Happiness is: Time Management a la Mom Style

Back in high school, my AP Spanish teacher would jokingly ask me (he addressed everyone by last name) “Toledo, were you born late!?!” every time I’d come rushing into class late-and it being my first class period, it happened often. I’ve always struggled with time management. I always left myself just enough time to go rushing out the door, racing the clock by SECONDS to get to whatever destination right. on. time. It’s no wonder I was a very big financial supporter of the city of Corona, California Highway Patrol, various areas in Los Angeles, and maybe a couple of other locales. I was always getting pulled over for speeding. Years later, I still struggled with time management, and more so with having to manage three children. I no longer like to speed, so I’ve really embraced the motto “better late than never”. My husband, who likes to arrive early wherever he goes, has (for his own sanity’s sake, I suppose) raised the white flag of surrender after over a decade of dealing with my lateness. God, bless him and his patience!

Getting to places on time is not my only struggle. Consistency with managing responsibilities and obligations in a timely manner is another challenge. Add in pregnancy symptoms and what do you get? Basically, my husband doing everything to keep order in our home and food in everyone’s bellies so that they don’t starve. I do not share that proudly. This pregnancy has been the most difficult one I’ve experienced, and I’ve often tapped out of adulting and parenting more times than I can count. I have endured morning sickness, severe fatigue due to anemia, major brain fog, a progressively worsening case of sciatica that came much sooner than my previous pregnancies. As a result, I have battled feelings of failure as a wife and mother because my husband had to take on the entire operations- cooking, cleaning, caring for the kids- while quietly dealing with his own physical pain, injury/surgery recovery, and physical therapy. The guilt has been a heavy weight on my shoulders, especially because he would never tell me if he feels overwhelmed with it all. I’m grateful for the amazing, selfless husband the Lord has given me, and whom I’ve too often felt deserves so much better.

As part of my new year goals, I decided I would work to improve this bad habit of time management, as well as find ways to do more without overdoing it physically. Two of the most important behavioral shifts that have created a positive change are:

1. Get better sleep- I set the goal of waking up by 6:30am, and going to sleep by 10:30pm. This one has not been easy, but the impact it’s made on my productivity and mood have motivated me to stick to it. Mike is naturally an early riser, so he has been my wake up call a couple of times, and has been so helpful by bringing coffee up to assist with the waking up process. As my circadian rhythm has adjusted to waking up earlier, I’ve been able to enjoy quiet time for both leisure and devotional reading, as well as accomplishing other morning goals. The only struggle I’ve encountered with consistently achieving this daily goal is that I can’t fall asleep until my dears little miss night owl does. Also, I’m at the point in my pregnancy where it takes ten to fifteen seconds to roll from one side to the other, everything hurts so I wake up often with hip pains or some other discomfort, and my bladder & I are on unfriendly terms.

2. Commit to around 10 minutes of tidying every day- This small move has been so effective! Now, I did do a full clean before the new year began. However, since the first, I don’t spend much more than the set time frame to tidy up. I must note, I’ve also made the kids fully responsible for picking up their toys. It’s funny how motivated they become to pick up when tablet/screen time depends on their productivity! Not having to constantly pick up after them has really helped cut down on cleaning time. I don’t count my bedroom, which I tidy up daily as part of my morning routine (it is not a place I spend a lot of time in, so it hardly gets messy). I also don’t count laundry, which is done about once a week (sometimes twice, depending on activities). I’ve embraced a minimalist wardrobe, so 2 loads is usually the max that I’m doing). I have a daily to do list of other focused activities that I add to as necessary so that I don’t forget any tasks I want to complete. I can’t take credit for the awesome idea of focused, 10 minute tidying. I gleaned this nugget of wisdom from Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. It has really helped free up time to do more with my family, which is the most important part for me. It’s been a huge blessing!

Those two small changes have directly and positively impacted my daily life, and my husband’s as well. During a recent “discussion” (more like me throwing a temper tantrum) about my frustration that we don’t get any time to just sit and talk without any distractions (especially the blessed ones we call our children!). He pointed out (to my dismay) that he is doing the cooking, cleaning and child rearing- on top of his own obligations- since I haven’t been able to with the way I’ve been feeling. Instead of being grateful that he was doing everything so that I could try to rest, I was pouting about him not giving me enough attention! After making these small changes, we’ve been able to share more quality time together. The lack of pileups throughout the house has allowed him to be able to just sit and relax more, which gives us more opportunities to talk and bond when the kids are doing other things!

It has taken years to feel like I have control over my day and household! I have more learning and growing to do in this area (I still tend to fall into this “where did the time go?!” time warp that results in me rushing out the front door to get to my classes on time. 2020 goals, anyone?), but these small changes have made a big difference in my mood, peace, and the amount of time I have in my day. I’m so thankful for all of the wonderful authors and bloggers who’ve played a part by sharing these small changes that have brought more happiness to my life!

God bless!

What are some small (or big) changes you’ve made that have resulted in a happier, more peaceful life for you and your loved ones?

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Silencing Doubt with Faith

This is the new verse I’m clinging to this week, this year, and especially, the next 18 weeks. Yesterday was the first day of Spring semester, and my first semester back in school in almost a decade. I was bombarded with a plethora of information, class syllabus’, orientation week discussions, reading, and assignments. I had a chance to get a complete overview for each class of what I needed to achieve to successfully complete this Spring semester. I spent approximately 4 hours, combined, going through all 3 course pages, and beginning the immediate activity they each required.

I also achieved everything on my to-do list and daily goal sheet, while taking care of the two kiddos as my sweet hubby took our eldest to school, handled his appointments, and then did the grocery shopping. Last night, as I reflected on my day and everything to come as part of my nightly journal entry (a 2019 daily goal- reflection/gratitude journaling), a tinge of panic set in. I compiled the next 18 weeks of History-English-Kinesiology, each daily/weekly/monthly goals I’ve committed myself to achieving this year, the next 5 weeks of teaching classes at the gym before going on maternity leave, taking care of my husband and children, and then having this baby in just over 9 weeks, and I heard a familiar little voice say “Carmen, you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew. There’s no way you are going to keep all of this up.” The worry, overwhelm, and anxiety began to set in. I choose a bible verse for each nightly journal entry that reflects how I feel after each day before I begin my writing. The verse I came across for tonight’s entry initially, a favorite of mine (It’s also the screen saver on my phone), was Philippians 4:6-

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done (NLT)

It seemed like the right verse for this reflection, until I began hearing the doubt-inducing words that instilled anxiety in my mind. I needed a word powerful enough to shut out the noise that threatened my peace, especially because I partially believed what I was hearing. So, I searched deeper and came across the verse on my post graphic. It was exactly what I needed to combat the voice of fear and doubt seeking to destroy all hope and enthusiasm within. I was able to respond with God’s armor of truth. Yes, it IS unlikely, even humanly impossible, to successfully juggle everything I am looking to accomplish this year entirely on my own strength. But, with God’s strength and His victorious hand leading the way, it CAN be done.

Surprisingly (though it shouldn’t be, but oh me of little faith), reading and accepting that verse for myself in that moment was sufficient enough to silence my anxious mind. I was able to mentally end the day in a positive, victorious note. I tend to get overwhelmed easily just by overthinking, but filling my mind with God’s promises helps tremendously. If I’m going to be successful in my endeavors, I need to take each day, one at a time, clinging to my Lord. Not by my strength, but yours alone, Lord. I look forward to seeing how He will stretch me and strengthen me over the course of this year, but especially, these next 18 weeks!

Happiness Is: Fighting Fear of Failure

I’m a college student again!

I have officially re-entered student life, beginning today, for what feels like the 100th time in my life. I hope for better results this time. No, I WILL have better results this time. I’m 32 years old with 3 kids and a 4th on the way. My family is also currently experiencing some emotional and financial concern, due to my husband’s injury and physical rehabilitation, which has shown to be a longer process than expected. Meanwhile, I’m trying to master my responsibilities and obligations as a wife, mother of active children, homemaker, and fitness instructor who less than 10 weeks away from having a baby and working with some very unpleasant pregnancy pains and symptoms. So, what better time than now to go back, right!?

I am excited, yet apprehensive about going back to school NOW, with anxiety due to my fear of failing- again. It’s been a long time, and this starting over thing is getting old (like me!)

I graduated high school in the Summer of 2004, and chose the route of community college because I was determined on achieving priority #1- my immediate freedom. There were plans of moving out with my best friend at the time, so somehow that translated into going the community college route. I had a falling out with said friend, so the plan to move out was scrapped, but my first semester of college was a great one! I made some awesome new friends, participated in clubs, and then realized that my intended major maybe was not for me (nursing, the first of many major-changes.. which was another part of my downfall and path to eventual drop-out). Things were fairly good. My social life was a big priority, and I was working a little more than part-time, but life was mostly in balance.

Then, I met someone. The next few years of my life would be heavily influenced by this person’s presence, and my inability to control my heart. Anyone who’s been head over heels in love (or so you think at the time), knows how easily the heart is persuaded to do things that our logical mind would objectively dissuade. Ultimately, I am the sole person responsible for my own choices. That winter, the start of 2005, as I prepared to start my 2nd semester of college, the balanced scales would end up tipping, with him outweighing every other area of my life. My hours of lecture and study time suddenly because an inconvenient burden that infringed on the countless hours I “needed” to be with this person to live (seriously… I was that pathetically immersed in this person, emotionally). If I were able to come up to breathe long enough to remember to drop out of a class, it was a good semester. But that didn’t always happen. Yet, semester after after semester for those few years, I would still convince myself that “this time will be different” and “I’ll focus on school this time”. There actually WERE some courses taken throughout that time that actually held my interest enough that I made it through the entire semester ( or, were those just the courses he took with me?). Those few weren’t enough to avoid what would eventually occur. I ended up on both academic (bad grades) AND progress (not completing courses attempted) probation. I decided to focus on working full-time (I had left my previous job in retail and entered property management already by this time…), and ended up moving in with him, so school no longer fit in my life at this time. It wasn’t the right time, but I told myself “one day” I’d go back.

That time in my life was an emotional rollercoaster of instability, and when it ended, I was left even shaken, unsure, and dealing with a lost sense of self/identity. I spent three years putting everything and everyone on the back burner, including myself and who I was. For three years, I tried to morph into the puzzle piece that would fit into the puzzle of someone else’s life, one in which -I know now- I did not belong. It was a difficult realization, one that resulted in nearly the next year of my life tumbling down this sloped emotional hill, completely out of control. I cringe at the fact that I gave one person so much power and influence over my life that their absence would result in this massive dysfunction, but if I’m going to be real, that means admitting to my mistakes. Less than 2 years after, I was able to begin a healing process that would take YEARS to achieve closure. To this day, there are triggers that cause a relapse of the emotional pain felt in my heart from like a permanent scar that occasionally feels like a phantom wound, but I feel it less and less with each passing year.

There’s a bright side to that story. It comes in the form of another person (the irony, right?). However, this person was sent from God as an instrument of healing. His name is Mike, but I sometimes call him my love, my best friend, my baby daddy (okay, not really that one… even though he is!)…or just simply, my husband. He was the puzzle piece that I fit perfectly with, a continued source of encouragement from the moment he entered my life. Now, his love and support has led to today’s step forward. He was the one that turned a thought, a silent desire, into a tangible action. He spoke the words that would result in me taking the big step to re-enroll- but that wasn’t the first time he’d done that.

From the beginning, even during the wild stage of life that I was in at the start of our relationship, he made me want to be better. After dating a few months, I actually attempted to return to the school I had been attending. I don’t remember the details, or what classes I had enrolled in. I just remember sitting in my car, the campus parking lot, talking to him on the phone as I was waiting for my class time to arrive. I remember asking him if he wanted me to skip class and go spend time with him (old habits die hard). I will never forget him telling me that I shouldn’t skip class just for him. The chronological order of my feelings regarding us and our future are hazy these days, but I can tell you, if it hadn’t yet crossed my mind that this was the man I was going to marry, it did right then! I didn’t complete that semester (bad habits die VERY hard), but not because of him. I was still working out a lot of emotional issues, and I knew I couldn’t commit to following through with school (I dropped early enough to avoid any more damage to my already pathetic academic resume). That was early 2009. Approximately a year later, January 2010, we were married, and a couple of months later, we’d find out we were expecting our firstborn son (Honeymoon period? What’s that? Ha!).

That Summer would be the next time he would encourage me, when I decided to enroll and take two classes. I completed both classes, and did well. This was HUGE for me. A small success in a pool of failures. I would go on to attempt, and immediately drop, the semester right after Andrew was born. A first-time, completely clueless, and sleep-deprived mom, I immediately felt like I was biting off more than I could chew, so I decided to wait for the right time. “One day”. He is now 8 years old. We also have a soon to be 4 year old, a 2 1/2 year old, and I’m 2 months away from giving birth to our newest edition. And yet, “someday”, has turned into “today”.

One day, as mike and I discussed the “what if’s”, “when thens” and “what nexts” of this journey with his physical health and unknown future in his career-a field he has spent decades in, and what I’ve always considered his gift-, he suggested I use this time that he was home to go back to school. I’d thought about it, but did not have the confidence to act on it, or even speak about it to him. Yet, he saw it, and said what I was afraid to speak into life. It was time for me to go back to school. If I waited for “the right time”, I’d never go back. Life is always crazy. So, with him home for the time being to help with the kids, there was no denying that there was no better time than NOW. So, I enrolled, followed the process, and anxiously waited.

Now, here we are. The day I’ve so nervously and excitedly waited for has arrived. This may sound premature, but I believe this time will be different. It is different. I’m not the same person I was all those years ago. I have such a strong support system in my wonderful husband. I also have the motivation in the form of 3 little ones, a 4th to come; a family whom I want to make proud and who encourages me to want to be better, and a clear direction of the path I want to go (for the first time since I started college and after years of being molded and shaped through life experiences that would draw out a passion that was not present in 18 year old me). This is Day 1 of the next 18 weeks of my life. I don’t know how it will end on May 23rd, but I do know that with the motivation, love and support I have in my life, I’ve got everything I need to cross that finish line. Here’s to the first of many little successes in my redemptive journey to finally finishing what I started 14 years ago. Cheers!

Happiness is: Freedom from Mental, Emotional, and Physical Clutter

Minimalism. A concept that has blown up in recent years. Yet, surprisingly, countless have either not yet jumped on board, or have not taken an interest in what this lifestyle can mean for them. There are also those who don’t know what minimalism is, or do, but are intimidated because they have only been exposed to extremist forms of minimalism. I’ve read many books on this lifestyle, and have subscribed to bloggers who practice it. One size does not fit all, because they vary in their methods and practices , so don’t be intimidated! Each approach is based on the individual, or family, practicing it. No matter where you fall in the minimalist lifestyle spectrum, the benefits are exponentially positive. For me, adopting minimalism was a matter of mental and emotional health, and it was a much needed blessing in my life.

My experience with minimalism began around Fall of 2016. I was living an emotional rollercoaster, and my mind was cluttered and overwhelmed. I had a newly turned six year old, a twenty month old, and a two month old. We had also just recently moved into the two-story home that we were going to buy from my father in-law (which, I was not at all thrilled about.. but that’s a hard lesson to share some other day). I was constantly in a state of exhaustion, frustration, and overwhelm. With my history of (self-diagnosed) severe postpartum depression, I would assumed that depression was a factor in my state of mind at the time. I was lacking adequate sleep, juggling three young children, school and sport activities, a husband who worked 50+ hours a week, our home; and dealing with an out of shape, recovering body, and pressure of bouncing back quickly as a fitness instructor. There were not enough hours in my day, and I had not yet taken up coffee drinking (if only I had known better! Ha!). It felt like being pulled in a hundred different directions. Throw in the stress of the “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle that we were living, and you would get the heightened frustration and hopelessness that I struggled with daily. My marriage was taking a big hit, and I hated the angry person I was becoming. I needed to find a way to make things better, before they got worse!

I began searching Google and Pinterest for solutions on how to eliminate stress when I came across a blog post from Allie Casazza. I cannot remember the exact post, but I do recall immediately becoming a subscriber to her blog, because she offered a solution I had not yet tried, minimalism/decluttering. Around this time, I also came across her post about her family leaving their house and moving into an RV for a period of time. That, and my new obsession with Tiny House Hunters (I was really determined to eliminate this stress and depression I was feeling!), led to my bright idea of doing the same with my family. That’s a post for another day, but it definitely has made me thankful to be within four normal walls, again! The move into the RV did come with some positive aspects! Being such a small, confined space, I was “encouraged” to really take minimalism to heart, which translates to we had to get rid of A LOT of our stuff! Before we made the move into the RV, I had slowly begun the process of decluttering, which we sped up had to prepare for the big move! This is where minimalist tips really helped us:

Clothes: We had ONE drawer under this couch, and NO other drawer space for our three kids’ wardrobe. My sweet husband ended up getting some wood to create dividers in the drawer, which was sectioned into three small compartments. We had to fit ALL of their clothes in that drawer, so that meant downsizing to essentials. Did Andrew really need a dozen plus t-shirts, anyway? Mike has 2 very small compartments- or, umm, closets?- on each side of our bed. There were no drawers for ya to put folded garments so I had to make use of two fabric storage cubes I had. How did we make everything fit neatly with so little space? Pinterest for the win, as that was where I found Marie Kondo’s KonMari decluttering and folding method. If you haven’t heard of Marie, and her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I strongly recommend it! She even has a new series on Netflix that’s I’ve really enjoyed, so far!

Toys: This one was a tough one for me, because I wanted the kids to feel as normal as possible with this new transition. I didn’t NOT want them to feel like we were taking everything away from them, but we had bins and bins of toys, with nowhere to put them. So, we had to consolidate. I incorporated a few of Allie’s tips on decluttering kids’ toys, and let the kids know that they were going to be doing something specially kind by picking toys they no longer use to give away so that other kids that don’t have anything may have some toys to play. My Andrew has a very caring and giving heart, so this helped encourage him to part was with some of the toys. We let them pick the toys they felt a special connection to (apparently, all ten thousand hot wheels. Just kidding, some of those were dad’s! Ha!), and whatever fit in the single bin we’d be keeping would be able to stay. That part wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.

Books And Other Miscellaneous: Everything was eliminated with one thing in mind (and we had to be honest with ourselves): Do we really need this? Papers, books, household items, furniture, kitchenware, personal care products, you name it. With the limited amount of space, and my knowledge of how clutter affected me mentally, I knew there was no room for excuses in keeping things. At the time, we expected to be in the RV for about two years, and hoped to be able to start fresh when we move back into a home (IF we ever decided to… it was new and exciting at the time, so I actually considered this being a new normal for us!), so the attachment to household and furniture items was easily released. Books that would not be read again, that I didn’t LOVE, and cookbooks (because, honestly, I pin the recipes I want, anyway) were sent off to the donation pile. Whatever stayed was neatly stored in a small bin or boxes, and put away in the large storage compartment under the RV living space.

When we moved back into a regular home, I was shocked at the realization of how much we had eliminated just before, and right after, moving into the RV. It was both saddening (because I had felt the move into the RV was a mistake) and, also, freeing (because we didn’t have clutter and excess stuff to find a place for in our home). Since then, it has taken some work to maintain a clutter-free environment, but I’ve grown to work at it with joy because of what I’ve learned from this experience.

1) You truly don’t need things to be happy. Yes, having certain things can make living easier, but happiness itself doesn’t come from what you have.

2) Expectations and standards of living can be considered excess clutter. When we have all these ideas and needs to maintain these standards, we no longer leave room for the things that truly matter, and then we can struggle with appreciating the little things because of the excess.

3) You can easily replace things when needed. You can’t get time or special moments back once they are gone.

4) As cliché as it sounds, less truly is more. The less things you have to think about and maintain; the less stress you allow into your life; the less needs you require- the more room you create in your life for time to share with those you love, happiness, peace, love, and gratitude.

The last one was probably the most needed realization. I’m still learning and growing in the area of my life, but the best takeaway I’ve received was the understanding that more is not always better. I still have a long way to go, but I am developing more and more, with time and growth, into a person that can say:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

Philippians‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

My hope is that if you can relate to my struggles, you will find some encouragement in what I’ve shared! Blessings!

It’s the last day of 2018! I started off this year with one word that I wanted to reflect my desired growth. Transparency.

I had set out to do daily posts on my Instagram page that reflected this goal. Though I did not complete the entire year of posting, I did achieve the goal of being more open and transparent. I’ve always struggled with being closed off and untrusting, as well as very private. I shared things that I never would have before, and I’ve learned to love and accept me, despite what anyone else may feel or think. It’s helped me become more authentic, and less concerned with trying to hold up any kind of outward appearances to impress or gain the approval of people. I’ve grown tremendously in this area this past year. Now, as I look forward to this next year, I’ve set my new focus:

HAPPINESS, which is my word for 2019.

“One is not always happy when one is good; but one is always good when one is happy”- Oscar Wilde

“To be happy, I needed to generate more positive emotions, so that I increased the amount of joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, gratitude, intimacy, and friendship in my life- Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.

It’s something I’ve struggled with the last few years, and I’ve come to realize that my perspective holds far greater responsibility for any lackthereof that I’ve experienced. Happiness is a choice- one that is to be made daily, weekly, monthly, etc. One that has to be made despite circumstances. I may not control everything that happens in our life, but I do have control over how I respond to it. I also control-for the most part- how I spend each day. I can spend my days focused on the negative, all that’s going wrong, my discontentment, etc; or I can spend each day proactively creating happiness through my own actions. I can choose to be happy by doing things that bring me joy and happiness.

So in 2019, I’ve set goals for each area of my life (spiritual, family, physical, professional, educational, interests, etc) focused on creating happiness. If I’ve been unhappy, it’s because I’ve chosen to neglect myself and the things that create happiness. That ends today. I look forward to sharing this new journey with you!

Here’s to a HAPPY 2019.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🎉

New Year, Happier Me

Happiness is: Letting Go of the Past

I’m currently going through a 30-day devotional on my YouVersion Bible app called Declutter Now!, and this devotional has been such a blessing! Today, especially, as I read what I would describe as, decluttering your past from your present and future. I started this plan before the New Year, and today’s reading was on Day 24 of 30, but it could not have been any more perfect than if it had been divinely appointed for me to read today by God (I don’t believe in coincidences!).

Part of my goal toward Happiness in 2019 is making peace and letting go of my past to move forward toward a happier, more hopeful future. I struggle constantly with comparison. I compare the past with the present, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Reminiscing on past times can bring joy. Reflection can be very helpful and productive, in terms of learning and growing. That is not how I’ve looked back on my past. I would compare myself more to Lot’s wife (see Genesis 19). God specifically commanded that they leave town, without looking back. Her heart clearly held on to what she was leaving behind, because she chose to disobey God in that single command, and was, therefore, turned into a pillar of salt! Thankfully, I haven’t turned into a literal pillar 🤪 Yet, by today’s terms, I’d have to admit that my constant looking back has turned me into a pretty “salty” woman, wife, and even -at times- mother! “If only I had……I would now be/have……”. “If we had done….we wouldn’t have to….”. I’ve spent the last few years living in a world of guilt, regret, and “if only’s”. Has all of that made me better, stronger, wiser? Mostly, no. Though, I’d like to believe I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again, it’s hard to see growth buried until all of the bitterness and resentment that has spread like weeds in my heart and mind over the last few years.

I was supposed to graduate at 22 from college, have a successful career, settle down in marriage with the perfect wedding, own my first home by 28, travel to new places; then have kids and be the perfect stay at home wife and soccer mom. That was the future I envisioned for myself. Instead, I continually failed at committing to college, racked up debt living on my own with a boyfriend that resulted in nothing, then having pieces of a heart to offer the man of my dreams as we both embarked on a rocky journey of foolish financial choices, enslavement to debt, still renting well into our 30s with no clear timeline for owning a home. Oh, and our travels together have taken us as far as the southernmost big city destination of Idaho. Yes, I’m a mostly stay at home mom, but I am still trying to figure out this balancing act of roles. That is the filter I’ve been looking through the last few years of my life. I’ve been consumed by the wrongs of my past, and my neck is stiff from constantly looking back, tirelessly mulling over what “should have been” and “where I could have been/done better, what I could have done differently”. I don’t share this proudly, but my hope is that if anyone reading this is struggling with a similar perspective, you will join me as I turn about face and start trekking forward into what God has in store for us.

This year, I am committed to stop looking back with the intention of looking for everything that’s gone wrong, everything I’ve messed up. I’ve started this new year looking at:

1) What’s around me– I have a loving husband, three sweet children who love us unconditionally, a healthy and active baby boy growing inside of me. We have a place that we call home, warm beds to sleep in at night, and A/C to keep us cool on the hot days, as well as a heater to keep us warm during the chilly, Winter nights. We have a fridge and pantry cabinets full with food to fill our bellies, water to drink, and clothes on our back for any weather. Our children are learning, thriving, happy, with all of their needs, and more, met. We are surrounded by family and friends that love us. We get to freely attend a wonderful church, and most importantly, we have Jesus. I don’t say this vainly or lightly. We are blessed, and I have so much to be grateful for each day.

2) What’s ahead of me- Jeremiah 29:11 says ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good, and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’ “. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths”. Those are just two of my favorite truths pointing toward looking forward and UP, rather than behind. Now, if only I could just get out of God’s way, imagine all of the amazing things He can and will do in my life and my family’s?

In 2019, I’m choosing to look forward, and I’m choosing to proactively be happy. If you look for happiness, it can easily be found all around. Over the last few days, I’ve felt it as I read a great book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (another NON-coincidence that I started this book before the new year); as my children have wrapped their arms around me tightly to give me hugs and tell me they love me; as my husband so lovingly man’s the fort so that I can get some peaceful, quiet time to myself to do something else that makes me happy, write. I feel it as we gather together to watch a movie that sparks laughter in the kids, or when I listen to some of my favorite energizing and dance-worthy songs as I’m starting my day. I especially felt it when I woke up to the first of three welcome emails for my upcoming Spring course load as a returning college student. I’ve spent the last few years so focused on the far away past, that I’ve neglected to acknowledge the good in the present. That perspective ended with 2018. I know every day won’t be sunshine and white roses, but I’m looking for the good in a life with so much good to be found. I’m choosing happiness for myself, which means letting go of the past, and reaching for whatever future God has prepared for me. I hope you will set your sights wide open for the joy that awaits you in this new year, and beyond!

Blessings!

Carmen, Wash Your Face and Stop Lying to Yourself

Have you read “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis?

This book has instantly become everything to me; I cannot believe just how deeply I’ve connected with it. I’m all about spiritual, emotional, and professional development reading. I am always looking to better myself, because honestly, I feel like I am behind the curve at times and have a lot of work to do to achieve any semblance of success at this point in my life.

I’m a dweller. I dwell on people, things, circumstances and other areas I can’t control. I’m also really hard on myself about my failures. This last week has been no different, but the intensity of the hardness reached a new level of intense. I had been sulking and wallowing for a couple of days, so discouraged and disappointed with God because I felt like He was working against me (I know, I know). I discussed this with my husband and he questioned whether I was disbelieving of God and whom He is. It wasn’t so much that. I believe that God is able, capable, and omnipotent. I just didn’t believe that -when it came to ME- He was WILLING. I continually cling to the promise in His word that He gives us the desires of our hearts, and that if we have not, it’s because we ask not. But I’ve been asking for years for a specific desire of my heart. One so strong that it’s become the only objective that I dedicate much of my thoughts to in the recent years. It’s unfulfilled achievement has made it one that constantly reinforces the idea that I’ve come to accept as truth- that I’m a failure whom will never succeed.

I was in “ugly cry”, blinding tears mode during this conversation with my husband. His admonishment of my lack of faith, and reminder that “God has never failed to give us everything we need” just made me even more upset. I didn’t want to hear that. I’m not ungrateful, though it may seem like it at this very moment. I am thankful that we’ve always had a roof over our head, food in our bellies, and all of our needs met. I’m grateful that the Lord has always made “the numbers work, somehow” even when I couldn’t figure out how I would be able to find a solution. But, at this particular moment, during this week of sulking, all I could see was that the strongest desires of my heart were being overlooked and ignored by the God of this universe, the Father that I’ve believed to do what His word says. “I’m not even asking for much. I don’t want a big house, just a home that’s OURS.. I just want stability”. I couldn’t see past what I felt I was lacking.

“You need to talk to someone, and it’s not me. You need to talk to your bible study girls on Wednesday “. My husband was clearly concerned by the way he was responding. He’s listened to me during my various dark points in our 10 years together (and many concerning discussions that he’s had to have with me), but I don’t think I’ve ever expressed so much anger and discontentment toward God, so he was probably taken aback. We ended that conversation with him strongly suggesting that I talk to God and talk to my bible study group about how I’m feeling. I didn’t want to, though. I didn’t want to speak to God because I was angry at Him, and I wanted to make sure He knew that. I didn’t want to share how I was feeling with my wonderful bible study girlfriends. I wanted to drown in my lonely self-pity, and I didn’t want anyone to help me out of it. I didn’t even want to begin reading the new digital book I downloaded days before, a highly reviewed book that I’d seen discussed but had never taken interest until I had seen it under my Libby/Library app suggestions the night I checked it out.

I went to sleep crying, angry, feeling alone and ignored. This was Sunday night.

The next day, I woke up, still upset, but slightly more rested (rest isn’t something I completely get these days, being 6 months pregnant and with a 2 year old commandeering our bed space; and lack of rest usually equals an ultra-emotional Carmen). I made an effort to pull myself out of the funk I was experiencing. I tried to be excited about teaching my Zumba classes that day, because dancing usually makes me feel better (just not during this pregnancy, so that took some effort to convince myself that this was a solution). I opened up my Bible app and hoped that God would some how speak to me through the verse of the day (He didn’t), I downloaded a 7-day Bible reading plan called Don’t Give Up, and read the first 3 days at once. I tried to genuinely thank God for always being faithful, and for providing our needs; and then I begged him to please speak to me because I just felt so crushed. I needed to know that He was there with me, and not turning His back on me. Then, I went about my day as best as I could.

The next morning, I decided to try to get my mind on something other than the woes of my life, so I started reading the book waiting in my Libby reading app. I was hooked from the Intro page. She explained what was to come in book, the disappointments and failures we let overpower us, and the lies we tell ourselves and allow to keep us from achieving our full potentials. Why didn’t I start reading this the night I got it??? I might have saved myself a cannonball jump into the deep, dark ditch I’d thrown myself into that previous night! I’m not going to go into a full overview because A. I’m still not finished with the book yet, and B. I could dedicate every post, every day for the remainder of this year to a golden nugget of truth and amazing encouragement that I’ve soaked in from reading this book, and I’m only on chapter 10. I will say this. I haven’t written on this blog in a long time, and what I’ve been reading encouraged me to write this very post, and hopefully more to come. I spent every opportunity reading, and then the next day (yesterday), I went to Bible study. God had a lot to say to me.

He always has something to say to me, it seems, and I’m always looking to hear from Him. However, up until that morning, I think my ears were clogged. Maybe, because I’d missed the last 3 or 4 weeks of bible study, as well as the last like 5 or 6 Sunday’s at church due to cycling and recycling sick kids, as well as my own morning sickness? I think so. I think my receptors signals were weak from that long hiatus, and the less I hear from God, the louder the other noises in my life get. I missed the first half of the message because my little guy was fighting to not stay in the childcare class (an attempt to keep me from hearing the much needed message? Very likely!) Thankfully, he finally gave in to staying, just in time for me to get into the women’s group room, and hear what God had to say about my recent outburst through Linda, one of our women’s ministry leaders (and one of the channels God clearly likes to use to answer me). Here were the takeaways I got in those last 30 minutes of her message before jumping into our breakout groups (cut & paste directly from my notes):

-When we trust him, we are free

-if you think, “that’s not for me”, it is for you

-Prayer- how we fight for God to free us

-Ask seek knock.. sometimes it takes some time

-Don’t lose heart

-Test him and see how deep his love goes. He doesn’t play it safe

-Expect the goodness of God

-❤️ Ephesians 3:20 ❤️ -remember this and let Him have his way. Surrender and let go.

-Let the Holy Spirit refresh/renew

Ummm… okay, God… I hear you loud and clear, Lord. You haven’t forgotten me, you want to bless me beyond what I could think of or ask, you want me to trust you, to talk to you, and to just surrender to what YOU have for me and let go of what I think I should be doing and getting. He was OBVIOUSLY picking up the phone line (Linda) to talk to me because I wasn’t receiving the Morse code messages He’s been sending. So, I decided to share during my breakout group what I’d been feeling and struggling with, and how Linda’s message blessed me. On this particular morning, my dear friend and previous year Mom’s group leader, Rachel, was joining our group (to say that this was clearly God’s doing to have her there that morning is an understatement…Rachel is the satellite phone of channels that God has used to speak to me when I’ve really needed to hear from Him over the last couple of years.. I’m pretty sure she’s one of his undercover angels assigned specifically to me because clearly my ears are clogged in wax and my spiritual hearing receptors are defective..). She always has a message straight from the Lord for me for exactly where I am. It’s that serious, y’all. I love this girl.

Rachel heard what I had to say, and then she went in for the heart with her response. I was reminded that, being the fighter that she’s come to know me as, I tend to fight God’s plan. I continually put my plans ahead of His and hope that they line up, and I somehow keep believing that my plans could actually be better than what He has for me. He puts me in situations to prepare me for better, but each time I say “I don’t like this”, what I’m really saying is “I DONT TRUST YOU, GOD” (that one was razor sharp 😫). I need to stop fighting God, and trust Him enough to say “If it’s not what you want, I don’t want it either!” (that’s a hard one for me.. because I still think I know better). Yesterday was powerful. I felt renewed in my faith and encouraged to know that He hasn’t forgotten me, and that He wants to apply His promises to me, too.

He spoke to me through bible study, and He continues to speak to me through this book. The book I believe that He put in my path (when I intended on reading another one) to remind me that I’m not alone, and that I need to stop listening to the lies (Rachel also mentioned the 3 voices in our head – God’s, mine, and the enemy’s- each, feeding into me… and that I need to stop listening to 2 of the 3, and ask God to eliminate those 2, so that I can hear HIS more clearly) that are burying me and keeping me from achieving all that God has intended for me.

Like I said earlier, I dwell, or cling to things, circumstances, people, etc. Most of the time it’s the wrong things, things that hurt my heart, my spirit, my ability to move forward in victory. But today, I’m dwelling on God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His ability to not only speak to me through His word, but to be able to reach out even more personally when I need it, through friends, through my bible study group, and through an amazing book that I plan on buying so that I can go back to often, because I suffer from spiritual / emotional dementia and I need to be constantly reminded of all of these truths to keep me moving forward!

Our TMM: Getting The (Debt Snow)Ball Rolling

This is my first official Total Money Makeover (TMM) Plan post, and I am one happppppppyyy girl.. Last month we committed to following Dave Ramsey’s plan, and set up our board with listed baby steps, as well as all of our consumer debt in order from smallest to largest. are our way to becoming 100%  DEBT FREE (leaving only the mortgage loan) in the next 2 years. 

These are the first official stats for month one:

STARTING BALANCE TOTAL DEBT: $56,009

(As shown in graphic above)

 #1 = the total amount of consumer debt eliminated this  first month (aka month to date or MTD) – $2681.97

#2 = The total starting balancing for the first debt item of 13 on our list- $396 Paid off ✔

#3 = The total monthly outgoing minimum that has now been eliminated this month and being snowballed toward the next debt item on the list!!- $165

We are so focused with “Gazelle intensity”, as Dave Ramsey would say. This journey is going to take a lot off discipline and patience, but we are so excited. We are committed to our monthly budget that has been set, and using the cash envelope system has really made a positive difference this month in staying on track and being in control of what is going out (rather than the usual backtracking overmy online banking summary at the end of the month to figure out where our money went!!). We are on track to knock off two more from the debt snowball list this next month. 

Maybe you’re reading this thinking that I’m getting a little too excited over paying debt. You would probably be right. If you are already living debt free, and have never been in debt, then a huge sincere good for you!! But if you are like me, debt has always been a part of my adult life. I’ve had a credit card (with a balance on it) since I was legally able to get my own (and I was already on my parents cards before that!). I grew up in a household where debt was not only normal, but – like countless others believe it to be – a telltale sign of their success (as Dave says, they were very successful at borrowing). My parents were both successful, hard-working people who gave us the world in a material sense. I owe them so much, and beyond grateful to them from everything they’ve done or sacrificed for their family. However, I no longer subscribe to their view that debt is a good thing. I actually wonder if they still believe that (a conversation I’m not ready to have with them yet, but I will suggest they read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover!).

We’ve seen how the bondage of debt has affected so many lives, especially our own, and we are joining in the war against the debt lifestyle. We are saying NO MORE to borrowing money that isn’t ours to pay for things we don’t need (or do need but clearly can’t afford at that very moment) to impress people that likely don’t matter (because the ones that do matter don’t care about the things we have, just our overall well-being). 

I would love to encourage anyone reading this still struggling with debt, or still subscribing to the mindset of debt is good, to consider a shift in mindset. If you haven’t read the Total Money Makeover, I hope you will. I also hope it’ll radically change how you view debt the way it did to me. Imagine living a life where you only pay cash, where you owe NOTHING to NO ONE, where you have 6 months of expenses saved up in case one of life’s storms hit, where you are investing in your retirement,nest egg, or legacy; where your kids college tuition is at least partially funded (depending on how old they are when you start), and where you have the ability to GIVE – to family and friends in need, to your church, to the cause of your choice, to anyone or anything that matters. What would that feel like for you (assuming you have not already achieved all of those points)? That freedom is what fuels us to become lazer focused. 

We are going to be debt free. Will you? If so, let’s connect, share, and encourage each other on this awesome journey! 

Financial Rebirth In The Making- Part 2 

Hey there! It has been a crazy few weeks! So much going on, but there has been a shift. You may know it. That final stretch of summer vacation. We are in that stage right now. School starts in just over two weeks, and we should be receiving a message from the Fall Soccer coach Andrew will be assigned to any day now. The two weeks will be a prep period to get sleeping schedules and Monday-Friday routines in order. I’m still trying to perfect it, but I have yet to figure out how to get the kids out the door in the to show up to school WITHOUT having to practically kick Andrew out and send him running catch up to his class or not get marked tardy. I’m working on it. This is a new year, a fresh start. Maybe this will be the year I get it together! Pray for me! 😂 Anywho…

Last time, I shared something I don’t share with too many people- our personal life and financial history. As I get older, I find myself desiring more transparency, and less “image maintenance” in my life. I’ve learned that the most meaningful connections come from a place of complete transparency and vulnerability. Plus, I don’t care to impress anyone with my life (anymore…yes, I’ve been guilty of the social media highlight reel). I just want to share my experiences, with the hope that something I’ve gone through and learned from, could help someone, or-even more- help them avoid making the same mistakes we’ve made.

If you haven’t read my previous blog, Financial Rebirth In The Making- Part 1, check it out! You will better understand why what I share on this blog post is so important to me. 

I ended the previous post mentioning a big change that occurred 4 months ago in our life, and the emotional state of mind that brought on that change, so I will start there. The month leading up to our huge decision was challenging for so many reasons. I won’t go into details, because I don’t want the focus of this post to be overshadowed. But I was in a dark place, feeling alone, unfulfilled in a way I couldn’t understand (or I could, just not at first), and my marriage began to suffer because of it. Less than year before that, we had been renting, expecting baby #3, and hoping to buy our first home.  That had been the only thing keeping me from being truly happy (or so I thought). I was long past my goal deadline of home ownership, and felt like a failure, as a result. Every social media post of a joyful couple I knew sharing that they had become home owners was just another reminder of what we WEREN’T accomplishing. It really took a toll on my life, marriage, and self-esteem. I would be happy and “complete” the day we finally had our own home, rather than paying for someone else’s. Well, to my dismay ( yes, I said dismay), that came sooner than I expected. My husband, wanting to give me that happiness I was so set on, felt it would be a good move to buy my father in-law’s house. He was getting married, and would be moving in with the new wife, so he wanted out. My FIL was all for it, and we took possession of our house, and I was in tears. Joy and happiness of finally having “our home”, you ask? No. Tears of anger, resentment, discontent. I did not want that house. Yes, my husband discussed this with me before moving forward with it, and I agreed- “if that was what he thought was best, and we had no other choice” were my exact words to him-but, I still was under some delusion that it wouldn’t happen and we’d end up buying a house we both wanted. 

It didn’t occur that way. I had my idea of what our first home would be, both on appearance and experience. This was neither. It’s not that the house was horrible. It isn’t. It’s a decent home, and a great start. But keep in mind, at this stage I’m a hormonal, pregnant woman (and then hormonal, not sleeping, constantly nursing mom, after our girl was born) who was not concerned with rational and reasonable. I wanted what I wanted and this was not it. That created a whole lot of tension and stress in our marriage, and home. Then, the rats moved in. To make alpnger story short, they invaded my life, my dreams, and our house for the rest of our time there. The straw that broke the camels back were the termites. We were living paycheck to paycheck, with no room for fun, for this? I was done.

Hell week was the result. Tensions were tight, and resentment was high. My best friend, the love of my life, my faithful companion, was suddenly the enemy. My husband, in my mind, became the reason for my dark cloud of misery. And I found myself saying things no married couple should resort to saying. It was a rough week. An emotional one for all of us. But we ended it on the mend, and both in agreement that this was not worth losing what we had. We were both tired of living to work just to survive. We had a lot of debt, and we wanted to make sense radical changes in our life. We were kicking social/cultural expectations out the window with what were going to do. We knew many would not understand, especially many close to us. But it did not matter. We knew that of we wanted to enjoy life, and strengthen our marriage, we had to do something drastic to create the change we wanted.

Let’s Back Up A Bit…

Dave Ramsey speaks about keeping up with the Joneses (the ones with the expensive cars, nice house, expensive things, but with a negative net worth..) and I can relate, because I was raised by them. Even with a household income well above the American national average, credit cards were a major part of my family’s life. Knowing what I knew now, I wish my parents had found The Total Money Makeover book and applied the principles.. They’d be living it up debt free now, and maybe I would have followed that example and avoided some unnecessary head and heart aches. When I turned 18, I decided to follow in their footsteps. I’ve learned so much in the last 13 years since then. Most of my education was from the school of the hard knocks and bad decisions. I’m happy to say that I’m breaking that cycle, and hopefully setting my children up to go down a different path, rather than repeating the cycle.

So…What did we do that was huge? Well, we bought an RV, an RV park membership, and said bye to our house. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted as our end all-be all, but we knew we didn’t want to be where we were. People thought we were crazy. My sanity, womanhood, and judgement we’re all questioned by the people closest to us. It hurt, but it wasn’t going to deter me. We had an idea of what we wanted, and we knew some major changes were needed to make it happen. The kids loved it and adjusted to the change positively and immediately. Then, to top it off, I found..

The Total Money Makeover Plan

And this is where we are now. Mike and I read the book together, and decided that we were no longer going to be “normal”. We are giving the proverbial middle finger to people expectations, which includes being slaves to debt to live a life that other people find acceptable or desirable. That book has lit a fire in our lives, and my husband and I are working towards creating a life of true success (for us). A life that we can enjoy without the bondage of debt. A life that will, I pray, create a lasting legacy for our family tree. 

I will be sharing our progress here. I have come to realize that there is an amazing community out in social media land, of others like us, who are saying “no more” to keeping up with the Joneses (or Kardashians, it seems).. I am clinging to these people for encouragement, support, and guidance. The road to debt free living is not am easy one. We have our habits, the  unsolicited opinions of others, and social pressures to overcome. So I’m glad my hubby and I are doing this together. 

We are going to live like no one else, so that we can,one day, live like no one else. (Dave Ramsey). 

Are you on a similar journey, or just sick of the rat wheel of debt-life? Would love to hear from you! 

If you haven’t read the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, go out and buy it or check it out from your local library! Let’s encourage each other and break the cycle of debt-spectations! 

Financial Rebirth In The Making – Part 1

As you may (or may not) know, I’m on a mission to simplify our life through minimalism. My eldest son will be 7 this Fall, which means we only have 11 more Summers with him before he becomes an adult and heads off to college. If you know me, spending as much time with my husband and children is top priority, almost to the point of obsession (though I wouldn’t go that far to call it that. But, I do see having a social life as something that takes me away from them, so maybe?). I know sometimes they all drive me crazy, and I contemplate taking off for a drive and “getting lost” on my way back…for a few days…or weeks. I may even be guilty of having offered up my kids to my Zumba students, under the agreement that they return them upon their 18th birthday, of course! (Jokingly.. don’t get all crazy, people). However, the time we have with our kids is absolutely precious to me. Even more, the time Mike has with them is very important. 

 My dad worked SO hard to provide for us when I was growing up. As a result, he missed a lot of special moments, and bonding opportunities. We mainly saw him on the weekend, and he just wanted to be home, resting before doing his regular 14 hour days again. I refuse that to be my kids’ memory of their father. That partially why I am on this mission to simplify, eliminate, and minimalize any and all distractions that interfere with being able to enjoy the precious moments with God’s three little gifts to us, our children, as well as each other. 
The only thing I have come to despise more than overwhelming clutter of “stuff”, is debt. I’ve come to have VERY strong opinions against debt. And the book I just finished The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, just solidified those feelings even more. Before I go into the book (the focus of Part 2), allow me to open up a little bit, so you can understand WHY I have these feelings (here comes another vulnerable moment where I share personal things, something I am trying to be better at…Transparency, the blog-coming soon). 

Once upon a time, I thought of debt very differently. As a young adult, having grown up in a home where debt- credit card, auto loans, mortgage loans, etc- was a normal part of life. Nordstrom’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, you name it. Those little plastic cards were just a few of the many that were welcome in our home. My parents worked hard and made good money. I never questioned their financial choices because it was normal, and I don’t even remember questioning why my dad had to work so much, because it was our norm. 

When I turned 18, I was excited to start my own journey as a credit card holder. I mean, that was a symbol of “becoming an adult”, right? I was even proud that I was “ahead of the game” because my dad had me on his credit cards to help me build my own credit. That is such a bittersweet thought to me, because my daddy always had our best interests, although I now know they were misguided. I wish he knew then what I know now. So here I was, a 19 year old more than proud of her established 720+ FICO score, her credit cards with high availability, and her “own” auto loan debt. When I moved into my first apartment, everything in it was put on credit, and I didn’t give it much thought. I had a great job in property management, and I could afford the payments. 

But then left took a wild twist. I went through a very dark and emotional downward spiral after a bad break up, as well as losing someone I considered my closest friend. I do not want go into those details of my life at that time because that isn’t the focus of this post, and I don’t want it to be. I ended up leaving that great job, and moving back home. I had all this debt, and my solution to solving that debt was to transfer it all onto ANOTHER type of debt. I was in school at that time so I got a student loan to pay off the cards and consolidate my debt (smart, right? Not!). I thought I was winning because it was deferred until graduation. I figured I had plenty of time because I had a few more years of college (again, not going into THAT on here, but just know.. I never finished my degree, and the back-interest was tacked on the minute they got word I was no longer in school…ouch!!). 

Proverbs 22:7 says “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” I had definitely become a slave to the “Master-card”. Fast forward to the start of the best part of my life.  Meeting my amazing husband, and starting our life together. We both came into our relationship with a heavy load of debt. Let me just summarize this part of our life. When we started dating, my income came from freelance modeling, acting, and dancing jobs. We moved in together after 6 months, and during that time, my income was all of the aforementioned, as well as serving at a restaurant, then bartending; he worked in construction and bartended as well. It was a wild time for us, but we loved it. That was our lifestyle. But all that ended after he proposed, and we, together, rededicated our lives to the Lord (we were both believers who strayed and were swallowed by ways of this world), and committed to turning our lives around to create a stable, Christ-honoring life for our future family. 

We set a plan, left our old jobs (Mike kept the construction job, I went back to property management and later, banking), and moved in “temporarily” with my soon to be father in law to start paying off debt and save for a wedding. We ended up getting married in the church office of the church we had been attending that January because we felt the conviction of living together out of wedlock (and we know my father in law Dave was feeling the weight of conviction for allowing it in his house too!), but continued planning the “big one” for the following year, after all the debt was paid off…. At least that was the PLAN. I really think God hears us make all these “set in stone” plans, and then laughs at us. Because 2 months later, we found out we were expecting, and shortly after that, Mike was layed off from the construction company he was working for. Life took a crazy turn after that. Long story short(er), he took the first job he could get in his field of expertise-automotive (with an owner who totally took advantage of him and paid him far below what he should have been), we struggled to pay our bills, my car at the time was repossessed (emotionally, a rock bottom, ego-smashing point in my -then- vain frame of mind..that destroyed me inside…a lesson for another day), my student loan went into default, and we decided that the only way up to ever breathe again was to file for bankruptcy.  Rock bottom failure is an understatement for how I was feeling at that very point in my life.

One of these days I will share the rest of that story. However, for now, I will say this. After the bankruptcy, we busted our behinds to move forward, while being there for our Andrew. Mike felt strongly about me being home with him, and I did as well- although I battled my own demons regarding my self worth and esteem.  I ended up doing something to help me with my depressive state, while allowing me to be home with him. I became a fitness instructor and started a home-based business. 

Our lives began changing at that point. But one thing had not quite changed, yet. Our view of debt, specifically, credit card debt. We still naively believed that debt could be a good thing, a necessity, even a source of security and safety! Three months ago, while battling with the debt induced weight of depression and frustration (as well as some emotional blowouts caused by being an overwhelmed mom losing hope that my hopes and dreams for my family would ever come to fruition), I finally came to see debt for what it was. If there was any hope left for our future, our marriage, or family, etc, something radical had to change. Boy, did it change!

What happened? 

I will be sharing the next chapter, what led up to it, and how Dave Ramsey is now playing an integral part in our futures, next week! Stay tuned!