Thursday, April 3, 2014

Less Gluten Journey w/ Meal Plan

Living a Less Gluten lifestyle can be very costly, just like eating organic or doing any other kind of elimination diet. Add to that wanting to lose weight, things can get out of control with the FOOD BUDGET!! Because I like knowing what is in my food, and saving money, I was already making a lot of foods from scratch, even before we were consuming less gluten. In some areas we did find however, that it was just worth it to purchase the premade item. For example, flour tortillas; we made those from scratch, and even though it was easy, it was a little tedious in the process, and so we decided to just buy them.

Now that we are a Less Gluten family, there are some things that we have found are just plain out expensive to buy!! Coincidentally, GF tortillas may actually be worth making now. Other things we are considering are crackers, GF all purpose flour mixes, muffin mixes, bisquick mixes, and more. I can’t justify spending $5 for a small box of crackers, which we use almost every day for lunch as our sandwich alternative, or $5 for a tiny box of bisquick mix.

I will say that I am very fortunate to live 20 minutes away from Bob’s Red Mill, and their bulk section for GF mixes and baking goods is phenomenal. I relish getting great prices on GF oats, cream of rice, Xanthan gum, Sorghum, and so much more. I will try to share things that we are making regularly, and if it helps even one person, I will be satisfied. Here’s a list of recipes that we made this week, which I have been enlisting the help of my kids on:

Gluten Free All Purpose Flour: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2012/07/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/

GF Bisquick Mix: http://glutenfreerecipebox.com/gluten-free-bisquick-recipe/

GF Crackers, we used a seasoning salt like salad elegance, but I think next time I will just make up my own, because I wasn’t too excited about the ingredients in it: http://theprettybee.com/2013/10/easy-gluten-free-cracker-recipe.html




Lastly, I have a favorite website that I used previously for helping me meal plan, and she keeps her meals pretty healthy and they eat a good variety, which is very important to me. I was kind of bummed to have to stop using her website for meals, and then it me, “Why don’t I use her meal ideas, and just make them GF!!” Duh, right? So, here is the link to this week’s meal plan, and then I will put the links to the GF alternatives we’re doing (We don’t necessarily do the meals on their corresponding days, but I will put them on here that way to keep it simple): Grocerybudget101.com: http://www.grocerybudget101.com/content.php/777-2014-50-Budget-Menu-Plan-Week-14

Breakfasts: We’ll do GF cereal, cream of rice, buckwheat oatmeal;I didn’t do fruit Kabobs, but I did cut up the fruits and put them in containers for lunches and breakfasts this week. Instead of muffins, I’m making cupcakes :-/ I just want some pre-portioned sweets ☺: http://theprettybee.com/2013/10/easiest-gluten-free-vegan-chocolate-cake.html

Monday: Stays the same
Tuesday: For dinner I am doing this recipe with GF noodles: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Greek-Chicken-Pasta/Detail.aspx?evt19=1
Wednesday: For lunch, we’ll do the egg salad on the homemade GF crackers
Thursday: For BLT’s we’ll probably do this as a lettuce wrap
For dinner, I am doing a pulled pork roast, so this meat will probably get used in the tacos with cut up napa cabbage, lime, and cilantro
Friday: Stays the same
Saturday: For lunch, I found this recipe, and I think we will just make the dip and have chips, red bell pepper, and celery to eat this with: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/artichoke-spinach-dip-with-roasted-red-bell-peppers-recipe.html For Dinner, I am making the given recipe with GF noodles
Sunday: For dinner, I will use my cooked pork for the given recipe.

Snacks: We usually have popcorn, fruit, and veggies on hand. I am going to start experimenting with the GF oats using the given recipe for granola bars, and can’t wait to have some great options there.

Well, I hope this is helpful for someone. Please leave me a comment or ask any questions. I love getting feedback. Thanks for stopping by!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

M&B's Babysitting Club Part 3

Ok, I have figured some of the things out from my last post. First being, we decided to change the name slightly, so we won't have copyright issues. M&B's Babysitting Club has arrived. There were a lot of ideas to process, and normally I wouldn't have started, due to being overwhelmed with the idea of what this could become. It has helped that I have had the opportunity to not only talk with families that would hire a babysitter, but I have also been able to talk to the mom’s of the babysitters themselves. It has been a very intriguing process, and a challenge to know how to care for both sides. 

So far I have been dealing with both families I already know and girls I know and trust. I am starting to see this grow, and am being very cautious with it. I don’t want to make a bad recommendation, and have it blow up in my face. I am already seeing that there are guidelines I want in place to help everyone use their best judgment in specific cases.

 Anyways, here are some of the decisions I made about the club itself, after deliberation and input. I will address each thought that I had in my last post, so you can see what I decided on each one:

 1) Application Process: I did a very vague application process with the girls I am using as of right now, because I know and trust each of them. However, I have asked them to feel free to invite friends to the club, and with these gals I will be putting them through a more thorough application, which will include a place to put references (I will post the application when it is finished).

 2) Introductions of the girls: I am still unsure how I am going to introduce each girl to the parent group, but will come up with that soon. I originally wanted to do a video with their mom’s introducing them, but that could get very time consuming, so I’m thinking about a way to allow them to put together some kind of a profile that I could keep in my Dropbox, which I could send out to parents as needed.

 3) Facebook Group: I did set up a separate Facebook group, where the girls can get information, ask questions, and just get overall communication from me. I am also glad I set this up, because last night in our first meeting, we were unable to cover everything, this way I can include additional training throughout the month, and I can post videos I would like them to watch, such as the Super Nanny Time Out Technique, etc.

 4) I am switching 4 & 5: 5) Monthly Meetings: I am definitely doing monthly meetings. In fact, I did my first one last night, and it was a blast!! This will be my typical format for it: a. Time for the girls to share babysitting stories b. Teaching about monthly topic c. Activity d. Questions & Comments time It is my goal to provide an environment where the girls can share with one another, get input, care, mentorship from older and more experienced girls, as well as receive continual training so they are on the cutting edge of the babysitting world.

 5) 4) Logistics: I created tiers of babysitters, because every girl is different in their babysitting experience, and with what they are comfortable with. This is good for both sides; it doesn’t put the babysitter in a position that she doesn’t know how to handle, and families can be assured that they get the best babysitter for the job with the best rates. I think I will probably put a tier rating on the babysitting jobs themselves as well, so the girls can accept a job, and know that this job requires a lesser rate. I will have to relook at that. In fact, I may completely change it to just a job rating system, and know which girls can handle which situations.

The process for hiring will be: I get the request for a babysitter, I send out a text to all qualified girls, they answer back as quickly as possible with their availability, I call the available babysitter with details to make sure the job is a good fit, then I call parent for same reason, and give parent the girl's phone number. They deal with it from there.

 6) Dues: The girls are paying monthly dues. But I am keeping it very cost effective, just having it pay for the cost of material in buying craft kit items, and refreshments. Obviously, the price for the CPR class will be a bit more, but I will be trying to keep that within reason as well.

There you have it. I can't wait to tell you how I have moved forward. I will try to get to it ASAP, but I have been busy actually implementing what I am talking about, so I haven't been as consistent with writing about it :-)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Babysitter's Club Part 2

Well, we made our official announcement; the Babysitter’s Club is a go!! We’ll have to come up with a name for it, so we’re not getting hit with any kind of copyright infringement.

We are starting from the ground up, so make sure to stay tuned to see how we build it. I have yet to figure out all the nuts and bolts of how we are going to run our babysitter’s club, but I definitely have some ideas.

First, we started with a series of videos that my daughter and I made both for the families and the babysitters. Here is the first one. I also have a form I created specifically with the Family Information, which you can see here, so that babysitters have as much information as possible, hopefully insuring a successful babysitting job, and the kids staying safe in their care. Some thoughts I have:

1) Have an application for both the families and the babysitters. Nothing too crazy, just so that we have as much info as possible. We’re keeping this to our local area, so for the most part, we’ll be dealing with people we know already.

2) Introduce each new babysitter with a video introduction. I think having the girl’s mom introduce her would be really cool. Something I really want to do is show that these girls are kids too, so that hopefully parents that are looking for babysitters can hopefully realize that this could one day be their little girl.

3) I will probably set up a separate page for the girls, where they can get information about our once/month meeting, post questions, concerns, etc, but I will have all the girls and perhaps even their moms in the parent group.

4) Logistics: I think I will have parents put their requests on the parent group page, and then I will send that off to the girls’ page, where they can respond if they are available. I am still trying to decide if this should be a first come, first serve scenario, but I will have to see how that goes.

5) Monthly meetings: I am contemplating having monthly dues to help cover materials. I want to create a monthly craft, offer training, I am even looking to set-up a CPR class for the girls (this would be at a separate cost though), and probably even mentorship through this meeting time. The only way I can think to cover those costs is to have monthly dues.

6) I am also contemplating a monthly dues or subscription for the parents. I haven’t decided here though. I know I am offering a very important service, and I could keep the fee very low, but I’m not sure that I want to take it that way for now. I suppose if I start doing more, and it grows, I may need to. I guess we’ll see.

Anyways, like I said, I don’t have everything figured out yet. I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Babysitter's Club Part 1

Here is a video to go with my blog post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl_74tXmfww

I am feeling quite nostalgic right now. I remember reading the Babysitter’s Club books and thinking how smart, organized and fun those girls were; wishing that I could start my own club like that. Well, I finally get to do it.

This stemmed from a need; the ability to feel comfortable referring a babysitter to a family, and vice versa, feeling equally comfortable with recommending a family to a babysitter. Now that I have the babysitter, and am not just looking for one for my own children, it has brought a completely different side of the coin to light. I don’t want to refer anyone, on either side-babysitter or family without knowing that it is going to be a good situation. There’s just too much at stake!!

So, I am going to keep this pretty simple. I will let you guys know how I’m going to run it soon. But I do know a couple of things that me and B are going to do: 1) We’re going to plan a once a month meeting with training, crafts that they can do with kids, and a chance to talk with their friends specifically about what did and didn’t work; 2) B and I are going to do a video series both to families and to babysitters with information and tips for both sides.

I am sharing this, to communicate what we are doing with B’s clients, so they can feel very comfortable with whom I refer, but also for my viewers. Perhaps you can start one as well. If you have noticed that there is a need in your area, this could be a great outreach and opportunity for fellowship and networking. Whether you have a teenager in your life you are trying to help, or you have children you need a good list of babysitters for, this could be a great option for either scenario.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Live your Life: Quick Cleaning Routine, so you can enjoy your LIFE!!

Ha!! I was playing a game with my kids and a dear friend called Truth Be Told.  You pull a card and everyone has to guess which response YOU wrote. So, I got a card that said, “Truth Be Told, on a Saturday morning I mostly look forward to…” The responses everyone put were sleep (yes, but my body really only lets me sleep until about 9am anymore anyways), budgeting (ok. I actually wrote this one. I know, budgeting? I can’t help it, whether it’s our budget or someone else’s that I am helping out with, I really love budgeting, and often times wake up with my best ideas on Saturday mornings for budgets. LOL), getting coffee (this one is good, and since I have Alex with me on Saturday mornings, I really do enjoy our Saturday mornings at Starbucks). But here’s the kicker, and the point of this entire pose. One of them said CLEANING!!! I mean really?

I remember when my son was little, he also told me that he thought I loved to clean. Now to be fair to them, I usually do have us doing some cleaning and projects around the house on Saturdays, because that’s the best day to get things done. 

IT IS true that I enjoy a clean house. I am definitely not OCD about it though. Anyone who has visited could attest to that. We usually have tools out for projects and craft projects that are being worked on linger for a couple of weeks. I find that I can focus better when my house is clean. It gives me a serene feeling when I can sit on my cozy couch, sip my coffee, and enjoy my surroundings.

But to think that I LOVE cleaning, they’re crazy!!! No, I like the result. Anyways, I have recently completely revamped my weekly routine to help me with having a clean home, with little effort, and I thought I would share. It actually came from this episode of Deals on the Live Well Network, but I have tweaked it to fit our lifestyle, getting a little cleaning done through out our normal routines, and then doing a focused task each evening after work.

Daily:
Wash Dishes: Everyone in my household now does their own dishes rather than letting them pile up in the sink. If the dishwasher is dirty, they put them in there, if it’s clean then they wash them by hand and put them on the towel to air dry. I wash all the dishes from breakfast, lunch and dinner right away every day, and they go on the towel to air dry. I do try to have the dishwasher emptied, and hand washables put away every day. The kids do this.

Wipe Counters

Shine Sink: (this is a FLYLADY step)

Put things where they belong: This is probably the most difficult for all of us. We’re used to bad habits of  coming in and putting things on the table, leaving shoes everywhere, or leaving bathroom laundry on the floor.

Make Bed: I already do this, as I like my bed to be made, but I do need to get my kids in this habit.

Mail: Mike says to put mail somewhere till you process it later. I process my mail daily. It’s just a habit I’m in.  It takes 2 seconds.  I put things to be filed in one place, and have my shredder right next to that.  Then it's just a matter of putting the envelopes in the recycling bin.

Spray Shower & Squigee: Mike didn’t include this, but I made this homemade shower daily spray, because I don’t want to have to scrub the shower too often…yeah I’m lazy that way!!


Weekly:
MONDAY: Kitchen Day. I am completely following the show on this, cleaning out my refrigerator for snacks or lunches, and just cleaning.

TUESDAY: Bathroom day. I tend to do a quick wipe down every day anyways as soon as I’m done with my morning routine, so this will just be deep cleaning stuff for me.

WEDNESDAY: Laundry day. I am going to follow the show on this too. My kids do their own laundry, so it’s really just mine, Alex’s and any house laundry, such as kitchen towels, bathroom towels, etc. Doing it every week all the way through- meaning clean, fold and actually putting it away- should really help to keep the pile from getting out of control.

THURSDAY: Paper Day. This is the day for me to make sure the budget is written out for the next month, write any checks, file, reconcile my checkbook registry, clean out my e-mail queue on my computer (I do this regularly on my phone, but ignore my computer), and making sure there are no major paper piles around the house.

FRIDAY: Pick up Around the House. This is just to tidy, sweep, dust (something I rarely do), and vacuum around the house; the details.

This may seem like a lot, but I have to say that I have already found that doing this once a week, really keeps the work load light. It pretty much stays clean, and I just take care of detail stuff, working through a couple of the detailed items from the FLYLADY zone lists each week will also allow me to have the stuff I would want to hire a MAID for done.

This has been a great change!!  I am loving the results!!  It is my goal to get cleaning done in around an hour each day, allowing me to focus on the areas of life I DO enjoy.  



Friday, February 7, 2014

Life Planning

I have been very fortunate to be able to write up curriculum of several Lifestyle Management type courses for a local business, such as: Healthy Living, Financial Fitness, Decision Making, and more. As I was creating these, I found that there was a common strand. You need to know what your goals and dreams are in able to really make decisions in these areas. If you don’t know where you are going, and what you want to achieve in your life, then you can conquer some battles in some of these areas for a little while, but it’s really hard to win the overall war.

This lead me back to Zig Ziglar’s wheel of life. It’s a wheel and it’s kind of a bank too. You can add or take away success “coins” in each of the 7 main areas of life: Finance, Family, Spiritual, Career, Physical, Mental, and Personal (not necessarily in that order). Because this is a wheel, if you are off balance with Career having most of your success, then the other areas are suffering, and the wheel can’t turn. If you are balanced, but we only have ones or twos in each category, then you are depleted, and need to find a way to add more energy into your life, your wheel is certainly not moving quickly; it needs more steam. You can’t be perfect, but you want to get your numbers as high as you can, and try to keep balance in all areas.

What does this have to do with life goals? Everything. Let’s say that you and your spouse sit down and discuss what your financial values are, and you decide you don’t care about all the goals that have been imposed upon you by everyone around you, and instead it is your life goal to travel to exotic places to hike famous trails. There are a lot of decisions you need to make based on this.

Let’s look at it with the Wheel:
• Finances: You may decide that you are going to value living on less. You either rent a smaller space, or perhaps you are able to purchase a smaller home. You choose to live a frugal lifestyle with everything you do: food, clothing, furniture, d├ęcor, utilities, cars, etc.
• Family: This is what you guys talk about. You dream, and plan. If you have children, you talk with them about this. They are brought up on “travel” doctrine, so to speak.
• Spiritual: Everything you do, you are told to do it as a form of worship, so this is how you look at your value of hiking, or perhaps you could attach this goal to a mission type trip, perhaps you have a skill that could be used in another country, and the trip could do double duty.
• Career: You may pick work based on this goal, or you may decide to only use your vacation time for these traveling events.
• Physical: You can’t just go for a huge hike. You have to train and go on smaller hikes first. • Mental: Again, you can’t just go on a huge hike. The smaller hikes will prepare your mind for the larger ones, plus the discussions you have would be based around this topic with your spouse, friends, family and even your children.
• Personal: The likelihood is that you will want to meet like-minded people. It’s much easier to have a goal like this if you have people around you, who support you and perhaps go with you.

Ok, so this may seem like an extravagant dream, but hey, why not?

My point is this, more than anything, is that you and your spouse need to make the decision together of WHO you want to be. HAPPEN to your life, don’t let if just HAPPEN to you. Even if it’s just being the “Cool” parents to your kids’ friends; this doesn’t start when your kids are teenagers. This goal is something you work on from the way you plan your house set-up to when your children start school-inviting their friends over to hang out and planning fun events for them. OR having money when you retire; you have to actually plan for this-with Social Security being insecure, and Medicare on the brink of destruction, how can you think you will have money, if you don’t do something about it yourself?
So, take a few minutes, I will attach the Life Wheel activity in Zig Ziglar's Born to Win here, sit down with your spouse, and see where you are with your life. Are there things you need to improve on? That’s ok. You’ll be in the same boat as most of us; however, if you look at this every 6 months or so, and see that you have an area to work on, but you’re growing in another area, you will be much better off than if you never look at it, and just “go with the flow.”


Friday, January 3, 2014

The Building Blocks of a Unified Budget!!

Please watch the video to go with this post here

Budgeting. Just saying the word strikes fear among many. Memories of budgets past, of partners who have held this power over you, or even of parents telling you “no” to the toy you wanted because it wasn’t “in the budget!!” Finances are a fickle thing my friend. Many have not been taught how to properly manage them. In fact, we are several generations into adults, who don’t know basic finances. Hey, we were there too.

Unfortunately, I have to say that it’s not getting better either. I could go on for days about how a good budget could actually revolutionize your relationship. I could even talk about the different kinds of budgets. For now, however, I will leave those for another post. In this post I will talk a little bit about WHY it is a good idea to have one, but will MAINLY be talking about the foundation of building a good and unified budget.

BUDGETS, when done properly, bring FREEDOM!! Yes, I said it-freedom. Most associate it with bondage, and being told what they can and can’t do, but that simply is not the truth. Also, for many, the family finances have been a place of hurt. A place where trust was broken. When a budget is done correctly, it can actually be a great way to build trust back up, and bring healing to your relationship. This is going to give each partner a voice, BUT you also have to USE your voice when given the chance-no more “whatever you want dear,” while you go do everything you can to destroy the budget your partner just made. This is just as damaging as being told what to do all the time.

Incorporating a basic envelope system can repair a lot of damage. I won’t go into that right now though, either. We are only covering how to build up to a united value system in this post. So, here are the steps: (HERE ARE THE FORMS: Reality Check, What Do You Want, Uniting Values , if you would like to use them.  They are FREE right now)

STEP 1:
-Do the reality check, which I outlined in detail in an earlier post.
-Go through at least a month of bank statements or your check registry.
-Categorize your spending as you go down the list, on a separate piece of paper put a new number next to each new category (some categories cover many different things, such as utilities-this will cover things like natural gas, electricity, phone, etc. Food and restaurants are two DIFFERENT categories).
-Once you have your categories, tally how many times you engaged in this activity.
-So every time you see eating out, put a tally next to the restaurant category.
-You will see what your patterns have been, and as many financial advisers agree-your current value system.

OUCH!! This can be a harsh reality the first time, I know. The first time we did this, we had check after check after check made out to Papa John’s Pizza, with a few things like rent and public utilities sprinkled in between. Talk about having an out-of-whack value system!!

STEP 2:
-Sit down with your partner
-Without looking at each other’s papers, write down the things you value spending money on
 (These are your desired things YOU want to spend money on. It’s OK if you value going out to eat, but if you don’t have money for electricity because you spent it on restaurants, know that you’ll be cold if it’s the middle of winter. Also, you don’t HAVE to value rent, just know that you may have to get used to the idea of moving into your car. Keep these things in consideration as you are writing down what you want to spend money on.)
-Once you’ve finished your list, prioritize your desires by importance, with 1 being the most important.
-So that I don’t overwhelm you, I will only take this process out one more step for now.


STEP 3:
Now that you have both written down your desired spending categories, it is time to share your thoughts. Here is the beautiful thing. THIS IS YOUR OPINION ON PAPER. If you have a difficulty with confrontation, and finances have been a sore spot in your relationship in the past, this is a good way to communicate what you want. You have it written down, so you won’t forget anything, and if you need to step away to take the emotion out of the conversation, you can do that, and come back. 

-Discuss your lists
-Show each other your desires, and show your priorities
UNLESS YOU ARE TOTALLY WEIRD, these WILL be different. HOLD YOUR TONGUE. Force yourself to NOT criticize what your partner values or desires.

STEP 4:
-Now you are going to build a combined list
-You will need to compromise here
-Make sure both of your categories make it onto the list
-Again, once you have made your list, prioritize your values
This will also take compromise. DON'T worry right now about HOW this is going to look on your budget. If your partner enjoys coffee, and you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you DON’T put it in the budget, remember this is about letting everyone have a voice.

AND…
1) The likelihood is that you will have something you value that your partner doesn’t, and they will compromise with you, if you are willing to do the same. This is a give-and-take.
2) When we actually get to the writing of the budget, we will make sure that these categories are done within a reasonable amount.

Alright. That’s it for now. You can break these steps up however you wish. It can take a few days, or a couple of hours.

 I WILL give you these guidelines:
• If you are getting frustrated, STEP AWAY!!
• Don’t do this in too short of a time frame-this should be at least a few hours to a couple of days process, BUT…
• Don’t do this in too LONG of a time frame-don’t push this out to SEVERAL weeks. You will never finish.

REMEMBER:
***Give each other grace!!
***Whatever situation you are in, you didn’t GET HERE quickly, so you’re not going to GET OUT quickly either!!
***You will also not MAGICALLY start communicating like rock stars the first time you sit down to do this. ***You may argue, but persevere!! I promise it WILL be worth DOING, if you keep GOING!!

Let me know how this worked for you, or feel free to ask any questions you might have.  I will be happy to help.  You can either comment, or email me here. (Please no spam)




Thursday, January 2, 2014

Idea Grief

You may not know it, but there is a grieving process for IDEA’s that don’t come to fruition. Ok, maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy, BUT in a society that wants us to control our emotions, maybe I am. Why would you mourn over a silly idea? I know this to be true, as a PRO DREAMER it has taken me years to come to terms with this. This is obviously not the same kind of grief you have, when you have lost someone you love. IT IS still grief though. I want to help you to get through the process with more ease, because it is a grief strong enough that if you don’t acknowledge it, it could actually hurt you-mentally and emotionally, especially if it’s a really BIG idea, such as a business or a life changing notion. If you can recognize it for what it is, you will have power to move through it more steadily, so you can get on with your next idea.

The grieving process, for a failed idea is something like this (it is not the same for everyone, it will vary):
1. Denial & Isolation
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance
The bible says, “Man without a vision shall perish.” Sometimes when those ideas don’t work out quite like we wanted them to, we can give up on our dreams and our goals.  I don’t want this for you.

I am a person who has a million ideas a day:-) Alright, maybe not exactly that many, but a lot. A few years ago, I got really frustrated with God, because He made me to be a person with a ton of ideas, but I was not able to do them all. Why would He make me that way???!!! It simply made no sense!! I used to think because I had the idea, I needed to pursue it, only to find out soon enough I couldn’t, for many reasons. Sometimes, I just didn’t have enough money, or I wasn’t equipped to pull it off, or it really was not an idea for me. I used to struggle with why I couldn’t make anything happen, and I would get very depressed. Years later, I am still an idea person, but I know how to work through these feelings pretty quickly because I’ve recognized that it takes a process.

1) Denial and Isolation:
I hear this over and over again with business owners. They had an idea, and they gave up everything to accomplish it, not weighing the cost of doing that first. Years down the line, they are trapped and either unwilling or unable to let go of their concept. Sometimes this “will” to fight is needed, so that they can survive until their next business idea comes along to save their current business, yet sometimes it’s important to know when it is dead. The denial is strong, and they feel like they are the only ones going through this situation, or maybe they don’t know who they can talk to. Sometimes they don’t even want to say it out loud, because to hear themselves saying it, means that they’re giving up, admitting defeat. A lot of times however, whether it’s said or not, they feel that way anyways, and all these owners want to do is walk away. I hear people talking about doing all kinds of crazy things to diminish a business, rather than just admitting it didn’t work, and cutting their losses. Instead, they ride it out, rack up more debt, and continue hating the “job” they’ve created for themselves, hoping it might burn down or something. Even when the notion is something simple, it can be hard to admit that it didn’t work. I once was trying to put up shelves, which I usually let Alex do, especially since he doesn’t mind doing it. I had gotten it in my head however, that I didn’t need a man to do this job, and I was going to get them up myself-I can be very stubborn. I worked on it all day, and couldn’t seem to figure out what the heck I had done wrong, and why the darn things wouldn’t turn out straight. I could’ve just waited until my hubby got home, but NO!! I was determined that I was going to figure it out. When he finally got home at the end of the day, I was so angry at these shelves, because I wouldn’t admit that I needed his help and wait, that I was very snappy. He came in, did a couple of maneuvers, and had it fixed within minutes!! If I would’ve just let go of my denial that I needed his help, I could’ve saved myself a lot of turmoil that day.

2) Anger
I have had my share of anger over ideas I finally had to give up on. From silly things like a living room design not working because I didn’t sketch my drawing to scale or even measure anything, to business ideas that just didn’t do anything. I’m sure this emotion shows itself differently for everyone, but for me it usually comes with me being snappy at those around me. Then I have to stop, analyze what’s going on, and realize that I’m taking my anger out on my loved ones, because my idea didn’t work the way I had hoped it would. I’m pretty good at working through this one more rapidly NOW, but ONLY because I have learned how to channel my feelings properly. I write them down. Yep, it’s that simple, although that may not be what works for you. You may need to talk to someone, or take a walk. You might need to just get away from the situation, or perhaps beat something like a punching bag (hopefully not someone!!) Figure out what works for you, and just be quick to apply it. Don’t be in denial and let it last too long.

3) Bargaining
You may be like, bargaining?  Like asking for a better price at the store?  LOL.  No.   In grief bargaining is saying, I should’ve done this differently, or if only I would’ve done that instead.  For instance, I have had many ideas that I think of as my “baby.” This can be very dangerous…Here’s why: When an idea is MY baby, often times it creates a double edged sword. I want control over every aspect of this idea, so I won’t give ANY of it up. However, many great ideas grow to something bigger than I, by myself, can handle, which means that I will eventually NEED help. However, because I want control, due to the fact that this is MY “baby,” I will never feel like I can fully trust anyone to help me with other areas that I NEED help with. Then I will feel like I should’ve done more when it inevitably does fail, or I could end up blaming others, thinking they didn’t try hard enough (even though it was me, who wouldn’t let them in the first place). It’s a vicious cycle!! What I really needed to do was to allow the person I brought in to do their job, freedom to do said job, and EMPOWER them to do it well.  I have learned this lesson the hard way many times. When dealing with a failed idea, it is better to not think of ALL the many things that could’ve been done better, unless it is going to help YOU to move forward in another idea, and YOU learned NOT to repeat those mistakes again. Don’t play the “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” game with yourself.

4) Depression
This is my most difficult stage of “Idea Grief.” I had an idea once for an amazing network. I dreamed the heck-out of this idea. In my mind I had the perfect setup for a great community-all centered around homeschooling. We were going to do field trips, have tutorials, initiate apprenticeships, even create a system of people across country, where other homeschoolers could stay while travelling-videos, blogs, curriculum, etc... It was a grandiose idea. I certainly didn’t sit down and think about anything practical such as how to market the idea, logistics, and the time to build said network, or anything like that. In my head, all I had to do was start talking about it, and BAM!! It would just happen. Surely, everyone I spoke to would think it was amazing!! Well, I’m sure you can imagine how much of a “kick in the face” it was when my FIRST phone call to my FIRST homeschool organization didn’t go so well. They were polite, but they didn’t know who I was, I didn’t have any track record, or connections with anyone. I had it in my head that this idea would be an instant success, and when it wasn’t, I sunk hard. It took me a while to want to be around anyone outside of my family, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed, and eat crap. I didn’t (I had little kids to take care of), but I wanted to.
I made a lot of mistakes here, my biggest being-I didn’t talk to enough people within my circle of influence to get their thoughts on my idea. They probably would’ve helped me to get my head out of the clouds a bit, and would’ve helped me to see the error in my “get rich and famous quick” scheme, and helped me to realize that I needed to start out small and work my way up. My next mistake was that I had myself built up so much on a dream that was so much bigger than I realized, that I didn’t have room for failure in my mind. When my first “no” came, I wasn’t ready to dust it off and try again. I was too crushed to push forward. I really did think it would be an instantaneous success. Lastly (not really, but I like a good 3 point persuasion), I isolated myself afterwards. I needed encouragement from good friends and family. If I would’ve talked to them, I would’ve gained perspective, known that these kinds of things happen to everyone, and would’ve been given the confidence to pick up and try another tactic. When going through the disappointment of an idea not working, don’t separate yourself from your support system!!

5) Acceptance
The faster you get through step four, and the more feedback and support you get, the sooner you will be able to accept your failure and move on. I say failure, because all great leaders talk about growing through your failures. In fact, the quicker you fail with an idea, the sooner you can move on to the next one, and that one will probably start where your last idea left off, and could even become your first or next success. Many years ago, I got into DIY decorating for my home, for two reasons-I didn’t have much money, and I like customized items. I enjoyed the thrill of making my own things, and having someone compliment me. There were many times though, that the projects wouldn’t turn out the way I had hoped, or I wouldn’t get compliments. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy, and that I should just go purchase the items I wanted in my house. Still, I kept on. Recently, my DIYs have started turning more and more into successes, and people ask me how I do them, and I have to say that I really enjoy the way my home looks-I still have some that don't turn out exactly how I'd like them, on the whole however, the projects have added value to my home style. If I hadn’t stuck it out, and moved on from my failures, I wouldn’t have become the DIYer I am today.
Now that you are equipped with the truth that it is ok to have these feelings when an idea doesn’t go exactly the way you wanted, I hope you will feel empowered. Let me tell you, before I had kids, I used to pride myself on how I never cried over anything, and was so good at controlling my emotions. Once I had my babies though, that all went out the door. This used to make me so annoyed at myself, but someone helped me to understand that it’s ok to feel. In fact, if we don’t allow ourselves to do it, those feelings will just build up inside until they explode and you can’t hold them in no matter how hard you try. I’m not giving you permission to wallow in your sorrow. NO WAY!! Allow yourself the grace to feel what you need to feel, and then move on. Grow. Dream. Keep Trying!! That is what I want you to do with this information!! Live!! And keep moving on with new ideas!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Millionaire Thinking

As I was watching my handsome man getting sized for alterations on his work shirts yesterday, I was reminded of the books The Millionaire Mind and The Millionaire Next Door. These two books completely changed the way that I look at things, especially as a consumer.

First, however, it made me realize that there are many “every day” millionaires all around us that we wouldn’t even know about. When I thought of millionaires, I thought of Donald Trump, or trust babies (Dave Ramsey’s term, I can’t take credit) such as Paris Hilton, professional athletes, or famous singers. I had started having my eyes opened to who real millionaires were with businesses I had participated in, and then again after listening to Dave Ramsey’s talk show. But I guess I had no real idea of how many of them were out there around us, who do so well with their finances. These books were the icing on the cake, bringing it home for my brain. True millionaires are not necessarily those who live in mansions, drive the latest Bentley, and purchase the most expensive diamond necklaces. They’re not the people you see in gossip columns, and probably not even in Forbes richest people.

Instead, they are your everyday people. According to Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D, author of The Millionaire Mind, “They live in lovely homes located in fine neighborhoods. Balance is their approach to life. They are financially independent, yet they enjoy life-they are not ‘all work, no play’ type of people. Most became millionaires in one generation. Neither their lifestyle nor their wealth was generated from being highly leveraged financially. They are not credit junkies. How did they accomplish this? How did they balance their need to become wealthy and economically productive with their need to enjoy life? They have the millionaire mind.” Wow. You could live near a millionaire, and not even know it.

Secondly, the way they consume was very fascinating!! Again, I thought these people would be wasteful and not care about how much they spend on things. NOT TRUE!! I don’t think I understood how some of them got to be millionaires in the first place. I sure never saw these kinds of ideas talked about on TV. I’m not saying they would be the people on EXTREME COUPONERS, but you better believe that they are smart with what they purchase. Some of the things listed in the Millionaire Mind are:
• Having furniture refinished instead of buying new
• Switching long-distance telephone companies (the copyright on the book is 2000)
• Never buying from telephone solicitations (Door to door would probably be on here too)
• Having shoes resoled or otherwise repaired • Using discount coupons when shopping
• Buying household supplies in bulk
They typically purchase quality and have it fixed as needed. Also, their habits do not feed into a discontentment. You probably won’t see too many of them hanging out at the mall.

Ok, so I’m not bringing this up, so that we will worship the ground these millionaires walk on!! NO WAY!! They’re people, and that would be creepy. It was just amazing to me, that I was doing many things to impress people (I don’t know who, but people), and trying to look more successful than I was, and yet, I was hurting my family financially, and not really impressing anyone anyways. Don’t tell me you’ve never done this. I see people doing this around me all the time, and I have to admit, I still catch myself doing it. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with liking nice things, and I like to dress in style-I am careful with how much I spend on TRENDS now, and I no longer, ever put it on a credit card! I just think we have to be careful about our motives, and the decisions we make based on those. For example, if you are leasing a car to make people around you at the stop light impressed, but you are swimming in debt, and you can barely make the payments, what good is that doing you? You are simply adding stress to your life that is unneeded, and what’s more is-it won’t get you ahead in life leasing that car. You saw above that millionaires don’t over leverage themselves out-leverage means debt. Stability does not come this way, and you’re not impressing anyone who matters.

I have to say that these ideas are where the true epiphanies came for me years ago. I love to spend money!! I mean, who doesn’t. But I realized that I was never feeling content. I realized that many of my habits were also keeping me there. I was really excited though, when I began to change my ways. For example, I have a pair of silver boots that I love, but the heels had the nail poking through (they are not expensive boots, but I love them), and I had never thought of having them fixed. I didn’t even know what the professional name of someone who fixes shoes was. It’s a cobbler, for those of you who don’t know either. Anyways, I took them in to see if a local cobbler could fix them, and sure enough, it was only $9 for the pair to give those boots a few more years of life!! Funny thing too, he said he had to hide them, because women kept coming in wanting to purchase them-they are great boots!! But, how awesome is that?!! Also, I had heard of altering from my military days, and from What Not to Wear episodes. They often talk about purchasing clothing to fit your bigger parts, and then have them taken in. I don’t know why I didn’t think I could do this, but I finally decided to give it a try. I found myself a local alterations shop, and I had the gal take in, and even completely change the look of a couple of Blazers, and sure enough they looked amazing!! I’ve been using them ever since. It really makes you love your smaller amount of clothes more when they fit you exactly the way you want them to.

Anyways, the point to all of this is:
1) I highly recommend that you read, or listen (they have the audio book at our local library) to the Millionaire Mind by Thomas J. Stanley. It will hopefully change the way you think about purchasing, and the way you handle your finances.
2) Do your habits keep you broke?
3) If you are purchasing the latest and greatest of anything (clothes, electronics, etc.), that’s ok, but make sure that you’re not just doing it to impress people, who aren’t really impressed anyways. Make sure it’s a good value and something you really want or can use.
4) Lastly, but actually very importantly, find local shops that can help you fix or redo items in your home. This is a Win-Win. You get what you need, and you help local businesses. Can you fix your shoes? Alter clothing? Re-upholster furniture? Buy used, and it have it customized? Think about it  And have fun with it!! I have actually enjoyed this way of thinking for years!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A case of 2 Layoffs!!

I would like to tell you a story of 2 COMPLETELY DIFFERENT layoff scenarios!! And they just happen to be ours…Make some tea, and get comfortable. I’m going to try to keep this as short as possible, but I hope it will help you to see the bright side of your situation…

I do have to do a tiny bit of back story, but not too much. I think most of us expect that when we graduate from High school, and move out of our parents’ house, we will have everything they had, and more, ONLY instantaneously. Well, I have to tell you, we were pregnant teenagers (ok, just me, but we were obviously in it together) coming out of High School, and boy did we have an even BIGGER “chip on our shoulder” to do that, because now we wanted to prove that we wouldn’t be complete failures, like many were telling us we were going to be if we kept the baby and got married at such a young age. Alex and I graduated Monday, and got married Friday, because of money. LOL, actually that’s just what we love to tell people. We had already been engaged, and were planning to get married in November of that year; however, when we found out we were pregnant, and that Alex could make 3 times more during his military training if we were married, we quickly upped the date, and that was that.

Fortunately, Alex was also so amazing at Auto Cad, that while in High School, he had already been working for a Civil Engineering company through his teacher, which allowed them to hire him fresh out of school. He worked there for quite a while, and we really didn’t think he would ever leave, even though we were specifically taught that our generation wasn’t expected to be at the same job all their lives, like past generations, plus he bumped heads with some of the people he worked with. Being the youngest in the company, it was assumed that he knew the most about technology too, so he was given the opportunity to start learning some IT. Through this he did form a relationship with the owner of another company, who would come in and do IT work with him on occasion, and that person was the owner of the company he works for now.

Now to the first layoff. We really didn’t see it coming. We had taken the Financial Peace University, but really hadn’t applied any of the principles. We went away for a weekend leadership conference for a business we were in at the time, and came back the next day to a pink slip. WOW!!! Total KICK IN THE FACE!! We had NOTHING saved, and no idea what to do!!

We did at least have SOME good things happen:
• Alex got a severance package (Thank God, that truly was the only thing that saved us);
• His PTO (Paid Time Off) was also cashed out; • And of course we got some unemployment;
• Furthermore, we weren’t paying a lot in rent at the time, because we were “house sitting” for some friends who were away for a year at a job up North. BUT man, we were truly not prepared, and pretty ignorant as to what to do:
• We didn’t know to put our kids on state health insurance; So of course, Byanca broke her arm adding an astronomical medical bill, and when we did get a job, we got it JUST in time for them to tell us, “you make too much money for us to write this off” at the hospital.
• We didn’t know to sign up for food stamps;
• We decided to have Alex take a whole month off, because we had $3000-a HUGE chunk of money in our eyes back then. I know, I know-we were still such children. Now don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed that month, but looking back, it probably wasn’t the best idea.
• And finally, we were completely desperate, when Alex did finally start REALLY looking for a job, which caused us to make our decision too quickly.

We can at least say that when Alex did start looking, we were very excited about how marketable he had become with both his AutoCad experience, and his new IT schooling and experience, so that part was nice. He did get several offers, and because we were so frantic after a couple of months of living on the low pay of unemployment, we made a quick decision, and though the company he chose was a nice one, when we look back, we wish we had decided differently for a couple of reasons:
1) The pay WAS the highest offer, but it was in Portland, and we had never paid Oregon taxes before-WOW, what a shocker. Even though we were making more hourly, we were losing money, BIG TIME in taxes!! AND we couldn’t vote over there!!
2) He had had an offer from the company he now works for, and if we had taken more time to consider, we would’ve picked that one, which would’ve put him further ahead in seniority now, plus put him in his new chosen career sooner.

I wish I could say that this put us in the right mind about finances, but it didn’t. We did decide not to buy a house, but when we quickly needed to move, we ended up in a very expensive townhouse that we really had no business being in. We also took on a car payment on a sports car for Alex that we both enjoyed. And we really didn’t pay any attention to what we were spending. Alex was making a ton of overtime, and we were making so much more hourly, that we figured we could just do whatever we wanted. This was right around 2007, and the housing market was just starting to slow down.

Some of Alex’s largest clients at work were housing developers, and they were starting to see a slowing in purchases, in addition, they were having issues with their plans getting pushed through the city due to crazy regulations. Alex’s boss had to tell everyone “No more overtime.” I didn’t feel this hit right away, but that’s only because I wasn’t paying attention. I kept wanting to spend money, and kept wondering why Alex worked so much, and would never take a day off. Finally, one day, I called my man, while out shopping with a friend to just check in, and see if I could buy a pair of jeans I reaaaaaaallllllyyyyyy wanted. I’m not even sure why I called, I hadn’t truly been communicating with him about my purchases at that point, just spending on whatever whim, BUT I did. And I was completely humiliated when he said, “No babe, we can’t afford it.” He said it very gently, but made it clear that we couldn’t afford it. He later told me that that was the hardest thing for him to do. He hardly ever told me no. We both have such a love for spending, and we don’t care for confrontation, so those words barely come around to each other.

He took me aside not too long after that, and we had a “heart to heart” about our situation. He told me that we weren’t doing well, overtime had been cut, and we were over our heads where we were living. He was cashing in his Paid Time Off just to try to make the bills, and we still weren’t making it. I felt horrible!! I hated thinking about my husband trying to do everything he could to support his family, and still feeling like it wasn’t enough, and here I was just having a jolly ol’ time in my ignorance!! Spending, spending, spending!! We decided a long time ago that this marriage was going to work, no matter what happened, thick or thin, rich or poor, sick or healthy, so we were sticking it out!! We decided right then and there to take drastic measures. We saw the writing on the wall, in fact, we know the Lord made it very clear that we would soon be facing another layoff, and we knew in our current state, there was no way we could face it.

Our plan was to move back in with my parents for as long as we could ALL handle each other :-) My parents were very gracious!! And we were, and still are, very thankful for their willingness to help us out!! We were also very desperate, because we were spending so much more money than we made, that we didn’t have any money to put down on a less expensive place, and we really just needed to pull the plug and start over with our lives. We lived there for 3 months. Then we found a tiny little 2 bedroom, where we could have extra money to throw at our debts, and handle a lay off when it came. As we had anticipated, a year later, pretty close to the day of our life changing conversation, the layoff came. In fact, we asked for it, literally. Alex’s job was asking everyone to cut way back on hours, not enough to live on, but still enough that it would be difficult to look for a new job. Plus they asked us to take off both the week of Christmas and New Years without pay. We decided that it was time to seek out a new opportunity.

This time we were experts. Because we saw it coming, and had a strategy, we made good things happen:
• We were ready with a list of things we could cut back on to take our lifestyle down;
• We had $1000 emergency fund;
• We knew to sign up for food stamps, and health insurance for our kids;
• We had a great budget worked out (In fact, we were able to continue paying off our debts during our layoff-this was a part of our 2 year time for getting out of debt);
• And, our kids were completely on board with us, and knew our goals;
• We were barely stressed out. It was inconvenient-sure, and of course, we didn’t love having our lifestyle cut back, but I have to say, these were some of the most amazing times in our financial life.
• Most IMPORTANTLY, we didn’t have to rush to the next job. We had plenty of people offering ALL kinds of work, which we appreciated, and felt extremely loved and supported amid this time. However, we were able to wait it out, and truly make sure that we made a better decision this time around.
 • Alex was also able to completely change careers. He decided to let go of his AutoCad career, and focus 100% in IT. This was a wonderful, yet kind of scary move!!

It’s hard to think that this was about four years ago now, in the Holiday Season, and I think we all look back at it as a great time. These were total NIGHT and DAY experiences!! This time, Alex went and exercised every day, and then was home for us after school, and we got to just enjoy him. We didn’t worry about bills. Everything was taken care of. Even Christmas was greatly blessed. We did tell everyone around us that we were only doing gifts for our inside family that year, and it was taken well, as the struggle that year was felt by everybody, and in fact, several people appreciated our honesty about it, and chose to do the same thing. We still had fun, and it was the year that made us decide we wanted our Holiday Season to be more about making memories, something we try to continue to this day, even though we get to buy or make gifts for others (we’re all GIFT love language people, so we enjoy giving).

I don’t share this to make us look good. My hope is that if you are going through tough times you will see that it is important to unite, and communicate!! I hope that this will encourage you!! If we can get it together with how screwed up we were, anyone can do it!!

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