Friday, May 12, 2017

Will it matter?

A few weeks ago.I was on a plane. I was coming back from a work trip. The flight into Chicago was particularly turbulent. No drinks were served. The seatbelt light never did go off. And for someone who doesn't get sick on planes...I was glad I didn't eat dinner before I got on the flight.

The woman sitting next to me, who I didn't know but who had attended the same conference I had, was becoming increasingly more uneasy as the flight went on. She read her book more slowly, until she couldn't read it at all. Then she started making sound effects..."oh dear," "oh no," "wow." I finally took the cue and commented on her remarks. "Bumpy flight isn't it?" "Oh yes," she said. "Doesn't it make you nervous?" she asked. "Not nervous. Just acutely aware that I'm flying in the sky."

Flying in the sky! That's a thing we can do. Sometimes it blows my mind. So...if the air is least I'm still flying. I looked over at my coworkers. One was sound asleep, the other, wide awake. "Quite the flight," I remarked to my coworker across the aisle. "Is it making you nervous?" "Will it matter?" she responded.


Then we proceeded to discuss about this concept of "will it matter?" Our jobs are stressful. Attending this conference made us even more aware of how not being at work, but learning about how other people do your job makes you aware of all you have to do when you return to work. Mid-level management is a mostly thankless job. You're frequently caught in the middle. Dealing with the problems. Supporting the bottomline. Ensuring safety and patient satisfaction, as well as engaging the employee and making sure their needs are met as well. As we segued into a discussion of "will it matter?" she shared about how she strives to think of this any time situations at work arise. "Will it matter?" she asks herself? Will it matter tomorrow? In an hour? Next week? or Next year?

Most of the time the answer is no. But that doesn't mean I don't engage it in my worry. I'm a master worrier. I blame my mother who got it from her mother who more than likely, got it from her mother. I don't like to engage in the worry but often times it engages me whether I intend it to or not. And so, I'm trying to ask myself, "Will it matter?" And if the answer is no...intentionally choose not to worry about it.

Easier said than done, but it is a start.

lessons in budgeting

I wrote about a few of my financial goals earlier in the year. I am of the opinion that we don't discuss finances in the right way, at the right time, or in the right manner on too many occasions. I've never one to be too worried about finances. I guess that speaks to the fact that I've been very fortunate for this not to be a major constraint in my family growing up. At the same time, it's something I've always been aware of. Budgeting has been a new thing for me though. I've always tracked my spending, paid off any credit card at the end of each month without carrying a balance or paying interest but I felt like things were having the potential to get out of hand. With a few years of a career under my belt, a mortgage, and many pressures to do this or that...I decided it was time to have a better understanding of where my monies were really going each month so I could be more intentional and hopefully live more fully with joy...not just today but for the tomorrows.

So, I started down the course of budgeting. I had to figure out what that meant for me. How I was going to define it. After 5 uncomfortable months, I can finally say that budgeting has become delightful. Never would I have thought those words would come out of my mouth. This month, marks a few months in with my cash budgeting system. I've indoctrinated myself whole heartedly with the teachings of my dad, Dave Ramsey, and Robert Kiyosaki.

Let's be honest. It hasn't been easy. Spending is sone of those things that has some automaticity to it. You see a store. Stop. Walk in. Pick something up. Whip out the plastic. Done. It can happen with minimal thought. That's scary. Especially at the end of a work day when my inhibition may not be as good as it would be at other times.

Shopping with cash makes me think about exactly what I'm carrying and what purchases I'm preparing to make. If I make that stop, do I have the money to buy what I'd be going in for. Would buying that bring me happiness today and tomorrow? Carrying cash has come in handy. You can get out of a restaurant faster and pay back friends easier (sorry guys...haven't bought into the whole venmo thing yet). Carry cash has also been awkward. First of all, some cashiers struggle to count change. I'm getting better at my money math. Second of all, if I'm getting things from different categories (enter Costco), I've learned to prepare my cash somewhat while I'm in line so I don't take too long at the register. And finally, I always ask for a receipt. I keep them in my wallet and write down everything I spent on my monthly log. Some people give you the oddest look when you actually ask for your receipt. Oh you want your $1.06 McDonald's Diet Coke reciept? Why yes I do.

I still carry my credit cards. They're sitting right next to my cash...but I don't use them...unless I'm buying gas or purchasing something online. Gas is just in my budget. I travel for work. I don't really worry to much about gas and it's factored in as a purchase that I don't draw cash out for. Purchasing things online is challenging but I think I've finally figured out the trick!!! Don't buy things on Amazon at the end of the day. When you're in bed...don't make purchases. Again, you're not thinking clearly. Put it in your cart and purchase it in the morning if its still a priority.

Lastly, give yourself some slack. There are some categories I've learned I just need to own. For example, I really like to buy books. I love to read and books are important to me. So...I have a book budget. Eating out is a very social thing at my age and with my friends. I do my grocery money and my eating out money separately. If I go over my eating out allotment, the money comes out of my grocery money. That way...if it happens to be one of those months where I get together a lot with friends for dinner...then I'm having to be careful about what I eat the rest of the time. And finally...give yourself some blow money. Things will always come up that you just can't anticipate budgeting for. Give yourself the opportunity to have fun. I don't want to not "live" just because I'm on a budget.

And one more tip...don't forget to pay yourself! I keep a list on the top of my planner of the accounts I need to allot money to each month as some of my earnings are variable. Some things have set amounts and other things have variable amounts. They're on my radar and I pay attention to them.

The things that have our attention must have our intention engaged.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

strength and decay

This morning, I listened to a Face to Face with President Eyring and Elder Holland. In the church to which I belong, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members or leaders of the church host events such as this as broadcast, usually with a certain demographic population in mind. This one was targeted toward the youth of the church, so generally 12-18 years of age. The goal of these events, at least as I see it, is to give members of the church an opportunity to feel the spirit and to seek and receive answers to their questions.

The first question was asked by a sister in Mexico, "What can you do if you feel your faith is decaying?" (Watch here) Elder Holland excitedly expressed loving her use of the word decay suggests that a testimony is living and that it is organic. 

It made me think a lot about where my testimony are its current standards of living? Is it barely alive? Or is it thriving and flourishing?

I love gardening...truly I am my mothers daughter. I can't begin to express how much joy it has brought me as my garden flowers have begun to emerge from the ground. I've worried about them all winter. Would my perennials survive? Would the flowers that struggled last year come back? Slowly, as I watched the daffodils, then the tulips and hyacinths emerge my heart was filled with hope, then with anticipation for what was to come. As I learned last year, in my first year of independent gardening...there is a visible difference between a plant that is barely surviving and one that is thriving.

As I went to church and pondered this further...I heard the word decay again (all before 9:15 am). This time in the words of a hymn (Abide with Me, Hymn 166), "change and decay in all around I see." This time decay brought on a different thought for me. I thought of the decay of morals which seems to be so prevalent in my day. Yesterday in talking with a friend, she shared that another acquaintance of ours had left the church. I'd known that she moved and that she was dating someone...what I didn't realize was that she moved to another state to live with him, simultaneously abandoning her previous religious beliefs. These realizations are always somewhat difficult for me. Even if I don't know someone well, when I hear that they're living in outright rebellion, my heart hurts for them. Subsequently, I also become extremely concerned about my faith..was it growing or decaying? 

Last but not least, decay also reminds me of teeth. You decay also known as a cavity. Having many issues with my teeth through the years, I am acutely aware of the lingering damage decay can lead to. If a dentist does not completely get rid of the decay before filling a cavity...that decay can and will continue to grow causing further deterioration of your tooth and for me...needing root canals. Any level of decay is dangerous. We must be in a strict regimen of taking care of our teeth and protecting them from decay.

And so...why decay? Well because its all around us. It's the enemy of what I want. So what is it that I want after all? What is the opposite of decay?

Strengthening. To keep our testimonies from decaying we strengthen them by praying and reading the scriptures. To keep our flowers from decaying we water, fertilize and plant them in fertile soil. To keep our morals from decaying, we serve others, we make intentional choices about what we are doing and why. And to keep our teeth from decaying...we brush, floss, and in my case, use high fluoride toothpaste. 

Just like building muscle doesn't come passively, strengthening anything takes work, effort and pain. There will be times where we will still struggle. Expect it. But don't give up just because you're experiencing it. Pain is part of the process. 

The ultimate strength comes through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He supplies our need. I am so grateful for him. I am grateful to have experienced decay so I can recognize the building of spiritual strength and spiritual muscle through spiritual work. My confidence lies in him. I pray that we may be able to have him abide with us.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

turning the tide

Today we had a lesson in Relief Society about Daughters of God. An amazing friend my ward, Rachel, taught the lesson. I always look forward to Rachel's lessons because she is bold, she is kind, and she is inspired. She knows how to facilitate a meaningful lesson. I always feel the spirit in her lessons and I always feel like I'm in a good discussion with friends that ends prematurely because class has ended, not because the discussion itself is over. 

Today's lesson was no exception to this. Rachel led an insightful discussion about the roles of women as daughters of God and as women of the world. In my mind, it was like we were going to draw a Venn diagram--how they were separate and distinct, and how they were the same. Initially the question was posed, something to the extent to what does it mean to you to be a daughter of God.

This is a question that honestly fuels the fire of my testimony. I've definitely had defining moments in gaining a testimony but the thing that I've always known is that I am a child of God. I have been blessed over time to come to understand my identity as a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and I love him. It has been my standard, the one against which I compare everything else. It has been my calibration point. It's been my anchor and my lighthouse. It has been my rod and my staff. It has been where I try to set my gaze and to focus my attention. Knowing I'm a daughter of God is a game changer. 

But then the conversation started down the path that it invariably goes down. Women just want to be perfect. We want to be good. We want to be mothers. Bless our mother hearts. But I started noticing some emerging patterns from a room of incredible single sisters. Themes such as empowering women role in the home, women dedication to their children, how they yearn to be mothers and stay home and raise their children, how we should exalt the role of mothers in the home and not the role of women in the workplace. I know that these women's intentions were good. But my heart began to break as I saw the theme of daughter of God tie directly to being a good stay at home say the least. Of course, there were other strong themes, but I started to truly sense this direct tie to "the woman I should be." 

Rachel then shared this quote by President Spencer W. Kimball, he said, "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world." (The Role of Righteous Women, April 1979.) 

My hand shot up in the air and I said something to this effect...I love this quote! This quote to me doesn't say anything about whether we are single or married, whether we are working, mothering, or whether we are unable to work. It doesn't say anything about health or circumstances. What it does say is that in whatever we do, wherever we are, whatever our capacity, we can reflect righteousness and articulateness in our lives. We can lead distinct and different lives in happy ways. As we do this, we will be an ensign to the women around us. 

I am so guilty of constantly comparing myself to others. And it goes in cycles. I look at others and their seeming ability to do it all. I look at their children, and their husbands, and the experiences they're having that my heart only yearns for. It is so easy to look at the life of another and wish it was your own or clearly see how you could do it better. Neither of these paths is pleasing to God. He has called you here, to be on earth now to be you. He has a special work that he has called you to. Not you acting as someone else. He did not reassign your assignment to someone else because they could do it better. He called you to you work and me to mind. He has called me to be Erin McQuivey, witness of HIM at all times and in all places that I am in. That means he wants me to be that witness in my family, at my work, at my grocery store. He wants me to be that witness in my home and in my community. Am I heeding that call? Am I finding value in what I have been called to do?

This week, the Relief Society announced that it changed its purpose. It now reads:
"Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they:
Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants.
Work in unity to help those in need. 

The changes are highlighted in bold. I love that the purpose didn't change but we were refocused to the things that are most important. On our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Atonement. On individuals because salvation is an individual matter. And as individual children we are children of God. We all need the ordinances and covenants regularly in our lives. And finally...we can't do it alone. 

And that's the final point here. We can't do it alone. We cannot afford to be pitted against one another. It is only by working together in unity that we will be able to accomplish the great work we have been sent here to do. 

Sometimes, I think that we can all feel alone in the world. Satan has a way of pitting us against one another through worshiping idols and coveting what others have that we do not. We feel and sense the great battle that is happening. But don't let yourself ever feel alone. Sometimes, we might feel like Jehoshaphat of the Old Testament. A great multitude was coming to battle against them. He sought the Lord and proclaimed all to fast. Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord. As a part of his prayer, he said, "O our God, wilt though not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee."

So too, our eyes are upon thee. Regardless of what our calling is to do, regardless of the callings of those around us...our eyes are upon thee. We are righteous women of God with great potential in this world. Though our callings be divine and different, we are dependent on Him in all we do. Let us join together. Let us band together and continue to change the world. Let us turn the tide

Thursday, March 2, 2017

I delight in Thursday.

Today, I woke up at 5:45 and for the first time in months...I felt ready to be awake. I tell ya, it's like this root canal revolutionized my life. I can't believe how terrible I'd slowly faded away to feel. I showered, fixed myself eggs for breakfast (this NEVER happens), and I even rode my exercise bike! Miracles I tell you! I did some laundry, made my bed, and unloaded the dishwasher, all before leaving for work.

Let's be honest...all of these things happening in the morning in isolated events can be challenging and often is so the fact that they all happened this morning was a total anomaly. But, it definitely started my day off the right way.

Today was one of those days where I felt like I could focus. I could zoom in and just have at it. Did I complete everything? No. Did I complete a lot of somethings? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Definitely. But as flex of my favorite 3-4 weeks of the year comes to a close...I'm grateful for this chance that I have to kind of play catch up in various aspects of my work life.

The best part about Thursdays is going to the temple. I love the temple. Tonight we had a training by a sister in the temple presidency about the importance of baptism and the beautiful simplicity of the baptismal ordinance. It's so simple but so powerful. She challenged us all to read 2 Nephi 31 so that's what I will study tomorrow. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to participate in the Lord's work. I am also grateful for prayer. I am grateful that I can pray for others and that for them, especially some of them, they appreciate that they can ask for those prayers.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Yesterday was plain awful. You can say that again."

This has been me.
On repeat.
For a week and then some.

I've been Erin the grumpy and I've probably met my tears quota for the year in the past couple weeks. I have an abscessed tooth. My third to be exact. Long sad story including all the things that make people cringe like bad dentistry, improper drilling of cavities, and worst of all, it ends up with me needing a root canal. Like I told my wouldn't be so terrible if I was old, but I'm not that old.

Anyway, since getting on an antibiotic and a strict routine of pharmaceuticals to help with the pain, I've been better but the tears are still close to the surface which tells me that my body is still experiencing pain. It's just being covered up by the medicine. Interesting how your body still knows. 

Needless to say, it's been a long week and a long weekend. While yesterday it's self was actually fine, today I have rotated around my parents house from one bed to another. Laying, loafing, crying, napping, watching sappy hallmark movies (thinking: this is not real life! but I wish it was!), cross stitching, and occasionally eating some "soft food." Yes, I think I'm on an NDD2 diet with thin liquids (room temperature). It's been such a blessing to be at home though. There's something about having your mom around to take care of you that makes everything a little bit better. Or a lot bit. 

Point of the story is...I take advantage of all the days that I wake up feeling perfectly fine. I don't want to take advantage of those days. I want to appreciate the ability to go up and down the stairs without searing pain in my sinuses. I want to appreciate that I can run around my house with lots of energy at the end of a long work day and not come home and crawl in bed because that's all I have left in me. I want to appreciate that I can eat and drink with only occasional penetration (SLP here!) which I'm able to clear with a good strong cough. I want to appreciate the endurance I have as I eat food because I can chew food with both sides of my mouth and because I have teeth. I want to be amazed at what baseline feels like for me every single day. 

I work with patients who had that and then they had some event happen, usually involving some trauma of some sort which leaves them distanced from their baseline of health and functioning. Some gain it back, others don't. It's not something we can afford to take advantage of. This experience has reminded me of that. I hope I can learn that lesson and retain a remembrance of it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

JoyFull: Spend less. Give more.

I was definitely blessed to grow up in a home where my parents taught us about money. As a child, I was a definite saver. I loved stashing money away in random places and to this day...I still find a dollar tucked here or there in trinkets from my childhood. I was probably in Junior High when my Dad got really into the book, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." That's when the serious financial discussions started. We played the cashflow game, talked about working for yourself and making your money work for you. When I got my first job, he encouraged me to save and to open a checking account. I still remember talking over dinner about the importance of having a checking account of my own. We wrote down questions I should ask the bank and after dinner, I called Tiffany at Zion's Bank...yes I still remember her name. 

Once I started making somewhat regular money working random jobs I had as a teenager, my Dad enticed me to save further by promising to match whatever money I would put into a Roth IRA. How does one pass up on an offer like that? I remember counting my money and examining how much I could put in such a long term saving account. 

As I continued to get older, Dad became increasingly open with me about he and Mom's financial situation. He taught me by through sharing his own personal experiences, their personal experiences, and helped educate me on things like assets and liabilities, the cost of buying a house, debt, cars, healthcare and insurance. Throughout high school we'd go on walks sometimes in the evenings. On these walks...we'd talk about all sorts of things...often about the businesses I wanted to open, and at times finances. Sometimes I'd ask him to teach me about a topic like deductibles, health insurance, premiums, and interest. 

Fast forward about 15 years down the road...I've been able to avoid debt except my mortgage. I've been able to save consistently in a Roth IRA and 401K, and I have been able to make adequate decisions about my money because of the things my Dad taught me. Finances have been (since Junior High) and continue to be an open-for-discussion subject. We are very transparent about both our situations. I consider this to be a significant blessing. Particularly in light of some of the decisions I have seen friends and acquaintances make over the years.

This year, I decided I wanted to get serious about paying off my house. I've always been serious about it and have played with mortgage calculators a bit too much. I've also always paid extra principle on my house.

 I just finished listening to Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. I'm probably never going to be an ultra-serious Ramsian follower and sell everything I own, but I am going to be more intentional about my spending. So, as a part of that, I've made some ah-ha's about my own personal spending habits and how I intend to do it...

1) Make it automatic. Automate so you don't have to make the decision every single month. Why set yourself up for such a temptation. For me, one way I do this is that, every year when I get a raise, I up the amount I'm paying on my house by the percentage of the raise. That way, that money automatically goes away with my monthly mortgage payment as additional principle. I never change how I live because I "make more money." When the house is paid off, I'll put that extra money into retirement. Another way I do this is that I don't factor what I make from one of my two jobs into any of my finances. I call it my "blessing job." I have used the money from this job to travel and to save an emergency fund. Every month, I move this money to a separate, less accessible but still accessible bank account where I am able to work on reaching other financial goals. This is how I saved for a downpayment, for trips I have taken overseas, and again, for my emergency fund. Every one should have an emergency fund which could ultimately support you for 6 months.

2) Balance retirement funding and house-down payment planning early. I wish I would have taken better advantage of the time I lived at home and made real money. Since graduating, I have saved about 25% into retirement. I think I could have pushed it even harder...but I don't regret what I did and also saving for a downpayment on a house. Don't forget about saving for retirement early. Compound interest is your friend! It's never too young to invest for retirement.

3) Fund an HSA. It took my Dad and I a little while to see eye to eye on this one. I work to fully fund my HSA every single year. This is like a retirement health insurance account. The money stays with me, it's invested so its money working for me. I can access it whenever I need it and it will continue to be with me into retirement. Whenever I can afford it, I don't use this account to pay for my healthcare needs, I just pay out of pocket and leave this money working for me.

4) Don't use the "credit" part of a credit card. While I've never (intentionally, only accidentally once) carried a balance on a credit card, it's important to pay off credit cards every single month and to not pay interest. Credit card interest is HIGH! It's not worth it! Why would you pay $25 dollars for that $1.00 Diet Coke from McDonald's. You wouldn't throw your money away like that so don't do it to credit card companies. It's important to always know where you are in your spending. I have all sorts of alerts set up on my credit card to notify me when it goes above certain limits to keep my spending in check. I also keep the spending limit low. Don't think you have more money than you do. That's a slippery slope. Also, don't fall for gimmicks. Last week I walked into the bank and the teller started telling me about this "awesome opportunity" to have all my debt consolidated into one place for this great interest rate. She went on to tell me how it was such a great opportunity for all the "kids my age" to get out of debt and to pay less interest, blah blah blah. If I'd been more brave, I'd have really told her what I was thinking...I held back. First, I was offended that she assumed I was in a "debt crisis" as she had put it. Second, I was disappointed in her spending habits...she worked at a bank for goodness sake. And Third, I felt bad for anyone who fell pray to her trap. Interest isn't your friend. Low interest. High interest. It's all bad. It's taking your money and you get nothing in return. Don't fall for the gimmicks.

5) Pay with Cash. This is a newer one for me. I haven't been much of a cash carrier but I do recognize my weakness in being willing to spend more because I can put it on a credit card. I'm not going to fall pray to that lie anymore. There is something about counting the cash and letting it slip through your fingers that makes you realize that every dollar you spend, needs to be an intentional dollar. One of the biggest ways I've recognized this change with myself is in my need to buy a Diet Coke. There was a time, I was buying 4 Large Fizz Drinks' a week. Now it cost me $2.97 each time so that's roughly $12.00/week.  That's $624.00 a year! Then I went to McDonald's, it was cheaper so I probably bought more like 6 a week so that was $312 a year! I cut it in half. Well now, I'm going ultra cheap and buying cans and only drinking 1 can/day. 1 can is $0.25 so drinking it 6 days/week would be $78.00 a year! That's $534 dollars a year that I'm saving by not buying fancy soda, in 2 years of saving that's like an extra house payment which would slowly reduce the length of my mortgage. If I was "gazelle intense" as Dave puts it, I'd probably cut other things too like eating out with friends, etc. However, I want to balance living now with living financially free in the future. Eating out with friends is so much of my social culture right now. I try to be judicious with it. One way I do so is that I make it a point to not eat out alone or out of convenience. I make more freezer meals so its easier to come home and fix something to eat. I meal plan so I grocery shop once a week rather than needing to stop in for a few things throughout the week as I know I'll always find something else that I need. Paying with cash makes me more aware that when I shop, I'm still accountable to my budget.

6) I Plan Free Activities. I love to go on walks. I love to cross stitch and I love to read. These are all free or relatively free. I can walk anytime, anywhere. 1 roll of Aida cloth, thread, and free internet patterns can go a long way. I love to read and have rekindled my relationship with the local library. I still buy books, but only the books I absolutely love. I keep a list of the free activities or projects I already have so that when I have a moment of weakness or indecision...I can remember what my options are and what my long term goals are. I keep a to-do list for projects I want to work on around my house. When you know what your options are, it definitely helps you make a more informed decision in a moment of weakness. 

6) I Give More. I think it's important to reflect on what spending brings you happiness. I love a good new book or a journal or school supplies a little too much. It brings me happiness. But I also love doing things for those around me and helping out with humanitarian efforts. This is something I'm working on more and more but I know the principle of giving is true. When we give, then we open our hearts to receiving in even more powerful ways.

{Please forgive this financially opinionated post. I have felt such the need to share some of the valuable things that I've learned in hopes that it might benefit someone else. I also wanted a better record of what it is I have done and am doing for my posterity to read someday.}