March 8, 2017

An ode to massages

When massage therapy is physical therapy and makes living possibleMost people get massages for relaxation and pampering. I used to, once upon a time. They were a treat to get me from one bad flare up to another. Over time, they became the only effective physical therapy left in my toolbox. I stay active, walking as much as I can every day, stretch, do deep breathing exercises to complement my medication regimen. But that’s not enough.

The gift of fibromyalgia is ever-present pain, waking or sleeping, forever. It might be localized to a couple of areas, or generalized to my entire body, or shift from area to area. The one thing it isn’t, is gone. This may mean radiating muscular pain, shooting pains up my back, or twangs in my shoulders so they permanently attach themselves to my ears. It could mean that on an otherwise pleasant walk with Seamus, my knee gives out with every third step, or that the ball and socket joint of my hip grinds bone against bone. It might also mean that my fingers and toes suddenly swell up, making typing more than awkward, and walking even more so.

It definitely means that whatever twinges, shrieks, and burns, the rest of my body tenses up in response to the assault.

This produces a less than salubrious effect on the rest of my body, transmitting panic and trauma down the spinal cord, sending fight or flight messages to overworked and confused neurons which respond by clenching my jaw tighter than a vise in shop class, my neck muscles lose elasticity and become like steel braided rope. This repeats over and over with every muscle down to my tippy toes, and no amount of stretching will release the tension. Pain breeds stress which breeds tension which breeds pain. It’s a cycle that only a massage therapist can break.

Applying the kind of pressure that could double for an MMA submission hold, my therapist bears down on stubbornly wound-tight muscles, bringing tears to my eyes. I breathe through it as best as I can, until she moves on to the next one, and the next one. An hour feels like three, as the pain I chose forces out the aftereffects of the pain I didn’t choose. By the time it’s over, I’m nearly gasping with relief that it’s stopped. A true bargain!

I pride myself on not actually crying, which would stop the therapist in her tracks, because after it’s over, and I’m laying there, endorphins I can no longer summon through a good hard workout flood my body. And for a few hours or days, I can turn my head, turn at the waist, bend my knees (carefully) and not send a freight train of pain screeching through myself.

The money part

Because there’s always a money part. I could once claim back the cost of the massages from our FSA, with a doctor’s note, but our FSA account is overcommitted now so that’s a savings route we can’t take.

My other way to make them more affordable is to buy SpaFinder gift cards at a 10% discount. Or it was, anyway. My spa stopped accepting them without warning this year, after many years of taking them. I found myself mournfully holding a $250 gift card for the year that I couldn’t use. Thankfully, though it took several days, I finagled a refund.

This means getting fewer massages since only a few therapists can do the kind of bodywork that I need without injuring me – I learned this lesson the very hard and painful way.

With any luck, this should still be better than last year when I was so sick for most of the year that I couldn’t get any massages at all! Savings: not worth it.

:: We all need something to make it through the day, week or month. What do you do for yourself to reduce stress and live better? 

March 6, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: February 2017

On Money

Income

Our normal income is two full time day job salaries. We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property. The goal is to replace our day job income before my health gives out and prevents me from working. Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on.

Achievemint: I signed up on January 18th (sign up here and get a 250 point bonus!) but the app pulled data from Apple Health and retroactively rewarded me for activity done before I signed up for my account. Whee!! So I got credit for part of December and the full month of January. PiC pointed out a weird thing: he earned 7 points for running 6 miles. I earned 6 points for walking 2900 steps.

My guess was the app learns what your norm is and sets that as the baseline so that it’s not giving someone who usually runs 5-10 miles a week a vast number of points while giving people like me a quarter of a point per month. But it turns out these differentials were pulling from different apps so I am totally confused.

December: walked 47362 steps, earned 123 points.
January: walked 98,480 steps, earned 256 points.
February: walked 112,705 steps, earned 293 points.

Swagbucks: I use this daily and used to rack up near 100 points a day but earning has slowed down. My favorite hands-off earning method, NCrave, has turned into a hands-on activity, forcing you to keep your mouse on the page in order for the countdown to continue. Boo! My big earners now are surveys.

Poshmark: Sales remain slow so this stays on the backburner. It’s active, but I don’t spend a ton of time on it. 4 items sold for a total of $22.50.

Dividend income: Our stock portfolio has paid $168 to date. Such baby beans! A disappointing first quarter, I’ll tell you what.

Spending

Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this ignores those ordinary living expenses. When buying anything online, I always check Mr.Rebates and Ebates for cashback.

Personal spending: $106. We FINALLY submitted JuggerBaby’s passport application. We might travel internationally this year, and I hope that that’s all we need it for.

Projected spending: Our loan was pre-approved for the vasty sum of $800k, quadrupling our monthly mortgage commitment. Eeep!!! I have a plan to cut that in half after we sell our primary residence, but it’s still ugly.

Saving and investing

We max out an IRA and 401(k) every year, and save 20% of our net salaries.

We’re going to have to cut waaaayyyy back on our saving rate when the new place comes into play. Do Not Like!

#GivingCards and Charitable Giving

I don’t believe in tooting our horn for every donation we make. The point of giving isn’t to brag, it’s to help someone in need. The exception is when the cause is sound and could use help. I’m delighted to be taking part in the Rockstar Forums’ giving project where they send out a $20 gift card each month to forum participants who sign up.

My January card arrived the day after tornados pummeled New Orleans. The Louisiana area keeps getting pounded with horrible destructive weather, hurting and killing people, destroying homes and generally making a wreck of the place. While I thought I had this earmarked for something else, my heart said that there’s no better way to spend this $20 than to provide 60 hot meals for the people of New Orleans. Better yet, we were able to get a match on the donation so our $20 #GivingCard + $20 #1GoodMoneyThing made a $40 baby, and therefore 120 hot meals!

My February card just arrived so I haven’t decided yet where it should go, but I have a couple thoughts.

Net worth: weird

Our net worth is up 10.1% since last month but this is just a snapshot of the moment.

We’re going to have a lot of ups and downs over the next several months. We’ve got a temporary loan for the down payment which will be repaid when all the dust settles. That has artificially inflated our cash account, and then you’ll see all of that and more disappear when we make an offer that’s accepted. I was going to skip this section entirely but then decided that if I’m going on this roller coaster, you’re coming with me. The more the merrier!

Total assets and asset allocation in March 2017

Links from this month

On Health

Working out: My average activity level was higher this month which was easier to figure out now that I have the Achievemint app pulling data out of the Health app. Yay apps! I wish I could just download directly out of the Health app but this works too. Assuming that 10000 steps is about 4.5 miles, since my stride is at best medium length, I’d say I’m at 2,222 steps per mile.

January (98,480 steps): about 44 miles.

Not only have I been not sick for at least several days consecutively, Seamus and I took advantage of a rare clear bright and sunny day to go for a jog. That was pretty awesome.

February (112,705 steps): about 50.72 miles.

On Life

Date night!: We paid a sitter to watch JuggerBaby for the first time ($75!) because a friend was having a Major Birthday. It was fun to see all the adult friends without kids clamoring for our attention, but I’m not in a hurry to a large gathering like that again for another … oh, a year at least.

I very much preferred what I think of as our actual first date night. After getting a fractious JB settled in bed for the night, we hung out tucked up under a cozy comforter, reading our little social media feeds. Then I found Babe, and nudged PiC into looking at the cute puppies with me. We ended up watching the whole movie together. When’s the last time we saw a whole movie, together? It was a splurge, as far as the time spent late into the night, and getting up the next morning was painful but it was cozy and enjoyable.

On maybe not common sense, and phone maintenance: PiC’s been jogging along with his low key iPhone, getting increasingly frustrated with the loss of functionality as it got harder and harder for his charger to make a connection. He kept jamming it in there and making it work but I suspected we were going to face another phone purchase well before plan.
Usually I’m the family IT and tech troubleshooter but I just had no time to give it more than annoyed thoughts at the end of the day. Then things became dire when the memory filled up but I couldn’t do a massive clear off like usual, my desktop just wouldn’t recognize his phone.

He finally sat down with it, all set to be MacGyver, and felt like a right fool when it turned out the plug couldn’t connect because it was physically blocked by a gob of fluff, dust, and fur!

His phone hacked up a furball and they’ve been getting on swimmingly since. Free and easy – just the way I like all my tech solutions.

:: How was your February?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Super Saving Tips*

Swagbucks: March sign-up bonus

This month, if you sign up using my link and earn 300 total SB before 4/1/17, you get a 300 SB bonus.

If you spend at least $25 in Shop and receive your shop credit before 4/1/2017, which means it’s better if you shop early in the month than later since some credits take a few weeks to credit, you get an additional 200 SB bonus.

Usually I point you to Mr. Rebates or ebates for good cashback, but with the extra bonuses, this can net you more money back.

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

March 2, 2017

Just a little (link) love: Mufasa dog edition

LinkLove

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

How Luvvie marketed her amazing book “I’m Judging You.” I adore Luvvie’s writing and seriously respect how she’s built her career.

This is a story with a great not-yet-ending: Maggie had awful issues develop in her workplace, was ready to quit, and had a conversation with her boss that resulted in some near-immediate and vast improvementsIt was immediately clear that my boss had my back. He effectively walked around the office yelling at everyone until things were made right.

Yay Ms. ONL did a fun podcast for Mad Fientist. I like the ONLs’s journey to FI despite being one that I could never duplicate because they’re totally conscious of their choices and privileges so I can like them as people. Well, mostly Ms. ONL. I’m assuming that Mr. ONL is similarly likeable. 😉

HAPPY THINGS

A great primer from Kelly Sue on being a better person though the actual title is “How To Make People Uncomfortable (And Still Make a Living)” which is good too.

5 SFF Love Stories About Overcoming a Language Barrier

THINKING THINGS

The SFF Equine: Troublesome Tropes About Horses

Ladies, please get checked as often as your doctor thinks you need to. Mine tells me every 3 years, some docs say every 2 years. Melanie shared a tough time she’s been going through and I’m grateful that she did. I’ve been putting my check-ups off for far too long.

THIS DOG

March 1, 2017

A bit of self care (and community love)

When it's time to take a break, take a break! After this saddish but mostly bucking up post, I decided Mrs BITA was right.

After a long day on little sleep, instead of forcing another two hours of work as usual, I traded them for an hour of house hunting on Zillow and an hour of The View from the Cheap Seats. It’s been a long while since my last reading of a new thing by Neil Gaiman and it felt almost like that was punishment for not being productive enough. That’s hardly fair, is it? Just because my to do list was digested and horked up by Tribbles, doomed to forever respawn as a zillion Tribbles, I’m hardly being irresponsible in just managing to stay abreast of the troubling Tribbles.

I’ve slipped on a ring gifted to me as part of my “inheritance” by a dear friend. She has family by adoption via mentorship, having chosen never to raise biological children, instead mentoring, supporting, and teaching scores of them. That’s after having two long and successful careers. I suspect -no, I know- her way has touched and positively influenced the lives of now countless people. The ring doesn’t quite fit me, but I love it anyway. It slips and slides, reminding me of a friendship, unlooked for and cherished all the more for the surprise, and reminding me to keep a finger on the pulse of all the people I care most about. By text, by email, by handwritten letter, it doesn’t matter how, so long as they know they’re in my heart and not just when I’m asked to remember them in a eulogy or obituary. Hm, that took a dark turn.

Still, we do all have an expiration date. It may sound morbid but it’s true. We know we don’t know what time we have left, or how good that time will be. Rather than leaning in, or out, or whichever way, I’m standing up straight and stretching, reaching as far as I can to make a difference in the small ways that are most important.

I haven’t dropped anything, just taking a little breather. My responsibilities are still all here, but I’m pacing myself with things that aren’t work.

The next two weeks will be focused on taking care of our health: a massage for my several-weeks-long backache, long overdue exams with my doctors to see if there’s anything we can do about this new rib and chest pain, a check up for Seamus, more gym time for PiC.

And completely out of the blue, I received the most unexpected email from our friends over at the Rockstar Community Fund. J. Money started off with “please say yes!”, sharing that some lovely bloggers nominated me for an RCF award, and worked hard at persuading me that I really needed to say yes. As I read his email, complete with an abandoned plot to sneak the money to me so I couldn’t turn it down, it was embarrassingly clear that my stubborn streak has preceded me.

This was not just a lesson in how amazing the people are in our community, though they are.

It’s also my reminder to accept the goodness of others with grace and openness. That’s tough to do when you’ve internalized a script of independence, where helping others is a worthy cause, but you’re on your own. But how can I be part of a community if I don’t allow it to be a two-way street? Are we part of the ecosystem when it’s ok to give, but not receive?

Less philosophically, ‘twould be churlish to refuse the help. And so I did, with a most grateful heart again for Internet-born friendships and friends out there who care.

:: How are you taking care of yourself this season?


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