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Monday, February 1, 2016

Following Up and Following My Heart

I spent the entire year 2012 abstaining from buying any and all clothes, shoes and accessories. I challenged myself in response to a deep uneasiness about my buying habits. I was spending too much, buying things I didn't need or even want, and calming my emotions via shopping. I made the decision just a couple of weeks before I began so I couldn't chicken out.

By the end of 2012, I could honestly and wholeheartedly say I had changed. The real story, though, is to look at my closet and my budget today, more than 3 years later. Like sustaining a major weight loss, reining in my shopping would, indeed, be a marathon, not a sprint (even a year-long sprint). My closet contains about half the number of items it did prior to 2012. I spend much, much less. I still feel twinges but now I recognize the reaction and can usually talk myself down. There have been setbacks but for the most part, I am changed for the better. The way, way better.

Now moving forward. Another uneasiness. I feel like I am going through the motions. I go to work, cook meals, watch TV. I have a great marriage and fabulous kids but I feel stuck. I know that a year long challenge is life changing. This time, I am changing it up. Instead of NOT doing something ... shopping ... I am going to DO something everyday day for a year. I am going to create a piece of art every day for a year. There's a new blog:

Good or bad, large or small, I will create art every day. Feed my soul.

I still have some follow up on the Bye Buy Clothes challenge which I will share here in the weeks to come. I promised to write a book but that proved super hard. I have the outline, who knows ...
For now, I will create.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear Fitnesspal ....

Yep, I'm apologizing to my app. I could blame our friend James and his fine European chocolates and licorice. Or my refrigerator stocked with Corona. Instead, I'll just say sorry and try to do better.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pardon My Grammar --The Scale Don't Lie!

A couple of weeks ago I weighed myself for the first time in nearly 10 years. Not as high as I had feared, nor as low as I hoped. I decided on a goal weight, just a few pounds away. Then I enjoyed a several day-long birthday celebration with much indulging. Lost a half pound. Was pretty good for a week, lost another pound. Each time I weighed myself, the number was lower. Until yesterday.

I decided that every three to four days would be a good weigh-in schedule. Yesterday was a fourth day and OMG! I gained nearly 2 pounds!!! Must be a mistake. Step off, check to see if I had any clothes or rapper-style heavy gold chains on (nope), step back on. Same. I gained. I thought back to the days when my husband  would suffer a small gain. I would make light of it and call him a fat-ass or suggest he was simply retaining water. Funny stuff until it happened to me.

Coincidentally, my BodyStep instructor shared a fable this morning. 
A girl dedicated herself to fitness. By spring, she is in good shape, visiting the gym regularly. In June, she can wear a bikini and all is good with the world. She takes the Fourth of July week off to celebrate. Then the rest of July since she had worked so hard. In August, she decided to enjoy what was left of summer. Then September came (it always does) and she had to put on jeans. Moral of the story: If you are going to skip workouts in the summer, don't lose your yoga pants, you'll need them in September when your jeans don't fit.

I don't want to be that girl. I am so glad I have starting weighing in. Like my bank account balance, the scale don't lie. I am paying the price for living large (ha ha). 2 pounds isn't the end of the world but 2 will turn to 4, will turn to 6. Today I savored grilled chicken and veggies for dinner. I'm back on track and it's good.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Next Big Challenge: Think SMALL

We are often encouraged to think big. Dream big. Bigger is better. Go big or go home. Yes, big is good. My next challenge is an exercise in the opposite. I am going to think SMALL.

You are probably thinking, "What you talkin' about, Willis?" People don't generally associate me with small ideas. But my big ideas are out of control. Perhaps a better phrase than "thinking small" is actually "narrowing my focus". Like a laser. Precise and accurate. Minimal energy for maximum payout. I am going into laser mode.

I have started already without labeling it. My wardrobe is efficient without waste. Organized and functional. Choosing an outfit is nearly stress-free because everything in the closet is good, yet there is not so much as to overwhelm. My food intake is as effective. Power up with nutritious, yet delicious foods. We have less stuff in general. Less clutter, more room to relax. Now I will empty the clutter from my brain. Well, I will give it the good old college try.

People that know me, even sort of know me, know my brain is like an idea factory. I am not bragging here, it's a fact. Brilliant ideas spout from me all the time. If I had a full time staff of worker-bees that implemented theses ideas, I would be a billionaire. But there is just me. My priority is my family so all my energy goes there first. Then to our extended family and friends. Our home. Then to people I hardly know. I implement my ideas when I am finished with the priorities. Lately, I have realized that my reaction to stress (now that I am not buying everything in sight) is to try to implement more ideas, seeking out some success and steady income. When I laid it out, I counted 2 blogs, a dozen or so products, freelance design work, many hours spent planning parties and developing a way to teach the world how to make their own board games. I am tired just reading it. 

The Bye Buy challenge was a life-changer. As I have said before, I am compiling the experience into a book that could really help others learn the lessons that I have learned. My laser-like focus will now be on completing that book. Posting recipes online will wait. Craft ideas will stay in the vault. Parties will be planned only for the people I really love. I am giving myself until August 31 to complete the book. Not a whole, big year. A smaller, more focused 74 days.

Compared to other things I have done, this could seem a small challenge. Completing this book and getting it in the right hands is a big, big challenge, one I think I can complete only with a laser focus. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Buy Buy Clothes: Things We Can't Control and Those We Can

Sadly, we are mourning the loss of another family member, our fifth close relative in less than two years. My brother-in-law, Bob, passed at just 66 years old. He was a good guy with a big heart. This is one of those things I had no control over. Certain health issues, accidents, acts of God, weather, other people's choices ... some things are out of my reach.

Today I want to focus on the positive, those things I can control. I can control how I nurture relationships. How I treat family. I can choose what I eat and how much and how I care for my body. I can control what I spend. I can choose how I will spend my time. As always, requirements must be met, nutritionally and financially. Beyond the requirements, I can choose.

There is much in this life we can not control but there is much that we can. Just as I learned that a life spent shopping is a life seeking what I do NOT have, I will continue to focus on the things I can control instead of those that I can not.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bye Buy Crazy: Me at 52

Happy Birthday to me! Today I am 52. On one hand, that's a little scary. Where did the years go? On the other hand, I have great hope. It's not too late to make my life everything I want it to be. You've heard it, 50 is the new 40, the new 30 ... Today, 52 is the new 21, acting like a grown-up. Taking control, making conscious choices, challenging myself to meet goals and then ENJOYING it. No more hamster wheel. 52 is not a "milestone" birthday, no special cards are available. It's a milestone for me, though, for 52 is the age I say "Bye Buy Crazy."

Taking stock.
Today I take an honest look at my present self. 

The good stuff:
* I am physically stronger than I ever remember being. Once fearful of the gym, I now enjoy my thrice weekly weight training workouts. My arms now sport these lovely little bulges called muscles. Are there people at the gym stronger and better looking? Oh, yes. Much. But I am better than ever and that's good.
* I am 3 pounds from my goal weight. Yep, a pound less than my monumental weigh in. Once I reach it, I will just enjoy it for a while. Old me would obsessively go for more, more, more. New me: Set a goal. Reach it. Enjoy it.
* I buy a fraction of what I used to. Still not quite where I should be, but closer. 

The "needs to improve" department:
* I am not immune to temptation. Whether fashion, food or a vacation, my emotional side still threatens to overtake the practical side. I'll fight on, battle by battle.
* I figure I have about the worst case of attention deficit disorder ever. (oh look! something sparkly!) My attention has been spread over so many projects that I am effective at practically zero. Starting today, I am weeding out the ideas. No more posting recipes and crafts. No mailbox decorations. No sewing projects and tutorials. I am focusing on the lessons learned from the Bye Buy challenge and getting my message out there. It has changed my life and I know I can help, or even just support others.
* I am making a giant effort to rein in the spending even more. Not by focusing on the negative and just saying no, no, no. I will look to the positive and know what I have and make the choices about what to do with it.

I am looking at myself at 52 but I wish I would have realized all this sooner. If you are younger, you don't have to wait. Older? Still time.

Best case, I am about half way through life. Probably a bit more than half way. The idea of retirement is looming. At this point, I can coast or seek out the uphills. I can float or I can swim to the far away buoy. I can bask or I can explore. I think there's a lot left in me. I'm not ready to coast. Today, I am 52 and I'll bet dollars to donuts, the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bye Buy: What Can You REALLY Afford?

I recently saw a beautiful outfit at the store. Tropical print silky shorts with a silky t-shirt. Right on trend, really cool style, available in my new smaller size. I would look good. I would FEEL good. Can I afford it?

There's a million dollar question. The outfit was $50. I did not have $50 in my pocket. But ...

Okay, there's $50 in the bank. Good to go, proceed to the register. But ...
Are the bills all paid? Well, no. I guess I could skim from the grocery money. But ...

I don't even know what I've spent in groceries this month. The outfit is so cute, though. Looks like it's worth more than the $50 it costs. We could eat less. Couldn't we? Maybe. Not really fair to my family but surely they would see how cute I am. And, I haven't gotten anything new in more than a month! Plus, I'm thinner (I think I said that already). Maybe I'll just charge it. I deserve it, right?

This is an example of the insane train of thought that I deal with still. I am better, way better since the Bye Buy challenge but there is room for improvement. My husband made a flippant remark recently that resonated. He noted that we have been so successful with the Fitness Pal app for our diets, we should have something like "Spending Pal."

The reason Fitness Pal works for us is that we are in control. We have an allotted amount of calories. We can spend those calories on a donut or a giant bowl of lettuce. Eat too many calories, we gain weight. Simple, black and white logic. I need to employ that same logic to buying stuff. We have a set amount of money to spend every month. Like food, we have to satisfy basic requirements. We decide what to do with the leftover, if there even is leftover. A donut makes me feel happy but the calories could take me over my spending limit. Then, the donut is gone, I'm still hungry, maybe more hungry because of the sugar rush, and I have no calories left. This outfit would be the donut of clothing purchases.

Every basic spending primer will tell you to make a budget and stick to it. Allow for the basics then add extras as you can afford. Most people don't actually live this way. Low prices for cheap goods, genius marketing techniques and widely available credit have turned us into a national of insatiable consumers. 

Last October I realized that a life spent shopping, whether you call it "retail therapy" or "bargain hunting", is a life spent focused on what you do NOT have. I have to focus on what I DO have. Now that I can, according to my own rules, buy clothing, shoes and accessories again I have to change the way I think. I also came to the realization that we have the wonderful ability as humans to make choices. We can choose to spend or save, buy or not. Work more or work less. Be with someone because we want to, or not be with them because we can choose. Make your best decision then live with it.

Going forward, we will make conscious decisions about what we buy and how much we spend. No more of how cute we look as the determining factor. How much money have we decided to spend on clothes this month (or quarter or year)? What is the real ramification of spending this $50?  If I buy this outfit, will it satisfy a need or be a donut? A donut is delicious, tempting. Empty. But don't I deserve a donut? Actually, I don't deserve to to filled with empty calories. I deserve delicious, nutritious food. In reasonable portions. I deserve a balanced budget. Besides, nobody looks that cute in an outfit they can't really afford.