Where There’s Smoke, I’m Not

“You should quit smoking. It’s really bad for you. You smell like an ash tray. Those things’ll kill ya.”

If there is anything in the world that annoys smokers to no end, it is other people telling them they should quit or the health hazards those little sticks hold. Guess what? They know. How? It says it on the box. The only person who can make someone quit smoking is the smoker.

Now, smokers, that being said, every person is different. Some of us can do cold turkey, some of us have to cut back, some use patches or gum, others turn to vaping. It’s all about what works for you. I, personally, quit smoking 140 days ago – October 30th was the last day I had a cigarette – and let me tell you, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. What finally got me to quit was being in our pickup, I had a drink that I sat down on the center console. I whipped around, completely forgetting about my drink, and it spilled over onto the floor. However, it didn’t go onto the floor, it went into my purse. 95% of it landed in my brand new pack of cigarettes, filling it to the top, ruining every single one and hardly getting a drop anywhere else. What are the odds? I finished the cigarette in my hand and never bought another. I took it as a sign from the universe that I needed to be done.

Here are some things that have helped get me through the last few months:

  • You need a motivator. Write down things you would rather have than a cigarette: the ability to see your kids/grandkids grow up, being able to run without getting tired so quickly, more energy, a healthier life, more money, etc. I had written down multiple things and one of the biggest was being able to spend a full life with my husband. I have seen too many people be limited or taken as a result of cigarettes and I don’t want to lose any time with him.
  • You need something visual. Now, obviously, you can see when you don’t have a cigarette in your hand but I mean you need something that can show you your progress. Remember what I’ve said before: if you don’t see your progress, you won’t feel like you’re making any. For me, that was downloading the app “SmokeFree”. It’s completely free and completely amazing. Why? The first thing you do is put in your age, how many cigarettes you smoke per day, how much that pack lasts and then:
    • It logs:
      • How much you’ve saved. In 1 year, I’ll save about $840. I’ve already saved $323.45 to date. That’s a round-trip plane ticket home, a car payment, multiple date nights with my husband, about 100 tanks of gas.
      • How many days you’ve been smoke-free. According to my app, it’s been 140.63 days. How cool?!
      • How many life hours you’ve┬áregained. In 4 1/2 months, I’ve regained 843.47 life hours.That’s about 35 days. An entire month extra I’ll have regained with my loved ones.
      • How many cravings you’ve resisted. This is more on an honor system. Every time I have had a real urge to light up, I log it into my app and tell it whether or not I caved. I only logged three and really only caved with a few puffs the night of the election, but I think everyone can forgive me for that one.
      • Health progress. It tells you when your health gets closer to that of a non-smoker with things like: pulse rate, oxygen levels, carbon monoxide levels, nicotine expelled from your body, your ability to taste, smell, and breathe, energy levels, bad breath, tooth staining,your gums and teeth, circulation, gum texture, coughs and wheezing, as well of your risk for heart attack and lung cancer. My risk of a heart attack has decreased by 7.71% and chance of lung cancer is down 3.85%.
      • Number of cigarettes not smoked. In my opinion, this is the best, yet most disgusting and motivating counter on this app. In 140 days, I have not smoked 1,406 cigarettes. How. Nasty? I had never really thought of it that way but the fact that I could’ve lit up that many times? *shudder*
  • You need some support. Now, I stopped telling people that I was quitting this last time because everyone was constantly asking “How’s the not smoking?” “Have you caved?” And if I had one, I heard, “I thought you were quitting?” “I thought so.” Blah blah blah. It stopped becoming about me doing something healthy for myself and more about not disappointing everyone else. I don’t think I told anyone other than my husband until after the first three days because I started getting REALLY crabby. Instead, I turned to a Facebook group for people quitting. It was really cool to see all of these other people supporting one another in their journey. I’m still a part of that group, mostly to act as a continual motivation and to help others who are struggling, like I did. It’s okay to stumble once in a while, we’re human. It happens. Just dust yourself off and start over.
  • You need to understand what is happening. A lot of people treat quitting smoking like it’s supposed to be this super easy thing, like spitting out a piece of chewing gum. It’s an addiction, just like any other addiction, there are withdrawal periods sometimes a relapse, your body is detoxing. This is where the support and the visual come in. Look up what’s going to happen to your body while it’s detoxing. Probably the best advice I got was from my father-in-law who quit I don’t even know how many years ago and he told me, “If you can make it through the first three days, you’re set.” Those may seem like the longest three days of your life, but you can make it.
  • Find an alternative. Some people say they continue to smoke because it’s an oral fixation or they like having something in their hands. For me, every time I had a craving, I chewed on toothpicks. Some people use jelly beans or chewing gum or straws. Find something to keep your mind busy.
  • Don’t give up. Like I said, we’re human. It’s okay to fall off the horse, as long as you get back on. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said I was going to quit over the last 6 years and I always had an excuse to pick it back up. And guess what? That’s what they were. Excuses. Being stressed or going through a tough time is an excuse. You know how I know? Because there are people going through a tougher time than me who are dealing with their stress without cigarettes. Take it one day at a time.

Like I said, the only person who can convince a smoker to stop smoking is themselves. So, if you make that decision, find the way that works for you. Light the fire…just not on the end of a nicotine stick.

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Don’t Ask Me Again

“You sound like a broken record.” I hate broken records.

Usually, I try to keep things light and humourous, but I can’t do that this time. I have to get deep and I have to get personal because I have to make a point: stop asking me when I’m going to get pregnant.

Let’s rewind a little bit. My husband is one of those lucky few that have known their entire life what they wanted to be when they grew up. He’s even more of a rare breed in that his passion when he was 2 is his passion now at 26. Me? I wanted to be everything. Literally. I wanted to be an actress, a dancer, a pilot, a writer, a teacher, a bus driver….all at the same time. It was just in the last year that I discovered that I really have a knack (and a passion) for working with numbers. The only thing I’ve been certain of, my whole life, is that I want to be a mother.

Now, that does NOT give people permission to ask when that is going to happen. Hell, I had to wait 25 years to find a man that loved my brand of insanity enough to want to live with it forever. Even before we got married (8 months ago…8. months.), people were asking the question that has gotten so old, it’s beyond decomposition. “When are you guys going to have kids? When are you going to start trying? How long until you’re pregnant?” If that annoyed me then, you can only imagine what it does to my brain now.

Although I, realistically, don’t have to give people reasons to butt out and quit asking me this over and over, I’ll list a few!:

  • It’s none of your business. There. I said it. I don’t care if you’ve known one or both of us since we were in the womb. I don’t care if you’re family. I don’t care if you have a bet going. It is exactly 0% your business when we choose to conceive. Why? You’re not putting a baby there, you’re not carrying it, you’re not pushing it out, and you’re not caring for it. THAT’S why.
  • How do you know we can? Infertility is a very real thing that many couples struggle with. Have you ever thought of the fact that maybe one, or both, of us cannot conceive children? If that were the case, every time you open your selfish mouth, that sting gets a little more painful. That reality sets in just a little more. What if it’s dangerous for me to carry a child because my uterus isn’t built for it?
  • How do you know we haven’t? How, in the entire cosmos, can you possibly know that we haven’t been trying? What if we succeeded and we have had to deal with one, or multiple, miscarriages? What if every time you ask me, you remind me of the fact that I lost the child that I had developing inside of me? What if we’ve been trying for months and every time Aunt Flo pays a visit, I become an emotional wreck because maybe something is wrong with me?
  • How do you know we want to? How do you know that we want children right this minute? Or ever? How do you know that we don’t just want to live our lives together, forever and ever, amen? What if we want to wait a few years first? What if one of us isn’t quite ready? What if we’re waiting until we’re in a little bit better place financially? What if we have some things we want to get accomplished, together, first?

Also, quit giving me unsolicited advice as to when we should start trying. I don’t care if you got pregnant right away, if you waited six years, if you wish you’d done things differently. Enough! That worked for you, or didn’t, and that’s great. Or it’s not, whatever. That’s you. This is OUR life together. It isn’t yours. We didn’t get married specifically to have children. We could’ve done that without the vows. Hell, I could’ve done that without the husband, period. It’s called a “Sperm Bank”.

I just want people to stop and think before they blindly go about asking questions that are none of their business. We will have children when we have children, and not a minute before. Now, don’t ask me again.

 

Envelopes: Not Just for Letters Anymore

the-envelope-system

It’s a new year! Well…sort of. We’re almost halfway through the second month (whaaaa…??), however, no matter how shiny and new this year may, or may not, be, there is one thing that never changes: finances.

Ah yes, the root of all evil. Those little pieces of paper or metal that control every aspect of our lives. Have you ever thought of how utterly ridiculous it is that we give people paper for goods? Seriously. It’s really odd. Can’t we go back to the days where I could trade a goat for a cart of groceries?….I’d need to buy some goats….hmm…

Anyhoo! Back to our in-flight movie! I’ve recently started something new with our money, I’m slowly introducing the envelope system into our lives. What is the envelope system? Well, I’m glad you asked! Or didn’t. Whatever.

The envelope system is where you take a set amount or percentage of your income and you set it into different envelopes. These can be for groceries, clothes, a night out, gas, utilities, etc. Now, what I did for us, and feel free to use this as an introductory method, is I have 4 envelopes. They are labeled with my name, my husband’s name, a “Both” envelope, and a “Snowball” envelope.

These are pretty self-explanatory but I’m going to explain just for the sake of it. The different envelopes with my and my husband’s name on them are for us individually. If he goes out with his buddies, he takes the cash from his envelope and the same goes for me. The one labeled “Both” is for date nights or if we decide to treat ourselves to something we’ve been wanting. The “Snowball”, well that goes toward whatever debt we are paying more on that particular month.

The way that I separate cash into these envelopes is, mostly, across the board. I take my tip money every day (and I know that not everyone makes tips, but you could really do this with any cash you have) and split it, equally, four ways. Now, if I cannot split it in exact increments (say I have 5,5,5,10), the biggest increment goes into the Snowball envelope. You can dedicate any amount you want to each envelope you create, just know that emptying an envelope means that it’s empty. You must show restraint by not taking from other envelopes.

This is really a perfect budgeting exercise because it requires you to show self-control and to also decide what you really want to spend your money on. So stick some labels on and let the system begin!

I’d Like to Place a Delivery…for some Empathy

pizza-delivery-car-black-white-vector-illustration-65145794

Inclement weather is one of the most terrifying things in the world.

Okay, maybe not if you’re like my husband, but it is to me! He’s all confident and gung-ho about being on the roads and I’m like a teenager getting behind the wheel for the first time. However, I was in a pretty bad accident when I was 19 that I, miraculously, walked away from unscathed. I’d hit black ice and my car did a 180, flipped upside-down into the ditch, and I was trapped. My car was totaled and the emergency crew told me that there was no reason I should be okay.

If that doesn’t explain why I hate driving in snow and ice, nothing will.

That being said, I really need people to stop being selfish douchebags when it comes to the weather. You heard me: STOP. BEING. SELFISH.

To what am I referring? The people who sit in their homes when there has been freezing rain or when it looks like a scene out of a cartoon where it’s the first day of winter and a blanket of snow falls from the sky. These people who decide it is much too dangerous to take to the roads and that they’re too tired or lazy to cook dinner, so what do they do? They call for a delivery. And yes, if you do this, I believe you to be a horrible human being. Why? Is it not obvious?

  1. The person who has to deliver your food is just that: a person. They are another human being that you are wanting to drive in the crappy weather, that you dare not to venture in, to bring you a pizza. Are you serious right now? Have you no concern for their safety?
  2. There are situations where it is strongly suggested against, in some cases illegal, to be on the roads unless absolutely necessary. That Chinese food that you were craving is not worth someone getting, possibly, arrested because you were too lazy to stick a pot pie in the oven.

That’s it. Those are the only reasons you should need. I understand that, sometimes, your power goes out. Guess what? It’s probably out at that restaurant too. Make a sandwich. You’ll survive.

So, this winter season, don’t be THAT person that endangers the well-being of another just because you ‘think’ that you absolutely need to have that sub that you saw on the TV before the storm hit. Bologna will work just fine.

Resolutions: Who needs ’em?

“New year, new me,” exclaims everyone in the social media world. Well….all except myself and a select few.

Years ago, I decided to stop making New Years resolutions. They seemed too hysterically idiotic that I abandoned the idea all together. Why are you letting a manmade construct (I’m talking about time, here) dictate the exact moment that you are going to start becoming a better person? Why wait until January 1st to make the decision to start taking care of yourself or to FINALLY go on that vacation you’ve been dreaming of? Now, here’s the funny thing about my poking and jabbing at resolutions: I made some this year.

Now, the reason that I decided to partake in resolutions this year was not because I decided I needed an entire life makeover, but that I really do want to make the best of the time ahead of me. However, I did not call them “resolutions”, I called them “goals”. I honestly do hate resolutions, they aren’t specific and they tend to fall away within the first month. Goals, on the other hand, are an entirely different story.

Here are my goals for 2017:

– Work out 3 times a week.
– Read 2 books a month.
– Pay off my credit card.
– Finish the basement and the second bedroom.
– Spend at least 2 nights a month with girlfriends.
– Learn to drive the feed wagon.
– Clean out the shop.

Now, I do have a few more, but they’re deeply personal and I want to keep them to myself.

I love goals. I hate soccer, but I love goals. These are things that you can create for yourself any time! Although, there are some rules you need to follow:

  • Make sure they’re SMART. Now I don’t just mean that your goal should be to learn advanced physics, I will break it down:
    • Specific. You have to have a specific goal. Telling yourself you’re going to get into shape isn’t specific. Telling myself that I’m going to workout three times a week is specific. I could be more specific and say that I’m going to use my elliptical or P90X, but I want to change up what I’m doing and once it gets warm, I’ll be running more.
    • Measurable. Staying with the “getting in shape”, because that’s popular, just that phrase is not measurable. Are you trying to lose inches? Build muscle? Shed pounds? Telling myself that I’m going to work out 3 times a week, that’s measurable. I can keep track of how many times a week I work out. I even have a section for the end of the year that will measure how many workouts I missed. How many times, out of 156, did I work out? If your goal is to lose weight, how much? If it’s to gain muscle, what % body fat are you trying to reach? Make sure you know exactly what it is you’re reaching for.
    • Attainable. You have to make your goal attainable. If you don’t, you WILL lose faith and you will give up. Telling myself that I want to pay off our farm with my income this year isn’t attainable. Why? Well, I don’t make three figures, first off. Secondly, even if I wanted to use my income to pay toward the farm, it will nowhere near pay it off….oh yeah, and the rest of our bills won’t get paid. It has to be something that you know you can do. Do I know I can pay off my credit card? Absolutely. I plan to have it paid off in 4-5 months. Am I going to pay off all of our debt? Negative. Not an attainable goal for the calendar year.
    • Realistic. Again, if you don’t make it realistic, you’re going to give up because you’re never going to reach it. It isn’t realistic for me to say that I’m going to learn the drive the feed wagon by the end of January. I barely know how to drive the tractor that the feed wagon is attached to! I have to learn to drive another tractor to even fill the feed wagon, have to learn how to run the feed wagon have to know how much feed goes in each bunk….not to mention, I do have 3 jobs and a gutted basement to tend to. Is it more realistic to tell myself that I’ll learn how to do that by the end of the year? Absolutely. Will I be perfect? Probably not, but I’ll at least be comfortable with it.
    • Time-specific. All of these goals are things I plan to accomplish within 2017. If I just tell myself, eh I’m going to learn to drive the feed wagon, but I don’t tell myself a time frame to learn it in, I never will. It’ll just get pushed off and pushed off and by the time I decide to start learning, we’ll have a new one. Giving yourself a time limit to achieve your goals gets your butt in gear!
  • Write them down. It has been proven that written goals are more likely to be achieved that spoken goals. Keep them where you’ll see them. My goals are written in my bullet journal.
  • Give yourself mini goals. Having big goals is just fine, but, just like with the debt snowball, it’s important to give yourself smaller goals as steps so you’ll feel as if you’re accomplishing something.
    • Example: We want to finish our basement and that is obviously not going to happen over night. First, we need to build a frame, install walls, plank the ceiling, finish the walls, clean out the back room, do the floors, decorate. If I don’t remind myself of these smaller goals, I’ll feel like we aren’t getting anywhere because the main goal is to finish.

 

I still hate resolutions. I just don’t like that word. It makes me think of silly things people tell themselves that they don’t really want to accomplish, they just tell themselves they do. Instead, make some goals for yourself and see how much farther you go.

Some “I DO” Advice

Here comes the Bride! All stressed in white!

But really. Weddings can be very stressful, trust me, I planned mine. However, they don’t need to be nearly as stressful as you may think! They are actually only as hair-pulling, teeth-grinding, nail-biting as you make them. In the coming weeks, I will try to help make your big day a little less worrisome and a lot more enjoyable! Here are some tips:

  1. It’s about you and your fiance. That’s it. The end. Good night. You do not have to do anything that you don’t want to or leave out anything that you want included. If you want your cake to be a mountain of Big Macs, go for it! (Just please, please invite me). I hear so many of my bride-to-be friends telling me about how their families don’t want them to do certain things or how they feel pressured. Stop, just stop. That day is about you committing to spend the rest of your life with your partner. If you have parents, in-laws, friends, siblings, or others who are being pushy about what your wedding should and shouldn’t be, politely tell them that, while you appreciate their advice and will give it some thought, right now you want to do _______. It’s polite and may (note I said MAY) get them off your back.
  2. Avoid being a Bridezilla. Seriously, most of the people in your bridal party are just as stressed as you are. They’re trying to make everything perfect for YOU. If you disagree with or don’t like something, you don’t have to be a royal B about it. I think the only times I really got close to going off on my day was when I asked repeatedly for someone to tie my dress up because we were running out of time for pictures and when one of my bridesmaids kept disappearing. Take a deep breath, roll your eyes or crack your knuckles if you have to , but screaming isn’t going to help anyone.
  3. Choose your bridal party carefully. Asking someone to stand next to you as you make the biggest commitment of your life is a big deal. You’re telling them that you want them to be next to you throughout your marriage. Like I said, choose carefully. Someone you consider a friend may show their true colors and you could end up regretting who you asked to be a part of your day.
  4. Not everything is going to go as planned. There, I said it. Welcome to life, nothing ever goes as planned. But you know what? It’s okay. Do you know why? None of your guests are going to know if something goes wrong, unless you hand each of them a detailed itinerary. Sometimes a little spontaneity is a good thing.
  5. Have fun with it. This is your day, make it as fun as you’d like. Go crazy! Okay, don’t end up face-down in the punch bowl, but you know what I mean. Have a theme, do some out-there colors, make your first dance the Macarena, who cares?!
  6. Video-tape your ceremony. I can’t stress this enough. We got a professionally done video, which was a little pricey but well worth it,but you can even have a guest video from the front row. Pictures are a wonderful reminder of that day, but it’s not the same as hearing each other say your vows again. Sometimes I watch our video just to remind me exactly how much I love my husband. I could barely keep my tears back when i said my vows. It’s a different emotional experience than just looking through photos.
  7. Get a wedding binder. Download it, make it, borrow someone’s. I don’t care, just get one. Mine saved my life during our wedding. It was so much easier to keep track of expenses and everything we needed to get done than it would’ve been to just try to remember on my own.

I will be back with more advice soon, but at least this will get you started!

“1” For the Money

If there is ‘1’ thing that I know, it’s that small things can become something greater.

I’ve written before about how important it is to keep all of your change – just a heads up, I just cashed in about five months of quarters and it add up to over $350 – and I will stand by that until the day that I die. However, I also started a new way of getting my money to add to itself: hoarding $1 bills.

Sounds strange, but bare with me. Psychologically, we are more apt to spend our money if the bills are smaller (how many times have you cringed at the thought of breaking a $50 bill?). To keep myself from always spending those 1s, I started keeping them in a folder. At the end of every day, my routine has become to put my quarters in one jar, other change in another, 1s in their folder, and the larger bills in a box. After I get to 25 1s, I put a paper clip on them so that way I don’t have to count them out every time I’m curious as to how much is in the folder. This year, we used them to save up for Christmas, but ended up spending it on something more important. Over $300 in 1s in just a few months. Remember, I am a waitress so I am more apt to bring home bills than most people since I collect my tips at the end of the night, so it won’t be the same for everyone else. Heck, I actually break my 5s and 10s when I’m shopping so I can add more 1s to my folder.

This also works as a great way to not spend your money, just because you know it’s there. I set a time limit on when those bills – and my quarters – will be cashed. This time was 5 months because of the holidays, but it won’t happen again until the summer. At that point, I can use that money for whatever my heart desires, bills, debt, a mini-vacation, new paint for the bathroom. Make a game out of it and keep track in a journal. Just make sure that you set a goal for yourself, be it time (ie 6 months, a year, etc) or an amount (say you want new furniture that’s $400).

Keep in mind that this will need to be made a habit, just like with the change. Create a way to keep track of how much you have (if you’re goal is an amount) and keep it somewhere that you’ll be less tempted to take it with you. It actually gets more exciting to see it grow than to take it out and spend it. The little things add up, you just have to give them time.