Author Archives: Karen

Life without social media: Week 1

It’s the start of day three in my month without social media, but it was the morning of day one that I realized just how much I’ve come to depend on my connections with Internet friends for daily life.

I expected to experience withdrawal from the connection that social media provides, and I definitely did. I can’t prove that it’s related, but I was feeling on edge and extra crabby all day on the first day. Whether it was caused by social media withdrawal or just a bad day, I can definitely say I missed being able to log into Facebook, fire off a status update venting my frustrations, and wait for the commiseration to pour in. It’s not that I don’t have friends to vent to in real life, but when your network is over 200 people, you’re more likely to find someone who can relate to what you’re feeling at any given moment than you are if you just text, email, or call a friend.

It’s not just the connections that I missed, though. I sat down to plan our menu for the week on Tuesday, and I realized I don’t even remember how I came up with meal ideas without Pinterest. It’s only been a year since I started using Pinterest. It’s amazing to me how quickly we adapt to technology and begin to depend on it.

The unfortunate realization? I’m not less distracted without Facebook. I’ve just replaced Facebook with other distractions. I’ve been texting and emailing more with friends (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — reconnecting with real world friends is one of the reasons I wanted to step away from social media). The bad news is that I’m using texting and emailing to distract me from work and household chores and going outside the same way I used social media.

I thought I would be less attached to my phone and the Internet, but I’m just finding new things to distract myself. I’m not brave enough or strong enough for a month without Internet (though after typing it, I am intrigued at the thought), but I wonder if that would be the only way to get the “break” that I set out to take.

Another unexpected problem? Without Facebook and Twitter, all that inspiration that I hoped to channel into the blog has nowhere to go. All day little thoughts and quips about parenting and life pop into my head. I used to post them immediately, and I often turned those thoughts into whole blog posts eventually. Now? The thoughts pop into my head, and without a place to put them, poof. They’re gone. I decided to start carrying a notebook with me and get into the habit of writing things down instead of posting them online. Hopefully I’ll be able to do something with those thoughts instead of just forgetting them.

I guess my point is that so far the benefits of social media seem to outweigh its pitfalls. Granted, it’s only day 3, but so far I’m not getting more done or feeling less stressed or feeling much of a difference at all aside from the fact that I’m missing a lot of conveniences and feeling a little more lonely.

What do you guys think? Have you ever taken a break from social media? What did you miss most?

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Incommunicado

For the past few weeks, I’ve had an idea floating around in my head. After much deliberation, I’ve decided to act on it. For the entire month of May, I will be logging off all social media accounts.

I will continue to check my email and post on this blog (hopefully more frequently that I have been posting for the past few months). Rest assured, I am not one of those Facebook/Twitter haters. It’s quite the contrary actually. I love social media a little too much.

I fully intend to come back at the end of the month, but I hope to come back refreshed and better able to strike a balance between the real world and the Internet world. Here are just a few reasons I’ve decided to try the experiment:

  • Since beginning my teaching job, I feel like my screen time has grown exponentially. Now in addition to social media, I’m staring at my computer writing lectures, researching, grading, and communicating with students. This summer I’ll be teaching an online class, which will increase my screen time even more. I feel like my eyes need a break, and my baby needs to look at my face a little more instead of the tiny Apple icon.
  • Screen time encourages me to sit on my butt more than I should. The weather is warming up. It’s time to get outside and get active.
  • Sometimes I feel like social media — Facebook especially — allows me to be creatively lazy. What I mean by that is that it’s too easy for me to fire up my iPhone and post a status message every time a thought I want to share or a question I want answered pops into my head. I’ve been struggling with blog inspiration for several months now, and my hope is that taking a step back from other outlets will inspire me to share more thoughts and ideas here in this space.
  • I value the connections that I’ve developed and maintained through social media, but sometimes I feel like the hundreds of people I communicate with online take away a portion of the time and energy that rightfully belongs to my family and real-world friends.
  • My husband and I are both on vacation for most of the month of May. This year we will celebrate four years of marriage and a whole year in a home of our own. We have lots of family activities, visitors, and travel planned as well as home improvement tasks to tackle. I need to avoid the distraction of frequent Facebook updates.
  • My to-read list is a mile long, and I spend too many nights “checking one more thing” on the Internet without picking up my Kindle or cracking a book.
  • I still owe my parents a quilt that I promised them for Christmas, and I also want to learn to crochet and knit.

In short, I’m hoping the month of May will be busy enough that I won’t miss social media.

I am not naive, though. I am a full-on, hands-shaking, cold-sweating, fiending for a fix addict. The first few days of this experiment aren’t going to be pretty. In fact, I’m actually going as far as asking my husband to change all of my passwords so I can’t access the websites. I’m removing the apps from my phone, too. I know this may seem extreme, but there’s no telling what an addict will do when she needs a fix.

I’ve tried similar experiments in the past (never longer than a week, though), and even if I can make it that long without posting anything myself, I still obsessively check everyone else’s posts and often can’t help but respond to a few.

I’m hoping to keep you guys updated on the experience and share the good and the bad. I get so many positive things from social media and the Internet, but it’s like anything else — it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. My hypothesis is that absence from the Internet really will make my heart grow fonder, not just of the Internet, but the people I’ve gotten to know there. I guess we’ll see, though.

Have you ever taken a break from the Internet? What did you learn?

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Lifestyle inflation is no joke

I started my new teaching job at the beginning of March, but due to the pay schedule I didn’t receive my first paycheck until the first week of April. It’s been two years since the last time I had a regular paycheck of my own, and it was quite a thrill when the money showed up in our bank account. I felt that old “pay day” elation, and let me tell ya, it’s a powerful drug.

My plan for my income from the start has been to devote it entirely to beefing up our savings and paying down our student loan debt. Because I’m not sure how long I’ll be earning this money, it was never intended to be lumped into our regular income. But my bi-weekly paychecks are almost equal to the amount we’ve allotted to “day-to-day purchases” — groceries, household goods, and spending money. Suddenly, it felt like our “day-to-day money” had doubled.

Let’s just say, it’s been a pretty fun couple of weeks. I enrolled Judah in a summer gymnastics program, switched from my current gym membership to a more expensive YMCA membership (with a hefty enrollment fee), and did some damage in Target a few times.

Then I realized: this is how it happens. Your income increases, you tell yourself, “Just this once — we can afford it now.” And before you know it, your monthly budget has increased with no extra savings to show for it. It’s the very definition of lifestyle inflation.

Thankfully, I realized it before it’s too late. It still feels like “extra money,” so I have time to adjust the budget and reallocate the money before it becomes a serious habit. Only now it will feel a little like deprivation for the first few paychecks, because I already experienced the powerful drug of spending it.

I’m not saying that there’s no room to loosen up when your income increases. If you get a raise or find some other source of extra income, it’s okay to loosen up some areas of your budget. Just make sure you have a plan to put some of that money to good use, too. Save some money, repay some debt, increase your retirement contributions, and then spend a little. The point is that if you’re not mindful of how you spend income increases, you’ll get stuck in a cycle where you spend every penny you earn forever and ever. It’s a good way to feel broke no matter how much you make.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make a plan for your income increases before the money hits your bank account, and stick with it. Your future self will thank you for it.

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Empty walls

It’s been almost a full year since we bought our house (can you believe it?), and I STILL have nothing on my walls. You think I’m exaggerating, but sadly, no. Literally, the only thing I have hung on my walls is a television (it became evident that our TV wasn’t going to be able to stay on a table shortly after Judah started walking) and a dry erase calendar in my kitchen. No art, no pictures, no shelves. Nothing.

In my defense, we have been “going to paint” since we moved in. Our walls are plaster, so I didn’t want to deal with filling in nail holes and moving things around when we finally painted. But now that the living room, dining room, and kitchen have fresh paint, I’m starting to feel more guilty every day about my empty walls.

On a recent trip to IKEA, I bought a ton inexpensive photo frames, and I have so many great pictures from our travels and Judah’s first year that it should be a cinch to decorate my living room walls with family photos. But every time I think about it, I just get overwhelmed and put it off for another day. I need to choose which photos I want to include in the gallery (out of literally thousands), make prints in the right sizes, and then decide which configuration to hang them. I’m usually pretty decisive, but when it comes to this sort of thing, I second guess myself until it makes me crazy.

The kitchen and dining room are not so easy. I don’t want family photos on those walls, but that leaves me wondering what to do instead. I don’t typically like store-bought art (not at the prices I can afford anyway), but I sort of like the idea of cheap framed prints. Here are some ideas I’m tossing around.

Framed post cards

I’ve bought post cards for each of the cities Tony and I have traveled together since we started dating, and I want to frame them and hang them somewhere in the house. I don’t know if they’ll fit in the dining room, and definitely not the kitchen, but I might hang them in the hallway or den? We still need to paint the den, so I’ve got some time to decide what to do in there.

Kitschy kitchen prints

I found these kitchen prints on Pinterest, and I love them. They’re available for free download in these colors, and customizable through the artist’s Etsy store for just $5. I have a tiny bit of wall to fill between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, and I think they might look cute there.

All You Need is Love prints

I think these cute prints will work nicely in the dining room, and since we’re big Beatles fans, it’s even better.

Kitchen conversion chart

I am in love with this measurement conversion print from Chasing Delicious (available for purchase for just $24!), but I don’t know if the red will work well in my yellow kitchen, and I’d also like it to be a bit bigger than the largest available size (11×17). I’m on the hunt for a similar large print in colors that will work better in my kitchen.

Maps

I’ve seen ideas all over Pinterest with framed maps, and I’d like to do something like that with the three major cities where we’ve lived. I want something more creative than just framing the maps, though, so I’m still hunting around and thinking it over.

I want creative but cheap wall decor, and it’s turning out to be much harder to find/create than I expected. Frames alone cost a fortune!

What ideas can you share with me? I’m dying to know what’s on your walls.

How to break the cycle of paycheck-to-paycheck living

This post was originally published on June 8, 2010.

Paycheck-to-paycheck living has become all too common, especially in this economic climate. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle, and when you’re in the middle of it, it can feel impossible to break out of it. It seems that every time you start to get ahead, there’s a car problem or a medical emergency or some other sudden expense that lands you right back where you started. I know from personal experience.

Nothing reminds you of how unsustainable paycheck-to-paycheck living is like losing your income. My husband and I supplemented a low income with our savings account for 8 months in 2010, and I can’t help but think about how different our situation would be if we hadn’t broken free of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

The good news is, it’s not impossible to break the cycle. It takes time and patience and perseverance, but you can dig yourself out of the rut of paycheck-to-paycheck living. Here’s how:

Stop blaming your income.

One of the biggest complaints of people living paycheck-to-paycheck is that they simply don’t make enough money. It’s easy to tell yourself that your income is the problem, and that making more money is the answer. The problem with that line of thinking is that lifestyle inflation usually goes hand-in-hand with income increases when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. The sad truth is that it doesn’t matter what you make; you will find a way to spend it all. So stop blaming your income, and start thinking of ways to fix your situation now.

I know there are people who legitimately struggle with low income. If you’re in that situation, and you’re taking advantage of all of the government programs available to help you get back on your feet and still struggling, the only advice I can give you is do what you can to survive for now. It won’t last forever. But someday when you’re earning more, remember this time. It will motivate you to save a cushion that will protect you from going through this again.

Spend less than you make.

If you’re stuck in a paycheck-to-paycheck rut, the only way to start digging your way out is to start spending less than you make. The very first step is to build a budget and cut any and all unnecessary expenses. If you’re ever going to get ahead, you need to free up some money in your budget to give yourself a cushion. Take a serious look at your spending habits. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, it’s likely that you’re overspending.

If you’ve taken a serious look at your finances, and you continue to struggle despite the fact that you’re not eating out or making unnecessary purchases, it’s possible you fall into an income category that could qualify you for government assistance. Consider taking advantage of those programs to help you dig your way out of your rut.

Save for emergencies.

If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, this scenario is probably familiar: every month, you try to put money in the bank, and every month something comes up that forces you to clear out your savings account. Before you can truly break the cycle, you need to be prepared for emergencies. Once you’ve cut your spending, start putting every extra cent into savings. Don’t be discouraged if you hit a few setbacks. Just keep saving. Eventually, you’ll build a cushion of $1,000-$2,000 for financial emergencies.

Pay this month’s bills with last month’s paycheck.

The ultimate goal is to get ahead of your expenses. Once you’ve saved for emergencies, it’s time to build a cushion on your checking account. If you’ve built a budget, then you should know approximately how much you spend each month. Instead of spending extra money, put it aside to put yourself ahead. Once you’ve saved an entire month’s worth of expenses, you’ll no longer be waiting until payday to send a check or restock the refrigerator.

Be disciplined.

When you’ve got several thousand dollars in the bank, it can be hard not to feel so confident in your finances that you go right back to your overspending ways. Remember, though, your savings doesn’t change your income. What I mean is, if your paychecks equal $3,000 a month, and you have $5,000 in the bank, it may feel like you can spend $3,500 a month. But remember, your savings won’t last forever, and you’ll end up right back where you started in four months. Budget according to your monthly income. If an emergency forces you to tap your emergency savings, be diligent about replenishing what you spent. Otherwise, you’ll end up living paycheck-to-paycheck again.

What would *you* do with $640 million?

With the Mega Millions jackpot up to $640 million now, it seems like the whole country has been hit with lotto fever this week. I’m not a big believer in gambling — I think in most cases it’s throwing good money at extreme odds. Though in this case, I don’t think it hurts to spend a buck on a ticket. It’s only a dollar, and your chances are as good as anyone else’s, so why not?

Tony and I didn’t buy a ticket. We did have a fun conversation about what we’d do with that kind of money, though. Who hasn’t had the “what would we do if we won the lottery?” conversation?

What did we decide? Well, for philosophical reasons, we honestly don’t believe anyone should keep that kind of money to themselves. In my opinion, there is far too much need in this world for one person to hang on to that kind of wealth. We would continue to live a modest lifestyle for the most part. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t benefit personally from winning a jackpot, though.

Here are a few things we’d do for ourselves:

  • Pay off our mortgage, remaining student loan debt, and our car loan.
  • Set up college trusts for Judah and our hypothetical future children.
  • Invest enough cash to net us $150k in interest every year for the rest of our lives.
  • Do some improvements for our house. We might remodel our kitchen or add on.
  • Buy the items that we’re currently saving up to get (a riding lawn mower, new bedroom furniture, a new mattress, new laptops).
  • Travel more. I figure, if we won the Mega Millions, we could at least afford to take a nice vacation once a year.

Here are a few things we wouldn’t do:

  • We wouldn’t buy a huge new house. We may decide to move eventually, but it would be to a relatively modest home. For right now, we’re happy where we are, and we love our home. Being mega millionaires wouldn’t change that, and our family just doesn’t need a giant mansion.
  • Tony wouldn’t quit his job. He loves teaching. He might not want to work full-time so we’d have more time for our family and travel. I know he’d want to continue teaching in some capacity, though.
  • We wouldn’t go out and buy a bunch of new cars or ridiculous toys that we don’t need.

We’d also use the money to help our families.

  • Pay the remaining mortgage debts and student loan debts for our parents and siblings.
  • Set up education trusts for our nieces and nephews.
  • Ensure that our parents will have a comfortable retirement.

The rest of the money would go to charitable contributions. We had a lot of fun discussing which causes we’d support, and how we could use that kind of money to really help people who need it.

I would want to set up a charitable foundation to help the families of children with catastrophic illnesses pay medical bills, replace lost income during treatments, and help with any other expenses they might incur as a result of their child’s medical care. Tony would like to support the arts by offering a grant for young writers. We’d both like to contribute to our alma mater, Indiana University, and support organizations like NPR or PBS because we’re big consumers and supporters of public radio and television.

What would you do with the jackpot?

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Itching to move? Try this first

Tony and I are spending spring break painting, reorganizing, and assembling IKEA furniture (yikes!). I can’t wait to share our progress with you. In the meantime, I’m sharing a post from the archives that was originally published in July 2009. If you’re feeling the itch to move, try these tips to make your old place feel new again.

redecorate

Maybe it’s a side effect from my college years when I moved into a new apartment every year, but I still get the urge to pick up and move every August. I hate moving, but I love the feeling of starting fresh — decorating, organizing, and waking up in a completely new place.

But moving tops my list for biggest hassles. On top of packing and physically lugging your belongings to a new place, moving is expensive, time consuming, and jarring.

This August is our third in the same apartment. Every year I’ve battled my urge to find a new place with these tricks:

Clean. I mean, really clean.

One of my favorite parts about moving into a new place is that all of those nooks and crannies are freshly dusted and cleaned. This month, instead of cleaning just what you can see, invest some time and elbow grease into cleaning your place as if you’re moving. Vacuum under furniture, remove everything from the shelves and closets to dust, and scrub the walls and baseboards.

Purge and reorganize.

I hate the process of getting rid of stuff before a move, but I love that when I move into my new place everything is freshly organized and I’m temporarily not overburdened with stuff. It’s hard to motivate yourself to purge and organize when a move isn’t looming, but clearing your closets and drawers and ridding yourself of the clutter will recreate that freshly organized feeling after moving into a new place.

Paint.

Painting isn’t just an easy way to breathe new life into a living space; it also goes a long way to making your place feel cleaner. Your walls may be looking dingy after years or months without fresh paint, not to mention you’re probably sick of looking at the same neutral shade. Check with your landlord if you’re renting and see if you can repaint to clean up your space and give it a new look. Consider adding color to one wall to give the room depth and an interesting focal point.

Hit the end-of-summer yard sales.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of some clutter, check out the summer yard sales near you to find some new decorative pieces or fun new furniture. Don’t overlook furniture that’s worn or hideously colored. Look at the shape and sturdiness of the piece, and remember that a bit of sanding, new paint, and knobs can turn an ugly antique into a modern, functional addition to your space.

Rearrange your furniture.

Giving your room a new layout is the quickest, easiest way to redecorate. Flip the rooms into a new configuration, move furniture you’ve been tripping over, and add that funky antique table you picked up at the yard sale. You’ll feel like you’re in a brand new place without going through the hassle and expense of moving.

Photo credit: Lynie

Spring fever

I’ve been struggling with the adjustment now that I’m a “working mom.” Aren’t we all “working moms,” though? Whether you chase your kids around all day or clock in at an office, being a mom is hard work.

My classes started at the beginning of March, so now I’m balancing my responsibilities at home with responsibilities to my students. I’m still so thankful to have the opportunity to earn income and still “stay at home” with my son for most of the day, but that means I do a lot of my work at home. Trying to work with an active toddler running around presents its own challenges. The only time I can “work” is when he’s sleeping — during his short afternoon nap, and then after bedtime.

Unfortunately, the time change pushed his bedtime back to 8:30 p.m. (Grumble, grumble.) Squeezing all of my extra class work into my busy days has taken some adjustment — which is why this blog has been a little quiet lately.

It doesn’t help that just as I’ve become busier, we’re entering the season when I feel the urge to be most productive. This time of year is when I come out of my winter haze and start noticing all the places around the house that need to be scrubbed, organized, and decluttered. Add to that the three rooms we still need to paint and all of the decorating things I want to do (we’ve been in the house almost a year, and there’s still nothing on the walls), and I’ve got a pretty unreasonable to-do list on my hands.

Right now, I’m working on taking my own advice. I’m breaking my to-do list into pieces and prioritizing. If I can take it one thing at a time, I might finish everything I want to do by the end of … the decade? The century? I’d love to finish by the end of summer, but that’s probably a pipe dream.

Since my list includes tasks in pretty much every room of the house, I’m breaking it down by room. Our plan is to work on one room at a time cleaning, organizing, decluttering, and decorating. I won’t bore you with the point-by-point breakdown of what we need to do — it’s ridiculous. I will say, however, that when I think about it one room at a time, I feel significantly less overwhelmed. I think if I can focus on just the to-do list for a room at a time, it’ll be easier for me to keep track and stay motivated. I plan to share with you what we accomplish as we work on each room.

I’m still deciding where I want to get started, but at this point, I’m leaning toward starting in Judah’s room. Before he was born, my nesting instinct was in overdrive, and everything was neat and tidy and in its place. Now? It is overrun with toys and clothing, and the bottom drawer of his dresser is so broken it’s no longer functional. I feel a knot in my stomach every time I fold his laundry, because I know I’m going to have to wrestle with that stupid drawer. The closer he gets to climbing out of his crib, the more nervous I feel about having a heavy, full-sized dresser in his room, so I’m looking for an alternative method to store his clothes.

What’s on your to-do list this spring? I’d love to hear how you’re tackling your spring cleaning and organization lists!

 

How I fail every day

In the past few weeks, I’ve made a few new wonderful friends in my community. We met through a playgroup at the public library, and they’ve become a wonderful support network not to mention a fun social outlet for me. I’ve shared this blog with them, and last week a conversation with one of my new friends made me realize that I may be failing my readers. Big time.

“You can never see my house! I read your blog,” she told me. Her point was that she feels disorganized and messy compared to the posts I write about organization and simple living.

I should say here that I have seen her house since that conversation (she welcomed my family into her home to hide in her basement during last week’s storms), and it was nowhere near as bad as she made it seem. She’s become a dear friend to me, and I’m not writing this post to make her feel bad (if you’re reading this, do NOT feel bad). But she made me realize something: my readers only see part of the story. I’m not purposely deceiving you guys, but I think of you as guests in my life. Of course I shine everything up and make it look pretty before you come over.

When I write about organization, simplicity, parenting, and even money, I write about what I strive to be. I don’t think I make myself look perfect, but I definitely do make myself look better than I am. Don’t we all put our best feet forward in public? I’m nowhere near where I want to be, though. Not by a long shot.

Over the past four years, the readers of this blog have built me up, supported me, and helped me to become a better wife, a better mother, and a better person. The very last thing in the world that I want is to make any of you feel inadequate.

So I want to share with you some of the ways that I fail, and how I want to become better.

I’m not as organized as I seem.

Like I said, what I write here is what I strive to be. It’s true that I’m pretty tidy in general when it comes to our living space, but when I write about organization tips, I’m sharing the ideas I’ve had for how I can get better. In a perfect world, I would follow these tips to the tee. I don’t, though. My drawers are overstuffed with clothing. My closets are packed to the brim (and sometimes so stuffed that they’re hazardous to open). I’m trying to get better, and when I write here about organization, it motivates me to get it together.

I’m thankful that children are so forgiving of their mothers.

I love my son and I’m so thankful to have him in my life — that much is absolutely true. But when I write glowing posts about the joys of motherhood, I leave out a lot of the normal challenges. He is a toddler now, and he can be frustrating. Sometimes, he drives me absolutely bonkers. I feel terrible admitting it, but I have raised my voice at times when he’s repeatedly getting into things, even though I know he’s not able to understand why I’m angry and I know that kind of discipline doesn’t work. I try to interact with him and play with him as much as I can, but there are days when I’m exhausted, sick, or busy and he watches one too many episodes of Sesame Street. I learn from my mistakes, and I like to think I’m becoming a better mother every day. I certainly don’t think my failures are doing any permanent damage, but I do fail him daily. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

My financial choices aren’t always the “right” ones.

This is admittedly a particularly sensitive subject for me, because I have gotten comments from trolls in the past, and the last thing I want is to get so sensitive about it that I don’t want to write about my personal finances at all (on what is supposed to be a money blog). But here are a few choices I’ve made that I know aren’t considered “right” by most finance experts:

  • We’re not in a huge hurry to pay off our remaining student loan debt. In fact, we took a big vacation to Europe, had a baby, and bought a house while making minimum payments on that debt. I have no regrets, but I know I have readers who feel this choice is irresponsible.
  • We financed a used car last year instead of saving to pay with cash.
  • We bought a house before we had a full 20% down payment.
  • We purposely set our tax withholding too high, because we’d rather receive a refund than a tax bill every year.

I’m sure there are other choices I’ve made that personal finance experts don’t agree with me on, but I’ve always stressed on this blog — my financial choices are my own. They have worked for my family, and even if we’re not perfect, our goal is to strike a balance between smart financial choices and quality of life. Could we build wealth faster if we squirreled away every last penny into savings? Sure, but it’s not for us, not at this point in our lives. So we save some, spend some, and try to balance future security with present happiness.

I don’t always make healthy choices.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you now: I don’t know exactly how much weight I gained during my pregnancy with Judah, but I stopped looking at the scale after I’d gained 60 pounds, and that was only 2/3rd of the way through my pregnancy. I’m still struggling to lose quite a bit of that weight. It’s true that I try to eat healthy and exercise, but there are days when I hit the snooze button instead of rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. There are days when I eat one (or four) too many cookies. And yes, sometimes all I want in the world is a cheeseburger and french fries. If I didn’t make the wrong choices a lot of the time, I would have been back at my ideal weight months ago. But I really do just love a good cheeseburger.

As for Judah, I had all kinds of plans for his diet when I was pregnant. He was going to eat organic fruits and vegetables, no processed food, organic milk, yada yada yada. Then he started having weight gain issues. We offer him fruits and vegetables at every meal, but the truth is, he doesn’t eat them as well as I’d like. When he fell of the charts for weight, I was so desperate for him to eat anything that I became much more lax with his diet than I’d like. I let him eat chicken nuggets and other processed foods, because he would eat them, and all I wanted was for him to gain weight.

He’s been doing a lot better with his weight recently, so I’ve been encouraging him to eat more vegetables, but his diet isn’t perfect. I let him eat Teddy Grahams and Goldfish crackers and, yes, chicken nuggets (they’re not even homemade or organic!). It’s another area where we strive for balance. I don’t think any picky 15-month-old eats a perfectly balanced diet, but we’re trying. We do our best to set a good example, and that’s the most important thing, I think.

I struggle with chronic anxiety and depression.

I try to keep things positive around here. The last thing I want to do is complain because I know just how blessed I am. But the truth is, I do struggle with an anxiety disorder and at times in my life I’ve been clinically depressed. I don’t tell you this for sympathy, but I hope those of you who struggle with these disorders (they’re common, to be sure) can relate to me a little better. I am happy overall (at least I have no reason to be unhappy), healthy, and blessed, but there are days when I feel sorry for myself for no reason at all. Even if you don’t struggle with anxiety or depression, we all have bad days. I am no exception.

The point of this post isn’t to beat myself up by any means. I’m proud of a lot of things about my life, and I like to write about what makes me proud. I don’t focus on my failures on this blog, because I think we should all focus on what’s positive about ourselves and our lives even as we strive to be better. But I wanted to be honest and clear with you guys that even though I don’t write about it all the time, I fail daily. No one is perfect all the time, and my life isn’t always sunshine and daffodils.

We all have weaknesses, but we also have strengths. I choose to focus on my strengths on this blog, and I strive to focus on my strengths in life. I think if we can all succeed at that, we’ll be much happier and healthier.

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