Silver Linings

As some of you may already know, looking on the bright side is not one of my strong suits. I don’t often refer to myself as someone who is negative or pessimistic, instead I prefer to sugar coat it and say I’m practical to a fault…meaning I’m the one that will plan for the worst case scenario and often think of all the bad hypotheticals before I entertain any of the good ones. Lately, however, I have been trying to change my mindset. I’ve been working on letting things roll off my back, not getting caught up in other people’s drama and poor life choices and just focusing on my inner circle and the many blessings I can find within it.

A few things have helped me on my journey towards being a happier more positive person. My initial inspiration for this change was reading The Happiness Project, which is a delightful book that I have borrowed from the library a few times. Reading it was a motivator for me to start blogging, choosing aspects of my life that I felt could be improved slightly by just making small consistent changes and making a conscious effort to follow through. I strongly recommend reading this book; it was definitely one of those life changing ones…at least for me.

A second tool for my ‘silver linings’ journey was to take part in the #100happydays challenge. It was introduced to me via my Facebook newsfeed, however I decided to participate in it through my instagram account. Basically, you’re supposed to find at least one thing a day that makes you happy. It can be whatever you want it to be so long as it is really something that brought you joy in your day. This has been an excellent tool in that my competitive nature wanted me to be successful so I began actively seeking out moments that made me happy so that I could photograph them. In doing this I found myself quickly disregarding moments or things that didn’t make me happy, because I didn’t find them useful to the #100happydays project, therefore I didn’t need to pay attention to them. Now that I am approaching the end of the challenge – I believe I’m on Day 80…or very close to it – I find that it has become a habit for me to quickly dismiss moments of negativity and switch my train of thought to something more positive. It has helped me tremendously in avoiding getting caught up in this negative downward spiral and has been a good exercise for me in training me to consciously look for the good things in my day.

Just recently, I’ve added another little tool to my kit. That being the 3 positives for 7 days status post, again introduced to me via Facebook. This one I started on Sunday as I was nominated by a friend to do this challenge. The premise is that for 7 days you will post a status listing three positive things that happened for you that day, you then nominate a friend (each day) to do the same. I like this because it’s a subtle way of counting your blessings. I’ve taken to posting them at night before I go to bed, and I have been finding that it puts me in a good frame of mind for a restful sleep. You can’t really spend time fighting sleep and thinking about your troubles after you just thought about and posted 3 positive things.

I think that once the #100happydays challenge and the 3 positive for 7 days challenge ends I will dust off one of my half used journals and start actively completing a gratitude journal. I won’t go and ‘should’ all over myself if I don’t get it done on a daily basis but I think that, even taking time once a week, to reflect on the last few days and make note of the good things that have happened and count my blessings I’ll be able to one day refer to myself as a positive optimistic person.

An Open Letter

I haven’t blogged in a while. To be honest, I have been so busy working at paying off my debt, staying on top of house work, spending quality time with K and the cats and just really enjoying my life – even though it has been so busy. However, I have had this nagging feeling that I should blog, just to stay on top of it but I couldn’t come up with any topics that I felt passionate enough about to put into the interwebs. Now though, I have something I want to say and because I have always been better with the written word I figured this blog was a good forum to say it, so here it goes….

To Carla at Flowlab I want to say “THANK YOU”. Thank you for opening your arms and welcoming me into the hoop community. Thank you for giving so much of yourself at Bosco Gym and being so open and honest and raw with your own journey and struggles. You have taught me that in order to find my flow, and myself, I need to just really not give a F*ck. The lessons I’ve learned on Tuesday nights have leaked into the other days of the week and have changed me to my core. I am no longer this shy person that’s easily intimidated by others. I no longer spend countless hours wondering what people are saying about me, how they are judging me, etc. I just don’t care anymore. That not caring has lifted a weight off of my shoulders and brought light into my life.

All of my relationships have deepened because of your classes and your lessons. I’ve learned that it’s ok to take time for myself and do stuff that I love to do, regardless of whether or not it serves a higher purpose. Learning to love the process, learning to accept and embrace my failures (as epic as they may be sometimes) and learning to laugh at myself are all valuable life lessons that I never thought I’d learn while playing with a beautifully taped plastic hoop.

The people you have introduced me to have broadened my own mind and have helped me become more open, connected and grounded.

I struggle with finding the words to express just how dear to me you have become, in only the short time that I’ve known you. Having you as a champion in my corner has given me the confidence and drive to go out and do all that I want to do without fear of failure – because even failing can be a reward…that’s what you’ve taught me.

As you start this new adventure in your life, know that you will be missed dearly. You have left an imprint on my heart and soul like no one has, and all through this wonderful medium of hoop dance.

The actual hoop tricks you’ve taught me are also pretty badass. 🙂 I can’t wait to hoop with you at Astral

xoxo T

 

Not My Monkeys

Ok, so I’ve been wanting to blog for a while lately, but I’ve been busy and haven’t been able to figure out my words. Working two jobs has definitely taken its toll on me, but seeing the balance on my credit card get lower and lower is so satisfying and keeps me moving.

A few things have been happening and they have all tied into each other in such a way that I can’t help but write a post about them all, and seeing as how it’s a quiet day at work I figured I should jump on this opportunity now.

First on my mind Baxter’s Hooppath workshop back at the end of March; it was amazing! There were so many moments that weekend that felt like he was speaking right to me. That weekend was a rough one for me. Working two jobs, hardly any sleep and my house being in a less than ideal state was starting to wear on me. I was tired and cranky and really bitter about my lot in life. Baxter talked about learning to love the process. He pointed out how a common theme with depressed people is that they’re never satisfied, they’re always striving, waiting, looking, for the next big thing to happen to them. They’re so caught up in the future that they fail to appreciate the present. This is applicable in hooping, in that learning to hoop is a process and if you’re continually downplaying your position on the timeline of your hoop journey you’re seriously discrediting your path up to this point. When someone tells you that you nailed a combo and you just think that it could’ve been better you’re missing out on accepting that compliment and tucking that into your “hoop tool belt”.

I took this thought and applied it to my life outside of hooping. Yes, it sucks that I have to work a part time job in order to get my debt paid off in order to have a better future life for myself and K, but that doesn’t mean that the process has to suck. I can choose to enjoy the process, choose to approach each part-time shift as a new opportunity to accept the process and be present, and learn from it.

Another thing that Baxter talked about was how disappointing it is to grow up hearing that if you play by the rules you will come out ahead, and then grow up to realize that that’s not how life works. I played by the rules. I was the good kid in my family. I listened to my parents, I stuck to curfew, I didn’t wear makeup, have a boyfriend, or wear spaghetti strap tops until I was 16. I played by the rules. I did what I was told and I put aside what I really wanted to do….I don’t know why but I remember having to bite the bullet and just do what needed to be done regardless of whether or not I wanted to do it. This sense of unfairness has been ringing true with me for a while. And lately I’ve been bombarded with people making shitty life choices and not having to pay any consequence for them.

Hold up life! I was the one that played by the rules. I did what I was told. How come that person over there gets to reap these benefits that I don’t have when they didn’t do what they were told. They didn’t play by the rules…. Why do I have to work two jobs to get ahead but they don’t have to work any jobs and still get to reap benefits of having a home, food and all these extra perks? That’s really unfair. Really. Unfair.

I have had to remind myself of a few things to get through this time; one being that not everyone lives their lives according to the same morale compass that I do. Just because it doesn’t sit well with me (or K) to mooch off of family/parents, doesn’t mean that other people feel the same way. Some people are content to live their life selfishly, not earning their own keep, living off the hardwork of someone else and not seeing why they should do different. It strikes me as odd and embarrassing that one would be so comfortable to live that way…but that’s their morale compass. Not mine. It’s not my job to change their behaviour, not my job to accept their behaviour. I just need to realize that their journey is different from mine. Their process is different. That’s ok.

I have realized that I need to take time to enjoy my own process. I can’t be bogged down with others perception of my process, whether they think I’m less than they are for working at a big box store to earn extra money or not. If they think I’m foolish for being in a relationship with someone for 4 years and no ring yet, that’s their issue not mine. K and I are in agreement with our lives, our relationship and what we each need to do to move forward to get to where we want to be. My process is different from their process. It is not their job to change my process. It is my job to accept and enjoy my process.

I choose to be happy because it’s good for my health. I choose to repeat “Not my circus, not my monkeys” repeatedly throughout the day whenever I’m faced with people who are following a path that is miles away from my own. I’ve realized over the past few months that I am the best version of me when I focus on the things that I can control, accept the things I can’t and know the difference between the two.

Not my circus, not my monkeys. 

March Check-In

Well folks, I’ve done it; accomplished another one of my goals. It’s crazy how putting it in writing and coming up with a plan to achieve it actually makes stuff happen. No, my quilt is not done yet but I have landed a part time job to boost my monthly income.

I will be working in the lawn and garden department at one of those big box home improvement stores that popped up near my place. I’m excited. Not only is the pay good but I also get a staff discount. Now, I know that staff discounts encourage impulse buying and that’d defeat the purpose of my having this job so I’m being smart about it. To me it made sense to apply somewhere that would help out K and I in the long run not only by earning extra income to pay down debt but also getting us a deal on home improvement items so we can do some minor renos to our house. All in all I feel like it’ll be a good fit, provided that they stay cognizant of the fact that I work a full time job Monday to Friday and I can’t be working 30-40 hours a week on top of that. I’ll die.

I just finished orientation last night and I start my first regular shift this weekend. I’ll be late for K’s hockey team’s play off game but I shouldn’t miss too much of it.

I’ll admit, I was kind of in a foul mood when I was told my first scheduled shift. I don’t want to put in 9 hours on a Saturday. But I have to put my big girl panties on and just deal with it. I think once I get my schedule for the next two weeks, get a few paycheques under my belt and on to my debt I’ll start to lighten up and return to that excited feeling that I had when I put this whole debt repayment plan into place.

With respect to the other goals I’m working on; the quilt is nearing the stage where I need to cut the squares. I just found out my cousin M (also one of my BFFs conveniently) has the tools I need to cut the squares so I think a date at her house is in order. Once I have everything cut I can lay it out and see how much material I need to purchase (if any) to complete the quilt.

We are also in the midst of Lent. As a born and raised Catholic I always feel the need to give something up at this time, even though I’m no longer practicing. However, because I was forgoing a few things as of late, all in the name of debt repayment, I figured I shouldn’t deprive myself too much. So I decided to embark in a yoga and plank challenge. I found a couple different yoga series online and printed them off and my cousin C sent me a printout for a 30 day plank challenge, which I just modified to extend it to the end of Lent. I’m a little behind, I slacked on the weekend but if I do two days’ worth tonight I’ll be all caught up. I am finding the daily yoga practice to be very therapeutic, something I think I’ll continue once Lent is over. I think working two jobs and not spending as much will take its toll on me and yoga is a good way to give something back to myself.

So it’s about mid-March and I’m feeling pretty good about how 2014 is shaping up.

 

@GailVazOxlade & the start of my journey out of debt

Hey blog readers;

It’s been a little while since my last post, I’ve been busy. Busy accomplishing a few more of my goals for 2014. For starters my rug is done, I think that was my last post. The next task on my to do list was to cut the seams out of my grandpa’s pjs so that I can start cutting the material into squares to prepare for making my throw blanket. I’m almost done. I literally have about 10 more minutes left of that and then I’m done that phase. The next phase would be to iron out the material and then make a date with my Aunt for me to go to her place and use her fancy fabric cutting things. And pick her brain a bit about where to buy the flannel for the middle layer of said quilt….and just to catch up with her.

My next project was to start working through Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Debt Free Forever.  For those of you who don’t know, I owe $49,379.71 in student loans. I went to school for 7 years and racked up about $70,000.00. Which I have been chipping away at slowly for the last 5 years. Now that I am making better money at my job and actually have some breathing room I felt that now was the time to really take an active role in tackling my debt. I am 30 now after all and I know that K and I would like to move on to the next phase; marriage, new home, baby (?), etc. My debt is holding us back. My debt is actually the cause of some of mine and K’s fights and I don’t want that burden on my shoulders anymore.

I have just finished Chapter 5 or 6 and felt like today my brain needed a break. Chapter 1 involved compiling a spending analysis, looking at 6 months worth of bank and credit card statements, plotting out what I spent and where, adding it all up and comparing it against my income. Now, as a regular part of my ‘budgeting’ I already tracked what came out of my bank account…however, I never took note of what was going on my credit cards, I only tracked my payments on said credit cards. I over spend on average $257 a month. That’s more than what I take home, and that number is probably higher because I didn’t have 6 months worth of credit card statements handy and only used the last months statement in my calculations. Ouch! Ok, now I knew why I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Chapter 2 involved owning up to your debt. I’ve done this plenty of times before in the past, about once every 4 months or so I checked the balances on all my loans and my credit card just to see where I was at. I used Gail’s Own Up to Your Debt worksheet. I loved it, it tells you how much you would have to pay in order to get your debt paid off in 12, 24 and 36 months. I just never realized I wasn’t using it to his max potential until I worked through Chapter 2 and created my own spreadsheet. Did you know that making only minimum payments on $49,000.00 worth of debt, it would take you 12 years before you’re debt free? I didn’t…until I worked through Chapter 2.

By this point I had had enough. I was starting to get depressed and a little nervous that K would see how bad this situation was and maybe want to opt out. I wouldn’t blame him to be honest, I’m really disgusted with myself and my complete lack of money sense. However, I knew from watching Gail’s shows that my situation wasn’t nearly as bad as a lot of other people’s situations and I knew that if she could help those Money Morons, then my situation would be easily resolved with a bit of effort on my part.

The next few chapters worked on goal setting. Making sure that we had achievable goals and plans on how to attain them. Not only for debt repayment but for the future. Something to keep us motivated and drive us to succeed. I came up with a few, the first being I want to be debt free within 3 years. I want K and I to take the next step into wedded bliss, I want to be able to start saving a down payment on a home with a backyard and garage and parking pad for the motorhome, I also wanted to really start saving for retirement; 30 snuck up on me…I don’t want 65 to do the same.

After goal setting we worked on building a budget that balances. At first I couldn’t figure out how I this was supposed to help towards debt repayment. However, I realized that the jar money and the balanced budget are all exercises for me to learn to live within my means so that I don’t accrue more debt while I’m trying to pay debt off and so I don’t get myself in this pickle again. Obviously I have a spending problem and issues with living within my means if I’m overspending $257/mth.

Then we figured out how much money we’d have to pay per month in order to get debt free in 36 months. I realized that with my income, my fixed expenses and my drastically cut down variable expenses…I’d still need to make an extra $936/mth to be able to be debt free in 36 months. So I started applying for part-time jobs and have made my next goal to have a job lined up for March in which I work 2-3 shifts per week. Hopefully I can get a serving job (even though I have no serving experience) and then I could use my tip money towards debt repayment as well. Also our raises and bonuses are coming up at the end of March, so any change in my income on that front will help, as well as tax season is approaching and if I get a return I’ll be putting that towards the debt as well.

I have basically come up with a plan that, when put in motion and followed through on, will see me debt free in 2 1/2 years. I’ll be 32 years old. Perfect time to start that next phase in my life (aka marital bliss). This plan involves: sticking to my newly balanced budget and using the jar money (although I’ll probably use envelopes because I don’t have money for jars and I don’t think I have any around the house I could use); finding a part-time job that will help boost my monthly income and therefore quicken my repayment efforts; planning ahead of time on how I’ll use any surplus income by way of income tax return and/or yearly bonus at work (I can’t do much about the raise until I know what that is but it’s on the list too); and use the ‘snowballing’ method when it comes to debt repayment, in that I make minimum monthly payments on all debt except the one with the highest interest rate, then when that debt is paid off combine that payment with the minimum monthly payment of the next highest interest rate and pay that one down, etc.

p.s. it’s worth noting that, even though you get instant gratification by paying off the lowest balance first…you end up paying more money in interest that way and it takes you about 4 months longer to pay it off….according to my calculations.

So there you have it folks. 2014 is shaping up to be the year I wanted; one in which I get unfinished projects off my plate, get my debt under control and come up with a solid debt repayment plan.

Sorry this is so long; I’ve just been super excited to share this with everyone. I’ll blog later on the mixed levels of support that I’ve been getting since my newly figured out financial plan…it’s not all good stuff unfortunately.