Thursday, February 16, 2012
Apologies in advance - I know this one has gotten REALLY long. I want to get it posted and not make it more incoherent that it is by chopping stuff out, so it may ramble a bit.
A lot of little coincidences have been cropping up that I find quite interesting.
One of those is the mention of Flylady.Net which first came up in a blog by FITKIZ. Something in the blog had reminded me of a book I originally checked out from the library and later got and reread enough times the pages were falling out: Sidetracked Home Executives. (S.H.E. for short) It was a book by two sisters on how they overcame a tendency to get sidetracked and overwhelmed and learned how to get things done. Turns out one of the contributors on FlyLady.Net is one of the sisters - Pam.
Then just today another, completely unrelated Sparker mentioned in her blog "shining the sink" and something else, and a comment asked if she was a FlyLady. Those had me thinking on one of the earliest starts on a lifestyle change that I made in my life.
I never actually succeeded at implementing the exact methods described in Sidetracked Home Executives. In fact, I think right now boxed up in storage I have my 3x5 card system with blank cards just waiting for me to someday eventually get to it. However, I did learn quite a few valuable things, such as the "don't walk past it" rule. I also learned to not expect overnight results from projects I'd start.
Those little changes over the last 10-15 years have been slow, but I definitely don't live the way I did then.
Then the last 5-6 years I've gone through some severely trying financial times. Those include having one stretch in which my employer was also having bad times and was behind 6-8 paychecks. I was constantly having to beg and plead for a check just so I could avoid eviction or pay utilities or buy food.
Even after that worst patch was survived, the residual effects continued - which included federal tax garnishments, state tax garnishments, and a student loan garnishment, not to mention overdraft and account fees. My "wages" were too high to get any sort of hardship forbearance or even simple food stamps, but my basic expenses were a step above that. (I seriously went to a free credit counseling center, only to be told they couldn't help me as I had no disposable income to apply to the debts. Duh, I knew that.)
** ASIDE: Really, having gone through all that - it's a proven fact that stress and emotions are not an eating motivator for me. I did have major issues sleeping and learned to force myself to lie still even if my brain wouldn't shut off the ranting and worrying. I got headaches and bad neck tension issues. I would take every break I could from work and walk around the neighborhood fuming and ranting under my breath, mentally going through the rages I'd otherwise spew at people, just to blow off the steam and keep it under control. Food was not something I turned to. In fact, at the most stressful points, I lost weight - which I can see in the charts where I recorded it. **
Anyway, a couple years ago, things started to improve a little. Paychecks may still have been 3-4 weeks late, but most weeks I could rely on getting that check - so I was finally living somewhat paycheck to paycheck. Then I discovered that my employer had around 6-8 months worth of garnished funds they hadn't paid and realized my problem, why it was stressing me out of my skull, was that I felt completely out of control. I couldn't do anything to force my employer to be financially responsible.
So I took control of my finances. I've been using a website since then to budget with - Mint - and always use my check card so all transactions are recorded. It was painful early on because I literally was taking one step forward and two steps back with each month.
I did start to see patterns to my spending. One of those, that I later find has been critical to my nutrition tracking, was seeing how I'd "lie" to myself. If I got cash back at the grocery store, I didn't record that cash. It was just part of groceries. I was buying milk at the local drugstore 2-3 times a week and taking $20-30 every single time.
What blew the cover off that, as it were? My kids knew I always had cash, and so that meant they always had need of some amount for something at school, for lunch, for bus fare, etc. And I couldn't even explain to myself where I was spending all the cash I took out - how could I get $20-30 out so often and not have $5 for lunch?
I stopped getting cash back completely. I still don't - unless I'm specifically doing something with that cash and tracking it. I also made changes such as going to my bank and talking to an account manager. I ultimately closed my savings account which was costing me monthly fees (since I couldn't maintain a minimum balance to save my life) and have my checking account converted to ebanking which was free of monthly fees as well.
I took control of a lot of little things over time. I learned to watch for sales on things like Mac&Cheese - buying a "lot" at $1 per box rather than a few and paying sometimes $1.60 per box. I brown-bagged (or skipped eating lunch) at work.
And finally I gave my kids ultimatums. As adults, I told them that they were now expected to start providing some sort of exchange for being fed and housed. There were a couple of false starts to that. DS's first deadline was around Fall 2010 - to either get a job and start paying rent/expenses, get a job and be actively saving to move out, or to move out. He almost had a job but it turned out to be one of those "sucker a college student into believing they'll easily be making a lot in commission" things and he bailed without committing anything to it.
So it got put off to May 2011, which also was given to DDa - with the expectation she would take and pass the H.S. Equivalency before then so she could get a job too. She passed, but neither of them were finding jobs. By this point, I was getting VERY resentful. I was working 40 hours, struggling to stay afloat financially, and all I could see was them still sleeping when I left and on their computers (recreational) or with friends when I got home. I think the only chore either helped with was DDa got to enjoy making fried rice, so she would cook maybe once a week. Otherwise, I did it all - or didn't because I resented cleaning up after them so much.
May 2011 came and the EX asked for an extension for them (literally "until I have a place" - as he was living out of his broken down car). I refused to let it be that open-ended and gave them three months - with a specific date of 21 August. I turned in notice on the apartment at the end of July so there would be no option of another extension. I got sick of nagging and simply left it at there wouldn't be a place to keep living, so it was their job to find out who they'd stay with and how to get their stuff moved.
End of August and they moved in with their uncle (EX's youngest brother and most stable male in the family) and his wife. I moved into a room in a house. My expenses in August and September nearly clobbered me, but money was actually very much under control - moving just has a lot of unavoidable expenses.
With money under control and keeping my living space clean under control (so much easier with just a room and shared bathroom and cleaning kitchen behind myself), I was finally ready to move onto the next area of my life that needed attention.
See, when I talk about this journey being a lifestyle change, I'm not only talking about changing my eating habits or my workout habits. I'm talking about my ongoing journey to figure out and create the style of life I want, to decide who I want to be, what I want to do, and work for that.
Cleanliness and hygeine were the first life project that got me started, teaching me that results take time and that little habits can make a big difference.
Money was the second life project, working at my financial stability finally. I still don't think I'll ever be able to "retire", but I do hope to be debt-free before I'm 50 and never again get into a situation where I'm unable to live within my means. It taught me that putting things off too long hurts a lot.
Health and fitness is the third life project, working at my eating habits and improving my level of fitness and health. This has taught me a lot about setting the right goals in the right way and correctly defining what I want.
Education / career is what I believe will be the next life project. What I was educated for and the jobs I did 20 years ago are not available any more in that form. (Computers being on everyone's desk pretty much has eliminated the need for the secretary who can type forms, handle mail, etc.) Where I am now has had me feeling stuck because it's all experience and no education - in a field in which a B.S. is usually mandatory.
Wardrobe is another life project that will have to start somewhere between now and the career side. I need to build a way to have a style I feel good wearing, learn more colors and shapes I look good in, and build a clothing collection that is more than one pair of slacks, two pairs of sweats, and about a dozen shirts. Seriously ... that's about where I've been at for 10 years now, with some of those shirts so ratty I only wear them to sleep in the winter.
Somewhere in there comes relationships. I don't particularly care if I don't ever have another romance. I'm not the sort to feel lonely for the lack of a partner most of the time. However, I don't want to miss a possible relationship because I'm still buried in baggage and unwilling to trust anyone but my best friend and kids to be close to.
I'm sure there's more life projects to get to, but those are the ones I already have either in progress or mentally mapped as needing attention.
Every single one of those things I'm calling a life project require this thing called a lifestyle change. All the lessons I learn along the way seem to apply to every area.
Procrastination? Experience has taught me, painfully at times, that it's only okay to procrastinate up to a certain point. Beyond that, the cost and discomfort exceeds any possible savings and comfort from avoiding it.
Laziness? Experience has taught me that sometimes the laziest way to get something done is to do it a few minutes every day, because waiting months or years to do it means it takes serious elbow grease and still might not be easy to get back to where it would have been if cared for daily.
I am still who I was 40 years ago, but I've gone through many lifestyle changes. Some were by my own choice, some were influenced by others or events. I can even pick out some of the change points looking back.
This journey is just one small step for me in the bigger journey called life. Every change I make is part of building a lifestyle that creates my future.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I really don't "do" holidays at all. I ate a normal dinner on Thanksgiving - the Turkey Trot in the morning and, with no work, spending an afternoon with my kids being the only variations from a typical Thursday. This is true of all holidays, even the one my birthday falls on.
It started with growing up as a Jehovah's Witness. Holidays were not celebrated. Religious ones were pretty much considered corrupted with pagan rituals, commercial focus, and not directed by God to be observed. Secular holidays were putting too much focus on man rather than God. Birthdays were ... well, the only Bible ones involved very bad things happening (such as having John the Baptist beheaded) and promoted selfishness. The only celebration was the annual Memorial - following Jesus' command to "keep doing this in remembrance of me" applied to the passing of the wine and bread. It is done annually rather than at every Mass and only those considered amongst a special group of followers partake.
Even in school I was supposed to pass on the holiday activities and ask for non-holiday alternatives. Supposed to. Is it sad that I can remember making a pilgrim outfit in 2nd grade after assuring the teacher it was my decision, and knowing I couldn't take it home or wear it where my parents could see me?
There's plenty of other similar memories around holidays, such as getting yelled at for peeking out a window at Trick or Treaters because that made them come to our door, and sneaking out when we were supposed to be asleep to join the neighbors out setting off fireworks.
So, what do I remember of Valentine's Day? Very little. The class version I couldn't go get cards to pass out, so I had to have my name scratched from their lists because it wouldn't be fair. That meant I sat and wrote or colored while the other students decorated their bags, I suppose.
What I ~DO~ remember is my mother marrying her 4th husband (one of many in line at the City office for a civil ceremony), the reception to be held in a local park two days after. On the morning of the reception, running errands with the EX, I started having contractions, and we stopped by my mother's house. She timed them ... and off to the hospital we went.
So instead of being in the park, I was across the street at the hospital giving birth to DS - with various family taking turns coming across to visit the newcomer. (None of my labors, at least the hospital portion, lasted more than an hour and change.)
Later years saw me buying little stuffed animals for the kids, mostly, but without any super focus that we HAD to do something for the day.
In fact the most recent memory I have is from around 6 or 7 years ago. I'd gotten into the habit of buying flowers weekly from the local CostCo. Good price and I liked having a vase sitting out because it brightened the room. Then a couple weeks before Valentine's Day it felt like the prices tripled and the quality dropped.
I was disgusted and quit buying flowers completely.
So ... the most memorable part of this day to me? My mother marrying #4 and hating the floral industry's greed on this day.
What I tend to do instead is pick completely random days to "celebrate" things that are important. I have a friend greeting card I picked out to mail to my best friend - and wrote "Happy Bestest Friend Day" in it. Every day is Happy Bestest Friend Day. Every day is Love My Children day. Ditto for gift-giving. I do it spontaneously whenever I have the means and know something they'd like.
So don't feel obliged to celebrate this day or to follow some imaginary rules for how it should be celebrated. Sure, let those you love know you love them - but do that every day you think to do so.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Maintain the longest possible streak of days without illness.
One measure I have of my health is how often (or rarely) I fall ill and how rapidly I recover. I honestly cannot remember the last time I suffered flu symptoms. (Yeah, yeah, I should probably be knocking on wood right now were I the slightest bit superstitious.) I do get the occasional cold, but my typical cold is noting my throat feels tight/sore one day, runny / stuffy nose the next, and some coughing for the next couple days to clear my system.
I also do, sadly, get cold sores. True to form, they show up around times I'm ill or starting my cycle, particularly if I haven't been eating as well or haven't been taking a multi-vitamin. (And probably if I'm stressed in combination - basically when my body is burning vitamin/mineral resources.)
In my opinion, a HUGE part of that is my water consumption. When our bodies are properly hydrated, they fight viruses and germs more effectively. Even when I was otherwise eating excessively or poorly, I was drinking lots of water, plenty of milk, and some juice.
So, I do feel I'm already rather healthy.
But there's always room for improvement.
Now, this goal is actually kind of odd in one sense. There isn't really a way to guarantee I won't get sick. I can take plenty of normal precautions - not handling things like phones that have been used by someone sick, washing my hands regularly. But I can't completely avoid the spread of the variety of possible infections much more than I already do.
However, I do believe that as I become more healthy through proper eating habits, eventually improving my sleeping habits (problem area there, but not ready to change certain things yet), and being more aware of others sick around me, that I can minimize my exposure and increase my chances of my body fighting and killing the bad guys without me ever feeling symptoms.
Be able to do normal squats and lunges without complaints from my knees. Ditto for other problem areas that act up when I'm doing strength training.
I'm already seeing some improvement in my knees from working the quadriceps and hamstrings (front and back of thighs). The only time my knees speak up on the bike is when the resistance increases past a certain point and in the first moments of pushing to meet that. So I know I'm on the right track.
To me, being able to do the squats and lunges - and in proper form, a normal set of reps - will be a big sign of how much improvement there is to my fitness.
** If you didn't see what this is about, at the beginning of February I decided that I wanted to figure out 1 long-term goal in Health and 1 in Fitness each week of February, so 4 total long-term goals.
While I know I need to lose weight and I am doing that, my goal has never been "get down to ### pounds". I have no must-reach pants size or waist measurement or expected physical appearance.
My goal at the beginning of this was, quite honestly, to get more fit and healthy and to eat better. Which is okay up to a point, but I decided to ask myself by what I define as being fit enough and healthy enough. I could say I'm already more fit and more healthy and quit now. But obviously I meant more than I've gotten to so far. And these goals are my attempt to better define where I want to be. **
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Biggest plan yesterday was going with DDa to replace her phone. (Of all disappointing things, she'd set it on the pew at church while singing in choir, forgotten it, and it was taken.) She's been on EX's plan, and instead of replacing her phone, he used the credit for a phone for her to replace his that he broke.
So for a couple months now there's been this or that reason for no phone. Then he damaged the new phone and used DS's credit for another, still not getting one for her. Meanwhile, her uncle and aunt would occasionally talk about putting her on their plan, but weren't following through.
Her lack of a phone was a part of us missing each other a couple weeks back for the broadway show. So, long story short, I told her I'd buy the phone and sim card and be done with the trouble.
Which didn't go as planned. Turns out EX is actually on an account in his most recent ex-gf's name, and DS and DDa aren't listed. So without EX there, there's no way to get a phone and have it set up.
No problem. We leave there, go to a kiosk for my cell phone plan, pick out a nice smart phone, get one for her and one for me, and add her to my plan. (This is my usual level of "screw the BS and get it done" decisiveness.)
So I am now the happy owner of a nice smartphone and learning the ropes. It has a Books app and I downloaded a Kindle one. I have to check out what the SparkPeople app does - whether it would save me any time.
DDa is over the moon -- she hadn't realized just how much she was missing the ability to just talk to her friends regularly.
Aside from phones, we did a little clothes shopping. She tried on pants at two places, but ultimately bought a shirt from one and shoes from another. Big reason she wasn't having much luck with pants was because she way prefers the "skinny jeans" style (very slim calf/ankle), but does not like when they add something to the denim to make them leggings or stretchy to be more form-fitting. So she passed on the pants.
I decided since my pants were a little loose to maybe try on and get a next smaller pair. Even though I've been putting up with Lane Bryant for years now, I really despise one common fact about all the pants there. The narrowest pant leg is on the "boot cut" jeans ... and still makes me look almost as wide at the ankles as the hips, when I'm nowhere near shaped like that. I don't want the bottom cuff to be so big I could bunch the pants at my thighs.
I determined that I am a pants size smaller, but following in my daughter's footsteps, for once I didn't feel like I had to buy them even though I hate the style. I could walk away and choose something elsewhere or another day. I'm going to have to check out Torrid and see if there's any other "plus size" stores around - or possibly shop a little online (which I confess to finding difficult in the extreme). Worst case, I'll go buy a belt or consider a tailor/seamstress to take in the current pants.
At this point I'm thinking I'll just put off actually buying clothes until I have my Fed tax refund, but spend some shopping time (YUCK!) finding out where I want to shop.
Last bit of shopping yesterday was checking out one health food type store at the mall and asking about protein powders. Why is "unsweetened" so quickly misunderstood to mean I don't want sugar, but sucralose or stevia is acceptable? I'm not interested in cutting sugar (and I'll stop with that because that's a rant a blog long).
Anyway, no luck there. Oh, and I made the "mistake" while grocery shopping of reading the ingredients on one of the smoothie things that had interested me. (Yes, I do realize that my antipathy toward soy and fake sugars is really only a mirror image of those who consider all animal products bad or call sugar poison. I'm even amused at myself for it. But long-term goal is to move toward most cooking from scratch so other's food opinions aren't forced on me.)
So I've put off the blender plan for now. I'm going to keep looking at protein powders. (One thought is that places like Jamba Juice have a powder they add, and with fruit it wouldn't need / want extra sweetening and flavor. But if it's soy, that explains why no luck for me.)
Friday, February 10, 2012
I know. I've mocked my sense of humour (what? I have one?!) before. But some things just really do tickle my funny bone.
Today I read about SparkPeople adding a "funny page" and was paging through quite a few, having a chuckle here and there. Then this one came up:
Now, it's not really that funny. Some people genuinely love brussels sprouts. (They can have mine. No, SERIOUSLY!)
My brussels sprouts nightmares begin with a stepmother from the south (Arkansas) who seemed to have learned from Okra that the only good vegetable was a vegetable boiled to nearly mush.
Some vegetables are still halfway palatable. She couldn't really ruin spinach too badly, and for some reason broccoli made it through unscathed (though its cousin cauliflower did not). Corn and carrots were meh, but I knew they could be better from corn on the cob and eating carrots raw on salad.
Somehow, though, aside from the okra (please forgive me poor families who got cans of okra in their food drive bags), brussels sprouts were the absolute worst food to grace our plates at the dinner table.
Said dinner table was 8 people, father and step-mother at one end and 3 kids on each side facing each other (and kicking each other). Rules for that dinner table changed sporadically. TV was off for dinner when we had a TV (sometimes it was the devil's eyeball and sold). Plates had to be completely emptied before we could ask permission to leave the table. We had to finish eating within 30 minutes (one sister was a very slow chewer and would otherwise take longer). After a couple of us learned to bolt a plate full of food in 5-10 minutes, we couldn't ask to be excused until 15 minutes had passed. Rules were often added if something we did wasn't considered acceptable.
( Sounds loopy to describe, I know.)
On the nights we'd get brussels sprouts, I don't think a single one of us kids enjoyed them. (I have no clue if my father did - we weren't watching his plate.) We each invented creative ways to remove them from our plate without eating them. No house dog, so no luck there ... if a dog would have touched them. Napkins in laps, of course, got full as we wiped our mouth often. Glasses of milk didn't empty very quick as the volume was replaced. The near-mush got disintigrated further being cut into miniscule bites, swallowed with a chug of milk as though they were the dozen or so vitamin pills considered a necessary part of our day. Taking a second helping of spaghetti, burying the sprouts under while eating most of it, then proclaiming ourselves full.
What a horrific day it was when milk was "outlawed" as one of the step-mothers quack health decisions. Soy milk, suffice to say, was nasty and thin. Definitely cut back on our "milk" consumption (at home). But it also made the milk-based methods of managing those terrible sprouts no longer of use.
Fast forward in time. I've always liked most veggies (even through those 6 years of horror). I love a salad even with no dressing at all.
I've tried quite a few of the veggies that haunt my nightmares. Asparagus is not bad at all as long as one gets younger stalks (and doesn't boil them to death). Artichokes are quite tasty. Cauliflower I will continue to pass on. Even raw it has a bite I greatly dislike. Zucchini and yellow squash are okay, but nothing to rush and eat (or grow ... never ever plant more than ONE zucchini plant. For your sanity's sake.)
And brussels sprouts ... nope, still definitely don't like them. Roasted, raw, steamed, they're on the short list of vegetables I avoid.
So the above cartoon tickles me because, heck yeah I'd auction brussels sprouts before I'd eat them. Or arrange overnight shipping of them to the starving childen in whatever country it happens to be (early 80s we were told Ethiopia). Anything to get them off my plate uneaten.
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