Thursday, April 26, 2012

What caused me to change my career field.

I talked about this when I first started the blog, but finding out I was pregnant caused some huge changes in my life, including my career.

Before I got pregnant, my husband and I had talked and planned on my staying home if/when we had a baby, but years passed and we weren't sure how to make it work when the time actually came.

As fate would have it, I didn't really end up with a choice. I had two hospitalizations in the few months before I got pregnant, including a car wreck that required surgery and months of physical therapy, so I used up most of my sick and family/medical leave time. Then, I had hyperemesis and fainting spells that caused my doctor to pull me out of work and recommend that I not even drive a car for several weeks.

All of this meant I didn't have enough time off to keep my job and they refused to move me to a position where I would be seated and not walking around a hot kitchen on concrete floors and surrounded by inmates. In order to pull my money out of my retirement savings and 401k, to pay my bills, I had to quit my job. I was upset over how it played out, but it was the best thing that could have happened.

As a result, I've been able to spend the past 2+ years at home with my son full-time. It's been great and I wouldn't trade that time with him for anything, even though he can be a handful. It's also given me a chance to think about what I enjoy and what I want to do with the rest of my life, and now I'm going back to college again, which I probably wouldn't have if I had kept my old job.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If I only had $20, I would buy...

 A big pack of Sharpie markers.

Seriously, I've been doing a lot more drawing and artsy-crafty stuff lately and I love sharpies because they make great lines and come in so many colors.

I also have some shoes and things I'm waiting to decorate and I figure permanent marker is the easiest way to do what I have in mind.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

*Some Information on Mesothelioma

Living in southern Appalachia, it seems like almost everybody has either worked in a local manufacturing plant or "mill" or has family who had. Sadly, many of these people and their family members were later diagnosed with lung diseases that were likely related to their jobs, and many died from them. In most cases, it was only a few years between diagnosis and death and the majority never received any compensation from their employers.

One of my husband's cousins, who died from mesothelioma after working in a textile plant which manufactured asbestos fabrics, was even told he had no claim because he'd been a smoker and that was obviously the cause of his lung cancer. Some manufacturing plants in the area today make applicants sign a form that says they cannot sue the company for any health problems that are related to their employment - I'm not sure if this is even legal, but it was enough to keep my husband from taking a fairly high-paying job with a company that manufactures wallboard.

I vaugely remember seeing signs about asbestos when I was a child in the early 90s and being told it was something bad and they were getting rid of it in our school building, and I've seen the ads for mesothelioma lawyers on television, so I thought that it was a fading problem. Instead, I've learned that mesothelioma rates have not really gone down since 1989, when the asbestos ban was passed (the increased for several years afterward), and the survival rate has only barely improved. Because it was expensive to remove asbestos from many products, and some manufacturers claimed it was impossible or that the replacement materials were inferior, many manufacturers using asbestos were opposed to the ban and the the EPA was sued and lost in 1991, overturning much of the asbestos ban and ensuring that asbestos is still used in many products today.

Another surprise was finding that about 30% of mesothelioma patients are veterans, usually those who served onboard US Navy ships or in naval shipyards from the 1930s through the 1970s. During those years, asbestos was used extensively for fireproofing and insulation and the close quarters of the ship made it virtually impossible to avoid exposure. The VA does recognize mesothelioma as a service-related disease, but many people have trouble getting VA claims approved and it becomes an even harder problem while battling a deadly disease at the same time. Veterans, like many other mesothelioma patients, would be best served by getting a lawyer to represent them during this process.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Too Awesome Not to Share

In case you missed it, or are too broke or trendy to catch television these days, Jenny Lawson ("The Bloggess" was on CNN today.

THEY thought they were getting another "mommy wars" story. Instead, she used her time to talk about the coming zombie apocalypse, her lady garden, and other awesomeness. Seriosuly, this had to have been the best CNN interview ever.

She has a video up on her blog and you have got to go watch it:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dear 10 year old self...

Dear Michelle,

Hang on to this letter because some parts will make more sense as you get older. I don't remember what you were like at 10 or what is going on then, but life is about to get crazy in a couple years.

Enjoy it and stop taking yourself so seriously. You don't have to hold things together for everyone or be some super student. In a few years, nobody will remember or care anyway. Enjoy yourself. Learn about what you enjoy, but spend more time having fun and trying new things. You don't have to be the best to keep trying things, and you never will learn or get any better if you don't start and stick with it for  awhile.

If you want to do something, ask. Mom and dad talk like money's super tight, but they probably could have come up with it and let you take dance or gymnastics or art or music lessons if they'd known how bad you wanted to. You'll end up trying again as an adult and it will suck when you find out there a few things you "might have" had a talent for if you'd developed it any.

Middle school and high school will be weird. Again, get out more, actually do stuff and maybe party a little. You'll spend too much of the rest of your life stuck at home or in front of a computer to start that mess now. You'll lose most of your best friends and grow apart, but you need to be a better friend to the ones who stick with you in high school because some of them are awesome people that will stay in touch years later.

Don't be surprised how people turn out. Tone down the self-righteous stage you fall into your freshman and senior year because you end up with your own craziness, too. Don't sweat college too much, but go ahead and learn more about the internet and computer programming instead of letting people talk you out of it. In short, have fun and follow what you want to do instead of trying so hard to conform to what you think everyone else wants.

  Raine  (btw, that screename/nickname you pick in 8th grade is gonna stick with you for the rest of your life)

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*Got It

Guest post written by my buddy Bernardo Graham

I got satellite internet service for the farm because I got sick and tired of my kids saying I didn’t answer my cell phone. I don’t know what part of “I don’t get service out here” they don’t understand but they’re always yelling at me telling me they’re worried about me that something’s happened with all this big farm equipment.

I love being out here by myself though and since my wife died it’s been a bit lonely. I am glad my kids care about me so much but I also can’t spend all day inside checking my email – the chickens need to be fed and the cows milked and I’ve got all kinds of tending to the crops that I’ve got to do. 

I love my kids to death but unless they want to go outside to the farm with me and get the work done they need to just leave me alone and have faith that I‘m a grown man and can more or less take care of myself, you know?

Monday, April 9, 2012

... and he never found out!

We'd been together for 9 years. I'd thought about leaving a few times, tried to leave once and came back because it was way past midnight, deer kept jumping out in the road, I was too upset to drive, and I hadn't told anybody I was coming. He found my note, acted like he never knew I was gone, and then made fun of me over it later.

I was struggling with depression and my doctor said that getting away would be a good thing, but I ignored that, too. He started hiding away, locking himself in the bedroom all evening - later, I found out he was spending hours on a fetish "community" online and browsing through craigslist personals. He was short with me when we spoke, sarcastic, hateful, edging on threatening, so I took a second full-time job to be away from home more. I started having panic attacks again, started purging and restricting - people told me I looked good because I lost weight, but I felt like crap because I was severely bulimic again.

And I started trying to save money. Not much saved, because everytime I had money it seemed like something needed buying or fixing and he was suddenly broke so I had to cover it. But enough, and I was making enough that things would be tight but I could rent a small place and support myself if I had to, so long as I kept both jobs. I had a plan, had found out a few places I could rent affordably and take my dog with me, and was slowly figuring out how to make it all work.

Then, I found out I was pregnant. I was scared to leave because he'd always made a big deal about having children and said nobody would ever leave and take them away from him. His behavior got worse, his attitude got worse, he didn't touch me at all while I was pregnant - he never hurt me, but there was no love or affection there either, and he was getting deeper into this online world of his. I tried to take care of myself for my baby, forced myself to eat and hold it down, tried to make good choices. Got very sick and lot both jobs, along with my health insurance. Spent the money I'd saved on doctor bills and stuff for the baby.

He treats me better now, halfway decent most of the time and sometimes even acts like he still cares. He loves his son though and is great with him. He spends time with us on weekdays, playing with his son in the evenings, but still locking himself away on the weekends in the bedroom alone with the computer. I'm a stay-at-home mom now. He wants me to work too and earn money, but will not pay for daycare - the plan is for me to care for a toddler all day and work at night, but I can't handle that right now. I'm working from home, doing some writing, getting a few blog ads, not really making ends meet. If I could afford to go back to the doctor and get in treatment again for depression and anxiety, I might be able to make it work, but I can't afford to know. I stay because I can't make it on my own.

I was so close to leaving for good, and he never found out.

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Almost Girl Scout Cookies

If you're like me, you love Girl Scout Cookies. You're also on a budget that may make it hard or impossible to stock up on them when they are on sale.

While there isn't any way to get the real thing, other than stocking up during cookie season or buying them online from others who have done so, I've found several options in stores year round that come close, many for half the price of the Girl Scout Variety.

For comparisons, here are the 3 most popular Girl Scout Cookie varieties - Thin Mints, Samoas or Caramel deLites, and Tagalongs or Peanut Butter Patties. They are made at 2 different bakeries, which is why some go by 2 different names.

The most common Girl Scout cookie knockoffs are made by Keebler and available at most grocery stores. They are the easiest to find, and the Samoas come closest to the Girl Scout variety, but they are also the most expensive of the 3 types I've tried.

The Grasshoppers taste a lot like Thin Mints and the Caramel Dreams are very, very close to Samoas. The Peanut Butter Filled cookies are a lot like Tagalongs, but use a chocolate cookie instead of vanilla, which is a trait they share with the other copycat versions I have found.

Cheaper options for "fake" Girl Scout cookies can be found at discount retailers like ALDI and Dollar General.

The boxes on the right show the Clover Valley brand cookies from Dollar General. These are usually around 1.85-1.90 a box, at least here in North Carolina. I have heard that these were made in the same factory as the Girl Scout cookies, but don't think that is true because there are differences in the cookies and because I don't believe the bakery would risk their contract with the Girl Scouts to produce cookies at such a low price.

The Mint Thin cookies are very close to the Girl Scout Thin mints and are good. The Fudge Caramel Cookies are meant to resemble Samoas, but are noticeably different because the whole cookie is covered in chocolate instead of just drizzled - they are good, but not a suitable replacement for Samoas or Caramel deLites. The Fudge Peanut Butter cookies are good, but not great. They are similar to the Keebler cookies in that they use a chocolate cookie base, but the chocolate covering the Peanut Butter layer seems thinner.

Another discount store option is the Benton's or Benton's Best brand cookies from ALDI. I did not see any Peanut Butter cookies or Tagalong knockoffs at my local store, but I would love to hear about them if any of my readers has seen or tried them.

Of those I tried, I really enjoyed both and found them to be very close to Girl Scout cookies in flavor, texture, and quality. The Fudge Mint cookies were soft and delicious and very much like the older Thin Mints, rather than the newer ones that can sometimes seem overly hard or waxy. The Caramel Coconut Fudge cookies are awesome and are the closest of all the copycat cookies to the taste and texture of Samoas. The only real difference I could see is that the chocolate drizzle seems to be milk chocolate, while real Samoa Girl Scout cookies use a dark chocolate drizzle.

I have heard that WalMart has, or previously had, their own version of these cookies s well, but I've never tried them. If there are any other copycat Girl Scout cookies that you've tried, I'd like to hear about them in the comments.

*Shopping Online with

Since I'm online so much anyway, I tend to do a lot of shopping and even "window shopping" online. It makes it easy to look for what I want and compare options and prices without having to drag my toddler out and drive from store to store.

I just found a new comparison shopping website called that makes it even easier by combining shopping at product research. For instance, searching for booster seats or cribs brings up both product listings and a "research" tab that listed product information and recent recalls.

You can search by price, brand. and/or store, which makes it really convenient, and specific products can be narrowed down into categories which fit them more.. Shopping for Hampton Hill Bedding, for instance, brings up a list of bedding options with the price and store and can be further sorted by size, material, and brand.

The search results also include photos, so it is easy to compare items at a glance. This means, as I was searching for a sink to complement by brass hand pump style faucet, all I had to do was search for "sink hammered brass" to browse through the offerings from several stores and pick out one to compliment it.

Another nice feature is the red dot that shows up on the picture to highlight sale items, and the original price listed beside the sale price. In a search for Home Depot storage buildings this helped me find one for sale for over $700 off the original price, which made it even cheaper than the local shed places.

If you do much shopping online, then you may want to add to your bookmarks to helpe compare items and find them more easily.

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