Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Life Update

Well hello everyone!  I've been off the radar for a quick minute.

What's been going on around here you ask?  Well ....

1.  The spouse
He underwent surgery.  It was a major surgery which involved replacing and repairing various parts of his heart and pulmonary anatomy.   He was born with congenital heart defects that he had been largely unaware of until tests revealed the hidden, ticking time bombs in his chest.  Now, he is a bionic man with synthetic tubing and artificial valves where once there were natural aneurytic arteries and diseased valves conspiring to bring him down any.time.now.  And way before his time.

He has a long, very neat scar from the base of his neck to his lower abdomen.

Intensive care was scary for a while but I never doubted that he was in excellent professional hands and I had faith, for the first time ever when it comes to a situation as out-of-my-control as this one has been, that he would recover and be fine.  He is making a good recovery and is home from the hospital with a pile of meds (most temporary) and equipment to help him regain his independence in walking, bathing and other activities of daily living.

The spouse is not out of the woods and never will be.  The grafts could fail, as could the valves, but he's doing his best to lose weight, stay motivated and cheery.  He hasn't suffered depression in the slightest, nor fear.  It has been quite an amazing experience for us both.  I am impressed, as always, with his resilience and his matter-of-fact manner in dealing with life's curves.  He says that he has had good practice because he is, after all, married to me.  LOL

For my part, I am impressed with the way I have handled this situation.  I used to fall apart, my underpinnings having being planted in such weak foundations.  This time, I found a strength within that enabled me to NOT bawl my eyes out when the nurses wheeled my man away to be carved up.  I was determined not to do that.  I told myself that this situation was NOT ABOUT ME.  It was about being a rock for my rock.  I saw him waver at the end, potentially staring death in the face.  Still, I stayed strong and so did the rest of the supportive family there with me.  No one cried while we waited with him.  We'd already done plenty of that in secret beforehand, in the days when we first found out that our Main Man was in trouble.  For me, it would've been unacceptable behavior on my part.  He needed to see that I could cope. I stayed focused and razor sharp (pun!).  I was his advocate and believe me when I say I advocated.

We are now on the flip side, working on cardiac rehab and looking forward to the much lengthened future.  After seeing the surgical report, we now know that the spouse was actually living on borrowed time.  He was in even worse condition than revealed by the CT and MRI scans.  I don't think he would've lived out this year.

We smile a lot, laugh a lot, love a LOT.  Life is good, thanks to a brilliant talented surgeon and his impressive surgical team.  These people are truly amazing to be able to do what they do.

2.  The Immediate Family
Our kids are doing well.  College is over for us finally.  No more pencils, no more books.  The most recent college grad is interviewing for jobs but entirely enjoying being at home too much.  This has been a surprise development.  For months, the kid has been telling us that jobs were lined up, which they were not.  Yes, I have seen the diploma so I know that the course of study has been completed but I am bewildered at this complete lack of motivation.  Not good.  I am sure, however, that the situation will be remedied.  It has to be.  There is no other recourse.........

We have 2 kids who have excelled.  Both hold demanding, professional jobs earning big money.  They are great kids who supported me beyond belief while their father was in the hospital.  They are both involved in strong relationships, one just got married.

This third kid was also a great support, has always been very supportive.  Unfortunately, despite graduating from a global top engineering college, this kid is exhibiting signs of Failure to Launch.  It is beginning to cause stress at home because this kid needs to get out into the world and build a life.  We need to get that butt off the couch.  I fear there could be signs of depression, inherited from my side of the family no doubt.  I'm not sure what to do about this situation.  I don't want it to blow up but, given the fact that enough rope has been handed to this kid over the years, all signs point to GO.  I'm staying calm but holding firm that things must progress and evolve.  Stay tuned.

The fourth kid, Cat, carries on as selfishly as ever.  I sent her a text and an email to let her know that her dad was about to undergo major surgery and that she was welcome to come home to see him before he was admitted.  She knew her father was in the hospital but never even bothered to so much as send a text to ask about his well being.  She lives in a dope house in a poor part of town with a guy who is no good.  She spends every cent of her earnings on pot (I have a spy) and has just turned 30 years old.  She is jealous of her siblings and their successes.  She cannot be around us and we don't want her around, I'm sorry to say.  Life is easier with Cat out of the mix.  She has lost yet another job and is on the way to being bounced out of her current job.  She owes money to family and (ex)friends.  She cannot come back home here to live when she loses her job and car UNLESS she agrees to rehab, which she will not do.  Honestly, I cannot live with her anyway so I have no idea how this years long situation is going to ultimately play itself out.

3. The Extended Family
My father is still an asshole.  My sibling and her husband are still assholes.

My mother is trapped indoors, a victim of increased dementia and agitation.  She is now incontinent.  She has just been released from the hospital into my father's 'care' but I'm damned if I can figure out why.  Is the UK health care system so far gone that it is acceptable for an incontinent woman with Alzheimer's to be released back into the care of an elderly man with gimpy legs who may have caused her bad fall to begin with?  I told my sibling that the potential for abuse on the part of my father was huge.  I have no idea how my mother is being kept clean and hygienic.  I cannot imagine.

I've already detailed the horrendous living conditions within my parents' home: extreme mold, leaking roof, substandard bathroom facilities and plumbing, poor cooking facilities.

My father is a cheapskate who has always been a cheapskate.  I left home and was on my own at 18/19 years of age and so I wasn't always aware of just how big of a cheapskate he was/is but I'm finding out now.  He is an awful human being.  I feel terrible for my mother but I have removed myself from the equation and the situation entirely.  I have no input, I have no say.  I receive my news second hand from an extended family member.  That is the extent of my involvement with my UK family.  There is no dealing with the jealousy, the bitterness, the rage and the dysfunction that emanates from that group of people and so I have chosen to remove myself from the madness and have gone Zero Contact.  When my mother dies, I am positive that they won't even tell me.

To be continued ......

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Night: Not Sleeping

Evening all.  As usual, I am still here plugging away.

Lots of stuff going on.  Doctor consultations and the agony of deciding what to do for the best.  As it turns out, we seem to have zero choice in the matter.  Surgery is a must.  The spouse will undergo what is probably the most major surgery one can have and the thought of him not making it through is so unacceptable to me that I am compartmentalizing the whole thing and visualizing only post surgery, with him making a full recovery.  I have a constant dull ache in my lower gut which I know is stress manifesting itself.  I am also eating everything in bloody sight and that's not helping.  Food is "comfort" but is it really?  NO.  Not to this extent.  I am completely at sea at the moment, but drawing on the coping skills that I have learned over the past decade.  I am not shopping, or hoarding, or pigging out at the local buffet.  Just eating all the groceries and watching too much escapist TV.

I have plans for this week.  Decluttering.  If heaven forbid, something happens to the spouse, my adult children will do one of two things: ask me to move closer or move in with me.  I won't be here by myself.  So decluttering must continue, either for house sale or to make room for some people.  It is a thought and situation that I don't allow myself to think about.  I am so 'good' at denial and pretending that disaster isn't imminent.  It's how I survived my father.

Let's talk about something over which I have some control: spending.  I am on track for reaching my grocery budget goal at the end of 2017.  One third of the year has almost passed and I am right on track to spend $6500 on food this year, which is half of what we have been shockingly spending in past years.  I haven't been inside a mall in months (since Xmas) nor have I been inside a restaurant.  Restaurants were my biggest problem ~ I loved to have other people cook for me!!  Now, I can't stand the thought, thanks to Kitchen Nightmares and food poisoning.  Food ~ it's purchase, preparation, consumption ~ is absolutely the next realm of life that I need to conquer.  I'm getting there.  Slowly.

I am thankful for my now small circle of family and friends who are truly here for me.  They have always been here for me, as I am for them always.  Together, they will help me ~ and we will help each other ~ to get through this latest crisis.

Of course, I wouldn't be 'me' if I weren't engaging in some soul searching and self analysis in a better effort to understand my motivations and to try to forgive myself for certain transgressions.  I try not to transgress anymore.  In fact, there's no try to it ~  I do not transgress plain and simple.  I work to live a clean and simple life, devoid of deception, lies and self destruction.  I'm just trying to be a better person, kinder to myself and others.  When I think of some of the things I've done, I feel a deep shame to the core and it's a very uncomfortable feeling.  I see now why I worked so hard to never have to feel that feeling again.  It's devastating to realize that those who were supposed to have loved, supported and protected one as a child actually did the complete opposite and turned one into an anxiety ridden shameful mess, full of deep insecurities and self loathing.

On that note, my Zero Contact stance remains intact.  I have not contacted my UK family and I don't have any plans to contact them.  This Zero Contact thing is working out OK for me.  I miss talking to my mum but apparently her memory loss has accelerated and she 'wouldn't know me if she fell over me' ..... one of her favorite sayings.  I have accepted that my mother is at the end of her life and I can only hope that the end comes with dignity.  If I am called upon by extended family in any way for assistance in this regard, however, I will provide it.  I'm not heartless.  My only request in that case will be for my father to be kept far away from me.  He made me what I was: angry, reckless, defiant, indulgent, addictive, ignorant, irresponsible .... and I don't want to be that person ever again.  I don't want to see him or talk to him.  My relationship with him, such as it was/wasn't, is over and done.  Dead.

I have a very good relationship with certain other extended members of my UK family.  We chat back and forth.  These family members know what my father is and so I am allied with them.  They are supportive and we have long histories with each other that can't seem to be killed LOL  We share gossip and they let me know how my mum is doing as and when they get news.  It's far better than nothing.

In my own immediate family life, I have 3 great children who have gradually come into their own over the past year or so.  These 3 are pursuing careers at the top of their games.  I am very proud of them and their hard won achievements.  All 4 of my children went to university and acquired degrees from the top programs.  However, 1 of my children ~ Cat ~ began to go astray in 2011.  She still managed to finish college and gain her credentials, a minor miracle indeed.  Since then, I have had to cut her out of my life a couple of times.  We stopped talking to each other from 2011 to 2013 after she stole a large sum of money from me to fund her drug habit.  I let her back into my house in 2013 after the guy she was living with threatened to kill her with an assault rifle because she was using him for rent.  She stole from me again in 2015 and I haven't seen or heard from her since, although I know exactly where she is, what she is doing, and which guy she is using now.  There have been a succession of these hapless types, funding her lifestyle.  I have my own means of keeping tabs on her for now, which I do to make sure she is still alive.  I believe that Cat is most certainly a narcissist, if not a sociopath.  There is no reasoning with addicts.  I should know.

My question:  Cat knows full well of her father's medical condition and need for impending surgery.  She doesn't know that the surgery has come up on us faster than expected and so .... should we tell her what's going on, even though she has made no effort to apologize for her latest theft, or should we shut her out and tell her afterwards, when and if?  Her drug use over the years has made her unstable and arrogant and we don't need any more drama so this has to be considered.

I think I've gotten some stuff off my chest here, maybe now I can sleep.  Off to bed.  I hope life is being kind to you.  Peace.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's Tuesday: An Update

Well, I'm still here plugging away in La La Land.  I hope my readers are all doing well today :)

Just some stuff:

1.  I'm determined to cut our darn grocery/food bill down to a sustainable level.  We've been spending in excess of $13,000 a year which is ridiculous, despite the fact that I have been tracking expenses for almost a decade now.  This is how long it takes me to lose my 'support' systems!  And yes, food has most definitely been a support.  And don't even ask me how much money we used to spend when we had 4 teenagers in the house.  We could retire on that amount alone.  Anyway, I wanted to really make the effort this time to cut the food bills by 50% and, at the end of this first quarter, I am on track.  I don't want to spend much more than $6500 for 2017 onward.  It has been surprisingly easy on this particular 'food challenge' attempt to stick to the budget.  It hasn't been anywhere near as painful as it once was, so there's progress!  I'm sorry to sound so pathetic.  Many of the blogs I read are headed by determined men and women who just get on with it.  I, on the other hand, have spent a lifetime just trying to function in a non destructive manner and, up until 10 years ago, failing terribly.  The past 10 years have been good though!  Varying degrees of progress but the trajectory has ultimately always been upward, I will say that.  One step back and two forward.  So, I need to make some adjustments for April in order to make it to the end of that month bang on target. I'm pleased.

2.  We've stayed out of restaurants and have turned down numerous related invites.  This has made us pariahs both inside and outside of the family.  Friends have copped an attitude and I'm about to dump a long term friendship over the snippy manner in which one particular 'friend' is handling herself.  She has turned from a support into a competitor somewhere along the way, always having to prove me wrong even going so far as to bring supporting documentation every time we meet for chrissakes.  Get over yourself, lady.  You're becoming toxic and I don't do toxic. 

The family is both bemused and bewildered at our complete lack of desire to eat oversalted/greased/sugared food outside of our own kitchen but we've stuck to our guns.  I can't believe that we've FINALLY succeeded at conquering this particular heretofore expensive problem.

3.  We're taking our first trip of the year soon.  It is going to be completely self catered, as in no restaurants.  All food and cooking supplies/utensils are in the process of being packed.  I'm planning this with military precision as we've never done anything like this before.  It'll be fun, I tell the spouse.  He cocks an eyebrow and looks skeptical but is, as usual, along for the ride.  It's an experiment and I'll post the details of how this goes in a future post.

4.  We are consulting with Cardiothoracic surgeons.  The spouse has a very major health issue.  Unbeknownst to him, he was born with a major heart defect.  Major.  How the hell can one get to a certain age/point in life and not already know about such a thing?  Throughout his life, he's been told one minute he has a heart murmur and then, the next, that he doesn't.  No one thought to do any tests when he was a kid.  Well, he DOES have a fucking murmur, stupid doctors.  We found out about this some time ago but I never mentioned it here.  Along with everything else that goes on in my life, now I am dealing with another life or death situation.  Don't get me wrong.  The spouse is healthy as an ox and asymptomatic.  The heart issue was only discovered several years ago by an excellent cardiologist (who has become our friend) when the spouse was about to get on a plane on company business.  So, anyway, now we know and we have known and the time is drawing near when something is going to have to be done about this condition before the spouse drops dead.  The cardiologist thought that the spouse had some years left yet before surgery would be necessary but the results from the last CT scan show that not to be the case.  It sounds like a daunting situation and it is BUT .... the spouse's condition is a silent killer and we consider ourselves lucky that we even know about it at all.  The surgery will be as major as it gets.

See now, my UK family have been aware of the spouse's health issues all along and yet still manage to continually behave like massive, spoiled, selfish country bumpkin rubes.  I think it's obvious, now, why I had to cut them out of my life.  I just couldn't deal with any more crap and I am barely emotionally recovered over the past 6 months from our last visit to the UK anyway.  ALL of my emotional resources are needed for the here and now, for the people who TRULY love me.  The spouse has taken good care of me for decades and now I am going to make sure that he gets the best of care and attention and gets through this thing in one piece.  So fuck off 'dad', we don't have time for your shit.

5.  As with all addicts, I will have to replace one addiction with another and I'm trying to start a new obsession and become 'addicted' to Health.  This will of course benefit the spouse too.  He is doing pretty darn well on his diet regimen, not bad at all.  It's all about the diet and exercise.  Speaking of, I am doing pretty well on the weight loss side of things.  It's very slow and steady because it's emotionally difficult to lose one's 'armor' but I'm getting there.  I am seeing progress and I'm not backsliding the way I always used to do.  It's hard to overcome those fundamental cracks in one's character when PTSD is the base one has to work from.

6.  The appraiser is on hold for the minute.  With the news that the spouse is facing surgery, we cannot take on any more extra work or stress until the most important issue is resolved.  We will have more news on this in a few months.

7.  House work.  There'll be some of this going on in a couple of months.  We need to finish up and put in the new flooring upstairs. 

That's all for now.  Peace.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Decision Has Been Made

Well, it has been decided.

We are selling our beloved home and going out on the road.

My job tomorrow is to find an appraiser so that I know what my asking price should be for this house.  Our real estate market keeps on going up so ... it's now or never.  We need to sell and bank the money.

I am going to miss this house.  It saved our asses back in 2009 and it will always occupy a special place in my heart.  This house has good vibes.  I knew it was 'home' the second I walked in the front door.  It's going to be hard to sell and leave.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ooh babe ......

Don't leave me now/How could you go?/When you know how I need you
To beat to a pulp on a Saturday night
Ooh babe, don't leave me now/How can you treat me this way?
Running away
Ooh babe
Why are you running away? ~ Pink Floyd

I have been struggling with depression for a little while now.  Going back to the UK as I did last September has indeed proved to have been a massive mistake with regards to my mental health, and it is a mistake that will not be repeated again in this lifetime.  I had been doing so much better emotionally in 2016 but then I had to go and sabotage myself, as I always seem to do.  The chaos, violence and shame of my childhood is like a stain that won't wash out.  It will not wash out, I get that now without any doubt.  I cannot change who or what I am.  I lived with a sociopathic abuser for so long that it has made me an extremely flawed individual, full of self doubt and insecurities, constantly in survival mode, with an inability to listen or to trust in my gut feelings.  I made a vow to myself some time back that, in future, I was not going to ignore my instincts.  When my gut tells me "That's a bad idea" I am trying to listen.

Yesterday, a friend - in a roundabout kind of way - made it known that she felt I had given up.  Well, she doesn't know the half of it as far as my life is concerned.  She only knows what I've told her and it's a highly edited version of my past and present.  She has no freaking idea what I've had to survive.

And yes, I am a survivor.  I take pride in knowing that paradoxically I seem to be made of some strong stuff.  I wouldn't be alive today were that not the case.  And, of course, my spouse takes big credit for bringing me this far in life even though I've made his life intolerable at times.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, be kind to your children if you have them.  It's a huge injustice to affect another person's life in such a negative way as this.  Many times I feel unlovable and unwanted, even though that just isn't true!!  That inner voice that has been relentlessly triggered by being around my awful male parent again keeps telling me that I'm ugly, worthless, shameful, stupid.  I'm still that little girl cowering in fear, wondering if the psychotic bully that is my father is about to kill me and bury me in the back garden.  That was a regular threat.  Among others.

My extended UK family have been keeping me informed with regards to the goings on with my parents.  I will no longer have anything to do with my father because he turns me into a raging, irrational, hysterical individual.  That is not who I've wanted to be in the decades since I left the UK and moved 6000 miles away.  However, every time I get near this man I want to smash his face in.  I want to tell everyone what he did to us.... my mother, sister and me.  On the occasions when I have told people what this sociopath was like to live with, they cannot relate.  They see a charming, funny, 'good' man with strong 'values' and could never imagine him capable of the violence and spittle inducing rage into which he devolves when things do not go his way.  They don't see his massive hands like shovels, capable of knocking a woman or child into the middle of next week, or the hair trigger temper that cocks off on a split second.  And then I feel devalued even further, incapable of fully relating what a monster this man truly is.  He continues to trick people to this day, the latest being my brother in law.  They are drinking buddies. DUI partners in crime.

I have gone No Contact.

Cut a longer story short, my male parent has been in the hospital multiple times since September 2016.  The heart issues that he claimed to have had for years were debunked finally by a cardiologist.  The sperm donor was told that his heart was fine, as fine as it could be for a 78 year old man.  Following that, two surgical operations were performed including a knee replacement.  The knee replacement was two weeks ago and he has been back inside twice with complications.  Personally, I think the knee replacement at his age was a big mistake because, if it fails, he will be wheelchair bound.

Meanwhile, my mother's dementia has gotten worse and she now needs assistance to wash and dress.  She cannot read or write or talk on the phone, so if I was so inclined to phone my parents it would be pointless.  I don't want ~ and have never wanted ~ to speak to my male parent.  I was only ever interested in my mother and seeing as how she can no longer talk to me, well ....... the point is moot now.  My mother is deteriorating quickly and probably doesn't remember who I am anyway.

My sister, despite having 3 grown children, has never learned to cook so her husband has been doing all the cooking.  He takes my parents their meals.  A house cleaner was supposedly hired some weeks back but has never put in an appearance and so the house continues to be filthy, hence my male parent's latest bacterial infection involving cellulitis of the lower leg.  He is such a cheapskate that keeping my mother locked up in a filthy house is preferable to paying for her to receive proper care.  The last thing he wants is to have to pay for a nursing home.  I think I'm the only person to realize this fact but I have made a point of telling the extended family so that at least they are aware that Mr. Sociopath is up to his usual tricks.

When my spouse first met me, I was a raging bull.  I kept it all inside mostly but every now and then my spouse would get a glimpse of it.  My outlet for years was spending, hoarding and engaging in risky behavior of every kind: DUI, spending every cent, gambling, befriending sociopaths, smashing the house up.  And that was the stuff that people actually saw.  I won't go into the stuff that people didn't see.  That stuff can't be allowed to see the light of day.

There has to be an end to this.  At some point, will I ever be free.  Will there ever be a day when I can put these 3 people ~ my mother, my sister, my male parent ~ out of my mind and keep it that way forever?  The 4 of us share such an unhealthy dynamic, my sister is still full of rage.  The spouse was astonished by the barely concealed level of it this past September.  He had never realized before but this time .... wow.  She was like an unsprung bear trap.

Guilt, rage, shame, hatred, revenge.  I think of my broken male parent, chair and house bound, stuck, in agony with infection from a knee op that is possibly failing and a wife who doesn't know him anymore, and I feel a perverse pleasure.  What sort of person does that make me?  This hurt runs so deep that it is indeed pathological.  I think to myself, Now you're getting yours, 'Dad', and it feels good in a sick way.  I admit it.  I want him to feel the terror of isolation, the fear of being forgotten, the pain of injury, the realization that he is a piece of shit.  OK, he probably won't realize that last one because that would entail taking personal responsibility and he's too damaged for that.

The spouse told me back in August to think really hard before booking those tickets to the UK.  I knew I should've listened to him because that trip has set me back years emotionally.  I wish I could turn the clock back, listen to my gut, keep making those excuses to my UK family as to why I couldn't go back there, can't ever go back.

Oh, I can't get the time off work.
I have a house full of pets and no one to take care of them.
So-and-so has to have surgery.
I have to become a citizen before I can leave the country.

I'm sick.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday Update

Coming up to the end of my 3rd fiscal week in February.

Since Tuesday the 7th, I have spent the following:

$32.03   -  Amazon $10.41 Weed killer pump sprayer and $21.62 Amope foot care file
$110.46 -  Aldi $80.09 and Trader Joe's $30.37 (groceries for the week)
$28.73   -  Home Depot - weedkiller, cat repellent, kitchen cupboard door stoppers

I have had 6 no-spend-days since the 7th

I'm going shopping for the week's groceries tomorrow the 17th and anticipate 7 further no-spend-days.  I'm going to try to get through the rest of February without spending any money on anything but gasoline.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Update: Mortgage, Retirement, Overnight Stays and Vandals

I paid the mortgage this morning.  Balance now sits at a tad over $55,000.  Exactly 2 years ago, the mortgage balance was a tad over $80,000 so there's progress.

The spouse has had a shite day at work.  He called me to complain about his new boss and threatened to submit his retirement paperwork right now, this minute.  After bending my ear for 15 minutes, he agreed to wait until we talked it over this evening.  He needs to see the new monthly balances and projected financial outlay over the next 6 months at the very least, before quitting his high paying government job.  He makes a lot of money.  We will not be generating anywhere near this amount in retirement.  Enough to live on for sure, but not enough to pay down debt and we are still getting out from under the costs associated with 4 kids' college educations.  6 more weeks and college will be a thing of the past for us.  Honestly, I can't wait.

I went on an overnight trip and took my portable cooking range, ice chest and kettle with me along with all the food for 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner and a snack or four.  I have a state license in a certain industry and needed to renew my license.  Part of that renewal included sitting through a seminar/orientation which was a complete waste of my time and money.  While I was attending the seminar, my car was vandalized in the parking lot.  I had stupidly left some electronics out in plain sight on the front and back seats, despite the fact that the seminar was held in a grotty hotel in an equally grotty and high crime part of downtown Los Angeles.  So, I asked for it.  I should've locked everything away in the trunk.  The perpetrator tried to open my passenger door with something or other and damaged the window mechanism and the door handle.  Now, I can't either put down the window or open the passenger side door.  I have booked the car in for repair so that is going to cost me something in the region of $350-500 according to the dealership.  Great.

The overnight trial run of taking along my own cooking equipment and food was a great success.  I took all my food from home, which I would've eaten anyway if I'd been at home, and spent exactly ZERO on food and drink while away.  I made my own coffees and cooked all my food in the hotel room so I now know that our 10 day trip will be just fine.  I realized that I needed a power strip and 2 extension cords so I will be packing those along with the cooking equipment for next time.

We are 7 days into February.  My fiscal month began on January 28th.  I had 5 no-spend-days in the first week and here in the second week, I will have another 5 no-spend-days.  That will be a total of 10 no-spend-days out of 14.  Not bad.  On the spending days, I only bought groceries, gas, a bag of dog food, the portable range, some ramekins for home cooking, and paid for a hotel room.  I also paid our household bills.  Other than that, no other spending.

I have to make up for a $3000 medical bill and, now, car repairs.  So, I am thinking that I will for sure just make this a year long challenge of spending as little as possible.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Saturday Afternoon

Things around here are going pretty well.  I managed again to stay within the grocery budget this week and have stuck to my Amazon/Target budget.  No restaurants have been visited.  The spreadsheet has been worked over and wrung out.

I have decided to turn this budgeting effort into more of a year long challenge.  The $3000 medical bill was most unwelcome but there it is .... and there's more to come in the way of co-pays.

I am going to make this the year in which I literally KNOW where every single cent goes.  I'm ready for the 'next level' of budgeting whereby I actually have this whole entire thing nailed down for good and can go on 'autopilot'.

I admire people who always seem to just 'know' whether or not they can spend and how much is left in their budget to spend.  I have never been one of those people.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday: Hotel Room Cooking and Other Stuff

We got hit with a $3000 medical bill so I will be tightening the belt even more over the next 6 months to compensate.  I've set a $100 a month budget each for Amazon and Target.  This is where most of our household shopping is done and I need to set a strict spending limit.

And in the next breath ...

I just purchased a Black & Decker DB1002B Double-Burner Portable Buffet Range in Black from Amazon.  This gizmo will be coming with me this week on an overnight hotel stay/trial run, as well as along for the ride when we take off in April for an already booked and paid for 10-day trip.  Some people might say that taking my own 'stove top', frying pan, saucepans, utensils, etc is overkill and OTT but to them I say ..... I have lived and indulged PLENTY and now have no qualms about cooking beans in a hotel room.  This is new territory for us and the spouse is in two minds about the feasibility of hotel room cuisine, but willing to entertain my battiness.  What more could I ask for?  I'm working on equipment list, menu and food storage.  This could be fun!

I was thinking about increasing the monthly mortgage payment to $1500/month but have decided against it.  The balance will be in the $40,000s by the end of this year anyway so I think we will just slog along with our regular monthly payment and bank that extra money that would've gone towards paying the mortgage off early.  It doesn't make that much of a difference to us at this point.

I was going to pay off Capital One's $4000 credit card bill in 4 payments of $1000 but nixed that idea too.  This bill is the result of college expenses.  I think I will just pay the monthly amount due + a bit extra towards principal and leave it at that for now. I would rather have the extra money in the bank account.  I also perversely want to have this bill 'hanging over my head' as a reminder that I HATE credit card debt and that it is always in our best interests not to incur it in the first place.   Two more months of college and then the kid graduates and we are FREE from college expenses forever (I hope)!!

Everything else is going along swimmingly at the moment. I made a chicken pot pie for the first time ever for dinner and it was so tasty.  A recipe keeper.

Friday, January 27, 2017

January 2017 Finances

My fiscal January began on Saturday December 31st and ran through today, Friday the 27th.  I track all our expenses, assets and savings in a spreadsheet using a variety of categories and I am able to see our entire financial picture on one screen which I LOVE.  This spreadsheet has been completely the one thing that has enabled me to change my financial picture.  In good times and bad, I have tracked our finances since January 2008 in good detail without fail.  My OCD kicks in without a doubt but, in this case, it has been a good thing. 

Here are some 'highlights':

1.  Achieved food spending goal of $144/wk for 3 adults.  This includes all food from all sources (grocery stores, restaurants, Starbucks, etc)  We did not visit any restaurants at all in January.  We went to Starbucks once.  Goal is $576 for the month ~ I came in at $572.  I will try to drop the weekly spend down to $140/week in February.  I write out a weekly menu plan and never shop without a list.

2.  I have set a family goal of giving up restaurants entirely for the year.  If people want to invite us to go out to eat, we will explain our situation.  If they still insist and offer to spring, they will have to pay for the meal.  Otherwise, we will decline the invitation.  We just don't enjoy buying overpriced, underwhelming meals any more.  The only exception will be vacations and trips.  The plan is to take our food with us along with pots, pans and a portable cooking range but if that isn't feasible, restaurants might be our only recourse.  I'll update our restaurant activity (or lack of it) each month.  We have a vacation booked for April.

3Gasoline spending was $66 for the month.  The spouse works close to home and, as we only have one car now, I'm trapped in the house daily while our car sits in the parking lot at work.  If I need to go post a letter/package or go to the store, I walk.

4Numerous No Spend days.  There are many days now during which I spend zero dollars.  2017 will be seeing many more of these types of days.  We just don't need anything apart from food.  Closets are stuffed with unworn clothing and we have all the furniture we need.  Our kitchen is well stocked with appliances and the necessary utensils to cook any and everything. I have been improving our kitchen situation for the past couple of years.  There was a time when I didn't even have a decent frying pan.

5Household bills: Electric, gas, water, internet, cell phone, insurance, trash pickup, Netflix, XBox .... all under control and well within limits.

6Credit Cards:  All paid off, balances at zero with the exception of Capital One which sits just below $4000.  I'll probably pay this off at the rate of $1000 a month and get rid of it.

7Savings Balances:  All going up right now.  With a 4% annual withdrawal rate, we will be self sufficient in retirement but it is proving difficult to break away from the psychological aspect of bringing home a weekly paycheck.  The spouse is having trouble with this, he can't imagine that we are now in a position of self reliance after years of dealing with my overspending and hoarding prior to 2008.  My financial mismanagement of yore has left deep and lasting scars.

8Mortgage:  Balance is $56,992.  Plan is to pay this off within 5 years' time.  We could pay the mortgage off today but the money is doing us more good in investments than it would be sunk into this house.  Essentially, we don't need to have a mortgage but ....we do have one .... for that reason.

9Credit Score:  My credit score used to be in the 400s, as was the spouse's (because of me).  Today, my score is 721 and the spouse is 724.  This marks the first time in our lives that we have had scores in the 700s.  Goal is 760+.

10Financial Goals for February:
   1.  Increase checking account balance by at least $1000.
   2.  Food spending under $560.  No restaurants.
   3.  As many 'No Spending Days' as possible.
   4.  Sell some stuff on Craigslist.  Continue downsizing.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Mixed Bag

It's a cold day with an icy wind here in the desert today!  The rain has stopped temporarily but there is more on the way.  It's a nice change of pace in the weather for us and I'm enjoying the respite before the temperatures will soon heat up again.

All is quiet here.  The spouse is working overtime on a project and bringing home more bacon than usual, which has enabled us to pay down credit card debt much faster than we'd hoped.  We are finding ourselves in a stronger place financially now that the kids have all just about finished with college.

I've been cleaning and decluttering: it's a continual process.  May 15th will mark the 10 year anniversary of the day that I began to realize that I was in dire financial straits again, sinking into foreclosure and bankruptcy.  Again.  May 15th 2007.  Has it really been 10 years?  I think if I'd known back then that it would take 10 years for me personally to get my attitudes and my financial house in order, I may well have become so disheartened that I would've stopped before I started!!  Thank goodness I didn't know how long it would take me.

I'm doing well with my grocery challenge.  I have $144 a week to spend on any and all food expenditures including Starbucks and restaurants but I am finding that there is no money left over for Starbucks and restaurants!  All of my budget is spent at my usual grocery stores for the ingredients for home cooked meals and work day lunches.  There are 3 adults living at home right now so it works out to $48/week/person.  I buy a lot of organic food too.  If I cut down on the organics, my bill would be lower but I'm not willing to do that so ....

I've started to separate the clothing in my closet into the stuff I wear all the time vs the stuff I never seem to wear.  I put the stuff I never wear into a different room's closet so that I don't have to look at it and the result is that I never go looking for it and I don't miss it.  Does this mean I should donate it?  I can't imagine how much money I've lost over the years in donating the results of my impulsive shopping trips for clothing I never needed ~ thousands of dollars worth without a doubt.  I used to take black trash bags filled with never-been-worn clothing with the price tags still attached to the local women's shelter thrift shop.  I haven't done that in a while but maybe I should make one last trip?  I'm giving it serious consideration.

I heard from a family member in the UK that my father's most recent operation to correct urinary incontinence was unsuccessful.  He will have to wear a catheter now to the end of his days.  I get the feeling that both of my parents are not long for this world but I have already let go.  I'm aware that most people wouldn't understand my stance in letting go before they're gone, but then most people didn't live the harrowing childhood that I lived with a male parent who victimized little kids.  Some things are just unforgivable and I battle daily with my inability to forgive.  I find myself reaching a certain point of forgiveness but then completely unable to progress beyond that given point to a place of total forgiveness.  I cannot seem to get there just yet but I'm determined to find peace with my mindset anyway.

So that's where things are at today.  Life is good and we are healthy.  I am grateful for my life in America and I adore my spouse.  I am looking forward to the future.