I just finished our taxes, tentatively (as usual, we’re missing a few documents that never seem to arrive before early February). Normally I’m not in any rush to do them because we never get a refund, and if we do it’s usually very small. I used to do them in late February, which guaranteed that I’d have any stray documents being mailed from various sources. Now, though, we also have the FAFSA to contend with and everyone is always stressing the importance of filing the FAFSA as soon as possible in January. It makes me feel guilty to wait until the end of the month! I know you can estimate everything and then go back in and change it but that just doesn’t sit well with my personality; I prefer to do it once and be done with it.
So I finished the taxes yesterday and printed a 1040 to use when I filled out the FAFSA this morning. (This is the federal application for student financial aid, for anyone who doesn’t know – it needs to be filled out every year that you have a dependent child enrolled in college.) There’s a minute chance I could get some document that might change my numbers slightly, so I’m not mailing my taxes off until I get all the documents, just to be safe. But it’s basically done, we broke even, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Still, though, I always get slightly panicky when I do my taxes. I always feel like I’m going to get audited, even though I’m not hiding anything or doing any slick tax maneuvers. I just always worry that I’m filling things out wrong, and, I swear, if we start another business I am not doing the taxes…I’m going to pay someone else. The stress isn’t worth it!
In less stressful news, we took a ride out to Eric’s new apartment a couple days ago. It’s a three-bedroom (that he shares with two girls) situated over a Thai restaurant in the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago. He was so excited to have us over; when we parked the car and stepped onto the sidewalk, I turned and saw him running toward me with a huge smile on his face. It’s a really great place, with wood floors, big rooms and tons of space – the kids look like they are having a blast, and they even have a huge area they call the ‘craft room’ where they do their art projects. It reminded me of when I was in my 20s, going downtown to meet a pen pal who was visiting Chicago from his native Hawaii. He was staying with a friend who had a big loft apartment downtown, and I walked in and was just kind of blown away. It was completely the opposite of the way I was living at that time (married, with my first house) and it kind of made me wonder how much I was missing out on. It just looked so cool and bohemian, you know? And there I was all settled down in the suburbs. I like that Eric is really out there, experiencing life and having all kinds of fun experiences in his 20s. This was always his dream – to live in Chicago, have lots of like-minded friends, get a chance to flex his creative muscles (he’s back into fashion design). The best part was listening to him talk and seeing how genuinely happy he is.
This morning I was checking the weather on my Nook and I saw the exclamation point that signifies some kind of weather event. I clicked it and saw WINTER STORM WARNING so I squealed excitedly and clicked again to check out the details. Turns out that a Winter Storm Warning isn’t issued just for snow…it’s also issued for ice. Which I hate. So now we’re making tentative plans in case this storm actually materializes and we lose power. We have a generator now, so that’s a big load off our minds, and Dave took me downstairs to show me how to light the fireplace (which we never, ever use…I actually couldn’t remember if we burn real wood or if we have those ceramic logs). (We have ceramic logs, by the way.) We buy our food week-to-week and really don’t stock up, so even if we did lose some refrigerated food, it wouldn’t be a huge loss…not like if we had a chest freezer filled with steaks or something. Dave is out right now stocking up on birdseed and I added hand warmers to the list, for the hedgehog. Did you know they need to stay warm so they don’t go into hibernation? They do. So we have to keep his cage around 72-78 degrees, ideally. He has a ceramic heater that obviously won’t work if we lose power, so the plan is to use hand warmers (wrapped in fleece) and put him in a Rubbermaid tub for the duration (to better hold in the heat).
Dave and I are trying this intermittent fasting eating plan. It’s called the 8 Hour Diet, a name that I hate because it includes the word “diet” which this isn’t. I’ve tried so many diets and eating plans over the years and none of them mesh with my personality well. Weight Watchers made me crazy obsessive; all I thought about was food and points, and I had spreadsheets and calculators, and I was stressed out because I had to try to figure out the points for all of my homemade dinners…argh. Anything that restricts food just turns me off; I can do it for the short term, but there’s no way I can go the rest of my life never eating bread, or dairy, or sugar, or whatever the latest “no no” is regarding food. I enjoy reading other people’s exploits with Atkins, no sugar, vegetarian, Paleo/Whole 30, etc. but I know I don’t have the fortitude to do that myself. Eventually I go back to normal eating and blow it all.
My main issue is portion control – we don’t eat fast food or processed food, we eat a wide variety of veggies and good-for-us ingredients (except fish, which Dave is allergic to), we have at least two vegetarian meals each week…but it all tastes so good that I eat too much of it. Lunch was especially a problem for me, working from home – I would wait too long, then I’d be ravenous and just eat way too much. Dave’s sister mentioned that her family was doing this 8 Hour Diet thing and at first the ‘diet’ part made me wary. Then I started reading about it online and I thought, what the heck…let’s give this a try.
I haven’t read the whole book yet so I won’t go into great detail on why or how it’s supposed to work, but the gist is that you give yourself an eight-hour window to eat and you fast for the other 16 hours. The book claims you can all you want! whatever you want! during those eight hours but I think that’s silly. I’m still exercising my usual caution and eating good-for-me foods in normal portions. You also exercise in the morning, before you break your fast. The book says to do it for eight minutes, but I always do at least 10 and lately it’s been more. I like it because I start out thinking, “Okay, I only have to do this for eight minutes…” but then it goes by so quickly that I just keep going. Somehow, starting out and thinking, “Oh God, I have to do this for 30 minutes” is enough to keep from starting to exercise at all. So even though it’s not much, it’s way more than I was doing!
We’ve been doing it for five days now and the last time I checked, I was down two pounds which is cool. The main thing I’m finding is that this has solved my portion control issue. You can pick whatever eight hour window works best for you; we’re doing it from 10-6, meaning we eat breakfast at 10 (or later) and finish eating by 6 pm. We usually sit down for dinner around 5:15, which is about an hour earlier than before. So I eat breakfast, and then I figure I better eat lunch by 1:30 so I can have an appetite for dinner (which I generally start cooking between 4 and 4:30 pm). I’m not very hungry at 1:30, so I’m eating less. I was never very hungry in the morning anyway, so I’m still eating the same (normal/minimal) amount for breakfast. And now I’m taking smaller portions at dinner – we have a lot of leftovers! I’m not ever hungry in the evening after dinner. So for me, this is helping me keep my appetite in check and I feel a lot better in general – less full and ‘heavy,’ so to speak.
It works for us because our schedule is pretty flexible and we are almost always just hanging out in the house, so I can start cooking dinner at such an early hour. You also can do this eating plan as little as three days per week (we’re doing it every day because…why not?) You can change up your eight hours of eating too, if you need to, so it’s pretty flexible. We’ll see how things go – I just like it for the way it’s recalibrating my portions and my appetite, which was my biggest issue.
I’ll leave you with a picture of Eric (and, in the background, one of his lovely roommates) living it up in the Big City!