Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tips for Simple Living

I'm a big fan of simplifying. As my life is getting ready to kick into high gear (my second work-from-home coding job starts tomorrow), I'm again appreciating being organized, having a schedule, and a routine. As my dad says -make your plan and work your plan.

So tonight, after I'm done working, I'll be cleaning up, hopefully hanging out with a friend or going to the pool and relaxing before my life is absorbed mostly by my 2 jobs later this week.  (Ah - the cost of financial freedom.)

That said, I ran across a list of reminders for simple living. I'd say I live pretty simply, so I figured I'd tweak the list and share my tips:

1: Pay bills immediately.
As long as a bill is hanging out there in the unpaid category, it occupies mental space. If you can't pay it immediately, make a plan to pay it off and stick to the payment schedule. Budget this in so that you'll know how much play money and savings money you have.

2: Cook at home whenever possible.
Keep your life simple and bring food to work. Cook from home. Know what's in your food. When you do this, you'll feel better physicially, which will leave more mental space to make better choices in other aspects of your life.

3: Spend time outdoors EVERYDAY.
Whether it's sunny or overcast, step outside every day to reconnect with nature. Go for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Just sit by the pool. Whatever. Just get outside and be reminded that there is a great big beautiful world out there. It's easy to get overwhelmed when you get in the tunnel vision of your own tiny piece of it.

4: Celebrate your victories.
One thing I am BIG on is celebrating. Celebrate with friends. Celebrate with loved ones. Find a reason to celebrate your accomplishments, big and small. Take in the view from the mountain top - whether that mountain top is getting through work without killing your co-workers, or something bigger like a graduation. Create occasions worth celebrating.

5: Pay in cash.
Identify a personal spending trouble spot and shift to a cash-only policy for toys. This keeps life very simple. If it's not in your wallet, you can't spend it. It's too easy to lose track of things when all you have to do is swipe a card and sign on the dotted line.

6: Save your "petty" change.
If you buy a bottle of wine for $9.19, pay with a $10 bill, then put the 81 cents change directly into your piggy bank or an old glass jar. You'd be surprised how quickly this adds up (and how handy it is when the chips are down). I've lived off my change jar more times than I care to admit - so it's really been a boon!

7: Empty your trash.
Staring into an overflowing waste basket makes you feel bloated, while an empty receptacle signals that your slate has been cleared, and you're ready to move forward. Odd, I know, but it works. Keep the clutter to a minimum and you'll really feel like you have more space (even if it's just a few more inches).

8: Turn on the ceiling fan. Open the windows!
Not only does this keep the heating/cooling bill down, but getting fresh air circulating is so much healthier than sitting in a stuffy, thermostate controlled room.

9: Daydream daily.
Whether it's before bed or on a lunch break, let yourself daydream. It's completely healthy. "My father believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Alice in Wonderland.

10: Buy used.
It costs less, cuts down on packaging waste, and no one will know the difference. Second-hand or consignment shops are great places to find clothes, kitchen equipment and even furniture.

11: Disconnect AND reconnect.
Take time every day to disconnect from electronics. That means no TV, no Ipod, no computer screen, no cell phone. NOTHING. Even if it's just 15 minutes before bed. Pick up a book. (This and going outside go hand in hand sometimes). Prove that you're not part of the Matrix and can live unplugged. This will open the way for eye-to-eye contact and genuine engagement with other people.

12: Say hello. Make small talk.
Working at home, I don't see people (other than my roomate) on a regular basis. So I make a commitment to get our several times a day. Even if it's just to get a cup of tea, I try to engage and make small talk w/ people around me, or even the cashier. Even just a few minutes, there is a true art to conversation - and you never know when you'll make someone's day.

What are your simple living tips?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I did it! Pushing the limits!!!!

So today I went to bed late, work up late, and had a bit of a runny nose. SO many signs this isn't going to be a good day, right?

So let me give you a run down of my lunch time:

Me: Ugh, I am so tired. And I'm feeling sick. Do I really need to work out?
Evil Me: Yeah, it's okay. You don't really need to do it today. Good sleep is really helpful to weight loss too. Just go take a nap.
Me: But I didn't really work out yesterday.
Evil Me: You took that bike ride in almost 100 degree heat for about 3 miles! That was a work out!
Me: Not really. I had to stop for lots of street lights. I got a good sweat going, but I hardly got my heart rate up.
Evil Me: But you went to bed late last night, AND overslept this morning, so you probably really need the rest.
Me: True...
Evil Me: And you haven't really been able to concentrate on work. Keep looking up Disney World stuff and Wedding stuff even though you're not even close to getting engaged.
Me: Yeah...
Evil Me: It's not that important to lose weight. Face it. You're never going to have those Xena legs you want anyway.
Me: Well, it's important that I stay healthy, regardless of what my legs look like.
Evil Me: Come on, you don't really need to put on those gym clothes. They could really use a wash anyway. Why not just take today off? Besides, there is nothing on afternoon TV in the gym anyway.
Me: Well, true. It's usually just people in a mocked-up court room who can't get their lives together. Not terribly entertaining - just sad.
Evil Me: Right. And do you really want to listen to your Ipod?
Me: I am getting a little tired of podcasts... but Lou Mongello put out a new one today...
Evil Me: But it's just an interview with Bob Gurr  (Disney Legend for design work - designing just about every vehicle in Disneyland from the opening of the park).  How can you keep a pace up listening to an interview?
Me: Well, ya know, I've underestimated Lou's interviews before. I bet I'll like this one. It'll keep me interested and pass the time...
Evil Me: Wait a minute... you're getting into your gym clothes, just how much time are we talking here?!
Me: I am a little bored with my routine. Maybe I'll do a different program today.
Evil Me: Ugh...

End result?
I listened to the Podcast and found Bob Gurr rather inspirtational. AND... I completed a new program on the tread mill, completing a 3.5 mile jog. Didn't I say I wanted to be able to run a 5k at the end of the year? How about I'm RUNNING 5k's NOW almost daily!

No matter what the scale says on Tuesday, I'm happy w/ my overall healthy progress!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Truth and Gravity

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time:
“Sometimes, the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most: that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power, mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love, true love, never dies. You remember that, boy. Doesn’t matter if they are true or not. A man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.” - Hub, Secondhand Lions

Just because we don't believe in something, doesn't make it real. I was reminded of this as I pulled up some Christmas music to try and beat the heat.

Let me preface this by saying, I'm like Hub. I choose to believe that life isn't some dark dismal trudge to the grave. Sure, there are tough times, but even those won't last forever. There is always something new to be learned, something to dream about, something to reach for, and something to gain. Yes, there are times when evil seems to triumph, but I believe it won't stay that way for long.  When it comes to holidays, I believe in the spirit behind them. Sure, they are mostly centered around greeting cards, feasting until we pop, or other gifts, but the best gift we can give is our time, love, and attention to those around us. I look for things/people that inspire and move me. That's probably why I'm such a lover of art.

So - to help beat the summer heat, I thought I'd share something a bit Christmassy.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. - Source

I think believing in the good things in the world - even the good stories - has merit. Afterall, just because you don't believe in gravity, doesn't mean it won't effect you. But it might help you dream about flying every once in a while.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chances and Changes

First the good news:
 It looks like my temporary roomie and friend (who has often gone by the nickname of Mud) has a new job and will be able to stay on with me. Yeah! I’m relieved that a stranger won’t be moving in. We’ve been under the same roof for over a month now, and haven’t killed each other, so that’s a good sign. In fact, he was really great about helping out while I was laid up. What a friends/family for?

More good news:

I’ve secured a good second job! I’ll be signing on the dotted line next week and will be working from home as an auditor again. While it’s no secret that I don’t love coding – I am grateful for my education in that area. It’s really helped me out and been my bread and butter. Once I get a couple of small debts paid off, I’ll be in good standings.

But today is kinda special -
 It’s rare that you’re aware that a phase of your life is ending and you’re on the cusp of something else. A completely new adventure.
  Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready to pack up all the good things in my life – all the good relationships, experiences, etc – and move into something new. I can’t even quite put my finger on it, but something it’s as if I’m slowly becoming aware of things changing. Sure – I have my tough days (like yesterday). But lately I’ve also had this feeling that something new is on its way. I’m at a place where I feel important decisions are coming up in my life. It’s not an anxious place – but rather a nice place of acceptance. It’s like I’m slowly coming to a place where I understand and accept all the experiences that make up me are what they are. No more negative emotions attached to them. They just were what they were – part of my shaping process. It’s a little restless. Not like I’m missing something, but rather I’m ready for a new “home”.

I’m not sure what all this will mean, but I’m interested to see how my story unfolds…

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Never underestimate the power of family

Today, I've been on the verge of being completely overwhelmed. Often times, life doesn't go according to plan. But when those plans gone-awry mean unexpected bills, well, that really sucks a person's soul. Financially drowing is highly restrictive. I'm starving, but I can't pretend it's comfortable.

My parents have been helping me out a lot over the last 6 months. Since it's taken me so long to find a roomie, they've been helping w/ the rent. Then, a monumental tax bill from the IRS... then medical bills... etc etc...

I know what you're thinking: "Aren't there things you could cut back on?" Admittedly, there are 4 things.
#1) Netflix ($9/month)
#2) Limited Basic Cable ($2/month)
#3) Disneyland Annual Pass ($35/month)
#4) Coffee/dining out ($40/month)

Coffee/dining out varies. I rarely go out w/o a coupon, and most of my "coffee" trips are actually "tea" trips, totalling a little over $1 each. These are also not daily.

So cutting out all of that would save me a grand total of $86/month.
While it's a start, it's simply not enough.

Being a single woman working from home - getting "out" and around people is important, but I'd feel a whole lot better about doing it if I weren't gasping for financial air.

I HATE asking for help - especially in the magnitude as it's been lately.  I did just get a small raise which should show up on my next paycheck. I have a headhunter looking for a 2nd job, part time, work from home coding job for me. While I'm reluctant to take a 2nd position that requires me to do more coding from home, if I need to be a hermit for a while to get these off my back, I will.

If it weren't for my parents willingness to help w/ no strings attached, I'm frightened to think of where I'd be today.  Though I feel like I'm drowing in a sea of debt (nearly all of which bankrupcy will not cure), I'm hopeful that, with the continued love, support, and guidance of my family, I won't be drowning for long.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Path back! The final MD's visit!

After four months, this medical saga is coming to a close.

And damn, does it feel good.

Yesterday, I had a meeting w/ my MD where we looked over the wounds (which are healing well - just aren't pretty) and to go over my path report.

So far, here's the list of things they found (and a short description to save ya'll from googling):
Endometriosis - Believed to be caused by an excess of estrogen, this is when endometrial cells (which are natural in the body) grow outside of their usual place. This usually causes pain and is a chief contributor to infertility.
Ovarian Mucinous Cystadenoma - This is a benign tumor that grows.... and grows.... and grows... you get the picture. Usually considered a benign growth with the potential to become malignant. They are filled w/ a thick, gelatinous matter and basically won't stop growing until they are removed.
Adhesions - This can most easily be described as internal scar tissue that connects the affected organ to other parts of the body (surrounding muscle/organs/etc). Often causes pain.
Hemorhagic cyst - A cyst that is being filled w/ blood due to a broken blood vessel on the ovary. They bleed into the ovary and cause pain.

Obviously, keeping that ovary would have been moronic to say the least.

Those were the biggies. Again, the doctor was shocked that I wasn't really in as much pain as he thought I would be. (Then again, it's hard to tell how much pain you're in in this area when you are abstinent.) 
However, the MD also made another discovery:
The other ovary and all my girly/reproductive parts were normal.

What's changed since surgery?

The weight has been falling off. I'm down 6 lbs since my surgery day. 6 lbs in under a month a good, solid, steady weight loss.
The veil has been lifted. I've often felt as though my day to day life was a struggle between my rational mind and my emotional life. As if some veil or cloud of emotions clouded all my judgements. My heavy bouts of anxiety that I coped with just about daily? Nearly gone - or if not gone, easily put into perspective. Living in fear is no way to live. It's so debilitating. But my "I can" attitude seems to come easier now. I feel emotionally stronger and able to handle the ups and downs better.

It's amazing how hormones effect our lives (especially as women). There is a theory that perhaps I haven't had PCOS my whole life. Perhaps it was these tumors growing and growing and this operation has helped my body discover a new normal. It's a little early to tell for certain, but it's stunning to think that the way I've lived and coped for the last 11 years could possibly end now.  I have to admit, I've been in shock about it for a while, but I'm finding that I'm getting happier about it (especially as the weight falls off).
Just wow...