Friday, July 30, 2010

Reader Question: How do you find peace?

Yay for Fridays off! I only have two more after this week, so I'm really trying to soak up the fun while it lasts. What will I do when I have to return to 5 day work-weeks? Goodness. The hub is doing some PT work today, so it's just me and the girls at the house. I've got some small projects on the to-do list, but nothing crazy.

So last week I got this great email from Jenn over at Living the Good Life asking how I manage not to lose my cool when money seems to be leaving a heck of a lot faster than it's coming in (story of our current lives!). Here's a bit of her message...

"My husband and I have paid off all of our debt with the exception of one car and our house. We're now working to pay that car off and save up as much money as we can so that we can move in the next year but it seems like one bad thing after another keeps happening and I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack watching our savings dwindle down! It's really the most depressing thing. Since the end of May we've had to pay $7k in miscellaneous expenses (car repairs, plane tickets to a family member's wedding, getting a nice family of bats out of our attic, the list goes on and on.)---how do you keep from totally freaking out when it feels like you're just hemorrhaging money?? I know our savings is there for emergencies, but I have such anxiety over all of the unwanted and unnecessary spending. Any advice for me?!"

I totally don't consider myself a money expert by any means, but the hub and I have been to hell and back when it comes to figuring out how to win with money. So for that reason, I'm very passionate about the subject and freaking LOVE to talk about it. So I always welcome any questions on the matter and if our story can help others in some way, bring it. And by the way, being a CPA doesn't mean you're good with money. I mean haven't you seen doctors and nurses outside the hospital doors smoking? Yeah.

We're currently held up in what I call our stuck-in-mud phase of our plan. Which makes it hard to move forward, but we are. Creeping, but moving. As most of y'all know, the hub and I are total Dave Ramsey groupies. Me especially. It's like Jesus, then Dave. And we're currently on Baby Step #2, paying off all of our consumer debt (everything but the house). The hub has been unemployed for about 10 months now - which of course has turned our debt busting shovel into a flimsy plastic spork. So we're really just in survival mode right now until the hub is able to find full-time work. We have been really blessed with some great part-time opportunities that have helped along the way. I didn't think we'd make it past 2009 on my income alone. And here we are, knocking on the door of August 2010.

I can very much relate to Jenn's anxiety. Our situation isn't the same, but you know we girls tend to *freak OUT* when it comes to money (or the lack of really). It's a security issue for us, while it's a pride issue for the guys. So it's totally natural. But how do I keep from letting that anxiety and fear overtake me? I shared with Jenn what have been three personal mainstays in my life over the last couple of years that have helped me maintain peace in financially stressful times...

1. Tithing. Back in October 2008, when we ran our very first (EVER) monthly budget together, we decided then and there to start tithing (giving 10% off the top of our income to our local church). The hub and I have always loved to give when able, but we were never intentional about it before. We don't tithe because it's some item on a checklist of "things Christians do." We don't do it because God needs the money (ha!). It's simply about trust, and that's it. "God, we've obviously been idiots here, so we're going to do it your way from now on and trust YOU and not ourselves." We've been doing this for almost two years and the hub and I agree that is the single best decision we've ever made together. It has truly changed our lives. It looks ridiculous on paper, but that 10% comes right off the top - no matter what. No. Matter. What. We've never faltered on it, not even in months where we had no idea how we'd make it to the next. I can't even put into words the tremendous peace this has brought us. It is not an easy change to make. But nothing truly good comes without great sacrifice.

2. Worry not. Ha, easier said than done, right?! Oh how that worrisome fear can be so overpowering and crippling sometimes. And that's why I must continually drill this passage into my head...

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. " Matthew 6:31-34

3. Pray. My daily prayer to God is that I seek his wisdom in my everyday decisions with money. That we take all of this one day at a time. That we look to him for strength instead of being handicapped by worry and fear. And to recognize how truly blessed we are that we've made it this far, for the amazing life lessons we've learned along the way, and for the work God has done in our hearts. When you feel overcome with fear, the best thing you can do is get down on your knees.

So there you have it. And yeah I know it's completely engrossed with God stuff. But hey kids, true peace is only found with God so for me, there's no other answer really. I know lots of people out there are struggling financially for many reasons... Maybe it's an income crisis, like us, or perhaps you've got a big storm coming that's going to suck up all your savings, or maybe you've lost everything but the shirt on your back. Whatever it is, terrifying as it can be, there is always hope. You always hear about these people taking their lives over financial crises. Fear really can take your life. The trouble is, they had no hope. There is always hope. You have to succumb to the fact that you can't do it on your own. So get on your knees and ask your Father for some help.

I hope you all find true peace!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Funnel Cakes for Breakfast!

You know, it's probably a really bad thing that we figured out how easy these are to make at home. But it's too late now! Anyway, so the hub was after something *fun* for breakfast this morning and out of the blue he came up with the idea of making funnel cakes. Like when was the last time you ate a funnel cake? Seriously. I don't have much of a sweet tooth myself, so after a few bites I've totally had my fill. But the hub LOVES them.

So we looked online for recipes and found one that used pancake mix. Check! We've got that. And we happened to have powdered sugar on hand too. This was all the hub's doing really. I was the powdered sugar sprinkler. He tweaked the recipe some (it called for additional sugar in the batter and we both think it was totally NOT needed).

Homemade Funnel Cakes

You'll need:

- 1 cup pancake mix (we used Krusteaz)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup water
- powdered sugar (however much you want to sprinkle or dump on top)
- cooking oil (enough to fill the bottom of your skillet about 3/4 inches deep)
- squeeze bottle or large ziplock bag
- old school paper plates (for that true carnival experience)


- Combine the pancake mix, egg, and water and pour into a squeeze bottle or ziplock bag. If using a bag, snip off one of the bottom corners so you can easily pour the batter into the pan through a small opening.

- Heat the oil in a 10-inch frying pan (we actually used a smaller one and it worked totally fine). You want about 3/4 inch of the oil in the pan. Once the oil is hot, do a couple of test dribbles of the batter to see if it quickly fries. (It should fry them up very fast, but the oil should not be so hot that is starts splattering.)

- When ready, squeeze out the batter in a circular pattern into the frying pan. Do this quickly as it will cook within seconds. So it doesn't look like a big blob, leave some open spaces as you're pouring in the batter. Once it's golden brown on one side, use tongs to flip it over and cook the other side till it's golden brown.

- Remove from the oil and transfer to a paper plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately!

Makes 4-5 funnel cakes.

OK so obviously these are not at all Moo Goo friendly. I ate my normal breakfast of one boiled egg and some turkey sausage. But I did have a few bites of one of the cakes. Maybe more than a few. I kept saying, "Well, the batter is really spread so thin... I'm really eating a very small portion of the non-Moo-Goo-friendly pancake batter." But, diet or not, I gotta say these TOTALLY tasted like the real deal! I did not take any pics, but I'm tellin' ya they looked exactly like the one above - paper plate and all. They were ridiculously good - too good. Duh, it's fried. But they are super easy to do and would be a very fun once-in-a-blue-moon treat. I told the hub, "oh when we have kids this is totally gonna be their birthday breakfast!"

at all healthy, but a crazy treat now and then won't kill ya I don't guess. Though the hub remarked, "Hmmm... that sure did use a lot of oil. I'm not sure where it all went!" I replied, "into your arteries!"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's going to be a great day!

Since I haven't made it on here to post much of any substance in the last couple of weeks, here's another video I can't stop watching. I've probably rerun it on Tivo like 30 times. It makes me do my ugly snort laugh...

Have a GREAT day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It never stops being funny.

I had totally forgotten about this video until I saw it posted by Jen over at Maybe if You Just Relax. God bless these girls... I love it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A final letter to my buddy.

My sweet Charlie,

It's an unspoken understanding that when you get a dog, you know someday you'll have to say goodbye. I don't know why dog years are so much shorter than human years, but I didn't make the rules. We knew the day was coming... we had hoped you would get better and stay with us a little longer, but we couldn't watch you hurting anymore. I don't think I ever would've been ready to say goodbye to you, buddy. But we knew you were ready. I remember sitting with you at the bottom of the stairs a few days before when you were breathing so rapidly. Through tears I asked you to tell us when you were ready to go home.

All that weekend I kept asking your daddy, "do you think he knows how much we love him?" I hope you knew how big our hearts were for you, buddy. I always say that doggies are one of the most tangible glimpses of God's unconditional love for us. (In a sweet, furry package.) And you were the epitome of that... you loved us so hard and wanted nothing more than to be with us. The days that followed your last were a constant reminder of that. With you gone, I became acutely aware of how much you had been a part of my daily routine.

You were always the first to wake us up in the mornings. Always so eager to get outside and do your "lap" back and forth across the yard, you'd stand by my bedside and stare at me with that goofy face of yours, whimpering slightly till one of us got up. Sometimes Belly would join you, but the girls usually would just roll over and sleep in a little more. Whether I was taking a shower, cutting up fruit, unloading the washer, or blow-drying my hair, you were right by my side. The house just felt very, very still without you. Very quiet. I guess I never realized how independent our girls were... but I found myself doing all my normal daily things without anyone at my heels. And that was heartbreaking. Coming home from work for the first time, knowing you wouldn't be there to greet me, felt so weird. Going through that first 24-hour period without you was really tough. It just felt wrong.

But that's just something your daddy and I have to go through. We miss you so much and it hurts. Your funny little face brought us such joy and endless laughter. We only had 6 1/2 years with you, but what sweet years they were. We always joke about how silly and goofy you were... you would come and sit before us and just look at us with this look of anticipation, as if to say, "OK, what's next?!" You were absolutely terrified of water. Whenever we'd go to the lake, you'd hide behind me as if Daddy couldn't see you. He was always trying to get you to face your fear, but that never really worked, did it?! We laughed that your little corner of Heaven must have NO pools, rivers or lakes anywhere (because those are so scary!!!)... only a big bowl of drinking water for you to vigorously gulp and dribble everywhere. And oh, I bet there's a feast fit for a king for you up there... you did love to eat. You were the sweetest of boys till someone messed with your food! (I think you got that from me.)

The days leading up to our goodbye were precious. Despite you not feeling well most days, you were able to perk up a bit on Father's Day. What a good day you had! We all went out for ice cream - our last little family outing with all three of you. And you got lots of love from Grandma and Grandpa that day too during our Father's Day dinner... what a treat! It was a great day full of family. We didn't know it was your last full day with us, but it was a great last day, wasn't it, buddy?

Your daddy and I had discussed a while back how we would say goodbye to you when the time came. It's something we hated talking about, but we wanted to have a plan in place. We wanted to be ready when you were. And just like I asked you, you told us that Monday morning that you were ready to go. All that fun you had on Father's Day caught back up with you... you were so pitiful and weak. I hate that I had to go on in to work and leave you for a few hours. You should know I was fighting back tears all morning long and all my thoughts were on you. I was so glad to see you feeling a little better when I got home that afternoon. We were able to enjoy a little sunshine together in the backyard. It was so surreal following you up the deck stairs, and then watching you nose open the back door... for the last time. I knew at that moment that I'd never see you do that again. Something I've seen you do a million times before.

We had your vet come to the house to help us say goodbye. We knew how much you hated going to the doctor... we didn't want your last moments to be at the vet's office. It was important for you to be here, at your home, surrounded by your family - even your silly sisters. We wanted you to be as comfortable as you could be, and I think you were. I hope you were. Daddy just kept giving you peanut butter and you just kept licking away. You still had peanut butter on your tongue when you finally fell asleep. So if you still have the taste of your favorite treat in your mouth, that's why.

I keep replaying the image of us laying down your sweet head... we were holding it together as you passed away. The bitter sweetness of that moment makes me smile but also haunts me. Running my hands over your beautiful coat one last time and kissing your sweet head... it'll never be enough. I hate that you're not here with us. I hate it. I miss every part of you... the lines on your face, your mysterious missing tooth, your floofy bent tail... all of it. I miss spooning with you at night. I miss watching you dart across the yard yelping at each corner because you can't pee fast enough to dart back to the other side. I miss your grunts and sighs. I miss your goofy stare - how intently you'd look at us. You were such a sweet little man... so stately. You had such a kind spirit.

Later that same week, we took your ashes and spread them along your path in the backyard - did you hear us yelping and barking as we did it? I'm sure the neighbors thought we had lost it! As painful as saying goodbye was, you know I wouldn't change our time with you for a second. I can still remember standing behind your daddy at the computer in our first apartment, looking at your puppy picture on the rescue agency's website. It was love at first sight. There was never much discussion when we got married... your daddy and I knew we'd have to have a dog. We adopted your sister, Belly, very soon after we got married. And we fell in love with you and brought you home later that same year. What a joy you were to us, buddy. Both your sisters loved you (even if Belly won't admit it) and we can tell they miss you. Belly is just now getting back to her old self. You were her security blanket. And I know Gertie really misses her wrestling partner. We all are missing a little piece of our heart because you took it with you when you left us. But we are so glad that you are in a better place, feeling good and running free of any pain or discomfort.

People have asked me if we're going to get another doggie. And I just smile... because, buddy, you know we never really intended to have three dogs. Life just kind of happened that way. So we're just going to stick with the two girls. It's amazing how different the atmosphere is without you... we're learning to adjust. But new dog or not, there's just no replacing you, buddy. You were something very special and we'll love you and miss you forever. I hope you know that. I find myself grabbing your collar every once in a while... closing my eyes and holding it up to my nose. It's the only thing we have left that is full of your sweet smell. To most people, it smells like a dirty dog. But to me, it's Charlie.

Missing you,

Your momma

All of the above photos were taken on the day we said goodbye to Charlie. He passed away in our home on Monday, June 21, 2010, licking peanut butter from the hub's fingers until his last breath.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 4th (holiday)!

Hope everyone had a fabulous 4th weekend... we sure did! Been running around since I left work Thursday afternoon. But we had a great weekend with friends and the weather was perfect. Saturday night we had a neighborhood block party and I actually ran back to our house to grab a FLEECE once the sun went down. On July 3rd. Crazy! The hub ran the Peacthree Sunday morning while I stayed at home with the girls. Then we had a cookout over at our friends' house and watched the fireworks up here in Buford. All in all, a great weekend full of celebration.

I'm officially on a week-long staycation right now and loving it. I've got a few projects on my to-do list but honestly I'm just looking forward to a restful and relaxing week of pretty much nothing inparticular. Sounds dreamy, right? So I probably won't be on the 'puter much but I do need to get my final Charlie post up. I've been putting it off because I've just been busy or not in the right place to do it. We are doing lots better but still miss our boy so much. Thought about him lots this weekend because he was always SO terrified of fireworks. Honestly, I'm glad he wasn't here to witness all the boom-boom-pow while he was feeling awful. That might've done him in!

Enjoy this first week of July... I'll be back soon!