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Monday, January 30, 2012

Your Inspired Christmas Gift Ideas Worked Wonderfully!

After asking for advice from fellow bloggers for Christmas present ideas this past October, one of the things I decided to do was create one 20 x 20 inch canvas portraits of each daughter and add a poem or thought onto each one specific to each daughter. So many internet friends mentioned how some of the best gifts they received were the handmade treasures that their Dad actually took the time to create.
I decided that one of my attributes was my knack for creativity and I decided to use family photos to make each daughter some both memorable and usable.  I started with a self portrait photo of each girl and added either an authentic poem by Daddy or Words of Wisdom that I felt was pertinent to the specific child. 

I was able to get six 20x20 unstretched canvas photos (without frames) for $45 from ArtsCow thanks to a coupon code.  It took a few weeks to arrive but it was SO worth it.  I took them to the local Hobby Lobby and had them framed. Now that I've seen how canvas is matted and framed, I'm certain I could do it myself.  The employee was kind enough to let me watch her do several and showed me a few tricks of the trade.
Our blank-walled main hallway is now adorned with six LARGE portraits of our beautiful daughters.  Every night, when they go to bed, they will pass by a beautiful portrait of themselves adorned with a personal thought written specifically for them.

Next, I couldn't resist some fun little notepads.  I chose a group photo of the girls all dressed up and faded it out enough so that the notepads could be used, well, as notepads.  The title at the bottom of the notepad says it all: "Divas - Notepad."  The girls loved them and Wifey showed them off at a dinner party which made me all the more proud.  You have to understand, we've had more Christmas gift let-downs than we care to remember.  You know, where you pick out a gift that you think will be super awesome only to see the child toss it aside them second after the wrapping paper comes off?  We've found the trick to giving gifts that are admired: make them personal, make them yourself and take the time to make them special.

Next I decorated xtra-large cosmetic bags.  I made three for the little girls to hold their pens, pencils, crayons and stuff.  Then I made three for the big girls to hold makeup or whatever.  They looked very nice and for $18.96 for six xtra-large zippered bags (again, coupon codes at ArtsCow) I couldn't go wrong.

All together I spent an estimated 20 hours designing and redesigning these items.  It is much more fulfilling than going to a big box store and buying garbage that will get used a few times and discarded.  If you are like me and not so good at making things COMPLETELY  from scratch (although I AM trying to learn), I recommend using a service like these that provide an art design program that allows you to add text, shapes, borders, etc to your favorite photos.

If you sign up (for free, of course) use my custom referral link and you will get "1200 free prints credits & 3 8"x8" photo books & other great photo gifts credits" and I'll get some rewards too. Yay! Free stuff!

~OJD

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What if 21 Million Americans Died in 2012?

Squeezing in my daily research into what is going on in the world around me, I found a terrific little series of videos (interviews) on Russell Means and was completely amazed by him.

If you have the time or if you would like a better understanding of where America is heading RIGHT NOW, you should take the time and watch these three little videos.  They are roughly 15 minutes each.

Russell Means: American Apathy (Part 1):



Russell Means: American Apathy (Part 2):



Russell Means: American Apathy (Part 3):



During these interviews, Alex spoke some words that really stuck out in my head. I'll paraphrase him: It has now been researched and determined that seven million Americans died from starvation or complications related to starvation during, or as a result of, The Great Depression. For perspective, 90% of the population in America during that era was self sufficient as opposed to 10% of our population being self sufficient now.

I believe there were around 100 million people in America during the early 1930's. Mathmatically, that means 7% of the population died during the Depression. There are 300 million people in America today. If the looming "Greatest Depression" forecast to be heading our way this year follows the same trajectory, we're looking at losing 21 million neighbors.

I'm not near as prepared as I need to be. Are you?

P.S., As any good free thinker would do, I researched the comments (here and here). Neither are scientific, peer reviewed journals but the ideas being proposed are not beyond believable.

But I PAID That Debt OFF Already! *^&$%#&&!@

I took the advice of people I trust and spent a good part of 2010 working double hours in order to pay off debt. I paid off nearly $40,000 in a little over a year. I rarely got to hang out with my beloved family but in the long run, this act benefited all of us.

I'll share with you what I did wrong in hopes to help you avoid similar problems. You see, the creditors are beginning to call again...one full year later. I get the joy now of trying to figure out if the debt they are calling about is legitimate or is it a debt I paid off and some smarmy collector sold the debt to make more money, conveniently forgetting to mention it had been paid in full to the new collector. Let's face it, collectors aren't known for scruples.

Mistake #1- I use an online money management program to keep track of all my financial transactions. Much like the old Quicken, the program neatly organizes transactions into chosen categories which makes quick work of very helpful trending charts. Using this software isn't the mistake, after all...it is free.

I used Mint.com and overall, after three years of using them, have only a few complaints. It is a free service so I can't complain much but...when you lose financial data...well, it sucks. (Side note: always have a backup of your financial data.)

Through one small mouse click of a button, I accidentally wiped out all my data for about one solid year. I was no longer using a local credit union and decided it was time to delete their account from my Mint program. Little did I know that by deleting the credit union as an "account", it would also delete every transaction associated with that account. Ouch.

Therein lies my main complaint with Mint AND the main issue I'm having in trying to prove I have already paid these debts. With no backup data from Mint, I'm left with browsing each bank's website and looking for payments.

Mistake #2- I didn't know until this point in the prove-your-debt game that banks now only keep the last 1-2 years worth of data online. If you want to see your transactions from more than two years ago, you can't do it from the comfort of your own home. I'm guessing I'll have to call the bank and either sit down with them at a desk terminal OR order up some annual paperwork package which they'll no doubt charge me for.

I supposed there might still be people out there who haven't opted for electronic everything. If you still get monthly bank statements in the mail then you would get the joy of digging it all out and sifting through it. I attempted to cut down on paper clutter and opted for electronic billing many years ago. Either way, I feel like I'm having to prove my innocence all over again with these collectors.

Mistake #3- Once credit cards were paid off, I happily cut them into little tiny pieces and discarded them.  I won't describe the dancing part.  What I should have done was use a black sharpie pen to mark the date paid off on the card, who i paid it to, etc and filed the card.  With the debt being sold mutliple times, or if you have mulitiple cards with the same credit card company, it becomes even more difficult to figure out what the original debt actually is from when you are talking to the collector. Save your paid off debts in a file with extensive notes.

Mistake #4- ignore the little debts. Yup, I did it. Slap me. I am now the proud owner of one little credit DING on my credit report from my local phone company because I didn't pay $53 in past fees.  Oh they called me alright.  I told them it was a three year old debt, I have no proof I owe it, and I AIN'T PAYING IT. Of course, they didn't argue on the phone. They don't really care.  I bet it took that collector all of five minutes to sling that rediculous little debt ding on my credit report.  Now I'm tarnished with a negative mark for what...five years? My point? Pay the little debts, even if you might not agree.  $53 is NOT worth a credit ding.

So, for the rest of this week, I'll be dealing with a photo radar ticket from three years ago that just raised its ugly head yesterday.  I also have a medical bill that popped up out of nowhere for the birth of my 5th daughter...born in 2008.  I'm hoping that at some point, wayyyy in the distant future, I won't have to deal with creditors anymore.  That is possible...right?

~OJD

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There's Just Not Enough Hours in the Day.

Believe it or not, just about every day I think to myself "Self, this [insert current event] would make a good blog entry." I ponder it for a few seconds and think of what pictures to use. Half the time I even have the wherewithal (<==I had to spell check that one) to whip out my camera and take some snap shots of the moment.  Then life happens.

Next thing I know, another 24 hours has gone by and I didn't make the time to sit down and blog my thoughts.  I have a laundry list of things to gab about: my new garden is planted (sewn?), we're in the beginning stages of looking for property and our next house, my oldest girls are begging me to help them set up an Etsy page to help them sell their handmade goodies, and on...and on.

I know what part of the issue is.  I blog best when I can hear myself think.  That is a VERY rare occurrence in a home filled with six girls.  Speaking of sanity, I added a locking door knob to my newly installed arched doorway in a feeble attempt to hold my ground on what little privacy there is left in my house.  I'm like a man without a country in there with all that estrogen overflowing. But I digress...

I found more time to write my thoughts down at work (on my breaks, of course) than I do at home.  Now that my schedule is somewhat reduced, I am spending more time at home.  That was the end goal to begin with...you know, work less...be home with the family more.  I guess I just wasn't quite ready for the transition.  Maybe the key lies in blogging in the early mornings before all the sleepy eyed monsters get up for school?

So, I'll attempt to post pictures of my budding peas, beats, cauliflower and artichokes soon.  I'm really looking forward to this gardening season because now that I've experimented in the garden for a few seasons, I know what grows and what grows REALLY well.  So if all goes as planned, I should have a TON of veggies in a few months.

Ooops, Mr Clock says my shift is almost over.  Gotta run...

~OJD

Friday, January 13, 2012

"We invented civilization...and we'll take it back"

One of our favorite topics around here is survivalism and preparedness.  I really enjoyed this article regarding the Greeks and how they are dealing with their economy imploding by returning to the countryside and the ways of yesterday.

All credit goes to SurvivalBlog for linking it but if you missed it, here it is: "With Work Scarce in Athens, Greeks Go Back to the Land"

I love how one man sums up his take on the situation: “We invented civilization, and we’ll take it back,” Mr. Kaloupis said over a lunch of stewed lamb that he raised himself. If the Greek economy really plummets beyond repair, “I will take the rock in my hand and squeeze it, and from the water that comes out of it, I’ll make pilaf to feed my daughter. We’ll manage.”  His words invoke a terrific peace of mind attitude.

The article's author, Rachel Donadio, has a terrific writing style.  I enjoyed it so much that I clicked on her bio.  Very impressive.  Shows how far a good education can take you.  Her studies in Italian and French from Middlebury College (Vermont) and a Yale degree (with honors) took her all the way to Rome.  My Psychology degree from Arizona State landed me a job at...Blockbuster Video.  Thank goodness for technical college.

~OJD

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive...You Big Dummy.

Sure enough. I whined about losing hours at work and the next day I was called in to work early. Not because I whined, I'm sure. Nope, it was most likely because the universe saw that I waited too long to go to bed.

Normally I get off of work around 7am. Run the kids to school to get some "chat time" and back home for some sleep. Only yesterday, for some dumb reason...I went to the gym with Wifey. Then to Walmart for milk. Toddlers need milk for their sippy cups, ya know?

Then we caught this funny movie starring Jenny McCarthy and had to finish watching it. I think that's about when I got the call that an opportunity had arisen at work (someone called off sick) and I could go in 2 1/2 hours early. I think.  It's all kinda blurry now.  Well, of course I couldn't say no. Not with all that whining I blogged yesterday.

Wifey left around 2pm to go pick the kids up from school and I laid my head down wondering what I had done. Did I mention that our recently adopted Cocker Spaniel barks at the front door when the family leaves the house? Appearantly he didn't know I was in the bedroom and began howling shortly after Wifey left. This prompted a little chat between he and I...keeping me awake a little longer.  Sometimes I speak English to him.  Sometimes I just bark at him.  Is that weird?

Then a lovely telemarketer called on my cell phone, which I mistakenly left on FULL volume. Oh yes, I'd be oh so interested in your product...CLICK! Grrr.

I think I drifted off for a bit at this point only to awaken to the dog howling again. This time it was because he could see my girls walking up the sidewalk to enter the house. That meant it was 4pm and time for me to get up. Oh lawd!  What was that...like 40 minutes of sleep?

So. Here I sit at the end of my 14 1/2 hour shift all groggy and irritated. Of course, I smile as I type this...thinking about how silly it is to get all worked up over little things. Like 84 year patients that come to an EMERGENCY room at 4am for diarrhea. Or ER doctors that order multiple exams on EACH patient but careful not to order them at the SAME time. This way, I get to go fetch the patient two, three or even four times and bring them back to my department for xrays or ct scans.

But hey...I got some work hours in, right? Me and my big, whiny mouth.

~OJD

Hey, a quick "shout out" to "Follower" #54: Wendy. Thanks for joining the blog and welcome to my insanity!  ;-)

My Blog Earnings

After SEVERAL attempts to remember my Google Adsense login, I finally figured it out. All I can say is..its a good thing I like to write as a HOBBY.  My Adsense account, from January 2011 to December 2011 shows a profit of $30.05.

Woo hoo!  Subtract out the last three month hiatus I took to learn a new skill at work, that means in nine months I earned (or gained by pity) $3.34 per month!

Wifey used to joke with me that my blogging could afford us a night out to dinner...at Del Taco (39 cent tacos).

But it is fun and I enjoy it. Maybe by December 2012, you know, if the world is still around, we can upgrade to dinner at IHOP!

~OJD

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Recession is Knocking at My Door.

I've had a nice hiatus from blogging the last three months. I focused my time, as discussed prior to my departure, that I'd be learning some new skill sets at work. I've nearly completed what I set out to do and will be back to posting regularly here on OJD.

Aside from rare MRI protocols, I'm comfortable that I've learned 95% of the MRI exams that can be ordered out there.  As in most Radiology departments, over 50% of the exams done are the same handful of tests.  Like in X-ray, most of what we do are simple chest x-rays. In CT, common tests are brains, chests, and abdomen/pelvis studies. Ultrasound is a little more diverse: abdomen, pelvic, OB, extremities.  MRI seems, at least at my facility, to focus on shoulders, hips, knees, brains and spine work.

All-in-all, I'm hoping that by knowing four modalities keeps my job a little more secure as the noose seems to be tightening lately.

I've been keenly aware of the economic situtation befalling our country for the last few years.  I've stayed ahead of the curve by working two jobs and a lot of overtime.  Well, starting this week my employer has declared an end to all overtime.  Oh, we've heard this before but this time it appears sincere.  This will be the first paycheck I can recall where I am ten hours short of a full 80 hours (paid biweekly).

In the hospital sector of medicine, I think most of us work 12 hour shifts.  If you work three 12's, as is the norm, you end up with 36 hours for the week.  So for the two week pay period, you end up with 72 hours.  However, during the three years I've been with this company (since the doors first opened), I've consistently covered extra shifts due to short staffing, vacation coverage, etc.  As I've complained in past entries, in 2010 I worked six 12 hour shifts each week for ten months straight. Needing overtime was NOT an issue.

Seeing the ecomics unfolding, thanks to websites like Infowars.com, ZeroHedge.com, and Gerald Celente's TrendsResearch.com among others, I paid off 90% of my family's debt with the overtime wages.  However, I guess I just didn't think the crunch was going to reach me.  I mean, it hadn't yet by December 2011 so, why would it in 2012.  Now I know.

The business world, or maybe just the medical world, adjusts (perhaps "reacts" is a better word) to current economic situations after-the-fact.  That is to say, they gather their data from the previous quarter THEN decide what to do.  So now, in January 2012, the muckity-mucks are seeing how bad the data from Q4 of 2011 was and FINALLY realizing "hey, maybe we should cut back a little."

Bottom line is: employee hours are getting cut now.  My mom called me the other day somewhat worried.  Her husband is an X-ray Tech across town from me and just had his hours reduced also.  He works five days a week, eight hour days. They reduced him one hour per day. Now he works five 7 hour shifts per week. This not only cuts his income but drops him to below the level set by the hospital which requires them to pay his student loans.  During the hiring process, the hospital offered to pay student loans to new hires as an incentive to join up. As long as you worked 37 or more hours each week, the hospital paid your outstanding student loans.

So now, he not only LOSES income but also has to PAY a bill that he hasn't paid in seven years. He has no second job like I do.  To make up for my loss at my primary job, I will have to pick up more hours at my secondary job.  I've already sent out a couple of text messages to workers at those hospitals offering to pick up extra hours.  No replies yet.

So, here it is.  The recession is finally at my door and knocking quite loudly.  I have a busted washing machine leaking a little water with each load but aside from that, I'm still afloat.  I planted my garden this past Saturday hoping to benefit from growing my own food in the coming year.  The gardening experiments we've done over the past two years have given me a good idea of what grows well at my house.  I've planted mostly what I know will flourish such as squash, peas, cucumbers and lettuce.  I also kept the experiment alive by planting some beets, artichoke and cauliflower.  My strawberries are still thriving from last season.

Hope all my friends out there in the bloggerdom are doing okay.  Now that my hours are forcibly reduced, I should actually have time to read up on some of your wonderful posts! A silver lining in every rain cloud, right?

~OJD