Sunday, May 19, 2013

All Crises Pass - Budget Review

Finally, a review of first quarter budget, which did not reveal any major surprises. I set our budget for the year by taking the amount spent in each category for the previous year and dividing by twelve for each month’s budgeted amount. This way of doing things doesn’t really allow for inflation, so there’s a risk of running over. And while I do try to budget in emergencies — say especially in the “Other Auto” and “Pets” categories -- I probably don’t budget quite enough, mostly because I can’t make the income side balance. We try to get close, then cross our fingers and hope for the best.

For the quarter we were over about $200 on expenses, but also over on income thanks to Kat’s overtime. In fact we were a little ahead for the quarter, but May has seen some setbacks that will show up in the second quarter review. Our expenses for first quarter weren’t too over because we were under in a few categories, including — miraculously — Pets. 

I do “pad” the Pets budget line to anticipate vet expenses, and we were slightly under budget even with Beano’s dental work. But a couple of weeks ago we took our two senior dogs in for full physicals, vaccinations, and x-rays. Guess how much? One thousand dollars. $1,000. Un mil. Our vet has a new loyalty card that gives us 10% of each visit toward our next visit, so the lovely thing is that we now have $100 credit at the vet’s office. I have no doubt we’ll use it before the end of the year.

I should be ok with our first quarter financials, and I am, but it’s hard to rejoice when here in May I’m floating among the wreckage of the budget. It’s not just the vet bill — our cushion savings will take care of that — but I have felt out of control of our spending since I started hobbling around on this torqued leg. I’ve started massage therapy (expensive and not in the budget) and I’ve bought cushions and I will say here that I’m willing to pay whatever will end this pain and release me from the fringes of my own life. And then the gifts!! May/June is becoming Christmas II with all the graduations, weddings, mother’s and father’s days, and birthdays. All happy occasions, but hitting at the same time. 

One of my favorite sayings — “All crises pass” — has become a mantra these past couple of weeks. It’s not just the financials, though that adds to it, it’s the scattered and out of control feeling that comes from not being able to maintain former routines. It had been a goal of mine for the spring to create a routine for my writing, and it wasn’t until I was unable to sit at my desk that I realized I DID have a routine. It just didn’t look like other people’s routines or what I thought a writing routine should look like. When I enter the work-bubble that is my desk, usually late morning or early afternoon, I slip into writing mode. It’s a nice, warm, captainish* feeling, and I’ve missed it and can hardly wait to get back to it. 

All crises pass. This one will too.

* To borrow from Rabbit of the Hundred Acre Wood

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Using Pain to Improve Life

Since my last post my life has taken a turn for the unexpected. I developed a literal pain in the butt that extends from the cheek down to the calf. Ouch!! Boy does it hurt. Hurts to sit, stand, and walk, which leaves lying down, but I can’t afford to do that all day, so I sit, stand, and walk, wincing (gasping) all the way.

After checking to ensure that a pinched nerve or my back isn't somehow involved, my doctor prescribed a powerful anti-inflammatory and some exercises. There’s no quick fix for this, and the pain wears me down by the end of the day. The silver lining is that I’m using the pain as motivation to work on some areas in my life. 

First, I figure that the body has an enormous capacity to heal itself as long as it’s not sabotaged. I’m helping by eating as healthily as I know how, with plenty of food high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Guided by George Mateljan’s The World’s Healthiest Foods, an “essential guide for the healthiest way of eating,” I am learning the health properties of different foods and the best way to select, store, prepare, and cook them. 

Anti-inflammatory foods and herbs include salmon, tuna, and shellfish, pineapples, papayas, olives, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. There are others, but that’s where I’m starting. Yesterday for lunch Kat and I ate avocado halves sprinkled with lemon juice and stuffed with tuna salad (a recipe from the book). Tasty! 

Second, having this grinding, relentless pain actually helps with my mindfulness practice. Sometimes the pain overwhelms, and I have to stop and just breathe deeply. I try to follow the advice in the book to focus on breath and welcome any discomfort or pain instead of fighting it. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always help, but most of the time it seems to. It keeps me from panicking anyway. Anxiety magnifies pain, and to the extent that mindfulness practice diffuses anxiety, it helps.

Third, I am forced to practice patience. Not a virtue of mine, but one I want to cultivate. The healing process takes time. I can eat all the right foods, exercise diligently, and take my meds, but I can’t force the pain away or hurry the healing process.  Impatience — when will this pain end? — like anxiety, just makes it worse. 

So there it is. I wrote most of this while standing at our kitchen island, and finished it off sitting at my desk. My new life for a while. I hope that when this chapter of life draws to a close, I will have acquired or deepened a few good habits.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Thwarted but I'm Good With It

April turned out to be a busy and out of the ordinary month (the skin stuff alone threw my calendar off kilter), and I was looking forward to my recent birthday as a day just to knock around in. A fun lunch in Gruene followed by naps and reading and movie watching. Kat was off, and she’s always game to do whatever.

That morning I rolled out of bed, and the first thing I did was charge my Kindle. This was going to be the kind of day that required a fully charged e-reader!

Things got off to a great start with a breakfast of kolaches and coffee. Then Kat surprised me with a light box for my sewing room. Hooray! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as the quilt I’m working on requires applique. 

After lunch and a walk around the shops at Gruene, we drove back to San Antonio, into the neighborhood, turned the corner, and I saw this:

Hastily decorated by a neighbor

I gasped! No!! 

Yes, surprise party. The last guest left at 11:00 pm. My fully charged Kindle sat untouched.

So, my birthday went not at all as I had envisioned. Had I been asked, I would have said emphatically that I did not want a party. But, as with life when chaos intrudes on the hopeful vision of orderly days, I accepted it (after a bit of struggle) and it was good. It was good to visit with friends I haven’t seen in a while, and of course I was touched (after I got past wanting to kill her) by Kat’s eagerness to make the day special. 

I haven’t yet peeked at the credit card to see what this set us back. I have a budget session planned for tomorrow to review March and April. I’m hoping all the big birthday surprises are behind me :-P