Talks with God

I talk with God a lot. Some people call it prayer or meditation but I treat it like a normal conversation.  It happens like this. I'll be doing some everyday task like washing dishes in the kitchen. I start by saying something like, "Oh hey it's me again, just popping in for some advice." And just like I would if I were chatting with an old friend over coffee I begin.

"What in the heck should I do about my job, my family, my life?" I rinse and load one dish.

"I'm here," I say back. It's me, but not really me. I hear the Spirit's voice as clear as day sometimes. But only when I'm ready to listen.

"Okay, noted. But what about the future?" I say "What should I do?" I scrub some hardened ketchup off of a plate.

"Keep writing" I hear.

"How can I make money doing what I love?" I ask. I rinse out my dish rag with warm water.

"I've given you a spirit of creativity mixed with a big dose of practicality. Use it." It says.

"Where do you want me to go from here?" I stare out the window over my sink into my backyard at dusk.

"Keep writing." It urges.

"What's next God?" I pick up a new plate.

"Keep taking one step at a time." It begs.

And then that's it. Chat time is over and I'm back to my life. The door has closed for now, the line temporarily disconnected, it's just me and my overflowing sink. That's not to say that God isn't there with me in the mundane.  God is alongside me in all things, both in and and moving through me. It's just to say that that's all the reveal I'll get for tonight. Like a movie preview for a new release still years away.

I love these verses from Ecclesiastes 3: "I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him."

I doubt. I hem and I haw. I try to jump two steps ahead of the process.
But then I remember my role is simply to be present. To lean into the Spirit, to trust.

It's almost painful in its simplicity.

I want more. I want to see more, be more, to act beyond my capacity.

But then I'm reminded "I'm here. Be here now with me."

So I keep washing my dishes, and allow myself to rest, to hang up my worries and discard today's anxieties.

I have done enough for today. Tomorrow is a new day. There will be more dishes in the morning.


2018 Savings Goals - (Almost) mid-year check-in!

It is hot. So very hot. Why? you may ask. Because our air conditioner is shot. Back when I wrote savings goals in January I mentioned the possibility of needing a new air conditioner since our current unit is old and uses a type of refrigerant that is no longer being manufactured. Well, that day has arrived. It's 84 degrees in our house currently. Luckily the kids have been sleeping soundly with window fans and a good breeze, but It. Is. Hot. 

I thought I'd take a look back at this year's savings goals since a). we're almost halfway through the year (how??) and b). we will be shifting around our savings priorities due to getting a new air conditioner and possibly furnace as well. #Adulting. Sigh. 

This year we wanted to:
  1. Rebuild our emergency fund (~$3K) - We would have easily hit this goal this month, but now it's going right out the window to pay for our new heating and cooling system. That said, I'm so thankful that we have the money to buy a new unit in cash! If anything, everything that's happened this year has made me realize the importance of having an emergency fund. We like to have at least 6 months worth of expenses saved (5 months in an higher interest earning account not linked to our checking). To build it back up, we will likely pause our retirement contributions until it's fully funded. While it can sometimes feel frustrating to have money sitting in an account that you "can't" touch, the relief of knowing it's there for when life happens is huge!
  2. A fence for the backyard ($2-4K) - Sadly this one will have to wait until next summer. But that's life! And the kids have been doing really well staying in the yard (though I'm still almost always outside with them). 
  3. A new air conditioner ($4K) - We actually received a quote for a few air conditioner units that range from $2900-3700; however, upon further investigation, I realized that it probably doesn't make sense for us to install a new energy star rated air-conditioner, only to pair it with a 15 year old heater / blower. (I'm using such technical language, aren't I?) Also, if we were to purchase a new furnace at the same time as we purchase an air conditioner, they would have the same energy rating which ups their overall efficiency. And, on top of that, buying both at the same time would allow us to cash in on some rebates from our electricity and gas companies, plus Lennox, the maker of the new HVAC system. Overall, I'm leaning towards buying both now, vs. replacing the heater in 3-5 years for an additional cost. But, that makes our original $4,000 estimate more like $5400. 
  4. Vacations / Trips ($1500) - We are doing well on our goal of taking more trips! In May we took a kid-free weekend trip to Chicago for our anniversary, then took the kids to St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend ($550 for both trips). Next up is a week-long Door Country trip over Fourth of July, which usually costs us about $500 with eating out and gas (we stay with Mike's family in their beautiful farmhouse). 
  5. Gardening / Landscaping ($1000?) - We got a quote last month to rip out all of our front bushes (they are so large that the removal process is closer to that of a tree than a bush); however, we decided to push back that project until we knew more about our air conditioner situation. And knowing what we know now, well, the bushes will have to wait!
  6. Finish Mike's tattoo sleeve ($1500) - Sigh, this one has been put on the back burner again!
  7. Pay for sinus surgery ($1500?) - I'm so, so glad I got sinus surgery! I haven't had a sinus infection since before the surgery in February (knock on wood) and I can breathe through my nose every. single. day. Worth the close to ~$2500 (?) we paid out of pocket for the procedure.
It's turning out to be a great year! One of life's normal ups and downs but with careful cash flow planning, we've managed to stay out of debt, despite a medical procedure, taking fun family trips and now a new HVAC system!

Next up, a recap of my May painting projects! xo


A Quick Privacy Update

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Yoga & Solo Parenting

The theme of the weekend was twofold:  yoga & solo parenting. It was Mike's weekend to close so I maxed out on alone time at yoga before he started each shift. Good thing too, since we're facing a bit of a sleep regression with 19-month-old MK. Whereas we could once put her down awake she's now requiring us to either let her scream it out, thereby pushing back her brother's bedtime, or keep her up until she drops. We're at the 20 minute mark now of her screaming "MOMMY" at the top of her lungs, but going in there only gets her more worked up. So I'm waffling between tolerating the heart-rate quickening screaming, or accepting that MK is the queen of this castle and will go to bed whenever she pleases. (The final verdict:  I rocked her to sleep after 30 minutes of crying. This whole sleep training thing is a doozie.) 

Last night I couldn't take the crying, so opted to introduce MK to the guilty pleasure that is TLC's Say Yes to the Dress. She fell asleep in my arms shortly thereafter. 

Yoga though, was the opposite of my screaming child - brain-clearing, heat-rate slowing, muscle-stretching, and calming. I took a 60 minute half yoga / half Pilates class on Saturday and then a 75 min Vinyasa flow class today, complete with lots of sun salutations and planks. I loved every minute of it.

My post yoga glow on Saturday. This morning after yoga a woman told me I had beautiful skin. I thanked her but fear she'd been misled as I had come from church with a full face of makeup on. I skipped church in favor of "yoga church." 

I've noticed recently just how much my mood is affected by all exercise, but by yoga in particular. I leave each class feeling completely stretched out and clearheaded. I struggle with anxiety and depression on a daily basis, but work hard to do the things I need to do to feel my best. When I'm anxious, my brain is ALWAYS running. At its best, my anxiety causes me to over-analyze every situation, and at its worst it creates a deep sense of "fight or flight". Yoga quiets all of the noise in my brain (the to-do lists, the tendency to over-analyze, the second guessing and the self-condemnation). It allows me to step outside of myself and slowly pick up each worry, examining it carefully in my hands before placing it gently up on a shelf to be dealt with at a later date. That's not to say exercise brain makes all of my troubles magically disappear; rather, I feel much more equipped to handle whatever life throws my way (you know, like when G yells "Mommy, I kinda sorta peed all over the bathroom" mere minutes after I finished cleaning it. For example). 

Yoga is so mind clearing that I find myself wondering if this is how others live all the time. It's how I felt when I first got glasses, or after my nose opening sinus surgery, or when I tried Passion Fruit La Croix for the first time. So this is how others see! Or, I'm supposed to be able to breathe through my nose on a regular basis. And, why have I been wasting my precious pennies on Pamplemousse? (Though in Pamplemousse's defense, it was voted the #1 La Croix flavor by Time Out. My beloved Passion Fruit came in tenth. To each her own.)

So to yoga I will go. Because my anxiety has been at a near lifetime high and that's just no bueno, not acceptable, no thank you sir. In order to get myself to the gym, I penciled in my calendar every yoga class offered next week (including the yoga/Pilates combo and sweat inducing PIYO Live classes). When I schedule something at the beginning of the week I'm much more likely to follow through.

Beyond its physical and emotional benefits, the thing I like best about yoga in this stage of my life is that it's a unique intersection between my body being my own, and my time being my own, if only for the duration of a class. For the last four years I've been pregnant, recovering from birth, breastfeeding, pregnant again, recovering from birth again and breastfeeding again. Then finally, finally my body became my own again. The jury's still out on my time being my own, but yoga helps with the facade.

The reading right before Shavasana today included this Becca Lee quote:

It reminded me that sometimes life can be easy. Sometimes it's worth it to cut yourself some slack, throw sleep training to the wind and rock your sweet baby to sleep before it's too late. Sometimes it's okay to ask more of others than yourself (aka, you're not a bad mom if you demand that your 4 year-old wipe up his own pee on the bathroom floor). And sometimes it's okay to not have any answers for the foreseeable future, but to just keep showing up and bringing it all to the mat.