It’s All About Me… and You!

Last year, while finding ways to trim the budget and be more fiscally responsible, I stumbled upon a blog that promotes frugality and responsibility.  This blogger also chooses a word a year that represents a character trait she wants to focus on improving.  My word for 2013 was Restraint, as in restraining my inclination to speak up and tell my adult kids what to do.  They are responsible adults and can handle themselves.  They also know when to ask for help or advice.  It took me until the last quarter of the year to actually get a handle on it.  It is still a work in progress, but I feel that I have made great strides.

So, now that you have the background – this year’s word is Me.  Not Me in the selfish sense.  Me in the sense that I do have an Empty Nest and that it is time to stop focusing on the kids, who are not children any longer.  It is past time for me to establish those healthy boundaries that keep me out of my kids’ personal lives, but in their lives.  It is My time to re-focus on my health, my well-being, and my relationship with my husband.  We want to travel in the U.S. and abroad.  I want to pick up my hobbies again.  I also want to learn how to play guitar.  Hubby and I are fortunate to have the resources that will allow us to do more than we could while living on a military paycheck.

I love babysitting Jitterbug and Jumping Bean, and will continue to help mommy and daddy on the days they need help.  I’m also scheduling gym time right now.  I wrote it in my planner so it is there.  I’m also pulling out my nutrition notes that I’ve accumulated over time.  We are going to be those grandparents who get down and roll around on the floor with the grandkids.  We are going to be those 50 year old peeps sending photos to friends and family of our fun times.

What is Your word for the year?

Merry Christmas!

It is amazing just how fast time seems to pass.  I missed posting at Halloween and Thanksgiving.  It is Christmas Day here at EmptyNestingIt.  We had our Christmas get-together on the 23rd so that everyone could be here.  It was so much fun to watch Jitterbug and Jumping Bean open their presents.  Afterwards, Jitterbug (3 ½) came up to me and said, “this is the best Christmas present ever.”  Of course, I melted instantly.

This last year has held many changes for us.  When we married, we followed Hubby’s family tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve for our gift exchange and again on Christmas Day for a big family dinner.  Our kids are married and on their own now, with new traditions to incorporate.  This year, Hubby and I are on our own for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It is a new experience for us.  I think this moment really emphasized our empty nest and made it real – more than any other moment over the last 12 months.  While our celebrations will have to be scheduled well in advance due to B and D’s jobs in healthcare, Hubby and I also need to develop a new tradition for ourselves.  This year was fuzzy p.j. day for Christmas Eve and Christmas spaghetti today.

So, on that note, I hope for health, peace, and safety for all.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Purpose? What is Mine?

Today I was chatting with an acquaintance and learned that he recently had a death in the family. All death can feel tragic, but this was the senseless death of an innocent victim in a drunken driving accident.  This person experienced a huge emotional roller coaster in the span of one week.  He lost a family member, observed his own birthday, and his own wedding anniversary – all in 7 days’ time.

I am impressed, if that is even the appropriate word, with his outlook and ability to move on. His faith helped him see that we each have a purpose that is pre-determined by a Power much greater than ourselves.  He believes the lost family member’s purpose was to see his child through his high school graduation.  (He lived 3 weeks past the graduation)

So, now, I ask myself – what is my purpose in this life? Have I been a good steward of the life given to me?  I can honestly answer that I have not been the best steward I could.  I don’t always start each day with a bright outlook – I sometimes go to be angry or frustrated and wake the next morning exactly the same way.

What is my purpose? Is it to be a wife and mother?  I’ve survived serious and not so serious illnesses and successfully raised two great kids.  I’ve tried to care for and nurture the home my husband has provided us for 30 years.  This is definitely nothing to sneeze at and I am grateful for the blessings I’ve received.

So, is this my purpose? To nurture my family?  It is an enormous responsibility that I gladly bear, but sometimes I wonder if I’ve done enough, given enough.  Now that my kids are grown and out of the next, what does my purpose become?  Is this the same questions that other empty-nesters ask or am I overthinking this whole thing called Life?

Garden update

Well, I had planned an ongoing series for our first garden, but life got in the way.  So, the short version is that in the beginning we harvested quite a bit of zucchini and yellow squash.  The beans and peas were a bit slow at producing, but the cucumbers and tomatoes went wild!  The banana peppers and bell peppers were disappointing as well.  The bunnies and chipmunks loved the kale though.   =)

Overall, we are pleased with our first garden, but we are already planning next year’s garden.  It should be a good one!

Retirement… Dream or Reality

The chickies are gone and we are looking forward to retiring early, or at least earlier than mandatory retirement age.  We have a vacation bucket list and that requires planning and … wait for it … Money!

We admittedly started saving for retirement later than we would have liked.  To be honest, I believe our youth allowed us to naively believe that hubby’s military pension would be sufficient.  Then, we hit our mid-30’s and paid attention to our older, and somewhat wiser, peers.

We met with a financial advisor who did the calculations to tell us what our nest egg should be to meet our retirement goals.  Then, we got started – one step at a time.

After hubby retired from the Navy and we settled into our permanent home, we both started on our next careers.  We took advantage of employer-based savings plans (401(k), 457).  Through these efforts, we are within sight of our savings goal. We have mentally updated our acceptable savings level as the economy has suffered so many problems over the last few years and the cost-of-living is always changing.

We are now on a 5 year plan.  This is updated from the 7 year plan that I had developed earlier this year.  We re-visited our budget and spending.  With commitment to our goal, we will be debt-free in 5 years.  At that point, hubby can cut back to part-time or contract work and we can start working on that vacation bucket list.  I am so excited that we are getting within sight distance of our financial goals.  Of course, there are days when I want to say ‘to heck with budgeting’ but I remind myself of the Plan and get myself back on track.  Just remember, the budget has to include some fun money or you will be pretty miserable until that ultimate goal is met.

Are you planning?  Are you saving?  Do you have a financial advisor or are you one of those individuals who have a natural affinity for deciphering the investment quagmire?

Choices, Boundaries, and Forgiveness

As I sit here contemplating the words I want to write, I’m also nervously anticipating seeing my father who I have not seen for several months.  We live in different states so visits do not happen very often.  I’m nervous because his health is declining at a rapid rate as a result of lifestyle choices he’s made for many years now.  Every time I see him, I renew my efforts to make healthy choices for myself.  Maybe it is more of a re-dedication to healthy choices or a validation that I am making better choices by eating healthier and exercising more.  Of course, there is always room for improvement.  I can say that some of the changes lately have produced a noticeable difference in how I feel – I just feel better.

Perhaps it is because I’m getting a little older now or maybe it’s because anger and frustration require so much energy, but I am finding myself forgiving my father for his damaging choices and pitying his quality of life that is suffering so much now.  I know that he is responsible, but it is painful to see.  Unhealthy aging can rob a person of dignity, which is one more reason to take care of yourself now.

A constant struggle that I have is maintaining healthy boundaries that limit how much I’m drawn into other people’s drama.  It is difficult to be supportive to someone who needs the support and to stay true to you.  We are of no help to others if we can’t keep ourselves healthy and happy.  I would love to hear how you maintain your boundaries with those you care about.

Eat healthy, exercise, relax, laugh, and love.  Not only do your choices affect you and your health, but also your family and friends.  One action has a ripple effect – don’t you want it to be a happy ripple?

Plugged or Unplugged

When we disconnected our landline, I felt like I was obligated to keep my cell phone on me at all times.  No one wants to miss that emergency phone call that might come.  But I discovered that I was checking my phone much more often than necessary, like I was expecting a call or text that should come but didn’t.  Why was I doing that?  I took my cell phone on my morning walks – to listen to music.  And of course, to be reachable.

Then I realized that being constantly plugged in was actually leading to more anxiety – don’t the news channels talk about that?  Am I obligated to be instantly accessible at all times?  That would be a big, fat NOPE!

I’ve left my cell phone at home for my walks lately and to weed my flowerbeds and garden.  Look!  The world did not come crashing down!!  And I’m starting to relax some, too.  Fortunately, the area I live in is quite safe – I know some areas are not.  Also, when I get older, I will probably take it with me for safety.

I recently met up with a friend at a local park to walk and talk.  I did leave my phone in my car so that we could have our chitchat time uninterrupted.  What I didn’t know is that the area we were in is a ‘dead zone’ for cell phone service.  After I got home, I noticed that my phone was acting up, so I rebooted it.  Guess what?  I had a couple of text messages that came in while I was walking and although these didn’t show up – I had missed calls as well.  D actually called her dad to see if he knew where I was because my phone was going straight to voicemail and asking if he was worried that no one could reach me.  I realized that I have allowed myself to be way too accessible and that although we don’t have kids at home any longer, my time is still not my own.  That is supposed to be the payoff of an empty nest – I am not required to be accessible 24/7.

I’m rediscovering the joy of just being outside with no electronic access – just like my childhood and teenage years.  Back before the Earth’s crust cooled – that is a long-standing inside joke in our house.  =)  It was taken from one of the kids’ dinosaur movies – not sure which one.  LOL

I found this picture and feel like it sums everything up!

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So, how do you unplug?

 

Image courtesy of:  http://sites.ssis-suzhou.net/geoffderry/2014/01/

 

Body Snatchers – Part 2

Yep, back on this topic.  I met with my endocrinologist to talk about this crazy diagnosis of osteoporosis.  I had about a month from the time my primary care doctor gave me my bone density results and my new patient consultation with the endo doctor.  I read voraciously during that time and what I read scared me a lot.  There are so many medications and so many side effects – really nasty ones.  I had never heard of osteonecrosis of the jaw – what does that mean?  Well, it means that your jaw bone dies.  How does that sound?  Pretty horrible, right?  I also learned about bone formation and regeneration.  I read books and online articles.  I talked to friends and family to the point that I could see the eye rolls when I brought it up again.  I got angry at my body because I felt like it betrayed me.  I felt pitiful and had a nice little pity party.  Then, I became determined to do something.  During my research, I discovered nutrition and exercise tips that can make a positive difference and actually have the potential to improve my bone density scores.

I walked into that endo appointment wanting to hear what the doctor had to say and wondered if he would follow the norm of handing me a prescription and see me out.   I was pleasantly surprised to see that he is very much into educating his patients.  He patiently explained how the scores are read – which confirmed my research.  There are two scores on a bone density test – the T-score and the Z-score.  The T-score compares the patient’s bone density to the ideal peak bone density (someone in her late 20’s-early 30’s).  That seems a bit skewed to me, but I guess you need some type of baseline.  The Z-score compares the patient’s bone density to someone of comparable age.  That sounds more reasonable.  It also seemed that my doctor puts more reliability/emphasis on the Z-score.

So, that being the case – I still have osteoporosis in my hip, but not in my back.  I had already decided that I would not take any prescriptions for 1-2 years and get a new bone density scan at that time to see if lifestyle changes would make enough of a difference.  Imagine my surprise when that is EXACTLY what the doctor said!?!?  Needless to say, I was thrilled with that because after patiently explaining things to me, he asked if I had any questions and did not seem rushed to get to the next patient.  He could see my relief that his treatment plan followed my preference and sent me on my way saying “see you in one year”.

Debt-free, debt-free – oh what a place to be!!!

We decided to revisit our budget and see what could be trimmed – how are we being non-frugal?  Well, we switched our television provider to take advantage of the introductory rate with a new provider.  That will last for 12 months, but the regular monthly rate will still be less than the previous provider.  Check.  We took advantage of the new family rate plans that our cell phone provider recently implemented.  AND B took his line to his own plan. Check.   Last, we disconnected our land line and we are now a totally cell phone couple.  All of those changes saved us about $200 per month.  That’s so awesome because we sat down this weekend and realized we are sooo close to our debt-free goal.  Our goal is to be debt-free, including the mortgage, by age 55.  I’m not sure that will happen because that is only 5 years, but 7 years is realistic for us.  Once that happens, hubby can cut back to part-time hours so that he is occupied, but not overwhelmed.

We would love to take a 3 month long vacation to visit the sites I’ve never seen, some of which he has and some he has not.  But no rushing, just taking our time and seeing what the world has to offer.

How close are you to your financial dreams?

My Medical Profession Rant!

Ok, I try to be patient and allow processes to take the natural course.  Of course, my family would say otherwise.  =)

Why is it that every time a doctor’s office calls with test results they make it sound like the end of the world, but when you go in for follow up tests you end up waiting longer than necessary for what are actually normal results.

Context – as I’ve already revealed – I have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis.  Not too happy about that at the young age of 49.  The doctor’s office called with my results and said I needed to come in as soon as possible for a consult.  I was in the office 2 days later.  I was told I needed another blood draw to check my Vitamin D level and that I would have the results within a few days.  Ok, I get that – the lab is off site.  I give it a week and call back – they don’t have the results because they are having “difficulty” obtaining electronic results from the lab.  Well, ok, whatever.

So, after waiting a few more business days, I call again – only to find out my levels were all normal and that my endocrinology referral was mailed out today.  This was all relayed to me quite nonchalantly.  I’m actually pretty offended because they made it sound so urgent, but then apparently not so much??

Yes, my radiology report definitely indicates a problem that needs to be addressed.  But my bones are not disintegrating as I type this.

Why does the medical profession resort to fear rather than education?  That creates needless stress and anxiety in an already stressful society.

What is your medical profession rant?