23 April, 2009

...and then she remembered to breathe!

My car is fine. I think I'm going to owe them something insane like $900 when I go pick her up tomorrow, but that includes a 15,000 mile service, 4 new tires and removal of a rogue piece of metal that was clanging around in my oil thing. Yep...that's the technical term.

Funny story from Hyundai: the first person to greet me when I pulled up was a sales manager who told me he could get me into a new Accent "for cheap." How desperate must they be to be pulling that? The second person to greet me was the service manager, who told me to pop the hood - right there in the drop-off zone - because my engine was clicking. He was like the car whisperer - put oil in right there, and then leaned in close to listen. He thought I might have a valve problem, but it turned out to be the mystery metal bit, which apparently would have blown my whole engine if it had left the oil thing and hit a gasket or something else. Sort of like a blood clot, I guess.

As it turns out, I'm fine too. Scott was nice enough to escort me to the Credit Union so that I could beg in person. It turns out nothing new has hit my credit report (yet) and I have a stellar credit score. I guess it was good enough - I was able to get a $6,000 unsecured loan with 48 months to pay it off. The girl who was helping me walked me through a bunch of options, was able to get me an ok interest rate, and was able to extend my credit card limit another $500. Oh yeah - and I found out that my credit card has a fixed rate of 7.4%. How sweet is that?!? Of course, I had originally applied for a loan big enough to consolidate all of my school debt, so it wasn't quite a home run, but the other collection agency seems content to take my $100/month. No crisis state there quite yet!

I have armed myself with some information from the FTC (thanks for the hint, mom!) and feel like I'm prepared to take on the skeevy DCH tomorrow. I think I know enough to keep them from bullying me any more. *fingers crossed*

Of course, there was no happy ending for ZoePig. I feel terrible that I didn't go with Scott to the vet, and that he had to be the grown-up in this chapter. It's a horrible thing to have to go through alone, but I think I would have never made it through the rest of the day if I'd gone. Scott knows that. Plus, friends of ours had a bad run with guinea pigs, and have one still living, so we're going to pack up her food (brand new giant bag purchased a week ago!) and a few other unused things for them. They told Scott that their little girl said that her two guinea pigs would show Zoe all the fun things to do in Heaven, which is maybe the sweetest thing we could have heard.

Well I think it's time for me to go cuddle with my kitties, and then with my hubby. We've had a helluva day. Plus, I've got to get myself psyched up for the final(?) battle tomorrow.

[insert favorite curse word here]

So here's a brief run-down of everything wrong in my world right this second:

  • Scott is on the way to the vet with ZoePig. She hasn't eaten in two days, didn't drink at all last night, and isn't quite mobile. I don't think she's coming home.
  • I got a collection call at work last night from some company saying I owe them $8,000.
  • I found out this morning that I have a balance of $2,520 with PSU Housing & Food Services for my Spring '00 room & board.
  • Maybe my car - I have an appointment at the dealership today.


So...Zoe. Yeah, that sucks. We've been horrible caretakers to her and while I'm sad that she's sick, I'm sadder that she had a crappier life than she deserved.

The money? I nearly threw up at work last night. I sobbed at my desk for at least an hour. Aside from the stafford loans that I completed paying off a few weeks ago (enter a feeble "yay me" here for that), I've been paying down an account of $4,900 since January when a collection company said they were collecting on a PSU account. And now I find out that there was another $4,900 account that somehow ended up in the hands of Debt Collectors from Hell (DCH).

It turns out that the original amount I owed was a bursar account, for tuition. The one I'm just finding out about is a defaulted Perkins loan. Apparently the government guarantees Perkins loans, and when I didn't pay back the school, the Dept. of Education bought back my loan. The DoE, of course, has the right to garnish my pay, take my tax refund, etc. The worst part? They've probably already dropped a collection record into my credit report. That's the worst part because you can't qualify for a FHA loan unless you have no new entries in your credit report within 12 months. That unfortunate situation last April was just about to drop off Scott's report, and now my 7-years-clear report has THIS.

DCH is also being really douchey. They are refusing to put me on a payment plan. They're willing to take about $2,000 off the fees and interest if I can give them $6,095 by next week. They may as well ask me to shit a golden egg. When I called the DoE, they said that I have the right to be put on a payment plan, and told me to call another company that acts as a mediator between me and the DCH. I did try to get a loan through the credit union (of which I have been a member for nearly 12 years with no incident at all). The automated system couldn't pre-qualify me, so I anticipate a rejection letter some time in the next 2 weeks. I guess I owe it to myself to call and beg to a human being.

I called PSU this morning to find out why they employ different companies to do their bidding, and whether I could expect another company to contact me in a few months time with yet another thing I owe money for. That's when I found out about the money I owe to Housing. The only silver lining to that cloud is that now I know about it. I asked the 19-year-old work study girl to send me a bill and she replied, "I can send a copy of the bill you've already been sent." "Fine, thank you, that would be lovely."

And before anyone out there feels compelled to leave me any comments that are remotely snarky, I would just like to say I KNOW. YES this is my fault for defaulting. YES this is my fault for not informing everyone I ever owed money to that I moved/married/changed phone numbers. NO I'm not asking anyone else to take responsibility for any of this. NO I'm not asking for a hand-out. (and possibly to my detriment, NONE of the money in our house fund will go towards this debt. if we have to wait another year, we'll deal with it, and we'll have more money for a down payment...which we'll need because the market isn't going to offer $100k houses forever.)

The timing just sucks. I sure could use a freaking break. Hopefully when I take my car to the dealership today, whatever they do won't cost more than a couple hundred bucks.

UPDATE (11:15): Zoe isn't coming home. sigh...

19 April, 2009

Off to the Theater!

A few months ago when the touring schedule for Mary Poppins was announced, Scott and I batted around the idea of making a weekend trip (similar to the Atlanta trip) to Chicago or St. Louis to see the show and do some touristy stuff. When I did some pricing online, I found that either of those trips probably would have cost around $1,000. For a weekend! I quickly put those plans away and we revisited the idea of flying up to NYC, camping out on Jenn's couch for a few nights, and going to see a show or two on Broadway. Ultimately though, Scott wants to DO New York when we go, not just run in and out. (never mind I've never spent more than 10 consecutive hours in the city! all we ever did in my youth was run in and out!)

Fast forward to two or three weeks ago. An e-mail appeared in my mailbox from the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (TBPAC) advertising their 2009-2010 Broadway Series. Two things caught my eye right away: Wicked and Mary Poppins. In fact, they are calling it a "high-flying season." Scott and I were both really excited, but season tickets are expensive! We talked about it, put it off, talked about it some more, and finally decided to just go for it. We got tickets in the balcony, which will probably be better than the seats we've had for any previous show at that theater. And, though expensive, it's still less money than that trip to see MaPo would have cost.

Strangely enough, I now have plans more than a year from now, though I'm not sure of specific dates. Beginning in October, we'll be seeing In the Heights, Wonderland, South Pacific, Wicked, Godspell, Little House on the Prairie (the only one Scott has NO desire to see), Cirque Dreams Illumination, and Mary Poppins.

I can't wait! We've both seen Wicked before, and I saw a high school production of Godspell, but the rest are totally new to us. Hopefully a year from now we'll be renewing and not lamenting the waste of money!

(and a bonus came yesterday when I saw the line-up for Bob Carr's '09-'10 series. Phantom of the Opera is the only one I might go see...and in a venue that small it'll probably suck! They also have Xanadu, The Color Purple, and some other shows I can't remember off the top of my head)

17 April, 2009

Baby Steps

This weekend's physical activity:

2 hour bike rental at Wilderness Lodge!

Of course, this was 1 hour of biking and an hour at Trail's End Restaurant eating buffet-style country food! Truth be told, my "seconds" was another plate of salad and another piece of cornbread. That was much more responsible than the pulled pork sandwich/fried chicken/beef stew that I wanted!

We found out later that we get a 50% discount on bike rentals, so that second hour we were sitting didn't really cost anything. It was a lot of fun, and we thought about doing it again and packing sandwiches and having a picnic out there somewhere. I imagine this kind of stuff will start being a lot less fun once the temperature is in the 80's-90's, but for today it was great!

I also learned today that Scott can stand the sight of blood, but the sight of a bent-back fingernail is enough to make him almost cry. I was brave for him, but it hurt like a mo-fo. Poor little pinky!

Now I'm off to tell the Wii Fit that I already did my activity for today and she can kiss my butt! (ok, maybe I'll do 20 minutes of self-guided step aerobics while Scott watches The Matrix...I'm still sweaty from the bike ride)

14 April, 2009

Fuzzy Vomit

A Domestic Post from your UN-Domestic Host!

All three of my cats have started hacking up hairballs. This might not sound strange, unless I mention that all three are vomiting the same hair. The culprit? Elphie, of course! Everyone likes to lick her, and everyone pays the cost.

Milo has always been a puker. He's bulimic, so as long as we don't let the food bowl get completely empty before feeding him again, he's fine. And cat food vomit is easy to deal with: you wait for it to dry (or at least cool) and grab it with a paper towel. And most of the time one of the cats will go back and eat it before I get back to it. Hairballs are a different beast. They are mostly liquid, and dry into a nasty splotch on the carpet that I haven't yet figured out how to clean easily.

But I digress. We decided that perhaps the solution to our problem was a new cat food. Milo and Kilo have been eating Indoor Cat Chow for their whole lives, but that was before we introduced Elph fur to their diet. So we're trying switching over to Purina One, which has an indoor formula for weight management *cough*Kilo*cough* and hairballs!

I bought a small bag tonight, in case the cats refused to eat it. I mixed some in to their bowl with their current food (because I'm a good mommy and read directions) and all three of them have been chowing down, possibly selectively eating the new bits. So I guess that makes today the start of the Purina One Challenge.

10 April, 2009

Menus for the Week

While gorging ourselves on tasty lunch, Scott and I came up with our menu for the week. Yes, we're in one of those healthy eating phases. No, it won't last long. But the orange sherbet in the freezer and the bowl of apples and bananas on the counter at least give me hope for a week of healthier snacking. Anyway, I'm not claiming that our meals are healthy. I am claiming that they are slightly better balanced and each contain at least one vegetable!

Tonight, we had flounder fillets en papillion with asparagus, and macaroni & cheese on the side. We didn't have white wine, so we used limoncello. Not bad - better than I thought it would come out!

Tomorrow, we're having grilled pork chops with green beans and macaroni & cheese. (what? the recipe makes a lot!)

Later this week, we'll have chicken salads with romaine, cucumber, mandarin oranges, sesame-ginger dressing and chow mein noodles.

Also, another chicken dish and another pork dish, with cous cous or risotto and more green vegetables are still to come later in the week.

Plus, there was a recipe on my bag of cherry Craisins for "black forest cookies." I made them, and they aren't half as good as those cran-orange cookies, so I'll probably send them to work with Scott.

Well, it should be a pretty good week of dinners. Maybe this will make the work week slightly less painful? We'll see...

Holiday Memories...

...we're making them:

Plus, who doesn't love the smell of hard-boiled eggs every time they open the fridge? And of course, there's the added bonus of lightly-tinted egg salad sandwiches to look forward to!

09 April, 2009


A rare money post tonight!

I was just about topped out on available vacation, so I sold 2 weeks worth back to the company. The money was in today's paycheck - 3 weeks of pay for 1 week of work! Without going into actual dollars, because that's no one's business but mine and Scott's, I used the money to pay off my credit card (all except $8. also, I noticed that they increased my credit limit to $2,000. not sure when that happened, but it made me happy) and still had enough left over for us to have a little bit of fun with. I don't really know what we're going to do. Without a plan, we'll probably fritter it away on stupid stuff like dinners at new restaurants.

aside: when considering what fun to have with the money, I actually floated the idea of getting a steam cleaner. when did I turn into a grown-up?

Right now, I'm trying to figure out what to do with the money in our CD when it matures next month. Since we're planning on buying a house, the longest CD I could put the money into would be 3 months, which only has 1% interest at our bank. I can't just keep it in the regular savings account because if it's accessible we're likely to not have the discipline to keep our sticky fingers off of it. I've been looking into interest rates online, just to see if I can find a decent savings account that we could dump the money into, but not have quite as much access to. And since we won't have the money in there long (hopefully), even an introductory teaser rate would work.

I'm so proud of what we've managed to save in the past year. Of course, I'll be even prouder to write a check for the full amount and hand it over to a random dude in exchange for a set of house keys. I thought last year was going to be the year, and was heart-broken that it wasn't. But I really think this is our year. I don't think home prices are going to get any lower, and as long as we can qualify for a mortgage, I'll gladly swallow a higher interest rate.

Just get me out of this damn apartment!!

06 April, 2009

My Life On Stage?

I read a theater review tonight that spoke to me. Why? Because the play is about my life! I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing, but here's some key tidbits:

Fully Committed is for that guy — in this case, an underemployed New York actor named Sam, who works booking tables for the kind of restaurant where Gourmet magazine has been waiting all morning to take pictures and the Zagats have just dropped in for lunch...

In Becky Mode’s 1999 comedy, Sam is hidden away in a basement office-hovel, where he scurries between calls from Bunny Vandevere, a socialite who just flew
in from Tibet; from Bryce, Naomi Campbell’s assistant, who needs a table for 15
with an all-vegan tasting menu; and from the peevish tyrant known only as Chef.

Nothing is going well. Sam can’t seem to get a callback. A co-worker is mysteriously absent. And Chef won’t let him off for Christmas.

Yep, that sounds eerily familiar. I'm going to do my best to get out to see it. If employee fun hadn't already been cut from the budget at the beginning of the fiscal year, I would be begging my bosses to take us as team building. I'm sure Scott is thrilled at the prospect of being dragged along to another show... but at least this one promises to be funnier than Our Town!

Today's Fun Typo

They'll probably get it fixed before too long, but here's the link.

I love it when the typo is in the headline. It makes my mocking so much easier!

05 April, 2009

Yard Sale

There's a yard sale on April 18, and since I don't work until the afternoon that day (and since Scott should be scheduled off as well), I think I'm going to take the opportunity to clean house and get rid of all sorts of stuff that I'd rather not box up and move in a few months.

For now, I'm trying to figure out how to price things. I thought that all of you readers (ha) might have some input. Here's a basic list of categories:

  • Paperback books
  • Hard cover books
  • Random Theme Park plushes
  • VHS tapes
  • Disney pins
  • Ice cream maker (that we got from Reyna but never used)
  • Knick knacks
  • Christmas tree stand

Frankly, I'd be thrilled to get 50 cents each (3/$1) for the paperbacks and the VHS. The pins that I have are mostly limited edition, cast exclusives, or 5-10 years old, and for that reason I don't think I'd take less than $1 for any of them. Plus, they take up almost no space so there's no reason to sell them for way too under value (90% off is cheap enough!!).

Wii Fit

Our purchase of a Wii was conditional. If we were going to have yet another video game system, we were also going to buy a Wii Fit so that it would be a video game system with purpose.

We finally got our Wii Fit this past week, and today is Day 4 for me. Poor Scott has been sick and hasn't done anything but cough and wheeze since Day 1, so I have no comparisons between my experience and his. So far, I love it. It turns out I don't love yoga or strength training, but I love all things aerobic (even jogging!) and about half of the balance games.

I'm getting in about 35 minutes a day, which isn't enough heart-pumping for a true aerobic work-out, but for now it's all the time I have to give. And since I don't end tired or sore, I'm much more likely to get up and do it again the next day. (take THAT, Cardio Kick-Box DVD!)

The Wii Fit monitors your weight (in my opinion, it makes this stuff up - I seriously doubt I lost 2.6 pounds between 9 last night and 9 this morning, or that I gained 2.3 pounds between Day 1 and Day 3) and also keeps track of your progress in the activities. There's always that desire to get a new Personal Best to keep you going. Plus, for every 5 minutes of activity, it unlocks another activity. It keeps things interesting.

I'm going to try to keep doing it in the mornings every day except Saturday, because I work mornings on Saturday. We'll see how that goes. I'll check in here from time to time with updates, when there's something to report.

Week One
Favorites: Hula hoop, step aerobics, table tilt
Least Favorite: Push-ups