Friday, March 09, 2018

Goals For March (And Recap Of Yearly Goals)

Happy March! We are now in the third month of the year--January and February, where did you go?!?

 Daffodils blooming by the river by my parents' home.

Truly, the first two months of the year flew by. A case of head lice (my first, ewww!) and a nearly 2-week long trip to the West Coast to visit my parents helped time move quickly. Now that my hair is clear (Thank you, Jesus!) and I'm back from my trip, it's time to get back to working on our goals for the year.
Tea party with lifelong friends while visiting my parents.

My goal for 2018 is to be intentional. Below, I've copied my goals for 2018 from this post. My updates on each item are in italics.

Being intentional this year means:

  • Not overloading my schedule. Doing pretty well with this. Some days are more overscheduled than others but I believe that's just how life is sometimes.
  • Allowing time for rest and downtime. I don't want to be "busy" all the time. I've been able to sit down for a little while almost every evening after dinner so that's an improvement. I'm not a good sitter. (haha) I also tend to fall asleep if I sit too long.
  • Being creative, just because. I like to make things and that is the first to go with a busy schedule. Still need to allow time for this. I try a lot of new recipes just for fun though. So that should count for something! 
  • Continue decluttering the house. I'm using this chart to motivate me! And planning an early spring yard sale as a goal for getting the stuff out of the house and helping with my next point here. ;-) Yard sale is scheduled for March 17, weather permitting!
  • Practicing frugality and carefulness in our finances in order to rebuild our savings and pay off some home debt we incurred in 2017. Due to several situations, a 2 week break from work for me over the holidays being one of them, the first couple of months of each year are tighter financially for us. By March and April, things seem to loosen up a bit and flow a lot better. We have been careful and hope to see more in the way of savings and debt pay-off soon.
  • Creating simple home routines that I can be consistent with long-term and actually see results! This is going pretty well. I have been keeping up with my goal of cleaning up the kitchen each evening. It's not perfect but so much better!
  • Continue reading God's Word with purpose and be part of a group that meets weekly to disciple others. In progress!
  • Being careful to not let other's ideas and expectations of me dictate my daily life and decisions. This is an ongoing daily decision. I feel like I'm doing well with it though.
  • Living mindfully. Making careful, deliberate and thoughtful choices. Slowing down and getting back to basics really helps with this!

My goals for March:

  • Make tax appointment and get taxes done. 
  • Schedule vet appointment for Willie. 
  • Schedule physical for Andy.
  • Finish packet of updated adoption paperwork--includes 2017 tax forms, updated vet records and a physical for Andy (already did mine) so this goal is contingent on getting those things done. :-)
  • Continue with homekeeping routines. 
  • Quick clean of bathroom each day. 
  • Have a yard sale. 
  • Start working in garden. 
  • Drink tea often--a simple thing I enjoy!  
  • Blog each week--I've missed it. 
 What are your goals for March?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Clearing The Kitchen Counters

I'll be really honest here. Cleaning and keeping the house decluttered has been a huge struggle for me, especially in the past 3 years.

I hit on a cleaning routine that works and it is great. Until it doesn't. Then things just get a little out of control. I've always struggled with paper clutter.

In being intentional with my life this year, one of my goals is to build in some gentle routines for home-keeping. It is important to me that I am a good steward in caring for my home and the people in it. I also feel very anxious and stressed when I see surfaces in my home being constantly cluttered and messy.

It's vital that we understand that life is not always neat and clean. Some days and seasons are more messy and cluttered than others. It's important to have correct and realistic expectations for the season we find ourselves in. This past year as we walked through cancer treatment for my husband, it was all I could do to keep up with the minimum--just enough to keep us going and the house livable. So I understand first-hand how we need to adjust our expectations with the seasons.

But at the same time, I realize that by building in some small routines, I can start to experience a home that is closer to what I have in mind when I picture a clean and uncluttered home. I am starting with my kitchen and the bathrooms as those are the biggest problem areas for me at this time.

I had the day off from work yesterday. I ran errands in the morning and in the afternoon, my goal was to clean off the kitchen surfaces.

It looked like this:

Something piled or out of place on every surface. Maybe not the worst it's been but still messier than I'd like.

I began by hiding my phone so I wouldn't be tempted to waste time looking at it. Then I began taking things off each surface. I started with the table. The boots were on the table to remind me that one of them needed to be repaired. ;-)

As I removed items from each surface, I put things away in their proper place or threw stuff in the trash as needed. A few items were put in my donate/yard sale pile. Then I cleaned each surface with Mrs. Meyers all-purpose spray and a soft cloth.

Each clear surface made me smile.

After about an hour (and after dinner when the crockpot was put away), the kitchen looked like this:

So much better!

One routine I have been practicing for years and has made keeping up with dishes so easy, has been to fill the dishwasher as I go throughout the day then run it at night after dinner is cleaned up. First thing in the morning, I empty it and put everything away.

Sometimes I hand wash bigger items and set them out on a towel to dry. Often I will leave them for morning, then put them away at the same time I am emptying the dishwasher. It works and is not a big deal. But last night, I had probably 8-10 hand wash items so instead of leaving them for the morning, I decided to see how long it would take me to dry them and put them away. It took a whopping 3 minutes. Seriously! Three minutes and my counter top was clear!

Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking I don't have time to do a task when in reality it takes very little time. By doing it right away, I get it done and don't have to play catch-up later.

My homemaking routine for this month is to do my best to clear and clean the kitchen counters and sink each evening after dinner. It should take only about 10 minutes if I keep up with it daily.

Do you have a cleaning routine that works great for you? Please share in the comment section. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Goals For The New Year--2018

Pretty summer flowers to remind us that brighter (and warmer) days are ahead!

I think it's safe to say that 2017 was not our favorite year! But even in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, God was so faithful to us and to His Word. He has taught us so much through this experience so in a weird way, I wouldn't really want to change it.

At the same time however, experiences such as these can wear a person down. It is just a lot to deal with!

As I go into 2018, I feel tired. Excited with the promise of a new, bright, shiny year. But just a bit tired.

My goals for 2018 include the word 'intentional'.

To me, being intentional means living life with a purpose, making choices that align with my values, aiming for a specific goal.

Being intentional this year means:
  • Not overloading my schedule. 
  • Allowing time for rest and downtime. I don't want to be "busy" all the time.
  • Being creative, just because. I like to make things and that is the first to go with a busy schedule.
  • Continue decluttering the house. I'm using this chart to motivate me! And planning an early spring yard sale as a goal for getting the stuff out of the house and helping with my next point here. ;-)
  • Practicing frugality and carefulness in our finances in order to rebuild our savings and pay off some home debt we incurred in 2017. 
  • Creating simple home routines that I can be consistent with long-term and actually see results!
  • Continue reading God's Word with purpose and be part of a group that meets weekly to disciple others. 
  • Being careful to not let other's ideas and expectations of me dictate my daily life and decisions. 
  • Living mindfully. Making careful, deliberate and thoughtful choices.
Here's to an intentional year!

Have you thought about any goals for 2018? if so, would you please share them in the comments? Thank you! 

Monday, December 04, 2017

This & That

Life has been marching along at a pretty fast clip around here. One day the calendar says September and now here it is December already!

Andy is considered to be fully recovered from his surgeries at the end of August/first of September. It was a long slow road but by the end of October, we could definitely tell he was almost back to normal function. He was cleared to return to work in November and he has really enjoyed that! He had not worked since the tumor was discovered in late February and with surgeries and chemo, did not have the stamina required to do his job. He was also on lifting restriction for almost that whole time.

Now that he is working again, it is such a blessing to receive an extra paycheck! I was able to continue working the whole time Andy was sick which was a blessing. It was an exhausting time of course, but we made it through! My employers were wonderful in allowing me a flexible schedule so that I was able to go with him to almost every appointment and chemo visit. All of our bills were payed and even some money put in savings during this time. We thank God for His provision!

We saw the thoracic surgeon regarding the nodule that is still on Andy's lungs. His oncologist wants it to come out. But due to it's tiny size and difficult-to-get location, the surgeon is less than confident in his ability to find it at this time. Because this particular spot has really not seen any change in size since the cancer diagnosis, the oncologist has agreed to delay surgery and observe this spot closely for a 6 month time frame. After 6 months, we'll see if surgery is still needed. Of course, if it seems that the spot is growing at any time, a decision for surgery will be made. It is in such a  place that a biopsy is not a good option and the only way to really know if the spot is cancerous is to remove it and then biopsy it. So we proceed with caution. With the exception of the lung nodule, Andy is considered cancer-free at this time.

All of Andy's family was here for Thanksgiving. It was a busy time but went great. I think a good time was had by all! Our dog Willie certainly enjoyed the company of cousins and grandparents!

With Andy mostly recovered, I was able to spend some time on a few home projects that I had planned. First was finishing the massive hallway painting project. How long can it take to paint a hallway? Apparently, several months! With the hallway being completely brown paneling and everything we had going on, this took a while with a lot of starts and stops. SO MANY coats of paint and primer. Oh my word.

But now that it is done...I am LOVING it! This was one area of the house that made me feel a bit depressed. It was so dark and ugly. Now it is light and pretty. (I think so!) This isn't the easiest space to photograph but this end of the hallway going into the kitchen makes me happy. I light the candles in the early morning hours and it is just so cozy!

I also painted the front door a lovely red. And redid one of our flowerbeds with hydrangeas! These "small" projects have improved our home and given me great satisfaction.

Does anyone else feel like they need a break in between Thanksgiving and Christmas just to get themselves together? I do. ;-)During the week after Thanksgiving, I cooked and froze the fall pumpkins from our porch, packed up the fall decor, used up Thanksgiving leftovers and a pile of other tasks. I also started a pantry challenge to go through mid-December. Our freezers and pantry are SO full! A good time to use things up and save some cash!

Hopefully, Christmas decor will go up in the next couple of days. I would love to have some time to sit down and sew too. We'll see. :-)

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another Update!

It's been over two months since my last update.

Andy had surgery on August 28 to remove a handful of cancerous lymph glands in the abdominal area. It is a pretty invasive surgery so he stayed in the hospital for five days. His parents came to visit for his surgery and were a big help in driving back and forth to the hospital. There are only a handful of surgeons who perform this kind of surgery in the area and you want someone with lots of experience so we went to the big hospital a little further away.

The surgery itself lasted for six and a half hours--very meticulous--but went very well. The surgeon was very pleased.

Andy was discharged that Friday and all was going well until the following Tuesday when we noticed a significant amount of drainage from one spot on the incision.This did not seem normal so we immediately called the doctor. He told us to come right in to get it looked at.

I was going to drive Andy in to the doctor myself but Andy insisted I call a retired friend of ours to help. It was a good idea because Andy was moving extremely slow at this point (big incision!). I figured some extra help getting him in and out of the van would be helpful.

When we finally got in to see the doctor, he took one look at it and declared that something was not closing correctly and Andy would need emergency surgery to reopen the incision and then re-close it properly.

This was right around noon by now and surgery was quickly scheduled for 3pm. We were assigned a hospital room and quickly escorted over to the hospital which was right next door. Andy got settled in his room and they began prepping him for surgery. Thankfully, he had eaten very little that morning and had only drank some water. I stayed with Andy in pre-op until they wheeled him away to surgery. I then met up with our friend who had come with us. I was so glad that we had asked him to come as he sat with me in the surgical waiting area during this unexpected surgery.

Again, the surgery went well. The doctor was so busy that he called me on the waiting room phone instead of coming out for a consultation. He said there was a good amount of fluid built up and had it not been caught right away, it could've gotten very infected and caused much worse problems. They put a wound vac on the incision to dry out the area before closing the incision back up.

Andy was in the hospital until Friday again. Before discharge, the surgeon came up to remove the wound vac and then staple the incision closed again. Call me weird but I enjoyed watching the process! It was fascinating.

While the surgeon closed him up, he said "Oh, by the way, the pathology report came back and there was no sign of cancer in the lymph glands. Just dead scar tissue." This was the best news! We were so thrilled and give God all the glory for this!

Andy has been home for over two weeks now and is doing good. Recovery is slow but coming along. He sees the surgeon on Tuesday to get his staples removed.

He had an appointment with his oncologist on Friday. Everything is looking good. He'll have some more CT scans coming up just to make sure everything is clear. The oncologist still wants a specialist to take a good look at the nodule on Andy's lung and possibly remove it. We are waiting to see what will come of that. Our "lymph gland" surgeon says there is over a 99% chance that it is also dead scar tissue as everything seems to work together in this kind of cancer. Even though it is most likely nothing serious, the oncologist wants to be thorough and we appreciate that!

Thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Post-Chemo Cancer Update

Andy had an appointment with the oncologist yesterday to discuss the results of his most recent CT scans. Basically, these scans were to show us whether or not the chemo had done its job!

We were happy to hear that the cancerous abdominal lymph glands had shrunk considerably in size. As expected, they have not shrunk to normal size so surgery to remove them is still in the near future.

Several other spots that were seen before on the lungs are not there now, which is good news. However, there is one spot that is questionable. It could be something but could also be nothing. The oncologist suggested possibly a PET scan to get a better look and see what is going on there. Because of how these scans are done, sometimes it is difficult to see things accurately.  He was going to discuss it further with the head of oncology and get back to us.

Andy is doing very well. His energy level continues to rise little by little and he is feeling more and more like himself. At this time, we haven't really noticed any lasting side effects from the chemo which we are grateful for. He does still have that dry cough but it doesn't seem to be as bad as it was.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

In the midst of decidedly not-frugal chemo, doctor appointments, hospital stays and surgery plans, we still try to be good stewards of what God has given us.  Making good decisions with our money and using what we have to its fullest potential saves us money and also prevents waste.

Here are some ways we've saved money and lived frugally here recently:

  • Accepted loads of garden produce from neighbors and friends. We've eaten fresh green beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers and corn on the cob. I have a crockpot full of green beans cooking for dinner tonight using this recipe.  We were given over a dozen ears of corn so I shared half of it with our neighbor as the two of us couldn't eat it all. 
  • Used a store coupon at Petsmart for a FREE small bag of dog food. We also had $5 in rewards to use online so we used it to buy some dog treats and selected to pick up in store instead of paying for shipping. I picked up our online order at the same time I got the dog food. Willie is happy.

  • Went on a date to Olive Garden and used a gift card to pay for most of our meal. Also, we had enough leftovers to take home and eat for lunch the next day. 
  • Used several coupons when grocery shopping.
  • Sam's Club runs specials each month where select items are on special. This month, several items that we buy regularly were on special. So I stocked up even if we didn't need them quite yet--$3 off laundry detergent and $5 off dog food. Both are items that I would be buying next month so I saved $8 by buying them now. I also got $1 off a bag of avocados and $.50 off cheese. 
  • Submitted some medical receipts for reimbursement. 
  • Hung most of our clothing up to dry instead of using the dryer. Still using the dryer for sheets and towels as I don't yet have an outdoor clothesline. 
  • Cut buttons off a couple old sweaters before discarding them. The buttons can be used for other sewing and craft projects. 

  • Repotted some tiny basil plant "babies" that were in my big planter of basil. I plan to share these extra plants with friends. Also made pesto from some of the basil. 
  • Eaten a lot of odds and ends from the freezer. I noticed we had quite a bit of food in there that should be used. I've been planning my menus from the freezer and pantry then only buying what we still need from the store. I plan to clean out and defrost the freezer in August so eating down the freezer is a good idea! Some of the items are only a serving or two but I group a few things together and no one goes hungry!
  • Painted our hallway. I have had the paint and primer for a while and have not had time to get to this project.(I got the supplies right before Andy's diagnosis.) I had the week of July 4th off from work so made time to work on it then. The walls are paneling so this took a little more time and effort  than just slapping a coat of paint up. But the final result is very much worth it! Why is this frugal? Well, I didn't hire someone to do the painting for me. Plus, painting is much less costly than ripping out paneling and putting in drywall! (Although that is in the "someday" plans.)
  • Requested a book through our library's inter-library loan program. Within a few days, I received notification that the book was ready to pick up. I combined stops while running errands and ran into the library while driving close by there anyways. My library has started something new and now includes on your receipt how much you saved by using the library that day. I saved $24.99 by using the library over buying the book at list price. 

How have you lived frugally this week? Please share with all of us in the comments!