Thursday, November 01, 2012
I just updated my caringbridge and I asked for people to help me with something. I'd also like to ask my sparkfriends to help with this:
I'm wondering if anyone out there would be willing to help me with a project. I'd like to try putting together a book of motivational/thought provoking statements as a way to make a little money to help pay bills. I've already been shown how to self-publish and it is quite easy and really cheap. I've already been writing out the statements and have 35 potentials already, and I know I can come up with more. I've spoken to a few people about this already and most people have been wholly supportive (the few who aren't, well they're rarely supportive so I've given up on expecting anything positive from them). So if I'm going to make this happen I'd like help with getting pictures to put in the book. My idea is to have a photo with each saying, but as I'm not good with taking pictures and I don't have a lot of opportunities to spend energy tracking down places to take good pictures, it would be helpful if some of you would be willing to donate pictures to me. They don't need to be elaborate, but keep in mind I will be putting this book on sale on Amazon so avoid people and identifying places. These photos can be of animals, flowers, nature, weather, or anything you can think of that has a positive feel. The higher the quality of the photo the larger I'll be able to make it in the book. I will credit the photos unless you want to be anonymous. Now I know I might only sell a few books and only make a little money, but this is worth doing. If I don't make an effort to do something great, then how can I expect positive things to happen? I need hope to keep me going.
If you're willing to help me out, send me a sparkmail. Since we can't send photos by sparkmail, we'll work out another way.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
I want to start out by thanking the sparkfriends who told me to checkout the website I mention below. I don't blame you for not knowing what was going to happen, especially if you've had a good experience so far. Please read this information and consider your account before visiting that site again. It's up to you to decide if you're willing to continue with the site or not, but know that I will no longer be spending time on them.
The site I'm talking about is MyPoints.com. I signed up on the recommendation of a few friends as a way to earn some gift cards because I have absolutely no income due to disability and I need whatever I can get. Normally I do my due diligence and research websites like this before signing up with them, but because several friends had said they're good I was trusting. I signed up and instantly started being spammed with multiple emails daily. Well, you're supposed to be able to click on them and get points, so okay. Then you're supposed to get points for printing and using coupons, something I use often so I gave it a try. I did a few surveys. I played some games. The way it works is impossible to understand, the need to spend money to make money is ridiculously annoying, the amount of extras you must download to make it work takes up a ridiculous amount of memory on my computer, and the website is not at all neat and clean - I can't find half of what I'm looking for. Today I hit my breaking point.
First, some parts of the website work better with IE while others ONLY work with Firefox (or other web browsers - I haven't tried them all). So I have to open the account on 2 browsers to do what I want to do. This is frustrating and ridiculous. Next, the points you're supposed to get are often held in 'pending' for weeks on end. If you buy a product and can't take it back for 30 days I can understand the pending, but not when you do a survey! I would put 10 minutes into a survey, finish it, then be told I don't qualify and the points are put in 'pending' status. What are you holding the points back for? It's not like I can take back my answers. You were already told I supposedly don't qualify even though I finished the survey. Then I come to find out the coupons don't get the points due. You can print them and get nothing. You can use them and get nothing, besides the obvious money saved from using coupons that you could have gotten in a dozen other places much easier, with more coupons to choose from, and without having to use 2 browsers just to get access to what few coupons are available. Then today I tried to download and install their mypoints toolbar - BIG mistake. Doing so was supposed to give me 100 points which were not awarded, the toolbar messed up my browser, and it is impossible to log into your account with the toolbar! So anything you do with the toolbar is not awarded to your account! Then they locked out my account for 2 days because the toolbar wouldn't accept my password, even though the website accepted it and was logged in on the same browser as the toolbar. I emailed the website (which is in CA, so Hurricane Sandy is not an issue, just in case you were thinking that) and was told they'll get back to me in a few days. Their FAQ is absolute nonsense and answers nothing. I found a phone number and called, but their phone system is a joke. I tried numerous times and at 1pm CST there was not a single person answering a phone. One thing I've learned over time is that if a company doesn't answer their phones then it's probably a scam. I left voicemails and no phone calls have been made back to me in several hours. I sent more emails (at this point I was furious) and they go nowhere. I clicked on links to unsubscribe from emails and you can't do that when your account is shut down (another sign of a scam) and also tried to close my account, and that's blocked. So they're denying me using my account and denying me from closing my account. Wow, that's ridiculous. I finally got Hotmail to ask them to unsubscribe me from their lists and then I blocked their emails. If I can't have an account because their system is an epic fail I don't want their spam emails.
What does all this say about the site? Well, they lie about what points you get and what you can do with the points you do earn. They put their hands all over into your browser to take information. Then if you buy an item from a 'retail partner' they get told how much you spent... I now wonder what other information they collect from those sites. They don't answer phones or emails. Their IT department is clearly lacking because they can't keep the site running. Wow, I don't think I want anything to do with them!
Then I realized I never did research on the company to find what people are saying about it. I did a simple search (from PCHsearch which has been good to me) for "mypoints scam" and what I found is too many cases of people being burned. MyPoints changes the 'cost' of the gift cards as you earn more points, turning you into a donkey being led by a carrot. Their customer service is appalling. They shut down accounts randomly, and more frequently when the accounts have high point totals accumulated. They even tried to demand several people send them a copy of a driver's license to prove it was their account... that reeks of identity fraud and if you didn't provide the information ahead of time, how could you know that it was legit now? Other people have gotten gift cards that are inactive and spend months trying to get it corrected, but then there are people who never get the gift cards they 'bought' and can't get the points back. Some people buy items from 'retail partners' then are denied the points because the 'retail partner' decides to argue with MyPoints about providing the information.
Apparently the site was good a few years ago, but the company has been in financial trouble for years so more and more people are being scammed into spending time and money through the site (to build up the site traffic) then being denied what they're due. Even if only 1% of people lose out, are you willing to risk being that 1 in 100? I'm not. I have enough going on in my life that I'm not going to waste time on a site who doesn't care about their customers and has shady practices. Just the fact that they can't answer a phone makes them not worth my time. So if they allow my account to be accessed again in a few days, I will be closing it. The few points I acquired can be thrown in the garbage because I would need more than 10-20x that to get even the simplest reward. I'll stick with PCH (Publisher's Clearing House) because their customer service is so much better, they actually do award prizes earned for their surveys and won on their site, and their games are more fun!
I hope none of my sparkfriends are treated as I and apparently many others have been. But if you're a member, perhaps you should rethink your participation, do some research on the site's practices, and decide if the risks are worth it.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Awhile ago there was a coupon for a free Good N Natural bar in the paper so people can try it. Trying to find a store that carried them was nearly impossible. The one store I found was always sold out because people would raid for the coupons and buy out the entire stock for free, even though the coupon says 1 per person, thank you coupon hoarder cheaters/stealers! (Way to screw over those of us who are following the rules of the coupon!) Finally with 2 days left on the coupon they had one I could try. Yeah, I think these are CRAP!
First, we all know that the words "good" and "natural" are subjective. You can call anything natural, no matter what it is, and not have any consequences. To have it in the brand name is deceptive and will help them bypass any laws that ever happen to define the word "natural" by law.
Second, it says "whole food energy", which is just worthless marketing words with no real meaning. Considering it has an expiration about a year after it was probably made (I bought mine in Sept and it expires in June next year), it is NOT whole foods. Whole foods are foods that go bad in a few days or weeks, not a year. Also, whole foods are not foods that are ground and processed until you can't even tell what it is when you look at it.
Third, it tastes awful. It's held together with a thick, syrupy mess. There is very little fruit, even though it says "sun valley's fruit, nut, & seed bar". It's not so much sweet as grainy sugary over oat and nut powders with a few small pieces of cranberries mixed in.
Fourth, let's compare nutritional information with Emerald Breakfast on the Go Apple & Cinnamon with oatmeal clusters. The GnN bar has a gelatinous appearance with few discernible ingredients while the BotG has several whole almonds, significant dried apples and raisins in addition to the oatmeal clusters. The GnN bar has 2 oz for 230 calories while BotG has 1.5 oz for 170 calories. The GnN bar has 9 grams of fat with not a single whole nut or seed while BotG has 5 grams of fat with whole almonds. GnN has 5 grams of FAKE fiber (I'll talk about this next) while BotG has 3 grams of fiber mostly from whole ingredients. The first ingredient of GnN is "gluten free rolled oats" while BotG is "apple oatmeal clusters" made from "whole grain rolled oats". Most of the ingredients in the GnN bar are "organic" which, again, has no legal definition. Most of the ingredients in the BotG appear to be laboratory ingredients. (To be fair, they're not really from a lab.)
Lastly, if you haven't read about fake fiber yet, inform yourself: www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=pro
Now looking at the list of ingredients again, here are the fake fiber ingredients I spotted in the GnN bar: brown rice syrup (2nd ingredient), soy protein isolate, pineapple syrup, chicory root fiber, brown rice flour, vegetable glycerin, soy lecithin, and peanut flour.
The BotG has: wheat fiber, rice starch, sunflower lecithin, brown rice syrup (these 4 are small percentages of the oatmeal clusters) and soy lecithin (2nd to last ingredient in the covering on the almonds).
Also, while the BotG says "natural flavors" and "natural and artificial flavors" in the ingredients, they don't claim to be "natural". The GnN bar says it is "whole food energy", "vegan", the name claims it is "natural", and many ingredients say "organic", so what are the "natural flavors" being put in there? If they're natural why not say what they are?
This shows how important it is to look at what we're really eating. Just because something claims it is "whole foods", "natural", and "organic", doesn't mean it is. Every one of those words is lacking a legal definition that can be manipulated to mean anything for any food. Also, if your digestive system isn't used to fake fibers and you ate the Good n Natural bar thinking it will be what it claims to be, it could mean serious consequences to your body. And it doesn't even taste good!
Are either of these choices better for us than the real whole foods made into healthy foods by our own hands, no. Is one better than the other? That's up to you to decide, but I'll go with the Breakfast on the Go because they're not making marketing lies on the package and has a much less chance of making me sick (my body doesn't like fake fiber, so now that I've eaten the GnN bar my body won't like me for a few days). I won't be buying any more Good n Natural bars. If I get any more free, I think I'll give them away.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
What can you accomplish in 731 days? What can go wrong in 731 days? Can you change your life in 731 days?
Today is my 2 year Sparkaversary. My life has changed dramatically in the past 2 years. Unlike most, I'm not here to lose weight. I'm here to track my health. I have multiple severe diagnoses that have forced me to change so much about who I am. My body is malfunctioning and SP has given me the chance to do everything I can to live with the malfunctions. The tracking and reports have given me a chance to figure out what food and movement my body will accept and what it won't. Being forced to remove all high fat and all high fiber food from my diet, followed later by most protein, most solids, and eventually only being able to digest simple sugars is not a fun or happy way to live, but it's what I've had to do. Being faced with days, weeks, even an entire month of not being able to eat more than a few bites of food is extremely scary, but the more I learned about my body the easier it became.
For 731 days, 2 years, I have tracked ALL the food I've eaten, all the exercise and extra movement (cleaning, snow shoveling) I did, have gotten involved in teams that are close to my heart, met Sparkfriends who I feel closer to than my own family, and have found a place that feels like home. I never made an excuse about how it was too difficult or too time consuming to sign on and track. I didn't lie because even if all I ate in a day was sugary candy, ice cream, and cheese I had to know how that was going to affect me. I don't get to have "cheat days" because if I eat 1 "wrong" meal I can be in extreme pain, have uncontrollable vomiting, and have the most devastating exhaustion for days - sometimes it even means I can't eat again for several days. If I skipped a day then I would not be able to see the whole picture. I also needed the information so I could tell the doctors when I was eating 3,000 calories a day and still losing a pound a day or when all I could choke down was 1 cup of water and 100 calories of sugar for a day. When they didn't believe me I could prove it to them just by printing a report. When they said I couldn't know that from "some website" I still knew I was right and could be confident enough to stand firm on my requests for treatment. I'm sure if I wasn't on SP I would not have gotten all 10 current diagnoses nor the treatment that probably saved my life (TPN: nutrition delivered straight into my bloodstream). There's no way I was going to make an excuse to not track. It didn't matter if I was halfway across the country for a doctor appointment, if I fell asleep in front of the computer because the exhaustion won, or if I was being chided or berated by family because they don't see the point. I even tracked every day I was in the hospital, including the day when they had blown almost every vein in both arms and had to place an IV in the inside of my wrist so I couldn't touch-type, I was still here tracking, commenting, learning, and sharing. Call me OCD, but how could I stand my ground against a doctor who tried to tell me nothing was wrong if I couldn't prove I was right?
Two years is a long time to be so dedicated, but it's only a small portion of my life. I know being here has taught me so much. Beyond knowledge about health and food, I've learned about myself. I've learned ways I lack and ways I excel. I've found Sparkfriends who support me way more than my family ever has. I've learned how to use my words better, including how to respectfully disagree with someone while remaining friends. I've figured out that there are times when no matter how eloquently I say something if another person doesn't want to hear it I have to accept it and move on. I've found prejudice and discrimination from those who are the most vocal about how they've received the same, then had to realize it's not about me and figure out how to ignore their ranting. I've found how great I feel when I can share knowledge and information with someone who doesn't understand or when I can help someone find the strength to push forward through difficult times. I've seen how OCD I can be when it comes to getting sparkpoints, and how being so OCD can take time away from more important parts of my life.
SP has been my home. I hardly ever go to Facebook now because SP is so much better. My family (parents) can't support me emotionally and aren't really sure how to help me with physical matters so I told them to leave, whereas here on SP there's always a sparkfriend around to help keep me pushing through the pain, depression, exhaustion, governmental red tape, and the prejudice while also giving me a chance to live vicariously by supporting their successes. It was through SP that I met a wonderful sparkfriend who was able to help me find a diagnosis that has been missed by dozens of doctors for over 30 years, which has helped them find the other conditions and help adjust treatments.
By being here and getting to know so many incredible, generous, caring, and inspiring people I've found how to better accept the loss of my greatest hopes, dreams, and goals that have become impossible because of my medical conditions. I've learned that just because those can no longer be doesn't mean I can't set new goals, imagine new dreams, or have hope that things can get better. I wouldn't be who I am right now if I hadn't found SP.
731 days has given me a lot of information and taken up a lot of my time. Now that my body is once again accepting a relatively normal amount of food, tracking isn't as dire. It's time that I take off these training wheels and see how I do without all the tracking. I'm going to spend less time on SP and more time battling my conditions, seeing doctors, trying treatments, dealing with red tape and appeals, fighting for the help I deserve, working on some writing, and above all being kinder to myself by not living with this OCD for sparkpoints. I'll still visit my teams, comment on blogs, and do a few things now and again, so don't think I'll be disappearing totally. I also hope to track my food once in a while (maybe once a week or every other week) to see how I'm doing. But it's time to live more and track less.
Thus ends my 731 day streak of tracking my food. And I'm okay with that.
Lastly, if you're new to my story and are wondering about my diagnoses, here's one of my earlier blogs talking about them: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Monday, October 01, 2012
Today I was approved for medical assistance after nearly 5 months of dealing with incompetent fools. The stipulations are that they will not reimburse me any of the COBRA I've already had to pay (through October), there's no guarantee they will reimburse me for it in the future (which is utter crap), and every 6 months I have to go through all this crap again!
Next step I'm working on getting utility assistance. I've got the paperwork for electric and heat, but I'm going to try calling the city about help with water. I'm also trying to find someone to help with my long term disability appeal. Unfortunately, the patient advocate I had been working with recently died. She had the same stomach condition I have (gastroparesis), so though I haven't heard the cause GP is likely at least partially at fault. The symptoms of GP are often very difficult and even the treatments can be fatal. Since I don't have the energy or mental acuity I can't do it myself and the other places I've requested help from won't/can't help. I don't want to have to hire a lawyer, but it might come down to it.
A few weeks ago I spoke at a fundraiser for the non-profit that flies me to Milwaukee for free. When I told my father about a week and a half later he had absolutely no emotion, was not proud, was not encouraging, and actually sounded appalled that I thought I could do it. Then I told him I had already given the speech and he actually sounded disgusted! Yeah, there's a reason why I grew up thinking I was worthless, pathetic, and could never do anything right. Well, today one of my favorite disability transport drivers picked me up and brought me home. When I told her about it she was so enthusiastic, so proud, so happy for me, and glad that I went through with it (she had suggested I try motivational speaking). Her support means a lot. It's just sad that strangers I barely know support me so much more than my parents ever will.
Now that I can no longer pay my mortgage, I can't afford the supplements my doctors want me taking, and will have to start selling whatever possessions I can get money for I'm thinking about trying to contact the Ellen Show again. I was thinking maybe this time having people email me their letters then I'll print them all out and send them all at once. It will make one heck of a statement. I'm also debating contacting a few other shows. I'm still debating this idea, though.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the new TV season and looking forward to the Supernatural premiere this week, the Vampire Diaries premiere next week, and the series premieres of Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, and Nashville next week. There's a lot of good shows out there! Of course I'm also looking forward to the mid-season premiere of Cult (with Matt Davis). At least while watching TV I don't have to spend 100% of my time thinking about everything that sucks in my life right now.
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