Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Well this is weird

I’m not entirely sure how Fitbit calculates steps. You put in your height and your weight in the dashboard, and pick the hand you’re wearing the Fitbit on (dominant or non-dominant hand).

The reason I bring this up is I’ve noticed a difference between the results from my old Fitbit and my new one. It might be that they’re just slightly different in how they read steps.

I also wondered if weight is part of the calculation, maybe more than I realized. When I got my first Fitbit, I picked a likely number for my weight (I don’t weigh myself, since knowing the actual pounds I weigh tends to trigger my eating disorder—no thanks on that!).

Last month, right before a medical test that required sedation, the person gathering my health information told me what I weigh (I’ve been doing my best to forget ever since). So I put that weight in the dashboard for my Fitbit when I set it up.

Normally on non-run days, I’ll get between 5 and 6 thousand steps just going about my normal day. Now I get in the high 4 thousands. Runs are clocking in slightly less also, but my running route hasn’t changed.

In a way, I don’t care—I use the Fitbit as a relative scale that I’m staying active (and I rely on the silent alarm every work day, love that gentle buzz). But I do find it kind of strange that weight—if that’s the reason—changes my step count so much.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Just talk to me

We're changing veterinarians and here's why.

It’s not that the cost for two of the kitties exceeded the estimate for all three by 30% (and meant that one cat—Chloe—didn’t get sedated, have an IV started, have any x-rays or have her teeth cleaned).

It’s not even that Chloe’s procedure wasn’t done. I get it that you don’t know how complicated a procedure will truly be until you’re actually in there doing it. I do appreciate that Wally and Eddie took longer than anticipated.

And it’s (sort of but not fully) not that four teeth were removed (two from each cat), instead of the one we knew about. Again ,I get that things can end up being in worse shape than preliminary exams indicated.

It’s about the utter lack of communication.

I expect to hear if something’s more complicated, going to take longer and going to cost a lot more money as it’s happening. Not at the end of the day when it’s a done deal, and not when I’m told the bill.

I expect that once it’s obvious that all three cats won’t have their procedures done that the one who’s not getting sedation would get at least water and preferably some food too.

She never does this.
She drank for a full three minutes.
We followed directions and picked up the food and water at 9 PM Wednesday night. That means that Chloe, who is 17, was without food or water for over 18 hours. It shouldn’t take a phone call from me asking if she’s had water for veterinary health care providers to think, gosh, she might need water.

And it’s about the lack of partnership. Eddie had one blood test come back in July with a slightly unusual value. We weren’t interested in tracking it down, but Thursday when we picked up the cats, the vet told us she’d run that test. No touching base with us, no “hey remember that one blood value, I’d like to run another test,” nothing.

I want any health care provider (whether for animals or humans) to work with me, tell me what’s going on, what to expect, any alternatives and then let me make an educated decision. It’s clear from our two experiences with this vet that we won’t get a collaborative partnership.

That’s fine. I’m voting with my wallet and my feet (paws?) and looking through the recommendations I got from my friends.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

It's electric

If we’re connected on Facebook, you already know we had some damage last night from the fierce storms that swept through the Kansas City area. I was curious, so I just looked up the data for yesterday. We got nearly 2 ½ inches of rain with wind gusts of 49 MPH, plus all the normal lightning and thunder you’d expect in a Kansas thunderstorm.

The lightning that got us didn’t actually sound all that bad; in fact, we now suspect our damage wasn’t from the strike but from the power surge. We thought the router was fried, but the GFI outlet saved it and also saved Kent’s X box and the TV. Our amplifier wasn’t so fortunate.

Our garage door motor is also fried. We were able to get a repairman out today to look at it (yes, he agreed, it’s fried) but he can’t actually replace it until Monday. I’m glad Kent is home because it’s a big door (just one for the two car garage) and very heavy. Lifting it manually is no joke

The biggest loss in terms of cash, though, is our oven. It’s a wall-mounted oven and an unusual size. Even though the oven isn’t anything special, it’s expensive. You can see it on the left, it's on the bottom. The top is a microwave (which wasn't damaged—isn't that weird?). We’ve got an appliance person coming out tomorrow in hopes that the service call will result in replacing the circuit board (boards? Might have more than one) rather than the entire oven. Otherwise we're looking at $4k or more.

Then a friend surprised me today with this—she knows it’s been a tough couple of months for us and wanted to send something as a show of support:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The value of long friendships

I met P in 1988; I was married to my first husband then, and my kids were five and seven. She and I connected immediately and became very close friends. She was there with me through all sorts of major life events, good and bad, and she’s said I did the same for her.

We drifted apart in the mid-90s, partly because I wasn’t in a good place and also I moved from Lawrence to Kansas City. But a few years ago, she found me on Facebook and we reconnected. She doesn’t live all that close by any more (it’s a three-hour drive, much of it on two lane roads). Saturday she got married and I was there.

I was very nearly late, which always stresses me out inordinately, so I was a little anxious as I slipped into a pew in the back of the church. Then a door behind me and to my right opened, and I caught a glimpse of her dress—nothing but a flash of fabric—and to my surprise, I immediately started crying.

Now I am not a crier. Yes, I have feelings, but generally speaking I don’t express them with tears. I teared up at my own wedding just once, not at all at my younger son’s wedding and once at my older son’s wedding. Tears aren’t my normal way of expressing my feelings. But Saturday was different.

And she cried too. To be honest, I knew she would cry (she is a crier); what got me was that she cried because she saw me.

I had a lot of time to think over all of that the drive home and I think I know why we both cried. You don’t have that deep of a friendship and not carry the love forward even if the daily contact is no longer there. You can’t have the kind of shared experiences we did and not have that kind of emotional response.

Before I left the reception Saturday night, I hugged her and told her that I had never stopped loving her. I wish we lived a little closer to each other, but I’m so glad to have reconnected with her and so very glad she wanted me there at her wedding.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Fitbit and me

I got my Fitbit in June, 2013—I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, or if it would change my workout behavior or activity levels. But I was willing to spend $100 to find out.

Turns out I loved it. I like the days when I hit the 10k mark for steps and get the light display and buzzing wrist, I like seeing my friends and where they are in their steps (I’m always third), and I love, love, love that I can set a daily alarm. There’s something far more civilized about waking up to a buzzing wrist rather than the abrupt loud blatting of an alarm clock.

Two weeks ago, my beloved Fitbit quit taking a charge. I went through all the recommended steps to troubleshoot the issue, and ended by calling customer service (the last step when nothing else works). The conversation was a bit surreal. The customer service rep didn’t speak American English as a first language so the tone of the exchange was beyond polite, especially the way he said my name (Ee LIZ ah beth, very precisely).

He walked through all the trouble shooting options and then looked up my account. There was a longish pause (long being relative when you are talking to a call center employee and they are measured by call handling times).

Customer service rep: Elizabeth, you bought your Fitbit in June of 2013.
Me: That’s correct.


CS: So you have had your Fitbit, Elizabeth, since June of 2013.
Me: Yes, that’s correct


CS: Elizabeth, the warranty period for the Fitbit Flex is three hundred sixty-five days.
Me: OK


CS: Elizabeth, that means your Fitbit is no longer covered by a warranty.
Me: OK

Longer pause

CS: Because the warranty is for three hundred sixty-five days, Elizabeth.
Me: Yes, I understand.

I think he thought I was going to get mad. But honestly I called because the website said if you do all these troubleshooting steps and still have issues, then call us.

Long story short (with much more exquisitely polite conversation), he offered me 25% off the purchase of a new Fitbit. I hadn’t asked for that, or asked for anything actually, but I was sure pleased to get it.

Thank you and good-bye
Once the new one got here, I told Kent I felt a little sad just tossing the old dead one. After all, I’ve traveled to three continents with it, and gone to seven countries and a whole bunch of states. He asked if I needed to thank it for its service a la Konmari and I realized that yes, actually, I did.

So that’s what I did, I thanked my dead Fitbit for its service and moved on. My new Fitbit is performing like a champ, my wrist no longer feels inappropriately naked and I’ve got my preferred morning alarm all set up.

Friday, August 5, 2016

In which I don't look so good

I manage a large team at work, and we are in our extremely busy season. All of us are putting in 60 to 80 hours a week and will be doing that until nearly the end of October. Last year when things were this crazy, I’d sometimes bring snacks. I couldn’t ease the workload but I could provide something to nibble on. The company didn’t pay for these goodies, I did, and it was no big deal.

Now we are down to the lesser of two incomes. Right before Kent got laid off, I’d brought in snacks—about $30 worth of clementines and a large package of those individual sized bags of assorted chips. We have a fairly open seating plan at work, and my team isn’t isolated. In fact, three other teams sit in the general vicinity. That means others not on my team saw the snacks and (as happened last year) helped themselves. Last year, I didn’t care. This year . . . yeah, it bothered me.

So I’ve been wrestling with that ugliness in myself for the last week or so. I brought the snacks in to be eaten. They were eaten. That some of the people who participants weren’t on my team shouldn’t matter. Yet I felt that internal stinginess.

I’ve struggled with this off and on throughout my life, always when times are tight or trending that way or I think it will be that way. I remember worrying (yes actually worrying) in high school how I would earn enough money to pay for rent and food and of all things tampons once I graduated from high school and moved out.

In my 20s, my ex and I made very little money. We couldn’t afford things like cable TV or two cars or air conditioning in the house and I worried about money all the time.

In my late 20s and early 30s, I worked with a man in the Army Reserves who had a very different attitude toward money than I did. I came at it from a position of scarcity, as though it were an extremely limited and hard to get thing. His attitude was this: it’s just money and I’ll make more.

That blew my mind. To have that kind of confidence that I could earn more any time I needed to was not how I felt at all. But I wanted to have that confidence, that knowledge that I could take care of myself no matter what.

In the years since then, I’ve mostly been able to stay in that frame of mind, except when one of us gets laid off. Then my old fears come right back. This time those fears aren’t based in fact. We have enough. We’ve run the numbers and can scale down enough to fit my salary. Sure, Crazy Trips™ are off the table but we can have the occasional date night at our favorite place. We won’t lose the house. I can afford to occasionally bring in snacks (although probably cheaper ones).

It’s easy to be generous in times of plenty, when the cost is minute in the overall scheme of things. I want to be generous, full stop, no qualifiers. That means I need to stay grounded in reality, not in my fears from the past.

Monday, August 1, 2016

August's cat

For my mom, here's the cat from August.