Friday, January 23, 2015

Adventures in Budgeting

Okay, maybe not adventures. I'm kind of bummed about the whole deal right now. See, I've been thinking for quite some time that I needed to get a better handle on my budget. I'm certainly not in debt like some people, but it seems like I do a lot of taking two steps forward and then one or two (sometimes three) back. I don't feel particularly ready to make big budget cuts yet, but it is an area where I would like to figure out how to move forward instead of bouncing around so much. Moving forward requires taking a step in the right direction... My first step is to track my money. Figure out what I have and where it needs to go.

I have tried this before, with mixed results. When I do it somewhat well (if inefficiently), I like knowing how much money I have when the bills come in and I don't have to try to do the math in my head to remember if there is still money that is on it's way out that I forgot about. However, I tend to only get so far before I start to forget to add things, or I start to ignore it because there's something that I want, whether the budget says so or not.

I have enjoyed some of Amanda and Jonathan's posts on budgeting, like this one. I will admit, it's one of those things that makes me look at people that are younger than me that are much, much closer to where I'd like to be than where I am, and makes me wonder what I've been doing all this time! However, although it wasn't listed, I'm pretty sure never getting started will derail the budget pretty quick, too. Plus, they made some very drastic choices that I admire, but (as I said) I don't yet feel prepared to make. However, even if I can't go back and make better choices, and even if I'm not ready to radically alter things, I can do better than I'm doing now. You have to start somewhere!

My absolute favorite part of their post is that they linked the YNAB (You Need a Budget) software. I wasn't getting anywhere with my inefficient tracking (I tried both paper and pencil and tracking on the computer... Too much for me to keep track of!) I decided to give the free trial a shot. I love the way this is set up and the way that they recommend budgeting. It's perfect for me. It has you take a look at the money you have, and assign that money to the categories that will require payment before the next time you get paid. None of this figuring out what your needs might be and what your income might be (mine fluctuates).  I'm a visual person, and after I filled out where I was, and was able to add categories for most of my goals (even though I couldn't put money in many of them), I could see how I was doing. I'm better in some areas than I thought and worse in others.

My former attempts at tracking things have not been in vain. It helped me see how much it could help when done right. It helped me see what I felt that I needed in order to track things more efficiently. It also helped me see that YNAB is a fantastic fit for me. I love the idea of the envelope system, but that is never going to happen for me. I'm just not going to be consistent with the cash thing. This lets me do the same idea, but digitally, so it's something I'm likely keep up with. I think I'll buy the software, but I'm going to wait a couple of weeks. First, I want to make sure that I continue to like it as much as I do after the initial set up. Second, it's not in the budget this paycheck!

What I'm bummed about is that I do not get to go cross country skiing tomorrow. It's a beautiful day, the mountains are beautiful, and I just want to get out and enjoy them. The part about budgeting that makes us all cringe is the part where you don't always get to do what you want. In the end, though, budgeting is not about denying yourself (though it can happen in the short term), it's about getting what you want. Having more stability and awareness of my money is really important and occasionally having to say no will be worth it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In the Beginning, It Was Not So

Friends, in the last couple of weeks, I have been doing very little besides nerding out over biomechanics and the way that we were made to move. It's fascinating. Not to mention, I'm finding myself starting to move better than I ever have. Besides improved patellar and toe alignment, I have less neck pain and tightness, and even my massage therapist commented on how much less tightness I have in my neck and quads. PLUS, I have always been the biggest klutz on slippery conditions, but I'm finding myself a lot more comfortable even there. I was not expecting that kind of a change!

Here's the thing about biomechanics. Everything is interrelated. How we move at the ankle affects the knee and the hip, then the pelvis and the spine. How we sit affects the pelvis, then the spine above and our legs below. How well our spine moves affects how well our arms move. Beginning to correct things in this chain brings about changes you would not expect. One of the books that I've been reading is Move Your DNA. I absolutely love the point that it makes that what we perceive as normal (because everyone around us moves the same way) is not actually optimal. It's not how we were made to move, and it's not the best we can do. We can do better.

I don't know if I can fully explain this on a biomechanical level, but it is a cascade of effects. It reminds me a lot of this incredible cascade as you see in this video.

It also makes me think of Theology of the Body, which is another thing that I am attempting to read (I'm one talk in, go me!) Fully understanding the dignity of the human person is not easy, but it is so important. I can't help but think that some of this horrible violence is because people do not understand their own dignity and worth, much less someone else's. Certainly, there is a chaos that is happening with regard to what we consider "okay" in terms of relationships and having children. We are not even certain what all effects these are having on people in day to day life. Obviously, Humanae Vitae predicts some of them, but I think that they are extremely widespread. The thing is, we were not made to be this way, and we can do better.

In all of these things, adaptations have happened. We are so used to some of the effects that we assume such things are normal. But in the beginning, it was not so. We were not made to move poorly and gradually gain more aches and pains throughout our lives. We were not made to be constantly hurting over broken families and relationships. This is not how it's meant to be. It's not "just how it is" We were made for something better, and we can have something better, but we have to overcome the adaptations that were made along the way. It's a step by step process, but it can be done, and it can lead to a greater freedom than we ever thought was possible.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Welcome, 2015!

I'm ready, I think, for the new year. More important than that, I'm ready for the new day. It's easy to think that this year will be different; maybe this will be the one where something will happen that will  make it all better. This will be the year that I conquer this habit or reach that goal. Then Monday comes, and it's the same grind, same routine, same things pushing our buttons, same anxieties, insecurities, over and over again.

This last year certainly had some hard moments for me. There were times of facing the death of people that shouldn't have had to die, but there was also that reminder that while death makes me very sad, it is not the end. This life is not all there is. There is one that conquered death, and that is a good thing.

I have been facing some insecurities at work. Some are always there and are currently just accentuated. The most frustrating thing about it when this happens is that I always think, "Not only does this stink, but I didn't even want to be doing this with my life right now. I wanted to be doing very part time work while I took care of my family, so I wouldn't really care much if the work load was light." The good news about things being a little too light is that I have time to do something a little different and actually do some continued study. Like I said in my last post, it's been amazing what it's done. I still don't believe the changes that I am seeing in my own body. It's not just in my head, either. I got a massage on Thursday from a massage therapist that I have seen off and on for a couple of years. She knows the state my neck is normally in, and neither of us could believe how loose it was last week. She also noticed that my quads and knees were much less "gunky" (that's the technical term) than they typically are.

There have been some moments (thankfully very brief!) of depression, but there have also been some great things to overcome and some wonderful reminders of what amazing people that I have in my life.

I guess what I'm saying is, 2014 in all it's various mixes of stuff was, in the end, a gift. 2015 is a gift. I don't know what it will bring, and I'm sure that I will complain in the midst of it, but it's a gift. Today is a gift. So is tomorrow. I don't know what will happen this year, but that's really part of the fun! I don't really have a goal for the year, but I have a goal for tomorrow: to keep moving forward. To keep pressing into what's uncomfortable. To focus on what I can do on this day. Specifically, that means that I'm going to the gym tomorrow, even though I'm feeling a bit of burn out (don't worry, I'm going to take an extra day off this week to fight the burn out, but I also don't want to give into it completely. It's a balance thing.) I'm going to at least make some sort of a record of budget. I'm going to get groceries (finally) and cook again, even though it seems to be one of the most pointless things that I do. I'm going to keep studying and keep trying to get better at my job, and keep trying to translate that into something that my patients will want to do. I'm going to keep trying tomorrow. Then on Tuesday, the specifics might look a little different, but the gist will be the same. That's why I can write a New Year's post almost 2 weeks in. It's not about the date, it's about today.

Welcome, 2015. Let's do this.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I'm a Biomechanics Nerd and Not Afraid to Admit It

Ah, man. 2015 gets real tomorrow. The normal routine starts. The normal schedule. The always going, rarely stopped. In some ways, I can't wait. I feel more ready for it than I have in a while. In other ways, I prefer to keep sitting on my couch in my fuzzy socks because A) fuzzy socks are fantastic, and B) who wants to be out in the public sharing all the germs with people who are not staying home when they're sick? Also, I've been really enjoying the watching movies, TV (Friends is on ne.tflix now), and generally relaxing.

One of the things that I have been doing with all of this time off is actually studying. I know, right? And I've enjoyed it. What can I say? I'm a nerd and I get to choose to study interesting stuff AND I don't have to take any tests on it. So, yeah. I'm loving it. I am completely geeking out over some biomechanics books. Y'all, I work with people day in and day out, and some of the things that I have seen over and over through the years have me asking all kinds of questions. These books are not only giving me some answers, but some solutions. I'm working on doing these things myself, and not only is my neck pain getting harder to aggravate, but my other nagging pains seem to be decreasing as well. I also notice that my toes are getting straighter (I was showing some ever so slight signs of bunions forming), my knee caps are not quite as far off track as they were, and in figuring out some issues with my spinal posture, not only does that feel better, but it's actually making my clothes fit a little differently (in a good way)!

It's amazing what we do to our bodies with our chronic postures. We think that neck and upper shoulder tension is just normal, and that's the way it is. We think that arthritis is just normal wear and tear and it happens. C'est la vie. We think that as we age, it's just harder to get up and down from the floor because we're "too old for that". We think that all the little nagging aches and pains that start to sneak up on us are "part of getting older". 

I don't think that's true at all. Don't settle! Aging doesn't hurt! There are other ways out there. Sure, they require a little more work now. Some of them seem absolutely insane to our Western, industrialized brains. But as I find myself moving better than I ever have, some of my nagging little injuries are decreasing, and even my bony alignment improving, I'm going to go ahead and say that it's worth the work! Our bodies are amazing, and I love discovering more and more about what my body can do as I start to take away some of the layers of stress that I have placed on it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in 12 Photos

Too many photos! How on earth can I possibly narrow it down to 12??? Yet, I'm going to try.

I've been feeling quite introspective lately. Part of that is my nature. Part of that is a little extra time since I didn't travel for Christmas. Anyway, the introspection is simply leading to the realization once again that my life is pretty amazing. Looking back on 2014's photos certainly reaffirms that.

I heard that the rule is that it's my blog and there are no particular rules. So even though you would think that 12 photos would equate to one photo for each month, that is not going to happen for me. I chose 12 photos for the year. There was no logic in these particular photos other than they were great memories of the last year.

Out cross country skiing
Two cross country skiing photos? Yes. Because I've enjoyed it a lot, and I'm just starting the new season and I'm all excited about it right now.
I love new days, and the sense of a new beginning. Just like this time of year!
From a wonderful weekend spent with blogging friends!
From the ghost town this summer. That "person" is a mannequin head, and it was a little creepy and a lot funny. 
Because I love being on the tops of peaks where you can touch the clouds (or at least it looks like you could)
Again with the new days and new beginnings.
This hike was a tough one for me for a couple of reasons, but even though it made me angry at the time, I love looking back on the photos now and knowing that I made it.
My birthday moose
From our bike tour in Germany. 

Sunset in the Midwest at Thanksgiving.

Christmas squirrel

Linking up with Dwija and Co.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hurrah for Christmas, the Best Day of the Year!

Quick, name that quote!

Anyway, I admit that this Christmas has been quite good, even though I have had my definite Eeyore moments.  Perhaps not the best thing ever, but quite nice nonetheless.  Most of the time I have had peace about the whole not going to go see my family. Honestly, that did seem to work out for the best. It has been really nice to have several days that have not involved crazy rushing around. I admit that I was a little scared going into it. When you're single, the holidays can be isolating. Everyone is so busy that the normal activities are curtailed, both group and evening activities, as well as even stuff that people are doing online. There is a lot less interesting stuff on ye olde internet right now!  I certainly applaud that, because focus should be on family and other things. However, since I didn't get to see my family and there are no in laws or children, it was quiet around here, and quiet can be dangerous, especially during the holidays.

Thankfully, it was nice, in this case. I'm a little done with it now, and actually kind of looking forward to Monday, but it was nice. Christmas Eve I made myself a nice dinner and watched our traditional family Christmas movie. It was odd not having someone to punch or poke during the familiar lines, but it was still nice. One of my sisters was home alone nursing a nasty virus, so we texted a lot; she was watching the movie also.  Then I went to Christmas Mass at night (because it was NOT Midnight Mass). It was a great Mass, but I had to stand in the narthex since incense and I are no longer on speaking terms. I still like the idea of incense and I wish it all the best, but I want nothing to do with it. Asthma and incense are no good together. I admit that I chose the later Mass, even though it was way past my bedtime, partly because I wanted to avoid all the kids at the Christmas Eve Mass. Not because they're noisy and whatnot, but because they're awesome, and I knew I was on thin ice with the emotions as it was. There were some kids, but the one little guy crawling and learning to walk with help in the back just made me smile.

Christmas day was awesome. Beautiful, beautiful day in the mountains, great cross country skiing, hanging out with friends, and we made a Christmas dinner in the crock pot that was waiting for us when we got in from the trails. So fun.

Friday I had to deal with my heat going out. There was some slight panic when I couldn't get ahold of my landlords so they could tell me who they normally call and so they could authorize the work. However, in the end, I called a friend who is part owner of a plumbing and heating company was willing to figure out the payment later so that I could not freeze. He sent his partner over, and I've been so much more appreciative of my heat all weekend!  The payment ended up not being a problem and I've gotten it all straightened out with my landlords, so we're good.  Had I been traveling, I may have been coming home to frozen pipes instead of small and easy furnace repair!

Other than that, I have been lazy. I've been reading books, watching series of shows and writing blog posts (obviously). I am really enjoying celebrating the first few days of Christmas.  It's funny how by now the rest of the world has moved on, and it's almost like we really get to start celebrating now that most of the world is discarding the trees that have been up since November.  I love that Christmas is a season and not just a day! One day is not enough after all that preparation.

How was your Christmas? Did you avoid some of the crazy illnesses going around? Can you believe it's almost 2015?

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Incarnation

"The body, and it alone, and only the body is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it." ~ John Paul II

These words are on my mind this Christmas season. In the Incarnation, Christ made visible the invisible God. Suddenly we can see and touch Him. Well, I suppose we can't in 2014 (other than in the Eucharist), but Mary and Joseph could. The shepherds and the kings could. The disciples and the crowds could. They could see Him and cry out to Him and reach for His robe. They could scourge Him and beat Him and nail Him to a cross.

Sometimes I think that Christmas is lost on me a bit. The story is so familiar that I almost can't hear it. What I mean is, the familiar words often fail to pique the thought or attention that they so richly deserve. This Christmas, I have been trying to spend a little time thinking about "Emmanuel", or "God is with us".  This is part of what I think of, that His being present in the world allowed for this interaction with people every day during His life.

I've also been thinking a lot about the body, and how it makes visible what is invisible in every person. As a physical therapist, I notice a lot about the way that people move. I find it fascinating the way emotions play out in physiological responses in the body. Likewise, physical pains and pressures often lead to anxiety and depression. Someone standing up straight tends to have more confidence. Do they have confidence because they stand straight, or do they stand straight because they have confidence? Who knows, but I think that we can actually help improve confidence by trying to stand straighter. Or improve a bad mood by smiling. And so forth.

Christ became flesh, and dwelt among us.

He didn't come in the flesh to save our souls from the shackles of our flesh, but to redeem us, all of us, including our bodies.  It's just an interesting thing to think about. There are so many things that make more sense to me if I think about the person in terms of the body and soul being parts of a whole, or even almost not separate entities. If you think that way, then you clearly cannot love your neighbor and not do anything about it if they are cold and hungry. Because what is happening to them on a physical level matters.

I don't know, my brain is going in a lot of directions on this. But what I'm getting this Christmas is that God is with us, in the flesh. Such an old message, but it is striking me in some new ways. Maybe if I can make more sense of it, I will be able to share more later.