I sense changes are coming. I can’t say anything specific because nothing is confirmed. Doors seem to be opening and I’m hoping that we can step through each of them in faith that this is the best course of action. The biggest impact these changes will have is financially.

In the last few days, I’ve begun to voice aloud the hope that our family will be able to pay off all of our debts before my 40th birthday. (It seems so monumental to be using the word forty in the context of my life. I just graduated from high school!). My 37th birthday is on Sunday and I’ve been in a goal mindset lately. Is it reasonable to think we might have some financial freedom within the next three years?

We used to be consumer debt free with only student loans to our name. However, adoption is expensive and we had to rely on credit cards to get us to China. Then our car broke down and we financed a used, reliable vehicle. All of that debt adds up and now we are saddled with extra payments that we don’t want.

We currently owe $38,500 to several different creditors. We pay over $700 per month in minimums to these creditors. I know what life is like without consumer debt. I dream of a fresh slate to build wealth instead of pay off debt. I have plans to make a difference through child sponsorship. We sponsor families now but we could make so much more of an impact without the monthly burden of debt.

I am going to be bold and set a goal to reach debt free status by my 40th birthday. There. I’ve proclaimed it to the world. Debt free by 40.

Just Clean It – Day 2

Yesterday was day 2 of the Just Clean it Challenge. Kendra challenged us to work on the living room. She emailed a huge list of cleaning tasks and said to pick five. Here are my five:

• Dusted the entertainment center
• Cleaned behind entertainment enter
• Vacuumed cat hair from inside living room heater vents
• Vacuumed couch
• Vacuumed underside of the couch

Cleaning the heater vents took the longest because I had to figure out how to remove the covers and then how to put them back on. There was a massive amount of cat hair in there! So gross and probably not very safe.



It’s not a huge change but I’m happy. Everything has been dusted and straightened. Someday I hope to declutter our DVDs and video games but that’s a bigger effort and will have to wait.


This week, I’m joining a five day cleaning challenge hosted by Kendra from Mother Like a Boss. I’ve attended one of Kendra’s free webinars and thought that she has some great advice. So why not join a quick cleaning challenge?

Kendra emailed a list of cleaning tasks and challenged everyone to choose five and spend five minutes on each task. It’s amazing how much I got done in just those 25 minutes. These are the five tasks I chose:

• Clean out expired and bad food from the fridge
• Wipe down refrigerator shelves (warm water and soap works just fine)
• Clean out junk drawer
• Sweep the kitchen floor
• Make a natural deodorizer with a cup of baking soda and 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils. Put the baking soda in a small glass dish, add the oils and mix gently. Leave out to deodorize the kitchen and keep it smelling lovely. 2 minutes of your time well spent.

I feel like I’ve accomplished something today and I’m so proud of myself!

Happy Un-Birthday to Me!

Happy Un-Birthday to me!

Sabbath was super busy with non-birthday events. Our entire church volunteered at a local nonprofit for two hours in the morning. Then we had lunch and a wonderful social time at a friend’s house. Power nap in the afternoon. And then my daughter had her first Homecoming dance in the evening. There was no time to celebrate my birthday!

Instead, I made plans ahead of time to celebrate on Sunday. It was a day full of my favorite things!

Coffee at my favorite coffee shop

Three different kinds of cheesecake!

A favorite movie

First fire of autumn

Thai food from a new-to-us restaurant. The green curry was amazing!

Even though I celebrated a day late, I made sure to do many of my favorite things. It was totally worth the wait!

Birthday musings

Today was my 36th birthday. I don’t mind, really. When I talked to my mom this afternoon, she mentioned that I’m almost 40 years old. I’m not sure how I feel about 40 but I’m ok with 36!

I feel as if birthdays are a sort of reset, a chance for a new start with new resolutions and goal planning. I love New Years for that very reason. I know that every day can be a chance to make good decisions and work toward goals but there’s something special about defined dates to do so. First of the year. First of every month. My birthday.

I really don’t know what specific goals to choose for my birthday. My days are still so variable, struggling with depression at times, anxiety other times, and a seeming inability to allow myself to feel happy. I cannot predict my ability to be productive or embrace self care or even feel a smidge above just daily survival. Each day is different and it can change so quickly. I am slowly learning to quickly jump on any motivation, any drive toward feeling productive or doing something positive.

So in general… I would like to work on these goals.

Health – making healthy choices as much as possible. I have gained a lot of weight the past three years from stress eating, wrenching my knee last summer, and low motivation. I need to make good choices as much as possible as I go through my day. More water. More mindful food portions. Healthier meal selections. More exercise. I could make 15 goals from this one general idea but I really just want to be more mindful and do my best moment by moment. Right now, that’s all I can ask of myself.

Spiritually – I am really floundering here. I attend church every week. I pray over every meal. But I still feel distant from God. I tried joining a Bible reading group last month and only made it through Genesis. I struggle to read the Bible. I would like to read some memoirs of people’s spiritual journeys and see if I can learn from them.

Home – Here I actually have a very specific goal! I want to jump start my FlyLady routines again. I have a long standing habit of my morning and evening routines (hurray for wins!). I need to add in the weekly and monthly cleaning schedule so that I feel my house is presentable. A clean, uncluttered home really lowers my stress levels.

Emotional health – I have a specific goal here as well. My therapist has me working through a PTSD workbook. Right now I’m supposed to be writing a narrative of my life story. Assignment – Write your narrative. My response – Where do I start? These extremely general instructions left me floundering and I have made zero progress in the past month. A dear friend sent me a book for my birthday that guides you through writing your narrative! Now I have a specific place to start.

I’m also toying with the idea of getting involved in a (very) part-time volunteer position or starting my own business so that I can set my own hours. My therapist wonders if I have so much down time that I get stuck in cycles of negative thinking and thus contributing to my depression and anxiety. It’s quite possible that if I get involved in something for a few hours a week, I’ll find some purpose outside of my life and thus feel better.

All of these things together feel like massive changes and are rather overwhelming. But I remind myself that I don’t have to tackle all of them at the same time. Small changes here and there, embracing those moments when I feel like I can come up to breathe… those moments may make a big difference and help with my healing.

Happy birthday to me! I hope that when I revisit this post on my 37th birthday, I’ll find that life has improved, that I’ve been able to make some positive changes that will enable me to better find my place in the world and maybe even make a difference for someone else.

Small victory – dining room table

I conquered it! It only took three days but I was able to completely clean off our dining room table. I didn’t just move the piles elsewhere. I sorted, put things away in their permanent homes, scanned paperwork, paid bills, and basically processed every single item that had accumulated over the summer. I am so proud of myself.

Next up… this small corner where paperwork tends to multiply.

One small step at a time and I will conquer the chaos.

Coming back to life

My daughter returned to school last Thursday. Not so coincidentally, I suddenly started coming back to life. Full time parenting drains me; I really have no idea how parents of littles can handle it. Having almost six and a half hours to myself every weekday is such a blessing and so very needed.

My motivation and energy levels are still minimal. But I feel like I’m coming back up for air. The difference is startling and makes me painfully aware that I have some emotional work to do. I shouldn’t (there’s that word my therapist doesn’t like – shouldn’t) lose all emotional energy and drive when my daughter is on school holidays. I put everything into parenting her and leave nothing for myself. To have that time during school hours to recharge, to spend time doing things outside of parenting, is vital to my well-being. Hopefully someday I can figure out how to survive both during school and during holidays.

Last week I started working through the backlog of my email. I finished on Sunday. I’m happy that I was able to unsubscribe from a few more newsletters, respond to personal email, and delete everything that I really didn’t need. My inbox is now at zero emails and I’m hoping to stay on top of it.

I also finally scanned all of the photos my daughter brought home with her from Taiwan. She has photos of age four or so through the end of her time at the orphanage. My goal is to create and print a photo album for her, merging together her time in Taiwan and her time with our family. I would love to give it to her for Christmas, but I also know how unlikely that is. I would love to be able to complete it that quickly, but it’s hard to predict how much effort I can make from day to day.

I’m also putting a priority on decluttering a couple key areas of the house. Over the summer, the dining room table turned into a complete disaster. That surface has almost been reclaimed. Maybe tomorrow? My clothes closet has also gotten extremely messy and it’s difficult to find things in there. Getting some of these things done will hopefully reduce the anxiety caused by clutter, which will in turn allow me to focus on some of my healing.

I want to find healing. I am slowly gaining determination to find healing. I still struggle with anxiety and sometimes with depression. I still have PTSD. I am discovering some buried and some not-so-buried religious trauma due to negative religious foundations. I really, really want to find some confidence and self-worth. I want to let go of my need for control and my perfectionism fixation.

Life can be more than survival. I need it to be more than survival. One small step at a time, right?

Nutberg Drinkable Meals – a review

Normally I am only requested to review books but Nutberg reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their drinkable meals. Yes, please! I browsed their website and was thrilled to discover that Nutberg has created a drinkable meal that is all natural ingredients, healthy, and vegan. Vegan! It’s so hard to find convenient meal options that are vegan.

When I opened the package and showed my husband what I had received, he immediately commented that these look like MRE’s. The presentation could be more pleasantly designed but the information and instructions printed on the package were incredibly easy to understand and follow.

I decided to try these flavors in order of expected enjoyment – highest to lowest. We started with Cocoa, then Classic, then Banana. The directions stated that I could blend each packet with either water or milk. I chose almond milk because I always use almond milk in my mochas. Almond milk adds more flavor and substance to drinks than plain water does.

Cocoa flavor

I expected that we would like Cocoa flavor the best because chocolate is always best! Unfortunately, I couldn’t really taste the cocoa flavor.

Jeff – “Yuck. It needs a sweetener.”
Me – “It has an ok taste but the texture is too grainy. I could drink maybe half of this with my meal but not as a full meal replacement.”

We were unable to drink the entire serving.

Classic flavor

Jeff – “It smells sweeter than the Cocoa flavor. The smell reminds me of cinnamon oatmeal. Of the three, this one was my favorite.”

Cassandra – “Classic flavor is also my favorite of the three, even though it seemed like I was drinking my morning oatmeal!”

We drank an entire serving. The flavor was fine but the texture was off-putting after half a cup. We drank it at 10:20 in the morning and waited to see how long it would satisfy, especially since the meal was 560 calories with the added almond milk. After three hours, we started getting hungry for our next meal. I was surprised at how full I felt for the first two hours, very satiated but not overly full. The Nutberg website stated that you would feel full for 2-3 hours and my experience slightly exceeded their promises!

Banana flavor

My husband hates bananas so I didn’t tell him what flavor this was until after he had tried it. I didn’t want to bias him against the drink. Surprisingly, he couldn’t tell that this was banana flavored!

Jeff – “It’s palatable but doesn’t taste much different from Classic flavor.” When I told him this was Banana, he said that he could detect a hint of something different but didn’t think “banana.”

Me – “I agree with Jeff’s opinion but thought maybe I could detect a hint of banana.”

Overall, this was not a huge success with our family. The Classic flavor was ok but it’s not something that I would want to drink on a regular basis. I could see keeping a couple packets in my cupboard in case of a food emergency. I think these are worth trying at least once, especially if you’re looking for a meal replacement.

Thank you so much for Nutberg giving me a free product to try in exchange for an honest review!

January – Kitchen and recipe overhaul

In January, I’m tackling another 31 day project. This month I am concentrating on everything in the kitchen. Our fridge, freezer, and cupboards have gotten out of control. My menu planning and grocery shopping has been in shambles, which means our grocery budget has spiraled out of control.

This first week of January has been crazy with the girls going back to school, starting up therapy sessions again, and a trip to the ER. So I haven’t been able to blog about my goals for January but I have been working on them!

The very first thing I tackled was our fridge. It was a mess! I forgot to take pictures as I went but imagine wilting vegetables, expired condiments, and stale bread. Spills on shelves. That’s all been cleaned up and it’s now much easier to tell at a glance what we have available to eat or cook with.

Secondly, I tackled our freezer. I’m not sure you can tell the difference in the photos, but I threw out several bags of disgusting frozen bananas. We also ate a couple bags of things that were getting low. Then I organized the rest.



After cleaning out the fridge and freezer, we were able to buy some basic supplies I hadn’t even realized we needed. Our meal planning has really been that much of a mess lately that I didn’t even realize what we have or don’t have.

“Mama, what’s for dinner?”

Ramen has been a fall back once a week for the past few months. We’ve also been eating a lot of rice and tofu with various sauces. Meal planning has been so stressful that I can’t even remember what we used to like to eat. My girls have gotten more and more picky, causing more and more anxiety on my part, so meals have really been a mess. That’s what I’m trying to fix this month, one small step at a time.

This week I’ll be concentrating on my recipe book. I have a binder stuffed full of recipes and I have no idea which meals we liked or didn’t like. I can’t even tell what recipes we’ve actually tried. I just printed a bunch of recipes, bought ingredients for many of them, and then promptly forgot why I had purchased sun-ripened tomatoes in a jar. They are still sitting in my cupboard, months after buying them. An expensive ingredient, too!

I’m going to empty out the binder and go through each recipe one by one. Does it still sound good? Did we try it? Did we like it? I’ll slowly reassemble my recipe binder with recipes we actually like so that I can start working on a meal plan.

As I type all of this out, it sounds overwhelming. But I’m going to concentrate on just one step at a time and try to regain control of my kitchen.

Minimalism – December wrap up

Like usual, I overestimated how much I could complete with the kids at home for two weeks of winter break. However, due to lots and lots of therapy, I can actually be happy with the tasks that I did accomplish rather than stress about what I was unable to finish.



This section of my closet doesn’t actually look much better than it did at the beginning of December. But I know how many fewer items there are now versus how much was piled there. It used to be a huge pile of papers, papers that have mostly been dealt with. Now there are several large items that I’ll be dealing with at some other point.



That huge box was all library books. I somehow managed to let my borrowing get way out of control. I hauled all of it back to the library and am concentrating on only borrowing what I can read in a week or two (which happens to also fit on my bookshelf instead of getting stacked on the closet floor). It took four bags to haul everything back to the library.



I am most proud of my work on these shelves. I got rid of a lot (including some items that were hard to let go of) and can now easily find anything I’m looking for.



Changing light bulbs should be a really simple task. Surprisingly, it took me three weeks to accomplish. I had to visit three stores before I finally found the size I was looking for. I thought for sure Target would have carried them but I ended up having to buy light bulbs from Home Depot. The nice thing about this shopping trip is that it required a math lesson with my daughter.

In a very shocked voice, “Mama, how many boxes are you buying?”
“Well, how many bulbs do we need? How many come in a box? So how many boxes do we need? Great job with your practical math application!”

And it looks so much better in my bathroom now.



I’m not sure these photos look much different, but I was able to thin out a lot of my clothes. Some didn’t fit me. Some were ratty. And some I didn’t like and never wore. I felt bad getting rid of a couple items, as they were things my husband bought me as gifts, but we both knew I would never wear them. I posted earlier in the month about how we were able to return a couple of items to the store for refund or store credit.

I did a few other things that can’t be documented in photographs.

  • Tried to contact (unsuccessfully) several people to return items I had borrowed
  • Mailed a very overdue package to my mother
  • Released a ton of emotional clutter by releasing physical clutter
  • Wrapped a bunch of Christmas gifts that piled up in our closet throughout the month
  • My project is not complete but I’m happy with the progress I made. That makes the effort worthwhile.

    Items decluttered throughout the month of December – 59