A lot has been going on with us this winter, which isn't a bad thing because it's kept us busy, and has also made my least favorite season of the year go by quickly. Spring is on its way, woo hoo!
Tom and I have taken time recently to re-evaluate our quality of life, rearrange some priorities and make plans/goals for moving forward, and we hope to put these into practice in the next month or so. I think that it's important for each of us to sit down every so often and take a look at our lives in order to find areas for improvement and personal growth so as you get older, you don't get bored with life and your brain doesn't turn to mush. (Which is how mine feels quite often these days! LOL)
Part of our growth process, we both decided, is to learn new things. Continuing education is important! And after years of Tom and I feeling that our lives were stagnant and not going anywhere, we've started reading helpful how-to books and are excited again for our future.
OK. So what is all this mumbo-jumbo garbage I'm talking about? Well, you'll be happy to know that one of our new goals DOESN'T have to do with planning a trip to a nude beach in Jamaica anytime soon! (Dang, that's a SCARY thought!) But we do have some new goals, so I figured I'd jot them down here so you can see how our new thought patterns are working. (Yep... our thought patterns...the idea of these is almost as scary as the idea of us parading around on a nude beach!)
Goal #1 - IMPROVE OUR HEALTH
Tom's diabetes has been out of control (even with insulin shots) for 2 or 3 years now. He knows he needs to change the way he eats, and he needs to exercise. And I need to do the same. Thanks to his sister, Jeanette (Net on the Net blog), and with encouragement from me, he has begun reading the "Wheat Belly" book. It has been an eye opener for him as far as learning what today's wheat, and gluten in a diet, can do to people, especially someone who is a diabetic. Over the past two weeks, he has cut his wheat/gluten intake down by probably 70%. He has lost 5 pounds, and his sugar levels have been perfect! He's even been able to dial down his insulin doses. He has more energy now, no body aches, and is feeling so much better! It's like a miracle. (Thanks, Jeanette, for sharing your What Belly thoughts and experiences with us!) Tom and I plan to start taking daily walks once it warms up a little more, the snow is gone, and I get me a new pair of tennis shoes. My old pair has been hurting my feet since the day I bought the stupid things a year ago, and I look forward to throwing them out ASAP.
Goal #2 - PAY OFF OUR DEBT
A girlfriend of mine bought me Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book last fall. She even had it shipped to my house because she read it, she and her hubby are doing what the book says, they are slowly getting out of debt, and she wanted US to get out of debt too. Since I received it, the book has basically sat on an end-table in my living room collecting dust. But not anymore. I read the entire thing in 2 days last week, highlighting important ideas and instructions as I went along. I felt like I was in high school again. It was great! LOL
Tom and I have been struggling, financially, the past few years as we've had to help support Angela, her fiancee and their baby. To make matters worse, I haven't had a raise since 2006, Tom's raises have been small, the prices in this economy have increased threefold (especially in the areas of food and gasoline), and then to top it all off, EVERYONE lost income because of the tax changes that started this year. We lost $200 per month because of those changes! Ouch!
So we have begun Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. First, we are selling our newest vehicle with the most debt (a 2011 Ford Focus) in order to gain some "wiggle room" in our extremely tight budget. We already have a buyer for it. Next, my brother, an auto mechanic and lawn maintenance business owner, is working to find me a great-running vehicle for 2k or less. (I think he's already found one for me.) Next, we will use the extra money not spent on our monthly Focus payments and insurance to catch up on any bills we're behind on (thankfully, just a few small ones). After that, we'll be creating an Emergency Fund by socking away $1,000 into our savings account. (I honestly think the $5 that's been in there for the past three or four years won't know what to do with the company!) Then, we'll begin to pay off our debts, lowest balance to largest, by making the minimum payments on all but the debt with lowest balance. We'll put every extra dime we find into that lowest bill until it's paid off. Then we'll apply any extra money we have, PLUS the monthly amount we were paying on the littlest bill to the next-lowest balance amount. And so on until all our bills are paid off except our mortgage.
At that point, there are further instructions in Dave Ramsey's book to follow, but these early steps are the hardest and most important, so I'll stop here. The thought of selling our newer Focus has been scary. But I'm not a person who gets really attached to "stuff" anyway, so it is what it is, and we'll watch someone drive off in it knowing we are on our way to achieving a greater goal. :-)
Goal #3 - BECOME MORE SELF-SUFFICIENT AND LEAVE A SMALLER CARBON IMPRINT ON OUR LAND
The current state of our country angers and worries me. The middle class people are becoming more and more broke (we know because we're one of them), and making a decent living is becoming ridiculously harder due to the increased prices in goods and services. I now absolutely HATE grocery shopping because I've noticed that food prices have been rising steadily every few months over the past 3 years with no end in sight. Things seem to be getting worse, not better in our country, and lately I've been thinking, "Enough is enough for my family. The buck stops here. Now. Period."
Each of us is responsible for our own health--physical, financial, etc. And we can't rely on our government to help us out in these areas. I mean, who knows if Social Security will even be around when Tom & I retire at age 102? (Because in our present economy, that's how long we'll probably have to work in order to be able to retire!) LOLOL
And so we are making plans to become more self-sufficient. We already had a backyard garden last year that gave us all the tomatoes, cukes, zucchini and beans we needed for salads. But those are summer crops, and we had no home-grown food over the winter. Hence, I've decided to expand our garden from a 3' x 16' area around our deck, to a larger, 10' x 16' garden in our back yard (which is almost 1/4 acre), and to also build a self heated "hoop house" over the beds in the fall so that we can enjoy home-grown food all winter long.
Toward that end, I have been voraciously reading about how to do this in an organized and inexpensive way. Growing "organic" is also important to us. I have been following the website of Eliot Coleman--a well-known writer, successful backyard organic crop grower, and proponent of winter hoop houses--who lives in Maine, as well at Brett Markham--of similar renown and talents--who lives in New Hampshire. Both men live in "cold" zones, and yet their backyard hoop houses provide their families with a plethora of healthy vegetables all winter long. Their hoop houses aren't heated, and yet they stay at temps in the 50's with a nice amount of humidity in them. Eliot and Brett also sell their extra crops at area farmers' markets, and to their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers, and make quite a bit of extra cash from that.
Anyway, Eliot Coleman's book, "Four Season Harvest" should arrive any day, and I plan to devour it just like I did Dave Ramsey's book. Throughout my research, I'm discovering things like: how to make home-grown compost, how to measure the pH in soils and know which products to add to balance it out, which plants you can and can't put next to each other, natural ways to prevent weeds and garden pests, inexpensive watering ideas, etc. Again, it feels like I'm revisiting high school with all this learning I'm doing, but it feels GOOOOOOOD to use my brain for something constructive for my family, and I'm truly enjoying it!
Our expanded summer garden this year will contain a good variety of vegetables--potatoes, celery, large onions, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, a garlic plant, corn, pole beans, lettuce, etc.--and a few fruits--strawberries and raspberries. For our winter hoop house, we'll switch over to cold-hardy plants like various leaf lettuces, broccoli and more. I also plan to plant two young fruit trees in some large pots and keep them on our deck which gets a lot of sun. Eventually, we can transplant them into our backyard, but in the meantime, through creative pruning, we will still be able to enjoy some of their fruits as they grow from year to year. I also plan to learn how to do canning so we can store some of the excess food for the remainder of the year. I have an aunt and a 2nd cousin who can both help me with this learning process.
Have I put you to sleep yet? LOL Tom & I would also love to have 2 or 3 chickens for fresh eggs, but I don't think our township will allow that. In any event, I do plan to check with them about it.
Down the road, as our debts become paid off, we want to add solar panels to the roof of our house--as many as we need to try to get off the electricity grid. And, if we can't have chickens in our township, perhaps when Ang & Jason move out on their own, we'll consider selling our house and paying cash for an acre or more in a more agricultural township. We could always pay cash for a $3k trailer on the property until we could buy a larger, used mobil home, or build our own, smaller house (with a fireplace so we could help cut down on winter heating bills). The point is to move toward these "way of life" changes while paying cash for what we need, and not incurring any additional debt.
Geez, I ended up writing my OWN book here. So sorry about that, friends. It's just that we're excited about some of these new ideas we've come up with.
Regarding our grandbaby, he's 10 months old now and is doing just great. We love him to pieces! Below are a few photos of him that Tom took last night. We just can't stop smiling whenever he's around.
OK, gang. Debbie's monthly report is now finished! Over and out until next time! xoxo