6 months until Christmas… are you getting ready?

I love the Christmas season… It’s my favorite holiday. I absolutely adore the music. I love the lights, the baking, the tree, and the smells associated with it. I love getting creative with gifts, and coming up with the perfect present. I love the look of surprise and joy when my gifts are opened. I love watching people selflessly give to others. It would be nice if everyone was so caring and sharing all year long, don’t you think?

I hate to break it to you, but Christmas is officially less than 6 months away! I know, right? This year is flying by! Blink again and black Friday will be here. I know it seems very far away, but trust me, it really isn’t! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already got a game plan together. It’s ALWAYS good to have a plan.

There’s a few things to plan for as you’re gearing up. THINK LISTS! You know how much I love my lists. Obviously, I start off with a list of the people I need to buy for. By each name, I write down their favorite color, things they collect, and the snacks they love. Next, I start brainstorming ideas for gifts. I keep an ongoing list in my notes app on my phone. That way I can keep up with the little things I notice as they come up.

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

Next, I write down gift wrapping ideas. Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with meticulous wrapping. I feel that the wrapping should be just as beautiful and exciting as what’s inside. A few of my favorite ways to wrap presents… Repurposing Pringles chip cans. They make great boxes. (Pinterest has excellent diy ideas!)  I also enjoy making used greeting cards into gift boxes. I used to ask all of my friends to save their chip containers and little boxes for me. I love using cell phone boxes too. I love this type of wrapping… easy yet elegant… And recycling things just makes sense!

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

One of the most important things to add is my budget. I HAVE to have a budget. Millions upon millions of people go deep into debt every year because of the holidays… buying everything under the sun… buying every single thing on children’s lists.  Personally, I absolutely despise the idea of being in debt, especially because of Christmas! I write up a realistic budget, and use all my frugal skills to ensure that my budget stays in check. Coupons, coupon codes, membership bonuses, gift cards, store rewards, ebates… the list goes on and on! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the resources are out there for the taking. MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK HARDER FOR YOU! A little bit of research can save you hundreds. If you come in under your budget by Christmas, that’s great! Set it aside for a jump start on next year. You could even get presents and clearance Christmas accessories in January. Save 75%+? Um, YES!

Another thing I do a lot of is homemade gifts. I love the creativity of making the perfect gift for someone… made with hard work and love. It could be beaded jewelry, gifts in a jar (cookies, etc… there’s actually cookbooks specifically for this!), a framed photo you’ve taken, a knitted scarf, the possibilities are endless. Make it, and make it personal! I thoroughly enjoy receiving these kinds of gifts. One of the things I do for all my employees is make each of them a Christmas stocking. Every year we hang stockings on the front of our counter for everyone to enjoy. Each fabric is picked for something that they love, and it makes me so happy to see them all hanging up. (When the holidays come around again, I’ll show you the counter. It’s absolutely lovely!) Things like that, to me, makes me appreciate the effort that was put into a gift.  It truly warms my heart.

LOVE personalized things!

I scour the thrift stores for wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows for pennies on the dollar. I save the majority of the colored tissue paper (used for gifts) that I get throughout the year. I have a little box specifically for it. When it’s full, I stop collecting. I do the same with gift bags. I have a container dedicated to gift bags. When it’s full, I’m done. If you find nicer ones, swap out for the less attractive ones in your stash. You honestly CAN have too much. Set a limit and stick to it. 

One of the things that I have realized as I have gotten older is this… you don’t have to buy EVERYTHING for everybody. I have always had a humble approach to gift giving. When my kids were little, they had very long lists of items they wanted to receive. I know, I know… that’s what kids do. I know I did. (I recently found one of my lists from way back. So THAT’S where my kids got the hilarity from!) Just because our kids ask for a hundred things DOES NOT mean you have to get them all. Remember that budget? Take the time to find out what they REALLY want the most. Pick out 3 or 4 things, and let them be happy and satisfied with what they have. My kids had a ton of toys, but yet could still be bored. How is this possible?  Well, I found out that the overabundance of toys results in a lack of appreciation for what they have. Totally true! This could be said for so many things in our lives. I appreciate my things so much more when I have to work to get it. I don’t get everything I want, and I’m honestly glad I don’t. When, and if, I finally get what I wanted so badly, I am much more likely take better care of it… use it more often, for a longer length of time.

So, what it comes down to is this… Take a little time, and start preparing now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the majority of your shopping done before December comes? Think how nice it would be to actually relax and enjoy the season instead of stressing out about it. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your Christmas fund is already where it needs to be, since you’ve been saving a little every month for it, right? If it’s not where you want it to be, now is the time to start!

Make your lists. Have a plan. Let yourself look forward to the holidays.

Why music is my passion

Everyone has their “thing”. You know, that something that has always been there… The thing that puts you at ease, that calms you down, relaxes you like nothing else can. For me, that thing is music. I don’t mean just listening to it. I mean creating it. Sure, I have other things that I truly enjoy doing… Writing and photography… but music is my first love.

Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. My mom used to say that I would sing harmony when I was a toddler. I don’t even remember when I started playing the piano… It was that long ago. I have always had a song in my heart… A tune running through my head. It is a bit distracting sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Sometimes I feel it’s easier for me to let people hear how I feel, rather than just use my words. I am fortunate enough to be able to put those feelings on paper.  I was so fortunate to have parents and music teachers who pushed me to follow through with my music education when I wanted to quit. I’m grateful now that they saw my potential. I feel so blessed.

I wish I had more time to do what I love. I would love to dedicate all day, every day, to my creative outlet. A few hours a week just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Just when I’m getting into “the zone”, it is time for bed, it seems. At least I get some time. I try to make the most of the time I have. I’m making progress. I am starting to spread my wings.  That’s the important thing.

I have also been blessed with amazingly talented friends. They are my soul sisters. These ladies are so creative and fun. I’m a lucky girl. Together, I think we have the potential to do something wonderful. I don’t think there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. Someday, I hope, with the poetic partnership of my gifted friends, to be able to bring OUR music to life. Our whimsical interpretation of adulthood could bring a new perspective on life. Sure, it might have been done before, but I think we have some unique experiences to bring originality to the table. I have faith that our time will come. (I will let you know when it happens. Trust me on this!)

There’s something about the whole creative process that brings me so much satisfaction and joy. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.  I lose myself in the notes, and it transports me to a wonderful paradise. It really is a part of my being, and I am so thankful for it.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq6hSvcwoz6LrNZwvuz7Eaw

Enjoy your life. Make the most of the talents you’ve been blessed with. Lose yourself in what you love.

 

 

 

My class reunion – reflecting on my life

This summer marks a pretty significant event in life… My 30 year class reunion.  It just doesn’t seem possible. 30 YEARS? In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. In other ways, it seems like several lifetimes ago.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about it.

As I reflect on my life, and what I’ve done with it, I start to ponder… Have I lived up to my potential? Have I left my mark on the world? Am I satisfied with the things that I have accomplished? Are those things actually noteworthy? I have experienced a lot of very different things in my life since school… both good and bad. Marriage, kids, divorce, death, among other things… All those events have helped make me who I am. I’m stronger. I’m more opinionated and outspoken. I’m confident. I’m a very different person than I was. I’ll bet most of us are, and that’s the beauty of living in this crazy world.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted, but I feel that I have made significant progress. It seems like most of those forward leaps have happened just in the last couple of years. I feel like I’ve contributed to society. I feel like I have made a difference. That’s really what life is about, right? Making a difference?

What I find the most fascinating about the anticipation of my upcoming class reunion, is that I am genuinely looking forward to seeing all those people I graduated with. I am looking forward to seeing and visiting with the friends I had. Were we all friends? Absolutely not. Will I recognize all of them? Maybe. I don’t expect everyone to recognize me. I certainly don’t expect for all of us to become best friends. I AM expecting to find that, at this point in our lives,  we have gotten past all of those social boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before,  I was a very socially anxious and awkward person. I’m excited to see how we have all changed. I know I have. I am excited to hear about everyone’s successes. It all sounds so wonderful.

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Do I know what I’m going to wear? No. I know I won’t be dressing to impress anyone. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, so maybe I’ll show up like that. I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that I want to have enlightening conversations with all my fellow Bulldogs, and hear about all the great things they’ve done.

So, as our big day approaches, I wish all my fellow classmen and women well wishes and safe travels.  I look forward to seeing all of you, and catching up. May we be united in happy memories, and look to the future with excitement.

Hail West Albany High!

 

Minimalistic traveling

Over the last few years, I seem to have started traveling more. Admittedly, it is mostly for work, but not all. I have done more air travel recently than I have the entire rest of my life. That’s probably not saying too much, but it’s true! For the most part, I enjoy it. (I’d enjoy it a bit more if I didn’t get motion sickness from bumpy flights though!) I love seeing new places and taking in different scenery.

There are some things I have learned from my recent travels. First off, I really detest checking my bags. I like having my eye on my stuff at all times if possible. Okay, some smaller planes still make you hand over your small suitcase\carry on, but at least it goes from the trolley at the front of the plane directly into the plane, and right back to me when the flight is over. Hey, I don’t trust people! I’ve had my suitcase gone through more than once! Secondly, because of that fact, I have to pack smarter. As you have probably already figured out, I like stuff. I like taking my stuff with me. You know… just in case! I have finally figured out that packing lighter and smarter isn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.

I think what helps me the most is HOW I pack. I used to fold everything all nice and neat and lay things on top of each other, just like I would in my dresser. Turns out, at least for me, if I roll up my clothes, I have considerably more room. (AND less wrinkles!) I can put the things that I would put in my backpack in there as well. I was so mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner. Seriously! This could have made my previous trips so much easier. I always bring too many extras. How about instead of 3 extras, just take 1? I actually did it. It’s amazing how much more room I have when I don’t try to take my entire closet with me! This doesn’t mean I can take a lot of other things with me. I see all that extra room in my suitcase, and I feel the need to fill it up with things. I refrained. I am making progress!

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This is half of what I brought the first time I came to Montana. One pair of jeans (besides what I wore on the trip over), pajama top and bottom, two tank tops (for under shirts), a t-shirt, a dressier tank, and two different styles of sweaters in case eating out was going to happen. I also brought three pairs of socks (one extra), same for my other under things, and an extra pair of more comfortable shoes. One layer in my suitcase! Woo hoo! I don’t think you realize how big of a deal this is for me!

I gathered all my other stuff. One small bag of makeup, one baggie of chargers, and two baggies of miscellaneous toiletries that I have to bring. I simply can’t use hotel shampoos and conditioners. My hair is too picky for that.

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There is still a ton of room in there. I would call this a success! (There is some dramatic dance moves going on right now!)

So, what it comes down to is this… Plan ahead. Make a list in advance of what items you want to take. Then, take the time to assess what is on your list. What can you eliminate? What isn’t necessary? Can you survive your trip without it? If you can’t, is there a smaller version you can take? It seems like it should be a no brainer, but sometimes these things just don’t occur to us when we’re in the act of packing. I actually did purchase a few “mini” travel items that took up half the space… Deodorant, first aid kit, and toothpaste. There was nothing overly extravagant, and the total cost was under ten dollars. The nice thing is that I won’t have to purchase them for a few more trips, so it’s totally worth it to me!

There is a certain feeling of freedom when we have less to (literally) carry around. Go on your trip, have fun, and take less with you! You’ll have less to keep track of. You’ll thank yourself for it!

Healthier eating made delicious

There was a time, when the majority of the food in my home was hamburger helper, pizza rolls, boxed cereals, frozen burritos… instant foods full of empty calories and a long list of ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I know so many of those ingredients aren’t good for us. Not to mention the amount of refined sugars and sodium added are usually pretty high.

Over the last few years, I have searched for recipes that are not overly time consuming, rich in flavor, with whole food ingredients and minimal or no sugar added. I’ve tried to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into my family’s diet. I love vegetables, but the rest of the family is not so welcoming to produce beyond green beans and corn. My kids will entertain the idea of broccoli as long as my homemade cheese sauce is included, but my hubby still won’t go there. “Broccoli is gross!” Whatever, honey. You’re missing out!

One of my favorite websites is https://www.100daysofrealfood.com. There are so many incredible recipe ideas here! The recipe index is absolutely amazing. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even desserts are available for the tasting. The amount of information Lisa puts out there is awe inspiring and inspirational! I can only hope that some day, I can do half of what she does. I’m taking steps in the right direction though! I just wonder if the hubby will accept this once he finds out… Shhhh! Don’t tell him PLEASE!

One of my biggest goals is to incorporate healthy ingredients into my meals and have my husband NOT notice that there’s extra vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I’m also determined to replace his normal snacks with a healthy alternative.  Instead of cereal, how about some homemade breakfast “cookies” (with flax and dried fruit)? Instead of a handful of jelly beans, how about a kiwi, banana or a mango? Seems simple enough, right? Half the battle for me is removing the less healthy habit and making the healthy substitute available, hoping he will take the bait! After all, if there is no jelly beans to eat, and there’s a mango sitting there ready to consume, then all that’s left to do is pick it up and eat it.  We’ve been working on that, and so far, we’re making progress.

My other challenge is that several of my friends have food allergies… dairy products, gluten, and coconut. I have searched for recipes that I can make that can accommodate them as well. This is a BIG obstacle. I like using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. I also love dairy… a lot. Gee, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned all the milk! I’ve tried to find alternatives to some of my go to items. I’ve found that coconut heavy cream whips up well into whipping cream for my fruit salad. It definitely tastes different than normal whipped cream, but it’s a nice alternative for my lactose intolerant friends. I can use canola or grape seed oil instead of my usual coconut oil for some things that my coworker can’t have. Challenging? Oh yes, but I do love a good challenge. I love doing research.

The recipes I have to share are a combination of ones that I have found online, and ones that I have made up after trial and error. There’s a few that have some sugar added, BUT, in general, on the healthier side.

HEARTY & TASTY BREAKFAST COOKIES   –  A great grab and go item for a rushed morning!

HOMEMADE GRANOLA  –  Delicious cereal that keeps you going all morning long.

CASHEW COOKIE  –  Simple and tasty!

THE BEST FRUIT SALAD  –  A nice, cool treat, snack, or dessert on a warm day.

REAL CHEESE CHEESE SAUCE  –  A great way to get your family to eat their veggies. When my family asks for mac & cheese, this is what they want!

PESTO  –  Great in a variety of different recipes!

BLEU CHEESE DRESSING  –  By far THE BEST bleu cheese dressing outside of a restaurant.

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-the-best-whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/  –  Oh so easy, and makes a delicious, juicy chicken.

SAUSAGE SQUASH CASSEROLE  –  I’m not a fan of squash OR Zucchini, but I will eat this up and go back for seconds!

DARK CHOCOLATE TARTLETS  –  Dairy free! A deliciously low guilt indulgence!

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-chocolate-mousse-from-deliciously-organic-cookbook/  –  MY FAVORITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE RECIPE BY FAR!  *Sometimes I’ll add 1/4 cup of mini dark chocolate chips to this for a little something “extra”.

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/whipped-cream-recipe/  – Quick and easy… and no sugar!

These recipes are a few of my favorite things to eat. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! It’s hard to eat healthy. It’s also hard to find the time to make things instead of simply buying pre-made items. Even if it means cutting your sugar intake in half, that’s still a step in the right direction. I’m a big fan of sweets. If I can do this, you can too!  Spend an hour making something delicious that you can feel good about.

LET’S GET COOKIN’!

 

 

How menu planning saves me time and money

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about menu planning. I love everything about it. It makes my grocery shopping more streamlined, which saves me money. I can coordinate my menus with what I already have in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Besides those reasons, it’s also nice just simply knowing what’s for dinner. I always felt a bit guilty when my hubby would ask what the plan was for dinner and I would say, “Ummmm, let me think about that for a bit”. We would then end up with something like french toast or grilled cheese. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and we like them, but they were always my “go to” dinners when I didn’t have anything planned… again.

Yet once again, I turn to my lists. Can you tell I love the lists? Yes, yes I do!

The first thing I did was to make up a blank spreadsheet. I then started categorizing my dinners… chicken, beef, pork, simple dinners, breakfast for dinner, pasta, etc. I marked the ones that were designated as crock pot meals. I sat down with the family one evening, and we started blurting out dinner ideas. I wrote down everything we could think of that we liked. (And some the kids didn’t like, but I did!) I made a separate list for all the recipes I had collected over the years that I wanted to try. I wrote down all the names, and where I had them stashed, so I could find them again.

 

 

As you can see here, I put a star by all the crock pot ones. I would designate one dinner per month as a new recipe/”test” night to try new things. If we liked it, I would cross it off and add it in to my rotation of dinners. If we didn’t, it would be crossed off the list and forgotten about. It worked out really well for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above are some of the dinner ideas my family came up with.

Once we had all the ideas written down, then I could start entering them into my calendar. Just in the ideas I have on the bottom two sheets, there’s 72 dinners. That’s nearly two and a half months of menus with no repeats, aside from my “leftover” night, or possibly the “fend” nights. I try to arrange my menus in such a way that I can use the majority of the leftovers in the next couple of days’ meals. Chicken in a crock pot is one of my favorites for this. Original chicken the first night, make chicken stock overnight, then use some of the chicken for chicken quesadillas the next night, and homemade chicken noodle soup the next.

On the top of my calendar, I would put the items that I needed to get from the store for my recipes for the month. I would rearrange my days a bit if I couldn’t find my items on sale. When my kids were in school, I would make sure that I knew what their schedules were, and make sure to plan very quick and easy meals for those nights.

 

MENU PLANNING FOOD IDEAS   <==  Blank spreadsheet PDF for dinner lists

And there you have it… how I keep my sanity when it comes to dinner. We all have enough things to think about. An evening of planning will save you so much time in the long run. (And even more if you have already filled out your food inventory lists. You know exactly what you have in your pantry and your freezer, RIGHT?)  Plan well, save well, and eat well, my friends.

 

 

Discount please?

I love a bargain. I’ve already mentioned that once or twice. When I’m shopping online, I search for coupon codes and anything else that will help me pay the least amount possible.  My latest deal was 47% off. I would’ve liked more, but, I’ll take what I can get! Layering several discount codes, along with a sale ended up putting a smile on my face.

What I’m talking about in this post though, is store discounts. Coupons, loyalty cards, and rebate checks are all fantastic. I think we can all agree on that. Sometimes the most effective thing you can do is simply to ask. (This used to be really hard for me. I tend to be on the shy side. I don’t like causing a fuss. I have worked really hard to try and overcome some of my social anxieties. It has been a difficult challenge, but I’m working on it.) I will let you in on a secret here. Retailers are more willing to give you a discount if you pay cash. Even a few dollars saved is better than nothing.

True example #1:  A few months ago I was shopping at The Guitar Center. I have never been in one before, and it was glorious! Any of you who know me knows that any kind of music store is classified as a candy store in my eyes. (Well, that and office supplies. We’ll leave that for another post… I promise!) I had a few things in mind and tried to find the best sales in the store. The sales gal that helped me was amazing. She answered all my questions with patient expertise. I picked out some incredible items that will aid in my musical endeavors. As she rang up my items I asked her if there were any promos or deals that she could hook me up with. She hesitated, but as I felt her hesitatation, I grabbed my wallet, and pulled out a stack of cash. “I’m paying with cash. Could there be a deal associated with that?”. I smiled as sweetly as I could. She said she would have to call a manager to see if he could approve a promotion they had going. He came over, heard her account, saw my cash, and gave me an additional 50% my entire purchase. That question saved me $200. Seriously!  I was ecstatic! It was all I could do to keep it together until I walked out the front doors. THEN I did the happy dance. It never would have happened if I hadn’t asked. I’m positive that paying in cash helped my case as well. Credit cards cost their company money. Cash is cash… no strings attached.

True example #2: Last December, I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping for work. (This will also be a post for a later time!) One of the items on my list was a laptop.  I was at my local Fred Meyer, as there isn’t a lot of electronics stores in my area, to look at some sale items I had seen. I found two that I thought would work. One however, wasn’t within my budget. I really wanted that one, but, I just couldn’t afford it. As the cashier was ringing up my purchase, I asked about any extra coupons or deals. He grabbed an in store coupon that dropped the price by an extra 25%. As I marveled in the added savings, it occurred to me that I could actually get the other laptop that I really wanted, with that coupon. I ever so kindly apologized, but asked if I could get the other laptop instead, cringing as I knew he would have to void out the existing transaction and get a manager override. (Remember, I hate making a fuss!) He was super nice about it, and I ended up with the much better unit… with one penny to spare in my budget. YES!!

You may not always get additional savings, but how will you know if you don’t ask? A little advice here… being polite will go a lot farther than rudeness. Honestly, who would you be more willing to give a discount to? The friendly person kindly asking if there’s a discount, or a rude, demanding person? Think of all the crap customer service people go thru. Enough said.

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Want your extra savings?  Get out there and ask for it! You’ll be amazed how often you can make that happen!

 

 

The Dreaded Spending Freeze

Habits are so hard to break. I suppose it depends on what it is, but when it comes to spending money, it is difficult for me to reign myself in sometimes. I know, I know…. Frugal me having a hard time not spending money ? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? Like I said, it becomes a habit. The interesting thing is, the majority of the time, I don’t even realize it’s happening. Some random event will happen, and suddenly it becomes so obvious. I can see my overspending habit laughing in my face.

TIME TO TAKE CONTROL OF MY MONEY!  Enter the spending freeze.

Several times a year I adopt the spending freeze for a month. Usually, January is my first month for a spending freeze. The Christmas season is one of my favorites. It is also my least favorite. Every year we all spend, spend, and spend some more. We have become spending monsters. The habit of spending has taken hold. For me, it is absolutely essential to begin the new year relearning my thoughtful, deliberate spending rituals. I’m NOT suggesting that you skip paying your bills. Obviously, those are mandatory. What I’m suggesting is that for one month, avoid any extra spending.  No eating out, no coffee shops, no movies, no Amazon or Ebay. No extras added to your grocery cart,  only what you need for your menus… I think you get the idea. This requires conscious awareness. It sounds painful… miserable… depressing…  It all depends on your attitude. If you have already convinced yourself that it will be horrible, then it probably will be. BUT, if you look at it as an opportunity to push the reset button and renew your frugality, then THAT will be your reward. Well, that, and a substantial amount of money saved at the end of your no spend month! We don’t realize how much money we spend frivolously every day. That white chocolate mocha you buy every morning on your way to work is around $5 if you add a tip. That’s $100 in a month! Eat out for lunch every day? Chances are that’s $6 per day. There goes another $120 per month.  I don’t know about you, but I could always use an extra $220 a month to put towards bills, or stash in savings, or designate it for Christmas presents.

Make that cup of coffee at home and take it with you. Brown bag your lunch. DRINK MORE WATER. Watch movies at home, play some games… Yahtzee anyone? There are so many ideas out there. Pinterest just might become your new best friend.

When I first made the decision to start participating in routine spending freezes, it was out of desperation. My bills were spiraling out of control.  My credit card balances were high. I was stressed financially, emotionally, mentally… I wrote a pep talk for myself. I printed it out. I laminated it. I put it in my wallet. I forced myself to read it every time I reached in there to pay for something I didn’t need. It worked.

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I no longer HAVE to have my spending freezes, but I choose to. It invigorates me. It helps me stay grounded. It helps me to focus on the more important things in my life.

January has long passed, so I challenge you to make a goal to have designated spending freeze months.  Pick your months, and do it. Mentally prepare yourselves and take control of your money!  You’ve literally earned it!!

Goals: Baby steps to achievement

I’m going to be brutally honest. I despise making goals. It stresses me out. It forces me to sit down and think about my life… every aspect of it. It makes me realize how many things I want to do, and how much I should’ve done already. Here’s the thing about me: I have VERY high expectations of myself. I am also very easily distracted. I have too many things I want to do, and delusional ideas about how I think I’m going to succeed. In the end, you guessed it… Nothing, or very close to nothing seems to get done. It can be so discouraging.

I have done years of soul searching on this subject. It is so easy to just NOT do it. I think one of the things that has maybe, quite possibly, changed my perspective on this, is my job. One of the things they ask of me every year is to set some goals. Short term ones that could be completed within 1 year, mid-term ones that could be accomplished in around 3 years, and long term ones… 5 years or longer. I moaned, groaned, and procrastinated. Like I said before, I despise making goals.

Keep looking forward, but don’t forget where you’ve been.

When they ask me to set goals, they’re not just asking for work goals, they’re asking for a combination of work and personal ones. I know, some of you may think it isn’t any of their business, and you’re probably right, HOWEVER, I’m glad that was included. It forced me to become accountable, and motivate me to get to work.

You know what? I accomplished my goals. Not all of them, but more than half. More than I would have if I hadn’t been “forced” to. I am proud to say that I have published my very own children’s book. I wrote the story ages ago. I had been dreaming about it for years, and had done nothing about it. Fear had taken over…  Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of putting myself out there.  I made it one of my goals to get the illustrations figured out and get it up on Kindle. Quite frankly, the illustrations was one of the biggest obstacles. Originally, my grandmother was going to do the artwork. She was a wonderful artist. I procrastinated, my grandma passed away, and that opportunity was gone. How special that would have been to have her handiwork included with mine. So, with my deadline approaching, I made the decision to do several different things to make the artwork a reality. I “cartoonized” a few pictures I had taken, and attempted to draw the rest. Mind you, I DID NOT inherit my grandma’s drawing talent, but I was determined to reach this goal.  AND I DID IT!  It was hard. It was frustrating. But it happened.

Accomplishing your goals feels amazing!

Amazing how making that goal has changed my outlook on so many things! I’m not completely over the fear, but that book changed me. Watching something important come to life is exhilarating. It opens your eyes to all the possibilities that lie before you. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS MAKE IT HAPPEN. Things don’t magically happen on their own. It sure would be nice if they did, wouldn’t it? It takes effort, accountability, and dedication.

Here’s what I want to ask of you. I want you to make some REALISTIC goals for yourselves. Take some time to contemplate things that you really want. Do some research if you need to. Figure out what it will take to make them happen. Short term, mid-term, and long term. 3 in each category. Write them down. Share them with your family and friends. Let them help keep you accountable. Let them cheer you on. Let them help you celebrate when you accomplish them.  Making goals and seeing them on paper makes them real. It makes them important. Reading those goals every day motivates you. Spend a little time every day getting closer to your end game. Baby steps… Five minutes here, ten minutes there… Before you know it, the end is in sight.

You can do this! Get ready to change your life!  LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN!

The importance of friends and a support system

I have spent the last few days in Havre, Montana for work. I was excited to come and see scenery I had never seen before. I brought my camera. I was also extremely anxious because, never having been to Montana before, I didn’t know what to expect. New area, new people… I pulled into my location with my stomach in knots. How was I going to get past my own social awkwardness and do what I came to do?  I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and off I went. I walked in with a smile on my face and introduced myself. Please, oh please, just let me make it through the day without feeling like an idiot.

These people are amazing. They put me at ease. They made me feel at home in minutes. There is a low key, homey feel to the area, and I love that everybody knows everybody. They check up on each other. They help each other out. They bring in doughnuts and pie… just because they feel like it. (Very delicious pie, I might add.)  I can honestly say that I have made friends here. It’s been 2 days, and I have friends in a state that I had never been to before Sunday afternoon. We swapped phone numbers, and I know I will actually call or text them soon. I will check in with them and make sure they’re doing okay. I know they will call me if they need my help. I am their support system. It feels great.

Having friends and a support system is so important. We all need help sometimes. We all need to rely on someone at some point. We need personal cheerleaders standing on the sidelines to boost us up. We need people to look us in the eye and tell us everything is going to be okay, no matter what the situation is.

I have goals… A lot of them. I let people know what my goals are. They need to know. They can’t support me and help me along if they don’t know what’s up.

Last summer I decided that I was going to try to exercise every day, try and eliminate the majority of sugar in my diet, and eat vegetarian for 30 days. This was a big challenge for me. I tend to be lazy when I get home from work. I adore sweets. I also really love bacon and sausage. I told my friends what I was going to do, and they helped me so much. They laughed at me and thought I was insane, (hey, that’s what friends are for!), but they helped me through every single day with my internal struggles. I seriously could not have done it without them. They brought in healthy, meatless snacks… and they encouraged me to get a fitbit. I did, and I love it. I love my friends for helping me reach my goals.

Be that friend who lifts another. Be the friend that can be relied upon. Be the one that says, “I know chocolate comes from the cacao tree, but that doesn’t make it a fruit, no matter how much you think it should”. Be the type of friend that you would want cheering YOU on.