Change is good and is here

Happy Sunday, folks – I hope you all are safe and well.

Do you know this feeling when you constantly run from one thing to the next and wish you could just stop and process what has been happening?

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I bet you do.

Those who follow my blog knows that I have an intense work that makes me run from literally one meeting to the next, from one task to the other.

I hardly have that life-work balance, and work most of the time, even when I am exhausted.

The good thing is that I have been taking a couple of days off here and there, and this gave me the much needed opportunity to just stop and process.

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What did I find during these self-reflection moments?

I have done so well within the last few years, and especially since the Holidays since when I was non-stop working. Yes, things are slower and requires much more effort and time (working from home..), but I have actually done quite a lot, and also entered into new areas and experiences professionally, so I actually admire my interest and resilience now.

I also found out that I was in peace with my past and was peaceful in the present. Whether this is because of my age and wisdom coming from it, or something else (like my antidepressant medication), I do not know. What I know is that I feel good and I am aware that everything happened and every choices I made, even the bad ones, brought me to today.

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I also realized that I had changed a little bit, especially during the pandemic. I can so “no” more easily and reduce my workload (and stress). I can stop being too meticulous on things that do not matter that much. I still do a great, high quality job. I just better sort what needs my meticulousness, time, and efforts at full extent, and what does not.

And, I found out that I need to change a couple of things in my daily life. I struggle with eating a variety of food – I tend to eat the same greens and fish all the time. Recently shopping became just an automatic act, picking up the same things all over week after week. I always fell into this routine. I made a mental note that I could make an effort to diversify the food I am consuming, and make cooking and eating a little bit fun.

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I also need to care more about my bones, muscles, and flexibility as a mid-age lady. I know walking is great but it does not help much with the bone density, so light weight training as well as stretching need to be an integral part of my daily life. These are not new aims – in the past I was able to keep up with them for sometime, and then they slowly slipped out of my routine. Why? Because I have so many things in my to-do list. By having a me-time, which will help these permanently integrated in my life. is thus more important than ever.

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My weight. I was always a big girl, which I do not mind. But with age came the fat in the belly area, which I do not like. I know what makes me lose weight and what makes me gain weight. Exercise will not make me lose weight, only what I eat. So more greens, less starchy food, and more protein. That is my best dietary strategy to lose the fat. Since I many times in my life wanted to lose weight but never kept it, perhaps this aim is now more important than ever. Why not to make the weight loss one aim that will stamp my mid-age years? Worth trying 🙂

Professionally, I looked at my to do list and I have seen a couple of things only 🙂 That means I can start new projects, undertake new roles, and develop more as a professional. I am very excited about this 🙂

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Somethings however does not need to change. They are well established in my life and they are good. for example, saving, investing money for my retirement. Cleaning the home regularly. Visiting the thrift stores for items I may need and use. Helping others in need, such as family or animal shelters. Limiting waste, especially food waste. My furniture or other items in the house. All good for now.

The moral of the story is that sometimes we need to stop and help our mind bring us what needs to be cherished and what needs to change. Both are good. Take that time off, folks.

how blogging changes your life

I have been contemplating, however late it seems this year, about the changes I want to make in my life in 2018.

Then I realized I have already done quite a bit of changes and improvements that made my life abundant, easy, more self-sufficient, and satisfactory. I think I am good where I am 🙂

The majority of the changes I have made fall in the following categories: frugal life; simple life; reduced waste; and self-reliance.

Let me explain.

The need for frugal live was driven by the home-ownership that necessitated cutting costs and increasing age that require better investments so that I could handle the repair and other costs a house requires (a 100 years old house requires many) and the anxiety and uncertainty about my own future. While I was on the average pretty good in living below my means, thanks to many inspiring stories and bloggers going through the same journey I found some kind of strength and higher level of motivation. Score! 🙂 Frugal life-standards made me appreciate what I have had and the excitement coming out of finding ways to cut cost, better deals, and better financial management. As a result comes the feeling of being less dependent on material and being abundant in so many different ways.

As part of frugal choices, I also switched from automatic take of cab in the morning and the afternoon during the work days. It was a struggle alright and it still is. Bus operates only every 30 min and in our harsh Canadian winters it is not a pleasant activity to wait in an open bus stop. I still take the cab time to time when I am crunched in time or tired. But when compared to previous years, I say the reduction in my transportation cost is an impressive success.

I also walk time to time to work and from work. I am usually good at routinely walking in the afternoon. In summer time walking in the morning is also very pleasant. I feel great after walking 25-30 min and it also makes me proud of myself for having a day relying on my own abilities rather than others. It is one example of self-sufficiency and easy-peasy life style I have developed lately.

Other examples of self-sufficiency efforts are baking my own bread, making my own jams/marmalade, ad pickling. They are not only exciting activities, but I also share them with neighbours and friends, which gives me an extra level of excitement.

The frugal life also brings in reducing waste, particularly food waste. I now am very conscious about what I purchase and I also freeze food. Frozen food is very practical for me as I do not like cooking everyday and a ready meal is always appreciated, especially if they are home-made. I implemented other changes in my aim to reduce the waste. Plastic shopping bags is a good example; I mostly use my tote now. I donate my clothes and other items if they are in good conditions to prevent them from ending up in the landfill (and support people in need). I use mostly re-usable cleaning cloths rather than paper towels. I cut up old clothes (not good enough to be donated) and use them as one-time cleaning cloths. I make use of coupons, while not in great quantity, to help with my expenses. Last, I also purchase items from thrift stores that helps not only me and environment but also the people in need and the organizations that support them.

I also declutter once a year or so to identify the extra, un-wanted, or battered items, and then remove them from my office or home by dumping, donating, or re-using. Excellent activity I must say. What a relief once they are gone out of my life. Additionally, it helps me to see what I already have and make use of them and feel grateful for their presence in my life. How many times I found a pair of shoes or a piece of clothe in good condition that I could use? Blogs about decluttering was instrumental in doing this activity at a more conscious level.

When I look at all of these I kind of realize that they are all inter-connected; frugal life style is powered by decluttering and making smarter choices about expenses and needs/wants; waste and unnecessary expenses are reduced by many small acts; abundance increase by being aware and grateful; and life becomes quite easier once we realize the alternative ways to do the daily activities.

How is blogging related to all of these?

First, we by sharing our own stories and plans somehow support the others with the same interest. Second by sharing our plans, we move one step closer to implementing these plans in our lives. Third we often find new ways to enrich our lives and reach our goals; whether it is through shopping bans, or developing a hearty sourdough starter by looking at the others’ experiences.

My take on my current life style is that I in fact have done very well in reaching these aims and changing my priorities. It took me around 3 years, but I am content at where I am right now and I think this blog and blog sphere have been instrumental in it.

 

reflections

Today I have not worked like crazy as I have done in the past 3 months. I rather took my time to reflect and I needed it. This was mostly motivated by the fact that yesterday I almost collapsed emotionally. My nerves are fried and I needed a break to go back to a healthy level of exhaustion (if there is anything like this ever) and feel good (because I deserve it, like anyone else).

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Life is bigger than what we experience and in order to expand our experiences, we must stop this wheel of routine and un-focus for a while, and look beyond where we are. It is exciting and refreshing. I am glad I have found a chance to do so today.

One thing I keep notice in such times is that I actually do better than I think. For instance, in the last 3 months I have re-arranged the furniture in my living room and kitchen, and they both look lovely and more functional. It was hard to move everything by myself, but I made it and the end results are excellent 🙂

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I also made quite a progress in my yard. I digged the high part of the yard and placed the digged soil on the lower parts. I have four stalks of mint that are flourishing in the yard. I have planted seeds and grew beautiful flowers. New flowers and plants appeared in my yard this year, which are a delight to look at. I filled the sides of my yard with soil in the last two days (commercial soil) and now I have a wider-looking yard and the side sections are ready to be planted next year. It was tiring and challenging to carry those soil bags (30 liters each) from store to home, but I made it. I planted potato, garlic, and onion and all flourished and yielded (I have collected around 1 kg of potato; can you imagine my joy?)? I planted 35 cloves of garlic last week for harvesting next year and mulched over with dried leaves to protect them from frost during the winter. My neighbours renewed their part of the fence with fence similar to mine, and as such the yard looks really good now. Also the next door neighbours painted the exterior of their house and it looks beautiful. I have been lucky to have had all of these improvements this year 🙂

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As per work, I have done really good, even though it was stressful. At least my efforts produced results, which is extremely satisfying.

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I have points to improve still, but I am not worried about them. Only because I know I am capable of doing them, too. One recurring issue is eating better and a variety of food. I am making an effort again nowadays. we will see how this will work out. I must reduce or eliminate my extra expenses that are made only to feel good in such a stressful time of my life, but I am slowly getting there. I must also regularly do my lower back exercises to keep it healthy. A manageable list of aims that I am sure I can do. It is just a matter of time.

Today I have taken steps to improve in these areas. I ate veggies and fruits at the office; I took the bus rather than cab; I made an appointment with my physiotherapist to help me get on track with my lower back. I ate junk food in the evening, but I am assuming this too will be gone sometime. I accepted the fact that sometimes change occurs over time, rather than when I want it. Acceptance brings serenity. Nevertheless, I must keep trying and making these changes occur.

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magic time

Have that ever happened to you?

That you have worked very hard and for very long to remove something from your life that has been bothering you like a bad habit or a very hard/challenging work project, finally it is done, and all of a sudden you feel like you are floating, lifted up, and you need sometime to just savor the time, stay put, cherish the accomplishment, and perhaps start welcoming the wishes and plans for the future?

That is what is happening to me today. 

I realize that I am at an excellent time of my life and career. 

I realize that I now am free of hurdles and things that have been dragging me down, and naturally I am lifted up. That I lifted myself up.

I realize that I am free to go even higher and accomplish way harder, more challenging aims, make my life and career much better.

I realize that I am free, accomplished, and I am confident that I will do better and much better, both on my life and at my work 🙂

………………..

It is strange how strongly accomplishing a long-term aim affects and changes you….

I have been looking at my life and I have seen what a nice, efficient, abundant, comfortably frugal and waste-free, and simple life I have built for myself over the last few years. I should be proud of myself – quite an accomplishment.

I have been looking at my life-style and I see how healthy my life is when compared to 2 years ago: I walk more, exercise sometime, and eat much better. I am also quite energetic – thanks to my vitamin D supplement 🙂

I am middle aged but free of chronic conditions (thank goodness), able, independent, and working. I love my job the majority of the time. I have lost a part of my interest I have had in the past, but I still am doing quite good and I am productive. 

I m ready to do better, though.

Now is a good time; I want new and energizing things integrated in my life and my work.

I have little idea what these would be: personally that would mean maybe developing a new interest, or risking for something quite big (like developing a company or an organization – wohoooo 🙂 )  Professionally, that would mean developing new areas to work on, or new much bigger roles.

I do not know what it would be.

But I know that I will be ready when an opportunity appears in my life 🙂

Aims and plans: 3) eating healthier and losing weight

I continue to tackle my recent aims and plans to make my life better, as I wish it.

The third item on the list was: 

3. eating healthier and losing 25 pounds and keeping it off

I have always been a chubby girl, but not overly over-weight until something like 8 years ago when I moved to my current city and I gained weight – around 30 pounds to be exact. I am not sure what exactly caused this; I am thinking possibly the increased stress levels as well as the reduced physical activity levels. In anyways, two years ago my doctor informed me that my blood sugar levels were borderline and even 5% fat loss would make a positive difference in my sugar levels. I took this to my heart but I could not really implement any weight loss/better diet strategies for a long time. Luckily last time we checked it had improved but I was advised to lose weight if I can and increase my exercise levels.

I have made several attempts in eating better and exercising more over my life. Long story short; I know: a) exercising does not make me lose weight, b) if I can limit my night-eats and if I limit carbs, like bread, rice, or even sweets, I feel lighter, c) there is something about chewy raw veggies that helps with water retention or fat dissolution (not sure which one), d) I keep consume the same types of food, which needs to change.

Knowing these I now am ready to remind myself that I can do better and in fact lose the dreaded extra weight. I just need to get more conscious about these, that is all. And this post will just function to do so.

Plan: 1) Shop for 6 different veggies/fruits that I have not consumed in the last 1 week. I did that in the past with success; it aims to facilitate me consume a variety of food

2) drink not one but two glasses of milk every day – I read somewhere that calcium helps keeping the bone health as well as managing weight. I want to see how that goes

3) keep walking in the afternoons and if I can, in the mornings to the office. Make an attempt to walk at the weekends too, even for 10 min.

4) everyday eat at least two raw veggie in the form of salad or snack: lettuce, onion, herbs, spinach, carrots, tomato, and others. There are many options to choose from.

5) For mid-night snack, continue to choose yogurt, milk, and fruits.

6) Continue with the reduced intake of bread (now that I bake my own bread, interestingly I consume less of it..)

7) Have 2 refined carb-less (bread, rice, pasta, etc.) days per week: I just came up with this idea right now and I wonder how that would work….. Since my weekends are usually pleasure-oriented, I guess what I need is to focus on the beginning of the week. Maybe Mondays and Thursdays – how about that? Exciting 🙂

I am currently 200 pounds (ooops 🙂 ) Let’s see where I am gonna go from here.

Aims and plans: 1) getting a leaner budget and b) paying mortgage early

With this post, I start to dissect the aims I have posted yesterday and focus on my plans/thoughts/ability to achieve them.

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The first item on the list is:

1. getting a much leaner budget and getting rid of the extra expenses for good

Ok. Now, since June 2015 I have had a great budget that worked wonders for me. Since the new year it has been a lot better, only that since June this year I lost track a little bit and started to over-spend. I am still keeping frugal, taking advantage of sales, implementing a nice no-waste food policy, continuing my shopping ban on books, shoes, and clothes, taking the bus rather than the cab almost every day, and am very keen about designing my meals around the on-sale food every week, yet these extra expenses are draining me.

So what is causing me to spend more?

Stress. It is causing me to consume stress relieving but nevertheless unhealthy stuff. It is crazy how much money (around 70-80 bucks per week) I spend on these junk! I had completely erased them from my life at the new year when I had achieved a great/the leanest budget ever. My savings were up and I had a positive chequeing account for the first time in the last two years or so. It was so satisfying, so exciting to be feeling so. I felt abundant, enriched, and proud.

Now, I want to feel this way again!

Root cause: stress (or lack of will power – you tell me). This is one issue that I must tackle soon and quite effectively.

Consequences: unhealthy life style, harm to my body, and reduced self-respect. I also lack the excitement and other positive feelings associated with not doing these expenses. Plus, my savings have been down lately, which is rightfully annoying me.

Action item: Stop it!!!! Simple and effective (we will see how this goes, right?). I did it once and I would like to think that I can do it again. Please, please, wish me luck with this!

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The second item on the list is:

2. making an extra payment to mortgage till new year and increasing my payment after that sometime. My very ambitious plan is to drop it to 100K in 3 years. Likely not gonna happen but whatever I can do is good

My current principal/mortgage debt is 175K… This is a lot of debt, which bothers me. The interesting thing is that in 3 years (sept 2019) with my current payment plan, it is supposed to fall to $132,200. When I think about it, it is awesome that I can drop it to such a much less amount.

But I feel like I can do better.

I have been saving some cash since last Spring, which I had planned to contribute towards my principal. Initially I had planned it to be around 5K, but with the recent extra expenses, it will be around 4k. I plan to make this payment around new year; better before the new year to celebrate 🙂

An extra 4K would make my mortgage drop to $128,200 till Sept 2019. I have always felt like if it is less than $120,000, then I would have a greater motivation to pay faster. Now, I think the best way for me is to actually aim higher and make it drop to $100,000 till then. The question is how am I going to do that?

I am currently contributing to my RRSP (maximum allowed), paying HBP (home buying plan in Canada – basically I borrowed money from my RRSP as down-payment, which I am supposed to pay back in 17 years. I pay almost double the amount I am supposed to pay each year so that I can pay it off early), a small personal retirement plan with an annual payment, and my TFSA.

Since I had taken money out of my TFSA when I purchased my home, my TFSA is not maximized yet. It looks like with my current contribution levels, I will need around 3 years to maximize it. While that would be awesome, I am more inclined to keep it below the allowed maximum level, and rather channelize the TFSA payments to mortgage. My current plan is to contribute another 9K to TFSA (which would take around 13 months or so) and then stop contributing to it for two years (till the end of my mortgage term).

So, 2 years of not contributing to TFSA would mean an extra $15,600 to go towards my mortgage. Together with the one-time lump sum payment I plan to make this december, that would mean at the end of the term my mortgage debt drops to $112,600.

I am not at $100,000 yet but it is possible that I can come up with an extra $12,600 sometime, somehow to make it finally become $100,000….

Action items: Make 4K one time lump sum payment to mortgage in late December 2016. Continue with contributing to TFSA for another year or so, and then stop it to use the money to increase the mortgage payments. Whenever an extra amount of money is saved, use it to pay the mortgage. This last one can be possible if I had got back to my lean budget – one more motivation to start it tomorrow! 🙂

 

 

getting back to aims and plans

I love to have aims and plans to tackle them. There is something exciting and energizing about this.

I am not always successful in my aims or plans, but, hey, I will try as many times as it takes and as much as I can enjoy.

The majority of my aims are around similar themes; having a financial plan; having a simple yet non-routine life; and having a healthier life-style.

I will focus on details later but the particular areas of my life that I would love to work on real soon are:

  1. getting a much leaner budget and getting rid of the extra expenses for good
  2. making an extra payment to mortgage till new year and increasing my payment after that sometime. My very ambitious plan is to drop it to 100K in 3 years. Likely not gonna happen but whatever I can do is good
  3. eating healthier and losing 25 pounds and keeping it off
  4. having a vacation somewhere this year only for my own enjoyment
  5. having a less stressful work life and dealing with work and emotions better
  6. being more social
  7. baking the perfect loaf
  8. decluttering the house and the office again and possibly again
  9. buying a new set of plates
  10. being more aware and appreciative of my surroundings, life experiences, and everything else in life 🙂

how am I doing with the challenges I have assigned to myself a while ago?

I am too talkative today… I know.. I know… Hope you do not mind! Having a day to myself without working or house chore is really a blessing – it allows me to learn and do new stuff and get excited about the new useful information.

This post is a continuation of a few number of previous posts where I wrote about the changes I would like to do in my life; some of them good for my budget, some good for my mental or physical health. I revisit them time to time to see how I have done since the last time. I also update them, too, and create new challenges for myself.

so let’s see how I have done so far:

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challenge 1: take the bus (not the cab). It was done then!. I am even better since then; I started to walk in the morning from home to office in the last 3 weeks! I am so excited about this and happy to see that I have the energy to do so and open-heartedness to truly enjoy it. I am not sure how long I can keep doing that as the old man winter is about to arrive and it also rains time to time. Let’s cross the fingers 🙂

challenge 2: eat better and healthy – cut out the carbs and consume more veggies and fruits. DONE. I am eating much better compared to before 🙂

challenge 3: walk an extra 30 min at the weekends. NOT DONE – NEED A PLAN.

challenge 4: do not buy books for two months. DONE! 🙂 I have a shopping freeze till holidays and it has been going really well, I am okay with occasional purchase of a great book.

challenge 5: cut out the bagel breakfast- one bagel/breakfast. DONE!

challenge 6: do grocery shopping as required and buy small amounts. Going well. DONE! 🙂 

challenge 7: start listening to music and relaxing 20 min a day; this is done easily now thanks to my computer and youtube/internet sources. DONE! 🙂 

challenge 8: drink at least one cup of tea a day. I easily and lovingly do this during the week. DONE! 🙂 

challenge 9: get up in the morning and smile to yourself and hum a song. well, remembered to do only a few times. NEED MOTIVATION AGAIN.

PLAN: just remember this challenge; the rest will come 🙂

challenge 10: look outside the window at the office three times a day – enjoy the view and relax. Going well. DONE! 🙂 

challenge 11: record the progress in these areas in breaking the routine or joy journal categories. Not necessarily in these pages, but I kept posting them somewhere in this blog, good job 🙂 Going well. DONE! 🙂 

challenge 12: increase the contribution made to the RRSP account. NOT DONE yet but now that my chequing account has a positive balance, I am getting closer to implement it. I am planning to increase it in the new year by cutting out some expenses- exciting!

challenge 13: during the day remember to smile.  NEED MOTIVATION AGAIN.

PLAN:  just remember this challenge; the rest will come 🙂

challenge 14: lose 15 pounds in two months – record weight and food consumed every day. PARTIALLY DONE. I have been on a healthy – life style mission in the last 7 weeks; all I have lost is around 6-7 pounds. It is going slower than I had expected, but at least it is happening. So I am happy with it 🙂

challenge 15: stick to the plans – I have done these before and I can do it again. ALMOST DONE 🙂 keep going.

challenge 16: comb the hair everyday. I do not need that anymore – have the hair cut short. Yay! But i can easily change this into a new challenge for my short hair; dye the hair every month but every 6 months, get it dyed in a saloon to get a better treatment.

challenge 17: spare 5 min every day to breathe – just to breathe. NOT DONE. I am re-introducing this challenge again. I will start doing this today – it is always relaxing.

challenge 18: apply sunscreen every morning. NOT DONE…NOT APPLICABLE ANYMORE (summer is gone)

challenge 19: apply moisturiser every night. NOT DONE…. It is such a nourishing activity. I should start it now that winter is coming, my skin feels dry.

challenge 20: every week, eat two different food from last week – whether veggies or fruits or others. Change the brands or types of canned food or others I regularly consume. I have been consuming canned beans and others rarely since I started my healthy eating plan. In terms of variety, yes I need to do that and started with it this week – good job 🙂

challenge 21: take the stairs at the office (2 storeys) at least twice a week. NEED MOTIVATION AGAIN.

challenge 22: write the joy journal every day; no matter how dry or repeating it may feel.  I do not write it every day – NEED ADJUSTMENT. The primary reason is I keep blogging about many other topics and it does not leave much time to write my joy journal. nevertheless, all is well and I will keep writing it 😉

challenge 23: have a budget, write down all expenses in each category, do not over-spend the weekly allowance, save as much as you can. DONE!  I am certainly spending less than before and more consciously. I even managed to bring my chequing account to a positive balance. My credit card and cable fees are also down. I am taking advantage of the sales and discounts and I am very abundant. I am proud of my efforts. Yay! 🙂

challenge 24: continue to declutter the home and donate the usable items. DONE! I still need to get rid of the VHSs and CDs, but I have donated my clothes and a large number of books a couple of months ago – feeling good 🙂

challenge 25 (new challenge): learn ways to minimize food waste. I have started this; even though my waste in the past was limited, my aim is to completely prevent it. I will keep reading blogs and websites, get ideas, and implement them as appropriate.

challenge 26 (new challenge): Stretch your body every day and start with light weight lifting activities. Even better, start the gym at the work place to do some free weight exercises. I should be doing these. As soon as I am done with my trips, I will start my free weight training; my plan is to do it twice a week; mondays and fridays. Once I start, I am sure I will be hooked as weights are always fun to work with 🙂

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It is so satisfying to see that I have been noting down the beneficial changes I would like to make in my life and seeing that the majority has been implemented. The flexibility to adjust them and to add new ones, as well as this checks I do time to time help me tuned in and motivated to keep going. Overall, this has been one of my most valuable experiences 🙂

random thoughts

Life is good.

I am working slowly but steadily. My mind is working and thus is happy.

It was a warm day; the evening is young and I have many interesting books and blogs to read; I am happy, peaceful, and slightly excited; just the way I would like to feel.

The effect is mostly coming from the carbs I have eaten for the dinner – I know this feeling so well. I am trying to limit the carbs but their positive effects on my mood is amazing.

Moderation… Moderation.

I have made purchases today, which kind of threw my weekly budget up to the maximum level. I am feeling a little bit nauseated with that, but I know tomorrow is another day, next week I can make it better, and under all conditions, I am constantly striving to do my best 🙂

Sometimes I feel like the effort and having an aim to accomplish is more exciting than reaching the aim itself. I need years to turn things around with conscious spending. Instead of waiting so long, why not to enjoy today and reflect on my experiences?

Yes, Mam 🙂

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