Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Before, During...More During. Ain't no After Photos yet, Ya'll.

Today is my sister's birthday. She is 31 years old. She is my favorite oldest sister.

Not to be confused with my favorite second-oldest sister, Kari.

The one I'm talking about is Alison.

But then again, this post isn't really about her. It's about me. She just happens to be involved.

One year ago, Alison wanted to celebrate her 30th birthday with a bang. I dig that, since you only turn 30 once. It should be awesome. Family from the Central Valley high-tailed it down to San Diego to have a party at a cute little club-ish type room near Old Town and we danced, had In-N-Out and generally a ton of fun.

Except... Well. I was a heifer  Huge! Fat! Heifer! I had just started my weight-loss journey in January and I purposefully was losing the weight slowly, by changing habits. I knew it would be a long, hard road, but I felt that retraining myself on how to eat and live would benefit me in the long run.

And it did. Then I went and got knocked up. Argh.

Anyways, I was trying to find a picture to post of my lovely sister, and I couldn't believe the hideousness of my face. So I didn't post it on Instagram because I'm ashamed. But! Lucky for you, my blog is ripe with too-much-information and baring my shame for all to see. Gotta keep it real, right?

This was me.... ONE YEAR AGO. (shudders)

This was me.... In December, at our Gender Party. Hello face! I recognize you again! You have cheek bones and less chins! Your tiny, squinty eyes aren't being swallowed by your face! Yaaaaay!!!

I took this last one first thing this morning, one year later from the picture with Alison above. I am 29 weeks, 5 days pregnant and 7 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. You can see that I have kept my curves (that you can't see in the picture with Alison due to my sweater, but trust me, they were non-existent last February. I was just wide. Wide in alllllllll directions) and of course, the depth of my belly is bigger (there is a baby in there!), but I've gained some weight back in my face. Just when I had started to get it back. (sob)

Sorry for the uncomfortable faces in these pictures... I really hate taking pictures of myself and I especially hate mirror photos. #awkwardkid4life

I try to remind myself that gaining one pound a month so far in pregnancy is a total win and that I will lose it ALL when the baby comes. No matter how hard I have to work or how tired I am.

I will never, ever, ever be that fat girl again.

At least....on the outside. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dreams: What Real Love Does

Yesterday I wrote about dreams. I ended with a pretty important question.

How can you keep the weight of your failed dream from crushing your soul and the spirit of your relationship?

I've been thinking about the answer for a while now. It's not easy. Society has bred us to think of ourselves. To do what is best for us in the moment and what feels good now. We are not a people of long term payoffs. Many, many mistakes have been made because the future was not thought of in a moment where it should have been.

You have to do everything opposite of what your instincts are telling you. Yes, you should cry. Yes, you should talk to your partner. You should be open and honest about your feelings, because stuffing them down will only make them bubble up with a vengeance later.

Truly, the only thing to do is the right thing. You have to pick yourself up and do the right thing for your relationship. Filling your heart with bitterness and resentment is only going to make a terrible situation worse. Just because they failed you does not give you a pass to fail them. You do what you are supposed to do and you do it with as much class and dignity as you can muster. You do it with the right intentions. You don't do it with spite. You do it because you know exactly how it feels when the person you love most doesn't support your dreams. Regardless of what they have done to you, no one deserves to feel the disappointment and heartbreak of a failed dream.

You do what you should do and you do it with a glad heart because even if you never get a reward on earth for it, maybe Jesus will add just a little sparkle to your crown in heaven.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Weight of Dreams


It's a common thread between all people. I don't mean sleepy-time rendezvous with famous actors and actresses. When I refer to dreams I mean life-goals. I'm sure you hear it all the time, "If I won the lottery, I would..." "Someday, I'll be a..." "I would be happy if I could..."

Everyone has them. Some are smaller than others. "I want to get through tomorrow without smoking a cigarette." Some are medium-sized. "I want to open up a bakery." Some are huge. "I want to cure cancer."

While dreams differ from person to person and some are 'small' and some are 'large' none is more important than the other. A man whose dream is to quit smoking is no less important that a woman who pushes herself to get one step closer to opening a bakery. These both rival even a lofty, world-altering dream like curing cancer because regardless of the impact of their dreams, they each have one. They each wake up every day knowing that one day, someday, they are going to get to that place.

I hear often that families and relationships break apart because of dreams. A man leaves his wife because she doesn't support his dream of being a pilot. A woman leaves her husband because he doesn't want her to become an actress, ogled by men across the country. Even if they stay together, the bitter bite of resentment tailors their day-to-day life.

A relationship won't function properly if both parties aren't willing to support the dreams of their counterparts. This means celebrating successes, suffering through losses, making sacrifices together. As one. Each person has to be willing to put in the time, labor, money and effort into the dream for it to succeed. However, a dream cannot come true when the dreamer won't put the effort into it. No matter how much you want the dream of your partner to come true, you cannot accomplish it for them. You can support them. You can walk through the hard work with them. You can even reap the reward with them. But it won't be as hard for you... It won't be as sweet a payoff in the end.

I remember when Bryan and I were seriously talking about getting married. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but it was almost like a business negotiation. Sure, we had love and passion, but were we compatible? Could we support each other's dreams and live a life together? We went back and forth to make sure that we would be true partners, chasing after our own and each others dreams. That we wouldn't discourage the other persons goals and we would certainly not let they other one give up after meeting obstacle after obstacle. We would figure it out together, we would make it happen.

All of us recognize that there are seasons in life. Hills and valleys. Life is unbearably hard at times and others it coasts by, fluid and effortless. There are times that you put yourself aside and give to others, because maybe it's not your moment.

What I want to know is this: What happens when your moment arrives? The time has come; Your dream is on the horizon. You can almost grab hold of it. It's on the tip of your tongue. You are waiting for the support, sacrifice and encouragement from your partner that you have given for however long a season and slowly you realize that it is not coming. The window of opportunity for your dream to come true is only so long, heck, you can even see the end in sight... And you're alone. The return on your investment in making your partners dream come true is not paying off.

What do you do?
Do you let it pass and hope it comes around again?
Do you cry?
Do you approach your partner and say pay up?
How do you recover from that kind of let down?
What do you do with the emotions? The anger? The sadness and heartbreak? The fear that you've committed yourself to someone who didn't truly have the intention of supporting you as you supported them?
How do you continue to support the dream of the person who let yours pass?

More importantly, how can you keep the weight of your failed dream from crushing your soul and the spirit of your relationship?

Monday, February 4, 2013

My New (Furniture) Baby

A pet peeve of mine with the blogging world is how blog 'businesses' can time their posts. Does that makes sense?

An example would be, a blog is redoing their guest room and they write a blog about how they've painted and they list a few projects they still need to get done, furniture they need to find, etc. They may happen to mention that they are looking for a dresser to fit a specific space and what style they have in mind.

MAGICALLY, a week later, they have an update about said guest bedroom and hark! They found the. perfect. dresser. And they came across it 'randomly' on Craigslist just by searching 'dresser'.

In your mind, you are like wow! That was so quick! They found what they needed at a great price. Awesome! I wish I lived in an area where people posted fabulous stuff all the time! But in reality, they have mapped out both the guest bedroom project (and the items that they were looking for) weeks or months ago but they didn't post about it until later.

This grinds my gears. For over a year or two now, Bryan and I have been using a "long" dresser that my parents bought before my eldest sister Alison was born for our entertainment station. It was flanked by two massive DVD racks that held our ridiculous collection of movies. It was a fine interim set up, even if it was ugly as all get out.

During that entire time, I was searching, yard saling, thrift storing, and stalking every website I could to find a dresser or buffet that would fit our needs. I came up empty every time. I could either pay a sickening amount of money for a real-wood piece, a ridiculous amount of money for a particle board contraption, I could go through the pain and mentally challenging process of trying to build something from scratch, or I could play the almost endless waiting game of finding the 'right' piece at the 'right' price. This last option, the one I chose, was like trying to find a pair to any of my shoes since adopting our new puppy, Sophie.

A few Saturday's ago, my friend Colleen and I were in a neighboring town and we hit up a thrift store we both like. I've been looking for a few items, namely a desk for my office and a entertainment center (with pretty specific measurements) for quite some time, so it was standard operating procedure to peruse a store and leave empty-handed.

Side note: I leave thrift stores empty-handed more than I leave with an item. If you hit up a thrift store or yard sale and you buy something every time at every one? You're doing it wrong, cause no one is that lucky.

Back to the story. We were looking at the furniture and we both saw it at the same time. And I gasped.  It was a long dresser, with three drawers surrounded by two cabinets that had three small drawers inside. It was a solid piece of furniture in great condition. We both stared at it and each other for quite sometime.

Colleen had a measuring tape in her purse (lucky me!) and it fit my dimensions almost perfectly. It was a really nice piece of furniture and it was marked at $80.

I couldn't believe my luck. Bryan was out of town snowboarding, so I snapped a few pictures and we left. I didn't want to buy it without him at least seeing it. When I showed him he looked pretty impressed. I tried to get him to drive back to the thrift store that night so we could buy it but he said he was way too tired to deal with it that evening. The store was closed on Sunday and I worked Monday. I thought for sure we were going to miss out on this nearly perfect piece of furniture for our house.

Then, Colleen said she would go buy it for me on Monday morning and put it on hold so Bryan could pick it up later that day. She wanted to go to Costco so it wasn't too out of her way. I called the store that morning to ask if they could put it on hold for me and they said they could only hold it after it had been sold. So, Colleen was our only hope! After swinging by my work to pick up $100, she left and I waited to hear the news. A while later she called me and said it was still there and she bought it... but when she had walked up to it, she noticed that there was an additional sticker on it. That beautiful, blessed sticker marked down the dresser to HALF PRICE.

I thought she had to be kidding. There is no way I was now the proud owner of a piece of furniture that I had been looking for forever and it was only FORTY DOLLARS.

But it was. And I was. Proof:

Finally, my long and tiring search had paid off. My father-in-law had to go to Visalia that day anyways, so Bryan went with him and they loaded it up and brought my new furniture baby home. Colleen and her husband Jordan came to help us move things around and get it in place. I love it. It holds ALL of our DVDs, with a little room to grow. It's the perfect height and length.

Lets do the before and after:

I know it's hard to see with the vase in the way, but there is the so-called long dresser with the two DVD towers next to it.

And here is a terrible picture of it once we got it into place. The accessories have changed already and it looks better. Maybe I'll try to get a better picture of it right now. 

That's not really a great picture either but it gives you the idea of what I'm going for. I have yet to find suitable lamp shades for my World Market lamps. It's harder than I thought to pick out lamp shades!

Anyways, I got a nice piece of furniture that can easily be updated if I so choose. Right now, I like it how it is, although I probably will replace the knobs. Oh, we took out a drawer to house our cable box, Wii, router and PS3...I'm hoping to reuse the face of the drawer so we have the ability hide them. I'll keep you updated on how that progresses.

Moral of the story; good things do come to those who wait. I was patient and picky but it paid off. Woohoo!

Friday, February 1, 2013

We Have a Post with a Point! #winning

I'm just going to get right into it since yesterday was an epic word-fest. I went to Target and I bought two different products out of the plethora of options that the Mead Organizher line has.

 I chose the Expense Tracker:

 and the On-The-Go Family Planner.

I love the pattern and color on the Family Planner but the Expense Tracker is kind of...yellow? I wish they matched. Maybe I'm being overly picky but since I bought these two and they are the same brand it would have been nice for it to be identical.

But I got over it pretty quickly once I got inside these bad boys. I'm going to start with the Expense Tracker. This is just a general overview (with too many pictures) because I haven't used it yet. I plan to wait until January is over, right in all my amounts and expenses then base February's budget on what we spent on January, cutting and trimming all the places where we can to get us on track.

You start with a bigger than 8.5x10 three "ring" binder. The front and back cover are plastic. What is interesting is that the binding a canvas type cloth... I'm assuming so you have lots of room to fill it up with bills, receipts, etc.

You are greeted with a plastic folder to hold loose papers, notes, coupons, or whatever works for you.

They include a template that shows how to use the expense tracker. It gives you a few ideas on how you might want to utilize the page, which is nice.

On the back of that page, it shows who to use their budget spreadsheet. It's all very basic, but nice information to have.

Next, there is a three year small calendar page and the back is lined for notes (not pictured)

Okay, here is where things get cracking. Each month starts with a pocket folder with a undated Monthly calendar. You would use this to store bills that need to be paid and you would jot down when a bill is due on your calendar to keep everything nice and organized.

The back has a pocket for Receipts that will make for easy tallying later.

The Checklist and Expense list is next. I like the checklist for reminders, but I don't know about anyone else but Bryan and I put everything on our debit cards for easy tracking. The space for expenses is not great, so I would reserve that for the bills that are paid monthly and/or regularly. Like a mortgage, credit card, card, school meal account, cable and student loan bills. If you have a lot of these, great news! On Mead's website you can download more pages and the Expense List is one of them. Definitely a great tool!

Now, you are at the meat of tracking your budget. Mead anticipates your standard bills and leaves you room to add in other items. You have your estimated cost (which sets your budget), your actual cost (which keeps you accountable) and how much you were over/under your budget. It gives you the option to subtotal each individual category and tally it all at the end. The month ends with a lined note page (not pictured).

I'm really excited to use this system. I think it's is a really unintimidating way to start tracking your finances. It's simple, clean, and looks like it takes very little brain power. I will be doing a follow up post on this once I finish February to see how it all worked out.

The second item I purchased was the On-The-Go Family Organizer.

It is probably 5x8 with aluminum spiral binding. It has a sturdy hardcover cover and each undated Month is tabbed. Each month starts out with a small Monthly calendar, separate areas for reminders, to do items and projects.

This is what sold the planner for me. The planners moniker gives you a hint this is truly a family planner. Each day of the weekly section is made up of six subsections. At the top there is a 'mine' section, followed by 'theirs' and finally 'meals'. It's easy to see that they are making it easy for you to keep track of your own personal calendar and that of your families. In the theirs, you would list up to four family members to easily keep track of dentist and doctor appointments, sports events, etc. What I loved is that this could easily be changed for a busy woman with different time-suckers. More on that later.

Towards the back you have a place to store website/blog information and passwords.

A dedicated spot to keep a list of books to read and movies to watch...

And a quick reference guide to birthdays and holidays by month. (Love this feature - wish it was in the front though!)

Mead even supplies you with a bunch of colorful labels to use to make things easy. You'll find labels for pretty much everything here, like the first/last day of school, winter break, spring break, doctor/dentist visits, anniversaries, oil changes, HOA dues and even prescription refill reminders!

Color me impressed, Mead. It didn't take me long to swoop this up along with the expense calendar, even though we only have one son and he's not going to have too much of a busy schedule for a while... well, beyond the eating/sleeping/pooping schedule babies tend to keep. :)

I immediately knew that I could alter this planner to fit my busy life. Here is how. I opened up the planner to the very beginning, January. I left the 'mine' portion of the weekly calendar and went directly to 'theirs'.

I filled in the different categories of my life that needed to be organized. I chose Work, CASA, Breakfast, Lunch and then under 'meals' wrote Dinner. Like so:

Right now, these are the biggest areas of my life. I need to be organized at work to get ready for maternity leave and make sure pregnancy brain doesn't jack me up too bad. I chose CASA because I needed a place to write when I had appointments, In-Service's, Court days, etc. I also needed to be able to see how this would conflict with my schedule personally and at work. Finally, I broke my meals up into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner because since I'm pregnant, I need an eating plan. It's really easy to just forget to eat during a crazy day. This is also extremely helpful because we are doing the Bradley Method, which requires you to track your meals. This keeps everything in one place so filling out my forms is a breeze. It's a huge stress reducer.

This planner is mostly un-dated, which means you before you can start logging the important information, you  have to go through and number all the days. I don't really mind this because it allows anyone at any time to start using this planner and get their lives organized.

It is time consuming though. Also, I found annoying is that the actual weekly pages don't have a place to put the day's number, so I just wrote it in at the top. Not having the weeks pre-numbered means that you have to flip back and forth between months when they don't end on a Monday. For example, February starts on a Friday. So I would have four days in the January section and three days in the February section, so I would have to constantly flip back in forth. I decided to note: LOOKING AHEAD at the top of the 'mine' section on February 1-3, and double entering my schedule in the February section.

Unless you create your own planner from scratch (hey, i did that!) and can afford to have it printed (hey! I can't!) then you are going to have to "settle" for a big box product. I've tried many a planner in my day and this was is by far the most customizable and organized planner I've had. I am willing to skew it a little to make it work for me.

It's worth noting that I also purchased a package of different colored pens, which I intend to use in addition to pencil to keep things nice and color-coded. Once I find the rhythm in my schedule, I'll be jotting things down in colorful colors to enhance the at-a-glance factor of this planner.

Wait! There is more!

We gotta talk cash money, baby. How many beans did this system set me back?

Dolla-Dolla Breakdown:

On-The-Go Family Planner - $9.99
Expense Tracker - $15.99
Pens - $6.24
Toothpaste - $2.99
Discount - $1.76 (Target Debit Card 5% - What WHAT!)
Total: $35.96

You could potential save $3 if you husband doesn't need toothpaste when you purchase this system. That's a bonus!

When you look at the alternatives I had ($50 Erin Condren or $80 Megan Vickers planners) and not doing anything (not even an option) thirty beans isn't that bad. It's definitely an investment you can afford to risk to see what the benefit with be to your life.

I've only had my planner in operation for a week and I feel less stressed. I'm excited to get a budget together because it's not going to be a painful, hair-pulling experience. To me, that is worth $30.

I'll keep you updated on how the planner works after the "glow" wears off and how I do with the expense tracker.

Do you have a system for your budget or a personal/family planner? Do you just use the calendar on your phone? Let me know!