Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Staying on Budget

Well, 2017 was a bit of a spendy year for us. We are lucky that Jim has an income that allows me to stay home and to pay cash for our purchases. We pay off any credit card balance each month and have done so for almost 10 years now. We had a lot of credit card debt early in our marriage when we were starting our family. We hated the feeling of it, but we chose for me to come home once we had children. Once I started working, we paid off our debts and made a promise to never carry a balance again.

Both of our children are in college and so a chunk of savings goes to that each year. I am happy to say that we will be done paying for college in 2018 ... woo-hoo! We plan to start Roth IRA accounts with that money in 2019. Then, I had my tummy tuck. Jim purchased a used motorcycle with my encouragement. He had one before children arrived and I had always told him that he could get another once they were out of high school. He enjoys a ride most weekends! We took a vacation to Vermont and that was so worth every penny. We had the best time and are already looking forward to making plans to get away from life a little in 2018. Not sure yet where we will go, but Jim loves the beach and we haven't been to one in a long time. I also stocked a craft room full of yarn! I went a bit overboard, but now I can just go to my shelves and pull down yarn whenever a project strikes me. I have to say that it is so difficult to avoid buying yarn ... the variety and beauty of it calls to me!

Soooooo, 2018 is all about getting back on track! I plan to be as focused on this as I am on my health. We need to replenish our emergency fund and start saving to pay off our mortgage. Our goal is to pay it off by the end of 2020. We get no tax benefits from keeping a mortgage and we just want to be out from under the debt. I have been doing pretty good managing my impulse to buy stuff. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone and nothing major was purchased. Now, I just have to keep that focus in 2018.

To help me, I have our budget in an Excel spreadsheet and I keep track of all income and expenses on it. That way, I can see at a glance what our current situation is. We do have a couple of home improvement projects that need to be tackled. We don't plan on retiring in this home, but it will need some updating in the kitchen and bathrooms to help with a future sale. However, those projects are not in the budget at this time. We will be working on the front landscaping in 2018 as we pulled out all of the bushes this past spring and never did anything else! Oh well, ....

I am looking forward to working on my frugal ways again. We have gotten off track with that, but 2018 is a new year with a renewed focus on the budget. I know we can do it!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Looking ahead to 2018

Every November and December, I start thinking about the upcoming new year and what things I want to learn, experience, improve, purchase, etc. I've decided to try and come up with 12 items, one for each month of the year. I like doing this more than I like making resolutions that I may not keep and end up feeling guilty about!

So far, here is what I have come up with:

1. Learn how to embroider - I planned on doing this a few years ago, and started the process, but never finished. I have some wonderful patterns that I am looking forward to trying. My main goal is to learn how to make all of the different stitches.

2. Using The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes book, I want to learn how to make good hard crusted bread for dinners. My husband loves French bread and has requested this of me and I am happy to oblige! There is also a gluten-free version of this book that I hope to purchase and try out as I try to limit my gluten intake.

3. I studied essential oils a few years ago through the Aromahead Institute and only have to write a research paper to become a certified aromatherapist. However, I have never gotten around to writing the paper. I hope to study my course materials again and finish a few classes that I never started as well as use my essential oils more to help me with certain issues. I might even get around to writing that paper!

4. I will join Planet Fitness so that I can get in a daily walk during the cold months. I love the cold weather, but am not keen on walking in the cold early in the morning. I was walking and lifting weights before my tummy tuck and I am ready to get back to it! Once the weather warms, I will head out to the local parks for some early morning walks. I do intend to be "fit by 50." I hope that one of the side effects of getting healthier will be that I can get off some of my medication that I have relied on for so long!

5. I love to read and have LOTS of books on my shelves that I need to read through. NO buying books this year! Whatever I read comes from my own shelves or the library.

6. Incorporate a low-carb and/or keto diet into my way of life. I love the keto cookbooks by Maria Emmerich, but I am really looking forward to her Easy Dairy-Free Ketogenic Recipes book that will be published in January. I have found that dairy and grains are not my friends. They both make me bloat if I eat them regularly. I haven't totally eliminated either from my diet, but I do limit how often I eat these items. I am also sensitive to nightshade vegetables which includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and certain spices. I limit these items as much as possible as well.

7. Save as much as possible into our emergency fund and spend as little as possible in 2018. I honestly cannot think of anything that I HAVE to purchase except for some clothes that I will have to replace because I am smaller now due to my tummy tuck. I have all of the crochet supplies that I need, but will need a few items for the embroidery. My husband and I each get $100/monthly to spend as we want and that should be plenty of money to buy any clothing or craft supplies I may need.

8. Focus on the concept of hygge and incorporate more of it into my life. I am looking forward to more crafting, reading and cooking new recipes. I also want to spend more time outdoors and find contentment in the smaller things.

9. Blog regularly. I enjoy sharing my life and all of the wonderful things that I find online. I started this blog with the intention of blogging regularly, but got a bit sidetracked. SO, I am making a commitment to be better about that. I don't expect to have any sort of online presence, so I am really blogging just for myself! Obviously, I will be sharing all kinds of information about the various topics that I am discussing on this page, so feel free to follow me and receive emails when I update this blog (link in top of sidebar).

10. Make hiking a regular weekend activity with my husband. Living near the Appalachian Trail and all of the wonderful mountains in my area (Blue Ridge and Smoky), I have no excuse for not making hiking a more regular form of exercise.

11. Research and find the best body and face products to use. Our skin is our largest organ so what we put on it matters! I've thrown out all of my Bath & Body Works products and am starting from ground zero. Natural and/or organic skin care is more expensive, but I feel it is important to find products that are not adding toxins into my system on a regular basis. On the other hand, I do need to balance this with the fact that the skin on my face and neck are aging and I may need the help of anti-aging facial products. I'm sure I will figure it all out by the end of the year. Creating a facial skincare plan is high on my priority list for 2018! I do intend to use the services of an aesthetician to get me started and my appointment is already set for January 5th.

12. Starting in January and working through March, I will be decluttering our home using the KonMarie method that I read about in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing which I purchased this past summer. I also bought her workbook, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, and will begin going through this book once the new year begins. I will be taking a very hard look at each item in my home and I do believe that we will have enough items for a nice-sized yard sale in April! We need some new landscaping in our front beds, so any money earned will go towards that home improvement project.

13. And, just to round this list out to a baker's dozen .... I would like to figure out how to make my own planner/daily organizer that works for ME! I keep looking at all of those fancy (and expensive!) planners online and none of them are just right. I started working on this project late summer when I bought an inexpensive planner at Wal-Mart. I ended up adding free printable planning pages that I found online to it to make it work for me, but never went any further with it. My husband says he can help me with this project, so I hope I can do it and have my very own perfect planner ready to go in July when my current planner ends!

Well, that's a pretty long list for the year. Some of these items I will work on all year, while others will only take me a few months or less. I'm looking forward to learning new things and improving areas of my life as well as doing the hard work to keep myself healthy. 2018 looks to be one of my best years yet!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Getting ready to hygge!

I feel like I already incorporate hygge into my daily life and have for many years. However, I want to be more aware of my daily activities and I want them to ADD to my life. You may already know and understand the concept of hygge, but it you don't then here are some more definitions to get you started. For the next few weeks, I plan on sharing more information on the concept of hygge and so I hope you will join me as we get ready for the colder months that lie ahead!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

6 Week Post-Op Update & Why I Got a Tummy Tuck

The last 6 weeks have been an adventure! I had my latest follow-up appointment with Dr. Reath this week. He said I am doing great and gave me the all-clear to return to normal activities as long as I am in no pain or discomfort. I am to let pain be my guide! The muscle repair part of my surgery is going to hold me back from long stretches of walking and activity for now. The upper part of my abdomen is still uncomfortable in many situations. In addition, my skin from top to bottom (the scar) is still very tight and so I fatigue easily because I end up hunching over after a while. I do hope to head back to the gym soon and see if I can walk on the treadmill for any length of time. I'm going to wait a bit longer to lift weights.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of the changes in my abdomen. These are before surgery, 3 weeks post-op and 6 weeks post-op. The doctor removed 2 lbs. of skin and 2 lbs. of fat during the procedure.

There is not a huge difference between the 3 & 6 week pictures, but there is less swelling. Dr. Reath says I am still swollen and won't have an idea of my final result until I'm 6 months post-op and it will take ANOTHER 6 months for the final result to be seen. Yes, it takes 12 months for all of the swelling to go away!

I wear some form of compression on my belly 24/7 still. Dr. Reath says that I don't have to wear any, but I am to decide when it feels ok to remove all compression. Until my muscle repair is totally healed up, it feels better to wear a spanx during the day and my binder while sleeping. The compression helps with pain while the skin/fat layer is trying to mesh with the muscle layer again.

I had a drainless lipoabdominoplasty with muscle repair. The main reason I did this is because it didn't seem that any amount of exercise was working on this stubborn area. It turns out that my muscle separation was "moderate" which means there were 3-4 finger widths of space between them! No wonder crunches couldn't tone that area! Because I have insulin resistance and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) as well as hypothyroidism, losing weight is difficult for me. I was tired of looking at the person in the mirror because she didn't match who I saw in my head. Trying on clothes was an exercise in futility some days and I would come home frustrated and feeling fat.

Here is a graphic showing what I had done, except that I did not have the vertical incision and I did have liposuction to my abdomen and sides before he repaired the muscles.

This is me the day of my 6 week post op appointment and I feel so good about myself! I am 5'4" and 148 lbs. currently.

I am so happy that I did this for myself. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner, but there was always something else to spend money on, especially paying for the kids' college expenses. Jim and I work on a cash-only basis, so it takes time to save up for things sometimes. However, this year, Jim decided he didn't want me to wait any longer. I did pay cash for my surgery even though it took some money out of our emergency fund. 2018 will be all about putting that money back!

Doing this is motivating! I turn 50 in a little over a year (January 2019) and I have this goal to be "fit by 50." I want to be toned and strong ... my weight doesn't matter as long as I'm in better condition that I am now. I want to be able to hike for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon with Jim. We have lots and lots of great trails in my area since I live near the Appalachian Trail. I like to run on the treadmill and some day, when I am healed enough, I will be able to run without my belly jiggling. And, who knows? I may even purchase my first bikini next summer!

I know there is a stigma around plastic surgery. Many people think it is the easy way out, but anyone who has gone through this surgery will tell you that the recovery is ANYTHING but easy! Having a tummy tuck has helped me to finally be happy with my body even though it is nowhere near perfect. There is still work to be done. I want to help take that stigma away ... women shouldn't feel that they have to do this surgery in secret. So I am putting my story out there in the hopes that others who are considering plastic surgery will remain true to themselves and do what makes them feel better.

One final note: I must say that I HIGHLY recommend Dr. Reath and his staff. They are truly caring and want you to look your best. Dr. Reath is easy to talk to, listens to you and answers any questions that you have about your procedure. If you are near the Knoxville, TN area, look him up and schedule your consult!

If you have any questions about my surgery, feel free to comment here and I will be happy to answer your questions!