Financial Bloggers

So, I follow a crapton of financial bloggers on my RSS reader (RIP Google Reader, Meh Feedly), and I’ve been contemplating starting my own personal finance blog. I mean, it’s me, so it wouldn’t be ALL personal finance…there’d likely be some recipe sharing and life updating, like talking about our new house, travel, life after bariatric surgery, etc. I wish I could transition this blog into that blog, but the kink history in this one probably shouldn’t be associated with anything remotely professional or public. Alas. Starting a new blog is a lot of work, so I’m not there yet, and while I procrastinate on that, this blog still works for me.

One of the bloggers I follow posted a little “get to know you” thing, and so I figured I’d post it here, because I so rarely post anything anymore.

  1. Coffee or tea? – I like both, and don’t drink either regularly. I generally prefer coffee unless I’m also getting scones and pretentious china with my tea.
  2. Vodka or gin? – Generally vodka, but I do love me a gin and tonic or tom collins.
  3. Appetizers or desserts? – This is a hard choice…probably dessert.
  4. When was the last time you spent over $100 at once? (Outside of the grocery store) – Maybe at Crate and Barrel after our wedding when we fulfilled registry things?
  5. How old were you when you lost your virginity and was it good? – 22 and it was NOT good.
  6. What is a sport you are good at and a sport you are bad at? – I’m not really good at sports, and I’m bad at pretty much all of them.
  7. What is your favorite way to spend time? – Playing board games with friends and my husband or sharing meals with the same folks.
  8. What is your love language? – Quality time.
  9. If you had a dead body in your trunk, who would you call to help you bury it? – My husband. He has a good serial killer vibe that would lend itself to this. Plus he’s stronger than me.
  10. If you could only use one word to describe yourself, what would it be? – Curious…hence the blog name :).



Bariatric Surgery

I’ve officially decided to do the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, with a timeframe of likely having surgery in early-mid July. I’m still a little hesitant on it, but only because it’s such a big decision. I hate having to tell people and explain it, though. I feel like a lot of people don’t know what the surgery is or assume it’s a cosmetic surgery, and I feel like folks will think I’m taking the easy way out or that I’m a failure for being unable to lose and maintain weight loss without surgery. I know that’s not true, logically, but there’s some shame associated with it that I need to get through.

When you are obese, your body strives hard to maintain that weight. There are multitudes of studies that show metabolism is forever impacted, and that all but around 5% of folks who lose weight end up regaining it. With weight loss surgery (WLS), the number of folks that maintain goes from 5% to well above 75%. I want to be in that 75% percent. I’ve been able to lose (and have regained) the same 65 lbs again and again over the last 10 years. I’ve only been under 200 lbs once that I can remember since elementary school, and that was when I ended up going to the hospital for passing out from not eating enough.

Weight has always been a shameful thing to discuss for me. My mother and sister wouldn’t stop talking about it. My mom’s self hatred because of her extreme obesity shaped my self-esteem and my life as much as it shaped her own. Her heart disease (and mental illness) and eventual death shaped me even more. My sister’s weight and the bullying and esteem issues that went with it didn’t help. In my family, I was the “tiny” one, but I myself was always medically obese too. I’ve been told I carry it well, and that I don’t look obese, but being honest, I am. I always have been. Despite that “tiny” label, I was only ever called pretty in my family with a caveat of “you look so good, keep up the diet” type of language. It fucks with you.

I’ve gone through cycles of weight loss and gain. I worked my ass off and got borderline anorexic in high school, only to hit a lot of 195lbs my junior year. Then I got a part-time job and quit dance, and then I went to college, and by the time I graduated college I was 260lbs. My first year of grad school I lost 20lbs, and then my second year when I moved to DC I lost another 20lbs when I had a cholesterol scare and needed a medical clearance for a job (weight watchers helped me out this time). My blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. have always been good, thankfully. I was in the clear. Then I graduated and had time again to have a social life, and over the next two years I gained back that 40lbs plus 5. Then my mom died, and I shoved all that into a personal trainer and calorie counting and working out again. I lost 30lbs, then the holidays hit and my grief won. I also started my happy new relationship. Over the next 2ish years, I gained that 30lbs back, plus 3olbs. I hit an all time high. I was miserable by it, so I did Whole30, lost 20lbs, and started working out. Then I tore my ACL and both meniscus in my left knee, and gained another 10lbs back. And that’s where I’ve been for about 8 months.

I’m not unhappy, and I’m not at death’s door. I can live my life. I also have faith I could lose some weight on my own. I don’t have faith that I can lose as much weight as I could with WLS, and I don’t have faith that I could keep it off. I have success in losing when I eat 1200 calories and work out literally every day, but that’s so impossible to maintain long-term without additional tools. My cholesterol has been testing high over the last 6 months, and that’s not a good sign. I have every weight-related illness possible in my family history (sister and dad with diabetes, dad/sister/mom with blood pressure and cholesterol issues, mom with heart disease…).  I don’t want to go down that road.

WLS isn’t dangerous anymore. 20 years ago, maybe it was, but there’s very minimal risk nowadays. The risk of the surgery itself is less than 2%, and the most common complications are heartburn or acid reflux afterwards. The benefits are extreme – most people lose over 50% of excess weight within 12-18months and keep it off, and all weight-related health issues go away. People are happier and have more active lives. My sister had WLS last summer, and she’s lost 200lbs. She started out much heavier than me (she’s only now at my weight), and it was definitely a life/death thing for her, but her success motivated me. It also taught me about WLS and how much safer it is now, and how much more likely it is for insurance to cover it. I never thought it was an option for me, but I learned it was.

There are multiple types of WLS. There’s gastric bypass, where they remove a large portion of the stomach and reroute part of the intestines. There’s the duodenal switch, where they remove a large part of the stomach and reroute all of the intestines. There’s the lap band, where they put a silicone band around the stomach, but there are lots of complications and most surgeons don’t do that procedure anymore. Then there’s the vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), where they remove part of the stomach. The VSG has been done for decades as the first step in the duodenal switch procedure, and when doctors realized how effective it is on its own, people started getting the VSG alone about 5ish years ago. Now the VSG is one of the most popular procedures. I like it because it isn’t malabsorptive – they don’t touch your intestines. Bypass and the switch rely in part on reduced stomach size meaning reduced portion and less hunger hormone, but they also rely on food moving through the stomach and digestive process more quickly so that not all of it is absorbed, thus meaning less intake and more weight loss. That makes me nervous, and I don’t want to do that. The VSG is all about less food and less hunger hormone, and has none of the malabsorptive part.

For me, I want to lose weight and keep it off. I want kids, and I want to be able to get pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, and be active with my children – being a lower weight helps with all of those things. I want to be healthy and not progress down the family history diseased path. I want my knee to have less weight on it so I can reduce arthritis risk.

Yes, appearance, more clothing options, etc. are nice side bonuses. I’ll be able to physically get in more sexual positions. More clothing stores will be available to me and those stores will cost less. I’ll never have to worry about fitting into chairs or seat belts or not being able to do something because of a weight requirement. As sociological studies show, I’ll be treated better by strangers and likely be respected more at work.

So this is my decision. It means post-op, I’ll be able to eat very little food at any given meal. I’ll have to focus on protein first to make sure I stay healthy. I won’t be able to eat much sugar without getting sick. I won’t be able to have carbonated drinks, alcohol will hit me super hard, and drinking and eating at the same time is very much not recommended. I’ll have to force myself to have a bunch of gross protein shakes and vitamins daily. But, I get all the aforementioned benefits, so totally worth it in my mind.

My pre-approval process is pretty straightforward. I’m lucky and I have good insurance. I have to see a dietician 3 times (1 for 1hr, 2 for 30min) and go to a nutrition pre-op 2 hour class. I have to do a 2hr psych consult. I have to have an endoscopy. I also have to get a letter from my primary physician, and see her and the surgeon in the weeks before surgery. Then I do a 14 day liquid diet leading up to the surgery itself, and ta-da. I’ll be in the hospital one night, then home. There’s a 4 week food phasing recovery plan – 2 weeks liquids, 2 weeks soft foods, then all foods are OK.

I haven’t figured out how much I’ll tell me office, but likely something along the lines of “stomach surgery” and not go into more detail than that. I have and still do feel that my weight and my health are my business. I will tell close friends and family because 1) it’s a surgery and that’s risky and 2) it will impact our interactions. I hate bringing it up though. I just feel like there’s so much judgement, and I’m probably or possibly projecting all that, but still. I hope people realize that it’s a big decision and not one I take lightly, and it isn’t a solve-all-your problems thing. I’ll still have to work out and eat right in order to make a long term difference. It’s a tool to help me find more success in the long run.

2016 in the Aggregate

There was bad – my massive knee injury, my husband’s back injury, a friend’s mom dying, my husband’s car kicking the bucket and my car troubles, celebrity deaths, family illnesses (within my family and friends’ families), election results…

However there was SO MUCH good. I got married and went on my honeymoon, had a slew of awesome activities leading up to the wedding, got promoted at work, bought a car with my husband, went to 3 family member weddings and was in one friend’s wedding. A friend (a couple I introduced!) of mine got engaged, one friend had a baby, another got pregnant, and my dad sold his house, bought an RV, set a retirement date, and got engaged.  My sister lost 175+lbs, learned to cook, and maintained a year having quit smoking cigarettes. I went to Puerto Rico, California, Arkansas, New York City a few times, Philly, South Carolina, New Jersey, Nebraska, and Indiana. I saw Aladdin on Broadway and several stand up comedy shows, and I had countless game nights with friends and went to a bunch of awesome restaurants.

Not too shabby, 2016. For all the shit people give you, you were kinda awesome.

2016 Resolution Update (Part 2)

In 2016, I wanted to focus on frugality, fitness, and friend (relationships). 

For frugality, I’d give myself a B-. I contributed to my joint savings with my now-husband as anticipated, and I contributed to my own savings too. We successfully completed a no-spend month in January. However, I definitely went WAY over budget from my beginning-of-year plan. A couple of things were outside my control – an injury with lots of medical expenses, and car issues galore – but some were just me spending money on shopping or eating out needlessly. We did, however, make hard choices about big money things. We paid off a large debt from the dude’s crapped out car, we bought a new car, and we bought a new mattress.

For fitness, I’d give myself a D+. I’m about the same weight I was at the beginning of the year, and I yo-yo’d a good 20 pounds in the middle (lost it doing Whole30 successfully, then gained it back). I was working out a bit for a while, but I hurt my knee in May, and that really just kicked things to the curb.

For friends/relationships, I’d give myself a A-. I definitely called people of my own initiative a lot more. I did better doing that with folks who live farther away, but it was an improvement. I tried texting folks more regularly too. I visited family who lives far away that I wanted to get closer to, and tried to foster that as well. I didn’t send surprise mail, but that’s OK. I still am not getting a ton of reciprocal actions from my people, but I’m hopeful that will change. My dude and I were great at date nights through the summer, then in the fall that sort of fell apart with all the wedding planning. We were both OK with that though :).


Goals: (strike through means I completed it)

  • Have an IRA opened by end of year
  • Contribute 5K to joint savings and accumulate $10K in personal savings (growth of ~$3500)
  • Invest in one stock (even if just one share)
  • Follow through with no-spend January… at least mostly (no spending on entertainment/eating out – necessary pharmacy/grocery/car expenses allowed, and preplanned trip to NYC allowed)
  • Join the gym at my office and do 10 minutes physical activity each day (starting 1/25)
  • Have a fabulous wedding/honeymoon🙂
  • Cooking Things: Make brioche, baguette, cheese (got a kit for this for xmas), macarons (w/birthday gift kit from last year). Grill ribs. Cook a recipe from each cookbook I own.
  • Create a pinterest board of tried and true recipes.
  • Travel to an international destination
  • Complete at least one thing from my bucket list  did archery

Things I’d like to continue from 2015:

  • Book Club(s) – kink-friendly ones
  • Game Nights  – had 33 game nights (which is, after counting, the exact number we had the year before too. weird)
  • RSS reader
  • Goodreads – read 52 books  – I read 74 books
  • Cooking at home/trying new recipes  – I made 63 new recipes

Things I like to get back in the habit of from prior years:

I didn’t do any of this…

  • MyFitnessPal – tracking calories and community of fitness-minded folks
  • Cardio & Strength training – with a trainer or on my own
  • 100 days of happiness on instagram
  • Gratitude practice of some sort – possibly something weekly that includes categorical buckets…
  • Journaling – both on here and in my physical 52 list book

Local things I’d like to prioritize:

I didn’t do any of these…

  • military band concert
  • hirschorn museum
  • udvall museum (the air and space museum out at dulles)
  • see something at strathmore
  • visit either Winterthur, Hillwood estate, or Dumbarton House Gardens.
  • shenandoah hiking
  • supreme court oral arguments

March Recap

Frugality: This month was odd. I definitely over budgeted for some events, and I redeemed some credits from surveys I take online and my credit card, so in theory, I should’ve had a lot of extra cash. That said, it was my birthday this month, so I definitely splurged a bit. I also had unexpected expenses, namely, sending some sympathy gifts to a friend who lost his mom and buying a mattress topper since our bed has become so uncomfortable. I managed to save more than I spent, and had a tiny surplus for the month. I should’ve had more leftover, but I’m glad it all worked out. We also made a major Costco run this month, which of course contributed to the spending. 

Fitness: I started the month strong, and went to the gym several times. Then, I had out of town visitors, and it was my birthday, and work got stressful…and I made excuses and haven’t gone. I just used a birthday gift card to get some workout clothing, and I’m hoping that will motivate me a bit too. I really wish I was better at staying motivated. I’m not sure why it’s so challenging for me. On the plus side, a couple of my close friends are doing some major diet changes next month (one couple is watching calories, the other is trying whole 30), so I’m hopeful that they can positively influence me. If I refocus on eating in/not going out for lunch, too, I think that’ll help me again too. 

Friends: This year, I decided to have a small get together for my birthday instead of a normal larger gathering, and that was delightfully intimate. I had a second monthly dinner with folks from grad school, and saw all of my bridesmaids again, which made me happy. Book club was a large group this month but lots of fun. I also had a college friend visit from out of town, and I see her less than once a year, so that was really nice. I felt really cherished by the fiance’s family, too, because they sent me birthday cards and gifts, which was unexpected but very inclusive.  I still need to send those letters, though…


About Me Q&A Part 2

The next  five questions: 

  1. Would you rather be on the cover of Time, People or Food & Wine magazine?

I’d rather be on the cover of Time. To me, being on the cover of Time signifies an acknowledgement that you’ve made an influence on society in some way. I’d love to make a positive change in our society for the better. That said, while my job does inherently serve as a public good, I’m not on a path to make a huge impact on society. I make lots of tiny improvements, but I’m not an agent of change. I don’t run or plan to run a nonprofit or write a new law or something. Could it happen someday? Sure, but my goals aren’t that lofty. I think at most, I’d work to contribute in a big way like that within a smaller community (school board, downtown improvement, social welfare programs, etc), which would never merit a major national publication covering it.

On the other hand, I do cook and entertain a lot, and I enjoy it quite a bit. Ignoring what I’d rather, Food & Wine is more likely. I’m not an expert chef, and I have no plans to be an expert, but I could see some midlife crisis cooking or entertaining project that may merit some press coverage from a food magazine. It at least has a semblance of being a possibility.

  1. What would you do with one week to do anything, all expenses paid?

Travel to France or Italy and take cooking/baking/cheese-making classes. Go to Finland and see the Northern Lights and stay in a glass igloo. Buy, furnish, decorate, and move into a home :). Tour the country to see relatives on every coast.

  1. Would you rather be a painter, writer or musician?

I’ve dabbled in all three of these areas. I think I’d most want to be a musician, and star in a broadway show. I used to sing and dance competitively. I’m not terrible, and more talented than some, but I’m definitely not broadway-level, so I never pursued it at that level. I also used to write song lyrics. My analytical side won out though, so it’s a hobby that was left behind with my young adulthood. 

Nowadays, though, I occasionally ponder the idea of writing erotic fiction. I haven’t even written a short story in such a long time, however, that it seems a far off thing. I’ve also never written anything longer than 30 pages, so I’m not sure my plot/character development would stand up to even a novella-length product.

  1. Do you think you are hard on yourself?

Yes. I’m my worst critic.

  1. Do you have any phobias?

Full on phobia? No, I don’t think so. There are definitely things I’m not fond of, but I can’t think of anything that causes paralyzing fear.

2016 Planned Travel

So, as I mentioned in my 2016 goals page, travel is a big priority for us this year, at least financially. We have a LOT of travel planned, which is exciting but also stressful. Here’s the year’s plans, at least as of now (and this is AFTER cutting some travel out):

  • January: Go to Philly/NYC. I got my man tickets to a broadway show and a night in a hotel for the holidays, so we redeemed that over MLK weekend. We also paired it with a trip to Philly to see some friends and his family and with a tasting at our wedding venue.
  • February: Future hubby (FH) has a surprise trip planned for us for our 2-year anniversary/Valentine’s weekend. Since we had our first date on Feb 16, it’s easy to combine the two for a mega-love celebration.
  • March: no travel, but have people coming to visit us
  • April: two trips! First one to Cape Cod for FH’s sister’s wedding, then one later int he month to PA for our engagement photos.
  • May: memorial day trip to see family in the great plains. This one is one of our “optional” trips, but I really want to foster a growing relationship with my aunt and uncle who we’ll be visiting. I need to feel more familial connection than I currently do, and so far, the connection is most with these folks.  Also may throw in a trip to Philly for mother’s day for future MIL.
  • June: TBD trip for friend’s bachelorette party (I’m in the wedding party)
  • July: two trips! First one to MA for the fourth of July with family on the beach (if we end up able to pull it off, leave- and money-wise), and the second one to NYC/PA for the wedding I’m in.
  • August: a trip to AR to see my grandmother, who’ll be 91 this year. Will also need to do a trip to PA for final details for the wedding (either late this month or in Sept).
  • September: TBD bachelorette party for me!
  • October: NY for FH’s cousin’s wedding
  • November: PA for our wedding and then honeymoon!, and then back to PA for turkey-day
  • December: Midwest for the holidays

My FH really wants to shove in a trip to Disney somewhere, but right now, we have no clue how that’d happen before the wedding. We may tag it onto our honeymoon, or for part of the winter holidays.

Easy to see where our leave and money is going, right? It’s nuts. There will be a lot of extra hours at the office to make up for all this.