Family weekend: Damage v. Finders-Keepers

Don’t get me wrong – I love my immediate family, we’re all very different but live so spread out that it’s a real treat to catch up. However, I’m not a drink-yer-ass-off-til-3am type, and they are. Well, not my mom (usually – she makes an exception to that behavior about twice a year), but she was smart enough to take the train back to NJ before Saturday night got into full swing. Kinda wish I’d joined her.

First, I got back home way later from my housecall than expected thanks to weekend subway rerouting shenanigans. When I left my place at 6pm, I was still satiated by my stuffed french toast brunch at 11am. By 7:30pm I was ravenous and having mental conversations with my stomach to convince it not to growl while I was working. I got back to Manhattan around 9:15pm and was just about ready to eat my own arm off. Little sister, aka Starfish, was having a sushi appetizer with her boyfriend, aka Crispy because he got 3rd degree burns on his lower legs/feet 20 months ago when their apartment went up in flames (dark sense of humor runs in the family). I hate sushi, she knows this, I texted her to get the damn check and meet up for dinner. It wasn’t until I texted “If I don’t hear from you by 9:53pm, I’m getting take-out” that she actually got moving.

SIDEBAR: Restaurant Recommendation — We went to a GREAT place that I hadn’t been to since they moved to a new, larger premises – the food was my favorite kind (edgy spin on “standard” dishes, from quesadillas to pad thai), the drink menu was fun, the decor was very original and thorough, and if you ever go there – CHECK OUT THE BATHROOMS!!! It’s on 9th Avenue & 51st Street, known as Hell’s Kitchen and NYC’s current “gayborhood”. I love it. Anyway, you probably could have served me melted american cheese-like product on burnt cardboard and I’d have wolfed it down with the same gusto, but my less-hungry and very food-picky sister and her boyfriend raved – hey, they’ve worked as waiters and bartenders in several restaurants in Aspen, and they’re very critical – gave it a big fat stamp of approval. At least hunger doesn’t make me too stupid.

Damage to Liquor Cabinet:  So last night, my brother landed at my place around midnight after moving his now-exboyfriend from Baltimore to Queens. Starfish and Crispy came along 15 minutes later, and they ripped through my nearly-full liter bottle of Jack Daniels. On a frugal note, I’d picked this up in duty-free last year for $21 instead of the $35-50 it goes for here in the city. Still, if you do the math, they drank about 7oz each from 12am-2am after having 3 cocktails at VYNL — and then they went out on the town.

Damage to Apartment:  At some point last night, the flapper in the toilet tank broke. I turns out that it’s something the landlord will actually be charged for, which I’m guessing might get passed on to me. If it does and it’s more than $15, I’ll balk. Otherwise, I’ll suck it up. It was acting up for the past couple of months, it’s just normal wear and tear, and it’s the only chargeable thing that I’ve incurred in 5.5 years.

Damage to Furnishings:  The only thing I’ve come across so far is a lost airbed storage bag. That’s perfectly tolerable. In the past, I’ve had a towel bar pulled off the wall and a Lenox vase smashed.

Damage to Wallet:  $130. Dropped $80 on brunch for 4 yesterday (not bad, considering the food was excellent and there were 4 cocktails on the bill), $30 on dinner last night, and $20 for my brunch tab this morning.

FINDERS-KEEPERS:  As soon as I got everyone and their crap out of my place, I started putting my cute little apartment back together – towels in laundry basket, deflate airbed, etc – and came across a lidless deodorant (Starfish), a nearly-empty tube of Jergens Natural Glow lotion (Starfish), a Bic lighter (Crispy), a pair of sandals (Mom), a spare razor blade (Starfish), and a Fossil watch (Crispy). I like the watch. Might have to pretend it’s not here. Heh.

Oh, for fun, I let Starfish and Crispy rummage through my bags of categorized “stockpile”. I smiled sweetly and held out an open shopping bag for them to peruse the contents, announcing “Oral Hygiene department”, “First Aid aisle”, etc. She was surprisingly judicious in her selections – 3 bits of make-up, 2 deodorant, 2 dental floss, 1 Listerine, 1 shower gel, 1 box of antibiotic bandaids, Tag body spray, and a set of ProFoot Aero 3 shoe inserts (Crispy often does double shifts as a bartender). My brother wanted in on the insoles too, so next time Rite Aid does that “3 Profoot products for $15, get $10 rebate” deal again (they seem to do it every 3 months or so), I’ll snag mostly insoles instead of those Flextastic toe separators.

I also played the KTM. As anticipated, Starfish ran out of cash fairly quickly, so I got 3 checks from her in return for $200 cash (accumulated charity donation dollars – she’ll get the tax write-off).

And now they’re gone…breathe…maybe it’s MY turn for a stiff drink now that my darling little binge-drinkers are gone. Oh right, they drank my liquor cabinet dry. Maybe just a nap then.

Mom: “You can’t repay me with coupons!”

I decided to handle my $9K whole life premium as an annual payment, due next week, and borrowed the $2K shortfall from my mother rather than use my emergency fund (sorry, I’m not sharing the reasoning behind this). My mother, the Blond-Blue Dimpled DEVIL had a good giggle about role reversal – this is the first time ever that she would be loaning me money. Oh yes, there’s a very loooong history of me lending money to my parents, but never the other way around.

Sometimes we get goofy about bits and pieces of cash, and it goes a little like this:

Mom:  You paid for dinner, which was $10 more than the lunch tab I picked up. That’s not equal.
MMK:  I make 20% more than you, so it’s fair.
Mom:  Your rent is 130% more than mine, so no it’s not.
MMK:  Fine, then you pick up the sales tax and leftover bits on our CVS transactions.
Mom:  (after CVS) That was only $5.30. I still owe you.
[Mom now dramatically pulls out wallet and starts holding up coins to the light, squinting with one eye]
MMK:  (with ostentatious magnanimity) Keep it – chauffeur fees, for carting my ass around to 3 different stores today.
Mom:  Okay! [Puts money away in her most miserly manner, then cocks one eyebrow and sticks her hand out] Gas money is extra.

The deal we made was that I’ll pay her back in big fat chunks by the end of the year, but if at any point she needs it all back, I’ll pull it from my savings. Then, I swear, I could hear her eyes narrow in suspicion over the phone, as she added: “You can’t repay any of this with coupons, you know. Saving me $8 at the grocery store with your coupon shenanigans does not come off your bill!”  Oh, well, now – she just made it way too easy to tease and torment her for the next few months. Heh.

Coupon Games: Free Water Edition

I had a lot of fun doing my coupon thing at Rite Aid and CVS in Brooklyn over the weekend (Revlon mousse foundation! Bic Soleil cartridges! Stayfree! Post Trail Mix Crunch! Colgate! Clear Eyes! Venus razors!), but today was the first time I managed to pull off some great deals at Walgreens.

A new store opened up about 2 months ago, and it’s right in my main “shopping neighborhood” near my home. I love Hell’s Kitchen for lots of reasons, including its cool name and historic origins. Anyway, they’ve declared this week their Grand Opening, and all the circulars have a $3-off-$10 purchase coupon wrapped around it. I used 6 of them this afternoon, turning $5 in Register Rewards into $15 with sales tax as my only out-of-pocket expense.

The best part for me was using that “free” $3 to stock up on the cases of water they’re selling this week for $2.99. Personally, I’m a fan of New York City tap water, but I buy bottled water for my clients – massage has a dehydrating effect, and most of them need it afterwards. I’ve been ordering from Staples because their water was $5-6 a case with free delivery on orders over $50. I stocked up twice a year, and last time it was $6.79/case. I was getting ready to do my semi-annual order this past weekend only to find that I’m looking at $8+/case. Office Depot wasn’t much better @ $7.19.  The delivery thing is really important to me because, well, you do know that a case of 24 x 16.9oz bottles is about 25 lbs, right? And the closest store is Rite Aid, about 1/3 mile away. I just can’t do that to my back. I thought about buying a big load in the dead of night with my huge granny cart that I only use for laundry (in my building) – I refuse to be seen in public with it and risk being mistaken for a homeless person. But then I realized that the cart would probably break under the weight of 6 cases (150 lbs), so I spent an hour this afternoon shuttling free water (and Listerine, and Neosporin, and Jergens) in my little wheelie suitcase until I smelled ripe enough to be mistaken for a homeless person who just happened to have a new navy suitcase instead of a wire granny cart.

So I ended up with $75  of goodies – 3 cases of water, 6 toothbrushes, 5 bottles of Listerine, 3 dental floss, 3 toothpastes, 1 Jergens lotion, 2 bottles of Snapple (bought a diet one by mistake, dagnabit!), 1 can Arizona, 3 two-pocket folders, 1 20ct band-aids, 1 Neosporin – for $6. That’s less than I was looking at for a single case of water from Staples. My drug store trifecta this week has netted me $175 worth of sale-priced goods for $17 so far – and I’ll be getting $10 back in a monthly rebate check.

$50 Starbucks gift card will last me 10 years

I’m not a fan of Starbucks. Sometimes I wish I was because their stores are so attractive and popular and everybody else likes them so it’s an easy option, but I don’t like their coffee, I’m not a fan of Tazo tea, I don’t need or want their pastries…so I just tolerate it from time to time for group harmony purposes. Okay, so I love their caramel apple cider, but I don’t need the 400 calories on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. It’s a once-a-year treat around Halloween.

This weekend, I treated my cousin and his wife to Thai massages (clothes on, so not creepy), and he felt too uncomfortable accepting $200+ worth of services so he gave me a $50 Starbucks gift card. I am probably going to lose this thing long before I use it up. Now, I understand there are websites where you can swap gift cards, but I wonder how easy it is to be conned with no recourse. So I figured I’d put it out there to my readers…

Have you ever used an online service to exchange gift cards?
If so, please share your experience in the Comments.

Back from Florida – Worth Every Penny

Monday afternoon I got back from my trip to the Florida panhandle for a 3-day seminar in Myoskeletal Alignment. Even if I never use the material or just can’t develop a talent for it, it was worth it because ohmygod, I am pain-free. All that Rolfing I had early this year fixed the new acute pain, but not the chronic old pain – I didn’t even think it was possible. However, the last few months I’ve had increasingly persistent daily headaches, and the neck discomfort I was waking up with was getting worse.

To make a short story long, I twittered about registering for this course, and one of the teaching assistants found me and we started “following” each other. I felt a little silly because my Twitter identity is related to this, my hobby, and not my profession. In other words, he gets to read fascinating things like “Delivered 15 boxes of cereal and 15 deodorants to the teen shelter” and “Got $84 worth of stuff at CVS for $1.78”. Anyway, about 2 weeks ago, he sent out a tweet looking for someone local to do some typing in exchange for a 30-minute session with him. I did it, and collected on Sunday morning before class. He got about 15 minutes into it and called over a fellow teaching assistant to take over, because the other guy had moves he didn’t. Well, this bodywork tag team worked what so far appears to be lasting magic.

I honestly did not realize how much discomfort I was in every waking moment. Taking a sip of coffee, opening the microwave door, turning my head, putting on my sneakers…I was constantly expecting pain, bracing against it, moving to avoid it. I could get relief from a chiropractic adjustment, but that only lasts for about 6 hours. I used to get awesome, enduring treatment from my osteopath in Scotland, but not here, and it’s been 9+ years since I’ve had access to him.

My Myoskeletal Alignment treatment was 84 hours ago and is still holding. 84 pain-free hours. Now I’ve got to either find someone local who does this or become a groupie and follow these two pairs of golden hands around the country getting treatment wherever they teach. Because if I’ve learned nothing else from this line of work, I know that 16-year-old problems don’t get solved in 40 minutes. But no matter what, it was worth every penny I spent on course fees, airfare, hotel, etc. just to find this out. Heck, I may even take the course again in November to solidify my knowledge and tweak my technique.

On the business side of all this, I’m trying to line up people with specific problems/joints that I’ve learned to treat so I can practice and get things to the point where I feel comfortable stating that yes, I can fix plantar fasciitis/IT band syndrome/frozen shoulder/neck cricks/etc. I’ve successfully talked my cousin into letting me whale on his hip this Sunday – he’s 38 and in the past 5 years or so has been suffering terribly from pain related to being hit by a car when he was 7. However, I had tentatively lined up a few financially-strapped clients for 30-minute freebies on their major pain centers and no one has replied to my emails in 2 days despite their initial enthusiasm. Just further proof that no one values “free”.