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My weird Christmas decorations

December 1st, 2018 at 02:04 pm

We're probably a pretty weird family when it comes to Christmas decorations.

Both of our trees are aluminum, one silver, one purple. Our Elvis bust lamp gets a Santa beard. Our tikis and our Creature from the Black Lagoon mask get Santa hats. We have giant inflatable Christmas trees and snowmen dotting the yard.

Our mini Christmas village is always under attack. This year, it's a recreation of the battle on the ice planet Hoth from Empire Strikes Back. Last year, Mechagodzilla attacked and the year before that Ultraman had a Kaiju battle.

Okay. I know, I know. It's tacky. But so am I. I mean, who keeps the Creature from the Black Lagoon AND Elvis in their house year round. Yep. Me.

Overall, I just hope my kids learn to be creative and that holidays should be fun, no matter what form it takes! Here are some pics...

cancer update

November 29th, 2018 at 12:05 pm

I just got Cat scan results, after 3 months on immunotherapy, so here's the latest cancer update.

I'm happy to announce that my tumor has shrunk nearly 50 percent and has not spread to other areas AND I feel like a normal, not sick person now. I've also gained back 20 of the 40 pounds I lost in the first 6 months after diagnosis. ( at 5'9", I was down to 119 pounds and I didn't have any more weight to lose .I was all bones. It was scary.)

It probably doesn't change the long-term (terminal) ending of my cancer, but I have been given the gift of more time, and the bonus gift of feeling-good time.

I have joined the lucky club of being one of the 40 percent of patients to get any sort of response to the drug. Now, if I can only get into the lucky 10 percent of those whose tumors disappear completely, I will be seriously over the moon.

Life with cancer right now is better than I ever hoped it could be, and I am taking full advantage.

I'm talking to the research department at my hospital, trying to determine if it's possible to fund new kidney cancer research, but that's in early phases.

I also miraculously haven't gone bankrupt yet fighting this cancer. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, my insurance HAS to cover cancer care, and my out of pocket has been less than I expected,so yay. In addition to worrying about how my family will survive without me I at least don't have to worry (yet) that I will leave them bankrupt as well.

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement.


October 3rd, 2018 at 01:45 pm

Hi all. I figured it was time to check in.

I was pretty depressed this summer, with all the setbacks and hospitalizations, but life has settled into something pretty close to good.

I've had 4 of the immunotherapy infusions (yervoy/Opdivo. You've probably seen commercials, and the developers just won a Nobel prize). And at least on the outside, it's changed my life. I feel normal. as in, not sick. I've been able to basically live my life like I did before I had cancer. Well, mostly.

I've spent the last month eating as much as possible in an attempt to gain back some of the 40 pounds I've lost since December. (I have no more to lose. Literally. I was down to bones. at 5'9" and 120 pounds.) finally, I've gained a small amount, only 5 pounds but enough to give me hope that I do not have cachexia, an incurable cancer wasting syndrome that is just as deadly as cancer itself.

So yeah. I feel good, and I recognize it as temporary and have been taking advantage. Taking the kids places, going out with friends, eating food. Putting up Halloween decorations and planning our annual trick or treat party. All of it.

I'm not a religious person, but I pray it lasts. I hope the medication is working as well on the tumor as I feel on the outside. The thought of going back on another pill that makes me feel awful is crushing.

So that is the update!

some setbacks

August 10th, 2018 at 07:48 pm

We had some big setbacks this summer. My cancer medicine gave me a rare serious side effect called PRES syndrome. I went to the ER thinking I was having a stroke and had three seizures, then the doctors were convinced the cancer had spread to my brain. Good news; I survived. No cancer in brain, just the Syndrome. I was in the hospital for 8 days.

My first round medicince has stopped working. The tumors didn't grow gangbusters, but they grew enough. Now I go for immunotherapy infusions every 3 weeks. I've had one, and ended up in the hospital for 5 days with a Urinary Tract Infection. I felt like they would just not let me go, and they treatments they gave me there just kept me getting sicker.

The hospital is very good. They leave no stone unturned, but when you only went to the er because the nurse line wanted to be cautious and we feel otherwise fine, it's just too many stones.

For instance I had to have two blood transfusions because all the IV fluids they gave me were bringing down my blood numbers....Ugh.

Spending 13 days of july-aug. in the hospital really did change me. It freaked me out. I don't want to go back again. I don't want to spend the rests of my life going in and out of the hospital. It's not how I envisioned it. I thought I'd just be normal until hospice, then I would decline at home. That' how it went for my dad and grandpa and I hope I get the ease of the same.

Why yes, I am still alive.

May 9th, 2018 at 04:33 pm

I got an email from Ceejay the other day that was very touching. But, it also made me realize I haven't posted in a long time, and when you drop bad news like I did, you better be darn sure you're updating!

So here's the scoop. I started the meds for the kidney cancer in January and had to wait until April 30 to get a CAT scan and results to see if they were working.

My doctor warned me that 'success' was defined as the tumor staying the same, and not spreading. If the tumor shrinks? That's basically a miracle.

I got the miracle, at least for now. The tumor became less dense and had holes in it, indicating shrinking. It's still huge, but marginally less so.

It's still gigantic and it's still terminal, but at least the meds bought me a little more time.

The meds are rough, though.

I thought I understood cancer, I really did. I took care of my grandpa and my dad as they died from it. But I was missing a huge piece. I 'understood' cancer in the context of elderly men who refused treatment and were content to go because their work on this earth was finished.

I'd never personally experienced the fight. The hospital visits, the horrors that cancer treatments bring to those with the disease. fighting tumors is hard. Surviving the treatments is hard. It's like chemical warfare in your body. it isn't pretty. It isn't easy. it hurts.

Every month I get a new bottle of pills from the pharmacy, and once I pop the lid, I know I'm in for even more life-altering side effects. It's like a surprise pack: hold tight. You don't know what you're getting this time. The longer you take the pills, the more you have to deal with. For instance, all of my body hair has turned white. even my eyebrows and eyelashes. My skin, nose, mouth and throat are so dry they hurt. And let's not even talk about what's happening in the bathroom!

And I'm starving to death, at least according to my blood work. Because the meds suppress my appetite, and if I do actually try to eat, the meds have killed my taste buds, so everything tastes bitter like brussel sprouts. Oh, and my mouth hurts, so it hurts to chew and it hurts to swallow. Then, my stomach gets upset. Ugh! see what I mean? If the cancer doesn't kill you, the treatment will.

I apologize if I sound like I'm complaining. It isn't my intention. I just wanted to convey that I'm on a road with no map, and it's a real challenge.

In the meantime, I'm trying to make peace with my mortality. wrap up loose ends. I'm also trying to sort and give away extra stuff, so my family doesn't have to deal with it.

But it's a minefield. I have to do it in secret because dh gets upset if he thinks I'm preparing to die. His skin has not grown any thicker, as I hoped it would, as he had more time to adjust.

I really only break down when I think about the pain I'm causing and will cause my children and my family. And I realize a huge part of the rest of my life is managing other people's feelings and trying to put THEM at ease.

Particularly DH and my Mom. They get super angry and/or crying upset/stressed out if I'm not doing or acting the way they need me to in order for them to be okay. Did that make sense? It's like I have to put on a show for them when they are around, doing whatever they associate with me being well, so they don't epically break down.

It's frustrating and exhausting, but I understand why they need it. They hold on to ultimate hope I will somehow be cured, because if they didn't, they'd be swallowed whole by devastation.

My social life is harder in weird ways, too. I'm making an effort to go places and do things I used to do if I am even remotely able. But the side effect? When I run into social friends, many of them don't know what to say to me, or they look at me with sad eyes. I want to shake them and scream "I'm not dead yet!" but I hold back because I know they mean well, they just don't know what to say.
I mean, who does?

So yeah. This is my new life with terminal cancer. Glamorous, isn't it?

In financial news, we aren't spending much so we've managed to squirrel away extra money, and I'll do that as long as I can. I'll have to spend some on house projects, but that's okay.

Learning to live as a different person

February 14th, 2018 at 02:52 pm

Well, I've been on my cancer meds for two weeks. I had my first check up yesterday. I'm doing great as far as side effects. Didn't get any of the scary ones-- yet. But, sadly, I did get decreased appetite. On top of my already decreased appetite. which really sucks. I didn't even realize I was having a side effect until I called the doctor's office asking for help with food, and they put two and two together.

Sigh. I lost more weight, which is bad, but now that I know what I'm up against with food, I'm approaching it was food is fuel and I'm drinking a lot of my calories, since solid food is a tough sell for me. Drinking lots of Ensures (bleck...) and eating the same solid foods at the same time every day, just trying to get enough calories in to stem the weight loss.

These last few weeks have been tough, because I'm basically relearning how to live. I won't probably ever feel 'good' like my normal cancer-free self. So I'm learning to how to still get up and accomplish things and live some sort of basic functioning life while not feeling good. Boy. Learning to be chronically ill is not easy.

But, I'm not giving up. I can't.

Yesterday we got some early possible good signs. Although I won't know if the medicine is working on the tumor until the end of April ( I can't believe I have to wait that long.)... my bloodwork had improved this visit. Something approaching closer to normal levels. The doctor said it could be a fluke or it could be an early promising sign. He is cautious. I like this approach. He doesn't spread false hope.

So fingers crossed it's something good happening in me, and not a fluke.

In other news, my will and healthcare papers are signed and legal and finished.

And, my credit card number was stolen, and someone charged $2000 worth of hotel rooms. I didn't catch it for a week because I haven't been online as much. I called Saturday to cancel the card, and we're still waiting for replacement cards.

starting meds

January 24th, 2018 at 01:30 pm

Well, my treatment medicine arrives tomorrow. I'm both in a hurry to start and terrified at the same time. Fingers crossed I can handle the side effects.

Of course, the good news is that the insurance is paying for the newer, stronger, and potentially better medicine. ANd OSU went a step farther to make it cheaper. My copay would have been $80/bottle. But OSU went ahead and got a copay payment card from the drug manufacturer which brings my out of pocket per bottle to $10.

I literally sobbed for a minute when I hung up the phone. I'm so scared this is going to bankrupt my family, but round one has worked out. I consider this the first small miracle.

Now guys, wish me luck. Let's hope the medicine actually works and the tumor shrinks (best case) or doesn't grow (considered good.).

Tomorrow, it all begins.

Small wins

January 19th, 2018 at 02:37 pm

The new doctor and his staff at OSU were WONDERFUL.

My prognosis is still bad, but I left with tons of information, all of my questions answered, and a giant bag full of samples of nutrition drinks (like ensure, but hopefully not as gross to me.)

They didn't mess around.

Sadly, though, my tumor is gigantic, filling my entire left abdomen where my kidney used to be. The liver tumors might not be tumors at all, but something I've always had.

It's obviously aggressive, since it grew back so fast after surgery, but it might not have spread. I forget the terms but it ranked 20 percent on an aggressive type test, which is bad news, but way better than if it were 80 percent.

The dr. is starting me on a more aggressive medicine because I am young and should be better able to tolerate it. It has a survival rate 6 months longer than the other pill.

Of course, the survival rate isn't great. If the treatment works, it only works for about a year, then you have to try something new, and if that works, you might get another year. etc. There are only 4 or 5 things to try, each with diminishing returns, so I'm looking at 2 to 5 best case unless a miracle happens.

I'm still profoundly bummed, but I'll take every good day I can get.

Next steps

January 16th, 2018 at 01:31 pm

Well, I honestly can't say the dust has settled on this surprise diagnosis. We're all still shell shocked. My husband wakes up at 4 am every morning to fold laundry and cry alone. Poor man howls like a fighting cat opera.

We've told the kids we have cancer, but not how bad it is. We'll deal with death when it's more immediate.

I hate hate HATE my current oncologist. He is condescending. He doesn't listen. I have to ask him the same question three times to actually get a straight answer out of him. He refused to give me anything for my nausea on my first visit, because he wanted to run blood work-- the same blood work my regular doctor just ran-- and wait for the results. So, I had to suffer two extra weeks struggling to eat and not throw up.

I don't know. I'm sure he's a wonderful doctor for someone, but not for me. He is just kind of shruggy about my whole situation. I want the guy who's treating me to care more about my cancer and my kids than to just shrug about my prospects.

Thankfully, I have an appointment with the kidney cancer group at OSU cancer center on Friday. I hope to find a doctor who wants to actually help me there. I'll be devastated if I don't.

As for the death prep. Yay.

I'm trying to figure out everything I need to do.
This is what I've come up with, and PLEASE please tell me if I miss anything.

1. Make sure dh is the beneficiary of my IRA accounts

2. Both of the online savings accounts are in my name. I need to put them in his name. He's already the death beneficiary.

3. Write down EVERYTHING for him. All the passwords. What goes in what account and when. Names/ check up routines for the kids doctor's and dentists. Names of the people who've fixed the house. Can you tell I've handled EVERYTHING since kids?

4. Get a will. I need to talk to someone. My name is on the house. Not sure what I need to do about that. Want to make sure there's no doubt where the money should go.

5. Save as much money as I possibly can. Seriously.

In other news, treatment begins next week, with one doctor or the other. I'll need a hail mary, guys. There are only two therapies for stage 4 kidney cancer, so I don't have a lot of options if the first one doesn't work.

Grumpy oncologist says I have six months with either no treatment or if the drugs don't work, and I really have more work to do in life than that.

Thanks for all of your support.

It's back, it's terminal

January 4th, 2018 at 08:52 am

I had a kidney removed in June, because the doctor discovered I had stage 1 kidney cancer when I went to the ER for a kidney stone.

So, I've been bopping along, recovering from surgery, and happy to be back to normal.

Then...The week before thanksgiving I felt like I was about to get sick-- like I was getting a flu or virus. Feeling tired, got a cough. Wasn't hungry. So I started popping vitamin C and went on with my life, waiting to kick it. I couldn't kick it, so I went to the doctor and she told me I had anemia. So I started taking iron. That didn't fix it.

Then a friend, who is also a nurse, came over and made me go to the ER. She said I looked terrible, I wasn't getting better. I'd lost weight, and I needed answers right away.

I got my answer. The kidney cancer has returned. It grew back in the space where my kidney used to be. And it's in my liver. I'm stage 4. There is no cure for kidney cancer. They can treat me, but the goal is life extension.

The five year survival rate is 8 percent.

So this is it then. I'm 42. I have two kids under 10. I've been the picture of health my entire life. Slim, active, nonsmoker. And my first health problem in my entire life is an incurable cancer.

I'm angry. For the lost years of my life, for my lost plans, but mostly because some dickhead clump of cells is going to cause my children, friends, and family massive, life-altering pain. Because these cells mean I won't be here to help my children grow up.

So now, I guess, the way forward is to prepare for my death.

Make sure my beneficiaries on all of my accounts are up to date. All the passwords and accounts are written down for hubby to take care of when I am gone. And pray for some sort of medical miracle.

Why yes, I am still alive!

October 5th, 2017 at 06:10 am

Oh my gosh, I've been gone forever!

I hope I didn't worry anyone, given my horrific summer of surprise cancer and surgery. Alas, I have survived, and I am back to normal, like nothing happened at all. Moving, running, working out, all of it.

(Except I managed to pull an ab muscle, so I'm sitting here with a heating pad, but hey. I'll take it.)

It's almost surreal. Other than a few tiny scars, no one would know anything happened to me at all. In fact, most people-- apart from you guys and my very close friends and family-- don't know!

Since it was a quick cancer with a surgery and no chemo, I opted not to share the news with everyone (you know, parents at school, social only friends, etc.) because I didn't want them to think of me as sickly or to treat me differently. I didn't want them to worry about me, unless there was something real to worry about.

So yeah. That's good. It still blows my mind, though.

I guess the good news is that I haven't been here as much because I was

A. Finishing my 4th novel. (woot!) I managed to write it and finish a 70k word urban fantasy novel over the summer, despite the kids being out of school and being out for a month recovering from surgery. I still don't know how I did it!

B. Editing my 2nd novel and getting it ready to release on Nov. 15.
C. Working on random author stuff, like getting out there and connecting with readers who might like my stuff.

Financially, the medical bills played out in the best case scenario. I waited all summer for a big bill to come, but it didn't. My biggest expenses were the copays for my ER visit, and for my surgery, which were about $1500 up front.

I paid about $3000 out of pocket for everything, and the bills came just far enough apart that I was able to pay them out of pocket instead of dipping into savings. So that was a huge relief.

Of course, that meant I was not able to put money back into savings to replace the 9,000 we spent on a roof right before I went into the hospital. Sigh. But, I am plugging away at that, putting about $700 a month back into it. And just hoping that I will still be cancer free when I go in for a CT scan in January.

So yeah. I missed y'all!

From baby to preteen room... makeover...

July 12th, 2017 at 05:14 pm

Well, I'm in earnest converting the toy room into my oldest's pre-teen moody testosterone lair.

We pulled all the toys out, emptied closets, etc., and boy how did my boys end up with so many toys?? It was chaos for a couple of days, but I got the closets done today and some things put away, so that helped.

As part of the transition, I gave the closet in both bedrooms some upgrades. Both boys will have two rods for hanging clothes and half a closet of toy storage and shelving. I was able to reuse a closet rod I'd taken out of my own bedroom when I redid my closets in Feb.

I had to buy 1 rod, two brackets, and three wire shelves. I spent just under $50 for all of it, so $25/closet in expenses.

Here are the pics. For the record, I have no idea why they are sideways. The originals aren't!

DS1 wants his own room, ADD, medical bills, etc.

July 9th, 2017 at 07:26 am

Just a few odds and ends.

So far, my Big C medical bill tally:

$1300 in copays before surgery (paid)
$53 to the CTI scan (paid)
$252 to the anesthesiologist (mailing check tomorrow)

Bills are just starting to come in. Worse, are the "This is not a bill" papers with itemized lists of every rinky dink thing you used in the hospital. But no indication of what it costs or what you'll pay. Gar. Why can't I be Candian or European?

I've started spending my $500 home improvement budget, and so far, things are coming in less than expected!

I budgeted $25 to replace broken cereal bowls, but managed to get what I needed at Ikea for $9. I spent that 'extra' $16 on a replacement part for the dishwasher. The rack wheel broke! So, another project on the list, but no more budget spent.

I budgeted $40 for dish and bath hand towels, but spent $12 for 11 new ones, and I think those will get us by for a while. So that's $28 that can go to another project.

I also started looking for fabric to slipcover the ugly chair, and realized if I use fuzzy throws and blankets, which are super soft and comfy-- and just also happen to be large pieces of fabric for less than the per yard cost at the fabric store-- I can get it done for about $40. Which would be awesome.

Of course, my 9-year-old threw a wrench in my plans by giving me a sincere and heartfelt plea for why he should move into his own room. That's always been the plan. He shares with his 7-year-old brother right now, and has for four years. We have a 'toy' room that was always designated as his bedroom once he hit puberty.

I guess he didn't want to wait for puberty. And, the more I'm reading about 9-year-olds, the more I understand this is the phase when they want privacy, and independence, and something of their own. And frankly, since they are only 19 months apart and it's been easier for us and they didn't mind until now, they've shared EVERYTHING for years. Friends, activities, same school, same room, even share clothes because they are the same size.

I just feel bad I didn't realize all this until DS1 said something.

So yeah, we agreed. It's time for them both to have their own space and their own identity.

After some calculating. Furniture wise, We can have the toy room transformed into pre-teen boy hang out for about $300. This includes a loft bed frame, his homework desk, mattress (the bunk beds will stay together in their current room, for DS2 and guests), and any other odds and ends.

I haven't been spending much lately, so we should be able to swing this out of cash flow in the next two weeks or so.

I am feeling a little better every day, post surgery. It's been 3 weeks, 2 days? Last night, I could finally sleep on my side comfortably. Yay!

I'm also going to spend some time weeding the garden today.Gah! Something always happens in June that lets the weeds get away from me. and as much as Dh promises every spring that he's all about the garden and will help and weed, he never does.

Sigh. I did not marry a fix-it or do-it man. Pretty much everything outside of his job, and folding osme laundry, I do. I fix, I grow, I paint, I maintain, and honestly, it's overwhelming. And I'm not that good at it, so it's death by a thousand cuts of broken things around here!!

He isn't doing it to be a jerk. We realized through the journey of discovery of our youngest son's severe ADD that he got it from his dad. So many things in our relationship made sense after figuring that out.

Anyway, part of that is obliviousness to details, 'forgetting' to do things you've been asked to do (They have good intentions, but anything that isn't immediately in front of them doesn't exist, ergo easily distracted and forgetful.)He even forgets full conversations had only hours before AND big chunks of our past 15 years together.

Anyway, I'm not mad about it. It's the way his brain works. But, with my being out of play for a month this summer, and watching the world crumble without all the drudge work I do every day, it got me thinking it's time to figure out a way to simplify our lives, minimize the 'things' we need to take care of, in order to take workload off of me.

The help isn't coming, so it's time to figure out what can stay, what can go, and what can be reconfigured to make it easier for me to do on my own.

Like the garden. Maybe it's time to ditch the complicated raised beds that are hard to mow around and that I have to spend hours weed-whacking, and just do straight rows that I can mow around? And then maybe fewer rows, since the boys don't really help much with maintaining once the novelty of spring has passed?

As for indoor tasks, we are making the boys do much more for themselves since I can't. It's actually been good, because I did too much for them anyway, and they're old enough to take care of more.

Just thinking out loud!

Darn you, CeeJay! ;)

July 6th, 2017 at 05:50 pm

You must have gotten into my brain like a gourmet amoeba!

I don't know what came over me. But today, I made three new recipes.

1. A new marinade plus recipe for baked chicken legs.

2. I had most of a stale (amazing) baguette leftover from the farm market yesterday. They are amazing but they don't last, because they are baked with no preservatives, so I thought. Hmmm. I'll try that recipe for bread pudding and caramel sauce! (On the stove, as we speak.)


3. Then, I had five tiny tiny granny smith apples leftover from last week's farm share. One more day, and they'd start to go bad, so another Hmmmm... I made an apple-pie ice cream sauce and it was a huge hit for dessert. It seriously tasted just like apple pie. On ice cream. I'm dying!

Normally, I dread cooking. But, maybe there's something to putting more effort into trying new things and being creative. Maybe it'll get us out of our dinnertime rut!

This is my favorite time in the food year, though. We're getting produce out of the garden and can buy most of everything else at the farmer's market. Good living!

Tightwad gazette, $500 budget

July 5th, 2017 at 11:23 am

Gah! I lost the original version of this post! So frustrating!

Anyway. I was GOING to say, before it was all wiped away...

While I'm stuck at home recovering, I've been re-reading the Tightwad Gazette. Once you've been cheap for 20 years, there aren't a lot of ideas left to try, but I like to go through some of the classics for inspiration and maybe ideas I've missed.

Most of the TG falls into the 1. already doing it 2. not relevant or 3. not my thing categories.BUT, I am going to try the grocery price book. I've never done it, and maybe writing down what things we buy cost at different stores will come in handy.

I dug out a tiny notebook and wrote down my categories, and we'll see how it works out!

I'm also revisiting reusing plastic Ziploc bags. I prefer to put leftovers etc into reusable glass pyrex with lids, but DH still puts stuff in Ziplocs, tries to wash them but never really gets them clean.

I, seeing the dirty bag, get grossed out and throw it away,but now I'm thinking of trying harder to get them clean. I hate the idea of all that plastic waste put out into the environment. Any tips on washing and drying them effectively?

$500 home improvement

We rescued a 1970s modern lounge chair from the in-laws. It's super comfy, looks modern,and is one of DH's favorite childhood chairs. They were going to put it on the curb.

Only problem: The 80s. floral upholstery. The MIL loves to cover everything in flowers. Not my style. And, in this case, it's dirty. SO, I got an estimate for a real reu[holstery job and it came back at $500.

Cringe. But I originally planned to do it anyway. Then I thought, "geesh, my friends I used to re-cover thrift store furniture in our 20s,a nd it looked fun and lasted a long time. I bet I could do that with this chair."

I inspected the chair and I think I can make a washable slipcover that looks like new upholstery with maybe a day's work.

And, since I'm stuck at home recovering, I've noticed a long list of smallish house projects that need to be done, so I wondered how many of those I could do with that $500. I want to find out, so I'm allocating $500 to misc. house projects.

Here's a rough plan

1. $100. Reupholster chair/ottoman
2. $100. Reupholster office chair
3. $50 to $75. Scrape and re-paint my master bathroom.
4. $40. Buy all new dish and bath hand towels. Ours are awful, and at least 15 years old.
5. $25. Replace all the Japanese ceramic cereal bowls we've broken.
6. $60 plus whatever is left-- either replace the broken stereo speaker with a used set or rent a steam cleaner and clean three sofas plus the interior of my car,which is super gross from the kids.

Food for thought. I think I'm gonna do this littler experiment and see how it works.

in other news

Three more days and It'll have been three weeks since surgery. As expected, I am not back to normal. Sigh.

Yes, I can do more. Yes, I can drive. But two to three hours of activity leaves me wiped out and needing nap. (I am trying to sleep more, since that is when the body heals.)

I still can't bend over to pick things up off the floor. Since my incisions are on my torso, they limit movements until they heal 100 percent. Sigh!

This is all very frustrating for an on-the-go gal like myself. I want to be back to normal!! I hate feeling like I'm on pause!

Plus, a bit of the gravity of the 'C' word might be sinking in, and the reality of if it hadn't been for all this, I would have been dead in the next couple of years. I'm having some feels related to that. Maybe reevaluating my priorities and how I'm living my day-to-day life.

Gah! SO many feels!

Slinking back to normal

June 30th, 2017 at 07:53 am

I had my post-op visit with the Dr. yesterday. (We ribbed him a little because he looks a lot like Mark Wahlberg.)

Everything is well. Caught at stage 1= lower chance of recurrence, no evidence of spread, if I can make it through the next five years without getting it again, my chances get even smaller as time goes on. As long as I exercise every day and keep my weight in check, my chances are even lower. That's fine, because I do those things anyway.

So, I guess if you're going to get cancer, this is the way to do it-- surgery and no chemo and boom, done. Feels weird to say that!

I am thankful.

My friends and my mom chipped in a lot to help me, hubby, and the boys through it. I'm lucky to have good and caring and genuine people in my life.

Life is good.

And, I'm getting better every day. I still can't comfortably put on my shoes of pick things up off the floor, but I was able to make the bed, clean up, do laundry and vaccuum today. (Phew! Boys sure are bad at housekeeping!)

I'm also cleared to drive, so I did one short trip to the closest grocery store yesterday to stock us up. I realized, these past two weeks, that hubby only buys snack foods-- not ingredients-- when he shops. (As in, cheese and crackers, rather than meat to make a main).

Normally, I go to at least 2 grocery stores for the best prices, but I didn't want to push it. Besides, I needed a nap after one short grocery shopping trip!

Tomorrow, I'm taking the boys to see Despicable Me 3. I think I can swing it, and it'll make the boys feel that mom is more back to normal.

It's been hard on them, seeing me like this, for sure. DS2, age 7, is more heart on his sleeve about his fears and feelings. He had nightmares about my death while I was at the hospital.

DS1, age 9, is more subtle with his feelings, but I can tell he's been upset and upended by all of this. We've all made an effort to talk to him and let him know he can talk to us, and that this is all going to be all right.

Hubby seems mostly okay, but I can tell the stress is getting to him. It's been hard for him to do all of his jobs plus my jobs, but he's been a good sport about it. We have our problems, like any married couple, but he's really got it where it counts. He knows what does and doesn't matter in the big picture of life. And now that I'm up and around, he's less worried.

I guess I didn't realize my boys see me as "action mom" not "lay in bed mom", and they know I'm seriously not feeling well if I am laying in bed.

We did have a (half) laugh about the in-laws though. Any of you who know me know the big issues I've had with them.

When the flowers started getting delivered, every single one, DH would say "Oh, I bet this is from my mom." None of them were. Nor were any of the cards. He was hurt.

They sent me one email during all of this: One sentence asking what the doctor said about the cancer (the science, not how are you feeling?), and then they spent the other 35 lines asking ME to pray for THEM because they're trying to sell a rental property and are worried the contract won't go through.

Sigh. FIL has had cancer 5 times since we got married 15 years ago, and each time they expected both of us to drop whatever we were doing to drive 1000 miles to their house to be with them while they were in the hospital or recovering. Which we did. They also would call us 10 times a day crying about their mortality, and we'd spend hours on the phone trying to soothe them.

Ha. Last year, the in-laws meh reaction would have hurt my feelings or made me angry, but after this past year, I feel like I know them so much better. I don't think they mean any harm, and I don't think they realize how self-absorbed and unconcerned they are with anyone other than themselves. I certainly can't change that. Oh well!

In other news, it was payday, and I'm back to paying bills. $350 for car insurance, plus I managed to pay the $1200 in hospital and ER copays we'd put on the card. The freezer was bare bones empty, too, so I spent $257 on local, grass-fed, free-range beef, chicken and pork from a local farmer. They deliver it tomorrow.

As a result, I wasn't able to put any extra money back in savings to make up for the $8000 we took out to replace the roof. Not happy about it, but we're in survival mode right now, so it is what it is. I could have skipped the meat order, but that saves us on the grocery bill long-term, so...

No hospital bills have arrived yet, which is fine with me. Although I don't like knowing what the bottom line will be, if they filter in slowly, we should be able to pay them out of cash rather than savings.

That would be a relief. So, fingers crossed on that!

Recovery is the worst... ;)

June 23rd, 2017 at 08:08 am

Not really. I know I should be grateful to be alive and all, but boy, recovering from surgery is so boring!! It's a mental willpower game!

I'm not the kind of person who sits around all day. And right now, I can't do much else but sit around all day. I see things that need cleaned up, and I want to clean them, but I'm not physically able to, then I'm annoyed looking at them. Uh, is that normal??

And of course, now that I've stopped taking pain meds (talk about the worst) and am through the mental fog, the kids think I can take them to do this and that, but I can't drive, can't walk very far, can't do anything fun.

Gah!! Will I ever be back to normal??????

I'm alive. (Updated)

June 20th, 2017 at 08:24 am

I made it through surgery and I am home. I am alive, but feel like I've been hit by a truck. Geesh. Never knew recovery would hurt this much!

Doctor said there were no surprises and it looks like the big C hadn't spread. Lab work/biopsy will be back in a few days.

Thank you all for your well wishes.


I've been home 3 days and feel much less like I've been hit by a truck, although I am shuffling around the house like a little old man. Stop taking the pain meds because the worst of the pain is over.

Talked to the doc. It was clear cell renal carcinoma, the most common type, and he said they didn't find it in any of the adjoining tissue and he doesn't expect a recurrence.

So all good so far.

Sometimes, you do everything right and it doesn't matter

June 15th, 2017 at 09:09 am

Well, everyone. This week has not worked out the way I had planned it at all. It's been a life-changing whirlwind, to say the least.

Apparently, at 42, despite the world's most boring medical history -- no prescriptions, no problems, relatively fit, non-smoker, thin, and no family history. I have cancer. Yep. The big C. Kidney cancer.

I'm blindsided, of course. I went to the Dr. on Monday thinking I had a UTI. Turns out it was a kidney stone, so I ended up in the ER. When I thought I was about to go home and it was over, the doctor told me they found cancer or something like it on my kidney. I was admitted. They did more scans. It is cancer.

They say this is good news, that this kidney stone saved my life.

Kidney cancer has no symptoms and it's usually found only when it's spread and it's too late. They say even though the risk factors are obesity and smoking, most of the people who get it don't have either of those. They're like me. No reason to get it, it's just bad luck.

There aren't many effective treatments once it spreads. It's a death sentence. They tell me it hasn't spread, that I won't need chemo, but of course, they won't know that for 100 percent sure until they take it out.

So tomorrow, I go to the hospital to have a kidney removed. I really didn't see it coming. Not at all.

So yeah. Of course I'm scared. I've never had surgery before, and I'm terrified of that. (Hell, I just got my first cavity last fall and I thought that was traumatizing!)

But, I'm even more terrified of dying before my work is done. I have two boys to raise, I have a mom I promised I'd take care of in her old age. I promised to put her to rest. I can't leave before her. I just can't.

So yes. They say it's good news, and I hope that turns out to be true. I really really do.

But in case it's not, I want y'all to know this community has been wonderful these past ten years. You have helped me through a lot of transitions and hard times, and I value all of you. Thank you all!

Wish me luck!

My new favorite charity

June 11th, 2017 at 07:07 am

With two boys, I'm perpetually accumulating a 'donate' pile of outgrown books, clothes, and toys.

I used to just drop them off at the Goodwill around the corner, but my recent shopping trips there have been eye-popping. (Some of you have already commented on how they're charging new or near-new retail prices for donated items). I know they have to cover rent and all... but....

Thankfully I discovered a local "free store" run by a Methodist church in a high poverty area about 5 miles from my house. It's just like a thrift store-- nice racks of clothes, and items arranged on shelves-- only it's in the church basement, run all by the nicest volunteers, and everything in the store is free for anyone in the neighborhood who is in need. They also offer free meals several times a week.

I'm hooked. I really LOVE knowing that my stuff is going to kids and families who really need it. And they don't have to pay a dime.

Yes. I know donating to thrift shops isn't enough charity to change the world. It's just one part of what we do.

But I love that there's a kid who'll actually have a bike to ride around on this summer because my son donated the one he'd outgrown, and that kid didn't have to walk into a Goodwill, want the bike, but have his mom say no because they couldn't afford the $50 thrift-store price tag!!

Plus, the volunteers are so nice. It's clear they really put their hearts into the venture and that it's making a meaningful difference in their lives and in the community. Good vibes all around!

Apparently, there are free stores in other towns as well, so maybe there's one near you that's worth checking out?

Summer break...YouTube Channel?

June 9th, 2017 at 05:30 am

well, it certainly is an adjustment having the boys around all day. Boy. They love each other a lot but they sure can fight!

I chalk it up to being so close in age--19 months apart. Lots of competition for resources since they're basically into the same thing.

I have managed so far to keep the summer spending in check. The weekly kid entertainment and food budget has helped! It's cold hard cash that I can show to the kids and they can SEE when there's a lot and when it's disappearing. A couple times, the boys actually opted to eat at home to save the money for ice cream out later! Sniff. So proud.

Next week, the rubber really hits the road, though, because our one busy week (this week) where my oldest has an animation camp will be over. Let the unstructured summer begin.

Now onto YouTube. My kids, when I asked them if they had any new year's resolutions back in January said they wanted to start a youtube channel. I was skeptical, at first, given they're only 7 and 9, but after much thought, we finally let them do it.

So far, it's only a handful of the videos DS1 has made at animation camp. They aren't very good, because he's learning, but... he's totally into it. And he wants to keep making movies, and I want to encourage him to CREATE not just CONSUME!! When it comes to media.

The rules of his channel: kid friendly, no bad words (poop jokes excluded. Come on they're kids!) and no saying their names, school, etc.

We're going to invest the $50 in software and stop-motion cameras after the camp is done so he can keep going.

SO, if you want to watch some bad, but lovingly created lego stop motion animation my boys made, here it is!


I want to encourage him to pursue his interests, which right now are making movies, having a channel, and skateboarding!

It's interesting to watch them turn from babies to elementary schoolers. When the boys were born, I always wondered who they were in their hearts and what they'd be interested in. It's only taken nearly a decade to find out!

The summer money pit

May 22nd, 2017 at 06:05 pm

The kids start summer vacation on Friday. Gah! I'm so stressed out. We seem to eat through money while the kids are on break. All the extra activities, and meals, and I don't even know what!

Maybe all my careful planning and budgeting goes out the window from stress.

What do you do to keep from hemorrhaging money while the kids are out of school???

I feel like I'm cheating on you.

April 6th, 2017 at 08:49 am

Seriously. I used to lurk on SA all day, but lately, I've been spending all my time on Kboards!!

I hope you'll forgive me. Once I decided to self-pub my first novel, I had to go there to learn as much as I could about doing that successfully. Refer to 2017 Career goal on my sidebar ---- Welp. Goal met!

Bear with me as I recap...

As some of you remember, I've been a freelance writer for 9 years, since my oldest was born, and it was not only difficult to have constant deadlines with two little kids and limited daycare, but the pay rates kept going down (thanks Great Recession), and then I lost 60 percent of it to taxes. (Yay self-employment tax penalty!)

DH and I eventually decided the paltry amount of money I was clearing after taxes (which amounted to almost nothing after childcare) just wasn't worth the stress.

So...I decided to pursue my life-long ambition of writing fiction and tone down the freelance, since I wasn't really making any money anyway, might as well take the risk right?

Stick with me. There really is some finance in this story!

Zoom ahead to now:
I tried traditional publishing, and I'm told for a very first ever novel, I did better than most:

1. one agent read the whole book, but declined bc publishers aren't buying paranormal romances anymore. A couple other agents declined the query for the same reason. I'm told getting any response from an agent is good. Still hurt my feelings, though.

2. The book won one Romance Writers of America contest for young adult fiction. It was a real honor! The book placed third for young adult romance in a second RWA contest. Also, another honor.

So, all in all for a first try, I'm satisfied with that. Now that I'm in a professional author's group, I hear a lot of people saying they never got a bite until their sixth or eight book!

Which leads me to now. I didn't want to put the novel in a drawer just because it's not what five publishers are buying right now. I decided to self pub, which is why I've been cheating on SA with Kboards! (Professional development. I'll always love you guys most.)

So the big news is I just hit publish on the paperback version of my book! Feels good to see it for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And the bigger surprise: I've sold 16 copies so far. (Net: $41 in royalties, which means TECHNICALLY I'm a pro writer now. Goal met!)

The ebook version goes live on May 1, which, I'm lead to believe, is where the real sales begin. I'll be enrolling it in Kindle Unlimited, which pays you for every page kindle members read of the book.

My expenses, other than time, were $12 for the licensing fee for the cover photo. Thanks to my experience in journalism, I saved a ton of money on production costs.

I edited the book myself, then handed it to my mom for proofreading (She's good and picky about misspellings and commas). I'm not saying it's 100 percent error free, but it's close. All those years copy editing paid off.

Then, who knew that one graphic design class I took in college would pay off? I created my own ebook cover and print book wraparound cover (free) instead of having to pay a designer to do it.

The rest-- formatting and reviewing the print book layout and learning how to and formatting in the various ebook formats-- just took time and practice. Both turned out better than I expected.

So yes. Life goals, right?

Here is the link, as per LuckyRobin's request....

Off to a decent start...

January 12th, 2017 at 11:09 am

Nothing much to report. Which I suppose is good?

We're almost done with the second week of our $400 week for everything but bills budget. It seems to be going well!

It's almost refreshing in a way to have limits. It makes me more mindful, and it keeps extraneous stuff and purchases from entering the house.

We do have some CC debt to pay off from December, the month of crazy and Christmas wherein we always overspend, but with the budget, it should be gone by the end of the month, before I incur any interest charges.


I'm back on the wagon and nearly finished the the second novel in my Salt Creek series. Phew! I'm learning to write faster and better drafts.

It took me about six months to write book 1, then about five more years to edit it and revise it 5 more times. (In my defense, I had work and two fresh babies.)

Book two, I started in October, and it will likely be finished next week. (First draft, that is). The revisions will likely go more smoothly, as my first draft is a much more coherent story. I guess you do learn by doing!

I also downloaded a writing productivity app called 5,000 Words per hour. It's free. It really does work. It's basically a stop watch. You write in sprints, to see how many words you can get down on paper in X amount of time. It certainly has helped me focus, and made me feel less guilty getting out of my chair to do other things before my 2,000 word count goal was met.

So yay for free productivity apps!

The only bad part about writing more is I'm not getting as much exercise! Boy, my fitbit is like "what happened??"

Writing more= sitting more. Boo. I'm sure all of your in the fitbit challenges with me will cut me some slack, right? Wink


I'm back on Swagbucks, and have already banked about $40 in Amazon cards. I had some old points lurking there, I made a purchase through their portal (stuff I was going to buy at the store anyway), and did some videos,polls, and earned some search points.

So, yeah. It's a lot of time and work, but that's basically free money. Once my CC rewards hit, I might actually be able to buy a new record player on Amazon for free!

I have so many great albums that didn't make it to CD or digital music, and I've missed listening to them since the record player doesn't work. (Been repaired twice. Didn't last. Boo.)

I'm also planning to do the mini 52-week savings challenge. In my piggybank. For next December's Xmas money. I haven't started yet. I know I know,but I will download the chart today and use the spare change in my purse to keep up. I swear. I will. Wink

SA FitBit Group last call!

January 4th, 2017 at 11:32 am

I'm taking the SA fitbit group private tomorrow so join now if you want in!


OMG. I'm boring! Boring! Boring!

January 2nd, 2017 at 08:31 pm

Welp. It happened. It snuck up on me. Today I realized I am a boring parent. Geesh. No wonder my kids are bored! I'm bored out of my skull! How could I not be boring???

How did I get boring?

I've long had this feeling of malaise about motherhood. I love my kids more than anything, don't get me wrong, and I dutifully do homework, PTA, take them to and participate in enrichment/sports, read to them (lots), and occasionally take them on trips.

But, when we're wiling around the house most days, I'm bored out of my mind. I feel confined to the house because they aren't old enough to be home alone.

It's kind of this terrible sensation of
1. feeling like life 'out there' is passing me by, and
2. Wanting to be part of it,but taking the kids places is such drama. They complain, they never want to do the same thing, they want to leave the minute we get there. etc.

Anyway. Long story short. I either don't go places, or I go without them and leave them home with hubby. (We take turns.)

I'm writing this assuming I am not the only mom who has felt like this or been through it. But also because something changed in me today.

It's like something clicked. I don't know if it's permanent, but it's something. Before I talk about the click, let me back up.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how children learn skills and learn how to be grown ups, and I keep coming back to the idea of the apprenticeship. Kids learn about being grown up by watching grown ups around them. Watching us build, fix, work garden, socialize with our friends. etc.

And then I think.Huh.They're learning to be bored by watching me be bored. They're learning to stay home because children as a hassle. What a crappy life lesson.

I also think a lot about what kind of experiences I'd like them to be exposed to, and what kind of things I'd like to show them in the world. And I think well, someday, I'll.... Then it doesn't come because, you know, they complain a lot and are hard to manage when we're out. It's HARD to take them into the world. So we don't go out into it.

Okay. Back to the click. We've been out of school since Dec. 20. OMG. That is so long. We're out of the 'usual' kid stuff we always do. We've had playdates at our house, and they're bored of that. We've done everything we 'usually' do: Christmas, trampoline park, Chuck E Cheese, eating out, etc.

So, this morning, I called up another mom in the same predicament and declared we were all going roller skating. I'm tired of the same old, I like roller skating, the boys have never done it, so let's do it.

I didn't tell my boys what we were doing until we were in the parking lot, because I knew they'd complain. And of course, all they did was whine when we got there. Then I flat out said. "No whining. All I ask is you have an open mind and try it, and if you don't like it, we won't come back again." They agreed ( I was surprised).

So... Background. I played roller derby. I can run, jump, and karate kick on skates, and I love it. It's my fav thing. But I haven't gone for 5 years, because the kids would never go.

We're at the place. We've all got skates on, and within 10 minutes it was a disaster. The boys kept falling. They couldn't seem to put my lessons into action. They were mad, and sat on the sidelines, huffing about wanting to go home. I felt terrible. I felt that feeling of "Why did I bother? Why did I waste the money? Why can't I ever do anything fun?" That I often have when the boys fall apart at some activity.

Then the click. I told them "Fine. Stay right here and I'm going to skate around for a bit."

So they stayed. They pouted. And pouted. Then something happened. The oldest stopped pouting and tried again. And again. Without my intervention. And after a few more rounds he almost got it. He was so close. Sure, the youngest laid down in protest and refused to talk/walk/skate/laugh, but hey, you can't win them all. At least he stayed put and didn't wander off. Apparently, I just have to put wheels on their feet to keep them still. That's a win.

After I skated for a while, I gave the youngest $5 worth of tokens for the arcade and he went off. And I skated some more. Enough to work up a tiny bit of sweat. And, while I could have skated all day, at that point 30-45 minutes was a coup.

After we were in the car, the oldest meekly said he'd be willing to go with me and try it again. Hazzah! Success!

Pardon the long rant. I bring it up because I think the boredom of my daily life is killing me, and I'm sure a lot of people feel the same.

I've always been an on-the-go cultural/experience/travel kind of girl, and that died when I had kids. I've been trying for a long time to figure out how to add it back in with children, and my answer to always go without them is limiting for both me (timewise) and them (missing out on cultural things).

As part of my new year, I'm determined to turn it around for us. I must remind my children to keep an open mind, and I must remind myself the price of staying home because they get a little complainy when going out, is missing out and being bored.

I'm declaring it. No more boring mom. No more boring kids. It's time for some culture, darn it. And it's time to kiss the comfort zone goodbye.

On that note. I'm taking one or both children to free day at the art museum this Sunday. And, I signed the oldest up for his first ski lesson and ski day. (He's 8. It's cub scout day, so deep discount.) He's nervous, but he'll be a natural. I know it.

I've declared it. Death to boredom!

(UPDATE: I forgot to tell you we're also FOOD boring. My oldest is soo picky, we pretty much have to eat burgers every time we eat out, And I'm not much of a Betty Crocker, so I have a limited menu of items I make at home. So yes. Earlier this week, my youngest declared we were going to Indian for lunch (yay!). My biggest had a fit, but we went anyway. He ate white rice and a mango lassi. I tried not to 'nag' him about food, but still. It's disappointing. He's missing out on so much good food. But no more burgers! Death to food boredom!)

Phew! We made it to 2017!

January 1st, 2017 at 11:53 am

I love the New Year's feeling. Finally, the stress and go-go of the Thanksgiving to Christmas season is finished and I can take time to get my/our lives back in order!

Our plan for New Years is similar to other years.

-Live on a cash weekly budget. $400/week for everything but bills.

When we stick to this, it improves our financial lives immensely. It's usually me who falls off track when I get busy or stressed out about the kids. So, fingers crossed, here we go again!

-Save money from every paycheck. (401k set to max out ($18,000) as usual. $500 every two weeks to savings, $288 every two weeks to property taxes, $200/month per kid to the 529.) My freelance checks go to my IRA.

-Give more. We set up our monthly contributions for charities in 2017, and we went from 2 a month to five a month. We'll see how this goes!

Our non financial and more life-quality goals include:

-Try new independently-owned bakeries and donut shops. The boys love seeking these out and it's a fun, not too expensive treat/adventure.

-Eat quality food, like meat from the local farm family, veggies from our garden and from our farmer's market, organic when possible, minimally processed as much as possible, etc. To this end, I am thinking of thrifting a bread machine to try to make my own. Some friends have one and love it, and I see the darn things everywhere for cheap!

For me:

-I'm ready to dress well. I've kind of let that part of me go since the kids but I'm ready to have a decent wardrobe. I'm not talking ridiculous designer duds. I mean a well-chosen, useful, mix n match minimalist wardrobe where everything is in good repair and fits.

I'll be doing a closet purge, and be on the lookout for useful items. I'm also going to read some books at the library about dressing for your body, etc. for ideas!

My goal is also to become a professional fiction author this year. Like CJ, I plan to self publish my first novel or two this year. The timeline I had planned is in question now, because I'm a finalist in two Romance Writers of America contests and as part of entering, agreed the books were not published. SO, I have to wait until that's all over. A good problem to have, I suppose.

Speaking of books, this time of year I usually dust off and re-read some of my favorite go-to books to get inspired not only for a more meaningful and frugal life, but also for my spring garden (Seeds are ordered already!)

These books are:

"The Freedom Manifesto" by Tom Hodgkinson. This is kind of a weird little book I picked up on a lark from Barnes and Noble ten years ago. And I love it. It's a very unusual personal finance -kind of- book.

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. I can't tell you how many times I've read this. It helps on an intentional living front, on garden inspiration, on clean eating. All of it. And of course it's beautifully written.

"The Good Life." BY Scott and Helen Nearing. Technically a homesteading book, I like it for lots of reasons. Frugality, intentional living, garden plans, being resourceful, etc.

So, let the fun of 2017 begin!!

Saving advice Fitbit Challenge Info!

December 29th, 2016 at 08:06 am

Hi All. Some of you have expressed interest in doing fitbit challenges with other SAers. I've started an SA fitbit community on the fitbit site.

Sign up here if you want to fitbit with us!


In a week or so, once everyone is signed up, I'll take the group private, so don't wait!!

Thank God it's over, and 2017

December 27th, 2016 at 07:34 am

In-laws have gone home. No more house guests. My house is mine. I spent all day yesterday in a super-charged cleaning mood. Every scrap of laundry and bedding washed, dried, and folded, bathrooms scrubbed. Floors and rugs vacuumed.

Although, the house keeps falling back into chaos thanks to the boys nerf bullets!

MIL Update

For those of you eating popcorn and watching my MIL drama unfold, here is the takeaway: The FIL enlightened me about who she is and what motivates her. And, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. No, I can't get rid of her, but it clearly is her problem, and I'm justified with pointing it out when she's being critical.

I avoided alone time with her as much as possible this trip because I didn't want to deal with her. Plus, her ire was aimed at the FIL because they fought on the way here about how controlling she is.

Besides him telling me that she has to be in control all the time (which was a gem, and reaffirmed what her sister told me) FIL explained that she isn't controlling or domineering because she wants to be the boss, she does it when she is outside of her comfort zone and is incredibly uneasy/scared/uncomfortable.. so, she unleashes the controlling and the criticism in an attempt to reign in the situation to something back safely inside her comfort zone.

This explains why she is worse when we travel. She is the consummate homebody. Being in the world freaks her out, ergo, she's already off kilter when traveling. Then throw me into the mix...

And... the problem with me is that everything I do is outside of her comfort zone, and outside of the zone of what she understands and is comfortable with. (she's incredibly old-fashioned. As in, married couples are even supposed to shop together all the time, and never be on their own! Me and DH taking trips to be with friends without each other drives her nuts. She thinks we're having affairs.)

FIl said "You've lived a freer life than she has ever had." To which I said that was of her own choosing. He agreed, but then said she didn't understand, because it never occurred to her to make choices other than those she was raised with...

So yes, I wish I would have known all this 15 years ago so I could have reigned her in. But here we are. At least I have the information to set boundaries now.

Phew. Enough about that. I'm ready to move on and start a new (albeit politically frightening) year.

A New Year is Coming.

So... in short. We didn't make all of our savings goals for 2016. We did meh. But hey. At least we paid off our house. That is a coup.

Now, I need to move on and plan for a post-mortgage financial life.

We shouldn't have any CC debt from the holidays once payday arrives. But, we spend too much overall, and I feel with all the political uncertainty that we need to scrimp scrimp scrimp while at the same time upping our donations to nonprofits and political causes.

So... I guess my new year's plan for us is--Keep It Simple and Do What's Worked for Us in the Past!

We'll have $400 a week as a family for groceries, entertainment, and discretionary spending. (Pretty much everything that isn't a bill). Plus the kids' weekly allowances, and the adult weekly allowances.

(Each of us get $1 a week for every year old we are. DH gets $43, I get $41, DS1 gets $8, DS2 gets $7 a week, to spend on whatever we want.) This seems high for the kids, but we expect them to save up for and buy their own video games/toys/extra treats and donuts, etc. And, it seems to be enough that they have to save up, but can do it in a reasonable enough time that they don't think it's hopeless and give up.So, it works for us.

So really, with the $400 plus allowances, the budget is $499/ week.

We also need to save $280/ check to pay the property tax bill ($6,706/year). Plus, I have been putting $500 per check in savings. I can meet these goals and maybe more if we can stick to the weekly budget MOST weeks.

We'll see. I'm feeling ready to move on from the excess of Christmas. It's just too much!

I hope to start bringing in snowflakes again this year. I used to, when I first joined SA, and brought in north of $1,000 a year. I guess I forgot about all that once I had kids!

Now, I have the time to try to bring in some snowflakes. I started swagbucks again. The coupon part might work out for me. I'm open to any other suggestions!


So, I try to stay fit. Reasonably, at least. I just don't have the time and dedication to get buff.

I received a fitbit charge for Xmas. It has taken days to set up the app, but we finally seem to have everything working. Yay!

My plan is to see what my 'base' activity level is. As in, wear it for a few weeks without changing my routine, and see how many steps, etc. I average. Then, once the data is in hand, add more. (I'd love to get an SA fitness fitbit challenge going too!)

I'm trying to be flexible with these goals because I know how life is. But my daily goal, in the interest of simplicity, is to move and use my body every day.

I do 10 to 20 minutes of core and back exercises every day, to keep my lower back pain in check. (Seeing the physical therapist was a life changer. My advice? If you have degenerative disc disease, don't put it off. Go to the therapist. My pain was gone after 3 weeks and it hasn't come back thanks to the simple daily exercises she gave me.)

Plus, I walk to the library and the kids to school. So, Maybe I can add in walking/biking to the bank or to the grocery store at some point. We'll see!

Professional Goals

I've been dreaming of it and talking about it for years, but 2017 is the year I become a professional fiction writer. I feel it. I have a plan.

My first novel is finished and is up for two awards sponsored by the Romance Writer's of America. (Trying not to be excited...) I find out in February how I placed in the final tally.

The final judges are editors at the Big Five publishing houses. Maybe they'll request the full manuscript. If not, I plan to self pub in March, in paperback and on kindle and in itunes.

The first draft of the second book in that series is 80 percent complete. I'd hoped to have it finished before Xmas, but alas, into January it will go. I try to write 2k words a day every week day. It goes quickly when I'm that productive. I'm still working on structuring my day to be more productive. I, like my novels, am a work in progress.

Anyway... The goal is to write two more full-length novels in 2017. (50k to 80k words) Book 3 in the series, and either book 4 OR one of the other book ideas I've been toying with.

I also have a couple short story/novella ideas floating around, but I'm not going to commit, because life always gets in the way! But if I do have time, I'd like to write the first draft of those just so I can get the ideas out of my brain and into the real world.

Overall, I'm optimistic. You have to make the life you want, right?


My hope for 2017 is that I can become a more giving person.

We have a friend, Steve, a single dad, an engineer. He's like an onion. He seems so gruff, and cursing, etc. on the outside, but he is pure gold on the inside.

One of our more casual friends mentioned to me over Thanksgiving that she was losing sleep over their property tax bill. They work hard, but they are low income, and have had a lot of health set backs the last couple of years. AFter they left, I told Steve and my two lady friends that instead of giving gifts to each other, we should pool our money to pay their overdue property tax bill.

If they get foreclosed on, they'll be in bigger financial trouble. Anyway, we all agreed. then I looked at the bill and realized it was $6,000. My two other friends bailed, and while I debated taking the money out of savings to bail them out, Steve just went and did it. He took the cashiers check down to the treasurer without a second thought.

He's always like that. Does the good and generous thing without a second thought and without a thread of selfishness.

I aim to be more like selfless Steve!

With that goal in mind, my mom and I volunteered in person to help set up the holiday store at the homeless shelter this year. It was a wonderful experience. We worked for two days, sorting, wrapping, organizing, etc. We had long supported the shelter with money and toy donations, but being in the building took it to a new level.

I hope to volunteer more this year for causes we care about.

Oh, and those friends with the tax liens? Steve paid off the liens, and I've paid the first half taxes for 2017, so they have time to catch up and make a plan. They have no idea....

The MIL - first 24 hours

December 23rd, 2016 at 10:32 am

Well, it's been an enlightening first 24 with the MIL.

She's her normal not- or fake- cheerful self, but she hasn't criticized me yet. She's reserving all that for the FIL.

Apparently, they got in a fight on the way here, and he isn't speaking to her. (Oh joy). But, when we were all in the living room last night... (Sitting. Because all they do is sit.).

I asked what they were fighting about and the FIL tells a long story about the GPS in their car, and her not following it. It soon became clear this wasn't a fight about the GPS.

Then he said, "This fight is really about her always having to be in control. She's always been that way. She always has to be in charge. She always has to be in control, and she's treating me even worse now that I'm getting weaker."

(He has parkinsons, and yes, she does stomp behind him huffing about everything he isn't doing 'right.')

I sat there kind of stunned, but also felt like I saw it all so clearly suddenly.

Backtrack to our doomed family trip to AZ, when MIL's sister pulled me aside and apologized for the MIL, then told me "she doesn't know how to have a relationship unless she is the one in power, and she is in charge."

EUREKA!! All the criticisms. All the butting in and trying to tell me how to live my life, the staying in my house and taking over every single part of my house and life like it's her life...

(Don't get me started on The trust she set up and put a rental property in--and made us manage it as trustees-- even though we told her we didn't want a rental property, but thanks to the trust, we're now legally obligated to manage it...But it's a gift, she says..)

It's all a manifestation of her control issues. No wonder she doesn't know what to do with me. I don't respond to control freaks. I'm my own person.

The worst part is, MIL turned to FIL after he said she was controlling, and said "It doesn't bother me, so I'm done talking about it. "

Uh yeah. I wouldn't say that to the man I'd been married to for 50 years. My bossiness is only your problem?? Really??

I also read this last night and it made me feel more secure in my game plan.


Also, DH finally grew half a spine. As I mentioned before, he specifically told them to arrive Dec. 23. We had house guests leave a couple days ago, and needed the time between to clean up to catch up on all the work we need to have finished before Christmas. All while juggling the two kids wrapping up school for 2016.

So, of course, the MIL emails me and says "Oh, we will leave Wednesday (the 21) IF there's bad weather." So, there is no bad weather. We get the call at 4p.m. on the 21st that they are at a hotel two hours from our house. (TWO DAYS EARLY!).

DH was livid. He actually yelled at them, and reminded them they were supposed to come on the 23rd, and we weren't ready, we just got our house guests out and had work to do, and told them not to come before noon on the 22nd. The MIL was surprised and offended that DH was upset.

Then, when they actually do show up. At noon. A whole day early. DH tried to make a joke in the vein of "What were you thinking? We told you to come the 23rd and you're here now."

And the MIL looks at me and said "Your wife clearly forgot to tell you I said we were leaving on Wednesday the 21st."

To which I said "You said you were leaving on Wednesday if the weather was bad. The weather isn't bad."

Then she huffed at me and pouted while looking very angry. She seemed galled that we had the nerve to be upset. Mind you, they have a long history of ignoring our wishes, and coming whenever they damn well please, and staying as long as they like (three weeks one time!)

All of this, I realize, is part of her control issue. She wants to drive and arrive when she damn well pleases, and she doesn't care what we think about it.

And if her attitude to her own husband is "It's not my problem." Then I can pretty much assume she feels the same way or worse about us.

I feel, in some small way, empowered by the tidbit of information the FIL let slip. I'm not going to let her come in and run my house.

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