cats and love

Note: I started writing this last Friday night. I’ve decided to leave what I wrote, and just do my best to wrap it up in the present.

Oh the things we do for those we love. This post finds me sitting on the floor of our tiny bathroom hoping my cat will eat the expensive food mix I’ve put out for him. Rascal had at least one seizure last week that we know of for sure (now actually two weeks ago). But he likely had at least two more. I talked to the vet after the first one and she said just to keep an eye on him. So after the third one she asked that I bring him in. She did blood work telling me it was unlikely that she would find anything. But she did. Sky high eosinophil numbers. Between that and the seizures, her tentative diagnosis is hypereosinophilic syndrome. Very rare, very progressive, and very deadly.

So now here we are, two weeks out from the first seizure, and Rascal is about to become the $5000 cat (at least) instead of the $4000 cat. And he might be dead in a few months any way. This morning we had an appointment with an internal medicine specialist to start additional testing. Hypereosinophilic syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion. First you have to rule out anything else that might be causing elevated eosinophil levels, such as parasite infections, allergies or leukemia. Then you have to look for additional hints that it could be hypereosinophilic syndrome, such as eosinophil infiltration into the organs.

So now Rascal is on twice daily prednisone, his food is being switched to hypoallergenic food, and he was given a treatment of Revolution last week. This morning blood was drawn to test him for toxo, crypto, and heart worm. Assuming those all come back negative tomorrow, he has an appointment next Tue for chest xrays and ultrasound along with taking samples from his kidneys and spleen. This should look at whether he has eosinophil infiltration into his organs and look for swollen organs (another sign of organ infiltration). After that, I’m not sure what.

There is the chance we don’t figure out anything. And there is also the chance that I get home today and he’s dead. So it’s been an emotional past two weeks.

I do have food updates to do one day soon. I’ve got an update on my fruit list, and some fun food adventures in Costa Rica. I’ve also got a few recipes to share with you all. Soon.

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Political activism

I’m not one for rally’s. Or marches. Or anything of the sort. I lived in DC for 11 years, and never attended a single one (though I WISH I could have been there for the Rally to Restore Sanity!). So the irony of getting more politically active since I’ve left DC is not missed by me. But I’m still not going to rally.

Wisconsin’s new governor, Scott Walker, is not a man I voted for. He seemed to run on a very small platform that mostly seemed to consist of refusing funds to build a rail line here in Wisconsin (and some bullshit about not raising taxes). That’s not much to run on, nor something I agreed with (who refuses money that will bring in jobs??). But now that he’s in office, his true colors seem to be shining through. One of those is his desire to completely fuck over the University I work for and am a student of. This note on FB does a good job at summarizing what Walker’s Budget Repair Bill aims to do. While I’m not the biggest advocate of union’s, I do understand their place. Unfortunately, I never figured that unions would have/need to protect me from my own government.

In essence, the parts that directly affect me deal with taking away my tuition remission and increasing the costs of my health care. Oh, and cut general funding for the institution I work for and am a student of. Now, quite frankly, I’d grumble about increased health costs, but likely I’d just deal with it. We have excellent HMO options and paying a bit more for them would be ok in my book. But taking away my tuition remission? I’d like have to drop out of my graduate program because of that one. Destroy the benefits offered to our professors and staff? Then how will be recruit new faculty? Or even keep the ones we already have? I know my PI has had other universities try to recruit him.

I don’t think standing on the steps of the capitol shouting slogans will do much to convince Walker to do anything other than what he already wants to try to ram through our state senate and assembly. So instead I’ve done what I do think makes a difference. I wrote my State Senator and State Representative and let them know clearly and concisely that I am wholeheartedly AGAINST Walker’s proposed bill. I will also write Walker tomorrow morning when I’m a bit more rested. I also will call all three tomorrow morning.

If you are a resident of Wisconsin, I highly urge you to consider what you think about Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, and contact your senator and representative about it. You can use this site to determine WHO your elected officials are. That page will also give you their contact information.

When you get ready to call and/or email your elected officials, I suggest you read through these suggestions on how to go about it. Make sure you include your name, address, phone number, and state why you are emailing/calling them. Keep it professional and polite.

If you aren’t sure what to write, here’s what I sent Sen. Fred Risser and Rep. Mark Pocan (my elected officials). Tomorrow morning I’ll also call them, and Gov. Walker, to follow up and let them know just how strongly I stand against Walker’s bill. Once I’ve figured out what to say, I can post a script of that too if anyone cares to know it.

Dear Representative Pocan,
My name is XXXXX and I am a graduate student at UW. I am
writing you today to let you know that I do NOT support Governor
Walker’s proposed bill. I especially do NOT support his idea to take
away collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. My
(meager) graduate student stipend is my sole source of income. These
funds pay my basic living costs, food and rent, with little left for
extras. Adding tuition to this or increasing the cost of my health
care significantly would likely cause me to have to drop out of my PhD
program. Please speak on behalf of me, and students like me, in
defeating Walker’s proposed bill.
Thank you,

2011 to do list

Every year for the past 7 years I’ve made a yearly to do list. This isn’t resolutions. Rather, if there is something I think I’d like to change, rather than resolving to change it, I think of something I can actually do to get to that end, and then that item gets added to my list. I also include things that I generally think I would like to, or think I should, do over the coming year. I’ve gotten better at making the items on my to do list achievable, if I actually aim to get them done. I usually hit around 50% completion, and that’s good enough for me.

So here is this years to do list. There are a few items you’ll see a number for, but no item. These are things that I don’t feel comfortable making completely public. This year I’m also experimenting with dividing my list into things that I think should be easy for me to complete, somewhat challenging, and a few things that I think will be hard to do.

Easy
1. Ride my bike to campus when the weather is nice.
2. Visit a state I’ve never been to before.
3. Go to Picnic Point.
4. Go to a concert on the square.
5. Go to a hockey game.
6. Go to a women’s basketball game.
7. See the butterfly exhibit at the Botanical Garden.
8. Get Rascal to the vet.
9. Get Thor to the vet.
10. Make an educated vote in a local election.
11. Get my license switched to Wisconsin.
12. Read 12 books.
13. At least 3 books should come from the banned book list.
14. At least 2 should be science books.
15. One should be in Spanish (can be a kids book).
16.
17. Continue my savings plans. (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec)
18. Donate $ every month. (automated for the year)
19. Finish the edges on the bed frame.
20. Put the last coat of finish on the end table I built.
21. Write to two of my elected officials.
22. Learn to build a fire and actually build a fire.
23. Take a dance course (not one class, but a 5-6 week series).

Medium
24. Be able to do 30 sun salutations.
25. Complete the 100 push ups program.
26. Get my weight back below 150.
27. Do an East Coast trip #3.
28. See my parents at least once.
29. Finish putting my pictures in the album I started.
30. Go to the dentist.
31. Celebrate my birthday.
32. Host an actual dinner party, Thanksgiving can’t count this year!
33. Get no parking tickets.
34. Get no speeding tickets.
35. Get two new stamps in my parks book, one local, one out of the area.
36. Only charge to my credit card what can immediately be paid off.
37. Pay off $3500 of my student loans.
38. Try at least 100 new fruits.
39. Make a list of things to do when I’m depressed that might help me feel better.
40. Do the ten things ten days of gratitude.
41. Be able to carry on a decent conversation in Spanish.
42. Do something for at least 12 friends birthdays that lets them know they are important to me.
43. Build a liquor cabinet.
44. Roll over my traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.
45. Start a CD ladder AND/OR contribute some of that money to my Roth IRA.
46. Learn how to swim under water without holding my nose.

Hard
47. Stop picking my skin.
48. Run a 5k.
49. Make one new friend.
50. Discover one new thing that brings me joy.
51. Let my parents know what I want done with my body if/when I die.
52.

GF – back pain edition

I’ve been laid up since last night with severe back pain. I’ve done nothing but lie around all day. Ibuprofen didn’t touch it. Naproxen didn’t touch it. Heat and ice help, but having to get up to get them to switch up is painful. Walking is painful. Most sitting positions are painful. Thankfully I can lay on my stomach with relative ease, it just hurts, my upper body to prop myself up like this.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a daal recipe up for you all. Tasty. Gluten free. Vegan. Sadly not paleo/primal.

If I’m worse tomorrow, I’ve promised myself a trip to the ER. Same by Sunday, urgent care. Hoping to be able to hold off until Monday, but we’ll see. Looks like urgent care might be open normal hours Sunday, so perhaps I’ll go any way. Nothing I do seems to help. *sigh* Happy Saturday. Merry Christmas. Joyous Yule.

Credit card fraud

TL;DR? If you get notified that your credit card information has been compromised, and the suggestion is to close the account and have your bank reissue a new one? DO IT!!

The longer more detailed version:
I placed an order with curlmart back the beginning of October for some curly hair products that were cheaper to buy through them than directly through the company that made them. November 3rd, I get a wonderful email from them, which I’ll paste below for your viewing pleasure:

Dear CurlMart customers,

The purpose of this email is to inform you of an information security incident at CurlMart.com that potentially could affect you. Hackers recently penetrated our firewall and gained access to data containing your name and credit card information without our knowledge. Although we believe the exposure to be minimal, it is possible that your information could have been viewed by others.

In order to ensure your credit information was not used by third parties without your consent, we recommend that you monitor your credit report information and notify your credit card company if anyone attempts to obtain credit in your name. This could serve as an early warning if you become a victim of identity theft, even if such an occurrence is unrelated to this incident. You may also place a “fraud alert” on your personal credit file, which requires creditors to contact you before they open any new accounts or change your existing accounts. To place a fraud alert on your file, you should contact anyone of the three major credit bureaus listed below. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to do the same.
Equifax
l-888-766-0008
http://www.equifax.com
Experian
1-888-397-3742
http://www.experian.com
TransUnion
1-800-680-7289
http://www.transunion.com

Even if you do not find any suspicious activity on your initial credit reports, we encourage you to consider cancelling your credit card or at a minimum actively monitoring your account statements and credit reports. For more information on identity theft and detailed instructions on other actions you might consider, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (hereinafter “FTC”) website at http://www.ftc.gov. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, we encourage you to contact the FTC immediately by calling the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT.

We take our responsibility for safeguarding your confidential and personal information very seriously. Please be assured that we have taken the appropriate steps to correct the breach and protect your personal information from further disclosure. If you have any questions or additional concerns, please do not hesitate to email us at customerservice@curlmart.com.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

I didn’t think much of it. I’ve had this happen once or twice before and nothing has ever come of it. Hell, I had my mail stolen a few years ago, and nothing ever came of that.

Well, I got an email today alerting me that credit card statement was ready from my credit union card. That’s strange. I usually only get a statement when I carry a balance, and I knew I had paid off my balance. Log in. $355.58 to Merrell.com. WHAT?!/1/? Call the bank, nothing else has been charged that isn’t mine. Seems fishy. Call Merrell, but because it’s after business hours, all they can do is search by my name. No orders in my name. Hmmm. I was just double checking that I hadn’t ‘accidentally’ ordered something. As I do like Merrell’s products, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have what I need this season. Call back the bank, start the fraud process. Come home, place a fraud alert on with the credit agencies. Close the affected account. Read about problems others have had with their stolen info from curlmart. *ishg* Place a fraud alert on my other credit card, just in case (didn’t want to have it reissued as I know I have pending charges on it, and I don’t think it’s been compromised, just the one card). About all I can do tonight.

So now I wait. Tomorrow I’ll call Merrell’s business person to see what I information I can get out of her. At that point, I’ll probably file a police report. And then I’ll wait for the fraudulent charges paper work to arrive from my bank. As far as I understand it, there is nothing else I can do on my end. It’s a good thing I keep a close eye on my accounts. And it’s a good thing I know how to calmly talk to phone reps and explain what is that is going on and what I need. Honestly, at this point this feels anticlimactic. Hopefully I won’t have any problems getting the money credited back to my account. I’m hoping that since my credit union has been so fabulous with everything else that they will be fabulous with this too. Guess I’ll find out soon enough.

And as I said on FB: They best have bought damn running shoes.

ANTS!!

1. Go check out The Ant Cam
2. Ask the ants questions on Twitter.

You might be interested to know that fungus farming ants are one of the few organisms on this planet that farm (humans, fungal farming termites, and ambrosia beetles being the others that are currently known). But perhaps more interesting is the fact that they farm in monoculture, raising only one type of fungus as their primary food source. Imagine that! We can’t get monoculture farming to work well, yet these ants have been doing it for millions of years.

Different kinds of health

Generally when people talk about health, they are referring to physical health. I am of the mindset that there are many different kinds of health. Physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual etc. all matter in my book. Seven and a half years ago I made two big decisions that impacted multiple facets of my health. I went gluten free, which had an immediate impact on my physical health. I made another decision, that I won’t discuss here in any real depth due to anonymity issues, but it had a major impact on my mental, emotional and spiritual health. Through all these decisions, I’ve found there are various sublayers within each facet of health, kind of like an onion. Going gluten free was great for my health overall, but there are other things I can do for my physical health, like exercising more consistently, or paying better attention to the quality of gluten free foods I put in my body. Add in how these various facets intertwine, and I’m now also realizing that when I take better care of my physical health, I feel better mentally and emotionally.

Something that has grown out of this whole self care mission has been paying better attention to my financial health. Some of you may remember seeing this post at Get Rich Slowly about how I paid off my credit cards before coming back to school. My financial health is extremely important to me, and in relation to this blog, more so now because it allows me the financial space to be able to afford better quality food, support local farmers, and start buying meat from more sustainable sources. Needless to say, I’m careful with my money.

Here is where this post will go VERY off topic for this blog.
Sometime last year I made the decision that since interest rates on savings accounts were so low, I was better off working on paying off my student loans rather than saving a ton. That and I no longer like the idea of being in debt. I still save a very sizable amount each month, especially considering what my student stipend is, but now I also have a line item in my budget to send to my student loans every month. Somehow, somewhere, I was informed that I could apply my student loan payments to one subset of my loans, namely the unsubsidized portion. So this is what I’ve been doing since last Dec, at least so I thought. (I’m trying to figure out where I got this piece of information, so if you know, please feel free to contact me. Usually I’m good about writing these things down, but apparently not this gem, so now I’m second guessing its validity.)

Sunday night I made my student loan payment to Sallie Mae just like I have for the past year or so. Based on a phone conversation I’d had with a representative back in December, I know to email them directly afterward to request that my most recent payment be applied to my unsubsidized portion. And every other month I’ve received an email back that my payment has been processed as requested. Except for this morning. This morning I got a email stating that this was not possible because of the nature of my student loans (namely, consolidated). I saw red. Any shreds of mental and emotional health flew right out the window. I called Sallie Mae and long story short, was informed by a representative that no, my payments had been applied as they saw fit, not according to my instructions, and not solely to the unsubsidized portion of my student loans. The story gets odder though, because when I log in and look at the payment history on my loans, it shows that each payment has been processed as posting to my unsubsidized loan. So I am left wondering who doesn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground and who’s been lying to me. Supposedly an expedited inquiry has been placed on my account to see what is actually going on. But between a representative who didn’t seem to have a full grasp on English AND so much background noise on her end, I can’t be quite sure what is really being done. Oddly enough, last month I received a customer satisfaction email from them that I had yet to fill out. I filled it out today and wrote about this all in the comments section.

I’m not holding my breath on this. Either way, I know I’ll be in better financial shape making payments now on my student loans rather than waiting until I graduate. If it is the case that my payments have not been applied as I requested, it simply means I’ll pay a bit more in interest over the life of the loan and it will take me a bit longer to pay them off. But this will still be a shorter time than if I waited until I’m done with my PhD program. Just like other facets of my health, I’m sure I’ll face various obstacles along the way (just like lack of support for further dietary changes). Other than my own stupid decisions, this is honestly the first financial obstacle that has enraged me. In the long run, it is likely to be minuscule compared to my totals, but today, it makes me want to rage. And write about it on the internet.