Rewire your thinking! Shine your light brighter in the world!

Sunset glowing

Caribbean Sunset – 2017

 

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago.  She was sharing how she had quit smoking earlier this year, slowly she’s started to reward herself with pampering and self care. She’s been putting the money that previously went towards cigarettes, instead towards massages, clothing and fabulous hair.  I was so proud of her and loved hearing about her doing that for herself.

Then she shared how she had been talking to another woman about this and that person had said something like this to her, “oh, are you going to become all high maintenance now?”.   A seemingly simple comment, probably meant to be funny….. yet completely loaded with judgment.   It left me wondering, why are we so quick to bring each other back down to whatever level we think they should be at to keep us comfortable?   It’s not like my friend has dropped everything and developed an all consuming clubbing habit at age 50 and was putting her family at jeopardy…  she was doing things within her budget and available time that made her feel good.   She was grasping onto a hope that she could keep on keeping on by making herself see how good it feels to treat her body good; to never want to crave a cigarette again, to honor herself for doing something that is so amazing.   We should have a parade in her honor! NOT tear her down.  Have you been in her position?

From the outside perspective it’s so much easier to see how a person can start to dim their own light.  We speak up, we feel good and if we don’t have a strong enough support system or our internal knowing isn’t strong enough yet in that area then once we face resistance we question ourselves.

I know I’ve experienced this so often.  There are many ways in which I’ve always been just a bit on the outside of what seemed like “everyone else”.  From day one, left handed.  Then an artist that loves art but never quite felt like I fit in with the artists…  I was a mixture of the smart kid, the athlete, the artist… yet not really completely any of them.  As an adult I married early and became a mom while everyone else was single and having fun. Then just as everyone around me was getting married and starting to have babies… I was a divorced and then a single mom…   Then a vegetarian for over a decade, then not, then the mom who cloth diapered, and then home schooled while also the mom to the social butterfly, daughter who loves everything about public school.  A stay at home mom who also works from home.  In virtually every area of my life I have to face feeling like I don’t fit in completely… and yet I’ve learned to see that this is where I find my superpowers… my uniqueness and what gloriously separates me from the masses.  A uniquely, perfect perspective that there isn’t an “us” and “them” or success or failure; there are are layers between.

 

What has helped me to find peace in this area?  Mentors, seeing people who are so different and wildly successful and happy.  Seeing my friends who stay home and raise their children and are so amazing at it.  Seeing other friends who run successful businesses and are so tapped into their callings while also raising awesome kiddos.  Seeing retired women who have so much fire in their bellies and are so full of dreams and life.  Seeing the friends who go to work each day and are unapologetic about their passion for living life on their terms.   There is no right answer, only what is right for us, our families, our purpose, our knowing.

Back to my friend who I started this post about, for her it is so perfectly fabulous that she is embracing this time for her and honoring what she knows she needs.  That is not to take anything away from the other amazing women who have no desire to have a massage or new clothes and yet are perfectly content.  For one person it may be taking time to simply indulge is music and solitude, for another it may be a weekend retreat or business conference, for me I light up from my soul on out when I see new places and get to take in beautiful scenery and share those experiences with people I love.  Pay attention to the moments you feel the most peaceful or the experiences you find yourself craving. Those things that can help you to access your own knowing.

What does it mean to shine your light?  To me it means to to honor yourself and trust yourself enough to speak up when you see a wrong, to speak up in support of what is right no matter how unpopular.  It means embracing and celebrating your gifts, your talents, the fruits of your hard work.  It means being a beacon of hope for others, being the truest version of you.  Cutting away the distractions, the stresses that hold you back. It means being so true to your deepest, wisest knowing that you can’t help but inspire others to be more true to themselves.

I have a free bonus gift I’d love to share with you, 3 steps you can take right now to drastically reduce stress in your life so you can shine your own light brighter!  Easy things you can do TODAY to change your life. You can click the image or click here to receive it.

For me, when I’m shining my light it means I’m honoring my optimism, my belief in the good in people, it means I’m a warrior for love and good in the world.  It means I’m taking time to get quiet and tune in, I’m creating artwork or writing. I’m at peace with my desire for me time and honoring my inner introvert that needs rejuvenating time.

What inspires you when you see it modeled in others?  What have you witnessed other women or men do that you thought was so badass that you wished you had the guts to do it?  How about simple gifts they have given themselves that you admire? Make a note of those things.  You don’t have to do them, but they are clues.  Start collecting clues. Start honoring when you feel in the flow.   Don’t forget to download my free gift to you here to take the next steps in stripping away stresses to help reveal the real you and help you shine your light brighter in this world that so needs your light!

Sending you so much love!

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget you can get this free gift from me to you! Just click the image below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

when a mural is painted over… your gift erased

I came across these photos yesterday of these murals that I painted about 15 years ago in my parents house.  My mom had been wanting something with this Tuscan feel and when Skylar was a baby there was a time that we lived with them so I painted these murals kind of as my rent and a thank you to her and my dad.  I was about 25 years old or so.

This piece was on a large wall that went up the middle of the house in the main living area.

italian countryside mural  

Over in the hallway both sides were lined with similar styled, soft glowing italian countryside inspired art.

So these murals stayed up for about 5-6  years I believe.  My mom told me many times how much she loved them and the feel it gave their home.  My mom passed away in early 2009, her passing was unexpected and shook my world as you can imagine.

Fast forward a few years later and my dad and his girlfriend are living in this house and getting it ready to sell.  My dad’s girlfriend expressed a desire to paint over all these murals with a soft gray color.    I was completely okay with this.   What I didn’t expect was the number of relatives and family members who heard that these murals would be painted over and came to me with complete disapproval.  They couldn’t believe that they’d choose to paint over these.  Over and over for years I heard this from people

I want to share why I felt so at peace with giving my permission.  I think it translates to so many other areas of life.   Even though I had spent dozens of hours painting these pieces, I knew that that was as a gift of love to my mom.  As much as my dad was also there and appreciated them, it was really for her.  I knew that I was okay with keeping those pieces sacred with her, when she was no longer there to appreciate them and enjoy them, then I was okay with understanding that the purpose they fulfilled was complete.   They were no longer needed.

My next reason was more practical, I understood that these murals were not everyone’s taste and neutral colors sell better.

So, I consciously said goodbye to them, thanked them for bringing my mom joy and also felt gratitude that I was able to do something to have brought joy.

I don’t have a clear picture of that wall after it was painted but you can get a feel for the space after:

I share this because it’s not just about the murals.  This could be any heartfelt, handmade gift that is no longer needed.  Giving both the giver and receiver permission to release it knowing it’s purpose was served, love and gratitude were felt and it’s okay to let it go on to provide those to another.  Or in the case like the mural, it won’t be re-gifted… it’s just done. No longer there.   This could be a piece of decor that has brought great joy, like a bowl, dish, etc that gets broken.  Instead of focusing on the breaking part, focus on the joy it brought. Say thank you for that joy or usefulness.

Everything has a cycle, a time.  Sometimes we hold things past when they are meant to be there for us.  I think as a society we have a lot of work to do in giving ourselves permission to release things that no longer light us up.  Or to simply say thank you and let things, people, experiences go on their way. Hold gratitude for the role they played.  This can also be a friendship or job… not all are meant to be forever.  Things will sometimes end, don’t let the ending cloud the lesson and rewards of the experience.

My sister and Skylar in front of the mural one Christmas.

Me, Skylar and my mom

The question I’ll leave you with this this, is there something you’ve been holding on to that you need to let go?  Or a way you can re-frame an experience to find appreciation for it instead of focusing on the loss?

Sending you all love.

 

When history comes full circle… when the Little House on the Hill was born

This past 4th of July afternoon Bruce was sitting out on the porch and I was just waking up from a nap when a car came up our driveway. Bruce was chatting with them for awhile as I woke up and eventually made my way out there to see what was going on.  In the car was a lovely woman named Kris and her mom, Nancy.  Nancy’s parents are the one’s who built our house back in 1977. Yes, the same year I was born.  And yes, my mom’s name was also Nancy.

They were so excited to see how we’ve taken care of and poured so much love into this home and property.  When Kris was a teenager she helped her grandparents as they built this house so they all had a special spot in their heart for this home.  For years they’d been wanting to drive up the driveway but finally had the courage that day when they saw Bruce sitting on the porch.

Our home in 1977

Our home in 1977

We continued to talk and we learned that 40 years ago the man who built our home (Nancy’s father) well… his name was also Bruce.   Seriously who is ever surprised anymore by all of these “coincidences right…”   I am in awe of how things come together..

So after just a few months after they built the house they discovered that they preferred living right in town and so they sold the house.  We’ve come to know Shane after he pulled in our driveway as we were moving in our home.  It was Shane’s in-laws who bought the house from Bruce in 1977.  After Shane’s wife grew up here, later Shane and his wife lived here.   Shane just a couple weeks ago sent us some pictures from when his in laws first moved in and their first years here.  I had tears in my eyes as I got to see this property bare of trees, and signs of the rows of trees they had planted that today help make this property so private and amazing. I’m so grateful for their insight and energy they poured into this land in ways that we still benefit from 40 years later.

1978 – notice the lack of trees, you can see Minnesota in the distance.

 

Trees – as we know it now.

The trees along the driveway if you were standing at our house looking towards the road:

In the spring of 2015 we had spent years hoping to move, we’d even driven through Osceola in the summer of 2014 and loved it but couldn’t find a property for sale that fit what we were looking for and in our price range… I remember clear as day that Bruce and I had a conversation and decided to be practical, that we’d continue to save and spend the next year working on our house and plan on selling in 2016. We were okay with that plan.  But as I woke up the next day I just felt like was a test.  A chance to believe and go for the unseen and seemingly impossible instead of playing it safe.  At that moment I went and got boxes and I starting to pack up anyways and hold the intention for a miracle… a way to move that was possible even though we couldn’t see the whole plan…  then a friend saw that photo and helped make a connection for us to get this home we now love….

 

Then when Shane sent photos it was so fun seeing shots like this that weren’t planned, but made their way to help us really see it all full circle…

It’s fun to see the now bunkhouse as it was being built.

bunkhouse being built

And then later when Shane’s wife was growing up:

I can even find the humor and appreciate that when we bought the house this is what the bunkhouse looked like.  I’m so grateful that we could see beyond the crack house vibe and peacock poop to what it could be:

Bunkhouse peacock coop

It’s still a work in progress… but it’s heading in the direction we want. This is where it’s at today: (it’s fun to see the forest filling in through each of the bunkhouse photos as well)

 

There has been so many moments where Bruce and I have felt like my mom and his dad (who have both passed) have helped us out from the other side… aligning things in a way we couldn’t have.   And as much as I love the house and the yard; truthfully it’s about more than that.  It’s not really about the stuff… it’s about finding a place that can be a creative outlet, that feels safe and inspiring, that allows us to express ourselves and gives us daily opportunities for gratitude and growth.   I also love that I know that 90%+ of people who see our photos of our place wouldn’t want to live here; it’s not what they’d want.  I love that we happen to not be over 5’7″ tall so we can easily walk down the short staircase to the basement without bumping our heads.. something that wouldn’t have been an immediate dealbreaker for most people (that’s if they could get past the look of the crackhouse bunkhouse).

 

So back to the 4th of July, as Kris continued to tell us about her Grandparents she kept mentioning how her Grandmother was a Christmas fanatic, finally after her saying this over and over I told her that was my birthday. She couldn’t believe it.   Then I asked her for her email address so I could keep in touch with her and learn more about the house, she wrote down her email for me and handed it to me….  of course it contained “JoyJoyJoy”… and yes Joy is my middle name.

I LOVE this life and how things unfold and reveal themselves and fill me with such awe.   Blessings to you!

 

New barnwood trays made from salvaged St. Croix Valley barnwood

Looking for something a little extra special?  Perfect for entertaining and also to use to keep things off the countertops.  I’ve created these trays using salvaged barnwood from right here in the St. Croix River Valley.  Features foot barnwood stips on the bottom, each is sealed and has 2 handles the the handles being counter sunk on the bottom so they are inset and not sticking out.

 

You can find the trays here:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/519886088/

These trays provide a way to enjoy the simplistic feeling of stepping back in time, relaxing and having a moment. Feel special each time you use this tray and put your goodies on it.

 

 

 

It doesn’t have to be so hard, does it?

My whole life I’ve been taught (or just assumed) that we must force things, head down, grinding it out to make things happen. While that is true at times, what if things don’t have to be hard to mean they are worthwhile? I’ve always had an underlying feeling like fun had to be earned. Especially working on my own business there is always work to be done and it can feel like there is never time or validation for frivolous fun. The last few years though I’ve started to notice that it’s the times when I’m allowing myself to be swallowed up by fun and life’s simple enjoyments that inspiration hits, I’ll see an order come through or finally get clarity on something I’ve been thinking about. hmm It got me thinking and researching and turns out that nudge and subtle noticing is right on. Swimming against the current doesn’t mean it’s smarter or better. I’m sharing this image as much for me as anyone else. In the flow of inspiration and joy

 

 

bridging the time and money gap so you can go for your dreams

black bird art inspiring go for dreams

As a small business owner I have gone to all sorts of extremes to be able to wake up each day and pursue my dream of being an artist while also being at home raising my kids.  There have been times where money has flowed almost effortlessly (after a bazillion hours behind the scenes sweating and praying and staying up late into the night for months on end)  and there are other times where it’s taken some creativity to make things happen, pay off bills, get ahead and live another day to get to paint and get the luxury of working from home in my sweatpants with my favorite movies on in the background.

I think most often we just need to hear that it’s okay for us to want to make our dreams a reality.  Whether it’s business, traveling, staying home with the kids, not staying home with the kids… that we can empower ourselves and set up our lives to make these things a reality.  We don’t have to wait until someone “gets us” or validates us.  If that dream keeps coming up, pay attention!!   We are resourceful, we figure stuff out, we connect people, we do amazing things!  Trust yourself and know that you can figure out details, work hard enough to overcome what you face and also give yourself permission to change your mind later!!   Don’t live a life of regret because you spent it trying to be the nice person who gave their time and energy to everyone else.  Be kind to others… but also be kind and honor yourself.   Don’t wait for others to set boundaries to protect your time, your energy or your dreams.  You have to do it!

 

If you’re already doing those things then stop reading.  If you’re needing help on how to start making time, money and room for your  dreams.  Here are some nitty gritty details:

Is it money holding you back?  I’m gonna get really real at the extremes I (we) have gone to.  I share this because I know often it’s not a 3k difference to able to stay home with your babies, to buy supplies to pursue your dream or just to get some extra money put away in case who knows what happens.

  1.  Get really real.  We got really honest about every dime we spend, every month.   This is not new to me, I have prints of spreadsheets from the 90’s still socked away. How fun to look back and reminisce about having rent that was under $600 and where money was spent.   Now, all in one big excel spreadsheet I can look back at any month and see what was spent, plan ahead, see where we could have saved, etc.  (not what you expected #1 to be from an artist huh…)  I get a natural high from creating spreadsheets, I confess.
  2. Cut out the unnecessary stuff.  Pick your battles.  We rarely go out to eat.  We hike, watch movies, listen to music, hang out mostly for free.  We get a TON of movies from the library too.  I ask myself before I buy anything that isn’t a necessity, “do I want this more than I want to be at home with the kids and working my own business or traveling?”.
  3. Dig deeper.  I use lots of natural products.  I started simple with laundry detergent a few years ago, I now use natural toothpaste, mouthwash, cleaner, sea salt spray, cleaners.  This feeds my budget and also my ever growing desire for less chemicals in my life.
  4. Bulk cooking.  Google, use pinterest or get creative with your favorite recipes and  you can save big time in the kitchen.  Saving both money and time and energy.  Spending an afternoon prepping 30 meals is a drag, I admit.  For over a decade I didn’t eat meat, so this was tougher to do then, trying to come up with meals for everyone. Do a search on bulk cooking or once a month cooking.  I then use these recipes a couple times a week to fill in and it saves me a ton of stress.   My daughter loves meat. My husband is indifferent but comes home starving after working long hours.  My son’s diet requires no food colorings or wheat and very minimal sugar and he avoids most meats and I avoid wheat, grains and sugar.   So cooking meals everyday for all these different eating styles is no easy talk.  Cooking large batches of soups and chili help a ton and freezing them in small portions help a ton.  You get the idea… this could very easily be a super expensive area of our life but even with buying mostly organic, I just cook a ton from scratch and get creative and use my crock pot more and more.
  5. Use the dryer less.  It’s my goal each month to use the dryer as little as possible. Sometimes just to fluff clothes back up. Buy or build a drying rack.  In our old house I got really creative and hung clothes near the fireplace.  In our new house we have a laundry room now; wahoo.  We nailed tons of nails and screws going up the stairs and have a place to hang hangers with shirts on them so this helps us dry almost all our laundry for FREE.
  6. We keep investing in LED lighting, turn off lights in rooms we aren’t in and are diligent about not wasting electricity.
  7. Interest rates – in our new house we were able to get a 15 year mortgage for over 3% LOWER than our mortgage on our last  house.  This alone will save us over $50,000!  HUGE savings.  While we don’t see the difference each month necessarily since our payment is about the same as it was; we know that 100 bucks a week that used to go to interest now goes towards our principal.  This is so huge.
  8. Alternate energy – this is a whole other area but if possible find ways to incorporate alternative energy.  Out here at our new house we were able to purchase a wood burner for outside.  On the 6 acres we live there were more than enough trees already down waiting for us to get us through this winter.  So thankfully after buying the wood burner and outside of the very small electricity to run our boiler system the rest of our heat is free.  (just lots of family time gathering wood together).  Wind, solar, turning off the lights to save what  you can… it all adds up.

Those are just a few ideas. Mostly it took being all focused towards the same goal, giving up on having new everything.  I really pick when I need new clothes, mostly the kids where consignment or g. sale clothes. Name brand, cute clothes for way cheaper =  more money to build a business.

 

Is it Time you’re needing more of?

Many of the business courses I’ve taken and coaches I’ve hear recommend hiring out for everything that is less than what you want to make an hour.  Pour all your time into your money making, genius zone.  In theory this makes sense.  However when you are first starting or until things are really flowing this can be a tough one.  So I’ve really had to do things in phases, a few years ago when I had my art studio, a 2 years old and life was super full; that fall and winter I hired someone to come clean our home. During my busiest season… this was priceless.   I also had interns come to my studio and help me on my website, marketing, stuffing prints, etc.

What could this mean for you?  Maybe start with the things that you despise, don’t let those things be the bottle neck in your business, instead hire those out.  Then as you can afford, start with the things that cost the least to hire out to people that thrive in those areas.  Don’t feel like you need to do that all at once, but definitely don’t feel like you need to do it all yourself.

For me I try to think in phases… either during certain busy seasons I might contract with people, or recruit interns.  Or once you hit a certain income level then start contracting out certain services.  For me this could mean having artwork packaged by a shipping company during busier times, paying people to stuff greeting cards or prints, put stickers on things.  Or it could mean investing in a shipping scale and having the post office or shipping company pick up packages from your home or business.

What are you currently doing that could be slowing down your growth or joy?  Or is there something you’re determined to accomplish but your lack of knowledge or time is holding you back?   Or is there things in your personal life that you could delegate or hire out to get you more time or money to pursue your business?  Working with other parents to carpool kids to practices, house cleaning, getting kids to do more around the house.

 

What ideas would you share?

do you have a friend or loved one who has lost a parent or a child? Here is something you can do.

NEW – Introducing my newest Sacred Hellos remembrance greeting cards 

There are those days that come up; Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, perhaps a wedding, birth of a child or a deceased loved one’s birthday.

These are days where it would be so nice to have a card to send to the family member or friend who is desperately aching for a parent or child that they miss.

These cards are the perfect fit for those occasions.  Letting that person know you are holding them in love, for that specific day and all days. Letting them know you know and see them and their love, their pain. Acknowledging what they are going through without having to come up with the words yourself.

Do you know someone who has recently lost someone close to them?  Get this card, then set a reminder for 51 weeks from now, or for the anniversary of the passing to give that card to them. You’ll be prepared and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Click on the picture for more information or to see closeups.

For the parent missing a child who has passed:

   

For the person missing a Mother –

   

For the person missing a Father –

   

You can click on the pictures above or go to my etsy site to see all the cards. These cards to not mention a specific holiday so they are perfect for any day that you know your friend or loved one could use a little extra love.

I love living in a world, were even when we go through loss and hard times we can be surrounded by friends, co-workers and loved ones who take a moment to let us know they’ve got our backs, are holding us in prayer and surrounding us with love through those especially hard days.

Please share this post or a card link with anyone you know that would love to have this share with a person in their life.  Thanks,

could this be contentment?

 

I have a confession to make.

I have been experiencing something. It’s snuck up slowly.

I’ve tried to deny it, rename it, question it.

But friends, I believe it’s called Contentment.

Sunset 30 miles north off the coast of Cuba, taken this February.

After years of believing that I always have to be moving forward, growing, taking on more and more.  I’ve reached a place where I finally trust that no, right now for me;  I want to sit and bask in this time.  I don’t want to expand the time I put into my business, I don’t want to be involved in large numbers of art shows and networking and online classes.  I don’t want to join a bunch of mom groups.  I love my life right now.

After years of diligently looking at all my commitments and areas of stress, many which I wrote about in my ebook Finding myself in the Moonlight, I have added in breathing room and space into all areas of my life.  I’ve learned to trust myself more than ever before.  We’ve busted our asses for years and finally gotten to a financially free place where the only debt we have in the world isour home.  It’s truly freeing.  After years of having my head down and checking off an endless list of to-do’s I finally feel like I am in that place I prayed for so many times.

 

I’ll never stop learning (in fact I’m listening to a TED talk right now while typing this) but what I am getting better at is looking at classes and programs and knowing that now is not the time for most of them.  I’m still growing and learning and in fact my faith and spirituality is deeper than ever. Prayers and meditations and time in nature have all helped me to feel a contentment that I’ve never felt before. 

I share this to offer hope.  This may surprise you but I’m rebellous to my core.  I’m a rule following rebel I suppose.  I love to do good, I love to find good in others… but… the  minute society or people tell me that something should be done a certain way.. I question it.   It works though; I’m the happiest person I know.  I don’t feel like I need to do things the way everyone does them.   We all have areas we feel that pressure from. Here are some of the choices I’ve made that work for me (us) that have lead me more towards contentment:

  • moving 40 miles from the cities to a property where we can grow food, embrace nature, have a workshop to build and create in.  We are tucked into the trees and have privacy and also the rejunating energy of nature.  We get a whole floor to ourselves and the kids have their own bathroom, all in our cozy little 1500 sq. foot house.
  • getting out of debt.  We paid off $48k in just under 2 years (you can read about that here).  What that has done to our lives and the peace it has brought since though has blown my mind. We recently were able to take our kids on a week long cruise to Belize and also do a small road trip after we got off the ship and see the Everglades and visit a state park in the Florida keys.  The best part; we paid cash for the trip. It is so freeing to be able to plan and save and pay for a trip like that and come home and still have money in a savings account.  We worked so hard for so many years saving every penny, selling things and praying that I share that to say all that sacrifice was worth it.  
  • Homeschooling our youngest. Our oldest is in public high school and she thrives and loves it, I was faced last year with a decision to homeschool our youngest.  While I admit I wouldn’t prefer to have homeschooled my oldest, each kid is different and it has been the right decision to homeschool our little guy. And we LOVE it.  Just this morning in fact, sitting with him and watching him learn to read.  It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve gotten to do in my life. Teaching him about living from the heart, music and the arts, endless time for science and real life experiences.  I am so incredibly grateful for this time, piecing together a curriculum and resources so I can connect him with learning opportunities that help him become the best whole health and knowledgeable person he can be.
  • Our 16 year old just got her driving permit and I’ve had a similar feeling teaching her to drive. It’s so special to get to witness and be a part of that growth. In a world where everyone’s first reaction is to go to the fearful side of this time, and yes of course that part is there too; I’m choosing to really honor the blessings that this stage of life is bringing for her and us.
  • This past holiday season I did something that I had never done before.  After years of doing holiday art and craft shows and in person shows, hauling all my work from place to place, getting sitters and paying entrance fees I turned them all down and trusted this little voice inside that knew I could do it my own way. (At least for now, with kids at home I have found myself losing interest in shows. There is only 1 that I love where the people and atmoshpere and crowd are so amazing that I may keep doing it, we’ll see – lookup 4Angels boutiques if you’re curious)   Instead I offered very specific items online including remembrance ornaments and sold hundreds of them. I also got a chance to connect with small groups of people in online artwork parties. During these parties I was able to show videos where I got to explain the deeper meaning behind my artwork pieces and really hear people’s stories and what exactly what people around them were going through and connect them with the perfect gift they could get for those they love.  It was such a rewarding and special set of parties and I got to meet so many beautiful women. Plus I got to do all of those from my home on my own schedule. 
  • January 1st, I deactivated my personal Facebook. I was finding myself having underlying levels of guilt, after cutting my friend list from over 600 to around 250 that helped a lot. Ultimately though I had to get really real that me being at home and having endless access to “check in” was costing me many minutes once I added it all up.  Now after 2 months after being away I can see that the part I was really reluctant to admit to myself was that there was a continuous feeling of static in the back of my mind. Anywere I was, anything I was doing; I always felt like there was something else I was supposed to be doing.  I don’t know if everyone feels that, but for me stepping away has allowed me to feel so present in my day to day life.  At some point I’m sure I’ll get back on but for now it feels like the right choice for me.
  • I don’t do networking groups.  Or mommy groups.  Here is what I know about me. My go to emotion is guilt. I really want to honor and connect with people once I let them into my world.  What can seem like a fun one time, meet new people networking experience for most people leaves me feeling flaky and unreliable after the fact.  I connect with people and then within my daily life I have no room for follow up.  I am not available to do follow up coffee meetups, business meetings in person or mommy activities.  So instead I’ve chosen to honor this time and know that someday I may want to dive back in and network and meet more people and really give it my all then I will do so with joy. For right now though I feel fulfilled with those in my life and the simplicity of our day to day.
  • I don’t do phone calls or in person meetings if at all possible.  Artwork is visual and for me sharing information via email or online works best.  I am choosing right now not to do a ton of in person events.  What I have found also is on my deeper, more intuitive based artwork projects I attain better results if I don’t have phone conversations with my clients.  That my sound strange but I hate the phone. I don’t like talking to new people on the phone and it drains my energy.  So knowing that I choose to keep my internal energy high and my intuitive energy at it’s deepest level by honoring them.  This will change at some point, but for me right now with a kiddo in tow and a routine we stick to it is what works best for me.
  • Choosing to drive used cars.  We don’t do car payments and all our cars (4) are paid for in full.  I was especially glad the other night (when I hit a deer a few hundred yards from our driveway) that I don’t worry about scratches or other life things that seem to happen out here. For the record the deer jumped back up and was fine and so was my car.  Someday we’ll get some nicer cars but for now, this works great for us.  I’m grateful that Bruce knows how to fix cars and keeps them all running.  I think the biggest thing has been to disconnect our feelings of self worth from the cards we drive. Yes, of course it is fun to drive a super new, decked out car and we had fun last year when we rented a car for a weekend and chose a new BMW suv. It was really fun.  But I don’t feel like less of a person because our cars are from both the 90’s and early 2000’s.  I actually feel great pride and think of the other things we have been able to do with that time instead of having to spend it making money to pay for upgraded cars. Right now, I prefer more family time.
  • Minimalism – we have gotten rid of so much extra stuff over the last few years.  6 months after getting married and combining our lives (stuff) my mom passed and over the next couple years our garage filled up with furniture, decor, clothes and candles that were hers.  It’s taken almost a decade but we finally feel like we have just a few really special things that help me remember her but don’t need to have our whole house stuffed with things.  We spend less time organizing, cleaning and moving things which has freed up not only time but also energy for the things we really want to spend it on.
  • We don’t have cable. We have a roku with netflix and amazon and a couple other channels.  We don’t dvr things.  So yes, we miss things that are on tv quite often.  Years ago I spent so much time watching tv and scheduling out what things would be recorded and learning about new shows but now it has faded.  But somehow I’m still okay.  This past year I’ve bingewatched; Heartland, Hart of Dixie, Hallmark’s Home is where the heart it and a few other shows that everyone else enjoyed years ago.  I’m okay with that.  They are coming into my life at the perfect time for me to really savor them and enjoy them.
  • Diminishing toxic relationships.  We can’t always completely avoid people who bring negativity into our lives but I strive to eliminate unnecesary drama or people I don’t trust.  Today I don’t have to spend much time or energy on this but years ago I had a list of people in my life who I knew I needed to move on from. I send them love and I chose to limit or cut them out out completely and it’s been life changing.
  • We talk in the language of love.  If you where a fly on the wall in our home you would hear my 6 year old talk about how his heart is exploding with love. How he happy cried in the car yesterday while looking at the sunset and again last night when we all sat on the floor working on legos with him.  We talk about our love, what eachother mean to us and share gratitude fr
    eely. Even while having a 16 year old daughter I love that we can talk so openly and validate feelings, our intuition and have worked so hard to make our home a peaceful respite in contrast to a sometimes crazy and stressful world. 

I share some of these things because I know so many people do fill so much of their day’s doing things they “should” do instead of really allowing themselves to schedule in breathing room, space and peacefulness.  We want to make the people around us happy and sometimes we let the rule over that little feeling in our gut that knows something doesn’t feel like it fits anymore.  Give yourself permission to honor peacefulness as much as success and knowledge in other subjects.  It will make every area of your life better.  I’ve experienced the death’s of loved ones, a divorce, multiple moves, and defining and developing my business. Then later marrying a wonderful man and making choices that move me closer year after year towards a life I really connect with (including working really hard to un-learn so much I’ve been tought growing up.) That journey has led me to now has given me this gift of a chapter of contentment.  I feel so grateful, even grateful for the really tough times that make me even more grateful each day for good times.  I know life will be full of ups and downs and times where I can’t wait to be around people and others where I again crave solitude and quiet, but for now in this moment…  it feels so right.

Sending you all love!

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Personal wholeness.  Time and love poured into emotional, physical and spiritual wellness.   Then we can truly love and be loved.  Valentine’s Day (week) writings.

 

True Freedom! How we cleaned up over 48k in debt in just 21 months

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I was in conversation a few weeks ago with a close friend and we were talking about bills. I mentioned how hard we were focusing on paying bills because we were close to getting out of debt and only having our home left to pay.  “Wow, you’re lucky.  Must be nice.” That was her reply.  That stuck with me… we must be lucky.. it just didn’t sit right.

Over the last few weeks that’s been stirring around in my mind between errands and other thoughts and I finally am able to articulate why I don’t think luck had much to do with it and I certainly wouldn’t call the experience “nice”.  It was hard.  Really hard.  It is was raw and real and I feel like we’ve been paying off debt FOREVER!

Fair warning; this post is really honest and really long.

I believe in going after dreams, in living a big life and in living in true authenticity and joy.  I want a life that is full of love and experiences that make me grow and expand my life and relationships.

Let me rewind to 2011, our life was busy and full of joy. We had a small modest home in the suburbs of Minneapolis, 2 used cars we drove, a few acres of land a couple hours away with a camper, atv, an extra truck that ran and an extra truck that didn’t.  We’d spend the week working our tails off then pack up and go up to the “cabin” for the weekends.  As Sky got older and had more sports tournaments over the weekends we noticed that our attention, time and money were being pulled in more directions.  It was getting harder for us to really enjoy each thing we were doing because we were always racing to the next thing.  With a preteen and an infant we knew it was going to be many more years before we re-gained full chilled out weekends.  At the same time we were getting by financially, we didn’t think about all our payments since we were able to pay them all each month.  We didn’t consider ourselves paycheck to paycheck…  looking back we had about an extra 2-3 paycheck buffer that kept us feeling falsely safe.

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During a vacation to Colorado and out West in 2011, one of my dearest friends introduced me to Dave Ramsey and we talked about debt, and dared to dream what it would be like to have no payments.   It was after we got home that we had some serious conversations about money, goals and life.  We made a choice to sotp reacting to life and instead make some hard decisions that would help us in the long run.  We knew that someday we wanted the best of both worlds, not the home and a cabin but instead a home where we could live like we were at the cabin. We set the intention and we got to work; that first year we sold the land, the camper, the atv, the trucks, extra furniture and everything we could think of.  Doing all of that also allowed me to continue to work part time and be home more to help raise the kids. It was a win-win.

Years before, after I was going through my divorce I remember feeling so hopeless financially.  I remembered sitting at the kitchen table with my dad and I was crying my eyes out. I had just gotten a notice that my credit card with an $11k balance was raising my interest rate to 33%.  As a single mom at the time I was panicked.  I couldn’t see out of the 10’s of thousands of dollars of consumer debt I was left with after that world came crashing down on me.  From that hopelessness I filed for bankruptcy.   I justified it in my mind and at interest rates of greater than 30% at the time on all my credit cards I had paid my original balances plus some but because of all the interest I couldn’t seem to gain ground.  I filed and felt like I got a new start. The ironic thing.. even the day after filing bankruptcy I still was never debt free. There were still student loans and other things I was still paying on.

Fast forward back now to 2012 and the hubby and I were in the midst of working to pay things off then our main car broke down.  Note – this is was a defining moment for us looking back –  We chose to let that car sit for a bit while we figured out how to fix it and we went out and we finance a newer one.  Eventually we fixed up the first and sold it for a loss. This cycle went on for the next couple years.  2 steps forward one step back.

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At the end of 2014 is when we officially had it.  I was fresh back from a life changing European trip working with women and had a glimpse of how big life could be!  I knew that life was so much more than work, bills and being tight on time.  We were done playing this game, especially with money.

We bought a used car for cash and put our financed suv up for sale.  It finally sold in the spring of 2015, we owed more than it sold for and we had to pay the different and take a loss but we wouldn’t change it.  That same time we were down to just around $1500 of debt.  Free of car payments and only a small minimum payment on 1 card left we felt our world start to open up again.  We’d been dreaming of moving out of the house we were in but were upside down in it and couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.  You can read all about that miraculous story here.  From paying down all that debt we were finally almost debt free but we were cash poor.  We knew we had to make that move happen.  In the meantime it built back up over 20k in debt again fixing up the old and new house and all the extras that come with a move. Add in a school trip for Sky to Europe at over $5k and other life that was turned to payments our world turned back into one of frugalness and very strategic spending.  Thank goodness for all the joy and how much we love it here, I admit it made it all worthwhile!

From January of 2015 through Sept of 2016 (21 months) – yes we managed to clear $48,986 in debt.  HOLY MOTHER!!!  I see that and it gives me hope.  We are a family that loves the simple things in life and living out here really made that easier to pull off but it has been anything but easy to make that happen.   We’ve had to say “no” hundreds of times a day to spending.   I’ve laid out all the details of how we saved money and what we did to bring in extra in this blog post for those that want to read all the nitty gritty details.

  1. We set a budget every month.  I can tell you what we spent in each area of our life for any month going back years.  I had to know exactly where all our money was going and then from there decide what to cut and what to allow.  I keep really detailed spreadsheets and I LOVE it, it must balance out my artsy side but I get a complete natural high from doing our finances and calculating all the numbers.
  2. We worked as a team.  The hubby and sat down at least a few times a month and laid out what our goals where we wanted our money to go, saw what was actually being spent, and made adjustments to get the two areas to match.  We stopped reacting to things and became very intentional.  We decided what to keep and what to cut, where to spend and tried to minimize unexpected things anywhere we could by predicting needs and planning ahead.
  3. Our entertainment budget averaged only $20 a month. FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!  That is pretty much a few redbox rentals and then add up the extra over a few months and it’s a cheap night out.  We saw 1 movie at the theatre as a family and went to 1 county fair as a family in 22 months.  We had tons of bonfires, game nights, movie nights at home and work nights.  Plus we knew that we wanted to pour money towards debt and a couple strategic vacations. (this was not counting our family vacation – where we flew then stayed with a family member)
  4. Our restaurant budget averaged $30/month.  That meant a few drive through trips a month and we saved them for when we really were short on time or energy and savored them, or we’d stock up so we could go out to dinner with family or friends.
  5. We swallowed our pride and embraced a more minimalistic lifestyle.  This was actually the most enjoyable part.  After my mom passed away, it took years of going through her things and sorting through the layers of guilt, grief and the reality of physical space that “stuff” takes up.  Year after year I was able to let go of more of it.  What happens is it becomes a bit addictive when you start to feel empty space around the house.  It’s freeing.  Craiglist, ebay and FB groups became our selling machines.  We sold and donated a TON of stuff.  I let the kids re-sell their clothing they didn’t use anymore and they could keep that money as well.  It became a family mission to live with less stuff and instead enjoy eachother more and free up more time for life.
  6. My husband packed a lunch EVERY DAY for work.  For years he ate these garbage burritos.  Super cheap and filling.
  7. I learned to make my own laundry detergent, toothpaste, from scratch recipes, cleaning supplies and more.  I did this both for cost savings and also for the health aspect of knowing what was in our products.
  8. We cut our cable and only late last year got a Roku.  We got cheap cell phone plans and have scraped by with cheap phones.  (one of my next goals is to get a phone that actually has enough memory where I can have more than 6 pictures and also have instagram, FB, gmail, yahoo and etsy apps all installed at at the same time… seriously)
  9. We sold the financed car mentioned above and knocked out $12k in debt!
  10. A better interest rate on our house meant that we were paying down $400 more a month off principal than we were in the old house. We switched to a 15 year loan and had the same payment we did in our old house where we had a higher interest rate and a 30 year loan.
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To get the kids involved we filled a jar with beans. We used 1 bean for every $10 in debt on our last card to pay off. Here is Aspen counting beans to add to the other jar so he could see that one jar was getting almost empty and that mean we were close to being debt free!

 

Those are just a small sample of all the behind the scenes things we did while no one was looking so that we could be so “lucky”.  We had to consicously decide to not keep up with those around us who were able to go out and eat dinner out multiple times a week or month, drive fancy cars with payments or even get to buy new wardrobes each year.  Whether it was true or not we had to decide 100% that we didn’t EVER want to feel so stressed out about money again.    It’s funny, I can honestly say that over the years the times I had to make decisions based around money and feel the most consumed by thoughts of money are the years where it was the leanest.   This summer was a perfect testament to that.  In contrast to 2012 when our van broke down, we were in a panic we had no money to fix it right then nor did we have money to replace it.  So out we went that weekend and financed a $20k used SUV.   In contrast this summer our car went out, we were able to calmly share a car for a week as we assessed what to do; then we stuck to a $2,000 budget for a new car knowing that we wanted to pay cash for this car and stay out of debt. It was our true test again, our do-over to see if we’ve FINALLY learned our lesson.  2 months later and we are so happy with our decision and have zero buyers remorse.

I don’t share this to brag and I don’t share this because I don’t think people should have nice things.  I share this to offer hope to anyone out there who is feeling hopeless, feeling how I was years back facing 10’s of thousand in debt and feeling like I had no options and full of shame.   I share this to show it is possible to pay off debt and not have car payments.  It is possible to give yourself breathing room instead of living from crisis to crisis.

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I believe life should be about surrounding ourselves with things, experiences and people that genuinely make us feel good.  Living authentically and truthfully.  Living within our financial means so we have breathing room when life hands us a curveball or a friend goes through a hard time and we then have some money to help them with.

When we aren’t paying hundreds (or thousands) in interest and debt payments each month it frees us up to be more in tune with our creativity, our goals, our truest authentic selves.  It leaves money to get select things that truly make us feel good (like art, ahem 🙂 ).  It lets us come out of survival mode and into a part of our being that we didn’t even know was there.  It takes guts and courage to get so honest and real with a spouse about every cent.  Things we think are necessities or secret spending.  It’s taken incredible amounts of self discipline. Mostly though I think it’s taken patience.  Once we decided we were done wanting to live the way we were it wasn’t like we could snap our fingers and actually be done.  No, instead that was just the beginning of years of sacrifice and years of being patient and trusting the process.  Years of feeling like some months there was only a hundred left over to pay towards debt and knowing that better months were to come.  Patience and not giving up.

one of the many days of hanging laundry to dry inside at our old house.

one of the many days of hanging laundry to dry inside at our old house.

Another lesson, other people will spend your money for you unless you learn to consciously control it.  People shamed us, people judged us, people laughed at us, people talked behind our back about our choices, people didn’t take time to ask us our goals but instead assumed we were in a downward spiral.  Looking back I can only imagine what it looked like to people close to us.  Suddenly they hear we are selling the land, camper, atv, trucks, furniture… they must have been scared for us.  Wondering if one of us had a secret addiction or gambling problem.  Wondering why we were giving up all the things we loved.  What they must have thought when we sold our nice 2012 suv and got an older ’02 model with some rust.   This is the lesson we learned in humility and believing in ourselves.  The lesson in making a plan that worked best for OUR family, choosing how OUR money would be spent and then learning to not care what anybody thought.  We learned to know  in our hearts that we were doing what we had to do for the best LONG term well being of our family and put that priority over the short term sacrifices.

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I am also partly sharing this just for my own self to fully grasp it and have it documented to share with our kids so they can understand all the times we said no to things.  Also because it gives me hope, after living so lean for years I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I see a year of intense saving coming up, making up for lost time and creating a buffer  so the hubby can switch jobs and have more free time.  I see hope of more travel, and lets face it… some new bras.  Truthfully though I hope other things don’t change.  I love the feeling of being a team, knowing we are working towards a goal, choosing time together over things and places.  I loved saying no 900 times so that we could budget in a family vacation that we’d savor and never forget.

I’ll be back in a few days with a write up of many of the things we did to make this happen.  We’ve found inspiration in so many others before us who have paid things off.  It’s funny because in theory it doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal to not have consumer debt. Maybe that’s why we so easily get into debt, we assume we’ll fall back out of it just as easily as we fell into it.   But the truth is it was really freaking hard just to get to the point where we stopped accumulating more debt.  Our incomes both fluctuate so it was easy to live high during the good times then freak out during the slow seasons.  It’s only when we figured out how to live within the earning of the slowest seasons and then consider the busy times as bonus that things started to change.   Even just giving up cable.  It was years ago now and I in my head was remembering it as no big deal.  However, I recently found a journal of mine and I was journaling through the process of giving up cable.  It was hard!  I was going through withdrawl.  I was missing my shows I loved, I missed my ability to watch things when I wanted (thank you dvr).  I felt completely disconnected from the world.  It took a good month or so I noticed reading back through my entries before I started to really unwind and really enjoy the new quiet space in my life.

Last Saturday night, we put all four of our fingers on the computer mouse and as a family we clicked to make our LAST consumer debt payment!!!!! Then we had an epic hour long dance party.  Singing, dancing and feeling thousands of pounds of pressure being lifted.  Especially for the kids I wanted to make that night a big deal. A celebration, an end of a chapter.  A night they can use to bookmark these past few years as well.  We all gathered round and counted down and did our own private scream, yelling, “3…2…1… We’re DEBT FREEEEEEEEEE!!!”.  It was awesomely nerdy and fantastic and felt amazing.   Next up… savings and house.

I thank you for reading our story.   We are sending out love to all of you and we thank you for all your support over these last few years.  We’re saying cheers to each of you on the same journey and saying prayers for all of us; that we may be able to live with a wisdom beyond our immediate knowing that guides us in love, compassion and joy.

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