Saturday, January 02, 2016

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!  Life in Balance Blog 

I am excited to share with you that I have purchased a blog name, set up word press, uploaded some posts and plan to launch my new blog in this next week. I could not be more happy with my decision to finally take the plunge and be self-hosted. Even the process of taking this risk and pouring myself into this blog has been good for my soul.  

The timing for this blog is also divine. In this past month of December, I have been very easily discouraged and melancholy as I anxiously await for little T to arrive. My hormones are no doubt elevated from pregnancy, and my emotions have not been very good company as of late. But the other day, after feeling sorry for myself all morning, I decided to purchase the domain name and get started on my blog. Before I knew it, two hours had passed, and I no longer felt like crying. I felt so mentally challenged and inspired that I completely forgot about my pity party of a morning.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that this pleasant distraction of a self-hosted blog is a gift from God, and I am excited to see how he is going to use it and challenge me through it. I believe that God puts new adventures in our life to remind us how to trust in Him again. I also believe that it is not a coincidence that the beginning or “birth” of this blog coincides with little T’s birth. My logical mind would not purposely take on a new project as a first-time mom, but somehow the timing worked out that way, and I believe that this is also part of God’s plan. Just like I trust God’s timing with this blog, I trust him to also show me how to be a loving mom to little T. I trust God to show me how to love little T without making him an idol in our lives. I trust God to help me overcome my insecurities as a person and my anxiety about becoming a mother.

I am not sure what will happen to my Life From Here blog, but my guess is I won’t update it anymore. It served a purpose for about 9 years, and I am grateful for all the adventures I got to write about on here. If you want to keep following me at my new blog, I would be most honored. Just head on over to http://lifeinbalanceblog.com. It should be up and running soon.   

Saturday, December 26, 2015

When you want to go shopping, try this instead. . .

It's the day after Christmas, and my inbox is flooded with door buster deals from all my favorite stores: Target, Bath & Body Works, Barnes & Nobles. "Think of all the money I could save by purchasing now?" my spend happy fingers yell at me. 

But wait-- what do I really need? Haven't I just received some really special gifts from my husband and friends? Will I even want to put up Christmas lights next year? Do I really need all the $3.50 Christmas fragrances from Bath & Body works? No, no I don't. In an effort to de-clutter my life and live as simply as possible, going shopping right now just to get the deals is counter-productive.

So instead of going shopping, I have made an aggressive to-do list. It goes like this: 
1. Work ahead on homework for the upcoming semester. 
2. Finish all thank you notes for Baby T. (This is a bit ambitious, but at least I can finish the majority of the notes.) 
3. Drop off clothes I don't wear at Goodwill. 
4. Host a friend for coffee and cookies this afternoon.
5. Start the laundry. 

I know that by taking care of things I should be working on anyways will feel good and help me reach my short-term goals instead of just using my time and money on my materialistic urges. How do you fight off the urge to go shopping when the deals are hot? Do you think it's a good idea to go shopping on these sale days? 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

All I want for Christmas is. . .

Rob and I enjoy exchanging gifts for Christmas. It's nothing overly lavish, but it's the one time a year when we can get some of those special things that we miss purchasing for ourselves during the year (like candles and DVD's-- see Five Things We Gave Up to Get Out of Debt.)

But this year, I asked for something a little different-- my own self-hosted blog. :) Rob agreed, and the blog fee will be the majority of my Christmas present. I can't wait! It's been a dream of mine for at least a year to have my own self-hosted blog.

What are the benefits of a self-hosted blog?
Mainly, it allows you to make money from your blog. I don't have dreams of becoming rich by writing my own blog, but I do think that I could monetize it by just adding some simple basic features that aren't available on blogger. I will also have rights to my own blog, so I will own the material I write and there is no chance of my blog suddenly getting erased.

I have some practical goals for my blog ambitions.

1. First, I need to pick a focus for the blog. I want my friends and family to weigh in on this:
 * I like writing about budgeting and living simply.
 * I predict I will also enjoy writing about raising kids on a budget.
 * I like writing about living intentionally.
All of these topics are interesting to me, and I feel passionate about each of them. However, I want to pick the topic that is going to be the best fit for me. I also need to pick something that I can continue writing about every week.

2. Next, I want to try to write one post a week.  I know that some weeks this might not be possible, but hopefully I will be able to take advantage of the slower days and get ahead of writing the blog posts.

3. I need to figure out how to add my blog to Pinterest. I'm sure you've seen the photos with blog tag lines on them on Pinterest. My goal is to figure out how to create these little links to also add my blog to Pinterest.

And that's what I'm getting for Christmas!  I can't wait. I don't have any grand expectations, but I love writing and I love sharing life through writing so why not try something new?

Friends, let me know what topic you think would be the best fit for my blog either by leaving a comment or by sending an email.



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Letter to My Dear Friends

Dear friends and family,

Thank you so much for all the support, encouragement, and prayers you have given me over this past week. I was doing an okay job keeping the pregnancy emotions all in check, but last week-end, an incident happened that triggered an entire bag of compulsive thoughts, insecurities, and anxieties.

To say that I cried a few times in this past week would be an understatement. There were big nose-blowing sobs on several occasions and other small tears while driving in the car. There were nights of rough sleep, and I even had to go home early from work one day because I felt sick to my stomach (probably distressed from the lack of sleep and loss of appetite).

But, I think that the trigger event was part of a much bigger fear, anxiety, and desire for control that I am becoming aware of as Rob and are about to become parents for the first time. I worry that any poor decisions I will inevitably make might hurt little T in some way. I worry that I won’t be able to protect him all the time. I worry that I will mess up and mess him up in the process. I worry about his safety-- both inside the womb and even more so once he's born. 

I can't comprehend this delicate situation we are entering into as parents. I feel vulnerable like my heart could break at any moment, and I don't feel emotionally strong enough to handle it. I do not consider myself an emotionally strong person; I purposely stay away from things that pull too hard on my heart strings. And yet, here we stand ready to have our lives changed forever by this little helpless human-being that God is entrusting to us. 

Time seems to be standing still and propelling forward at the same time. With each back ache and cramp, I think of all the things I need to finish before he arrives, and yet there's little I want to do except rub my belly and look forward to his arrival. I also have no desire to go out especially in the evenings. I treasure the precious few nights that Rob and I have left to just be at home together.  

Thank you again for all the encouragement you have all been through this emotional, roller-coaster of a ride. 

Stay tuned, 

Portia 

Monday, December 07, 2015

5 Things We Gave up To Get out of Debt

The title of this post really should be "5 Things We Are Giving Up to Get out of Debt" since we're not out of debt yet, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the past two years, we have been throwing all our extra income at the student debt we have amassed. (I need to get permission with my husband before I share just how much debt we had, but let's just say that the amount could have bought us a house.)

Now, we are so close to being in the four digit debt amount that I can almost taste it, and I'm drooling. But, in the meantime, we are expecting our first child in about 6 weeks. In addition, we have one vehicle that may or may not make it through the winter. Finally, we have moved into a slightly bigger and more expensive apartment. Not to mention we're not exactly sure how to budget for diapers, baby stuff, and all the things that go with growing one's family by a person. Still, we are committed to saving on the luxuries that we formerly enjoyed in order to get out of debt faster. So, in no particular order, here are some things we have given up these past two years to help us achieve our goal of being debt-free in 2016:

1. Scented Candles-- Oh how I love Bath & Body Works scented candles (and just scented candles in general.) I light one of those bad boys up and all is right in the world, or at least in our little corner apartment of the world. But let's be honest, these are a luxury item. They aren't necessary for daily life; they have no return on investment; they had to go.

2. DVD's-- This is something Rob has given up since our Dave Ramsey lifestyle began two years ago. At first it was very difficult for him, and I know that some days it is still a challenge for him. However, he has been so gracious at giving up this small pleasure while we work on paying back Sallie Mae and her gang.

3. Beauty products-- I used to spend a decent amount on make-up, hair products, and hair cuts and colors. I have since gone down to getting my hair cut once every six months or so. I also use up all the shampoo / lotions / eye-liners / facial creams that I have. If I need to buy something, I buy it cheap at Target. No more Sephora beauty products for me. I even bought some eye-liner at the $1 store; I won't recommend it, but I still use it because that's life on a budget. When someone forgot their shampoo at our place, I used it up even though it probably wasn't  the type of shampoo my hair needed.

4. Books-- I used to buy more books because I was living overseas and usually the only way to read a book was to buy it for my kindle or purchase it when I was home for the summer. Reading books is a great stress reliever for me, and I love sharing books with my friends too. However, I have significantly cut back on buying books with the exception of a few devotional books and two pregnancy related books (one which the library did not have.) If I do decide I "need" a book, I buy it used on Amazon, usually at half the price of what it would be normally.

5. Concerts, plays, & shows. Rob and I went to a few concerts when we were dating. It was great fun, and it was during one of those concerts that I knew I was falling in love with Rob. Those concerts are distant memories now, and we have not been to a show or live music event since we started our debt-free journey. I feel slightly jealous when I see people enjoying a Cold Play or Avett Brothers concert, but when every dollar counts, paying anywhere from $30 to $60 for each ticket seems superfluous. I'm sure that we'll have a chance to enjoy live shows again, and we could always take advantage of FREE shows and concerts that are happening around town.

These are some small sacrifices we are making to get out of debt. What are some things you've given up (or thought about giving up) to help you achieve your financial goal?



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The thing about moving. . .

I distinctly remember moving about 3 times in my life (although I have moved a lot more than that.) One of the first moves I remember was when I was 6 six years old; our family moved from our little two bedroom house in town into what felt like a mansion of a house (4 bedrooms) in the country. We had a large yard with a wood swing-set, a deck, and more outdoor space than we knew what to do with.  Not only did our new house have a dish-washer, but it also had a family room and two bathrooms. I felt like royalty living in our new house.

My parents were pretty on top of things, so it took our family about one day to get moved in and boxes put away. I had a new room; the house and yard were ours to explore, and yet one of the first feelings I remember having was that of boredom. I remember sitting in the living room looking at my older brother with blank stares on our faces. "Now what?" There were so many things to explore, and yet I missed the familiar routines from the old house. I knew how to pattern my day in the old space. I knew where my favorite corners of the house were; I knew where I liked to play with my toys. I knew how to find things in the kitchen. And now, with so much newness, I felt completely bored.

The other time I remember feeling this way was almost exactly four years ago when I moved from a house with family friends into a two bedroom apartment with a girl I hardly knew (who has since become one of my best friends.)  I was so looking forward to having my own space, my own room. It didn't take me very long to get my few possessions unpacked (the apartment included all the furniture I needed.) And although I had so been anticipating this quiet space of my own, I remember feeling bored and lonely on the very first night. "What am I going to do with my time every single night?" I remember thinking.

It's now night three in our newly refurnished, two-bedroom apartment, and guess what?  I don't know how to function in the new space, and dare I say I feel bored. Sure, there is lots to do; boxes to unpack, things to look for, addresses to update, and yet, I can barely get anything accomplished. Yesterday I thought the feeling was exhaustion. Today, I think the feeling is very similar to how I felt when I was a 6 year old girl - "now what?" I'm not sure where my favorite corners are; I'm scared to tackle cooking.  Whenever I go to complete some task, I discover I can't find something and get side-tracked before giving up. My world feels a bit discombobulated, and all I want to do is sit and watch the evening news. But our cable is not working yet.  I think about reading my favorite book or journalling, but I can't find either.

One of the authors that I studied in grad school summed up the way I have been feeling about moving quite well:

“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.”  - Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 

Granted, we are expecting to find better things than loneliness in our move, but there are inevitably a few twists and turns waiting for us as we get settled in and adjust to not only a new place, but a new life stage as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Home Ownership vs Renting

A lot of our friends are in the house buying mode as of late, and it's safe to say that Rob and I are in the minority.  I'm a bit tired, however, of hearing how buying a house is a good investment for the future, and renting is just throwing money down the toilet. 

Our friends often share proudly how low their mortgage is per month and then ask us how much we pay per month for our apartment. Yeah, we get it. We're paying a lot in rent. You know what else we were paying a lot for? Interest on student loans, in excess of $200 a month! 

Don't get me wrong-- we want to own a home. I would love to have a yard or a garage. Rob dreams of the day he can have a dog. Home ownership is definitely a goal we have for the future. But just because we can't make it happen right now doesn't mean we are being irresponsible. We are going for financial freedom, not more financial bondage. To quote one of my hero's Dave Ramsey "Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else." We know we won't be in debt forever; but that doesn't mean we want to stretch it out as long as we can. 

I also believe that just because you are investing in something (like a home) doesn't always mean you get it back. A close friend of mine bought a house before the market crashed. Just four years later, he had to pay money to sell the house.  Sure, he invested in his home but that doesn't mean that he got anything back from it. Another family I know had to sell their home because they couldn't afford the roof damage caused by a storm.  

Furthermore, when you buy a house, there are a lot of hidden costs that you may not even think of. We would need to buy a washer and dryer, a lawn mower, possibly a fridge and other appliances. All things we don't need to worry about right now. In addition, you also pay a lot more on electricity, city fees, water, recycling, taxes, etc.  If something breaks or need repairs in your home, you're financially responsible to fix it. When you rent, you just report it and someone comes and fixes it at no cost to you. 

There is a time for home ownership, and I can't wait for that season. But for right now, we're in a season of renting (a predictable amount each month) and paying off our loans. Thanks Dave Ramsey!