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2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole

Hello world! On February 3, 2020, after a glorious January of drinking delicious green smoothies and crushing my health goals, I came down with a vicious, RELENTLESS COLD! I haven’t had a cold in like…YEARS. I honestly think I haven’t had a cold since some time before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Let me tell you, I don’t want another one again!!! I believe I picked it up from someone at work and passed it on to my husband. The rest is history. It was terrible! I’m mostly better, but I’m not 100% yet.

Despite spending the first half of February fighting a cold, I’ve set other goals related to my finances. Check out a snapshot of my vision board in the cover photo. (Ignore the weird smile.) Have you ever made up your mind about something to the point where you became obsessed??? This is me right now. I can barely think of anything else.

I’m not quite sure what clicked in my head that’s caused me to become so laser focused and determined to get out of debt, but I’m glad to be here. I’ve been reading and watching videos on YouTube daily, and mostly all day on weekends, about personal finance, getting out of debt, and building wealth.

Lucrece’s Financial reading

I’ve been toying with Dave Ramsey for years. I even bought his daughter, Rachel Cruze’s book and audio of “Love Your Life Not Theirs” (not pictured). I’ve taken on some of Dave Ramsey’s principles, many of which are from the Bible, but haven’t fully committed. For example, I’ve been doing a zero based budget for years. In my budget binder, where I track our household expenses, I can see I’ve been using the budget worksheet from one of his books since at least 2007-2008. I also have a Financial Planner I’ve recently recovered and have notes in there from 2008 (when my handwriting was much neater). What I haven’t done is save for the emergency fund and start the debt snowball yet.

For the last few years, I’ve been living in some kind of alternate reality, as best as I can describe, because I haven’t put much thought into my financial goals. Sure, I do a budget every month and pay my bills, but I haven’t planned much beyond that. Retirement and insurance are automatically withdrawn from my check. My husband hasn’t worked for a couple of years due to his health issues, so my income is all that we’re working with for this period in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things working in our favor with regard to our finances such as my salary and I’m fairly organized. However, there’s much, MUCH more work to be done. My husband is on board now too. Call it mid-life CRISIS or perimenopause, but there’s a sense of urgency in getting this part of my life together that I’ve not had before. I’d like to build wealth for my family.

Like most Americans today, a large chunk of my debt is student loan debt. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do some things differently; however, I can’t go back in the past. I must move forward learning the light lessons along the way. I’m highly educated (my student loans are my receipt of this education) and am going to use the tools I already possess to reach my financial goals.

I’ve taken the time to total my debt, which I haven’t done in years and years. I think this is a sign I’m serious. I actually wrote down the numbers. The amount is mind boggling. However, I know if we (my husband and I) put our minds to it, we can dig ourselves out of this hole. You can too.

The best place to start is to: acknowledge there is a problem, decide to do something about it, decide on the best course of action, plan, and then put your plan to ACTION. Also, surround yourself with information and successful stories of people who have reached your same goals. And then often VISUALIZE yourself reaching your goal(s). IMAGINE what it feels like. How good does it feel to make that accomplishment?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What are your financial goals for 2020? How much progress have you made? Planning on getting a 2nd or 3rd job?

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2020 Health Chronicles

This time of year, I’m usually vegan, but I’m vegetarian for right now because I enjoy a little cheese and plain, greek yogurt on occasion. I’ve been craving a GOOD veggie burger. Alas, it’s that time of the month where eating out is not an option, so the next thing I knew, I found myself searching online for black bean quinoa burger recipes.

Homemade black bean quinoa burger. LPC
Black bean quinoa burgers with shredded cheddar & sauteed onions & jalepenos LPC

This recipe was easy & super tasty. Since this isn’t a cooking blog, I don’t normally provide the step by step instructions. You can do an online search for recipes yourself. My main goal with sharing my food is to inspire you to cook at home and enjoy more plant based foods.

I will say that sauteeing onions, peppers, and spices in coconut oil prior to adding to the bowl of drained, smashed black beans added a flavorful touch. I also added bread crumbs, an egg, and more spices such as cumin, chilli powder, smoked garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little dab of liquid smoke.

I’ve blogged about setting yourself up for success to achieve your goals. In like fashion, I prepared another one of my vegan staples for the work week.

Vegan hash cakes ready for the oven. LPC

I got the hash cake recipe from one of my vegan cleanses. I love them because they satisfy my savory and crunchy desires. I plan to eat these throughout the work week atop a salad with a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil. The ingredients for these hash cakes are similar to the black bean quinoa burgers in that they have quinoa and beans (garbanzo and peas). The difference is the hash cake recipe includes fresh herbs (parsley and mint….I used cilantro in place of mint) and the binder is chia seeds soaked in water instead of an egg.

Roasted carrots, macaroni & cheese, french green beans in balsamic glaze. LPC

For Sunday’s dinner, I made a pot roast for my family along with the sides pictured above. The pot roast (not pictured) looked divine, but I didn’t have any. The sides were delicious.

I took advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician for my annual exam. I saw my oncologist last month. My primary care physician walked into the office asking me if I’m still doing Zumba. Everything looks great….just waiting for the blood work results. I talked to my doctor about how I work hard to stay healthy.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours sorting through my mail. I had a paper bag full of paper for the recycling bin. It’s difficult to explain, but since the time I was in graduate school (2009-2011), I’ve lost interest in sorting through mail. I think during the time, since I had to narrow my focus to survive my grueling schedule as a working mom and student, I decided to put the mail on hold. I left it to my husband, and although he means well, he isn’t nearly as detailed as I am.

Sorting, reading, and filing the mail continues to be something I’ve ignored over the years. I could blame it on graduate school and having a demanding job and family. Whatever the case, it’s time for this habit to stop.

In an effort to improve my whole health in 2020, other goals of mine are to improve my financial health and get on top of this mail.

What are you cooking up this week? What are your top goals for 2020? How’s your progress with sticking to your goals?

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For the caregivers

Thus far in 2020, I’m being brave and accepting the realities in my life. I’m a caregiver. I have no choice, but to be brave because it’s vital for me to live in honesty and authenticity. I’m not a caregiver to a parent who is aging, as you would expect, because my mom passed away two years ago. My biological father and stepfather passed away several years before my mom. My mom was 78 years old. I’m a care giver to my husband, Bryan, who is just 54 years old. I’m just 46 years old.

Could I have imagined this in my life at this time while raising a family? Absolutely, not. I’m not bitter or disillusioned either. It goes without saying that I love Bryan. I will do whatever I can for him. I’m deeply grateful I have the capacity to manage all I do because I’ve often prayed for God to give me the capacity and He continues to do so. I’m coming to terms with yet another challenge I must endure.

It does sting a little to add the title of caregiver to my list of roles because it requires me to let go of dreams and plans for how I saw my life. I remember a year ago when I was planning to get my 4 wisdom teeth removed, one member of my team was describing how wonderful her mom was with catering to her as she recovered from getting her wisdom teeth removed. She indicated I would enjoy being catered to. I vividly recall telling her that in my life, I’m the one who takes care of people not the other way around. I’m her mom! This employee, and about half of my team, fit the millenial demographic.

It is what it is. I’m built to be strong. And Bryan is my rock when he is well. He did take care of me for those days of recovery after my wisdom tooth surgery. He could drive at the time too, which was helpful. When I was in the thick of my breast cancer treatment, he took care of me. We’ve taken care of each other over the years. That’s what marriage is.

I’m not interested in wrestling with my circumstances. I’m interested in learning from the light lessons, increasing my mental, spiritual, and physical capacity, and finding joy in the seemingly smallest things.

So if you’re a caregiver of any age, to any one, I know what that means. I choose to focus my energies on encouraging you (and myself) to be brave. Stay encouraged. You are the best person to care for your loved one. But take time for yourself. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s so true.

Little things count towards self-care like taking a warm shower, cooking (or buying) healthy meals to nourish yourself while you care for others, calling/texting a friend, unplugging, listening to inspiring music, researching support groups online, and taking time off work, to name a few.

If you’re a caregiver, you’re not alone. I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself. Please share any tips for me in my journey. 😀

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What’s next on this 2020 health journey?

Now that I’ve completed the 10-Day green smoothie challenge, what’s next for me on this health journey? Well, for starters, I will use this momentum to continue to cook and eat healthy meals.

Canned goods for Sunday soup. Mango Madness green smoothie in the background. LPC

I used my homemade chicken broth (collagen benefits) as a base for my delicious vegetable soup called Flat Flush soup. Soup is my ultimate comfort food. Flat Flush soup is full of nutrition. You can do a search on the internet for Flat Flush soup recipes.

Soup prep LPC

The ingredients in my soup are: onions, garlic, a variety of peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach, canned tomatoes, beans, parsley, cilantro, lots of spices, and chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth). Whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand for this soup will work. The cover photo was taken prior to simmering for 2 hours.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that cooking healthy meals is not just about keeping my physical body healthy, it is a soothing, essential part of my self-care routine. I particularly needed self-care yesterday after sitting in the emergency room for hours with my husband, Bryan. I was reminded then (not that I needed the reminding) health is beyond physical health. Physical health is very important, but in order to take care of our whole selves, there are other aspects we must attend to.

Health is a state of well being that includes physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, occupational and environmental health.

It’s essential that we all take care of our whole health. It may not be feasible or make sense to tackle everything at one time. This is where goal setting, planning, and execution comes in.

On a special note, I’ve adopted a new perspective on planning in the midst of the realities of life. I’ve been following Pastor Tony Evans out of Dallas, Texas. He wrote the bible lesson plan on Detours. He says to by all means plan, but plan making a space for God’s will. Plan acknowledging, “if God wills it”. That way when life doesn’t go according to our plans, we won’t be so crushed because we know God is with us and we’ve made a space for Him.

So in 2020 I’m looking forward to setting more goals, planning, and taking care of my whole self, my whole health, bit by bit.

How about you? What are your health plans/goals for 2020? What steps have you made thus far? How are you setting yourself up for success?

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The Green Glow: Day 9 – Berry Blast

My day was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to take a picture AT ALL of Day 9’s green smoothie – Berry Blast. The recipe consisted of simple, familiar flavors -mixed berries, banana, almond milk and spinach. I’ve been using mixed greens all week and added ground flax seeds and fresh ginger.

What I did do at home, after I gobbled up the YUMMY tacos my husband, Bryan, made for dinner, was sip on a soothing cup of warm, spiced almond milk with a hint of turmeric. It hit the spot. It’s almost like hot chocolate, but not. I enjoyed it in my kittie mug.

The kittie was bathing in my spiced almond milk. LPC

Sometimes, the real test of a challenge is towards the end of it. I had to deal with an irritating situation at work that started at the end of Day 8 and it has caused me some stress.

Taking healthy food options with me to work like my green smoothies prevents me from succumbing to emotional eating. If I do have a piece of candy (like I did today), I won’t go too far off course because I’ve already fueled myself with healthy options.

Today, I packed for work: the rest of my veggie bowl with sriracha sauce, yogurt and berries, an apple, mixed nuts, pork rinds, and the STAR, my lovely Berry Blast green smoothie. Those goodies fueled me for almost 10 hours of work. I’m not messing up my progress over emotional eating.

I’ve set myself up for success. It all goes back to planning and preparation. Both points I mentioned in previous posts. I can honestly say I will complete the 10-Day green smoothie challenge tomorrow. You know how I know??? Because I have two green smoothies waiting for me in the fridge.

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The Green Glow: Day 8 – Mango Madness…again

Yup!!! I’m at the point of the challenge where I’m making repeat smoothies. The point of this 10-Day challenge is not to follow the plan exactly, but to add one healthy habit to my day. It doesn’t matter which green smoothies I drink, what matters is that I drink a green smoothie. And I have been indulging in these DELECTABLE healthy combinations every day.

The journal of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. -Lao Tzu

The hardest part of most things is getting started. Once you get going, then you wonder why you hadn’t started sooner. You just need to get over the wall in your mind that’s keeping you from your goal(s). Just start. Just do it. Then you’ll be fine.

What steps have you taken towards your 2020 goals?

Plaque on my office wall. LPC
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The Green Glow: Day 6 – Cream Machine

Didn’t I tell you in a previous post that healthy habits beget more healthy habits? Well, it’s true. Day 6 is almost gone and I’m more than half way there. This has been a fun 10-Day green smoothie challenge! I LOVE the different flavor combinations. Today’s smoothie was DELECTABLY CREAMY and smooth due to the addition of the avocado and banana.

Not only did I drink my LUSCIOUS green smoothie, I also made a vegan dish; hence, another healthy treat. Participants in the challenge received a few bonus recipes.

Simple Green Veggie Bowl with Coconut Sriracha Sauce. LPC

I was off work today and decided to make one of the bonus recipes and I’m so glad I did. Not only did I have a healthy portion for lunch, but I have lunch portions for the next two days. There’s nothing like that Sriracha Sauce. It’s better than I imagined.

Veggie bowl LPC

I substituted green beans for asparagus and maple syrup for honey in the sauce. The recipe also called for walnuts which I did not have. I used all frozen vegetables too. I’m not afraid to role with the punches. After all, I’m an experienced home cook. The dish still came out AMAZING and will definitely be a regular on my meal rotation schedule.

About to drink up the Cream Machine after my morning work out. LPC

It’s much more beneficial and productive to focus on adding the positive things to your life rather than focusing on what you need to remove (but you can’t get rid of). This experience makes me appreciate I’m taking the time to do this for myself. This is what I call self-care. It actually feels indulgent to be fueling my body with these beautiful and healthy foods. I’m here for all of it!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to sign up for this 10-day green smoothie challenge. Read my Day 1 and Day 2 posts in the The Green Glow series.

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The Green Glow: Day 5 – Mango Madness & other things

I’ve never done this before! This is the 5th day in a row I’ve posted to my blog. I attribute it to my excitement and enjoyment of sharing my 10-Day green smoothie challenge with you. Check out my earlier posts to see how you can join. This whole experience has been EASY BREEZY!

I’ve also been sharing some light lessons on successfully maintaining healthy habits and goals in general. It occurred to me how important it is to assess your progress periodically.

As a breast cancer thriver, about 30 minutes prior to every 6-month appointment with my oncologist, I get blood work done. In December, I had been anticipating my blood work results because I wanted to know if my iron deficiency anemia was improving. I didn’t think so because of the symptoms I was having. I also wanted to know if my glucose level was decreasing.

The benefits of seeing my oncologist so frequently is that he addressed the anemia right away by prescribing medication. That was about 6 months ago. I was concerned about my glucose level because my primary care physician told me about a year ago that I should avoid the “bad” carbohydrates because my glucose was getting high for me.

My anemia has improved as my numbers are in range, but my glucose was higher than it was 6 months ago….still within range, but not where I want it to be.

With doctors, perspective really matters because my oncologist’s focus is on the cancer; whereas my primary care physician is focused on the big picture. She identified an upward trend in my glucose level. My oncologist has never said anything about my glucose. From his point of view, my numbers are within range. In the big picture, I need to prevent any future illnesses if I can.

This is a wake up call that I need to rethink some of my food choices, including reassessing my green smoothie healthy habit. Granted, the holiday season just ended and I tend to eat more sweets during this time. In fact, I’ve yet to post about all of the baking I’ve done. Whatever the case, I inevitably get back on track after the new year.

For the green smoothies, I will complete this challenge. Afterward, I will continue to drink green smoothies, but will focus on low glycemic fruits like berries instead of the ones that tend to be higher on the glycemic scale like the features of the Day 5 smoothie – Mangos, oranges, and banana (some of my favorites). Update: I did a search since typing this post and the three fruits in this smoothie actually are not high glycemic fruits. Oranges are low, bananas are low to medium, and mangos are medium….so Not bad.

I also plan to reduce my intake of high carbohydrate foods like white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes.

Pasta alternatives

I purchased a couple of boxes of what I’ll call “pasta alternatives” months ago because I vowed to be on a low glycemic diet. These versions have more protein and fiber. It’s funny that the boxes indicate “Product of Italy”. Do they makes pastas like these in Italy? I just asked my husband, Bryan, who lived in Sicily for two years and he doesn’t think so.

Tonight, I used the pasta made with pea flour to make macaroni and cheese. I did not like the taste of the pasta itself after I boiled it. However, combined with my delicious cheese sauce and some time in the oven, it wasn’t bad. And to my surprise, my husband and kids enjoyed it. I also plan on using my spiralizer more for vegetables as an alternative to pasta altogether.

Reassessing your goals is important to make sure you’re staying on track. You don’t have to beat yourself up. Just do an honest self-assessment. No shame, no blame. Readjust if needed.

How are your 2020 goals coming along?

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The Green Glow: Day 3 Pineapple Dreamcake

Happy Friday everyone! I’m energetic on the third day of 2020 and my third day on this 10-day green smoothie challenge. Have I told you how much I LOVE tropical fruits like pineapples??? Today’s smoothie features pineapples beautifully with cherries, a banana, almond milk, and spinach. I added ground flax seeds and a small knob of fresh ginger, which took it over the TOP! Scrumptious!

In order to maintain any healthy habit, it’s key to set yourself up for success. For example, with this challenge, I did some things ahead of the challenge to ensure I wouldn’t have any excuses not to reach my goal of completing the 10-day green smoothie challenge.

Although the instruction manual divides the shopping into two grocery trips (likely to be spaced out by a week), I completed all of my shopping for the challenge in one weekend.

Most of my fruits are frozen, so I don’t have to worry about them spoiling. One tip I did to ensure my fresh spinach doesn’t spoil is I immediately froze some of the fresh spinach. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for a while, so frozen, fresh spinach works great in smoothies. When I’m ready to blend, I just let my frozen fruit thaw a bit in a measuring cup on the counter.

It’s essential to set yourself up for success in maintaining any healthy habit, or any goal, for that matter. Preparation and planning will help get you there.

What are some of your health goals for 2020? How will you set yourself up for success?

Smoothie prep LPC
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The Green Glow: Day 2 – Pink Flamingo

Pink Flamingo Smoothie is a Winner! LPC

Happy Thursday! Today is my first day back to work in 2020 and I’m feeling FABULOUS! I prepped today’s smoothie recipe last night and it was more “pink” last night than this morning. It was more of a greenish brown by the time I drank it, but still DELICIOUS!

Pink Flamingo LPC

I suppose the strawberries, combined with the mango, spinach and almond milk would make a “pink” hue; however, I substituted strawberries for mixed berries. The hue came out to a shade of pink, which may not be very reflective in the picture. To this smoothie, I added ground flax seeds. I forgot to add the knob of fresh ginger, but it was still YUMMY. Each recipe serves one, but I always end up with a little extra. The jar to the right is about a half a cup. I’ll drink that up as a snack before dinner.

I want to share a tip on acquiring a collection of mason jars. It’s really simple. Don’t ever throw away used jars such as spaghetti jars, jam jars, coconut oil jars, pickled pepper jars, salsa jars, spice jars, etc. I remove the labels by soaking in hot water and then BOOM, I have a new jar in a different size. I have a cabinet full of purchased and re-purposed mason jars I use for my smoothies.

If you’re interested in adding this one healthy habit of drinking a green smoothie to your day, check out the website at https://simplegreensmoothies.com/ for more information.

Cheers to our health!