Wednesday, December 22, 2010

45 days later

Six weeks and three days after the shock of seeing my fall marathon photos, yesterday I hit and slightly surpassed my goal weight. Here's what 139.6 pounds of f.z. looks like:

Sorry about the crappy lighting. Hopefully, you can see the beginnings of my baby six-pack.

That's a US size six you're looking at, which translates to 28.25 inches (a 2.75 inch drop) around the waist. I feel So. Much. Better.

That's the good news. The bad? Well, I'm at my mom's place on the West Coast, and I can't say it's been a good visit so far. My mom's physical abilities have deteriorated alarmingly just in the past couple of weeks. Two nights ago, she woke me up at 2:00 in the morning after spending an hour unable to get up and go to the bathroom. I couldn't get her up: I like to think I'm stronger than the average forty-something woman, but I can't lift my 165-pound mom. After another hour of struggling and an unfortunate bathroom accident, I had to call paramedics in to get my mom standing. I was done sleeping (I had all of three hours), but I had a full day of work to put in after that.

One incident like that would be bad enough, but this morning we did it all over again. After my mom woke me up calling for help because she couldn't stand, I lost an hour and a half begging and pleading with her to let me phone for help. I finally gave her the phone and left the room because I couldn't handle it any more. Half an hour later, she picked up the phone and asked for help herself.

My mom needs assisted living; that's obvious. She totally refuses.

I think it's safe to say that my mom's judgment as far as her own safety and independence are concerned is horrible. At the same time, she's an adult with rights and a very strong will, and I need to respect the decisions she makes for her own life.

To say that this situation is frustrating is an understatement in the extreme. I'm trying my damndest to respect her wishes and decisions, and I'm also trying not to shield her too much from the consequences of bad decision-making. At the same time, however, it's not my mom cleaning urine off the carpet. It's me. More importantly, if this is what's happening while I'm here, what the heck is going to happen when I leave next week?

I don't know what to do here, folks. I'd welcome your suggestions.

If I hadn't gotten the religion back about general fitness and especially weight lifting, by the way, the last few days certainly would have done it. While a large part of my mom's problems stem both from the stroke and from a neurological disorder (think Michael J Fox) that I have no reason to believe is hereditary, the fact that she suddenly doesn't have the strength to reliably lift herself out of a sitting position is huge motivation to me to get stronger and stay that way.

Have you had any special challenges to face with aging parents? What happened and how did you handle it?

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Violation

Two more pounds gone, which makes nine total. Just in the last couple of days, my missing cheekbones have returned. Today, I saw a total of nine different people I know, and every single person noticed the weight loss and said that it's very apparent in my face. Three pounds to go!

I planned to write something else completely, but today the System Tool virus attacked my computer and had its way with it. This is a new or newish virus, and it's extremely nasty. At the very least, it self-replicates and tries to fool infected users into giving up their credit card numbers for fake anti-virus software. In my case, it not only self-replicated and tried to sell me stuff, but also knocked out my internet connection and stopped all programs from running. Norton Anti-Virus doesn't have a patch for it, and I spent an hour and a half on the phone waiting for a technician.

Technical support, by the way, cost me a hundred bucks. OUCH.

I talked to a few friends while my computer was being scrubbed, and it sounds like quite a few people have been hit. The general consensus was that a system restoration back to several days ago will fix the problem. I asked the virus technician about that approach and he responded that it gets rid of the symptoms, but doesn't remove the virus from the system.

Since I use my computer to log into and manage a variety of financial accounts, I decided that professional scrubbing was an expensive but worthwhile remedy. After two hours eradicating the virus from multiple locations on my computer, the technician left me a list of tips for avoiding this and other viruses in future. Since this list cost me $100, I'm happy to share it with you for free:

Steps to keep computer free from Virus:

1. Never open attachments from unknown sources or attachments you are not expecting. (Knew that)

2. Always scan diskettes, CD's and any other removable media before using them. (Knew that too)

3.Do not click on any pop-ups, just click on "Alt Key" and "F4".... (This is helpful! Even mousing over or clicking on the x in a pop-up can cause a trojan to start downloading. Apparently, that's how most people are getting it)

4.Do not visit any unsecured websites. (I asked for clarification on this one. You can go to http://safeweb.norton.com to check for the presence of viruses on a site. Keep in mind that there is no patch for the System Tool virus yet, though)

5.Ensure that your virus Definitions are updated. (If this isn't automated on your computer, it should be)

6. Keep your system up to date with Microsoft Windows Update to protect your system from viruses and worms that attack known Windows security vulnerabilities. (Newer Windows operating systems will do the update automatically. I don't know what Macs do)

Has your PC been infected with a virus? What did you get and how did you get rid of it? What damage (if any) did it cause?

Stay safe out there, folks.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Spending hangover

Seven pounds down, and my skinny pants fit. Yay me.

With five pounds left to lose, I'm starting to think that I might actually be back to normal by the end of the year. Should I post a photo when I get there?

In my last post, I mentioned that I've been spending a LOT of money in the past few weeks. Part of this is related to normal end of year expenses: I finished off my planned giving for the year, so my credit card took a big hit for that. Also, it's doorman tip season and that always costs around $400. Finally, I normally buy a year's worth of running shoes once my favorite shoe's new model is released and the old one goes on sale, so that's another $390 that went out the window.

In addition to the normal planned spending, though, this year I budgeted for some additional spending that is and was completely self-indulgent. In the past few weeks, here's where that money has gone:

--New dresses (a few for work, a few not for work): $650 (after 30% discount)
--New dishes (eight place settings, plus serving bowls and a large platter): $135 (after 25% sale and 15% discount on top of that, plus free shipping)
--Two turtlenecks, to replace old, stretched-out ones: $60 (after 40% discount)
--Two cardigans, to replace five very old ones: $80 (after 30% discount)
--One pair of jeans in my normal (slimmer) size: $50 (Full price! I have a very hard time finding jeans that are short enough, flattering, and don't expose my buttcrack. Getting all that and a sale on top of it is nearly impossible.)

I bought everything online and am still waiting for the last three things to arrive, by the way. If they don't work, back they go.

And finally. . .

--I dropped $539 on cast-iron Le Creuset cookware. I ended up with a white nine-quart dutch oven for $240 (I don't love the white, but it was $60 cheaper than anywhere else I saw), plus a set of three items in the flame color: A 1.25 quart saucepan, a 5.5 quart dutch oven, and a 10-inch skillet. That set was $299.

I finally cracked on the cookware when I took out my nasty, seventeen-year-old non-stick pots that are all scratched up, started to get them ready for use, and then decided that after months of figuring out what I wanted and researching prices, I had finally had enough and wasn't going to do any better than the last, best sale I found.

I love the cookware, and I don't regret it one bit. There are still two more pieces I want to buy, but I haven't found them at the right price points yet. I'm in no real rush anyway since I have the basics.

I don't regret any of the other purchases either. I sure didn't need most or even any of what I bought, but none of it was impulse shopping, and I took the time to compare prices and plan. I didn't want any residual guilt, so I also waited to do any shopping until I surpassed my savings goal for the year. (More on that on the quarterly recap in a few weeks.)

All the spending has been fun, but it left me actually feeling a little hung over at the end. I'm not sure that hung over is the right term, although I can't think of a better one. It's more like how I feel after overdoing it on pancakes: Stuffed, blood sugar off the rails from all the white flour and sugar, a little queasy, and not interested in seeing another pancake for a very long time. My credit card should close for the month tomorrow, and I can't wait to wipe out the balance and get back to normal.

There's one other thing that caused me to take a break from focusing on saving for the moment, by the way. I've never published my net worth here before, but I do have very specific net worth goals as well as savings goals for every year. Since the net worth goals depend on market fluctuations, they're not under my control except via my ongoing asset allocation strategy; as a result, I think focusing on maintaining the strategy and achieving my savings goals is more productive than obsessing over what the market does day to day.

With all that said, I've come very close to hitting my 2010 net worth goal several times recently, but I finally did it this week. Not counting the value of my home, I finally topped half a million dollars in savings and investments. That represents many years of hard work and dedicated saving. To me, it was worthy of a little celebration.

Have you done any spending just for yourself this holiday season thus far? If not, why not? If so, what did you buy and why? Did you end up feeling hung over afterwards?

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