Life

Roses and Whine

This is not the post I had planned for today. But then yesterday happened. Yesterday, my body was inhabited by the Beelzebub of Pinterest. I’m hesitant to share this because I’m afraid everyone who reads this has never experienced what I’m about to tell you. That I am the only person who can become demon possessed.

It started innocently enough, a week ago, when I had access to HGTV. I got sucked into the vortex of home makeovers and fixer uppers, and flipping, and it took me through a week of obsession before I flopped.

Almost six years ago, Brent and I bought a fixer upper, and we’ve done many an upgrade. But they haven’t been the totally fun upgrades. You know, the upgrades that provide real aesthetic and make you want to show off your home. “Oh, hello, Susan, check out our new roof! Just ignore the stained carpet below your feet, the seasick cabinets in our kitchen and bathrooms, and the linoleum and chipped tile. We like to play ‘name that shape’.” The things we want to fix come with hefty price tags, and when you’re saving for a pool, you can’t justify bleeding a few grand here and a few grand there.

Oh dear, sweet, ever-loving Pinterest. Did you know there’s a DIY for just about ANYTHING in your home? You can even paint your vinyl flooring for about $50. But here’s the thing with Pinterest. You search for one idea and it leads to another and to another and to another. It’s a black hole that leaves you floating in space unable to find your grounding. You know your oxygen is running out, but you want to see if you can make it just a liiiiitle bit longer. And, pretty soon, you’re sure Pinterest’s mission is not to help you DIY, but to help you DIE…a slow, painful death.

I must have easily logged 30 hours of DIY research in the past week. I was OBSESSED. All of the other times I’ve said I’m obsessed over something are a complete joke compared to what I experienced. I allowed it to turn me into a different person. I was so inundated with different project ideas, I didn’t know where to start. I was all over the board, and a lot of the projects would require Brent’s assistance. But he’s not home during the day, and my patience can’t be found with a magnifying glass when I have a project set in my mind. I want to start NOW!

I was sending my husband text after text asking questions about what I’d need to do in certain situations, and what he thought we could get for our leather couches and anything else I could sell in our home (because I need money to do projects, right?) After a while, he just quit responding. I was trying to list things on ebay and my computer kept freezing, and I was so frustrated and irritated, and overwhelmed, I finally had a melt down. Whoa! Houston, we have a problem. Yep. I had become a bona fide crazy lady. I needed to take a chill pill on top of my chill pill. (Is that frowned upon? Asking for a friend.)

This is the outward manifestation of how I felt on the inside.

Sometimes Jesus needs to take the wheel AND deliver a chocolate milkshake. I knew I had to remove myself from the situation just to clear my head. So I loaded up and headed to my nearest Chickfila. After wolfing down a shake and fries, I headed on to Costco just to walk around. Getting out of the toxic environment I had created for myself was the remedy I needed. I was then able to clearly see how my discontent mixed with excitement made me go kaboom! And my poor husband was collateral damage.

Once I re-centered myself (and bought 2 dozen roses because that’s the easiest way to lighten up any area in the home), I called my husband and apologized that he’d met my evil twin. He laughed, but I was serious. It wasn’t an empty apology. I genuinely felt sorry that he had to live through that crazy, because WHO WAS THAT LADY?

 

 

Nothing quite light Costco’s 24 roses for $13.99 deal!

But my husband is so wise. Last night we sat down and talked about what our goals are and what’s the best way to tackle them. So, for now, I’m just going to get my fix by painting the master bedroom (the walls are currently purple… don’t ask).

Every night, Brent and I tell each other what our favorite part of the day was. Brent shared that his favorite part of yesterday was my apology. Whaaaaaa? I told him he must have had a pretty crummy day if that was the highlight.

But he said it’s because I don’t apologize that often. (Doesn’t he know that it’s because I’m almost always right?)

Before my vacation, I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to gradually fix things up around the house, but once I saw some awesome transformations on TV, I became fixated on doing it NOW. I’ve read statistics that people who don’t log a lot of cable and social media hours are often happier than their counterparts. I think they’re on to something.

Let’s just say we won’t be ordering cable anytime soon. Oh, and if the paint job turns out all right, I’ll share with you my small victory.

Poetry

Make Up

Without warning, she was shot.
Somewhere between plastic tiaras and name-brand cosmetics
A fabled word had been whispered.
People chose sides and the venomous artillery fired.
It took her two days to remove the artificial fingernails from her skin
And rinse the hairspray from her eyes.
When the dust cleared, a stalemate ensued for another twenty-four.
Beady eyes stared each other down during passing.
In the end, neither of them took the blame, but they agreed.
Yes, yes, surely this must have been a miscommunication.

He walloped the other boy.
All was solved.

Life

Instacreepers

**I wrote the following tongue-in-cheek blog post several years ago, but didn’t publish it here. I don’t typically attempt humor, but hopefully you get a giggle or two from it. Or at least a smirk. And if not, you can join my husband in believing I’m not funny at all. 😉 **

I cut someone loose from my life. Okay, not really. I mean, I did cut the fishing line, but the creepy thing is, I suspect the fish is still swimming near the surface of the water staring at me. I can’t see it anymore, but I know it’s there. And yes, that’s quite unnatural.

Let me explain.

Instagram is an interesting beast. When it comes to awarding hearts, there are different kinds of Instagrammers out there:

Some like to spread the love. They will heart anything and everything you post. A scenic walk through Yellowstone? Love! A picture of a pet goat? Love! A picture of a dirty diaper asking if the contents look normal? Love! You can do no wrong in their eyes.

Then you have the eye-for-an-eye people. They treat Instagram like kids treat Valentine’s Day. “If you give me one, I’ll give you one.” And thus they keep score.

Of course, there’s always stingy hearters. They’ll throw one your way, but you’ve really gotta earn it.

Don’t forget the ones who hand out hearts because they are making fun of that person. They eat up the fact she just posted a picture of her supposed boyfriend who looks like his picture is being taken against his will. It’s more of an, “I’m laughing at you” heart.

Then there’s a few, mostly those who have become Instagram popular, who keep their hearts all to themselves (you know who you are).

But then there’s my absolute favorite: The Instagram creeper. The bottom feeder of social media.

Surely you know people like this. And that’s key to a real creeper. It’s gotta be someone you know. The scenario goes something like this.

Oh, look. Smitty Smitherson followed me on Instagram. I don’t get to see him that often, so it will be totally cool to keep up with what’s new in his life through some picture sharing. So you follow him back. And in roll the pictures. Oh, look. It’s Smitty feeding a donkey! Love! There’s Smitty on a spelunking adventure! Love! There’s Smitty’s third selfie in a row! Love! Love! Love! And then you love all these things about him because either they are cool pictures, or you like what he’s doing, or you just like him and want to be supportive! And you can’t help yourself. And you go along for a while like this until you realize something. Smitty is active on Instagram. Smitty has not loved one of my pictures. I know I’m not a professional photographer, and I don’t do anything too crazy, but I know there are at least a few gems among my rock collection.

Then comes the moment of crisis. The next time you see a Smitty picture, you hesitate, remembering that Smitty doesn’t love you back. Not even after you helped resuscitate a sugar glider who had choked on a cheese doodle and almost drowned in your Aunt Mona’s backyard pool. And you feel heartbroken and crushed because Smitty is the one who followed you FIRST! Smitty is the one who asked YOU to dance!! And you think, “What the Heelys! I’m tangoing by myself!”

Ah yes, then you must decide. Am I going to become an eye-for-an-eyer or am I going to continue loving pictures because I, quite honestly, love them, regardless of Smitty’s stingy string-cheese attitude.

So, you love the picture but at the same time, you are telling Smitty, “You are dead to me,” under your breath.

And so your relationship continues, but it becomes burdensome because it’s a fact: Smitty doesn’t love you. Smitty never did.

You connect it to the fact that Smitty added you first, and that’s when you realize you have a hot and heavy creeper on your hands. Because why else would Smitty follow you but not interact with a few of your freaking amazing pictures?

Creeper, creeper,
Bottom feeder!

Oh, yes. Smitty knocked on your door, but he refused to come in. And for forty days and forty nights (more like three years), Smitty has remained standing outside your door. You say good morning every time you leave for work, but there is no response. Yet, there he stands. Day.after.day. Binoculars in hand.

You have never considered yourself a petty person, but that’s when you realize how creepy a creeper really is.

So, I cut the fishing line. I can’t bear to look at and love Smitty’s pictures anymore. It just reminds me that he’s standing outside my window peeping through my Instagram blinds. And that just makes me uncomfortable.

I’m hoping over time, after no longer seeing Smitty pictures, I’ll forget he’s camped out in my flowerbed, staring at me and my family through yellowy lamplight. Hopefully he’ll just turn into a garden gnome. Somebody that I used to know.

Life

Husband Appreciation Post

My husband and I just celebrated ten whopping years of marriage, and I’m taking this week to brag on him just a little bit.

I posted the following picture of us when we went out to celebrate last weekend.

Yes, I cut off all of my hair and I’m not the least bit sorry.

But let me take you back to the thunder and lightning seven months prior.

In December of last year, we were forced to replace one of our cars a little sooner than planned. And that’s when the drizzle started. We were still paying my daughter’s tuition at private school, and of course we had incurred the expenses of a newborn (why are diapers and formula so doggone expensive?) My son has also had a long string of doctor’s appointments at the pediatrician’s, dermatologist’s and urologist’s offices. He also had surgery in May. A month ago, Brent had a root canal AND a crown replacement, and then we discovered I needed a crown. Just FYI, this is why we believe in having an emergency fund of 3-6 months living expenses, because when it rains, it pours! It feels like we’ve been using a salad shooter to shell out our money for months now.

Needless to say, two weeks ago, I wasn’t really in a celebratory mood. But, it was only because I was being pragmatic.

Last summer, Brent and I decided we would take a vacation to celebrate our 10 years, but with our financial outgo since December, we decided it best to put it off for another year’s celebration. Dinner was all we needed.

And then the week of our anniversary rolled around, and my son succumbed to a stomach bug. It was also the same week Brent and I were both having dental work done. Just to tell you how emotionally and physically drained I was, having a 6 inch needle stabbed into three different places in my mouth was a welcomed break to the chaos at home. I was sitting in that dental chair and all I could think about was how I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary. All of the things I normally would die for, I didn’t want. I didn’t want him to buy me a card. I didn’t want him to buy me flowers. I didn’t want to go to dinner. I just wanted to wait until the storm cloud had rolled away and we could celebrate later. As soon as I got home, I cried into his shoulder and asked him to cancel our Friday night plans.

I just couldn’t do it.

Brent was adamant about going to dinner, but he agreed with our little one sick, we needed to move the date to the following weekend.

Brent’s not the romantic type (like, hardly ever). But he surprised me to no end last weekend. Not only did he plan the babysitting and make reservations at one of the best restaurants in Winter Park, he also secretly packed an overnight bag and whisked me away after dinner (we won’t talk about how I cried when I realized I wasn’t going home to my baby…it’s okay, it didn’t take me too long to recover).

I’m sorry, but it’s just hard to leave this face.

From a delectable meal, to singing throwback songs as we drove in the car, the night was absolutely perfect. I know we’ll make it to Hawaii some day (hint, hint, B), but I loved our simple one night away, because when it comes down to it, it’s not the stuff that I love. It’s him.

After a delectable meal at Luma in Winter Park.

Also, mad props to a man who can pack an overnight bag and have it hidden in the car in less than two minutes…completely undetected.

Some days are bright, some days are dark. It’s important to remember from where you came and where you’re going. And when things seem stressful and like they’re never going to end, take heart in the fact it most likely is just a season of life.

That’s right. Now go dust of that old Byrds vinyl and sip on a bottled soda as you listen to “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

At our anniversary dinner, we laughed at how we aren’t where we thought we would be when we first got married. We discussed where we’d probably be in the next 10…but who are we kidding.

We all know God smirks when we make our plans.

Life

Anniversary Wisdom

Our wedding in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, North Carolina

It’s hard to believe that ten years ago today, my husband and I tied the knot. Of course, I made sure it was a constrictor knot. To date, he has not escaped. I honestly was a baby when we got married, and he an adult. In fact, in the 9 years that separate us, it’s crazy for me to think that I’ve just passed the age that he was when we first got married. My! How my perspective on life has changed.

Brent washing my feet as his commitment to being a servant-leader.

 

Just recently, Brent was asked to share what he believed has strengthened our marriage throughout the years. Interestingly enough, this person (who has hit a bit of a rough patch-don’t we all?) has been married longer than we have. Brent and I sat down and brainstormed a list of 10 beneficial practices. Please note that all of these do not come naturally, and some of them we I didn’t even begin mastering until MONTHS ago. We’re all a work in progress. So without further adieu, here’s what we would tell our newlywed selves if we crossed paths in the space-time continuum:

  1. Have the same faith/worldview and practice it. Personally, this is the foundation of our relationship. I can’t imagine the obstacles we might have to overcome if only one of us went to church and we both had different ideas on how to raise our kids. In all things, we are a united front.
  2. Get on the same financial page. Money problems (either debt or miscommunication about money) is one of the leading causes of divorce. Brent and I have zero money fights in our relationship, and most of the time when we have a conversation about money, it’s actually really fun. We are squashing goals together and dreaming of our future.
  3. Discover and speak your partner’s love language. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, take some time to check it out: http://www.5lovelanguages.com. People speak their own love language, but most couples do not have the same love language. That means your partner might not be feeling what it is you’re cookin’ up. You’re speaking French when all he understands is German.
  4. Forgive and ask forgiveness. Be quick to admit you’re wrong and ask forgiveness! And if you’re the one who is being petitioned to forgive, don’t make your partner jump through hoops to be back in your good graces. I’m not suggesting sweeping large, complicated problems under the rug, but be willing to have dialogue about it, without an agenda to come out on top. Instead of having an “I must win” attitude, sort through conflict with the mentality of “what can we do to make our relationship better.”
  5. Get away for several nights without any family members as often as possible. This one doesn’t need an explanation. It’s important to have time away from the same old same old. Adventure does a couple well.
  6. Surround yourself with friends who share your values. Brent and I believe in having diverse relationships. But when you think of the friends you’re “doing life” with, you should mostly choose those who share your core values. We have an inner circle of friends we are confident would give our kids the same advice we would (especially when those teenage years hit and they don’t want to hear it from mom and dad). It takes a village to raise kids. Make sure your village is not full of town idiots.
  7. Make expectations clear. If Valentine’s Day is coming up and you’d be disappointed if your spouse doesn’t do XYZ, YOU NEED TO TELL HIM. Absolutely under no circumstances should your response be that you want “nothing,” unless you truly would be happy with NOTHING.
  8. If you have kids, get away WEEKLY by yourself (especially if you are the primary caretaker). Ever since we added our second child, Brent and I have actually increased our social calendar: movies with friends, coffee, solo shopping. Just being able to shut off all the demanding responsibilities you experience during the week, even if only for a few hours, will help you reap numerous rewards. You return home refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
  9. Get help when you need it. Don’t believe the lie that counseling is beneath you. If issues run deep, it’s completely acceptable to seek licensed help. You are not a failure because you reach out. In fact, you are quite courageous.
  10. Laugh. A lot. At yourself, at each other, together. Laughter is the best medicine.
Just check out that French bustle! I highly recommend it over the traditional one-hook over bustle most Americans use! 🙂

 

Let me also say this: There is no one-size-fits-all marriage. Each one has its own nuances (I mean, just throw in in-laws and no two marital relationships are the same). Brent and I aren’t perfect. At times we’d be embarrassed for you to be a fly on the wall. However, in 10 years, we have never said the D-word. In fact, I can promise you we haven’t even thought it. Not because things are always so swimmingly awesome. I’m fully aware that the best OR, heaven forbid, the worst is yet to come. But, we are ONE and operate as ONE. When he hit a valley, we look upward and onward.

If you’re getting ready to tie to the knot or have only taken the first few steps into your marriage, may your relationships be blessed. And if you’ve been married longer than we have, I’d love to hear the wisdom you’ve gained throughout the years.

Life

Black Sabbath

If Satan were a bodily organ, he would certainly be a child’s bladder on an already 10-minute late commute to church on a Sunday morning.

Just last week, I finished reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unglued. Toward the end of the book, she covers the importance of observing and preserving the Sabbath. Brent and I used to be really good at going nutso on Friday and Saturday so that Sunday was a day of physical, mental, and emotional rest. We even went to church on Saturday night, because getting kids ready for church does not put me in a Sabbath state of mind.

As of late, we have somehow managed to move back into our “every moment should be used trying to get things done” mentality. I have found myself weary and not recharged for the week. After finishing Terkheurst’s chapter on the Sabbath, I decided that we needed to implement this day of rest back into our lives.

All last week, I found myself longing for it to be Sunday, to be in the worship service, able to partake in the music and hear a word of encouragement from Dr. Hunter. My soul NEEDED this. Sabbath! Ahhhh!

And just like that, Satan was queued to come do a tap dance all over my patience.

This past Sunday morning, despite my best efforts, we somehow were not ready to leave on time. I even planned a fifteen-minute window for error and not only did we use that up, we cut another five minute slice out of the clock. Once the car was actually moving, I calculated that there was still a chance we’d make it there exactly as Dr. Hunter took the stage.

That is, until my daughter, who NEVER, EVER asks us to stop to use the bathroom starts panicking that we need to stop because she’s “got to go!”

We pull over at McDonald’s, and I sanctimoniously usher her into the restroom. Alas, she has a fear of auto-flushing potties, which this lovely McDonald’s so conveniently has. She wedged herself in a corner and began melting down, tears and all, her hands stretching her cheeks down to her chin saying she can’t use that type of potty. After my reassurance didn’t work, it was back to the car, Satan inhabited bladder and all. She now claimed she could hold it. Grrr.

Brent dropped me off to take baby boy to the nursery, and by the time I got him checked in and found a place to sit in the sanctuary, I had only missed the announcements. Hallelujah! I could breath. I melted into my seat. God come speak to me and fill me up because I feel so dad blamed empty.

Then, I saw that Dr. Hunter was out of town. Another pastor was filling in. Womp, womp. Okay, not what I wanted, but I suppose God can speak through other vessels as well. Okay, Spirit, fall on me like rain.

And then I notice a text flash on my phone down by my feet. I picked it up.

“There’s no children’s church today.”

Two minutes later, in comes Brent with my sweet, beautiful, kind, loving daughter…who can’t sit still for long periods of time.

For her…
The music was too loud
The sermon too long
She didn’t understand why her Bible’s words were different than what the pastor was using

She verbally and bodily expressed this to us over and over again all throughout the service.

Oh, and hey, let’s throw in communion. At the end of the service we were trying to quietly explain to her the significance of the sacrament as well as the intinction method. The easier we tried to make it, the more she started stressing over the logistics of how it was going to happen.

On a side note, the guest pastor’s sermon was actually really good (the 60% of it that I heard). In short, it was about loving others, not just loving the idea of loving others.

And here I was ready to murder my child. But, I looked at her and tried ridiculously hard to see God’s image (in that moment, not even a microscope would have helped). Instead, I saw my image. She was behaving in a way I understood (being so fearful of understanding logistics that I can miss the essence of the experience itself). She was irritating me, which interestingly enough means I irritate me!

I started praying for God to quiet her spirit and calm my soul. I wish I could say that everything dramatically changed, that Jesus himself opened the roof to Northland’s sanctuary and sat down between me and my child, reclined our seats and held our hands, telling us it would be okay as we quietly finished up the service. But, the day dragged on with a ball and chain of frustration linked to it. We had a round trip to Melbourne to drop my daughter off with her grandparents for the week, and by the time we finally got home on Sunday (around 5:15), I felt empty. So much for Sabbath. And now I had to wait another week to try again.

This is what we look like on a peaceful Sunday when there is Children’s Church. See those smiles? They are REAL.

But the house was relatively quiet, so after dinner, I grabbed a small glass of wine and sat on the couch facing a window and just breathed in the stillness.

It was only fifteen minutes, but God gave me a pocket of Sabbath, a time to reflect, and a time to rest in quiet. Suddenly, the day’s irritations became less about my daughter and more about me. What could I do differently next time? How can I be a better parent? How can I extend love, grace, and mercy when I don’t feel like it?

I’m quick to blame those who cause a ruckus in my life. But, if I look closely and reflect, I discover my reaction to a situation says just as much as the situation itself.

I should have known reading a book called Unglued meant I would immediately be served up the opportunity to practice what I learned.

But in the quiet of Sunday night, I was reminded that if I ask for God to give me a space just to breathe, he is faithful. It might only come in a fifteen minute pocket, but he’s the guy who can take a small amount of something and miraculously multiply it into abundance…

…including my patience.

Life

Unplugged

A week and a half ago, I caught a cup of coffee with a girlfriend to tear open my heart about something I knew only she would understand, and therefore, not stand in judgment.

During the course of our conversation, we began discussing social media and how it affects our day-to-day functioning. I told her if I had the guts, I would love to completely unplug for a whole year, go back to a flip phone and all. If you’ve followed my blog since the beginning, you know that this is something I contemplate at least once a year. The reality is, I have more important things to do with my time than look at my phone. To be at its beckon call. To impulsively reach for it at a red light or while I wait in a doctor’s office. To allow it to entertain me for fear of boredom.

When I got home that night, I sent my friend a text saying I wanted to unplug at least for the upcoming week. I needed to realign myself. She agreed to do it with me. We checked in with each other every day during the week. Of course, I had to log into Facebook to respond to queries about t-shirt orders I was taking, but while I was in, I didn’t allow myself to read the news feed, the thing that sucks you into a black hole filled with Langoliers ready to eat your face off. I did tweet once and post a picture on Instagram. But I only allowed myself to briefly interact with those two platforms.

But, the real freedom came yesterday in an unexpected dose of two hours. Notorious for neurotically checking to make sure I have all needed items before leaving the house, I somehow managed to take my daughter to gymnastics and left my phone at home. The amazing thing is, I didn’t even notice it wasn’t with me until I went to dial up my husband.

My immediate reaction was to wave my white flag and head home. I reasoned I could run errands another day, a day in which I was armed with my smartphone. But, that’s when I understood the dark controlling power our phones have over us. After thirty seconds of pros and cons, I decided to be rebellious and run my errands. So, off I went, and there was a strange freedom in driving around knowing no one could get a hold of me for as long as I was out. It was a blast back to the 1990s.

Of course, my first thought was that I should at least call Brent from a pay phone to let him know not to worry if I didn’t pick up my cell. But, apparently, the pay phone business died some years ago. So I went to three stores untied to the constraints of time. Every time someone else’s phone rang or sang a notification, I didn’t have the impulse to check my own phone. It was completely FREEING!

On my way home after a blissful two hours, I wondered if I would find Brent’s car in the driveway. He would be frantically searching with the police to find his lost wife. I would have a cell phone with 31 missed calls, and I was never going to hear the end of it.

Instead, I got home, checked my phone and noticed I had zero calls and zero text messages.

I smiled.

I love how convenient our phones make life. On a typical day, I would have been able to call my husband, check my bank account, and browse product reviews before purchasing an item. Those are definitely pros of the digital world. But, there’s always a tradeoff. When we make our phones an irreplaceable necessity, it has the ability to rule over us like a dictator. How crazy is it that some of us feel completely helpless without one?

I know, as with most things, moderation is the key, and our phones are only as important as we make them. But, man, do I long for the days when I was 20, running errands with my windows down and music up, not a care or distraction in the world.

I think more than anything, it’s important to be cognizant of when it’s time to step away and detox. Perhaps the real trouble lurks when we fail to notice it’s becoming a problem.

And, if you’re down for a smartphone free 2018, let me know. I might just be ready to jump in!

 

Finance

Shopping Strategies

I’m not a coupon queen or a penny pincher, but I love feeling like I get my money’s worth. The following is a list of EASY practices I use to save time, money, and frustration.

  1. Always operate within a budget. The one way to guarantee buyer’s remorse is to spend more money than you have. Just remember, being in style and having the latest and greatest isn’t a necessity. Shop Goodwill if you like or must. Also, when you limit yourself, it’s easier to say “no” to impulse buying. For added savings, use cash. People statistically spend less when they hand over paper as opposed to swiping plastic.
  2. Routinely clean out closets and drawers. Rather than waiting for spring-cleaning, if you take 20 minutes once a month to peruse and remove items you no longer use, even if it’s only a handful of things, it makes a big difference. An item you might not have been willing to let go of for several months in a row might be much easier to toss if you keep seeing its uselessness month after month. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a donation bin somewhere in your house or garage so you have both a reminder and easy access to toss things.

3.  Only shop a few times a year, and shop with a mission. If you routinely weed things out of your life, it’s easier to see what you actually need when you go shopping. Make a list of necessities and spend your budget in one fell swoop instead of piddling it away on meaningless shopping trips where you blindly look around for something to jump out at you. When you make a list and come home with exactly what you need, there is no guilt in spending a larger quantity of money (as long as you stayed in budget).

4. Shop for needs, not wants. It’s easy to get sidetracked by things you all of the sudden realize you “need,” yet strangely didn’t until you saw it. Walk away from those items. If it truly is a need, you can add it to the list for the next time you go shopping. I have rarely returned to get that thing I thought I needed. Also, make a practice of using up or wearing out what you already have before shopping for a replacement. This will help you readjust your financial priorities.

5. Buy quality instead of quantity. For the longest time, I purchased a new purse every year from Target or some boutique store. I never felt I could afford the price tag on a designer purse. What I realized is that if I had saved my money from the constant cycle of purchasing cheaper bags, I could actually afford a designer bag that I really wanted. So that’s what I did. I saved and bought the designer purse of my dreams seven years ago and I still use it today, and probably will for many, many, many more years to come. That corrected the constant revolving door of purse purchasing, which means I save money in the long run. I’d much rather have fewer quality items than a closet full of cheap stuff.

6. Don’t fall for sales gimmicks. A sale on a new $1,000 television will tell you that you’ll save $250. But, if you’re not in the market for a new TV, and you purchase it, you will not have saved $250. You will have SPENT $750. I also hate places that tell you the more you spend the more you save. The truth is, the more you spend, THE LESS MONEY YOU HAVE. It’s only a good deal if you’re actually in the market for that particular item.

7. Avoid quantity buying from particular stores. One of the best sales gimmicks has to be stores like Bath and Body Works who charge an astronomical amount for one bottle of lotion. But, if you buy 6 bottles, the price dramatically drops. To be honest, I don’t need that much fragrance in my life. I’m on their mailing list so I often receive a “free item” coupon in the mail every so often. I use that to get my lotion and consequently have not purchased any fragrance from them in the last six months (let’s not talk candles, though!). Of course, if you don’t have access to a free item, and you’re completely out of fragrance, I would say you’re safe to buy. However, don’t allow yourself to purchase again until you’re on the very last item of your stockpile.

8. Be patient for sales you know will come. This past April, I needed new shorts. I found a couple pair that I loved, but they weren’t on sale. I walked away and waited. Sure enough, within 5 days, the shorts were on sale for 40% off. I know people worry about places running out of their size, but, especially at boutique shops, they will order your size for you if they don’t have it in store and have it shipped to your home free of cost. In the end, I paid almost half of what I would have paid had I not waited less than a week for the sale.

9. Don’t take your tags off when you get home. Things sometimes look great in the fitting room, but when I pair them with items I have at home, reality does not match up with my vision. When I get home, I put on newly purchased items and pair them with what I thought they might go with. Also, take time to sit down, cross your legs, bend over, etc. in your item to make sure it doesn’t do anything funky that you will later find annoying. If I decide I’m keeping it, I place it back in the bag with tags still on and wait until it’s actually time to wear it. Just this past overhaul, I ended up taking 6 items back to the store because after 1-2 weeks, I realized I really didn’t need the item or I didn’t like it as much as I initially thought. So, I went and got my money back.

10. As you purchase new items, be willing to let go of old. When I purchased a new swimsuit this year, I got rid of an older one I didn’t wear very often. New pajama pants? That means it’s time for an old pair to go. Keep clutter at bay by making your purchasing and donating a revolving door. Plus, it makes getting dressed WAY EASIER when you have fewer items from which to choose.

11. Check for sales after you purchase full price items. Just a month ago, I had several Macy’s gift cards I wanted to use. After shopping their website, I purchased an item I liked. It was full price, but I didn’t mind too much since I wasn’t using my own money. Two days after my purchase, I happened to look back online to see that my item was not only on sale, it also boasted an extra 30% off. A quick call to Macy’s and they were more than willing to refund me the difference from what I paid, resulting in $61 back in my pocket. There are many places that will refund money if you price check with them within a certain amount of time.

At the end of the day, setting a budget and purchasing only the things you need and truly love is one of the simplest ways to save money. I like to use my money wisely, and that means not letting it jump out of my hands every time I walk into a store. Yes, easier said than done, but after a little practice, it becomes habit.

Life

Speak Life

We all know some variation of the well-meaning phrase, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never harm me.” In fact, most of us were taught to recite something like this in an attempt to protect ourselves from word grenades. What a dangerous lie. In my adult life, I’ve come to understand that sticks and stones can break some bones, but words can nearly kill you. I’ve had very hurtful things said to and about me over the course of my life. And though it’s painful to admit, I’ve said hurtful things as well. Just ask those closest to me. Most of the time, people blind themselves to the soul damaging power their gun-powdered words have.

But this post isn’t about word wounds.

Three weeks ago, I turned 35. And do you know what I did? I hung out at home all day taking care of a baby. No party. No cake. No gifts. Glamorous, I know. But it ranks up there with one of the best birthdays I’ve had. That’s a strange thing, indeed, considering my love language is gifts.

But guess what happens when bows, ribbons, and expensive dinners aren’t distracting you? You are able to fully see the gift of PEOPLE.

Even though I was terribly inconsistent with wishing others a happy birthday this past year, on my own birthday, the wishes kept pouring in. Some of them from people I hadn’t connected with since the year before. And I felt full of life, ALL.DAY.LONG. Responding to each message brought me such joy.

How many times have I wished others “Happy Birthday!” and haven’t thought much of it? Surely it’s been thousands upon thousands of times. In fact, most of us don’t pay much attention to the power of words except when we are on the receiving end of them. They’re just words, after all. But, our words have both the ability to produce life or death in the soil of someone’s heart. It’s an incredible responsibility to guard that which rolls so easily off our tongues.

The gift of kind words inspired me to intentionally seek out ways to encourage others around me, even if it’s just a simple “hello.” There are times I don’t speak up because I don’t think anyone else needs to hear what I have to say. But maybe, just maybe, they are in need of a fresh cistern of water to replenish the garden of their souls.

Yes, words can wound. But, words also have the power to generate life.

 

Life

What Depression taught me about Black Lives, Trump Voters, and the Homeless

Last week, I came across a Facebook sticker that claimed the following:

Food is the most abused anxiety drug.
Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.

I agree with the generality of this statement. There are people who abuse food as a coping mechanism, and exercise is proven to release endorphins. True and true.

But, I did what you’re not supposed to do: read the comments.

A lady who apparently has never suffered from chronic depression decided to impart her expertise about the issue. Bless her heart.

“Feed the homeless and hungry. Take a poor person to lunch. That is a great antidepressant…thinking of someone other than me me me.”

I wish it were that easy. Yes, her suggestion is a good one for people who are dealing with situational depression. But for those who, regardless of their circumstance, require medication to help keep them centered, doing things for others is not the remedy. Their problem is not that they are experiencing an egocentric pity party. Depression is a disorder. You can’t just random-acts-of-kindness it away.

She made a call based on her own perception of a plight she doesn’t understand. And, quite honestly, it made her look foolish.

But how often do we do that?

Consider the white person who argues that black people are not the victims of racism. That black people are the ones keeping it alive. That if they look like thugs, they deserve to be treated like thugs. That if they would just follow an officer’s orders, most of their problems would simply go away. It’s easy to look at someone else and say exactly what they should do to fix all their issues.

But, of course, I’m not black. I will never be black. I don’t know what it feels like to be fearful of my child leaving the house with a hoodie to keep warm in the cooler months, or to know there is a greater chance of prejudice against me and those I love, just because of my skin color. And because my skin is white, I will never understand what it feels like to be in a black person’s shoes, anymore than a man understands what it’s like to be in labor.

Or consider the person who labels every single Trump voter as a racist, misogynistic nationalist. They argue that if you voted for Trump, you give zero cares about social issues, and that you are, quite frankly, a piece of trash.

But what about the farmers who are living in poverty who don’t have the luxury to fight for social issues. They are barely surviving and able to care for their families. These men and women needed to take a chance on something politically different to see if it might sustain their families a bit longer. The current system wasn’t working for them. They are in survival mode.

I’ve never lived in poverty. I don’t know what it’s like to worry about feeding my family and supplying shoes for my kids. To keep my children home from school just to have the manpower to work the fields. Is it fair to call him a racist, misogynistic nationalist just because he took a chance on improving his family’s quality of life? I’ve never even spoken to him. I don’t understand his issues, his concerns. But too often I feel justified because he hasn’t taken up the cross I deem most important.

Or consider the homeless man on the street corner. He is labeled a no-good moocher who just needs to get a job. Anyone who gives him help is an enabler. And, if you give him money, you KNOW he’s going to spend it on drugs and alcohol.

But I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never experienced the soul-crushing humility it must take to ask for help. I’ve never stood on a street corner during a blazing hot summer day, cardboard sign in hand asking for a meal or bottle of water. I’ve never had a disability that might make it impossible for me to have a job, leaving begging as my only option.

And the list goes on and on.

Are we right in the assumptions we make? Sometimes. I’m sure there are black men who might still be alive if they had followed an officer’s orders. I’m sure there are followers of Trump who are racist. I’m sure there are beggars who are scammers.

However, it is foolish to tell someone with depression that they need to just stop thinking about themselves, or to ignore people of color’s plea to listen to their concerns of marginalization. Or to call every person I know who voted for Trump a misogynistic racist. Or to tell the homeless man on the street corner that he needs to quit asking for handouts and get a job.

The lady who threw every case of depression into the egocentric basket was a great reminder to me. The next time I am tempted to tell people what they are and how to fix all their problems, I need to take a moment to step back, to ask myself if I know what it’s like to be in that person’s shoes. Because if that’s never been my plight in life, sometimes the best action I can take is one of humility. To ask questions. To listen. To try to understand.

To not speak.

The only way we will understand is to engage. But too often we build walls around ourselves with our words. Usually words that make us look like the fools.

We mistake our passions and opinions for authority.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies is people who are unable or unwilling to see from any perspective other than their own.

I don’t want to pretend I know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. But if someone is willing to share with me, I want to listen.