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Posts tagged with: frontotemporal degeneration

Coffee Date

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Hi Friends! I know I said it in my last post, but I’ve really missed you guys! This has been the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken since I started blogging 3 and a half years ago (<how has it been that long?!?)

So before diving straight into fully-financial posts, I wanted to just do a casual coffee date today. It’s as if we’re buddies meeting up for a cup of Joe, catching up on each other’s’ lives. See some past coffee chats here or here.

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you how much I’m looking forward to some true Fall weather. Here in Tucson it’s still over 100 degrees F every day. I’ve been working out in the 5am hour and even at that time it’s already in the low 80s. I’m ready to bust out my fall decorations, drink some homemade pumpkin spice lattes, and cuddle up on our back porch in an oversized sweater while feeling the crisp in the air.

Exercise

Speaking of exercising at 5am, I’m training for another race. Last November I did my 3rd half-marathon. This November I’m signed up to do a Ragnar relay race. For those unfamiliar with Ragnar, these are running races that last 24+ hours. The traditional style of run is a road race, but the run I’m signed up for is a trail run in McDowell, AZ. I’m on a team of 8 and we will each run 3 legs (approx. 5 miles each) over the 24-ish hour span of time. I’m starting week 5 (of 12) of training and have really been enjoying it! I’ve always been a solitary runner. I’m not very fast and have never joined any running groups, etc. But my team (consisting of members of my department at school) has been meeting up on weekends to do our trail runs together and it’s been so fun having a group to sweat with, and to help keep me accountable when I’m not wanting to roll out of bed at 5am on a Sunday morning! Ha!

What about you? Are you working toward any goals or doing any type of diet or exercise regimen right now?

Texas Family

So much has been going on with my Texas family lately! All are located in Austin, so they were inland enough to be spared of any serious Hurricane Harvey damage. Remember that my mom and stepdad both broke their arms back in early July? They have lots of physical therapy and rehab ahead, but they’re both on the mend and expected to make a full recovery! My little sister welcomed a new bundle of joy to the world in late August! The delivery was smooth and easy and the baby has been a perfect angel – sleeps and eats well and only fusses when hungry, tired, or wet. She says it’s their 3-year-old whose been the problem. Tough transition from 1 child to 2, but they’re doing well. We believe my Dad is in the process of experiencing another step-down with his dementia. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration back in August 2015 and is currently living in an assisted living memory care facility. Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) has been woefully understudied, so I can’t say anything definitive from a medical perspective, but several patients with FTD experience absolutely debilitating neurologic pain in the areas of their brain that are degenerating. I believe this corresponds with neuronal death. The pain is often associated with a “step down” in cognitive functioning. FTD is not a slow, gradual decline. Instead, it’s marked by periods of stasis, followed by rapid decline, then another period of stasis, etc. The periods of stasis can last weeks or months. The past few days have been painful ones for my Dad so we’re expecting another decline. His language has been impacted first and he’s really having a tough time with it these days. It’s hard for me because, living in Arizona with my Dad in Texas, our primary form of keeping in touch is phone conversations. I send pictures and letters, but we talk and/or text daily. It’s becoming increasingly challenging, though, as it upsets him when he doesn’t understand me (which is happening with increasing frequency).

How are your parents doing? No health issues, I hope?

Husband 

Hubs is doing well, but has had a tough time not working since his business closed down a few months ago. He used to be a flooring contractor but is now back in school for engineering and cannot sustain a full-time job. The cost of all the licenses and insurance were too much to justify renewal so he let the business come to a natural conclusion when everything came up for renewal. While he’s done well in school (last semester was his first one back full-time), I think it’s been a big transition for our entire family for him to not be working. He’s used to having his own income and additional spending money and it’s been tough to balance wants and needs within our family budget. I mentioned how my first full-time paycheck was a bit of a shock. Much lower than I’d been expecting. Budgeting is still a work in progress, and one I’ll be talking a lot more about in future posts. On the bright side of things, hubs is also in the process of obtaining his personal training certificate. He’s midway through the program and will be done in mid-October (juggling it along with his course load). He’s hoping to be able to pick up some part-time work after he receives his certification so that he can make enough money to cover his own personal effects and expenses while in school. He may be able to contribute a little to the household too, but even if he’s only able to cover his own wants and needs it will be a big help. Hubs has always been the “breadwinner” in our family, so having the roles reversed and being in a position where basically every expense is discussed (and budgeted) has been a change for him. (Edited to add: Check out this throwback post I wrote years ago about Our Financial Relationship for more background info.).

How’s your spouse, partner, girlfriend/girlfriend, significant other? Single? Are you on the dating scene? Any funny stories or interesting people you’ve met recently?

Kids

The kids (5-year old twins) are now a month-deep into kindergarten and they just got a new teacher! Yup. The old one, while kind, was having a lot of personal problems that interfered with her ability to do her best work. I was worried when I saw the stark contrast in what my kids were doing compared to the kindergarten kids in other classes (I’m friends with other moms and the curriculum is supposed to be the same for the whole grade). While I do feel bad for the old teacher and hope that she finds some peace in her life, I’m beyond relieved that my kids got their new teacher. She has been absolutely fabulous and it’s just the breath of fresh air that we needed. She jumped right into the role, hit the ground running, and I’m so impressed with how much the kids already love her! It gives me warm-fuzzies and makes me confident that they’re at the right school (we chose a charter school, as the public schools in our area don’t have the best ratings). They have been doing karate the past few months and, while I absolutely love it and all it’s done for them (boosting self-confidence, increasing independence, etc.), we’ve made the tough decision to cancel our membership for the time being, September being our last month. It was costing $150/person/month. At $300/month in total, we just can’t continue to afford it. It doesn’t fit within our budget. The girls do still participate in a gymnastics program, but it costs less than half that amount ($65/person/month; $130 for both per month). We like for them to be involved in extracurriculars, but can’t be paying nearly $500 a month for it!  At $130/month we feel comfortable. We also try to only do one activity at a time. So far they’ve done ballet, swimming, karate, and gymnastics. I’d love for them to be involved in some type of music lessons and I want them to do some team sports (like soccer!), but right now just be sticking with gymnastics.

How are your kids? Are they involved in any extracurricular activities right now? How do you find quality ones that don’t break the bank?

Work

Work is going great! I’m now only doing my one full-time job (up until a couple months ago I’d been working full-time plus a part-time job). I thought I’d have all this extra time on my hands once the part-time job ended but of course that’s never the case. I do think I have more time, I’ve just filled it with other things (like my 5am workouts – which used to be 5am emails and work). I also have more time to do my meal planning, shopping sales, and food prep. So we have less money, but I think my life has more balance. And with any luck (and a lot of planning and prep), hopefully I can save enough money to offset the loss-of-income from the part-time job. We shall see. One big area I will be targeting is FOOD costs. More info to come.

How’s your job? Things with your boss? Your co-workers?

 

I hope everyone is staying safe! My thoughts are with anyone impacted by Irma! I did my Masters degree at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton (about an hour north of Miami, right on the coast) and I still have lots of friends in the area. Thinking about all of you! Also, on this Patriot’s Day, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all first responders and helping professions (nurses, doctors, paramedics, etc. etc.). I don’t have the gumption to do that type of work and our country would be lost without it, so thank you to those of you selfless enough to go into these professions! Thoughts with any/all who were impacted by the events on 9/11.

 

Hugs to you all! Stay safe out there!

~Ashley


FTD Awareness

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Hi, friends! Thanks for all of your comments on this post! I have loved reading your success stories. It has been so helpful to read about so many who have successfully navigated a mid-life career change and come out on the other side better for it. I so appreciate your support!

Today I’m re-posting an old blog (originally published here). Partly because I’ve been dealing with some serious FTD-related issues lately. The short story is that my dad has now turned to self-harm when he becomes frustrated (which is always). It’s created several mini-emergencies, as he’s cut himself with a razor, hit his head with a hammer in Walmart, and frequently punches himself in the stomach/gut area. My siblings and I are panicked trying to get these symptoms under control. He has a psychiatrist appointment today so – fingers crossed – we can tweak some meds and help reduce some of his anxiety and frustration. I just cannot even convey how sh*tty this disease is. And it gets virtually NO attention. There’s no funding for medical research whatsoever and, currently, there are NO medications available to help slow the disease’s progression. It’s just heart-wrenching to watch.

So, while I have this platform with a little bit of readership (thanks for reading!) I just want to do my part to try to raise awareness. You may also be interested in seeing this very short clip from the Today show. An expert in the field answered some questions about FTD, discussing key differences between FTD and Alzheimers. Check it out if it interests you.

Have a great day!

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It’s October. We all know what that means. Breast cancer awareness month, right? Pink everywhere!

Which is fantastic! We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

But do you know what other “awareness” week is going on right now?

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness.

Fronto-What?

Frontotemporal degeneration. Fronto (as in the frontal lobe), temporal (as in the temporal lobe) degeneration (as in…degenerating).

So, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. This is what my Dad’s got.

It’s a terrible, dehumanizing, crippling disease. It destroys the very essence of the human being.

Right now there is no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t even any treatments to slow progression (just meds to help manage side-effects, such as OCD-type qualities or anti-psychotics to help assuage delusions/hallucinations).

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. I’ve read plenty, but we’re still relatively new to the disease as a whole, so I’m not going to spout off a lot of statistics at you. You can read about it for yourself. 

Initially I wasn’t even going to post anything. I’ve never revealed my Dad’s illness. But why suffer in silence? This dementia is the second most diagnosed dementia for people under the age of 60. And there is a serious lack of funding right now for it. Mainly because (I can’t help to think) no one has heard of it! What is it, even!? What does it do?

In short? It wreaks havoc. It causes the person’s thoughts and behaviors to change. It will likely force the diagnosed individual into early retirement (or could precipitate an untimely termination). It robs the person of his or her very essence, changing fundamental personality traits.

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness week spans from October 4-11. As you are inundated with breast cancer awareness messages in social media, maybe take a moment to think about this lesser known disease that is every bit as crippling and debilitating. This disease for which there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For which those diagnosed are rarely seen as heroic; no imagery of warriors “battling” the disease. Instead, most are ostracized. Their odd patterns of behavior cause people to cut social ties, forcing them into an increasingly withdrawn, sad, and lonely world.

Given the closeness to home, you can bet that this is going to become something very near to my heart. As we get out of debt, I’d love to be able to start donating to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to raise awareness and provide funds for research. With any luck, one day we’ll have medications to help slow the progression of this wretched disease. Seeing the physical and mental anguish it causes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Research is needed. So spread the word.

Hugs to all!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (source)


Ashley’s Year In Review (2015)

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I know we’re now a full week into the new year, but I always like to look back and reflect on the previous year around this time. So indulge me in a week-late review of some of the big highlights of 2015.

Personal and Financial Goals

The year began (or really was preceded by) setting some big goals. We had one list of financial goals, and a second list of goals related to “growing up” (in my mind this meant doing things like getting wills, life insurance, etc.). By the end of the year we hadn’t quite met all of our financial goals, but we’d made incredible progress. In all, we paid off over $26,000 in debt!!! We did even better on our “year of becoming an adult” goals. We fully accomplished 3 of our 4 goals and are well underway on the 4th goal (see update here). We’ve set some pretty lofty financial goals for 2016, too!

Budgeting

In early January, we made some pretty big changes to the way we did our budget. This eventually lead us to using YNAB for budgeting (we’d previously used an Excel file). I still can’t say enough great things about YNAB. I really think it’s made a huge impact on how well we’ve been able to stick to our budget and, therefore, how well we’ve done with paying off debt (see my full review here).

One of the categories in our budget that we really struggled with this year was our grocery budget. I talked several times about our efforts to make cheap meals, saving money by making homemade yogurt (super easy and so tasty!), DIY-ing pumpkin spice coffee (a personal fave), and trying my hardest to meal plan (which was much easier when I worked from home compared to an office-setting, and I’m still learning to balance competing needs).

I also saved a lot of money on self-maintenance this year. With the exception of 2 professional cut/colors (which I did prior to big job interviews), I’ve saved money in our budget by cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 21 months (but who’s counting? hehe). I’ve even received compliments on my self-maintained hair and really like my new darker color. To be transparent, I did just barely receive a professional cut/color from my Mom as a birthday gift, so this totals 3 professional jobs (only 2 that I personally paid for) in nearly 2 years.

Employment

I interviewed for 3 separate jobs in 2015:  one in January (recap), one in March, and one in June. I was offered the third job (third times a charm!) and accepted the position soon thereafter. I started the position in July and have been very happy in the job ever since (though I have plans to try to negotiate for a title change and more money).

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Gift-Giving

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Before I started our debt reduction mission we really spent a ton of money on gift-giving. Since starting to blog here, I’ve drastically reduced the amount spent on gifts. I now try to spend an average of about $15-20 per gift (though hubs and I set a $50 limit on gifts to each other). I talked about a cheap classroom gift here and waxed poetic about the impact of a hand-written thank you note (as opposed to an expensive flower delivery). I also talked about a cheap going away gift basket, a cheap Mother-in-Law (or grandparent) gift, an inexpensive alternative wedding gift, and relatively inexpensive ($50 limit) anniversary gifts.

Kids Crafts

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The kids did lots of fun and cheap crafts this year. A sampling of crafts include: a  Valentine’s craft, a Mother’s Day craft, and an Easter craft. All of these doubled as cheap cards/gifts for family, too!

Entertainment

Our entertainment budget was really bare bones this year as we tried to funnel all our extra money toward debt. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun! I talked about a free family activity here and a free painting class (courtesy of Yelp Elite) here. I also shared how we got cheap Halloween costumes for the kids and had fun with a cheap-ish birthday day date for hubs’ 33rd birthday.

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Successes

In April we celebrated kicking hubs’ license fee debt to the curb! That left us with only the car loan, some medical debt, and the monstrous student loans to contend with. That same month I did a balance transfer of a higher-interest student loan (8.5%) to a 0% APR credit card to pay off one of my Navient student loans at a lower rate (just paid a 2% initiation fee). I also celebrated when we paid off another of my Navient student loans back in October. It’s no secret that I freaking hate Navient, so I can’t wait to rid them from my life!

Personal

In June I let you know something I’d been keeping a bit of a secret. I have a very close family member experiencing a debilitating illness for which there is no cure. I later told you all that the “close family member” is my father and divulged that his diagnosis is frontotemporal degeneration (a type of dementia). I had a rough time in regard to processing this information. I was painfully honest about the scary feelings and emotions experienced knowing that his health is quickly declining and my siblings and I will be tasked with becoming his caretaker and all of the other financial implications of the situation. I also discussed prioritizing the costs of therapy so I could take care of myself. I never updated, but I did in fact search for therapists but there was only one person who really stood out to me as a good fit. Of course, that person was not accepting new clients at the time and, feeling overwhelmed by life, the new job, etc., I never pursued any other options. To be honest, I do think I’ll try again to find someone to talk to in the New Year. I feel like I am in a much better place mentally than I was when I first wrote this post (or this one, too), but I know my Dad’s health issues will continue to be a HUGE deal in my life and I would like to see someone at least occasionally to help me process everything as his disease progresses.

Summary

2015 was a wild year! Lots of great successes – Can I get a high five for that $26,000+ of debt that was paid off!?! and some tough times, too. In 2016 we plan to split our priorities a bit between saving for a house and continuing to pay off debt, but I know that we’ll continue to make great progress along the way. I’ve admitted before that I may loosen up the purse strings slightly. I think it’s important to have more regular date nights and such. But I also can’t wait to make some big dents to our debt this year. This will be the first full year of me having a full-time job and income (in addition to my part-time job & hubs’ job). With the additional money we really hope to do some crazy things in 2016. A house, a car (not a new one, but our current one being paid off), punching Navient in the nose, and so on. Great things ahead, friends! Thank you for joining me on life’s wild ride!