A Glimmer of Light

Finally there is a light gleaming ahead of me in this endless exhausting tunnel I’ve been slogging through.  My head spins at the thought that it has actually been 22 days since I mentioned that my throat hurt to my husband as we got ready for bed.  I can count on two fingers the number of times I have slept since then without Vicks Vapor Rub and socks on my feet.  Honestly, the jar of Vicks is almost gone.

I didn’t bother to go to the doctor because I knew what I had.  A dear friend had unwittingly exposed me to the flu the week before.  Don’t worry, we’re still friends.  It takes 1-5 days after being exposed to the flu to develop symptoms, and unfortunately for me it was five days.  I almost escaped unscathed!

Thanksgiving week is kind of a blur of being in bed and cooking dinner on Thursday.  On Thanksgiving day my oldest daughter and I took the entire day to make our dinner in shifts of make this, lay down for an hour.  Get up and make something else, and lay down again.  By that time she had also come down with the flu.  My sweet husband volunteered to make dinner, but his idea of dinner was grilled steak.  I’d rather have that when I actually feel like eating, thank you very much!

The day after Thanksgiving my husband asked if I wanted to get out the Christmas trees and decorate them.  I said something like not really which he interpreted as Yes please!  So in came the trees and the ornaments.  Uh, yay?  Our trees are up now, but I still haven’t put away the pumpkins or pulled out the rest of the Christmas decorations.  Ladybug keeps asking when are we getting them out and I keep answering sometime before Christmas Eve.

What a dark grey week that was… literally dark and grey.  It rained the entire weekend.  I remember that because there were concerns about flooding.  Although, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t got a clue where.

Eight days after this started I began to feel better.  My exhaustion had lifted quite a bit, which I think had a lot to do with the fact that everyone was a school and I finally had a day of complete and total rest, except the two or three loads of laundry I did. I was out of clean pajamas.  My congestion felt under control.  My cough had mostly subsided.  So I did the mostly wonderful and liberating thing I could think of to celebrate.  I slept without the vapor rub and socks.  It’s shocking how wonderful it feels to sleep without socks after eight nights of enforced sock wearing, which, in turn, really is better than coughing all night long.

Apparently that was a very dumb move for how intelligent I actually am.  I woke up the next morning so congested that I could not even hear out of one ear.  I won’t get into all the disgusting details.  Instead I will merely say that my eight year old Ladybug that I was completely angry with her for the next week because, like a lot of deaf people, I kept raising my voice and asking what every time she talked to me on the wrong side of my head, which was every time she spoke to me.  The poor thing seemed to think I had it out for her.

A very special friend had died the week before and I had every intention of going to her funeral, but by the time it rolled around that afternoon I had so much sinus pressure in my face that I ended up at the doctor’s office.  The poor nurse had to keep repeating herself because I couldn’t hear her well enough to understand half of what she said.  Hmm, it appeared that the flu had turned into one of the worst sinus infections I have ever had.

I am totally turning into an old lady right here since I am detailing my ailments for you.  It’s the only thing I have to talk about for the last three plus weeks of my life.  The flu was nothing compared to the sinus infection.  With the flu I rested a lot (okay, almost all the time!) but with the sinus infection I was completely and totally done in.  My husband took over getting up early to take Honeybee to Seminary and getting the kids to school.  He ended up making dinner more times than I care to admit.  The house looked like a tornado hit it.  It might have smelt that way too, but I wouldn’t know.  I haven’t smelt anything in weeks.

My antibiotic finally kicked in and I started to feel a little better each day.  I got up one morning and actually ironed some pants for my husband to wear to work.  The next morning he woke up wretched with the raging burning sore throat I’d experienced at the beginning or my flu.  I actually convinced him to stay home from work.  He spent the next three days in pajamas.  But on Monday he felt pretty good and went to work.

Legoman woke up Monday with a stomach ache and ended up staying home that day.  He never misses school so I figured it was bad if he wanted to stay home.  That afternoon Butterfly came home from school and told me that her throat still hurt.  (In my defense it wasn’t even red when I checked it!  Which I did like three days in a row!)  So the next morning I sent everyone to school but her, and the two of us went trudging back to the doctor’s office.  And it was the flu, strain B in fact.

So she camped out on the sofa from Tuesday to Friday.  Ladybug joined her on Wednesday.  Legoman joined them on Friday.  On Saturday the girls were both much better, but Legoman didn’t do much of anything on Saturday and Sunday morning.  He was feeling much better this morning and went to school.

In the meantime, my antibiotic finished the day Butterfly was diagnosed with the flu.  I felt so much better again that I didn’t feel like crying when I discovered she had the flu for real.  Unfortunately, I made another huge mistake that night and slept without vapor rub and socks.

Boom, the next morning I wake up not feeling great and it continued to get worse every day.  My ears hurt, my throat hurt, I was tired, etc.. all while the last two people in the house decide to catch the flu.  By Saturday I decide that the antibiotic didn’t really do much in the long run except make me nauseated occasionally.  My husband took me back to the doctor’s office.

Now I am on a steroid to see if that helps cut the congestion, which will in turn calm down my throat and ears.  I have a prescription for a broad spectrum antibiotic in case I get worse again.  That honestly made me wonder if they really don’t want to subject me to another doctor office visit.  I swear I covered my mouth every time I coughed!

I missed our Christmas celebration at church.  Legoman and I picked our way through baked potatoes and some jello.  I didn’t get to see my girls sing in the Nativity program.  That was sad.

I started the steroid.  It is starting to help my congestion.  I decided to use the vapor rub and socks for the foreseeable future.  I will resist temptation the first night or two that I think I am ready to quit using it.  My feet really relish the chance to be sockless for about an hour before I go to bed, but I’ll be strong and keep using it.

Now, if the steroids will just let me sleep (3 1/2 hours last night!) maybe this saga of sickness will be squashed.  But I will settle for sleep derived for a few days if I can finally breathe and sound like a normal person.  Maybe after the laundry marathon (I’m on my fifth load so far today!) I will get out the rest of the Christmas decorations for Ladybug.

In 22 days we’ve had six cases of flu, one sinus infection, and a horrendous case of lingering congestion and exhaustion, but I really am beginning to see a light at the end of this tunnel.  That just may be my Christmas miracle this year!

Knock Knock

The sharp raps on the kitchen door shattered the cozy silence, startling me so badly that I almost dropped the cookie sheet I was putting in the oven.  I glanced over at Moira, who raised her eyebrows at me.  Together the two of us walked over to the door.  Moira opened it; Tom stood on the deck, holding Jimmy’s hand.

“Can we come in?” he asked pleasantly enough, the light from the kitchen shining on his face.

“What are you doing here?” demanded Moira, her voice on edge.  I knew that it was teetering between anger and panic.  Tom knew it too.

“I was just talking to Jimmy.  It’s getting dark and cold, so we wanted to come in.”  He sounded so reasonable and patient, but I noticed him let go of Jim’s hand and begin to clench his fist.

“Jimmy, come in,” I quickly said.

Without looking at his father Jimmy slipped pass us into the house.  Wordlessly he vanished down the hallway to his bedroom.  Moira stood there, half turned, torn between the need to run after Jimmy to check his well-being and the urge to flee.

“You need to leave,” I said quietly to Tom.

His eyes narrowed, but his voice remained reasonable.  “I just need to talk to Moira.”

“Go home Tom,” said Moira behind me.

As I swung the door shut and shot the bolt home I heard him snapped, “I am home.”  Through the window I watched Tom stare at the door.  Finally he kicked over the watering can Moira kept by the door and stomped off the deck over to the swing set he and Moira had picked for Jimmy just the previous year.

“What’s he doing?” asked Moira in a quavering voice.

“I don’t know, Moira.  Are the other doors locked?”

Her eyes widened, panic making her mouth slack.  “I forgot to lock the garage door earlier.”

I whirled around and raced through the dining room, through the laundry room, and into the garage.  Moira was right.  It was unlocked, the door was even ajar.  I pushed it tight and turned the deadbolt.  Just as I reached for the lock on the handle, it began to turn.  I knew it was Tom on the other side.  The door shuddered but held as he pushed against it.

I didn’t stay to see if he would break it down.  Instead I turned and stepped back into the laundry room.  I locked that door too before racing to the front door.  We’d locked it earlier, but Jimmy hadn’t been outside when we had.  He had gotten out somehow.

When I rounded the corner to the entry hall I found Moira there, huddled next to the locked door, sobbing silently.  She was out of the sight lines afforded by the entryway so no one could see her from outside, but I could see out the decorative windows.  A large shadow loomed against the glow of the street lamp and the handle rattled as Tom tried to force his way in.  He must have run, the inconsequential thought flitted through my consciousness.

“Moira,” I whispered softly.  “Come away from there.”

“I called 911,” she said, frozen in place.  “The police are on their way.”

That was the moment I noticed the phone she held to her left ear with her left hand.  Her right hand, the one she’d finally confessed that Tom had broken last year instead of the accident she had claimed at the time, was cradled in her lap.  How long would it take them to get here?  Would Tom try to go through a window?  What could two women possibly do to protect themselves from the terrible rages Moira had described to me?

The night deepened, and so did the intensity of Tom’s efforts.  I flipped on the front porch light, hoping the sudden illumination would discourage him.  It hadn’t been that long since Moira had been brave enough to change the locks.  I wasn’t sure if the neighbors even knew that he didn’t belong here anymore.

“Moira, get over here,” I hissed as the door frame groaned.

She scrambled across the floor to me.  I noticed Jimmy, shoulders hunched and eyes enormous, peeking around the corner from the hallway.  I glanced over at him with what I hoped was a reassuring look.

At the sound of splintering wood I whirled around and caught sight of a gun in my sister’s hand, unflinchingly pointed at the door that inched open one shove at a time.  In that split second I saw the determination in her as she stood and refused to be defined any longer by the man who found his worth in stealing hers.

I found this the other day when I was cleaning up my room.  I don’t remember exactly when I wrote it or even what the rest of the story was supposed to be.  So I thought I would post it and see what kind of ideas you guys could come up with to finish the story.  So, what do you guys think happens?

What Will Your Kid Do With $100?

I know I have mentioned before that my husband and I have experienced a financial conversion of the Dave Ramsey sort.  We are trying to “live like no one else so later we can live like no one else”… actually, for us, it’s more about having a sense of peace and rightness when it comes to our finances.  But, it won’t hurt our feelings if we end up with more money than we ever thought possible.  In fact, I’ve thought of several things I’d love to do at that point.

Ahem.  Back to the topic at hand.

If someone handed your child a $100 bill, what would he do?  Think about it for a minute.

 

 

 

 

To my eight-year old, Ladybug, this sounds like an almost mystical amount of money that would buy doll clothes and Lego sets galore.  To my almost ten-year old, Butterfly, this sounds like a nice sum to have in her wallet.  To thirteen-year old Legoman, this just represents a new larger than normal Lego set.  Honeybee (15) sees the pile of makeup she can buy while saving some to spend later.  I know what they would do with $100.

In the last week I have had conversations about children and money with at least three different people.  Each person had a different quandary and perspective.  One lady bemoans the fact that her children don’t want to do their chores.  Another worries that her children won’t know how to handle money when they have to be responsible for themselves.  The third situation has teenagers who don’t realize the potential of their paychecks.  These are not small issues, and they certainly aren’t uncommon.  They are problems that my family has struggled with for several years.

My husband grew up with an allowance of sorts.  He was allotted money every month for bus fare and that sort of thing.  I, on the other hand, never had an allowance.  If I had a school trip my parents would give me money for food.  I never had to worry about that.  If I babysat or worked I was allowed to use my money how I wanted.  Since I never tried to do anything bad with it my parents never got involved.

So when it came to our kids we had some discussing to do.  We both wanted them to learn how to manage money.  It’s an essential life skill.  It’s very hard to have real peace when your money manages you instead of the other way around.  My husband wanted to give them an allowance, with the admonition that they were not allowed to ask us for snacks, candies, or toys if we went to the store.  I, being my parent’s child, did not really want to just give them money, but I also didn’t have any other bright ideas.  So we gave them each $10 a month.  We had two requirements: 10% for tithing, 20% for savings.  That left $7 to do whatever they wanted, within reason.

Every first of the month, without fail, we experienced the same thing.

“Mom, can we go to Wal-Mart?” they’d implore.  “Please!?!”

At Wal-Mart each one would agonized over which cheap toy to buy or how many candies to buy.  My words of caution fell on deaf ears.  Not one of the four was worried about being able to buy candy later or saving money to buy a nicer toy in a month or two.  Then for the rest of the month they’d whine about wanting a candy when we were in the checkout line.  My husband hardly ever went through this experience since he almost always was at work.  So he was a little surprised after six months when I announced that I wasn’t giving money to the kids anymore because they weren’t learning anything except spend, spend, and spend.

Like Dave Ramsey says, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insane.  Every month I’d hope our kids were learning something, but they never did.  When I stopped handing them free money their world stopped for a while.  I’d hear comments about if Mom would still give me an allowance I could do/buy (insert something)….  No one appreciated me for a couple of months.

Flash forward to fall of 2014.  My kids were older, but still money foolish.  And asking for help with chores?  Like pulling teeth.  I was frustrated with their sense of entitlement.  And I didn’t really know what to do about it that would be effective.

All of that changed as my husband and I began to take Dave Ramsey’s class.  When we began to see the hope of actually controlling our money and making it work for us, it became so much more important to us that our children learned too.  As I have tried to be more intentional in my approach to life it just made sense to be intentional about teaching my children about money.  Dave Ramsey gave us a solid plan for helping our kids.  I’m sure some of you were smart enough to think of this on your own, but I wasn’t.

His plan: pay your kids for doing certain chores. If they don’t do it, don’t pay them. Require them to help with other chores for free because everyone should help out at home.  When you pay them help them set aside 10% for giving (in our house we tithe) and 20% for savings.  Sounds so simple, but will it really teach our kids how to handle money?  You better believe it!

As I was learning about the plan my very first reaction was that I could not afford $80 a month for paying my children.  But, as I worked on our budget (I’m the nerd in the family so we did have one) and began to see the benefits of the plan, I began to see the wisdom in  having my kids learn this so early that budgeting, giving, and saving are an automatic habit.  How could I afford not to do this?

I modified his plan to fit my family circumstance.  Each job I assign is worth a dollar, no matter how easy or hard.  It’s easier for me that way.  Each week my kids are assigned five paid jobs.  If they do them they earn their money.  If they don’t, they don’t get it.  Every two weeks I pay my kids for the jobs they have done. Each of our four children has two envelopes and a wallet. One envelope has Tithing written on it.  The other has Savings written on it.  The wallet is for spending money, of course.  On payday they get their money and put one dollar in their tithing envelope and two in their savings envelope.  The rest is for whatever they feel like buying, although I have retained the power of veto since I am the one who takes them to the store. (Legoman, reading over my shoulder, said, “Yeah, you do!”  Mostly it comes in the form of gentle persuasion though…)

Image result for dave ramsey envelopes

At first we had two reactions.  The first was disbelief that I would actually make them work.  The other was pure excitement over the possibility of having money to spend.  Almost immediately they expressed concern over the kind of jobs I would assign to them.

I started them off with relatively easy jobs like taking out the recycling, emptying the dishwasher, and running the vacuum cleaner.  We’ve added loading the dishwasher (a real step for me since I am incredibly picky about things), sorting the dirty laundry, cleaning the sink and toilet, cleaning the shower, mowing the yard, folding towels, folding jeans (again big steps for picky me!), changing their sheets, and making dinner when Mom and Papi go on a date.  There might be more, but I don’t remember them.  I don’t assign things on a rigid schedule.  I decide what I want done on a daily basis and write it on the chore chart.   And I inspect the jobs too.  There have been a few repeats.

The first payday I was a little apprehensive.  Flashbacks to my previous experiences haunted me.  When it was time I sat down with my kids and counted out their money.  I helped them get envelopes (something they had been watching me do for a month or two) and separate their money.  Someone asked me to go to Wal-Mart.  We went.  Something interesting happened.  They all decided to buy one candy and keep the rest.  It was so much harder to justify a cheap toy when they had worked hard for that money.

I have watched them develop their financial skills.  Butterfly has learned the joy of saving her money.  She was saving for a Kindle Fire, until my husband and I decided that we didn’t want our children to have such devices at young ages (a whole other story!).  That left her high and dry with about $100 in her spending money.  When she asked to go to Wal-Mart I wanted to cringe, but we went.  She spent about 30 minutes analyzing the Lego Friend sets.  She really wanted the cruise ship, but she could not bring herself to spend the $75.  She ended up buying the high school set that was on clearance for $35.  She recognized the effort it had taken her to save that much money.  Just recently she finally decided to spend that $75 on the cruise ship.  It took her six months to decide it was worth the price.

Legoman still wants to spend his money, but he has learned the value of saving it for a while to get larger Lego sets.  He’ll never have enough Legos, I think…

Ladybug likes to spend hers too, but she is learning the joy of saving for bigger purchases.  After Christmas she decided she wanted a My Life doll from Wal-Mart (they are a much less expensive version of American Girl dolls).  They were on clearance for $17, but she had already spent her money.  She saved and saved for an eternity (about one and a half months) until she had enough.  Of course by the time she had enough, they were not on clearance.  (I knew that was going to happen so I had purchased one for her birthday in June and hid it.)  Instead of encouraging her to save more (another month) I told her she could ask for it for her birthday.  She happily spent her money on something else.  Her birthday rolled around and she received the doll and loved it.  But soon she wanted another because it was lonely to play by herself.  Butterfly was willing to play, but she wasn’t about to buy a doll!  It just so happened that she was given some money later that gave her enough to buy a doll at full price, so we went to Wal-Mart.  She choose a beautiful doll.  I bet you can’t guess which one she likes better and which one Butterfly ends up playing with!

Honeybee, well, she had already developed the habit of saving up for bigger purchases.  Now she is having to learn the habit of budgeting so she can replace her eyeliner and mascara as needed. (SIGH!)  The other day she asked me to take her to garage sales to look for clothes.  She has learned that her money goes a lot further when buying gently used clothing.  This makes me happy.

It has made all the difference in our children.  Not only are they learning important skills, they are learning to value their money.  They are learning to give and to save for later because we let them do their own tithing at church and we take them to the bank so they can hand their money to the bank teller.  Their sense of entitlement is dwindling as they gain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.  What great bonuses!

The lady whose children don’t want to do chores might find a lot of motivation if their money gets tied to doing chores.  The one worried about her children knowing how to handle money probably wouldn’t worry as much if she started teaching them now by having them earn some.  And the teenagers wasting their paychecks would learn valuable lessons if Mom and Dad made them buy their own gas, clothes, and other necessities.

Maybe it is tough love, but it is working for my family.  What are you doing to teach your children the value of money?

Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze is a great resource  on this topic.  The Total Money Makeover is another great book, although I would recommend getting the workbook that goes with it.

 

How to Catch a Sucker and Turtles with a Death Wish

It has been a beautiful first half of May.  We’ve had copious amounts of rain, torrential rains even, that have kept our temperatures on the cool side.  Our lakes have been at 25% capacity and lower as we’ve been enduring a four-year drought with record highs being broken left and right.  This May has been an answer to prayers though.  We’ve been getting rain and more rain, with rain in the forecast almost every day for the next two weeks. It’s fabulous for the lakes in my area; our main one is up to 45%.  And the plants are dressed up in the most incredible shade of green!

It's raining!!!

It’s raining!!!

Now, you might be wondering what the rain has to do with catching a sucker and turtles with death wishes.  I mean, it’s a far leap from rain to suckers and reckless turtles.  Isn’t it?

Actually it isn’t that far of a leap.  Being the caretaker of turtles has developed this keen appreciation and sensitivity to the activity of turtles in the world around me.  Yes, I am… (drum roll, please!) Turtle Woman!  It’s like everywhere I go I notice turtles.  I swear there are more turtles in the world than there used to be, but science doesn’t really back me up on that.

Because of the recent wet weather the turtles in my area have been out in full force.  I have seen many red ear sliders wandering around because of all the moisture.  These are water turtles for the most part, so when there is water everywhere they wander around quite a bit more than they normally would.  In fact, I am convinced that the really adventurous turtles play the turtle version of Russian Roulette. I think they call it Road Racing.

I had (yes, that is a HAD!) to go to Hobby Lobby this week for some paper.  That means I have to drive 30 minutes through rural Oklahoma to get to the nearest Hobby Lobby.  As I drove the Turtle Woman in me began to notice lots of turtle roadkill.  It was everywhere.  Pretty soon I was swerving all over the mostly empty road to avoid the live turtles that were nonchalantly walking across the road.  I know it is safer not to swerve, but I don’t want to be a turtle killing machine.  My favorites were the ones that stop crawling so they can turn and look at the car barreling down on them.  It’s turtle road racing at its best!   I avoided running over ten or so turtles with a death wish that day.

Which brings me to catching a sucker…

Remember that I said I HAD to go to Hobby Lobby?  It’s all because my husband and I decided to be more involved in our community.  Our first baby step was involvement in Band Boosters with the local school system.  We have two in band and two more planning on being in band so it was a pretty logical move.  So naively we show up for the first meeting and mostly listen.  By the third meeting we are actively participating in discussions, although not really volunteering for much because why on earth would we volunteer to plan, prepare, and feed 200 people during a contest when we have never been involved before? Well, I did make cookies for one of those meals… but that was easy-peasy lemon squeezy.

So this semester, with those contests safely behind us, we did say we’d help with the band banquet for the high school.  I mean, this is right up my alley: planning, decorating, and throwing a party.  Plus, we weren’t in charge.  Then I got elected as Middle School Liaison (because we will still have a middle school student next year, and no one else will) which put me on the executive committee.  Suddenly I get pulled into this band banquet as the right hand woman in all decisions and actions.  I am more in the loop than the band directors… even to having to go with the committee head to the storage room in a more or less abandoned school across town so I can know where it is located.   She insisted!

So Tuesday I drove to Hobby Lobby to get more paper for the banquet centerpieces.  Yesterday I stood in the pouring rain at the storage school building to load tables and sternos in the back of the committee head’s car.  As the water ran down my glasses and soaked my light jacket it occurred to me that I’ve been suckered.  I’ve been pulled into this whole banquet and been shown all of this stuff so that I can be in charge next year when my oldest in is high school because the committee head doesn’t want to do it again.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I really don’t think that I am.  I’m the sucker who has been caught right in the center of the cross-hairs.  It might have been less risky to play road racing with the turtles!

Counting My Blessings

Today is a milestone!  I’m two weeks into my recovery from surgery, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all my blessings.  The last two weeks have been flowing with blessings.  A favorite hymn of mine has a line that says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”  So today I am going to count a few of my blessings.

I am so very grateful for modern medicine.  I can’t imagine how terrible my life would have been without the ability to treat my physical issues.  I appreciate my doctor more than I can tell for allowing me to make the decision to have a hysterectomy instead of pushing a variety of chemical means down my throat.  I am grateful that she had the ability to do the surgery laparoscopically because that has made a world of difference in my recovery.  I also appreciate the stamina she showed in completing the surgery after delivering three surprise babies.  There was so much scar tissue from my one C-section that it took SIX hours of surgery.  I saw pictures later, and it looked like Spiderman had partied inside of me.  My uterus was literally attached to everything!  I am so grateful for the nurses who took care of me.  They were friendly, professional, and went above and beyond the call of duty to make me comfortable. One even took time to hunt down a fan when I couldn’t get cool, even though the room was a brisk 67 degrees.

I am grateful for my husband, who has been unfailingly gentle and considerate about my lengthy recovery.  He has been faithfully trundling kids to school and soccer practice.  He has taken the kids to all their soccer games.  He has checked on me to make sure I’ve had my medicine, even after I stopped taking it because I didn’t have enough pain to justify it.  He has been wonderful.  My children have been so helpful and considerate too.  They kept the noise to a minimum when I tried to nap, helped around the house, and generally were careful to avoid contact with any incisions.  There were a couple of spectacular moments of oops, I forgot!  I cried, they begged forgiveness!  Other than that, they’ve been amazing.  All of they have been asking me when I can drive again.  I think it is because the freezer is out of ice cream, to be honest.

I am also more grateful than I can express that my parents made the trip from Utah to be with me and my family during the recovery process.  It was a long trip and not very relaxing.  My Dad was so patient with being the designated chauffeur for school, soccer practice (two nights a week soccer is in two different place for two different kids!), and shopping trips.  He probably saw more of this town than all the other trips they have ever made combined.  My mom kept the dishes done, put meals on the table, and kept the laundry under control.  They were completely helpful and such a blessing to have here.  And after about a week of recovery we had a lot of fun playing games and watching old movies together.  We had a couple of marathon domino games that my dad won by having less spots than my mom and I had.  I hate to admit it, but I lost royally on the last game with a whopping 190 spots!

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the blessing of help from several friends.  On the day of my surgery one of my best friends came to hospital to sit with my husband and parents.  She stayed with my husband after my parents had to leave to be with my kids.  She came at 10 am and didn’t leave until I was in my room after 8 pm.  (Those three babies really pushed back my surgery!)  She came back the next day with a surprise: my favorite milkshake.  She also brought dinner the day after I got out of the hospital.  My other best friend brought breakfast one morning and came another day to play scrabble with me.  After my parents left she picked up kids from school.  I was also blessed to have delicious dinners brought in by two other friends, and received cards, flowers, get well presents, and numerous texts and phone calls.  One friend even taught my nursery class yesterday.  Such love and support are true blessings!

I know that my surgery went so well and my recovery has been so quick because of all the prayers that have been said on my behalf.  All of my brothers, sisters, and in-laws, as well as their families, have been praying for me.  My church family and my friends have been praying.  Even people I haven’t met face to face have been praying for me.  What an incredible blessing their faith and prayers have been.  I know that I was safe during surgery because of those prayers.  I know that my healing has been helped by those prayers.  Prayers really work.  This experience has been a testimony builder of that fact.  I am so incredibly thankful for the many prayers that were offered on my behalf.  Thank you everyone!

On a bit of a lighter note, I am also very grateful for nightgowns and slightly too large pajamas that don’t rub on my incisions.  I’ve been in pajamas for two weeks now.  I’ve worn regular clothes a few times, once to vote and once to run errands with my parents (that really took the starch out of me and taught me a lesson!).  Pajamas feel much better!  I’m very grateful that I was inspired to buy a couple of new sets one day when I was at Wal-Mart.  If you have to wear pajamas, you might as well wear cute ones!

Another blessing I just have to acknowledge is the rain we have been receiving the last couple of weeks.  We are four years into a prolonged drought, and the lakes and ponds are drying up at an alarming rate.  This spring we have been blessed with several rain showers.  While they haven’t been enough to break the drought and fill up the lakes, the rain showers have brought some really pretty grass and flowers.  That’s a real blessing too!

What are some of the blessings you have received recently?

It Feels Like Forever

Each day for the last six months or so I sat on the couch and thought to myself that I really should get up and do something.  Dishes, laundry, clean the toilet, shower, make dinner, pay the bills, the list was there and growing.  There were some good days when I would accomplish things.  But it was getting harder and harder to find the energy to even care about anything, and the tasks that I did accomplish were started at the last-minute, almost on the point of being too late.  I was tired all of the time.  Besides my lack of energy I suffered from recurring headaches that nothing helped.  I just didn’t feel good.

I wondered if I was struggling with depression.  Heaven knows that there were events in my life last spring that could have triggered that reaction.  I was exhausted, my head hurt, but I didn’t feel like I was numb or unhappy.  I was considering calling a therapist.  I was getting desperate to know that I wasn’t just being lazy and procrastinating everything in my life.

For several years I have been dealing with some feminine problems.  (Don’t worry, I’m not elaborating!)  During the summer I had visited with my doctor and done multiple tests.  Everything came up clean.  So I knew that my malaise had nothing to do with those problems.  Whatever it was, it was kicking me to the curb on a daily basis.  It was like Whatever Woman had moved in and taken over completely.

Last month my feminine problems came to a head, and I decided I couldn’t take anymore.  I was going back to the doctor to schedule a hysterectomy, even if I couldn’t pay cash for it.  (Sorry Dave Ramsey, I’m just sick of it all!  I’ll just have to make a few payments.)  It had been just long enough that my doctor had to run a few of the tests.  I went home with hope in my heart that at least that problem would be taken care of soon.

The doctor called the next day with the news that I was anemic and needed to pick up a prescription of iron pills at my pharmacy.  I did so reluctantly.  I had to take iron pills after the birth of Ladybug, the youngest, and I remembered how nasty they were to swallow.

That night, as we laid in bed talking, my husband decided to look up the symptoms of anemia.  The number one symptom is fatigue.  Other symptoms include headache, cold hands and feet, and dizziness.  Check.  Check!  CHECK!  I’d have stood up, waved my arms in the air, and yelled, “This is me,” but I was too tired.

I laid there with my frozen hands and feet (hey, it was winter time, I didn’t know that was caused by something else!) and thought to myself, “That is what is wrong with me.  I’m not depressed or just plain lazy.  I can FIX this!”

While I am so grateful that I was not struggling with depression, I feel like I now have a deeper understanding of how that can affect someone’s life.  It would be nice if all health issues, mental or physical, could be taken care of so simply.  In the mean time, I hope that other people who are suffering from fatigue and depression like symptoms will visit a doctor and look for help.

I’ve been taking iron supplements for a little over two weeks.  I feel so fabulous.  I’m not tired all the time.  I am doing my dishes, and laundry, and I even cleaned my toilet the other day.  (Disclaimer!  This is not the first time in six months!)  I vacuumed my bedroom floor the other night and didn’t even think about feeling exhausted.  I don’t get up in the morning and fall asleep on the couch anymore, although the first couple of days of time change really tested that…

In fact I haven’t been on the couch that much.  I haven’t read more than one book in the last several weeks because I am enjoying the freedom that energy has given me.  And because I am saving the ones I really want to read for my recovery time.  For the first time in forever I feel like me!

My surgery is scheduled in two weeks, but those two weeks are jammed pack.  One of my sisters is coming for part of Spring Break.  I am hosting a baby shower (that’s going to be absolutely fabulous!), working concession at a middle school dance, going to a service project, going camping, and getting my house and family in order for my recovery period.  And, you know what, I’m not scared or overwhelmed at the amount of stuff the next two weeks hold because I GOT this!

Earlier this year I was asked by a couple of people what my 2015 word to live by was going to be.  I was too exhausted to care earlier.  But now that I am feeling better I have been thinking about that more and more.  I choose Intentional last year because I wanted to be more proactive and deliberate in my approach to life.  I hated that so much of my life was about reacting.  I made some very real progress last year, even as derailed as I became during the end of the year.

So even though the New Year was almost three whole months ago I have chosen to continue with my word Intentional.  My reasons are still the same.  I want to be more focused and stick to a basic plan.  Last year we managed to get our money under control.  We’ve gotten really consistent with family scripture study, family prayer, and family home evening.  But I still need to focus on being better at cleaning and cooking in a timely manner.  I need to be better at nurturing my relationships.  I definitely need to finish a few projects.

Oh, it feels so good to write again!  It’s been forever.

The Vanderbilts, Dave Ramsey, and Me

It sounds like the beginning of a joke.  Maybe it IS a joke, but I’m not laughing just yet.

I’m almost nine whole months into living by the word intentional.  That’s long enough to have a baby!  I’ve gotten pretty good at some of the things I have been trying to make into habits.  I’ve even weathered a few storms and been able to come out stronger than before.  There are still three more months left so I need to finish strong.

One of the things I have been trying to do is read more intentionally.  I’ve been adding some more nonfiction to my pile of reading materials.  I’ve even expanded into self-help/motivational books.  I’ll be very honest with you when I say that this genre is one that I do not usually touch with a ten foot pole.  You know, because I’m so perfect…

I just spent some quality time with a book about the Vanderbilt family.  Fortune’s Children, by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, is about the rise and subsequent fall of the Vanderbilt fortune and why none of the family are currently on the list of the World’s Richest People.  I found it incredibly fascinating.  I didn’t know much about the family.  I couldn’t have even told you how they got their money in the first place.  I might have a bachelor’s degree in history, but I’m no expert.

The basic story is that Cornelius Vanderbilt built a vast financial empire based on steamboats and later railroads.  He was an uneducated rogue who fought his competition by slashing prices until they went broke.  He didn’t want his fortune squandered so he left the bulk of it to one son, William.  William increased the fortune by turning out to be a pretty shrewd businessman.  When he died he divide the bulk of the money between two sons.  Those sons were not great businessmen, and their wives were spenders.  By the time their children died most of the money was gone.  Several of the family died with estates worth less than half a million.  They build lavish mansions that needed 100 servants to run.  They spent money on the latest fashions and on being the leaders of high society.  They did not manage their money very well.

Reading the book made me grateful that I don’t have to be a leader of high society.  It sounded like they were all pretty bored after a while.  Give me my family, a few good friends, and enough to live on, and I’ll be happier than they appeared to be.  Money doesn’t buy happiness.

Recently my husband and I were given the opportunity to go through Dave Ramsey’s Core Financial Wellness.  We were excited to take the class.  We might not be the Vanderbilts of the early 1900s, but we do have some assets (you know, a paycheck!) that we could be better at managing.  We are only three weeks into the class, and, oh boy, has it been eye-opening.

Being more intentional about our money is an interesting prospect.  While neither my husband or I are really wasteful when it comes to our money both of us could be better.  As we have watched the online videos and done the exercises it has led  to some interesting discussions.  Drafting a zero based budget was hard.

from mtlaurelschools.org

It has been very eye-opening to my husband to realize that he is the free spirit in our home when it comes to money.  I have always taken care of our finances.  I make sure the bills are paid and so on.  My children thought it was hilarious when they found out that their Papi had an allowance; it came into being after I got tired of him using the debit card and forgetting to tell me.  When he had complained about money I had offered to share the budget, but he always had an excuse for not looking at that moment.  So when we sat down to do our first quickie budget within the class he was impressed that I already had one, and then appalled because he had no idea that we had so many obligations (think insurances, utlities, phones, etc).  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I felt a little told you so-ish right at that moment.

Our spending in no way resembles that of the Vanderbilts, and we don’t have a lot of debt beyond our house and a car payment.  But the control freak in me had an anxiety attack last night going through the monthly cash flow plan form that Dave Ramsey provides.  There were so many things we should have a budget for, but haven’t.  Figuring it all out was a little bit painful for both of us because it really is a matter of give and take, and so much adjusting of numbers.  Thankfully everyone says that after about three months we will have it all ironed out.  Can I take it for three months? Yes!

Like all plans or goals for self-improvement we have been facing a good deal of adversity.  You know how it is when you know what you are supposed to do but then everything falls apart to test you?  We faced a perfect storm this last pay period.  The last trip my husband and I made to Sam’s Club together (before we started Dave Ramsey’s class) we spent around $500 on our Sam’s card.  I wasn’t worried.  I’d just pay it off when it came, and I did.  But by then we had started the class and had started making some changes.  I put money in the savings account, paid the bills, and spent half of my budgeted grocery money.  But then two or three irregular bills came due at the same time.  By the time I paid those we had about $125 left until the next paycheck.  I thought that we would squeak by.

Everything was great until the kids came home from school.  Honeybee needed $25 for her National Junior Honor Society dues, $27.50 for an official Technology Student Association shirt, $10 for a band shirt, and $10 for All Region band try outs.  Legoman needed $10 for a band shirt and $10 for All Region band try outs.  Butterfly needed $16 for soccer (her team is going to the OU girls game as a team to help out), $12 for a school shirt, and milk money.  Ladybug just needed $12 for a school shirt.  I don’t know if you added that up, but it is more that $125.  Sigh!  Because we’ve committed to no credit cards I can’t fall back on them. It’s not really an emergency so my emergency fund can’t be touched.  I’m afraid I had to steal borrow a little bit from our vacation savings.

Now I am really looking forward to using the monthly cash flow plan and the envelope system because that wasn’t fun!  In fact I am very grateful that we have this opportunity to learn how to be more intentional with our money.

from pcc.edu

Peter Drucker once said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”  We’ve starting putting in the hard work because I want to manage my money, not be managed by it.

What have you done to take control of your finances?