cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
The last couple of weeks have been very busy with All The Things, especially last week. In my writing log, I wrote down the following:

Recorded "Breath Stirs In the Husk" for Pseudopod
Recorded “Drowning in Sky” for PodCastle
Did audio editing on PodCastle and Pseudopod readings and sent them off
Writer’s networking tea at Patisserie 46
MinnSpec writers group in Uptown
Updated market spreadsheet, wrote newsletter, and mailed it off
Researched self-pub cover art necessities
Wrote cover art contract
Met with cover artist
Processed “Diplomatic Relations” acceptance
Processed “Charity From a Thief” rejection
Processed writing expenses

In addition to this, we !!finally!! took care of the second mortgage balloon payment, a financial burden that has been becoming increasingly worrisome over the course of the last six months as we went back and forth with our mortgage banker about how we could refinance it. The short answer is that we couldn't, but he was too inexperienced to know that and too incompetent to find that out in a reasonable time-frame or even to return our phone calls EVER. Of course, back when we bought our house, we were assured that we could simply extend the term of our second mortgage without any problems. Now, that program has long since been discontinued. He eventually offered us a personal loan, but that has terms similar to a credit card, so, um, no. Instead we took out a loan against Phil's 401K. Not ideal, but at least we're paying the interest to ourselves. It also means that our 2nd mortgage will be paid off in 5 years instead of 10+ . . . because our monthly payment is going to be a couple of hundred dollars higher. Ouch. But still. Done! One thing to cross off the Worry List.

Speaking of the Worry List, Phil finally put lead encapsulation paint on the back staircase, which is a huge relief to me. Whew. Still not done fixing all the less-urgent lead stuff, but we're getting there.

So, lots of stress (and stress relief) this week, and lots of me trying to scrape out time to get things done. Not helping is that Theia has been waking up lots in the night again. Maybe teething? She's also been batting at her ears when she's sleepy, which makes me worry about ear infections, but Phil thinks it's because sometimes there's referred pain from teething. Basically, we don't know. It is worrisome. Also does not help with the exhaustion and having lots of stuff to get done.

Now that the mortgage's handled, our next big family project is figuring out preschool. Minneapolis folks, does anyone have recommendations or dis-recommendations for preschools in the Uptown/Downtown/S. Mpls area? We're hardly going to buy a second car just to ferry the small one to preschool, so it needs to be busable for us.

Sigh. Here's a picture of a water lily, for serenity.


P.S. Oh, and I bollixed up my left knee badly enough that it's been hurting constantly for the last few days. I'll try taking it easy for a week and see if it gets better on its own. If it's still this bad in two weeks, a doctor visit is probably in order, and who knows what else. I do not need this.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
I would like to strangle the FSA/HRA administrators! I've been getting all these repeat bills from hospitals, etc. At first, I thought it was the provider's fault. Well, yes and no. If they don't fill in the account information properly (or our insurance doesn't pass it along properly, whichever), then when the FSA/HRA administrators pay, the money goes into a weird limbo instead of going to our account. For me and Cassius, our names aren't even on the payment. Phil's is, because the insurance is through his work. You'd think the provider could figure that out, but no. And the only account and invoice numbers are gibberish.

Apparently, what *I* need to do is click through the online payment portal to an entirely different page where I can change the invoice/account number manually to match the paper bill I received.

This is not something that I logically expected to have to do, nor is it intuitively part of the payment process.


So now I have to request copies of the canceled checks from the FSA/HRA administrators, so that I can fax them to the providers, so that I can prove that, yes, they *did* get paid.

All because nobody included inputting/checking the account and invoice numbers as part of the step-by-step paying a claim process.

Strangling, I tell you.

I will exempt the nice customer service lady who was able to figure out what was going on and tell me how to prevent it in the future.

(I am of course happy to have good insurance, despite the hassles. Boy am I ever happy.)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Phil and I)
Phil is still quite ill with fever, though he doesn't have any other symptoms. He had a doctor's appointment yesterday, at which it was ascertained that yes, he has a fever, and no, he doesn't have any other warning symptoms. Turns out that when they say to go see the doctor if you've had a fever for three days, what they really mean is that the doctor just checks to see if anything else is going on and then sends you home without treating you, telling you to come back in a week if you've still got a fever. I disapprove! He doesn't have a backache, so it's probably not meningitis (If he gets a backache, he's supposed to go to the ER and get a spinal tap. You can guess how popular that suggestion was.). He's pretty sure it isn't an STD (i.e. that I haven't been cheating on him), so penicillin will do nothing. Lots of annoying questions, no treatment. Got back his bloodwork today, and his white blood cell and platelet counts are too low, so now he's supposed to get bloodwork done again two weeks after the fever goes away. And if the fever is still there next week, he's supposed to go back in.

Also, we know his judgment is impaired because he decided to drive to the doctor in downtown instead of taking a bus, despite having previously agreed that driving was a bad idea if he was running a fever. The doctor lectured him, I lectured him...and I don't trust him not to do something similar again.

Me, I worked a bunch. On the way home, I stopped at Target and picked up a couple of grocery-type things. I paid using the last of the Target giftcard NgithOwl gave me for Christmas.

It will be good to have hours in my paycheck again.

Dinner was cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Then there was lots and lots of laundry folding as I watched Criminal Minds. And some writing (not while watching TV--I can't do that, though I've heard of writers who can).

Circus of Brass and Bone Total

3/2/11, Wednesday, full day of work
* Posted freewriting and writing log.
* A snippet of writing.
* Listened to writing podcasts at work.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
When I followed up on the whole HARP refinance program for homeowners who owed slightly more on their house than it was worth but want to take advantage of the current low rates and maybe lower their monthly payment some, I found out that we're also eligible for the HAMP program, the one for homeowners who have some financial hardship and have more than 31% of their income going to their mortgage. Ug. It's nice knowing that we'll be able to refinance, but knowing that we qualify for the federal program for homeowners who are completely fucked? Not so reassuring.

However! We won't be doing the HAMP program, because it totally messes up the credit score. HARP is looking likely if we get a deal that would make significant savings. That requires negotiations with our bank mortgage holder, though. The federally approved, free financial counselor was very nice and walked us through our finances and everything and sent the report on our conversation to both our bank and to us. I also have the number for the follow-up program, who are basically the people to call if the bank gets sticky about something. Then they swoop in wearing their shiny armor and fix everything. The next step is to contact our bank and talk brass tacks.

PSA: If your significant other is the only person on the mortgage, have them authorize you to have conversations with the bank and such. Do this now. It will save you much hassle in the future. The same goes for if you're on their health insurance or other benefits.

I set up an interview with Pro Staff for today. More of an interview+tests, actually, but it has to be done. Any nest egg growth/debt clearance we can get before August is a reallyreally good thing. In preparation, I did a PowerPoint tutorial--probably should have been doing tutorials for the last week, but I wasn't. It's been ages since I've been on this side of an interview. I think I have some anxiety about it, since I didn't sleep well last night and two out of three of my dreams (more about which anon) were related. The third dream was about a T-Rex.

I trekked to the post office and mailed off our federal taxes. Go go gadget moneyback!

I cleaned out the Roomba's gearbox and discovered the brushes still aren't spinning. This exhausts my Roomba fix-it knowledge and means it is probably really broken (the battery was dying anyway). Phil says there is no budget space for a new Roomba, but if it comes on Woot, we'll see about that. Roomba is necessity, like dishwasher. :(

2/24/11, Thursday

Circus of Brass and Bone Writing Log


Episode 10

New words: 1,067
Total words: 60,205
Overused word: people
Gratuitous word: gewgaws
Type of scene: How the city works now.
Challenge(s): How much is too much, how much is not enough.
Which line is it anyways?Of course, the instant she tried not to think about it, her imagination conjured up all sorts of gruesome images.
Researched: New York transport history
Added to spellchecker: horsecars
Notes: I find this sort of thing fascinating--how society changes after a disaster like this. But I worry that readers will want more action. Of course, Episode 11 should satisfy that need. Also, I'm at the wrap-it-up wordcount for this episode, which means it'll probably go live (for those with early access) early next week.
Other writingy stuff:
* Posted freewriting and writing log.
* Fiddled with trying to get the CoBB iTunes feed working. Needs more work. Damn iTunes-specific feed crap.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (eyebrow)
I had one of the most bizarre health insurance customer service interactions I've ever been a part of yesterday. I was calling to find out what, if any, pre-natal classes are covered by my health insurance or are considered eligible to be paid with our FSA/HRA. Allina Hospital offers a dozen of them: baby CPR, baby sign language, preparing for labor, all about babies, etc. The insurance website had Lamaze classes listed as covered, but it wasn't clear about childbirth classes in general. So I call in and I talk to this lady, and it's like I'm actually talking to an automated system that's looking at the same sheet I am and doesn't have any independent judgment.

"So are general childbirth classes covered?"

"We judge by whether it is considered a medical necessity."

"Right. So is it considered a medical necessity?"

"We judge by whether it is considered a medical necessity."

"I'm looking at the list on the website--"

"That is the same list that I am looking at."

"So you can't answer my question?"

"No. Just that we judge by whether it is considered a medical necessity."

Commence banging of head. In the end, I think it comes out to childbirth classes might be, but childcare classes aren't. I'm still taking the "All About Babies" class. I last babysat babies when I was a teenager, and that was a long time ago. I mean, I know that you don't shake 'em, don't drop 'em, don't let their heads hang loose, and don't put 'em to sleep on their stomachs, but there's gotta be more to it, right?

I also started looking into refinancing under the HARP program (thanks for the recommendation, Laura!). A lower interest rate and smaller monthly payment would be good soon. Looks like we're eligible, and they've got free federal counselors to walk us through all the options and responses, so that goes on my to-do list.

Mostly, I spent yesterday writing. Given how annoyingly bureaucrat-infested the other things I dealt with were, I'm glad of it.

2/23/11, Wednesday

Circus of Brass and Bone Writing Log


Episode 10

New words: 1,091
Total words: 59,138
Overused word: street
Gratuitous word: fly-bit
Type of scene: The city as it is.
Challenge(s): Balancing dialog and description. I've got a lot of explanatory dialog here. Hrm.
Which line is it anyways?A light dusting of snow gilded the wrought iron balconies and fire escapes.
Researched: Mostly I used the research I'd already done.
Notes: I didn't realize I was that close to my preferred episode length (5,000 words = 30 minutes). So far, it's more of a Point A to Point B, with interesting setting details. I wouldn't call it a "stuff happens" episode. Still, I could stick a hook on the end and call it done soon. Hrm. Also, I think that is a tracking thing I should keep track of.
Other writingy stuff:
* Posted freewriting and writing log.

And there was delicious and easy black bean soup for dinner. I'm trying to make something cheap with beans weekly as a cost-saving measure, but one bag of beans cooks so many--I've made beans and rice, black bean soup...and there's still beans left over.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (friendly)
We are not horribly screwed by taxes, for a change! I finished doing them yesterday, and it comes out about even between what we get back from the feds and what we have to pay out to state, with a little left over. This is fantastic! For the last couple of years, we have usually ended up owing $800+. That would be ++ungood right now. Special thanks to Schedules C, A, and M.

Aside from that, I finished going through the CDs Phil gave me to clear out. Most aren't worth anything and will go to Cheapo, but a few were worth putting up on Amazon. I now have a "storefront" there: Minneapolis Miscellaneous. I'm going to be putting more stuff up on Amazon and Ebay, now that I've had a chance to look at the terms and conditions and listing fees. They're reasonable.

And I cleaned a bunch, including the ohmigod-it's-making-its-own-chemical-warfare-weapons bathroom. Which is still horrifying.

For dinner, I tried quinoa for the first time. It's basically a bland, couscous-like grain. It gets bonus points for being a complete protein and for one cup (after being mixed with carrots and walnuts/pine nuts) feeding both Phil and I with leftovers.

There was also writing, although most of my writing time went to annoying research (there is fun research, and there is annoying research--this was the latter).

2/22/11, Tuesday

Circus of Brass and Bone Writing Log

New words: 371
Total words: 58,047
Overused word: Bronx
Gratuitous word: farmfolk
Type of scene: Working a better sense of place in. Mostly going back and adding bits.
Challenge(s): Islands. It's all frickin' islands. Even the bits considered to be mainland? Blocked off by rivers. And the Bronx? Was countryside at that time, and so is not a logical outer point for fortifications. Razzerfrazzer geography! And I'll need to rewrite the previous episode some.
Which line is it anyways?She would have felt much better if she'd been astride a fast horse, instead of stumbling along on foot, but Ginger had pointed out that horses would be seen as valuable and maybe worth ambushing a small group of travelers for.
Researched: New York geography, New York bridges, New York borough history, New York girl gangs, New York street scenes in the late 1800s, New York transit. I researched for a couple of rather annoying hours.
Notes: I guess I'm more accustomed to dealing with landlocked cities.
Other writingy stuff:
* Posted freewriting and writing log.

Also, my computer restarted itself for no damn reason while I was writing this post. 1. Thank you, LJ, for your backup feature. 2. What the hell? Don't do that, computer. You're lucky I didn't lose any actual writing.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (alas)
Our financial situation is...very uncomfortable at the moment. We're not buying groceries, we're tapping out savings to cover bills, we're cashing in savings bonds, we're not spending any money-type uncomfortable. This is thanks to me not really getting work from NgithOwl for the last 3-4 months. We didn't immediately stop spending, mostly because these low points usually pick back up a lot faster than this. But it sucks. Basically, we're getting a preview of what will happen when I'm not working (except on those rare work-from-home projects), except without the raise that Phil's expecting in a couple of months.

One of the things I'm less happy about is that because of this, we've had to stop covering my parents' home loan, which is something we've been doing (from our own pocket) for the last several months. I just--wish there was more I could do.

Saturday was finances day. Sitting down and figuring out how we're paying bills for the next month. Emergency "this is our last hundred dollars"-type budgeting. It turned out okay, actually. Things will be really, really tight, but we'll cover everything and might even have a little extra to put against the credit card balance.

And then I started doing taxes, found out I hadn't recorded certain expenses, and swore a lot. So Saturday was mostly fussing with money. Had to be done, but wasn't pleasant.

But then there was a tiki party!

Not an emblematic tiki image, but isn't the art gorgeous? Plus, bonus eyeball creatures in spacesuits! And the artist has a process post about this piece here.

Phil had a basketball dunk contest he had plans to watch that evening, so we went for the early portion of the party. It was nice seeing and socializing with people (no work also means Abra gets cabin fever), and there was an impressive spread of food and beverages, including infinite permutations of Italian soda. Without the ability to drink booze, these things matter more to me....

I was tired, so I left when Phil did and went home instead of staying for the entire later portion. After lying down for a bit, I had energy enough to start doing taxes again. Blech. Also? Yeah, tracking expenses is important, because otherwise I'd have to be paying extra taxes on the money I made from writing last year. My book purchases saved me--although, geez, that was with me trying not to buy any books (due to critical lack of bookshelf space)!

As you might guess, that left not much time for writingy things.

2/19/11, Saturday writing log
* Posted freewriting and writing log.
* Worked on CoBB thank-yous.
* A smidge of writing on CoBB
* Character Clues:
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Today is Give-to-the-Max Day! Make a donation to a cause, a charity, or a donation-funded thing you use or enjoy. Don't forget all the "free" things that really aren't free at all. Maybe you use open-source software, or listen to a podcast, or really like a firefox extension, or listen to public radio. They really need your donations, too, and not all of them are as pushy about it as public radio.

I will not be giving today because that's generally a credit card activity, and I will be without a credit card for the next week, since a stranger used it to buy a one-way flight out of Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago and I just got the credit card statement. No other odd charges. They must have really needed to get out! So the card is canceled and I am awaiting a new one.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (alas)
I am a big bouncing stress ball lately. I have writing deadlines on top of writing deadlines, one of which used to be self-imposed but just became outside-forces-imposed. All of these things need to get done in times ranging from "tomorrow" to "end of June." I look forward to being past these deadlines. Sure, I did one of them to myself when I planned to write what is now being called, "Remediation Village (Probationary), Inner Mongolia" but one is finishing massive edits on "Alien/Whore/Mother" by tomorrow, and one is sending out agent queries which just got a lot more urgent, and I have a presentation to give on social media (thankfully, with others, and we're going with a pretty relaxed format) this weekend for my writing group, and crits done to get an MPC to get RV critted before the sub deadline. There is money stress, because of an not-yet-sorted-out but probably in the $1000s medical bills on top of old (smaller) debt. I wince away from money stress. There is personal-life stress, although at least I finally know where I'm at with that. There is upcoming family reunion, which is also stress over money and other things.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
I haven't gotten so much writing stuff done, but I have finished a number of other essential things. Real life comes first, sometimes, hard as I try to fight it.

* Dealt with publication contract for one of my short stories. Yay! Also, it was a very clearly written and thoughtful contract, which is nice.

* Made dentist's appointments for myself and Phil. The latter is a small miracle, as himself is *most* difficult to get in for the regular checkups of any kind. But a maybe-loose filling was enough to get him going, though he is distressed about not knowing how the insurance works. (It should be fine.)

* Signed up for a community ed. class for this spring. Shaolin Kung Fu: 8 weeks for $34. Can't beat that price, and it'll be a great way to a) ease back into being active, and b) see if this is for me. I'm looking for something less high-impact, easier on the joints, but still interesting and challenging. And Shaolin Kung Fu is apparently big on the deep stances, which is perfect for building quad strength. Quad strength is one of the keys to being healthy and active after having your ACLs replaced. Theoretically, I should try to have thighs like a Heavy Metal pin-up girl.

* Paid bills and sent in the Census form. We have been counted.

* Paid taxes. ::whimper, sob:: My job screwed us over again, withholding only $80 in taxes. Had to pay the Federal part of the tax bill using a credit card because we just don't have the money. Twice in the past I've asked NgithOwl to change my withholding, and they've said they can't. Add that to me pulling in income from writing and photography too, and--yikes. This year, I asked *again* and they finally sent me the form. Hopefully next year's taxes will not make us walk funny.

* Made an appointment to donate blood at the IDS Crystal Court blood drive coming up March 31st. You should too! Check out the list of where they have blood drives.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (experiment)
You know, a long rambling post where I write about where I'm at and what I'm doing and all the other things I think friends should know about each other but all too often don't these days. I encourage you to do one of these posts, too! I miss knowing these things about my friends (Twitter and Facebook have added a lot of little detailed information, but I think they've taken away some of the big picture).

Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Night before last, I dreamed that the roof was falling apart. I was running back and forth in the attic trying to put buckets under the leaks, but above me the drywall was crumbling and I could see through to the sky in some spots.

The source material for that dream's not hard to find, given that that afternoon I'd signed over two insurance checks plus written a ridiculously large check from us to pay for the new roof and many of the other repairs we've had done. I really really really don't want to have to do that again any time soon. Really.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • 23:15 ++ Victoriously paid off a large chunk of the "nice DSLR" credit card debt.
  • 12:16 Celestial Seasonings is planting a real tree for every virtual tree people plant. Go forth:
  • 13:38 "Hydrolyzed Soy Protein" is the same thing as MSG--not that it's bad for you, mind.
  • 14:18 In anticipation of CSA (May 5th!), looking at asparagus recipes speculatively:
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • 16:01 Processing power down to 25%. Mucus draining strength. Watched Aliens--at least I'm not *that* slimy!
  • 22:14 Dear "For the price of one cup of coffee a day" people: I don't buy one cup of coffee a day. That would be *expensive*.
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No bailout, you say?, originally uploaded by aswiebe.

Now that the politics are mostly settled, I expect everybody's going to go back to being upset over the economy, right?

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • 00:06 Olympics = puppies + 4th of July fireworks + "If you build it, they will come."
  • 12:38 FYI to friends who like to go out: We won't be doing anything involving $$ until Phil's next paycheck.

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Turns out that, despite appearances, our car wasn't totaled as we'd feared. Costs to get it running were less than $1,000, and the person we had an accident with decided to file a claim instead of maybe having us cover it out-of-pocket to keep everybody's insurance premiums from going up. It still made about half of my "invest in a good DSLR" fund go up in smoke, but we are not financially screwed after all. And the car's now much easier to find in a parking lot (there are way too many silver cars on the road, and they all look alike).

Before Repair:
After Accident, Before Fixing - Right

After Accident, Before Fixing - Left

After Repair:
Fixed after accident

Our car is now 5% Geo Metro.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
* No, I really didn't need to anticipate natural gas prices going up 50% this winter. Kthxbye. about 20 hours ago
* YouTube zombie haiku: about 17 hours ago
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (upintotheblue)
Ah, I finally get around to writing up the Bush Artist retreat highlights, from the perspective of the fly on the wall. The 2008 Bush Artist Fellows are an impressive (and photogenic) bunch. Follow that link to learn more about them and their award-winning art. As I said in my earlier post, everybody was witty and charming and talented, the orientation events were educational, the reception was fabulous, and the Fellows deserved their wins.

Cheese and tomato skewers
Did I mention the reception was fabulous?

Notes from the educational presentations. )

Now I've finished getting the photos ready and writing up the retreat just in time to take a deep breath and dive into my next major event. That would be the Fourth Street Fantasy conference, which I'm attending this weekend. It's my first writer's conference. I hope they'll be gentle.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • 10:51 Photographer on MPR talking about "pieces of light." Yes. Exactly. #
  • 11:58 Dear applicants, typos in cover letter = Fail. #
  • 12:16 Well, hot damn. Bush Foundation wants me to shoot candid photos during their retreat. Asked my rates. Hmm. #
  • 12:26 Don't have the $$, but between retreat photos & Xtine's wedding, am seriously pondering getting a fancy DSLR. #
  • 17:50 Cousin-i-l is a bass player in The Commuter Exit--pretty good agro/emo music. Myspace: #
  • 17:52 Garlic-dill cheese curds are among the finest foods you can buy. At a gas station in Wisconsin. #
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Abra Staffin-Wiebe

March 2019

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