Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bonus Blog #3: At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

When people ask me about what was on my list, the first things I rattle off tend to be some of my travel adventures. Swimming with dolphins, rafting the Grand Canyon, or being a jet setter and flying somewhere and back in one day just because I can. But what doesn’t usually come up in conversation are what I call my “non-sexy” items. The one’s on the list that are like vegetables–they’re good for me and I know they’ll make me stronger, but they don’t always taste good or are as much fun to talk about. So today I’m talking about finances.

On the original 30×30 list were a lot of travel items and adrenaline experiences, and honestly I could’ve decided to whip out a credit card and get almost all of them done in 3 months. That was one option. Not a good one though. Also on the list I had decided to put “be debt free.” Uh oh, now I was really in trouble. How on earth was I going to accomplish my 30×30 list (with some very expensive dreams) and also become debt free at the same time? Honestly, I couldn’t. But God could. I submitted my 30×30 list in prayer and asked for His help and wisdom in this whole process. I figured if He was the one giving me the dreams, He would be the one to give me the tools, wisdom, and resources to be able to do them…in His order and in His timing. And He did!

Boo
Boo

Setting out to pay off my credit cards and school loans was something that I wanted to accomplish but not something I was looking forward to actually doing. I sat down one morning with a spreadsheet and an internet connection and looked up what I owed on each loan and each credit card, and then used online calculators to determine various payments and payoff dates. I did not like staring those big numbers in the face. But if I didn’t know where I was currently at, how would I know how far I had to go? At the time I had a car loan, student loans from my bachelor’s degree, and about $3,500 in credit card debt. I first calculated how much extra it would be each month in order to pay off my car loan a year early. Surprisingly, it was only an extra $55 a month. Then I decided that a percentage of every extra bonus I received from work would go towards my other debt. To keep myself on track, every quarter I labeled the various debts and totaled them into “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.”  I would revisit that spreadsheet and update it with the new amounts every 3 months so I could see the progress I was making. The first time I was able to label a column “paid in full” I thought I was going to fly to the moon. There were many more columns to attack, but this kept me motivated to continue with my game plan. Some quarters were better than others, but by the time I was 27 years old I was completely debt free and had opened a 401K to boot. Not bad for a twenty-something little girl.

I remember how liberating and freeing it was to make that final payment. This lined me up to be able to accomplish some of the bigger ticket items on my list. I had a personal party and took myself to the nail salon to celebrate. I was officially debt free! Sadly, I was debt free and got to enjoy it for only 20 days. I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree and signed the paperwork for my school loans less than three weeks after making my final payment. It wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it, but it was time to put my big girl pants on. By paying off my bachelor’s loan, my car, and all my credit cards I had lined myself up to be able to go back to school and get a master’s degree (one of the hairy scary goals on my 30×30 list.)

So was I surprised that I put “be debt free/pay off car & school loans” back on this next list? No. I don’t believe we’re meant to live in the bondage of debt. It causes stress, can hinder relationships, and can limit you from going and doing other things in your future. Admittedly I felt kind of dumb for getting in debt again and needing to put “pay off loans” on the list one more time.  If I can do it once, I could do it again. But managing money and being financially responsible is an ongoing thing and a constant work in process. Financial balance and freedom is an ongoing battle. But this debt I had now was different than the debt I had in my 20’s. I had taken it on with prayer and a plan in place, had set up healthy habits and started putting into practice things like automatic savings and tithing.

The thing about life lists is that when you get serious about doing something, set your mind and become determined about allocating your resources (time, energy, finances, prayers, etc), it’s amazing how things begin to line up and fall into place. When we give our plans to God He truly is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts and take care of us…He just usually does it in a way we would never expect. More than likely it won’t ever look like or happen how it’s pictured in your head. And that’s ok! Be determined, be flexible, and give God room to work. Do your part and He’ll do His. It’s a partnership–it takes both you and God. You can’t do His part and He won’t do your part.

A reason to smile
A reason to smile

Two weeks ago I made the final payment on my car and received the title in the mail yesterday (the big girl car that was on my 30×30 list). And yesterday I went online and made the final payment on my school loans from my master’s program (MBA–also on my original 30×30 list). Busting out the calculator I added up over $90,000+ in loans for the 3 cars and 3 degrees I bit off and had taken on over the last decade. That’s not including all the travel, rent, and daily expenses of living on my own in southern California for seven years. I may have taken on all that debt on my own, but I certainly didn’t get out on my own. Praise God–yesterday I paid it all off…again! It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sexy. There have been a lot of bumps and derailments along the way,  but I decided to be debt free and to owe no man anything but love. *smiling* Now THAT is a good feeling. I have not only put my big girl pants on, but for the first time they actually feel like they fit.

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than I:

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Bonus Blog 2: Crossed another one off the list!

Question: Ever put things on your daily to-do list that you’ve already done? I know it’s cheating, but I do that. Probably more often than I should. If I’ve taken out the trash, I will mark it on my daily list just so I can cross it off. It’s satisfying. There’s something motivating about looking at a to-do list that has some to-do’s already done.

I also find that there are some things on the next list that fall into the “just because I can” category. Things that aren’t necessarily difficult or have a significant reason behind them but earned a place on the list because I do actually want to do them at some point and for some reason just haven’t. Like visit Durango, Colorado.

Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado

Durango is a cute little mountain college town with main street shopping and an overall great little getaway. Durango is only 99 miles from where I live. So why haven’t I been there since I was 12? I don’t know. No particular reason. Why did it make the next list? Because it would be just silly for me not to go and enjoy this adorable mountain town while it is so close and easily accessible. I don’t know the future and I don’t know how long I’ll be graced living in this particular area, but while I’m here I’d like to keep a tourist mindset and enjoy all the perks this area has to offer.

That was actually part of the mentality in birthing the original 30×30 list years ago. I was miserable and this close to pulling the trigger to move out of California when I asked myself, “What would I regret not doing while I had the opportunity and proximity to do so?” As I penned those items the list quickly grew to things that weren’t just California based, but to what I really wanted to do overall. And then I capped it with a deadline to do those things before turning 30. I’m the kind of girl that can procrastinate with the best of ’em–I need deadlines. It worked…I crossed off 29 of those 30 items!

So yesterday as I was running errands in Pagosa Springs (the next town over, just over Wolf Creek pass), I sat in my car while waiting at the bank and looked at the clock. I was already halfway to Durango, do I do it? *evil grin* Yes.

So I did. I pumped up the tunes and cruised the remaining 50 miles and found myself parking along Durango’s main street. As I walked up and down the street with my iced chai tea, I paused as I saw the old time photo shop. I smiled as I remembered being 12 years old and dressing up in pioneer style and posing for a funny family photo. We traveled often with another family and I remember having so much fun on that vacation in Durango. Good times. Did I plan on going to Durango by myself when I put it on the next list? Absolutely not. But I had an absolutely fantastic random afternoon crossing off an item on my list…just because I can.

Bonus Blog 1: Continuing the cross-off…

It’s time to celebrate in my world. Yesterday the 30 day self-imposed blog challenge was completed, which was a big win in and of itself, but that’s not the only reason to smile and do the dance of joy. Today I crossed off an item on the next list–one that I thought would take awhile to do due to the nature and difficulty of the endeavor. No, not hiking a fourteener (I attempted that the day before and failed. Big bust. More to come on that amusing story later.) Today is about Wheeler.

Wheeler Geologic Area - Near South Fork, CO
Wheeler Geologic Area – Near South Fork, CO

Wheeler Geologic Area. This natural wonder of rugged terrain and beautiful geologic formations is hidden in the 1.86 million-acres of the Rio Grande National Forest and is only accessed through 28 miles on a difficult to expert level ATV 4×4 trail or a 14 mile hike. For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve lived in Southern Colorado just minutes from the highway turnoff to Pool Table and Hanson’s Mill–the access trails that lead to the trailhead–and I just couldn’t quite seem to ever make it happen. Wheeler Geologic Area has called my name and beckoned to me and yet at the same time eluded and evaded me, somehow remaining just out of reach. Until today.

Let me take a second to brag on God and the mysterious way He sometimes works. For the last 1 1/2 years my office at the South Fork Visitor Center flooded with tourists who I’ve pointed in various directions, telling them where to go to enjoy the best parts of the area. Ironically some of the very places I would send people with such authority and confidence I had actually never been. Wheeler in particular. I have an unofficial list of places I want to visit and experience in the area while I have the opportunity and geographic incentive to do so–a secret list. Although not everything I want to do has made the official “next list,” Wheeler was a big enough gem to officially make #25. But I don’t own an ATV or know of very many people that are physically capable or willing to hike 14 miles on a whim.

So imagine my surprise just one day after miserably failing in the attempt to hike a fourteener (#26 on the list) of getting a 7:00am phone call with an opportunity to go to Wheeler that day. The local ATV group (aptly named the Silverthreaders Outdoor Club with most members of the retiree 65+ variety) was heading out at 9:00am and one of the riders had an extra seat! Whaaaaaaaaat? After almost two years of trying to beg, borrow, bully, and bribe my way to Wheeler I had an immediate and surprise invitation to go in less than two hours. I love it when God opens doors!

Two hours later as I sat on the back of a roaring and rumbling ATV trekking the 28 miles to the coveted destination, I had to laugh. When I put Wheeler on the list I had envisioned hiking in and experiencing this wonderment with a group of good friends, celebrating our athletic journey and determination–maybe even on a camping trip with s’mores and stars and good beer. Instead I found myself sharing the adventure with a group of generous and well-seasoned outdoor lovers with more wrinkles, grey hair, and good stories than an AARP convention. Today’s reality was completely different than the vision I had in my head when putting it on the list. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It reminded me of the lesson I learned when completing #29 on my 30×30 list…hot air ballooning. As a twenty-something putting “hot air balloon ride” on the list I had envisioned more of a romantic experience with a special someone, maybe in wine country or an exotic vacation location, and not what really happened.

For the hot air balloon experience I had always envisioned an incredibly romantic date with champagne and kisses and lots of bright colors and flames. (Can you tell I’m a hopeless romantic?) Reality was, at the time I was just months away from turning the big 3-0 and so stinkin’ close to crossing off the final items on the list, but had chosen to enter back into singlehood with no special someone to fulfill  the romantic balloon dream in my head. (That’s a whole other story.)

I had a decision to make. Was I just going to let that item slip by because in my dreams I had hoped someone would surprise me with it? Was I willing to risk not crossing off one of the very last items on the 30×30 list that I had been working on for years just because it wouldn’t be how I envisioned it when I penned the idea years ago?

I had to make a decision. I could wish and hope for someone to plan my balloon adventure and run the risk of being disappointed when it didn’t happen, or I could choose to face the current disappointment of doing it differently than how I originally imagined. Face it, there are things within our control that we have the power to manipulate and change, and there are things that are out of our realm of influence and we just have to make do with what we have been given. I realized that I had been given an incredibly fabulous set of friends who had enjoyed the 30×30 journey with me and had been extremely supportive throughout the years—why would I not want to include them in one of the last items on my list? No doubt some of them had lived their dreams vicariously through me as they encouraged me to keep ticking them off the list. Why would I want to disappoint them by giving up on the last item and not finishing what they helped me start? I had wanted the balloon ride to be a special, romantic, and a private moment when in reality I had the power to make it a memorable event to share with lots of people I cared about.

As I kept thinking about it the more I got excited. I had the power to turn a disappointment into a celebration. It was then I decided for my 30th birthday I wanted to celebrate it with all my friends in a hot air balloon. Why stop there? Why just make it about me when we could celebrate the birthdays of all my friends who were also born in the Fall? We could all have a big balloon for our birthdays! To my surprise, as the save the dates went out an overwhelming response of support flooded back in. There were people who had no intention of going up in a balloon themselves but wanted to come anyways and help celebrate with both feet firmly planted on the ground. I lovingly nicknamed our non-flyers “cooler jockeys.” One friend said she was so excited to help cross off one of the last 30×30 items and she couldn’t wait to find out what was on my next list! And so what began as a rather disappointing goal started turning into an opportunity to not only celebrate the end of an era with loved ones, but to literally look towards the sky and kick off the next set of adventures, along with the next decade! Yes, we even made t-shirts.

A fellow 30x30 balloon participant...and fall birthday baby
A fellow 30×30 balloon participant…and fall birthday baby
30x30 hot air balloon celebration
30×30 hot air balloon celebration
30x30 Celebration T-shirts
30×30 Celebration T-shirts

So today I sat on the back of an ATV for 28 miles crossing off a much desired item on my list in a not-so-desired way and couldn’t help but laugh. Had I not learned my lesson from my balloon experience? It won’t always look like the picture in my head. Again, it won’t always look like the picture in my head. I thought that I learned long ago that God will fulfill the desires of my heart…but it doesn’t mean that He’ll do it like how I pictured. Actually, more often than not He won’t. God is way too big and way too amazing to be put in a box and limited to my small imagination. Maybe one day I’ll finally learn that for good.

Waving to Wheeler
Waving to Wheeler
Fellow Wheeler participant
Fellow Wheeler participant
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Wonderful Wheeler Participants
Wonderful Wheeler Participants28 miles on one of these

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 30: Navigating through the fog…

Thirty-one days ago I took on a self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to get moving in the right direction on finishing the unfinished project of writing a book on my 30×30 experience started years ago. It all began with a bad attitude in a California coffee shop, turned into a list of 30 things I set out to do before turning 30, and ended with 29 of the 30 items being checked off…and one very happy, very blessed girl. Fast forward two years later and I was in a fog on where to go next–both on the book and on the next chapter in my life adventures. Stuck and not knowing exactly how to move forward on the 30,000 word book monster, I was inspired by a friend who had taken on the 30 day blog challenge and thought I’d join the ranks of those who blog. Thirty-one days later, it’s time to take a brief look back over this online journey.

Let’s see–several stories were told about memories and lessons of items on the completed 30×30 list, along with a few painful flashbacks, followed with some personal victories and wins in my current situation, and finishing with some admitted challenges along the way. Throughout the last thirty-one days of this blog challenge my next list grew from ideas in my head, to eight items written on a sheet of paper, to thirty-four items publicly posted in the blog…and it’s still growing. This is a really  big win. So how does that work into the ultimate goal of falling back in love with writing and finishing the 30,000 word book monster? It’s currently off to an editor for round one editing and I have a standing appointment on the calendar in September to discuss the next steps in the editing process…and there’s currently talks in the works for the book cover. I do however still need to connect and follow up with some other bookie items and contacts that I’ve been avoiding and procrastinating on. That will come. But more than anything, I am closer to the overall goal than I was thirty-one days ago. That is a big win.

Interestingly, I headed out to walk the pooch the other morning and found myself in the most beautiful cloud of fog that engulfed the canyon that I walk almost every morning. Everything but the steps right in front of me remained hidden. The cliffs, the river, the familiar pastures  and fence lines that I know are there, and even the road ahead. I smiled as I realized that sometimes in life when the fog settles in you can lose sight of the big picture and what’s ahead. This is not always a bad thing. There are times when it’s okay to slow down and focus just on the steps in front of you and not necessarily on the distance you need to go. Sometimes you need to stop altogether and dig your heels in just not to lose any ground. This is the time to breathe deep. Eventually the fog will lift. It always does.

The foggy view

I realized I was in a fog with my book project. I had been too concerned with the big picture and all that needed to happen that I was distracted with the overall view and the end result. The “I don’t know what to do” fog forced me to slow down and focus on the smaller tasks right ahead. It’s okay to feel lost and a bit disoriented, but all will right itself when the fog lifts. And the fog will lift. Fog is always temporary. When it does eventually lift, it usually leaves things refreshed, hydrated, and glistening when the sun comes out.

I look forward to the sun coming out and shining on this project. Keep checking in to find out how it’s all coming along. This isn’t just about the 30,000 word book monster anymore. This is about the next list and the journey of progress towards shaping the next chapter. Cheers to the next list, the next chapter, and all that goes with it!