Tag Archives: happiness

Break for gratitude

Now more than ever I need to remind myself that as challenging as my days can be lately, I am very very lucky. Instead of complaining today, I’m affirming all of the reasons that I have to feel thankful on the day after my 26th birthday.

  • A medically uncomplicated pregnancy, and the healthy baby boy who will result from it (eventually).
  • My wonderful husband, who is working so hard to provide for us and take care of me on the days when I’m feeling particularly ill.
  • The incredible kindness and generosity of the friends and family who attended our baby shower this weekend, and the bounty of much needed baby items they brought for us.
  • Central air conditioning to keep me cool despite the 85-degree heatwave we’re experiencing in Indiana. (If I wasn’t pregnant, I would tough it out with fans and open windows. Sorry, electric bill. You’re just going to have to deal with a couple days of air conditioner use in October.)
  • The imminent and much anticipated arrival of fall and winter in the Midwest. I’ve missed it so much for the past three years, and I’m so glad I’ll finally be here to enjoy fall foliage, crisp air, and snow.
  • My parents, my sisters, Tony’s family, and our friends for providing us with the support network we missed so much when we were living 800 miles away.
  • Howie, the best dog in the world.
  • My blog readers, who have been so incredibly helpful with tips, encouragement, and inspiration over the past 2 years.
  • Generic Zantac, the midwife-approved medication that is keeping my reflux (somewhat) bearable in the final weeks of this pregnancy. I don’t like taking medication while pregnant, but the Zantac is much more effective and much preferred over 20 Tums a day.
  • Plentiful freelance work that will help us replenish our emergency fund.
  • Pumpkin-shaped Reese’s peanut butter cups.
  • Mid-day naps.
  • Thanksgiving, which is rapidly approaching.
  • Only 58 days until my estimated due date. I don’t know for sure that he’ll be here by then, but it feels good to know the end is getting so close.

I’m trying really hard to focus on the positive today. Why are you grateful?

Photo by wenzday01

Why I’m a money multitasker

Last week’s post about holding off on paying down debt sparked a little controversy in the comments. I wanted to clarify some of my views, because there seems to be some confusion about my financial philosophy.

First of all, I am not debt free. I have never claimed to be. Like most 25-year-olds, my husband and I both carry student loan debt. I’ve written about it before. I don’t regret a day of my education, but I do regret some of my financial choices during that time. But it’s done now.

My husband is a graduate student. I earn an entry level salary. We’ve been blessed with a few pay increases over the past few years, but our income remains pretty low by today’s standards.

When I started this blog, I was depressed about our financial situation. We had credit card debt, student loan debt, no savings, tuition to pay, and we still felt like we didn’t have any money left over for fun. I wanted to learn to save without sacrificing fun.

Since then we’ve adapted to spending very little money in our daily lives. We don’t eat out. We shop the clearance racks (when we do shop). We meal plan. We share a single vehicle. The result is that 30% of our income goes directly into savings. Another 10% of our income goes toward debt repayment.

As my husband prepares to graduate next month, and we prepare to close this chapter in our lives, we have been spending more than usual lately. After three years of frugal living and hard work to pay off credit card debt, build an emergency fund, save for our move, and save for our vacation, we are rewarding ourselves.

I did not ask for permission. I don’t think any of you should ask for permission from anyone when you make decisions about how to manage your money. The point of my blog — from the beginning — was for my husband and I to learn to live on less than our already low income so that we could have enough money to pay debt, save, and enjoy life. Those are my priorities.

I have never subscribed to the Dave Ramsey philosophy. I understand that it’s worked for many people. I admire them, and would never ever judge their choices. I’m happy for them, because they’re happy. But putting every single penny of my extra income toward debt repayment doesn’t make me happy. I don’t want to wait until I’m debt-free to have children, own a home, or see Europe. So I’m using some of my extra income to save for these goals while I pay down our debt.

I admire the commitment to debt-free living, I do, but there is room in my budget for more than that. Dave Ramsey’s baby steps philosophy is focused on one thing at a time — save, then pay debt, then save some more. Only after you’ve saved and paid debt is there room for fun. I just don’t believe that.

I come from the generation of multitaskers, and I think if you’re smart about your spending, you can do a lot even with a very limited salary — without increasing your debt. You can save money, have fun, and pay down debt at the same time. It will take a little longer, but it’s worth it to me. I will eventually be debt free. That low-interest debt will be there waiting for me when we get back from Europe. And we will pay it off — on our own terms and our own timeline.

What Dave Ramsey takes for granted is that we have all the time in the world. But what happens if you spend your young life doing nothing but saving and paying down debt, and then your life is cut short by tragedy? You’re left with no time to enjoy the riches you’ve accumulated. I’d rather multitask now and know that I won’t run out of time before I can enjoy the fruits of all that saving and hard work.

When we get home, it’s back to counting every penny, just like we have for the past three years. It’s back to saving for our goals through very limited spending. We can’t forget about why we’re doing this, though. We want to build a better life for ourselves, and sometimes that means spending a little money.

The whole point of budgeting is making your money go further. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to save for, don’t wait for permission. Start saving now. I think you’d be surprised at just how far your money goes if you spend carefully.

Photo by amagill

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re
meant to be

For the past few days, this line from “All You Need is Love” has been my mantra. No matter how prepared you feel for each of life’s milestones, sometimes it can feel like you’re just not ready. I’ve known about what’s coming up in the next couple months for almost a year. I’ve planned for it, counted down, and prepared. Now that it’s here, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed.

It’s not that I’m not ready. I am ready. But I still feel like time sneaked up on me. It feels like just yesterday that we found out we’d be moving sooner than we thought. That was 6 months ago.

The past three years felt like an eternity as we lived through them, but now I’m looking back, and I can’t believe how quickly it seems to have whizzed by in hindsight.

And now we’re in the final countdown of our time here in North Carolina. We’re in the final countdown of this chapter of our lives.  Of course, nothing is happening exactly according to plan. It never does, though, does it? It’s not possible to plan for the unexpected, because you never know what life will throw at you.

I’ve spent 25 years trying to dictate the time line for everything. I’ve spent my whole life trying to anticipate the unexpected and plot everything out step by step. Now as we’re gearing up for the most hectic few months of our lives, I’m so tired of trying to control everything.

So I’m taking it one day at a time and reminding myself that I’m right where I’m supposed to be — where ever that may be. I’m recognizing that all of the changes coming in the months ahead are good ones, even if they are stressful. Every curve ball that crosses our path is meant to be there. In the end, everything will work out exactly as it should.

We just need to get through the next few weeks, and then I can breathe again.

Losing the battle, winning the war

I write about this topic a. lot. It’s because after years of working on it, I still spend way too much time beating myself up when I have to let things go.

This week I announced that I’ll be updating this blog a little less frequently for the next few weeks as we head into the final weeks before our move. I put a lot of thought into the decision, and I know it’s the right thing to do if I want to maintain my to-do list and my sanity. But knowing it’s the right decision wasn’t enough to keep me from feeling defeated when Tuesday passed with Monday’s post on the homepage.

I’m running my first 5K this Saturday after months of training. The last week in February, my training was going really well. My times were up, my endurance was strong, and I felt like I would surely be ready by the end of March. Then I came down with a brutal cold in the second week of the month that kept me out of the gym for over a week. The endurance and speed that I worked so hard to build flew right out the window. My lungs are still recovering, and my body is still weak from what was a pretty nasty virus. This week I can barely make it a mile before I have to slow down and walk.

My difficult runs aren’t a product of laziness, and I can’t control it. Still I can’t help but my kick myself as I consider the strong possibility that I won’t reach my goal on Saturday. I may not be able to run all 3 miles without walking, and my time will likely be much slower than I hoped.

I know I’m not alone in this endless struggle to convince myself that obstacles are not necessarily failures. I know that you can lose the battle without losing the war, but I still have trouble getting over even the smallest of defeats.

I think a lot of women (and men for that matter) waste too much energy beating themselves up instead of building themselves up. Unfortunately, I’m proof that recognizing the problem isn’t enough to solve it. I can tell myself over and over that it’s okay to take a step back, the important thing is to keep going. Yet I still end up here — beating myself up for obstacles that I can’t control and feeling defeated prematurely. Of course, that attitude isn’t very motivating, and I end up sabotaging myself with negativity in the end.

It’s a vicious cycle that I hope to someday overcome. In the meantime, I just have to keep reminding myself that each setback makes me stronger, brings me one step closer to my goals, and teaches me a valuable lesson in how not to get there.

Photo by kaneda99

Boxed in

The image you’re about to see may disturb you. Viewing this image is not recommended for people sensitive to clutter, disorganization, and mess. Potential side effects include headache, shortness or breath, difficulty concentrating, and severe writer’s block. View at your own risk.

This is the current state of my guest room and, consequently, the current state of my brain:

Somewhere under this pile of boxes and junk there is a bed and a desk and even a floor. Sadly, you can’t see any of that.

This mess has been accumulating for the past six months. At Christmas, new things left a lot of our old stuff homeless. Of course, I should have been getting rid of things then. But a funny thing happens when I know a move is coming. I start putting things off.

“I’ll be going through everything in a few months when we’re packing. I’ll deal with this then.”

Clutter began to accumulate a little at a time. A few boxes here; a pile of books there. We couldn’t decide whether we should sell our old TV, give it to Goodwill, or bring it with us — into the guest room it went. We  bought a used TV, and it was shipped to us in its original packaging. We thought it would be nice to keep the box so we could pack the TV in it when we move — into the guest room that went. A co-worker kindly gave us a trunk load of good moving boxes. I’m sure you see where this is going.

Now this room haunts my nightmares. I just keep closing the door tight, trying to pretend that mess isn’t there. Unfortunately, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem, though. The guest room is ground zero, but there are tiny little catastrophe zones throughout our apartment. Closets, drawers, cupboards, shelves — all piled with junk I’ll have to sort and pack.

We’re moving in about 6 weeks. During my least anxious times, I tell myself that’s plenty of time. But then I open that guest room door, and I’m reminded of just how much I have to do.

What I mean to say is I have a lot on my mind right now, and a to-do list that’s a mile long. I do most of my writing on the weekends, and unfortunately that’s also the only time I can focus on decluttering, packing, and planning. My brain looks a lot like that room right now, and sorting out the mess to find inspiration is becoming harder and harder. Something has to give.

Since I started this blog almost two years ago, I’ve updated most weekdays. For the next 6 weeks, I will likely be posting every other day. I don’t plan to disappear for days or weeks at a time, but cutting down a little will help my sanity immensely.

I can’t guarantee that this will be the last time I whine. Please be patient with me as I attempt to navigate a lot of stress.

How are you doing? I’m happy to join your pity party if you’d like to whine a little. :)

Instant comfort

Whether I’m feeling sick or I’ve just come home after a particularly tough day at work, the first thing I do is kick off my shoes and slip into a pair of cozy fleece socks and slippers. They have the power to instantly comfort me.

Every year at Christmas, Tony gets me a new pair of cozy socks or two, so I’ve built up quite a collection. They’re particularly comforting in the winter. But even in the summer time, my feet always seem to be cold in the evenings, so I wear them year round.

There’s nothing special about the slippers. You can get similar pairs at Target or Wal-Mart for under $10. This is probably the fifth or sixth pair of similar, plain old fuzzy slippers I’ve had since college. I’ve had these for over a year now, so it’s time to replace them.

On road trips I always leave them out of my luggage so I can put them on during the drive. They’re the most comfortable thing I own, and sometimes I wish it was socially acceptable to wear them in public.

This is one of four favorite things I’ll be posting about this week. If you’d like to share your favorite things, leave a comment or send me a link to your blog post.


I love everything about books. I love the way they look, the way they feel in my hands, the way they smell. When we were less frugal, my husband and I spent more money buying books that we should have.

These days, we get most of our reading materials from the library, or we borrow books from friends. But books remain our favorite frugal gift for each other. We each have a wish list a mile long for books that we’d like to own, and every birthday and Christmas most of our gifts have that familiar rectangular shape. Only now we prefer to buy used books instead of new ones to save a little money.

Most of our furniture is second hand. I’ve been sleeping on the same double bed since college, we bought our couch for $30 from a college student, and our TV was purchased second hand from a friend. These bookshelves are one of the only pieces of really nice furniture that we own.

We found the big one at Target right before we moved to North Carolina, and we decided to splurge on it. (It’s no longer available.) We’d been using cheap bookshelves made of particle board and held together with glue and small screws, but anyone who’s ever tried to move one of those knows how difficult it can be. They’re impossible to move up and down stairs, and they’re so cheaply made that they rarely survive the move.

We loved this bookshelf not only because it’s beautiful, but because it easily comes apart into two separate pieces and six shelves. We’ll be able to carry it and move it unassembled, so it will survive many moves to come.

Despite the fact that we’ve slowed down our book purchases since we started living frugally, we’ve slowly but surely outgrowing the big bookshelf. So when I found a smaller matching bookshelf at Target, we invested in it.

I love everything about these shelves from the way they look to the books they hold, and because they’re so sturdy, they’ll be in our home for years to come.

This is one of four favorite things I’ll be posting about this week. If you’d like to share your favorite things, leave a comment or send me a link to your blog post.

Something old

On my wedding day, these pearls served as my “something old.” They originally belonged to my grandmother, who received them as a gift from my uncle in the 1960s, and she passed them down to my mother.

I knew I wanted to wear simple, elegant pearls on my wedding day, so my mother loaned me these. I absolutely fell in love with them from the moment I put them on. I’m not a big jewelry person (I typically don’t wear any except for my wedding rings), but I loved the ways these pearls made me feel — classy and elegant and old fashioned.

The day after my wedding, I tried to return the necklace to my mother before we left town for our honeymoon. When she told me they were mine to keep, I was absolutely thrilled. They mean so much more to me because they are a family heirloom.

I wear them now for every special occasion, and they make even the most simple dresses seem instantly elegant and refined. These pearls make me feel like Jackie Kennedy even when I’m wearing just a simple black dress. I can’t wait to someday pass them on to my daughter (or my niece if I don’t have a little girl).

This is one of four favorite things I’ll be posting about this week. If you’d like to share your favorite things, leave a comment or send me a link to your blog post.

Photo by Zach Dobson Photography

Family heirloom

(I was still catching up from our trip last week, and then I came down with the worst head cold I’ve had in a while. My weekend flew by in a cold medicine induced haze.

So I’ve decided to take it easy on myself this week by doing something unconventional. Each day, I’ll be telling you about one of my favorite things. If you have a blog, I’d love to read about the things you own that bring you happiness. Even if you don’t have a blog, you can share yours in the comments. I could use a little cheering up to get me through this cold.)

My mom has been a quilter for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with her work. I remember watching her stitch together beautiful patterns from tiny pieces of fabric and wishing I could do the same.

When I was 15 years old, I asked her to teach me to quilt. I carefully chose the fabrics for this quilt. Since it was my first, my mom recommended that I go with simple squares instead of an intricate pattern. I spent a summer cutting pieces and sewing together the quilt top.

Then I turned 16, and I finally got my driver’s license. I had reached the age where I was rarely home, and my finished quilt top ended up in a box with my mom’s unfinished quilting projects.

My mom particularly loved this quilt top, and she wanted to see it completed, but quilting wasn’t really a top priority for me as I finished high school and college. So imagine my surprise when my mom brought this finished quilt to my wedding rehearsal dinner. She had turned my quilt top into a beautiful finished quilt as a surprise wedding gift.

I love that my mom and I made this quilt together almost as much as I love its beautiful, soothing blue colors. Now that I’m a little older, I’ve taken up quilting myself, but this will always be my favorite because it was my first.