Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Worst 4-Letter Word of All-DEBT

I'm switching gears today.

I'm still very very sad about Julie and her family, but I'm going to focus on something positive today.

Joe and I just started Financial Peace University through Dave Ramsey.

Finances are one of those things that no one wants to talk about. It's almost more taboo than sex anymore.

Here's where we stand on it: we don't want to play the game anymore. The game that consumer America has told us we all have to play and we so willingly bought into.

We have a large and a small mortgage.
We have 2 car payments.
We have credit card debt (and how!).
we have school loans.
We have medical bills from procedures/visits years ago when we had no insurance.
There's more.
We owe and owe and owe.

We decided we're sick and tired of being sick and tired.

If you're a Dave Ramsey fan you've likely heard that phrase before.

Dave's plan is simple.

Stop borrowing. Pay off your debt. Save for college. Invest.

Easy right?

So what if you have more month than money and it's impossible to save anything?

This is where Financial Peace comes in.

Joe and I are learning about making up a budget (just putting on paper where our money goes), saving up a $1000 emergency fund for those emergencies that ALWAYS catch us by surprise, paying off our debt, and then learning how to save more and invest.

Easy peazy, right?

Not really. First, you have to get angry enough to actually commit to doing it. It's hard to get to that point because Dave's is a "Go Big or Go Home" mentality. You're either in 110% or you're out 110%.

His motto is Live like No One Else So Later You Can Live Like No One Else.

We are making significant changes. We are lowering our cell plan and downgrading from iPhones to regular, non-fancy schmancy phones. Dumb phones you might say.  That change alone will save us $80 per month.

We're also cutting things like gym membership (cuz, let's be realistic...I wasn't using mine anyway...), eating out (most of the time), and frivolous purchases.

When we actually took a close look at our checkbook ledger, we were amazed at how many entries said "Target-$123" or "Giant Eagle-$54." Ridiculous.

Our "we're just going to grab a few things" inevitably turned into mini shopping sprees of things that we didn't really "need."

I was able to justify (to myself) that it was necessary to charge Christmas decorations. (!)

We are ready.

In a week's time, we've actually save up $445 toward our $1000 Emergency Savings Fund that is necessary before you can start re-paying debt.  That's freakin' amazing for us.

How nice it would be to be completely out of debt. No more friendly calls from the credit card company, no more car payments, no more mortgage! I can see it in the not-too-distant future. I can taste it.

I think it would be awesome to write a check every semester for my kids' tuition and not have to take out a second mortgage, loans or for my kids to have to work to pay tuition. That way they can start their adult life without be saddled with debt right off the bat.

It'll be tough. And emotional. It's amazing how many emotions are tied to the balance of our bank account. But as tough as it will be, it can't be worse than sleepless nights wondering how in the world we're going to rob Peter to pay Paul. 

I'll update how we're doing periodically.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Little More About Julie

Joe & I went to the funeral home last night for Julie's viewing. (Click HERE to read who Julie is.)

It was awful. We felt a little awkward being there when we'd never met Julie in person, but I felt like I knew her reading hers and Jaden's story in a blog. Her dad held my hand while he talked about how wonderful his daughter was, his eyes filling as his chest swelled with pride. Her mom and I cried together as we agreed that she touched so many...including people like us who she'd never even met. And we hugged.

Joe was able to talk to Julie's husband and tell him to call if he ever needs to talk. Joe shared that he lost his first wife when she was 31 to cancer. It was a hard moment for Joe and I think it kind of snuck up on him--feeling that emotional about something that happened 13 years ago.

But maybe this is that thing everyone talks about when a tragedy strikes--maybe this is an opportunity for Joe to reach out to someone with his own experience. Maybe that pain and unfairness he suffered through can actually add comfort and some level of peace to someone else. I'm so proud of  him for doing that. I know it wasn't easy and was way out of his comfort zone.

This world sucks. It truly does. I say "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

I am so tired of hearing about babies who are abused, babies who die, parents who kill their children, loving, good people whose lives are cut way too short.

I'm sick of worrying about my kids every second of the day because evil exists and lurks around every corner, waiting for an opportunity.

I feel almost bad that Julie's situation has affected me so deeply. I feel like I am intruding on grief that only her friends and family should feel.

But I am cursed with an empathy that "allows" me to feel others' pain. Too much sometimes.

I don't want to just go about my life, relieved that I am still on this earth with my family.

I don't want to forget this family, who now have to find out how to go on without their wife, mom and daughter. Jaden may still have more battle with his own sickness. I worry, what will happen to his older brother and father if something happens to him?

Please pray for this family.

I told Joe last night as we were leaving the funeral home that no matter who is in those boys' will never be the same as having their mother. We as moms know that we have a special bond with our kids. Even different and separate from dad. We carried them, nurtured them, and birthed them. It's a connection that can't be replaced.

Surely they will be surrounded with love and support and people who will shower them with love and affection. But I worry.

I'm looking at my kids a lot differently these days.

The little things they do like yell that they want to watch something on TV or want a drink...the unthinkable idea that they want to finger paint or play with play-doh is suddenly not looking so bad anymore. They're here with me. They're healthy and who cares, in the grand scheme of things, if they get paint on the table or play-doh on the carpet? They're kids and I want to allow them to be kids and enjoy the little things in life. And I want to enjoy them with them.

I plan to move on as far as posting about this family for now. But it's really hit me how precious life is. And how quickly it passes us by.

James 4:14 says "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

So, for now, I'm doing all I can to make this mist as full and happy as possible.

Excuse me now...I'm off to go snuggle my kids. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hold On To Every Moment

Christmas always makes me nostalgic and misty, but this year I am especially thoughtful.

A couple of years ago I cam across a blogger who called herself SupahMommy. I thought she was hilarious. And real.

Fast forward a couple of months to where I find out she and I live in the same city! Weird.

As I read her blog I got to know a friend of hers. Her name: Julie. Julie's son Jaden was battling Neuroblastoma. A deadly disease. He was only 2 years old at the time.

I could only read so much at a time because I would cry so much.

Then...come to find out, Julie was from the same town that I now live in and lived only one community away. Wild. What a small world.

I messaged Julie on Facebook to tell her that if her family ever needed anything, to let me know.

She responded back even though she had no idea who I was.

That was in July of 2010.

It was only about a year ago (I think?) that I found out Julie had Neuroblastoma too.

Not only was she watching her little baby struggle with this awful, painful disease, but she was doing so while suffering with it as well.

It seemed like whenever Jaden would rally, Julie would struggle and vice versa.

This month, it was decided to move Julie to hospice. She pased away this week.

She was 36.

She left behind parents, siblings, cousins, TONS of friends...and the saddest of all, a loving, supportive husband and 2 little boys. Jaden is now 4 and his brother is a little older.

And because I am who I am, I torment myself by thinking about things like; did Jaden and Joey ask Santa for their mommy to get better? Were they with her when she passed? Will they remember her when she was healthy and smiled?

And then I think about how awful this must have been for Julie. I cannot even imagine (and I can't because it would easily send me over the edge) what it would be like as a mom to KNOW that I will not see my kids grow up. Not be there for them when they wake up scared at night. Not be there when they get hurt and want nothing but mommy. Not see the milestones; kindergarten, junior high, first date, prom, graduation, college, weddings. Miss the simple things like that amazing smile that only your baby can give you. Hear "I love you, Mommy" or kiss their snotty little lips.

I'm bawling just typing this.

I really, really do try to live every moment to the fullest and hold on to each memory because I know this time will fly. That's exhausting. To always focus on the Here and Now is tough. I was just laying in bed the other day looking at a collage of pictures on my wall. They were taken just yesterday, I swear, but somehow in that time, R & L had aged 4 years. E was just an infant only a week old in these pictures.

Where did it go?

The gist of this post isn't to depress you...although I'm sure I've done a pretty good job of that. Instead, I just want to remind myself and all of you to hold on to every precious second. Even the bad ones where you're SURE you won't make it through another minute of fighting, whining, complaining, and tantrums. Because I know no matter how stressed I am...Julie would have given ANYTHING to have even 5 minutes more with her babies.

Julie & Jaden
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