Friday, August 1, 2014

Frugality, our style lately.

Its amazing, when you think about it, the things that you can do without. My husband has been retired from the Army since February and has yet to receive a single dime from the VA. He has worked several jobs that meet the needs of his disability,  but nothing has come close to the money he made while in the service. That's what the VA money IS for... to supplement a man who is disabled from serving his country to keep him at a level of normal income despite his limitations. If the VA money had been coming right away like it should have been, (my husband settled his disability rating before he was even discharged, and the paperwork has been sitting there ready ever since), we wouldn't gave fallen behind. It would have been enough.

This week, while checking on the financial hardship claim we submitted 20 days ago- that was supposed to take 10 days- (when we actually got a live person the phone!!), I heard the guy on the phone tell my husband most vets lie about financial hardship. Yes, you read me right: the guy from the VA called my husband a liar. How my husband, my rock, held his stuff together long enough to end the phone call by telling the guy to have a nice night- I'll never know.

My husband has a diasbled foot and shoulder, a bad back,.adjustment disorder, PTSD... more.

We submitted paperwork for govt assistance for food... We got the card and it was ALL sorts of screwed up. First wrong birthday, then wrong social. I guess those are part of your pin or something.  Still have yet to see the replacement. And do you know what we qualify for? $100 a month to feed a family of 4.

We borrowed money from my mom to pay for one car and thanks for the generous donations of friends and family and even strangers we've been able to pay for the other; we still owe my mom A LOT of money back. It had to come to being served papers to go to court to have our car taken for me to ask for help. I've also had the gas company come to the door and threatened to turn my gas off. When we were really stretched to the limits we were buying food instead of paying bills. Paying for a tank of gas so my husband can get to work... One day in particular I can remember that we had nothing left that we had a bunch of metal that we needed to scrap and we literally used our last $10 to get gas to get the metal to the scrap metal place. I kept hoping and praying that the tire wouldn't go flat or something on the way there or worse.

We had friends from church and the boys' school helping us weekly with groceries, which has been amazing. On our current budget generic walmart food and whatever is on sale is it. A long way from the organic choices we were starting to afford before all this happened.

Prior to our current financial situation we were pretty frugal people. Most of our furniture comes from second hand stores and some of it even from the side of the road. I will gladly buy a chair from Goodwill, and three quarters of my sons' wardrobe comes from there as well. They go though the boys section at goodwill with me to find things they like. I've taught them it's always better so save money than spend more when you can get something for less.  When I can, I find what I need at second hand stores- be it clothes or shoes, pots and pans, bowls. We eliminated our cable TV over year ago, we don't spend a drop of money on alcohol. My husband's been sober for 4 years and I have an occasional glass of wine, now I just have to get it from someone else. Ha!

I can't tell you how many times this summer I wanted a glass of wine.

More about me: I've not had my nails done, hair done, hair cut at even a cheap place. I did these things literally once a year when I HAD money. Now. Not all all. When we had money I got most of my clothes at Walmart or the target clearance rack. Thats right, Target's regular prices are too high for me to afford.  I don't buy or wear makeup. I don't even know most brand names of anything. My purses cost me $12 or less and currently ALL have holes in them. I don't soend money on hair products. I use cheap shampoo.

Usually in a spring season a spend money on plants. In the fall, yarn. Not this year. Even then, I spend a fraction of what most of the women I know spend on normal "upkeep"... on my plants.

Let me tell you: not having money to provide basic things for your family causes a level of stress that you can not imagine until you're in it. I suffer from anxiety and depression.  I've spent a lot of this summer asleep. In too much fibromyalgia pain, and such deep depression that I can't bear to be awake. My thoughts consume me with worry and despair and when all the housework I can do (with my physical limitations and back pain) is done, and I've run out of pretty flowers to look outside, sleep feels like the only way to make it through the day.

The nightmares have been awful. I dreamt of every disparity you can concoct. Woken up needing to be held and consoled because I dreamt I lost my kids to illness or kidnapping. Just horrific.

Take a family who lives at frugal and cut their income by more than a third and you have family who really has to make magic happen. We've had yard sales, sold things on craigslist. We haven't eaten at a restaurant in months, and outside of the cherry berry gift card my mom gave us, and a delicious breakfast Theo's mom bought us in early July. Last night we used a gift card and I felt guilty for even that. And of course had nightmares. You can count out summer trips for ice cream.

We've never been a family who takes vacations. Our kids think Super 8 is a fantastic hotel! We road trip to sleep at friends houses or camp. Like in tents. For cheap. 

We don't buy our pets toys, or have money for lawn fertilizer. Can't afford the soda at the gas station, or the snack stand at church league softball.

And you know dental insurance is over rated anyway.

In fact,  I rarely leave the house. My son marveled one day, "Wow, I haven't gone anywhere in like 5 days!" We have no where to go. My weekly outting is church. Maybe walmart once. We can't afford the gas to even free places like the woods or parks. Yesterday we splurged and went to a free zoo and conservatory- an hour away.

Trying to hide all of this from our kids has been exhausting.  We don't dare discuss it in front of them. Our kids are worriers. Ben would chew his nails and panic and Hunter might honestly just cry. But all summer they've heard "no," over and over... can we order pizza?  Can we get ice cream? Can we go to valley fair (we've never been)? When can we go camping again? No. No. No. I don't know.

It's all I can take to fight back tears most days. I think I am to the point where I do cry once a day atleast. I keep reminding myself that worry is a sign of lack of faith, and one thing I know for sure is that I believe in our Lord.  I know he's putting us through this for a greater reason than we can understand,  and someday we'll be in his kingdom forever.

Please keep praying for us. Thank you for listening.  I needed to get this off my chest.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quick Getaway and One Month Update

You guys, I survived a month of the anti-inflammatory diet! I can barely believe it's already been for weeks, in fact if I hadn't written it down in my planner I wouldn't have believed it. The first six and a half days I had the most terrible headache. But since then it's been pretty smooth sailing... That is if you don't count my break down in the kitchen where I almost cried because I wanted cheese.

We switched to getting a majority of my foods at Trader Joes or Whole Foods. This adds drive time- as we live a half hour from those places, but it's been very worth it. One day in fact while my husband was at a job interview, I spent about 2 hours and Whole Foods reading labels,  sampling things that they had out, and learning the store.

My idiots guide to anti inflammatory eating showed up in the mail yesterday, so I'm excited to crack that open today.

Meanwhile I made it through a whole trip to Peoria Illinois and back while maintaining my eating restrictions. I made this work by bringing along whole grain items I suspected I would not be able to get in that area (no tj's or WF there). I started out our Saturday morning with the trip to the grocery store with my mother in law to get some more of the things I would need. I even baked cakes for the family and had only one spoonful of frosting. My mother in law bought me some very dark chocolate and I had that instead of cake. Perfect.

Today I started taking turmeric capsules. Overwhelmingly people told me that it is fantastic for fibromyalgia, so I couldn't ignore the suggestion. My husband found it for me at Walmart for roughly $7. Not bad!

On a daily basis I'm making sure to get in all the things I need... And I can honestly say I have barely experienced hunger in any form. Stealing from Weight Watchers terminology it makes sense that when you eat filling foods all the time, you're full!

So far my favorite go to things have been Trader Joe's probiotic smoothies, steamed edamame, bananas, Trader Joe's whole grain flax seed crackers with hummus, multi grain flax seed tortilla chips guacamole made without Dairy, raspberries, and larabars.

I've very much have enjoyed the daiya soy cheese- I have the cheddar mixed in with a salad, and the mozzarella mixed in with brown rice pasta and chicken with mushrooms and red peppers and olive oil. I don't expect that it would taste good on its own but mixed in it does the job. I have also enjoyed soymilk and coffee creamer, almond milk, and coconut milk coffee creamer.

I have compromised and had occasional sour cream, and once I had cheese, but for the most part I have eliminated all white flour, eggs, Dairy, high fructose corn syrup, tomatoes, & potatoes. I have greatly limited sugar.

I lost 4.8 lbs in 4 weeks.

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Our trip to Peoria was a last minute decision. We went in time to have a legitimate date for Valentines Day. Our initial plan was to go to the place we met the Chili's on University- exactly 13 years to the date. We were stunned to find how many people were already out to dinner for Valentine's Day at 4:30 pm!! After calling around a few places realizing no reservations were going to be available we drove past a place and Theo mentioned "I've never been there before." A quick call and we were seated at The Lariat, and enjoyed a delicious dinner. I would have to say the best meal I've had in my life. Our appetizer included smoked salmon, crab legs and jumbo shrimp with some of the tastiest cocktail sauce I've ever had. For our meal I had lobster and a baked sweet potato. The salad was also delicious with a lemon poppy seed vinaigrette.

We got home early with enough time to play more with my mother in law's new rescue dog Cooper. He is adorable! Even more cute when he's in his bow tie or the raincoat. We also got to take out the ferrets and let them run around. Very fun!

We took advantage of having actual television and watched a little bit of the Olympics. The boys enjoyed it very much. We also rented some movies, had the whole family over, celebrated a birthday, and my mother-in-law and I went shopping both Saturday and Sunday to a few thrift stores, Ross and Gordmans. I came home with some awesome treasures including a cute old kitchen scale, and a faux fur coat that is going to make me look like a proper church lady.

We came home to more snow- in fact the last half of driving was in snow. I must have been exhausted because I slept through most of Monday. I got almost everything unpacked though!

Such a great trip!

Theo started his new job yesterday and he really likes it! God is good.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Craft Room Reorganize & Great News!

It felt fantastic to have some time to do some reorganizing last week. I moved all of my supplies for work and hobby into the back room of our house last fall right when the chaos of knitting season set in. I didn't have the time to really organize anything then, and just slapped things in place. This time, I had all the time in the world to think about where I'd want to sit, lighting, access of items, etc. The whole room just feels better, and I've maximized the space! Here are a few pictures I took! Enjoy!
 
 
Looking from the bathroom doorway at the whole room. Shipping table on the right, scrapbooking on the left. The boys' video games are in the yellow chest straight ahead (bottom two drawers are mine, full of ribbon, looms, and cotton yarn).
 Stepping forward the yarn storage comes into view- most of the yarn is in these two cabinets. The blue one will be painted as soon as I get a day to open the windows. I'm going for a cream color and sanding it to see the blue and green through... can't wait to tackle this project.
 Looking towards the shipping table. The antique tool box on the lower shelf holds shipping supplies. The file cabinet holds papers, folders, and more yarn. The chest on top of the file cabinet holds various things like macramé plant holders not in use, and fiber for filling up pillows.
 This is the scrapbook space. The tiny metal drawers on the table (an auction find I love) hold punches, ink, and stamps. Still some fine tuning to do here, but I've already used this space and its great! Super happy to have one of my great grandmother's quilts on the wall- I have one in the stairway going upstairs, but have never hung up another one.
 Finally found a spot to hand my vintage Finnish wall hanging! This basket in the foreground houses the yarn I want to use next.... some of it has already been used!

 This is the sewing table. I use the same wooden chair by the scrapbooking table when I sew- this chair I for knitting and watching the birds out the windows. :) Found it for a steal at goodwill, and its in perfect vintage condition. Since I took this picture I moved a vintage ottoman in here with it, so I can lift my feet.  The baskets house more yarn... and the huge wooden box under the table also houses more yarn. The lady will be moving over by the yarn cabinets tomorrow, as my husband and I tackle building a  new photo backdrop I can pull out when I need it.
 This is the corner across from the shipping table, to the right of the bathroom door. I've got a couple dozen plants on the étagère- and the frog has been moved over here so we can see him better. He seems to like his new spot, and we love him being out in the open so we catch his every move. The exercise bike is poised for bird watching. We get bunnies, squirrels, and birds of all sorts of birds the back porch this time of year. We have a heated bird bath, and several feeders out there. Note the two cats under the frog table. They LOVE to sit by the heater, and watch the birds over by the window. The tool box houses terrarium making supplies, and the old minnow buckets actually holds soil for when I may need to repot one of my houseplants. I kneel on the back rug and do my dirty work, and then flip the rub up to dump the soil etc. that's fallen out the back door. It works!
 
Happy crafting!
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Also fantastic news on the job front- Theo has accepted a new job as a warehouse supervisor at a paint company. Its going to be a great fit for him, utilizing his skill set perfectly (darn near exactly what he did in the army), while not hurting his body- and the pay is right, the commute it perfect, and the work hours are nearly exactly what he would have wanted!! Total bonus he'll get paid vacation the first year ( so we can actually take a trip somewhere- Glacier National Park or Rocky Mtn Nat park top the list). God is so, so good.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Let's give it a go!

I think I do so well in a winter dominated climate because at heart I am a homebody. There's nothing wrong with that. My home is my nest and in I can putz & fluff & feather to my heart's content. Sure when its super cold I miss the forest, I miss camping, I miss my garden, but I'm one of those people that isn't going to waste time missing things I can't have. Sometime ago the concept of appreciating what's going on around me sunk in. The idea that when it's spring you love spring, and with winter you love winter. I think of this whole idea as a lifesaver for me. There were so many days of my youth that I sat thinking about how green the grass was on the other side that I missed out on noticing the wonders around me. So now appreciate what I get. If I wake up and God gives us a day with a hundred and seven degree temperatures then that's what we get- and we find someplace to cool off. If we have  minus 50 degree wind chill we scrapbook we bake we watch movies... we make do, & we thank God for the warm house around us.

So this last couple weeks I've been thinking about the way that I take care of myself I'm trying to attach this philosophy to caring for myself. So many times I've discussed my ups and downs of weight loss on this blog... But oh well.  After doing the deprivation that was required for me to maintain a very low weight for 3 years and not allowing myself any indulgence I went to the opposite extreme and indulged for many years. I have not been able to find a happy medium. In fact it's been a dangerous little game I play where I go so far as to track my weight watchers points and fill them with all the wrong things and I lose weight and then I gain it back. We're probably at the point where I hold some sort of World Record for losing and gaining weight hundreds of pounds at a time. Something about this year has made me feel very brave and I have embarked on a total overhaul of the way I think about food. This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, but I live so much of my life in fear: Fear of death, fear of sickness, fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of being judged, fear of scrutiny, fearing failure, fearing change ... And its getting old. I'm not getting any younger I don't want to die of heart disease. Heck! I can still prevent ever getting heart disease!! There are so many things I want to do. Somewhere along the line I want to find myself on a trail in the middle of summer not huffing and puffing and wishing I could go further...  Somewhere along the line I want to have blood work done and not cross my fingers that it all comes back free and clear one more year because it's only a matter of time before it comes back terrible. I can't keep eating dozens of baked goods and the whole gallons of ice cream and maintain a weight of over 250 pounds and think that I'm going to live forever. It just ain't gonna happen.

It's also been a really long time since I've tried anything but Weight Watchers. I think a little change will do me good.

So I'm not going to fear healthy eating anymore. I don't know what came over me but I embarked on eating for my illness. I'm eating an anti-inflammatory based diet. What this means is that I am avoiding foods that cause inflammation and I am eating foods that help reduce inflammation. I think it's going to take some time to make sure that I lose weight doing the sort of eating but the overhaul it's so vast, that I'm taking it one step at a time. So at this time I'm not counting calories I am trying to pay attention to my body and stop eating when I'm full. And I am not deviating from the plan. The plan is not some rigid list of what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; it doesn't assign numbers to foods. The fact its worse. Just kidding. It's harder and it takes a lot of creativity.

This last 7 days I have cut out almost all dairy ( I had an eighth of a cup of cheese on a salad), most sugar, gluten, all white flour,  all red meat, eggs, I more than halved my caffeine, I ate mostly organic foods, tried my very first soy based milk and coffee creamer, incorporated whole grains, and made sure to have fatty fish (and other fish), and lean chicken.  I have had absolutely no fake sugar. I think that about sums it up although it's very possible I forgot some things.

I still have a lot to figure out. I am reading food labels like its my job. Because it is. I ordered a book that is on its way. If I want to maximize my potential I have got to stop eating things that poison me.

Hopefully this helps my fibromyalgia along with my regular activity mapping- I expect to feel a million times better. I'll let you know how it goes.

For now here are few pictures of this lovely winter week we had. Lots of crafting and cleaning, reorganizing my workroom and the usual laundry and housework.

Also a quick update on my hubby: After being unable to do the last job that Theo had taken (specifically: spending a majority of his day going up and down a thin ramp was not working with his reconstructed foot, as well as holding massive carts of food with an already messed up shoulder and was causing him a great deal of pain) he has been searching full time for a new job. He has another interview tomorrow and hopefully more coming up. Please keep him and us in your prayers.