Saturday, July 24, 2010

living in a VAN down by the RIVER

I would consider today a moderate success.

Yesterday, after meeting with my therapist, I spent most of the afternoon / evening being thoroughly unproductive, feeling anxious about everything we had talked about and trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done when I was only allowed to focus on ONE thing on my list (of probably 12 different things, easy). I let the worry gnaw at me and wash over me and tried to figure out how I might be able to 'cheat' and justify it.

In the end, the product of all that worrying (and talking to my husband and a good friend about my options) lead me to the conclusion that focusing on the house was the best thing for this week. I still feel a little bit like the world might explode if I don't focus on the other things, and I have no idea what's going to happen financially, but if I can actually make this happen and get the house in order for once and for all, I might have a chance at being more productive and getting things done and making money and saving us from financial ruin. Of course I've said this before, and of course I'll spend plenty of time second guessing myself and trying to slowly work all those other things back into my life. But for now, it's just one week. One week and I can go and talk to my therapist and if I'm ready to freak out about not doing other things yet, hopefully she'll be able to help me.

My morning routine:

I got it all done. It took a while, and I hit some stumbling blocks, things I find particularly distasteful, I delayed, I experienced anxiety, but I got through it. I wrote in my personal journal a lot today, trying to make note of all the things that were particularly rough for me, times I felt anxious about things, times I was resistant to doing things. I'm still very time-focused and it all took me longer than I think it 'should'. But it got done.

My One Task:

I don't have a good name for this task, but it involves cleaning up, decluttering, and organizing my house, and boxing up things to sell / get rid of. Making The House A Home And Maybe Making A Little Money In The Process? Yeah, it's a pretty clunky title, I know. I finished three rooms today - our bedroom (which I'd worked on some a day or two previous and was already well on its way), our upstairs hallway and the upstairs bathroom.
Once I got in the groove, I was pretty happy to be working on this stuff today. Of course, I didn't get to any of the really horrible rooms yet, and I will admit that once I finished the bedroom, the temptation to stay in my clean, peaceful bedroom and pretend the rest of my house didn't exist was pretty strong.
Halfway through the day I caught myself trying to focus on the TIME it would take to complete the whole house decluttering process and setting goals for myself again. Setting goals in and of itself isn't a bad thing, it's obviously something I believe in and do with regularity; the problem is that I tend to set pretty lofty, unattainable goals. Or rather, the goals aren't unattainable, but the time I give myself to complete them is. I'm never content to just trust the process and believe it will happen if I keep working. it always has to be done by a certain TIME, and when I catch myself falling off my self-imposed timeline I get frustrated, I feel defeated, and I often give up. So I made note of that in my personal journal and will take that to the therapist next week. It's one of those things about myself where I just can't really fathom HOW it could be any different. But maybe it should be, and maybe it could be.

Here's some pictures of the progress in my house (taken with my phone, so I apologize in advance for the quality)!

Our Bedroom ( I have no befores, only afters):
from the doorway
our view from the bed. the computer has since been moved to the center bookshelf.
my bedside table, and Feona

The upstairs hallway:
before 2

after 2 (dog butts!)

The upstairs bathroom:
after (reorganized baskets)
before 2 (yes the dogs follow me everywhere)

after 2

I do not know how to fix ANY of this picture formatting. This was a very frustrating post, in terms of pictures. A blogging design genius I am NOT.


I don't know what's happening. I got my full unemployment check this week. By my calculations, I either have one week left, or two weeks left. I'm not sure. I understand that a new extended benefits bill was just signed in but I do not understand how that affects me. Illinois Unemployment hasn't updated their website with new information pertaining to it, and often they seem to leave these things vague anyway. So I don't know if we're running out of money soon or getting a temporary reprieve. I intend to act as if we are running out of money soon and that I need to find a way to come up with that $1650 difference each month as long as I am out of work (and that if I find a job, the take-home has to cover at LEAST that much PLUS full time childcare). However, I am trying not to think about any of this until my next therapy session because it just leads to panic and will render ineffective anything my therapist is trying to accomplish with me. I know my family and friends will never let us starve or go homeless, and I guess that's what I should focus on, that even if we are destitute and lose everything, we will still have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. That is a far cry from what I WANT, and I will certainly do everything in my power to keep it from happening, but it's better than living in a van down by the river.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tea With The Dead

When someone you love dies, it leaves a scar somewhere deep inside. A huge, twisted, knotted, UGLY scar. The immediate pain might fade over the years, but the scar never really goes away. Sometimes, when the weather is right and the rain comes a’callin and you pass by that Place You Used To Go or hear That One Song on the radio, the scar twists and an ache takes hold of your heart and the pain resurfaces. 
When my good friend died, we were so very young. She was not quite 25. I was 23. She was in my dream the other night. I used to dream of her frequently, but not so much anymore. I like to think that those dream appearances are visits from her, wherever she is. I don’t remember what we talked about during our visit. I didn’t even really remember that I dreamt of her until I heard a song on the radio today, not even a song I associate with her specifically, but she came to mind, unbidden, and there it was, a wisp of a memory of a dream. And I reflected, as I sometimes do, on our friendship and what it meant to me, and what it may have meant to her. We were young; we didn’t think so at the time, but we were. Looking back on my early twenties now, we were so very young. Still figuring out where we were going in life, what kind of people we were, what kind of adults we were going to be. Still grappling with insecurities and jealousies and friendships gone awry and all of the drama and trappings of post-high school, new-adult life. I think about things I heard after she passed away, worries I never knew she might have had, issues I had no inkling may have existed. I like to think that, if she had lived, those worries and issues would have been laid to rest over time and our friendship would have endured. Thrived. That we would have grown together, through marriage and parenting and friendships and loves and life. I like to picture us sitting together in a cafe now, looking back on that time in our lives and laughing over how silly we were to get worked up over so many things that seemed so large but were really so very insignificant.
I like to think that somewhere in the universe, a version of She and a version of Me are having a good cup of tea and a great conversation.
Even if that somewhere is only in my barely-remembered dreams.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scam Report On Chiro One, Part Two

Last Wednesday, my husband, mother and I reported dutifully back to Chiro One to be coerced into giving them all our money  get our health reports. In a group setting. Where we instructed to bring our spouses and a big fat check.

We were greeted enthusiastically again, and our names were up on the white board once more. We received name tags and were encouraged to make friends with the other folks that were waiting to receive THEIR health reports. We spent most of our time debating which Hall & Oates song is their best instead (it's Rich Girl. It's TOTALLY Rich Girl). Eventually everyone arrived and we were ushered into the main treatment area, where a small grouping of chairs were arranged in a semi-circle around a whiteboard with some writing on it. The doctor, the same one who had helped examine my mother and I on our previous visit, gave the 8 of us a presentation about spinal health and how we were going to die if we didn't receive chiropractic treatment for the rest of our life. Seriously. It took her about half an hour to go through the whole presentation, and it was very interactive (she called on us frequently, asked us lots of questions, and she kept calling my husband out on his snarky whispered comments to me), but this is what I took away from the presentation:

From this site.
1) spinal issues, called subluxations, compress our nerves, which are supposed to be carrying all the important messages from our brain to the rest of the areas of our body, and when these subluxations compromise the nerves, it can lead to dysfunctions in the body, which will cause diseases in us, and eventually will kill us. Or we'll kill ourselves, because subluxations can also cause us to be severely depressed.

2) Getting the proper chiropractic treatment, for the rest of our lives, will take us out of the cycle of "medications and surgery" that the rest of the health world wants us to be in, will fix the dysfunctions (which can take YEARS of treatment, if our backs are bad enough) and keep us healthy and happy.

3) Seeing other chiropractors will only mess up our backs further. This was illustrated by showing us xrays of a man who had been seeing a chiropractor on his own for 15 years before coming to Chiro One. I'm not sure how they GOT his 15 year old x rays, but they showed us what were supposedly his xrays before he started treatment with his previous chiropractor (bad), his xrays from near the end of his treatment with that chiro (worse), and his xrays when he came to Chiro One (so bad they needed to refer him for surgery, they couldn't even help this poor soul, his other chiropractor had worsened him so!).

you ever see the results of a neglected mouth?! THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!
Call me a skeptic, but in my mind, they were just weaving the perfect setup to alarm and disarm us before taking us back into individual rooms and trying to sell us a huge treatment plan.

Toward the end of the presentation, my mom asked about genetics. Something like "do you really believe that subluxations cause ALL diseases and disorders in the body? What about genetic factors and predisposition to certain conditions?" To which the doctor replied that she DOES believe subluxations cause all of our bad medical stuff and that she doesn't believe genetics play a part in it at all. Because she had scoliosis and severe depression and some other things, and as soon as she started receiving regular chiropractic care at Chiro One, all of that was cured and she's a True Believer now. My mother mentioned Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and how, when she was diagnosed with cancer, she said something like "I don't understand how this could have happened, I've always lived such a healthy life." The doctor replied "was she getting chiropractic treatment? Because I would bet you that no, she was not."


So. Make of that what you will. Obviously we're in the 'skeptic' category.

Shortly thereafter, they took us back into the private rooms to discuss our personal health details. A blond doctor took my mom back, and the same doctor who gave the presentation took OJ and I back into a room. She showed us our back xrays (both of us having some decent misalignments, of course) and noted that it would probably take several years to treat us. She showed us the treatment plan and paperwork she'd written up on us and said they wanted to start out seeing us three times a week for 3 months.

Here's the kicker. They want you to pay up front. That's the big sale. You have to COMMIT. Oh sure, if you decide you don't like the treatments or want to go somewhere else, they'll return a prorated amount to you, but they won't treat you unless you pay for a big block up front.

For the two of us, that meant $1800. $900 a piece ($25 copay each visit for 12 weeks times 2 people). And of course they had three easy payment options!

Oh, and the orthotics for our feet. Those weren't covered by our insurance. So add another $400 a piece to our cost, because we really SHOULD have orthotics, you know.

We thanked her and respectfully declined. We both believe in chiropractic care (though perhaps not quite to the somewhat fanatical level that these people profess to believe), but we don't believe in paying up front for 12 weeks of medical services at a place we might not even like, for treatments we might not even need.We'll go to my husband's previous chiro instead, where they do much the same stuff but in a private setting and don't charge you an arm and a leg or tell you you need to see them three times a week for the rest of FOREVER or you'll get cancer and DIE.

After we regrouped with my mom, she told us that her doctor wouldn't even TELL her the cost of the treatment plan for her until she agreed to commit to the recommended course of treatment! (Which was also three times a week for 12 weeks.) So she doesn't even know what they were going to try to charge her. They also tried to sell her orthotics, and when my mom told the doctor she already HAS a pair of orthotics from her podiatrist, the chiropractor told her "well, we want you to have the SOFT ones".

Needless to say, my mom didn't give Chiro One any of her hard-earned dollars either.

don't be fooled! "free" medical care is generally NOT.

My take? The word "scam" is relative; they ARE charging for a service and they do provide said service, and it may even have health benefits for you. But it's definitely a BUSINESS first, caring health company second. It's full of manipulative sales techniques and methods used to get you emotionally involved and committed. I would recommend that anyone considering chiropractic care steer clear of Chiro One and find a reputable local chiropractor in their area instead.

part one of this series:
Is Chiro One A Scam?

OCD, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying... That's A Lie. I'm Worried As SHIT.

I saw my therapist this morning. This was my second appointment with her, and I can't tell you how glad I am to be seeing someone again, AND to have it be someone that I feel actually, oh, maybe knows how to do something besides just let me talk at her? Someone who might actually have some ideas and guidance and maybe, oh, KNOW a little bit something about mental health?

*cough* Sorry. I might be just a little bit bitter about my last experience with a therapist. The last lady was... well, she was very nice. But I probably would have done better paying one of my close friends $100 to sit with me for an hour and listen, for all the good she did me. My friends would have slapped me around a little bit more. (with LOVE, of course.)

So. When I met this therapist last week, the session was me just trying to remember everything I wanted to tell her about in my life that I feel gives me trouble or that I'd like to work on. HUGE list, but a lot of it is interrelated, so I am hoping that as we get some of it sorted out, all of it will start just falling into place.

This week, given the magnitude of the financial crisis we just 'discovered', it was pretty much all about that and how I processed the stress over the weekend (by obsessing and thinking in circles and living on the sheer edge of panic, why, how do YOU deal with your personal crises?) and where I'm at now and what I'd like to accomplish.

At some point I brought out my list. You all just KNEW I made a list, right? Maybe I told you I made a list in my last post, I can't recall. But even if I didn't, I know you know how much I love lists. This particular list has a morning routine consisting of everything I think I SHOULD do in the mornings, an after dinner routine of everything I think I SHOULD do in the evenings, and a giant list of all the things I think I should do in between during the day to make the money I need ($55 a day! my brain keeps screaming at me. FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS A DAAAAAY!). Not on the list are the parts where I have to break for meals, spend time with the kids and the husband, and maybe occasionally stop and enjoy life. Because when you're in panic mode, YOU DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THOSE THINGS.

Panic also makes your hair change color. It's true.
I started explaining the list to her, starting with the morning routine. It's a lot of stuff. She stopped me early on and asked if I thought I was setting myself up to do too much. "Not really," I replied uncertainly. "I mean, look at the stuff that's on there. Each item really shouldn't take all that long, you know? I get frazzled because the past few days I've done it, it's taken me much longer than I thought it should, but these are all things I HAVE to do, and so I do them, but then I don't have time for anything else, but look... this one should only take five minutes, this one's only about ten, I cut this other thing out because I felt like it was taking too long..." She asked if I had trouble with any of the tasks, or if I thought it would be beneficial if I stuck to my routine for a week and identified what parts work for me, what doesn't, what I dislike. "I can do some of that already!" I said. "For instance, feeding the pets and cleaning the litterbox. It NEEDS to be done. I love my pets. But I really dislike those tasks. Probably more than normal. I don't know if anyone LIKES doing them, but take the feeding for instance - ever since I was pregnant with my second daughter, I never really lost my Dog Nose (you know, that mega enhanced sense of smell you get while pregnant), and the smell of even the dry food makes me gag now. It's awful. But it has to be done." She asked if I could give some of these tasks away, for instance to my kids. "Sure! I mean, they're capable. But here's the thing. I have... um... some anxieties about that. Pet food is kind of gross, right? And I have to, HAVE TO, wash my hands after I touch it. My husband, he could feed them and then go make us dinner and never see a sink in between, but it makes my skin crawl. And the thought of my kids touching the pet food really squicks me out. I know it shouldn't be a big deal, they can just wash their hands, and I don't want them to be freaked out by it, but it BOTHERS ME."

She asked if I thought we should test me for OCD. Heh. MAYBE! Maybe just a LITTLE!

So, next week that's ON like donkey kong. My husband told me I was gonna ace that test. I'm not sure what he means by that, exactly.

It runs in the family too, apparently. I picked my kids up from my mom's afterwards and was talking to her and learned about some funny OCD-style quirks she has that I wasn't entirely aware of. And my brother came home from work in the middle of our conversation and he's got some too. It's a family affair, oooo, a family affair...

It would be really nice to get some of my anxieties under control. I'm looking forward to this, believe it or not.

In the meantime, she tasked me this week with just doing my morning routine every day. Good or bad, stick with it. We're going for CONSISTENCY. I am to make note of anxieties I feel, perceived roadblocks, dislikes, issues, whatever. She asked me to ignore the rest of my list for the week. IGNORE MY LIST?? 'Can you do that?' she asked me. "Umm... I don't know?" I said sheepishly. "Can I focus on just ONE thing?" "OK." She said. "But just ONE. Nothing else. I don't want to give you too much this week. I think that's plenty."
But I WANT to do the whole list!!

So that's my assignment.

On the drive home, I was thinking about all the other things on the list and trying to figure out what I can 'outsource' to my husband so more things get done.

I suspect that's probably something like cheating.

So I've done nothing this afternoon so far but think about it and feel anxious because the world is going to BLOW UP  if I can't do EVERYTHING on my list RIGHT NOW.
This is what happened to me last time I ignored my list. True story.

Surprise! This is turning into the CRAZY BLOG! Bet you didn't see that coming!

Step One of my financial repair journey: stop worrying and being so anxious about so many things. It seems this might be a much bigger process than I had suspected. Until I started examining it recently, I hadn't quite realized how badly anxiety has permeated my life over the past few years. I walk around in a near-constant state of anxiety these days, even when I don't have something specific to be anxious about. Even though I am just starting to work on it, I can't tell you how relieved I feel to be addressing it. I am looking forward to feeling better.

Also, I should really see someone about that eye wound.

you might also enjoy reading:
So Basically I Live In A Constant State Of Anxiety No Matter What
Lead Me Not Into Temptation... I Can Find It Just Fine By Myself

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hi. We're broke.

Yeah, hell of a way to start a blog post. I had no other idea what direction to go with this introduction.

As some of you may already know, I am unemployed. I lost my job the beginning of last September. I've been on unemployment, which has been keeping us afloat; my original unemployment claim ended last spring and I was granted an extension. Now, as far as I understand it, there are currently no other extensions to be granted (unless Congress votes otherwise soon... I believe they're voting on Tuesday? I'm not sure), and I am expecting to run out of my extended benefits... very soon. I'm not sure exactly when, because I get a little confused when I try to navigate the world of unemployment benefits. I suspect they make it deliberately confusing so no one questions them. Not that it matters, because they don't answer their phone anyway; if you REALLY wanted to go and question them, you'd have to go sit in their hellhole of an office all day and wait to talk to someone who doesn't actually have answers for you anyway. Not my idea of a good time.

But if I read the website right, I will be running out either after this week's check or after the following check, and the following check (if I get one) may only be for one week's benefits, not two, because my starting check was only for one week. This is all conjecture, I really don't know. That's what I'm guessing at though.

Back when I lost my job, we looked at our budget to determine if we would be able to live on OJ's salary alone, if ever it came down to that. At that time, it was tight but manageable. We would have had to give up pretty much every expenditure that even resembled excess, and I might have had to scramble to bring in a couple hundred bucks a month from home somehow, but that seemed like something we could deal with if that ever came to pass.

Well, since it appeared that WOULD be coming to pass soon, we sat down last week to take another look at our budget. Everything and nothing has changed since last September, when I lost my job. We got a 'new' (to us) car. We went on a large vacation that we absolutely could not afford, and borrowed / charged most of it. I'm sure we charged other things. We intended to pay off most of our debt with my unemployment money, since we were no longer paying for daily childcare, and instead somehow we managed to not only NOT get out of debt, we incurred more. We went through a very traumatic time where it looked like our marriage was going to dissolve. We're still dealing with the emotional consequences of that and every other stressor in our lives as well. The short of it is, LIFE happened. We didn't manage a lot of things well at all. And somehow, when we sat down and looked at our budget last week, that couple hundred dollars I would have needed to bring in each month had blossomed. Grown into a massive BEASTLY intimidating number.

Somehow, we ended up over $1600 short each month. Or rather, we will be as soon as my unemployment officially ends.

Quite frankly, I've been sick since we discovered that number. Reeling. In shock. Completely and utterly stressed out. Pretty much panicking.

There is no telling if I will even be able to find a job in this market, at this point, where it's been almost a year. And if I DO, am I likely to make what I was making before? I'm guessing not. When I was working before, after we paid our childcare, we had only about $1600 a month left over. Some of it, obviously, was used to pay the rest of our expenses beyond OJ's check. Some went to debt repayment (and a fat lot of good that did). Most of it got blown on living beyond our means. A LOT got blown on food; groceries and eating out are two of our biggest expenses. Or WERE. We obviously can't do that anymore. (By the by, that "$1600 over" does NOT include going out to eat at ALL, and only allows us a $400 grocery budget each month. I was trying to live on a $300 budget the past few months and failing miserably, so we upped it a little. We may not have ANY money for groceries though, if I can't come up with that money, so it might be irrelevant! I just wanted to point out that we didn't BUDGET for extraneous living.) Assuming I even find a job, I'll be paying for childcare and working and STILL might not clear what we need each month just to pay the bills. That thought is incredibly depressing.

What happened in the past, the details of it, don't so much matter now. What matters is that we made irresponsible decisions, we counted on our future selves to clean up the mess we were steadily making, and our once-future, present selves are paying a heavy price right now. Oh, how we are paying. Or will be.

I'm not sure how to make up a $1600+ difference from home each month. I'm really, quite frankly, completely overwhelmed at the thought. I have a lot of ideas. I've gleaned some pearls of wisdom from friends, and of course OJ and I have been putting our heads together over it too. Despite how it may sound, that budget really doesn't have much by way of entertainment expenses in it. There's not much else we can cut. We downsized our cell phone plan as much as possible. We don't have a land line. We don't have cable TV. (We have an $8 a month Netflix account and we do streaming video and Hulu and ripped movies pretty much exclusively.) Internet is non-negotiable, until I'm living in a box, heh. (Not just for fun, but because most of the ways I CAN earn money from home are internet-related, as is any job hunting; it's kind of a necessity.) After that, it's mortgage, utilities, groceries, household and child items, pet expenses, vehicle expenses. We did throw in $100 a month each for OJ and I for 'mad money' - that covers ANYTHING extra we'd like to do. For ourselves, for the kids, as a family, with friends. And if I can't somehow make up the $1600 a month, it's the first thing that gets cut. We just threw it in as a wish list budget item, because it's awfully hard to live without SOME outlet, occasionally. The last big chunk of our monthly expenses, obviously, is debt repayment. We spend $850 a month on debt repayment. The only item I kept separate from that is our mortgage because even though it's debt, it's in the 'way long term debt pay off' category for me. So that's just credit cards and vehicle payments. We both have student loans that aren't even INCLUDED in that monthly payment number because we keep deferring them.

In other words, we're just a big financial mess here.

We've been talking about getting out of debt for a LONG while, and we even made headway a time or two in the past, but we've really dug ourselves into a fine old hole here now. We're screwed. I don't know what to do.

As I mentioned, I have ideas, and I have made a pledge to myself to not only work on putting these ideas into play every day (some of them, at least), but also to write about how the day went each night. To talk about what worked for me, what didn't, and share any gems I may uncover on the way.

My husband makes a decent amount of money. We're well above the poverty line. He has a full time job, we have insurance (thank goodness, especially with my diabetes). Thanks to our insurance, we can afford my monthly medications, doctor visits, and even therapist visits to help me manage my stress (MEGA overload here! heh). And yet we might not be able to afford things like groceries. We can't refinance our mortgage because it's upside-down since the market turned bad. With our debt load (total owed is around $28,000) we are extra screwed, but even if we didn't have that debt we'd still be about $800 a month short. Without many extraneous expenses. If we spent NOTHING on fun ever and just did our best to keep our house, pay the bills, and put food on the table, we'd be about $600 a month short (without debt).

So is this the plight of the... what do they call us? Am I middle class? I've always just assumed I was, but I really don't know what the parameters of middle class are. Let's assume I am. The middle-class poor? Is that what we are? Too poor too afford to live, too 'privileged' to get any aid from the government, forgotten and left to flounder? Maybe that sounds dramatic. I'm certainly not one to run to welfare the second the chips are down. But it's not even an option for me anyway. We're too 'rich' for welfare.

So what do you do, in a situation like this? What is the answer? Maybe I'll find it. Maybe some of you have it. The answer, my friends, is - no I'm not going to say 'blowin' in the wind'. The answer is DIFFERENT for all of us, because different people are willing to do different things, and even when the similarities are eerie, your situation is still going to be unique. Each of our financial crises are personal to us and our set of circumstances. But I'd love to hear what you have done to save yourself from financial ruin, if you've ever faced anything like this. I'd love to know what sorts of things you've done to make money from home. I will be sharing what *I* do to both shave money off our expenses AND make money from home. Maybe it will be enough. Maybe my experiences will help someone else out there, someone who is stressed and crying themselves to sleep just like me. Maybe I'll  make changes and clean everything up and serve as a good example to others who find themselves in the same boat.

And you know what they say... if I find that I'm not able to be a good example, perhaps my purpose was merely to serve as a horrible warning. DON'T LIVE BEYOND YOUR MEANS, KIDS. Eventually you really DO have to pay the piper. Save those pennies for a rainy day. All that stuff they told us back when we were kids that we ignored.

Being an adult sucks pretty bad sometimes.

image repost from Stardust and Peanut Butter

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is Chiro One A Scam?

Last Saturday, my mother and I spent the day in Tinley Park at a Rubber Stamp / Scrapbooking Expo that we enjoy going to each year. Held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center, it's not a huge show, but they usually have one or two nice things. This year, we were a bit surprised to see that it seemed to have been combined with a small Women's Expo. The first vendors we encountered upon arriving, instead of selling stamping and craft supplies, were offering bedsheets. Jewelry. Purses. Lotions. Coffee and tea (at THIRTY DOLLARS A BOX OMG, but that's a story for another time). And wellness services. Such as chiropractic care.

I have to admit, every time I see a vendor booth hawking medical care at a random expo that isn't, say, a health fair, I'm a little skeptical. Why do they need to try to draw people in? It just seems odd to me. At the same time, I'm also something of an Easy Mark because I am a believer. I believe chiro care works. I believe massages are good for your health. I'm curious. I've never actually BEEN to a chiropractor, but that's largely because I have so many things on my plate at any given time that it's overwhelming to add another. I've always wanted to go though, much the same as I'd love to be able to get a massage once a month; I have chronic pain, especially in my shoulders and arms, and it's gotten worse since I've been diagnosed with diabetes too. I also sometimes get nerve pains running down one of my thighs. I've long suspected I might do better with chiropractic care, but it just hasn't bothered me ENOUGH to take the time to make an appointment. Also, there's been a part of me that, for years, has told myself ALL these things will improve when I lose weight, and since I've been convinced I am going to drop the weight for years, I've put a lot of stuff off for "after I lose weight". But that's not helping me live well NOW, is it?

So when the lady from the Chiro One booth asked me if I'd like a free consultation, and the other lady offered to occupy my three year old daughter while I went through the questionnaire, I said sure. She had me fill out a "where do you have pain and what illnesses do you have" type form. While we were talking, my mom wandered over and started listening in. She's had chiropractic care before and felt that she received some benefit from it, and she has chronic pain too, and has been thinking about going to a chiropractor again. The lady went through a spiel about how chiropractic care could help relieve my pain and maybe even assist with my diabetes, and while I'm not sure that I entirely buy the belief that bad spinal alignment (or subluxations or whatever they call them) can CAUSE diseases like diabetes, or cancer, I've got just enough New Age Yo-Yo in me to believe that maybe having a perfectly aligned spine and uncompressed nerves might help with my overall picture of health. More accurately, I am of the "can't hurt, might help" mindset with regards to chiropractic care and diseases.

She offered us a full evaluation for $20, telling us we would get "over $400 worth of services". I'm not sure how much your average chiropractor charges for an initial exam and xrays, so I don't know if that statement is bunk or not. What I DO know is that I have a $25 copay for doctor visits, and that $20 is cheaper than $25, and since I'd been considering seeing a chiropractor anyway, it seemed like a good deal to me. My husband has also seen a chiropractor in the past, and benefited from it, so I called him to see if he was interested. He was, so the two of us (as well as my mother) booked initial evaluations for Monday afternoon, paid our fees, and continued to shop.

My mother and I went for our initial evaluations yesterday. We booked our appointments at the same time and went together (my husband was scheduled for two hours after us). The Chiro One office we went to is in Lansing, our hometown, in a strip mall on Torrence Avenue. When we walked in, our first impressions were that it was very BUSY and NOT very private. I've been to a lot of doctors in my time, and even if the waiting room is busy, it's usually got an air of comfort, of privacy, and there's generally a bit of a hush in the air, as if everyone is doing their very best to mind their own health business. Here, the place was very OPEN; just beyond the desk were a variety of strange chairs that leaned way back, and people were sitting in them, bent backwards, wearing weighted contraptions in their heads. There were several adjustment tables out in the open. There were three rows of chairs with strange wobbly seats upon them, and a number of people were sitting on them, rocking back and forth, staring straight ahead. Beyond this area were a couple of cubicle-type offices. A large whiteboard was behind the desk with our names, as well as several other names, listed, welcoming us as new patients and thanking the events / organizations that referred us. As first impressions go, it wasn't a great one.

The lady behind the front desk greeted us warmly and went over our initial evaluation health forms with us, chatting the whole time. She was very open and friendly and made us both feel a little more at ease. Shortly after she checked us in, another lady (a chiropractic assistant? I'm not sure what her role was) greeted us and gave us a little tour. She explained that all the treatments take place in an open setting, largely for educational purposes - if any one of the patients has a question or something, all the other people can benefit from it. The weird leaning chairs were to put curvature back into the neck. The funky butt-exercisers were to strengthen core muscles, because they believe that people who spend time strengthening their cores after their adjustments will hold those adjustments longer. That all sounded good to me, except for the part about HAVING the adjustments done publicly. I COULD do that, sure, but even though I'm not the world's most private person (come on, I share my life all over the internet in a million public blogs), I don't love the idea of having medical / health treatments done in public. Going to a chiropractor isn't quite the same as going to a gym, after all. And I wouldn't want acupuncture or anything else done in front of a bunch of lookie-loos either, not unless I'm getting paid or getting it for free, anyway.

She took scans of our feet (in the public area) and showed us how much pressure we're putting on the different parts of our feet when we're standing. Then she took us back into a private room and went over extensive questionnaires with us about pain we experience, past falls, car crashes, traumas, etc. Then she did some examinations of us as we stood and moved in various postures. After that, she left for a bit and the actual chiropractor came in. She was also very nice, warm and friendly; asked us some more questions, had us lay on a table and palpated our spines, had us stand and examined our postures. She recommended a variety of xrays for us (two more views for me than my mom got), and a different tech came in a few moments later and took us to another room to take our xrays.

We made appointments to come back on Wednesday to get the results of our exams. They asked us to bring our spouses with so they could 'fully understand' what we were going through. My spouse was coming for a checkup after so I just scheduled him to come back for his results at the same time. My mom snorted and noted that my dad could care less, and besides, who would watch our kids if he came too? We were told that we would all be coming back at the same time and that it would take 90 minutes to receive our results; the first 30 minutes or so would be the doctor talking to us about diseases that are caused by subluxations and how chiro care could benefit us, as well as showing us pictures of normal VS abnormal spines so we would better understand our results. Then we would receive private consultations where the doctor would go over our personal results, and would receive recommendations for treatments.

We asked several times about payments and whether or not insurance would cover the treatments. We were told it would, and that they would discuss what insurance would cover and what our portion would be as part of our results. They then all mentioned 'payment plans' several times. My mother and I both have copays for visits so we weren't exactly comfortable with this, but we're hoping it's a generic thing they tell everyone until they've verified insurance for each individual.

Afterwards, we discussed our feelings on the whole thing. Overall, we were impressed at how thorough they were, how friendly and open everyone was, and had a good feeling about the people. And, personally, I liked all their chair contraptions and such. I just like that kind of stuff. I asked my mom if her past chiropractor had all those things, and she said no, she just had adjustments done and that was it. I asked my husband later if he'd done that stuff at HIS chiro, and he said he'd done core-strengthening and therapy-type exercises. I know I'd like to try some of those things, and I'd like a chiropractor that offers such exercises. We believe we would benefit from chiropractic care.

The cons are, none of us are particularly crazy about the open-care concept. We all agree we COULD do it, and would be willing to give it a try if it doesn't end up being some sort of scam, but we don't really like it very much. As my mom pointed out, it feels kind of like a farm; they're a chain, and they're trying to be efficient and process the most people and make the most money. Plain and simple. That's how it comes across, I don't care WHAT they say about educating patients. It also feels very much to me like I'm being set up to be SOLD something. There's plenty of classic signs. I've been to timeshare presentations and vacation-property sales before, and it FEELS the same. They offer you something of benefit to you for free or for super-cheap. They get you to come see them once or twice. You spend time with them. You get INVESTED in the process. It's harder to say NO once they've used up so much of your time. There are scare tactics involved. (Bad spines cause DISEASES and you could DIE if you don't see a chiropractor!) They put you in a group setting, where you feel pressure NOT to say NO. It's all classic setup. I don't love it at all.

I googled "Chiro One" and the first thing Google tried to populate my search with was "Chiro One Scam". That didn't bode well. but the only article I actually SAW on them on the first page was this one from the Chicago Tribune,  talking about their ideolody. The 'scam' discussion starts in the comments, with a lot of people complaining about it. Sounds like there IS going to be a sales pitch after we get our results, and I'm curious to see what they ask us to pay. Knowing I have insurance and knowing what my insurance covers, I really wonder if they're going to ask us to commit to a certain number of visits or pay a certain amount up front. because if so, well, EFF THAT. There are also several people weighing in who have used them and have been very happy. Like anything in life, your mileage will vary.

Luckily we're broke, and my mom and husband are both MUCH better at saying NO than I am, so I'm not worried. I know I'm going to get chiropractic care because I really DO think I'll benefit from it. I'm just not sure if we'll end up going with Chiro One or not.

Has anyone else been to Chiro One? What was your experience?

Monday, July 5, 2010

BAB Project: Week 3 (But Really It's My First Post About It Here)

We all know I'm working on losing weight, that indeed I have been working on losing weight for years now. My youngest 'baby' is three and a half! And I was 'working on' losing weight even before I got pregnant with her! Heck, I can't remember a time in my adult life when I WASN'T working on losing weight, come to think of it.

I buckled down at the beginning of June and got really serious. Set new goals of five pounds a month down, thought out the things I really want (I have some life items I'd like to achieve that my weight is hampering now, not just material goods), wrote out a rewards chart and all. Started counting my calories FOR REAL, instead of just talking about how I KNOW I should count calories but I hate doing it. I even exercise sometimes, it's true.

Given that weight has been a ginormous struggle for me for more than a decade, I am definitely the type of person who needs all the motivation, encouragement, and help I can get. I use to blog daily about my weight and frustrations and accomplishments on this journey, because while I want to acknowledge my progress here (my weight, after all, is one of the Big Three roadblocks that I feel hold me back from achieving some of my dreams), I really don't think this blog is the place for me to be talking constantly about my thoughts on weight and food and exercise. I've been posting pretty much daily over there, and sometimes more than once a day. If you're on SparkPeople too, you can find me here.

It was around this same time that Natalie at Hope Springs Eternal started her Body After Baby Project and invited her readers to join in. I could, as I just mentioned, sure use the help and support of a community of people that are losing weight. And it's motivating to see other people losing weight. And sometimes, it's a bit of a challenge to keep up with everyone. This isn't a contest, but I tend to personally challenge myself a lot to get things accomplished. ;)

I haven't talked about the project here before week three because I'm a lazy blogger. But I did sign up on her first page, and I will endeavor to stick to the weekly check-ins and let you guys know how things are going with me from now on!

So it's week three and I have lost four pounds over the past week. It's sort of magical, I don't really know how I got FOUR POUNDS off exactly, but I will say that the entire month of June was a big struggle for me, HUGE struggle, I won't recount it all here because it's all over my sparkpeople blog if you really want to know, but I persevered through the frustrations and kept doing my best to count calories and get in some exercise when I could and make small changes and I feel like this is some of the payoff from all of the changes I've been making over the past month.

I hit my first five-pounds-down weight loss goal during the past week. I am rewarding myself with a pedicure (tomorrow!).
I have a goal to lose my SECOND five pounds by the end of this month.

My program is primarily counting calories. I have intentions to exercise too but don't always manage to get that in there. Calorie level is my number one goal right now. I am also diabetic and on insulin injections, and I struggle to make sure I have the right amount of insulin in my body without it being TOO much, because not only can I get low blood sugar, but also excess insulin makes you gain weight. I've been diabetic for two years now and trying to lose weight since my diagnosis has been SO MUCH HARDER than it ever was in the past (and it was NEVER easy). It's a challenge, and I will keep fighting!

Current daily calorie level: Last week (and month) it was 1700 calories. I am adjusting that slightly because I'm a tad off my target for achieving my goal this month. So this week it will be 1650 (if I exercise, I allow myself to add half the calories I burned that day to my calorie total for the day)

Exercise: Mostly not scheduled; I have intentions to get out and take walks with my kids but haven't managed to pull that off yet. I did help a friend move on Saturday, and yesterday we walked to our town fireworks show (and then home after, obviously). Tonight I have my local TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meeting, and if it doesn't rain I will walk there too.

Weight changes: Since last Monday, I have lost four pounds on my home scale. I am down 4.5 pounds total from my all-time highest weight.


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