say that I'll never be a doctor because I don't have any patience.)  This well-remembered candy bar probably sticks in my mind because it took an incredible effort of will for me to leave it unmolested for the better part of 12 hours.  I know there are people out there who are capable of keeping chocolate in the house until it goes bad.  I do not understand these people.

    I realized that I'm still getting enjoyment out of a candy bar I ate approximately 13 years ago, which made me think that I need to start anticipating my treats more.

    I already do this with vacations.  The upcoming Mensch family trip to Seattle has prompted us to litter the house with Rough Guides and Lonely Planets as we start thinking about all the cool things we want to do.  Our trip to Seattle has already started in my head, since I'm already planning out our day to day activities there.  It's going to be legen...(wait for it)...dary.

    But when it comes to the more prosaic treats, I have a tendency to eat first and ask questions later.  So, in memory of my friend Snickers, I'm going to (try to) hold off on sweet treats until just before bed.  When I can sit down and slowly enjoy them, after having anticipated them all day long.

    Because eating a good friend is worth waiting for.


    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 4

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 16

    Gift Card Amount: $8

    Goal: 33 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 157


  • How Groupon Hijacked Our Brains

    Back in December, I got the following email from J:

    "Ok, you are going to think I have lost it for this but..... Groupon has a deal for auto detailing in Indy. I wanna make Eldar shine! Show me a new vanity car that depreciates thousands a year and I'll show you a beautiful blue brick of timeless (ahem) styling, excellent capability, and classic technology. Anyway, how cool would it be to have the detailers working on a 93! rather than the usual suspects?

    Could you purchase the $99 treatment?"


    How could anyone say no to such enthusiasm?  And, a part of me appreciated the quirkiness of having J's 1993 Volvo 240 station wagon sitting in a line to be detailed along with BMWs and Lexii.   Because J and I base our senses of humor on the song "One of these things is not like the others."

    Photo courtesy of Rudolf Stricker

    The Groupon expired after six months, so we had some time to plan our trip down to Indy.  J wanted to wait until spring, since it would defeat the entire purpose of the exercise if we simply got the car (the car named Eldar) covered in salt after it was detailed.

    I promptly forgot about it, but J was thinking and planning and anticipating with great pleasure.

    Until he looked at the details of the Groupon sometime in the last month.  Apparently, the auto detailing place is only open from 9-5 Monday through Friday.  Our original plan of heading down to Indy in two cars on a Saturday to spend the day doing something fun/getting Eldar detailed was thwarted.  Because with J only receiving so many days off a year, taking a one of them to get his car detailed is kind of lame.

    Well, no problem.  I suggested that we go down to Indianapolis on a Sunday and drop the car off and have a fun day.  They could do the detailing on the Monday, and we could come back and pick it up after hours.  No need to even see them.

    When I called to make an appointment for this past Monday, I was told they couldn't fit Eldar in before Wednesday.  Which meant we'd have to be a one car family for at least three days.

    I think this was the point at which J said he was starting to regret having bought the Groupon.

    We decided to go to the Indianapolis Children's Museum in just one car on Sunday anyway, and figured we'd just head there and back twice more this week.   It's not like it's that far. 

    (Note: It's that far).

    Which brings us to Wednesday.  I dutifully entered the detailer's address into the GPS and headed south, with J following me in Eldar.  We made it to Indianapolis without incident, and then wandered up and down the appointed street for a ridiculous amount of time trying to find the address.  In exasperation, and starting to believe that there actually was no auto detailer--the Groupon deal was just a money-making front for some sort of illicit conglomerate that didn't actually do anything--I finally called and asked what the heck they were next to.  After neither the detailer nor I recognized the things the other was describing as being on the appointed street, I was informed I was on Street Name East, when I wanted Street Name West--and those two streets were not actually connected to each other.

    We were able to find Street Name West, but again, the address itself was nowhere to be found.  After driving up and down the street three times, we finally narrowed down where the address had to be and discovered the address number included in a tiny sign in front of a business park.  The name of the auto detailer was also written on this sign, but it was in something like 0.8 point font.  This company did not seem to want to be found.

    We dropped off the car, and the detailer convinced J to let them buff out the scratches in the paint for a small additional fee. Since the only thing more fun than one long drive in a car, is a second one when the baby is awake and annoyed, we turned around and went home.

    We picked Eldar up yesterday, expecting to see an incredible transformation.  The Volvo was going to be as good as new--or at least, as good as detailing can make a 19 year old car.  Unfortunately, we found that the detailer had done a job best described as meh.  Eldar was adequately detailed within an inch of his life.

    To recap:

    J had bought a Groupon coupon for an auto detailing that was an hour away.

    We'd have to drive down there twice, using up the round trip gas three times (since one there and one back we'd be in two cars).

    The company was only open banker's hours Monday through Friday, necessitating either a day off or schedule re-jiggering to allow us to be a one-car family for a few days.

    Considering how difficult it was to find the auto detailer, the fact that J's car was the only one in the lot to be detailed, and the fact that the detailing was only okay, it seemed as though auto detailing was not exactly the main thrust of this company's business.  It's possible the money spent could have been better used on a teenager willing to clean the car with a toothbrush.

    The detailer was able to upsell J on an additional $50 to buff out scratches.  Because we weren't deep enough into Groupon's clutches.


    Don't be like Eldar.  Don't let Groupon hijack your brain.


    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 3

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 12

    Gift Card Amount: $6

    Goal: 37 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 153
  • The Drive to Indianapolis Blues


    For the third time in four days, LO, J and I will be heading down to Indianapolis this afternoon.

    You may be wondering why we would make an hour and fifteen minute drive so often in one week--and it is because our brains have been hijacked by Groupon. 

    Not to worry, I will blog all about the Groupon hijacking tomorrow.  Today, though, I want to discuss the futility of trying to keep a nearly 2-year-old from whining about being bored on a drive when his parents ask each other "Are we there yet?" approximately once every 2.78 minutes.  (By the way, the correct response when an adult asks this question is "I know, seriously!"  The correct response when hearing this question--or the toddler version of "Eh?" spoken with a questioning whine--from a child is to offer a pita chip, a sippy cup, or a toy car.  Neither classification of response is particularly satisfying).

    I have always known that I have a fairly short driving attention span.  I can have fun driving for about two hours, provided I have some kind of music/audio book to entertain me.  Add to the length of the drive, or add to the frustration of the drive (like when we ran into an accident on the way home yesterday), and I start considering abandoning the car to complete the rest of the journey on foot.  At least then I wouldn't be bored.

    J used to have a much better driving tolerance than I do, but I've worn him down.  Sometimes marriage means you take on each other's best qualities, and sometimes it means you turn your spouse into someone with your same bad habits.  Guess which one seems to have happened more often in my case.

    Unlike yesterday, when we drove to Indy to drop off J's car (because it was a deal on detailing his car that helped Groupon to hijack our brains) and then turned around and came right back, today we will actually have some fun in Circle City.  We'll be having dinner in the Broad Ripple area, which is one of our favorite parts of Indy.  We plan to enjoy the lovely May evening on the porch of a brew pub, and then head back to Lafayette with J's newly detailed '93 Volvo 240 and my dirty hoopty caravaning up I-65 together.

    I'm a little concerned, though, because this setup means I'll be alone in my car with no one but LO to ask about the relative thereness of our yet. Somehow, I doubt he'll be willing to hand over his chips, sippy cup, or cars.


    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on May 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 5/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  Here are the numbers so far:

    Miles Run Today: 5

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 9

    Gift Card Amount: $4.5

    Goal: 40 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 150

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