We are DEBT FREE!!

Dear Readers, I am delighted to tell you that after 3 years of hard work and sacrifice and budgeting my husband and I are very excited to share that we are completely and utterly out of debt! 11/16/2015 – DEBT FREE DAY!

We have both worked extra hours, second jobs and paid careful attention to how the dollars and cents were spent, but mostly, we were intentional with our money and the ways we directed it to work hard for us and moving towards this goal of being debt-free.‚Äč

Here it is by the numbers– 3 years, over 30K– ūüôā

Started November 2012- Ended November 2015

0.00 REMAINS!!!!/ 36,945.91 PAID OFF

DEAD CHEETAH!! We are DEBT FREE!!

Why is this important? Well for one thing, when you are out of debt, you have the ability to take the money that was previously funneled to car payments, student loans and credit card payments you can save that money and possibly even invest it. This is not new advice, in fact its what your grandmother teaches you if you are lucky enough to have smart and savvy grandparents. It is nicely packaged in the program presented by the Ramsey Solutions Team in Nashville.

Five years ago, my good friend Keely Locke and I were brainstorming about how to plan my upcoming nuptials on a budget. My fiance and I were in debt in the single life but we did not want to go into further debt to get married. She gave me a book called “More than Enough” by Dave Ramsey and it seemed like a good idea but I didn’t really think we needed it since we weren’t super heavy in debt but I did think it was a good book and wanted to continue down the path we were on which was not adding debt to our respective totals. Later in the planning, I realized how expensive things were going to be and heard about a live event happening in San Antonio so went in the car and went to the event. Dave Ramsey is an excellent speaker, and whether you agree with his politics or not, what he says makes a lot of sense. I found myself wired and fired to GET OUT OF DEBT— after this event

If you are unfamiliar with him and his programs, take a look at this website for the Baby Steps-

http://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps/?snid=start.steps

This post is not about his program but hey if it interest you, you are welcome for the introduction, The main thing this post is about is the major hard work and dedication my husband and I have done to pay off 37,945.91 *to be precise* in 37 months.

We gave this speech at our Toastmasters club on 12/1/2015

It takes Communication, Organization and Dedication- Those principles can be applied to anything that takes hard work but in specific to this situation it looked like this.

Communication- We talked about what we wanted out of life and why we didn’t want to be in debt, we talked about how we would accomplish this goal and how long it would take. We discussed the sacrifices (time together while doing extra jobs and hours at work) and the steps it would take. I gave up buying movies and shoes (which was super hard because I LOVE SHOES!!!) I am planning to celebrate with a debt-free shoe shopping trip in January– (stay tuned for the blog post about that one)- Communication also comes into play when you have setbacks and trust me, we had plenty, Right there in the homestretch, we had several car repairs but because we had a plan and were patient, it wound up working out.

Organization – We had a budget, and truth be told, its a saving grace, because I really like to spend money, and having a plumb line to tell me “NO” was a good thing. We also had a rule that anything at the 50.00 or above mark MUST be discussed before a mutual agreement to purchase. ¬†We also had our own spending money to be spent on whatever the other wanted, no questions asked (keeps you sane for sure).

Dedication- Unquestionably, that has been the hardest part, when we decided we were going to do this three years ago, I delivered pizzas part-time, was a hostess at a restaurant, and finally an office assistant. All in aid of putting a little more away to help fund the debt reduction plan. The most exciting thing that happened was I discovered and created my business Haston Helping Hands (my personal coaching business) and that hustle has really taken off, in fact one of the clients I had this past year really helped move the needle for us to get the finish line even faster.

As I sit here typing this, our new dog, Cachet is sitting on my lap and its a feeling of utter happiness to be out of debt and with a dog (we wanted a dog for five years, but knew that we needed to be financially responsible before getting one) on my lap. Delayed gratification at its finest.

DebtFreeCollage

 

 

You don’t have to be an actor to be an artist

Dear Readers,

Sometimes I am astounded at the simplicity of what will drive me to post.

Last week, my company did an internal contest for what we can do to help our customers better or develop something¬†that will be a great return on an investment for the company. It’s a truly awesome way to collaborate with people who you would normally never EVER talk to and interact within the walls of the company, sure you might see them in the hallway and smile awkwardly and maybe even strike up a conversation (if you are me) and find out what they do and then when they give you their title you smile blandly and say, okay so what does that actually mean?

But back to HackAway, it was a great experience to get together with other teams and work on projects to help our customers and hopefully help the company. I obviously can’t share what we did but I can tell you that their was lots of artistry that came out of the project. That is what got me thinking, you don’t have to sing, dance, act or direct to be an artist. That is by no means a comprehensive list.

There is beauty in coding and the steps to get there. I also think that seeing the design in science is something I miss a lot of the time so I am happy this project helped me to remember it and caused me to examine the way I approach a challenge in a COMPLETELY different way.

Is there something comparable at your job that you do that might be worth a second look? Can you see some science in something beautiful? Can you see something beautiful in the science? You can make data dance, go for it!

Think About It….¬†happyfeet

Listening is underrated and an underperformed act

Dear Readers,

I had occasion to connect with a dear friend of mine on Sunday and it occurred to me how long it has been since we had time to talk. Scratch that, I talk to people all day long and they talk to me, but do we really LISTEN to each other? I am sad to say that no, that isn’t always the case.

I am¬†diligently¬†working on this skill and am so glad I am because in this chat, he said something I REALLY needed to HEAR. I won’t share what it was because it was important to me and will mean nothing to you. Later that night, I heard a similar thing when a friend opened up and was very upset and I didn’t have an answer which is hard but often true.

I honed that skill further when another friend in need said, I don’t want you to cheer me up (a tall order) I want you to listen, and I want to be in a dark place and be pissed at the world. I also will understand if you need to not be around me right now. Deep breath. Okay. First, you are family, I will always want to see you, and hear what you have to say.

Then in the same week, I needed to listen to myself when I was sick and needed to rest. I tend to be a workhorse, and not stopping for anything as unimportant as a little sickness, but you know what, this was not small, this was non unimportant. I needed to go home and rest. So I did. I do not regret it, your health is no small thing and I can tell you listening to your body is a great skill to develop. ¬†I am posting this picture of a coffee cup a friend gave me which I cherish and I used during one of these conversations to take a thoughtful pause when I wanted oh so badly to talk…. but what my friends needed was a listener. I encourage you to take stock and consider, Do you listen or wait…………………………………for your turn to talk?¬†friendsMartina

Think About It……

Think about it.

What’s your Love Language?

Dear Readers,

I come to you today to ask a question. What is your love language? I actually was very surprised when I went to this link to take that quiz. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

The last time I took it, was seven years ago when my boyfriend (now husband) agreed (at my urging) to take it so we could better communicate and relate. In retrospect, I remember thinking it was a fun exercise and didn’t have much to do with how I would behave moving forward. I know at the time, my highest score was “words of appreciation” so while actions are still important, as a logophile (lover of words) I love words of appreciation. Really shocking.

However, the more important result was my partners. Acts of Service is the best way to show your love to him. This would likely not surprise anyone who knows him. He is the kind of person who not only would give you the shirt off his back if you didn’t have one. He also would take particles and pieces of things from the ether to MAKE one for YOU before ever thinking of HIMSELF. This makes him a giving and selfless person and utterly lovable.

I hate doing landry so much so that I have a saying.. “I love you laundry loads” which for a long time was an “inside story” I had with a member of my family of origin which I have mentioned to my husband in passing, and he has truly taken it to heart-

What this means is I love you as much as I HATE doing laundry. Simple and awesome right? It turns out my husband understood this much better than¬† I did… Since he did an act of service for me..¬† which would be doing the trash, dishes, laundry and cooking.. things like that.. you know the things we all would rather not do. Well I came face to face with the fact that acts of service means more to me than I thought because the other day, though he was bone tired, my husband finished my laundry for me. I woke up early to finish.. and lo and behold I woke to find this ==Loveyoulaundryloadswhich is the physical manifestation of someone loving ME Laundry Loads. I teared up a little and headed to work, happy with my lot in in life to be loved so completely.

In case you are curious, this my love language NOW –

7 Quality Time
7 Receiving Gifts
6 Words of Affirmation
5 Acts of Service
5 Physical Touch

It lines up well with my values, because as many of you, quality time is hard to come by and the most valuable commodity to me. It behooves all of us to know how the people in our lives can “love us better” so I recommend you take the quiz, at the very least to understand more about yourself and how you feel most loved.

Think about it…..

Let Go Of The Checklist

Dear Readers,

I have been wrestling with this for a while now and thought it might add value to your life if I shared that struggle with you.

How many of us have a checklist? I don’t mean a to-do list. I mean a life checklist.. Yours might look different but here is a few of my “checklist items” that I have been discussing and other friends have been kind enough to share.

Finish College

Get Married

Have a Baby

Get a job that feels like a vacation

Get over the fact that my family of origin leaves much to be desired

Win an Oscar

Get out of debt

Win a Grammy

Run a marathon

Moving to a new city 

Okay so there are a few problems with a check list – One you feel hemmed in by it.. like that box waiting for the check is alone and chanting at you, “Jennifer, you aren’t done with me yet., when are you going to win that Oscar? Why are you still in school? Why haven’t you had a baby yet? and it all sounds like noise till you realize that this is self-imposed.. No one gave you a checklist.. you wrote it up and are being bound to something that is completely 100% of your doing. Two, its usually too long. There is a finite amount of time you get so a reminder that you should focus on what is truly important is not out of line, I think.

I am not saying goals are not important. They are, but I think its worth examining our expectations and getting them more aligned with reality so as to avoid disappointment.

Case in point, I wanted to run a 1/2 marathon this year. I planned to do it and was excited and scared at the prospect. I decided in March (after running 10 miles) that I could do it. For those that don’t know a half marathon is 13.1 miles which sounds really daunting when viewed that way. Well, as you might imagine, I started to try break this into baby steps. (run a 5K in September) and then do a half marathon by January.. well life (as it so often does) intervened. I pulled my back out of joint in May (but kept stubbornly on running even though I was in pain) and didn’t actually acknowledge how much it hurt until June so went to see a doctor and got muscle relaxers and the orders not to run.. but I could still walk. ¬†On doctors orders, I had to give up running. I could have walked but found myself so depressed I didn’t even want to do that so for a month and a half I didn’t walk, and ate lots of junk food trying to feel better but it wasn’t until last week that I worked out again. So, what has this to do with the checklist idea?

I need to let it go! I may run a marathon but I need to heal my body first and I have to let got of the checklist because it is going to look different than I thought. That is not a bad thing. One of my original checklist goals was to marry in 1999 and had I married the person I was with then, my life would look much different than it does now.

The Checklist can be a help but I find sometimes it can really hurt you to keep comparing yourself to your goals and finding yourself lacking. Progress, not perfection!

Think about it…

Dream it and then DO IT…

Dear Readers,

It is not enough to say you want to do something. You must put a deadline on it.

If you have a dream to move to another city, state or country. Do what a very famous director in Austin told me when I was directing my first production many years ago –

“Work backwards from opening night.”

Let me be more specific, Write on your calendar “GOAL” and then work backwards, what must you do in each week to get there?

If you want to learn a language, don’t say you are too busy, figure out if its important enough to actually do it and find the time.

Do you want to run a 5K? Don’t just talk about it, join a running group, or even start with a cause you believe in more than the comfort of the couch, that’s how most people do it.

If you want to speak professionally, speak every chance you get and ask for feedback from people who are better than you, join Toastmasters and keep speaking every chance you get so you have every chance to get better.

My blog is all about getting people to live their dreams, not just talk about them, so I challenge you, yes you, reading this.. What do you want to do ?

Make a plan, and get some accountability partners and then GO DO IT.. What are you waiting for? There will never be a better time to start.

Think about it….¬†EliteSeMpicture

One chapter begins as another ends…

I was casting about for some pithy way to start this post and hit upon this quote

‚ÄúThere is no real ending. It‚Äôs just the place where you stop the story.”

‚Äē Frank Herbert

I have several friends who are moving into the next phase of their life Рgoing to graduate school, getting married, adopting kids, fostering kids and having kids and changing their career to name but a few.

These are all exciting things to happen but do not come without a level of stress- I learned in college all about “eustress” which is defined¬†here-

  1. Eustress is a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye. The wordeustress consists of two parts. The prefix eu- derives from the Greek word meaning either “well” or “good.” When attached to the word stress, it literally means “good stress” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† I don’t know about you but I don’t generally think of stress as associated with good things but isn’t that the ultimate in reframing a situation? I am a big fan of that phrase and practice because let’s face it there are lots of situations in life that are not as we wish them to be, so in reframing you can paint it with the brush you like instead of the brush you have. For instance, I can look at today like, man I am tired and don’t want to go work out today, or as my good friend Jessica says, I have the “opportunity” to be tired because I am busy living a life I love and I have the “opportunity” to work out because my body is a working, breathing instrument that I am blessed to have working for me. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†

Is that a little “being pollyanna” or viewing the world in “rose-colored glasses” YOU BET.. and most of the time it’s how I choose to view¬†my life. Mark me, this does not exclude hard circumstances and real-life difficulty, but there are real opportunities every day to look for the happy rather than the annoying aspect of a given situation.

For example, I could look at my friend going to graduate school and moving away from Austin to become a professor as very sad and focus on the fact that he is moving away.

Yes, there is a level of sadness that goes with it, but I choose to focus on all the students he is going to impact and help live more enriched lives and the things they have yet to experience in his as yet unfilled classroom. This also gives way to the opportunity to stay in touch whether that is by email or even (gasp) a paper and pen letter.

Perhaps we could all stand to have a change like that. What chapter do you need to bring to an end to get YOU to your NEXT chapter?

Think about it…