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3.30.2020

QUARANTINE LIFE: A Little Bit Tired and a Lotta Bit Angsty

I was already out of the habit of writing consistently, but it feels exponentially more difficult to know where to start when it feels a little like the sky is falling. I've been thinking about how my 8th grade English teacher had us listen to the radio on 9/11/2001 and journal what we heard and how we were processing it. The middle schooler who wrote that journal entry had no understanding of what had happened or the cultural and societal impact that day would wind up having in my home country and around the world.

And yet, I'm so glad I have that journal entry to recall. Because hindsight is 20/20 and it feels nearly impossible to remember the actual emotions we had during times like the days post-9/11 or currently in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. I'm writing equally for 2020 Kaity, as well as for 2030 Kaity.



Today is Monday and I just began my second week of working from home (today marks Chuck's third). For over a week now, we've attempted to maintain our full-time working hours while also simultaneously watching over an energetic 5 year old and a needy 3 year old. (That isn't meant to be a complaint about my beloveds, but simply a statement of fact.) Chuck already had an "office"/Man Cave in our basement so the transition was pretty seamless for him. I had no such set up, so we moved all of the boys' toys upstairs to what will become their new bedroom and I turned what was essentially their playroom into my Office/Guest Room.

The day I found out my company was going to move toward having us work remotely I invested in a brand new computer and some rainbow-print bedding. Those two things may not seem like necessities, but they were for me. My surroundings have a huge impact on my functionality and mental health so I knew I had to create a space for myself that fostered creativity and positivity in the midst of a stressful and overwhelming situation. I finished painting this past weekend and was so happy with the results. Chuck made a comment that it looked like it should be our hypothetical daughter's bedroom. If I'm being honest, that's kind of exactly what it was for me (but I'm sure that ache is becoming old news to those who know and love me).

When all this began a couple weeks ago, Chuck and I joked about how our Enneagram types were on full display- my Type 1 Perfectionist was stressing about the prospect of losing my everyday structure and routine (I realize this sounds trivial, but is something I'm finding to be incredibly important to me). Chuck's Type 9 Peacemaker couldn't have seemed less ruffled. He was very go-with-the flow and has continued to be for the last few weeks. While I'm just about on the verge of a mental breakdown because of the constant stream of disruptions to my usual workflow, Chuck is just tickled about all of the family time we're getting as a result of this isolation.

I know who I married and I love his heart. I swing between being overwhelmingly grateful that he is steadfast and calm when I am rigid and impatient, and then totally annoyed because HOW IS HE SO UNBOTHERED WHILE WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC?! I'm not a drinker, but I'm starting to see the appeal.



I feel like this time at home with my children has also given me flashbacks to my time as a stay-at-home Mom and let me tell you- there is a reason why I left the SAHM life behind. I wish with every ounce of my being that I could be the woman who devises activities and lesson plans and fills each day with organic learning and fun experiences, but I am most assuredly NOT. Before having kids, I was never a "kid person." I just have never related to kids- even as a child. When my sister and I were little and in social situations where we were thrust together with other kids, we would literally just find an isolated corner to hang out in where we would pass judgment on the other children. (Not a cute childhood story, but helps explain us both as adults). I simply don't relate well to kids or enjoy kid activities the way I feel like a Mom should.

Finding out I was a terrible stay-at-home parent and then subsequently finding my groove as a full-time working Mom made me realize that my best version of motherhood is one in which I have a long break from the incessant activity and noise. I am a better Mommy to my boys because I'm not always around them. And yet- here we are. Not only am I expected to perform my typical day-to-day office job, but I am also around my kids ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY.



I'm overstimulated, exhausted, and burnt out. It feels like we were just leaving the season of cooped-up, stir craziness behind and the freedom that Spring usually brings me has been snatched away. Life just feels...unsustainable at this moment in time and I worry that my children are going to somehow be hurt as a result of my melancholy and mental fragility.

I didn't mean for this to take such a depressing sharp turn, but it feels tiring to keep up the charade that I'm doing fine. And clearly, these emotions that have taken residence in my heart were bursting to spill out. I know when life returns to some semblance of normal, we'll collectively find our new rhythm. I also know that in the grand scheme of things I am considerably lucky to have my family's health, job security and a [very small] amount of savings to fall back on if things take a turn. I know I am not alone in my grief and overwhelm and I'm hopelessly optimistic that better things lie ahead. But today, I'm just a little bit tired and a lotta bit angsty. 


2.18.2020

19 GOALS IN 2019: The Final Recap

I think it's fair to say that 2019 was the year blogging sat on my back burner. I was working full-time, studying for exams, and using my spare time to try and keep up with two energetic little men. As my brain soaked up as much finance-related information as it could, it left no room for reading or writing.

Now that we're over a month into 2020, I'm thankfully not as over-committed as I was last year, but it's admittedly been difficult to get back into the swing of writing. Blogging is at best a dying art, but I've poured so much of my life into this silly pastime that it breaks my heart even thinking about giving it up. I started writing here just before I boarded a plane to Uganda in January of 2009. Over a decade of my life is chronicled here and I sincerely hope to do a better job of documenting the next 10 years. Not to mention, if I want to call myself a writer, I kind of need to write...


Anyway, I did a piss poor job of checking in on my 2019 yearly goals, but I want to wrap up so I can move forward with a fresh set of goals for 2020.






Here is my final 2019 BUCKET LIST recap: 


PROFESSIONAL

As a full-time working Mama again (in a brand new-to-me industry), there was so much professional development for me to conquer in 2019!
  1. Pass my registration exams. COMPLETE! I passed my first exam on December 31, 2018 so it didn't technically count for 2019. But I passed my second exam in May and then earned a professional designation in December! I'm really proud of the fact that I went into this job and those exams with no prior experience in the financial world and I passed all three on the first try!



READING

In my heart of hearts, I will always be a bookworm. But with everything I had going on, I wasn't putting any pressure on myself to participate in book challenges or spend all my spare time with my nose in a book.
  1. Read 35 books. NOT COMPLETED (26/35) I still averaged over two books a month which wasn't terrible- my Top 3 favorites would probably have to be Searching for Sunday, Little Fires Everywhere, and Educated.
  2. Read 3 books published before 1990. NOT COMPLETED (0/3) Not a single book published before 2010.

FINANCIAL

2019 was the year we really dug in our heels and began making some progress with our debt snowball. 
  1. Increase my credit score by 5%NOT COMPLETED My credit score was a rollercoaster over the course of the year and I wound up about where I started. Womp, womp...
  2. Save up enough to buy a minivan in cash. NOT COMPLETED Ha! Not even close, though I did pay down a lot of my current auto loan.
  3. Contribute at least $500 each to Charlie and Crosby's 529 college savings accounts. NOT COMPLETED The boys got some birthday money to put toward their college savings, but I didn't contribute much extra to their 529s as we have more pressing short-term financial goals
  4. Pay off remaining credit card debt. COMPLETE! Finally! One I can proudly say we crossed off in May.
  5. Pay off remaining medical bills. COMPLETE! A couple months later, we paid off all our medical debt in July!



HEALTH
I wanted to continue working on living a healthier lifestyle with manageable and realistic goals for my busy schedule. It went okay...
  1. Go to the gym at least 2 mornings per week. NOT COMPLETED In fact, I cancelled my gym membership pretty early on in the year.
  2. Run a half marathon. NOT COMPLETED Ugh, I was so close but due to a heat advisory I wound up running a 10k instead of my planned half marathon.
  3. Attend yoga class at least once per month. NOT COMPLETED Also, nope.
  4. Plan one vegetarian meal per week. COMPLETE! I did this pretty informally. I wasn't tracking, but I did a pretty been decent job eating vegetarian a couple times per week, even if it was just eggs and toast.



HOME
I love, love, love my house and making it more of a home is one of my favorite things to do. I had big aspirations (bigger than my wallet!) for 2019.

  1. Finish converting upstairs room to a fourth bedroom. NOT COMPLETED Although it wasn't completed, we did make progress! Our friend installed a window, new lighting, and some shiplap-type siding for the accent wall. We still need to install a closet, paint, and purchase the bunk bed, mattresses, and bedding.
  2. Convert downstairs bedroom into an office/guest room. NOT COMPLETED Not yet.
  3. Remodel downstairs half bathroom into a full bathroomNOT COMPLETED Not even close.
  4. Landscape the front yard. COMPLETE! It still doesn't look great, but we did have a local landscaping company grind the stumps leftover from when we lost all our front trees to an ice storm in 2018 and planted some grass seed.


    LIFE
    These were the few random, miscellaneous things that I wanted to see happen in 2019 for me and my little family.
    1. Adopt a four-legged friend. COMPLETE! We did it, we did it! Reggie joined our family just a few days before Christmas. 
    2. Take a kid-free weekend getaway. COMPLETE! Over Labor Day weekend, Chuck and I dropped the boys off to go camping with Grandma while we stayed in Watkins Glen, NY and attended a friend's wedding. It was the perfect way to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.
    3. Take a photography or cooking class. COMPLETE! Back in January, our favorite family photographer offered an Intro to Photography class. It wound up being just the two of us and I was so appreciative of the time we spent together. I haven't practiced much, but at the very least, I can now take pictures in manual mode.

    2019 TOTAL GOALS COMPLETE: 8/19

    We didn't do a lot of the house things we wanted to and my half marathon medal remains elusive, but at the end of the day- 2019 brought us some major professional and financial wins, so I'm calling it a success!

    2.08.2020

    Welcoming our newest family member...Reggie!



    I think...I think I've forgotten how to write.

    In the last year, with all of my spare time spent studying for exams and/or trying to be a somewhat decent mother, I really got out of the habit of publishing any blog content. In the last couple months, I've been feeling the itch to return, but I've really been struggling with where to start. So much time has elapsed and so much life has happened in my digital absence. The boys both celebrated birthdays, I earned a professional designation, and a lot of progress was made toward our family's financial goals and my personal bucket list goals.

    Writer's block has been been hitting me BIG TIME. But also, in the time that I've written this handful of sentences, I've been interrupted by small people needing things from me no less than 13 times. As if I needed a reminder of "Oh right, this is why I can't expend the mental energy required to string words together."

    In any case, I'm doing my best. And I figured today's topic was a "softball" post. One that I really want to share and one that is incredibly easy to write because it can be summed up as...

    WE GOT A DOG!




    To provide some backstory, the week before Christmas was a big, fat stinker for our family. Everyone was battling various ailments, our daycare provider had a pipe burst in her house and had to unexpectedly close through the end of the year. This was exacerbated by the fact that Chuck and I collectively had no sick or vacation time left to take off and deal with the aforementioned crises. A co-worker had just gone on maternity leave so not only did I not have the time to take off, but I was also leaving my short-staffed team in the lurch who needed me for all of the last-minute, year-end calls and tasks.

    Suffice to say, it was stressful. We both wound up taking unpaid leave, relying on family members, and somehow found our way through the chaotic holiday season. I like to think the boys didn't know the difference and all of the time spent with family was fun for them, but if I'm being honest it was not fun for Mommy.

    In this blur of commotion, I wasn't sleeping much. It was a Friday evening and one of the boys had woken up (crying? vomiting? It's all a blur at this point) and I couldn't fall back to sleep. A few months prior we'd submitted an adoption application at an animal rescue in Dayton, but there wasn't really any follow-up. We thought we had found our dog back in the Fall, but it wound up falling through as the pup we had our eye on was nipping and they were concerned with us having small children in the house. So in the very early morning hours of Saturday, December 21, I started mindlessly scrolling PetFinder's available puppers and discovered that were some puppies available at our small county's humane society. I submitted our application some time around 4:00 AM with absolutely no expectation that anything would come of it. Imagine my surprise when I got an email a mere six hours later from a volunteer asking if we wanted to come meet the puppies.



    I filled Chuck in on the whole situation and asked if he wanted to meet them. I showed him the pictures of the Lab/Terrier puppies and while we agreed that they were all cute, we both had our eyes set on one named "Shadow." Chuck is often reluctant to venture outside his comfort zone and is the steady, reasonable partner to my sometimes impulsive self. He had some reservations and questioned if our full-time working lifestyle was adequately suited for a pet. His points were all fair and I was fine if we went, met the pups and then decided it was too much for us. I emailed the volunteer back and she let us know that there were only two puppies left and they had another family coming at 1:00 PM to meet them. She asked if we could come at 1:30 PM and we confirmed.

    We didn't let the boys know where we were going. Instead, told them we were going to take them to a surprise place. When we got there, Shadow was the only puppy left and I was inwardly thrilled. The friendly volunteer brought us into a small office and allowed us too love on the last pup of the litter. The boys were still totally clueless and just marveled at how adorable this little guy was. After a few minutes, the volunteer excused herself so Chuck and I could talk about if we were going home with a dog. It took absolutely no convincing from me- if anything, I was more hesitant while Chuck was instantly smitten. When Charlie uttered, "I wish we could have a dog like that" (still oblivious as to why we were there), I was sold.

    We signed the papers, drove to Walmart to pick up all the necessary doggy paraphernalia and just like that- he was ours.



    It took us about a week to finally settle on a name. I was advocating hard for "Buddy," (like the Elf) since we got him 4 days before Christmas, but Chuck begged me to pick any other name. He frequently refers to the boys as "buddy," so thought it would be too confusing. We just couldn't land on one that we both loved. The following Friday, we went over to his parents' house and I introduced him to my nieces and nephews. Our goofball oldest niece jokingly suggested that we name him "Reginald" and call him "Reggie" for short. I realized when she said it, that I actually didn't hate the name Reggie. I shared it with Chuck when I got home and he was on board. Seven days after he joined our family, he finally had a name- Reggie. 

    Everyone warned us that puppies were hard work and it would be like raising a third child and let me tell you- they were right. The past several weeks have been A LOT. We have cleaned up so much pee, poop, and chewed-up debris. He is still jumping, nipping, and trying his darnedest to eat all of the unattended people food. But honestly, for a puppy? He's doing great. He gets a little bit better at potty training each week. He loves to cuddle and is a good listener. The daughter of a friend of ours is a senior in high school and comes to walk him every day at lunch time. It's the perfect arrangement and we feel far less guilty leaving him home while we're at work all day knowing that he has some social interaction while we're gone.

    He's a royal pain most of the time, but he's a puzzle piece in our family and we're so in love with our Reggie Roo!


    1.02.2020

    FINANCIAL PEACE: 2019 Debt Paid and 2020 Goals

    I feel as though the beginning of a new year, a new decade, is the perfect push to get me back to blogging. If my 2019 had a word it would be...flourish. I worked incredibly hard in the past year- I studied for more hours, days, weeks and months then I can count. Those hours of studying were hours not spent with my family, so I refused to squander them and even make failure an option. I passed my second of two exams in May that my job required and then decided to go one step further and sought out a professional designation just for me. I passed that exam on the first try too.

    However, I didn't just flourish in a professional sense. This year felt like the first in Chuck's and my married life where we made momentum toward our financial goals. "Broke" has been the name of our game since we met in 2010 (no thanks to my student loans). We're not exactly making it rain, but when I look back at all the financial progress we made just in the last year, for the first time it feels like the end might actually be in sight.

    If you read my The State of the Family post then you know that our biggest goal right now as a family is becoming debt-free. We still have a long way to go, but in 2019 we rid ourselves of ALL our credit card and medical debt! This felt like such a huge win and a great boost to our morale. Getting rid of those pesky smaller debts made us feel like our debt snowball was finally gaining momentum!

    Recap of my 2019 financial goals


    Last year was the first year I shared about our debt-free journey because last year was the first year we were actually working toward it and not just prolonging it. Becoming a two-income family again was a game-changer and so we got right to work. You can read more about our 2018 Debt Payoff, but the abbreviated version is that in 2018 we paid a total of $30,500 toward our collective debt with the largest category being our mortgage at 32%. I also made the following goals for 2019:

    GOAL 1: Improve my credit score by 5% After a lot of fluctuation over the year I ended with a total increase of 8% (only 5 points difference) from January 1- December 31, 2019.

    GOAL 2: Pay off my auto loan. Unfortunately, I have about $1,700 left until it's paid in full, but I'm eight months ahead of schedule!

    GOAL 3: Save up enough to buy a minivan in cash. This was definitely my least impressive goal. I am not a naturally good saver which is something I'm really trying to work on. I'm going to need a new car in 2020, so it's time to kick this goal into overdrive!

    GOAL 4: Pay off remaining credit card debt. Complete in May!

    GOAL 5: Pay off remaining medical debt. Complete in July!

    So, how'd we do in 2019?


    Last year, we paid a total of $37,250 (a 22% increase from last year) toward debt! Check out the breakdown:

    It's so interesting to me to see the category changes from the prior year. This year our mortgage only accounted for 24.5% of our total debt paid as we shifted funds to payoff those annoying smaller debts and get our debt snowball rolling.

    One of the best things I did this year that contributed to our success was nailing down my own personal zero-based budgeting approach to paying our bills (which is a Dave Ramsey term that means every dollar is budgeted until you're left with zero dollars). Chuck and I get paid on alternating Fridays which is so awesome for helping me manage our finances. Using a combination of Word, Google Calendar and Google Sheets, every week I budget for our weekly expenses- gas, groceries, and childcare. Then, I pay all of the next month's bills and minimum payments and apply whatever is leftover toward our smallest debt. Because Chuck's earnings fluctuate with his commission, I've found this to be the most helpful way of staying on top of our debt payoff goals. The Credit Karma app has also been a game-changer for keeping me encouraged. It updates weekly and even if my score doesn't change, my open balances total continues to decrease which makes me so happy.

    This is the first year in a long time where I don't anticipate any huge changes to our family life (knock on wood!). We don't foresee accruing any new debt and fingers crossed that our household income will only continue to increase! With that in mind, here are my five financial goals for 2020:

    5 Financial Goals for 2020


    GOAL #1: Payoff my auto loan. This is obviously a carryover from 2019, but is definitely doable within the first few months of the year. Once my current car is paid off, I'll begin the hunt for a new one!

    GOAL #2: Purchase a new car. I've got it narrowed down to two different vehicles, so it will ultimately depend on my savings and local vehicle inventory.

    GOAL #3: Payoff a student loan. This will require some discipline, but it's within reach for my smallest loan.

    GOAL #4: Payoff personal debt. We have a couple small miscellaneous debts that won't take more than a month or two to knock out.

    GOAL #5: Cash flow our family trip. One of my best friends is getting married in May and I'm going to be a bridesmaid! Since we got rid of our credit cards for good, we're cash flowing the wedding expenses and trip to Maryland. We're also planning on adding a quick detour to our itinerary to take the boys to DC for the first time!

    If you made it to the end, you must be a debt-free nerd like me! Obviously, finance has become a huge part of my life in the last two years and I can't wait to continue to flourish in 2020.

    > > >

    What are your financial goals for the next decade?!


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