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.}

Friday, February 17, 2017

I delight in doing things different.

Tonight, I had a great little girls night out...well girls night in. It was fun but I got asked some really direct questions. Not a bad thing. It's actually an appreciated thing.

Essentially the question was...when you're in the same situation in the future, will you do things differently? I was grateful and excited to be able to say yes and to say yes confidently.

This is not an insightful post and that's all I'm going to disclose about it but this is me writing today.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bed making and Skill building

Today, I found myself thinking at a number of different points in my day...what should I write about today? I was seeking connection. I was seeking delighting. I was seeking learning. I was seeking revelation.

Two subjects have come to mind--

1) I really like getting in a made bed at the end of the day. I'm not a religious bed maker. But I wish that I was. Tonight, I had book club at my house. With a bedroom on the main floor of my house, and having people who visit frequently ask for a tour...I always clean up...the whole house. Okay at least the main and the basement...the upstairs is the craft room and craft room's live by different rules of clean. Anyway, as I turned off all the lights of my clean and tidy house and walked into my bed was just so ready for me. I may have made fun of the book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" a few times tonight (I actually really like and often think about various principles from that book) but you know, something that truly brings me joy is my bedroom. I love all the things in it and they all truly bring me joy. From the pictures on the wall, to the nightstand I bought on my first day of living away freshman year of college, to my grandmothers sewing chest (which matches nothing), to the lobster pillow, to the curtains that let the most incredible white light shine through...I love this space. I love the way it makes me feel and I love how it welcomes me to a restful night sleep. Maybe I should make my bed more often if it evokes such strong feelings.

2) Skills. I feel like there are a lot of skills that we tell people to have. We say things like, have a better attitude, eat healthy, lose weight, connect better with your child, "get down on their level." I've always kind of hated phrases like this because while all these things are important we often just expect that people know how to do this or how to find the resources to do it. I've been impressed recently by this multidisciplinary aspects of rehabilitation. I'm not going to go into it all now because, then, we would be on one of Erin's wild soapboxes...but the point of the story is this...

If we don't consider the whole picture, all the barriers, and support participation by addressing both environmental and personal factors, how can we expect change? If we don't teach families what connection with a book and a child and a parent looks like how will they know? If we don't understand that giving them books isn't the solution but actually teaching a skill, which isn't just something all people are able to just "figure out." How will they know? I personally want all parents to be able to have this skill. These are some of my most treasured memories I have with my mom and my brother growing up. She would lay in the middle of her bed with my brother and I on each side. We would each bring a book and she would read. As she would get tired, she'd get the words wrong and I'd correct her. Then, if we were all still awake, and it was the weekend, we'd get to watch some I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched...classics on Nick at Night's Block Party Summer. Oh the times. But these are treasured times. They're the best times. They are cherished times. Teach the how and the why. The how and the why. Model. Teach. Test. Model. Teach. Test.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

writing to write post 1

So the irony of my last post is that last February...I wrote pretty much the same post

It struck me as ironic because right now I'm reading a book called "Big Magic." It's an Elizabeth Gilbert book and all that that entails but it is a very thought provoking book. Admittedly I'm only half way through (and yes, book club meets tomorrow...whoops!) but some of the things I'm thinking include the following:

What keeps me from creating?
What do I love doing that I need to make room for in my life?
Why does fear keep me from living a more creative life?
What endeavors do I love and work to support?

I have a co-worker who straight up told me after she'd been hired that she works strictly to support her expensive hobbies. While she enjoys what she does and finds satisfaction in her work, she works to live and does not live to work. A twinge inside me made me realize that I was envious of her determination, her vision, and the clarity of her path.

Part of me always wishes I had one thing I was really good at. You know, those people who are really good at the piano, or they're really incredible writers...they just have that gift. Part of me reminds me that it is a blessing in a different way to have what I call a smattering of interests. That's me. I have a smattering of interests. I might be what we call a jack of many trades and an expert at none. I have lots of diverse interests, most of which are unrelated. I have had many collections, interests, hobbies and passions. Sure, there are a few key things I come back to including reading, cooking, and old lady hobbies such as cross stitching, quilting, and the like but they're genuine things I really enjoy and I kind of rotate among them.

I think there are things I have liked in life that I could have pursued more seriously...uh, em writing being one of them. I've never felt like English was a strength for me...this is likely not a surprise to anyone who reads what I write. I tend to write like I talk and write like I was sharing this with you in real life...facial expressions, prosody, intonation, and of course gestures...I'm a hand talker. That is who I am. Communication is key and I've never felt that writing has let me convey my message as clearly as if I were to give it in person. I've always loved public speaking, presenting, talks, etc. Conveying myself through the written word isn't something I've felt was a strength. I've let that be a barrier. But the only way you get better at something is to practice.

I have another friend who once shared that she writes and reads every single day. She said it like it was a normal thing that everyone does. I thought to myself...well yes I do write and read everyday but not intentionally for my own benefit, passion or interest. But reflecting back on life, I realized that some of the happiest times of my life were when I was reading and writing daily, intentionally, meaningfully. Why had I stopped? It's a legit question that I honestly don't know the answer to; however, I am grateful for these ah-ha's and for the role that writing plays in my having them.

I'm not sure where this is going (remember, writing isn't my strong suit) but I think it's contributing to the identification and hopefully subsequent removal of my perceived barriers. About myself, about my skills, about my abilities, about where I think it's valuable to give time and energy and effort.

I did a module at work today that talked about whether you see yourself in a job, a career or a calling. It has been a thinking subject for me the rest of the day. It's definitely not a job, I feel too passionate about it. But at the same time there are so many facets of my job that feel like a job that I have a hard time discriminating what is "job" and what is "calling." I do give value and feel the calling aspect of what it is that I do. This is not the forum to get into this further, but I think the point is to will you work to identify and remove barriers that keep you distanced from where you want to go? where you wish you were? where you thought you'd be? AND what are you going to do about it? are you going to do something about it? what is your next actionable step? and when is it happening for you?

when is it happening for me and what is it? good question. I'm not sure yet. I'm also not sure where my capitalization went there for a moment. I think the next step for me is writing. And writing to write. Not writing for you, not writing for polish, or praise, or anything like that but just writing and loving what happens. Living in the journey. Loving in the process. Letting life happen and learning the lessons that those opportunities afford. I probably worry more about living than actual living...that's a problem. Another subject for another day.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

To write again

I have this friend who always asks me, "What have you learned lately?" 

At first the question took me off guard and to be honest, it still takes me off guard, even though I know it will come up in the course of our conversation. I love it though because it makes me actually process and reflect on what I have learned lately. 

Learning happens in a lot of ways. Sometimes it is a process we are acutely aware of. For example, I remember learning times tables in 3rd grade. I was aware of it because they were hard for me and we had quizzes on them every single day. There was a chart on the wall that tracked each persons progress, how many they'd memorized and which ones they were still working on. It was easy to realize what I was learning because of the homework, tests, and discussion that accompanied the subject. 

Today learning doesn't happen much in an academic setting for me. Years of school and college are in the past and while I occasionally love taking up a new hobby by signing up for a class or a lesson of some sort, learning is much more broad. One of my goals for the year is to learn to cook Indian food. I'm trying better to understand the spices and how they work together. Sure there are things I'm learning at work such as researching infant feeding and cognitive rehabilitation. Other things I learn at work include understanding how to read financial reports with funny acronyms or which computer program I need to open in order to do a certain ask. Sometimes, spiritually I'm studying certain subjects such as "charity" or "faith." These aren't all the things I'm learning though and honestly, I'm not convinced this type of learning is the most important. 

What are the things I'm learning in life? The lessons? What connections am I making between the experiences, impressions, and structured learning I'm having? This to me is the learning that is of most value. These are the kinds of answers I want to have when my friend asks me what I have been learning lately. When I intentionally and deliberately take the time to ponder this question, I find myself recognizing things I've learned. I've learned about being kind. I've learned about being myself and that there is a level of true joy that happens when I'm vulnerable with other people and lay it out on the line. I've learned why I really go to church...that I go because of the ordinances I participate in and the covenants that I renew through those ordinances. I don't go to be spiritually uplifted as a top 3 reason. (More on that one later.) I've learned that it's possible to see people with new eyes. I've learned more about being content on the journey that I'm on. And I'm learning more about true sources and mindsets that allow us to feel joy. 

Something that has persisted in my mind the past couple weeks is doing things because I want to do them, for me, not for other people. It seemed to be at opposition with how I wanted to be spending my time. For example, I should spend time writing because it would benefit others but I'm realizing that I should spend time writing because it benefits myself and if it so happens to benefit the life of another...well then that's a good byproduct of the time. I've been trying to settle this in my mind for a few weeks now and today the impression came again, that I needed to spend more time writing. 

In what manner should I write? I realized that I didn't think it was the point. I think the point, as I currently understand it is that there is a level of learning for me that happens as I write and as I process. Since I currently live alone, I don't have anyone physically present to process with. I process a lot of things in my thoughts and in prayer but I think there is some sort of a calculated path that is processed when thoughts are recorded into words and words are then reviewed and read at times when we need them later. They can help us as we look back to see connections to path we didn't realize we were on until we got further down the path and then looked back. Sometimes I am reticent to commit words to, well anywhere and I'm afraid that the older I have gotten the more fearful I have become because I fear being judged for my words, my thoughts and my opinions. But then, I thought about how learning is a process. And how what I write, my opinions may change and by golly they should change. They better change. As I learn and grow I want to have different thoughts and opinions because I have different knowledge and understanding. That's a good thing! That's a great thing! And so, here we are...back to the 'ole blog which, is a forum in which I like writing. Not that many if any ever read what gets posted here...but I do. I go back and read and look for the things I've learned in the past. I enjoy having a place to post pictures that support the things I'm learning and writing. So here we are again. To write again.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

morning impressions

Yesterday I woke up with a distinct impression in mind. "Go to Lee's, buy fritters, and take them to your neighbors (specific neighbors came to mind)."

This isn't the first time this has happened but, the impression seemed unique.

So, I thought about it for a while. Went through my monthly planning process. And with my week plan and my meal plan committed to was time to run errands and go to the bank. I discovered a closer branch of my bank which, just happened to put me within 2 miles of the new Lee's Grocery Store. So...taking a new route, I headed to the store. I've grown up with this grocery store close to my parents house and I know that when I find myself home on Friday mornings, we often make a "fritter Friday run."

Needless to say, I grocery shopped, bought extra fritters and went on my way back home. An hour after leaving the grocery store, I eventually wound up home, after a lovely visit with my neighbors.

Now I'll never know why and that's okay. I don't need to. But I have thought a lot about why would the Lord want me to buy fritters and take them to my neighbors. I'm not sure I'll ever know the answer but you know what, it didn't matter. It doesn't matter. I felt good and knew it was time well spent. So it goes. When we go on the Lord's errand, we don't know the details. And I don't think we need to. It served as an excellent reminder that the Lord helps us be where we need to be. We don't need the rest of the story.