Once again it’s the season of giving and this time of year is when Jack and I do most of our giving. Usually, we pick a few charities that are close to our hearts and that we have verified will do the most good. Sadly this year we had so many of our family and friends that were hit by tragedies that we decided to give close to home. Some had lost loved ones, houses were damaged by the hurricanes or had to evacuate their homes because of the Southern California fires. In the severity of their tragedies, what we were able to give didn't seem like much; but their gratitude meant the world to us. Most charities provide a generic thank you care or email with the immediate request for more donation. They don't even seem grateful for what was donated and that can be disconcerting to some givers. If you are unsure of what charities that you would like to donate to this holiday season, look around you. Is there someone in your life that could use a little helping hand, a kid working hard to save up for a car or college, a single mom that could use a little extra money during the holidays? Look around you and see where you can spread good will towards men.
As I posted the other day we started filming our second video series and because it was a very long three days I took of Tuesday to rest. That day I enjoyed the beautiful spring day and worked in my courtyard. I spend the whole day just relaxing and thinking about why I have been so stressed lately. That evening I decided to take up my Godmother’s offer to attend the RCIA Easter Virgil practice, I felt being with her and at church would help ease my mind. While there the Deacon stating talking about having to clean out his recently deceased wife’s office at the attached school the next day and my heart sunk. I knew his wife; she was my head RCIA teacher when I went through the program a few years earlier. I immediately volunteered to come and help him. I felt good that I offered to help, as in I was meant to come to practice that night to hear him and volunteer to help. All of the sudden I felt a peace come over me. I went home and called my boss and took Wednesday and Thursday off, since I already had taken Good Friday off. I spend the next day helping him and enjoyed our long talk. Thursday I decided to organize the kitchen drawers, more on that later, and again I felt more at peace. By Friday I was ready to admit out loud what has been bothering me for so long. I was no longer happy at my work and wanted to stay home so I could follow my own passions and dreams. By spending the week mostly alone I was finally able to listen to what was in my heart and what God wanted for me. Now how to I get Jack to agree?
Today we got to spend the day in the park, watching Duffey play in the snow and chasing the birds. There is something magic in Yosemite in winter and since this winter has been a very wet one due to El Nino, the waterfalls were even more beautiful. After playing in the snow and hiking to a few waterfalls, we needed to warm up and head to Camp Curry (soon to be called Half Dome Village) for some coffee and hot cocoa. It was so peaceful sitting in the over-sized rocking chairs listening to the melting snow falling off the porch roof. I felt like I could actual take a deep breath and let out a much needed sigh of relief. I feel lately my life had been a whirlwind filled with frustrations, fear, sadness, and uncertainty. As we sat there I began reflecting on a previous Jillian Michaels' podcast segment where a lady called in asking on how to get ready to hike the Application mountains, she was in her 50's and she was tired of waiting for her husband to agree to do it with her and she wanted to do it, alone. I remembered four years ago where we spent our anniversary weekend at Camp Curry with the attentions to hike Half Dome. I remember how angry I had gotten that Jack decided his "princess and the pea" attitude and deflated the weekends plans. I was in tears when I woke up at 6am and he refused to get up until after 8am. My Half Dome hike dreams were crushed. I had trained for months for nothing. Once he finally got up and around we started our hike and boy was it a hard one. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but once we reached Nevada falls and looking out how far we had come, we were both proud and shockingly Jack had a good time hiking! But sadly that is where we turned back, we didn't continue the other part of the hike; the part that led to the top of Half Dome. I am still angry over that weekend. I felt like he selfishly took my dream away from me and sadly I remind him of that every so often. As I sat in my rocking chair thinking about my story and that lady on the podcast and starring up at Half Dome. I decided right then and there I was going to stop living in the past and I was going to accomplish this bucket list item; I am going to hike Half Dome, even if I have to do it alone.
I have been fighting this emptiness within me for about a year and it really escalated when I returned to work from my Christmas vacation. I knew something hasn't been right for a while and during my vacation, I faced the reality that I was no longer feeling spiritually or creatively fulfilled at work. Coming back to work after realizing this only made it harder for me to get up, get dress and get to work on time. My poor boss, a former therapist popped into my office cheerful and asked me if I was happy to be back and work and I broke down in tears and said no. He was sweet enough to talk to me and he told me it's hard coming back from what you want your life to be (vacation mode) and reality (work mode). The more I thought about it the more it made sense. During my vacation I was able to spend time with loved one who I rarely got to see, have our home better organized and less stressful for Jack, took better care of myself, and had time to read and reflect. When I am working my life looks more like a blur and sadness that I don't feel fulfilled. Our marriage seems to be a little more stressed and our quality time seems to be less frequent. I realized on that Monday morning, that I wanted to follow my heart and be an at home wife. This was something that we have talked about once we had kids and Jack was finally okay with that decision, but how would I ever convenience him to let me do that now? I didn't want to be a fictional 50's housewife, bored all day and waiting for Jack to come home where I'm wearing a pearl and holding a martini as he walks through the door. Not that neither of us would mind that once in a while! I wanted to stay home a follow my passion, for the first time I wanted to do something that brought meaning to my life. I wanted to donate more time to my Parish, to my creative side, and to this blog. I started to realize I have always lived my life trying to please someone else and meet their expectation for me and I began to ask what about what I want?
This is the time of year that a lot of us gives just a little more. It's the time of good will and cheer. A big motivating factor for Jack and I to pay off all of our debt earlier this is was so we could give more. We allocated a specific amount on our monthly family budget on what we wanted to give additionally to our Tithe. After deciding the amount, we needed to decide on the charity. I know according to tax law only 5% of money collected needs to go to the actual charity that is 95% that goes to overhead cost! That's insanity. I also wanted to make sure the donations were going to stay as local as possible. I used the Charity navigator website to help make a well informed charity. Jack and I picked several charities that were meaningful for us and where we felt we could help. I hope everyone feels the spirit of Christmas and is able to donate a little more than usual this year, but remember to do your research and give wisely and realistically.
Today I am thankful for so many things that I can’t count. To name only a few, I am thankful for family near and far that love me so much, for my friends who always get me into crazy endeavors and we always have so much fun, for my adorable puppy who makes me smile when I am down, for mine and Jack’s careers that keeps challenging us and helped us pay off our debt, for the beautiful home that Jack maintains for us, for all of the people that keep me grounded and lets me know it’s going to be okay, and lastly Jack, for he has to deal with so much more than anyone else! He wipes away my tears when I am sad or frustrated, he makes me laugh so hard that I can’t breathe, and he holds me so tight when I am scared. If I got to choose anyone in this world to walk next to, it would be him. I know I am truly blessed and I hope everyone feels as blessed as I do.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family and friends and lots of laughs, Happy Thanksgiving.
Today I was able to do something that made my heart burst with emotions. I was sad, happy, inspired, and humbled all at once. Today I put a lock with Serenity’s name on the Ponte Des Arts in Paris. Serenity’s dream was to go to Paris and today I hope I was able to give her at least a little of that dream. I cried as my cold hands trembled trying to lock the lock in place. By the time I threw the key into the Seine, I lost it and Jack had to hold me until I calmed down. It was a really rough week and I felt like it finally came to a head. So I stood there in Jack’s arms sobbing in the middle of Paris.
I made a necklace out of the that I didn't throw into the river, for Serenity's mother and my good friend. I added charms that made me think of her including the infinity symbol that matches both of their tattoos. This was a small gesture I could do for a grieving friend and I hope that I brought at least a little peace for both of them. Rest In Peace Serenity.
Nothing is scary getting a text from someone back home asking if you are okay. When I first read the text I wasn’t sure what they were referring to until they sent me a screenshot of a news bulletin reading 27 people killed in Paris shooting. I quickly turned on our hotel TV and watched the number of the dead increase. Thankfully at the time we were safe in London and about to call it a night. I let everyone know we were safe and tried to sleep; when we woke the death toll was up to 120. Jack and I just looked at each other and asked what had happened. As we packed to head on the train to our Paris connection to his parents, we watched television and were sadden to learn that it was another planned terrorist attack.
My heart weeps for Paris and I pray we have safe travels throughout France.
Most of this week I have been at a work conference in Missouri and I am ready to go home tomorrow to see Jack and Duffey! Today is Boss’s Day and I am away from my team, but a lot of them sent me emails and text and even left a huge sign on my office door. It made me simple and made the last few months’ worth of stress and long days’ worth it. The last few months have been full of challenges and to be honest some nights full of tears, but I kept pushing through it and that light of the end of the tunnel is here. My team has become so strong and really works as a team now; I couldn’t be more proud of them. When you feel yourself struggling find someone you can confide in and ask for guidance. Pray and ask for help and strength. Take each day at a time and hopefully one day everything will fall into place. Every day I say a little prayer on my way to work and I try to walk into my office with a fresh start and a cute outfit on. Take a deep breath for this too shall pass.
This week Jack and I received our paid off in full letters for the student loan and car loan! I was so excited to see these letters in the mail; it was like it was finally official: we were debt free! With this month almost over we have almost all of the France trip saved up for and then we will be able to move on to the next Baby Steps. It’s funny how creating a budget, usually something that makes you feel restricted, can create the feeling of such freedom. Each month we did a budget, we fought less and communicated more. That’s real freedom. Dave Ramsey truly believes that creating a budget and telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went is the most important thing you can do, that he created a completely free budgeting tool called Every Dollar for free. It is a great tool and I encourage you to try using it for a few months…who knows before too long you could be getting your own paid off in full letters!
Next month some very exciting things are happening for Oak Tree Junction. I am both nervous and excited! This site has become my passion and I want to continue to grow that passion. I hope with the things coming up next month will take Oak Tree Junction to the next level. I can’t tell you much more, but look for sneak peaks!
Today we made the last payment on my student loans. Let me repeat that: WE PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOANS!! We are so excited and proud. We have been putting all of our effort into paying of them since January and we finally did it! Jack getting his promotion last month bumped up our goal date by a month, so yay Jack and yay to him for depriving himself all of the things he has been wanting for the last several months! Jack and I started following a tweaked version of the Financial Peace University plan, the 7 baby steps. I couldn’t get Jack to fully follow emptying our saving account or stop the retirement contributions. Lastly we also didn’t do the smallest debt first, we felt the student loan should be the one we worked on first since it had a much higher interest rate. Now that being said, I truly believe in the Dave Ramsey plan and tell everyone that will listen about it. If you are serious about getting out debt and changing your life, follow his plan! Now that my student loan is paid off we only have one more debt: Jack’s car loan. Thankfully it is small and our goal is to have it paid off by the end of next month. Every cake order since January and any leftover budgeted money has been going towards this goal and we are so close we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait until next month when we are truly debt free and we can shout “WE ARE DEBT FREE!”
Back in April I had a job interview for a supervisor promotion at another County Department. It was a really great interview and I felt like I would be a really good fit for what they were looking for. Later that I was talking to my current boss about how well it went and then it hit me, in my heart I knew I wasn't meant for that job. After I talked it over with Jack, I made the decision to email the interviewers and ask for them to remove my name from consideration. I explained that I was truly grateful for the opportunity and although I knew I would do a good job for them my heart wanted to stay in my current department. They were grateful for my honestly and understood. They ended up giving the position to my very good friend who was a much better fit for them. I felt so grateful that I listened to my heart and did the right thing. My friend was truly grateful too. Well what comes around goes around, today I was told that our project manager was going to be retiring in October and they have asked my current supervisor to start training immediately to fill her position. They asked me to take over as billing supervisor! Although this is just an interim position until the opening becomes actually available, that's just how working for the government works. I am really excited about this opportunity to learn and grown. I am very excited about my new supervisor and I am excited to help lead the billing team through the next challenges we face! Note to self - when something doesn't feel right in your heart, listen to it, its God speaking to you.
Last year I converted to Catholism and since Jack I weren't married in a Catholic church the Deacon told us we could do a Marriage Blessing. This would be our third wedding togher. We first eloped during the summer after only know each other a few months, before we decided to elope we were already planning a big family wedding and decided to still have it to get our families together. The Marriage Blessing was going to be our third. Although this was our third wedding it was the simplest, and the funniest. We wanted to keep it casual with a vintage country flare. We had a guest list of only 25 and 10 of them joined us at the Marriage Blessing. We kept our budget very low at only $500. I asked a friend to do my hair and make-up, a co-worker to take photos, my mom and aunt helped me make our decorations and prepared the dinner, and of course I made the cake and cupcakes. I got lots of help from family and friends so we were able to stay within budget and had a really fun and mostly stress free day!
Eight years ago today I took a risk and met with this guy that I had only been talking to for a few days online. We met up at the VIP Lounge. While I was parking a guy walked by who caught my eye and I thought wow he's pretty cute and went onto parking and calming my butterflies. When I walked up and realized the guy I just checked out was the guy I was meeting my heart skipped a beat. We grabbed a table in the back, he had a Jack on the rocks and I had a Shirley Temple. We t...alked for a while and I finally had to ask where his accent was from. When he said he was french my heart skipped another beat. We said our goodbyes and made plans to talk soon. On my way home I called my mom and told her about the date and to let her know I wasn't kidnapped or anything. Little did I realized that was the night I was going to meet the best thing that ever happened to me and the love of my life.
Every year Jack and I go to that same bar and reminisce. We talk about what we have accomplished in the last year and what our goals for the coming year. This year we are excited about becoming debt free and getting to travel more. We are looking forward to visiting his family and trying to make it a priority to spend more time with each other. The last eight years we have had our ups and downs, but each year we become stronger and more committed to one another. I'm looking forward to where we will be in another eight years. Happy Anniversary my love, I love you more than you will ever know.
Last month I helped my aunt finish cleaning out my Grandma's home. We had to go through decade’s worth of stuff, decide what to keep, give, or toss. It was a very emotional time and it was hard to not get super attached to things. So many items brought back years’ worth of memories. I kept some items that I felt were too special and couldn't bare to see it go elsewhere. I kept her beautiful vintage cake stand with lid, green glass vase, an ordinate vintage perfume bottle, a wooden cabinet that was from the 30's, a side magazine table, and two vintage cameras. I remember first seeing the two cameras when I was small and I was fascinated on how they worked. To me these cameras were priceless and something that I really wanted to keep. The Kodak was still in the original box! I know proudly display the two cameras on my new cabinet, sitting next to my globe and metal Eiffel Tower. I hope if you get the opportunity to keep something special that belong to a close loved one, you take it and display it somewhere will you see it every day and it makes you smile.
PS. I have plans for the wooden cabinet and magazine table but that all in due time!
This last month has been very hard me and my family. My Grandmother fell right before Thanksgiving and wasn't able to call for help, thankfully my Mother was worried about her when she couldn't get ahold of her in the morning and was able to help her get to bed. I visited with her the Sunday after the accident and we talked for awhile. We talked about the genealogy class that I just took and about our family history. We also talked about Jack and I starting a family. My Grandmother told me I would be a wonderful mother one day. I think back on that moment and tears still start to swell up . Today I helped my Aunt finish cleaning out her house so my cousin can move in temporally while the family decides what to do with it.
A few days before Thanksgiving my mother was prepping the turkey at my Grandmother's home, when my Grandmother had a severe stroke and was rushed to the hospital. I visited her as often as I could while she was in the ICU. Things started to look better as she was moved to a regular room. Then the Sunday before she passed I felt an urging to go to Mass. The sermon was about being at peace in your heart and being ready for whenever it was your time to go "home". I cried throughout Mass. As I walked to my car, I felt the urge to go visit my Grandmother in the hospital. My mother was in the room standing next to her. I was fighting back tears as I looked at her frail body. She opened her eyes and looked at us, which later I found out was the last time she had opened her eyes. I stayed for a little longer before having to get back home. I cried all night when I realized that her body was starting to shut down and wasn't going to make it. The night of her passing she finally heard God calling her name and she peacefully slipped away. My brave mother and aunt were by her side.
I will always cherish our final conversation and I'm internally thankful for our last real moment together.
Today was an incredible inspiring day. I am a HUGE fan of Dave Ramsey so at the last minute I talked myself into buying a ticket to go to his SMART Conference. The conference is himself and some of the best speakers in the county talking about money, retirement, boundaries, parenting, marriage, and living the life that you have always wanted. I know over the past few months I have seen a major change in how I see life and how I want my life to be. I created this website because I wanted to share my passion and creativity, Jack and I have been working hard to pay off all of our debts so we won't have to worry about money in the future. We have also started to work really hard on our marriage and communication. I left the conference with an armful of new books to read, refueled and ready to conquer anything. If you are ready to change your life I really encourage you to check out Dave's Live Events. Do it and be inspired!
I created this blog to share my creations with hopes that it will inspire others to show their creative side. I love to show case my friend's photography so a lot of the photos are from her. I hope you get inspired.