Sunday, September 23, 2012

Journey to Financial Epiphany

Financial freedom sounds like a dream.  It's something a lot of people work towards, but not many people that I know ever achieve.  It's certainly something that we've been working towards....for years.  Budgeting, cutting back on unnecessary things in our life, and raises at work almost yearly have certainly put us in a better place, but the end still seems so far away.  A friend at work lent me his Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University CD set a few months ago.  My partner and I listened to them together, learned a lot about ourselves, and had a few words and tears together.  We decided we were really going to buckle down and try.  Of course what happened the first month?  The air conditioner goes out, the car has to go in the shop, the truck has to have new tires, the car has to have new tires.  Budget?  What budget?  So, the next month is a do-over.  You have to start somewhere, right?  Then came the epiphany....

"Let's move to Florida."
"Huh?  Are you serious?"
"Yeah, let's do it!  What's holding us back?"

We'd nonchalantly talked about it for years.  How one day we'd like to live closer to the beach.  I grew up in the panhandle of Florida.  Sunshine, white sugar sand beaches, hurricanes, hotness and all.  The beach is one of those things that you hardly ever get to appreciate when you live there, but once you leave you miss is it so much.  Labor Day weekend, while out sailing with some friends on Pensacola Bay, we had an epiphany......let's move.  So, we came up with a plan. 

1) Sell the house.
2) Use the money we make off of the house to buy a smaller house/property (downsize), pay off all of our debt, and become debt free.
3) Put as much money in the bank as we can for 5 - 7yrs.
4) Buy our dream place.

You cannot imagine the weight that was lifted off of our shoulders when we decided to do this.  Just making the decision made us feel amazing, and we hadn't even taken a single step in that direction yet.  Neither one of us is quite sure why we didn't think of this before.  We love our house and our property, but it's not in the location we'd like.  We were settling and we didn't even realize it.  We have a lot of work to do to get the place ready to be put up for sale, but we're both so excited.  I hope you'll follow us on our journey to financial freedom!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Post Partum Depression...the REAL issues

I started writing this post back on Memorial Day weekend.  I haven't written anything since I started it, and it's taken me this long to finish it.  I think I see this as a final step in my healing process.  This is a real issue that people are just now starting to speak out about.... 

This is long....I warned you :-) . 

Labor and birth are rarely "easy."  As a first time mother, I tried to prepare myself as best I could for what labor and birth would be like.  I wasn't scared at all.  I had faith in my body, my intuition, my strength.  I had confidence, knowledge, and inner peace surrounding labor and birth.  I had a good relationship with my midwife and my partner.  But how do you, or can you, prepare yourself for something that is so widely different for every person and something with which you have nothing to pull from.  You do the best you can.....that's how.  So, that's what I did.  I took birth classes, read books, watched videos, and immersed myself in anything and everything to do with birth.   Did it help with labor and birth?   Absolutely.   Did I still get PPD (postpartum depression)/PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)?  Yep.  Birth rarely goes as we plan it in our heads.   I knew that, and didn't necessarily expect it to.  On the other hand, you have to prepare yourself for something.  You have to imagine yourself giving birth.  You have to imagine what it will feel like to have contractions.  You have to imagine and practice how to cope with pain.  When you write out your birth plan you have to think about every single detail.  So how do you do THAT without setting yourself up for disappointment when things don't go as you had prepared yourself for.   That's what I don't have the answer for. 

It wasn't just the labor/birth that I feel contributed to my PPD.  It was weeks before when I spent the last part of my pregnancy taking care of my partner, post surgery, both at home and then at the hospital for a week because of an infection.  It was not listening to my body telling me to go ahead and go out on maternity leave from work.  It was our stay in the hospital after my son was born, feeling like I was imprisoned and pressured and confused and strong and weak all at the same time.  It was the helplessness I felt when I looked at my newborn laying on the bili light, following the doctor's orders not to breastfeed him so he could stay on the light, when my soul screamed that this was needless and was interfering with our bonding.  It was not stepping foot back in my house until a week after my son was born because of jumping through hospital hoops.  It was having to put my cat to sleep the day after we had gotten home because his liver had shut down.  It was going back to work only 5 weeks post partum.

Wow.  That's a lot of crap for a normal person to deal with, much less someone at the end of their pregnancy or new parent.  And all of that is aside from the 36 hour labor with a posterior baby, transferring to the hospital after planning a home birth, and just coping with labor in general.  Could things have gone differently and been worse?  Uh, yeah.  Being thankful that I didn't have to have a c-section and I had a healthy baby does not diminish all of the other things that DID happen.  I can be thankful and upset and happy and sad at the same time.  And being thankful for the GOOD things that happened doesn't mean I don't have to deal with and process all of the BAD things that happened too. 

I dealt with PPD, PTSD, and anxiety for well over a year after I had my son.   From time to time I still feel like I have bouts of it.  I in no way feel like I had a sever case of PPD/PTSD, and cannot imagine what a mother with a severe case is going through, but nobody knew what I was going through except my partner. No matter how much I wanted them to, no one could tell just by looking at my face that I was crying inside, begging for someone to just spend some time with me and talk to me, wanting to break down and just have someone listen and hold me while I cried. 

At the time I didn't think I had PPD, definitely didn't realize many of the symptoms I was having were PTSD, and thought the anxiety I was feeling was part of being a new parent.  I tried for a long time to work through things on my own.  I thought it was just me, that my expectations had been too high. I talked to my partner about it....a lot....and felt guilty about it.  Why do I talk about this all the time?  Why can't I just get over it? What's wrong with me?  Tons of people have WAY WORSE birth experiences than I did.  I knew that didn't discount what I was feeling, yet I obsessed over it.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I lived it over and over and over in my head.  I felt like all I talked about for the first few months, hell the first year, was my birth and my feelings.  But that was the only thing I knew to do.  I did have some feelings that I knew were not normal. Like when someone I knew went in to labor I secretly hoped she had a long labor like me (sorry!).  I was angry!  I was angry that she might get more attention than I did or get treated better or get to have the birth that I didn't.  Or any time someone I knew announced they were pregnant I would have this upswell of emotions that lasted days or weeks.  I was jealous and angry and sad and rewalked my path all over again. 

 I was so tired of feeling a hole inside.  I picked at it and picked at it and it was getting smaller, but it was still there and I was tired of it!  Finally, I started reaching out to the people that were involved in my obsessive thoughts.  I spoke with my midwife several times about things that happened that I was having issues with.  I spoke to my partner about the feelings I had towards events surrounding my pregnancy and birth.   I took actions that I thought might help keep someone else from having some of the same experiences I did.  Once I spoke the whole truth and shared myself with the people that were on my mind, then I finally started to feel better.  I had been holding it all inside me because I didn't think it was real, that it wasn't valid, that I was over reacting because lots of people have worse experiences than I did.   Yes, I gave myself permission to mourn the loss of the birth I didn't get to experience, and I did that, but it didn't heal the birth I DID experience.  Only time and complete openness with the people involved did that.   And you know what? They were AMAZING!  My midwife listened to me compassionately, validated my feelings, and offered me things from her perspective, and my partner, from the very beginning, was a great listener and always supportive.  I so wish I would have started my journey by speaking to them about the REAL issues I was having when I first realized they were an issue.  It took me a little while to figure out what the REAL issues were, but once I figured it out I wish I wouldn't have been so scared to reach out.  But that's why I'm sharing this now.  I'm reaching out to YOU.  Talk about your birth.  Talk about your experiences, good and bad. Talk about your expectations and what you loved and what you hated.  Get it all out in the open and see what happens.  I know it's hard, but sometimes YOU have to take that first step and reach out, because other people can't read your mind, and they really do want to help.  It just might change your life.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

They Popped the Question

My baby will be 2 years old this month.  At work, I finally got asked the question I've been waiting to hear for a year now.  "How long are you going to breastfeed him?"  Frankly, I'm quite surprised and happy that it took my co-workers this long to pop the question.  In my department, it's me and two guys.  We'll call them Joe and Jack.  They both know I pump at work.  Joe is quite comfortable with that.  Jack, not so much.  Jack even said he was uncomfortable in his childbirth class years ago when it came to the breastfeeding part.  But, he was the one that asked the question, albeit a bit uncomfortably.  Since I've been waiting for this for a while now, I've had a little time to contemplate my response.  I was quite proud to quote the WHO's (World Health Organization)  recommendation of "up to two years of age or beyond."  I then went on to inform them that the average age for weaning worldwide was 4 years old.  "What? Really!"  was the reply I got.  I told them a little about Mongolia (which I learned from this awesome post) and how they routinely breastfeed past 5 years old.  We talked some about how breasts were so sexualized in our country, how breastfeeding wasn't "normal," and how important normalizing it is. Jack thanked me for being able to come to me with his questions and being so open about the subject.  Honestly, it felt good to know the facts and be able to give my co-workers accurate information.  It felt good to be listened to sincerely, even if it was an uncomfortable subject (for them, not me!).  My hope is that this conversation will allow Jack to be a little more at ease when he sees someone  breastfeeding, but my ultimate hope is that one day that someone will be his daughter.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Healthy Snacks for Work

I talked about 5 Ways to Eat Healthy at Work here.  I believe the key to eating healthy on a consistent basis is variety.  Not many people will eat the same thing every single day just because it's healthy.  You have to actually ENJOY what you're eating.  It also has to be EASY.  Preportioning and prepackaging are my best friends.  I hate to do anything in the mornings but put my lunch in my box and go.  As much as I can do
ahead of time the more likely I am to stick with it.  So, in order to help you enjoy your food more, here are some of my favorite variations to my every day work snacks.

As a side note, I put seeds and/or nuts in just about every snack I eat.  Not only do I love the taste and crunch, they're a healthy source of fat, protein, and nutrients.  Try to get the ones that are the least amount processed with no added salt.

Cottage Cheese - I may be the exception here, but I can eat it plain.  That, however, is not my favorite way to eat it.  Most people put some kind of fruit in it.  My favorites are mandarin oranges or peaches.  For a different twist, try adding one or more of the following: raisins,sunflower seeds, almonds, honey.
Yogurt - We try to make our own yogurt at home.  With our busy schedules, this happens about 50% of the time.  If I'm not eating homemade plain yogurt, I buy Greek yogurt (organic if I can find it).  I love the added protein in the Greek yogurt as it helps me stay satisfied longer.  Since the yogurt is plain and  unsweetened, you can add a wide variety of items to it.  Since I keep raisins, sunflower seeds, and almonds at my desk all the time, this is my go to addition.  If I want it a little sweeter, I add some honey.  I also love ripe bananas and seeds/nuts.  Fruit is always an option with yogurt, but you might have to add some honey as well, depending on the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit and how sweet you like your yogurt.  I wasn't at work today, but I had my yogurt with fresh pineapple and my favorite pumpkin flax organic granola.  YUM!  I've pretty much weaned myself off of any added sugar at this point and I still love it!
Raw Veggies - This is the one that gets old quick for me.  I've had to learn to like raw veggies, so that's probably why.  I try to eat them at least twice a week at work, that way I feel like I'm doing good, but I
don't get burned out on them either.  I also alternate them with salads.  I precut and preportion the veggies in a glass container with a lid for my lunchbox.  I also have a travel case that has a place for dip built right in to the middle for when I'm on the road.  It's not glass, but I'll sacrifice that for the convenience of this item.  Since I've had to learn to like raw veggies, I have to have something to dip them in.  Some kind of dressing is an obvious choice, and you can vary the type of dressing you use, but I also enjoy them with pesto, hummus, salsa, and guacamole.  Hummus and guacamole can both be made in advance and frozen in snack size portions.  I suppose you could freeze the salsa the same way, I just haven't tried it.  Good ole' Ants on a Log is great too (celery with peanut butter and raisins), or homemade pimento cheese (cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise, salt, pepper) and celery.
Fruit - Personally, fruit does nothing to satisfy my hunger.  If I eat an apple I'm hungry 20 minutes later.  I do, however, tend to get a sweets craving a few hours after lunch.  So, I've started using the fruit to conquer my sweets craving and just add some protein to keep me satisfied.  Apple/peanut butter, banana/peanut butter, cottage cheese/oranges, cottage cheese/peaches, apple/cheese, etc. 
Salads - When I bring a salad, I usually eat it around 2:30 as it holds me over wonderfully until dinner.  I put all kinds of things on my salads.  Veggies, cheese, nuts, fruit, what ever I have in the fridge that needs to be used.  I also love to mix dressings with balsamic vinegar.  My current favorite is Vidalia Onion dressing or French.  I love the mix of sweet from the dressing and sour from the vinegar.  It also helps cut calories because you're not using as much dressing.  Sometimes I will use this as my meal by adding some chicken salad, tuna salad, or nitrite/nitrate free lunch meat.
Cheese - I buy a 2lb block of cheese and will cube it about 1/3 a block at a time.  It lasts a while that way.  I can have the cheese with my salads, fruit, eggs, on crackers, or just by itself.
Boiled Eggs - These are something that we tend to keep around at all times.  I keep one in my lunch box and replace it when it gets eaten.  I eat them in my salads, with cheese, or by themselves with a topping.  I'll dip them just like the veggies in salad dressing or our homemade flavored mayonnaise (yum!).

I hope I've inspired you to try some new healthy snacks for work.  Creating the habit is the hard part.  Once you do that, you can move on to your next goal!  I love sharing tips and ideas.  How do you eat healthy at work?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

5 Ways to Help You Eat Healthy at Work

We're trying very hard to change our diet at home.  Trying to get away from prepackaged foods as much as possible and moving to whole foods, organic, and non-processed.  While it's much easier to accomplish this at home, I've set up some steps for myself to accomplish this at work as well.  Right now I have a desk job, but I used to work in the field.  These tips can be adjusted to fit any type of work with just a little brain power and want to.

1.  Set limits and goals - This was the first step for me.  I had to realize what my goal was and what steps I needed to get there.  Offices are notorious for candy dishes, sweet goods for breakfast, monthly birthday cake and ice cream, etc.  My first goal was to limit or eliminate what I partake of in those departments.  In order to do that I had to give myself choices of things to eat instead....things I WANTED to eat.  It doesn't do any good to look longingly at the doughnuts on the table and go back to your desk with a piece of fruit if what you really wanted was the doughnut.  Trust me, you'll end up eating both.  Find things you ENJOY eating, then the doughnut won't look quite so tempting.  Yes, it still takes will power, but not quite as much.  Then, if you just can't take it and indulge anyways, cut the doughnut in half, only get one piece of candy instead of four, or just get ice cream instead of cake AND ice cream.  Don't beat yourself up about it.    Enjoy your little splurge and tell yourself that you can do better next time.  Habits take a while to make, and realizing that will help you to forgive yourself and move on.

2.  Plan ahead - This one takes a little practice.  Once you decide what you want to eat, a little planning goes a long way.  Precut and preportion your veggies and put them in a resealable container for grab-n-go snacks.  Boil half a dozen eggs for quick protein boosters.  Make a big batch of hummus and freeze it in preportioned bags.  When putting dinner away, go ahead and make your lunch plate for the next day.  Little things make a big difference in having the "time" to eat right.

3.  Stock up - I'm thrifty....ok cheap.  I make periodic trips to Big Lots for groceries and stock up on sale items.  Eating organic is expensive.  Heck, eating healthy is expensive.  If I find a shelf stable item that's on sale or at a discount store I stock up.  There are a few things I keep at my desk at all times, so I stock up when I can.  Boxes of soup (we try not to get anything in a tin can), regular oats for my morning oatmeal, nuts, seeds, raisins, protein or snack bars, peanut butter, honey sticks.  By keeping options at my desk (or in the car if I'm traveling), I'm less likely to go out to eat or pick up an unhealthy snack or meal.

4.  Bring leftovers - This one is kind of a no brainer.  It saves money and allows you to know exactly what's in the meal you're eating.  We try to always cook extra so I can bring leftovers the next day, sometimes two days.  We will also make our own freezer meals with leftovers for times when there's nothing in the fridge for me to take to work.  I just grab a freezer meal and I'm off!  Since I already have healthy snacks at work, my day is set.

5.  Snack wise - This one takes some brain power.  I'm constantly trying to think of healthy things I can  snack on at work.  Since I usually bring leftovers for lunch, snacks are my hardest category to fill.  My list of shelf stable items is above under "Stock Up."  Items I bring on a rotational basis include cottage cheese,  Greek or homeade yogurt, veggies & hummus, cheese & fruit, and boiled eggs.  Protein is important for helping you stay full longer, so I try to include some protein with my snacks.

I know some of the items above may sound a little bland or boring, and eating the same thing all the time can get old fast.  Variety is the key to keeping your healthy eating habits alive.  You can view recipes for some of the above items and give you lots of ideas for mixing up that healthy menu here...

I'd love to hear your tips for healthy eating at work.  Do you have any to add to the list?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why I Started this Blog...

I don't know how many blogs are out there....probably over a million.  Why is mine different?  Because it's me.  You know how sometimes you read something and it's just like you could have written it yourself?  You just connect with the person that wrote it, on a deeper level it seems.  I hope that you get that from reading my blog posts.  Sure...there are plenty of blogs out there on all of the topics that I'm passionate about, and many of them are wonderful and have helped me heal from one thing or another.  I hope I can be that healing help for someone else, or a laugh, or "Yeah, I can relate." if nothing else.  I hope to open someones mind about something they might not have known anything about, or that they had mixed feelings on previously.  And, I'm not gonna lie, writing is therapeutic and healing for me sometimes as well.  Sometimes it just feels good to get things off of your chest.

So, my journey begins here....