Keeping track of my pennies

Now that I’m working again and earning money, I decided it was high time to start getting serious about my budgeting. With my previous job, I never really had a grasp of how I was spending my money; just that I was borderline living check to check, which was odd since I was living at home with minimal expenses. Where could my money be going when I didn’t have anything extravagant to show for it? Now that I’m on the verge of moving out on my own and will need to budget for a family, it is really important to develop a budgeting habit now, especially when I still have a safety net (hi, Mom!). Besides, having a handful of dollars left at the end of the month was not a situation I enjoyed being in. It didn’t leave a lot of flexibility for surprise expenses or even student loan payments and honestly, it was frustrating.

In an attempt to keep myself from living check to check (because it doesn’t matter how much money you make!), I looked into budgeting programs. The most popular (and free!) is Mint. Since you connect your Mint account with your banking and investment accounts, it automatically updates your information as it pulls information from your accounts. It’s really easy and helps to give you an overview of your spending and suggests ways to save money. There’s also a budgeting tool that helps create a budget based upon your past savings (which you can adjust) and there are a myriad of reports to help give you an overview of your spending trends. It really sounds fantastic except for the fact that I’d have to link my banking accounts to register my account. Even though it is only a “read-only” access, meaning no one would be able to conduct any transactions through my account, I still was uncomfortable about the whole situation. Yes, it would be rare if something happened, but what if something DID happened? That unknown was enough to keep me looking for other options.

I tried making my own spreadsheet on Excel but that was rudimentary at best and I didn’t really know where to start. To be honest, I didn’t want to have to deal with the issues of setting up formulas and making it look pretty (because apparently aesthetics is really a really important step towards having a balanced budget) and the pressure was on if I did a formula incorrectly. All I wanted to do was input my numbers and be done. So after some Googling, I came across You Need a Budget and the clouds parted, the angelic choir sung, and lions played with lambs.

Okay, so not seriously, but I definitely found my budgeting system. YNAB is a great little system that actually helps you plan for future months. There are four “rules” to the YNAB method. Rule One: give every dollar a “job,” Rule Two: save for a rainy day, Rule Three: roll with the punches (which is essentially learning to adjust on the go, whether by reassigning your allotments or adjusting your budget for the next month), and finally Rule Four: stop living paycheck to paycheck, which is exactly the goal I’m trying to achieve.

My budget. Yes I'm paid in Xs

My budget. Yes I’m paid in Xs

Unlike Mint, which essentially shows you what you’ve spent, YNAB shows you what you spent and how that affects your budget for this month AND next month. Talk about forward thinking! Since you don’t link your banking accounts to YNAB, it does take some effort to enter transactions, which you can do manually on an ongoing basis (which is what I do) or you can wait until the end of the month and import your bank statement (they use the Quicken format, which most banks have as an exporting option). Once you’ve added your transactions, you can categorize them and even split them if you’ve purchased items from several categories from one store, say like Target. They also hold you accountable for any overspending or over-budgeting by taking it out of your next month’s budget, leaving you with less to budget/spend. This is a great tool to keep you aware of what you’re spending or have left to spend in any category.

In all, I love how easy this program to use and how helpful it is in planning out the month. I have a habit of “feast or famine” when it comes to spending. Either I’m spending like there’s no tomorrow or I shut down completely and try not to spend a dime. And then feel guilty when I do spend that dime. Now with YNAB, I know exactly how much I have left to spend in each category so I no longer freak out over money, which is a fabulous feeling.

YNAB has recently upgraded their program to version 4 which now includes Cloud syncing and reconciliation (which is awesome if you’re like me and suffer from Fuzzy Mathitis). I just upgraded a few days ago and have been checking out the new features and really like what they did. There is also a mobile app (the full iPhone app is still under review as of this writing) that allows you to sync transactions to your account so you’ll be able to have access to your accounts on the go, and now with the cloud sync, you’ll always have an updated budget!

If you’re interested, they have a 34-day free trial to give it a shot. The full software program is only $60 but you’re able to download it onto as many computers as you like. The mister purchased one for us after I showed him the program, which will be something we’ll be using together when we start living together. They also offer classes (live and recorded) and video tutorials to introduce the program and offer tips on how to take advantage of all it has to offer. I highly recommend YNAB if you’re looking for some budgeting help.

Where we say goodbye to Schmidty, part 2

Not to worry, I totally did not forget that I left you hanging about my surgery to forcibly evict Schmidity from his resting place in my breast. In case you don’t feel like clicking that link, in our last episode, I prepped for surgery by worrying about what I was supposed to wear and bring the day of and trying to eat as much as I possibly could the night before so I wouldn’t wake up hungry. Key takeaways: comfy clothes and Gremlins.

Anywho, the day of the operation went on without a hitch. Basically it’s a lot of “hurry up and wait.” I showed up with my mom to the surgery clinic in the morning, signed in, and waited to be called to register and get my ID bracelet. Then I waited some more before being escorted to the pre-op staging area by the nicest hospital volunteer ever. He was a Korean War vet and noticed that my listed ethnicity was ‘Korean’ (I totally saw him reading my form) and when he called me up, he started practicing the Korean phrases he learned on my mom. And he was pretty good! Great, another non-Korean person who speaks Korean better than me. We both had a good laugh and he shared a few more stories while we made our way to the holding area. He showed me to my bed and left me to myself business as I completely undressed (so much for wearing my good pair of panties, right? I know I’m not the only one who makes sure to wear her good panties at doctor’s appointments) and put on the hospital gown where your naked butt hangs out if you don’t hold it correctly. I had to take another pregnancy test, which was interesting because, remember, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink after midnight because of the gremlin thing. Okay, it’s because of the anesthesia thing but whatever. Gremlin sounds more fun.

So I waited some more. While I waited, the nurses began to prep me for surgery, attaching several monitoring things on my body and finger, wrapped my legs with some weird pressure cuff, and inserted the IV needle in preparation for the anesthesia. For a moment my mind drifted to my Dad and how he was always hooked up to machines and wondered what he felt as they prepped him for his transplant when I was distracted by Santa Claus. I kid you not. I heard the Korean Vet say something about Santa and another hospital volunteer walked by and I thought, how cute, they nicknamed him Santa because he as a beard. That’s when I saw Santa round the corner. In full gear. I nearly died from the absurdity.

There’s really nothing to do but sit and listen to what’s going on, so I eavesdropped on the conversations happening around my bed. A few beds down, I heard a surgeon talking to a patient about his surgery and I thought he sounded an awful lot like Greg Proops. It wasn’t until my surgeon popped into my area to check up on me that I realized Greg Proops WAS my surgeon! I had been trying to place his voice since we met and I’m glad I didn’t figure it out until then and this made me glad I would be out for the surgery because otherwise I might have trouble taking him seriously.

I got word that the previous surgery was being cancelled and mine would be moved up and there was suddenly a flurry of activity at my bed. I was introduced to my “surgical team:” the RNs and my anesthesiologist (who I made jokes with about wanting to simply wake up at the end), and was prepped for the IV and then waited with my mom, who was called back by then, to get marked up by my surgeon. Then before I knew it, the anesthesiologist injected the sedative into my IV and I was pushed down the hall.

Then this happened:


There may or may not have been dancing fairies and a maypole.

The sedative worked quickly. I’m not sure how far I made it, I know I looked back at my mom as I was wheeled down the hall and I think I remember seeing some kind of operating room but I honestly can’t tell if I actually made it there or if I was remembering the clip from Brenda’s surgery on 90210. Either way, I woke up in recovery with an ice pack on my chest and a nurse checking my vitals, mumbling instructions. Then my surgeon came in and said something about something (I don’t know why they are so intent on talking to you while you’re waking up from the anesthesia).  Then I was wheeled in the last waiting room to make sure everything was kosher before getting the all clear to change and head home.

Thankfully I wasn’t in too much pain following the surgery, nothing a little ice and Vicodin couldn’t fix and I was more excited that I was able to start weening myself off the pain meds the following Wednesday. I was determined to be better since I had a date that Friday with one of my college roommates to tour Alcatraz.

Yeah, I scheduled an outing the week of surgery. I’m that girl.

But in all, I’m glad I did finally opt for surgical removal. It feels good that I don’t have to worry about Schmidty (and the scar I have isn’t so bad!) anymore and I’m believing in God that there won’t be any juniors running around either.

Where we say goodbye to Schmidty, part 1

I made it through my surgery on Monday and Schmidty has been forcibly evicted from my body. I’m recovering at home, helped along by an ice pack and a prescription of vicodin. I don’t know what the incision looks like since the bandage that’s in place practically covers my entire breast and as curious as I am to see it, I’m too scared to peel back the bandage so unless it falls off between now and my post-op appointment I’ll have to just wonder about how it looks.

Since this was my first surgery, the days leading up to it was kind of a mystery. I had a ton of questions mostly surrounded around how to prepare, because I like being prepared like a Boy Scout. What can I expect the day of? What about pain meds? Will I be prescribed something or did I need to buy some OTC? And if so, which kind? What kind of anesthesia was I going to have? How “out” was I going to be? When can I play badminton again (yes, badminton. Sounds weird and random but I decided to play again. Two weeks before my surgery. I never said my timing was the greatest)? What do I wear? I mean, what was I supposed to wear? I couldn’t imagine wanting to zip up a pair of jeans afterwards and dressing super cute seemed a bit misguided. So I did the logical thing: I Googled “what to wear to surgery” which helped me to relax about the one thing I could control: what I wore.

I traded a few emails with my surgeon and discussed a few more of my questions with the anesthesiologist who assured me that I would not see or feel anything. Apparently the setup would be similar to what was shown in that clip from 90210, with a curtain like thing separating my head from the rest of my body so I wouldn’t be able to actually watch what happened. My goal was to get my medication and then wake up in recovery like I did when I got my wisdom teeth pulled. The anesthesiologist said that was what would most likely happen.

I received my appointment time last Wednesday, yes, right before Thanksgiving, and was given this list of things to bring/do that was basically the same as the lists I had previously Googled:

1. Bring my medical card and photo ID
2. Bring a method of payment
3. Come completely natural: no makeup, lotion, deodorant, nail polish, etc
4. Leave valuables at home (no jewelry, including piercings)
5. Wear something comfortable
6. Do not eat or drink after midnight (because I’m a gremlin?). This includes gum and candy. If I needed to take any medication the day of surgery, I can take them with a sip of water. And they are totally not kidding about the sip.

All that was left at this point was to sit and wait. My mom would be taking me to the hospital the day of and based on my prior conversations with the surgeon, this would be an out-patient surgery so I estimated I’d be there for about 5-6 hours before coming back home. Easy peasy right? A few people asked me if I was nervous or scared and I honestly didn’t feel much of anything. I wasn’t nervous or scared because, well, I knew things would turn out fine and it was something that needed to be taken cared of anyway. I had prayed about it on my own and again the Sunday before with my Pastor and felt covered. To be honest, I was kind of weirdly looking forward to it. I don’t know why but that is kind of within character for me. Who looks forward to getting cut and stitched back up? Why can’t I be normal?!

You’ve grown on me…

I don’t remember when I first happened upon the lump in my breast but I do remember waiting a bit before finally getting checked out. Silly, yes, especially considering what we know about the risks of breast cancer and what not, but I think I was a bit afraid of what it could be and kind of told myself it wasn’t a big deal. I did such a great job that I forgot it was there.

It wasn’t until two years ago, that my current doctor noticed the lump and finally made me confront the issue. She was fairly certain it was only a fibroademona, a benign tumor, and scheduled me for a fine-needle aspiration to see if her assumption was correct. My appointment was scheduled the day Michael Jackson died. Freaky, eh? So whenever someone asks me where I was when I heard the news, I get to say I was on my way to get a needle stuck in my breast. Yay! Anywho, the biopsy wasn’t too bad. The doctor was older and very to the point, swooping in to stick a skinny little needle into the lump and give me his preliminary diagnosis (a fibroadenoma) and reassure me that it wasn’t cancer, won’t turn into cancer, and didn’t occur because I was hit really hard in my breast (really? That was an option?) before slapping on a band-aid, handing me a pamphlet (“So You Have a Fibroadenoma…” totally kidding, I don’t remember the name of the pamphlet), and sending me on my merry way.

Up until this point, my only other exposure to a fibroadenoma was a “very special episode” of Beverly Hills 90210:

I will go through everything that is wrong with this depiction in a future post. Possibly with John Madden like telestrations. Oh yes I maybe will!

I had a few questions: what did this mean? How did it get there? What do I do now? Why does Wikipedia refer to them as “breast mice?” WTH, why are there mice in my boobs?! My options for treatment was either take a “wait and see” approach or opt for removal. I picked the path of least resistance (and admittedly, the easier choice of the two) and kept an eye (or hand…hehe) on it. Fast forward to September of this year and the bf started asking questions about it, seemingly concerned about its apparent growth and my disturbingly nonchalant attitude. With his prodding, I returned to my doctor who repeated her concerns with the growth and scheduled me for an ultrasound.

This is where things flipped into light speed: My OB-GYN appointment was on a Friday. She scheduled my ultrasound for three hours(!) later, where the ultrasound tech and doctor both didn’t like what they saw and requested a surgery consult, which ended up being scheduled the following Monday. There, I had a core needle biopsy for a final test to make sure nothing’s changed. I received the test results a day or so later and ended with a tentatively scheduled surgery for its removal (apparently they like to remove them when it’s 4cm long. Mine was 5cm. Even my tumors are over-achievers!). A week later I was back in for a pre-op consult where we discussed the procedure and possible complications, two weeks after that I was back to do some blood work for my labs, including a mandatory pregnancy test (I was really tempted to text the bf, “Guess what? I’m NOT pregnant!” but I figured my humor might not go over too well) and a few days after that, spoke with the anesthesiologist about what to expect for surgery.

The thought of having surgery is a little daunting to wrap my mind around. Of course there is the obvious, cosmetic concerns: the scarring, how will my breast look post-surgery (I’m not that well-endowed and at this point, the lump (ooh, double brackets! Anyway, I’ve resisted the urge to name the lump but I can’t hold out any longer: I shall call him “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” but I think I’ll call him Schmidty for short) makes up a small chunk of my breast) and the really important concerns: will I lose feeling in that nipple? Will I be able to breastfeed normally post-surgery. Both of those latter questions are unknowns. It really just depends and I’m the first person the surgeon’s operated on that hasn’t already had kids so up until this point, he hasn’t come across that concern before. Dammit Schmidty!

Oh yeah, that name just paid for itself. IT’S GOLD!

But I’m confident in God that everything will be just fine. I’m covered by Him and will all turn out well. I’m already blessed that it’s not cancer! So hey, point for me.

There’s so much more to say but I won’t say it all now because that would make this one insanely long post about my breast and that’s kind of weird. But I do plan on sharing more of my experience as things wrap up because it’s a narrative that should be shared. So get prepared to know more than you ever needed to know about my boob.

Boom.

And then I was running…

Way back in March (I think, I don’t really remember and I don’t feel like going back through my archives though I probably will anyway because I’m annoyingly accurate like that) or something, I was talked into signing up for 10k distance in The Giant Race. Okay, so I wasn’t really talked into it. It was merely suggested, I halfheartedly hemmed and hawed even though I was already considering doing one, just not right now, and eventually gave in, since I was already thinking of doing one eventually anyway.

Interesting sidebar: I’m notoriously stubborn and it’s pretty hard to convince me to do something unless I’m already leaning that way. Then if anything goes wrong, I can blame it on the other person.

Anywho, so I set out training in preparation of this 10k (or 6.2 miles of delusional hopefulness, however you want to describe it) and felt pretty good about my chances. I did manage to hit 5.5 miles once back in May, I think? I was on a high. I WAS RUNNING!

Aaaaaaaaand then things started going downhill from there.

My training scheduled sputtered, taking days off while the boyfriend was visiting and then again to make the trip down south for Lindsey’s graduation. From there I was pretty unpredictable with my running. Some weeks I’d hit all of my scheduled run days and others I just couldn’t pay myself to think about slipping into my shoes to run. As a result, my stamina dropped back to the my January levels and I was suddenly struggling to hit 2 miles before needing to stop to walk. After finally getting back up to 3 miles, I flew off to Seattle. Basically, I sucked at training. It was hard and I was frustrated with myself and my seemingly turtle-like progress.

How was I ever going to run 6.2 miles if I could barely huff and puff my way through 3? That goal seemed so hard, so far and unreachable. Eventually I convinced myself that it didn’t matter if I ran the entire distance; just that I finish. There are some marathoners that have to walk part of the race but they still ran a marathon. And so I eased up on myself and gave myself permission to walk if I needed to so long as I ran across the finish line. I was feeling good about my decision. Great, even. Then I stopped running. The entire two weeks leading up to the race. Because I am a GENIUS!!

Race day arrived and I was a ball of nerves but okay since I was okay with walking. I woke up, headed out, and then proceeded to get stuck in traffic less than a mile away from the parking lot. My pre-race jitters turned to “Am I going to make the start?” jitters. I was completely stressed but felt better seeing other runners running towards the starting gate too. Thankfully I was set to start towards the end of the pack anyway with a sub-10 mile time, I was able to make it just fine. With my iPod playing, I relaxed into my race and just kept running.

I was able to keep a comfortable pace (about 12 minutes per mile) and just focused on enjoying the run. I tried not to look for the mile markers because I figured I’d start to tire once I knew how far I ran but next thing I knew, I was at the split and then sometime later I passed the 4 mile mark. I was surprised but felt really good so I kept running. Then I past the 5 mile mark and I realized I was almost done and I had ran every mile so far, and since I was only a mile and some change out, I HAD to keep running. And so I did. The adrenaline started pumping and I couldn’t stop smiling and all I wanted to do was high five everyone I passed along the way.

People, I ran the entire 6.2 miles of delusional hopefulness. I still can’t believe I managed that but I did. And it was amazing. Sure all of my race course photos look like I’m walking and I was suffering from the post-race euphoria, as evidenced by this tweet:

10k tweet

But I was so proud of myself. Even though I barely trained, I still showed up and gave it my best. Plus I accomplished something I know I’ll look back on and be proud of (it also doesn’t hurt that I finished in 1:21:21, under my personal goal of 1:30:00!). Needless to say, I’m looking forward to my next race, whatever that will be. And I’m totally open to running another 10k. It’s a great step towards eventually tackling that half marathon one day. One day.

IMG_4515

This is the look of accomplishment. Or possibly delusion.
Kind of weird how it’s the same expression, huh?