Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sugar Shock

I made a few commitments for this week:
Financial accountability went to hell over the weekend which deserves another post (and Easter pics!).  Yesterday was day one of the mile challenge while is broken up into two 15-minute walks (we almost forgot the second walk).  The low-calorie bit I kind of scoffed at since I'd already been doing it for three weeks.  It was mostly for Jeff's benefit.

And then yesterday went to hell in a hand basket very, very quickly.

I had decided Monday morning to work an hour of overtime to help finish out the month strong on my project front and then go straight to bellydance class from the office.  I felt fine all day, although I was short nearly 400 calories I'm used to getting from part of my lunch/afternoon snack.  About 10 minutes before my normal quitting time my blood sugar dropped dramatically.  Usually it creeps up, but this was super sudden.  I felt really ill and decided to go home and have a snack before jetting off to class (this makes no sense as I have plenty of snacks at the office).  I walked out the door and had a lot of trouble getting to my car that was a mere 30 feet from the office door.  On the drive home I had trouble breathing and started shaking and sweating, like I was going into some kind of shock.  I remember I could feel the pores on my shins sweating.  It was the strangest feeling in the world.  

When I got home, I grabbed some Coke out of the fridge (my mom's old standby when she would have issues from her hypoglycemia) and some tortilla chips, I even made a black bean and cheddar quesadilla.  I inhaled EVERYTHING.  I felt dizzy and my head pounded, but I could breath properly and the sweating had stopped.  I tried to take a nap to shrug off the icky feeling.

When Jeff came home, he brought some peanut butter up to our room for me to try.  It was delicious and helped me feel a little bit better, but I was still ravenously hungry.  On request, he made us some shrimp saag out of left over spinach from the previous week.  It was a little too soupy, but very tasty and the heat from the cayenne seemed to help level out my blood sugar and my body mellowed out a lot.  But I was freezing, as if I had lost a lot of blood.  So I bundled up for a few hours until my body heat stabilized and then I could feel how stuffy the house was (Jeff had been complaining about it being too warm earlier in the evening).

To top it all off, I couldn't sleep.  My mind wasn't even that overly active and it's not like the nap I took earlier was so significant.  So now I'm exhausted and achy.

I have a more complete lunch fare today so I'm hoping for no repeats of yesterday.  I haven't had blood sugar issues like that since I was in my late teens or early twenties (you know, that age when you're too busy chasing fun to stop and pay attention for any length of time).  Hopefully I won't ever experience that kind of crap again.


I had the most amazing Easter weekend!  Unfortunately, I committed a lot of splurging, both with food and money.  I have no idea *how* bad as I haven't tallied everything from the weekend (and I'm much more likely to do this with the money than I am the food).  I just know it was bad and I could have exercised a great deal more  self-control.

Saturday morning, Jeff took the Dan to Storyland for an egg hunt.  Jeff said the kiddo was so excited he never stopped running!  After the egg hunt, they took to the zoo (oh yeah, annual membership already paying off).

While they were having boy-time, I was off with the girls going dress shopping for my bestie's wedding.  Now, I really hate shopping.  I'm super picky about what I wear but I actually probably made out with the best luck.  I found both my bride's maid dress and my bachelorette party dress in the first stop.  In the second stop, I tried on a dozen dresses (as did everyone else) and took home three gems, including one really hot piece I can wear to the office.

By the way, do you know how hard it is to type when a cat is persistently licking your fingers.  Gah!

After shopping, I had lunch with my friend Becky at my favorite Chinese stop, Luby's.  We gabbed for two or three hours, completely losing track of the time before remembering to check in with our men folk.  But before returning her home, I whisked her to Target to help me find Easter baskets as well as egg fillers like candy and Legos.

Easter morning, my mom came by to help with the hunt.  There were about 20 eggs in all, left over from the Dan's previous treasure hunt.  Chocolate, Legos, and money filled the egg.  The Legos were a BIG hit, although it caused some distraction while he was looking through his bounty.

We had French toast and eggs for breakfast, dropped off the kiddo with his mom, and visited our families before falling over for the night.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A New Challenge

A few weeks ago, I was broke.  Again.  For like the umpteenth time.  I've been fortunate in that I always have enough to pay all my bills, but future projections always looked grim.  So I took a closer look at my spending habits.

What I found, shocked me, although it really should not have.

Suffice it to say, I've been enjoying my income the last few months or so.  It has never really been mine to enjoy, through previous arrangements I've always had to share it with someone else.  I love that I was able to save up and pick out and purchase a new couch (my first piece of furniture that I've ever owned that wasn't second hand or purchased by someone else) and I was frugal and got a fantastic deal on it (I even got a free display case thrown in that now beautifully contains all of our digital media, including gaming systems).  But with the newfound freedom comes the need to be more responsible.  I don't have anyone else to be accountable to.  And I've definitely taken advantage of that.  

I don't have expensive tastes, but I do like to go out to eat (A LOT!) and I love to spoil my friends when I can.  I love to pick up little somethings, or treat friends to dinner, or help them out financially when I have the means to (sometimes when I don't).  That's not to say I'm Miss Moneybags now, but when I was struggling I had a lot of friends who weren't "made" but more comfortable than I was treat me to dinners, help me with projects, and lent me a $5 here or a $20 if I needed help with gas just because they loved me and wanted to spend time with me.

So back to how I'm broke.  I looked at my budget, and by far the biggest offender in dollars spent was eating out.  So I looked through and totaled up just how much I was spending on restaurants (this doesn't include groceries!).  I'm usually super-secretive about my money, but I think I need some more transparency, so here it goes:

It's condensed so you can see the bill for each month on the far-right of the image.  Here's the text breakdown:
  • January: $386.15
  • February: $341.20
  • March: $285.83
  • April: $210.87
Note that this doesn't include cash purchases.  Other than the withdrawal, I don't track where my cash goes exactly.  I actually was doing REALLY WELL this month.  Before this past weekend I had only spent about $85 for the month on the 15th.  I completely BINGED financially over the weekend.  I went out for sushi Friday night, Table Moutain buffet Saturday night, and rounded out the weekend with dinner before we saw Wicked.  That's over $100 I spent in just ONE WEEKEND eating at restaurants!  How freaking insane is that?

In two weeks, Jeff might be out of a job again (his temp assignment is ending, but we're still keeping our fingers crossed that they find more work for him at his current assignment).  Which means I'll need to carry the household alone for a little while.  I am EXTREMELY fortunate that I have the capacity to do that and still put a little bit of money in savings, including retirement.  But things are still going to be tight, and eating at restaurants has to go.  Frivolous spending will need to go.  Projects will no longer have the luxury of being completely spontaneous.  I might even revisit taking the bus through the summer and cutting back on social plans and visits during the week to save gas during peak consumption season so we can still afford gas to go on hiking trips at least once per month. (Yes, I know there are plenty of places to go closer to home, and trust me, they will be explored!)

So what's my challenge?  
  • To be more honest with myself about my money and introduce a little transparency. Detail every financial transaction and keep every receipt for a month, every month.
Being accountable for years did me a lot of good.  It got me out of debt in record time and allowed me to save for a house and major appliances for said house.  And if I did it before on less, I can definitely do it now.
  • Limit eating out to two or three times per month.
I prefer eating at home anyway.  I have better control over what is put in my food.  I don't have to wait as long to arrive at my kitchen table, the whole family can participate in meal preparation rather than being bored at the table, I don't have to wait every 20 minutes for my drink to be refilled, and the couch is just a few feet away after the meal saving me lots of dollars on unnecessary gas consumption. I just don't like the cleanup (I seriously feel like a slave to my kitchen!), and I bet if I asked the household (and even guests, because my friends are the most super duper awesome people!) to help me clean up after a meal I get:
  1. The best company the world has to offer;
  2. The job goes by at least half as fast!
So no more excuses!  And because I've been trying to incorporate a modest "minimalist" and clutter-free lifestyle (still a work in progress), my purchases for things I don't use is pretty much non-existent or at least has been diverted to going out to eat.  

You know, wait.  I'm going to stop and have a moment of pride over the fact that in the last 8 months I made a dramatic change to my spending habits.  Okay, sure it's really just a shift, but for someone who loves to acquire stuff, I still think the moment is worth celebrating.  This path is certainly NOT easy.

I'm really lucky that I really only need to make a couple minor lifestyle changes in order to maintain a level of comfortability that I still find enjoyable and fulfilling.  I know a lot of people aren't as blessed and there may be a time when I need help again.  Life's a cycle.  I just hope that I continue to make the best decisions possible for myself and the life I *want* to have.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Menu

I'm pretty excited about this week's dinner menu!  After a successful week going pescatarian (that's  vegetarian with some fish) to test my willpower, I went a whole second week as a pescatarian with great success!  Again, I only had a couple meals during the whole week that contained some kind of seafood.

When I was a vegetarian in a previous life, I wasn't familiar with many vegetables, beans, or alternative sources of protein.  I didn't like cheese (I was only really familiar with Kraft singles and Kraft mac and cheese, neither of which is really cheese) unless it was on pizza.  I ate a lot of breads, pastas, and cereals.  It wasn't exactly nutritious.  Fortunately, a few years ago, I had to give up a lot of breads and pastas in favor of sprouted grains on a diet to help reduce my cholesterol.  Since then, I haven't had much of an appetite for the pastas and breads I once depended on for sustenance.  I've also been introduced to a number of lovely vegetables, legumes, and fruits that make a vegetarian menu a lot more appetizing and satisfying.  I have even developed a taste for many delightful cheeses (keep your nasty bleu!).

Of course, this week we have the Dan.  Fortunately, he's a really good eater and always tries everything on his plate, even if he's tried it before and doesn't think he'll like it.  We have a couple tricks, one is colored salt which is helpful for eating vegetables he doesn't like after trying them.  We usually just sprinkle the tiniest bit and that's all it takes for him to happily dig in.  After a couple times, he usually eats the vegetables without the colored salt (we use pink Himalayan salt, but have neon purple food coloring and sea salt on stand by).  We also have flavored bacon bits (read: not real bacon) as another trick, also to be used conservatively.

The downside is Dan has been having a ton of respiratory issues the last several months.  So far he's tested negative to all environmental allergens (although these tests are not always 100%) and next I understand there will be additional testing to determine any food related allergies.  In the meantime, his parents have agreed to impose a dairy-free diet for him to determine if that is a trigger.  It's at least a good idea while he's having respiratory issues since dairy products cause increased mucus production.

So this week, we're meat-free and dairy-free!

We did pick up a couple of soy cheeses just to try what's out there.  Although we have to be super careful on this!  A few weeks ago, we made a pesto chicken recipe the Dan loves with a rice-derived cheese.  We thought it was dairy-free, but I recently learned we should have checked the ingredients a little more carefully!  Oops!  We picked up a mozzarella and a cheddar flavor of soy cheese, happily both without dairy of any kind!

So here's what we're eating:

Monday: Black bean tacos with avocado, bell pepper, tomato, onion, garlic, and cheddar soy cheese.
Tuesday: My famous spicy black bean burgers with mozzarella soy cheese, beet chips, and grapes.
Wednesday: Baked acorn squash stuffed with vegetarian baked beans and bacon flavored bits with roasted asparagus and artichoke with vegan butter (I <3 Earth Balance)
Thursday: Shrimp with noodle and vegetable stir fry
Friday: Teriyaki tofu with rice and edamame (a Dan favorite)
Saturday: Macaroni and butternut squash with spinach salad and steamed broccoli
Sunday: Easter dinners, who knows but we'll have to ask our dads a lot of questions about what's in all the food!

I also made dairy-free bread loaf for sandwiches and French toast.  I always use Earth Balance in lieu of butter, but this time I replaced the powdered milk with almond milk.  It's nommy.

So far, the black bean tacos were a major success.  All three of us helped in dinner prep which was a lot of fun.  I'm really looking forward to all our dinners this week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Willpower is always something I've been rather weak in, especially when it comes to myself.  Sometimes reluctantly and sometimes happily I'll lose control on the request, the push, the bare nudge of another.  Ultimately the decision is mine to stray from whatever course I've haphazardly decided to be on, but even when I really want to be on some wagon, it seems impossible to keep hold for long.

Last week, I talked about starting over and paring the unnecessary elements from my life.  It's not really "starting over" so much as it is picking myself up off the floor and resuming work I started two years ago.  My 20s overall have not been happy years, but I woke up and started working on taking charge of that.  So while the last two years have been eye-opening and mostly satisfying, I have bad days, lots of bad days.  The last two months in particular have been exceedingly hard.  It seemed like everything was working in tandem against me.  I wrote a post a month ago about expectations, but it never made it to the blog, at least not yet.  Mostly it was my expectations that weren't being fulfilled, and so I've been reflecting on how to communicate my needs better to those that matter and likewise ease my expectations on outcomes.

Last week was the lowest I've been at in awhile.  I felt like I had completely and utterly lost all control over myself.  I was ashamed that over the years I had flitted it all away to others, here and there, leaving none to myself.  I worried that trying to enact change was a hopeless endeavor; I couldn't take anything on and see it through.

And then something happened.

I called bullshit on myself.

It's a weird kind of epiphany.

I have seen quite a many things through in a very short amount of time.

  • I successfully quit smoking while living with a smoker and surrounding myself with mostly smokers for friends.
  • I finished an Associates and Bachelors degrees while going to work full time and without any breaks.
  • I got myself into over $20,000 in debt and got myself out in less than five years by rigorously saving and paying off my balances fully.
  • After debt episode, I maintained a lower standard of living to rigorously save and purchase my first home.  I've maintained a lower standard of living continually (not making frivolous purchases, not increasing my debt-load for the sake of having new things, etc).
  • I'm still living and breathing and enjoying my life.
I've completed a number of goals and projects and accomplished a number of minor things not worth listing here, but I think I've made my point. I'm currently working on a plan that would have my student loans (currently over $50K) paid off and a significant chunk of my mortgage paid down in five years.

So for some odd reason, I decided to challenge myself.  Just a short challenge, just to see if I can stick to something I put my mind to.

I decided to go pescatarian for a week.  That's vegetarian with some fish, dairy, and eggs.

And I did it!

I only had fish in two meals over the whole week, so it's not like I was just replacing chicken/beef/bacon with fish.  It was surprisingly easy, too.  Now, I wasn't counting calories or trying to graze strictly rabbit food for weight loss purposes (one of the evenings included dinner at John's Incredible Pizza and I didn't eat from the salad bar).  But I did eat less overall.  I was satiated much more quickly and my blood sugar levels have been much more controlled.  I slept easier and I didn't experience much in the way of pain flare ups (I've been able to stop the low-dose medication I was taking for both).  I feel generally more relaxed and a lot less physical discomfort.

I'm proud of myself for accomplishing the task I set for myself.  Since I feel so good physically, I've decided to continue through another week and I'm seriously considering maintaining this lifestyle indefinitely, but with some caveats (generally, when I am a guest, I will try to eat what is prepared for me, but I will make recommendations if asked).  

So no more excuses.  I can accomplish what I set my mind to and I'm the only one who ever really gets in my way.  I'll have my power back now, thankyouverymuch!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Beginnings

With so many planets aligned in Aries, Mercury in retrograde, and Saturn conjunct with my natal Saturn I'm compelled to start fresh...-ish.

I have a lot of varied interests, and those varied interests often get me in trouble with myself.  So many things I want to do, never enough time to do them all.

I haven't been too satisfied with my life the last couple months.  It feels like I'm moving against the flow of things, nothing ever works out the way I expect, and I'm flustered by everything.  First, I need to release some of my expectations.  Not everything goes my way, and that's fine, I accept that.  But now I need to practice that if I want to keep any semblance of my sanity. Second, I need to figure out what is really important to me.

When I think about things that I enjoy, I frequently think of physical activities: bellydancing, dancing in general, yoga, running, walking, biking, rollerskating, swimming, and so on.  The problem is I'm not doing those things.  I have a million excuses for not engaging myself in these activities too: I'm too tired; there's not enough time; I just ate; it's too late and I won't be able to sleep; I don't have the right clothes/accessories/props/equipment; my muscles are sore from the last time I did [one of the activities listed above].

I don't understand what my block is.  I need to change my behavior, clearly, but how.  Just get up and do it mentality only works seldomly (I have NO willpower).  Loss of investment (such as paying for a class in full in advance) is no motivator.

It's an area I need to seriously work on, for my health and my happiness.  I am starting a 21-day yoga challenge tomorrow.  It's just one thing I can do and then I will continue to add to my plate.

Also, I have consciously gone vegetarian for a week.  I just want to see how I do.  I have lots of reasons for wanting to go vegetarian, but that's really worth a different post.