Archive for the ‘misc’ Category

Well I wanted to clear the air and post on the adoption plans my wife and I have formed over the last week.

First of all, we are at the very initial stages of this process. We are only one week removed from the realization that we are interested in pursuing adoption (and especially information about adoption). We haven’t contacted a homestudy, nor are we even within a year of adopting a child. We have a lot of stuff in our personal finances to straighten out first.

Furthermore, contrary to what seems to be the presumption, we are not planning to adopt a baby. Nor are we planning to adopt from outside the United States. From the first time we spoke of the opportunity to adopt, we never mentioned adopting a baby. We both felt led that we should adopt a child from North Carolina’s foster care system.

We looked through local and national websites that provided information on foster children currently waiting for adoption. I can understand some of the resentment that folks have against the adoption of babies, but those same problems don’t seem to apply to children in the foster care system.

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I decided to create a new page entitled, Ask John. This page provides an opportunity for the 300-400 people who read this blog daily to ask me any questions they might have, whether related to weight loss, nutrition, faith, or personal experience. You control the topics, I respond.

I look forward to hearing from you guys.

Our present financial condition is similar to my physical condition back in February. My wallet is horribly out of shape; my credit cards are stretched like me waist used to be; and cash flow is almost non-existent (much like my previously well concealed six pack). I think that is enough analogies for now, you get the point.

Where are we right now? Well, sad to say, we are burdened by about $15,000+ dollars in credit card debt. That debt costs us about $525/month just to stay on top on minimum payments. Crazy, isn’t it? It wasn’t always like this, when we got married we had three credit cards. It got this way because we (and most often me/I) got suckered into those credit card giveaways. We bought a new mattress and took advantage of the no interest, no payments for a year if you signed up for store credit card “special.” Of course we didn’t pay it off within the year, so we got charged the back interest. Same thing with a digital camera. We also had medical bills we couldn’t pay, so that ended up in a medical credit card. So right now we have about 9 credit cards. I could just smack myself for getting into this mess.

To make matters worse all those cards are maxed out. Why? Well, since my wife is a school teacher and I am a grad student we had two months each year with NO paycheck. We didn’t save/budget well so we ended up living off our credit cards.

So what now? I can’t go back and change this, but I can create an action plan to pay-off this debt. Chances are you could use an action plan too.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I am big on promoting transformation and growth in ALL aspects of life. You should be concerned with transforming your body, but don’t forget about you mind, soul, and finances.

In some ways reigning in your spending can be harder than controlling your diet. As tasty as cookies and cupcakes can be, what about the thought of a new home entertainment system? But it isn’t only the big ticket items, what about that Starbucks coffee you buy each morning?

Try the “latte factor” calculator available at this link. I ran through the calculator the $3 dollars I spent almost daily while in college for the two slices and a drink special at the local pizza place. If I had put that money in an IRA account at 7.5% interest here is what could have happened:

2 years = $2,092

5 years = $5,855

10 years = $14,260

15 years = $26,327

20 years = $43,651

Wow. That pizza was good, but it wasn’t that good. Do you see how simple it is to save for retirement (or about anything else).

So now that you see how easy it can be to save, maybe it is time you take some control over your finances. My wife and I are starting this process August 1 (the day we become a two income family).

Below I have provided LOTS of links on getting your finances in order as well as tips on saving money. But for now (before the page break) I want to offer what has been the BIGGEST savings for our family thus far.

PAY ATTENTION! We used to use our debit/credit card to buy groceries at Kroger and Wal-mart. We had no food budget to speak of. So when I went into our on-line bank account and tallied all our trips to Wal-mart and Kroger together I found out that some months we spent as much as $750 bucks at those two stores (the average was about $600). That was insane!

So what did we do? We decided on a reasonable food budget ($250 bucks) and put $250 bucks cash in an envelope that we bring whenever we visit the grocery store. When that money runs out we stop buying groceries. As a result. We cut out about$350 to $450 dollars wasted each month on impulse items and other non-essentials.

Wanna go the extra mile? Make a list before you go and STICK TO IT! Between your list and the knowledge that you only have so much money to spend you will do wonders to cut back on that food budget.

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Even as a boring researcher who spends days on end in dusty old archives, every now and again something shocks you. I came across this ad not long into my research regarding runaway slaves in Eastern North Carolina. [The full size image can be found below the page break].

Runaway Slave Ad

Why is an old advertisement so shocking and interesting? The above advertisement’s five simple (although surprisingly verbose) paragraphs are short hand for a much larger and even more interesting tale. Their story includes enslavement, betrayal, yearning for freedom, fatherhood, rebellion, courage, anger, and half a dozen other compelling emotional angles that should perk the ears and tug at the heart.

Beyond that, the characters are laid out in a detailed manner (considering the space allowed for an advertisement), but in such a way that you are left desiring to know more about them.

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How about these two tips for a healthier lifestyle.

1. Park far away. Let those other lazy louts fight it out for the spot next to the handicap space and ten feet from the main entrance. Park your car on the opposite side of the lot. Not only is it healthier to walk the extra distance across the Wal-mart parking lot, it will lessen the stress of fighting for a parking space close to the door.

Want to go the extra mile? Ditch the cart, it’s for wimps and the elderly.  Try carrying that 40lbs bag of dog food and that 25lb package of cat litter to your car.

2. Turn yard work into a workout.  Sure working around the yard already burns calories, but you can make it burn more.  For example, my most recent back yard jobs involves hauling rocks from one side of the yard to the other.  I was using a wheel barrel, but it broke due to the weight of the rocks.  So what am I doing now?

Well I ditched that broken wheel barrel and put those two kitty litter buckets to use.  Consequently, hauling rock has become a full body workout.   How so you ask?!

  1. Shoveling gravel into the empty buckets involves the lower back, the abs, and the arms.  It takes about 8 to 9 shovels full of gravel (about 3-4lbs per shovel full) to fill one bucket.
  2. Then picking up both buckets and carrying them to the desired location is the equivalent of a farmers walk with 40-50 lbs in each hand.  For extra credit focus on form and try not to let your shoulders droop.  If you feel like it throw in a few shrugs between points A and B.
  3. I Set down those buckets and I am very careful not to let them just spill on the ground.  I pick one bucket up to waist level as I would in a dead lift and empty it by carefully turning it over with both hands.  Can you say upper body workout?  Repeat with the second bucket.

When all is said and done I moved 40 bucket loads.  So that equates to 320 shovels full of gravel (well over a thousand pounds of gravel according to my math), about twenty farmer’s walks across the yard with 80-100 lbs total in hand, and 40 reps of emptying those buckets.

Yard work can make an excellent exercise if you think it through and try to turn simple yard chores into exercises that you are familiar with.

***Here is the caveat.  Always talk with a doctor before beginning or attempting a new fitness regimen.   I am not responsible if you try any of the crazy hair brained workouts I use on a day-to-day basis that are contained in this post.***

You need to check out this month’s copy of Men’s Health magazine. Here are a few articles and tips from the latest copy for your enjoyment:

The TNT (Targeted Nutrition Tactics) weight loss plan by Men’s Health

An interesting diet plan that seems like a twist on Atkins. For the most part it seems like a run of the mill low carb diet except for the fact that by the fourth week you have two days a week to eat lots of carbs- and the rest of the week is low carb. It is fairly interesting, can’t say I am completely sold, but swing by and check it out.

Men’s Health has it packaged as a 12 week weight loss program. And you all know how crazy I am about challenges and programs that are numbered in weeks (Two Week Total Transformation Challenge!!). I have never been crazy about low carb diets but then again it has been a LONG time since I tried one. Plus with the cost of steak these days (thanks a lot federal subsidies to ethanol- the biggest waist of cattle feed) I am not sure I could afford a low carb diet.

A Beach Body: Bingo [A Weight Free Workout]

Four simple exercises for those without dumbbells or kitty litter containers full of rocks.

Know More, Grow More [not available online]- The most interesting and surprising part of this article was the author’s comment that “You should be able to do a chinup with as much weight as you can bench press.” The author, Micheal Boyle, notes that once your bench press exceeds your chin-up by more than 15% the risk of shoulder injuries “rise significantly.”

Boyle suggests a simple test. Grab the closest chinup bar and see how many reps you can pound out. Now go to the bench press and put your body weight on the bar (he doesn’t say whether to add the bar’s weight into the equation) and see how many reps you can do. If you can do more bench press reps with your body weight than you can do chin-ups you are at risk for shoulder injuries. See Page 118

The Traveling Man’s Eating Plan

An excellent article for those who spend a lot of time on the road or out of the home. Here are the author’s tips (check out the complete article here)

  1. Forget about the menu. Know what you are going to order before you even enter the restaurant.
  2. Consider staying at a Bed and Breakfast. These usually offer home cooked meals (more of a healthy selection and less junk).
  3. Manage temptation. Ask the hotel to stock your mini-fridge with food fit for a diabetic. “This is a frequent request, and most hotels oblige by swapping out high-sugar junk foods for milk, cheese, vegetables, diet soda, and fruit[.]”
  4. Keep your laptop on your desk.
  5. Invite a new client to dinner- Apparently when eating with strangers men ate 35% fewer calories than when eating with friends and loved ones.
  6. Be your own man- Don’t order the same nasty food as the group. Show yourself as a leader and someone who is in charge of their own body.
  7. Keep a stash of protein bars, but use caution. Aim for low calories protein bars. The author recommends Snicker’s Marathon bar.