Monday, November 29, 2010

Baby Steps to the Makeover

How's the Total Money Makeover going?
Step 1:  establish a 1000.00 cash emergency fund
    We took a hard look at how we were managing our finances and found something interesting.  In the long term arena, we were actually doing  well.  It was the everyday problems that were dragging us down.  Not having an accessible emergency cash fund has had repercussions and caused us to use debt in a pinch.  So, we can retire okay at 65 but in the present, we were doing a crummy job.  Last week we looked around the garage and found several nice items that we never use.  We hate having garage sales and so we drug the items out to the curb with sale signs on them.  People snatched up the items and voila--we began our cash fund. 

It isn't going near as quickly as Dave Ramsey would like, but hey, it's Christmas time--not the easiest time to find extra cash.  And yes, the credit card is still frozen in the pink bowl in the freezer.

Step 2:  Build a Budget:  okay, so I've been making out detailed family budgets for us the past 17yrs.  I make it all look perfect on paper then stash is away in the B file in our cabinet and we never look at it again!  Last week Mike and I sat down and analyzed it.  He was mortified with  my paper and ruler style so he spent hours making a color coded Xcel spreadsheet with Assets, Debts, Budget, and Debt Snowball.  It was extremely satisfying to see an action plan for us to be completely debt free, except the mortgage, in a short time(if we work hard and never use credit again OR God forbid another child has an emergency or I get hit by another car!!!).

Additional step:  envelope system.  We bought an accordion folder just the size of long envelopes to allocate a budgeted cash amount.  This is a pain in the butt--yep, for real!

Super Saver:  conquer electricity waste.  I had NO clue about all this.  I assumed if an item wasn't on, just plugged in, that it didn't use electricity.  My sister told me that she and her husband did an experiment.  They unplugged every single non-esssential in their house.  So, everyday she unplugs the coffee pot and such after use.  They are also washing in cold water.  Their electric bill was 50 dollars last month.  I don't know about you guys' wattage, but my bill is waaay more than that!  So, I'm checking it out.  I walked around and unplugged 14 electrical items(we had 3 cell phone chargers plugged in!).  I'm going to compare watt usage next month and see if it goes down dramatically.  I'll let you know.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Report on the trip

Katy is back from her trip to Greece and Bulgaria.  Here is one of her pictures.

Poster they hung up all over Thessaloniki
It says: She came to Greece for a dream but is living a nightmare. 1 out of 7 prostitutes in Greece are slaves.

I had previously copied and pasted a story off of A21 Campaign's website.  I'll repost it.'re walking into a coffee shop one morning to meet your friend, as you do every Saturday morning. He is already seated and has ordered you your favorite drink (grande vanilla chai latte, soy milk, extra hot.) The conversation begins, and the two of you talk about the latest news, that funny thing you did yesterday, and your plans now that you have finally finished university...
Suddenly, you wake up, in a daze, and completely disoriented. Instead of a cozy coffee shop, you are in a dark room, somewhere in an unfamiliar city. For 5 days you are held captive, repeatedly raped, and starved. You are so tired, and emotionally drained; you don't even have the will to resist. You have lost track of how many men have come into the small room, how many times you have been used, abused, and then left alone....yet, the time to think on such things is limited as the next client is already entering the room. You are a victim of human trafficking, sold by a "friend", and left without hope.

Katy met the lady whose story is above.  It isn't a made up scenario, it is real.  The lady has a son in Bulgaria that she doesn't see.  A21 Campaign is trying to set her free and restore her family. The team also met a 20yr old young woman who had been sold into the sex industry several years earlier by her own mother-to feed the starving family. 

I'm excited to see Christians across America wake up to this real nightmare and get involved--like they are doing with the global orphan crisis.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving--well, it's a stretch

Hmmm, not your TV show Thanksgiving.  I worked.  Suffice it to say, I deserved triple pay for that day.  The hospital was nuts.  Kick in the pants!!!!!!  My family went off to relative's homes and had a good time.  After work, I was headed home to let the puppy out, change clothes, and head to my parent's.  Not...even....kidding....I was swide swiped in a hit and run while going 65 on a freeway!  I'm fine, mad, but fine.  Actually, my tailbone hurts and my left leg feels weird(but that was from being hit by a car 14years ago--another story some day).  Perfect ending to a stinky holiday.  No, we will never find the driver-he had to have been going 85miles an hour.  You know, we aren't high drama people.  In fact, I don't like people who constantly have drama going on in their lives.  What the heck?
So, trying to be thankful..
   I'm thankful I wasn't hurt, that my kids weren't with me, that I didn't get pushed into oncoming traffic and hurt someone else, we were in Mike's old car and not in a nice pretty new vehicle, thankful to have a job AND we sold off several unused items in our garage and have a cash emergency fun started :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Temporarily insane

Yep, we got Abby a puppy.  No, don't know what the heck we were thinking!  It actually is a funny story.  You see, last Thursday, we were offered this adorable 3month old boy puppy for free by a teacher at Mike and the kids' school.  We certainly turned it down as we do not need a puppy.  Then, that same night was the school's yearly auction fundraiser.  We were all having a grand time, including Mike(the secondary principal) sitting in a dunking booth in the freezing cold while students greatly enjoyed forking over dollars to dunk him.  Turns out the puppy's owner decided to place it in the auction.  There was a darling picture on the auction table with the other items.  Abby comes up begging, with her beautiful Korean eyes "please can we bid on the dog?  I  promise I'll take care of him!"  At that moment, my normally practical brain went mushy and I made gestures to Mike to bid on the dog for Abby's Christmas gift.  Well, in another brilliant economic display, we turned the dog down when it was free, but spent 20.00 to win it :)  At least it was for a great cause!  Unfortunately, the owner did not want to babysit the dog til Dec. 24th.  So, Abby got her gift early.  It really is a darling and sweet puppy.  She named him Sandy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A good friend

In Growth Group(Sunday School) last week we talked about life's storms and how to bear one another's burdens. Man, Mike and I have sure weathered some storms in our 17yrs of marriage.  Our teacher is a hospice chaplain and had excellent practical tips for helping friends going through storms of life.  He said how people in crisis need friends to come alongside and jump in doing practical things that will lift off some pressure in their lives.  How many times I have I thrown out the old cliches "Call if you need anything" or "We are praying for you" and not done anything to really help?
 I've thought about my mother-in-law in regards to this.  Her friend, a young mom of 3yr old twins, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer a few years ago.  My mother-in-law, Kathy, brought meals and watched those children all the time.  On the day of surgery, Kathy and her husband drove 2hours to the city where her friend was and took care of the twins(in a hotel no less!!) all day!  Now those kind of love in actions are really bearing burdens.  I'm going to try to be a more practical and loving friend when people around me are going through storms.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

In other on the lookout for a picture of Abby's early Christmas gift.  Can you see the                      S U C K E R  tattoo on mine and Mike's foreheads???

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Got tunes?

Great news!  Newest worship CD from Gateway Worship team is on sale now.  Talk about a Christmas gift that keeps on giving. Trust me....if you like incredible praise and worship must get this cd!  I keep listening to Faithful God over and over and over.  I've seen Kari Jobe leading worship many times.  Listening to her sing O The Blood--WHOA baby, goosebumps big time!

Another great news---I got an email from the hospital where I had my procedure and they owe ME some money!!!!  Who'd a thunk it possible???  Hooray to me!  I think Dave Ramsey is smiling somewhere.  By the way, Abby was getting frozen waffles out of the freezer this morning and pulled out the bowl of ice block with a look on her face like "What in the world?"  I nonchalantly said "That is our credit card."  :)  No tellin' what things she'll think you are supposed to do when she's married and has kids!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the Red Light District today

My youngest sister, Katy, is in Bulgaria visiting the poor villages where girls are taken from and trafficked--forced to give pleasure to disgusting men.  Tonight, they will be in the red light district hoping to rescue girls.  Yesterday, in Thessaloniki Greece, a young woman was rescued from a brothel and taken the the shelter that A21 Campaign runs.  Please be in prayer.
Here is a very common scenario that I copied and pasted from the A21 campaign's website're walking into a coffee shop one morning to meet your friend, as you do every Saturday morning. He is already seated and has ordered you your favorite drink (grande vanilla chai latte, soy milk, extra hot.) The conversation begins, and the two of you talk about the latest news, that funny thing you did yesterday, and your plans now that you have finally finished university...

Suddenly, you wake up, in a daze, and completely disoriented. Instead of a cozy coffee shop, you are in a dark room, somewhere in an unfamiliar city. For 5 days you are held captive, repeatedly raped, and starved. You are so tired, and emotionally drained; you don't even have the will to resist. You have lost track of how many men have come into the small room, how many times you have been used, abused, and then left alone....yet, the time to think on such things is limited as the next client is already entering the room. You are a victim of human trafficking, sold by a "friend", and left without hope.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rockin the Hanbok

Hudson is wearing the Hanbok that his Eomma(foster mother) sent with him when we picked him up in Korea last year.  A hanbok is the traditional ancient costume in Korea.  No, they don't associate colors with gender so it is okay for him to wear pink!  Speaking of Eomma, this is flabbergasting!  Hudson is a genius-pure and simple!  I don't have to be humble about his brains, my genes had nothing to do with it ;)  So, on his Gotcha Day in Sept I was asking him if he remembered Eomma.  He said no and looked blank.  I kid you not, 2 weeks ago, he walks up to me and says "Me member me Eomma!"  With a cherub grin he looked right at me and said that. I was like "Huh??"  Seriously dude, you blow me away each day.

And, just because I'm so proud of my little "gift"that I wrote about a last week, here is a pic of my free shelving unit!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The makeover begins!

Sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck and wondering "where did all our money go?"  It is really nobody's business how our money makeover goes, but I'm betting(cause I hear it at work ALL the time!) that many of you are in the same boat.  So, I thought I'd post occasional updates on our endeavor to make you laugh, smirk, cry, cheer, or get irritated and move on ;) 

I finished reading Total Money Makeover last night.  Great practical help and goals.  I do wish to make a clarification though.  Mike and I do NOT have the end goal of wealth building, which is what the book seems to point to as the end all.  We couldn't care less about being wealthy.  In fact, not only do I think it is selfish to save and hoard tons and tons of cash for when we are older, but it is totally against what Jesus teaches in Scripture.  I know, I just really offended some people.  Hey, if you aren't living your life according to the Word of God--then you think I'm some religious nut who doesn't know what she's talking about.  If you are living your life according to God's Word and you don't agree with me--then read the Bible for yourself.  25,000 children die everyday due to lack of clean water and the effects of severe poverty.  Little girls are sold as sex slaves. Do you think Jesus gives a rip if I'm able to retire "comfortably" and spend it on my pleasures while there are 147million orphans in the world.  Uh---hello???? 
 I want us to be debt free and have emergency savings and work on retirement funds, and then, if the Holy Spirit prompts us---have the freedom to outlandishly give to hurting people, go on mission trips withou being hindered by lack of funds, and whatever else we are prompted to do.  So, now that the disclaimer is out there--that is the one thing I didn't agree with Dave about.  Really, The Blessed Life, by Robert Morris, is  better regarding the Scriptures and giving.  But, as my younger sister Katy(don't ya hate it when your younger sis is smarter than you ???) pointed out--use the great tools for money management  and debt elimination in Dave Ramsey and follow the giving principals in the Blessed Life. 

Quotes I just loved and wanted to share:
   Christmas is NOT an emergency!  It comes every December.  Personally, I'm super guilty of this.  Every October, I get that panicky feeling in my gut about Christmas.  Not only did I not budget and save a little every month for it, but sometimes(in an "emergency") I use the plastic!  Not only do I use plastic, but I end up paying interest for junk the kids don't give a rip about by February!
   If you keep a 378 dollar car payment throughout your life, which is "normal", you miss the opportunity to save that money.  If you invested $378 per month from age 25 to 65, a normal working lifetime, in the average mutual fund averaging 12 percent, you would have $4,447,084!!!!!  Wow, that totally blew my mind.  We are trying, oh it is HARD, to put a typical car payment in a savings account to save up and buy Mike a nice used truck with cash in 1yr.  At the rate we are going, it may be a 10yr old clunker
It is going to rain.  You need a rainy day fund.
You know, it wasn't our fault that Dillon had an ER visit in April(darned inflammed omentum!), then Carter and Hudson had an ER visit in June(clutz!), then I had outpatient surgery in August. We never could have predicted those medical bills. But, if we'd been good stewards, faithfully saving for those types of emergencies, we'd not have been blown out of the water with the bills.

So, where do we start?  With Dave's Baby Step One:
           Save 1000 cash for an emergency fund and do it fast!  I'm looking forward to doing what one of the women in the book did.  I'm going to take 10 one hundred dollar bils, place them in a glass picture frame, write "In case of real emergency, break glass" on it and hang the framed bills in our closet.  I love that idea!
            Never use credit for anything else but a home mortgage.  Ever!  No debt.    
That's the basics. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

closets, makeovers, and prayers

First off, DRAT, my camera doesn't seem to be communicating with my computer today.  Very stinky because I took several adorable pics of Hudson wearing the Hanbok(traditional Korean costume) that his foster mother sent with him last year.  I'm getting a letter and pics ready to mail her for his 3rd bday in a few weeks. 

Remember me needing help with the boy's closet but I didn't have money to spend??  Well, you see, God cares about the little things too my friends.  I was out before daylight this morning trying to get this tired and out of shape body a little exercise.  I was "wogging" around the neighborhood(Mike's term for a pitiful combo of jogging and walking).  When, low and behold, a beam of light shone on a pile of trash at the curb.  There was one of those shelving uits that has 9 coutout cube shelves that holds baskets or toys.  It was in great condition.  So, I schlepped it all the way home, sweating and straining.  It was a gift, I'm convinced.  I've got in the the boy's closet with Legos and toys.  I took a picture of it too, darn the luck, you can't see how cute and organized it all looks and fully appreciate it! 

I checked out Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover at the library yesterday(thanks Dania for the tip!).  Actually, I checked out 2 of them--1 for me and 1 for Mike.  I admit it, we've gotten real lax about our finances.  We don't have a thing in the world that is fancy, we drive 2 old paid off pieces of crap, and we don't wear fancy clothes.  But, our adoptions, travels, and additional daycare expenses have left us a bit strapped.  The big medical bills that we've been saddled with from the summer wouldn't have caused such a problem if we'd been following Dave's rule of an emergency savings fund.  Soooooo, I'm super excited about making wise choices, getting financially fit.  The credit card is now sitting in the freezer, in a ziplock, under a block of ice in a bowl ;)  I'm not exaclty sure if 5 weeks before Christmas is the best time to embark on a Money Makeover, but no time like the present huh?  Hey, anybody else want to join us?  We can pray and encourage and share stories with each other.
You know, for a few years now, we've felt like one day we would be moving to Central America for missions.  But, we certainly can't do that if we have debt and no savings.  I cannot wait to be debt free someday--including no mortgage!  Yep, it will be slooooooow and steady, but I know God will richly bless our efforts.

And, last, but not least, this has been a heavy prayer week.  So many super important things I'm praying for.
1.  My sister Katy leaves for Greece on Friday.  She'll be on a mission trip working with anti-human trafficking and the A21 campaign.  Please pray for their team to be effective, for great ministry opps, for safety, for endurance.
2.  A few couples I know are praying and thinking(what Francis Chan calls "prinking") about HUGE adoption decisions.  We aren't talking about cutesy little infants--they are considering much older, hard to place kids and it will rock their world.  I'm praying for them to have wisdom and peace, but  most of all for these kids--who deserve incredible families of their own--to be placed into the forever families God has planned for them.
3.  Tomorrow I would have been 20 weeks.  I should be finding out this week if we were going to add a boy or girl to our family.  Honestly, I don't think about it much.  But, every once in a while it just smacks me upside the head.  Saturday afternoon was one of those times.  Mike says he thinks about it all the time.  As for the gender, in my mind it was a girl.  I've named her Amy, after Amy Carmicheal--the great missionary to India who rescued and raised girls offered to false gods as child prostitutes.  Talk about the ultimate adoptive mother!
Okay, that ought to fill us up for a few days.  If my camera is healed miraculously, I'll post some pics.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Orphan Sunday!!!

Somewhere between 147-163 million orphaned children around the world including
500,000 children in the US living in foster care
 with 120,000 of those children legally available for adoption
Just reading the numbers makes you numb.  Can you really even comprehend those statistics?

Mike and I have traveled to several countries.  Just between the 2 of us we've seen first hand rows of orphaned babies in a nursery in Korea

 63 children with 2 adult caregivers living in a concrete orphanage in Haiti,

orphans in Puerto Rico

orphans in Costa Rica

orphans in Nassau

orphans in Nicarauga

orphans in Jamaica

 watched and prayed as our beautiful neice went from being a foster child to a forever child of my sister and her husband......we
know the reality of orphans! 

You know, there is a very interesting few verses in the Old Testament.  God had set up a way for the Isrealites to take care of the needy.
Deuteronomy 24:19-22
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

I wonder, what if we all followed this principal today?  What if every person who claims they are a follower of Jesus Christ didn't go back over their harvest and glean?  What if they always saved the surplus from their jobs for the poor, the orphan and the widow?  BUT, here is the reality.....we don't have a dime to spare do we?  We spend every bit we make on US.  Not only do we spend every bit we make, but we overspend and charge beyond what we make(believe me, I'm preaching to myself here, we don't have any left either!!!).  We can't care for the poor, the fatherless, and the widow because our cars, houses, over fed bellies, and giant inflatable Santas riding Harleys in the front yard at Christmas
 cost so much.  Have mercy on us Father God.  We are consumed with ourselves.  Forgive us!

I'd truly love to hear from some of you about what your church and/or orphans ministry did for Orphan Sunday.  Leave a comment or email me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tips to share???

I'm betting someone reading this can help me.  I need some tips, especially from those who have large families.
1  My closets are terribly unorganized.  I need to maximize the storage we have, but really, don't have a good grasp on where to start.  So, any tips(minus buying those cool closet organizers), especially from families with kids with share closets would be appreciated. 
2  Next, our grocery bill seems to be getting waaaay out of hand.  Carter and Abby now eat like adults.  We are constantly running out of things and going back to the store.  Remember my strict budgeting for groceries?  Well, not working!  Pretty much that has fallen by the wayside.  I speak a good game, but really, I'm a wimp at following through.
3  Does anyone know if I can sweet talk my way out of paying on medical bills?  I mean, really, they got my insurance payment and I've made a few months payments, but it is really stressing me out.  So, if you have some tips in negotiating with hospitals(yeah, I know, I work in one) I sure could use them.
4  Anybody know of cute, inexpensive, and easy to make teacher gifts that they will actually enjoy?  Mike's been a principal for 10 years now and I know how many mugs and candy teachers get.  I'd like to make something.
5  Books?  Id like a few new suggestions.  I prefer ones that beef up my faith, but I also enjoy decent fiction, like The Nanny Diaries.

So, if you can help me out, post in the comments or email me

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lots of Treats--no Tricks

We had so much fun on Halloween.   We always have lots of family and friends over.  Mike is known throughout our little neighborhood for setting up a firepit, making hotdogs and passing them out to the trick or treaters. 

                                             Carter and our friend Jake--too cool huh?

Like my skeleton shirt?  I matched Hudson.  Mike is Mike(anybody watch The Middle last week???)

                                  Before sundown, here's the shindig beginning in our front yard.

Neices Kylie and Aspen looking darn cute! Brad and Melody's sweet foster baby K was there too, dressed in a bumble bee outfit. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to show her face on the internet. She'll most likely be returning to her family in 2 weeks.

Cousin Lexi was a "spring fairy."  Dont dare ask her if those are GoGo boots ;)

                          Hudson the skeleton(well--he's the chunkiest skeleton I ever saw!)
                                                              Pizza Man Dillon

                                                       Cousin Maddie and Abby

                  All the kids(minus Carter) plus some extra friends.  They are all looking at my mom's mask.        My dad is dressed in his own words "a weird grandpa".
                                        Aunt Katy and Uncle Kyle, the robot.

The goody basket.  See the admit one tickets?  Well.....Halloween is the perfect Outward Focused Life click HEREevent.  Along with hotdogs, water bottles, and candy, we passed out invitations to church.   I can't think of an easier way to invite all your neighbors to church.