Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shootin' the Shit

WARNING: I'm going to talk about feces, bowel disease, etc., openly and honestly. If this isn't your favorite subject, move along. This isn't the blog post you're looking for. There is, however, a chuckle-worthy poop story at the end if you're willing to hang around. Get it? Hang.


Bowel movements.



Poopity poo poo poop.

Let's talk about poop, baby. Let's talk about you and me. Let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that BMs be.

That is NOT how it goes.

There's a stigma surrounding open bowel movement discussions and with my mighty fetid flaming sword, I shall cut down my polite-in-public foes! It's important to know your feces intimately, people. Your fragrant fluffs are some of the loudest messages (pfffft) your body can communicate and in staying silent (but deadly?), you could be denying yourself and your favorite medical professionals valuable information about the state of your health. 

Many of you already know I suffer from the always exciting rheumatoid arthritis. Most of you don't know that I also live with another autoimmune issue: ulcerative colitis. It's an inflammatory bowel disease with super fun side effects and in my case, I get flares during stressful periods. My UC symptoms worsen when my RA worsens, usually during the humid (Texas) summer months. 

If only

How does it impact my life? I'm very fortunate in that I have less severe symptoms than most because I don't have the common painful abdominal cramps and I am SO thankful for it. I've altered my diet and behaviors to accommodate both conditions and the changes have helped a good deal. Other than that, I'm on some new medications, my bathroom breaks take a little longer than they used to, and my BMs aren't the same beautiful, perfect poos I once had. Ah, those where the days.

My symptoms started almost a year ago. I was going through a particularly difficult and stressful period with work, school, and my personal life. I wasn't sleeping much and I'd managed to bite all of my nails off again (a good indicator of my stress levels, if you were curious). During the first week of the Summer II session, I had the strangest poop of my life. It was the most bizarre pale clay color and...it was bloody and mucus-y. 

I can't even

This had never happened before. I tried to explain away its ongoing shocking appearance for a couple of weeks before I worked up the courage to tell (and show) The Hubs. He was floored and encouraged me to tell my physician, who immediately pointed me at a gastroenterologist, who promptly scheduled a colonoscopy**. My gastro was 99% sure I had internal hemorrhoids, which would have made for a simple treatment. But, nooooo.

Sho dishapoint

Lesson: look at your fecal matter. Look. At. It. Don't fear it or dismiss troubling poos. The color, texture, floating ability, and smell are all important and they act as indicators. The Bristol Stool Chart is a hand-dandy tool. Do you know what you're eating? Some foods and medications can make your urine and BMs turn colors that even the late 60s would envy. Some foods increase the sense of...urgency. Having a hard time with your plops? Squat like a samurai. Embarrassed of your fragrant friends? PooPourri is an interesting (real) product I haven't tried, but has consistently received rave reviews

But above all things, look at it and be willing to talk about it. You would be amazed at how many people have the same questions, concerns, and experiences as you. I hope this encourages and empowers you to take accountability for your poos. It's right there, just beneath the surface, waiting to be uncovered and dropped into the (discussion) bowl. 

Talk about it. You got this.

And now, the embarrassing story, which I will present to you as a series of actions, thoughts, and (non-poop) pictures. I'm telling a story we have all lived in the hopes that you'll laugh at my nonsense and know that you're not alone in the porcelain jungle.

The setup: We got in one night and decided to behave badly and pick up some Jack in the Box tacos on the way home. It's been a while since we've had that kind of junky fast food, so this felt really naughty and fun. I stayed up late to do some homework and only got about 4 hours of sleep. The next morning, I decided to take advantage of the Starbucks gift card my cousin was kind enough to give me for my birthday because I was really tired. I got my ice cold caffeine and started to wrap up my commute to work. Then, 10 minutes from the office...

*singing "wake up" music* "The girls want to be her! The boys want to be her! I wanna be her! So do y--" 

Pucker up

Oh no. Oh nonononononono. I'm almost to work, just hang on. Be strong. Concentrate. You can do this. You can d-- no, no I can't.

Must drive faster, MUSTDRIVEFASTER

Why is this happening again? Why now? This hasn't happened in months! Things were going so well... C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Longest light ever. Whyyyyyyy? ...Jack in the Box. Coffee... what was I thinking?? C'mon, c'mon, c'moooooon.

I finally pull into my parking spot and go to plug in my car...

Why isn't this working? Whyisn'tthisworking? What's going on?? Oh no! I forgot my card is broken! I have to use the app! IT'S GOING TO TAKE TOO LONG. 


Plug in the car after you go to the bathroom. Priorities! Gogogogogo!

Didn't know I could speed walk? Neither did I.

I'm inside, gogogogo. Oh no. I can feel it. It's coming. I won't make it. I won't make it. What do I do? What do I say? "Sorry boss, gotta go home because I pooed myself"?? Who says that? I can make it, I have to make it. I can ma- 

*burst through bathroom door, barely make it to the stall*


Good luck eating watermelon ever again.


That spells relief.

Teach me to eat JITB tacos.

The end.

** The Colonoscopy Rant: I was pissed that I had just turned 30 and immediately needed a colonoscopy. WTF, body? You figured it was time to completely fall apart when you heard I turned 30? But you know what? If I hadn't been diagnosed, I'd be miserable and in deteriorating health. People with UC have a significantly higher incidence of colon cancer, so I'm totally cool with literally nipping this in the bud. Do not be afraid of having a colonoscopy. Grow up. Your little ego will recover. It is not a violation of your sacred a-hole. You won't even feel it. What you will feel, however, is the day before and that is a story for another day.

This post is in no way a substitute for a chat with your doctor. This isn't medical advice, disclaimer, disclaimer, please don't sue me if you have sad poos, etc.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nice Double Helix You Got There, Baby

Genetics are awesome, don't you think? Just awesome.

In October, The Hubs and I submitted samples (read: tubes of spit) to 23andMe to have our DNA analyzed. Recreational DNA analysis has become popular and we've read quite a bit about about some of the companies involved and the kinds of results the curious consumer can receive. 

We chose 23andMe because they'd received a lot of coverage and some positive reviews, so we felt comfortable sending them our spit. At the time, they offered both health and ancestral breakdowns, however the FDA recently put a stop to their health offerings because of how the data was extrapolated and conveyed and how folks interpreted (freaked?) and used the data (freaked in the general direction of their doctors).

I know you...

In November, we received our results. Health-wise, they were as I expected. I know the majority of my immediate family's health history, so I know that I have generally elevated risks of heart disease and diabetes (thanks, Mom and Dad) (I'm kidding, I love you and your genes, promise). The health results also go through some genetic-based drug responses, inherited conditions, and traits, like my apparently wet earwax:

lol, sprinter

However, for us, the real fun was in our ancestry results. Seriously, how cool is this?

Oog, fire.

For me, I really wanted to see the my genetic origins. I'm Mexican-American, so I expected my results to show me something interesting. The Hubs...well, The Hubs is as Caucasian European as schnitzel and his genetic composition reflects it. Blue is European. How much blue are we seeing here?

Like, BLUE.

According to the results, he's 99.6% European. That's...definitive.

And mine? I'm pretty damn proud of mine. I'm from all over and I love it.


While some of my information is "Nonspecific European" or "Nonspecific East Asian & Native American," based on my family history, I can assume the Nonspecific East Asian & Native American is actually Native American. I'd been told my maternal side has a good chunk of "indigenous peoples of Mexico," but it was nice to see some confirmation.

100% me, baby

Side note: I was trying to find a proper distinction for "indigenous peoples of Mexico" by doing a bit of Googling and this is the garbage I got within the top 5 results. Sigh. 

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

You can also do a chromosomal view of the ancestry composition. Chromosomal view. We live in the future, people!


23andme has a pile of other features, but that would make for a long blog post that reads like an advertisement. For The Hubs and I, this is a fun science experiment. For some people, this has been enlightening and for others, frightening. Some people don't want to know and some can't not know. If you have questions about this, I'd be happy to privately discuss some of my results or about the service itself. If you're curious about the service, I can also send you a 23andme invite.

At least now you can know there's a genetic basis for not liking cilantro.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Victory is MINE!

Back in February, I told you about my strategy for getting my paws on a PS4 without paying for it. I'd identified a handful of sources of extra (tiny bits) of income and we've been accumulating Amazon credit for several months. It was slow, but steady, and we were making progress. We finally made the decision to trade in our Wii, games, accessories, and an old iPod and that's what helped us reach our final goal.


Well, almost anyway. We were ~8 bucks short. Meh. 

At least Megatron's impressed, which means a job well done. We might be a little thrilled with too.

Is not food? :(

The next thing we're saving for is a sink for a future bathroom remodel. Maybe. That's a little boring. Maybe I'll work on some roller skates.

Hmm, tough one.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Was I Saying?

If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered. -Edgar Allan Poe

Since being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2010, I've been on a number of immunosuppressant medications. My condition can lead to cognitive fatigue which, when paired with the medications' side effects of possible memory loss, means my memory is effectively shot.

It's difficult to describe how this shift in my cognitive ability has changed the way I approach communication and memory. Like my father (who some call an encyclopedia), I could easily remember (usually useless) tidbits with ease. And now? Now I sometimes forget what I'm saying mid-sentence. 

I, uh, blue?

My mother's memory is also slipping, so you should hear the two of us talking. Sometimes, it goes something like this (seriously):

Me: Did you hear about blah, blah exciting thing?
Mom: Yes! I heard about it when I was looking at a thing I wanted to tell you about...
Me: Cool, I...uh...there was a point I was getting at. I forgot it.
Mom: I wanted to say something too, but I forgot. Also, I wrote a note to tell you about something, but I left the note at work.
Me: Oh. <frown>
Mom: Want a cookie?
Me: Ok!

It's pretty hilarious/sad and there's usually a cookie or candy involved, so it doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Regardless, I've spent the past 4 years retraining my brain to process and recall information differently.

Since I can no longer simply recall information, I've had to attach ideas and memories to images or recall related images so I can know what in the world I was talking about. If I need to remember that one movie that actress with the hair was in, I have to pause mid-sentence, recall the movie character, or recall the poster/packaging/trailer to find the movie title. If you've been fortunate enough to see this in person, it looks like I'm staring into space in the middle of a conversation. It's awkward, but it's been the most effective way I can recall information.

This awkward.

I've also started keeping lists. It's helps keep track of what I need to do. Otherwise, that one important thing I really needed to do? Yup, fell right out of my head.

Deodorant is important.

I've been using Google Keep so I can access my lists on my computer and on my phone, but I'm trying to find better ways of managing my brain.

Has anyone else had memory issues? How do you cope with them and what tools do you use to help you get through the day? 

Um...What was I talking about? Ooo, a cookie!

Yeay! ^ ^

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kermit's A-ha! Moment: Examining Light Bulbs

In our first look at the greener side of things, we examine the bright and confusing world of light bulbs! Hooray! 

I'm sure you're just as excited as I am. I'm SO excited that I had The Hubs do the research and information accumulation for this article for me so I could share in the excitement. Because lights are super exciting. 

Since this is so exciting, I'm sure you'll bear with me and read this whole thing. In case you don't, here is what we'll discuss, broken down so you can skip to whatever part you'd like to scan, because tl;dr for realzzz: bulb information (lumens, CRI, and color temperature) and a bulb breakdown (incandescent, CFL, and LED).

When it comes to learning to be a little greener, a little more efficient, switching your light bulbs is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do. Yes, it can be expensive if you decide to replace all of your bulbs in one fell swoop, but that's not how we did it in our home. As our incandescent bulbs shuffled off their respective mortal coils (heh, coils...just fake a chuckle for my sake), we replaced them with something more efficient.

The Information

Buying bulbs is much more confusing than it once was. Rather than just needing to know about the wattage of a bulb, you now need to know a pile of new terms and how they apply to you: lumens, CRI, and color temperature. Because of the confusion surrounding this information, it's easy to get flustered or frustrated when trying to identify the best product for your needs. As a result, consumers are flipping their switches, then flipping the bird because they're unhappy. Flip out no longer, my friends.
  • Lumens
    • This is the amount of light (or brightness) the bulb gives off.
    • In the past, you could determine how bright a light was by how many watts it used. However, now that lights are more efficient, they put off more light for less wattage.
    • Here's a nifty little video about lumens that explains it very well.
    • For reference, the old "60w" incandescent bulbs you used were roughly 800 or 900 lumens. 
  • CRI
    • This is how "pure" the color is that's displayed. The  "harshness" people see in some fluorescent lights is a result of bad CRI. 
    • A low CRI will not show true colors in its light and can cause greater eye fatigue and even headaches.
    • Poor CFL and LED bulbs have CRIs around 80-82. The best have 90+. 
  • Color Temperature (in Kelvin)
    • This is the "feel" of the light.
    • The lower the number, the more "yellow" the light is
    • Very high numbers have a more "blue" light.
    • For example, 2700k is very yellow, 3000-3600k is yellow white, 5000k is nearing sunlight (almost pure white), and 6000k is blue.

There are also new labels for light bulbs which help break this information down for you:

I'm a label!
Here's the label for a bulb containing mercury:

Next, we'll discuss three bulb types.

Nope, just 3

Bulb Types

I won't spend a lot of time on these because most people are already familiar with them. Incandescent bulbs are being phased out because they're the least efficient bulb out there, but they aren't banned, as many believe. Manufacturers have been mandated to make more efficient bulbs, so technology is changing and these bulbs are actually rising in cost. According to their manufacturers, the average lifespan of incandescent bulbs is ~1,000 hours of use. The most commonly used wattage used is 60 watts.

CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp) are a step up from incandescent bulbs. They're essentially fluorescent tubes bent and squished into a smaller form. Like their bigger brothers and sisters, they do contain a small amount of mercury, so their disposal is a little more complicated. However, a number of hardware and electronics retailers have free recycling drop-offs for CFLs. According to their manufacturers, the average lifespan of CFLs is ~10,000 hours of use. The CFL equivalent to the 60 watt incandescent is 13-14 watts for the same amount of light.

LED (light emitting diode) bulbs are the most expensive bulbs out there, but they're by far the most efficient with the longest lifespan of ~25,000 hours or roughly 20 years. Think about that. You could theoretically have a baby, change all of the bulbs in your house to good LED bulbs (because priorities) and that child would never see you change a light bulb. Now, no one would do that, but think about what that means. They wouldn't understand "change a light bulb" jokes. Because priorities.

Do you know how hard it is to find a 'change a bulb' joke that won't offend someone? So hard I had to go with this pic.

Within the LED market are a couple of L prize products, a few of which we have in our home. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, "the L Prize is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products that set leading-edge performance benchmarks for industry."

L prize!

In summation, the better the bulbs, the more you'll save. The cost of operation lowers with more efficient bulbs and the savings continue to grow as the lifespan of bulbs lengthens with more technologically advanced products. 

Something worth noting: you get what you pay for. I've heard a lot of complaints from people who have purchased CFLs or LEDs for their homes, but they don't like that the bulbs "take too long to power up" or something like that. When it comes to bulbs, brand name bulbs are significantly higher quality products. I know the object is to save money, but sometimes you need to spend a little more to save a lot more and this is one of those cases where brands matter.

Don't be like these guys.

In our home, we have Philips, GE, and Home Depot's brand (EcoSmart) bulbs - they're all pretty good brands with bulbs that have held up. We have 3 LED bulbs in our living room because they're the lights that we use the most often. We purchased Philips L Prize bulbs, which are pretty pricey, but they're the best of the best.

Here's to a brighter future!

Comment here or on Facebook and let me know what you think! What would you like to hear about next?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Get That Money, Honey

So, The Hubs and I want a PS4. Both the Xbox One and PS4 are sexy little machines and we wants one, precious.

I could argue that for my major, I need access to the newest technology for educational purposes. 

Yup, educational purposes.


Regardless of our motivation, those pretty little pieces of shiny technology are pricey and I don't really feel like dropping $400 for the unit, plus another $50ish for an additional controller, then another $60 for one game. We're trying to save as much as we can, so spending that amount of money on this type of (admittedly frivolous) purchase isn't an option. So what can we do?

Well, we could just not buy it.

Ooooor we can buy it, but not spend any of our money on it, which is exactly what we're going to do.

The cost of the PS4 plus controller (plus tax) is somewhere between $470 and $490, depending on the price of the controller and we're roughly halfway there. Here's how we're accumulating money to buy a PS4 without using our regular incomes:

  • Amazon Rewards points: $120
    • We've been saving our Amazon Rewards points for a little while. The last time we used them, we bought a ceiling fan and only had to pay for shipping. Right now, we have about $120 saved up and that number will likely go up while we keep saving.
  • Best Buy Gift Cards & Reward Zone: $75
    • Reward Zone: We're Best Buy Reward Zone members and have been for years, though we rarely shop there nowadays. Granted, they price match pretty much anything now, so that's helpful. At the beginning of the year, they inexplicably sent us a $20 Reward Zone (or maybe it's called My Rewards? *shrug*) gift certificate. They sometimes do this as a way to bring their customers back into stores. I won't question it.
    • Best Buy Gift Card (phone trade in): You may not know this, but Best Buy will give you store credit when you trade in certain types of working electronics. We traded in our newly replaced (but still in great shape) mobile phones. My phone was rougher, so we got a combined $55 for them both. It's not a lot, but it's something.
    • We bought Amazon gift cards with both of these Best Buy credits.
  • Lean Cuisine Delicious Rewards: $15
    • Did you know Lean Cuisine has a rewards program? It's called Delicious Rewards. Most Lean Cuisine meals have a code printed inside the box. Go the website, key in the code and the type of meal, and get your points. The points don't expire and you can use them on things like Amazon gift cards, Zappos gift cards, lunch containers, cute measuring cups, and much more. Their catalog changes each season. If you have an abundance of points, you can only spend them on one type of gift card once a month. On Saturday, I'll be redeeming another set of points for an additional $15 Amazon gift card, making $30 total.
  • Texas Unclaimed Property: $23
    • I'm sure other states have similar programs, but the state of Texas has a website, ClaimItTexas.org, where you can key in your name and see if you have unclaimed property. According to the website,
One in four Texans has unclaimed property from forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, security deposits and utility refunds. It’s your money, and we want you to get it back.
There is currently about $3 billion in property that has not been claimed and approximately $800 million in shared property that has been partially claimed and paid to some of the owners. It’s never too late to make a claim, and we are committed to ensuring hardworking Texans don’t lose a penny.
    • I had two small claims, so I filled out the paperwork, provided the required documentation, and mailed it all in. Easy peasy.
  • Focus groups/online surveys: $10+
    • I've been doing focus groups, online surveys, product testing, and secret shopping (for legitimate companies) for years. Whether you're accepted for these projects depends largely on where fall in the desired demographic categories. The most I've been paid for a project is $350 cash for about 3 hours of my time. You usually sign non-disclosure agreements for these studies, so I can't tell you what topics have been covered, but you pretty much get paid for gabbing about XYZ (or my favorite, eating XYZ). The one I'm currently doing is ongoing and I'm paid around $10 in Amazon gift cards for each super quick survey.
    • I initially started doing this years ago by finding some of these focus group-type companies in Craigslist's ETC section. You fill out short surveys and if you are what they're seeking, they'll call you to get more information. Some of the companies with which I've had a great deal of success in the Dallas area include: Hagen/Sinclair, Q-insights, and Focus Pointe Global. If you don't see an ad from them on Craigslist, you can always sign up to be on their mailing lists. When there's a survey you may qualify for, they'll send you an email to see if you're interested.
Currently, we're at $243, with another $15 coming in this weekend. We're slowly accumulating this cash without spending any of our regular money. It'll take some time, but there's a great sense of satisfaction knowing we're going to snag an expensive piece of technology without really paying for it. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kermit Lied

Kermit, that lovable frog, has been lying to you this whole time. 

It is easy being green.

Now, before you start making faces at me, let me begin by saying that "being green" is tossed around quite a bit nowadays and is often mocked. Some folks with certain political affiliations are quick to label the behaviors as "liberal" and "hippie", etc. Guess what? I don't care. I don't care what you think of me or these activities. You're being selfish and lazy if you're not actively participating in preservation of this place we call home. In the name of your children, grandchildren, and all the puppies and kitties, do something. This has nothing to do with who you elected to be in office. This has nothing to do with your idea of masculinity (because those blue rubber testicles you have hanging from your diesel truck are totally taking care of that for you). I'm not telling you to go hug a baby seal or save the whales. I'm just asking you to pick up after yourself (because yo mamma don't work here) and make smarter decisions about some very simple everyday choices.

And I'm going to help you with those choices.

Every other week I'm going to cover a topic on how you can 1) be a little greener and 2) hopefully save money doing it. I'll discuss some issues surrounding the topic, like why you may want to make some changes, and I'll list varying degrees of actionable options depending on your budget and time/dedication. I'll also do good/better/best product discussions to help you along your way. You can help me come up with topics by either leaving comments here on the blog or on Facebook. Nothing is off limits. If there's not a specific topic people want me to discuss, I'll mention small things The Hubs and I have done over time to make our home more energy efficient and our lives easier. 

Again, I want to emphasize just how easy this can be. Some of you who have spoken with us regarding any green-related topic will know that we've managed to do quite a bit and it may seem overwhelming. Please keep this in mind: We've been in our house for seven years and we've been slowly making changes to our home and lives over this entire period of time. We're also not the greenest people in the world. We don't live in a commune. We don't wear Birkenstocks. We don't smell (I hope). We like our material things and we're not huge on sacrifice (oops). So, trust me when I tell you that if it's easy enough for The Hubs and I, it's probably easy for you too. I believe in you.

But seriously, why wouldn't you want to hug a baby seal?

Leave me comments here or on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what you think our first topic should be!