Happiness is Grateful

I recently read an article in Forbes from 2014 about gratitude. (Find article HERE) What are you grateful for today?

For gratitude, you don’t necessarily have to be grateful to any specific being. I prefer to thank God for the things I have because that is who I believe has the ultimate authority to give and take away. You may be grateful to the specific people involved, a different diety, the universe itself, or even grateful to your past self for setting you up to have these opportunities.

It’s hard to grasp gratitude some days. Especially in our house, there are weeks that are really hard to find something to be grateful for. We’ve spent hours at doctors trying to find a way to cope with life, more hours working on a home that seems to fall apart regularly, are on a first name basis with cops because we see them so often, and even more hours trying to right our upside down money situation. Life can seem dismal.

At the same time, there are always great things to be grateful for. Here are some of mine lately:

I am grateful for a car that is fairly reliable to get me to work and back.

I am grateful for a place to park our home.

I am grateful for people who love me.

I am grateful my husband put down the monkey wrench.

I am grateful my husband and stepson work very hard to regularly take their psych meds.

I am grateful for in-laws who are always willing to help.

I am grateful the police officers are understanding and factual.

I am grateful that my co-workers are constantly cracking jokes. It gets me through my days.

I am grateful for a supervisor that can just look at me and know that something is very off in my life. I’m grateful he’s willing to listen.

I am grateful for a job at a company that pays me well and cares even more about me as a whole person.

I am grateful for loved ones who listen, empathize, and move on to other topics without trying to fix it.

I am grateful for endless shrimp dinners.

I am grateful for food, clean water, heat, and clothing.

So, again I ask, what are you grateful for today?

I’m looking forward to hearing your answers. We’ll see you on the road.

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We Needed a Wall

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.”–Donald Trump via azquotes.com

This post has nothing to do with politics. Although, it was a great great wall with a “UUUUGE” beautiful door in it. All kidding aside, we did build 2 walls this weekend.

You see, we’re living in the Midwest for the winter. In an RV, this takes on a whole new set of challenges. The insulation that’s put in RVs aren’t exactly created to help with -30ºF. They’re thrown together to replace your typical tent during camping.

There are RVs that are 4 season RVs. That means the bottom is enclosed, they may have extra high insulation compared to other RVs, and some even have built in skirting to prevent wind from getting underneath. Our RV is a “vintage” model, meaning it’s over 25 years old. There weren’t very many Arctic packages back then for RVs. It is called a 4 season model, so the bottom is enclosed and insulated, but it’s 25 year old insulation. Taking extra precautions is a must.

This lead us to add some insulation to our walls and windows. Each window, before the next few weeks are out, will get plastic added. 22199178_1976654349237254_176131283_o

All of our windows have already had some reflectix wrapped styrofoam insulation board made to be held in place with velcro.

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We even added some 2″ foam board with a wooden frame to cover one large window and one fairly open wall.

Well, Jeremy and Jason built the wall with Jeremy’s parents. I took care of creating meals and not knowing how to help.

On top of that, we expanded our cabinets by removing some unnecessary compartments for wires, along with adding the foamboard insulation in every cabinet. You can kind of see the insulation in them on the above pictures.

Jeremy picked up a few batteries off of craigslist for a pretty good deal. We also found evidence of some animal visitors, some of which we hope do not return. The cat is welcome back anytime.

All in all, it was a very productive weekend. We are getting more and more ready for winter every day. Hoping to get on the road to move closer to my job and Jason’s school within the next few weeks, so that’s when we’ll see you on the road.

Teenage Turmoil

Sometimes I can’t believe I wrote something. I went back to read the blog I wrote last week about Jason. I got a little teary and wanted to click “Like” on it, then realized that it’s kind of bad etiquette to like your own post.

Last time, I told you, “The primary medical treatment is through pharmaceuticals and anxiety control. I’ll try to discuss this soon when I talk about why the last year has been hard for Jason sometime this week.”

Jason has always had a little bit of a hard time making friends. Kids are harsh and tics are not the norm. It’s hard for children to look past a constant motion like that. On top of that, Jason’s always been extremely sweet. This didn’t work in his favor with young children. He was easily hurt and often went running back to the adults crying “Bully”. There were a few good apples that were very sweet as well. We had them over as much as possible.

This outcast persona in his life, Jason tried very very hard to make friends. He was pretty impressionable and fell to peer pressure regularly. As parents, none of us knew what to do. You’d think with 4 of us, we’d be able to come up with something. Alas, we kept playing defense on the latest scheme he and his friends came up with.

When a child is this easily swayed, they tend to fall in with friends that may not be the best choices. As children get older, these choices of friends start to create situations that may lead to bad choices in behavior. These bad choices in behavior can lead to addictions, whether it be drugs, sex, stealing, or fighting.

Jason fell into some rough crowds. As parents, we were happy he had friends, and unhappy with which ones they were. We tried to keep him safe by allowing less overnights and asking him to have them over to our house instead. We met the parents and discussed what the rules at our houses were. We pried into his life in ways that make all teens irritated and all parents more anxious.

No matter what we did, Jason out smarted us. You see, this sweet young man is also fairly smart. The IQ tests say he’s high average, but I know better. He’s good at playing dumb. It’s gotten him a lot of what he needed in his life. His mom felt needed because he couldn’t remember things. His dad felt like a protector because he “couldn’t take care of himself”. And he got out of doing wrong things by “forgetting” or “I didn’t mean to.” I’m not saying that every one of these times was a play; I just know that many of them were put on to keep us complacent.

Complacency is something all parents crave. We don’t want to nag, be anxious about your behavior, or check into the person’s alibi. We want you to be trustworthy in all you do so that we can just ride through parenthood without a hitch. And we all know that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, especially when learning about life.

Learning about life is something Jason’s done his share of in the last 2 years. We’ve run into mental health issues, drug issues, stealing, and some questionable choices in how he handles school and other responsibilities. I don’t think these are uncommon. We’ve done the best we can to field the challenges as they come. Jason’s mom took most of the paperwork and agonizing because he’s lived with her most of the time for the last 3 years. We tried to help when we could, but there’s only so much we can do without undermining the other parent, which still happened from time to time because we’re not perfect either.

I want to go back to the sentence I brought forward from the last entry: The primary medical treatment is through pharmaceuticals and anxiety control. I’ll try to discuss this soon when I talk about why the last year has been hard for Jason sometime this week.

When a child starts extreme medical intervention at a young age, they generally start using different pharmaceutical drugs very young as well. Prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicines are some of the most abused substances among teens. The availability of these drugs makes it that much easier to abuse. Plus, once you’ve realized that some substances affect you much stronger than other substances, you might start to try to find the “one” that “fixes” you.

Experimenting like this happens very commonly with children that have medical issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published an article in 2010 about Prescription Drug Abuse. Here’s what presenter, Nora D. Volkow M.D. had to say about teen drug abuse: “Nonmedical use among children and adolescents is particularly troublesome given that adolescence is the period of greatest risk not only for drug experimentation but also for developing addiction. At this stage the brain is still developing, and exposure to drugs could interfere with these carefully orchestrated changes. Research also shows adolescents abusing prescription drugs are twice as likely to have engaged in delinquent behavior and nearly three times as likely to have experienced an episode of major depression as teens who did not abuse prescription medications over the past year. Finally, several studies link the illicit use of prescription drugs with increased rates of cigarette smoking, heavy drinking, and marijuana and other illicit drug use in adolescents and young adults in the United States. Thus, prescription drug abuse may be part of a pattern of harmful behaviors engaged in by those at risk for substance use and other mental disorders.”

After some scrapes with the law over domestic violence, stealing, running away, and e-cig usage, Jason went into a residential treatment program last October. He was there until June. During that time, he was watched pretty much 24/7. It was grueling and transformative. I think all 4 of us parents started to feel like we had our caring, sweet Jason back.

Jason went from treatment back to his mom’s house. It went well for a time. He was part of an intensive day program for the summer, he got a job, he even had a girlfriend for a while. His mom dealt with all of this in stride for the most part. Once the day program was over, the county still hadn’t set up some of the services they had been going to get before the move home. Jason and his mom both struggled to keep it together. They did well for the most part.

Then, a few weeks ago, Jason started school. The added stress of school, work, and pleasing his parents seem to have become too much. Just over a week ago, Jason was found unresponsive by a friends’ parents. He had taken some prescription drugs from his friend’s prescription pills. Thankfully, he did not take enough to kill himself, but he was in the hospital for a night and his parents were terrified that he might not make it.

When they were done at the hospital, Jeremy and his ex wife decided it might be better for Jason to live with us. That is how we acquired our new resident. He is enrolled in a high school that is 45 miles from where we are parked right now. Getting him to school at a reasonable time before we have to go to work has been the biggest struggle. Picking him up after school has been just as hard.

With all of that, we are doing pretty well, though. There has been disagreements about rules, screen usage, and space. Those are bound to happen, no matter how much space you have or what your teen’s been through. I think those are natural discussions at all households have. But we love each other and all 3 of us are working really hard to gain trust and put the past behind us. We’re hoping to move The Girl Next Door closer to Jason’s school without taking us out of range of the jobs that we currently hold. It should be an adventure. With that adventure coming, we’ll see you on the road.

We have a New Resident

I think middle school and high school teachers are saints. They work very very hard to come up with engaging, thoughtful lesson plans and are often met with eye rolls and inattention. When they try to talk to the parents about it, they’re often met with “Well, maybe you’re just not teaching it well.” Still, there will always be that one kid that gets something out of a lesson; that one kid who participates and loves that class. Every teacher has one kid who inspires them to keep going.

It’s no secret that I’ve never had any plan to have my own children. Something that many don’t know, though, is that I have always taken care of children that were birthed to others. I babysat from the time I was 11 years old. I taught Sunday School and I visited my mother’s kindergarten class regularly. As an adult, I even had a job doing personal care work for 14 years, in which I often ended up having children as clients. I knew I would probably raise kids, but I knew I wouldn’t have biological ones. I don’t even know if I could; I just never felt a leading to be a biological mother. I assumed that I’d probably adopt or be a foster parent. I never dreamed that I would be a stepmom.

I don’t know if ANYONE ever dreams of being a stepmom. Disney movies have made it very impossible for young girls to think of stepmoms in a good light. Between Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Rapunzel, and Snow White, why would anyone want to be the villianess? Disney stepmonsters not-withstanding, this woman would have to take on the job of mom in a household without any of the recognition because the biological mother is given that recognition very naturally. Who really wants to clean, cook, and nurture the household of someone else?

Now that I’ve been in this household for 11 years, I’ve learned that it’s not someone else’s household. I have helped raise 2 young men. I met these guys when they were 5 & 10; we married a year later. Now, at 21 and 16 I have moments where I see the lessons I have tried to teach them come through and feel a small amount of parental pride. As they get holder, I have more moments like that and less at the same time because they are not around as much. The 21 year old rarely sees us anymore; he’s a man who’s too busy for his parents. The 16 year old is finding friends and moving toward driving and has a job. Plus, they both have been living elsewhere; the man where he wants, the teen with his biological mother.

That changed this last week. Jason, who’s the 16 year old, has moved into The Girl Next Door with us. Jason, Jeremy and his ex have decided it is in everyone’s best interest for him to be in our household.

You see, Jason’s had a hard year. I mean, all teenage years are rough. Teens brains are growing and changing. My sister says that it’s like road construction: While one part of the brain is developing, it may be closed down and take some detours for different thoughts to get through. This is where the moodiness, “laziness”, inattention, and indecision of teendom come in. “It’s a little like a traumatic brain injury, only the hormones make it happen,” is what my mother said. Her Masters degree is in early childhood development, but she definitely has a unique perspective on the development of teenage brains because of her 35 years in teaching.

Jason’s hard year came after a pretty hard childhood too. Development is something that really gets stung hard in children of divorce and Jason’s parents split when he was only 2. Along with the divorce, his father has a mental illness that greatly effects the ability for relationships and healthy coparenting.

To put some icing on the cake, Jason was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when he was 9. Tourette’s is an anxiety related disorder that creates tics through shorts in the brain’s wiring. Much like OCD or ADHD, it is led by compulsions, so it can be hidden for a time. Jason hid his all day at school, then had to let it go at home or he would have exploded. At 9, he was diagnosed and began medical treatment. The primary medical treatment is through pharmaceuticals and anxiety control. I’ll try to discuss this soon when I talk about why the last year has been hard for Jason sometime this week.

For now, I’ve run out of time to type. I’ll pick up again sometime this week, but just know that 2 have become 3 and we’re loving having the boy we love sleeping so close. Have a great day and we’ll see you on the road.

Leaps of Faith

We got to take some leaps of faith this week. And I’m not talking about a profound leap of faith. I was mostly putting my faith in the harness that I was wearing.

You see, Jeremy and I went zip lining. Last week, he had the experience with a good friend of ours and decided to share it with me for our date this week. It was the best date in a LONG time.

A leap of faith in this context is not the leap we are usually referring to. Usually, people refer to a leap of faith as starting something or moving away from something that we are comfortable with. In these cases, there are many various things that people are putting their “faith” in. Some say it even because they’re scared and don’t know any other way to shore up their courage for the task.

When it comes to leaps of faith, Jeremy and I do them often. When we both went to working for ourselves full time, it was huge leap of faith. Moving into The Girl Next Door was a huge leap of faith. Going back to working for someone else was a leap of faith for me. Just staying married to someone with mental illness AND kids from another marriage is a leap of faith every day. Where is this faith I’m leaping into coming from?

If you don’t know yet, I’m not an average barbie doll. I’m blunt, unafraid, and not afraid to throw my extra weight around. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what makes me so different, because they could feel it. I wasn’t sure of the answer. I realized that I need to practice my answer.

Other than my physical leaps of faith this week, I also started listening to a new book on CD. I know, shocking that I would have more books. The book I picked up is “The Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. It’s a book that focuses on the part of God that many of us take for granted: the Holy Spirit. This is where the faith comes from and this is why I’m different.

I am not afraid of greeting the Jehovah’s Witness on my door step and having a little sit down chat; the Holy Spirit is there and my God is big enough to deal with whatever they may tell me. I might even learn more about God when I allow the Holy Spirit to take over this interaction. I’m not afraid to tell you the truth. I am putting my faith in the Holy Spirit that whoever hears His word will know the truth if God wills it.

There are a lot of things that Chan addresses in this book. Some things that have convicted me already are living our day-to-day life resting in the Spirit, taking leaps of faith when I feel the leading, and trusting more on the Holy Spirit living in me than on my own understanding. I want the fullness of God. When Jesus said in John 7:38-39 that it was to our advantage that He went away, he was giving us a heads up that having the Holy Spirit in our hearts and with us always would be more beneficial.

It’s hard to not have a flesh and blood Jesus. When on the zipline today, there was one young lady that did not want to jump at first. She had a hard time starting. I think there were some of Jesus’ disciples that had that problem. Just like the girl having a zip guide, the disciples had a flesh and blood Jesus to push them off the edge. He called out to them to come and follow him; he gave them a hand to hold and a shoulder to push. She had the guide to “gently direct” her off the platform.

The first jump was the worst. Your heart flutters. If you look over the edge, you start to question the cables and the trolley you’re leaning on. It’s easy to imagine yourself hurtling straight downward if you don’t trust the harness. It’s the same with doing what God is leading us to. It is easy to see how many times you could fail or look silly or look crazy. It is easy to think you might protect God’s honor by avoiding letting Him “fail you” or letting yourself “make Him look bad”. So, we get complacent. We say we’re doing God’s work by being safe. Until you actually take that first jump.

After the first platform, everything gets easier. We went to Trollhaugen in Dresser, Wisconsin for our zip experience. The good guides that they have make it easy to learn confidence as you go. By the end of the trip, you feel pretty good about your abilities. Think of your pastor as your guide now, if you still need a little push. Once you’ve gotten beyond the first, second, and third leaps of faith, you will start to recognize where God wants you. You may not know why, but you’ll recognize that the small, nervous, and exhilarated voice that’s talking you down from the leap might be lying to you. God’s plan may reside on the other end.

The last jump still gets hard for the guides sometimes at this park. It’s a VERY tall jump and you go down at a pretty steep angle. There are leaps in real life that you’re relying on the Holy Spirit to be there and you can’t see them when you look over the edge. It is scary to take these leaps. You feel like you’re free-falling for a time. You wonder if God is really there to catch you. Did you misread his signs? And then, the harness of the Holy Spirit pulls tight and you’re riding a mountain top experience down to the next comfortable platform.

My friends, I am not afraid because I have come to rely on the Holy Spirit. I am “different” because you can’t do anything to hurt me permanently. I am the daughter of the Most High God; no earthly being has the power to stop me if God’s hand is in what I am doing. I have done enough leaps of faith that I push off from the platform now, waiting for that weightless feeling to turn into the elation of the Lord’s unmistakable embrace. Then, you hit the brakes at the end of the line and you go back to life as usual until the next line is ready to ride.

I hope that this blog is clear enough to speak what I’m trying to get across. I hope you’re willing to move into the life of adrenaline that is following God every single day. I hope the Holy Spirit speaks to you to meet your neighbor, stop at this house to offer a helping hand, hug a stranger (with consent of course), paint an outlandish painting, take the job, or write a blog. I pray that God uses your leap of faith to so further His kingdom that you can’t wait to hook up to the next line. Become an adrenaline junky with me by following Him through the Holy Spirit. Jump far and we’ll see you on the road.

A Head Full of Pain

On the Wednesday after Labor Day, I got up and got ready for work. Jeremy had already left to workout, so I had a fairly silent preparation. I thought my foggy head was just from it being 5am and the remnants of a bad headache I had had the day before. As I walked out the door to get to the car, I was reminded that sometimes headaches don’t just go away; they erupt.

I sat down in a lawn chair we have just outside the doors and the world spun. My headache had morphed into a migraine. Now, I don’t get migraines extremely often, but when I do, they are not usually put at bay by a mere Excedrin Migraine, which I did take immediately hoping that it would put me back on my feet. I ended up having my hopes dashed an hour later and informing my employer that I would not be going to work that day. I then crawled back into bed and slept for most of the rest of the day.

Knowing what a migraine feels like often gives me a small bit of insight into how Jeremy and others with bipolar and borderline personality disorders must feel sometimes. I’m lucky; migraines and severe headaches are accepted illnesses and I can at least get some sympathy from people.

There’s always someone that doesn’t get it, though. Where they get “We all feel sad sometimes” or “I have a hard time relating to people sometimes too”, people with migraines hear “Yeah, I get headaches all the time.” Note: Bipolar Depression  and Borderline Personality Disorder are not the same as sadness, just as headaches are not the same as migraines.

Let me show you a physical example: You have been reading my blog. I assume that most of you are reading with a fair amount of ease, maybe with glasses, but for the most part, it’s comprehensible. Now, look at this: 785a97667c645119a46dc4911af7088f--migraines-quotes-chronic-migraine-quotes

Do you see the difference now? And this examples is if the migraine is a minor one. When mine are severe, the center of my vision is entirely fogged out.

Years ago, I found a video that helped me understand a little bit of what Jeremy goes through. When I showed him the video, he told me that it was the closest he’d seen to capturing how he feels and it’s still a tad off the mark. Check it out here: What it Feels like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder.

I didn’t really get it until I watched this. Then, I went on a YouTube binge to try to understand, to try to find treatments that might help, and to reach out to those that I finally felt that I might understand a little better. I got it now that his outbursts, mood swings, and self-deprecation were just an outward expression of his head full of pain. My outward expression was sleeping, dimming the lights, and putting on my fuzzy sweatshirt. On days when his illness was taking hold, he became sullen, lost control of his voice inflection, and was unable to sit for more than 5 minutes. When mine is bad, I can’t get out of bed, cry a lot, and ask him to put on headphones instead of sharing his videos.

Either way, invisible illnesses are harder than they look. Those of  us that have them often fill ourselves with pills to be able to make it through a day at work (as I am doing today, since the remnants of my reasons for staying home are sticking around today). We may take longer breaks than others. We may need more praise and motivation speeches. We don’t want pity and we might just want you to listen for a little bit when we’re tired of explaining that our bodies and brains are rebelling against our intentions. Thank you to those that try. Thank you for reading this post, whether you’re struggling with it or it comes easy to you. I know better than many how hard reading can be some days. Health and happiness to you all; we’ll see you on the road.

The Quest for Comfort

If you remember, Jeremy decided we needed to take the futon out. We now have no couch or bed in the living room area. This is only an issue because we have a 16 year old that lives with us every other weekend. He has no real bed.

Thankfully, he’s not hard to please. We have a decent cot that fits perfectly in the living room. He happily sleeps on this and doesn’t complain one bit. I do, though.

I want him to be able to be comfortable and I want our living room to be at least a little wee-bit stylish. Not helping is the fact that Jeremy has already flipped the bump that was part of the basement into a flat floor panel. To do that, he had to remove the carpet from the bump that was there. So, we have some bare wood showing off for anyone standing by the door to see. Thankful that we live in the country and don’t have many visitors.

To speed along the process of regaining a bed for our child and covering up the ugly hole in the floor, we decided to go searching for a sofa-sleeper or a futon. There are some challenges to this that I didn’t think about. First, we live in an RV. It needs to fit through the tiny door. Second, we live in an RV. It needs to fit the dimensions we have; there is no “moving the other furniture” to make room for an overstuffed sofa or a massive L-shaped couch. Third, we live in an RV. Losing storage or bed functionality is really not an option; it needs to be multi-purpose.

I watched a video posted by The Wandering Wyatts that showed a perfect description of what we’d like to try. They show their bed in the tour of their RV home and I loved the storage included in the bed. With a little research, we found one that I like. IKEA has the model that I thought would be great. We decided on a field trip.

This field trip would be a first for me. I’ve never been in the mountain that is IKEA. My wonderful husband has warned me that he’s gotten lost in there before. Apparently, other people have also, because they now have maps and arrows to follow to safety outside of the simulated houses encased in the big blue shell. We had no problem navigating to where we wanted to go.

We went straight to the sleeper-sofa part of the living room setups. We found not one, but 4 examples of the 2 types of couch we’d like. We lay on them and found them to be comfortable. We opened them and found them to have ample storage. We converted them to couches, beds, and back again. We even found a very helpful sales lady.

When we started measuring was the issue. It seems that our RV couch must have been 4 inches shorter than the couches we really want. At 78 inches long, all IKEA couches were just a tad too long for our 74″ space. All 3 of us were sore about it. We started making plans of how to buy one and modify it to fit our space. Our helpful sales lady even made a few suggestions on IKEA hacks we could use to fit these lovely sofa-sleepers; all “not in (her) yellow shirt, mind you”.

Then, the price tags hit us. Even these “reasonably priced” pieces of furniture were still a bit too expensive for our budget. If we had a 50% off coupon, we would have bought. As it was, we dreamed and discussed. We wandered the store some more and found a captains bed with interesting options that might work for us; same budget issue though. We left a bit dismayed and a bit frustrated that we couldn’t find exactly what we needed.

Next, we went to the Mall of America, which sits right across the road from IKEA. In the mall, we checked out the Love Sac store. Someone suggested that we might find something that would work for a convertible bed-sofa mix. While they do have a sectional sofa that transitions to both a king and 2 twin beds, we don’t have space for that piece either. Shopping is all we really got to do, other than trying some Rybicki cheese.

When we got home, Jeremy started the hunt for some gently used pieces. We would still love to find our IKEA loves. He sent me some great options from Facebook garage sale pages, one craigslist find, and a few Amazon beauties. None have worked out so far.

I also started using my tiny bit of art skills to do some interior decorating. It would be really cool to have the time and energy and money to build our perfect front end. So far, I’ve only drawn how I hope our couch and loveseat combo would fit into The Girl Next Door. I would like to draw individual pieces with measurements too. I want to really make this a reality. Having a king sized front sleeping area for guests and the youngest would be really cool. I know I have some handy people in my life that might be able to make it a reality. If not, I may be learning how to create furniture.

Some day, we will have a sofa-sleeper option in our front end. For now, our 16 year old sleeps on a cot (which he preferred to the uneven futon before) when he comes over and we don’t really have guests for now. We’ll continue looking for the perfect set up. For those of  you with an RV, what’s your setup look like? Have you found a good transitional couch/bed combo that works for you? Extra points if you have one that’s under 74″. I hope to hear your input when we see you on the road.

We have Been Doing

Obviously, I’ve been having a  hard time getting here to write. I love writing for you all and I love doing all the things. I can’t always do both.

Since our California trip Here>>>>Golden State of Mind
We have been as busy as summer allows. Jeremy was training and massaging, our youngest got out of treatment and we transitioned him back into his home life, and I’ve been working on finding organization in The Girl Next Door, along with my full time job.

The weekend after we got back, we met my family of origin in Mauston, WI at some cabins on the lake. Seeing all of my nieces and my nephew was refreshing and exciting. Great conversations were had, as well as some delicious s’mores. We had fun playing on the beach and catching up. Babies are part of what make these trips worth it (although they’re not the only thing!)

When we returned, there were presents waiting for us. We got new hoses for waste removal. With the new hoses, we don’t have to move The Girl Next Door to reach the septic on the edge of the property. Jeremy took the time to spray off and open all of the awnings, as well as spraying down the rest of the siding and windows. Thankfully, I remembered to close them before he started.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, Jeremy noticed that he had a pain in his knee. It didn’t seem to be the type of pain that he could take a day off and ice it to help it get better. The pain persisted through weeks of lightening his training. The problem with it was that he was signed up to participate in the Shell Lake Triathlon on July 22. In the end, he gave away his registration for Shell Lake Tri AND sold the registration for Twin Cities Marathon in October. He saw a doctor finally this week, got a knee brace, and has been forced to do no training for at least a few weeks, when he’ll take a nice long ride with my mom. No impact training (read: no running!) for a month. I think we’ll probably have a pretty irritable Jeremy in a week or two. He’ll be seeing a sports medicine doctor soon and hopefully be able to figure out what’s been causing his pain. Once that happens, he’ll be back on the road, I’m sure.

Speaking of being on the road, that’s something I’m loving about working where I do. Aveda recently started a campaign for the employees that includes a Wellness challenge, a free fitness tracker, and a website for accountability. I saw this as a sign that I need to really put some more effort into my health. After having to cancel my Spartan Sprint race in June, I hadn’t been training much and I had started to feel down about my progress. I’m really thankful that Aveda offers this type of thing for us and their care for their employees is one of the main reasons I came back here.

Jeremy’s also been still in the midst of a med change. We are looking at the end of the transition, which is nice. He’s started to be able to focus and calm himself long enough to do self care again, to see how to make healthy nutritional choices, and to take his medicine on time regularly. He’s recognizing the things that are bothering him and getting to the point where he can really voice his needs. It’s an amazing thing to see how the medicine helps him become himself again; the man I love returns. This is a good point to be at because of his physical injuries. Now he’ll be able to force himself to really listen to what the doctors have to say.

Last weekend, Jeremy got the motivation to finish fixing the exhaust on The Girl Next Door. She now has 2 full exhaust pipes and purrs like a kitten…. a very large kitten with Glasspacks. Either way, she’s lovely and idles at a rumble instead of a roar.

He also decided today to take out the original RV futon so that we can add a newer, more fashionable, storage-heavy futon/sleeper to the living room.  He gave it  to someone from Facebook and the rest is history.  Here’s to “renovating the guest room”.

So, Jeremy will be sitting out for a while, but I’ll be out training again. I’ll be adding some hiking regularly, as well as a few runs and strength work. I hope I will have time to start writing something worth reading again. Until then, I’ll be doing all the things worth writing. Come back to catch up on our adventures; we’ll see you on the road.

Golden State of Mind

One of the reasons we went to tiny living was the opportunity to travel eventually. We wanted to reduce our cost of living so significantly that we could pay off debt faster and faster, as well as raising money to travel after this debt purge.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until then to travel. We are extremely blessed and humbled that last week we got to use our Christmas gift from Jeremy’s parents. Because of their generosity, we could leave the Girl Next Door and Ruby at home. We were able to travel to Chino, California for a family reunion, as well as some touristy sight seeing. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity.

This kind of thing is a major motivational kick in the pants. Being able to see what we might be able to do and where we might be able to go once we get ourselves together is a catalyst for the desire of wanderlust. The whole trip had me thinking of lists of destinations in my head. The flight back had me planning my debt snowball strategy again and again, trying to find other places here and there that I could cut spending and increase the impact I can make on the mountain.

Jeremy even got the bug from the trip. Today, we spent 2 hours getting him caught up on the last 10 years of monetary management. We worked on figuring out what we can spend on what and where we can cut costs.

Here are some of the pictures we got while in Cali, just so you have some ideas why we are so jazzed to get moving:

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That’s all for this trip. We’ll see you on the road.

Surviving the Heat

The good Lord made us all out of iron.
Then he turns up the heat to forge some of us into steel. —Marie Osmond

Stress is always a strong force in our house. Not only are we business owners, we are spouses, parents, workers, caregivers, adult children, siblings, friends, competitors, athletes, and “home” owners. All of these titles bring with them a different set of expectations. As the oldest children, we both feel the need to meet ALL expectations.

This weekend, the gap between the expectations and the reality had a fall out. On Friday, we approached a weekend not knowing what the expectations were, but knowing that we weren’t meeting many of them.

  • We had expected that 5 years into our business, we would be able to start reducing our hands on work in the business; maybe have 3-4 other therapists and 1-2 other reception/bookkeepers.
  • We had expected that we would have the water, generator, and 12V electric hooked up and regularly being used; we are required to be plugged in and bring water in by the 5-gallon jug.
  • We had expected to be comfortable in our relationship and marriage, unconcerned with the stability of our household; those of you that are married know how tenuous this is.
  • We expected to be almost out of debt by now; we took Financial Peace University 7 years ago.
  • We expected to be at a race this weekend; the Spartan Sprint that I planned to do was yesterday. I decided not to because of some financial & family issues that have arisen lately.

All of these expectations falling short, along with a few critical or harsh words bring us to a halt in life. We snap at each other, we snark, we hold grudges, we fail to really show the love that God instructs us to. That leads to heat in the relationship.

It definitely doesn’t help that the heat outside was going to be super high this weekend. Friday, we got home and it was warm in the RV. 80 degrees F is uncomfortable and we knew it would be worse the next day. The forecast for Saturday was 95. We hadn’t tried out the air conditioning yet (another failed expectation: we thought we would know if any of our appliances didn’t work). The anxiety over the following day definitely played a part in our Friday breakdown.

Saturday came and neither of us had the energy to take a proactive look at the AC. We turned on the fans, rested most of the morning, and talked about how hot it was starting to get. Jeremy even watched some videos on YouTube that showed the maintenance necessary to keep an RV AC unit running well. And we remained hot and sweaty.

Toward the end of the day, I wanted to turn the fan on that’s attached to the AC. Jeremy told me to turn on the air “just to check”. I turned it on and it felt just like the fan at first. He told me that one of the videos he watched stated that it takes 15 minutes for cold air to work. And he was right. We were both so excited to shut down the vents and the windows to let ice cold AC air come in from the unit. Standing directly under the entry made it even a little icy.

The cold air helped us reconcile our hot-headed argument. By Sunday afternoon, we had a conversation about our finances for the first time in years and it ended well. We figured out an app to use to help us keep our spending down and we started the process of coming up with a budget. This time, we want to keep with the principals of Financial Peace, even though we won’t be using their app. Mint.com offers an app that allows us to link all of our accounts to have transactions automatically uploaded. The app from Financial Peace, EveryDollar, does not allow us to link our business account because of of a glitch in their syncing process. Both are good apps and if you like one over the other, please use it.

Now that we’re on the road to working together faithfully on our finances and the AC is working, the heat in The Girl Next Door has dropped considerably. It doesn’t hurt that a thunderstorm, complete with hail, blew through on Sunday. It was colorful and exciting; So exciting that our hosts asked us to come into their sticks & bricks house for safety! We all came out the other side of the storm, both literally and figuratively.

So, as we move toward our debt free life, join us in enjoying the small things:

  • The AC is working.
  • Our budget is started.
  • We made it through the hail.
  • We have each other to hold onto.
  • We still have things that we can expect… we just need to be a little gentler on ourselves when the expectations don’t get met in time.

What are your small things? Make sure you tell us when you see us on the road.