Things Not to Say

Oh man.  I bet you that a large part of my general distaste for humanity today has to do with the following:  I am sick and I didn’t drink coffee this morning in an effort to preserve my throat for story time AND I would really, really like a beer and a whiskey because it has been one hell of a week.

However, I have been pretty well behaved.  Like, I did not reply to an e-mail from a coworker with, “How have you even survived this long??”  I have not told anyone that they were stupid in any way today.  And I definitely, definitely have not bitch slapped anyone.

Yesterday, for throw back Thursday, I posted a picture of my parents and myself at the zoo in probably 2001.  Finding throw back photos from this period is stupid hard because I have to cut my ex out of most of them.  This one, however, was taken by him and so did not include him!  Yay!  Anyway, I love the picture.  There’s my dad on the end, wearing a hot rod shirt and sneakily protecting his popcorn from my mother and me.  Then is my mom, smiling prettily for the camera in her butterfly tshirt.  Then there is me, in the middle of attempting to look like I am about to lick my mom’s face but not quite making it.  17 and my hair dyed black, wearing a black shirt that says “EVIL” in bright red letters with black pants in spite of the fact that I recall it being stupid hot that day.  I am in my glory, arms dripping with bracelets and rings on my fingers and my very favorite, wore it until it fell apart dog collar.

When I think of myself, I often think of this girl.  She was constantly surprising people, even herself.  She was the one who figured out how to get the things she wanted, even if that was just getting an effing fire to light in a bonfire pit.  She didn’t have doubts.  She knew that she was going to go to college, get a degree, get a job, and write some awesome shit and nobody was going to stop her.  A lot of stuff happened between then and now.  That girl spent years in an emotionally abusive relationship that completely broke her down and she had to rebuild.  To this day, any time that I am feeling particularly strong and willful and funny and smart, whenever I am feeling really, truly, awesomely ME, I think, “Wow.  I feel like I’m 16/17!”

I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

So when someone told me today that they “liked to think that I have come a long way since I was in high school” in reference to that picture, I almost cried.  Don’t you know that she’s what I’ve been working back toward all of this time?  She’s really what we all need:  The “I don’t give a fuck” mixed with the “except for about this because I need this to rule the world.”

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Looking Forward to February

Oh man.  I’ve been delaying this post for a couple of days.  Because I don’t know what to tell you.

See, my goal for February is to eat more real food but that’s not really what I mean.  Not exactly.  

What I really mean is that I want to enjoy food more and lose some weight. What I mean is that I want to eat the better of two choices, even if that just means getting my burrito fresco style.  I mean that I want to cook more and eat at home more and get more fruits and vegetables.

Now, when I was originally thinking about this month, my goals were:

  1. Soup Sundays- Make a soup for the week.
  2. Crock Thursday
  3. New Recipe Tuesday

I think what I’ve discovered is that, well, I don’t like living that kind of a confined, super planned lifestyle.  Maybe I’ll meet a friend for dinner on Tuesday.  Maybe I won’t have time to get stuff into the crock on my lunch break on Thursday.  Maybe I just want some Campbell’s soup for lunch.  Yes, my original goals are the kind of things that I want to work into my life.  But not like that.

February will not be measurable for me, not really.  I am just going to eat better and keep on tracking my money.  ($4 over budget this week, thank you very much.)  I am going to try not to be afraid to try new things.  My goal in February is going to be to ENJOY food but actually enjoying it, not making it some strict routine.

And tonight?  Tonight I’m having cube steak and potatoes.  Instant potatoes.

We Thought You Would be Prettier by Larie Notaro

One of the reasons that I love Notaro’s books is that sometimes I feel like her. I am sure that I am guilty of dragging my husband somewhere to make fun of someone’s hair. I know, 100%, that we are both hiding books in my house. I like to think that someday I will go to one of my old hangouts to say goodbye and run into an ex. And I would totally, totally, scare a child with a ceramic baby head hidden in a bush.

Perhaps what this says about me is that I am sick.

Notaro gets a little older and maybe a little wiser. She does, for the most part, get a grip on her mouth, until the duck episode at least. What we have here are pages full of a woman book touring, experiencing the guilt of her Catholic upbringing, and suddenly hearing her mother’s voice in her head.

Each chapter is like an article which made this a quick read that was easy to fit in and also made me chuckle a few times (even when I recognized myself).

When a Week Becomes Utter Bullshit

I owe you guys a few entries and I have been meaning to talk to you about my plans for February and touch base on how January is going.  (Saved $17 on a $73 grocery bill and found $5 in my pocket.  Score.)  I meant to do this yesterday when I played catch up.

So what happened?

Saturday night I went to a birthday party.  Being an awesome wife, I gave Hubby my turn to drink and volunteered to drive.  I had a Strongbow and a half, stopped drinking at 11 and headed home at about 2:30.  Roads were a bit nasty because it’s winter here in Michigan and hell has frozen over.  It’s too cold for salt so while some roads, like the expressway, are cleared, other roads are shit, just complete and utter shit.  Some friends didn’t even make it to the party because they went in the ditch.  The main corner by my house was so covered in ice that it was almost blinding when the light shined on it.  And at this point every single person in Michigan effing hates ice.  Example:  I meant to go to Snowfest in Frankenmuth this weekend, a festival of ice sculptures, and scrapped the whole idea when I fell in my driveway and nearly slid off a road on the same day.

We got home at about 3:15 and Hubby wandered into the house while I fished my last two ciders and the leftovers from dinner out of my back seat.  The patch of ice I slipped on last week?  Yeah.  It’s still there.  I slid just enough that I felt the need to catch myself even though as soon as I did I knew that I hadn’t really been in danger of falling.  I shook it off and went on inside.  Upstairs.  Put the leftovers in the fridge.  And noticed my hand hurt, like a joint needed to be popped.  I tried to crack the joints but to no avail.  I took my computer and sat on the couch for 20 minutes.  When I went to bed, I still couldn’t pop anything.  I had a hard time sleeping and only ended up with 6 hours then got up to read and write and clean.

I never cracked any joints.  I did, however, force myself through writing 2000 words (pause to rub hand), clean the whole house (moan at pain), do all of the laundry (whimper whimper), and cook a meal that took over two hours (sure hurts to chop).  When I went to bed I discovered that it hurt to get undressed and it hurt to put pressure on the hand and it hurt when I clenched my fist.  This morning I whimpered through my routine and toyed with the idea of leaving early for work and stopping at Urgent Care.  I started my car early and my hand quit hurting.  I turned my car off and my hand started hurting.  Driving on ice with a hand that cannot always grip the steering wheel?  Not so fun.

I don’t know what is wrong with my hand.  I think I sprained my thumb.  I’m exhausted from waking up every time I moved my hand.  And now I have a fever.

It’s going to be an awesome week.

Pin Pointing the Problem

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling pretty great.  I lost 1.5 lbs this week and I can feel it.  I can tell that I’ve eaten better and worked out harder and I feel really driven to keep at it.  Plus, I was looking forward to adding my check into my account and paying my bills because that meant that there would be no more bills this month and I would be able to add to my savings!

Only, that’s not what it meant at all.

Basically, all month I have been sabotaging myself.  When I sat down to pay my bills, I left one and still came up SHORT.  I came up SHORT!  Now, this will all work out just fine and there may even be some adding to savings if That Guy sends me the Money he Owes me on the day he promised.  However, I can’t really bank on that.  And looking at my check book I was feeling completely mystified.  “But!  But!  But!  I gave myself an allowance!  I only used my card for gas!”  Oh, you silly, silly LIAR.

Still mystified, I pulled out my check book and looked through my register.  I started adding up all of those additional charges.  $137!  I put $137 over my budget on my debit card!  You may be asking yourself what for.  I know I was.  So, I added it up.  $27 of it was for what I am calling “stress vices.”  There was the day I bought some gin and there were two packs of smokes.  Wait!  Didn’t I say that I was not going to buy these things if they didn’t fit into my budget?  Yes, I was stressed out the one day and really wanted a drink and the gin was nice and there is still some left.  I forgave myself.  Still, I see the pattern.  I see the pattern because the rest of that money, that $110 that is left?  Food.  All of it.  Every penny on food.  Eating out.  Stopping to pick up some naan for dinner.  “It’s really cold.  I could use a coffee.”  Bribing my husband with food.  Meeting a friend for dinner.  “A 4 piece McNugget never hurt anybody.”  Food.  FOOD.

Do you not see how damned ludicrous this is??  Have I told you how much of my allowance goes toward food?  Let me put it this way.  Last week I took out my $100 and went right to the grocery store because that seems to be the most responsible way to do things.  I returned some bottles and got an additional $6.  Not much.  Still.  I bought my groceries and a couple of personal care products, like clearance hair dye and make-up removing wipes.  My total came to almost $80.  Then I got beer, cigarettes, and pizza and I was already dollars away from budget.

I cannot even tell you WHY it was so much last week except that I needed hair dye and kitty litter.

This week I’ve started working on decreasing the cost of groceries.  I downloaded the Kroger app (Kroger being my store of choice).  What a great little app!  It lets my add coupons right onto my card so that I cannot forget them.  I can look at the sale ads and make a list right on the app too.  This should help at least a little.

But really, it’s time to buckle down and start eating at home.

On Personal Responsibility

(This was totally a pep talk for me.  Sorry. lol)

I am a huge fan of personal responsibility.  A couple of years ago I had this great epiphany about what I could control and what I couldn’t control.  I cannot control the things that happen to me bit I can control the way I react to things happening to me.  I can control how prepared I am for some things.  It really applies to everything.  When it comes to money, I can control where I spend it and what I spend it on for the most part and I can be prepared for emergencies by having an emergency fund.  (Let’s say, for instance, I break my glasses and finally have to give in and get new ones after 12 years.  Seriously.  Well, I have enough in my savings that I can use my insurance for my exam and some glasses AND I can get contacts if I want them!)  But what I really want to talk about today is how personal responsibility applies to dieting.  (And really, if you think about it, money too!)

That was what my real epiphany started with a couple of years ago.  I was trying to get down to my pre-met-the-love-of-my-life weight because Love Makes You Fat.  I was getting so frustrated with the world around me and I am a stress eater and the whole thing was just an effing mess.  When you are on a diet and actively trying to lose weight, what feels like a lot of it, there are a million ways to slip up and a million things that are frustrating.  Maybe it’s that Wendy’s has that Spicy Chicken Asiago Ranch Club right now or that your favorite restaurant’s lunch special is stroganoff (which they’ve never had and you love) when you intended to get veggie soup and a salad with the dressing on the side.  Maybe it’s that you accidentally slept in, didn’t have time to work out, forgot to eat breakfast, and there are huge apple fritters in the back room plus you forgot your lunch so you’ll have to order Jimmy Johns.  Over the years I have learned to file these things, all very real examples from my very real life, under the heading “manageable.”  You just don’t go to Wendy’s.  You compromise by getting the cream of broccoli, worse than the veggie soup but better than the stroganoff.  You split a smaller donut with a coworker and order a lower calorie sub which you can spice up by adding hot peppers.  In these cases messing up is completely on you.  You have a choice and the only voice that you have to deal with is your own.  Mind you, my inner voice is a real oinker so these are debates that go on all day, every day.

It’s enough having to deal with that voice.  Where I feel that personal responsibility loses some of it’s ground is when you add in other voices.

I would say that I have a decent 75% success rate in dealing with myself.  If I really work at it, like I am this week, I may be closer to 80%.  It’s when you add in additional people and additional voices that things get tricky.  Let me explain.  Yesterday Hubby had the day off for MLK Day and I did not.  On Mondays I get to swing home for lunch and so he asked me to pick up Wendy’s for him.  I agreed because I like him.  I spent the morning debating what to do about my own lunch.  I only had myself to reason with.  In the end I got a few things off of the value menu.  I didn’t get what I really wanted because it was 200 calories more but I walked away satisfied and not at all bitter about Hubby’s awesome looking sandwich, as I would have been if I just warmed up some soup for dinner.  At the end of the day, I came in below my calories by 70 and I felt pretty darn good about it.

Now, that brings us to today.  Today is my “long day” in that it feels really long even though it isn’t.  I spend a lot of time in my office and my office makes me so tired.  Anyway, I am meeting a friend for dinner and I always treat myself to lunch on Tuesdays unless my mom does.  I spent last night and this morning in a panic.  See, I know that eating out twice today would most likely mean breaking my diet and any eating out I do today is going to put me over budget.  Those are the facts.  I can swear up and down that I am going to get two Fresco tacos at Taco Bell for lunch and a salad for dinner and just one beer but I also know myself really really well.  When I go to lunch I’ll be super hungry and I’ll convince myself to order a burrito too, something I could totally come back from.  However, going out to dinner could be the downfall and here is why…

See, when you are on a diet (or a budget, or both) it’s really easy to feel like you deserve things.  If I have a rough day, I will think that I deserve a beer and some chips.  As I’ve said, dealing with our own inner voices is hard enough.  What about when your husband assures you that you can have Taco Bell for lunch.  Then your mother asks you to lunch the next day at your favorite restaurant.  Then, at dinner, your friend really wants to split an appetizer platter, complete with potato skins and fried cheese cubes and onion rings and fries and cheese sticks.  This is where it gets tricky.  You can insist that you really just want a salad or some soup or that delicious veggie sandwich but your friend will read into it that you are on a diet right away and if you fess up I can almost guarantee that your friend will do what friends do and assure you that you don’t need to lose weight and that you really need those fried foods because you are having such a good day.  For me, I may give in or I may hold out but if I hold out I am about 5 times more likely to go to lunch the next day and get something even worse because I feel like I am denying myself something.  (My favorite restaurant has a dish called Black Tie Pasta:  bow ties and tortellini in creamy alfredo sauce with broccoli and blackened chicken.  They are agents of Satan.)

There are ways to deal with this.  For me, I brought some soup today.  It’s too cold to eat in my car anyway.  I can warm it up and sit in my office with my podcasts.  Tonight I am getting one beer and one salad.  If my friend argues with me about it, I will not give in because I have to learn to say no.  I WANT a salad or veggie sandwich anyway.  Tomorrow, I’m rainchecking on lunch with Mom.  We’ll do it next week.

It’s important to remember that these people mean well.  They want you to go out with them because they like you and want to spend time with you.  They are not thinking about your diet or your budget.  They encourage you to spend money and eat not-so-good things because they know you like to and they want you to be happy.  When you say you’re on a diet they tell you that you don’t need to diet because they want to be nice to you.  Don’t get angry at them but be firm and kind in your response and keep being firm.  In the end you could possibly walk out of a situation feeling good about your friend and good about yourself.

 

The $1000 Challenge by Brian J. O’Connor

I ordered this book in for the library a few months ago and quickly forgot about it.  When it passed by my desk a couple of weeks ago I was starting to feel really disappointed with my New Years Budgeting.  I snapped it up, checked it out, and put it on the top of my To Be Read pile.

O’Connor had me from the start.  Now, I will admit that a large part of this is that O’Connor is writing from Detroit.  Coming from old Rust Belt Michigan myself, it’s easy to feel like I’ve been completely forgotten by a lot of personal finance books.  This is where I am from and where I intend to stay and I know that means I am taking a pay cut and facing some real financial worries in the future.  That being said, what makes this book work is that O’Connor focuses on cutting spending practically by focusing on the top 10 spending categories for his family.  Each chapter is devoted to one of these categories and then divided into levels of budgeting, which he describes in the intro.

O’Connor originally took on the $1000 Challenge while he was writing for The Detroit News.  His goal was to shave $1000 off his spending in ten weeks.  He takes you on the journey with him, telling you what he did and other ideas for people in different situations.  It wasn’t long before this book had me not only rooting for our writer but also cancelling the Netflix DVD membership I underused and looking into whether I should try to refinance my car and my house or maybe switch my billing for my utilities.  I even downloaded the app for my favorite grocery store and linked it to my card to rack up savings without paper coupons.

This was a fast and amusing read.  If you want practical advice that won’t bore you to drooling, give this book a try.