Our Debt Free Journey

Dan and I started this debt-free journey a little over a year ago. We decided enough was enough and to start managing our money with intention and responsibility. We were tired of paying our debtors and then having nothing left to show of our hard work.

So we found a program- the teachings of Dave Ramsey. You may have heard of him, if not, I recommend taking some time to read his stuff or listen to his podcast. It is eye opening and sometimes it is hard to listen, as a lot of his teachings are not very popular! For one, we live in a society where using credit is as normal as Trump becoming President.

I grew up poor. My dad has never had a credit card, but I did witness him making payment plans with local businesses when making large purchases. Then again, he never had a mortgage payment or rent to pay- as we lived with my grandparents. Therefore, I had NO IDEA on how to manage money much less understand the value.

When I received my first credit card, at the ripe ol’ age of 20, it was like leaving me alone in a room with chocolate covered penises! ūüôā Okay, I’m trying too hard, but you get the picture. I spent money I didn’t have. The idea of getting stuff instantly and paying later was (insert glowing light from the sky). On top of that I took out an enormous amount of Student Loans!

When the wedding bells rang in 2014 and Avery came to join the party- we spent money we did not have so that I could stay home with her for the first year of her life. Although that was a cherished and yet dark time in my life, it is a regret I hold. Don’t worry, I’m talking about it with my therapist, and I’m sure I will forgive myself eventually.

So here I sit and write about this journey for a couple of reasons:

  • 1. Accountability
  • 2. I am going to start a new venture in becoming a Financial Coach.

This journey for Dan and I may have started in 2018, but I have been learning about finances for most of my adult life. You may not know this, but I actually have a Bachelor’s in Accounting. Thank you Sallie Mae for the expensive piece of paper- now let’s make it work!

Teaching is my passion and I do love teaching Literature and Writing to young kids, and now I want to take my passion of teaching and coach other families to empower them on their finances.

So here is quick look at our Journey of 2018:

  • Total Debt (not including the house) $160,755.
  • Paid off $21, 264!

During this time we ran into what we call “Murphy,” as in Murphy’s Law- if it can’t happen it will.

  • Our car needed a new transmission.
  • Our dishwasher broke and leaked leaving water damage to our kitchen cabinets.
  • We needed new tires for our car.
  • Our dryer decided to quit on us too, we replaced that.
  • We had to pay for some medical procedures- Sleep study and Scopes- both over $500.
  • We bought Kevin a car.

EVEN WITH ALL THIS- we did not use any credit AND we still paid off 13% of our debt! To us that is a big deal!

2019 has not been nice to us either. Unfortunately, Dan lost his job, and our water heater was having the case of, the fear of being left out, so it also died on us.

With all that said, we keep moving forward. It may seem daunting to believe that it is possible to live debt free, and even more so to pay it off. Our goal is to pay off all $140,000 in four years. Isn’t that better than 10 years or FOREVER!? We think so.

If you are interested in more details on HOW we are doing this, stay tuned. My next post will do just that!

Love Always.

More of the Same

For the last few days people have asked me what my resolutions or goals are for the New Year. I can’t quite explain why, but there is something about this year where I am not too keen on making resolutions or goals. The reality is I’ve been trying to achieve or maintain the same goals for quite some time now.

  • To be a well respected teacher.
  • To run my first marathon.
  • I have a loving husband.
  • I have a family that loves me and accepts me.
  • I have friends that are loyal and bring so much laughter.
  • I coach two running groups and have met some great people in that community.
  • I still have a shit load of debt to pay off and my husband is not employed at this current time.

So as I sit here thinking about the past, and wondering what the future will bring, I find myself in a strange position- because even though my husband is not bringing in any income at this time, I have a sense of peace.

Life is always full of surprises, and in the end of the day, week, month and year- I realize that sum of my life is truly about the decisions I make. Every morning I make a decision to go to my workplace and do my very best to inspire and motivate young minds. Every time I encounter someone I make the decision on how to treat them. How they treat me, and they way I respond to that treatment is also a decision I make.

I decided to try and run a marathon, so I make a decision every day to get out of bed and run.

I decided to marry when I was 19 to only be divorced 6 months later.

I decided to have a baby at 21 with someone I really didn’t know that well.

I decided to divorce when my kids were very young- it hurt them deeply.

I decided to go back to school and get my Masters and become a teacher.

I decided to go out on that date and eventually say yes to marriage once again.

Everyday I decide how I am going to live my life. Sometimes the outcomes are not what I expect. Sometimes the outcomes are direct consequences to my decisions. Sometimes the outcomes are sweet and wonderful. What I have learned the last few years on my journey is that I have no control over the outcomes. I can try to control it, but it only mocks me and reminds me that I have no power on how the outcome will be.

You see I would get angry with God, the Universe, because I would pray for a specific outcome and when I was denied that request, I threw my hands up in protest and marched off with depression and anger.

Now I pray to listen. I pray for guidance. I sit in silence and feel the gratitude that is my life.

If my only prayer from now on is to say “Thank You” that would be enough.

I cannot dictate to God or the Universe to cater to my wants and needs.

This year is going to be more of the same- I may carry a little more weight than usual or I may decide to eat better and keep running. I may or may not achieve paying off all my debts this year. I may or may not run my marathon faster than Oprah- but I sure hope I can!

What I do know is that I will continue to love the people around me, and to best person I can be- I’ll just have a little more grey hair and wrinkles from all the fun I am having!

Love Always

It’s all about the Gifts

On this Christmas Eve I am sitting here watching the sun awaken the sleepy city. I am in my Mickey Mouse pajamas with my favorite Hogwarts Mug full of hot fresh coffee, and my laptop ready to write, yet, I feel irritated and annoyed with my inability to come up with something to write. My husband and I were just sitting on our little couch, reading our daily affirmations, when I confessed that I was struggling with writer’s block. I wanted to write, to write something meaningful, witty, and thought provoking.

I love writing. It’s my therapy, and it’s my gift. I may never make the New York Times Best Seller list, I may never write a story good enough to be a movie, but I write. I have to. It’s like the stuff inside me needs to come out. I have to express myself, my thoughts, my life lessons in the form of words. I suppose that is how artists feel. They have to paint, draw, sing, create music to express themselves in a medium that allows them to be seen and heard.

It’s also scary as hell. I mean, it is full exposure. You are putting yourself out there. What if I mess up? What if what I write something that doesn’t make sense? Or worse, that I screw up the grammar- as a Language Arts Teacher- that is worse than drinking and driving! Or what if the story I publish is not appreciated? And, what if it does? What if I what I write actually is meaningful, witty, and thought provoking? Eeeek!

I wanted to write something about Christmas. I wanted to reminisce about Christmas’s past. To write about how silly we can be with commercializing the hell of yet. I wanted to make a point that Christmas is not about the gifts- it’s about something much more meaningful. Then I thought, how many times, in so many ways, have we heard that story before?

So I thought long and hard, what do I want to write about? I thought about my blog and how some of my stories were cute, passive aggressive, humorous and most importantly healing. I was able to use the words in my heart to tell my story and let those around me know how much life is wonderful, hard, confusing and silly! I was able to say to the people around me how much they mean to me. In some way this gift was able to build bridges where gaps and rifts were present.

Maybe Christmas is all about the gifts after all. Not the presents, but the gifts we give each other, to the world. The other night we spent our “family Christmas” at my sister’s house. She opened her home to us, and then after we ate our homemade tamales and chile, we exchanged gifts. After our children ravaged their gifts, it was time for us to open the gifts my sister gave to us. Apparently, we couldn’t just sit with our drinks and unwrap this year’s knick knacks, she created a Jeopardy like game for us and the couple with the most points was able to pick out the numbered boxes displayed on the festive decorated table- this girl looooves to decorate!

I don’t want to brag or anything, but my hubby and I kicked everyone’s ass! Nothing like a good ol’ competition in the family gathering! And although we all were able to go home with trunks full of toys, cash, new kitchen toys and smelly socks, the true gift was how my sister is so fuckin creative! She shares her fun personality with the world. She is loyal, bossy (mostly in a good way), and lives life loudly! Her husband, well, his gift to the world his is art, his music and his motivation to health and fitness. He loves the people around them, regardless of what wrongs they may have done. I am proud to be his sister-in-law

My youngest sister is the sunshine of my soul. She gives the world her beauty in working hard and loving just as hard. Her side kick, he is just as beautiful with that long silky, curly hair of his. He’s pretty cool and I enjoy hanging out with him.

My husband’s true gift is how loyal and loving he is. He has a way with people and I have learned how to be a better friend because of him. He loves entertaining, and our home has been opened for eating, drinking, talking, laughing, crying and bonding. It has been the greatest gift in our marriage.

I think of my in-laws. The gift of forgiveness. My sister-in-law who brings so much light and joy.

My Uncles and Aunts who gave my sisters and me the gift of normalcy and fun.

I can go on and on… but I have to go! It’s Christmas Eve and I have to do Christmas Eve-ie stuff.

We all have gifts to share to the world. Sometimes we have to just stop and look and realize that no matter how we celebrate this time of year, the best gifts are each other!

Merry Christmas! Love Always

Attitude of Gratitude

Since the beginning of 2018 I kept a Gratitude Journal. At the end of the day, before slumber was upon me, I would take a few minutes to be thankful. There were days where it was not so hard to find the gratitude- days that went my way, days that were full of sunshine and lots of good music.

Then there were those days when it wasn’t so easy to find the gratitude. Days of heartbreaking news, days of conflict, or sometimes just feeling down. Even on those days, I forced myself to be thankful.

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What I found doing this- as all others before me who have done this, have discovered, is how much it enriches your life and how overwhelming you feel about how wonderful life is.

I also discovered this little gem- The days that were a little darker, or days that seem to never end due to the stresses of life, were the days that proved to be my growth. Through the darkness, I discover the wonder of the light. Through the hardships I learn more about courage, and bravery. Through my pain I understand compassion. Through feeling defeated, I know that rising again is way more victorious then allowing myself to stay down.

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I’ve learned that I am still getting know myself- therefore the feedback I receive from others about myself is never accurate. This means that my opinion of others is also not accurate. Making judgements, and making assumptions, is one of the evils we have yet to admit for change.

Taking the time to reflect on the day, and even if you must squint to find the gratitude for that day, is a remarkable little tool to assist in making us suck less. I highly recommend it!

Love Always

 

Please Read The Truth on Blended Families

Like most people, I had a dream, a vision of what my life would be like when I was all grown up. When my first two babies were born, I imagined and worked towards a vision of what I thought a family should be. Then, due to my immaturity, insecurities, and ignorance, those visions, those expectations, those dreams, never came to pass.

My fantasy of what a family should look like and be like was one very similar to a sitcom called Full House, or The Brady Bunch. Where families sit around the dinner table and actually talk to one another. A family where overcoming hardships took thirty-minutes and then on to the next adventure.

When I divorced my children’s dad I still held a deep dream of having a complete and happy family. I thought that if I met the right guy, who had the right family, they would accept us and we would be the family that I have always wanted since I was a little girl.

This blog was born out of the dysfunction of my child hood. It gives me solace, truth, humor and a chance to be heard in this noisy, messy world.

I was a single mom for about three years when I met Dan, Before I met him I had dated a few guys- even with all their good qualities, they just didn’t seem to fit the family life I was aiming for. Then Dan came into my life. Funny, cute, full of life, and he even made Kevin smile.

As with all relationships, we had our tests, our moments of fire. We had a lot to learn about ourselves, relationships and overcoming obstacles. Dan also was just divorced, luckily no children were involved.

In our time in the fire, I began to realize a truth that I was desperately trying to avoid, to stuff it in the Turkey, bake it, and eat it, so that I wouldn’t have face it everyday. The truth that blending a family is not easy, wait… blending a family is not possible, it is down right exploding.

When I married Dan I thought I was blending my family with his. I thought that every Holiday meant we could sit around the fireplace and talk, laugh and share. Instead, when I married Dan, I received words like, “Being married to Dan does not mean you or your kids are family.” Yeah, that was said to me. In response to a rumor that my son was being talked about in a manner that was unpleasant. When it comes to my boy, I tend to be a little aggressive, a little passionate, a little over protective, As I should be, because in my last post when I wrote about him, you can see why.

Kevin is living with some strangers right now. He’s living with one of his friends from his Marching Band at school. ¬†Apparently he wasn’t getting along with his dad, and since living with us is not an option, since I won’t let him drive his car with out a license, he has decided to live with a family that is able to meet his needs.

Last week I met this family. I walked into their beautiful home and had one of the hardest conversations of my life.

I had to sit in this comfy sofa, with a house full of memorable pictures and smells of food being cooked. I looked this woman in her eyes, and said, “I am so thankful that you have opened your home to my boy… I would much prefer him living with me, but it just doesn’t seem possible. His grades are up, he’s not skipping class, he actually seems happy.” ¬†Then I cried.

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LOOK HOW HAPPY HE IS!! 

She handed me a Kleenex, and asked what was going on that Kevin would feel safer and happier in her home rather than the ones he had.

My response was that I only wanted what was best for my son. If this arrangement was working then I am all for it. You see, I want Kevin to be happy, successful and to experience the best high school years he has.

I had to do something very hard you guys. I had to leave him there, and let him live there.

I realized that my fantasies, my dreams of what family is is what needed to be let go. I have realized the last few years my mistake has been trying to form this sense of family that I fantasized about, rather than just loving the people around me so that family could be created.

And isn’t this the truth for most of us… Maybe? We don’t realize that family is created when we let go of our expectations, our fantasies, our needs and we just love the people around us, just the way they are.

What I miss with Kevin can never be again. It hurts. I don’t have the answers either. I can’t tell you that divorce is wrong, or re-marrying is wrong, or having children too soon is a mistake. I just don’t know. All I know is that tonight, Kevin is safe, he is loved, and even though he isn’t here with me physically, my heart is with him.

There are good people in this world. People who take in other people’s children and love them. In the end, that is all that matters.

Love Always

 

¡Que Vivan la Musica de Vida! 

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if music did not exist?…..¬† yeah… let’s not!

Isn’t it amazing how music brings so much to our lives. It doesn’t matter what phase we are in life, what we are going through or what we feel, there is a song or piece of music that seems to capture exactly how we feel, or say what we can’t seem to put into words.

We teach our young children with song- the ABCs, Twinkle Little Star…etc.

Then as we grow we begin to listen to what other kids our age are listening to. We have our favorite bands, or boy bands, or head banging bands, or bands that march, bands that we can sing along with… ahh so many memories with music.

It isn’t surprising then, that when we worship God with music.

There is something about music that is not only reverent, it is also powerful.

When I was young I wanted to sing and play guitar as my secret grown up dream. I wanted to be like Madonna, or Debbie Gibson- remember her? Hey, I said music was amazing, I didn’t say my taste was.

Nevertheless, I can’t tell my story without mentioning how music and song was a huge part of my coming to age. I have one Uncle who goes by Master Guitarist, and rightfully so.

Every year during the month of July- when Taos would celebrate Las Fiestas- a celebration to honor Santa Anna and Santiago, two holy saints of the Catholic Church-where locals take two full days of eating, dancing, and basking in the music of local Spanish Bands. There is even a royal court where a young lady is pronounced Queen- ¬°Que Vivan La Reina! On the last day there is a parade and we eat some more, and of course listen to more music.

What was so great about Las Fiestas to me was how it brought our whole family together. We would all hang out on my grandparents porch and listen to my uncle play his guitar. All of us cousins would even coordinate our own dance moves.

Las Fiestas de Taos is kind of a big deal- check out our outfits above. My aunt actually made those for us out of those cholo handkerchiefs.

So it is no surprise that I wanted to play guitar too. I picked one up early in life and my dad, who knew a little, taught me what he knew. The first song I learned- none other than Richie Valens, “La Bamba!”¬† Yup, I just heard the tune in my head too!

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I took a few classes in high school and in college, and it didn’t really help me become a master guitarist, I still only play a few songs- you can say that reading music is not my talent!

So when Las Fiestas de Taos was over and family members went back home, my sisters and I would go visit our other Grandpa- my mom’s dad. He was the reason my mom ventured to Taos and met my dad, and now there is three beautiful, smart, badass women in this world!

My grandpa worked at the Harwood Library, now a museum, as the janitor. He had a bit of¬† a drinking issue, so his lively hood was minimal. He lived in an Airstream and built around it on a piece of property so far out of town, it had no running water or electricity. It didn’t stop him living a life of fun!

My sister and I would play with his miniature houses- a replica of an 1800’s village complete with a saloon, a library, and a hostel. He was also a talented cartoonist with a sense of humor that made you nod your head and chuckle even though you knew you shouldn’t.

My favorite part of visiting with him was when he would get out his accordion and play us a song. I was fascinated with that instrument. The sound of it, the uniqueness of its shape and how it was played- contracting it in and out while playing notes with both hands. I was mesmerized with how well he played it- he made it look so easy. The first time I picked up that instrument it was almost as big as me and probably weighed more. He tried to teach me a few notes, and how it worked, but I just couldn’t get it.

As I got older and became interested in other activities, I still tried to play the accordion when we would go visit my grandpa. He had about three or five accordions to his name, different sizes, colors and so forth, and there was this one I was particularly drawn to. It was small, so that was good, and the color- a marble red! It was beautiful! I’d take it out of its case and try to mimic my grandpa’s movement of fingers and yet it never sounded anything like his music- in fact I wouldn’t even call it music.

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When I turned 15 or 18- I just can’t remember when- he gave me that accordion for my birthday. I thought for sure now I would be able to enter that talent contest and impress everyone with mad skills on the accordion- ahem, not so much!

That accordion stayed inside its case for years, collecting dust while I was trying to figure out my life- while I was raising a family. Then one day as I was unpacking my belongings from all the moves I made, I came across it and opened it up- with it opening up all the memories of my time with my grandpa while he played that accordion. I still can’t play it, but I can still hear the music it plays in my heart!

When my grandpa departed this world I had the honor of writing and speaking his eulogy. I described a lot of what I said above and then some- as life is too precious and too short for us to grasp.

Thank GOD we have music to dance to, to sing along with, to love, to express our emotions, to turn water into wine! ¬°Que Vivan la Musica de Vida!

I think I’m going to open up a drink and listen to some of my favorite jams or strum the only songs I know on my guitar.

Love Always

Check out the The Archie Herman Band MusicStore on FaceBook. 1523113_10201458245917436_1551032886_o

 

Brothers – Sisters

When I was attending Al-Anon I learned a concept that has stuck with me throughout the years- placing Principles above Personalities.

At the beginning of each meeting we would read what those principles were and what they represented. We would allow the people in the meeting to share their story in a safe non-judgmental environment and we all had something in common- we were struggling with our life. So we would come together and share our secrets, our weaknesses, our feelings and together we would encourage each other despite where we were in our journey in recovery.  At the end of each meeting would stand up and hold hands in a circle and chant the Serenity Prayer-

These meetings were my air, my food, and my soul when life was incredibly difficult and confusing. Over and over again I was reminded that the circle was how we needed to view our relationships with our fellow human beings. You see, I use to view relationships as a ladder- either you were above me or below me. This narcissitic way of thinking gave me a superior or inferior complex.  The reality was that we are brothers and sisters in a circle, and in the center of that circle is our higher power- as we understand who or what that higher power was.

I admit I sometimes go back to that old way of thinking when I am around people. Depending on education, economic class, and personalities. So I have to go back to the teachings of Al-Anon and remember that no one is above me or below me. We are all equal–just different. ¬†We are all loved– even if we don’t feel it. We are in fact brothers and sisters.

Speaking of brothers and sisters we all are familiar with the sibling rivalry. Brothers and Sisters fight. Conflict is a part of relationships. Sometimes we do and say stuff to cause disagreements, misunderstandings, and then before we know it a rift has been created and families are broken a part.

It’s no secret that my husband and his brother are in no speaking terms. It’s going on four years of no communication, no get togethers and now we have to celebrate big days separately with our friends and family. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking.

I’m not going to give the details as to what happened for the rift to occur- what matters is that so much time has been lost.

So when I feel down and confused about situations like this- I say the Serenity Prayer, and remember that WE ALL do stuff that requires forgiveness, and forgiveness that is not freely given is to say that we are not children in a circle of equality, but children who are measured by the ladder.

What is most difficult about this whole situation is that when life happens we can’t be there to help. We can’t celebrate Big Moments- like Birthdays and Holidays.

Friends, I write this story because it’s hard and my heart aches. I write this because maybe, just maybe, you too are going through something similar. ¬†Hang in there. Share your story- you are not alone!

Life goes on. 

If only we could stop fighting with each other and just practice forgiveness and placing principles above personalities. Maybe we need to admit when we are wrong and maybe we need to forgive.

And when that doesn’t happen:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change‚Ä©‚Ä©The courage to change the things I can‚Ä©‚Ä©And the wisdom to know the difference.

AMEN!!!

LOVE ALWAYS