Adventures: This one in Arizona

December 2015 we surprised the kids with a trip to Arizona. This was a working trip for Aaron but with both of his brothers and both of mine living in the Grand Canyon state it was a nice trip to tag along with.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

We did plenty of hiking, a day trip to Sedona, sightseeing, off-roading, and visiting close by parks and state parks.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

I’m feeling a little but of the wanderlust this season … ready for another adventure. A flight, an open road, a few minutes beneath the sun. With our kids being the ages they are (12 and 8) we’re starting to think about some different destinations. Where have you been (with or without kids) and what should we do/see/experience? I grew up globe trotting so over-seas itineraries don’t bother me at all. I have my eye on London, but weirdly also Ireland and Sweden. Or closer to home trips are fine too. I’m not really bothered by distance or lack thereof. Let’s just get going.

Where have you been?

House Keeping: Building a life

** It’s a little weird to publish this, I know I was the one who said she wanted to talk about budgets but now that I’ve been sitting on this and revising this for the past couple weeks, it’s hard to not sound like a know-it-all or just a princess. Which there will be a number of you who come to that conclusion and thats ok. The three things you’re not supposed to talk about; money, sex and religion, are basically what I eat for breakfast so here’s where we call a truce. In relationship these topics are met with vulnerability and understanding. They’re fragile and solid, invisible and fully formed. They’re complex, and I love discussing them. Which is hard to do as a one-sided digital essay. I don’t know it all. I’m not the person you want to ask for stock tips or investment opportunities (unless you’re talking real estate and then I’m your girl) and I’ve screwed up many times with our budget and finances. This essay is an over all snap shot of the bigger picture and not a soap box for me to stand on and complain (there is NO complaining). We have everything we need and we value resourcefulness over resources. Want to skip this one entirely? I don’t blame you, here’s a sleeping kitten.

If you’re new here you might not know that 6 years ago we sold a house, started building another one, sold that one, tried to buy two more homes over the course of two more years in 2 different rentals and finally, four years ago, bought the house we currently live in. Over the last 3 years we’ve gutted this home and made it our (hopefully) forever space.

There’s a specific reason for this run-on sentence of a decision.

We wanted to be debt free, yes. But with Aaron’s job there’s a lot of personal risk involved. If Aaron would have gotten into an accident or died unexpectedly our income would have stopped with those tragedies and I wouldn’t have been able to afford our house payment. The decision to move and lessen our monthly output was a very tactile decision for our future.

putting the sign up

There isn’t a ladder for Aaron to climb as a business owner. He doesn’t work at a company where someone else just hands out raises or promotes him based on his performance. That’s his job, he’s the ceiling. So if our life requires more cash, we can’t knock on a bosses door and ask for it. Yes, there are perks to owning our own business and yes, sometimes there are good years of plenty and there might be profit sharing, other years we lose everything and start all over. Not only do we live a debt free life, personally, but also professionally. Aaron is the sole owner of his companies and it’s a core value for us to operate them without debt, partners, or venture capital.

Office of Elevator Up

Now, here’s my disclaimer. Please take this with a grain of salt. We started out very differently than so many of other business owners/professionals. Neither Aaron nor myself had any debt of any kind when we got engaged (We didn’t go to college, ergo no school loans). We bought our first house together before we were married and I “rented” it from Aaron until after the wedding.

We were a dual income household when we bought our second house (the house we sold in the beginning paragraph). I was pregnant with Jessica but working full time with health insurance and Aaron was employed full time as well. On paper we could afford the house but 6 years later with two kids (one of which we ended up paying for the prenatal care and delivery to the tune of almost $30,000 out of pocket), a start-up business and only one income; we were selling everything and then some to keep our house above water.

We took a substantial loss when we sold the house, twenty-thousand to be exact. Rolled that into our new build loan but when it sold before it was finished it sold for an appreciated cost and cut our initial debt in half. We rented for 2 years to save money and pay-off the remaining debt from the sale of our house. We had sold cars to pay our hospital bills and somewhere in there bought our minivan with a small loan and paid that off in those two years of renting as well. (Are we still on the same page?? Anyone??) We saved everything and our goal was to buy another house but with 20% down this time, no questions asked.

SO. You guys – we did. We bought our house that we live in now with 20% down and our mortgage is under $300 a month. This is why we did this. We can also now (and only now) afford to send our kids to private school.

Kitchen AfterKitchen After

We live differently on purpose. Now if catastrophe hits the fan, our family won’t crumble. We finally have better health insurance and this is the first year in the last eleven that we haven’t ended the year paying out of pocket almost double what we’re allowed to contribute to our HSA. This might be the year we actually carry a balance to be able to save up for emergencies where insurance is concerned.

I really like to budget, I love numbers. I get jazzed about this stuff and yes, with our low monthly output and no debt (aside from the mortgage) to our name – we can do more with our income. This is how we’ve given ourselves “raises” through the years. We reduce the amount going out so the amount coming in looks like it’s growing even though it isn’t.

But it’s still hard because money is still money and it buys really fun things and we still have to say no and save and work and have goals.

My eyes are a little bonkers. I realize this is either really interesting or completely irrelevant to you, I get it. I wish more people would talk about this because it fascinates me.

As a teenager I set myself up on a budget based on percentages. So, when I got a paycheck (or cash from babysitting) I would automatically calculate 30% of what I earned for savings, 10% towards gifts/tithes, 15% towards gas/car maintenance, 30% towards spending and the other 15% went into a slush fund of sorts to build up for things like insurance or my eventual cell phone bill. I changed the percentages when needed (like every 6 months if my expenses changed) but I was pretty strict with my self and how I managed my (very little) income.

Alllllllllllll these years later I’m still doing a version of this. Only it’s not based on percentages and instead of me calculating the amounts for our categories, our direct deposit does it for us.

EASIEST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

I wanted to talk about this for a few reasons, one because I’m a geek and setting up budgets for automatic saving or spending (automatic bill pay anyone? Oh my gosh, now we’re talking. You’re so naughty) is one of my secret powers that I want to share with you but also, as it turns out, not a lot of people think the way we do about this kind of stuff.

I realize that if you find yourself in a similar situation to where we were six years ago your train of thought might not lead you to the hop-scotch selling and building and renting as it did us but I guess I’m weird? It’s like walking into a house and seeing the walls come down. I can just see it.

Aaron took some convincing, he sort of just expected to have a car payment and house payment and credit cards. Not to abuse, just because thats what he thought it took. Only, I don’t know … I disagree. We don’t have to have it all, I’m not interested in more stuff. Experiences? Yes, lets do that. Let’s travel and see and taste and explore. Let’s put our dollars to work in our kitchen, on our table, and in our hearts with our memories. Lets build a life worth more than counting numbers.

🍅🍅🍅

So I guess a budget is like really good boundaries, if we want to bring it from tactile to emotional because this girl loves a good metaphor. I love boundaries. There’s more freedom within them than outside of them. If I have absolutely no boundaries then I have no direction. Wide open spaces are only fun for so long and then you start wondering where you can put things. Where does this go? And what if I had a place for that?

I’d argue that I am not Type A. I’m creative and messy and full of feelings and I cry easily and laugh loudly and I like to giggle whenever it bubbles up and I love surprises and adventure and being a free spirit … who also can get down with a budget, a repeatable file system, grocery shopping and menu planning. I’m kind of different.

But thats what I hope to bring to you in this mini-series of “House Keeping”. My slightly bent, what-works-for-us routines. One last thing? There aren’t short cuts. It’s a lot of work to stay on top of menu planning and budgeting, there isn’t a quick fix, that I’ve found, that lasts. There’s just doing the next right thing. And then the next thing, and then the next. If ordering take out is the budget saving solution to eating at home, then do that. Next month maybe you’ll go to the grocery store on the weekend, and the next maybe you’ll menu plan too … 3 months into small changes you might be cooking your own food from your kitchen and adding up the savings towards a vacation. Or maybe towards the debt you might carry, or the eventual car replacement headed your way.

Whatever it is, doing nothing is actually doing something.

With that little nugget of gold, brought to you by inspirational posters every where, I’m out. Peace.

Red light, Green light

I have .7345 minutes to get this out of my head and onto paper. So this will be quick.

Lately I feel as though all the anxiety I could experience about any given situation has woken up. As in, HI. I HAVE COME BACK, REMEMBER ME? The stuff of crippling ineptitude to move in any direction. I can’t even slenk backwards, I’m paralyzed with indecision so I stand still. And it’s not an active stop, where waiting is the active searching for the next step – it’s literally the halt.

Right there.

In your tracks.

No moving.

Freeze!

I find it interesting that this is where I am, no longer looking for certain purpose in my work or my time but instead divided by how to use my time WITH my purpose. I’m aware of distractions and oftentimes I’m trying to either quiet them or dislodge them so I can stay focused except for now. Right now. Now I can’t decide.

Have you ever felt this way? It’s not even a crossroads – it’s inevitable. Change, movement – it’s all coming. It is going to happen and I am aware of the shift but I can’t keep my feet on both sides of the fault line. I have to step firmly into the unknown. I have to let go of the comfort, embrace the out of control, and often awkwardness of the search within the journey, and I have to feel like an adolescent who hasn’t grown into their limbs just yet. Proof that I will one day be able to use them to their full potential.

It’s just the in-between of learning how to run while clumsily shuffling through the hallways seems to be the only way to cross said line. And I keep looking down to make sure my shoes are tied so I won’t trip.

Learning to tie.

But I keep falling anyways.

Sanctuary Woods

Finding adventure

A few weeks ago I took Oliver on a hike to Sanctuary Woods.

Finding adventure

look closely

There’s a rhythm of habitual practice to the way I go about my life. I used to be worried about developing habits, I didn’t want to be so predictable. I wanted to be as wild and untamed as I felt inside. I wanted to follow the whims of my demanding temperament.

Finding adventure

Finding adventure

But I’ve learned that I throw myself into predictable chaos to protect myself from the reality of my vulnerability. Only what if every day was a choice to move forward? Regardless of what yesterday left undone? What if every moment was an opportunity to practice acceptance for who you are – right now?

Finding adventure

Finding adventure

Spending time on these trails reminds me to look closely. To pay attention. And when Oliver is with me, the conversation is light, he notices things I can’t even see until I take off all my preconceptions and put my cheek to the ground to see the magic he sees.

Finding adventure

He looks for the adventure and when he happens upon it, he partakes. Like a feast for your soul, he dives in. There’s no waiting to be invited to the table of wonder when you’re a child – you just leap. And I love that about them. I love living that all over again on each adventure. It rips me from my routine. It takes me from my head to my heart and it keeps me here.

Finding adventure

Finding adventure

I take a lot of photos, an overwhelming amount of memories to store and keep. I’m often reluctant to snap because I feel the weight of the responsibility to take them from the lens to the page and in all of those photos are snap-shots of my feet. I’ve been keeping track of the movement of our family for years. I’ve had a camera attached to my hand since I was fifteen, and the only place I turn it on me is down, towards the ground. Where I can prove I’m there. Where I can see that the ground is still there, where I’m planted firmly beneath the moments I keep.

Finding adventure

And the legacy of proof I’ve collected that I’m still here, still standing; Well, it keeps me moving one step forward, one at a time. Leaving old ideas, habits, and routines behind that no longer serve me well. Leaving footprints but still collecting theirs.

Own your words

Own your words

I’ve been loving the Being Boss podcast lately. Listening intently each week as a new episode airs and replaying past episodes multiple times.

It’s reminded me of a few things; “Owning your words” being one of them. I was in middle school when I first heard this principal. My family and I traveled to Utah and it was in a conference room where I first heard a wise man say to me: Jodi, you have to own your words.

Like most teenagers, I threw around phrases like poprocks in my mouth. Just to see what they felt like; little explosions and short lived sensations. I fished for compliments and tried to gage my importance from what everyone else had to say about me.

I was arguing intently trying to convince everyone of my truth and wanting them instead to tell me what I really meant.

In the Redefining Professional episode, Kathleen and Emily talk about letting the excuses go. How important your word is when you’re a creative entrepreneur. It resonated with me.

I’ve been more worried about the image than the legacy.

It’s as simple as: if you say it, you have to believe it first.

So when you’re in a group of peers and you start talking about your current insecurity (weight, complexion, parenting stye, work ethic, even that dream starting to realize, etc.) if you don’t want them to agree with you, do not say it out loud. It sounds kind of harsh but it’s been a good gage of where I put my priorities in terms of worth, confidence, ability and self care. (keep scrolling, there’s more)

I'm upset.

This topic has me really upset because it’s so important, I feel. As a community, I want to foster authentic relationships above the run-of-the-mill shallow conversations that are a mile wide but only an inch deep. I want to believe in you and vise versa because I believe, instead, that we’re all miles deep and afraid to let anyone else wade in our waters with us.

If you jump from compliment to compliment to fuel your business success, you will fail miserably. We don’t get paid in compliments. I’ve gotten everything I could have possibly wanted out of this website years ago. What started as an online journal as a 16 year old has turned into a great archive of lessons, memories, opportunities, and my journey. Something I’m so glad to have for my own children to read someday.

To have this kind of unedited version of our lives available to them. For my daughter as she leaps into the world – to see where she came from. And even if I’m gone, that she might be able to still find me.

It’s risky business to believe in yourself. It’s so much easier to ask someone else to carry that vulnerability for you. I’m much more comfortable staying inside the box that your perceptions put me in. But it’s not the danger lurking OUTSIDE of the box that scares me:

It’s the stagnant, predictability of staying in the cage that bothers me more.

Let’s shake things up. Let’s get ridiculous and live this messy life wild.

Belle Isle, Detroit 2014

Below are some great resources I’ve used or I am currently using. For those of you wanting to dig in a bit more to owning your own words, I’ve found some helpful tools that have assisted me in learning how to do just that. (No affiliates, just sharing what I’ve learned or found on my own)

Resources:
Power Sheets, Lara Casey
Erica Midkiff, Sign up for her newsletter and you’ll receive a 23 Consuming Mindfully download free.
Braid Creative, they have a newsletter for Creatives. Nuggets of gold.
Being Boss, podcast mentioned in the post.
Maggie Whitley, a great collection of blog posts on how she made her handmade business successful.
Kelly Rae Roberts, Flying Lessons e-course

I’ll continue to give my gifts of knowledge to you in the coming weeks and I’d be honored to hear yours as well. Leave them in the comments or feel free to message me or post them on Facebook.