Saturday, October 2, 2021

Hello from Hawaii

I am so blessed. So many things are happening in my life that I couldn't have imagined 10 years ago.  

I'm on an 8 day hiking trip with 11 other women right now. Up before dawn because my body swears it's 9am and the sun should be shining. I'm in Hawaii though, 5 hours behind my home time zone. four or five of us have ventured out of bed and are milling around. 

I've done some writing already that I'll work on getting posted at some point, but today I just wanted to share and get something posted.

Today I will learn how to snorkel, and tonight I will swim with Manta Rays.

I am so excited to get to know the women who are on this trip with us and to experience so much of the amazing beauty that God has created here.

Here's the sun setting across from where we had our first dinner last night. 
And some of the women in the group at dinner.
Here we drank Kava Tea which is affectionately known as dirt water. Part of Hawaiian culture, it makes your mouth numb and is supposed to be relaxing. I drank all mine, but did not ask for seconds. 

My goal is to write every day on this trip. We'll see how that goes. I miss writing and sharing. I hope to make it an intentional part of this experience. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Oops! Where did that year go?

"Oh, wow. That was really cool. I should write about that..."

It's happened many times over the last year, including many times I don't even remember now. 

It's funny how knowing you need to do something and putting it off makes that something even bigger than it actually is in your mind... I know nobody has been hanging on the edge of their seats to find out how my life has been going. But every time I think about this blog I think of all the updates I need to make how I don't know how to make that interesting or readable... so I don't post. 

So, here we go... There have been a lot of ups and downs and ups in every area of our lives. I've had a lot of  'a-ha' moments, things I wanted to share. But I hadn't updated anything, and I kept feeling like I needed to do that first. 

Instead of letting this post fall to the wayside like the last ones did, I'm going to tell you that we have paid off almost all of our debts except for a small portion of my student loans and the house. We are still working on both, but the amazing thing is that Mike and I paid off over $95,000 between October 2019 and March 2021.

In case that doesn't wow you, let me add that's more than our taxable income was last year and it included over $30,000 that I owed the IRS from when I started my business and didn't know how to do taxes (that's a whole lot of interest.) 

Hey, new business owners, if you have employees find an accountant to take care of your monthly and quarterly taxes or, at the very least, a good payroll program that tells you when to pay who. 

Anyway, I'm really thankful that we made the decision to get out of debt when we did. It's the only way we made it through 2020 better than we started. It would have been so easy to take every stimulus check or business grant and find a way to blow it on something cool instead of getting out of debt. 

God has been so faithful through all of this as we've turned to him with decisions and without finances. 

Next I'm going to get my businesses re-situated so that my husband can quit his job and work somewhere else part-time while playing music. My goal is to get him out of his job by the end of 2023. Can I do it on my own? Maybe. But, the story will be better if I let God help. It's amazing what His Grace does for us. 

I have more to share, but that's it for today. 💖

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Free mom hugs

My new shirt came in the mail yesterday. 

When I originally decided to get one, my plan was to attend a Pride parade and hug some broken-hearted people. The pandemic has put a bit of a damper on that temporarily. We'll see what happens when parades are the norm again. 

I can honestly say that I had never thought much about the children, teens, and adults who came out to their families only to be rejected, kicked out, beat up, disowned, and made to feel worthless because of it... until two of my own children made similar announcements within the last year.

They have both made their statuses public and made it clear it's not a secret.

It wasn't easy to hear either time. I love them both and I love them unconditionally. But like many parents, I had a vision for each of my children's lives... and this wasn't part of my plan. 

One child spent weeks being angry with me for perceived homophobia before she realized I wasn't "pretending I didn't get her hints," I was, in fact, clueless that she was dropping hints. While she accepted that, I still felt like things were a little strained until we had this conversation via messenger one day in April... 

Her: I have a girlfriend.
Me: I figured.
Her: Why? What did (sister) tell you?
Me: Nothing. I just knew you weren't social distancing, so of course you caught the gay. 
Her: 😂😂😂 

One of our love languages in my family is a mixture of sarcasm and silly jokes. I felt like that was the moment she understood that I understood. 

In case you are concerned, this love language works both ways. One of my daughters told me on Mother's Day this year, "You're a good mom, even if you did raise two gays." 

The younger of the two actually came out to me first. She decided she couldn't keep it in any longer, and told me a few days after Mike and I were married that she was interested in girls as well as boys.

Not only was I still recovering from the trip, trying to fight through jetlag and new family stress, but I was terrified how my new husband was going to handle it and how it would affect our days-old marriage. Mike and I were both exhausted and grouchy. We pretty much fought our entire first week back from the trip. So while I knew I would stand by her regardless, Mike and I had never talked about this possibility or what he would do.

I sobbed. I was mad at her for announcing it right then. I told her she wasn't old enough to make this kind of decision. I probably said a couple of other things I'd not say a second time around. Then I finally told her I loved her but I couldn't handle this right now, and I went to bed. 

I assumed that would shut down the conversation about it for the night. I was wrong. 

While I couldn't wrap my brain around what she was telling me and what I was supposed to do, my new husband pulled out scriptures and talked to her about what God wants for her life and how, while we don't believe the Bible says this is it, it also doesn't mean God doesn't love her or will turn His back on her.  

He made sure she knew that her choice to be true to herself wouldn't be without consequences, but Hell was not one of them, and neither was losing the love of her family. He also told her whoever she was dating at any time was always welcome at our home.

I love that man so much. 

Over the next few days we talked more and I was able to give her more of the support she needed. I'm thankful she gave me a second chance to get it right.

It breaks my heart to know that there are so many in the LBGTQ community who were rejected by their families. It hurts to imagine not being able to get a mom hug, even though she lives not too far away. It's not just unfair. It's cruel. 

A couple weeks ago I held one of my daughters as she cried through a break-up. The gender of the person who broke her heart didn't matter, even a little bit. She needed a mom hug, and I was there.

So now you know, if you or someone you know needs a mom hug. This is where you find them. 
FREE MOM HUGS... Free as in, you don't owe me a single thing in return. You don't have to pretend to be someone different. You don't have to have done everything right in your life. You don't have to agree with me on any topic under the sun. You don't have to change yourself for me to love you. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Debt Mountain Update Month 8ish

I really wish I had been better at writing this down every month and updating everyone. After the post where I talked about Mike and I arguing about the debt, we were able to work things out and I feel like he's really been on board with the fact that this is going to take him, me, and God to get this debt taken care of. 

While we had made some good progress the first few months, I honestly thought that I was going to have to throw the whole "getting out of debt" plan out the window when the pandemic started affecting us.

Hire A Housewife went entire weeks without a single customer. I tried to innovate and offer new products as well as show clients that we cared, but people were concerned about safety, and they had every right to be. 

Then the CARES Act put some things in place to help... and help they did. Between qualifying for SNAP benefits (meaning we haven't had to buy any groceries out of our pockets this 3 months) and a PPP Loan, temporary unemployment, and a few other things, we've made great strides towards paying down debt.  (This is especially true as a self-employed person with student loans... there is a provision in there that was super helpful for us.)

Yesterday I made my final credit card payment. 
I cut them up. Not all of them. But a few. It made a good picture.

That's a photo of some of them all cut up. I mean, I couldn't do ALL of them. I will keep a few for emergencies or car rentals or business expenses that I will then pay off every single month. 

I still owe student loans, my car, and the IRS, but we are making headway and it's pretty amazing to see all that has been paid down so far.  

In fact, in 8 months time, we've decreased the total debt by 48.27% 

Credit card debt alone was over $23,000. Now, considering my NET income last year was less than that, this is a pretty big feat. It involved a lot of working smart in addition to working hard. 

I was paying over $600 a month in interest last year before I decided this is what I needed to do. But by paying the cards off creatively and systematically, I was able to transfer large portions to 0% interest cards, which facilitated me paying them off that much faster. 

One important aspect of all of this was saying I DECIDED to get out of debt. If I hadn't put that stake in the ground last year, it would have been very easy to say, "Woohoo! Free money!" and bought some fun things instead of paying down debt. 

One thing that will change in the future is the total amount of IRS debt I owe. I finally got all the paperwork figured out and sent in, but they are running behind in opening mail at the IRS, so it might be a few months before I know what's going on with that. I'm not worried though. God's got this. And as astronomical as the number the IRS gives me is likely to be, we'll work it out. 

Whatever goal you have in your life right now, stick with it.  The Bible DOES NOT SAY everything happens for a reason... but it does say God can work all things for your good
(even when the circumstances seem less than favorable.)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.
Romans 8:28

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Four reasons I didn't say Black Lives Matter & the one reason I do now

A friend of mine posed an honest question on Facebook. For those who are stuck on "All Lives Matter," why are you still there?

I thought giving an honest answer might help others understand how to get the message across as well. Then, when I went back to paste my answer in, the question was gone. So I decided to turn it into a blog post. 

I, of course, believe Black Lives Matter. Always have. I love people, all people.

However, I only started saying it that way very recently... within the last week or two. It was hard to switch from saying ALL to BLACK... Here's why.

First of all, I felt pressured into the change. I was told I was a racist for not saying it. And because I know I'm not, I wasn't going to be shamed into changing. 

Many people who are passionate about this issue are also hateful to those who don't understand. So hateful, we fear asking questions because we know the answers we will get and labels that will be put on us. For many of us, our first response is to cling tighter to what we believe and ignore those who hurt us.

Second, change and growth often mean admitting you were wrong before. Admitting you might have been wrong is a hard thing for us humans, but so are change and growth... and we know those are desirable. Still, because of the other reasons mentioned here, there was no way I was saying they were right and I was wrong.   

Third, it seemed like it was tied to a political party. I felt saying it meant turning my back on my other political beliefs. I was afraid I was accepting an agenda I knew nothing about and didn't understand from a political party that makes no sense to me.
I wasn't giving up a part of myself that was important to me (the rest of my political beliefs) for a phrase I didn't understand.

Which is the fourth reason... I really didn't understand. All lives matter feels like the most agenda-less of the two phrases. It felt like a phrase nobody could disagree with in a society where everyone fights about everything all the time. "All lives matter" feels safe.

But this last couple weeks everyone has been angry with each other, fighting over every word and action and definition. Quick to accuse and delete and I realized the first thing I needed to do was try to understand.

Asking questions was awful. I don't know why people are so mean to someone who WANTS to understand them. Instead, many would rather make me feel bad for not understanding them already. So I saved questions for when I really needed to hear other people's thoughts. The rest of the time I researched on my own. 

When I first read the burning house analogy, it sort of made sense to me.
I was thinking about that one a little bit. 

But then I saw this post on Facebook about Jesus leaving the 99 to go after the 1. 

That's what made it clear. I was able to see it & understand then. And because nobody was yelling at me or looking down their nose being condescending to me, I also was able to realize it wasn't political tied to an agenda. It's about people who are hurting, asking us to acknowledge their value.

How many times in my life, have I sat at the feet of  Jesus, broken, and said, "Tell me You love me, Lord." Imagine if the message He sent back, however He sent it, came across as, "I love all my children." 

While true, that answer would have crushed me... because I didn't need reassurance about all God's children in that moment. I needed to know that I was loved. Looking back, I've come to realize that God has NEVER ONE TIME let me leave one of those moments without knowing I was loved. 

People stuck on the word "all" need realize this is not about politics or agendas or bowing to pressure. It's not about whether you have been right or wrong.
This is about a group of people crying out in pain saying, "Please tell me I matter to you."
When that happens, we have to put aside our own fear, politics, agendas, and feelings, and tell them, "Yes, you matter to me. Of course you matter to me. I hear your pain and I want you to know, your life matters to me." 

And that's the one reason I say, Black Lives Matter.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Delete me if

Our country is a sad, scary place right now. I could write for hours about all the terrible things happening. But there is something people aren't talking about, and it hurts my heart to see it over and over again in a time when we all need to be coming together. 

You've seen the posts. Maybe you've written the posts...
"Delete me if..." 
"If you believe XYZ, delete me." 
"If you don't agree with XZY, delete yourself... I don't have time for you." 

Time and again I've seen it posted this last several days, and it's heartbreaking.

Does deleting them say more about you or them?
Many people feel they are saying, "This belief is so important, I will sacrifice friends for it." and "Your beliefs aren't worth hearing because they are ridiculous."  But these people forget it's a two way street. You are also saying, "I don't believe I can make a difference in your life."

And maybe you won't. But shouldn't you try, even if trying is just you living your life true to you and they see it and make changes that you never see?

Another problem with this... You are helping propagate selection & confirmation bias for both you and the person you want to delete. Everybody believes something that is based almost entirely on the fact that everyone they know believes the same thing. Or, these days, because they read it on Facebook in one of their heavily biased groups. You might be the only voice of reason some of your friends see on a given topic. 

I've done it myself. I've posted about subjects I thought I knew inside and out, only to learn new facts from friends who believe differently than I did. I can't imagine how much growth within myself would have been stunted if I only surrounded myself with people who believed the same as I do, (or who never said anything if they didn't.)

If you are ever going to make a difference on a personal level, it has to be done with love. Telling someone to "Delete me if..." is the same as saying, "I don't care about you." and that isn't love. Love is patient and kind and slow to anger. 

Another thing that is often slow... change. Even once it happens the person who is changing may not let on. Growth is hard. And admitting you are growing is even harder because you have to admit that you might have been wrong before. In other words, just because you don't see growth, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Just remember, someone's friendship or impact on your life (or your impact on theirs) is more important than a belief they hold, however strongly either of you feel about it. Imagine if I said, "Delete me if you don't believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and you make fun of people who do." I would lose a lot of amazing people from my life. 

There are some good reasons to delete or block people from your life at times. If they harass you or cause you problems, or if their beliefs are directly impacting more than your social media timelines, then by all means, quietly delete them and let it go.

You don't have to be friends with everyone, and boundaries are good. But when your boundaries are so tight that you can't even turn your head to try to see something from someone else's viewpoint or to see that there is more value to another human being than one belief they hold, then regardless of what it is you don't agree with, there is something wrong with your boundaries.

Even Jesus hung out with imperfect people who sometimes said and/or believed stupid things. He didn't cast them away. He walked in grace and gave them the opportunity to learn.

Even if you don't agree with any of this, I don't want you to delete me. 

I want you to know that I love you and value you and your opinions and beliefs, even if they are different from my own. 

Maybe that should say especially if they are different from my own. Much of the learning and growing that I have done over the years has come through friends who shared their different perspective and knowledge with me... and I wouldn't trade that for a bunch of people who agreed with everything I said, any day of the week. 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 
John 13:34-35

Bless those who persecute you; bless and don't curse them.
Live in harmony with one another. 
Do not be haughty, but associate with the humble. 
Never be wise in your own sight.
~ Romans 12 (Excerpts)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What's happening right now...

I love to write. I especially love to write things that are uplifting and helpful to people. But nothing has come for a long time.

Last week I typed this:

It's okay not to be okay sometimes
That's what I keep hearing.
It's a sure sign a lot of us aren't okay,
   when everyone is telling everyone else
     for the sake of reminding themselves.

It was supposed to be the beginning of something encouraging. But I was struggling, feeling irrelevant and useless. I didn't have anything encouraging to say.

Over the last couple weeks those feelings could be temporarily pushed aside for the sake of a Zoom meeting, or coming up with another way to try to keep business going in the current state of things, or in those rare moments when I actually was able to help a customer. I could get past them a little at a time.

There is no doubt I'm an extrovert, a super-shy-often-awkward extrovert, but I love people none-the-less. I need people. Not having people is seriously taking a toll on me.

My God-given gift of creativity often helps me find ways to fix things. It's why I'm an entrepreneur... because thinking outside the box is what I do. 

The problem is I can't fix anything right now. I'm not even sure what is broken. I don't know whether to fight for our freedoms or tell people to stop being stupid and stay home... and I don't want to debate it because I can debate either side and win. 

Last week the announcement that school was cancelled crushed me, and the tears started. Sometimes I could get them to stop. I'd temporarily lose myself in some binge-worthy show or get involved in a project... but every time someone said school or senior or unfair or anything that made me think of how unfair this all is, they would start up again.

It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t just crying about what my Senior was missing out on... I am grieving the loss of all those last moments we were going to have before he leaves for college. I am grieving the uncertainty of everything that is coming.

Watching the governor speak every day at 2:30 feels a lot like watching the news reporters in the weeks after 9/11, talking about what is happening today... and knowing our lives won't ever be the same again in a million tiny ways. Someday we'll watch a TV show and something will seem weird to us and we'll say, "Oh, that was recorded before Covid-19. People used to do that back then."  the way we do now when someone meets their love at the airplane gate on an old movie we watch today.

This is a good time to remind everyone, myself included, that what we focus on grows. It's an undisputable fact... so I will continue to try to focus on the good in the hopes that those positives will outshine my fears, and forgive myself when I can't. 

I do still have hope in all of this. Hope that God will use things meant for evil and turn them into something good. I also know that in those moments when my heart is broken over a situation, He's here with me.

It's not a particularly positive post, but it is real... and some day I will want to look back and remember how I really felt. Maybe I'll share it with my grandkids... because as much as I fear change, I do know life will go on and in spite of possible fears and disappointments, there are a lot of joys left for all of us.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. ~ Gen 50:20

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Psalm 34:18