Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Public Transportation, Stitches, and Tax Credits - oh my!

It's been a busy week since my last blog post.  Seeing as it's now 2011, I'm trying really really really hard to see the good that's happening rather than letting the bad stuff get me down.  Of course - plenty of good has been happening - so that really shouldn't be too hard, right? I'm not just a glass half full kind of girl - I'm a glass half full garnished with a maraschino cherry kind of girl.
Today hasn't been the best day ever - but I'm going to say, without question, that it's been more good than bad. My morning was certainly less than stellar - after trying to get my car to start for 40 minutes, and then having  no luck finding someone to drive me to work (by the time I'd realized it was a losing battle with the car, everyone who commutes to campus had already commuted!), I remembered what a determined gal I am - looked up the public transportation website and found the bus schedule.  Luckily, the bus stops not too far from my house, so after about a five minute walk and then ten/fifteen minutes of waiting (in the below zero temperature of course) I got to ride on the bus!  A positive thing - because I work on campus, I don't have to pay bus fare! How cool is that? This is only the third time I've ever ridden the bus - there was the time when I was fourteen and I rode the bus to the mall, then about four years ago, I locked my keys in the car at the grocery store and had to take the bus home to get my spare (which, it turns out was actually in my purse the whole time - and I was unimpressed). 
Have you ever ridden the Bat Bus (that's what we call it 'round these parts)? It's not as bad as my middle-class-mentality was imagining it.  It was very crowded - I squished my butt & parka between two friendly young women who looked away as soon as I tried to make eye contact. Seeing that I am me, and not prone to sitting silently in a metal twinkie full of other people, I struck up a conversation with one of the eye-averters next to me.  I have to say, I'm relieved that my car started yesterday - it sounds like waiting for the bus when the wind chill is almost forty degrees below zero leaves a lot to be desired.  The bus dropped me off not too far from my building, and I made it inside.  Luckily - I made one brilliant choice earlier in the morning - I put on one of those therma-care wrap things (the ones you use for back pain) - I'm convinced that therma-care deserves mucho credit for me not being frozen solid huddled in a snowbank at the moment. 
That was my morning - it certainly wasn't great - but it could have been a heck of a lot worse!  Don't worry - I'm not going to say - it could have been worse is why it was a good day - there have been some great things today!!! 
Great thing number one: I got to participate in a taste test for the food science folks - not only did I get to enjoy some lovely fresh tomatoes, but I got a crisp (actually kind of weak and wrinkled, but whatever) five dollar bill for my time! Should I holler "show me the Lincolns"???
Great thing number two: this is actually a HUGE thing for me - as a lower-middle-class slash upper-lower-class single parent - there's one day a year that almost overshadows Christmas in terms of awesomeness - that would be the day I file my taxes. And I got my W2 today!  I had already calculated out what everything would be from my last paystub of 2010 (the only part that really involves math is working out your social security/medicare wages, but I'm a brainy gal and I know how to google) - but I didn't want to file until I was positive about the numbers.  It turns out I was right about the numbers! Yay me! All I had to do was check everything over and enter my bank information - now I just get to wait for my tax return.  I used the Turbo Tax Freedom File - to get to the free filing - go to the IRS Free File site, and pick a link you like.  Note to filers: if you used Turbo Tax last year - make sure you sign up for a new account - you can't use the same account information (read: username) two years in a row for the free version.  Since I'm too cheap to pay for something that I could get free - I just logged into my account from last year - got the information I needed (last year's adjusted gross income) and then created a new account.  Why do I like Turbo Tax so much? Because before I started using it, I didn't realize how very many tax credits I was missing - namely the Student Loan Interest one (got back $90 from that one), and the Retirement Account contribution credit (got back $189 from that one).  Definitely worth it for me!
See - today was a good day!!!
Let's look back over the past week and figure out what was so great there!
Monday, January 24th - even though the wind chill was -40 degrees, my car started! Woo Hoo!  Other positives - I received a prize in the mail that I'd won (cream perfume - melon d'eau - lovely scent) as well as two coupons for free hall's cough drops.  Played a great game of Monopoly with my girl, and relaxed in bed. Very nice!  To top it off, the neighbors brought over delicious homemade lemon bars for Azi and me!
Sunday, January 23rd - lots of lounging in bed (as I do so love to do on weekends), lots of playing Mario Kart, and some legends of Zelda Twilight Princess, on the Wii.  The biggest cool thing from Sunday was that I received notification from Rachel at http://texaskitchen.blogspot.com/ that I'd won a giveaway - a Newman's Own Organic bunch of goodies - I am REALLY looking forward to those - in particular the minty cookies!
New Glasses & crazy eyes
Saturday, January 22nd - Saturday didn't start out as anything really special - we were pretty subdued due to Azi's injury on Friday, so we laid low, and I ended up skipping out on a party I'd planned to go to.  I had an eye appointment, and then Azi and I each picked out our new glasses - and I had them replace the lenses in my current frames as well - since they're the cutest dang frames I've ever had. Around 8:00 Azi and I started really getting on each other's nerves, so we went over to hang out with my fab nieces - Mandy, Ally, and Siearah - and we even got to see Rob a bit too! We played really fun games on their X-Box Kinect, and then had a fierce game of Monopoly.  I'm extremely proud that Mandy has surpassed me in Monopoly awesomeness.
Hand + Steak Knife = Emergency Room Trip
Friday, January 21st - this one was not the best day.  The awesome thing of the day? It was a snow day!! Hooray! Unfortunately, around noontime, Azi was getting herself a brownie - they were really hard, and she was cutting them with a sharp knife - the knife slipped and she sliced right into her hand.  Good thing: for the first time in about a month, my car started on the first try - bad thing: she had to get three stitches.  Bad thing: there was already about 7 inches of snow on the car - Good thing: my neighbor heard the screaming from upstairs and came out and helped me clean off the car.  Bad thing - Azi was in a lot of pain - Good thing - the same upstairs neighbor met us outside when we got home and gave Azi to packs of peanut butter cups he'd bought for her.  Quite the day.  On a positive note, I've given myself kudos - it had been so long since the last time that Azi  ad a trip to the ER that she's grown over a foot since then!!!
Thursday, January 20th - they made the announcement about Friday's snow day at 8:00 pm on Thursday night - how great is that????
Wednesday, January 19th - I had to go to the dentist for a toothache (I was right about no cavities - but unfortunately one of my nerves died, the reason for the ache was that my body was treating the dead nerve like a splinter or something) - the good: they put me on antibiotics, and gave me a referral for my root canal - yay!
WHEW - it's been a busy seven days - I wonder what the next seven will bring!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Three Day Weekend

The one big drawback to a three day weekend is the feeling of sadness that infiltrates your Tuesday morning (or Monday morning if the third weekend day was a Friday) - I woke up this morning all bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, for about five seconds, then I realized that my clock was telling the truth about it being 6:37 am and I had to get up shortly. That's when the disappointment slipped in.

Of course, I followed my usual routine and hit the various snooze buttons (I find that a total of three alarm clocks with separate alarm times and different snooze settings are what it takes to get me out of bed on time-ish), and got up a little after 7:00.  Around 7:30, I went out to start the car and discovered that it was bitterly cold out.  It was somewhere in the realm of four degrees (that's what weather.com said it was when I arrived at work at 8:00), which is cold on its own, but it was this icky damp chilly cold - the kind that makes any exposed skin start to ache the moment the ice-air hits it.  A positive about this horrid air-situation is that all of the tree branches I drive by on my way to work were sparkling like a four-year-old girl's art project.
Now, you know I'm the queen of the positive in this lovely 2011, and I'm not trying to be unpleasant and whiny - it's just that I REALLY wish I could be back in bed right now!  I need to remember that, since I made a delicious chicken stew for dinner last night, we have leftovers and I don't have to cook.  Did you know my stew is world famous?  Okay, maybe not world famous - but it's family famous, and honestly, they're about the only people whose opinions matter to me anyway.  My nephew Aaron won't eat anyone else's stew anymore (including his mother - my sister Conni's stew - which is a bit of a sore spot for her).  I didn't bake any bread, but I did make gingerbread for dessert.  Yum yum yum.  See - now I'm starting to looking forward to going home and eating food.
Aaron required blue icing and a theme that incorporated
rainbows, kittens, and slick rick.  I think Conni
did an absolutely AMAZING job.
Well, as you know - it's 2011 - and of course some good things have been happening since the 11th!  Here we go!
Today: I won a contest!  I won a Cream Perfume from http://www.withourbest.com/!!!! 
Monday, January 17th - I slept until noon and then spent the afternoon reading and making chicken stew. Azi and I watched "Once More with Feeling" - the musical Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, and that awesome daughter of mine brought me breakfast in bed! (not in that order)
Sunday, January 16th - Sunday was a completely and totally lazy day.  I stayed in bed roughly 90% of the time and read four novels. How can you beat that???
Saturday, January 15th - went to Heather's housewarming shindig - had a great time - ate some AWESOME spring rolls, and played Apples to Apples.  ALSO - Two $10 iTunes gift cards came in the mail from a contest I won!!!
Friday, January 14th - My awesome nephew's "not-so-sweet-sixteen" birthday party.  Most of the fam was there, with the lovely additions of Janice, Holly, and Matthew.  The best thing about that was the cake my sister made - I'm putting the picture up here - wish I could take credit - but it's all Conni!!
Thursday, January 13th - I won two contests!!!! I won Project Runway stationary & candle from http://confessionsofanover-workedmom.blogspot.com/, and a set of house pillows from http://becausecheaperisbetter.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, January 12th - say it with me - SNOW DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
Tuesday, January 11th - I got to see Azi compete in the school-wide Geography bee.  I didn't realize how impressive this was until they explained that out of the entire school of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, only 30 kids qualified for it - and my sixth grader was one of them!!!  She did a great job - made it through the first round of cuts, but had a harder time on the second round - regardless of that - I'm SOOOOOOOO freaking proud of her!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers

No, I'm not ripping off A Streetcar Named Desire (and yes, that is where the quote came from) - but the fact is, I have always depended on the kindness of stranger, and on myself being a kind stranger when the situation calls for it.  Last night I received a message loud and clear from the universe telling me that "Yes, Jessy, people are still awesome."

Do you ever doubt the awesomeness of people?  Have you ever had one too many jackelope drivers straddling the double-yellow on a two-lane road, or taking up to parking spaces?  I honestly start to think that maybe everyone is an annoying combination of stupidity and evilness, then something happens and I'm reminded that most people are innately good.

Last night I was headed back to Orono with Azi who has requested to now be referred to as "Red," and I'm going to try very hard to remember that), and my gas light flicked on.  I knew from having checked right before I left work that my bank account currently has the impressive balance of $9.18, so I pulled up to the Big Apple, the one remaining gas station in our great nation that does not have you swipe your card at the pump, and carefully put in exactly $8 in gas. After finishing getting my gas, I go inside, make nice chitchat with the guy behind the counter, pull out my wallet, grab for my debit card - and what's this?  Nothing in the debit card slot.  This is when the uncomfortable smiles start, and I rifle like crazy wondering if, for the first time since I got that wallet, I put my debit card in a different slot, and start recalling having taken it out to make an online purchase and setting it on my bedside table.

The man behind the counter was much less smiley than I was at this point, and asked if I could just give him cash.  I said "all I have in cash is fifty cents. Can I bring it to you tomorrow?" Nope - tomorrow is not an option, they can't let you leave the store until you pay.  Did I have another card.  Nope - no other card.  At this point it was starting to appear that Red and I were going to have to build ourselves a little shack out of cardboard Miller Light boxes, because they cashier certainly wasn't letting me go anywhere, when all of a sudden, this voice behind me said "Don't worry about it, I've got you."

Azi and I suspect that my awesome
pom-pom hat might be why the guy
was so nice - because - how can you
not want to help someone with a
pom-pom on their head??
This young guy, probably in his early twenties, buying a case of Miller Light (also known as the building blocks of my future shack-home), pulls out his wallet to pay for my gas.  I did the polite thing saying things like "you can't!" and "that's not fair for you!" while jumping up and down on the inside.  Finally, after asking him for his number about fifteen times - he kept saying not to worry about it, it'd happened to him tons of times, I did get his number.  I'm trying to think of something totally awesome I can bake for him when I give him back his $8.  Any recommendations?

So - there we go - proof that people are wonderful.  When I got in the car and told Red (this is hard, I've had to delete Azi  a few times here) about it, she said that maybe he has a mandatory act of kindness every day.  I don't know if I blogged about it before - but we have a rule about doing at least one act of kindness a day.  Everyone should follow this rule - you just do something nice and unexpected - it can be helping someone pick up papers that are blowing around, or letting someone out of a parking lot during really nasty traffic.  Just something kind.  If you start doing it - I'm telling you - you'll feel great!  There's a good chance you'll make someone's day too!  You might even get blogged about if you're lucky!

Well, obviously that story is the good thing that happened to me on January 10th.  Let's go backwards through the other days I haven't written about yet:
Sunday, January 9th - Matthew and my nephew Aaron came over for beef stew, homemade bread, and to play Wii Pictionary - now that was some fun stuff! AND - Matthew brought strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert!
Saturday, January 8th - we had Jeanne's birthday party to go to, which was awesome and fun - and then when I get home, there was a bottle of sparkling grape juice on my porch!  Not any old bottle, but a commemorative bottle!
Friday, January 7th - I received news about two different contests I'd won!! I won a giveaway on A Mom's Take blog - AND coupons for a jar of barilla's sauce & a box of their pasta!

Thanks, 2011, for being so awesome!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

CLOSED: Giveaway Alert! It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 5

Congratulations Erin.Nicole - your comment #14, was selected by random.org as the winner! I will be contacting you via email for your shipping information and will put your DVDs in the mail on Tuesday!

I've been having so much fun entering giveaways on other blogs that I decided it's high time I did a giveaway of my own!!!  I recently acquired a brand new DVD copy of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season 5.  I'd been planning to give it to someone for Christmas, but just wasn't sure who to give it to.  My family's loss is your gain!!

For your opportunity to win this DVD, please just leave a comment on this post - telling me what your favorite thing about the show is - be sure to include your email address (feel free to do something like jessyisawinner at gmail dot com - or whatever). 

For a bonus entry, join my site via Google Friend Connect (on the right), and leave a separate comment telling me that you did so! 

The winning comment number will be selected randomly, and I will contact you - you'll have 48 hours to respond to me with your mailing address.

This contest will end on Friday, January 14th at 11:59 pm.  Anyone in the US is welcome to enter!

I'm hoping this will be the first of many giveaways to come!!  Happy 2011 Everyone!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Coffee? Yes, Please!

As you know, I'm not a big pusher of other blogs - I don't tell you what to do or where to go.  BUT - if you're interested in reading a cool and funny blog - AND - possibly winning a Tassimo Coffee maker head on over to Turning the Clock Back Tassimo Giveaway for your chance!

2011: The Best Year Yet? Perhaps.

A few days into 2010, I realized that, for some unknown reason, the universe seemed to have it in for me.  I had an assortment of ailments, money problems, car problems, etc. etc. etc.. I am in no way claiming that 2010 was the worst year ever, but, for me, it came pretty darn close. I decided way back then that 2011 would be different.  My health would be great - my life would be great - every frigging thing would be great. And do you know what? So far it has been!!!
On January first, I had the luck to win a new Ipod touch!  Now, this isn't the most alarming thing in the world, as I spend a ridiculous amount of time these days entering contests - but still, that's a pretty darn sweet prize!  It was made even sweeter by the fact that I was starting to regain my voice (you see, 2010 tried to keep me down by striking me with laryngitis during its last week - note to years who think they can get the better of me:  you totally can't, and I'm talking up a storm again).
On January 2nd, I went out and played Scrabble, ate Pizza Skins, and had awesome conversation at Uno's.  What a treat! Not something I usually do, and even more fun than I expected!
On Monday, January 3rd, I admit I was starting to notice a trend - and then what happened? Season 2 of True Blood was delivered from Amazon a day early!! Good stuff!
On Tuesday, January 4th, I was driving home and talking to Faith on the phone about how I was concerned that nothing awesome had happened yet.  Thankfully, I stopped at IGA, and what to my wondering eyes did appear??? Not from concentrate half gallons of orange juice on sale for $0.48!!!!!  WHEW!!!!
The Misty Sunrise
Wednesday (January 5th) started off on shaky ground - on Mondays and Wednesdays, we have to get up extra early because Azi  as orchestra practice at the school at 7:15 (AM!!!!!!).  I am not, nor have I ever been, a morning person - early to me is getting up at 9:30 on a weekend, you know?  So, I really do not look forward to super early days.  BUT - we were out of the house on time, and then, as I was driving to work I got to see the most incredible sight - there were clouds of mist rising off the river, just as the sun was coming up.  It was gorgeous!!!
Today's good thing?  Well, Azi sent me a message when she got home that there was a long trianglular package on the porch for me!  I will assuredly go on an on about it when I find out what's inside!!!
I'm hoping to keep this up - 2011 is the year, my friends - well, it's my year, at the very least - hopefully yours too!!