Archive | January, 2014

How I Became a Costco Member.

30 Jan

Can a family of 4 shrink their monthly grocery spending from $600 to $400 and live to tell the tale?!

Stay tuned.

I have no idea where I got $400 from. I pulled it out of thin air. Actually that’s not entirely true. Here’s what happened.

We’re fans of the huge price club stores. Way back in the day we used to have a Sams Club membership and used it mostly to buy paper towels, toilet paper, disposable diapers (before I stumbled into the world of Cloth Diapers), and baby formula (my son was formula fed, my daughter was breastfed until her 2nd birthday. Side note: They’re both healthy, happy, appropriately attached children with similar brain function and immune system capabilities. If you’re reading this and are one of the people who made me feel like a rotten scoundrel for failing at breastfeeding my son…thanks a lot for the unnecessary anxiety.)

Anyway, those are the things we typically bought at Sam’s Club. Once we switched to cloth diapers and ditched the formula, we let the membership expire and started using Kroger 100% for grocery shopping. Sweet little Kroger, home of the expensive hormonal GMO meat. Birthplace of the football-sized chicken breast. Everytime I took one of these massive things out of its package I imagined the poor chicken as she lived, constant back pain from her enormous bosom, can’t find a decent bra, you know how it is when you’ve been genetically modified with growth hormone. I felt guilty for participating in her sad outcome.

Sure, Kroger has their Simple Truth organic meat, but it is astronomical in price. Which makes me crazy. Oh yeah, let’s make it completely unaffordable to eat real, clean foods and then wonder why America’s getting heavier and sicker every year. I actually don’t know the statistics on America’s progression as far as being heavy and sick, but it sounds right to say things are getting worse. This isn’t one of those blogs where I do research and present you with sound content.

Anyway, there I was, trying to go for the Simple Truth meats whenever I could, but sometimes slipping and grabbing the dirty meat because, well frankly, there were times I just wasn’t in the mood to pay eight dollars for a pound of ground beef. Considering $8 can get you 3 sacks full of ready to eat Taco Bell…again I ask why wouldn’t 74.1% of America be overweight?? (Oh yeah, I looked it up on Wikipedia! Nailed it.)

It's from Wikipedia, so it's true.

It’s from Wikipedia, so it’s true.

So I started limiting the amount of meat I would buy. I went from making some kind of meaty dinner 4 times a week, to 2 or maybe 3. I have a fair amount of good vegetarian recipes, so I simply added more of those into my dinner rotation. That worked pretty well for us, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was overpaying for my meats. 

If you know me, you might be thinking that now’s about the time time my BFF Michelle should step in and stop this madness. Well that’s exactly what happened. She let me tag along with her on a random Costco trip (she definitely was NOT letting me purchase things for my son’s birthday party on her Costco card and then letting me pay her back later. That would be wrong, and against Costco’s policy. Wink!) So anyway, on that purely sightseeing trip to Costco, I witnessed Michelle buying all this organic meat in bulk; ground beef, pork, chicken, oh my! Dividing it out by pound, I realized it was cheaper than Kroger. Quite a bit cheaper. Oh wow. Even when we were members of Sam’s Club it never dawned on me that I could be buying meats there.

So that was months ago. My husband (do I call him “husband” in every blog post? I think I do. It’s Tyson. Blog audience, meet Tyson, if you haven’t already). Tyson and I have known for a while now that they’re building a Costco right by our house that will be open at the end of 2014, so we decided that while it made sense to get a Costco membership, it also made sense to wait for the close one to be built. The existing one is 40 minutes away from our house. So we tried to wait. I continued to do my shopping at Kroger, but cringed everytine I bought meat. Then recently I started looking for ways to cut our grocery budget. I was pretty convinced we were overspending in this column, and decided restructuring it would be my new project. After days of brainstorming, I had the plan.

Step one: get a Costco membership

Step two: shop at Costco for meat and other bulk items.

It’s a pretty simple plan.

So we went to Costco and laid down $55 for a year membership. Then we all ate a hot dog lunch for $6.49 total.

Three hours later we emerged, sporting that special family dynamic that can only be brought on by hours of lollipop bribery and 30 trips to the bathroom. It was exhilarating.

Now here’s how I arrived at the $400/month grocery budget.

We spent $213.94 at Costco that day getting basically everything we buy throughout the month all at once. From laundry detergent to PB&J to our beloved HBO. Minusing out the pack of Sofia the First panties I got for my daughter, and a shirt for Tyson, it was ballpark $200. Meat wise I got 3 pounds of ground beef, 3 pounds of chicken breast, 4 pounds of pork sirloin tip roast, and 2 pounds of salmon. I plugged the meats into a month long dinner list, evenly spaced so that we are having two meats and one fish per week. I had also picked up a bunch of pasta in bulk so I plugged that in too, one pasta dish per week. Our whole family is wild about breakfast (really, who isn’t?), so we’ll also have a breakfast for dinner once a week. PS-serving breakfast for dinner makes your family think you’re the coolest.

So, let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what my month long dinner list looks like:

Screenshot 2014-01-30 at 4.00.54 PM

The whole thing won’t fit on one page without scrolling (keep rockin’, Google Keep!), but you get the idea. You might see there are some dinners I haven’t completely fleshed out yet. I’ve gotten part of the ingredients from Costco on my monthly run, but will still need more to make it. That’s where the other $200 of the monthly budget comes in. Every Monday (grocery day), I’ll go to Kroger and get what I need to complete that week’s meals. I’ve done this two times already and both times it’s cost me around $50. Do that 4 times a month, and it should be $200 Hence, I should be able to put this show on for $400 a month.

There you go. Stay where you are now (on the edge of your seat) and I’ll let you know if I’m able to keep this up and stay in budget.

I leave you with a glorious picture of frozen meat:

Treat yo' self...to organic meats.

Treat yo’ self…to organic meats.

xoxo

Recovery

15 Jan

So it’s been almost 2 weeks since I had Moh’s and plastic surgery. Recovery has had its ups and downs, I’ll be honest with you. The first 4 or 5 days I struggled with what I would classify as mild depression. I really didn’t want to go anywhere, definitely didn’t want to see anyone (or rather, didn’t want them to see me).  I had a lot of time to sit and think about my mortality and the fact that my body is basically a ticking time bomb. My hypochondria flared up:

Me: What else is wrong with me? 

Self: Probably something. What is this on your neck, right by the surgery site?

Me: Hmm. Feels like a swollen lymph node.

Self: Or a neck tumor. Better go to the doctor. You’re probably in big trouble.

Me (after going to the doctor): Doctor says it’s a lymph node after all, probably related to the surgery, and should go away.

Self: She’s wrong. Tumor. Plus you’re probably going to get the flu.

So it went on like that for a week or so, me obsessing about everything I could see and most of what I couldn’t. My OCD intensified. I normally keep it in check, and you would probably never notice it unless you came to my house and observed me doing something like mindlessly adjusting the kitchen faucet so that it points to the exact middle of the two sink basins, or organizing my childrens’ play kitchen so that all “hot” play food is in the stove compartment and all “cold” play food is in the refrigerator compartment (Yes, I do these things daily). Very mild OCD can be a quirky personality trait, or at the very least help with organization. Severe OCD is a debilitating life-ruiner. I have no desire to go there, or even come close, which is why I’ve been working very hard to address the signs of worsening OCD before they have a chance to completely take over.

I’m completely thankful for competent and kind doctors, for good medical insurance, and prayers from many. And honestly, the amazing feedback I got from my previous post meant the absolute world to me, I’ll just tell you. My friends and family (and even one or two strangers!) lifted me up with comments, texts, and emails. A bunch of people told me that I wasn’t alone – they’d had similar experiences, and felt the same way I did. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who has struggled emotionally with the after effects, either.

So, why has it been hard?

I have a theory about why the week following my surgeries was so difficult.

I couldn’t laugh.

I could barely smile.

This was me, at my most cheery:

Maybe she's laughing on the inside.

Maybe she’s laughing on the inside.

 

Good grief, I hated not laughing.  Toward the end of the week that I had stitches I came to dread something funny coming to my attention. The act of smiling hurt and I began obsessing that my scar wouldn’t heal correctly if I even tried.

Isn’t that sad?

Have you ever counted the number of times you smile and/or laugh in any given day? I haven’t, but I definitely took it for granted. I realize now what an astounding gift laughter is.

It’s probably no coincidence that I didn’t truly feel like myself until my stitches were removed and I could smile and laugh once more. Isn’t it amazing? Laughter has been my most effective tool in recovery.

I’m sorry this post isn’t funny. It’s anti-funny. I tried to make it at least a little humerous, but it just didn’t really work out. I’m happy to release these negative issues, though. Plus I warned you in the title that this blog wouldn’t be all sunshine. Here’s your occasional cloud cover! I’ll get back to the ray of sunshine part now.

I’ll leave you with a pic of me, 13 days post-surgery. I’m wearing no makeup, and there is no filter on the pic. Way to go, Prominent Facial Surgeon!

can't complain!

can’t complain!

 

xoxo

The one where I had skin cancer

5 Jan

So, on January 2, 2014 I had two facial surgeries. The first surgery was to remove skin cancer cells from the space between my upper lip and my nose, and the second surgery (plastic) was to repair the damage done by the first surgery. Here’s how it happened.

Back in September I went to the dermatologist for what I thought was a suspicious bump on my scalp. Cute story: I have skin that, if left in the sun for longer than 10 minutes, will burst into flames, so I’m on guard about every new bump or discoloration that pops up on my body. So after a few days of hanging upside down over the bathroom mirror trying to see my scalp, I finally booked some time with my dermatologist to see what was going on. She tells me, after looking at my head for less than a second, that the mysterious bump is an infected hair follicle and nothing to worry about. I exhaled for the first time in days. I figure since I’m there, I’ll get my money’s worth and ask her a few other questions.

I had had a very very small black dot above my lip for months. Six, maybe eight. I was convinced it was a blackhead. I normally have pretty clear skin, acne-wise (holla, Noxzeema!), so I was confused at why it wasn’t going away. I asked her if she thought I would need to get special blackhead cleanser to make it go away. She looked at the spot, made a face, and leaned waaaaay in with her little magnifying glass/light thing. She made another face and said “hmm. I would let me biopsy that if I were you.”

As you can imagine, I’ve had a number of skin abnormalities removed, frozen, scraped, what-have-you, over the years. Doesn’t really bother me too much, so we did the biopsy with little fanfare. She remarked at how teeny the sample was and said it was probably nothing to worry about and she definitely didn’t want me losing sleep over it. The biopsy took all of the teeny dot away, so once it healed up in a week or so, there was absolutely nothing there to the naked eye. I kind of forgot about it.

Until I got the call. Basal Cell Carcinoma. I would need Moh’s Surgery. I would probably need to see a plastic surgeon afterwards, depending on how many cancer cells there were. SURPRISE!

Now, my mom has had two Moh’s surgeries herself, so believe  me when I tell you that talking to her was the ONLY thing keeping me hinged at this point. Here’s how Moh’s is done, in case you don’t know: The surgeon numbs the patient with local anesthesia, and removes a small amount of skin from the offending area. The sample is taken immediately to be analyzed to see if there are any remaining cancer cells. Patient waits. If cancer cells are found, surgeon removes more skin, and the process is repeated.

Going into the procedure, I was dauntlessly sure I would only need one pass with the knife. You can’t even SEE anything!  Plus I was in denial that I would have to do plastic surgery. I had previously discussed with my doctor the hope that, if I only needed one removal, I could maybe get away without it. “I can live with a small scar”, I said. Truthfully I was terrified of the plastic surgery because I knew I would have to be put to sleep for the operation. I’ve never had to experience general anesthesia before and the thought of helplessly losing conciousness crippled me with fear.

Well, NOPE to all of that. Guess how many dates with the knife I went on to remove a bunch of angry cells that were invisible? THREE. More than  my mom needed for angry spots she could actually see, more than either of us ever thought I would need, more than would let me escape the plastic surgeon. I had a hole in my face about the size of an M&M.

So I was booked that evening with one of the prominent facial plastic surgeons in Texas. My amazing wonderful best friend Michelle took my kids without hesitation, and my amazing wonderful husband drove me to the hospital in Plano. I trembled the entire way, trying to figure a way out of this.

Hospital bracelet on my wrist, one step closer. Hospital gown, another step closer, hair-net, a particularly unfortunate step closer. IV in arm, it’s over. No matter how much I struggle, they have access to my bloodstream now. I wonder if I’m being crazy. My husband grips my hand and remarks at how cold it is. He cups my IV’d hand to his mouth and blows warm breath on it, which makes me want to cry. I ask him if he’s worried about me. He says “Yes, of course.” This somehow makes me tremble harder. They bring me warm blankets to quell the shivering.

Prominent Facial Surgeon came in to talk to me. Here’s how it went:

Me: I’m freaking out. Do we have to put me to sleep?

PFS: ‘fraid so. You don’t wanna be awake for this, trust me.

Me: What if I don’t wake back up?

PFS: You will. Everyone does. I promise you’ll be fine.

Me: No! Don’t promise!! On Grey’s Anatomy whenever the doctor promises the patient they’ll be fine, they die!

PFS: <laughing> Oh please! Let’s not talk about how fake that show is.

(Anesthesiologist comes in)

A: You ready?

Me: No, I’m scared of being put to sleep

A: Do you get scared at night when you fall asleep?

Me: Well, no, but that’s different. I have control over that.

A: It’s not that different, really.

Me: What’s the name of whatever you’re using to incapacitate me?

A: Propofol

Me: Um, isn’t that what killed Michael Jackson?!

A: <Cringing> Yes, but his doctor was a moron. Trust me, I give this to elderly patients, frail patients, and they all come out fine. You will be fine.

Me: If you say so. Guess I  can’t live with a hole in my face. Let’s do this.

The nurse asks if my husband and I want to say any last minute I love yousor give eachother one more kiss, which makes me want to punch her. I thought you people said I was going to live!!

They wheel me into the operating room, which looks almost exactly like the OR in Grey’s, so I no longer believe the doctor’s claim that it’s “fake”. I lay there making nervous chatter with whoever will listen to me. I wish they would just give me the dang Michael Jackson drug already! Just do it so I’ll finally stop freaking shivering! I look up at the ceiling and it starts to spin a little. I ask my anesthesiologist friend if he’s started:

A: Yep!

Me: Oh shoot! Okay, what should I do?

A: Just relax

Me: Okay, I think I’ll just close my eyes and pretend I’m falling asleep at night

A: Okay, good.

Me: Or wait – should I count back from 99?

A: You watch too much television

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The next thing I remember is someone calling my name. And asking me something about Christmas. They were asking me about my kids, about what I did for Christmas. I think someone said they have a 4 month old. I can’t remember what I said, but I remember feeling very well rested. I asked a nurse how long the operation had taken. Less than 30 minutes. I felt rested like I had been asleep for hours. Go propofol, I can see why Michael liked you so much.

I vaguely remember being very chatty with everyone on the way back to the recovery room. Probably just really happy to be alive. I was a little foggy, but for the most part no worse for the wear. Except I now looked like the illegitimate love child of Angelina Jolie and Frankenstein’s Monster.

Do you wanna see pics? Really? If you don’t, just stop reading. This is pretty much the end of the story. It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t wanna see. I might not want to see them either if I were you.

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Just in case you accidentally scrolled this far, but don’t really want to see the pics, I’ll post this picture of a baby chick. You can still turn back.

chick

Cheep Cheep! Turn back!!

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Okay, here it is.

YIKES

YIKES

Scary, huh? Here’s what it looked like later that night.

Later that night

Later that night

And the next day:

a little less Angie

a little less Angie

Anyway. There it is. I never posted anything on Facebook about it because I never thought it would be such a big deal. I get my stitches out on Thursday and the goal is that in time, it will just look like a wrinkle.

Here’s the takeaway. PLEASE use sunscreen. Everywhere. Go to the dermatologist yearly, or if something pops up. Even if you think it’s nothing. And don’t use propofol unless you’re under the care of a responsible doctor.

xoxo

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