Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Encounters of a Begging Kind

Note:  This post was written awhile ago, I just didn't get around to publishing it until today.

Today is my first full day of my resolve to give each and every beggar who asks a one dollar bill. I prepared my pockets by packing each with a pretty dollar bill. Upon leaving my parking garage, I proceeded to walk gingerly down the 3 city-sized blocks between my garage and my work, eyes peeled for someone with the look of a beggar. To my disappointment, I encountered none.

“What the luck!” I thought. After all, it’s seemed that these people were EVERYWHERE last I looked.  Wasn’t someone always asking me for money, like, ALL the time? But then I wondered, perhaps the beggars aren’t as prevalent as I perceived them to be? Perhaps I feared being begged so much, and felt so guilty about each person I passed, that, in my mind, I blew the problem out of proportion? Only time will tell, I guess.

At lunchtime my colleagues and I took a walk through the brand new city parks. As per my usual habit, I scanned the area, looking for potential beggars. At that moment, I thought of how different this situation had become -- I had always scanned each area for beggars, but I did it so that I could avoid them; so that I could make a convincing show of the fact that I simply overlooked them and did not notice them sitting there. This scan was different. I really wanted to see a beggar, I really wanted to enact upon my new resolution. Unfortunately, I saw no candidates.

Then, as we were walking through the park, I thought I heard a man ask for some change, and that man was headed in my direction. The first thing I noticed about him were his clothes -- they looked clean, and new. He was slightly heavy (i.e., not starving), and had sharp shoes on. It all happened so quickly it seemed. Usually I have time to prepare myself, to put my act on. But not this time, not for this man. Because he didn’t look like he needed money and did not have the look of a beggar, I was completely unprepared to encounter what would be the very first recipient under my new resolve.

I saw him ask the people in front of me, and before I could even react, he had asked me. I was taken aback, for sure. My immediate thought was “this man doesn’t need my money! Look at him! The nerve!” But, while that thought was going through my head, my hand went into my pocket and handed him the dollar bill before I could even finish thinking it.

I don’t know what I expected after I handed him the money. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Would I find joy in the act? Would I begrudge the beggar his dollar, even though I’d given it? Would I analyze the likelihood of that person really, truly, needing that dollar and putting it to good use?

Surprisingly, even though my reaction while handing it over had been to scrutinize his need for the money, those thoughts passed right on by after the dollar had been given. Instead, I started to explain myself to my coworkers. Well, I was going to explain myself. I opened my mouth, I prepared to speak, because surely they were going to ask why I would do such a thing ... wouldn’t they? After all, we had been on countless walks downtown together, and never before have any of us ever given money to a beggar. Surely they were going to ask. But I closed my mouth, willing to wait until they asked. But. the funny thing is, they didn’t. They just continued on as if nothing had happened at all. All of a sudden defenses that were rising in my mind dropped as I realized I didn’t have to explain myself. What a relief. And the funny thing is, I hadn’t a clue that would be immediate reaction. It had nothing to do with the beggar at all, or the money that had left my possession for good. It was truly an unanticipated reaction. I wonder what that says about me? I’ll have to analyze that one later.

As for the man I gave the dollar to? I haven’t given him any more thought outside of writing this article.  I am very proud of myself. I expected my first encounter to be easy, rewarding and predictable. Instead I was caught off guard, asked rather suddenly by a person who I never ever would have given a dime to before. And even while I was thinking of reasons NOT to give it, before I could even finish those thoughts, I had given it. And it was easy and effortless. The first test thrown at me had been a hard one, and I passed with flying colors.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

See a Beggar? Give Them A Dollar!

Today I have decided to do something that I hope will drastically change my outlook on life and the way I feel about myself. I face myself everyday, and everyday I’m left feeling a bit bad about myself. I want to think I’m a good person, who doesn’t? But when I wonder: “Am I REALLY a good person? Is there anything significant about me?” I’m left feeling more than a bit short. What do I do that’s really worth anything? I’m a pretty NICE person, I try to be NICE to people, I am supportive to my friends, I raise my family the best I can, but do any of these things mean I’m a GOOD person? No it doesn’t.

When I think about why I feel like a bad person, one thing comes to mind: money. I came from so little money that for years I didn’t have things other people consider necessities -- such as electricity and running water. And now, I’ve worked my way through college while raising two kids, own a modest 1200 sq. foot home, don’t carry a credit card balance, have a bit of money in my 401k, college savings plans, and regular savings. My savings is not enough to cover more than one paycheck should I lose my job. Regardless, I support a family of five on my income, and what I have to show for it is modest, but it’s there.

It’s also fairly recent that I’ve started to feel like I have a little bit of money. At the beginning of this year I realized, as have many Americans lately, that I was living well outside my means ... and for what? Some extra things in my closet? Extravagant gifts for people? Eating out a lunch every day at work? I spent hours creating an extremely tight budget, a completely comprehensive, to the dollar budget that left nothing out. It was tight, but it covered my bills, allowed for a solid credit card payoff plan, contributed to various savings, and had a (very) small amount of money set aside for some fun stuff.

Fast forward 6 months later, and something happened: I became much more financially secure. I might only be able to cover one missing paycheck, but that’s a whole lot better shape than I was in at the beginning of the year, where I was spending more than I was making and had only a few days pay in the bank account, and ran my checking to zero before each payday. After so long of living paycheck to paycheck, I actually had a money buffer. And while the money in my checking is technically allocated down to zero, there is now always money sitting in it, regardless of how close it is to payday.

I even started giving money each paycheck to various charities. Each time I get paid, I pick a charity to donate to. It’s in my budget, and therefore I gladly spend it, and it feels good. It has also been helping me to come to grips with letting go of my money. The way I’ve been holding onto my money is one of the things I most dislike about myself. The thought of someone else asking me for my extremely hard earned money makes me tighten up, and think of excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly spare it.

I work in downtown St. Louis, and am very frequently approached by beggars. Not once have I ever given any of them a dime. Every time I walk by them, I rush by with guilt, because I know it’s the wrong to ignore a person asking for help. Here is someone asking for my help, and whatever the reason, whatever they want it for, it shouldn’t matter to me. What makes asking for financial help any different than someone asking for help of any other nature? If you take the money part out of it, what is left, simply, is someone who is asking for help. Well, I believe in God, and these people asking for my help are also God’s children, and they have his love as much as I do. These are people who, for whatever reason that is not mine to judge, need help. How can I turn them away and walk right past them, when I am fully capable of providing the help they are asking for?

Today, as I was walking downtown, I spotted a likely beggar, and, like usual, walked quickly pass him without giving any eye contact. Only, he didn’t ask for money. He only grinned a big, toothless grin. For some reason, that made me feel even more guilty. After I passed him, I had a thought: I have two one-dollar bills in my pocket, and if someone asks me for money today, I am going to give them one of those dollars. I walked around my normal route, and actually slowed pace and made eye contact with anyone who looked like they might be inclined to beg me for some spare change. Not a single person did. But the fact that I was going to do it was so liberating! Suddenly, I didn’t have to walk around with apprehension that someone was going to ask me, and the guilt I’d feel afterwords. I WANTED that freedom, I sought that freedom.

Suddenly I realized that, once I had tasted this liberation, this freedom, that I couldn’t ever go back to my old guilt-filled, apprehensive ways. And right there I decided that I would carry around one dollar bills. I would make a point to keep a few stocked in my wallet at all times. And if ANYONE asked me for some money, anyone at all whose path I crossed, I would give them one of those one dollar bills.

I haven’t even given away a dollar yet, but I know, I feel in my heart, that I’m changing my own life here. Why I might not think a dollar is going to do much, it could make a huge difference to the person who hasn’t got one. I know the majority of people I’m going to give money to will most likely go out and by alcohol or drugs instead of food. But I also know that occasionally I will help someone who really did need it, and if I manage to truly help one person, well then I’ve done my job.

How this is going to fit into my budget, you wonder? Well, so do I. In fact, I have absolutely nothing budgeted for it, yet my budget is to the dollar accurate; nothing is left out. But this doesn’t fit into a budget. I’m not limiting my help to a dollar amount. My help is only limited to the number of people who ask, and the cash I have on hand. So I’m just giving them away, however many are needed, pulling out of money that should go to other things.

But oddly enough, I’m not worried about it. I will have to keep track so that I know what I’ve shorted myself, but I’m unconcerned with how I’ll be paying myself back. I have a cushion in my bank account, I will not be over drafted by a few dollars a week, as I would have been but 6 months ago. I will pay myself back by either allocating money that would have been spent elsewhere, or by applying money to it when I happen to get something extra in.

God will provide for my financial shortcomings, and that is the lesson I need to teach myself. It’s a hard lesson for someone who has forced herself to be completely financially self sufficient; someone who has built her security from the ground up (with God’s help, of course). Granted, I’m not jumping off any cliff here by handing out a few dollars a week. But for someone who watches and tracks her every dollar, it sure feels like jumping. But it’s so darned liberating, I swear I can fly.

Monday, July 4, 2011

God's Last Wake Up Call, a Fourth of July Poem

Happy 4th of July!  My mother called me this morning and requested that I put her 4th of July poem that she wrote a few years ago "out on the internet somewhere."  Well this is as good a place as any.  Enjoy.


Oh Hear Ye, Oh Hear Ye This Message To All--
The Time Has Now Come For GOD'S LAST WAKE UP CALL
For Those Who Have Ears, Let Him Hear--
For Those Who Have Eyes, Let Him See--
What Is To Come And What Is To Be.

WAKE UP AMERICA! It is your birthday today, and God has something to give you in a most special way.
Now all close your eyes
For no one must see your birthday surprise until I count to three.
Are you ready?!
It is time to begin counting down.
And oh, what a gift for us God has found!
He wants to give this to us,
To America He loves
We are special to God
We've been blessed from Above.
We've progressed so far, we are wealthy and free
(And what morals we have! God can't believe what he sees!)

Now all close your eyes
Count to one--
For one God we all stand.
We speak his name in our churches, he is known through our land.
He's given to us all his Holy Bible so true
(and he knows we've all read it many times through and through!)

Now count to two,
Time slips quickly away...
All will get their fair due, for today is the day!

Together on three you may open your eyes--
Happy Birthday America!
In the sky!

Oh My God
What is happening?
It can't be!
What a sight to behold--
Is it Jesus I see?
But I am not ready,
There must still be time.
I want to go with you now, please don't leave me behind!
The trumphets have sounded, the Earth moves in roars--
Should I run, should I hide?
What is that? Is there more?
Jesus is calling the dead right out of their graves--
"It is time to come home," says he, "To all who are saved."
Where did everyone go?
It's so dark and so cold.
Jesus the King has returned--
Just as the old story was told.

I then close my eyes, and to one hope I did cling--
Maybe I'm sleeping--
Wake me up from this dream!

Just then my eyes open,
I was awake in my bed.
"Happy Birthday America! Let's count to three,"
He just said.
"God still loves us America!
So here is his gift to us all--
Happy Birthday! Surprise!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Mommy and Daddy Need a VACATION!

You know you and the hubby need a break from the kids when your text messages go like this:

Hubby:  A box arrived at the house.

Me:  It's Wow Wow Wubbzy, I ordered it for Tristan's birthday.

Hubby:  There's no holes in the box.

Me:  Okay ...

Hubby:  Won't he suffocate?

Me:  Oh.  No, I don't think so.  Widget is in there too, she can build them an Airarater 3000.

Hubby:  Okay, I won't worry about it then.  But it would be upsetting for Tristan to find Wow Wow Wubbzy dead in a box on his birthday.

Me:  Yes, that'd be sad indeed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Green Smoke 1 Week Review

I am posting this on my normal blog because it gets the most search engine hits, but you can find all my Green Smoke posts here.

I have now been using my Green Smoke electronic cigarette for a full 8 days. Last week I received my Green Smoke starter kit in the mail and posted my first impressions of it. There are many separate parts I'd like to review, so I'm going to break it up into sections to make it a bit easier to follow.

(1) Can Green Smoke Help Me Quit Smoking?
When I ordered the kit and cartridges from Green Smoke, my ultimate motivating factor was the desire to quit smoking (please note that e-cig companies are not yet FDA approved for quitting smoking). I reported last week that I only had 7 or 8 cigarettes remaining. That's what I thought until my husband found a pack with about 12 more in it. So that left my total real cigarette count at close to a full pack. Two hours ago I finished my last real cigarette that I had remaining. Let me say this louder: I ONLY SMOKED ONE PACK OF CIGARETTES IN 8 DAYS!

That statement is thrilling to me. I had no clue how well I would endure using Green Smoke as my main way of getting my nicotine fix. Also, I was determined that the shift over not be painful, so I refused to withhold real cigarettes from myself if I really desired one. The fact that I went from 1/2 a pack a day to one pack for the entire week speaks volumes for how well Green Cig replicates the nicotine delivery of a real cigarette.

(2) Does Green Smoke Feel Like a Real Cigarette?
Yes and No. The first thing I noticed about my Green Smoke was that it was heavier than a cigarette. It was too heavy to be supported by my first two fingers, where I always hold my real cigarettes. I do miss holding a cigarette in the "right" spot. With Green Smoke, I take a drag like one would to hit a joint -- between the first finger and the thumb. That always feels a bit awkward to me.  I also haven't found the perfect spot for my e-cig in between drags. Do I continue to hold it like a joint? Tap it up and down on my leg? Roll it between my fingers? Set it on my lap? Hold it in my closed palm? I suppose I will find a comfortable position soon enough, but until then, it's not quite the same when you can't hold it like a cigarette should be held.

Does it hit like a real cigarette? It's lacking a tad bit in the throat hit, but the throat hit is still there, and very noticeable. The main thing that is missing is the nasty taste of smoke. It's like getting a refreshing hit of nicotine without all the nasty taste. Remember when you first started smoking, and cigarettes tasted so nasty? I always wonder how I even managed to smoke enough to get addicted in the first place. But after you're addicted, you don't notice how nasty they taste anymore (or smell!). Smoking this e-cig is like taking all those elements out of it, and giving me back just the good parts.

(3) Do Green Smoke Cartridges Taste Like a Real Cigarette?
My Green Smoke order arrived with 3 types of cartridges of my choosing:

(1) Red Label Full (18 mg) Strength
(2) Red Label Light (12 mg) Strength
(3) Menthol Ice Full (18 mg) Strength

My preferred cigarette strength is a light. Green Smoke recommends that you start one level above what you usually smoke, so you feel less like something is missing. That is why I chose both full and light cartridges. Red Label is the label that is closest to a cigarette. They have a label called Absolute Tobacco that is supposed to be closer to pipe tobacco. I never was a menthol smoker, but I never minded smoking one now and then, so I ordered a set of those cartridges just to see what it was like.

I have not yet tried the Red Label Light, so I can't review that yet. The Red Label Full Strength cartridges are what I've mainly been smoking. The flavor isn't bad, it sort of tastes like a cigarette. It certainly has some harshness that you wouldn't expect since it isn't real smoke. I don't mind smoking it at all, but I don't think I'm in love with it. It gets the job done and tastes like a fresher version of a real cigarette.

I really love the menthol. It tastes like menthol without the smoke -- all the wintery goodness without the nasty taste mixed in. I have now realized that I think I will prefer to smoke flavored cartridges. That's funny because when I searched for an e-cig, I wanted the one that tasted most like a real cigarette.  I honestly never thought that I would prefer a flavored cigarette. Flavors always sounded nice in theory, but who wants to smoke a chocolate or vanilla cigarette? But the thing is, it's not a flavored cigarette -- it's flavored nicotine. There's no smoke in there to change or mingle into the taste. This is just pure flavor laced with nicotine. E-cigs are already changing how I smoke, the affect of my habit on my body, other people's perceptions of me, where I smoke, and many more things.  In addition to that, I believe it's going to change my smoking experience from one of a nasty habit, to an enjoyable pursuit of flavors.  Like a nicotine vapor connoisseur! Today I placed an order to try all the other flavors Green Smoke offers. I can't wait for them to arrive. 

(4) How Long Do Green Smoke Cartridges Last?
I am used to smoking a half pack per day. My first cartridge lasted about a day and a half, which equates to about 3/4 a pack. I was not happy when I had to change the cartridge before the two day mark. The next cartridge, however, was a completely different story. I threw that one out after 3 days (1 1/2 packs). I am now on my third cartridge, this one has lasted 2 full days and is still going. I have also been smoking on a menthol cartridge this entire week, and I have smoked a pack of cigarettes. So this is all a bit complicated, let's see if we can straighten it out a bit:

8 -- Number of full days using Green Smoke
4 -- Number of packs I normally smoke in 8 days
1 -- Number of packs of real cigarettes I smoked

2 -- Number of spent cartridges
2 -- Number of cartridges in progress

I have no clue when the 2 cartridges in progress will sputter out, but I assume I have at least another day and a half use out of them. If that's the case, then it will be pretty spot on for a cartridge equaling a pack. I won't be surprised if I find that a cartridge lasts even more than a pack. I can't really analyze average cartridge length from only using this for 8 days. I am keeping my cartridges for recycling later, so when more time has passed I will count out my spent cartridges and get a better average to share.

(5) How Long Do Green Smoke Batteries Last?
The Green Smoke website suggests a few things when it comes to battery life:

(1) Fully charge new battery before using it
(2) Do not wait until battery is low to charge it
(3) Remove the e-cig from the charger as soon as possible after it is charged

Since the batteries are the most expensive component of the Green Smoke, I am taking care of them in hopes that I won't have problems with them like many people have reported.

The only problem with this is I have yet to discover just how long either of the batteries will last me because I am charging them before they are even low.  What I can say is that I can use them for 2 full days without the battery light blinking.  Keep in mind that is me using them both, as opposed to me just using the short or the long battery for two days, I alternate which one I use each time I Green Smoke.  Still, being able to go two full days and still have time left is pretty good to me.  I hope the batteries continue to work so well.  The batteries haven't taken long to charge; a maximum of two and a half hours for each one.

(6) What Do I Like Most About Green Smoke Right Now?
The thing I love the most about Green Smoke so far is being able to smoke in my house and in my car.  It has been a decade since I've lit up a cigarette in the house I live in or the car I drive.  No longer am I trying to smoke a cigarette on the way into work, as I worry about my second hand smoke making its way to innocent business working bystanders.  I can take a few puffs as I pull into the parking garage!  Is it raining outside?  I can sneak off into my bedroom for a little nicotine fix.  The most fun of all, I think, is sitting in my cubicle at work and having my smoke right there.  I work on the 39th floor, and by the time the elevators arrive to take me down and back, it can take me 20-25 minutes to get a cigarette in.  Not anymore, though.  I can do my work while getting my nicotine fix, which is perfect (and helps me to think more clearly)!

Overall, I'm pretty happy with Green Smoke. I certainly need much longer than 8 days to see just how well this works for me. I mentioned earlier that I am out of cigarettes. I haven't decided whether or not to buy another pack. I will have to see how I feel tomorrow.  I refuse to be disappointed with myself if I do decide to buy another pack.  After all, I'm making such lovely progress this far.

I'll check back into this topic in another week or two to let everyone know how Green Smoke is doing for me.

Here are some links for you if you're interested in Green Smoke:

Green Smoke Website
Green Smoke Website w/10% Off Orders of 10% or More Plus Free Shipping
Green Smoke Website w/5% Off Orders of Less Than $100

UK has seperate links for the coupon codes:

Green Smoke UK Website w/10% Off Orders of 10% or More Plus Free Shipping
Green Smoke UK Website w/5% Off Orders of Less Than $100
And here are the promo codes, if you just want to use them instead (just enter them into your shopping cart).  I think they work for both US and UK:

10% Off Orders of $100 or More, Plus Free Shipping: disc10-24656
5% Off Orders of Less Than $100: disc5-24656

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why I Became an iPhone App Developer and My Reasons for Buying an iPad2

Almost a full month ago, one day after it launched, I ordered an iPad2. I have wanted to buy an iPad since the day the first generation was released, but I diligently waited for the second generation to arrive before sinking that kind of money into this device. My lovely new toy has had quite a journey to get here. First, it had to be produced as quickly as possible in the Foxconn factory in China. Then it shipped straight from China to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong it dallied over to Alaska, from Alaska it went to Tennessee, and then it finally landed on my door step in Missouri this afternoon. And now I am happily set up, writing my first blog post from it.

I am still wondering why I needed an iPad. I have a MacBook and an iPhone, so I essentially have an iPad, right? Honestly, right now I don't know what unique function my iPad will serve, but I will admit it makes a very nice mobile blogging station! In the two hours since my iPad has charged and registered, I have:
                      (1) Played with photo booth
                      (2) Bought my favorite iPhone game again so I could have it in all its HD glory. That game is Plants vs. Zombies, and it is completely awesome played on this large touch screen. To think, just yesterday I thought that the iPhone platform for Plants vs Zombies HAD to be the best platform the game was ever released on. Isn't it amazing how easily your opinions can change?
                      (3) Bought the blogger app BlogPress that I've been looking into buying forever. I didn't buy it for the iPhone because I couldn't really imagine writing to my blogs on my iPhone, but now I have a very good mobile platform for writing. My desire for a mobile writing platform was my #2 reason for wanting an iPad.

In case you haven't heard the news through some other channel known as Facebook or Twitter, in August of last year I became a bonafide, published iPhone app developer! It was about six months after I had gotten an iPhone that I saw a video from the Apple WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) talking about developers and the stories of how they created their iPhone apps. Before that point it had never occurred to me that I could create my own iPhone app. I don't know why, but the thought never crossed my mind. It's computers I program, not phones. But watching that video really hit home for me, and I knew instantly that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to do it so badly that I went out 2 days later and purchased a MacBook (it is required that you write your code on a Mac, and I had never been a Mac owner, my iPhone was my first Apple product). So there I was, $1200 in debt by the time I bought the MacBook, the dev membership and a couple how to books. At that point I didn't even know what app I would write, but I had faith that I would find the perfect app to write.

I worked through books, learning the iPhone SDK, learning XCode, learning Objective C, while waiting for my app idea to come. Two weeks later, it did. I was at the county library with my two girls, looking for books for them to read. The school the girls go to is involved in a program called Accelerated Reader. Each child is assigned an "AR Level", this is their reading level and ideally should correspond with their grade level. For instance, my fourth grader is almost through the school year, and her range is 4.7 - 5.2. The company that runs Accelerated Reader reviews books and assigns a reading level to them. Each book that has an AR level has an associated quiz with it. The student takes the quiz after reading the book, it assesses the comprehension of that book, and their reading level is periodically adjusted.

Back to the library ... Over 119,000 books have AR levels assigned to them, but they aren't listed on the books like an ISBN is. There I was, browsing the shelves, wondering what level the books were, when I had a duh! moment. There HAD to be an app for that! So I pull out my iPhone, do some quick searching, only to discover that there was NOT an app for that. The uniqueness of that statement hit me. There's an app for practically everything, yet I had stumbled upon a niche that needed filling. It might not be the next top 25 app, but there had to be a decent potential user base of parents like myself who wanted this app.

That was the moment I got my first app idea. My second iPhone app (in the works) is also unique, with a much higher potential user base, and is not based on any current technology or company, but I won't disclose that ideas in a public forum. For my first app, however, I just wanted to break myself in to iPhone development. My long term goal was to try to break even on my investment. The app was over a year in the making. This wasn't because it was particularly hard, but because I had a third kid, and a miniature stroke, and other fun stuff that took my time away from my hobby. In August of last year, my hard work paid off and my iPhone app was released -- ARFinder (website here). I watched in amazement as a few people each day actually bought ARFinder. I certainly wasn't anywhere close to rich, but it was a start, and people were actually carrying around something I had written in their pockets! I am still amazed by that thought. In January of this year, I had a 13 year old boy email me ask me to support the iPod touch. Long story short, I had no clue that all devices that hadn't upgraded to iOS 4.0 were not allowed to download my app. It was a simple update, and with that came double to triple the daily downloads. I am still far from rich, but I'm approaching my 1,000th download! My app has also (briefly) made it into the top 200 list. All in all, I am very happy with how this app is doing, and it really makes me feel accomplished.

So now on to the #1 reason I bought my iPad2: to support releasing ARFinder to the iPad. I don't feel comfortable releasing my iPhone app to the iPad without testing it on the actual device because it is very important to me that my app looks and behaves like it belongs on the iPad. That is not something that I can truly determine without having the iPad. So yes, I'm taking a gamble with a $700 investment so shortly after finally breaking even on my initial investment. I won't know how much revenue I can bring in if I don't try, and at least this gives me a real reason to buy the iPad2. Okay, I'm still not convinced there is a justifiable need to buy an iPad, but at least I do have a semi-good reason to buy one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My First Impressions of Green Smoke

I am posting this on my normal blog because it gets the most search engine hits, but you can find all my Green Smoke posts here.

My highly anticipated Green Smoke package arrived today, exactly one week after ordering it.  That is better than the 10-12 day complaints I keep seeing on reviews (perhaps they're old reviews?) but for me the delivery was still a little slower than I'd prefer. Perhaps I'm a bit spoiled and expect too much out of free shipping.  I think it's Amazon and Apple's fault, for their commendable very quick free shipping.  Recently, a package of mine from Apple went from China, to Hong Kong, to Alaska, to my house -- in only 48 hours, and for free.  So yeah, a week felt like a really long time, especially as I watched my remaining cigarette stash dwindle.  I was hoping to have at least 2 packs left by the time Green Smoke got here, so that I could ideally wean myself off the real cigarettes completely.  Instead, I now have 7 cigarettes remaining.  I am not going to jump off too quickly and limit myself to only have those 7, it's too soon for me to tell how well this is going to work.  The point of this, after all, is to painlessly wean myself off cigarettes.  I think that up to 3 more packs of real cigarettes is a good number for me, but we'll see how it goes after I use my Green Smoke more and more. 

 Here are pictures of what I ordered.  This first pic shows everything that came from my order.  I have here one starter kit, one case to hold my Green Smoke cigarettes and cartridges, a bag of rubber tips to protect my cartridge when someone wants to try it, and 4 - 5 packs of cartridges.  Each cartridge is equivalent to a pack of smokes, so that means there are 20 packs of smokes in those four little boxes.  I am not very impressed with the carrying case.  It will perform its function perfectly, I'm sure, but it cost $10, and it feels very cheap.  I would have been comfortable paying about $4 for it.  It was the cheapest case they had though, and I wanted to have a customized solution for carrying this item, since the item itself is fairly unique and I didn't want it getting lost in my purse.

This next picture shows what comes inside the starter kit.  We have two batteries (the white part of the cig) -- long and short.  The long battery gives you more battery life and you shouldn't have a problem going all day and all night without a recharge.  That, of course, is simply a claim right now that I have yet to test.  You also see 5 cartridges (5 "packs" of cigs) which brings my total starting count to 25 packs of cigs.  There is a wall charger and a usb charger.  In this case, the battery only charges off the usb charger.  If you want to use the wall charger you hook your cig into the usb charger, and the usb charger into the wall adapter.  So if you lose your usb charger, you're screwed!  There is also a user manual, which I did not find that useful.  It did not give any tips on how to ensure the best battery life, how to get the most out of your cartridges, how to store your cartridges in depth, or much of anything else that I already knew from reading their website. The manual basically tells you what the Green Smoke cig is, and nothing else.  Good thing I read all the information available on their website before the package came.  Finally, there is a Green Smoke membership card.  This card states that the Green Cig probably does not apply to the non-smoking laws, please allow this patron to continue smoking in your establishment and call us if you have any questions.  Well, that seems about useless too.  I think it should state clearly that there's no tobacco in these, because it's tobacco that is most often banned.  So those were my initial observations of the Green Smoke system.

The Green Smoke cigarettes come partially charged, but you shouldn't use them straight out of the box.  They need to be fully charged before you start using them to help ensure good battery life (something that should have been noted in the manual).  I was very anxious to try my cigarette, but instead I plugged the shorter one into the charger like a good little girl who wants her investment to last.  That was approximately 6:30 pm.  The cigarette was fully charged at 7:50 pm.  Not bad at all, but it was partially charged in the first place, so we'll see how long it really takes.  Another important thing to note that is not listed in the manual is that you should not overcharge your battery.  Remove it as soon as you notice that it is fully charged.  This will also help increase battery life.  Okay, so this next pic shows my fully charged Green Smoke ready to go.  In the background you'll notice the long battery charging.  It is interesting looking for sure!

My next stop was to head outside to try it out!  I feel funny that I still went outside to smoke on it, but I wasn't sure how I felt about smoking it inside the house until I tried it out.  So I went outside and took that all important first hit.  It was potent!  I felt it in my throat, felt it in my lungs, felt the nicotine.  It really felt just like a cigarette, except it did not taste like nasty smoke.  My subsequent puffs weren't as potent as that first, but they weren't that lacking either.  I knew right then that I would love this device, and would be able to quit smoking real cigarettes.  That quickly I knew.  That was approximately three hours ago.  An hour and a half ago, I smoked on it more, and it was an exact repeat of the first time around.  I could really learn to love this.

You now have my initial review, but take it for what it is.  I have hardly used this product, I'm just giving you my first impressions.  I might find out, three days from now, that the device is buggy or that something in it irritates me, or that I find myself feigning more for a cigarette.  I sure hope that isn't the case, but you never know.  What you do know is that I promise to be back in a week or less to keep you updated about how the process is going.  One thing is for sure -- after finally getting to try Green Smoke, I am psyched!

Here are some links for you if you're interested in Green Smoke:

Green Smoke Website
Green Smoke Website w/10% Off Orders of 10% or More Plus Free Shipping
Green Smoke Website w/5% Off Orders of Less Than $100

UK has seperate links for the coupon codes:

Green Smoke UK Website w/10% Off Orders of 10% or More Plus Free Shipping
Green Smoke UK Website w/5% Off Orders of Less Than $100
And here are the promo codes, if you just want to use them instead (just enter them into your shopping cart).  I think they work for both US and UK:

10% Off Orders of $100 or More, Plus Free Shipping: disc10-24656
5% Off Orders of Less Than $100: disc5-24656

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Have a Confession

I am ready to go public and admit to the world what only a choice few now know.  About a year and a half ago, which is roughly a year and a half after kicking the smoking habit with Chantix, I started smoking again.  Does that make Chantix unsuccessful? Absolutely not!  After all I quit for 1 1/2 years.  But it does make my resolve to stay quit unsuccessful.  I won't go into the reasons I started smoking again, all I can say is I am smoking again.  For a full year I only smoked 5-6 cigs a day.  This past year that number has ballooned into a full half pack a day, the number I was smoking before I quit in the first place. 

So why am I confessing this now?  The answer is because I am trying something different.  I decided that it is time to try electronic cigarettes.  Will this help me to quit smoking?  I don't know, but I have hopes that it will help me to cut back at the very least.  Will this be healthier than smoking?  I can't honestly say.  These devices have not been FDA approved, and the battle is on, and these companies aren't allowed to make any claim as to whether or not they are healthier.  All I can say is that, instead of nicotine and smoke and a thousand unknown chemicals, these electronic cigarettes seem to be a lesser of two evils.  They contain only a few ingredients and the nicotine is inhaled into your body through water vapor instead of smoke.  So, let the debate be on, and when they finally release the government health studies, I shall review them with an open mind.  But for now I am choosing to believe that these will be better for me than regular cigarettes.  This is only one person's opinion, so take it lightly, and make up your own mind about these things based on the research you do.

I spent hours today researching electronic cigarettes in an attempt to find the one that I think will work best for me.  My ultimate goal is to replace all my regular cigarette smoking with an electronic device, so I don't mind a higher start up cost.  It is important to me that the cost to continue smoking be reasonable, so that also influenced my decision.  I ultimately decided to go with:

I found that Green Smoke was the most highly rated electronic cigarette on the market.  As far as I can tell from reviews, this would give me the closest thing to what felt like smoking a real cigarette.  It has the most vapor of all brands, and it is a two piece design instead of a three piece design.  With Green Smoke, there is a fresh atomizer inside every cartridge, instead of an extra (third) piece.  Many complaints of other electronic cigarettes was that the atomizers went out frequently and were hard and small to clean.  I like that the Green Smoke looks and acts like a real cigarette.  Some people might prefer to use a device that looks vastly different (they don't want the stigma of being seen smoking, they don't want to compare it to actual smoking, or various other reasons) but I do not.  I want a device that reminds me of a real cigarette.  Even though the start up cost is high, the batteries are highly rated.  The batteries are the expensive part of the electronic cigarette, so ideally I paid more upfront but will save money later on replacements.  Finally, the cigarettes themselves are very reasonably priced.  One cartridge equals one pack of cigarettes, and the full price of a cartridge is $2.95.  Green Smoke always has a sale going on so if you are willing to buy multiple packs of cartridges at a time you will pay even less than $2.95 per "pack". 

Here is what I ordered:

Basic Starter Kit ($139)
    • 2 batteries (the part that looks like the cig)
    • 5 cartridges (the part that looks like the filter, each one is the equivalent of a pack of smokes)
    • Charger
    • Instruction manual
Carrying Case ($9.99)
    • Holds both batteries, and two cartridges (two packs of cigs)
100 Rubber Tips ($5)
    • These protect your cartridge when another person smokes off your electronic cig.  I figured that I'd have many people asking me to try my Green Smoke, so I got these
4 - 5 pack of Cartridges ($13.75 each -- $2.75 per "pack")
    • 2 Red Tobacco "Full" Flavor
    • 2 Red Tobacco "Light" Flavor
    • 1 Menthol "Full" Flavor
Total Order:  $208.95.  After using my 10% + free shipping coupon code (I'll give that at the end of this post), the order came to: $188.05.  So, $188.05 paid for two electronic cigarettes (the battery), a carrying case, rubber tips and 25 packs of cigarettes.  For the cartridges, Green Smoke recommends starting one level up from what you're currently smoking.  So because I regularly smoke lights, I chose 3 5-packs of cartridges that are full flavored to start with, then I will switch down to the lights.

That's quite an investment but I intend to make a serious go of this.  Ideally I'd like to quit smoking real cigarettes.  Right now I have 4 1/2 packs of cigarettes.  I hope that my Green Smoke package comes while I still have a couple packs left because I really hope I don't have to buy anymore real cigarettes.

I'm super excited about this!  I will keep this blog updated with my progress on my switch to electronic cigarettes.

Here are some links for you if you're interested in Green Smoke:

Green Smoke Website
Green Smoke Website w/10% Off Orders of 10% or More Plus Free Shipping
Green Smoke Website w/5% Off Orders of Less Than $100

UK has seperate links for the coupon codes:

Green Smoke UK Website w/10% Off Orders of 10% or More Plus Free Shipping
Green Smoke UK Website w/5% Off Orders of Less Than $100
And here are the promo codes, if you just want to use them instead (just enter them into your shopping cart).  I think they work for both US and UK:

10% Off Orders of $100 or More, Plus Free Shipping: disc10-24656
5% Off Orders of Less Than $100: disc5-24656

That's all for today.  Please let me know if there are questions you have about any of this, and I'll try to address them in a future post.  Today is Saturday, March 26th, 2011.  Let's see how long it takes for my coveted Green Smoke package to arrive ...

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Been a While

Wow, it's been a LONG time! Yeah, I could apologize, but we all know how it is when life gets in the way. I'll make the promise now that I will consider updating my blog occasionally.

So I was looking through my blogs when I noticed that Blogger had added a "stats" page at some point when I wasn't looking. Or perhaps I was never looking in the first place. Regardless, I noticed it for the first time ever. It was then that I noticed my tongue piercing story had apparently become quite popular.  It's been getting 300 - 400 page hits a month, and has generated many comments (most of which are spam, of course!).  I wish I knew what the magic was for getting that search engine traffic because I'd certainly apply it to many other areas.

Okay, so it's time to catch anyone up who still happens to pass by this blog.  I don't blame you for giving up on me when it's been over a year since my last post.  In fact, some of my favorite regulars (Diva in da Chantix House, Life Rushes By and Maggie's Mind) are Facebook friends of mine so I keep quite caught up on the happenings of their lives.  If you wanna join the club send me a message.

Life has been hectic, as life often is.  The baby (Tristan) will be 22 months in 2 short days.  Closing in on two years old!  I am sad that he's quickly growing up, but on the other hand, he was a horrible baby, and I'm glad to be past 14 months.  I hate that I never was never able to fully enjoy his infant stage.  Regardless he is mostly good natured now and that is good enough for me.  He is three feet tall already and crazy strong.  Here is a pic of him, all dressed up and ready to go to school with his sisters:

Lately everyone in the house, including myself have been crazy sick.  Fevers, coughs, colds, flu and pneumonia too!  Here is Alex after I dragged him to the ER where they diagnosed him with pneumonia:

Since it's been 19 months since my last post many things have happened.  Here is a list of a few of them that I might elaborate on later.  If you are interested in any particular one of these, let me know and I'll try to make it happen:

  • Cruise to the Bahamas with the hubby, sans children
  • I had LASIK to cure my extreme nearsighted prescription (yes, I'm 20/20 now!)
  • I have an iPhone app out, and it's doing quite well (official iPhone developer!)
  • Major kitchen remodel (double oven, 5 burner gas range cooktop, double counter and cabinet space)
  • I met and got to hang out with Far East Movement (Like a G6), as well as Mike Posner and a few others.  I also got to be uber close to the Black Eyed Peas, where Will.I.Am made major eye contact with me and sang to me throughout the concert (I have pics to prove!)
  • I never did come back and write about my scary postpartum experience. Basically I had a blood clot in my brain, a T.I.A. (sometimes referred to as a mini-stroke)
  • I have a new tattoo
I know much more has happened.  These are just the ones off the top of my head.  Which ones do you want to know more about?

This is it for now, but I have a list of topics so perhaps it won't be so long after all until you hear from me again.  If I have any readers left!  I will dust off the links and go a-visiting to every one's blogs very soon.