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August 2012 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

August 2012 - Posts

  • Running Update #16: Not Quite 80 Miles, But We Have a Winner Edition

     

    Photo courtesy of Patrick Gruban from Munich, Germany

     

    The winner of the August, 2012 Amazon gift card running challenge is none other than elizwith! Congratulations to elizwith, who has won a $26 gift card.

     

    Okay, a word about that $26.

    I had hoped to be able to present a $40 gift card to my randomly selected winner. Sometime about the middle of week two, I was pretty sure that wouldn't happen.

    I consoled myself that I would certainly be able to present someone with a gift card of at least $35 or so.

    Then, in the middle of last week, I thought it would be about $32.

    Then I was thinking I'd at least break $30.

    And then we come to today. I was supposed to go for a run at 11 this morning while LO enjoyed some time at the Y childcare. (He doesn't go to school on Fridays because we have a Mommy and Me class starting this fall that will be on Fridays). At around 9:45, when I was attempting to corral the child for a quick trip out to WalMart for birthday supplies before my date with the treadmill, the child lay himself down on the porch and cried.

    Normally, this is a young man who is pleased to go for a ride. Rides mean exciting destinations, shopping, and sometimes french fries through the magic of drive-thrus. I determined that this was a young birthday boy who needed a nap.

    I intended to put him down for a nap and then give the Y a call to adjust the timing of my run. Guess who found herself waking up two-and-a-half hours later with much to do in the afternoon and now no time for a run?

    So, I end this month at 276 miles and 52 miles for the month. I have 224 miles left to run, which is kind of appropriate, since that was my total yearly mileage as of the beginning of this month. I've determined that I can easily complete my challenge and avoid giving away my money to a charity I hate if I run 14 miles each week. I can do this.

    As for you, dear readers, I thank you so much for your support during this (and every other) month. It would be much much harder to motivate myself without having you all behind me. (And by the way, subk, I really appreciate all the gold stars!)

    Onward!

  • 5 Items Our Children Will Not Realize We Used to Pay For

    Stamps: "Let me get this straight. You would pay half a buck for a little sticker--that Grandma and Grandpa used to have to lick in their day--just so you could send a, uh--what's it called?--a check to pay your bills or so you could send someone a printout of an email. Do I have that right, Mom?"

     

    Phone calls, both those made in public and long distance: "Wait, I don't understand. Why did you wait two hours for Uncle Jason to pick you up from practice? Why didn't you just call him to come get you when you realized he forgot?...You didn't have a quarter? What the heck is a quarter and why would you need one to make a call?"

    Photographs: "What do you mean you had to wait for the vacation photos to be developed? Why didn't you just upload them from your camera? Wait, you had to buy more film, too? What do movies have to do with this?"

    Information: "Grandpa paid how much for a set of books that were obsolete within a few years? Why didn't you just go online?"

    Maps: "Okay, so you got lost on the way, but why didn't you just turn on your GPS? You had to find a 7-11 to buy a what? Really?

     

    Can you think of any other items our kids will be shocked to learn that we used to spend money on?

     

    Stamp image courtesy of the U.S. Post Office Department Photo store image courtesy of Dariustong Encyclopedia photo courtesy of Surya Prakash.S.A. Vincennes, IN map courtesy of Baskin, Forster and Company, Chicago

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: I'm sorry to report that my body informed me over breakfast this morning that it and I would be taking a rest day today. I had hoped to really punch it into gear this week, and I still have tomorrow to run, but I wish I could do/had done more.

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 52

    Gift Card Amount: $26.00

    Goal:28  more miles

    Mileage for the year: 276

    Please, enter to win! There's still time!
  • Why Automatic Renewal Can Kiss My Grits

    Photo courtesy of John Phelan

    Back in the dark ages (I believe it was 2005 and Facebook wasn't a thing yet), J lived in an apartment complex that was striving to look like a southern small town and that was inexplicably filled with beautiful but soulless people. I'm still not certain why he chose that particular apartment, considering his deep and abiding love for old and decrepit architecture. But, he lived in his faux-southern one bedroom for a year before he took the plunge into old and decrepit home ownership.

    This apartment complex required 60 days notice that you were not renewing your lease at the end of the term, or else you would automatically be renewed for another year of renting a faux-southern apartment abutting another faux-southern apartment inhabited by someone fun to look at but emotionally devastating to talk to.

    J at the time worked in a job that demanded long hours and was under a great deal of stress. He is also not particularly good with dates and deadlines. So, when he alerted the rental agency that he was moving out 50 days prior to the end of his lease, he was told "Tough luck, Chuck." (When he asked why they required double the usual amount of lead time for lease non-renewal, they replied that they wanted to make it "stupid easy" to stay with them. Stupid just about described it.)

    Poor J was stuck paying rent on an empty apartment for five months until another tenant (who was probably beautiful but mean) took it over.

    I was reminded of this travesty of "courtesy renewal" this morning when PayPal graciously alerted me to the fact that Weight Watchers had charged me for another month of usage.

    When I signed up for WW online, I knew it was a three month period, during which time I was getting some sort of special pricing deal. Apparently, somewhere in the information I read through, I was informed that I would be automatically renewed at the end of the three months. I have no memory of reading this fact. I suspect it was written in very small print. In another language.

    Fast forward three months, and I have used Weight Watchers next to not at all. (Easiest weight loss system, my foot! Or so says the woman who single-handedly finished off the remains of the practice dinosaur cake she made in preparation for LO's upcoming birthday party.)

    So, I called Weight Watchers this morning and told them to reverse the charge. They asked me if I had cancelled prior to today. I told them it was irrelevant and immaterial. Heated words were spoken. (I exaggerate slightly. But when the customer service rep told me she would have to review my file, I interrupted her to say I wanted the charges reversed and so no reviewing of my file was necessary for that. We were each a bit snippy with each other after that.)

    She did reverse my charges, and I regretted some of my rudeness. But frankly, I'm sick and tired of companies making it so difficult for customers to cancel their services. And they pretend that automatic renewal is some sort of courtesy they are providing us, when it fact it's simply a way for them to take advantage of our disorganization, our apathy, our busy schedules, and the million other things we need to take care of.

    I would love for companies to be forced to have cancellation be the default and automatic renewal be something you have to opt in to.

    Until that happens, I'm still going to spend my time calling and disputing charges. I will try to be nicer about it in the future, though.

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 5 (This felt like a major win! I was feeling pretty run down this morning, and so I told myself that I only had to run 3 miles. At about 2.5 miles, I decided I could make it to 4. About a mile later, I realized I could make it to 5. It's awesome when you reach your zen zone with running.)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 52

    Gift Card Amount: $26.00

    Goal: 28  more miles

    Mileage for the year: 276

    Please, enter to win!

     

     

  • Energy Vampires and Environmental Guilt

    I have a guilty little secret to share. Despite the fact that I diaper my son in cloth (well, sometimes) and the fact that I go out of my way to keep my unwanted housewares from entering a landfill, I am actually an environmentalist fraud.

    You see, I *never* unplug my not-in-use appliances. (And this is the woman who spent a week turning off her car at stoplights and in drive-thrus before she decided it was stupid and would get her in a wreck).

    I could give you all kinds of fancy rationalizations for why I don't bother with unplugging my appliances, but they would be post-facto lies. The truth is that I'm just lazy and impulsive. If I were to unplug something because I thought I was done with it, I would find a need to plug it back in and power back up within five minutes. (Oh, wait, that's right. I was going to NOT give you any of my rationalizations. Ignore the sentence explaining my impulsiveness).

    This is not just problematic on an environmental scale, but it also hurts your wallet, as Apartment Guide has handy-dandily explained with this infographic.

    home appliances waste electricity

    Infographic courtesy of Apartment Guide

     

    In some ways, I feel that this explanation is like when Jerry Seinfeld discovered that the frozen yogurt really wasn't fat free. I was happier not knowing this. It's bad enough to feel crippling environmental guilt (while waiting for the day when Al Gore will come to my house to patiently explain to me via Power Point presentation just how much I stink), but now I know that I'm throwing $453 away each year, to boot.

    Well, not exactly that much. Since I consider hairdryers to be fascist--Mussolini used one and I have proof--I don't keep the one that I have on hand for needing-to-look-professional emergencies plugged in. So right there, I'm only wasting $438 per year. Go me!

    We even bought some of those one-button-per-outlet power strips for the office in the hopes that we would be better about this, but all that has done has made the prospect of keeping any work saved a little more iffy when LO is wandering around under the desk and pushing all the pretty, lighted buttons. 

    I have, however, become a recent convert to the gospel of good habits. Habits take a long time to form, particularly if they're something boring and good for you, like flossing or eating fruit for "dessert." So, I'm going to start with one appliance to get in the habit of unplugging. Once I have that one under my belt, I'll add another.

    Slowly but surely, I may actually avoid that lecture from the former vice president. And save some money, too!

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 5

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 47 (The good news is that I have run more miles this month than I have any other month except May. The bad news is that I have run more miles this month than I have any other month except May--which means I'm going to have a heckuva fall and winter to try to catch up).

    Gift Card Amount: $23.50

    Goal: 33 more miles

    Mileage for the year: 271

    Please, enter to win!
  • Becoming a Landlord One Toe at a Time

     

    Photo courtesy of Woodley Wonderworks

    J and I are following the "we can always back out of this" method of investing in a rental property. If you recall, it started with an hour drive to Indianapolis and a conversation regarding the foreclosed home across the street. When we discovered that house had been sold, we figured it wouldn't hurt anything to look at the house just down the street that was on the market. We could always back out, you see. Viewing that house (and subsequently discovering that it was not a good investment), brought us into contact with our realtor, who has been helpfully emailing us listings of homes within our price range.

    So, last Thursday, we took a look at a cute little Ranch home that not only has a metal roof (low maintenance!) but is also move-in ready as far as our resident home expert/mechanical engineer (aka J) can tell.

    Following in the what's-the-harm-in-checking method by which we seem to be lazing toward rental-ownership, we made an appointment today with our bank to see if we could get pre-approved.

    As it turns out, we can.

    When the mortgage specialist asked us when we were planning on putting in an offer and did she need to get us a pre-approval letter ASAP, J and I both had the "Whoa! Keep your shirt on, Speedy!" reaction.

    We definitely need to get used to this idea, with one toe in the water at a time. That's why we told the mortgage officer that there was no particular rush and to just get our paperwork taken care of in the normal amount of non-rush-for-any-reason time frame because we don't really need a pre-approval letter yet. We'll put in the offer when the paperwork is all properly taken care of and we quit clinging to the edge of the rental-ownership swimming pool. If that ever happens.

    I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that if we don't watch out, we're going to discover that we own a rental property without realizing it.

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 6 (!)

    (Okay, I'm such an Eeyore sometimes that I have trouble just enjoying the fact that I hit my zen running stride at 4.5 miles today and decided to keep on going and instead I am focusing on the fact that it will be difficult to run tomorrow because I'll be sore today. Despite my Eeyore tendencies, I'm trying to focus on the fact that I kicked the rear end of six consecutive miles.)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 42

    Gift Card Amount: $21.00

    Goal: 38 more miles (My other Eeyore response is coming from the fact that I know that it's not possible for me to run another 38 miles in four days. But I will do my best to run as much as I can and get that gift card total as high as possible.)

    Mileage for the year: 266

    Please, enter to win!

     

  • Why Should is a Dangerous Word

     

    During my freshman year in college, one of my dorm-mates noticed one night that every sentence uttered by any of us in hanging out in the student lounge always started with the same two words:

    "I should really be studying."

    "I should go to bed."

    "I should not have eaten that."

    "I should call my mom."

    "I really should go to bed."

    "I should figure out what I did with my Physics textbook."

    "I should never drink Natty Light again."

    "I should try to get to bed before 2 am tonight."

    At the time that my fellow college student made the observation, I just thought it was a funny side effect of pursuing higher education. What I didn't realize was that it was a pattern of thought that I would follow for many years to come.

    For example, yesterday I found myself needing to do an emergency cleaning of the bathroom, the details of which are unnecessary for the story, but suffice it to say that I really hope I get some kind of environmentalist points for actually shaking "solids" out of disposable diapers that I can later cash in for a Prius.

    As I ran into the kitchen to grab the multi-surface cleaner we keep under the sink there, I remembered what FLYlady has to say about cleaning supplies: keep 'em where you use 'em. Basically, if you use multi-surface cleaner in the kitchen and in the bathroom, then have a bottle in each of those locations. Make it easy on yourself.

    Once again yesterday, I found myself thinking, "I should be able to just grab it from the kitchen when I need it. It's ridiculous to have cleaning supplies in every room of the house."

    And then I stopped myself. Despite the fact that "clean bathroom" is on my to do list daily, it's pretty much never crossed off. Partially because while I should be able to grab the cleaner from the kitchen and return it every day, I most certainly don't. I resist the idea of buying extra cleaning supplies because in some part of my mind I think that I should be able to do things without it being easy. And yet, we are growing a heretofore unknown lifeform in our bathroom because of what I think I should be able to do.

    I find myself plagued by shoulds when it comes to running, as well. I should  be able to run without music or without counting down my seconds. I should be able to plan to run in the afternoon or evening without going "heck with it" an hour before the scheduled run. I should be able to run 20 miles each week because I can do it some weeks.

    And then there are the parenting shoulds. I should be reading to LO instead of letting him watch Wall*E for the 27 millionth time. I should have the exact same bedtime routine every night so that the kid learns how to fall asleep on his own. I should be feeding LO more foods from the vegetable food group and fewer foods from the deep fried food group.

    What I've learned about should is that it's a great way to torture yourself for being human.

    While we all know what we should be doing, it can be remarkably hard to do it. FLYlady has the right idea. Make it easy on yourself to do the things you ought to do. Outsmart your lazy self, because your lazy self doesn't really care about your shoulds.

    This is why I put on my running clothes first thing in the morning. Yes, I should be able to go to the gym later in the day, or in my street clothes and change, but I don't. So I do what's easiest to get me to the gym.

    It's why I'm going to put cleaning supplies in every bathroom.

    It's why I keep a bowl of grapes on the kitchen table. (To be honest, the french fries are not going to stop coming into this house. I just hope to balance them out).

    And it's why I'm going to spend time trying to outsmart my future self. It's a much better use of my time than worrying about shoulds and should have dones.

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 1 (I'm still recovering from my cold, and while I may feel as though I should have run more today, I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I'll just lay my running clothes out for tomorrow before I go to bed tonight.)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 36

    Gift Card Amount: $18.00

    Goal: 44 more miles!

    Mileage for the year: 260

    Please, enter to win!
  • The Filing Cabinet Saga Continues

     

    (Pictured: what happens when you don't realize that there is hardware missing until after you've already spent 3 hours trying to construct a piece of fershtunkiner furniture.)

     

    As you may recall, I was pretty gleeful last week when I thought that a minor inconvenience when purchasing our new filing cabinet meant that we saved over $35.

    In case you missed the first installment, J and I purchased a new filing cabinet from Office Depot to replace the broken crap old filing cabinets we've been (not) using for nine years. When we got the new cabinet home, we found that someone in the factory had put the wrong color cabinet in the correctly labeled box. (Unless they put the right color cabinet for another individual in the incorrectly labeled box. I suppose it's all in how you look at it.)

    Office Depot, in trying to make this right for us, offered to have the correct cabinet shipped to us at no charge, and also let us take advantage of the 20% off internet coupon we used for the original purpose on top of the sale price that had gone into effect since our purchase.

    Needless to say, I left the store feeling nothing but warm fuzzies for Office Depot.

    Sadly, other branches of this company have been attempting to nullify the warm fuzzies since then.

    We were informed at the store that the new cabinet would arrive on Tuesday, August 14. We also received an automated call to that effect over the weekend of August 10-12.

    On Wednesday, August 15, when we were still cabinet-less, I called Office Depot's customer service line. The automated program informed me that the cabinet had been delivered on Tuesday.

    Getting a little frustrated, since I knew it would take quite a bit of doing to fix a delivery to the wrong address, I worked my way through the automated system to find someone living to talk to. The nice gentleman I reached looked up the information and told me that the automated system was wrong. In fact, the cabinet was out of stock, which was why we hadn't received it yet. He told me to expect it on August 20 or 21.

    On Friday, August 17, I got a call from Office Depot's customer service line. This woman informed me that I had not received my cabinet because the third-party delivery company had been unable to reach me to set up a delivery time.

    I questioned this rather testily, since a.) it was the third story regarding the whereabouts of my cabinet in so many customer service encounters, b.) it's an $80 piece of furniture that can certainly be left on my porch, considering the fact that UPS and FedEx have left much more valuable items on said porch, and c.) at no point in time was I informed that I would have field a scheduling call from the delivery folks.

    After an unsatisfying conversation with this customer service rep, I was told that I could expect a call from the third-party delivery service on Sunday or Monday. No, this Office Depot customer service rep was not able to give me the delivery service's contact information, because why on earth would Office Depot have that information?

    On Monday, the third party delivery service reached me and set up a four hour window on Tuesday during which time they could deliver my $80 piece of furniture. (This was only accomplished because I told them they could leave the furniture on the porch if they happened to come calling between noon and 1 pm, as that is when I am picking up my son from school, and there was no window of time that did not include some portion of that hour).

    On Tuesday, the cabinet arrived. Before our deliveryman left, I made sure we opened the package to see that both the box and the actual filing cabinet were the color Brushed Maple.

    On Tuesday evening, J took everything out of the box and shook his head in defeat, since NASA requires fewer parts for assembling a space shuttle. Because he's a can-do kind of guy, he cleared his evening schedule and got started on putting the thing together.

    At around 10 pm, J discovered that there was hardware missing. He then had a beer and went to bed.

    On Wednesday, I called Office Depot's Hardware and Parts department and explained the situation. I was told that they would be happy to send me replacement hardware. It would arrive in about five to seven business days.

    When I expressed some dismay at this, the very helpful Hardware and Parts customer service representative offered to have an entirely new cabinet shipped to us, and they would take back the defective cabinet at the same time.

    "How long will that take?" I asked.

    "About a week," she said brightly.

    I pointed out that not only was this no different from five to seven business days, but it would also set us back three hours of construction. I asked if there was any possibility of rushing us the parts, considering the epic lengths we have already gone to in order to own this particular filing cabinet.

    "I'll have to ask my manager," she said.

    Thankfully, her manager was amenable to the rush.

    Now we are simply waiting for the rush order to arrive. While the half-built cabinet sits in the center of our living room. I just hope the rush will get the parts to us before LO's birthday party on September 1, because it will be difficult to really rock out with a house full of toddlers with unfinished furniture in the center of the house. Not that I'm holding my breath, after our experience thus far.

    I'm starting to wonder if I really need to file anything this badly.

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 5!!!

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 35

    Gift Card Amount: $17.50

    Goal: 45 more miles!

    Mileage for the year: 259

    Please, enter to win!
  • Paper Checks, Dodo Birds, and Other Victims of Extinction

     

    I recently signed up for Bill Me Later with PayPal.

    This is yet another method that the financial world has come up with so that you can get yourself in debt.

    But, I signed up for Bill Me Later for a very good reason. I was purchasing a gift certificate for my sister, and the spa where I purchased it tacked on a $5 service fee for mailing said gift certificate to my sister. (I suppose I could have picked up the gift certificate in person, but since my sister lives in Norfolk, Virginia, as does the spa, that did not seem like a feasible option). But, Paypal informed me, if I signed up for Bill Me Later, I could save $2 on my purchase.

    That seemed like a pretty good deal, considering the fact that I was planning on paying my Bill Me Later bill pretty much immediately.

    I received my first Bill Me Later statement in the mail yesterday. I was fairly surprised to see this, seeing as most financial transactions are allergic to paper these days. Following the instructions on the statement, I logged into my Paypal account.

    Therein I encountered my first problem. You see, I actually have two Paypal accounts.

    Account #1 is linked to my credit card, and is how I pay for things on Ebay, etc, when I buy them.

    Account #2 is linked to my checking account, and is how several of my freelance clients pay me.

    They are not all in the same place because you are not allowed to have the same checking account/credit card linked to two different PayPal accounts, and I needed to have a different account for each of my email addresses. This was a hair-pulling out problem when I first started receiving payments via PayPal, but I eventually decided to just keep Account #1 associated with my credit card, and Account #2 associated with my checking account.

    And of course, I had put Bill Me Later on the wrong PayPal account. (Never mind which one. It was going to be the wrong account no matter what. Murphy's Law and all.)

    After making myself dizzy trying to figure out how I was going to pay my Bill Me Later bill online when it was linked to the wrong account, I noticed some small print on my paper statement. If I'd like to pay via check, I could send it to their handy dandy PO Box in Atlanta.

    I whipped out my checkbook so fast I nearly gave the desk a paper cut.

    As I was addressing the envelope, I found myself wondering how much longer dodo check writers like myself will have these options available. Check-writing and -mailing are dying skills. For example, when I was teaching high school English, I offered my Freshmen students an opportunity to earn extra credit by writing a letter to their favorite living author. Every year, I had to explain to the kids how to address an envelope.

    I'm pretty sure those same kids would be surprised to learn that paper checks are still a thing.

    For me, I love the ritual of check writing. It makes the payment of a bill seem much more real. Clicking a button just doesn't have the same gravitas.

    Unfortunately, I think this makes me about as "with it" as a potted plant.

    One that isn't even on Facebook.

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 3 (Apparently, my cold isn't done with me. I had intended to run 5 miles this morning, and I barely puffed/eked out the 3 miles. When I tried to do my regular weight training after the run, my body officially informed me that this would *not* be happening. Hopefully, after a good night's sleep tonight, I'll be fresh and ready for high mileage tomorrow).

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 30

    Gift Card Amount: $15.00

    Goal: 50 more miles!

    Mileage for the year: 254 (I'm more than halfway!! Only downhill from here.)

    Please, enter to win!
  • The Audible Breakup

     

    Photo courtesy of Liam Dunn

     

    For much of LO's first year and a half of life, I was in the habit of taking him for long jaunts around the neighborhood at least once a day. He really enjoyed seeing the passing scenery from the comfort of a stroller, and I liked getting some exercise and avoiding the meltdowns that would occur if we did not walk.

    Since he was not yet a great conversationalist (which we're still working on, to be honest), I started looking for free downloadable audio books to listen to on our walks. While it is possible to find some books in the public domain that have been read by volunteers, the selection is necessarily pretty small, and the volunteers doing the reading sometimes have kind of difficult-to-understand accents. I listened to a couple of books that way, and then found myself pining for something written since 1942.

    So, I was drawn into the world of Audible.com.

    Oh, it is clever, this Audible. It started me off with a reduced membership price--only $7.95 for the first three months, plus a free audio book for each of those three months. I figured I would join for those three months, get my three "free" books, and end the relationship having only paid 8 bucks each for audio books, which tend to cost at least $20.

    Naivete, thy name is mensch. I thought I could play a player.

    In the first few months, it was clear that one book a month was not going to keep me happily listening for our daily two hour walks. So I spent some hard earned money on top of my membership fee for several books.

    Then, the reduced membership period ended, and suddenly my credit card was being charged $14.95 each month for the privilege of one free audio book a month and the ability to download other books at full price.

    Still, I soldiered on and listened to several of my beloved sociology and humor books on my ipod while LO felt the wind in his hair when we put the stroller's top down.

    Then, three very specific things happened:

    1. It got cold.

    2. I started doing more freelancing work.

    3. LO learned to walk.

    As of about November of last year, LO and I stopped making daily jaunts around Lafayette. Through the winter it took me over a month to get through an audio book. As of spring, LO was walking and no longer interested in stroller walks, which meant I could not be plugged into a book when we jaunted since I generally needed all my senses available should I need to rescue the little daredevil from himself.

    If you'll remember, I had planned to cancel my membership after the first three months. That didn't happen because Audible, like any dealer in illicit substances, knows that it only takes a very small sample to get hooked. Starting in November, I found myself thinking that I should cancel Audible whenever I paid our credit card bill. I wasn't using it.

    But the thought never translated itself into action. Because canceling meant I would have to cash in my free books that I hadn't used, which would require me doing research as to what books I wanted to listen to. And that was just too much work to save myself $15 per month. (I really wish I had written out this ridiculous thought pattern earlier, because just putting it into English shows how STUPID it is).

    Last night, I finally got off my duff (well, figuratively, since I was sitting at the computer) and cancelled Audible. What happened next was kind of like breaking up with an emotionally dependent boyfriend:

    First, Audible asked me why. It just wanted to know what it had done to cause this breakup, because this was not at all what it intended for our relationship. Maybe Audible could change! Please don't dump me!

    Then, Audible offered to let me put my membership on hold. That way, I could come back to it at the same price as before, but just not pay for it for a few months. Ross and Rachel taught us the hazards of going "on a break," and yet, Audible felt like it could possibly keep me if it let me have my freedom for a couple of months. It was sure I would miss it and come crawling back.

    Finally, Audible suggested that I maintain a yearly account, which means I'd spend 9.95 once a year to be able to buy a limited number of books. This is the last suggestion of the desperate. "Look," Audible was saying, "what if we were friends with benefits? Just call me when you need me." Again, it is so sure that I cannot live without it that it's willing to redefine the relationship just so it can keep me.

    I said no to these suggestions.

    I chose six books to cash in my "free" book credits, downloaded them, and told Audible to have a nice life. It felt freeing. I knew I wouldn't have to worry about Audible's continued drain on me and my finances. Yes, Audible may have provided me with "free" books, but it was ultimately just a user that regularly put charges on my credit card that I didn't want.

    I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that I might start wondering what Audible is up to and how well Audible has aged once I reach the end of my six books. I'll need someone to keep me from making a fool of myself and emailing Audible again.

    Thankfully, I know that at my current audio-book listening rate it will probably take me two years before I get to that point.

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 5 (Just a little woo hoo!)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 27

    Gift Card Amount: $13.50

    Goal: 53 more miles!

    Mileage for the year: 251 (I'm more than halfway!! Only downhill from here.)

    Please, enter to win!
  • To Tip or Not to Tip

     

    Pictured: What I hope was no more than $10 worth of breakfast.

     

    I consider myself to be a fairly good tipper. When going out to eat, I generally try to leave 20% tip--tipsy math mistakes not withstanding. Pizza delivery guys can expect to get at least a buck or two from me, and more if it means I get an even amount of change back.

    Sadly, those are the only two scenarios in which I excel at tipping. For the all the other opportunities I may have to show my gratitude, I tend to be awkward, cheap, and/or completely overwhelmed. For example:

    1. I find myself getting annoyed at tip jars on the counter at coffee shops. Why are they there? Are the baristas not getting paid a complete wage? Why are there tip jars in coffee shops but not in burger joints? Mostly, I wonder if the tip jar owners notice that I never put anything in there.

    2. When we moved from Columbus to Lafayette, J's company paid for movers to pack up our stuff and drive it to our new home. But we gave each packer/mover about $25 for their trouble. No, to be more accurate, J gave each one about $25. It NEVER would have occurred to me to do so. Because these folks were already getting paid. The tip was a thank you for not breaking my great-grandmother's crystal, I guess. But ultimately it struck me that a job well done was thank you enough. (And this is why J is in charge of tipping movers.)

    3. I nearly hyperventilated with stress on Friday while receiving a massage because I didn't know if I should tip the masseuse.

    I should probably explain that last one.

    For my birthday this year, J gave me an $80 gift certificate for a massage. It took me until Friday to finally use it, in part because spas are somewhat outside of my comfort zone.

    On my way there--and I was running late, because I am always running late--I wondered idly if I needed to plan on tipping my masseuse. Since I was already behind schedule and since I had a gift certificate, I figured I didn't need to worry about it.

    The masseuse, who also happens to own the spa, sat and chatted with me for a few moments before turning on the soothing music and patchouli oil. She asked me how J had heard about the spa because she had had several new clients recently through a Deal Chicken deal. J drives past this spa every day, so we were definitely not among her new Chicken clients. She started talking about how she found that some of the new Deal Chickens tend to not tip well.

    I immediately broke into a cold sweat. Okay, so I was supposed to tip her.

    While she was giving me the choice between Lavender Sunshine and Lemongrass scents, my mind was working furiously. This was an $80 massage and I only had a $20 in my purse. Would it be uncouth to ask for $10 back in change? Was $10 a sufficient tip, considering it was less than 15%? Was this like restaurants? If it was uncouth to ask for change, was giving her a $20 tip way way too much? Would I ever be able to show my face in this spa again?

    Luckily, my masseuse was quite good at her job, and I nearly fell asleep on the massage table. I didn't stress out about the tip again until I was putting my shoes back on with arms made out of limp noodles and jelly. At that point, I figured $20 was just fine as a tip.

    I went to hand the masseuse the sawbuck and she said "Oh, you don't have to do that! The massage was only $70, so your husband's already tipped me. I mean, unless you really want to..."

    And suddenly, the stress went back up again. Frugal/cheap me had already put the 20 back in my wallet, while happy-to-have-had-a-massage me was thinking, "if I ever want to come back here again, should I tip her?" There was really no clear and correct behavior at this point, so I turned tail and fled, $20 still in my purse. Probably never to return to this ambiguous world of tipping.

    Suffice it to say, I'm probably not as good a tipper as I seem to think I am.

     

     

    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 August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

    Miles Run Today: 0 (Sigh. I got a cold over the weekend, which both meant that I did not complete the six miles I was planning on hoofing it over the weekend and that I did not make it out for a run today. Stupid cold. I figure this just means that I have a very exciting two weeks ahead of me.)

    Total Mileage for Giveaway: 22

    Gift Card Amount: $11.00

    Goal: 58 more miles!

    Mileage for the year: 246

    Please, enter to win!
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