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Thursday, October 22, 2015

What can you change today?

(Source Unknown)

Sometimes it is so much easier to just let things remain the same because it is going to take some effort to make a change.

What are you willing to change today in order to make something better in your life?

Don't be afraid to confront that which scares you...intimidates you...seems to be too difficult to overcome.  Take is all in baby steps...a little at a time.  Change may not be easy but the end result could be so very worth it!

If you refuse to acknowledge that you want to change...you will never take that first step to change!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Why I love Fall!

Photo: Scott Suchman

“Fall is a southerners reward for having survived summer.” 

– James Farmer

Friday, October 9, 2015

Frugal Friday - Saving Money Motivates me (and may bank account!)






I love saving money...it is almost like a competition to me...to find a way to save as much $$$ as I can.

While I am not the most frugal person on the face of the earth I have devised a plan that works well for me but let it be known...I am always looking for a way to save more!

Today I am only going to address  how to save money at the grocery store.  Let's face it...there are tons and tons of ways to save money in our day to day life.

(source unknown)

Do you clip coupons?  If so - do you hate it as much as I do?  What is more tedious than cutting out, organizing and let us not forget...take the coupons with us on our shopping trips!  I will take one for the team if it means that I will save money.  I have three ways of collecting coupons:

1)  Clip coupons from the newspapers each week
2)  Clip coupons from online coupon sites (coupons.com is a great site) 
3)  Use electronic coupons from your favorite grocer store.

Let's talk about electronic coupons for a bit.  I normally shop at one grocery store - Kroger.  They oftentimes have great sales and if you pair it with a coupon...even better.  I also love their online coupons.  Just go in...input your Kroger Plus card number, create a count and voila...sff those weeejkt electronic coupons to your account and there is no need to get the scissors out to cut paper coupons.  SO VERY EASY!

A couple of other things that I like about Kroger...each time you spend $100 at their store - you qualify for $0.10 off per gallon on their gasoline.  Everybody has to buy groceries...so why not save money on your monthly gas bill as well?  Double bonus in my mind!

Several times a year Kroger also offers 4X gas points when you purchase gift cards there.  So if you were to buy a $100 gift card (gift cards are so perfect for gift giving too!) during one of the 4X periods...you could get $0.40 off a gallon of gas instead of the normal $0.10 per gallon.  I try to always catch these 4X periods because I am always buying a gift card for someone!

(source unknown)

One other good money saving tools that I use when purchasing groceries and gas is using a credit card that pays me back a % of what I spend each month.  The key is to pay off the balance each month so not to incur huge interest balances!  I use the money that I receive back on this card to either apply it a gift card purchase.

How do you save money at the grocery store?


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bucket List versus Goals





(source unknown)



Do you have a bucket list?


You are probably thinking....didn't you just write about goals last week?  Isn't a goal list the same thing as a bucket list?  There are similarities between goals and a bucket list but I like to think about a bucket list being of list of life experiences that I want to accomplish.

For instance - my bucket list includes:

1)  Visit Whistler - you can read about it here:  Whistler
2)   See the Northern Lights (this goes hand in hand with a goal of visiting all 50 states but this item   is truly a life experience associated with goal.
3)  Participate in a Native American Sweat Lodge - Done
4)  Take a tour of Castles in England, Scotland and Ireland


My goals include the following:

1)  Pay off credit cards
2)  Pay for Christmas with cash
3)  Visit one new state a year



I am a firm believer that both goals and bucket lists must be written down.  They can be written in a forum much like a blog or they can be handwritten in a journal.  It really does not matter where you write it as long as you write it down.  Once you take the time to write down your thoughts...they will grow wings...and before you know it...one by one - you can check them off!


(source unknown)
And the wonderful thing about bucket lists?  Matters not how many items you have on your list...it can be 10 or 100!  You can have a bucket list for Summer, Fall and/or the Holidays!  Let your imagination run wild here!

(source unknown)


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Inspirational Travel - El Santuario de Chimayo - New Mexico

 
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Over the years I have learned the importance of being quiet and listening.  It is during this time that I open my heart and soul to new life experiences.  
 


It is due to my personal quest to find tranquility in my life that I came upon a book that changed my life forever -  a book by Melody Beattie entitled “Journey to the Heart”.  This book is still offered on Amazon.Com and I highly recommend it.

In the book it takes us on her personal journey as she travels to find peace and tranquility in her life.

Because of her writings I felt a deep hunger to enter into my own journey to the heart.  It was during this time that I felt myself drawn to places that would awaken my spirituality and allow me to see the beauty that surrounds us all -  much like the words written by Melody about in her book.  I knew that my heart was speaking to me and I was being led to find the inspiration for my journey. The hunger to travel to the many places was a constant in my life. I knew that I would forever regret it if I did not follow my heart on this journey.
 
After reading Melody’s writings about a legendary mission  - EL Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico it became abundantly clear that this was known as the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the U.S.  I am not a Catholic but the tug of the history of the special healing powers of this sacred place touched me like nothing I have ever felt before.  Why is this place so special you ask?  Well this mission is said to hold sacred healing powers and each year 30,000 people from all over the world make pilgrimages to this site especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. 
 

Legend states that a friar was watching his sheep and contemplating his blessings even though he was very ill.  A vision of the Patron Saint – San Esquipula beckoned to him and the friar knelt on the spot to pray.  The friar was healed immediately and as a way of showing his gratitude and thanks he built the chapel so others could be healed too.  It is said that the dirt on this spot is blessed by God and holds great healing powers.  Many have traveled to this spot to for a hope to be healed of what ails them.


I knew that I wanted to experience this inspirational place myself on my own personal journey much like Melody's journey.  I soon I found myself in Sante Fe and plans began to take place to continue my journey to El Santuario de Chimayo located which is just 30 miles north of Santa Fe.   Upon finally discovering the turn to Chimayo (it is miles off the main road) I reached the end of the road where the adobe mission proudly stood. I felt like I was walking back in time.  I proceeded to walk through the walled courtyard and into the old mission.  I was in awe of the glorious elegant doors which I soon discovered were carved by the 19th-century carpenter Pedro Dominguez. Upon entering the mission I immediately felt the comfort and the spiritual beckoning of this simple chapel.  




(source unknown)

 



(source unknown)


After entering the main room, I walked to the small room in the back (called el pocito)  where in a round pit (well) the “holy” dirt can be found.  There were several people there kneeling and actually placing some of the dirt in their own containers to keep for future blessings.  The one thing that I noticed when I looked around this room was the number and sizes of crutches that were left behind on the walls.  It was apparent that many entered this quiet, simple room with the hopes and belief that they would be healed.  When they left – they no longer required their crutches and left them behind.


(source unknown)

I hope to someday return to El Santuario de Chimayo as I continue to crave the peacefulness that overtook my heart and soul while there.



Here is withing you a wonderful journey in your life!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why Goals are Important



Know what scares me?  Waking up tomorrow and realizing that I do not have a clue how I got where I am.  I do not want to wake up and realize that I have not really lived my life or experienced so many of the wonderful things that are out there just waiting for me!


You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there.

When I first started my career many years ago - someone who acted as my mentor spoke to me about the importance of setting my goals. 




You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there.


He also drove home the fact that my goals had to be realistic - not impossible to achieve - and they must be written down.  The purpose of writing them was saying that I was committing to my goals.  He also encouraged me to write down one goal and then divide it into steps that I was to take to achieve my goal.

Little did I know at that time I was actually setting SMART goals.  

Goals should be specific - measurable - achievable - relevant - and a time established for the goal = SMART

Several years ago I read an article about having one goal for each year of your life.  Well - let me tell you...having 18 goals when you are 18 years of age is okay...but do you really want 75 goals when you are 75?  Talk about being attainable...don't think so!

The number of goals should be specific and achievable...whatever works for you should be the number you set.



I going to share  a couple of goals that I am happy to share with you here today:

1)  Visit all 50 States
1a) Keep a current list of states I need to visit
1b) Visit one new state a year

2)  Pay cash for Christmas 2015
2a) Make a list of potential gifts for everyone
2b) Set aside a pre-determined $$$ amount and continue to fund my Christmas account each month
2c) Start buying Christmas gifts early so not to have to feel pressured to buy everything in
       last minute which could result in using a credit card.
2d) Track all my purchases on my gift spreadsheet.


These are just a couple but it will give you an idea of how I set a goal and then break it down into smaller details.  This system may not work for you but it keeps me on track for how my life goals!




            “Every man dies – Not every man really lives.” ~ William Ross


Friday, October 2, 2015

Personal Finance Inspires Me

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward

I love this quote!  I consider myself an optimist but when it comes to finances however I am also a realist!  First let me say...I am not a Financial Blogger nor do I consider myself a financial guru.  I am just a person who is very much inspired to break my bond with credit card debt.  I am just like so many others - I have a few credit cards and if I allowed it to happen - I could be in serious trouble.  Let's face it - it is so easy to buy today and pay later...and because of that...many of us make those payments each and every month to someone else instead of having that money in our checking/savings account or emergency fund account!

I am just a normal person who is on a quest to become debt free within the next three months.  I am reminded daily that it is baby steps.  I can not expect to shell out a large sum of money (to the tune of $20K to pay off all my credit card bills) - so I have to remind myself to stay committed and focused to achieve my goal of being debt free!
 
(source unknown)



My goal of Financial Freedom as a goal motivates me in  my quest to become debt free so it inspires me to look at it as a daily challenge.

The first thing that I did on my road to financial freedom was create a spreadsheet that shows each credit card, due date, balance due, my monthly payment - and this is important - the current interest rate.  I update this spreadsheet each and every month and when I do - I get excited when I see the balance due going down...down...down!

I also schedule all my payments the first day of the month for each and every account (using my spreadsheet as my reference) so I do not have to worry about it during the month.  One other thing that I do is always pay more than is due.  Have you ever seen those little notes on your bills where it shows you how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you only pay the minimum?  THAT to me is SCARY -
we could be talking years to pay off if only paying the minimum amount.  Just remember - you do not have to pay an enormous amount over the minimum amount due...even if it is only $10...you are making progress....

There are two schools of thought on paying off your credit cards.  Dave Ramsey advises us to use the snowball plan...in other words...pay off the smallest credit card first then the next and so on and so on.  Why do this?  Well - it is exciting to pay off that credit card...it is a thrill to know that you have accomplished that small step toward Financial Freedom and it will pump you up to keep up the good work!

Suze Orman suggests that we pay off the highest interest rate card first.  This is simple reasoning - pay off the highest interest rate card and you will save more $$.

Both Dave and Suze have very valid points on how best to off credit card debt.  I use a bit of both.




I am going to share with you my journey to financial freedom...it works for me but it may not be for everyone.  As noted - I pay a set amount on each card per month...$100 per card.  This is always over the minimum due amount so I am consistently paying a bit more.  Once I then pay off one card...I take that extra $100 that I would normally have paid on the now paid off card...and apply it to another card.  This is a form of the snowball process by Dave Ramsey.  I also have a small inherited IRA that I am required to take a distribution from each year.  I took that amount and paid off another credit card.  All in all - I have now freed up $700 a month that I can use to pay off one of the high interest rate cards in October.  Again - this is what works for me but it may not work for you.  The one thing that I can say is that it is so rewarding to see those credit card balances become a big whopping ~zero~.


My goal and my dream is to be in control of my money...and not let my money control me.  To take control my money inspires me!



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Well Hello October and why Fall inspires me



Do you feel it?  

Do you feel the chill in the air?  

Do you hear the crunch of the fallen leaves when you walk on them?

Can you smell the special fragrance that belongs to the Fall Season?

Pumpkins begin to appear everywhere you look!


(source unknown)
The leaves begin to change colors and you know it is just a matter of time when you will need wear a sweater...it is here!

Let's embrace the changing of the seasons and enjoy a good cup of hot chocolate!

(source unknown)

And let us not forget the glorious fall decorations!  Wish my front door looked this good!



(source unknown)



I love Fall!  There is such a special energy that the cool, crisp fall weather brings! 

Let us embrace the days even though they grow shorter and embrace all that is special about October!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Inspirational places - Monte Sano Mountain - Huntsville Alabama

Today is Travel Tuesday and I wanted to write about a very special place from my past.

Monte Sano Mountain - Huntsville, Alabama.

I grew up in a house at the foot of this glorious mountain. Each day I would walk outside and see this magnificent mountain in all her glory! It has always been a special place for me as it holds so many special memories of my life.

(source unknown)

As a young girl - we would take the short ride up the mountain to have a picnic and play on the playground there.  I can still remember my dad pushing on the swing and feeling like I was going high enough to touch the clouds!  I can close my eyes right now and hear the laughter of a little girl begging her dad..."push me higher Dad...higher"

My Girl Scout troop would take trips up to this mountain to help us earn our badges.  It was always so beautiful and breathtaking...with the hidden trails and meandering paths every which way you could look.  There is a huge covered pavilion at the edge of the mountain overlooking the miles and miles of valley below.  There was also a huge rock fireplace in the pavilion where you could have a roaring fire and toast marshmallows.  OOOH...those were the best S'mores ever!

As I grew older Monte Sano Park became my "special go to place" especially after my dad  died when I was a teenager.  Once I started driving I often drove up the mountain to my favorite place to sit and just think.  You see - there is a hiking trail right behind the pavilion that leads downward into one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen.  As I hiked down - I found a rock that jutted out over the valley which provided an incredible life changing view of the valley below.  I would hike down to my special rock and sit for hours just letting go of my pain from my loss and just reflect on life going forward.  It was not only my inspirational secret spot but it was also my way of meditating (I just didn't know at that young age that I was meditating).  It was the one place where all my worries, all my troubles would just disappear and all was right with the world!  I oftentimes found myself writing here as well.  This special place really inspired me!


(source unknown)



I also introduced anyone visiting me from out of town to my favorite spot and they too recognized the tranquility and peacefulness first hand.  We would just sit and not have to say a word...the universe surrounding us spoke all the words that needed to be said as we feasted upon the beauty of the mountains and valley.


Monte Sano is beautiful all year round but I find that Fall is my most favorite time to truly take in all the beauty of this oh so special place.  Mother Nature does her best artwork in the fall on this mountain.  She paints the bold golds and reds that  leave a gently kiss upon the trees and just takes your breath away

(source unknown)


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Once I left Alabama I would always find my way back to my mountain each time I visited my Mom.  Monte Sano always called me home with each visit.  It has now been way too many years since I have been to my special spot but oh how I long for it.  I crave it like I crave a cold glass of ice water on a hot summer day.

For the time being...I will have to allow my memories to take me back to my special place until I can once again find my way back "home"


Monday, September 28, 2015

Looking for Inspiration this weekend

I was so very ready for this weekend!.  This week has been a crazy week especially since I currently have 4....yes 4 work projects on my plate right now!

I always look forward to weekends but now...I live for Saturdays...can not wait for Saturday to arrive so I can just forget about the craziness that is known as my job right now!

(source unknown)

The weekend is so very short...not really enough time to run away or to totally unwind...I decided to come up with a few ways that I could find my inspiration for the weekend and motivate myself for Monday morning!

I decided to make a list of things that I could do during the weekend that would allow me just release the stress of the work week.  Here are some of my ideas:

1)  Go to a movie
2)  Shut the kitchen down for the weekend
3)  Read a good book
4)  Not that I would even think about this but there is always retail therapy!
5)  Find a local Bed and Breakfast for a short staycation.  
6)  Make plans to have dinner with friends (this is always a good pick-me-up)
7) Go to park and write in your journal
8) Take a nap


But the one thing that keeps me motivated...gets me through the week and to the weekend is the fact that I find inspiration in knowing that there is something else around the corner!

(source unknown)



Friday, September 25, 2015

Is it Friday yet?


So this has been one of the most difficult weeks that I have experienced professionally in a very long time!  Even working 6 weeks in Redmond, WA this summer doesn't even come close the crazy week I have had this week.  I doubted myself time and time again...and wondered what it would feel like to just say..."forget it"  BUT...I can not do that...I know that if I persevere I will be better...stronger because of it.  If I can only take away the lessons of the week and learn from them.  If I can find gratitude in the fact that I survived and learned from this week...maybe it is not all that bad.  The one thing that I do know is that I am going to appreciate this weekend!


(source unknown)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How I Faced Fear and walked away Victorious

Fear is a powerful opponent!

When I was a young girl growing up in Alabama I was taught to be fearful...yes it is true.  I was taught to be fearful of so many things...people...places...you name it and I was taught to be fearful of it!


It impacted the way that I lived my life in so many ways even into adulthood.

I was afraid to go by myself to the grocery store...and heaven help me - I would NEVER go to a movie or a restaurant by myself!


My fear kept me from enjoying so much that life had to offer.  I decided that it was time to let go of that opponent known as fear...but I had to do it in baby steps!


First baby step was to go to a restaurant by myself so I did.  I packed a book and ventured out to my favorite Mexican Restaurant.  All in all - it was not so bad.  I read my book...enjoyed my food and the bonus of going by myself?  All the chips were MINE!!!!  I was so excited when I paid my bill and walked outside to my car!  What an accomplishment that was.  I was on top of the world.

Now on to the second baby step - going to a movie by myself.  I selected a good ole chick flick because I felt certain that I would no look out of place if I entered the theater alone.  Best part of going to the movie alone?  Do not have to share the popcorn...yet another bonus!  I happily completed this baby step.

With each new step - I found myself looking forward to doing something new by myself.  I worked myself up to traveling by myself which also resulted in a rental car, maps, GPS and getting lost a lot but know what?  Getting lost did not scare me anymore...it actually opened my eyes to new adventures.

Some of my best  memories are of places that I discovered while getting lost.

Now in closing...I am not going to say that I have 100% conquered my fear...but my fear no longer controls me.  I am now able to identify fear and address my fears with a reasonable solution!


Today - am I free of fear?  Oh no way but at least I am able to recognize fear and not allow it to paralyze me.  I do not run away from my fears but I try to face fear head on.

Here is hoping that you too can take a baby step today to overcome fear!