Monday, September 3, 2012

Tidbits from a Busy Bee

Hello strangers!  The Busy Bee is ready to give her monthly report.  Ready?  In between interesting tidbits, my photos will show some of the fun I've squeezed into my crazy schedule.

Madison Farmer's Market


The ongoing hunt to find the source of my health issues is hopefully on the last legs of the journey.  A trip to the allergist showed nary a peep of an allergy, both for foods and pollens.

The last stop is the gastroenterologist (GI specialist).  I suffer from an unneeded amount of digestive distress.  While I've done sleuthing in my diet to discover triggers, the inconsistency in my symptoms has made it impossible on my own to get to the root cause.

Boating on the Mississippi
Later this week, I will have the distinct honor of getting an endoscope and colonoscopy.  I am so excited <sarcasm>.  The doctor's going to be looking for signs of Celiac's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Colitis. 

No matter what's found, I have decided to avoid wheat products henceforth.  There's a lot of diets out there that echo this - Paleo, low carb, Atkins, ect.  This isn't about those.  It's about me acknowledging that if oats do terrible things to me and corn sometimes gives me a headache, then maybe grains as a whole would be better left out of my diet.

Over the last few months, many well-meaning folks have given me the advice to cut out meat, dairy, and/or grains.  They all claim the same thing - eliminate the trouble food group and your body will bounce back in no time.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison) - right before my camera batteries died
Here's the thing - we don't all share the same genetics.  I truly believe you have to find what works for YOUR body.  If one master diet could serve us all, you'd think we'd be eating it by now.  What's healthy for an average person could cause inflammation for someone with lupus or fibromyalgia.  The foods needed for someone who does marathon training differ for someone recovering from cancer.

I think we can all agree organic, natural, unprocessed foods are best, but which combination is right for you is best decided by you.  


Our finances are in really strong shape at the moment.  Here's what I've accomplished since Mike's deployment checks have rolled in:

Personal family debt: eliminated
Jamaica vacation: 100% paid for
Savings account: currently $4,000
Rent: paid through December
Credit card balances: $0 across all five

Omaha Zoo
Originally we were going to pay off the car, but we both decided that a real savings account would serve us better.  This is largely because while right now money is great, we are looking at a significant gap when Mike returns in a handful of weeks.  There's no job he's coming back to.  There's the possibility of classes, but he wouldn't be able to start again until January 2013 - which means his first GI payment wouldn't be until February.

Looking at a nearly 4-month gap is nothing to take lightly (in fact, it's a little scary).  That's why I've been funneling all of my teaching paychecks to rent.  We don't want to be stressed and wringing our hands over food vs. gas while we wait for Mike's classes to begin or he hunts for jobs.  We don't want to go to Jamaica and regret spending the money on a vacation. 

I'm really hoping 2013 is the year for Mike to get a break.  We're talking a lot about how to rustle up a job, looking at whether we should throw all our energy into finding him a full-time job, settling for part-time so he can still take classes, or even get into temp work.   We will make this work.


One thing that I've been doing is really digging into our finances.  It's easy to budget when you just look at your monthly bills and estimate how much groceries costs.  But there's tons of other semi-regular expenses that can be anticipated if you only calculate the cost.

Here fishy fishy fishy fishy!  More of the Omaha Zoo
For example, cat food.  Laugh now, but anyone with furbabies knows they're not free.  I know that we get a huge bag of cat food for around $35.  What I've never considered was how long that bag lasts us.  I know it's more than one month, but is it 2 or 2.5?  At what interval will I need to spend that $35?  Once I figure that out, I can then think about how much we spend on cat food annually.

This same activity can be applied to seemingly random but necessary items - furnace filters, cat litter, laundry detergent, shampoo, soaps, vacuum filters, ect.  Most of these are also things that you can stock up easily.  

Imagine you know that you spend $25 a year on your shampoo.  Doesn't seem like much, but that's $5 or so in a shopping trip where it might make a difference.  And yes, I've been there at the end of a shopping trip, trying to decide where I can cut $5.  Put back the shampoo or the frozen veggies?  It's not a fun game to play.   

Squeaky cheese courtesy of Wisconsin

These variable items are different for everyone, but make a list of how many you go through in a year (or even quarterly).  If you have a little extra one paycheck and you know exactly which items you still need to get, you can maximize that 5 or 10 bucks. The key here is stocking up to your needs, not buying just to fill up the linen closet - only buy the volume you need.  

Another trick I've found?  Look for store gift cards that A) have no expiration date and B) no inactivity fees.  You can use those as a portable savings account, especially for perishable items.  I'm using this technique for gas currently, as it's a relatively fixed constant that I can defray in advance.

So wish I could have taken some home, but alas, they wouldn't have survived the trip back to Iowa

So there you have it.  Up until last week, my life was consumed with wrapping up my other two summer classes and the regular duties at the magazine.  I have a break for the next 8 weeks and then start back with two more in the fall.  It's not ideal, as I've already laid out, but it's 4 more months of rent that I can secure.  

Soon enough, Mike will be back too.  Not only will some of my responsibilities be shifted (I think I deserve a month off from scooping cat litter), but my favorite travel companion, food and movie critic, mandatory exercise enforcer, and snarky jokester will be around to keep things interesting.

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