One Step Closer to Financial Freedom

Today my husband and I are officially one step closer to financial freedom. We sent our very last snowball payment to my husband’s student loan lender. His student loan is now paid in full!

It’s taken us a long time to reach this point. My husband and I both brought a lot of debt to our marriage. Shortly after we first got married, we added up all of our debt – credit cards, student loans, a personal loan, and an auto loan. The total was shocking, almost 100k in debt. And we didn’t even own a home!

Debt payoff was slow at first. We decided to follow Dave Ramsey’s financial principles. First we saved up $1,000 for an emergency fund, guaranteeing the ability to stop charging money to our credit cards. It took a long time just to save this first thousand dollars. When you have hundreds of dollars a month in minimum payments, it’s difficult to come up with extra cash. But we plugged away, slowly but surely. We started paying off the lower balance credit cards. Then we were able to pay off our car.

Life, as expected, had the occasional financial setback. Some of them were unfortunate accidents and others were intentional choices. Our car broke down completely and it was cheaper to buy a new car than it was to pay for repairs. Against Dave Ramsey’s advice, we decided to finance a used car. I was so sick of getting stranded on the side of the freeway and I wanted the security of knowing that our car was unlikely to break down.

We also took a detour when we decided to adopt our daughter. The adoption process is crazy expensive! But bringing our daughter home was totally worth the financial detour.

Bubble tea adventures

Last year we began paying down debt in earnest again. We were able to eliminate almost all of our credit card debt, throwing every single extra cent at that debt. We were sick and tired of paying the bank every month and wanted freedom. Early this year we paid off the last credit card.

Then the coronavirus hit. We deviated from Dave Ramsey’s plan a second time when we decided to pay minimums on our student loans. Instead, we built up our six month emergency fund. My husband had just started his new job in November and we weren’t positive that the company would be avoiding layoffs. Rather than risk job loss and then financial disaster, we decided to boost our emergency fund from $1,000 to six full months’ of expenses.

We finished our full emergency fund last month. Then it was time to tackle the student loans! Two giant payments and that smaller student loan is toast. My husband is finally student loan debt free after 15 long years of monthly payments. It is going to be so nice to pocket that extra $148 each month!

First, though, we need to finish paying off my student loan and then our personal loan. We still have $11.5k left to go in debt payments but we are so close that I can taste the sweetness of complete financial freedom. When I wrote about finances earlier this year, I hoped that we would be debt free by my 40th birthday. I’ll be 38 this fall and I’m now hoping we’ll be out of debt by the end of the year.

My husband has worked so hard to advance in his career and reap the financial rewards of a higher paying job. Over the years, I’ve read tons of blogs, forum posts, and books about paying off debt and how to scrape pennies together to start that first snowball rolling. It took years to go from five extra dollars a paycheck to being able to make lump sum payments. Just a few more months and we’ll be completely free of debt.

The rich rules over the poor,

And the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7, NKJV

If you want help figuring out how to make that first snowball payment…
If you want to share your financial story…
If you just need someone to listen…
Leave me a comment! I’m always happy to help.

Glimpses of Beauty

Two weeks ago I decided to intentionally search for glimpses of beauty during my week. I had so much fun with it and I was reminded to take joy in the small things, to find beauty in the tiny moments. This week I followed the same practice and I want to share my photos with you.

First strawberry of the season

I’ve been growing strawberries for three years now, the first year with just two plants, then with three, and this year I have four strawberry plants growing in my patio garden. I have a limited amount of space but I love picking and eating sun-warmed strawberries. This is the biggest strawberry I’ve grown yet. It was a bit tart but oh so good!

Appleblossom

Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that this Appleblossom Begonia has survived! When I ordered plants from my daughter’s school plant sale, I bit off way more than I could chew. This flower has outgrown its temporary pot but I haven’t had the energy to repot it yet. I’ll get it moved soon because the flower is gorgeous!

Kitty stickers!

I love stationary! Pens, stickers, notebooks, post-it notes, markers. And I’ve now figured out a use for washi tape! My favorite Etsy shop is VVVStudio, a stationary shop in Taipei, Taiwan. She offers free shipping to anywhere in the world and has such cute stationary! These cat stickers arrived this week. When I looked up the link for her shop to include in this post, I found that she’d recently added bookmarks! Now I have another order on the way!

Paneer Pizza

My lovely hubby ordered pizza this week when I was having a really rough afternoon. There’s something wonderful about being able to serve your family amazingly delicious food that you didn’t have to cook. The paneer pizza from Mo:Mo is now my favorite delivery pizza. I had no idea a pizza could be so tasty.

Graduation!

My daughter is a high school graduate!! She wrapped up school last week and the school hosted a senior recognition ceremony on Tuesday evening. Graduation was definitely a moment of joy for our entire family. I am so proud of her!

These are my glimpses of beauty for this week. What about you? Where did you find beauty and joy this week? I’d love to hear from you!

Glimpses of Beauty

There are a lot of ugly things going on in the United States right now, several of them in my neighborhood. I struggle with anxiety on the best of days; reading and hearing about tragedy after tragedy has left me exhausted. This week I intentionally chose to look for tiny glimpses of beauty.

J-Pop and ramen

My daughter loves ramen. It’s her favorite food in the world. On Monday evening, I made her a bowl of ramen. I was in a traveling mood, wishing I could be just about anywhere but home, so I listened to J-Pop while making potato ramen imported from South Korea. It was a fun 20 minutes!

Flowers

I found these flowers on an afternoon walk. The landscaping crews aren’t working as often now and nature is taking over. These flowers were growing in the middle of a bush, a splash of white where it shouldn’t have been. So I plucked them and brought them home to enjoy for a few days. They don’t really smell like anything but they are pretty.

Sweet potatoes

I am the only person in my family who likes sweet potatoes so I almost never buy them. But I found a recipe for sweet potato brownies that I just had to try. I stood at the counter snacking on steaming sweet potatoes while mixing up the brownie batter. So, so yummy. I may have to buy these more often just for my benefit.

Green onions

Green onions grown in my garden! I couldn’t believe that my green onions survived our PNW winter but they did. The green onions continue growing even though I keep going out there and clipping off stems to use in my cooking. This week, I needed the green onions for the egg salad shown below.

Egg salad sandwiches

Would you believe I have never made egg salad sandwiches from scratch? Until two weeks ago, I didn’t even know how to boil eggs properly. I can make homemade jiaozi (Chinese dumplings), lasagna, even fresh mozzarella cheese. But I had no idea how to boil an egg. Now I do.

Korean stickers

I use cute stickers in my journal just because I love stickers. I have this adorable pack of stickers from South Korea and will find a sticker or two that matches what I am writing about each morning. This morning I did a double take when I spotted this particular sticker, a bird questioning why he is sitting with two onigiri (rice balls). I love onigiri! This sticker made me chuckle.

Muffin tower

This last photo is from this afternoon. I was going to make garlic toast with our lunch but I need the last slices of bread for french toast tomorrow. (My husband makes amazing french toast!). Thankfully, I had a box of cranberry orange muffin mix sitting in my cupboard. I love muffins and rarely make them. I’m not sure why; they are easy to make and they taste so good!

These are the glimpses of beauty I found this week as I tried to manage my exhaustion and anxiety. Looking for these small moments really helped me to stay in the present instead of worrying about the future. What glimpses of beauty did you see this week? I’d love to hear!

June reading

Welcome to June!

I love the first day of the month. It’s a fresh slate, an opportunity to come up with new goals and a new outlook. Last month is gone; June is a new month with “no mistakes in it yet.” Thank you Anne Shirley for that encouraging thought!

My Bible

I attend a Zoom Bible study every Monday morning. We have been studying the book of Galatians. I find Paul’s writings a bit challenging to understand but we are muddling through.

Reading stack

Several years ago, I was gifted the book Thrive by Mark Hall (the lead singer of Casting Crowns). It sat on my shelf for quite awhile, as most of my books do, until I finally picked it up and started reading it. I think my timing was perfect. I keep getting struck by various passages and the message is speaking to me. If I had tried to read this six months ago, I don’t think I would have gotten anything out of it. I’m currently reading chapter six, where Mark talks about the book of Ephesians and how God has done everything for us. It actually fits in well with our study of Galatians.

The Hobbit

I am still making my way through The Hobbit. It’s such a fun book! Thorin was just captured by the wood elves as the rest of the group struggles to find their way out of Mirkwood.

We are Mother Abraham is prompting very mixed thoughts. I’m about two-thirds of the way finished with the book and plan on waiting until I finish reading before sharing my thoughts.

Dragonlance Chronicles

Last but not least, I am making very slow progress through Dragonlance Chronicles. I think part of my challenge is that the book itself is huge! It’s a compilation of the first three books and includes annotation by the authors. I am reluctant to read books on my e-reader but I may have to bite the bullet and borrow this one from the library in digital form. Then the book will be easier to carry around and maybe I’ll make some serious progress. I promised my husband that I would read and discuss this book with him!

Looking over my reading stack for the month, I am noticing a slight problem. There are no “escape” books. Last month I finished the last Agatha Christie novel from my bookshelf. I don’t have any light reading available at the moment. I will have to borrow an e-book from my library.

Please leave me a comment if you have a suggestion of an “escape” book. I look forward to hearing your recommendations!

Happy reading!

Homemaking with office hours?

My “office”

I am learning! I feel grateful that I am finally learning to roll with it, to try new things, and to keep trying new things until I find something that works for me.

Last week I posted that my mid-morning routine wasn’t working for me. My daughter needs a lot of help with schooling and I’m perfectly happy to help her. We just need to find a routine that works for both of us. Her presence is only required online for two hours each morning, four days a week. We were attempting to cram in assignments during the short breaks between classes or between classes and lunch. However, this was leaving us both feeling rushed and frazzled.

My daughter is “in class” from nine to eleven each morning. My husband often has conference calls in the mornings. Both of them have been working upstairs at the kitchen table. I was feeling like my attempts at a routine were being thwarted by everyone else’s schedule. I finally realized that instead of trying to fight their schedule, I should embrace it. On Monday, I decided to try something new.

My very cluttered “office”

Starting at nine every morning, I am moving myself to my bedroom. I haul my coffee and my laptop downstairs and set up in the corner. It’s relatively quiet down here, especially compared to the conference calls and schooling going on upstairs. My lovely noise cancelling headphones remove all distractions if I need absolute quiet.

This has been working really, really well! I worked in my new office from 9-11 four different mornings this week. My introverted self craves the quiet time. My need for productivity is satisfied because I have uninterrupted time to get things done. I’ve been following the mid-morning routine I shared earlier.

Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk

I have’t quite been able to fit in a formal language lesson but it might happen in time. I do believe that the flashcard review plus posting/chatting on HelloTalk is already helping.

My office view

I am excited to keep following this new routine. I see possibilities!

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep your office hours?

Best Laid Plans

My apologies to anyone who has left a comment in the past week. My husband is still trying to fix my blog on the back end because it’s not notifying me of new comments. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon. I do want to connect with anyone who is reading my blog so I apologize if I have not been able to respond to you yet.

Begonia growth!

Earlier this month I brainstormed routines that I felt were doable for this season of life. How does that quote go? Man plans and God laughs. I don’t believe God mocks us but I do suspect He chuckles occasionally and shakes His head at our naivete.

My daughter will graduate high school in four weeks. Last month, the school was still trying to figure out how online learning was going to move forward. At first, it seemed like they were taking the approach that as long as you make an effort, you’ll pass your classes and graduate. But over the past few weeks, teachers have been sending home more and more assignments. My daughter struggles with self-directed learning so I’ve pulled up a chair and started learning alongside her.

High school math

We have learned so much math in the past few weeks! We’ve also worked on a project researching Tesla and their efforts at globalization. We finished reading The Great Gatsby, answered questions, and wrote an essay. All of this takes two or three hours a day and uses most of my brain power. I feel that my brain is not very sharp because I haven’t been stretching it by learning new things. I study languages but it’s a small project, not something that takes up a significant amount of time. So I feel like my brain is a bit rusty!

My mid-morning routine was supposed to look like this:

Make a cup of tea
Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk
Japanese grammar lesson

Morning journaling

Instead, it currently looks like this:

Process email
Math
English
History
Any other school related things (resume building, financial aid stuff)
Make lunch

Clematis flower

The rest of my time has been spent keeping my family alive and my house from falling apart. I’ve been spending a bit of time in my garden, trying to keep everything alive. I’ve made a few homemade meals but I’ve also made boxed macaroni and cheese because… well, life.

If there is any time left after all of this, I have a new computer game obsession. My husband was rather shocked that I have never played Civilization so he bought me the latest Civilization release with all of the extra content. I have lost several games and I’ve won several games. I had no idea a computer game could be so complex. If this game is anything like running a real government, no wonder politicians look so frazzled.

Civilization VI

I’m not sure why this game is so addicting right now but I have a theory. Some areas of life feel out of control due to the coronavirus. I love to travel but I’m not allowed. I love to spend time at my local library but the libraries are closed. I love meeting with my friend at a coffee shop so we can knit and chat but we can’t do that right now. My life has gotten much smaller over the past three months and there’s no end in sight.

But here’s a game that lets me travel! I can build cities, add amenities, develop cultural attractions, and run a government. Civilization requires a ton of decision making and you have control of your entire civilization. When the real world won’t let you control a large portion of your life, a computer game gives you a semblance of control. In a way, playing Civilization is a coping skill for dealing with a rampant virus, a shut down community, and everyone being at home 24/7.

I would love to hear from you. How have you been doing with routines? Have you found that your routines are still serving you well or have you had to make changes?

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – May 4th

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Capturing a moment in time, reminding myself to be aware of the present.

My patio garden

Looking out my window, we are blessed with a warm sunny day. It’s so nice after having several wet days.

I am thinking about our Bible study this morning. We are studying Galatians. Why is it so hard to understand the difference between living under law and grace?

I am thankful that I don’t have to go to the grocery store today. Shopping is even more stressful now that the virus is rampant.

One of my favorite things – a hot cup of coffee.

Knitting project

I am creating an infinity scarf. I am so close to being done but it feels like the project that never ends!

I am wearing my chilly weather default – jeans, thick socks, and a hoodie.

I am listening to The Tim Ferris Show. In this particular podcast, Tyler Cowen is discussing scales. A musician practices scales every day so that he/she can become an expert. A basketball player practices free throws. What is the equivalent of scales for a homemaker?

I am hoping to find more time today to work on my language studies. I’ve already completed my flashcards but I’d like to learn something new.

I am learning (or relearning) high school math with my daughter!

Birthday cupcakes

In my kitchen – leftover cupcakes from my daughter’s 18th birthday.

Post Script – If you have a craving for chocolate, I highly recommend ordering vegan chocolate truffles from Creek House Patisserie‘s Etsy shop. The hazelnut flavor is my favorite, followed closely by the espresso truffle.

Shared Quote – “Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Flowers

A moment from my day. I’m just sharing this giant box of plants sitting on my dining room table. All of these need transplanted!

Closing Notes – This was a fun exercise in embracing the present moment. As I’m writing this, my husband is on a phone conference, my daughter is playing video games, and a very chipper bird is singing right outside our condo. It’s a busy day but there are also moments of calm.

Thanks to The Simple Woman for hosting this!

Reading Goals – May

May’s books

Let’s talk about books! I love that no matter how calm or crazy life is, I can always find a book that will match my mood. Sometimes I can dive deep and contemplate new ideas. At other times, I just need an escape novel. Lately I’ve been reading mostly escapism novels but I do occasionally read a few chapters of something more profound.

Dragonlance Chronicles has been ongoing for awhile. I can’t help but compare it to Lord of the Rings, which is far superior in both storytelling and writing style. My husband said that Dragonlance gets better in later books and I’m trying to give it a good faith effort.

The Hobbit

One of my Facebook book groups suggested that we read The Hobbit this month as a comfort read. I’ve only read The Hobbit once, back in 2016, so I am excited to reread it. I started last night and could feel myself smiling throughout the first chapter. I love this book!

I requested a free copy of We Are Mother Abraham so that I can read and review it. It’s about how mothers learn to release control of their adult children. I feel this is a time appropriate read because my daughter just turned 18. She’s wrapping up her senior year in high school, and even though she won’t be emotionally ready to move out anytime soon, I need to learn how to let her make all of her own choices.

Postern of Fate

My husband and I have a stack of Agatha Christie’s novels and we’ve been steadily working through the stack. Right now I am reading a Tommy and Tuppence mystery called Postern of Fate. The bantering between husband and wife is quite funny and reminds me of my husband and I’s interactions.

Lastly, I am reading a book on my Kobo called Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. I have no immediate plans to become an expat but living overseas is one of my Best Decade Ever dreams. I didn’t choose this book because it’s written for expats but because people keep raving about how well the author explains investments. We’ve eliminated all of our vehicle and credit card debt and are almost a third of the way done building our six month emergency fund. We need to start saving for retirement but I have an extremely basic understanding of investing. I am hoping this book will serve as a good foundation.

I don’t know that I’ll finish all of these books in May. I have high hopes that I’ll finish reading both The Hobbit and Postern of Fate. We’ll see how much progress I make on the rest of the books.

What about you? What are you reading?

Routines – Mid-morning

Since my post last week, I’ve been working to establish a mid-morning routine, covering the period between breakfast and the start of my lunch prep. This is still very much a work in progress but I think I’m on the right track.

Here is my tentative mid-morning routine. I am going to follow this routine until it becomes habit or until I decide it’s not meeting my needs.

Mid-morning Routine
Make a cup of tea
Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk
Japanese grammar lesson

Practicing Hanzi

By the time all of these items are completed, it’s almost time for lunch.

I’m glad that I am finally putting a priority on my language studies. Since I really want to travel, I need to keep moving forward in languages. I believe that neither Chinese nor Japanese are languages that you can cram 30 days before traveling, especially if you want to be able to read either of them. This means that I need to study every day, every week, every month so that I can reach conversational fluency in both languages.

The next week will be devoted to turning this new routine into habit. So far I’ve really enjoyed journaling with a hot cup of tea. Hopefully this morning time will prove to be both relaxing and productive.

Routines – Morning & Evening

One of the best decisions I ever made for myself was to implement both a morning and an evening routine. I first read about these two routines on the FlyLady website.

My morning routine is quite simple, which meant that it was easy to adapt when my daughter’s school shifted to online learning for the remainder of the semester.

This cat makes me smile

Morning Routine
Wake up
Take a shower
Wipe down the shower
Get dressed
Enjoy a cup of coffee while playing a computer game
Make breakfast
Brush my teeth
Make the bed
Tidy my bedroom

My evening routine is also fairly simple, though I’m still trying to figure out the best time to run the dishwasher. For a long time, we’ve set the dishwasher on a four hour delay so that it runs in the middle of the night. However, I think this is interrupting our sleep. I am trying to remember to start the dishwasher immediately after dinner so that’s done before bed. This isn’t quite a habit yet, though!

Evening Routine
Set the oil diffuser
Brush my teeth
Change into pj’s
Set out my clothes for tomorrow
Wash my face
Brush my hair
Read until sleepy

My husband and I have recently started heading to our bedroom by 8:30 at the latest. This way, we have time to complete our evening routine and then read for a bit before falling asleep. This evening reading has allowed me to finish several Agatha Christie novels over the past two weeks! I find this bedtime reading to be so much more relaxing than a last minute Facebook scroll, especially these days with all of the coronavirus news.

I don’t have any firm routines for the daytime hours. I know that my best mental hours are between breakfast and lunch. This would be the ideal time to work on my business, write blog posts, and study languages. After lunch, my mental powers drop a bit and I find this is the best time for me to clean, take a walk, or do something else active.

My lack of routines during the day is because I have let my husband’s conference calls control my activities. He’s been working from home for years, so this stay-at-home order is nothing new for us. Some of his conference calls are regular, daily calls. Others are random and unpredictable. When he’s on the phone, I have to be quiet so his clients can’t hear me in the background. I have allowed this challenge of random periods of silence influence my ability to create a routine.

I need to set up my routines and then be willing to move my computer to my room if necessary. This way, I can continue writing or studying without worrying about being able to concentrate. I also need to be more flexible about my cleaning schedule, working around my husband’s conference calls instead of getting frustrated and refusing to clean at all.

Journaling

I think the best place to start is to concentrate on my mid-morning routine. After cleaning up from breakfast, I would like to establish the habit of journaling my Best Decade Ever dreams (more on these later). I’ll do some brainstorming over the next few days to figure out where I should concentrate my morning mental work/studies and then start developing a routine around those goals.

The beauty of routines is that I don’t have to worry about what comes next. I always know! This tends to lower my anxiety and help me feel more confident about my abilities to get things done. Even when I’m having my worst days, I’m still able to complete my morning and evening routines because they are so ingrained. Developing additional daily routines will also help.

What daily routines do you have?