Saturday, December 5, 2015

HOA nightmare

My lovely home is in a cute (or it was) neighborhood filled with first-time homeowners like myself. Until this past year, the HOA had been under control of the builder who created the neighborhood. It has since been ran by residents. After a peaceful 10 months or so all hell broke loose in November. If you follow me on social media you have seen many posts regarding how flabbergasted I am of all which is going on. A recent discussion lead to the decision a drinking game needs to be created to get me through all of this. And this nightmare is too good not to share because to outsiders it is quite hilarious. Heck, I'm at the point where I'm just laughing. So here is the story of the nightmare. Most has been copied and pasted from the Nextdoor app where the chaos began. I'm also feeling nice and have removed names and locations. Grab a snack, a beverage and settle in to enjoy this. 

It all started with this post: 

I believe everyone needs to be aware that the HOA Board has voted to construct an open pavilion-type building on the greenbelt by the back pond. The cost estimates of this building vary between $50,000 – $80,000. The building will include a fireplace or grill. This was voted on by the HOA Board in a meeting with NO notice to the homeowners in violation of the Bylaws 3.15 Notice and Open Meeting requirement. In addition, I believe that a decision to build a capital improvement should have been made by a vote of the homeowners instead of by the HOA Board alone. The Board will need a vote of the homeowners to pay for this building. The Board wants to stop paying for professional lawn care services and use this money plus the reserves to pay for the building. The Board wants to have volunteers take care of all the common areas in the neighborhood. However, this is prohibited by the Declarations Article 3, section 1(iiiii), which expressly requires the use of professional third parties for lawn care. Without this money, the HOA Board will either have to substantially raise our dues (homeowner vote required by Declaration Article VI, Section 3 for more than 20% increase), do a special assessment (homeowner vote required by Declaration Article VI, Section 4), or borrow money (homeowner vote required by Bylaw 3.22 if money borrowed is more than 10% of budget). All of these items require homeowner approval – which they do not have. Despite this fact, they have already put down a $5,000 deposit on a building that no one knows anything about. If this concerns you, please contact the HOA Board and request an immediate meeting for all homeowners and ask them to not spend any more money on this project before this meeting. The website for our community is XXXXX. It has the contact information for the Board members and all the Bylaws, Declarations and the Covenants. Please note though that XXXXX resigned as a Board member at the last Board meeting on Thursday, and XXXXX and XXXXX are no longer Committee Members. The website also contains the minutes of some of the Board meetings and HOA meetings, including the October meeting where they voted on this building.
Several homeowners, myself included, met and decided the best course of action was to walk around the neighborhood and get a petition to sign. To the point, very few neighbors had been on the Nextdoor app. This is what we included in the petition: 

1.  The Building – The HOA Board has voted to construct an open pavilion-type building with a fireplace on the greenbelt by the back pond. The cost is expected to be between $50,000 and $80,000. This was voted on by the HOA Board in a meeting with NO notice to the homeowners in violation of the Bylaws 3.15 Notice and Open Meeting requirement. This decision to build a capital improvement should have been made by a vote of the homeowners instead of by the HOA Board. The Board will need a vote of the homeowners to pay for this building. The Board wants to stop paying for professional lawn care services and use this money plus the reserves to pay for the building. The Board wants to have volunteers take care of all the common areas in the neighborhood. However, this is prohibited by the Declarations Article 3, section 1(iiiii), which expressly requires the use of professional third parties for lawn care. Without this money, the HOA Board will either have to substantially raise homeowner dues (homeowner vote required by Declaration Article VI, Section 3 for more than 20 percent increase), do a special assessment (homeowner vote required by Declaration Article VI, Section 4), or borrow money (homeowner vote required by Bylaw 3.22 if money borrowed is more than 10 percent of budget). All of these items require homeowner approval – which they do not have. Despite this fact, they have already put down a $5,000 deposit on a building that no one knows anything about. It needs to be discussed whether we want the building, the issue of stopping/not stopping lawn care, funding the building if we do want it, and the $5,000 deposit that was paid without any authority.

2.  The Fines – The Board has passed a set of fines for covenant violations and have begun to mail out violation letters based on these fines. This was done in complete secrecy with no input or notice to the homeowners. It is unclear how much the fines have been set at.  However, it was confirmed at the last HOA Board meeting that the violation for a first-time offence for not mowing their lawn was $150.

3.  The Cameras – According to the October 7 Minutes, the HOA has voted to install four security cameras at a cost of $500 each on the properties of four different homeowners.  However it seems this “installation” consisted of handing the box of cameras to the homeowners. Apparently no contracts were given to the homeowners to make sure the cameras were returned if they moved or that the cameras would remain with the properties. At least one set of homeowners has given the cameras back to the Board. This issue needs to be addressed with the Board.

4.  Potential Removal of HOA Board President XXXXX – The HOA President XXXXX seems to believe that he can vote on anything without the consent, notice or approval of the homeowners. This is incorrect. The rights and responsibilities of the homeowners are set out in the Bylaws, Declarations and Covenants.

It seems reasonable to me. Eventually the petition was posted on Nextdoor in order to reach more neighbors who we weren't catching as well as to passively notify the president we were on to him. He responded with this gem (once we get past this, the juicy stuff starts): 

Regarding the HOA Pavilion Project: To help build the community’s relations with our neighbors and increase property values we are in the initial stages of constructing a new community center pavilion. This project will beautify our park area adding a place where we can get together with our neighbors for outdoor barbeques, graduation celebrations, family reunions and other special events to include the hosting of HOA Meetings for the community. We will be showing off the 3D Architectural Designs at our Annual Meeting which is scheduled for 6:30pm on the 12th of January.   
One of the plans with this construction project allows the community to store HOA Lawn and Maintenance equipment which, with the help of a vote by our home owners and volunteers from our community, will form a lawn service committee. This plan will illuminate the tremendous cost of a lawn care contract which last year was $25,000. By voting to allow the board to move forward with the lawn committee plan, we believe HOA Dues can be reduced next year.  
Out of all the possible projects shown to the community at last year's annual HOA Meeting, it was the Community Center/Pavilion Project that was most desired by the all in attendance. Many of our neighbors also asked this last year if we could do more neighborhood events so we our hoping the pavilion project may be just the ticket to get a lot of us out of our homes to work together in building this community project. Not only will we be beautifying our park and working with our neighbors to construct this project but we will also save on construction & contracting costs. Using XXXXX as our builder, we can put in as much or little sweat equity as we want into this project. The budgeted cost is how much the project would cost if we used all subcontractors and put zero sweat equity into the project. We hope that all of you that are able will join us in this project. 
As with most of our annual meetings and apparently according to the posts I have seen on this site, the big questions for the HOA board all comes down to costs. Here is the breakdown:
  • Pavilion Project Budget cap is $50,000 (Could be reduced to $40,000 or less depending on the sweat equity put in by the community) 
  • Current HOA Account is $15,000
  • Next year’s Dues (358 homes x $150 (assuming a one time $25 project cost addition)) will bring in approx. $53,700
  • Miscellaneous annual expenses are $1,200
  • Pond Maintenance and repairs $3500
  • Lawn Maintenance $25,000
  • Professional Fees $2700
  • Utilities and Taxes $2000
Total Income from 2016 dues and current assets amount to $58,700. Total Expenses are $34,400. We can reduce expenses with the passing of a lawn care committee removing the $25,000 lawn service contract leaving around $9,400 in annual expenses. This will put us in an excellent position for dramatically reducing HOA dues in 2017 but the only way this can happen is if we can do something about the high lawn service contracts. The Pavilion Project allows the HOA to store the equipment and create a lawn service committee illuminating that cost. Professional spray service however will still be retained to control weeds as they can acquire much better chemicals than what we would be able to obtain. 
We look forward to meeting all of our neighbors in January and even with the comments posted on this site are still excited about this project. We as an HOA board may not be perfect but we are always striving toward the beautification of our neighborhood, building better neighborly relations and increasing value to all our homes. From every architect we have talked to, this project will have a positive increase in value to all of our homes and this community.
Discussion took place and a comment by the treasurer led someone to ask if it was true the only votes which matter are that of the board to which he responded: 
It is true that the only votes that are counted when it comes to the spending of funds for projects, maintenance, repairs are the ones of the HOA Board members themselves.  
Um, say what? Looking at the bylaws and declarations, this is not true. Silly president. He also claimed the board had voted for the pavilion yet per the minutes on the website, they have never had quorum in the last half of the year.

Adding to the nightmare are these tidbits:
  • In the board meeting called upon because of the petition (complete CYA move), many residents ambushed the meeting to which the president informed them the project was going to happen no matter what;
  • There has been crime in the area where this is supposed to go yet he wants to put in huge flat screen tvs;
  • It is against the bylaws/declarations to do away with the professional lawn service without residents voting;
  • The builder being used is a "you build it" type of in, we pay for the materials and plan but we also have to build it;
  • Despite policy of two board members having to sign a check, the president went ahead and signed the check to pay the $6,500 to the builder for the plan;
  • The dues were raised in January so the HOA could afford legal actions against those who have not been paying their dues. This has not occurred. It was also agreed upon to put all beautification ideas/projects on hold until the finances were sorted out (far too many people are not paying their dues);
  • They sent out a proxy ballot for those who can't attend the meeting in January. They did not follow the bylaws by having a place for residents to write their address so they can make sure residents only vote once;
  • Ballots are being sent to the president who has proven to not be completely transparent which leads the question of how many ballots could end up "lost";
  • A resident who works for the city mentioned the plot of land for the pavilion is on a 100-year floodplain. Basically, there is no way the city will approve building there;
Lately, people have been irate about the security cameras. The board refuses to share exactly where they are or if they are actually in use. Their responses to the questions have been very snippy.

Then there is a resident who I refer to as the neighborhood nuisance. Basically, he thinks he is the savior of the neighborhood, the only one who cares about it (he is NOT the one who notified anyone of this project) and we should all bow down to him and be thankful he lives here. He has a tendency to go from 0 to 100. The other day he posted:
Get ready to pay your $6500 due is all I have say. Better start saving some money "my friend"
I responded and asked who it was directed at because to me it seems quite threatening. Then he lost his mind and accused me of being the most horrible, evil person possible (to summarize). In the past few days, he has amped it up and is now threatening to contact the state Attorney General. He is also blasting people for not listening to him -- every other post is him writing "I already said that." Dude. Seriously. Get over yourself. In response to bringing a lawsuit, the president notified everyone the HOA funds would pay for their lawyer no matter what, even if they were found guilty. 

I know I'm forgetting a lot of what is going on but I think it summarizes it quite well without providing all of the testy messages back and forth. But seriously, if you want those, I can post a part two. Are you all as exhausted as I am? 

Oh wait! I forgot today's update. A resident emailed (and bcc'd me) the board this: 
I would like to request a copy of the following documents from the Board pursuant to Bylaw 6.4: 
1. Declaration pages for any and all current insurance policies, as well as quotes for any insurance policies for 2016.  
2. Last quarterly report prepared pursuant to Bylaw 3.21 (6) i-v. This includes the income statement, the statement of all cash statements, the variance report, the balance sheet, and a delinquency report.  If any of these reports have not been prepared, please explain why.  
3. 2014 annual report prepared pursuant to Bylaw 3.21 (7) that includes at least the balance sheet, income statement and changes in financial statement.  Please state whether this was prepared by an independent public accountant.  If any of these reports have not been prepared, please explain why. 
4. Contract and checks to UBuildIt, any permits, designs or drafts of the building and parking lot.  Please also disclose any communication with UBuildIt, the subcontractors, and communications with the city regarding permitting issues.  If you do not have the permits yet, please disclose the status of the permitting process. 
5. Contract for lawncare for 2014, 2015, and any quotes for 2016 lawncare. 
6. Quotes for any lawn equipment you have received. 
In addition, I have a few specific questions for the Board: 
1. Have you received a quote for liability insurance coverage that would cover volunteers working on the building?  If so, how much coverage? 
2. Have you received a quote for liability insurance coverage that would cover volunteers on the proposed lawn care committee.  If so, how much coverage? 
3. Is the building ADA complaint? 
4. Will there be any Board meetings before the annual meeting?  If so, when and where? 
5. Will the homeowners be able to vote on whether we want the building at the meeting? 
6. You said at the meeting that $6500 had been spent on the project.  Has anymore money been spent on the project since that time? 
Thank you for your immediate attention to these issues.  If I need to come and make copies of any of these documents, please let me know.  I would be happy to pay reasonable copying cost for these documents.  If you object to providing any of this information, please identify the specific documents that you will not disclose and the reason.  However, all of the financial information is clearly covered by the bylaws and I would like to receive it at your earliest convenience.
And the board beautifully responded with (bullet points indicate a separate response): 
  • We can have this stuff available at the annual meeting when we drop everything off and hand off to the new treasurer. No, no more money has been spent on the pavilion. 
  • It's time consuming as 80% of your demanding questions are from the treasurer and I will use any free time I have to get that stuff but I can't guarantee I will have it all. I volunteer on the board so I'm only required to put whatever efforts into the position and if it's not what our residents like they can elect to have a new treasurer. You also can't just ask for 20 different things and expect to get them in 24 hours. I think that is absurd! By laws say you can request them but not a time frame.  
  • XXXXX didn't have any records like the stuff you requested before. They told us to make sure things get paid and that the common areas are well kept I'm not aware of any of these kind of records. So to answer your question no we don't have any fancy filing nor annual statement records. I have a p&l and the HOA dues spreadsheet for record keeping. Which that can be easily emailed to you on Tuesday. I send that out the board every month. I said I don't have questions  2 & 3 nor did any other board before me. We can hire an accountant to do all this which would probably cost the HOA a lot of money. If you absolutely want this I can ask the board and then the residents if they think this is a good idea to spend our money. 
The board really doesn't like people questioning them do they? If anyone is a lawyer or super smart regarding HOAs and you are willing to provide some input, leave it in the comments. All input is greatly appreciated. And now, it is time for wine!  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Melting pot of thoughts

It is crazy how quickly time flies. I keep meaning to write a post (or three) and yet time always escapes me. Now that is is the holiday season it would be silly of me to promise a lot more posts to share what all I have to share besides the topic of this post so instead, this will be a melting pot of everything I've meant to share and what I still have to share. Grab a cold one and settle in to read this melting pot. 

Topic One: 

I started a new job in September. I've remained in public relations. As with most of my previous jobs, I was thrown into the fire on day one. Starting in September and having to pull off a huge benefit (the first time thad been thrown) in November causes some stress. The first six weeks or so were tough as I was still navigating the waters and horror stories were floating around about my supervisor. And I witness things which gave those stories credibility. They had hired a second PR person as well who started a week after me. This one was fresh out of college. This one lasted until the Wednesday before the event. The second PR person had taken some time off for being sick and while they were gone is when my supervisor and I settled in and established a great working relationship. Honestly, my supervisor no longer scares me, we joke around and we get along pretty well these days. Yay for that. If you were wondering, we managed to pull off an amazing benefit and are already starting to plan a 2016 benefit. I'm excited about being able to work on it from the starting point to really showcase what I'm capable of doing to help the benefit be even more amazing. Another great thing about the new position is it is in the healthcare industry. Due to my diabetes, I'm definitely invested in healthcare and looking well down the road it is a great industry to put some roots in. 

Topic Two: 

My quarterly checkup with my endocrinologist came early because we needed to make a plan for the family's upcoming Caribbean vacation. Again, I've decided to go off my pump and CGM and return to shots. With MDIs I don't have as tight control but I don't have to deal with my pump during customs and also I can spend as much time as I want in the pool/ocean. One week without such tight control won't kill me. Just calls for lots more testing. And like last year, you know I'll be anxious to return home and get hooked back up to the pump and CGM with a day left of vacation. 

There were also unexpected issues at my visit. As usual, I handed over my pump so they could upload the info from it. Nothing uploaded. My endo asked if I hadn't been using my pump. Nope, I promise, I had been using my pump. She looked at all the settings and everything seemed to be fine. She wondered if maybe it had to do with when I last changed my battery. I couldn't remember when I had last changed my battery but it had been several weeks. Before making changes (I believe CGM numbers from earlier weeks uploaded), she decided to look at the numbers on my meter. Looking at the meter numbers, she decided to make no changes and the changes we would have made could have been bad. She is very concerned with the consistency of my CGM numbers being so off from my meter. Of course, this past week they've been pretty spot on. She is now wanting me to consider switching to the Dexcom CGM. 

That thought alone is freaking me out. I'm loyal to Medtronic. I feel very attached to the Medtronic people I know (they are pretty awesome). I love how the Enlite communicates with the pump. A Dexcom would require extra work (No, I'm not lazy but seriously, there is already so much which has to be done to stay alive if there is something which removes a step or two, yes please). I've thought about all of this over the past few weeks. I think in January after the holidays I'll contact my endo about doing a test run with the Dexcom just as I did with the Enlite. However, I will also plan to wear my Enlite during the same time. Then we can truly compare. What happens after that, I have no idea. 

Topic Three: 

My football team completely stunk this season. Wait. Both of my teams have completely stunk -- the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Chicago Bears. It has been painful all season. But hey, we pulled an upset over Michigan State and we got one win over the Green Bay Packers. Have to focus on the positives here, as limited as they may be. 

Topic Four: 

It is the holiday season. This year it will be different. I have barely earned any time off and what I have earned will be used for our Caribbean vacation (thankfully I negotiated about that before starting). What all this means is I do not get to go home for Christmas. I'm trying to not think about it because if I do, I reach a point of where I want to cry. Crying is not good. My parents have agreed to come to me for Christmas but I still won't get to see the extended family I grew up with in our hometown, I won't get to see my childhood home decked out to celebrate (oh how Mom loves to decorate for the holidays), I won't get to enjoy a real live tree and the usual Christmas day traditions won't quite take place. 

Being an adult is highly overrated. However, I did purchase a fake tree (I am pretty sure my heart broke a little with the purchase as I grew up with real trees). So my home is slightly decorated. I'm frantically shopping for gifts as most will have to be shipped to other places. I'm going to make the most of this but I'm still really sad. I know it is silly to be sad over all this but yet it isn't silly. It also means I won't be back in my hometown until Christmas 2017 which just seems wrong. 

Topic Five

I've rambled quite a bit so this is the last item. Rocky turned 8 on November 12. He is officially a senior canine. Looking at him and watching him run around like crazy, I can barely believe it. He still acts like a puppy. During Nebraska's bye week, I took him for his senior wellness exam. He passed with flying colors. It was adorable when they checked his blood pressure by putting a little cuff on his tail. The vet asked if Rocky is ever not happy. Nope. He has two modes -- happy and sleeping. I'm thankful he is healthy. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Connecting all electronics -- the diabetes edition

Earlier this year, Medtronic introduced the MiniMed Connect. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided to pre-order it. Because why not? I could always return it for a refund, right? 

The price of $199 seems pretty high to try it out but sometimes you have to take a risk. The Connect arrived recently. It has been about a month and a half (I originally wrote this after having it for a few weeks but am just now getting around to posting it).  

The Connect is promoted as a way for our (those of us with  diabetes) team, i.e. parents, doctors, etc, to keep better tabs on our sugars with us. The angle they've promoted is for parents to be able to access the data of their children while the kids are at school or at a sleep over. This is brilliant. I'm sure it would have eased my parents' minds when I was a kid. So, a strong selling point. But for me? Not so much. I'm an adult. I live alone. I'm not in a committed relationship. Yes, I have parents and siblings but shouldn't at this age I be breaking away from them a little and becoming more independent? The selling point of others having access to my data didn't work on me. Also the theory of big brother and everyone being all up in my business does not appeal to me. I love my privacy (despite blogging all about my life). 

What caused me to finally break down and order the Connect? The fact it automatically uploads the data to CareLink, which is something I basically never did. Not intentionally, I just never thought about it. So yay for that! 

I also like how I can just open the app on my phone to check how my sugars are doing or how much insulin is left in my pump or the life of my CGM or battery. All good stuff. I wear a lot of dresses and skirts and more often than not there is not a convenient spot to hook my pump to. So I hook it on my undergarments and off I go. Can we just say it is awkward having to hike up a dress or skirt at your desk when you want to see what number the CGM has because you either a) want to nibble on something or b) aren't feeling the best and wondering if your sugars are going high or low? Also, way easier to read the screen on my phone in the middle of the night than fumbling around to find the pump. 

Overall, I like it. I forget about the app though so I know I'm not utilizing it nearly enough. Is it worth the $199? For me, probably not but I wont' be returning it because a) it is too late and b) I have hopes for improvements of it as I'm sure they will improve aspects of it, particularly with the app. 

Here are things I wish Medtronic would add to the Connect (or really, to the App) to make it more enticing to all people to use:
  • I want to see more than the past 24 hours. Yes, I could log into the CareLink app but it never accepts my user info and it is annoying when you have to log into several apps. Also, being able to look at more than a day could help me become more proactive in managing my diabetes and spotting trends. I don't log into CareLink on the computer and take hard looks at my uploaded data. It would be nice to look at several days of data as I test my blood sugar and think " blood sugars seem to be running high in the morning. Has this been a recent trend""; 
  • I want to be able to add notes. Yes there are apps you can do this in but they don't communicate with the MiniMed Connect app. Plus, it is best to simplify things and not have to open up several apps. So to put the notes in a different app you have to manually enter your blood sugars. Anything and everything impacts my blood sugars. When reviewing numbers, it would be beneficial to see notes on if something was potentially impacting it. That info could lead to a much better understanding. I would love to put in notes such as:
    • Starting a new job so my routine is changing;
    • High stress because my football team is stinking royally;
    • Bad infusion site; and
    • Guessed wrong on the carb count when eating out.
It is things like those which would make the device more appealing to me as a party of one. Overall, it is a great device and I see lots of benefits to it but for me, a single person on their own, it doesn't add much to the table besides being yet another device to lug around. I need to get better at accessing the data on my phone. I still out of habit pull out my actual pump to look at the CGM info and to see how many units of insulin are in the pump. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Stitch Fix says "Go Bears!"

Life is good. I received my 12th Stitch Fix a few weeks ago. It arrived the same day I started my new job. Talk about perfect timing. As usual, I requested the same stylist. If she ever leaves Stitch Fix I will be destroyed. When I scheduled this fix, I didn't have anything I needed. I just sent a note about how I miss getting skirts and dresses and despite not wanting summer to end, was excited to see what they had to share for fall. I did have a line about being excited for football season and of course put in a "Go Chicago Bears!" and "Go Nebraska Huskers." Because obviously. Why wouldn't I? 

I never look at the items in the box until I've read the card. As I read my stylist's note, I became more and more excited. The note proves she not only gets me but may be my soulmate. To quote the first three sentences: 
"Hey Kristin! How excited are you that it's football season again? I've sent some pieces that will help you stay stylish while cheering the Chicago Bears as I see you mentioned!" 
Yep. She gets me. And she even acknowledged my Huskers at the end of the note. So, what did she send? 

Item 1: Christiana Pencil Skirt by Margaret M

I'm a sucker for pencil skirts. And nearly all of my skirts are black so already this one was in the like pile. And then I tried it on. Glory be! It has no zipper. Talk about comfort. I really like the pattern on the skirt. When I tried it on, not only did I feel comfortable in it but I felt good about myself in it. OH! And it is a petite size skirt! Verdict: Keep! Side note: I absolutely wore it a few days later to work. 

Item 2: Reve Aline Dress by Olive & Oak

This dress looks like it could be itchy or not flattering to my body but it was soft, comfortable and looked good on my body. And it hid my pump when it is hooked on my undergarments rather than created a big bulge on my side. Once I tried it on, I became a littler sad because I'm going to have to wait quite awhile for the weather to cool down here so I can pair it with some knee high boots. For the first time ever, I was, for a split second, anxious for winter. Verdict: Keep! 

Item 3: Lizzy Colorblock Striped Sweater by 41Hawthorn

Hey Bears! I now need to get to Chicago to watch a game in person so I can wear this sweater to Soldier Field. Again, one might think it would be itchy but it was one of the softest sweaters I've tried on. Not a huge fan about the horizontal stripes but they didn't make me look hideous. This will not only be a great alternative to my Jay Cutler jersey (don't is the diabetes connection) but will also look great for casual Fridays and just going out with friends. Verdict: Keep! 

Item 4: Kian Faux Wrap Dress by Donna Morgan

To be honest, this dress scared me. Not because of the print, which I love but because of the style being a wrap dress. These dresses can not be the easiest for my body. If you question how "special" my body is, go chat with my tailor here who will just repeat over and over, "Kristin has a very, very special body." Nearly everything must be altered. It is a fact of life I have come to accept. Anyway, back to the dress. I was also apprehensive because it is a size smaller than I normally get and a petite size. When ordering petite sizes, you usually have to go up a size. So if I were normally a 4, I'd need to order a 6P to fit correctly. I was already in love with the dress because of the print. It kind of looks like paint splotches. I tried it on and stayed in love with it. It magically worked with my body and looked as good on me as I felt in it. And this dress makes me as anxious for fall as anxious as the other dress has me for winter. Verdict: Keep!

Item 5: Edison Chevron and Stud Bracelet Set by Romolo

Again...Go BEARS! I'm not a fan of having things on my wrists. I never wear a watch. I'm honestly not even a big fan of jewelry. But these are fun and bright. And they were the first thing I looked at from the box. I couldn't justify sending them back. Verdict: Keep! Side note: I wore them with the blue pencil skirt and a dressy white shirt to work. 

For only the second time, I've kept all five things from my fix. My stylist continues to knock it out of the park. I'm not sure what to ask for in my next fix. Perhaps items for our Caribbean vacation although last year the stuff wasn't that great. I need to check and see who the stylist was with those things. It has been a few weeks since I received this fix and I truly am still smiling so much when I think about how wonderful it was and how much I loved what was sent to me. I'm anxious to wear the dresses and sweater. 

If you haven't signed up for Stitch Fix, please use my referral code here. When you order your first fix, I'll receive a credit to use towards my next fix. And I'll love you forever for that. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The fork in the road

I should apologize for using an overused cliche in the post title but I'm not going to. I haven't heard this cliche in ages and works nearly perfectly for this post. 

Life is a road filled with twists and turns as well as numerous hurdles. Life is never filled with only good or bad things even if it seems like it may be. And to make life even more exciting, there is always at least one fork in the road we all encounter. I think I've reached another fork in the road. As I reflect and scrutinize it, everything becomes murkier rather than clearer. 

When I was an undergraduate student a professor asked our class what our ambitions were for in the industry. When it was time for me to share, I confidently said I wanted to gain professional experience prior to teaching public relations in higher education. I wanted to have the same impact on others as the impact my professors had on me. For the professional experience, I was determined to be part of a communications staff for a university. After an internship though, I knew I would be just as happy at a marketing communications agency, if not happier. 

Upon graduation, I enrolled in graduate school. I learned quite a bit in undergrad but I learned so much more in graduate school. The focus on strategy, research, planning and so much more was pure heaven for me. I dreaded graduation because graduate school had become my happy place. I was learning so much book wise but I was also finally starting to learn who I was and accepting that rather than focusing so much on trying to fit in and be accepted. 

Upon graduation off I went to the real world with more ups and downs one could ever imagine. Here and there I toyed with the idea of applying to be an adjunct professor but never took the jump. What was holding me back from being confident to make the jump was I had no experience. I now regret not seeking out a TA position while in graduate school. 

Flash forward to the spring when I returned to the University for my sister's graduation from graduate school. I made time to swing by the CoJMC to say hello to my former professors. It was exciting to see them and catch up with them. I didn't get to see everyone but I saw the three who had the most influence on me. During separate conversations with all three of them they each mentioned how I should return to the University and be an adjunct professor. Two mentioned how I should enroll elsewhere and earn my Ph.D. and then return to the University. I'm not sure if it was just lip service from them but I choose to believe it wasn't. Hearing them all say those things meant the world to me and made me think maybe I'm not a failure and I do have potential. I didn't have much time to absorb and think about what they said in deep thought because shortly later it was time to celebrate my sister's accomplishment. 

This past week while chatting with my parents they mentioned how the local college students were back. I chimed in with how the University had the campus involvement street fair that evening and how I wish I was still a student. They immediately responded I should consider going after my Ph.D. 

And now I'm at a fork in the road. Do I continue to on my current path which feels like it is just going in circles with no advancements? Do I seek out an adjunct position somewhere (a friend mentioned some are online which could be a great way to start)? Do I begin to look at Ph.D. programs for marketing communications? What to do? A part of me feels like I have direction but the other part of me feels completely lost. If anyone knows what the future holds, feel free to let me know. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Diabetes pulled a punk-ass move

Despite life being up and down and there being so much unknown, my life has seemed pretty calm. I should have known things were too good to be true. If there were any small voices in my head informing me to be careful, I obviously ignored them because life was calm. Everything was chugging along as it should be. 

Silly me. I should have known better. After 25 years living with diabetes, I should have expected it to pull another punk-ass move. I should have been prepared. And yet on Thursday evening, I suddenly found myself surrounded by two paramedics and five firefighters. 

Life was good on Thursday. I went and got my hair done. It looked flawless. It was -- STRAIGHT! After visiting my hairstylist, I went to the local library to return some books, grab some new books and to use their WiFi to attempt to have a productive afternoon. While working on some projects my sister called and promised to call later in the evening. Eventually I returned home, took care of Rocky and my sister called. The purpose of our phone call was to discuss possible destinations for our family vacation. 

Apparently during the conversation, I stopped making sense. Being the smartypants she is, she texted Mom with concern. Mom (or maybe it was Dad) called the local hospital who dispatched the ambulance to my home to rescue me. 

According to my rescue squad, my blood sugar was 35 when they got to me but most likely had been lower prior. Yikes! I don't remember them coming into my house. My understanding is I fell when I went to let them in the house preventing me from letting them in. As they were about to break down my front doors, my wonderful neighbors across the street ran over with the garage door code for the rescuers to use. 

Going back to my fall, my butt is bruised and days later still hurts like you would not believe. I don't think I've whined enough but others think I've whined too much. I also somehow jammed a finger on my left hand. 

My sister later said I told her I had no juice in my house when she tried to get me to drink some. I find this hilarious since I have close to 30 Juicy Juice juice boxes for low blood sugars. 

My rescue team was wonderful. Since my memory was quite fuzzy and I don't recall probably a good 30-60 minutes, they shared the following insights:
  • I adamantly was opposed to the protein drink they tried numerous times to get me to drink before they saw the juice boxes on the counter; 
  • I was far too delighted to drink the juice boxes (if you are wondering, I had the fruit punch flavor); 
  • When one of them tried to spell my name out loud, my feistiness appeared and I loudly informed them it is "in" not "en"; and 
  • Despite being out of it and low enough for someone not in the know to assume I was drunk, my wit was still quite impressive. 
They also thanked me for being fully dressed and all thought Rocky was beyond adorable. Obviously. As I was coming to, Rocky was silent so I had no idea where he was and no idea how the rescue team got into my house. I went into a complete panic and began to babble about where Rocky was. The paramedics assured me if he had escaped the front door, one of my rescuers would have chased after him. Rocky was still on the sofa. I love how he has still not figured out how to jump down from it. Despite rarely, if ever barking, he was barking as if there was no tomorrow. A small part of me wanted to tell him to shut up. 

My rescue team inspected my kitchen to make sure I had appropriate food for a well-balanced dinner and mentioned they were impressed with what I had. Gold star for me. The firefighter lieutenant made me a peanut butter sandwich to eat while they were there. Good lord! So much peanut butter. There was like half the jar on the sandwich. Don't tell them but I was only able to eat half of it the entire night. When I looked at it before bed, I noticed he had used two buns, one for each side of the sandwich instead of putting the peanut butter between each side of one bun. He needs to relearn how to make sandwiches or learn about the "thin buns."

So, diabetes decided to pull a punk-ass move and rear its ugly head out of nowhere. I survived but am annoyed because this one caught me completely off guard. The thing is, no matter how on top of diabetes you are, diabetes can pull this type of move and wipe you out on your butt (literally in my case). I still have no clue what caused this dramatic low as my blood sugars were on point all day, I correctly counted my carbs for all my meals and wasn't stressing over anything. 

What I'm most upset about this is I had gone 25 months without having an ambulance visit me. Hopefully I can make it much longer on this round. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

When the 11th Stitch Fix arrived...

So, my 11th Stitch Fix arrived in mid-July and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it. I think the main reason I kept putting it off is because I had a week with a lot of diabetes related posts. I wanted to give those attention as well as not let the fun Stitch Fix post get lost among the diabetes posts. 

So, here we are, fix number 11. My 11th box was just as exciting as the first box. I didn't have any specific requests but did place photos of a pair of yellow shoes and a statement necklace to my Pinterest board to see if she could come up with something to pair with them. 

So, what did they send me? 

The first item was the Remmie Printed Maxi Skirt by Papermoon. I love how Kim sent the following note with it "I know you have a very petite frame, but I thought I'd take a risk and send you the Remmie maxi! Pair with a plain tee and your necklace for a fun, casual look!" I think it is awesome she took a risk and sent me something I'd never contemplate purchasing, much less trying on. At only five feet tall, maxi skirts tend not to work on me. I loved the material this one was made out of and the colors/pattern. However, when I tried it on, it was more than a foot too long. At the suggestion of a Twitter friend, I tried it as a dress but that made me look about 20 sizes bigger. I managed to keep perspective and not cry from the experience. I took my time deciding on this skirt because I really liked it and really wanted to keep it. Ultimately, the price to pay someone to alter it in addition to the price of the skirt, I just couldn't justify it. Particularly because I figured I'd probably only wear it on the Caribbean vacations in December and even then, I love to be dressy for them. Verdict: Send back. (Even now as I type all of this a small part of me wishes I kept it). 

Item two: Keno Scoop Neck Blouse by Sweet Rain

Time has passed since I returned my fix so I don't remember exactly what my comments were. While the colors were nice when you combined them with the print and style of the shirt, I just wasn't feeling it. The fit was okay but just left me feeling pretty eh and blah. It looked great with my statement necklace though. Verdict: Send back. 

Item three: Ackley Houndstooth Print Blouse by 41Hawthorn 

I was pretty apprehensive about this shirt. I think because it has longer sleeves and it is summer. I truthfully have no idea why I was apprehensive. When I pulled it out of the box, I assumed it would be a return. (Honestly, nothing gave me an immediate gut feeling of being a keeper this time...this is why you should always try everything on). I tried it on and loved it. Because of the sleeves and how I'm always cold, I think it could work year round. On the style card, it is shown with a red jacket. I'm going to have to see how it looks with my black moto jacket that I am still obsessed with. Verdict: Keep! 

Item four: Loreto Crew Neck Blouse by Bash 

At first glance, it is cute...but so not my style. Perhaps it is because I've been reading the "Dorothy Must Die" series about Dorothy, Glinda and Oz and the gingham pattern reminds me of it. I liked the colors. Again, like the Sweet Rain shirt, it was sheer and required a cami underneath. I'm over the sheer tops and mentioned that in my comments at check out. While it fit, it didn't leave me feeling amazing. I think others could absolutely rock this shirt, but not me. Verdict: Send back. 

Item five: Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse by Papermoon

Obviously at first look this one has potential as it is black and not sheer. I like tulip style to the sleeves. It is different from all the other black shirts you see people wearing. I wasn't sure I'd want to keep it prior to trying it on. Once I tried it on, I knew there was no way I'd send it back. In fact, as I prepared to check out and send things back, I started thinking if there was a way I could wear it to a meeting later in the week. This shirt works for casual but could also work for business casual. I have a red blazer from The Limited I think it'd look great with as I try to expand my fashion choices and include jackets. Verdict: Keep! 

So, two out of the five items are keepers. Not bad considering they tend to aim for you to keep two or three and rarely expect you to keep all five. Again, I'm happy with the fix and really love how Kim took a risk. I'm definitely open to risks as long as they aren't too far out there. I sometimes need to be pushed and prodded to try something new. 

If you want to try Stitch Fix, I'd greatly appreciate you using my referral code: Also, make sure you look at my past posts to see what I've received in my 10 prior fixes. There has been some good stuff. My next fix is scheduled for September. I've requested to return back to skirts and dresses because those are the clothes I love. It will also be fall so it will be fun to see what fall has in store fashion wise. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The MasterLab Experience, Part Three

Okay, by now you've read part one and part two. If you haven't, go back and read them so you don't miss out on any awesome information. Part one was the extended version of what Medtronic posted to their blog. Part two was about the fun I had with my new friends outside of the sessions. What does part three have in store for you? More tidbits of what I learned while at MasterLab. Each time I review my notes and tweets, something different stands out to me. 

If you haven't gathered by now, MasterLab is an incredible event focused on diabetes to advocate, how to make your advocacy impactful, why you should advocate, etc. The day and a half of MasterLab was jam packed with sessions. Take a look at agenda here. There were participants from five countries at MasterLab. Impressive. 

Tom Boyer mentioned we need to find more of our passion to be effective. We also need to work all together as one diabetic community to be the most effective. In the weeks before MasterLab, this was a common occurring thought in my mind, particularly because of Crossfit's stupidity. I witness on social media people with diabetes shaming/attacking others with a type of diabetes different from their own. This really needs to stop. When everything boils down to the simplest thought, it is the fact we all have diabetes, no matter the type. No one wants to be shamed/blamed and no one should. 

I was fascinated to hear Boyer speak about working with Clinton and Gingrich to make changes. (***Sidenote...I kind of want to be Tom Boyer and do what he does. That is PR in a way, yes? Someone make this happen por favor). There were two things he shared that gave me a moment of realistic fear:
  1. The average cost for a person with diabetes, no matter the type of diabetes, is $15,000 per year. Following MasterLab, Boyer shared the link to the study with me. I find it interesting the study was from 2013 which means the cost has probably only gone up rather than down; and 
  2. Boyer is also a person with type 1 diabetes and he shared a personal story. After he used his insulin pump for 15 years, his health insurance decided he no longer needed the insulin pump. It took him five appeals to get the insurance company to cover his pump again. My pump has been instrumental in me finally achieving success with my health. I haven't felt so healthy in so many years, decades really. I'm terrified of what happened to Boyer happening to me. 
Listening to Stacey Simms speak about working on the media reminded me of being a college student. I enjoyed listening to her because she is a Twitter friend. One thing she said I must share: 
As advocates, you may not always have success. It is okay. Do not stop. Do not give up! 
Marina Tsaplina reminded us there is no *just* our story. All of our stories are connected to the stories of others. Also, advocacy cannot happen if we aren't present. If we just hangout on the sidelines, nothing is going to happen. 

Amy O'Connor hit home how once people understand the way, they will behind us. Once people understand the battle of diabetes, even just once aspect, they will be more likely to be behind us and support us in our efforts. She said "By doing something, there is an element of hope." As long as we are doing something, even the smallest of things, there is the hope that something will change, and change for the better. 

My nerdy heart was thrilled with Thomas Lee's presentation about analytics. To summarize, I'm a social media rockstar in the world of diabetes but I can be better and do more. Obviously. 

Emily Coles was fantastic and I was so mesmerized, I neglected to take notes. My one note was how if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't advocate to the best of our ability.
I fell asleep during Melissa Schooley's session. JUST KIDDING. She is from Medtronic. If I hadn't paid attention, I think a lecture would have been in my near future. And they probably would have deprived me of Diet Coke. Melissa spoke about advocacy on the national level with Congress. MasterLab really hit home what a problem it is that Medicaid/Medicare does not cover continuous glucose monitors. A lot of advocates are working hard to change this but we all need to jump in and help. It is a battle we must fight and get CGMs covered. 

Like Melissa, Andrew Zebrak spoke about advocacy but focused on the state levels. If you saw my tweets, I called out Nebraska because Nebraska's unicameral is doing nothing in regards to creating a Diabetes Action Plan. I'm not pleased at all with my beloved home state. 

Kim Vlasnik, another Twitter friend who hails from Nebraska, shared about the project she started. It is You Can Do This Project. Go check it out. It is powerful. 

Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu closed out day one by lighting a fire underneath all of our behinds. No longer can we play spectator. This goes with my thinking of if I don't advocate or fight for things which impact me, who will? In a way, I can't depend on others because really, only I am responsible for myself. Dr. Moritsugu spoke of how it is imperative we find our voices, both individually and collectively. Again, this goes back to the question of just how darn powerful can the diabetes community be if we all fight together instead of as separate entities. 

Day two was all about focus groups. The first was about sustaining your advocacy. I attended thinking it would be about making sure you don't get worn out because as Melissa said, advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Rather the focus group discussed sustaining advocacy through creating your own nonprofits and organizations. It was interesting but not quite relatable to me although I was impressed with all the hands raised when they asked who there had a nonprofit/organization. 

The second focus group was about the Diabetes PAC (Patient Advocacy Coalition). Wow! I left the focus group energized and believing in my ability to be a better advocate. They asked us to share why we advocate in five words. My reason? Make diabetes voices louder/stronger. The louder and stronger we are, the more likely change will happen. Diabetes PAC makes it extremely easy for you to contact your elected  officials. Our officials want to hear from us. The more they hear, the more likely they are to act. At times during MasterLab, I was saddened to hear how much of a struggle people have to get the basic supplies they need such as test strips and insulin to care for their diabetes and stay alive. I'm not naive. I know people struggle but somehow it is easier to ignore it when I just read it on social media compared to hearing it in a room I'm sitting in. 

MasterLab was such an incredible, empowering experience. I arrived not realizing what passion I had inside me to change the world in regards to diabetes. MasterLab truly lit the match. I'm excited to see where this takes me.

The Diabetes Hands Foundation, you know the brilliant people responsible for MasterLab, have posted the presentations online. I encourage you to take some time and watch them or at least play them in the background and listen to them. (And yes, I was sitting up front so you'll probably see my amazing curly hair). All of the speakers and sessions were amazing but I'd really encourage you to listen to Tom Boyer and Moritsugu. Also, if you want to read all of the amazing tweets that were being sent out during the event, search for #MasterLab. 

***Disclaimer: Medtronic paid for our airfare, lodging, food and MasterLab registration. All thoughts though are completely mine and Medtronic did not influence my thoughts in any way.