About this Site

Leslie Beslie is a personal blog of me, Leslie. I share articles and thoughts on where I live and things I like. This includes NYC, books, finances, running, music, cats, and drawing.

Other Projects: French Toast Brigade | Life & Spending 2016 Weekly Planner | College Football Daybreak Podcast

What is Metlife’s Total Control Account (TCA)?

Metlife is an insurance company that also deals with life insurance policies. For beneficiaries, they offer a Total Control Account (TCA). This is a draft account to hold your policy pay out for you “while you go through this difficult time.”

To be clear, the Metlife TCA is not a bank account; it is not a checking account; it is not a savings account. It is not FDIC-insured; it may or may not offer a competitive savings rate; your funds are not as easily accessible as Metlife would like you to believe. Metlife is earning more on the interest of your money than you are.

Money is complicated because a lot of times it is tied to emotions. Death is also complicated and emotional. Unfortunately, the two often meet at a time in our lives when the last thing we want to think about is money. When a loved one dies, there are suddenly a lot of questions that you are expected to answer on the spot. These are things that we have done zero research on. And due to natural circumstances, there isn’t time to shop around. Also, when a loved one dies, your brain turns to mush and stops working. When it comes to these questions, you say a lot of, “I don’t care” and “What do you think?” because you can’t think about anything else other than missing this person who is now gone forever. Nothing will bring this person back so why bother thinking about it. Unfortunately, people and businesses know they can take advantage of this.

Beneficiary Claims Payouts: Lump Sum vs Metlife’s TCA

When my father died in 2014, all he left was a savings account with a small amount of money in it. Once the death certificate was processed, the bank mailed me check. Easy peasy. When my mother died in 2015, she left a life insurance policy where I was one of the beneficiaries. I didn’t realize this until I received a letter in the mail from Metlife about six months after her death. The letter included a beneficiary claims form that had to be completed. It was fairly straightforward and mainly asked identification questions. I did not need to attach a copy of the death certificate. I was not aware of this policy or that I would be a beneficiary, so all of this was a surprise. Also, receiving this six-months after the death brought up a lot of emotions again. So be prepared for that.

On the form, they ask how you would like to receive the policy benefits. Your options are: 1) Lump sum, or 2) Total Control Account (TCA).

Although a lump sum may sound overwhelming, beneficiary payouts aren’t (usually) taxed, so that is one less financial aspect to have to worry about.

The payout amount was not included on the form and I doubted they would tell me over the phone. With my two options, I decided to see what a Total Control Account is just in case it is the better option. From the get go I was planning on going with Lump Sum.

It was difficult to find any non-biased information on the Metlife Total Control Account, which is why I wanted to write about it. There are criticisms of it. In 2010, the company was taken to court because the account was then named Total Control Money Market Account. They were sued over the misleading “Money Market” name, where people were led to believe that it was a bank account when it’s not. The only positive information I could find was from Metlife itself.

I am being fairly objective here but, honestly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep large sums of money in a non-FDIC insured bank account.

How the Metlife Total Control Account Works

Here’s a breakdown of the account. It is a draft account. I want to make it clear that this is not a saving account and not a checking account. To withdrawal funds, you are given a draft book from Metlife. They call it a checkbook, and call the papers checks, but it is actually a draft book and you are making drafts. You cannot deposit any money into the account, only withdrawal. In order to withdrawal your money, you have to write a draft to yourself then go to a bank (or check cashing facility) and cash it. However, there is a minimum withdrawal of $250.

These are not checks. You can’t write one to the grocery store, or the funeral home. You can only withdrawal your money when you have access to a place that can cash checks. This may require some planning and should never be used as an emergency fund.

On the plus side, you can write a draft to yourself for the full amount of your account, which will automatically close the account. Or you can save yourself all this headache and just take the Lump Sum.

What about interest rates? The Metlife TCA is insured by Metlife but not by the FDIC, as is the case with most bank accounts. According to Metlife, their interest rates are “competitive”. They state that some of their Metlife TCA accounts are earning 3% interest, though it is more likely you will earn less than one percent.

Of course Metlife earns interest on your money, too. Since they are the ones holding it. Seven years ago, Metlife made $10 Million in investment earnings on these accounts.

The Metlife TCA Is Not A Bank Account

My main caveat with the Metlife TCA is it feels deceiving. Metlife’s literature claims that they are doing you a favor by offering you this account. They take the decisions off your hands during this emotional time so you have one less thing to worry about. You can keep your money in their Metlife TCA and worry about it later. Though, honestly, I’m not sure how that’s any easier than receiving the lump sum and immediately depositing it into your bank account to worry about it later.

Another issue with the account is, despite the catchy name, you really don’t have any control over your money. It is difficult to access and you aren’t choosing the best place for your money. By receiving the lump sum instead, you can choose to put it in a high interest savings account, a CD, or another type of investment. Again, you don’t have to do that right this second. This is an emotional decision. It is an emotional time. But if you have these benefits in one of your bank accounts, rather than a draft account, you have more options open to you down the road.

Remember, Metlife is an insurance company, not a bank.

If you are dealing with this currently, I am sorry you are going through this. Take your time with the decisions you can and don’t rush into anything. If you are not dealing with this right now, inevitably, you will. Learning about these issues will help you make smarter decisions in the unfortunate time that you will have to.


The Problem with Being Perfect 365

perfect 365 is not possible

(Another title for this post is “Everything is Terrible”) (Also, the girl above is photoshopped on both sides!)

This post will probably be a soapbox of old news. This is because I’m a little bit too old for selfies. I partook in the activity when digital cameras first came out. I was in college and it was very novel. But by the time smart phones really started to take over, I outgrew the insecurity and self-absorption needed to take selfies all the time.

I do remember, back with our digital cameras, we would always ask our friends to “touch up” the photos before posting them on Facebook. Or to not post the one where I’m making a goofy face. The touch-up, would require someone to have photoshop and know enough to clone out red marks or fix red eye. That was it though.

Now, on the rare occasions I do take a selfie, I just post the thing. Everyone knows I have some red spots. Big deal. I hadn’t even thought of a way to edit my photos like that on a smart phone. Sure, I would crop and frame. But thinking about smoothing my face or erasing “fat”, just never really occurred to me.

Well there certainly is a market for it! A few months ago, I was browsing around Instagram clicking various hashtags. I came across a person who was on a “journey” (weightloss, financial, travel, etc). This person posted a selfie stating how happy they are with themselves compared to some time in the past. The first comment was, “You are glowing!” And she was. Her face was bright, polished, smooth, red cheeks, and she had a whole “glow” about her. Like, unnaturally.

That was my first forray into Makeover Apps. Specifically, Perfect 365.


makeover with perfect 365

The tagline for Perfect 365 (and all the other makeover software out there) is “The easiest way to make you look great.”

This makes me so sad. Because no matter what I do with this software, I never look great. I only look sub-human. Pretty much like a cyborg.

Going through the app is eye opening and depressing. The first thing it does is, supposedly, cover up blemishes. Funny, this is the only thing it keeps fairly natural as you can still see mine on the right-hand side of the photo.

Now on to the bigger stuff; under eye darkness. We have to remove that completely. Because, humans get circles under their eyes, and we don’t want to look human. Nope. Get rid of those. Because, for some reason, under eye circles are not “great” and are not “attractive” and make me “less than”. Gone!

Well, if we’re going to bad-photoshop our dark circles away, we might as well bad-photoshop our entire skin. Pores are for suckers. We don’t need them. Lines? Nope, see ya. Sure, humans have pores and lines. But who wants to look like a human? Not me! I want to look “great”!

Okay, we’ve done three things and already we look like a creepy porcelain doll. Perfect. 365.

But why stop there! To keep looking “great” I need to contour. Clearly my face is too fat because I still look like a human. Silly humans with your fat faces. I can’t even stand to look at that photo. Gross. “Great” people don’t have fat faces.

So we’ll slim down the face, ah much better. Oh no! Our cheeks are droopy now. Okay, let’s lift them right up. There we go. “Great”! Perfect. 365.

You’re bad at make-up? Because you’re a human right. No worries, this app has you covered. We can just bad-photoshop all types of make-up on you.

Eye liner and shadow and fake lashes and cat eyes and lip stick and now you look “great”. (Actually, these look so bad that people don’t even try to pawn them off as real on Instagram. Surprisingly).

So, this photo is my attempt at a “still kind of human looking” makeover with the app. The smoothing alone really comes out looking creepy as fuck. Oh I mean “great”.


I have no idea what this says about our society. It’s really fucking depressing. What’s the point of posting a picture of yourself, if you need to render yourself into a completely different person? People love you because you’re human. We like looking at humans. Not creepy dolls. Not cyborgs. And not fakes.

The more rampant this is, the more impressionable people will believe this really does look “great”. And that there is something wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with spots under your eyes. There is nothing wrong with blemishes. There is nothing wrong with having pores.

Trust me. You already are perfect. 365.


What Are Your Hopes and Fears?

The professor I worked for in college would often ask me, “what are your hopes and fears?” It was something one of his college professors would often ask him.

You are to answer in the form of: I hope ______ but fear _____.

The idea is to identify a goal and why you’re afraid of it. Openly stating this hurdle helps you to better address it. You become aware of your fears and can plan ahead to overcome them. Putting your fears out there give you direction so you can make a plan of how to avoid your fear from happening.


Some Examples

  • I hope to get a new job but fear that I am asking for too much money.
  • I hope to adopt a cat but fear the responsibility.
  • I hope this person feels the same way but fear I scared them off.
  • I hope this project will end on schedule but fear communication complications.
  • I hope to full-time freelance but fear I won’t make enough money.

I Hope to do well But Fear that I won’t

Tomorrow I am running the Brooklyn Half for the third time. I’m not necessarily nervous but I do have some concerns. Thinking of these off the top of my head I can list: blisters, not stretching enough, eating too much/not enough, wearing the wrong clothes, not getting enough sleep, pacing myself.

Yet, if I were to list my hopes and fears about the race, it’d be this:
I hope to run the best to my physical ability but fear not being emotionally together enough to maintain focus.

I’m not actually afraid of blisters or not stretching. I already know how to deal with them and have a plan. When I really break it down, I’m afraid of being able to mentally focus on staying positive during the run. I know from experience that thinking negatively while running kills all my momentum. I can’t process emotions while running. If I get too upset during a run, I just give up and start walking. I can only focus my energies on physical efforts or emotional ones; but not both and definitely not at the same time. Since I’ve been feeling off and on down lately, I’m worried my brain may get the better of me tomorrow.

Now that I’ve identified my goal and fear, I can come up with a plan. I don’t need to spend time laying out my clothes and going to bed early. I mean, I will do those things. But more importantly, I will focus on relaxing and clearing my thoughts. I may try some meditative exercises. Writing down things that are stressing me out then telling myself to address them after the race. Coming up with several positive mantras that I can repeat while running. I don’t want to have to come up with them on the fly. Two that I’ve used in the past are: One mile at a time and Run your own race.


Being able to identify your fears from the beginning can help you to better plan for them. If you have a plan, then you don’t need to feel discouraged.


Household Items To Help You Be An Adult


Cleaning is an assumed skill. But some people are never really taught the best way to clean. College may be our first foray into picking up after ourselves. And the little money we have as college students is definitely not going to be spent on high-quality cleaning supplies. Most cleaning items I bought were either from the drugstore or some disposable product that the supermarket coupon machine spit out at me. I thought dishwashing was supposed to make your hands smelly. I thought all floor cleaning had to be done with disposable maxi-pads.

Aside from cleaning, there are some general around-the-house items that I thought were only available in low-quality. I can’t say it’s fun to “treat” myself to a nice shower curtain. But it does help me feel like more of an adult. And less like I’m living in an oversized dorm room. Here are some household items that have improved my quality of life when it comes to much-hated chores.


Dishwashing Gloves

Growing up, I always did all the chores. There was a (gross) running joke my stepfather would make in the house, “why should I buy a dishwasher, I have one right here hahahaha” referring to me of course. Washing the dishes was always my most hated chore. I didn’t like it as a teen. And I still don’t like it now. Living alone means no one else will wash the dishes for me. If I don’t do them, they don’t get done. So, I needed to figure out ways to make washing the dishes suck less. That’s when I started using rubber dishwashing gloves. Yes, the traditional yellow ones that are like a housewife in the 50’s. They work great.

Wearing the gloves means:

  1. I can use super hot water which is better for cleaning/hygiene
  2. I can pick-up gross sink stuff without actually touching it
  3. My hands are dry and not smelly when I’m done

 

A good quality pair lasts quite a while so it’s not a big cost issue either.


Better Kitchen Sponges

Another reason to hate washing dishes was the gross sponge that barely lasted a week. Once I actually started buying them on my own, I realized just how quickly I’d go through them. They would fall apart. Or get really smelly. Or get food stuck to them. Of course I was just buying the cheap kind at the drugstore. Fortunately, while browsing Amazon one night, I found some of the best kitchen sponges around: JetzScrubz. It seems silly to be excited over a sponge, but these are great. I bought a pack of three a year ago and have only thrown out one of them.

They will start to get smelly and sometimes too much food gets stuck to it. But they’re durable enough to handle being boiled in water with vinegar or baking soda. I’ve done this several times and they haven’t fallen apart. The reason why they are so effective is because the scouring side of the sponge is also flexible. Where as the cheaper sponges start firm then quickly disintegrate into bits and pieces. The flexibility of the JetzScrubz lets you easily wash the insides of glasses and other difficult-type glass-ware. Obviously I have to do dishes by hand because nyc.

The sponge + soap-in-the-handle contraption gets mentioned a lot but that is still a cheap sponge. Don’t bother with that. Get these awesome sponges and use quality dishsoap too (you’ll use a lot less).


Fabric Shower Curtain Liners

Growing up, we always had the cheap plastic/vinyl shower curtain liners. These were smelly when you took them out of the bag. Then quickly became caked with mildew and even smellier. I was once recommended to wash the liner in the washing machine – that was a bad idea. Instead I’d just throw away several a year. It didn’t seem to matter because they were so cheap. But they were also kind of gross.

Now I only use fabric shower curtain liners. These do have a coating for water-resistance but are not smelly-plastic. They also hang nicer in the shower and are easier to handle in general. No billowing and no suctioning like an octopus. This is important because I have a bathtub converted into a shower. (Again, because nyc). So I have to use two shower curtain liners to wrap around both ends of the tub. The fabric liners fit around the curves perfectly and don’t try to eat me while I’m showering.

They still can get mildew on them but actually wash quite well in the machine. Their upfront cost is a little bit more than the cheap ones but these last a lot longer. Plus they look nicer. I’m at a point in my life where I can spend an extra $5 to get something that looks nice.


Mop & Bucket

I was recently talking to some friends about disposable mops, like, Swiffers. Many of these products were introduced when I was in college. Perfect for my first foray into really cleaning. The commercials made mopping the floor seem like such a struggle. You’ll see the person picking up a bucket with water sloshing all over the floor. And leaving puddles everywhere with a mop. Then in comes a mom with her maxi-pad on a stick breezily cleaning the floor while singing to the birds.

Well, those disposable cleaning products cost a fortune. And they’re also not quite as easy as you’d think. On the other hand, a mop and a bucket are one-time costs and affordable at that. I prefer the sponge mops to the janitor ones. I bought a simple cleaning bucket with a handle. I fill it half-way, this takes maybe one minute, and have yet to spill it. It’s still small enough to fit in the closet. The entire process of mopping takes less than half-an-hour.

Mopping is still fairly new to me because I didn’t have hardwood floors before moving here. With the cats plus my own hair, there is a large amount of fur, hair, and dander that is just impossible to sweep up. Mopping works well. Doesn’t take too long. And the floors feel really great after.


Metal Litterbox Scoop

If you have cats, you probably have a plastic litterbox scooper. While on this cleaning item shopping binge, I noticed good reviews for a metal scooper. I had never thought about it before. I bought it on a whim and have been pleased with it. I won’t go back to plastic. It feels sturdier when scooping. I’m not sure what that says about my cat’s waste but there it is. It doesn’t bend or anything when trying to dig through the box. It’s a lot easier to clean and I’m less worried about bacteria getting into the plastic then everywhere else.

Like the sponges, I do boil the metal scoop. Sometimes I don’t want to wash it by hand (even with the gloves!) and I know boiling it will sanitize it for the most part. This doesn’t take long and is usually something I do on a random Saturday. The less plastic in my life the better (except for saran wrap of course) so I really like using the metal replacement.


Bars of Soap

I’m not sure exactly when everyone transitioned to liquid soap in their home. It’s expensive (yes even the refillable kind). The bottom gets all sticky on your sink. The spout gets clogged and soap will launch out getting all over you except not on your hands. Or you water it down and then you have a handful of gross water that is not doing any cleaning. I hated it. But I used it for a long time because I thought you had to.

My transition to soap bars started in the shower. A long time ago I stopped using shower gel + loofahs. I don’t even remember why other than it’s really expensive. I also stopped using liquid shampoo around that time and now only use a bar. This is a huge cost savings. But it also feels more… formal. And means less bottles lining the bathtub. And less plastic being used. It still took me a while to get around to changing the hand soap. I was afraid guests would balk at it. But no one has. If they hate it, no one tells me.

The trick is to use nice bars of soap. I only buy fragrance-free of anything. But you can still find nice non-smelly bars of soap for cheap. I use a softer feeling one for the sink. Then a more cleaning one for showering. The other trick is to have a quality soap dish. This is a one-time cost and fairly cheap. Just be sure to buy the kind that lets the water drain away from the soap. Otherwise it will turn into a goopy mess.


I’m leaving out diy cleaning ingredients like baking soda and vinegar because I don’t really consider that a part of high-quality adult living. But I do swear by them as cleaners don’t use much else.

What household items, cleaning supplies, or general habits do you have that make you feel more adult-like?


I’m Functioning So I Must Not Be Depressed

i feel angry when i get stuck

I’ve been pretty down for most of this year. I have tried so many different ways to be happy. Doing things. Spending time with people. But it’s not making me happy. It feels like, nothing is enough. I say I want to do Thing. I do it. But it’s not enough. I’m still sad after. I’m looking for a Thing or a Person or a Place where I just feel really good.

A few years ago I was severely depressed. I was crying every single day. I rarely showered, or slept. I couldn’t focus at work and just called in sick often. I wasn’t functioning. Even though I was seeing a therapist, it took me a while to realize this was classic Depression. I worked with her through it. I also started taking Welbutrin to take the edge off. Eventually the crying slowed down and things started to improve.

When that happened, I didn’t really talk about it with anyone. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t ask for help. I only talked about it after the fact. I’m beginning to feel some of those really Depressed feelings again and this time I want to talk about it now, not after.

The past few months I’ve asked myself if I’m depressed again. My brain tells me that I’m not because obviously I’m functioning. I’m still showering, going to working, spending time being social, blogging, reading, eating and sleeping. These are all habits of a normal functioning person who isn’t depressed. It’s not depression, my depressed brain says, it’s me.


I Hate You Why Aren’t You Helping Me

Trying to fight Depression makes me really angry. It makes me angry at my brain. Or at myself for not being strong enough to stop it (thanks for that one depressed brain). Depression makes me so angry that I take that anger out on everyone. Especially people I care about. Oh look, I went out to dinner with a good friend, but I still felt sad during it so I put them down, hurt their feelings, and yelled at them because I’m angry that this one dinner couldn’t cure my depression. I felt bad and wanted to make them feel bad. Why aren’t they helping me? Can’t they see that I need help? While I am yelling in their face. Why can’t they see that? … I’m sorry friend, it’s not your fault.

For the past few months I’ve been focusing on how I certainly can’t be depressed because I’m still doing things. I get out of bed every morning. Right there proves that this can’t be depression. It can’t be. It must be something I’m doing wrong. I need to pick new hobbies. I need to get my fulfillment from new places. I need to do all the things.

Yesterday I woke up crying from a terrible dream where my dad was still alive and we were hanging out. Then right at the end of the dream I remembered that he was dead and started freaking out as I was waking up. Yet, I still got up and went for a run (!!), took a shower, got to work early, was productive in meetings, had dinner with a friend, and enjoyed the rest of the evening playing video games. See! Clearly that is not the life of a depressed person. The fact that even after all that functioning I still felt really sad and woke up this morning crying has nothing to do with anything… (again, thanks depressed brain).

It’s unfortunate that my entire basis of “Depressed or Not Depressed” is revolving around the idea of functioning. Because there is one factor off in my judgement that I keep forgetting. This time, I am already on Welbutrin. It’s a low dose, but it’s enough to take the edge off. It’s enough to keep me functioning. My depressed brain doesn’t want to hear this. It doesn’t want to know that still doing all the things can mean Depression. I’m fairly certain that if it weren’t for the Welbutrin, I wouldn’t be functioning at all.


Things Are So Good I Am So Sad

Although this started several months ago, it’s definitely been getting increasingly worse. I’m very anxious about this summer. Last summer was just terrible and I fear there will be a repeat of that. I’m not sure how it could be much worse, but life never fails to surprise. I am not looking forward to summer this year in the way I do most years. I’m almost dreading it. I don’t want to deal with Father’s Day. I don’t want to deal with memories of going through a break-up. I don’t want to deal with my dad’s one-year death anniversary (does that have a name?).

My last case of severe depression was at it’s worst when I got an amazing new job and this fancy apartment. I still have both those things and both are still great. But the fact that they were great is what made me feel so bad. I didn’t deserve them. Unfortunately, my depressed brain is keying in on those feelings once again. My apartment is still amazing. I’m still at that job and recently got a big promotion and a huge raise. And things look hopeful in the relationship department. But I cannot enjoy those things. Instead, I’m furious.

If you have Depression, you get it. And if you don’t, be thankful. It’s not supposed to make sense. Depressed brains don’t make sense.


I Should Be Able To Handle This

Another difference this time around for me is I have a toolbox of strategies. Thank you therapy. On one hand, this makes depressed brain tell me, “You should be able to handle this what is wrong with you.” So that’s not good. But on the other, the Welbutrin is helping me to stay focused enough to implement some of them. For starters, I am being social even though it doesn’t make me feel better. At the very least it’s something.

I’ve also started positivity journaling. Just writing that makes me cringe, I know it sounds really hoakey. But when I get lost inside the downward spiral of my brain, the negativity just keeps on flowing. Like a freight train of pure negativity that cannot slow down. I’m not able to stop it to think of lighter thoughts. And I just keep getting angrier and angrier. And then I really take it out on people I care about.

So at the end of every day, I jot down at least three things that day that I was grateful for. That made me smile. That made me ‘happy’ even if just for a second. It can be anything. Running. Being proactive during a meeting. Waking up when my alarm went off. Cooking dinner. Spending time with a friend. I can be grateful for my friendships and my health. That type of thing. No, it is not curing my Depression. But it makes the negativity stop even if just for a few brief moments. It helps curb the anger. A little bit at least.


You Are Not Alone

I usually don’t write things like this when I’m in the middle of them because it doesn’t seem as helpful to others. But maybe it is. For anyone else who is dealing with Depression right now, or in the past, or in the future, know that you are not alone.


Are Collections a Reflection of your Level of Commitment?

Are Collections a Reflection of your Level of Commitment?

For most of my life, I have had a debilitating fear of commitment when it comes to relationships. I have been afraid to get close to people – friends and significant others alike. Yet, I found myself continuously dating people who were very interested in a serious relationship commitment. Most of these relationships ended up in disaster because that is a large conflicting factor. While thinking about what else my past relationships have in common, I realized that they are all collectors.


Every single person I’ve ever dated has had a collection of something; music releases, records, musical instruments, video games, cards, comics, etc. By collection I don’t just mean “stuff”. They weren’t hoarders. These were intricate and curated collections.

What’s the difference? For this article’s context, hoarding “stuff” consists of items that only have value to you. While a collection consists of items that have value to not only yourself but others too. Like, a record collection (three exes) has emotional value to the collector but also monetary value to other collectors. And not just the individual items but the actual collection itself. Collections are maintained, organized, and treated with care. Collectors are committing themselves to the buying/selling of one particular item, taking care of those particular items, and not losing pieces of it. Collections are a commitment.

I have never had a collection of anything.


My biggest level of commitment has been to animals. Though that is more of a constant responsibility. Having a baseball collection doesn’t necessary have responsibilities. You don’t have to actively maintain it. You can stop collecting at any time and your cards won’t starve. They won’t lose value. They will often times gain value. Animals don’t always have a value to anyone else but their owner. And I certainly don’t collect animals. But I do adhere to my responsibilities as a cat owner. And my level of commitment to my pets. But it still seems different. I merely clean the litter boxes and feed the little guys. There is nothing to actively collect or curate.

The fear of commitment resolves around a desire to be independent. To not depend on others. To be a free spirit. To be able to get up and go when you want. To do what you want to do. Committing to having a collection still feels like something is tying you down. You have to take this collection with you when you move. You have to make sure your collection is safe and displayed correctly. You may become obsessive about it. Over its value or maintenance. Having a collection means thinking about something else. Having a commitment means thinking about something else. Caring about something else. Someone else.

Fortunately my feelings about commitment have lightened up considerably. I look forward to sharing my life with someone else. And I don’t want to solely think about myself and my actions. When I make decisions I do want to factor someone else in. Maybe it’s time I take up a collection to start this transition into commitment with baby steps.


Does this theory on the relation between commitment and collections fit with your experiences of either?



Cost of Bladder Stone Removal in a Cat

Scarface's shaved belly after surgery

Last year, I noticed my 3-year old smaller cat, Scarface, was peeing outside the litter box. There are two reasons for this type of behavior: 1) Medical, 2) Behavioral. He seemed healthy otherwise so I thought it could be behavioral. Him and my 5-year old bigger cat, Franklin, would often fight and taunt each other. I thought it could have been a territorial issue. I have two litter boxes in my apartment – ideally 1 for each cat plus an additional box is recommended. But that is far too many for my relatively small 1br apartment. I purchased the Thundershirt for Franklin, which was hilarious, but didn’t seem to help with Scarface’s issues.

In August I went away for a family emergency and left the cats with my friend. She noticed that Scarface, who continued to pee outside of the litterbox, now had blood in his urine. So she immediately brought him to a local vet who declared it was a UTI and prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, that didn’t clear anything up. About a month later, I talked to my neighborhood vet about this and she recommended getting xrays. It was good we did because the xray showed an obvious stone in his bladder. Poor guy.


Feline Bladder Stone Removal Options

Nowadays there are two options to remove a bladder stone from your cat.

The first is to try to dissolve it with prescription cat food. This will take some time and is not guaranteed to work. You have to feed your cat exclusively the special food, then bring him into the vet regularly to check if the stone is getting smaller. The costs associated with this option are for the special food and the regular vet visits. There will be additional xrays and lab testing until the stone is fully removed. This takes an average of 3-6 months and could be longer.

The second is the tried-and-true method of surgery. This is a guarantee that the stone will be removed. It is a very common surgery but the risks still apply. It also can be costly. The surgery was quoted to me as $700-$950. It is a fixed cost and the follow-up appointment is included.


Choosing Surgery

I went with the surgery for my cat because I wanted the process to just be over with. Bringing him to the vet continually and not knowing how long it would take or how much it would cost didn’t seem worth it to me. Surgery is a scary thing for a pet. Scarface, who I love so very much, also has teeth issues and had a teeth cleaning last year. So he was already familiar with anesthesia, which is a concern because some pets have an adverse reaction to it. He doesn’t like going to the vet so I wanted to limit those appointments as well.

The total cost for the surgery alone was $825.

The preceding appointment with the xray and lab analysis was an additional cost as well. Even though the surgery was expensive, at least it was a fixed cost. I added it into my budget and decided I would use my federal tax return to cover it.


Recovery Information

Fortunately, the surgery was a success. The stone was removed and there were no complications. Scarface came home to me that same day. I dropped him off on my way to work then picked him up on my way home. He was very groggy, as he was still coming off the anesthesia. His belly was shaved so they could perform the surgery. And he had a cone on to prevent him from licking the stitches. This is important because licking or scratching the stitches can lead to infection or not proper healing.

Despite being drugged up and walking around like he was drunk, he was rambunctious when it came to that cone. He hated wearing the cone. On the walk home, he was thrashing in his carrier and managed to get the cone off in there. Putting it back on him was stressful. He hated it. Also, it was kind of hilarious. I was told to keep it on him when I was out of the house. But could take it off him when I was around to supervise he wasn’t bothering the stitches. I would always leave in the morning with the cone on him and come home with it lying in the middle of the floor not attached to the cat.

The two litter boxes I use are top-entry boxes. So the cats have to jump on top of them, then go into a hole in the lid and do their business, then jump back out. Well, Scarface wasn’t allowed – and physically couldn’t – jump on anything. So that was something I hadn’t thought about beforehand. I made an emergency run to Target to buy a cheap box he could just walk into.


Prescription Cat Food Costs

Even with the surgery, he still needs to eat prescription cat food. I can buy this online through a service my vet approved. It is fairly expensive but not as bad as I had thought. He likes it okay enough. I had been feeding them Blue Buffalo cat food prior so they were already used to, what I call, “organic kale” cat food. (This is in comparison to Friskies, which I call, “cheeseburgers.”)

Scarface’s prescription cat food is $34 for 24 small cans. The dry food is $28 for a 4lb bag. Previously I was buying 15lb bag of dry food for $37. And spending $12 on 24 small cans of wet food. Not related to this, but I also buy litter that is on the pricey-side at $26 for a 28lb bag. So my costs for the cats have increased monthly but nothing that will break the bank. Maybe an extra $50. I know that adds up but really that’s just a night out. Also this is temporary. Scarface will go for another lab analysis to make sure he is clear and then at some point he can go back to normal food.

I feed both cats this same food just because it’s easier. According to the vet, it will not affect Franklin’s health. It may cause him to gain weight, as it’s high in calories, so I have to keep an eye on that. My cats are fairly small anyway so this wasn’t much of a concern.


Hopefully, we will establish a routine where Scarface won’t get any more stones. The fewer surgeries the better for this little guy. Unfortunately, urinary issues in cats are almost exclusively an indoor cat problem. Thankfully Franklin has been fine.

There is a question out there of, “What is your cut-off for how much you would spend on your pet?” If you are a pet owner there is only one answer to this: None. Infinity. What are your options? Not spend the money or put your cat down because you can’t afford to take care of this responsibility you accepted? I used to think I had a cut-off then realized that my heart just doesn’t work that way.



What To Do For a Grieving Friend

send a friend something squishy and cute like a stuffed animal when they're grieving

An article on helping grieving friends showed up in my Twitter feed recently. It’s good, go read it. It was also a reminder that I had wanted to do one of my own. Death is an experience we will all deal with at some point in time, if not others then certainly our own. Yet, no on likes talking about it. There was a lot of help offered to me when I was dealing with the loss of my dad last summer, yet I didn’t actually know what I needed. Or what I would need. So here are some suggestions based on my particular experience of what to do for a grieving friend.


Just Think of Something Useful And Do It

Generally, don’t ask what you can do; just think of something useful and do it. For some reason, we have been taught to always ask permission before doing something nice for someone. Surprises are often thought of negatively. Or we’re afraid that the person won’t be home to accept a delivery, or will be to stressed out to care. Maybe the person is traveling and you don’t know where to send a care package, flowers, or food.

This is when it’s important to remember that your gesture isn’t really about the gift at all; it’s about the love and support behind it.

My dad’s health turned very suddenly last August a day after he was put into hospice care. It is impossible to know how the endings of lives will go. Some of our loved ones hang on, wanting to spend as much time with us as possible. Others get their fill and let go. My friend had gone through a long drawn out ending process with a grandparent and knew how stressful living at a hospice center with someone dying could be. Even though she did not know how long I was going to be there, she immediately sent out a care package to the center. On her own, she looked up the name of the center (as there was only one in the city) and sent the package, without ever asking me anything at all.

Unfortunately/fortunately for everyone, my dad let go soon after I was able to see him. I was out of the center by the next morning and back in the hotel room. No one could predict this. While laying on the hospital bed trying to wrap my head around what just happened, I received an email. It was from this friend and the subject was “A care package if you want it”. She openly & honestly stated that she had sent me a care package directly to the hospice center but if it was too difficult for me to go pick up (emotionally, logistically, or otherwise), that that was okay. She explained honestly that her feelings would not be hurt and it was filled with items that anyone dealing with a sick relative could use. I was extremely grateful for the care package and for her honesty so I hadn’t felt obligated to pick it up. She was honest in her sentiment that it wasn’t about the gift but the love behind it.

Don’t worry about “where should I send something?”, just send something. Anything. Although the care package was wonderful and extremely helpful, the cards I received meant just as much. Knowing that a friend took the time to think of me, despite not really knowing what to do, just sending a card saying “I’m here” meant the world. Losing my dad made me feel very alone. This was something that was only happening to me. Knowing that others were there for me and understood really helped.


What Can I Do? I Don’t Know.

To this day, I am grateful for all of the support and people who reached out to me. I received so many “let me know if there is anything I can do” offers. The trouble is, I honestly didn’t know what I would need help with. It was such a new situation. And every loss is different. Depending on the person, the circumstances.

One thing that didn’t occur to me was just how much my brain would stop working afterward. The term “mommy brain” is coined but there really needs to be a “grieving brain” (which is probably just “depressed brain” now that I think about it). When I got back home from traveling at the end of August, I couldn’t believe that the world had continued going on this whole time. I didn’t know how I was supposed to function. It didn’t make sense that I was still expected to do things. Sure, I was given proper time off work. But things like bills still needed to be paid.

I forgot to pay my September rent.

I just, completely forgot. I never sent my rent check. I have been so on-top of my bills and finances for the past few years. This was so unlike me. Yet. My brain wasn’t working. I didn’t know to expect this. All those offers to help and I needed it, I just didn’t know what for. Next time this happens, because unfortunately there will be a next time, I am going to give my bank account information to someone I really trust and just tell them to take care of my bills for a month. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Offering specific services will be appreciated even if someone doesn’t take you up on them. Offering to help tidy their apartment or watch their pets can be helpful. Even if the friend isn’t traveling, there may be a lot of running around involved. Not having to worry about walking the dog or organizing mail is one less stressor for your friend.


What To Put in a Care Package?

Show your support and love for your friend by putting together a care package for them. There are a variety of items you can add. Be specific to your friend if you know their interests. But if you’re afraid of triggering their recent memories, there are some generic things they will also appreciate.

Food

Granola bars or any other easy to eat, healthy, non-perishable, foods. When you’re grieving, eating is the last thing you want to do. But you have to. Sitting down to a meal may feel terrible. And even heating up anything may feel terrible. But having something to eat quickly while feeling sad is perfect.

Something cozy

This can be a functional pillow or a cute pillow like a squishable. It can also be a stuffed animal. Or a blanket. Also slippers or fun socks. Just something warm and of comfort. Being in a hospital, center, hotel room, or relative’s house can feel especially hard not being at home. Having something to hold on to and keep warm, really provides comfort.

Entertainment

This can be a video game, book, maybe an itunes giftcard, or a usb drive with curated tv episodes or movies. Something to help your friend be distracted from time to time. A book of short stories or maybe a trilogy. Some magazines even.


Because we never know when tragedy or sickness will happen, please write out an emergency contact sheet. This is a spreadsheet with contact information and important personal information that you save on your computer, print out to put in your document box, and send to friends and family. Hopefully they will never have to use it.



Weekly Updates: Video Games + Rats

gunzerker from borderlands 2

PS3 Games and Now I Don’t Sleep

Last weekend I bought a used PS3 plus a collection of games from a friend for $100. So now my video game console collection consists of the PS3, a modded PS2, and a gamecube. It’s more of a museum than a collection really. But everything works and I still play the Gamecube occasionally. That was actually a gift to myself when I graduated college. The transition from working full-time+school to just working full-time left me with so much free time I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I bought a Gamecube and played a lot of Mario Kart.

So now I’m catching up on PS3 exclusives and other video games that I have missed in the past 5-years or so. When the system first came out, I borrowed it from friends and played many of the initial games like the first Little Big Planet. But so much more has been released since then!

I am openly asking for recommendations of indie PSN games. I love these things! I plan to purchase Unfinished Swan and Journey. Any others worth checking out? For full games, I’m currently playing The Last of Us by myself and Borderlands 2 co-op. The Last of Us is really sad. And Borderlands 2 is a lot of fun. I’m the gunzerker guy you see in the image above. That’s me! Dual-wielding machine guns so you better watch out!

If you have a PSN account, add me to your friends list – I’m lintacious!


inflatable rats

Rats, Rats, Everywhere

Selective perception is just the worst. Last week I read a book on NYC Rats. And at the same time, the weather warmed up. My friend got a mouse in her apartment. There are union rats outside my work building because the management company isn’t hiring union workers (gross). And warm weather has been bringing out other pesky vermin. So many creepy crawlies. But, from the rat book, I learned that there are not nearly as many rats in NYC as we are lead to believe. There are about 250,000 rats in the city; that’s about 1 rat per 36 people. See, not too bad considering we’re squashing 8 million people on a tiny island producing so much garbage. The book really was great, plus, it counts as a microhistory for my book challenge.


Best Of Internet

Infographic
Am I Wearing Pants

Books
100 Best Books of the Decade So Far – The Oyster Review (4/8/2015)

Cheap NYC
Top 10 NYC Cheap Eats – The NY Budget (4/13/2015)

College Football
Map shows the states with the best college football recruiting situations – SB Nation (4/15/2015)

Lifestyle Blog
The Militant Baker
Katie Lives Simply

Social Commentary
Command of Etiquette: Why I Still Write – Hipsters of the Coast (4/16/2015)

Web Design
ESPN Redesigned It’s Site for the First Time Since 2009 – Fast Company (3/31/2015)

Time Machine

2014: How To Make Plans Like an Adult
2013: Getting Around NYC: Yellow Cabs & Common Destinations
2010: Home-Made Wheat Snack Crackers



Let a Win Be A Win Instead of Seeking Perfection

Michigan State Men's Basketball

We’re Undefeated, We’re Not Perfect – John Calipari, Coach of the Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky, who at the time of this is writing has a 38-0 record, has had a few close calls in the season. And some of them would have been embarrassing losses. Beating an unranked team by one possession isn’t much to be proud of. Yet, a win is a win. It doesn’t need to be pretty. It doesn’t need to be perfect. They won. And it goes on the record books as a win.

Their record isn’t 34 wins, 0 losses, 4 just barely’s. And yours isn’t either.


Accomplishments Don’t Have To Be Perfect

Even when we accomplish projects successfully, we may still tell ourselves how it could have gone better. How we could have finished it faster. Or how it still needs improvement. We don’t let ourselves have the win. We think it needs to be perfect. That we need to defeat the opponent by 10 points plus or it doesn’t count. Who says? Let this one be a win. Take stock of what you could have improved and improve it in the next game. The next project, the next assignment, the next idea.

This concept has also been explained as “Done Vs Perfect”. But words like ‘done’ or ‘complete’ just don’t feel as good as saying ‘win’. Finishing a project is a win! It’s not just over, the end, finished. You’re never finished. You have more projects and ideas to work on. More games to play. But this is a win! One win in the books. Let that win be a win.

Now, keep track of all you’ve learned, and put it into motion for the next game. The next project. This one doesn’t have to be perfect either. Because each one is getting better and better. Or maybe you slip up at one. You complete it but after it’s due; in overtime. You know what, that’s still a win! It may have been messy, and people were probably doubting you, but you pulled through and got another win. And learned more on what to do/not do in future games; on future projects.


A Win is a Win

When we look back in the books and see games won in overtime, as with the Ole Miss v Kentucky game back in January, we don’t think about how much the team was screwing up; or who dropped the ball (literally); or who is to blame. Instead, we think, that team played hard. That team faced a real challenge and pulled through. Everything was against them, they probably made their share of mistakes too, but they got the win.

Lucky for us, when we think back to list our yearly accomplishments and projects finished, things like overtime aren’t usually kept track of. Deadlines missed are often forgotten in time. All that’s remembered or cared about is that the project was completed. You got the win.

A win is a win is a win. Stop focusing on being perfect. Instead, focus on getting that win.