1 year debt free anniversary – was it worth it

It’s been 1 year since we clicked the mouse and paid off our last chuck on consumer debt. (we’re now just working on our mortgage). You can read all about our debt free journey here.

So what has this year brought?

Has it been as amazing as we’d hoped?

Yes.  Yes it has.

 

In the weeks after we paid that last bill off, Bruce and I headed down for a couples only long weekend in Waco, Texas.  We went to the Magnolia Silobration (Fixer Upper peeps unite!) and listened to live music, shopped, visited antique shops and just hung out. It was so much fun to share another side of Texas with Bruce too. I lived there in my early 20’s and have wished I could share more of it with Bruce and help him fall in love with it as I have.  This was a much needed little getaway after having our noses to the grindstone for so long.  We paid cash and savored every second of it!

 

Black friday we were all laying around the house watching the old classic, Titanic. So what did that make us want to do? It made us want to look into taking a cruise of course.  Go figure.  So as luck would have it, we found a black Friday sale and managed to get the 4 of us booked on a nearly week long cruise for under $1500 (included taxes)!  Again, paid in full.  It’s amazing how life can be when you’re not paying out so much towards interest and debt.  We had a modest Christmas, continuing to save as much as possible and while we’ve padded our budget a bit we haven’t gone too crazy.  Travel is our love though so we tend to all be in agreement to live a bit tighter and then splurge on seeing our beautiful country and the world.

We saved up, bought our airfare to Florida and took our cruise to Belize in February. It was so nice to get to have that experience together. Afterwards we rented a car and spent the day driving down to the Florida keys, seeing a state park beach and then seeing the everglades before our flight back to winter.  (I’m praying this beach was spared during the recent hurricanes.)

 

So one thing that we do differently than most people we know is that we don’t do all the extras when we travel. We aren’t big drinkers, and we consciously chose not to do any excursions from the cruise. This was for 2 reasons. The first was that we had a hard time finding things that we all found interesting and “worth it” for a 6 year old, a teenager and both of us. Second, we priced it out and decided instead of spending a 1/2 day at the mayan ruins we could use that same amount of money and do a 2 week camping road trip during the summer.  We don’t feel like we are sacrificing at all though. We make sure to enjoy everything we can do and savor it all.  Instead of the excursion we drank from coconuts in belize and ate fresh salsa on the pier while taking it all in.

We have made a decision that we’ll treat “vacation money” like “real life money”.  That means we don’t just surrender $1400-1600 for a few hours excursion just because we’re on vacation, for good or bad I can’t forget that that is the amount of a house payment back in “real life”.  Plus, knowing that is nearly the exact amount of what we later paid for 2 weeks full of memories always keeps us accountable. The more memories and time together the better.

 

So one of the biggest benefits we’ve had since paying off all those pesky bills was a huge peace of mind and the ability to FINALLY make some decisions where money wasn’t the first factor in the decision process.  For years Bruce has been wanting to switch careers. He worked long, unpredictable hours and could never count on being home in the evening. One of his big goals during our whole debt paying process was to be able to switch jobs and be able to see the kids play sports and be involved with their activities. Especially to have our little guy join cub scouts and for Bruce to get to be there to experience it with him.

In May Bruce accepted a different job and while it came with a bit of a pay cut, it also came with predictable hours and the guarantee of being home every evening. It was an answer to prayer.  It’s amazing how things worked out in terms of timing, he was able to put in his notice so he’d finish in time for the vacation dates we had set up months before.  He set up his start date at his new job for a couple days after we got back.  It was as if it was all perfectly planned out. 😉

So in June we started off our road trip fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine and seeing some of the Little house on the Prairie books’ sites. We camped on the actual land that the Ingalls family lived on in DeSmet years ago. The kids slept in this awesome covered wagon and Bruce and I slept under the stars in our sleeping bags. It was magical.

 

We then headed to Colorado Springs to visit with family before we made our way over to Durango to visit more family. Along the way we saw Garden of the Gods, Cave of the winds, St. Elmo ghost town, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Silverton, Ouray, then Durango. It was so great.  Afterwards we headed back and stopped in Iowa to see more family/friends. It was such an amazing time.  We camped for the first 9 nights and then stayed with people and in hotels. I love everything about a road trip. Long talks, good music, seeing the outskirts of areas and how quickly the landscapes can change. I savor it all.


A couple weeks ago I was able to go with a cousin out to see my aunt and uncle in New York City. It was amazing.  My favorite moments were when I got a chocolate croissant from an amazing little french bakery and an iced coffee and we sat in Rockefeller plaza taking it all in and catching up with each other.  We got to see so many amazing sites but my favorite moments were drinking wine, staying up way too late and finding out how hilarious my relatives are. It was so great to get to have basically a 5 day slumber party and laugh and play. I loved it.  My aunt and uncle spoiled us rotten so it didn’t cost me as much as it sounds like it did but it still was something that I felt really proud to pay for up front and then use cash throughout.

 

 

So it’s not that suddenly we paid things off and then life got easy, but I will say that an incredible amount of pressure and stress has been relieved in our lives and I am so grateful to get to have these experiences and say yes more.  We’re working to beef up a savings account, have started a college savings account FINALLY and are working to make sure all the details are handled.  Mostly though I can look back at the years we spent, first getting to where we weren’t building more debt, then breaking even, then finally paying extra towards bills. It was hard and there were so many months where we felt like we were running in place. I keep meticulous spreadsheets, track where we spend each cent and work really hard to make sure that we spend with intention instead of just flowing through without consciously deciding.  I’ve taken all those lessons I’ve learned and teamed them up with encouragement and fun and created a course I’m offering for free starting in October. It’s all been a lesson of perseverance, communication and teamwork.  I’m here to offer encouragement to anyone else out there who feels overwhelmed by bills, payments or is just exhausted of the game of trying to keep up with everything society says you should do or have.

I know that many people have no desire to travel, nor do I share these photos because I think you should (well maybe a little bit, traveling is amazing).  Mostly though I know that there is something inside of us all that lights us up and makes us feel alive and in tune with why we are alive. Travel does that for me, what does that for you?   Whether money is a factor or not, I offer you so much encouragement to add more of whatever that thing is for you into your life. Fill in all the gaps and cracks with experiences, people, and lastly things that bring you joy.

So in true full circle spirit, last night Bruce and our son went to their first Cub scouts meeting. Together they signed up and Bruce is going to be volunteering with the troop. Aspen came running in the door last night when they got home and could hardly get all the words out he was so excited to share how much fun he had.  It makes me think back to any random day 2, 3, or even 6 years ago that we had to make a decision to save money here or there, pay off something.. it was all those tiny steps that helped us to that moment last night and a million other small moments just like it. We couldn’t see how it was all going to work out while we were in the thick of it, but I’m so grateful we dreamed and had faith.

I’ve figured out how to LOVE going in my laundry room

I’ve got the typical basement, unfinished laundry room. I love it and I’m so grateful to have it. After years at our last house of having only a closet off the kitchen with our washer and dryer in it, I’m grateful to have a room that is larger and offers more storage as well.

However, walking into the concrete room was rather uninspiring. Not to mention that most of the time when I’d walk in there it was to wash or fold or grab cleaning products.  blah…

Recently we were finally able to give it a moderate makeover.  There is tons of wiring, pipes, tubes and other goodies all over that were going to be exposed so we just did the best we could. We aren’t ready to sheetrock and insulate yet so we compromised and did the cheapest yet biggest impact thing we could do… paint.

We purchased special white paint that is made to also help block moisture and specifically made for these cinder blocks then we started painting.  We also ripped out a couple temporary walls and shelves that had been left in there from the last owner, part of the ceiling was covered by a piece of plywood so I painted that also.  I even crawled back in behind the sink and cleaned and painted.  Pictures don’t always do it justice but it’s amazing what some bright paint can do for a room. I also scrubbed the plastic sink on the outside and then taped it off and primed it with paint for plastic, then painted it a taupe/green color.

We drilled some larger inset circles on the stair supports and placed some tubing under the stairs as another option to hang laundry on during the winter.  I use an outside line during the summer but hanging inside during the winter also really helps add moisture into the dry air as well.

 

Now the fun part.  I had our son’s room decorated in a cabin and nature theme and he wasn’t feeling it.  (He’s preferring legos and minecraft these days) so I took all those pieces along with some of our travel postcards and pictures and magnets and I covered the electrical boxes, added a world map and a few pieces of decor.  One of my favorite pieces over the small folding table is a United States map. On it we’ve dotted and highlighted all of our road trips.  It’s so fun to be folding laundry now and looking at that map and those photos and remembering so many great adventures. It also gets me dreaming about our next road trip or vacation each time I see it.

 

So that my friends is how I turned the most boring room in the house into one of dreams and joy. I light up every single time I walk in there and smile to myself now.  Mission accomplished!

 

 

 

Is there is a spot in your home or office that is drab right now that you could makeover with something simple?  A new light fixture, a picture, or a new pillow?  That’s my challenge to you, find a way to take your least favorite place and make it into one of your favorites. Message me a picture if you would like my ideas and I’d be happy to give you some ideas. 🙂

Wishing you 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?

Tips for Soulful Travel – Creating an Inspired Life Radio

Join me this week on True2Youradio as I share Tips for Soulful Travel.

Do you dread travelling?  or do you come home after a trip ready for more and feeling soulfully fulfilled?

Change the way you look at travelling.  I share my top 10 tips to make the most out of every trip whether it’s across town, the country or the world.
Enjoy.

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Have you missed my past shows?  You can now listen to all either in iTunes or here in the my show archives.

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Paris, France

Yesterday we were so privilaged to work with 35+ Portuguése women They were so lovely. Some spoke English but most did not. It was a beatiful how the started off with peopke a little shy but by end the language, culture or geography didn’t matter. we felt so connected as a group of women compssion for what others are going through, yet holding a dpace for one another as we grow and continue to be more connected and peaceful both inside and out.. We wrapped up the evening exchanging emails, taking photos and sharing hugs. It was beautiful.  Afterwards our group at at a delicious vegetarian restaurant. Then got settled into our new hotel for the night.

This morning we woke up at 3:45am We caught an early flight to Paris. Once we got here we checked in and replenished our energies with a day of sightseeing.  We started the journey with cafe and croissants. (amazingly the first one I have ever loved). The walked along the river, and took in the scenery. We stopped and drank some red wine with cheese and baguettes. It was an experience I will never forget.  We saw Notre Dame and many bridges.

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Laughed so hard trying to figure out the self washing port-a-potties.

Then for dinner I had french onion soup and crepes filled with nutella. They were both great.

The afternoon rain stopped in time for us to take a night time walk to the Eiffel Tower. it was pretty amazing.

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Paris is indeed stunning, rain or shine.  Goodnight. Off to S. France in the morning. We will do a harmony circle with those women tomorrow.  Feeling filled with gratitude.

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Lisbon, Portugal

 Today I arrived in Lisbon.  I had a brief layover in Newark on the way, what a gift. I got to see the New York City skyline in the daylight when when we came into Newark. Then I was lucky enough to see the full moon over the skyline at night as we took off. I have never had much of a draw towards NYC but I must say that  I could feel the energy and pull of it even from the sky.

Yesterday I met up with 3 other women that will be on this tour with me, we ventured  off on foot from our hotel and found the cutest little cafe/ restaurant. We stayed for 3 hours as the owner proudly brought out a giant fresh salad and shrimp. we then picked out our cuts of fish and then perfectly grilled them and presented them with a large family style plate of steamed veggies. I was such a quintessential Portugal experience. He didnt speak English and we at least knew how to say salad and shrimp… so it was a success.

I feel like I have known these women for years. Truly soul sisters. We had a great time laughing and sharing stories.

Its a good thing I was really tired because the beds are not much to write home about. (but I will tell you about them anyways).

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We are off soon to go meet the rest of the women and have our first harmony circle here in Lisbon.  Tomorrow we flyout to Paris.  I will check in again soon.

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two are better than one

I’m in the midst of my first major fundraising effort. Next year I will go to Israel with 333 other women to create a space for peace, sisterhood and change.  You can read all about the story here.  To make this happen I’ve stepped forward to raise over $9500 in the next 9 months.  One thing I never expected is how incredibly vulnerable I feel.   The passion I feel for the cause makes it all worth it to put myself out there, but I admit every once in awhile a little voice does step in, “who do you think you are?”, “that’s impossible”, “times are tough for people”, “if you fail, you are going to fail in front of EVERYONE!”…  uggghhh.  It’s not a fun experience when I am feeling those doubts.  Thankfully most of the time I am able to keep my mind clear of them and remember this isn’t really about me. It will undoubtedly be a life changing experience for me, but it’s bigger than me.

So that brings up the question that I admit I have asked myself,  “Why not just get a second job or bust my butt doing extra artwork and earn the $9,000 myself and never have to talk about it to anyone, no feeling vulnerable or ever feeling rejection?”  A beautiful friend of mine, Joan so perfectly articulated why this isn’t the best option and it really got me thinking.

Part of the beauty of us as women going to Israel to work with these 600+ other ladies is that it’s bigger than us.  Part of our goal is to raise awareness. Awareness for the possibilities of peace, the power of a sisterhood, that we aren’t as different from another as the world likes to tell us we are.  Awareness that we can make a difference, awareness that there is tremendous power in 10’s of thousands of people that have pitched in anywhere from $10 – hundreds or bought a bracelet or even simply sent best wishes. That is more people praying, sending positive energy and raising the consciousness of the power we have as a collective force.  That is 10’s of thousands of other men and women who get the gift of knowing they are part of something bigger, they get to feel the pride and goodness in helping others.  I once heard an interesting thing: those who witnessed an act of kindness actually had as much and sometimes more of an oxytocin/happy hormone rush that even the people who were the giver or receiver of the good deed.   Those people then take that happiness and spread it in their own lives to those they come in contact with.  So by the time we all head out on our adventure in May of 2014 there will be 100’s of thousands of people involved.  Involved, affected for the better, invested, praying, meditating. That is WAY bigger and better than little ol’ me and my $9,000 without anyone else being involved.  We are part of a swelling undertide of change, peace and love.  And that, it feels amazing for everyone single one of us.   **Noelle

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If you feel called to be a part of this journey through supporting me, I’d be so grateful.  There are a few ways to do this.

  1. Buy a gorgeous bracelet from me. I just got a brand new batch in on 4/8/2013!! These bracelets are beautiful and my hope is that each time you look at it you will feel the difference you’ve made. Each bracelet is $33 and comes in an organza bag and has a tag that tells about the project. These make a great gift also. This amount is not tax deductable since you will be getting a bracelet in return but all profits will go to this project. I will have limited designs of each one shown, if the one you order is sold out I will let you know and replace it with one here that is closest to what you order. Bracelets will begin shipping in April.
  2. If you own a store, salon, boutique etc where women frequent and you would like to help sponsor this project let me know. I will be connecting with 11 local businesses to sell bracelets; I will provide a basket to place near your register to sell 33 bracelets and will provide all information about the project to display. I will then be checking in with you bi-weekly. In exchange for this generous help, once those bracelets are sold out your name will be added to the Harmony Project website and I will add your store name to my own website and any future press releases about the project.
  3. SHE – postcard Print. This prints radiates beauty, strength, connectedness. Everything that the Harmony Project stands for also.  For $15 you get 2 – 5.5″ x8.5″ postcard prints!  See the print here.

Israel here I come!

I am thrilled to share with you my exciting news!

First, in order to catch you up fully let me rewind: Four years ago today, my beautiful mother passed away unexpectedly. The years since then have been filled by every emotion possible. In addition to being an LPN at a nursing home for many years by mom later devoted years to raising all of us kids. This brought us all a closeness, a protectiveness and a loving admiration for her that we will cherish forever. One thing that I have taken from that experience is a hunger for finding a way for me to connect and help other women see their inner light.

This leads me to today. I have an amazing opportunity to be a part of a project that is bigger than anything I could ever dream to accomplish on my own. In May, 2014 I will join 333 women from the Western world (US, Canada, etc) and we will go to Bethlehem, Israel for a week. While there we will join with 333 Israeli women and 333 Palestinian women for a 3 day retreat. During this trip we will follow in the footsteps of a smaller scale retreat that successfully took place in the fall of 2012, where a total of 33+ women from these 3 areas had breakthroughs, hugs, love and connection. To learn more about what we will do while there I have created a page devoted to this project here on my website.
To help accomplish this, I will embark on a tremendous fund raising effort over the next year. The final cost for me to do this will be over $9000. I know that I’m being called to be a part of this and I know that it completely aligns with my souls desire to help women both locally and around the world. I will come back from this experience with even greater skills and a heart to be able to do more work here locally as well. I ask that if you believe in me and this trip’s purpose resonates with you that you help make this possible for me by making a donation or purchase below. I have 4 options set up:

  1. A tax deductible donation. Braveheart Women is a 501c3 non-profit organization and your donation is fully tax deductable. To do this please make a check out to BraveHeart Foundation and mail it to me at: Noelle Rollins Art 543 Coon Rapids Blvd, Coon Rapids, MN 55433. (Any amount over $100 and I will add your name as a sponsor to a page on my website where I will have information. Any amount over $50 and I will add your name as a contributor)
  2. Host an art class at my studio. You will gather 6-15 of your friends, family or co-workers for a fun, relaxed evening out. All profits will go directly to this trip. This can be a kids party, ladies night out, moms group, painting party, etc. Cost is $40 per person. (This will not be tax deductible but your money will go towards the cause.
  3. Buy a gorgeous bracelet from me. These bracelets are beautiful and my hope is that each time you look at it you will feel the difference you’ve made. Each bracelet is $33 and comes in an organza bag and has a tag that tells about the project. These make a great gift also. I will have limited designs of each one shown, if the one you order is sold out I will let you know so we can find one that is close to the one you’ve chosen. Bracelets will begin shipping in April.
  4. If you own (or work at) a store, salon, boutique etc where women frequent and you would like to help sponsor this project let me know. I will be connecting with 11 businesses to sell bracelets; I will provide a basket to place near your register to sell 33 bracelets and will provide all information about the project to display. I will then be checking in with you bi-weekly. In exchange for this generous help, once those bracelets are sold out your name will be added to the Harmony Project website and I will add your store name to my own website and any future press releases about the project.

Lastly, I have one favor to ask each of you whether you are able to contribute through a donation or not.  I ask you to pray for this project, my part in it and the group of beautiful women and their families and friends that will be positively affected; surrounding it with uplifting and positive energy.

Thank you! Noelle