When I’m Old and Grey

Last week I bit the bullet and met with a retirement counselor from the pension plan that my employer pays into. It’s not that I plan on retiring right away…..it’s just that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m all “middle-aged” and such and thought it would probably be a good idea to find out what my options are.

I am happy to say that I have options. Unless something goes totally off the rails, I should be pretty well taken care of in my old age (thanks to having started my retirement funding at age 20).  Given the length of time working for this employer, my options are attractive.

This has me thinking a lot about the budgeting/debt-reducing changes that I want to make with my life. I have some serious debt as I’ve mentioned before. This visit to the retirement counselor has me even more focused on paying off that debt, having a paid for residence, and having some $$ socked away in savings.  It also has me thinking about some of my hobbies and talents and how I might possibly be able to spend more time doing some things I love in a way that would provide me with a bit of additional income for debt repayment or paying off the house or traveling the world or sharing the wealth with causes that have meaning to me.

I am excited. It is looking like life really does begin in the middle.

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Wellness Matters

I have a great job. I enjoy my work a lot. I must. I’ve been employed by the same employer for 27.5 years. One of the things I like about working where I do is that I have fabulous benefits. My employer really invests in providing employees and their families with good and reasonably priced health care, a reduced-price education program, on-site wellness programs and many other benefits.

In recent years, they have had a wellness program in place that requires some health and wellness markers be met and when they are a monetary reward is earned. I didn’t participate last year. This year as the time rolled around for sign up in the wellness program, I contemplated whether or not I should participate. It is just challenging enough to be meaningful, but reasonable if one gets in and participates on a consistent basis.

But I know myself. How many times have I started something with great aspirations, knowing full-well that it was an unrealistic target for me? And how many times when that happened have I used it as evidence that I am inadequate? The answer is many.

I considered the requirements and my fitness goals and decided to sign up. Shortly thereafter the band for my fitness tracker broke. I set it aside thinking that I’d get it fixed or buy a replacement soon. It never happened. Earlier this week I had a moment where I realized that I was letting myself down. I was setting myself up to beat myself up later. Its a familiar pattern and one that I would like to overcome.

It will be a rough uphill battle, but I ordered a replacement band for my fitness tracker and I’m going to do my best to meet this goal.  Here is what I need to do:

    • Walk at least 600,000 steps. Steps must be tracked using fitbit, pedometer or any other tracking device.
    • Complete a confidential general health assessment on my health insurance provider’s website.
    • Earn at least 100 points in each of three different categories.
      • Live Well–This category includes activities designed to get you moving such as attending exercise classes. This category also emphasizes the importance of seeking appropriate healthcare such as your age appropriate health screenings.
        • My choice for this category:  Attend the Employee Wellness Center, or any local gym, community center or rec. center 24 times between September 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. For non-employer facilities please submit an attendance log from your gym. Most gyms will gladly print this out at the front desk.
      • Work Well–This category includes activities that are designed to help you become a more balanced and productive employee. Stress management videos and financial management consultations are examples of activities in the Work Well category.
        • Meet with your financial advisor to discuss your financial future. Financial advisor can be from any institution that you choose. You do not have to meet with the advisors available through the USU benefits program. (I already did this–just today–future post on this in the future.)
      • Be Well–This category emphasizes the importance of being well-adjusted and balanced individual. This category emphasizes the importance of building solid positive relationships and enjoying your time with others. Service and giving back are also important elements of the Be Well category.
        • Getting enough sleep does wonders not only for our physical health but also our mental health. Try to average 7 hours of sleep for 3 weeks and feel the difference a little shut eye makes! Track your sleep via fitbit or other device or simply track using an excel sheet.

So there you have it. I have a lot of steps to walk in less that two months. It’s a huge goal. I’m not sure how possible it is, but I’m going to do my best reach it. Wish me luck.

Money Matters

I mentioned in my inaugural post that I’m in debt. I didn’t say how much, but I’ll come clean….its nearly $45K (not counting my house). Seriously–a ridiculous amount, especially when I make plenty for my needs. I’ve just not made being a good steward of my financial resources a priority.

One of my big “turn-my-life-around” goals is to get a handle on this, pay it off, save for emergencies and for retirement.

I’ve done a lot of research about different methods for approaching this situation. I’ve taken Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey a few times, but never made it a priority. I am recommitting. I already have Baby Step 1 conquered (savings of $1K). However, I have still been using my credit cards. I know myself. I know that it takes me time to really commit to something, so I’m not going to beat myself up about this. So here’s the plan:

  • I didn’t set up a November budget. This weekend I’ll go through my account and get a budget for the rest of the month completed.
  • I will go through all of my auto payments that are coming out of credit card and get them switched over to my debit card.
  • I have already set up an amortization schedule for all of my debt that includes information on the interest and set up an anticipated pay-off plan. If I pay minimums with an additional $200 per month, I can have this debt paid off in 3 years and 1 month.
  • I will start to identify areas where I can trim the budget and put more funds towards payment of debt so I can hopefully pay it off sooner.

I am really excited to move this up the priority chain. I’m meeting with a retirement counselor tomorrow–not with the anticipation of retiring soon, but with the anticipation of seeing what my retirement picture looks like right now in order to make a plan so that when my debts are paid off I can start saving more for retirement.

Do you have any great strategies for saving money? What are your biggest struggles surrounding money, debt or savings?

For What Will You Cast Your Vote

vote

It’s election day here in the USA. It has me thinking a lot about what a privilege it is to have the right and the opportunity to cast a vote. I get to express what I believe in and who I support by casting my vote.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a vote is. Dictionary.com defines “vote” (verb; without an object) as, “to express or signify will or choice in a matter.”

In reality, we get a chance to vote multiple times every day by our words and our actions, thereby signifying what we value. When we purchase a particular item, we are, in essence, voting for that item and/or showing support for the vendor or manufacturer. We vote daily by how we spend our time. By spending an hour with a friend we are showing that we value that relationship over the other things that were vying for that time. We may profess to value health and fitness, and yet “vote” for delicious cookies and sitting on the couch instead. We vote every day by the words we say to each other and how we treat those we come in contact with. We “vote” or validate that person or their actions by how we act towards them.

This has me thinking about how I vote every day with my time, with my money, with my words. Are my “votes” in those areas accurately reflecting my core values? Could someone watch me throughout the course of the day and say, based on how I use my vote,

  • “I know that Teresa values the people in her life.”
  • “I know that Teresa values her health and fitness.”
  • “Teresa clearly believes in eating foods that nourish her body.”
  • “I can see that family is a priority to Teresa.”
  • “It is clear that Teresa loves Jesus.”
  • “It is clear that Teresa believes in being a good steward of her financial resources.”
  • “Teresa really values the talents she has been blessed with.”

I’m going to challenge myself to be more aware of what I’m voting for with my daily actions. I don’t think that my current actions clearly identify what my values are. Which makes me ask myself whether or not I have a clear and concise understanding of what my core values are and how they related to what I do every day.

These are all questions I hope to flesh out as we move forward.  Happy election day! May the odds be ever in your favor!

I like to read…

I like to read. I really do. But I’m not a good candidate for most book clubs. My preferred reading materials includes a novel here and there, but leans heavily toward books that would be considered self-help, non-fiction, or philosophy. I love thinking about ways to improve my life and I tend to pick out books that are considered more of a professional or personal development ilk.

I’ve recently discovered audio books. I love Audible! Its a bit of a mixed bag as I usually like to highlight and make notes in my books and that is hard to do when driving down the road. I’ve loved listening to something that makes me think while I’m driving, cleaning, cooking, etc.

Here’s just a sample of what I’ve read/listened to the past year:

  • The Power of Starting Something Stupid, Richie Norton
  • Start with Why, Simon Sinek
  • Rising Strong, Brene Brown
    • honestly, I’ve listened to this one 3 times
  • The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown
  • The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy
  • The Power of Habit, Charles Duhig
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Dale Carnegie
  • Retire Inspired, Chris Hogan
  • The Legacy Journey, Dave Ramsey
  • EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey
  • Eat That Frog!, Tracy
  • Love Your Life, Not Theirs, Rachel Cruze
  • Currently working on: The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks

What have you been reading? Do you have any recommendations? I’m even open for a good novel.  In fact, a novel next would be a good change of pace.

 

Hey Good Lookin’–Whatcha Got Cookin’….

Look at what I got in the mail yesterday!!!!

cookbook

It is the new cookbook by Cathy Fisher of straightupfood.com. I am so excited and I can’t wait to try every single recipe in this book.  I might just have to do a Julie-and-Julia-type feature on this blog.

I met Cathy a few years ago when I was doing a water-only fast at True North Health Center. She did a weekly demonstration.  Although I only got to sample her food on the last week I was there, it was delicious.  I’ve tried several of the recipes on her blog and I have loved every one.

What do you think….would you like me to try some of them out and write about them?  Let me know.

 

Meet the Golden Girls!

Two years ago, my friend K tagged me in a facebook classifieds page on a picture of four bar stools thinking that they might be something that I would like. As it happened, I was online at the time and was able to snag some vintage metal bar stools that have great character but needed some work.

You will find that I often have to live with something for a length of time before I act on it.  I need to think–to let the ideas rumble around in my head a bit and get comfortable with each other before I can present them to the world. For instance, I’ve lived in my house for almost 35 months now and there is not a single piece of art or decor on any of the walls.  I’m just not there yet. Brilliance takes time. (wink)

After having the little beauties hanging out in my garage for a few months, I decided on a fabric that I thought would be good for re-upholstery of the seats. I ordered it online, so it was a risk, but one that turned out well.  I couldn’t decide whether to leave the chairs in their current chippy yellow state or if I wanted to paint them all a similar yellow or if I wanted each of the chairs to be a different color.  I posted the following picture (August 14, 2014–see, it takes me a while)  on facebook and got feedback from my peeps: upholstery9

The overwhelming majority was for a chair of each color. I figured I would use the current base and foam and just replace the fabric.  However—there was lots of gross black mold on the inside of the current seat so I just got rid of the whole thing and started from scratch–but not until earlier this summer.upholstery4I took the little beauties up to my Dad.  Three of them had been cut down from a tall bar stool height to a normal bar stool height by their previous owners.  He cut the fourth one down to size for me a while back.  Then…we went to work on painting them.

upholstery3.jpg

And by we, I mean I picked out the paint and my sweet Dad painted them.  Aren’t they pretty!

Then my good friend who brought these little darlings into my life came over and we tried our hand at upholstery–for first timers I think we did pretty good.  I also have to give credit to my awesome neighbors who cut new wood bases for the cushions.

It was so much FUN! and I am so pleased with how they turned out.  We did have quite a time trying to find leg covers that fit with the size of the leg post cut, but I’m happy with those as well.  These chairs are so cute in my home and they make me smile every time I walk in the room.

upholstery2

They are so cute and have such great personality–they need names.  So please meet the Golden Girls: Sophia (green), Dorothy (Blue), Rose (yellow), and Blanche (orange).

upholstery8

I can’t wait to start my next project!

Gratitude!

I host a closed group on facebook.  It is an accountability group of sorts.  It consists of a few of my good friends and we use the space to work on our goals.  For instance, in October we called our group “Scary Fit–One New Thing By Halloween.” Each of us chose one thing that we wanted to cement as a habit during the last three weeks of the month. We reported in on how things were going, supported each other and learned a lot of things about ourselves.

I, personally, learned a lot about myself and what it takes for me to truly make something a habit. I learned that I need to set more reasonable goals–to keep them realistic. I learned that I need to be kinder to myself while still holding myself accountable. Overall, it has been a really good tool for me in learning how to approach my fitness goals and it helped me because I committed to be there for my friends.

In November we have changed the theme of the group to Gratitude–specifically learning to be grateful for and express gratitude for our physical bodies (at least that is my goal–my friends’ goals may vary slightly). My goal is to post in the group daily gratitude for a specific attribute of my body and then to commit to doing one thing to show gratitude for my body. (Seriously…that’s the most I’ve used the phrase “my body” in my life–which is likely part of the issue.)

I have spent years being critical of my body and very unkind to myself. It is difficult to switch gears. I’m already seeing progress. I spent a few minutes tonight brainstorming things that I might want to be grateful for. I made a list. I like lists.

 

gratitude-list

I particularly like the scripture that is on the bottom of my stationery. I think it is appropriate and quite fitting….don’t you?

Moving beyond the panic

Finding and settling on a name for this space (the blog, Life Begins in the Middle) mirrored what it often feels like to be in this space (mid-life).

When I first heard the title (thanks to my friend D’s fabulous suggestion) it spoke to me. Immediately I felt like this title and I were old friends and it adequately represented what I want this space to be—a journal about and proof of the fact that middle age can be the beginning of getting the life one wants, particularly if one has a lot of unfulfilled aspirations.

But then I wondered, does this title negate all of the good that has taken place in my life up to this point? Does it indicate ingratitude for the wealth of positives that have taken place thus far? How do I reconcile my gratitude for what has been while still yearning for something different, something better?

Sometimes I feel absolutely paralyzed by similar feelings when I’m thinking about my life. I think about my age and the things that I want in my life and on some level I wonder if wanting something different or something more shows a lack of gratitude for what has been. Does grieving the lack of a husband and family negate the amazing career that bloomed in its place?  I wonder if wanting to change so much about my life beginning now marginalizes my accomplishments in the first 48 years of my life.

I hope that anyone reading this will realize that I have a wonderful life.  It may not be quite what I want it to be, particularly in some areas, but there have been a lot of really good things. However, there are some holes that I have allowed to develop in spite of or instead of these other really good things that has left an ache in my heart and a desire to do more and be better than I am now.

I have to admit that I had a bit of a panic attack tonight thinking along these lines.  It happens occasionally.  I’ll be thinking about life and my plans for life and then have a sudden awareness and realization that I’m tired, that I’m no longer 28, and that my life is nothing like what I thought it would be when I dreamed about it. Realization that our time on earth is finite and with every passing day there is less time to accomplish all I want scares me. The thought that some of the desires of my heart are not physically possible anymore leaves me sad and wondering about the choices I have made and the trade-offs that I negotiated with my actions—whether I realized that Is what I was doing or not. And then I feel the fear…the fear that I won’t be able to turn things around—even in the areas where change is still possible–the fear that I’ve let things slide for too long and then before long that fear rolls into feeling guilty about wanting more and different than what is.

I don’t think it is wrong to want more and different.  I don’t believe that wanting different stems from or shows a lack of gratitude for what is. I think that figuring out what our divinely endowed gifts and talents are—even if it takes us away from  what we have conditioned ourselves to do an be for decades—can be anything but good. Becoming the best version of ourselves shows gratitude for what we have been given.  Being brave enough to step into our dreams, taking with us the experiences—all of the experiences that made us who we are today—shows a great deal of gratitude for what has been.

I don’t know for sure where things go from here.  I do know that I won’t be able to move forward and accomplish what I want if I keep allowing these feelings of doubt and guilt flood my mind and narrow my path.  I choose to step into the future with faith.

Reminders That I’m Fat (like I need them)

Hourly reminders tap me on the shoulder and point out that I’m not the fit and fabulous forty-something that I want to be. Whether it is my aching back or the beads of sweat that form on my brow every time I’m seated in a restaurant for fear that my belly won’t quite fit in the booth, I am reminded daily that I am a failure at fitness. I don’t like it, yet somehow I’ve come to accept this as just how things are.  At what point did I decide that perpetual embarrassment was where I wanted to live? When did that happen? When did I decide that it was ok to be uncomfortable 24/7? If you have spent any time at all on this side of an acceptable BMI you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes it is down-right painful.  And yet….I have let it become my reality….for years on end.

I’ve often heard that once a person hits forty the ease with which they maintain their health and physical fitness changes and becomes more difficult.  I thought that was a myth—but I’m here to tell you that there is some truth to that.  Things seem so much more difficult now than they did 10 years ago.

But, hey, forty is the new twenty, right? That means almost fifty must be the new not-quite-thirty. And I say—it’s never too late to be who you want to be. The past 30 years have been littered with moments of fitness awesome sauce amongst the stress, long work hours, depression, and self-doubt that built this current aching body and tired mind.

It’s time to turn things around.  Life begins in the middle and I’m determined that the second half of this life will be fit, healthy and fabulous!its-never-too-late-to-be-what