Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017: Looking Forward

Happy New Year!  Have a safe New Year's Eve.  Wishing you all the best for 2017.

We are staying home tonight.  It is raining, cold and icy.  We have a bottle of bubbly in the fridge and plenty of food, plus we have some interesting stuff to watch on TV later on so ..... for the first time in a long while, we are staying home.  Getting older!! LOL

All of our kids are elsewhere this weekend.  We spent time together over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays but, this year, we didn't plan a big get together (which usually occurs at a restaurant).  It really is time for us to assess our spending and to stick to our final plan of watching where every cent goes ~ if certain expenditures do not really add value to our lives then those expenses really need to be nixed once and for all.

What are our goals for 2017?

1. The spouse's retirement.  2016 was supposed to have been the year that the spouse pulled the plug on full time employment.  He has a high stress government job that he was really hoping to leave behind but certain events came into play and retirement has to be delayed into 2017.  This will, however, be the year that he leaves his job for good.
2. Mortgage balance below $50,000.  The mortgage balance is currently under $57,000, which is a drop from the high of $92,000 in 2013.  We should've done better at paying this balance down but we have had kids in college the entire time, although 2017 represents the final year of college.  3 of our 4 kids have college degrees, the final kid will graduate in less than a year.  All of them have the ability and capacity to be high earners should they choose to work hard, stay on the rails and be smart.
3. Travel.  Two, maybe three, vacations are in the planning stages to visit places we've always wanted to see while we are still young and healthy enough to do so. (AirBnB, self catering, staying with friends/family)  We are planning a trip to the mountains in (perhaps) search of our final home in retirement.  We are planning a trip to New York.  There might be a trip to a foreign land.  I'm afraid that if we don't do these things now, we never will.
4.  RV Living.  Investigate further the plan to sell the house and buy an RV.  This plan remains open ended as certain events have occurred that may make this a non feasible plan.  Stay tuned.
5.  Lose weight.  A necessity for health, wellness and budget.
6.  Eating.  Control grocery/restaurant spending to a specific budget for 3 people. (Under $7500 for 2017)  We consistently spend around $13,000 each year on food but a large chunk of that involves restaurants when we pick up the tab for everyone.  We usually pick up the tab when the event concerns our family members but we need to move away from expensive restaurant celebrations and practice economy instead now.  We will use the 'We are retired and living on a fixed income' excuse readily from this point onward.
7.  Home upgrades.  Install a gas burning fireplace insert in our main family room and improve our house's energy efficiency in time for next winter.  This will also involve a new window installation and the rehanging and weather stripping of our heavy front doors, which have fallen out of alignment.  It has been very cold this year and we need to further upgrade our heating system.
8.  Debt.  Bring all credit card debt to zero within the next 6 months.  We don't have much debt but college expenses have eaten into our coffers and debt is the result.  Thank goodness we are now out of this stage of our lives.  We have given our kids the tools to make good with their lives.  Whether or not they choose to do so is now entirely up to them.  The decisions they make are out of our hands.
9.  PEACE.  Find peace and final closure with my decision to go Zero Contact with my immediate UK family.  Ten years ago, in May 2007, my father ruined an entire vacation here in the US because he didn't like the way he was treated by US Customs officials when he arrived stateside.  I eventually threw him out of my house after 2 weeks of putting up with his abuse.  My mother was collateral damage as she had to leave with him.  It was 4 years before any of us spoke to each other again ~ I was the one to extend the olive branch.  Almost 10 years on from the 2007 fiasco, the exact same scenario played out again recently, this time at my parents' house in the UK.  I was the one who walked out after a week of putting up with my father's belittling, racist, bitter, misogynistic behavior.  Realize, finally, that our relationship will NEVER be good, it will NEVER be normal and it can NEVER be based on respect because I lost respect for the man when I was about 8 years old.  It is so hard to finally face the facts that were there all along because always we hope that things can change and be good.  I have lived my whole life with a lot of guilt, shame, second guessing and emotional damage as a result of childhood abuse.  Continuing the 'work in progress' that is my emotional state into 2017.

Peace on earth.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 Food Goals

Thank goodness Christmas is over.  I wasn't feeling it this year at all, given that half the family have been ill and then my uncle suffered a heart attack on Christmas Day.  He survived it but is in the hospital post cardiac surgery.  The minimal decorating that was accomplished here has already been taken down and packed away, three cheers for plastic Christmas trees that fold flat in a box.

There are a number of upheavals occurring within our family at the moment, all as a result of relationships that seem to be generally coming undone.  Long term relationships seem to be failing and that was all too apparent at the family Christmas parties we reluctantly attended.  Never mind turkeys and cake, the air could've been cut with a knife too.  We all have our problems.

I totaled up our yearly spending and was surprised/not surprised to see that we spent $13,000 on food in 2016.  Obviously, we are too indulgent.  Sometimes, we have been too generous.  On those rare occasions that we went to restaurants to celebrate family events, we picked up the tab.  I don't mind picking up the tab but it seems that the people we go out to dinner with never reciprocate and I'm not OK with that any longer.  It's not OK to take us for granted, to assume that we are always going to pay.  Restaurants will be off the menu for the most part in 2017, unless the spouse and I are away on trips.

2017 will be different.  I have been reading other people's blogs and their food spending is practically half of ours.  $7500 seems to be a figure to shoot for so, in 2017, my goal is to stay under $7500.  That gives me a grocery budget of $144 a week, to include Starbucks and restaurants which will now, surely, be nixed because we won't be able to spend on those luxuries.  I think I can make it happen on $144 and will give it a darn good try.

Our other spending for 2016 has been well within limits, no horrible surprises there.  Something has to be done though about the food and the eating.  Smaller portion sizes for sure, less alcohol, better meal planning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cheap Xmas: Thinking Ahead

Weight, like credit card debt I have found, is extremely difficult to lose once acquired.  It takes determination, willpower, focus and patience.

My weight is moving downward.  I have recovered from The Virus and I am forging new habits.  Someone once told me that the first 2 weeks of any dietary change involving caloric restriction are the hardest weeks.  I would say that's about right but I had a head start because for the first week of my attempt to reduce caloric intake, I couldn't eat anyway.  Result.  We'll see where this leads.

As for Xmas, this has been the cheapest Xmas I've ever experienced.  I have spent hardly any money at all.  We are partaking in Secret Santa and buying only for the youngest members of the family, as you do.  I set a budget of $100 and stayed within that budget.

I'm using my faithful plastic Xmas tree (which isn't even up yet) and I only sent cards to a handful of people.  I am cooking a light dinner a couple of days before The Day in order to free up everyone to do what they like on Sunday and our Sunday dinner will involve about 4 people max and we'll have chicken.  I just don't want to do another big dinner, truth be told.  The prep and clean up are massive and Thanksgiving Day is enough for me.

I am setting healthy boundaries for myself and I am apologizing to no one.  If I don't want to do something, I won't.  If my gut feeling tells me that something ~ anything ~ is a bad idea, I'm running for the hills.  I don't care who is offended or who cannot/will not understand my position.  Moving forward, my hope is that I can listen to my gut more and have the self confidence to go with what it's telling me.  Many times this past year, for example, I have found myself at social gatherings that my gut told me were a mistake and which indeed did turn out to be events that I wish I'd avoided altogether.  2017 will be my year to start saying NO to anything I think is a bad idea.

And that includes any notion of a return visit to England.  Ain't gonna happen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Weight Loss & Other Things

Wow.  I can remember many times in the 1990s, and around 2005-2007 and then again a few years ago, when I needed to lose 100 pounds.  Today, I 'only' need to lose 47!  In the not so distant past, such weight loss effort seemed impossible for me without gastric bypass intervention because I needed my food fix, my crutch.  I couldn't stay out of the fridge or pantry.  I actually began to research the procedure in desperation.  I was willing to mutilate my insides with an irreversible surgery to get the weight off.  I was willing to try anything.  Hell, I even tried Fen/Phen!!  My spouse and kids dissuaded me from the gastric bypass route and personally I am glad they did.  Just lately, I have been reading forums full of people who greatly regret having had the surgery, almost all of them suffering unintended side effects such as anorexia and food phobia.  I also discovered that the long term success rate is LESS than 5%!!!

All of my addictions are rooted in the violence of my childhood.  I ate for comfort whenever I could then, and the behavior carried through for decades afterwards.  The full dysfunctional sickness of my UK family has really become very clear to me, clearer than ever.  I have decided to go 'no contact' with my parents, as well as my very damaged sister and her family.  They are no good for me and they never will be.  They are still wallowing over there in the sick dynamics of yore and I'm going to leave them to it.  I don't live like that any more.

I have lost 10 pounds so far this month.  In the first week of December, I weighed 222.  Today, I weigh 212.  The problem is how I did it.  I caught Norovirus a week ago and boy is that virus ever brutal.  I was taken ill last Saturday night after having to go to a fast food chain for dinner.  We'd been out all day, driven 400 miles and there was no way that dinner was going to be cooked at home.  Should've organized things much better but there ya go.  Nowt in life is perfect.  I'm guessing that a sick employee handled my food and voila.  I was the only one who was sickened by the food so I guess that's a positive?

Anyway, I've spent 5 days in bed/sofa, completely unable to eat for 4 of those days.  Agonizing stomach pains, vomiting and all the rest.  Absolutely brutal.  I thought that one of my ribs might be cracked but I'm feeling better so probably not.  Dehydration has been the biggest problem.  By day 3, I was ready to go to the ER with a rapid heart rate (a sign of dehydration) but was able to drink gingerade in small sips, thankfully.  Was able to drink more yesterday and today, drinking even more.  ER trip avoided thus far.

Well, once again, this has cemented my own personal view of eating outside of my own kitchen.  I'm just not doing it anymore AT ALL NO MATTER WHAT.  I will attend functions but I will push food around my plate.  If someone has a birthday or other celebration, I will show up and eat only dry chips with a beer, nothing else.  This latest episode has really taught me a lesson on a couple of fronts.

#1.  One never knows who has handled one's food in these restaurants and what they've done with/to it.  Did the employee wash their hands after going to the bathroom?  There's absolutely no way to say for sure.  So many unknowns.  Too many.

Today, I managed 500 calories.  My stomach needed something in it, even though the risk of direct expulsion remains very real.  So, 500 calories is not very much food.  It's a couple of small slices of gluten free toast, a boiled egg, a child's apple sauce serving, a piece of string cheese and 5 smallish dry crackers.  That amount of food is TINY compared to what I usually wolf down.  Now, I know that no one could or should be trying to live on 500 calories.  For my height and frame, I should be eating around 1400 calories when no exercise is involved that day.  If I want to have a splurge, I would need to get on the treadmill or go walking with the crew and burn some extra calories.  Point is, it doesn't take much to reach 1400 calories.  A dinner plate piled high will most definitely exceed my calorie allowance and, despite the fact that I already know this, my powers of denial are strong.  This is why I am clinically obese.

So, 5 days of being unable to eat has been a real eye opener for me.  I believe it is the catalyst that is going to spur me on now and get my head straight with regards to 'curing' my obesity.

One of my kids has moved back home for a while.  Grad school has finished and the ensuing plan is being worked.  With the kid in the house plus the spouse (both of whom eat like horses) I am going to have to be sly and cunning over the following week while I lay the groundwork for my own plan.

What am I on about?

Well, I am going to drag this sickness out for another week, get these two dudes used to the idea that they too are eating too much.  Because what happens around here is that the spouse starts going on about chocolate and cookies or the adult child starts carping on about pizza and then I am screwed.  They are both well over 6 feet in height and can eat far more than I am able to eat.  So, this week they have been watching me eat absolutely nothing and they are starting to think about their own eating habits.


From my vantage perch on the sofa, I am genuinely shocked at how many extra calories are disappearing into their stomachs and I am NOT being judgmental.  I've consistently been far worse.  It's just an eye opener that has come along at the right time.

So, I'm going to take my time recovering from this virus, not expending too much energy, so that I can get used to the food intake that I'm actually supposed to be consuming.  I'll be planning menus and recipes and working on a daily health plan for the coming year.

I recognized the moment when I beat my hoarding behavior.  I have never and will never return to that behavior again.

I recognized the moment when I finally had all my spending under control.  It has taken me years to control my spending but I am THERE.  Finish Line.  Winner.  Once upon a time, I was a shopaholic with a massive hoard and bankrupt.  I will never return to that way of living again.

Today, I am recognizing the moment that I may have my eating disorder licked (excuse the pun).  I won't be defined by this fat and unhealthy body any longer.

Give me the strength.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday: No Time Like The Present

Yesterday, I visited my son at his apartment and while I was there, a friend of his came over.  She is a Registered Nurse at the local hospital and I've known her for quite a while.  We had our usual chatty exchange and I told her that I was going to make an effort to improve my health over the coming year, in tandem with DD.  You know how it is when you chat, one thing leads into another .... we joked about all the different ways that we've tried to lose weight over the years, some of them silly and others (as it turned out) just plain dangerous.  As usual, Yours Truly's attempts to lose weight definitely veered into dangerous territory when I spent months on the Fen/Phen diet drug combination.  This was 20 years ago and, quite by chance, RN mentioned a patient who had been under her care recently, who had developed heart and lung problems tied to Fen/Phen 20 years later.  As in, the lady was struck down a couple of months ago.  This lady apparently had felt just fine up until September of this year and then, suddenly, dropped like a rock.  She has Pulmonary Hypertension which is an untreatable, ultimately fatal condition caused, the doctors are guessing, by her months spent taking a drug combination that was known to be dangerous but allowed to remain on the market while the drug company responsible dragged their feet in removing it from use.  The FDA eventually stepped in and made the dangers known.

From the internet:
"Fen-Phen – This diet pill makes you feel full and thus considerably reduces your appetite. It also boosts your metabolic rate and thus exceeds energy levels. There are dangers galore with the drug. It contains two already banned substances in Fenfluramine and Phentermine. It causes severe heart ailments, anxiety and high blood pressure. It also has an adverse effect on liver. This is the reason why it is banned."

Just great.  I already knew that these diet drugs had been banned and were dangerous but I had forgotten about the risks involved.  As you do.  Well, I just got a wake up call.

RN told me to watch out for a high pulse rate, as well as high blood pressure, not to mention chest pains.  She said that there is a general feeling of anxiety that goes along with this condition, which would be business as usual for me, but she said that the high pulse rate is the symptom that most people don't realize.  A resting pulse rate of 120+ is a pulse rate in the danger zone.

Needless to say, I have been obsessing over this new clanger and I'll be monitoring my BP, pulse and all the rest of it.  The percentage of users of the Fen/Phen combo who have suffered from heart damage varies widely depending upon the study but I am gathering that the number of those affected ranges between 20-30%.  I can only hope that I'm one of the 70% who will escape long term heart damage.  It's one more thing for me to get my knickers in a twist over.

Yes, I have anxiety issues.  Are they Fen/Phen related?  I don't think so.  I've suffered with anxiety ever since I was a small child.

Am I winded lately?  Yes.  I'm guessing that's because I am 60-70 pounds overweight.

Is my resting pulse rate over 120?  No.  It's usually somewhere in the 80s.

Does my heart feel 'healthy'?  No.  I am short of breath too often these days and I frequently feel palpitations and beat skips.  Often, I feel my heart thumping.

Will I make an appointment with a cardiologist and get an echocardiogram?  Yes, I will.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday: Keeping Warm

I'm coming to the realization that I'm not as indefatigable as I once was.  Just lately, I've been a little short of breath and I feel like I'm having heart palpitations.  Google tells me that stress and anxiety are major factors with palpitations, albeit not the only factors of course, so I'm going to go with that diagnosis until/unless I feel that these symptoms are 'more'.

A couple of our aging pets aren't doing well either.  The dog and one of the cats are getting up there in years and showing signs of old animal age.  I hope they'll be around for another few years but that will be the extent of it at best.

It's getting really cold here at night and my house is a barn.  High ceilings, open plan.  I have hung heavy velvet curtains at the door as I always do every winter I've been living here.  Those curtains have really helped to keep the cold out.  The double front doors are heavy wood and original to the house.  I don't want to replace them so I plan to have them rehung and weather stripped in the spring.  There's plenty of life in those doors yet.

At the windows, I have hung thermal black out curtains in a really nice silk wine colored fabric.  The windows have all been replaced but they are big windows, and not the sort of windows one would usually see in the eco friendly houses that are being built these days.  I mean, one might see one double paned picture window in the newer houses but not 4!!  Never mind the huge sliding door that runs along half the back of the house.  I have thermal curtains hung there as well.  Just ordered a new set for the slider (two huge curtain panels) so that I can use the other panels elsewhere around the house.  I cannot keep turning the furnace on, even though it is new and the most energy efficient model on the market.

I sit on the sofa with the spouse, wearing a fleecy robe, a thermal undershirt, socks, wrapped in a blanket.  This house gets cold despite the measures I've taken to try to keep some of the heat in.  Tonight we are below freezing.  At night, we sleep in flannel sheets with a heavy duty duvet on the bed with 2 hot water bottles!  Ever since I read that hairdryers and electric blankets are linked to leukemia, I haven't had those items in the house in years.  I'm sure an electric blanket would be lovely.  But.

In other news, I have decided to downsize Xmas even more than I have already.  I am sending cards to only a handful of friends and family.  I have set a dollar limit on gifts and will not exceed that dollar limit.  Instead of rushing around knackering myself on Xmas Day, making a big dinner for the family, I am organizing the meal for the evening of the 23rd so that everyone can go off and spend Xmas Day how they would like.  They don't need to feel that they have to be here with me and the spouse.  My kids' situations have changed and there are significant others + family to consider now.  Also, I dislike how commercialized Xmas has become and how obligated everyone seems to feel.  Thanksgiving is our big holiday dinner and we're all fine with that.  Another 'big' day just a month following Thanksgiving has become too much for me to take on.  If someone else in the family wants to put on the big dinner that the spouse and I just show up for then that would be super! 

No Bah Humbug here, just reality.