Thursday, November 20, 2014

A hundred hearts...

A hundred hearts would be too few, to carry all the love I have for this boy...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow day fun!

A scheduled day off for some dental work for the horse left me with this day off work, and an unexpected snow day left me in the company of Miss K and her friend Miss A.  

We had a cold morning waiting for the vet to come out and vaccinate/float Mia's teeth.  He sedated her pretty heavily for the dental procedure, but she still put up a decent fight of her own trying to get him out of her mouth.  This is the first time I had seen how they floated teeth on a horse, and I will say it was interesting.  (I could do without the sound though!)  The vet discovered that she has some "waves" on the tops of her teeth, so I will have to be a better Momma about having her teeth done in the future.  Oops!

Of course, as he was finishing up with Mia, we noticed she had a swollen rear leg because of a minor laceration she got from doing Lord knows what.  I have a feeling she was being anti-social with another horse, kicked out and cut herself...  She doesn't want to talk about such things.  With horses, it seems it's always one thing or another.

I forgot how much I missed unexpected "snow days"!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My year with Jesus, Mike and Dave....

What a difference one year makes!
One year ago, I received a summons in the mail stating I was being sued for not paying a credit card.  The credit card was for $2,300 and I had no excuse for not paying it, other than I just didn't.  The letter stated that I was being taken to court, and that the creditor was going to put a lien on my house until the bill was paid.  I wasn't sure what a lien was exactly, but I knew it wasn't good.  I immediately called the credit card company, like all good girls in collections do, begged them to work out some type of payment plan with me, and then I asked the guy from the collections department what a lien was and he explained:  "With your credit card debt so high, it's just a way for us to insure that when you file bankruptcy and loose your house, we will still get our money."  
The way this guy used the word "when" in that sentence scared the shit out of me.

All weekend I fretted about the fact I was being sued, and it suddenly it hit me that I was in deep trouble.  I had over 10 credit cards, all with balances on them, most of them maxed out, to the tune of having over $30,000 in credit card debt.  I wasn't making my monthly payments because I couldn't keep track of what was due and when, so I just gave up.  (I know at this point many of you are saying: "Who does that?!  And for you people, the answer is me.  But for those people who are in the same situation, and I know you are reading this because you write me all the time, just keep reading...)  I had hit rock bottom, and I wanted out.  I was tired of being stressed, but I had nowhere to turn.  For whatever reason, I dragged my sorry, pathetic, non-bill paying self into church that Sunday and there I sat not really paying a bit of attention to what the pastor was preaching until I heard him say these words:  "The debtor is always a slave to the lender."  Suddenly my ears perked up like a dog's ears in response to a potato chip bag being opened in the next room, and time stood still.  It was as if that pastor was talking directly to me.  Everything around me blacked out, and I was honed in on every word that man said.  I decided it was a sign.  What is the probability I would get sued Friday, realize I was in deep trouble Saturday, AND show up to church on Sunday (For the first time in forever..) and the topic would be about getting out of debt?!  When you are drowning and God sends you a lifeboat, you GET ON THE LIFEBOAT.  I have re-watched that series of sermons more times than I can count this year, and I didn't just get on the boat, I jumped on with a reckless abandon!

Where we started....  Whew!
Two days after this sermon, I would join a 2 week class offered by the church that helped people figure out their "debt free" date.  My debt free date for my credit cards was something like 2021.  (Gulp...)  There was NO way I was paying off these cards and being this stressed out for the next 7 years.  I took a deep breath, nodded to my ADD, and dug in with "a gazelle like intensity".  (Please note:  The easiest way to make me do something is to tell me I can't.)  From the moment I was committed to paying off $20,000 in debt in 2014.  I immediately went home.  I listed all my unsecured debt on that white board in the picture above, called a family meeting and made a SERIOUS commitment to change our household.

The changes weren't always exciting... But we did it!  
1)  This period of time would fall 2 weeks before my daughter's birthday.  I was determined to stay on track, and made it very clear that where in the past I was a "Disneyland Parent" buying hundreds of dollars in gifts, this year there would be 3 gifts only.  (Something I need, something to read, and something I want was the gift philosophy...)  And, you know what?!  The fact that my daughter was so grateful for the 3 presents she received was proof that I had raised a brilliant young lady.  If she was shocked she only received three gifts, she never showed it.

 2)  We were 6 weeks away from Christmas when we started this project.  Many people thought we were crazy for starting a new budget right before Christmas, and I will admit I was skeptical, but I am glad we started when we did because we would have been further in debt had we waited until after the holiday.  I think this year was actually my favorite Christmas, because we identified the simpler meaning of the holiday.  We only spent $100.00 on the three of us, purchased gifts for only the children in our family, and put up a Charlie Brown-like tree because you can't stuff too much crap under a small tree!  We still managed to give to our favorite charities and help out those who needed help, but we paid cash and didn't put a dime on our credit cards.

Yes, this is really our Christmas tree for 2013!  It had a Charlie Brown sort of appeal...

3)  I found financial counselors through the church and at their encouragement signed up for Dave Ramsey's Financial Freedom class.  It was here that I learned how to budget, "snowball" my debt, and really contemplate my needs vs. wants.  It was not easy, it hurt terribly, but Dave was no non-sense and his methods WORKED!

4)  We paid cash for EVERYTHING and if we couldn't pay cash for it we said "no".  This often times meant eating at home instead of going out with friends, or wait for it...  Saving our money for what we wanted BEFORE buying it.  GASP!  (Totally not a new concept, but new for us.)

5)  We got sold anything and everything that we could get our hands on.  Books, show clothing from last season that didn't fit, instruments, skis that I purchased for $1,100 and only used once, etc....  We sold so much stuff, I am confident people wondered if we were going to sell our dog next.

6)  We got by with LESS.  We cut back on the heat during the winter, the central air in the summer, we turned off lights, recycled, dropped our cable television and Starbucks, and at the end of this year I have to say we got by with less, but we have gained so much more.

We have managed to pay off $23,474.40 in 2014.  I understand our success is not typical, and we were at an advantage because we had enough money to pay our bills, but I was amazed by what even an extra $200 per month could do to help pay off debt.  (You can get rid of your cable and get a 2nd job to make up that amount of money in a month!)  My advice to people who are wanting to get started is to see what type of programs your church offers, enroll in a Dave Ramsey class if possible (He offers online classes too..), make a budget and get started.  A year from now, you will have wished you started today!  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

iPhone No-Mo'

As many of you already know, The Reluctant Farmer and I have worked hard to slay our unsecured debt this year,  We have used Dave Ramsey's principles to accomplish this, and where his ideas are simple (And they work!), implementing these concepts and using them in our daily lives has been hard and at times excruciatingly painful.

One of the luxuries that we had both talked about giving up was our smart phones, and it seemed easy enough to want to get away from that $160.00 bill every month, so yesterday when one of the cell phones died in the middle of our call week, making it absolutely imperative the phone be replaced, we made the jump.  And while all of our friends upgraded to the new iPhone 6.0, we just downgraded to the iPhone No-Mo'.

I won't lie, I am going to miss my smart phone.  I can't post pictures on Instagram anymore, randomly update my Facebook status on a whim or check my email, and the camera?!  It positively sucks!  I feel I am going to have to dig deep and carry the team while we adjust to this challenge though, because The Reluctant Farmer and her "inner child", who are clearly electronic whores, are both threatening to implode at any moment.  And trust me when I say her "inner child" is throwing a royal fit!

All I have heard about the new phone is:
"Great!  I am officially old!  I have the same phone as my parents do!"
"This thing is one step away from the Jitterbug."
"This thing sucks and it does nothing."
"Kyle at work got a new phone, and HE does all these cool things with his phone, and now I am going to have to sit next to him with this crappy, Jitterbug phone!"

The "inner child" is what got us into this mess and quieting it is will be what gets us out of this mess.  We will prevail, as we have all year long, paying off over $23,000.00 in unsecured debt.  At the end of the day we have gotten really good at identifying our "needs" versus our "wants" and where I want my smart phone back, I don't need my smart phone back.  I am excited to see where this journey takes us.  I foresee us eating dinner together as a family with no one's face shoved in an electric device.  I see us spending more quality time with each other, and I see us getting closer to our goal....

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thank you....

I wanted to thank each and everyone of you for all of your kind words, messages, and thoughts as The Reluctant Farmer and I dealt with the loss of a very special member of our family Friday.  The outpouring of love that we felt made the loss of Addie more tolerable, and as we grieved her loss you all embraced us, not once judging us for loving Addie on the level in which some love their human family members. 

A special thank you to:

Brent & Briley Remy who drove to comfort a very hysterical Reluctant Farmer and later myself.

Eden Maxwell who drove me home from work when I was too distraught to drive myself, and gave Addie her last car ride to the veterinarian.

Traci Nestor who held me as I cried my eyes out in disbelief, as I couldn't quite wrap my head around what had happened.

Dr. Kalo, Dr. Eisenberg, and the staff of Stonyridge Veterinary Service who treated my dog as if she was the most important animal on this earth while she was alive and again in death.  Thank you for dropping everything you were doing to do an autopsy on Addie right in the middle of your afternoon appointments because I needed to know what happened "right now".  (Dr. Kalo, thank you for later toasting to my girl over a glass of wine.  We thought Addie's life was most certainly "toast worthy" too and are blessed to have a veterinarian that felt the same way.)

Julie, Andee, and Christie thank you for not only seeing what we saw in this girl, but for always being there 100% of the time.  We save lives.  We change lives,  Addie was proof.

Christine Herring thank you for being unrelenting in your quest to get me to cave and bring home that "big ball of mushy face sweetness".  I admit, I was nervous because if your track record for picking mastiffs was anything like your track record for picking chihuahuas, I was concerned they would never find my body.  You were right though, she was perfect in every way and I would do it all over again in my very next breath if I could....

You all have touched me deeply.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

The right thing to do....

The owner of the new barn texted us this picture tonight.  I think Mia looks content and happy!

For nearly 2 decades, our horse has lived as a show horse, being kept in a 10 x 12 stall, not really getting the chance to live the natural life of a horse.  Seldom being turned out to graze, feel sunshine on her back, or socialize with other horses.  (Before you all write me, I know this is not how all show horses live!)   However, truth be told, Mia hates to show and several years ago became "ring sour".  We bought her knowing this about her, but it never affected how safe she was out of the ring, or what a great friend she was to our daughter, and it certainly did not stop us from making her part of our family.  A vital part of our family actually....

For months we have mauled over the idea of selling or leasing Mia to someone else, freeing us up from the cost of owning a horse, and we actually did sell her to a family last spring, only to have them call us several months later because "owning a horse during the winter was just too much work for them".  I have prayed, cried, and just about driven myself crazy trying to do what was right for our family and more importantly Mia.  I didn't want Mia to live the rest of her life out in a stall.  I want her to live the rest of her life out being a horse.  She has done her job, and she has done it well.  She has toted my daughter around for 5 years, happily submitting to all the brushing, hugging, and horrible riding that Miss K subjected her to in the early years.  She has put up with all of my "rookie horse mom" antics, and has never once been unkind to me.  She does everything you ask her to do, and she does it willingly.  Because of this, I was determined to work on a solution for Mia.

Today, we switched barns.  We went from a partial care barn with no pasture turnout, to a full care barn with turn out everyday.  We gave up our indoor arena, for an outdoor arena, and where we won't be able to ride all winter, we don't care because it was the right thing to do for our "hooved family member".  Mia will have horse friends, sunshine, and grass now.

I go to bed tonight with a content mind and happy heart.  
I hope Mia does the same....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Loved you for a thousand years....

Before you read this blog post please do me a favor.  I want you to click on this link:  Then minimize the video, turn on your speakers, and read this post.

I work in a pediatric hospital.
I volunteer at the animal shelter.
I am active in dog rescue.
I am no stranger to death.
I am prepared for death in those situations.
I was not prepared for Addie to die.

Looking back, I think in my heart I knew something was not "right" with Addie when I picked her up at the vet Thursday night.  She was sluggish, and slower than I thought she should be.  I had our vet check her over one more time before I took her home, just to make sure everything was okay with her.  It was.

That night, I did something I've never done for another dog that went in for a routine procedure, I slept on the couch with Addie just to make sure she was not alone, and so I could be right with her if she needed something, administering pain medication, comforting her, and making sure she was warm.  My thought was she would sleep off the anesthesia and she would be more peppy after a good nights sleep.  She seemed slow that morning, but better.  I told her I loved her, she thumped her lethal weapon of a tail on the floor a couple times, and I told the Reluctant Farmer to stay home with her just make sure she was okay.

I received a hysterical phone call at 3 pm from The Reluctant Farmer stating she had went upstairs to grab a pillow off our bed, and Addie had died while she was upstairs.  I was completely shocked and beyond devastated.

To know Addie, was to love Addie.  There was something so special about that dog and her spirit, and perhaps The Reluctant Farmer knew better than me the entire time.  Addie was meant to be ours.
I think my favorite thing about Addie was that she exuded love and happiness, and she was so appreciative of the love and resources she finally had.  Daily we would find her huge mastiff body squeezed into one of the chihuahua's dog beds surrounded by every bone and toy she could find.  She would thump her huge tail on the floor and grin from ear to ear at all the stuff she had managed to drag back to "her bed".  If she was not squeezed in her bed, she was on the couch.  It would make me laugh when I would walk into the livingroom and there camped out on the couch with her huge head laying on a pillow would be Addie. And, I will never forget the weight of Addie's head when she would lay on me at night while I was reading or watching television, snoring to the point I could not concentrate.

She was a one of a kind dog, a gentle giant in every sense of the word, that has left a 100 pound hole in my heart and home.  I hope God has a comfy couch, a secure trashcan, a spare pair of eyeglasses, plenty of toys/bones, and extra underwear, because the goofy girl he called home yesterday will expect nothing less....