Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rebels without a Card

Ever feel like you are the last person on the earth to try (or give up) something? Well, I'm here to tell you that, yours truly, Goofy Girl is the single last holdout.

Q: For what?
A: Membership to one of those super-duper wholesale club stores.

We do not belong to Costco. We are not welcome at Sam's Club. Price thanks. And we do not miss it.

Q: Who really needs a 5 pound bag of cheese curls? Who needs a 24-pack of sweatsocks?
A: Obviously, everyone else in America except for us.

You should see the faces when I tell people this. And (trust me) it comes up in casual conversation nowadays.

Co-worker: Oh I had the best cheese last night!
Me: Really? What kind was it?
Co-worker: Oh gouda or something....I got the 10 pound sampler from Costco. You should go pick it up!
Me: Er. I can't. I don't belong to Costco.
Co-worker: (shocked silence)

It's not like I'm bragging or anything. I just really don't feel like I would get a big value out of it.

I really don't buy books much at all anymore (library serves to whet my bookworm appetite). Music CDs have been replaced by iTunes downloads and movies come via Blockbuster Online.

And we buy groceries using the JIT (just-in-time) method. As in "Honey, what's for dinner tonight?" "I don't know, let's run up to Price Chopper and get something". There's no stocked-freezer in the Goofy house, that's for sure.

And we are surviving. Really!

So readers...tell me: Are we missing the boat? Should we rush over to Sam's and plunk down our 35 bucks a year? Or are we okay sticking with our "alternative" lifestyle?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wyoming and Stuff

In the far and mighty West,
Where the crimson sun seeks rest,
There's a growing splendid State that lies above,
On the breast of this great land;
Where the massive Rockies stand,
There's Wyoming young and strong, the State I love!

Okay, okay...I'll spare you rest on the Wyoming State Song. Wyoming was, well, pretty darn splendid. Temps were highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s. Humidity around 20% (versus 90% here in good ole KC). In other words...perfect.

It was hard to come back. We were there a week. I didn’t think about work. I didn’t think about Goofy Junior (too much). My mind started centering. And (bonus!) I actually got to re-connect with my husband. Without the work, family, house, dogs, money, etc. issues swirling around, we actually enjoyed each other’s company and got to talk about some pretty important things. And we didn’t fight/bicker at all. Well, a few times regarding navigational issues, but that’s to be expected.

I also got an MRI on the Friday before we left. It’s a long, painful story, but I only got an MRI of my hip, not my back. I was supposed to get both, but I kinda freaked out when the gal rolled me all the way into the middle of the MRI machine (which is this gigantic, sterile white monolith, that makes loud banging noises and they roll you into the middle of it, head-first, which gives you a fun "coffin" feeling). Shudder. Then she mentioned that I would have to be in there for 40 minutes. Without moving. If I moved, we’d have to start over.

So basically I freaked ("Jane! Stop this crazy thing!") and could only do the hip MRI. Which they can put you feet-first in for…and I still freaked me out, but I was able to hold it together for the 40 minutes. I freaked out quietly. Then I couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. Hopefully that will be enough for the ortho doc to tell me something.

Back to Wyoming. Once again, I surprised myself at how much I can achieve, once I set my mind to it. Or maybe I’m just too stupid to know what is above my level. Who knows? Anyway…
I went up, up, and over a mountain divide that was 10,700 feet tall. On the way down, I started having some altitude sickness symptoms, the most annoying one being a pretty strong nauseous feeling. The headaches I’m used to, and can breath through, but the nausea made me nervous.

Also, by the time we got to camp, I had a whopping blister in the back of my left ankle. Like a quarter-sized gaping hole! This made the last day hiking out very, very painful and my progress very slow. But I finished. My energy held out very well and I recovered from the nausea fairly fast (well, after vomiting at our campsite – under a rock, so it wouldn’t attract Yogi Bear. I’ll never eat a beef stick again. Bleck.).

I took a nap in the tent for about 30 minutes (shivering the entire time), then was able to eat some dinner and felt a great deal better. Then the next morning I felt like a new woman. A new woman with a very sore, bloody ankle. Ew.

But…I did it! As Dora would say, "Lo hicimos!". I surprised myself at how well I did. The next day, Randy was just as sore as I was (although he didn’t get any blisters). Mainly our calves killed us, from the 5-hour downhill hike out. We looked like two senior citizens gimping around after we sat still for more than 10 minutes.

And that's the Goofy definition of Big Fun.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ponderation about Motivation

On my drive to work, I started pondering motivation. What drives people? Since I was driving to work, I started thinking about all the other folks around me driving their cars to work. What motivated them to get up, primp, jump into their cars and get going? Never mind WHERE they were going…that's irrelevant. Assuming they are going somewhere that pays them to be there each day. Why do they do it?

That skinny guy eating a granola bar in the Grand Cherokee…what's his motivation? A family at home to support? Aging parents that might depend on him soon to pay their bills? Or maybe that trip to France that he's always dreamed about?

The chubby black lady driving the bright yellow (ouch, my eyes!) Mustang…what's her motivation? Paying for gas on her sporty car? Just getting the bills paid? Or is she working towards a greater purpose? Does she dream about changing the world someday?

What compels us to wrap our lives around a job? Money, of course, is key. But the money is simply the middleman. Money is simply a means to an end.

Money (and by "money" I mean the pieces of green paper that we exchange to buy goods and services) is worthless taken at face value. It's paper, people. Ah, but it's important paper. It REPRESENTS. It represents our end goals….food…clothes…iPods….pedicures.

If we gather enough of these green pieces of paper (either physically or virtually) then our dreams can get bigger. A new car. New house. New boobs. A new product or service that will change the way the world operates.

But do we all think about this during the average week? Do we stop and think about WHY we are going to work? Or do we just do it because everyone else is doing it? Because we have nothing else to do? Because we think it's "expected" of us? Because we are too lazy to come up with another method?

I don't have any answers to these questions. And just when I started really getting my thinking going…I arrived at work. And I had to go in because, hey, what else am I gonna do?

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Goofy Walk in the Woods

Only a Goofy Girl can take a nice, relaxing backpacking trip and find a way to apply an Excel spreadsheet and anal-retentiveness to it. Let me explain…

Mr. Goofy and I are going to Grand Teton National Park to do (among other things) a 3-day backpack. Backpacking is where you head into the woods with just the stuff you need on your back, and don't emerge for several days later, hopefully still civil with each other. (stay tuned)

I'm recently been reading about ultra-light and lightweight backpacking. Ultra-light backpacking is basically yourself, the clothes on your back, and a tarp. And I'm not really exaggerating much, folks.

On the other hand, lightweight backpacking is more about being aware of what you are carrying and what each item weighs. You examine (and weigh!) all the items you would normally take and make some tough decisions about what to leave at home. Also, it emphasizes taking items with dual purposes. For example, socks could also be used as "gloves" if it got unexpectedly cold. Hopefully CLEAN socks...

It also emphasizes taking only what you need. I would normally haul around a full bottle of sunscreen and a full spray bottle of bug spray for this 3-day backpack. Am I really going to use that much sunscreen? No way. So instead, you find a small container and put about 3 days' worth of sunscreen in it, and find a much smaller bug spray (or maybe go with towelettes - anyone ever use those?)

Some benefits of lightweight backpacking are:
(1) you can go farther, since you are not weighed down with all the pleasures of home like fluffy pillows, lanterns, 3-course meals, teddy bear; and
(2) as we get older (who me!?) it's much easier on your back and knees to carry less weight. I like both of these benefits. I also like a good challenge. Game on!

After buying a kitchen scale to weigh my gear, I created an Excel spreadsheet on which to track the items I intended to carry on my back across Wyoming. My goal was to carry 30 pounds or less.

I weighed socks. I weighed food. I cut tags off of clothing to eliminate weight (and weighed saved = 1 ounce). I decided to recycle socks while on the trip (I know....EW!). I decided to forgo toothpaste for 3 days (double-EW). I bought a Titanium spork.

My total looked really good at first. Then I realized I had forgotten to account for water (8 pounds) and my backpack (5.3 pounds). Whoops.

I removed more clothes from my list. Our planned lunch menu got smaller. I decided I needed to bring a shorter paperback book than I had planned. Basically, it's gotten obsessive. Sigh.

As of yesterday, my estimated total weight was 31.04 pounds. 1.04 over! So close. But, I scored big this evening at Price Chopper - I found a 1-ounce bottle of bug spray. This replaces my current "heavyweight" 4 ounce one.

Yippee! Now I've got an extra almost-pound free. Looks like a chocolate bar (or two) may make the trip afterall.

Life is good.

UPDATE: I should know not to attempt math after 10:00pm. I am not UNDER by an almost-pound..I'm still OVER by an almost-pound. ARG!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Don't Hate Me Because I'm a Capitalist

It's that time of year again…school is starting and the fund raising order forms are appearing everywhere.

They hit you with the guilt trip. The band/football team/soccer team/choir/chess club doesn't have enough money for uniforms/goals/music stands/rooks so PLEASE can you dig deep and help them?

And in return, you get some crap: A 40-cent candy bar for $2.50; a popcorn tin with a half-life; an overpriced stinky candle, Xmas wrapping paper in August. Hell, you name it and they will mark it up 15% and sell it to you. In the interests of fund raising, of course.

And rest assured…the fund raising group that need the help will get a whopping 20 cents from each dollar you give. This is after the organization that provides the aforementioned candy/popcorn/candle/crap takes their share.

I blame the Girl Scouts. They started it all.

I saw one of these forms today (candles for a football team) and I had a thought….why not just ask people to help by donating MONEY? Yes, that green stuff that hardly any of us carry around anymore. Have we gotten so selfish nowadays that we need to GET something in order to GIVE something? If my friend's sister's son's football team needs money for tackling dummies, why not just tell me this and ask for $5? Don't bother with the crappy products. Don't bother with the management organization taking their unbelievable cut of the profits. Simplify, people. Simplify.

And another thought…why not do what "real" sports teams do? Get sponsors. Hit up the neighborhood McDonald's, the local Trophy Shop, the corner Blockbuster. Frame it as a Market Opportunity. Dozens of teenagers will see these shirts/tackling dummies/softball gloves. If that's the business' target audience, let them have the opportunity to reach that target audience. For a price, of course.* Long live capitalism!

Our daycare sent home a fund raising sheet last fall. Seems our weekly fees were not enough and they needed money for some new playground equipment. I can't remember what the product was that we were supposed to pimp, but I was having none of it. On the day that we were to turn in our "orders", I walked in and asked what the average sales was looking like, per kid. Then I wrote a check for that amount ($50) as a donation.

I saved time, I probably saved money, I saved embarrassing myself by hitting up friends and neighbors to buy crappy popcorn balls and I saved having to eat/smell/wrap the crap that my own "order" would have netting me in return, when my friends/neighbors didn't buy enough.

Why do we make this so hard?!

* Hopefully we wouldn't end up with too many teams renamed to "The Trojans". Snicker.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sex, Drugs and Acupuncture

My continuing saga of back pain continues... (sung to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas"):

9 months of chiro,
8 weeks of physical therapy,
7 days a week of pain,
6 back-strengthening exercises daily,
5 days of anti-inflammatories,
4 doctor visits,
3 places that hurt,
2 orthopedic referrals,
and1 session of laser acupunture

So I went back to my MD after 8 weeks of physical therapy (after 9 months of chiropractic treatments). I am now super-strong, but still in pain. He asked if I was taking the anti-inflammatories. I murmured something about not wanting the mask the symptoms (how would I know if I was getting better?). I could see he was not approving of this, so I promised him I would take them. Who knows? I'd kick myself if they worked after all I've gone through.

He also basically scratched his head and said "I dunno". He has no idea why my back hurts. He referred me to an orthopedist.

I started taking the anti-inflammatories about one week ago. The label is daunting: drinking alcohol with these can make your liver bleed; sun exposure can result in sunburn and blisters; dizziness, nausea, headaches. Great. Let's trade the bad for the worst. But I wanted to give it a shot.

RESULT: Nothing. NOTHING. No difference in the pain at ALL. NONE. I feel dizzy all day long (big fun) and I've noticed that my moods are swinging up and down, left and right. It freaked me out so much today, that I just quit taking them. No results in one week = I've tried it.

My chiropractor called to check on me and I gave her the scoop. I'd cheated on her - been to the physical therapist, but to no avail. What she did didn't work, what the PT was doing didn't work. Woe is me. She said she had a laser acupuncture machine that she thought I should try. I told her I was out of insurance money to pay for anything like that (another fun side effect of all this crap). She said, "the first one's on me" and told me I would be able to tell whether it would work or not from that. Hmmm...a freebie. Sounds like a drug dealer, huh? But I'm willing to give anything a shot at this point. Voodoo dolls. Shark cartilage. Pacts with the devil. Whatever.

The laser acupuncture was easy. Unlike regular acupunture, there are no giant scary needles, so that was a big plus. I didn't feel anything right off the bat, but the next day (today) I can tell a teensy, tiny difference. I don't know if it's just wishful thinking, or something good. So...

I called the orthopedist referral today. The nasty phone answering lady heard the word "back" and said, "We don't treat backs. If your back is the problem, you'll have to go somewhere else." I think she could have been a bit nicer, but I was still dizzy from the anti-inflammatories, so I just hung up. I got another ortho referral that I haven't called yet.

What's next? I had a colleague mention something called IMT (Integrated Manual Therapy). Hell, why not try it? At a minimum, it's a new experience. Groan.