February 2018
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It’s Been a While…

If you follow Crystal Clear Thoughts, you probably have been keeping up with me at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.  If not, here’s a quick summary of life now.  :-)

  • I went self-employed in July 2011.
  • Hubby joined me in January 2012.
  • We had our dream house built and moved in October 2012.
  • We paid off our first house in full in early 2013.
  • Both of our puppies died in early 2014 (Miss Doxie was suffering from dementia at age 15 1/2 and Mr. Pug had a lung torsion at age 11).
  • I started a professional pet sitting business in February 2014 and make about $1500 a month on average with it now.
  • We supplement our unstable online income with our rental home, renting out 2 bedrooms in our own home (5 bedroom house), pet sitting, and sports’ officiating (hubby’s side hustle).
  • We enjoy self-employment and will continue it as long as possible.
  • In our social life, we take about 3 vacations a year, have a close group of friends that we hang out with weekly, our families are doing well although we did lose 2 grandmas in the last 5 years, and my first baby nephew was born in March 2015!

Life is good right now.  I am healing from back problems and able to walk and sit again.  Hubby is officiating sports as much as possible and helping me with pet sitting.

How are you?


My Take on Osama Bin Laden’s Death

I will admit that my reactions to the death of Osama Bin Laden were probably not as intense as most people’s.  I had three concurrent thoughts:

  • Took long enough to find him.
  • I hope they have proof or it won’t even matter.
  • I wonder how the other crazies will retaliate.

I didn’t personally feel that Bin Laden was that big of a deal compared to the thousands of other fanatics who want to make their point anyway.

Then I read Everyday Tip’s post, Bin Laden Is Dead, and Remembering 9/11.  She is a moving writer.  I do remember 9/11.  I was in college here in Houston, TX and didn’t know anybody in New York, but everyone was so confused. 

I was woken up by a dorm mate yelling at me to turn on the tv, which I apparently badly timed since I did see the second plane hit the second building “live”.  I wish I could un-see that.  The feeling that I’ll remember forever – “What the heck is happening?!”  At the time, there were no answers.

I found out later that most of my friends were scared out of their minds that Houston was the next target.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about that, but I’m glad it never popped into my head.  I just spent the whole day trying to touch base with every friend and family member I had to make sure no one was involved.  A few of my relatives lost close friends.  I could almost feel their pain.

So Bin Laden is dead.  I hope that helps everybody in mourning.  I personally won’t feel too elated until somebody can tell me that all of the crazy people in the world that want to hurt others simply all spontaneously vanished, but I know that is a lot to ask for…

I Really Am Working Two Jobs Now

I have completely STUNK at updating all of my blogs except for Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.  I have finally decided that it is okay.  Even if I only update my exercise and weight loss goals here, that serves its purpose.  :-)

Here’s what I am up to right now:

  • Working my regular cubicle job Mondays-Fridays from 7:30am-4:30pm.
  • Posting daily at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff – there have been and will be a ton of guest posts for the last 2 weeks and next week since I have been going out of town every weekend with friends and family.
  • Posting weight loss updates here.
  • Staff writing for Sweating the Big Stuff.
  • Staff writing for Stupid Cents.
  • Staff writing for Passive Family Income.
  • Starting staff writing at another blog in May.
  • Running advertising for a different blog than any of the above.
  • Doing a side blogging project for yet another blogger.
  • Lining up another, very large, side project with someone else.
  • Answering comments at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.
  • Answering emails for Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.

Sadly, I haven’t even had time to read other blogs for more than a week, so I haven’t been commenting either.  I will need to jump back on that horse after this upcoming final weekend of travel.

It feels better simply seeing my accomplishments in writing.  No wonder I am tired but proud, lol.  :-)

Frozen Pipes in Freezing Weather

It doesn’t get very cold for very long here in Houston, TX, but this week is one of the coldest ones I can remember.  No, we don’t have a blizzard, but the temperature is between 15 degrees and 39 degrees for 3 days straight.  That is really cold for me, lol.  Here is how we are preventing and handling frozen pipes:

Prevent Frozen Pipes

1. Insulation 

The front and back yard water pipes are insulated and wrapped with duct tape.  The insulation is old and thin – I should have replaced it by now, but that is what we have.  If you don’t have foam insulation handy, any sort of cloth or fabric will work well as long as it’s wrapped around the pipe and is at least half an inch thick.

2. Disconnect Hoses

We heard from several sources that we should disconnect our hoses from our outside faucets.  We have done that and stored the hoses.

3.  Open Cabinets

By opening bathroom cabinets, you are allowing the warmer air of the house to reach the sink pipes.  All of our cabinets were open last night except for the ones in the kitchen since I didn’t want our dogs to eat or drink the cleaners…

4.  Drip Faucets

A lot of sources suggested we drip our indoor and outdoor faucets.  I also found the suggestion that they should drip at least every 5-10 seconds.  I wish I had followed that advice since all our faucets dripped fine overnight except the one in that back yard that is now frozen.  Hence the next section…

If Your Pipes Freeze

1.  Leave the Faucet Turned On

If you try to turn on the water and nothing comes out, leave the faucet turned on.  A few insurance agencies suggest you immediately call a plumber.  I prefer another suggestion I found…

2.  Thaw the Pipe (but not with an open flame)

You can try thawing a pipe by using multiple hot, wet rags, but that can take a while.  I also found a few suggestions to use the warm setting on a hair dryer, which I will be trying when I get home.  If you are using a hair dryer, remember to start close to the faucet itself and then work your way out.  Don’t use the hair dryer around puddles please – electrocution would be bad…

Has the crazy winter weather led you to learn anything new?

How I Am Dealing with Death

I am a newbie in the world of loss.  I’m 28 years old and until last year, I hadn’t lost anyone close to me in my whole life. 

But last year my husband’s grandma died.  I had known her for 8 years.  Despite the fact that she was in pain, it was still so hard to accept that a fantastic 61 year marriage had come to an end and even harder to watch my loved ones suffer.

About a month ago, my maternal grandmother lost her brother to diabetes.  Today my other grandmother is being told her sister passed away from a heart attack.  My grandmothers are taking this way better than I could have expected.  They are tough and age has taught them to expect death.

Since our remaining grandparents range from 75-90, we know the next decade or so is going to be rough.  I’ve also consoled more friends on their own losses in the last year too.  I accompanied a close friend from Houston to Dallas on the first work day of this year since her nephew passed away at a way-too-young 42.  It was hard to see so many people having to deal with someone dying way too early.

It just seems that I’ve hit the point where death is way more frequent and I have to say goodbye to the butterflies and rainbows of ignorance.  As hard as it is to mourn or to watch others do the same, I do finally feel that I’ve entered that world of “adulthood”.

So here’s my line of thinking now – life is short, sadness is natural, but there is another smile right around the bend.  I’m going to take the hits, I am going to console my loved ones, but I refuse to give up my general happiness with life.  Take that death, I’m going to be freaking stubborn.  :-)

Good luck to everyone else out there who has to make their own battle armor against mortality.  I am sorry for any losses you go through too.

New Mum Thankful for Boiler Repair

The following is a guest post by Alex on behalf of Home Serve.

It’s normal for expectant mothers to have the odd worry or two ahead of giving birth – but for one Yorkshire woman, having to arrange a boiler repair was an added concern she could probably have done without.

Audrie Woodhouse was left in the lurch when the heating packed up at her home in Welburn over the festive period.

When the system broke down, the 35-year-old was already four days overdue – and it looked as if her plans for a relaxing homebirth in a warm water pool were in tatters.

According to the York Press, the problems began when her central heating system ran out of oil and the snowy weather put the brakes on deliveries of more fuel.

This led to an airlock developing in her boiler, which eventually broke down under the strain.

If this sounds bad enough, worse was to follow for the family, who then had to contend with a water supply pipe repair when the freezing weather caused a pipe in their loft to burst.

With water trickling through the ceiling into her freezing cold living room, it was quickly becoming a Christmas to forget for the Woodhouses, but thankfully this tale of home emergency woe does have a happy ending.

After the local village hall lent the family their geyser to top up their hot water, an engineer visited the property and fixed the boiler.

With all the problems sorted, Ms Woodhouse went into labour on Christmas Day and delivered baby Beatrice Tindall.

After praising the midwives who helped to deliver the tot, the Audrie revealed that in the hubbub of the breakdown, neither she nor partner Andrew had managed to buy each other festive gifts.

“She [Beatrice] was our Christmas present,” she commented.

Although congratulations are in order to the proud parents, but the tale of boiler breakdown woe just goes to underline how getting boiler insurance in place is a really savvy move.

With this type of insurance in place, you can enjoy the peace of mind that any home heating howlers will be sorted out as soon as they occur.

Although Ms Woodhouse was able to get hold of a tradesman during the busy Christmas period, not everyone is so lucky – and the last thing you want to be doing during the festive period is desperately thumbing the phonebooks trying to find someone to come and fix your boiler.

With boiler insurance in place, you can be sure that a fully qualified Corgi Gas Safe registered engineer is on the way to fix the problem – leaving you to get on with the more important things in life.

Funerals Are Sad or Whatever Word Describes Sad Better

My very close friend lost her very close nephew last week.  His funeral was today and I volunteered to drive with her to Dallas since she was heading there alone.  9 hours of driving and 4 hours of family events later, I am pooped.  I am so glad I was able to offer some small measure of support, but I am drained.  I also think that anyone dying with more than half their lives left completely sucks.  Here is to everybody left who is mourning a loved one lost.  You have my complete sympathy!

How Would You Use Your Vacation Days?

I’m getting 15 vacation days for the first time in 2011 and am wondering how I can best use those extra 5 days to my advantage.  :-)

I know that we’ll be using 4 days for our summer vacation during the week of July 4th.  I also know I will need at least two Fridays for two Saturday weddings I need to attend.  Lastly, I almost always take a day during Spring Break to hang out with my husband who gets that whole week off – it helps me make it through the 5 months between New Year’s and Memorial Day, lol.

So, I already have at least 7 days accounted for…here is what I have in mind for the others:

  • At least 1-2 days for a long weekend to meet up with a few other bloggers out there that I am dying to meet.  :-)
  • At least 1 day for a ranch house weekend with my local friends again.  That was fun this year!
  • Another 1-2 days for the board gaming weekend at the end of the year we always go to.
  • Spread out the remaining 3-5 days to make some 3 day weekends in long periods between holidays.

Do you get vacation days?  How do you spread them out?

Host Monster – I Detest Thee!!!

This is a vent post.  If you do not appreciate rants, please feel free to look around for happier ones in my Archives.  Thanks!

My sites were down again today for 3 hours!  After 3 phone calls to Host Monster with no real updates, they just magically popped back up.  This is the 5th or 6th time that they have been down during the day within the last month or so and I am frustrated.

I am frustrated because I am busy.  I am busy with my job.  I am busy with my friends and family.  I am busy with blogging.  I hate the fact that I now should take the time to switch to a better host.  ARGH!  Why can’t the host I have just work right?!

I have a billion things that should or need to get done.  All I ask is that once I handle something, it works.  I “handled” the hosting problem 7 months ago when I switched from Blogger to WordPress and signed up with Host Monster, so now I just expect that to be taken care of.  One thing down, right?  But no…now I have to look into other hosts because I chose a cruddy one with constant server problems.  Double ARGH!!!

So, here is a quick glance at my evening plans:

1)  Let out dogs.
2)  Feed dogs.
3)  Throw turkey into oven so I can cut it up for transport tomorrow.
4)  Check email.
5)  Make sweet potatoes for tomorrow.
6)  Wrap my mom’s birthday gift.
7)  Remember to pack up everything in the car except for the food.
8)  Blog a bit – either reply to comments or write some posts.
9)  Medicate allergy-ridden Pug.
10)  Go to bed after the turkey is handled, a post-it note is stuck on the door reminding me to pack the food, and my dogs are put into the kitchen.

Somewhere in there, I will be looking for a new host probably.  :-(

I am completely blowing off almost all chores.  We aren’t having anybody over until Friday night, so the house can just stay messy until then…

So, how has your day been so far?  Do pop up problems tick you off too?

Should Politics be Involved at Work?

I work at a VERY conservative company.  I would guess that at least 95% of the management and 85% of the employees are classic Texan Republicans.  This usually doesn’t bother me in the least…except around elections.

We are a privately owned company and our owner sees no problem in sending out propaganda emails and even mentions his politics at big company meetings.  In 2008 he told us all to vote against Obama.  I believe his exact words at this year’s annual company birthday party were, “It’s no secret that I thought our country was headed in a ruinous direction and these last election results have given me hope.”

I am constantly thinking two things:

1)  Isn’t it wrong to promote specific political views at work?  Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Green Party members, etc. usually agree that politics are to be left at home.

2)  Isn’t it odd to preach to the choir?  Almost everyone I work with is a Republican themselves (heck, this is Texas after all)…why is he going out of his way to only offend the few of us who rather not hear about politics on the job?

I know we are a privately owned company so our owner doesn’t have to worry about some things that public company leaders have on their minds, but to me, the legality of it shouldn’t matter.  It just seems rude.  I’m not a member of a specific party, but I don’t go around pushing my candidates on everyone.  I thought it was just common courtesy.

Do you think politics should be a part of your working environment?  Would receiving email propaganda at work tick you off?