April 15, 2009

One Step At A Time

college education When I decided to go back to college last year and finally get a degree, it was a huge leap of faith. Several months into my education, I became incredibly unhappy with my classes, but couldn't understand why. My grades were great (except for the last class I had), but there was something missing.

I was excited about the prospect of earning a college degree. But the excitement of what I was going for quickly waned. For years I'd dreamed of becoming a teacher, yet when the sudden realization hit me that this was a dream that would quickly become reality, I was uneasy, unsure, and most of all afraid of making a mistake.

Dreams Morph

It wasn't really that I no longer wanted to be a teacher. I'd still love to at least give it a try to see if I'd be good at it or not. But my course of studies was definitely not one that I enjoyed. Social Sciences, which is what my major was, just did not seem to be my thing. Yet, after having waited so long to finally decide to stick it out and get a degree, I was afraid of admitting that I was not enjoying my studies. Shouldn't learning be fun, after all?

After a few months of deliberation and consideration, I finally decided I needed to either change paths or suffer and deal with the agony of studying something I wasn't interested in, just so I could say, "I finally finished." Not good.

See, this is how I've lived almost my entire life. Living and doing to please others. So worried about what others would say or think about me. But this is my life. The only miserable person would be me. And that just wouldn't work.

Dreams change. People change. And if we aren't careful, we could go on living off of dead dreams...dreams that died so long ago they're dirty, stinking, rotten dreams. I think that's where I found myself: Fighting for a dead dream. My life is much different now than it was 10-15 years ago. I finally figured out there's nothing wrong with a dream dying. There's something really wrong with holding on to it and trying to make it still fit into my life, though.

Making a Change

I worked up my courage and decided what I wanted to study was something totally different. I realized then that the school I was attending did not offer a program tailored to my needs. This was obstacle #2. To change my plan, I needed to change schools. Scary.

Change is never easy and rarely fun, but sometimes very necessary. Once I'd finally worked up the nerve to talk to someone at a different school, I discovered my zeal for higher education suddenly sparked to life again. Just hearing about a possible course of action I could take to change my college major made me feel better. I knew these classes would be much more interesting to me. It was the right thing--for me.

Breathe, Release

This is still an ongoing process. I will be starting classes at my new school, under a new degree program, in less than two weeks. I'm still scared, but excited. It was far from easy for me to make the decision to change my major, let alone withdraw from my current school and enroll in a new one.

I don't like change. It makes me nervous. But there are times in life when change is required, and when you make it, your life instantly shifts and becomes better, especially when you know the change placed you back on the right path.

For now, I'll breathe, and release. Very shortly, I will hold those wonderful documents in my hands that verify my accomplishments. Those will be fantastic, no doubt. Even better than that is the inner satisfaction I have, knowing I'm doing something to better myself and my family. Nothing can top that.

Books that surprise you

I can’t keep it a secret any longer. I am officially a Stephenie Meyer fan. Specifically, a Twilight fan. I didn’t want to be. I tried my best not to be sucked into the vortex. Alas, I failed.  :)

After watching the Twilight movie this past weekend, I was too interested in “what happens next…?” I had to grab New Moon to find out, and ended up reading it in less than 3 days.

I love it when books surprise me…don’t you?

One hour at a time

time I’m at a time in my life when I am faced again with living in the moment. I literally have to mark my life one hour at a time. I am having trouble sleeping at night. I don’t feel afraid, just leery of closing my eyes. I hate this.

The time passes slowly, when I wish it would fly. When I’d like it to slow down, it moves too quickly. It’s my Catch 24 right now.

I’m sure it sounds like I’m talking in riddles. Those closest to me that read this will know exactly what I’m talking about. I dread the coming months. I dread the endless sleepless nights. Before it’s over with, I may be spending many nights away from home. I don’t know how else I will make it through this.

Have you ever lived like this? Has your life ever been disturbed in such a way that very little feels stable? I’m so thankful that my God never changes. That is the single shred of hope I have to hold on to right now.

April 08, 2009

Make Sure You Know Your Mouth

I've had a cavity that I let fester because I haven't had dental insurance. I had already went beyond "pain." It had hurt for so long that I guess I just ignored the pain. Until part of my tooth broke off last week. Yeah. When I went to the dentist, hoping he could wave his magic mouth tools and fix it, he shook his head and told me that I'd either need a root canal or pull the tooth because the nerve was exposed. Without dental insurance, guess which choice I went with. Yep. Extraction. So that meant a referral to an oral surgeon.

You know, the worst part about having a tooth pulled is not the actual pulling (which last about 30 minutes, by the way). It's the sitting in the waiting room reading the 3-page stapled handout they give you. You know, the one that lists a full page of things that could "possibly" go wrong with your oral surgery (paralysis on one side of the face, brain injury, DEATH). I mean, by the time I finished reading that litany of intimidating "possibilities" I was scared out of my mind.

Thank God Crystal, my sister, went with me. She must have sensed my anxiety because she started texting me goofy stuff...from three chairs down. :) She texted me a silly joke: What does the rabbit say when he mimics a frog? Rabbit! :) I broke out in laughter and I'm pretty sure the people sitting across from us thought we'd lost our minds.

After waiting for an hour, they finally called me to the back and introduced me to the chair. By this time, I'd worked myself up into such a frenzy that I had horrible heartburn and felt like it was going to turn into a vomit session at any second. Then they made me sign my name and date the bottom of the "possible side effects" document, which totally made me feel like I was signing my own death sentence.

What really freaked me out, though, was when the assistant came in, squirted the numbing agent on her q-tip-thingy, smiled at me, stuck it in the wrong side of my mouth, and said, "He'll be in in a minute to give you a shot to numb you."

I pushed that stick out of my mouth with my tongue, pointed to my left cheek and said, "On this side?!" My broke tooth was on the RIGHT side!!! I must have startled her because she grabbed the x-ray and referral sheet and said, "Let me go call your dentist and double-check." Uh, yeah, that's right, sweetie. You go call, but I know what side of my mouth my bad tooth is on!

I felt very much like Shaggy at that moment: ZOIKS!

About 45 minutes later, after two shots (and I could swear they gassed me just a tad!) and some soothing from the surgeon, I was down one tooth. Best part of it all was that my sister was with me and kept both my kids in the waiting room with her. They were very interested in what was going on with my tooth, but I'm glad they didn't see that their Moma is just as big a chicken as they are when in the dentist's chair!

Moral of this story: If you need to have a tooth pulled, you'd better be sure you know which one it is, else you might leave the chair without a tooth that didn't need to be pulled! :)

April 07, 2009

Making a Household Notebook

Over the last couple of days, I did a lot of researching and printing. I have learned quite a bit along the way about creating a Household Notebook. (By the way, there is lots of advice online about doing this. Just Google "Household Notebook" and you'll get a ton of links to blogs and websites on this topic.) I decided to begin by creating these sections (not necessarily in this order in my notebook):

  1. Finances (see below for more details on this section)
  2. Home Management
    1. Schedules
    2. Cleaning charts
    3. Planners
    4. Positive reinforcement ideas for kids
    5. Loaned/Borrowed
    6. To Do lists
    7. Year at a Glance
  3. Recipes (I'm only giving this its own section to make it quick & easy for me to find.)
  4. Homeschooling
    1. Grade chart
    2. Extra worksheets
    3. Ideas, notes
  5. School (mine--I'm in college right now)
    1. Schedules
    2. Important information
  6. Projects
    1. Crafts
    2. Ideas for projects I'd like to work on
    3. WIPs I need to finish
  7. Writing
    1. Blogs
    2. Articles
    3. Ideas
  8. Personal
    1. Inspiring quotes, scriptures
    2. Prayer requests
    3. Devotionals
    4. Answered prayers


I started with financial worksheets because this is my main focus right now. The worksheets in my notebook right now include:

  • Debt Release Plan (based on Dave Ramsey's Snowball Method) - Lists all our debts, from smallest to largest, in compliance with the snowball method. I plan on updating it with new sheets as I pay off each debt. (This worksheet alone motivated me. I was very apprehensive about sitting down and completing it. But the fear of the unknown is always worse than the truth. Once I finally finished filling out this worksheet, I was very excited and hopeful.)
  • Monthly Budget (Pear Budget is a nice alternative, if you'd rather do it online instead of on paper. They offer a free trial and the monthly expense for using their program is extremely affordable. If you are barely squeaking by, though, do your monthly budget on paper for now. I also recommend Simple Mom's Zero-Based Budgets for the Home: A Primer)
  • Savings worksheet - This worksheet is for specific things we would like to purchase. First the goal is listed, followed by the target amount needed to purchase it. Then I can set a dated goal of when I want to purchase the item, which in turn leads to a monthly savings goal. If we're serious about the purchase, this monthly savings goal goes into its own savings envelope for future purchase.
  • Rainy Day Fund - This is just a simple worksheet to keep track of our RDF. Our beginning balance goes at the top of the page, followed by dated entries of debits or credits, with a running tally. It operates very much like a checkbook register. Simple and easy.
  • Vacation Fund - This works the same as above. We have a family goal right now to go on a vacation to Disney next year once Robert's deployment is finished. I've broken down the dollar amount needed for this trip to create a monthly savings plan. This worksheet helps us keep a running total on how much we have saved towards our vacation. (More to come on this later.)
  • Entertainment Fund - This one is specifically to track our "extra" spending because I know this is where we are sinking way too much money that could be used to pay down our debt. This one will be used with the envelope system, too. If we can get this category under control, I believe it will be a huge factor in accelerating our debt-free plan.

April 05, 2009

Managing My Home & Finances

After a pretty rough month last month and a well-deserved break, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. I've been letting things "go" just to maintain my own sanity, but enough is enough. Now it's time to get back to the land of the living.

I am starting April with a new outlook on my personal life. My sister has encouraged and motivated me to step up and fill my own shoes. I've been using the excuse for way too long that, "I don't know how" but that excuse just won't cut it anymore. I'm teaching myself how to manage my life, my home, my family. Because the truth is, that is exactly what my job is right now. So I need to become the best at it that I can be.

First things first.

There are two main areas I am concentrating on right now: organizing my home and my finances. I personally believe these are two very important factors of a home and they go hand-in-hand. When the house is a wreck and relationships falter, more than likely if you dig a little deeper there's financial problems lurking, too. I don't want either of these to happen to my family, so I'm going to be much more proactive about safeguarding both.

How I'm doing it.

After I decided this, I knew I needed a game plan. I need to become totally focused to accomplish the following things (in no particular order):

  • Becoming debt-free
  • Organize my schedule
  • Organize my family's schedule
  • Organize our homeschool routine
  • Organize our household chores and routines
  • Implement new house rules, chore charts, rewards & consequences system, & allowance plan for kids

Now that I know exactly what areas I want to concentrate on first, I can create my plan of execution. Doesn't that sound SERIOUS?! :) I want it to. ;) I started by creating a few financial worksheets, based on Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book. I built them in Word and tweaked them to fit my own needs.

Next, I went hunting online for more printables to stock my notebook. I needed a simple planner system for myself and another to create a homeschool schedule for my daughter. I also dug around until I found more printables for chore charts, financial goal setting worksheets, etc. (I discovered a FANTASTIC website for printables that is VERY affordable--check my resources at the end of this post.)

Little by little.

I'm currently still putting together my Household Notebook. I started with my financial worksheets because that was the most important thing at the top of my list. Once I got all those together, I came back to my computer and printed out more sheets for the rest of my notebook. I'll most likely just build on it over the weeks to come, printing out sheets as I see need for them. (I don't want to waste ink or paper on pages I "might" use. I want to be sure they are essential to my system.)

Interested in hearing more?

I will share my experiences as I revamp my home and finances. I'm excited and hopeful. The only way to change something is to stop talking about it, stop dreaming about it, stop wishing it would happen, and get up and DO SOMETHING to start making those changes today. You can't change everything overnight, but every tiny little step forward adds up to a journey of a thousand miles. :)