Failure! 30 Day Project Summary – March

My 30 Day Project for the month of March has been to do 100 sit-ups in a single set.   Based on February’s results, I had a plan.

I will be doing 5 sets, morning and night, as follows:

Set 1:  Half of my maximum amount.

Sets 2-4: 3/4 of my max.

Set 5: Do sit-ups until my abs start to cramp, thus setting my max for the next session.

I failed miserably.

It started off perfectly.   My base amount was 20 sit-ups.   I had a plan.  I’d proven, at least to myself, that I was able to follow an intense workout plan, even through pain.    I was encouraged by February’s results, so I dove in.

The first 3 or 4 days went well.   I had some muscle strain, but that was expected.   I hadn’t done sit-ups for years.   I discovered muscles I actually hadn’t known existed, just from how they hurt.   This was the good pain, the pain that shows progress.  After doing the push-ups in February, this pain wasn’t as bad as I had expected.   Push-ups are an excellent ab workout.

Maybe I became complacent.  Either my form slipped, or I was going too fast and “bounced” through the sit-ups, but I pulled a muscle in my back.   This was the bad pain, the pain that warns of fundamental problems.   My form, my size, my history of back problems, who knows?   One or more of those possible problems reared up to turn an excellent idea into a disaster.   March’s plan got sidelined for a few days.

When my back was better, I started again.   Again, everything was fine for 3 or 4 days.  Then my back betrayed me, again.   Another break, another try, another strain and I gave up.    I made it to 50, then just stopped.   Too much more, and I wouldn’t be able to tolerate sitting at my desk.   Or maybe I just wimped out, afraid to hurt my back again.

I’m disappointed.   I haven’t done a single sit-up in the last week.

To make matters worse, without the sit-ups to do in the morning, I’ve been letting myself snooze my alarm clock instead of getting up at 5.   March has been such a slacker month.

Lesson learned:  Always listen to your body.   Don’t get tied into a specific routine–even one you created for yourself–if your body is demanding to stop.   Watch your form and make sure you aren’t putting undue strain on anything that can cause long-term damage.

Lesson learned, part II:  Push-ups are more fun and less painful than sit-ups.   They will be getting incorporated into my ongoing routine.

Ending the sit-ups did leave me enough energy to get an early start on April’s 30 Day Project.   The goal for next month is to declutter every room in the house:   Every closet, every dresser, every drawer.

Loft Bed

Loft Bed

To start, we replaced our son’s dresser, bed, and desk with a loft-bed that combines the three.   While transferring items from the desk and dresser to the new bed, everything was sorted to make sure it still fit and was used and useful.  If it didn’t meet those criteria, it was either tossed or priced and boxed for a garage sale.

In the girls’ room, we removed a dresser, the changing table, a toddler bed, a convertible crib/toddler bed.  It all got replaced with a set of bunk beds and the dresser we took from our son.   Everything got the same garage-sale check before it was put away.

Both of these changes easily tripled the usable floor space in each room and all of the kids love their new beds.   Using the magic of Craigslist, I think we got the new furniture for 10-15% of retail, and have old furniture to add to our sale, which will further defray the cost.

This leaves the master bedroom, the bathroom, the front closet, the kitchen and our entire basement to go.   Shoes and jackets that have never been worn.   Books that will never be reread.  Bye-bye.   Some of it will be painful, but we all realize it’s necessary.  We’ve already filled more than 2 dozen boxes of stuff to sell.   None of it is coming back in the house.  If it doesn’t sell, we’re donating it.

More to come as we progress through the mountains of crap.

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5 Ways to Reduce Temptation and Have a Peaceful dinner

It never fails: you send the kids off to the salt mine babysitter for the evening, cook a nice dinner and light some candles. Then, just as you sit down, the phone rings.

Now you have 2 choices, you can do like me and ignore the phone if it’s inconvenient to answer or you can ruin a romantic dinner.   The telemarketers know that, statistically, you are home at dinner time.  They don’t care if you are celebrating an anniversary or just trying to connect with your loved one.

Why not preemptively stop the irritation? While you’re at it, stop the junk mail, too. It’s not as hard as you’d think.  It’s a simple, almost free process that will not only eliminate the frustration of pointless calls and sorted junk mail, but will also cut down on the temptation of seeing something shiny to buy.

Here are the four steps to a leaner, greener and romantic dinner-making you:

1. Get on all of the Do Not Call lists.

  • You can get on the federal list by visiting www.donotcall.gov or calling (888) 382-1222.  The tele-sales weasels will have have a month to clear you out of their systems.
  • If you still get calls–some calls are still allowed, including political calls, non-profit fundraisers, and surveys–they are still required to maintain an in-house do not call list.  Tell them to put you on that list.
  • Many states have a Do Not Call list that is entirely independent of the the federal list. This is redundant, but the more roadblocks you put up, the better you will be.

If you are still getting calls, report them to the FTC at:

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
1-877-FTC-HELP
www.ftc.gov

2.  Opt out of junk mail. The Direct Marketing Association manages a list of people who do not want junk mail.  This list only applies to members of the association, but most mass-mailers participate.  Go to www.dmachoice.org to enroll.  It costs $1 to get on the list and will stop most junk mail for 3 years.

3. Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers. Go to  www.optoutprescreen.com to remove your name from the lists generated by the major credit bureaus to sell to marketing firms.  You can put a halt to this breed of junk for 5 years or forever.

4. Ask them to stop. If you are getting catalogs from a company with which you have an existing relationship, ask them to knock it off.   Virtually every one will stop sending you garbage to ensure a continuing business relationship with you.

5.  Guerrilla Warfare. If none of this works, there are still a couple of options.

  • Keep an airhorn by the phone.   They won’t call twice.
  • Take everything you receive from a company, stuff it all in the prepaid return envelope they helpfully included, and drop it back in the mail.   They only get charged for the prepaid envelopes when they are used, so use them up.  It’s illegal to alter them to send mail to other people, but it’s not illegal to mail them all of their own garbage.  If you cost them enough money, they will eventually back down.
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Is Your Budget Doing More Harm Than Good?

Do you stress over your money?

Is your spouse under the impression that you are constantly fighting over money?

Are you constantly fighting over money?

Have you completely eliminated your quality of life?

Do you spend hours each week analyzing where your money has gone?

A total budget can have a negative effect on the other parts of your life. If your spouse isn’t 100% on board, maybe he/she needs some “blow money” that doesn’t need to be tracked.  If you aren’t spending enough time with your children because you are tracking expenses and adjusting your budget every day, you need to automate something, or at least loosen your standards.  Maybe tracking every penny isn’t the right method of budgeting for you.

Don’t let the perfect budget destroy the rest of your life. If money is still a fight, you’re going to need to compromise on something, now, or you’ll end up compromising with the help of a divorce attorney.

Don’t forget, you are living now, not in the future.   Plan for the future, but live in the present.  There is a balance there, somewhere. Find it, or you and your loved ones won’t be happy.

Update:  This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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February 30 Day Project #1: Romantic Gestures

For the month of February, I had two 30 Day Projects: Do 100 pushups in a single set and another, that I haven’t posted.   Until now.

The reason I haven’t posted anything about the second project is because it would have ruined it.   I set a goal to do something nice for my wife every single day.   It’s really a much harder goal than it sounds.   Between juggling wrestling practice, crabby kids, the usual winter illnesses and deadlines at work, finding time to arrange for anything special presents a challenge, and I wanted it to be a surprise.

This morning, the last day of the month, I made breakfast in bed.  While she was eating, I handed her a letter and set a present on the floor next to the bed.  The present was one of our wedding invitations, framed, and the closing of our wedding ceremony in a matching frame.

The letter reads:

Dearest,

As you know, I’ve been working on a series of thirty-day projects.   In January, I got up at 5 every day and read to the girls almost every day.   If February, my project has been to get to 100 pushups in a single set.   Almost.

I worked at that and accomplished it, but it was really a cover project.  I love you and wanted a way to express that.  So, my main project has been you.

In the first week of the month, we had two snowstorms, do you remember?  For each one, I made sure to get your truck cleaned off before you were ready to go to work, with fresh coffee.   At the beginning of the week, you got a full 30 minute backrub, with absolutely no hidden motive.   At the end of the week, I sent you a letter expressing my feelings.  Over the weekend, you had no diapers to do–I think you ended up with one–and I let you sleep in as late as you wanted on Sunday.   It was a good first week.

The second week, there was another snowstorm on Monday.  Combining that with the grocery shopping kept me from having time to do anything on Monday, but Tuesday, you woke up to a clean truck again.  Wednesday, there were flowers.  Thursday, dinner.   Game night at [friend’s house]?  That was planned, by me, 3 weeks in advance.   Over the weekend, I watched the kids so you could go to [cousin’s] to relax, and you got breakfast in bed on Sunday.  I may have missed a day, but the week was still a success, I think.

The following week, while you were getting ready for bed, you saw me go outside and asked about it.  Thankfully, the girls woke up, because I had just put a note in your truck telling you 10 things I love about you.   I also took all of the kids to wrestling–twice–to give you some sanity time and gave you another long backrub.  This was also the week you got sick, which meant a day in bed for you, instead of me being able to plan something nice.

This week, the last week of the month, I took all of the kids to wrestling again, giving you a chance to take a nice, relaxing bath.  Those were originally planned to be two separate nights.   Instead, it was combined into one night.   I also managed to go shopping to buy the components of the present I am giving you, put the present together, and write this letter.  Last night, our date was a part of this, and today, so is breakfast.

My goal has been to do something nice for you, every day. So now, for an entire month, you have been the focus of my dedicated attention, nearly every single day.  I’ve felt closer to you, than I have in a while.   Have you enjoyed the attention?

Happy Valentine’s Month.

The actual expenses were the flowers, the frames, dinner and a movie, and a buy-in for Texas Hold ‘Em at her cousin’s house. Everything else was done with what we have, gifts of time and energy instead of money.

Total cost: $159 for an entire month of romantic gestures. Money well-spent, for sure.

Update:  This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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