TIME DOES NOT HAVE TO FLY… A Back to School Reflection.

Ok, so both my kids are in high school!!!!! 😲😲😔 WHAATTT???!!! This blew me away!!! I mean, it seems like YESTERDAY I was nursing them and teaching them how to use the bathroom!!!! I remember waking up in the middle of the night to feed them, or getting them bundled in alllll their layers of clothing in order to whether the cold, and carrying them in their car seat and wondering “how in the world was I going to get through this????” I mean, it seemed SOOOOO hard and because they were only 19 months apart, it seemed there was no relief. Something as simple as getting ready for bed meant individual baths, and getting them dressed and keeping one entertained while the other was being attended to… it was literally EXHAUSTING!!!!

I remember some of the elders, (ie. WISE, BRILLIANT people we tend to ignore because they just don’t understand our specific situation) used to tell me, “enjoy these moments because they fly right by…” I remember WISHING they would… 😂😂lolol!!! Now that those beautiful babies have grown into amazing 14/16-year old’s right before my eyes, I’ve learned that time does indeed FLY by and I have come to appreciate allllll those tough times as fond moments in this AMAZING journey. Because I have come to value each phase of parenthood, I have also learned how to seize the moments and literally slow down the time.

How in the world can you slow down time, you say? It is actually quite simple: Make each moment count. BE PRESENT. Adjust your perspective and see the joy in that perfect place of the journey. Especially you new moms, or moms of toddlers, or moms of those goofy pre-teens, and OMG… MOMS OF TEENAGERS!!!! YIKES!!! Know that each phase brings about a new terrain. It can be tough, especially when you haven’t tread that path before. It completely sucks when they learn the word “no”, or when they THINK about talking back, driving, dating, or wanting to go on field trips, or getting a new cell phone, or starting HIGH SCHOOL!!!! OMG!!!! IT’S A LOT I KNOW!!!! Each phase brings new challenges indeed, but they are times you will never get back. Ask any empty-nester what they wouldn’t give to put that perfect part in their daughter’s hair with pigtails for the first day of school. How they wish they could sit through just ONE more basketball game. How they wish they could watch one more Disney movie together…

I remember my daughter being rushed to the hospital because her appendix ruptured. We had no idea, but it actually ruptured days before she was admitted, which put her in a critical position. Infection had spread through her body and we were in the hospital for several days. I was still working during that time. I remember actually wrestling with the idea that I had 150 final exams to grade and report cards to post while my daughter had a tube sticking out the middle of her stomach. It dawned on me then, that my job was taking WAAAAY too much of my attention.  That it hindered me from fully focusing on the monumental moments of my children’s lives. I considered how much of my attention COULDN’T be on them, because I was trying to be excellent at my career. That was my last year of teaching. We downsized our lives, I retired from my job and am at home to fully serve my family. Now, I am by NO means suggesting anyone quit their job. For me, I HAD to, and it has made all the difference. But there is surely a way you can slow down the time in your life right now. Whatever way God leads you specifically to enjoy your journey, be sure to adhere. Realize that though we have our entire lives to indulge, chase after dreams, seek promotion, gain advanced education, get overtime hours, one thing we can’t get back is the time that passes and the events that happen throughout. Figure out how YOU can be present for your kids and get to it ASAP.

It doesn’t even have to be super deep. Being present in the moment looks like this: Attuning fully when they show you their 7,456th completed page from their coloring book, listening like you are at a concert when they ask you to hear that song they learned on the flute in band class today, sitting with them while they struggle through that English project, putting your phone down and talking to them in the car on the way to EVERY WHERE, turning off the TV and listening to them during dinner, helping them make that sign for their student council election and the like.

Parents have a tough job. We seem to constantly need relief from the weight it bears. However, if we adjust our perspective a bit and see each phase as a once in a lifetime moment on an amazing journey, we are sure to savor the time. When we purpose to enjoy each day of their childhood, we will never have to answer that horrible question, “Where did the time go?” Because we were right there in the middle of each one of those precious moments with them. Today is tomorrow’s “good old days…” so get out there and Carpe Diem!!!!

 

18 WAYS WE MADE IT 18 YEARS… AN ANNIVERSARY REFLECTION.

Today I celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary!!!! WOWZERS!!!! It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but what an INCREDIBLE adventure indeed. Especially jumping into marriage at 22, my husband and I grew up together. We have raised 2 children, traveled the world, bought and sold property, developed businesses, paid off debt, overcome challenges and setbacks, and learned SOOOOO much along the way. The best part about it, is that we did it all TOGETHER!!!!! And more importantly, with God at the forefront the entire time. We are by no means perfect, sooooo far from it. We have DEFINITLY had our challenges, but we are committed to growing and getting better and better as we go. Over the years many people ask, how do we stay together? How do we keep the love alive? Well, I truly believe that the secret sauce to a successful marriage is doing it according to the bible. Marriage is created by God. It is a sacred covenant between you and Him and when done in line with His Word, it can be the greatest journey of our lives. In honor of 18 years, I reflected on 18 specific things that I believe has kept our marriage blissful.

  1. Seek Godly/professional counsel during the tough times. Sometimes you just need a 3rd party who can shed light/Godly wisdom on an issue that neither of you can seem to agree on. We have sought counsel on several occasions during our marriage and it helped us regain our focus.
  2. Travel/ride through beautiful neighborhoods/test drive nice cars/connect with people you admire/try new foods… DREAM BIG!!!! It sets the tone for “the possible.” We are not called to settle and be stagnant. Step outside your comfort zone and dream/vision cast together. We do this ALLLLL the time. It is so much fun to explore the AMAZING possibilities that await.
  3. Do as many things as you can TOGETHER. Pretty much, if you see me, you see my husband and/or the kids. We are always together. We LOVE being TOGETHER. We grocery shop, walk, ride, go to basketball games, read, eat, worship, do yard work, etc. TOGETHER. We are a team. It makes EVERYTHING enjoyable.
  4. Divide chores and tasks evenly among each other. Because we are all stakeholders in this estate, we work together to help it run smoothly. He has strengths and so do I. We use them daily to help take care of the needs of our home/family in a balanced way so that no one is overloaded.
  5. Build your budget on one salary. Even though for a while we had 2 incomes coming in, it made it that much easier to transition into me stepping away from my job (both times) because we ALWAYS set our budget and spending on his salary. This takes the pressure off when babies come into the equation or any other demands that will require one of you to reduce work or step away from the job.
  6. Get out of debt and stay out. We eliminate the main area of contention when we don’t have enormous amounts of debt lingering over our heads. It takes such a load off and allows for great freedom to not have to use every dollar we make paying a bill. SOOO worth the sacrifice.
  7. Take vacation time. We go on at least 1 major trip and several weekend getaways each year. We enjoy the time SO much and it helps us recalibrate for all the great adventures ahead.
  8. Go on a date regularly. We go out at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but just getting dressed and out keeps the party pumpin’!!!
  9. Put the kids to bed!!! Many people allow the kids to stay up late, sleep in their bed etc. We never did that. The kids have a bed time. We spend a TON of time with them every day. But when it is bedtime, they go to bed. That leaves time for us to have some time each day as well.
  10. You build your family, let God build your enterprises. Though we have goals and dreams, we are careful not to rush them at the expense of our marriage and/or family. Enterprise and businesses will come. However, these precious moments to raise our kids and build a strong foundation takes time, effort and dedication. It is our #1 priority.  We leave the work at the office…
  11. Pray together daily. Though we pray and have our time with God each day independently, we also pray together as a family each day. It sets the standard in our home that God is the head. It helps us keep our hearts on him FIRST.
  12. See and celebrate each other’s differences as additions/bonuses to what you lack individually. Though I am super outgoing and passionate, Mike is laid back and calm. This helps complete the package vs. creating a source of division. Differences are assets.
  13. Keep a thankful journal. I write in a thankful journal every night. Often times when I get frustrated or FORGET how great my husband is, or how great things are in our life, I can look back on years of great things that have happened to me EVERY SINGLE DAY and it INSTANTLY gets my mind right back into perspective.
  14. Take a MILLION pictures, keep records, make playlists of moments during the journey that you can regularly reflect upon. It goes SO fast and there are SO many monumental adventures to cherish. They will help keep a smile in your heart.
  15. Build your foundation on the Word. Avoid TV shows, movies, songs, examples of marriages that don’t line up with the Bible. This thing IS NOT miserable. Instead, it is SOOOOO much fun, when done God’s way. (ie. Love is patient, kind… does not dishonor others… is not easily angered… keeps no record of wrongs… etc) Look in the right places for wisdom and examples of marriage.
  16. Look good for each other, KEEP IT TIGHT!!! Lol!!! Put on your make-up, workout, dress nicely, be sexy for him/her as much as possible. Reinvent your game and stay SPICY!!!
  17. Spend time growing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc. as an individual to offer your best to the union. Read books, attend conferences, invest in yourself regularly in you can be a strong and healthy teammate.
  18. Last but CERTAINLY not least: Acknowledge that DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION. I KNOW times get tough. I mean TOUGH. But (with the exception of infidelity/abuse), it can be worked out. If you fight for your marriage, and don’t give any outside force a foothold, together you and your husband can put 10,000 to flight. Love never fails. I am thoroughly convinced!!!

Whew!!!! Aren’t you glad we haven’t been married 40 years!!! Lol!!! You would be reading forever!!! Lol!!!! I am thrilled to share this awesome ride with my best friend. We are having a BLAST!!! We have built something SO special and I am committed to seeing it through to forever. I hope some of the items on this list are a blessing to you. It was a fun reflection for me. Thanks for reading it!!! May you experience all the joys of an awesome union!!! Here’s to Happily Ever After…

DIY #9: HOW WE MADE OUR OWN WALKWAY…

Well here we go! If you’ve been following my blog, (which you SHOULD of course!!! 🙂 ) you know that my family and I had a home built in the North Georgia mountains about 2 years ago. We had an awesome builder, however, he did not include a walkway that led from our driveway to the front door. For a while that had been fine, however, after a very rainy season, and the grass not quite growing in yet, the water began to wash the dirt from the mountain onto our “rock” walkway. Of course, this meant that my kids, my dog and everyone else that came over were dragging mud or dirt ALL over the house!!! Uuuggghhh!!! We immediately contacted our builder who gave us a price ($3000-$3500) to complete the task. Though this seemed to be a bit steep, we set up a budget, a date and were excited to get underway.  Unfortunately, we waited, and waited and waited to no avail. DOUBLE UUUGGGGHHH!!!! Sooooo, I sat with a couple girlfriends one afternoon, and during our “girl talk” (if you could ever imagine) we discussed the idea and the “ease” of using pavers to create a beautiful walkway. “THAT’S IT!!!!!” I thought!!! I could go to Home Depot and price out some super pavers and as always… DO IT MYSELF!!!!

Though Home Depot offered an amazing variety of paver options, I counted up the cost, and it was waaaaaaaay too high. So, after searching on Amazon, I found the Quikrete Brick Walk Maker!!! It was PERFECT!!! Now this was something I could do! Use the molding to create a pathway!!! I ordered the mold for $24.99 and while waiting the couple days it took to get here, I looked on YouTube and studied the materials I needed and created a configuration that would work best for us. Simple right????? UUUMMMM…. NOT QUITE!!! Considering the area we had to cover, this was quite an adventure, and after 3 months, our walkway is finally complete. While we are certainly LOVING the results, I decided to put this blog together to help guide you through our personal process to help avoid the bumps along the way. Here are the 3 steps we took:

  1. The first step was to use the mold to create the bricks. We used a 60lb bag of quikrete. I bought an $8 mixing tub for mixing and an $8 trowel to level the mix and of course kept my hose very close to make the necessary consistency. It would seem you should over fill the mold with mix in order to create a thick/strong brick. That is not true. Fill the mold, but don’t over-stuff it. This will make the top of the brick uneven. Some people rent a concrete mixer for this part. Though that would come in SUPER handy, we did it the old-fashioned way, with a shovel. Let each mixture set for 5-10 minutes and carefully remove the mold. We proceeded to mix the next bag of concrete while the current one was setting. That helped keep the pace going smoothly. Repeat this process for each brick. Be sure to line the mold next to the prior brick in order to accomplish a patterned walk. Don’t be afraid to add curves as long as the distance isn’t too far from the adjoining brick.

2.  Once you have designed your configured path or patio, you can prepare to prime and stain your bricks. I love this part of the project, because there is a super selection of colors and shades you can select from. Go to the paint/stain section of your local Home Depot to choose the color that works best for your space. Many people add dye to the bricks while mixing the concrete. I like staining afterwards because it is MUCH more cost effective and gives you a greater selection. The prime and stain manufacturers advise you to wait 30 days until your concrete has cured before starting this process. We didn’t quite wait the full 30 days, but perhaps at least 15 worked for us. We primed first and stained it a charcoal color one day later. The prime goes on easy. I used a paint brush, but you can use a roller as well. You really can’t mess this part up, so enjoy this opportunity to be creative.

3.  Finally, once the stain is the shade/tint you like, you can add the SAKRETE PermaSand for a “grout” effect. We found this item at Home Depot as well, however, it was quite costly at $20 per container. Because we had so many bricks to fill, I could have easily used 8-10 of these. However, I decided to buy Quikrete sand topping mix for the bottom portion as a filler. I poured the sand in the grooves of the bricks to about half way. And THEN added the Permasand as a sealer on the top portion. I then swept it into the cracks. The directions will tell you to use a leaf blower to remove all excess sand from the surface. We did that and lightly watered the sand and watched it harden. This was a great part of the process because you can see the contrast of the grout and the color of the bricks. It is a great signal that the project is almost complete.

Once the grout has dried, you can enjoy your paver patio/walkway etc… Contrary to my initial plan, this is not an overnight project. It is indeed labor intensive, but I admit that most of the job was done by me and my 14 year old daughter in 90 degree temperatures. If we can do it, surely you can. The key is making sure you take your time. Do not rush this process. Loading the quikrete concrete itself has to be done in stages (depending what car/truck you have) because you don’t want to ruin your struts. Mixing that mix is tough and doing too much in one day, can put undo strain on your back. TAKE IT SLOW. When done well, it will be a super cool project you can enjoy and reflect on for years to come!!!!

THE SLUMBER PARTY POOPER: A Quick MUST- READ for EVERY Parent…

It’s the end of summer… the kids are getting older, they want to kick it with a few friends on the weekend, or perhaps you just need some well-deserved RELIEF… Tis the season for a good old fashioned, harmless sleepover.  I mean, you’ve known this family for years, or better yet, they ARE family, and your daughter has a cell phone in case of emergencies… AND you have equipped her well with “the talk!” Surely, all things will be fine right????… Not so fast.

For this blog post, I will address a subject that is near and dear to my heart. It may be difficult to receive, or even believe. But if it slows you down, or helps you consider your decisions more thoughtfully, well… mission accomplished.

As a friend, teacher, and parent I have counseled many young women who have been the victim of rape, molestation or sexual assault some time in their life. Studies show that 1 in 5 will have some experience in their lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare that a stranger off the street, will kidnap and violate his victims. But more so, it is the distant cousin, uncle, family friend, neighbor etc. at which the innocence is compromised. Too many times, it happens during the sleepovers/camps/weekend trips/family reunions, when our children are most vulnerable. When our guard is down because of the trust we have given to the people in our camp.

Here’s a typical example: You let your daughter go to her cousin’s house for the weekend. I mean, this is your sister!!! She would NEVER let anything happen to your daughter. Besides, her daughter is your daughter’s best friend. They are the same age and have grown up together. This situation seems completely harmless. However, you didn’t consider the fact that your nephew is now 16. It’s Friday, and he has a couple friends over. Maybe they aren’t perfect angels, but they are boys… they are teenagers… and… well… You get my point. Or perhaps your brother-in-law has a few guys over to play pool. They are drinking a bit, but nothing crazy. I mean, your sister is right there. TRUST ME… I get it.

But as a victim myself, I can tell you, it only takes 10 minutes to steal the innocence of a child. As a matter of fact, one touch, one look, exposure to sexual sin, can completely obliterate your child’s image of God’s holy, beautiful, sacred act forever. Furthermore, many former victims of a sexual violation/deviation, have changed their entire perception of themselves, others and their sexuality; leaving them with bouts of depression, low self-esteem, promiscuity, and a disgust for heterosexual relationships and intercourse all together.

With the level of pornographic images on TV, magazines, the Internet at an easy grab, it seems to only exploit the sexual appetite, which promotes a stronger drive for sexual deviance now more than ever. We must be super proactive in our awareness of this potential threat and let it govern our decisions regarding overnight/home-alone/babysitting experiences. I am certainly not trying to scare you. But perhaps increase your awareness to avoid potential unwanted behavior.

As a parent, here are some simple ideas to help:

  1. Of course, give your child “the talk.” No matter their age or gender, they should know that there are areas of their body that are OFF LIMITS!!! NO EXCEPTIONS!!! That if anyone were to EVER touch them there, they should get away and get help IMMEDIATELY.
  2. You should maintain an open line of safe communication where your child knows they can come to you and freely ask questions and seek advice at any time. Create this exchange by giving them your undivided attention, time and concern at will. A safe place where they can share their most sacred thoughts without judgement or penalty.
  3. Be mindful of your child’s whereabouts at all times. Not just where they are. But who else is there? Make regular check-ups to evaluate the security of this place. This includes after school practices, pick-ups and drop-offs etc.
  4. Let your presence be made known. Your child and all parties involved should know and feel your presence. Be active in calling-in, asking questions, and showing up. Even if the kids are playing in the basement, there should be a natural understanding that you are on the scene and will make an appearance in some way shape or form. Of course, you shouldn’t be “Stalker-Mom” or anything, but you must be “there” if only through a FaceTime, phone call, drop-in exchange.

There are so many great benefits to giving our children some time away from home. There are so many great social experiences to be had and memories to create. Nevertheless, we as parents must be aware of the potential threats that can bring harm to our children and act accordingly. If we are mindful of these simple steps, we can help prevent a lifetime of heartache.

HOW TO BUY YOUR CAR WITHOUT A LOAN… 6 Easy Steps… YOU GOT THIS!!!!

Remember back in the day when your parents/grandparents had a vehicle? They may not have had 3 cars in the garage, but if there was one, they owned it, maintained it, worked hard for it and pretty much drove it until the wheels fell off. If your parents were like mine, they even had to save up for the car and perhaps carpool or ride the bus until they could actually afford to finally make the purchase.

Many of us look back at those days and reflect a time of hardship and lack. We see people today with 3-4 new cars in the driveway and deem it a point of success… we have finally arrived and are so much better off than our parents ever were. Unfortunately, though we look the part, and banks have made a way for us to “seemingly” attain, most of us are not “owners” of anything. We are paying monthly payments on just about all our (what we like to call) “assets”.  We are convinced that if we didn’t finance them, we would otherwise not have them.  And though we may not be able to afford $20,000 + upfront, surely, we can all afford $299 – $599 + a month right????? OF COURSE…. It seems that way. However, we can all agree that life doesn’t always turn out like we planned, and unexpected expenses occur which add undo stress and pressure to our financial situation.

I submit that our parents/grandparents owned way more than most of us today, simply because they were not borrowing. Let’s not talk about how less chaotic our lives would be if we were able to cut back on our hours at work, or if we were able to sow, invest or multiply the money we were throwing away each month on finance fees for an item that lost value the MINUTE it was driven off the lot.

Well, I am here to tell you that it IS indeed possible to OWN everything you purchase without having to borrow from anyone. Nearly 20 years ago, my husband and I started the process of becoming 100% debt free; that we would not charge, or finance another thing.  With the exception of our home, (we have a plan for that too) we have stuck to that goal and are super close to owing no one, nothing (pardon the double negative!!! 😊). It has been a sacrifice, and definitely delayed gratification, but it so liberating to have complete control over our spending. However, it has certainly required us to alter the process for some of the major purchases, such as buying a car.

In a world where everyone around is driving the latest $30,000 + vehicle, our appetite can often times be greater than our bank account. Though most vehicles on the road are less than 5 years old,  studies show, a very small percentage of them are owned by the driver themselves. So technically, most drivers are 1-2 missed payments away from repossession, or in laymen’s terms:  the true owner (the bank) can come take it back. Not to mention how many times beyond the actual price consumers are spending once the financed term is complete… and by that time, the once satiated appetite is way past ready for yet the newest version… and the vicious cycle begins yet again. And here we are, the $30k turns into $50k;  we are now at the perpetual mercy of the improved features of overpriced vehicles for which banks have so graciously provided ways to consume our salary….7 year chunks at a time.

In the meantime, we are led to believe that our infant child, toddler and pre-teen would otherwise be riding in harm’s way if we didn’t buy a new carWe would risk DEATH if our engine blew up while driving on the freeway to soccer practice… or heaven forbid the transmission left us stuck at a red light because it had 119k miles on it!!!! DON’T BELIEVE THAT LIE!!! I am here to dispel the “used car” myth once and for all. You CAN buy a new or used car that is safe, dependable, quality, stylish AND in your budget…WITHOUT GOING INTO DEBT.

Over the past 20 years we have had super success buying cars for our family. We have a process that has given us great results, and guess what, neither of our cars has ever caught on fire, blown up or had the air condition freeze it to ice!!!!  Here is a little list of our purchases:

Year purchased Year/Make/Model of car Price of car Mileage at purchase Mileage at the end of the term Years we owned it
2017 2007 Hyundai Veracruz $6,200 130k+ Still have it… 131k 1 month and counting
2015 2015 Subaru Cross Trek $27,000 BRAND NEW Still have it… 104k 2 years and counting
2012 2003 MINI Cooper $8000 81k 122k 2 years
2008 1998 Mercedes Benz $5000 98k Still have it…286k 9 years and counting
2007 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee $3400 151k 298k 10 years
2004 1995 BMW $8500 153k 215k 3 years
2001 1989 Audi 80 $3600 69k 145k+ 3 years
2000 1991 Volvo 240 $3100 155k+ 300k+ 7 years

 

As you can see, we have enjoyed some of the luxurious, foreign, sport utility, compact, etc. cars and have gotten great life out of each of them. Here’s how we do it.

  1. Establish a price. This is SO important. What can your family afford? Not just for the moment, but throughout the life of the vehicle… gas, repairs, maintenance? Look at your bank account, bonus for the year, extra money you received and consider a CASH amount you can spend. If you don’t have it yet, SAVE IT!!!! Put aside a little money each month, combine it with a tax return, sell an item in your house you don’t need anymore, and create a specific amount you can spend. Don’t be afraid to start off small. You would be surprised what kind of car you can buy with only $2,000!
  2. Determine the need. Many people buy cars based on what’s hot and flashy, what looks cute. Consider what you NEED. Do you have a long commute and need fuel efficiency? Are you in the car for long distances and need extreme comfort? Do you drive through mountains and/or snow and must have 4-wheel drive? Or do you have a growing family of 5 and need ample seating? Whatever the case, be sure you are addressing the NEED vs. style, name, color, or other superficial reasons that will cause you to spend outside of your price range.
  3. Consider your options. Now that you know what you are looking for, you can explore the HUGE variety of vehicles out there to meet your need and your budget. Today there are many places to search for new/used vehicles right online, which can often times present a much better alternative to used car lots. One of our favorite sites is www.autotrader.com .  You can refine or streamline the search to accommodate your exact budget, need, amenities, and other items on your wish list. Be sure to explore ALL the options. You would be surprised of the makes and models you’ve never heard of or noticed on the road. Our latest purchase was a Hyundai, Veracruz. It is a vehicle we didn’t know existed, but after research, we discovered it met our needs PERFECTLY and ultimately became our only consideration.
  4. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. This may be one of the most important parts of the purchase process. Once you have narrowed your search to potential vehicles, you must research the history of that particular make and model. www.edmunds.com , www.kbb.com , and www.cars.com are all great sites that offer details, specs, reviews, recalls etc. about automobiles from every year of the manufacturing process. They provide information such as gas mileage, pricing, amenities, safety ratings, size, towing capacity and so much more. When researching alternatives to the Veracruz we recently purchased, we considered other vehicles such as the Subaru, Tribeca and the Volvo XC90. However, after extensive research and reading consumer reviews, we found the Tribeca to have major transmission issues and both required premium gas. This helped make our decision very easy. Taking time to consider the history of the vehicle and the background of its manufacturing can save a lot of heart ache in the long run.
  5. TIME TO SHOP!!!!! Finally, you are ready to take your money and make an informed purchase. Search your spirit when exchanging information with the seller. If it is a used car dealer, have they marked the price up to an astronomical rate? What is the Kelley Blue Book value of the car? How many owners has it had? Any accidents? How well was it cared for? Why are they selling it? Don’t buy off your emotion. You want a car, but YOU have the power… YOU HAVE THE MONEY!!!! If they are asking too much, but you really like it, talk them down. Be firm on your price. You have done your research, so you know how much this car is worth based on mileage, and condition. When you test drive it, LISTEN!!! Listen to the car, the sounds its makes. Look at the handles, the locks, the windows, the tires, the brakes. Does the moon-roof leak? The condition of the car will tell you a lot of how well it was cared for and help you make an informed purchase.
  6. HAVE A SUPER MECHANIC. Last step. Many people swear by taking their car to the dealership to have it serviced. We have never done that. We have always been fortunate to know of a very knowledgeable mechanic who is reasonable and enthusiastic about his/her job. We always have him look over our vehicles before putting it on the road. Remember you are buying your used car in “as-is” condition. Surely, it may need a tune up, new tires, extra coolant etc. He will be able to put it on the computer to determine exactly what it needs before driving it, and throughout the life of the car. It is always a plus when the mechanic develops a relationship with you and your car, so you have a reliable source to help when repairs or maintenance arises.

There you have it!!!! I know this was a long one, but you are now equipped to make an informed decision when purchasing a vehicle. Whether you are in the market to buying a brand new or used car, I strongly encourage you to always buy it with cash. Who wants to spend half of their paycheck each month for YEARS on newer features that will only expire soon after. When you buy it, it’s YOURS. It becomes an asset. No one can come take it and no one will hound you each month for their dues, while overcharging you several times over. The best part of it is this: When it is time for you to move on to a true upgrade, you will have the choice of doing whatever you choose with your car. So far, we have been fortunate enough to give several of our cars to others upon upgrading, (which has been one of my favorite parts of car ownership). I am excited that every purchase is better than the one before. I am excited that instead of spending our money on expensive car notes each month, we are able to save, invest, and enjoy. I pray this post helps you as well. May your greatest purchases be ahead of you!!! Here’s to 300k+ mile debt-free voyages!!!!

 

 

WALK THIS WAY…

After almost 18 years of marriage, many people ask, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” Of course, there is not one specific answer to that question. However, I believe simple choices made each day contribute to a long road to happiness… AND, for you, I will indeed release at least ONE of my juicy, hot, steamy secrets, free of charge… ready? Here it goes… TAKE A WALK!!!!!!

No really. Check this out. My husband and I have been walking together 3-5 days of every week for almost 20 years and I truly think it is one of the things that has helped keep our bond strong. I mean think about it; you can’t talk on the phone, clean a house, fulfill any requirements, finish tasks, or any of the other things that demand your attention, time, and energy. Instead, you are forced to talk, vision cast, share stories from the day, plan vacations, DREAM, take in the scenery, talk about unresolved issues and expectations etc. All the while, you are getting some great exercise and inhaling some of that good old fashion fresh air.

You can delve into a plethora of landscapes, including blocks surrounding your own home, to the high school track in your community; or even find a great parking space in a beautiful neighborhood nearby and explore future homes you dream of living in someday; a local park, beach, lake, mountain or the like. Whatever the case, the uninterrupted time together will help create opportunities for great communication to take place. You will find that when you are intentional about this special time with each other, the visions, the vacations, the dreams, the unresolved issues, the unfulfilled desires all become areas of focus and ultimately points of pleasure and fulfillment because the necessary time was invested.

My husband and I are so committed to our walks, we look forward to them even while on vacation. Sometimes we bring the kids and/or the dog along, but most times it is just us.

Now I won’t even begin to discuss the potentially hot, smokin’ bod you may develop while on these great expeditions, but in the meantime, give this idea a try. When your marriage goes to the next level, when you have come up with new streams of income, great destinations to explore, super ways to resolve that issue with your child, or the fastest method to paying off your last credit card, shoot me a line and let me know!!! I’ll charge you for this great advice then!!! 😊😊😊 Here’s to enjoying the journey…

(scenes from some of our great treks…)

 

 

 

CONFIDENCE LIKE A BEAUTY QUEEN

I remember watching the Miss USA, Miss America and even Miss Universe pageants as a young girl. It was one of my fondest childhood memories. I have even incorporated watching the various pageants as a staple event for my own daughter and I to enjoy together each year.  Similarly to the way most men enjoy the Super Bowl, NBA Finals etc. the game itself is nothing new. One great player replaces another, the underdog makes a winning comeback, the game never gets old. With the pageants, obviously, there is a new lineup of beautiful faces, wearing beautiful gowns and performing or answering a challenging question, but for me, what I enjoy most is watching these ladies exude the highest form of confidence. I mean, think about what it must take to walk in a swimsuit, perform a talent, and answer an impromptu question in front of an audience of thousands of live fans, and millions of TV viewers, all while maintaining the highest level of elegance, grace and poise. WOW!!!

Last week, my dear friend and former Miss USA (1990), Carole Gist, invited me to to attend the live taping of the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas. It was an experience I will never forget. I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, wearing the most elegant attire, with the most stunning hair, makeup, and accessories. But once again, I couldn’t help but notice the confidence required to be successful at this level of competition. Where does this confidence come from? How can you possibly answer on the spot, “What is your idea of feminism and what does it mean to you?” with 6 inch heels, a gown worth thousands of dollars, a face full of makeup, 10 cameras in your face all in 30 seconds????? I mean, their voice didn’t crack, their knees didn’t buckle, they didn’t stumble, fumble, or waver.

It made me consider the idea that though most of us will never be competitors in the next Miss Universe Pageant, we can, and should still operate in the highest level of confidence and excellence every single day of our lives. But how? Many people today are plagued by the tragedies of their past, by deep feelings of inferiority, by the comparison game and by thoughts of not being good enough. They wear these feelings like badges on their sleeve or camouflage them with high price items, makeup, degrees, name brand clothes, cars, or other things to fill the void of their deep insecurities.  The insanity of that venture is that it never seems to pan out. “I will feel pretty enough if I could just get down to a size 4… If I could just have bigger breast…If I could sing as good as her… The endless plight of getting to a size 4 is only met with yet another point of displeasure and the target is shifted elsewhere.

We all have our points of improvement, parts of our past we wish we could reverse, elements of our appearance we would like to re-sculpt, but this cannot be the measurement that determines our self-worth. Our value is not defined by images on TV, a number on a scale, the tempo at which others are moving, the number of months we breast fed our kids, the length of our hair, or the income we earn.

I’m here to tell you: YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!!!! No matter what your Mama told you, how your last husband treated you, how many “wrong things” you think you did, how heavy you are, how many scars you have, how many times you failed… YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. God loves you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. RIGHT NOW. And His love covers your past, covers the molestation, the bad break-ups, the abuse, the lies, the negative comments, the thoughts of inferiority. His love is BIGGER.

When you walk into a room, better than a super hero, you are backed by the acceptance of a God who thought you were important enough to die for. Knowing this should make you hold your head up. Should make you wear a perpetual smile, radiate the beauty of acceptance. Should make you stand tall. Should make you look each obstacle in the eye and tackle it with ease.

Sure, we can all stand to grow. It is imperative that we spend time in the Word daily to constantly improve and become more and more like Christ, but know, that right now, you are already good enough. You are worthy.

I pray that today and every day, you understand your value and how much you are SO loved. I pray that you wear your crown of royalty, that you glide down your runways with grace and poise, that you EXUDE the confidence of a beauty queen and radiate like the royalty you are!!! If the maker of the universe accepts and loves you… who cares what ANY one else has to say about it…

photo: Washington Examiner

THE “RACE CARD” IS COMPLETELY MAXED OUT!!!!

I was in the store with my son and daughter waiting to be checked out the other day when suddenly I heard a very abrupt, loud, out of control screaming, cussing and straight-up foolery break out.  The customer in front of us was VERY upset that her small number of items resulted in a bill totaling $29. After an awkward silence, the clerk responded with a casual “I don’t make the prices, I just work here.” The customer LOST IT!!!!!! She apparently felt disrespected during her time of vulnerability and she spewed out cuss words I haven’t heard in YEARS!!!! Called the clerk all kinds of horrible names, insulted her “minimum wage job” and had to be physically restrained (by her husband) from going over the counter to assault the cashier!!!  Though her behavior and words (in front of children) were disgraceful, what got me was when she called the clerk a “racist @$%%$##@&!!!!” I was completely embarrassed. Yes, she was visiting an all-white town, yes there are ignorant people in our world, but being black did not give her a license to act in an unbecoming manner, evoke a rational response, only to be met with the RACE CARD!!!! Race had absolutely nothing to do with this. But too often it is at the forefront of almost all current disputes, acts of violence and discussions and many times it is unwarranted.

I must admit I currently live in a predominately white town, my kids attend a predominately white school, and half my family is white. However, I have attended and taught in mostly black schools, lived in all black neighborhoods and half my family is also black. I’ve communed alongside some of the most amazing people; black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish… you name it. I am indeed educated, I have directly benefited from some of the great opportunities our country offers, and have never been denied access to any of my many pursuits and achievements. Unfortunately, with all the great strides that have been made for equality, we seem to be more divided now than ever before. Nevertheless, we will never change the face of stereotypes by perpetuating the very behaviors and images that seem to plague our brains through history, unfortunate experiences, media etc…

I am privileged to be biracial, though I have personally never subscribed to the black/white thing. It is simply a means to separate God’s creation. However, whatever entity we may subscribe to, we have the responsibility to represent that with excellence. If we want to change the way we are viewed and treated, it starts right with our daily walk, with our regular interactions and our unfamiliar encounters. We need to put the race card away!! As far as I am concerned, if someone choses to be racist, it has ZERO impact on me. They have no true power/authority to influence any part of my life. Therefore, it is their problem, not mine. In the meantime, we need to take the magnifying glass off the problem and become the solution. The resolution is simple. WALK IN LOVE!!

Everyone has a history we may not understand. It is easy to see others through our own perspective and experiences. It is easy to look at a man with a bushy beard, a worn Harley black leather jacket and a confederate flag bandana on his head and make an assumption. But why? He is a small business owner, grandfather of 3, husband of 29 years and devout southerner. My husband is black, 6’4, has on a baseball cap and worn sweaty t-shirt and big gym shoes but has to make a quick stop at the store. Based on the images seen on TV and various experiences, a visitor in our town may be inclined to clutch their purse harder and become aware of the potential threat he may pose.  She would never know he is a senior robotics engineering manager for a major corporation, father of 2, and a minister of music who finished taking his 14-year-old daughter to the rec center to play basketball and stopped for a gallon of almond milk to make kale smoothies in the morning for breakfast. However, it is his responsibility to make sure if he doesn’t want people to grab their purse in his presence, that he is not sagging his pants, riding off from the store blasting obscene music, cussing on the phone to one of his boys like he is the only one in the store. Instead, why not smile? Greet people as they come in his presence? Walk with his daughter throughout the store with the proud glow that any parent can recognize?  But most importantly exude the love of Christ in excellence.

Though it may seem an undue charge, (I mean, who has time for all that) it is a bill we all have to pay. If we want people to treat us beyond the horrible images they know, we have to reinvent that image. We have to walk in the universal language that breaks down walls and is understood by everyone. We must remember that race, religion, gender, etc.… does not give us a free pass to behave out of character. Unfortunately, I believe the angry customer I mentioned earlier went to jail. She will leave this experience believing that she was wrongfully treated and feel some sort of justification for her behavior. Instead of acknowledging that she not only hurt herself, she only confirmed the beliefs of many of the people in the store that day, which only hindered the overall plight of everyone.  Let us all do our part to extend a bit of grace to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us treat others as we would like to be treated. Let us walk in love. Let us put away the race card and BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD. 😊

You’re Going to Poop the Rest of Your Life… What’s the Rush????

Ok, so I am currently smack dab in the middle of one of the most challenging experiences of my life… I am teaching my 15-year-old son how to drive!!!!!! OOOMMMGGGG!!!! For the most part, I am a pretty calm kinda gal. However, this adventure has required a level of patience like I’ve never experienced before.

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Forget the fact that I am still in awe that I have a child who is old enough to drive anyway! I mean, it feels like we were watching episodes of Little Bill, playing Beyblades and building Lego figures just yesterday!!!! Nevertheless, of course when he told me he was enrolled in Driver’s Ed, had to get his learner’s permit, and actually start operating a real motor vehicle, I had to rise to the challenge and help teach him the simple art of driving, right????? UUUUUUMMMM…. NO!!! This thing is INTENSE!!!! Like most people, I’m sure, we started off in the parking lot, moved to dirt roads, and have now advanced to two lane streets; however, it has taken several weeks (and a few missed stop signs) to get here!!!

Though we have been practicing about 3-5 times weekly, it occurred to me, that unfortunately my son is nowhere near the place where he can have his driver’s license and operate a vehicle on his own any time soon. Now that doesn’t mean I will stop working with him. I plan to work with him almost every day until he reaches his goals, however, rather than risk his, ours, or others’ lives, I have come to accept the fact that he needs A LOT more practice and it will probably be much longer than the 2 months he has left until he completes his driver’s training and turns 16.

For some, automatically this would spell failure. I have to admit, my determination for him being successful was what drove my anxiety and frustration. How could we (ultimately, I) fail to meet such a huge milestone? Then it occurred to me, so many of us are governed by the “milestone timeline.” The idea that things must be done according to the majority of the population. That timeline looks like this: You should graduate college by 21, get married by 24-26, pregnant by 30. Baby should be walking by 1, potty-trained by 2, reading by 4. They should be in the gifted and talented group, they should be in 3-5 different athletic or fine arts activities to prepare for scholarships (in 10 years!!!) and the list goes on and on. And OH MY GOSH!!!! YOU ARE 33 AND NOT MARRIED????? What is wrong with you???? We measure ourselves and our successes by our ability to meet these timelines. But I have an important question: WHO set the timelines? What substance or weight do they really hold in the big grand scheme?

I mean, think about it: does it really matter if your baby walks at 14 months instead of 12? Or for heaven sakes, they are SUPER SUPER special if they start walking at 9 months!!! I mean they would qualify for the “Baby Who Walked First Award” right???? Is that any indication of their intellect? Their ability or lack thereof? Or is it merely a source of pride for parents to brag and post that their AMAZING child has passed the test and is READING A BOOK AT AGE 1!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!! Really????? WHO CARES????

Trust me. I am not making light of us achieving goals for our lives or our children’s lives. However, we must make sure they don’t govern our happiness or reflection of our success. We can’t be filled with feelings of failure if our lives don’t line up with the world’s timeline. You, me, our children were fearfully and wonderfully made. One of a kind. God broke the mold when he made you! Don’t look to the left or the right to determine where you should fit on the marker. RUN YOUR RACE! In all things, we have to seek God for His direction and His timing for the purpose and plan for our life. His ways are so much higher than ours. While we are rushing to marry this man because “I’m getting old and pretty soon I won’t be able to have kids” we settle for less than what He has for us because we are on some crazy time schedule! Because everyone else has a house by “this age,” we go into ridiculous amounts of debt to stay on top of it. We become overly anxious because our kid may not be ready to drive until he is 17…or even 18 and we lose sight of such a great learning experience.

Whatever the case, don’t allow this undo pressure to force a speed race in any area of your life. Slow down and enjoy the journey that is necessary for full completion. Lean not unto your own understanding… let God direct and order your steps and you will always end up on top, finishing at a time suitable for YOU based on HIS timeline.  Ultimately, you/your child will drive, walk, read, talk, poop, for the rest of their life… No need to rush this awesome process!!!

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DIY #8 THE GREAT WALL OF WISDOM…

Two things I have in every room in my house, a clock and a sign. 🙂 I LOVE SIGNS… and all things positive. I remember when I used to teach high school, I would cover my bulletin boards with hundreds of inspirational quotes from various influential figures to help bring love and encouragement to the classroom. It would only be fitting to create this same energy in my own home. So, for the past several months, I have shopped various stores, antique shops, boutiques, and Etsy, to collect signs of scriptures, quotes, thoughts of wisdom or simple words to reflect some of my favorite ideas. Last week, my husband helped to hang my last sign and my word wall is finally complete.

Here are pics of our completed project. Though it may take a little time, it is actually quite easy to do. Start by purchasing the signs that reflect your sentiments. You will find them at Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, Ross, Altrd’ State, Etsy, Marshalls, Kirkland’s, and the like. Pace yourself with the purchasing… signs can get costly. In a puzzle like manner, hang each sign in random design according to the fit of the one to follow. Continue with this process until you reach capacity. Feel free to add framed pictures, initials, clocks or whatever brings meaning to your collage. Whatever the case, there is no way to do it wrong. It is a great way to share your heart with all who dwell in or visit your home. Have fun. Spread the wisdom, inspiration and love… Lord knows we could all use it.

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When I taught high school, I used to fill my bulletin board with awesome quotes… some things never change…

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A collection of scriptures, quotes, thoughts of wisdom, or simple words from various stores, antique shops, Etsy and others to reflect some of our favorite ideas.

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So grateful to my husband for helping me hang all of my tedious wall projects!!!!

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one sign at a time…