SAHM Avenue intersects at Working Professional Boulevard

How do you women do it?!

How do you women do it?!

A Familiar Intersection
Unbeknownst to my husband, thoughts of becoming a stay-at-home mom, also popularly known in the blogging world as a ‘SAHM,’ (thank you to the world of over-used acronyms,) had been swirling around in this perpetually revved up brain of mine. Full time? Part time? I wasn’t sure. But it was something that I just
couldn’t shake.

I think much of this was due to the guilt I feel each morning when I drop Maryn off. Does she cry? No. Does she whine? Double no. Does she seem phased at all when I leave? I don’t even think I need to answer that… So why is it that I feel this natural pull to be home with her all of a sudden? Well, maybe it’s just that– the fact that she is perfectly fine with not being enveloped in my presence and love all day every day.

When I expressed my thoughts to my husband, I could sense the shock he was feeling even before I finished my sentence. After all, I was the definition of a career woman—always wanting to excel, progress and be defined in some sense by who I am when I’m in my office and sitting in front of my computer screen. I knew he wasn’t super sold on the idea, so I just let it breathe for a little bit.

He Speaks in Mysterious Ways
A few days later during my ritualistic Facebook perusing, I came across an article where a woman explained why she regretted leaving her career to be home with her kids. In her interview, she graciously pointed out that although she loved the time she was able to spend with her children, the eventual reentry into her career several years later was not only super challenging but quite dreadful. After losing her ability to cultivate professional relationships and networking opportunities that were at one time bountiful to say the least, she found herself dizzying over the thought of having to start from scratch. In her words, her world had “narrowed” before her very eyes.

Call it divine intervention, call it terrific coincidence, call it whatever you will. But I believe and KNOW seeing this article was no accident. Amidst the sea of inconsequential news feed shenanigans, that one post jumped out at me and urged me to click on it like nothing ever has before (except for maybe an oh-so innocuous J. Crew summer sale e-blast).

Gridlocked is no way to be
After marinating myself in the article and all it stood for, a sudden peace came over me. Yes, it’s difficult to tackle the inevitable sick days when there isn’t any sick time to be had, or the lazy days when all you want to do is immortalize the day by staying in your PJs and eating breakfast for dinner, but it made me think about all the things I’d say goodbye to. I like that I have an office where it’s just me and my music, writing the day away for clients. I like that I can run errands during lunchtime, without my daughter trying to snatch grapes from the produce bin. I like that my email signature defines me by company and title, mentioning nothing about my life as a mom and everything that comes with it. It’s almost like another identity… yet miraculously, it’s still me. 

Now, for you SAHMs out there, I give you more credit than you could ever imagine. The patience, grace and love you display each and every day is astounding, and I commend you deeply for it. You turned down SAHM Avenue and never even looked back in your rear view mirror, and that’s pretty incredible. But for me, the next left at Working Professional Boulevard, that’s my turn.

-Ambitioussoul

Oh, and here’s the article I reference in this post!

Like a Boss

Ambitioussoul

Your future awaits.

Apparently, according to my 19-year-old sister, the title of this post is a phrase that has recently been coined as hip and, well, awesome. It just so happens that it sparked my idea for today’s post. Like a boss… who knew?

I know I’ve been a terrible blogger lately. And I’m not going to bore you all listing the reasons why. Have you ever heard the term “organized chaos?” Well, my life has been “UNorganized chaos.” Enough said…

Among all of this chaos, I decided to start my own home-based business. (I know, for those of you who know me, you’re rolling your eyes…) So why would I want to do this? Why would I want to increase the chaos? It’s not enough that I’m so crazy I typically leave the house with Cheerios stuck to my sweater? Welp, it’s all about the BIG PICTURE. Let me explain.

Throughout the past couple of Financial Peace University classes I’ve taught, there are so many people who struggle with a monthly budget because there’s not enough month left at the end of the money. They are literally left with $3 extra each month (if they’re lucky,) to buy a slushee on the way home from a day of running all over kingdom come. When you are living so incredibly tight, how are you supposed to bank extra money towards an emergency fund or debts? Many people would answer, “It’s impossible.” But I challenge everyone in my classes to get creative, like I had to do. Just because I sit at the head of the table doesn’t mean I’m any different. I had to take charge. Like a… well, boss.

As I depicted above, sometimes it’s not a budgeting issue that people have—it’s an income issue. But after much deliberation, it may seem as though a job at the mall or the grocery store wouldn’t be worth the effort, especially after taxes are accounted for. But like I’m sure you’ve heard before, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. So you have to CHANGE your strategy!

Think about it this way: if you had to have a second (or in some cases a third job) for only 1 year, could you do it? Of course you could! You can do anything, especially when you know it’s only temporary. That’s the mindset you have to have when charting a new financial path for yourself. Whether it’s a home-based business, like what I chose to do, or something within the confines of a retail operation or a franchise, something is always better than nothing.

I guess it’s all about how bad you want it, how fast you want it, and what your “it” is. Is it getting out of debt? Is it saving for a house? Whatever it is, get passionate. Get dedicated. Like a boss.

-Ambitioussoul

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Planning on Whatever

ambitioussoul

Check it out on Amazon!

I’d like to start this post off by apologizing for my serious case of blogger’s neglect. I realized I haven’t written in what seems like forever, but I’ll admit– the holidays and the proverbial hang over they left behind were a bit much for me this year. But as this post clearly indicates, I’m back in action 🙂

I realize the title of this blog is a bit oxymoronic… “whatever” doesn’t typically hold any weight in a planner’s vocabulary. It’s a word we hate. When we hear that word, it basically says to us, “I’m flying by the seat of my pants and I do not have a plan… at all… and I’m going to take you on this wild ride with me.” This is where I’d say to myself, “Umm… no thank you,” and start coming up with a plan of my own. But thanks to my daughter’s AMAZING babysitter, I’ve started to loosen up a bit and realize that saying, “Yes, please” every so often to these types of propositions could lead to something truly life changing.

Ashley is a super mom. She has two boys of her own and she watches several kids, including Maryn, 5 days a week. She still has time to cook, bake, be an awesome wife and most recently, a top-rated author. Wait, what? That’s right, a top-rated author. And it all happened on accident!

You see, Ashley found her love of reading of guilty pleasure fiction when she read “50 Shades of Gray.” She read the trilogy in three days (that’s right, do the math– that’s a book a day,) and found she was letting her imagination run wild after finishing books. She would lay in bed for hours on end trying to shut her mind off, but it was impossible. After many sleepless nights, Ashley decided there was only one way to calm her mind: she had to write her own book.

And that’s exactly what she did. After researching the ways of an author, finding editors, beta readers and bloggers who were willing to start a “buzz” for her, she finally had the support she needed to publish her first book, “Planning on Forever.”

Her book has been getting rave reviews and has climbed the ranks on Amazon for the past several weeks. Now she’s getting ready to release her second book, “Summer Rush,” and I know that will be just as good, if not better, than her first book. Now she will eventually be able to do what she loves to help support her family. And to me, there’s no greater gift than that.

Following Ashley through this crazy process, she’s taught me an invaluable lesson: sometimes, when you plan on “whatever,” it turns into a plan that lasts “forever.”

-Ambitioussoul

To check out Ashley’s book, go to Amazon.com and search “Planning on Forever” or “Ashley Wilcox.” You won’t be disappointed!

The 10-Day Hustle

That’s right, everyone. Christmas is 10 days away. 10 days. That means tomorrow it will only be single-digits away. Are you ready? (And yes, I can hear your echoing, angry “nos” all the way in Upstate New York.) So if your shopping still isn’t done, you’re still trying to decide between ham and turkey on Christmas Eve and you haven’t even decided on the holiday schedule (because we ALL need one,) this post may overwhelm you at first. But just know I want to help you compartmentalize, so you can focus on one thing at a time and enjoy doing it!

As for me, when I tell people my tree is up and decorated, my home is peppered with homemade crafts and DIY Christmas apparel to make it feel more warm, cozy and well “Christmasy,” my dining room table is set and my gifts are wrapped, I get the total evil eye, coupled with a chastising tone. And I totally get why, because that was me in 2011. But this year, I decided things were going to be different. This year, I was going to be proactive.

I know it’s a bit late to talk about the ins and outs of being “proactive” with Christmas and all its glory right around the corner, but hopefully these tips will allow you to use the next 10 months or so to mentally prepare yourself to start strategizing for Christmas 2013. It may seem ridiculous that I even suggest such a thing, but we all know it’s true! I’m not going to over-stimulate everyone and talk about every facet of holiday planning, but I’ve picked a couple that I know can be daunting. Here we go…

Setting the table for your Christmas celebration
We all know PInterest can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, there are a million and one cute ideas on how to set your table for the wonderful dinner you will serve, but how do you choose which motif to go with? Centerpieces, tablecloths, napkins, runners…. ahhhh! But if you take this step-by-step approach, you can actually decide what you’d like your table to look like before you even get to the store. How do you ask?

1) Find old treasures. Dig through the bins of Christmas decorations you may not be using, and try to picture how they could be used in your centerpiece. Whether a wintry wreath or some pretty bulbs, you’re sure to come up with some ideas. Once you have a clear picture of what you already own and don’t need to buy, this will help you decide on a concrete and reasonable budget (both operative words here.)

2) Define a table setting budget. Yes, I said it, a budget. Now that you’ve taken an inventory of what you have and know what you’ll use, this will be easy. Speaking of budget, Dave Ramsey has an awesome Christmas budget sheet available on his website. Again, I know it’s only 10 days before Christmas, but this may help you stay financially organized. As we all know, when days start to get crazy, money just flies out of our bank accounts.

3) Choose a color scheme. This may be a little difficult to do without standing in Target’s Christmas aisle for 45 minutes, but at least limit yourself based on the materials you already have. For example, I knew I needed a silver, gold or green tablecloth and napkins to match the bulbs I was going to use. It was much easier to find those items in one of the three colors than heading to the store without a clue. When that happens, I always end up frustrated, overwhelmed and, well, sweaty.

Guide to Christmas planning

Ready, set, Christmas!

For my table setting that you see here, the only things I bought new were the tablecloth and the linen napkins. I had everything else (little did I know!) Total cost: $25. Budgeted: $30

The Perfect Gift… Wrapping!
This year I vowed to myself I would not buy one ounce of wrapping paper or any other packaging paraphernalia. I was going to use what I already had. <GASP> But once again, after taking an inventory of everything from bows and ribbons to bags and tags, I didn’t need to buy a thing!

Guide to Christmas planning

A flower topper

Not only did I not buy any wrapping paper, but I used scraps I never thought I would have a use for (unless I was giving someone a pet millipede,) to make my own homemade bows and gift toppers. And I must say, my gifts this year look soooo amazing!

So how do you make said bows? Well, since I’m trying to whole “less is more” thing, I’ll give you the steps to make the flower topper above, since that seems to be a favorite. You’ll need:

– Scrap wrapping paper (length and width will determine the circumference of the flower)
– Scissors
-Stapler
-Curling ribbon or twine

1) First, take your scrap paper and fold it accordion-style, first away from you, then towards you. It doesn’t matter if the printed side is face up or face down.

2) Once you have your makeshift fan, staple it in the middle.

3) Using your scissors, cut either a pointed or a curved design on each end.

4) Fan the paper out, connecting the two sides with either a piece of tape or another staple.

5) Complete with a bow or ribbon of your choice in the middle to give it some extra flair.

And ta-da! Happy bow making!

So, with all of this said, remember, baby steps. Take one thing at a time. And hopefully I’ve inspired you to get your table set and your gifts wrapped… today!

-Ambitioussoul

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Macy’s or Memories: A Christmas Tree Conundrum

Christmas Tree Decorating

Christmas Tree Conundrum Turned Compromise

Well, it’s that time of year in our household where the Rubbermaid bins of ornaments are lugged from the basement to the living room, only to be critically analyzed and categorized by yours truly. I start to sort the ornaments based on color, carefully making my selections on a strictly aesthetically pleasing basis and begin methodically planning my decorating technique for the upcoming Christmas season.

All of this careful strategizing is quickly turned upside down when my husband enters the room and starts to pull out the folk art ornaments his mom made for a small-town western Pennsylvania craft show in 1988 and the myriad of Pittsburgh Steelers ornaments he’s collected, immortalizing all 30 football seasons since he’s been born. And yes, I said 30.

I roll my eyes, quietly scolding myself for thinking this year would somehow be different than all the rest. I try to sneak some of the ornaments back into the bin, he pulls them back out. This charade goes on for several minutes before I start to lose it, knowing the tired conversation we have every single Christmas is on the horizon.

Every year we have the same debate: I want a themed tree, one that could be a serious contender in a Martha Stewart magazine contest. He wants a tree representing a lifetime full of memories as children, husband and wife and now as parents. As I listen to his droning, I glance out the window and fall into the often unescapable zone of holiday nostalgia. As I watch the snow fall gracefully on the ground, I inhale, remembering what Christmas used to smell like, what it used to feel like, what it used to be like.

I quickly snap out of it. No, he can’t do this to me. Not again. Not this year. I WILL GET THE TREE OF MY DREAMS. I know, so many of you are thinking, “Compromise?” We’ll get there…

My Dream Tree

Forget sugar plum fairies. You see, I DREAM about the perfect tree. And my dream tree looks something like you’d see in the 34th Street Macy’s display window. I want the lights to subtly glisten, illuminating each ornament that has been delicately placed. I want the beads seeming as if they have been haphazardly wrapped, but in truth perfectly draped by no accident at all, each rope equidistant from one another. I want the ornaments to match impeccably. Whether the color scheme be silver and gold, or red and green, or plum and hunter, each and every ornament should compliment the colors of the one that surrounds it. I want a tree I can sit in front of each night, admiring its artistic integrity.

His Dream Tree

In one word: shmorgishborg. Like the annual pot luck dinner at church. He believes every single ornament he’s ever held in his palms, belongs on the tree. Forget aesthetics. Forget dreams (well, mine at least.) None of this matters to him. He wants to take each ornament out of the box and talk about where it came from, who gave it to him and why it belongs on the tree. Can you say MADNESS?

The Compromise

I suppose you can find honor and value in what my husband believes a tree should stand for. And this was the first year I actually took the time to think about this. I decided I agreed with and respected what he had to say.But that still didn’t solve how we were going to both get the tree we’ve always wanted. After some quick deliberation, we came to the only feasible decision: we must have two trees.

One, Two, Tree

So yes, we will be adopting the two-tree approach this year. That way if I want to reflect on Christmases past, I can visit the tree in the family room. If I want to imagine I’m in Manhattan window shopping, I can saunter into the living room. It seems like the perfect set up. I just need to be careful not to meddle with his tree. We both deserve to have our Christmas tree dreams come true.

-Ambitioussoul

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Routine Rumble

Cleaning Calendars are cool!

Cleaning Calendars are cool!

I have a confession to make: I’m a routine fiend. Yes, all those years I’ve labeled myself as being “spontaneous” were a total lie. And I think deep down i knew that. But I never realized how much I depend on being enveloped in my usual day-to-day schedule. And when I’m not, it’s not a pretty sight.

I sort of knew all of this once I had Maryn, but I think I just suppressed it. I thought for sure after having her I’d want to be a stay-at-home mom, soaking up being by her side at every whim. I would daydream about getting her on the bus each and every morning and welcoming her home each afternoon with a different homemade snack and craft project to tackle, all while of course having my cleaning, shopping and cooking done by 5 p.m. I WANTED to want to stay home, but I quickly found out it just wasn’t me. By week 4 I was ready for re-entry. I wanted my desk, I wanted my computer, I wanted my co-workers.

For some of you, I know you’re wondering what kind of delusional world I’m living in, why anyone would want to be confined by any sort of regiment. What about the feeling of liberation? It’s kind of an oxy moron, but having a routine MAKES me feel liberated… uhh…

This all became blatantly obvious when Maryn got sick a few weeks ago. My husband and I had to juggle our work schedules, take turns bringing her to the doctor (she was there three times in one week,) finding babysitting arrangements when we really, really couldn’t miss work and staying up with her all night when her fever would get unbearable (for all of us!)

Everything was totally thrown off, sending me into a complete tailspin. I felt like I’d never gain control again. I kept thinking, “This is NOT what I planned to do today. I should be… doing the laundry, running, working, etc. etc.” I know it sounds like I’m being ridiculously overdramatic, but it’s exactly how I felt.

This is probably what’s led me to have a cleaning calendar (thank you, Pinterest!) I’m not sure if I was excited to see a plethora of cleaning calendars posted because I wanted to steal someone’s format or because I was relieved to see I wasn’t the ONLY crazy person out there that needed one.  But it keeps me on track. 2-3 tasks a night, and I’m golden. And yes, for some of you this is a total eye roller. For those of you who are as equally excited as I was, I’ve posted the one I use in case you’d like to use it as a guide.

Let me be clear: I’m not one of those people who eats the same thing depending on the day of the week (i.e. Monday is chicken night, Tuesday is pasta night, ya da ya da ya da.) And no, I’m not making that up to make myself feel better– I know people who do that. But in order to keep myself half sane, I do have to plan my post-work strategy accordingly. And being someone who revels in a neat, clean and clutter-free house, a cleaning calendar is a must.

For all of you out there who think I’m insane, good for you! I wish I could just roll with it. But for those of you who have been nodding your heads all the way through this post, you’re not alone. Fellow routiners, let’s keep on routining!

-Ambitioussoul

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The Change Crusade

Know it. Live it. Every day.

Do you ever have those times in your life that make you truly reflect? I’m not talking about the times where you’re washing dishes at the sink and stare out the window for two seconds and think, “I love my life,” or “I wish today would have gone better.” I’m talking about those moments that make you reflect so much that you actually change from them– moments or experiences where you can literally look back and say, “I’m changed for good because of…” (and yes, I stole that line from the “Wicked” soundtrack. What can I say? I’m hopelessly devoted to broadway shows.

For me, the past week hasn’t presented just one of these moments– there have been three. I think that’s God’s way of saying to me, “WAKE UP!” And the three…

“Amazing Grace”

Last Friday I attended a funeral for my friend’s mom. Although I didn’t know her well, I remember her being a woman of ultimate kindness and acceptance. She was one of those people who truly listened when you spoke. She didn’t just nod, waiting for her turn to speak her piece; she genuinely cared about what you had to say.

During the mass, the priest regarded this highly respected, loved and ultimately missed woman as an amazing grace. Those two words immediately brought tears to my eyes. Not only is that a song that “gets me” every time, but to hear him describe a person with this familiar adage was well, amazing to me. What a positive and unforgettable legacy to leave behind. I started to think about how proud my friend must have felt to be able to call himself her “son” and her his “mother.”

I began to think of the legacy I want to leave behind, how I want to be remembered when I’m gone.  Needless to say, there’s lots of work that needs to be done. But I’m willing to do it. And that’s half the battle.

Live and Give Like No One Else

This past Sunday was the last week of Financial Peace University. We had more than 50 people graduate from the class, and although I was helping to lead them all to true financial stability and confidence, I think I got more out of it than anyone else in the room.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey’s plan, the last of his seven baby steps instructs you to GIVE. Whether it be your money, time or energy, GIVE to those around you who need it most. Being so caught up in budgeting, checking my spreadsheet and rechecking it about 10,000 times a day, the reason why we’ve been saving so diligently and spending so cautiously got lost. We’re doing this so later on in life we can GIVE to our church, GIVE to the organizations in our community that we feel led to support, GIVE to our neighbors who may find financial hardships or painstaking tragedy.

Sitting there last Sunday brought me back to the funeral and what was said about the precious woman this world lost. No, it’s not about your ability or inability to be philanthropic monetarily, but it’s about what you give and why you give. It’s about caring for your neighbor more than you care for yourself. Talk about leaving a legacy. Whether you can give $1 or $1,000 a week to a local charity, it’s where your giving nature is rooted from. Are you doing it to be recognized? Are you doing it because you feel like you have to? Or are you doing it because it’s the right thing to do? You’ll find that if you’re giving from your heart and not necessarily from your head, the rest will follow.

Do Unto Others…

The week couldn’t have ended any more ironically. After the two revelations I described above, a day later I found out a little girl who goes to the same babysitter as my daughter lost everything in a house fire. Not only was she left without any clothes, toys or furniture, her mom is expecting another baby in a few months, and they lost all the baby items they had been saving.

After finding this out, I immediately felt a pang in my heart. I needed to do something, something that would give this family a sense of hope and maybe even peace during this horrific time. I just kept picturing the little girl’s sweet face and how innocently she always looks up at me with her big, brown eyes. Although only 4 years old, too young to really understand, I know it’s something she will never forget. Not only will fire be branded in her mind forever, but I want those thoughts to be almost masked by the generosity and selflessness people demonstrated during an extremely difficult time for her family.

With that in mind, I spread the word as quickly as I could (thank you social media,) and I had friends and family donating everything they possibly could: clothes, toys, furniture, baby items, etc. People were so willing to GIVE. YAY! As I was feverishly trying to manage all the donations (what a great problem to have, right?,) I started to pose the same questions to myself as I asked above. Why was I doing this? Why was I investing so much effort and so much time? It boiled down to a simple rule, the golden rule actually. “Do unto others as you would have them to do you.” Such a simple concept, but not easy to authenticate each and every day. But it was enough to get me to swing into action, so it must have some type of moral weight to it, right?

I think we all stumble upon reflective moments in our lives that can lead to a true and permanent change. But I believe whole-heartedly we need to be mindful and accepting of those moments, otherwise they can easily go unnoticed. After all, the only thing that’s constant in this world is change. So be amazing. Spread grace. And give.

-Ambitioussoul

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Turn. Smile. Shift. Repeat.

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Get a grip.

Not only is the title of this post a Phantom Planet song I used to play on repeat in my 1992 Geo Prizm (yup, that’s right) when I was a senior in high school, but it’s also the way I wished some things worked. The song’s lyrics refer to the daily hum drum we find ourselves falling into all too often. One morning you wake up and you realize you’ve been driving to the same job, hanging out with the same people, going to the same local establishments without even realizing it. Now that’s depressing.

But what about the things you WISH you could repeat? To either live them all over again for the pure happiness, excitement or surprise you felt, or to live them completely differently. In its most innocuous sense, I had one of these moments today. Let me set the stage for you…

I rushed home during lunch time to grab a can of soup. I didn’t want to spend money on lunch, so I figured soup from my own pantry was the best bet. I raced back to work, prepped my soup and brought it back to my desk. I picked up my phone (yup, the one I’ve had for only two weeks,) and I proceeded to drop it right into my delicious bowl of Chicken Noodle goodness.

My life with my phone as my closest companion for the past two weeks flashed before my eyes, as everything else moved in slow motion. I immediately rescued my phone and manically began to pat it dry and blowing on it (not exactly sure what I was trying to accomplish there.) It was one of those moments where all you can think is, “This is really not happening right now…” Of course my own voice echoed in my head, replaying the conversation I had with the wireless provider rep as she offered insurance on my phone. “Oh, no thank you. I’m all set.” AHHHHH!

It was one of those moments where you immediately start to get really hot, knowing your cheeks resemble those of someone who’s been out in the blazing sun for three hours without water. My throat closed up, and I couldn’t think clearly. Random thoughts raced through my head, knowing my husband was going to be less than pleased, people were going to try to get ahold of me and get my oh-so-annoying voicemail, spin, spin, spin…

But then I tried putting things into perspective, as I often times do. How could I be fretting over a stupid, replaceable phone, when thousands of people only a few hours away from me, are homeless today in the wake of Hurricane Sandy? Many have been separated from their family members, many have lost their lives, many have lost everything.

Why is it so difficult to naturally think like that? Why is the first reaction to anything a bit “havoc-like” to fly off the handle and feel as though the world is about to end? There are so many things that happen to us each and every day that in the grand scheme of things are so incredibly inconsequential.

And as for those moments we wish we could relive over and over again so we’d never have to let go of the naturally-charged high they gave us, sometimes the memories are all we need.

-Ambitioussoul

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Already breaking a sweat thinking about the holidays? Don’t worry– a stress-free holiday season is coming right up!

Two things you should know before delving into this post: 1) I LOVE the holidays. Whether it be Halloween, Christmas, 4th of July or Arbor Day, I love them all (okay, maybe not Arbor Day.) 2) I LOVE the word agita. I love it so much I know I could never adequately explain how much joy I get from using it on a daily basis. With all of this being said, I have a love-hate relationship with these two things when they come as a packaged deal.

I’m not going to start a rant about the holidays becoming so commercialized that before you know it you’re buying your 2-year-old a $60 turtle costume for Halloween and spending $150 on a brother-in-law you don’t even like for Christmas. But I AM going to talk about how the holidays have become SO STRESSFUL!

Let’s start with Halloween, since that’s the holiday that’s nearest approaching. I remember when I was little my mom would make our Halloween costumes– and they were awesome! One year I was a picnic table, another year I was a garden. My sisters had equally creative attires, including a pet shop, a tube of toothpaste and a bag of jelly beans. Going to the craft store with my mom to pick up all the essentials to bring these creations to life was the best part. I loved looking in all the magazines trying to pick out the craziest, most unique costumes. Sure there were kids in my grade who were scarecrows and ghosts and all of that, but I refused to succumb to the stereotypical get ups. And the best part of it all (especially for my mom at the time): our costumes were always super cheap.

Let’s fast forward to today. Parents bring their kids to a huge party supply or costume store, stand them in front of a gargantuan wall filled plastic bags on hooks and want them to choose what they’re going to be. WHAT?! Not only is there a glare on half of the bags from the florescent lights beating down on the sales floor, but the model kids dressed up in the enclosed costumes aren’t NEARLY as cute as your kid and are probably sewn into the costume. With all of this hoop-la aside, the costumes cost upwards of $40. Once again, WHAT?!

Now, as followers of mine know, I haven’t always been money conscious. Just two years ago I spent $70 on a Top Gun flight suit… and it didn’t even come with the aviators! So I totally understand how people get sucked in to it all. But I’m happy to say, since starting my budget and keeping track of how every dollar is spent, this girl goes to the Salvation Army to put together her costumes.

Onto Christmas, yes, the dreaded December 25 for so many. And why is it that Christmas comes with cringes and eye rolling? In my experience, it’s been because we’re pulled in a million different directions. We’re expected to be anywhere and everywhere all at the same time. By December 20, even before Christmas gets here, we’re ready to wave our white flag in surrender. Here’s a crazy statement: it shouldn’t BE that way. And if you think about it, WE’VE created it to be this manic panic, rushing around from one part of town to the other, out of the car, in the car, stop at the store, need I go on? You know the drill.

All of this is aside from the heart palpitations we give ourselves when we in good faith set an ideal gift budget for ourselves mentally and then as we stand in the serpentine-style line at Kohl’s, calculating all our last-minute purchases in our brains, realize we’ve gone over… WAY over. And by the time you reach the cashier, you don’t even remember what you bought or who you bought the items for.

So, with all of this being said, here are a few holiday challenges for yourself:

1) Holidays fall on the SAME DAY (excluding good ‘ol Turkey Day,) EVERY YEAR. Even though it’s only October, start planning for the next several holidays, both in regards to commitments and budgets.

2) Come up with a plan of attack for the last of this year’s special occasions. Once you go over it in your mind a few times (and with the rest of your family,) you’ll find it’s easier to commit to sticking to it once the actual festivities begin.

Lastly, I’d like to throw in a shameless plug for all of my CNY followers out there. A friend of mine is holding a workshop called “Secrets to a Stress-Free Holiday” in December. She will be conducting several sessions, so it’s convenient for all who’d like to attend to do so. It’s only 90 minutes, and she’s sure to provide you with the tips you need to turn your holiday season into the best one you’ve had yet 🙂 She’ll talk about ways to decompress during this crazy time and how to make it not so crazy, along with sharing ideas on how to start memorable and meaningful family traditions. To register, please call Carol Kemp at 315.395.0765.

-Ambitioussoul

Annual Agita

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Pleading the 5th

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How can I not want two of these?!

I always imagined I’d have two children. Actually, that’s a lie. For several months before my daughter was born, I thought for sure I wanted three. Being one of three girls, I wanted my kids to have exactly what I had.

Sure there were times in my life where I wish I didn’t have any siblings. Those mornings rushing around before the bus came looking for my essential hair products and the new navy sweater with the tags still on it. Those nights where I had to stay home and babysit them as they ran around and screamed like two banshees on the Discovery Channel while all my other friends were at the movies. Yea, I could have done without those. But then I think about the relationship we have now, and I could never live without that. My sisters are my best friends. They are two people I always know I can trust– and that says a lot, considering I can only count the trustworthy people in my life on one hand, a recent and scarring revelation for me come to think of it.

But I digress (what else is new…) Now that Maryn has been here for 14 months, it’s finally settling in that she’s a permanent (and welcomed) fixture in our lives. I think for several months I was in denial, thinking this whole mommy thing was just temporary. Oh no, she’s here to stay. It’s taken me quite awhile to get used to the idea, being depressed for several weeks after coming home from the hospital. I just could not get over the fact that it would never be just my husband and I again– there would always be three of us. AHHHH! How was I supposed to process all of that?! But here I am many months later, and I love being a mom. The real question: do I love it enough to be a mom of two? I’m not so sure…

…so when people ask me “When are you going to start trying for #2?,” I get this nasty pit in my stomach and my throat starts to close up. How do I tell someone I’m just not sure that I want another baby, that I may be part of the one and done club? Especially when many people surrounding me who have children the same age or even younger than Maryn are pregnant again?!!! Instead of stuttering and feeling the potential burning of tears in my eyes, I shut down. That’s right. For at least 10-20 seconds (which seems like a lifetime in “waiting for a response” land,) I don’t say a word. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!

I don’t know why I stress about letting the askers down. I mean, let’s face it, they’re not going through the physical, mental and emotional turmoil of it all. And it’s my decision, right? Maybe it’s about letting myself down. Maybe it’s about not following “the plan” I had always latched onto in my own mind.

Instead of really facing the question head on and dealing with it, I’ve decided I have an answer: I will not start thinking about having another baby until we are completely debt free. Hopefully in the listener’s mind, this will seem to be a sensible answer, skirting around all the other ancillary issues surrounding this question that sends me into death-grip mode. And I can’t say it’s all for deflection sake. Thinking about having another baby freaks me out enough on principle. Then once I start thinking about the financial implications, my skin gets blotchy, my heart starts racing, and my eyelids start to flutter, all from the sheer panic I’m enduring.

I understand the love you have and the bond you share with a child is priceless. And I wouldn’t change anything in my life for a second when it comes to Maryn and how much she’s impacted my life. But as Dave would say, it’s just not in the budget…

-Ambitioussoul

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