Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A truly happy new year!!

Yay, for getting through a 15 credit hour semester this past fall!!!  :) :)
     Life was a challenge, and we finally got the hang of things around November when the semester was nearly finished. What matters most, is that it's behind us!!! I have thoroughly enjoyed Christmas/winter break with the kids, as this was the first one in two years without disruptions or chaos! Two Christmases ago was when my ex told both our families that he was gay and we were getting a divorce (I was in agreement having known he was gay for 16 of our 18 years, and having had worked through everything together ... but chaos within the extended family ensued).
One year ago was when my ex actually moved out of the house. He had lived in the basement after our divorce, for both of us to regain financial stability. Though I had anticipated his moving out, it was still uncomfortable celebrating Christmas last year.
   All of that to say .... I enjoyed soaking in everything Christmas THIS year! I took Ashlyn to see the Nutcracker, partly for her 13th birthday, and partly for Christmas. We had such a great time together!! I entered a drawing for a free ticket to the Christmas Symphony.... and I won!!!  I was SO excited to attend the Symphony for my first time ever (I didn't have the kids that weekend, and they had other plans). 
We also made a gingerbread house and baked cookies for neighbors. I think it may have been the first time in a couple years (?) since baking for neighbors, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

 At the Nutcracker! :)
My first Symphony!!!
                                                   My beautiful & fun daughter :)                     

      I was also starting over with Christmas decorations, due to the divorce. Thanks to after Christmas sales last year, and Hobby Lobby this year, my house once again looked like Christmas had arrived!!!   :)
     Christmas eve, we all attended Ashlyn's choir performance at the church where she and Antonin attend with their dad. What a nice evening! I am thankful we can all be on good terms with one another and remember the focus of life itself- Christ. Once we take our eyes off Christ, that is when chaos and strife develops.
     Now a new year is upon us- 2018!!! 
 I admit that I couldn't completely relax this winter break, because I was preparing to take my Praxis exam. The purpose of the Praxis is to become a certified educator within the state of Colorado.  I took my four hour exam yesterday without any breaks for food or water, because I'm such a slow test taker and needed the allotted time for each section. I passed all the sections well, except for math. :(   My scores in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science, were well above the passing mark which surprised me! I was only a few points away from passing the math section.
     I will now find all my old math notebooks and review & practice everything I learned in college. I know that sounds funny and you're thinking "why didn't you do that in the first place?". Well, I had thought that practicing out of the Praxis book and the Praxis website would be sufficient. I see now, however, that the type of math questions can be anything other than practice tests. ;)  I am glad I can retake the math section only, instead of retaking all four subjects. Four hours of sitting in front of a computer screen is exhausting-especially without food or water!! That said, I wasn't really that hungry since I'm a nervous timed test taker. :)  

     One reason I didn't take the time to go through my old math notebooks pre-Praxis (among other "life happenings"), is because Caleb got his wisdom teeth removed this past Friday!! It had been recommended that his wisdom teeth come out last summer, but we waited for his dad's insurance to change for this new year. I'm glad we didn't wait any longer, because the oral surgeon discovered an infection in one area, and also removed a funky looking sore for a biopsy. We won't know the results of the biopsy until later this month. Caleb had a challenging weekend with the reintroduction of foods into his diet, but the great news is that he had little pain! He returned to school today, and I'm glad he is doing well!!

     Spring semester begins next week.Where did my winter break disappear to?! This semester, I will carry 12 credit hours and continue working my two part time jobs. I am becoming more excited that next year (2018-2019) is my student teaching year, and that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter!
     I'm anticipating this new year, named 2018. Wow! Where has the time gone?! Have I been sleeping? ;)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Making money at home- Penny Hoarder

Wow! Take a look at this list of ideas in making a few extra dollars in your free time!   :)
I have considered renting out a room downstairs, but the problem is that my kids are with me every other week.  lol! I am not certain how to work that out. ;)
 In between my lesson plans and homework assignments, I'll make a list of ideas that might potentially work for me! Click the link below to read the article.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Single Mom Finances

     I am well aware that everyone has finances to balance- not just single moms. However, "finance" has been a large issue that I've noted within single mom circles & discussions, along with my own personal experience. What causes the struggle for single parents?  Perhaps, like myself, their annual income suddenly decreased post- divorce by about $12,000 a year (comparing to pre-divorce, joint income). Yes- my income decreased that much, even with being paid monthly support from my ex-spouse. Not only do single parents "lose" their former way of life, but the change in finance triggers fear in many.
 A single parent may hesitate asking for advice from family or friends during these financial changes, because they feel terribly embarrassed by the numbers. Sharing with a stranger may be more comfortable.   :)   My personal suggestion for single moms (or for anyone), is to meet with a financial adviser, like an Edward Jones professional. Financial advisers do more than investing in IRA's... they help one to consider personal life goals and set a present-time, realistic budget.
As I'm typing this, I realize I haven't been able to stick with one "pre-determined" budget, due to expenses constantly changing each month. As long as there's money to cover the bills, that's what's important, right?  lol!

Balancing my own finances .... I received student grants so that I could enter my third year of college, but this semester I still owed over $800 even after grants were applied to my account. I had had surgery to remove a benign ovarian tumor one month before school started, and wondered how I would pay for both school and medical bills. Thankfully, my Edward Jones adviser had previously set up a Money Market account, called an emergency fund. I was able to pay my college tuition this semester, as well as a medical & credit card bill. I requested a 12 month payment plan for paying my hospital bill, and am attempting to factor that into my monthly expenses so I won't use up ALL my emergency fund. lol! Putting $100/month back into the emergency fund sounds like it'll take forever, but I believe I have a working plan. :)
July & August were enormous months for the kids' school & medical, besides my own (with joint custody, I pay the first 60% of the kids' medical things, and I share other kids' costs 50/50)... and then there was one medical bill of my own that surprised me. I have definitely discovered the great importance of having an emergency fund, and encourage everyone to build one!

How am I keeping track of everything? Well, you know good and well that spreadsheets and/or written-out budgets don't always work.  Basically, I added all my expenses into my bank account for automatic monthly withdraw. Anything can be edited, and I love that I can see all expenses at a glance. The only thing NOT automatically withdrawn from my bank, is my credit card bills. I keep track of my credit card purchases, and then stop charging when I come to a certain amount. I know this sounds much more simplistic than offering a spreadsheet solution.... but it's what works for me.  :)  There may come a day when I'll need to make the minimum payment on my credit cards, but I am trying very hard to remain debt free. We'll see how long this lasts?  :)

Like other single moms, my biggest worry is the months when the 1st of the month lands on a weekend or holiday.  Mortgage is due and automatically withdrawn from the bank the first of the month .... but .... the Government Family Support thing... (my ex is required to pay support through it and not pay me directly)... is often delayed because of weekends or holidays.  So, sometimes it's a challenge making sure the mortgage money is in my bank at the end of any given month. lol!! I have met single parents with MUCH worse stories, so I am counting my blessings!!

Oh, the struggles and joys of making my own financial decisions!!  I am SO extremely grateful for how God stretches & rearranges money, and have so far been successful.  Though I was careful with money prior to my divorce, I never considered myself to be a "number cruncher"/financial expert. I'm hopeful that sharing my experience is an encouragement for those in similar situations. You may not see yourself  as "good with money", and I agree that spreadsheet formula's aren't always the key.  ;)  For me, I needed the support of a financial adviser. Do what YOU need to be a success, and refuse to get under the mentally that you're somehow  "$1,200/yr less than". Sure, your income may have significantly decreased, but that doesn't reflect what's inside your heart.  You are very capable ... because you're God's beloved!   :)  And... best of all... He is an amazing provider. Simply count the ways ....

Monday, August 21, 2017

I'm back again :)

I have obviously neglected my blog over the summer, and without good reasons "why".   :)  
In June, I visited Indiana with the kids to help celebrate my dad's 80th birthday and say farewell to my sister and brother in law who relocated to Florida.
The rest of the summer...? I honestly don't know where it disappeared. 
I had outpatient surgery 4 weeks ago to remove what was thought at the time to be a simple ovarian cyst. My Dr had been monitoring it since January since I tend to be conservative medically and wanted to give plenty of time to "resolve".  It turned out that it was actually a benign ovarian tumor instead! I'm grateful I didn't wait to take care of it. Tumors (vs cysts) continue growing larger in spite of preventive health methods, and also create growing issues. My mom traveled by airplane (her first time in 51 years) in order to be with me before, during, and after surgery. I know that's what mother's do, but I still think she's quite awesome!! I appreciate all her time and effort!  :)
Summer break appears to have been the best time for surgery... considering I'll carry 15 credit hours this fall.
I'm thankful for a good recovery, and hopeful to increase my exercise endurance in time. 

In light of the past two years... I sometimes believe my life story is one big joke. I have seen blessings mixed in, however, and don't take any of it for granted. I definitely understand the meaning of Jesus being "in the fire" with you. The "bad" or "unfortunate" never completely overwhelms nor consumes.

I'm entering my third year of college, and recently discovered that I will receive enough student aid to pay for this year's schooling. I am thankful for another year without student loans! [prior to my divorce, I was taking a couple of classes at a time and paying my way through. Now, I am a full time student, work part time, and a single mom].
 That said, I am not looking forward to this 15 credit semester and pray that God's "got this" and knows what He's doing. 
He knows I would rather be at home with my kids more often.
I certainly hope God's plans include more than my being in school for the rest of my life (education field- lol!). 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

End of semester and beginning of summer!

I actually have this summer off! My semester ended two weeks ago, and am already questioning where time has went. Everything I had planned for this summer... is it getting done? oh my ..
Remember that Economics class that was killing me? Well ... the instructor resigned a week before finals and failed to leave a final exam for the Department of Economics to give us. Chaotic story shorter, everything was graded on the curve, and I handed in extra credit. I ended up with an A- in the class!!!
No, I don't know what was going on with the instructor's personal or professional life, but I'm so grateful the students were taken care of by the Chairman and Dean.  Another lesson regarding not worrying about anything. 

Even with the end of spring semester, I'm still lacking time, and find that exhaustion accompanies it. I don't understand how some people can hold certain expectations of me.... or of any other single mom in the world. They honestly don't comprehend the exhaustion and/or challenges of single parenthood. 
One expectation I've noted, is that I remain single for an indefinite amount of time until I have somehow reached a pinnacle of "maturity" for remarriage. How can others even know what's inside my heart and mind to know when I am ready for another relationship?! lol!! Wouldn't I know this before anyone else, since I know myself better than anyone could?  I have noticed that when someone loses a spouse through death, seeking another mate is much more encouraged and supported by outsiders and/or friends. However, when a person loses a spouse through divorce, the divorced person is assumed to need many years of counsel while remaining a single hermit, or face friends' silence or indifference on the topic of dating. In reality, someone who has processed an end of marriage and divorce over a span of 2-3 years (or more), may actually be more "emotionally mature" and ready for a new relationship than someone whose spouse just died six months ago. Oh- I also realize that some do not believe in remarriage after divorce, but I'm not referring to that and won't get into that discussion.  :) 
So ... people may wonder why single moms prefer hanging out with other single moms? The dating topic likely is a fraction of it.  lol!!
Anyone who has experienced single parenthood knows the exhaustion and challenges involved ... and the importance of "teaming up" with a future spouse (for the benefit of the children, by the way. This also totally goes against what most people think).

I enjoyed a quiet Mother's Day with my three special children!!
They really are a bright light in my life, and I'm grateful I had/have the opportunity to be their mom!

 Caleb now works at Dairy Queen and has his driver's license; Antonin has his driver's permit, continues to play trumpet in school band and participate in Track & Cross Country.
Ashlyn enjoys playing clarinet in band, and has done a WONDERFUL job adjusting to Middle School this past year!!!  I am immensely proud of ALL three kiddos for adjusting to going back and forth between two homes this semester. 

I got together with my mentor yesterday for coffee at Till's, and we thought these bicycle racks were pretty amazing!!!!    :)  :) 

 She's my mentor, but I think we're about the same age.  lol!!
What a treat getting together for coffee (latte for me)!!!

One summer project I'm hoping to get done quickly- possibly before our June trip to Indiana- is to repaint the deck. A thoughtful neighbor removed as much old paint as possible (with the boys' help), but paint is stubborn. Tomorrow, I will begin sanding .... and hopefully it will not take me all day since I'd like to begin painting. lol! Projects always end up taking twice as long, so we'll see how things go. This will likely be a Memorial Day project with the kids' help.  :)

And ... yes! I cannot forget to mention how impressed I am with doTERRA, and how much I love their essential oils!! I am implementing oils within my daily life, and have seen improvements in so many areas. For instance, even though the life of a single mom is one of exhaustion, being able to be "uplifted" by peppermint and wild orange fragrance clears the mind and helps one begin their day more positively. :)  I am honestly not as exhausted as I *could* be. My children are also benefiting, though they inform me that I'm addicted. lol!
My personal website in case you'd like to check it out:  http://mydoterra.com/sarajuneflower

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Welcome Spring! :)

I am so grateful for a beautiful spring!!!! My life finally returned to a new normal during the winter, and I have anticipated new life for awhile!  :)  :)  :) 
I can finally walk around the neighborhood without thinking people are talking about me. Before you determine I'm just hyper sensitive ... it's very uncomfortable when neighbors sitting across the street suddenly stop their loud talking when you come into view during your walk. Yes, likely good & pleasant things were shared, but noticeable silence often stings more than words. I dislike not knowing what people are saying, and will join in the conversation next time.   :)  Honestly, by the end of the day, a single mom is very tired and not in the mood to approach individuals who appear to be observing her. No matter how nice the observant person is. :) Relationships and networking are both very important, however, and I need to work on being more open to spontaneous conversation with observant people.  Don't take me wrong ... I live in a fantastic neighborhood and am truly grateful for thoughtful neighbors who have been such a wonderful help (the best ones are the parent(s) of my kids' friends)!! :)   :)  I need to give back eventually ...

I have experienced an entire year of paperwork (filed for divorce last March), and am super excited to see a light at the end of the business tunnel!!! I am now a home owner, an Edward Jones customer, and a full-time college student. Nearly a year ago, I successfully applied for individual health & dental insurance, appealed for financial aid (& received 2 student grants!), and bought my first car (with a loan). Oh- and paperwork for auto and home insurance. :)   My Edward Jones person recommended getting Life Insurance and creating a Will. I groaned at the thought of MORE paperwork, but went ahead and applied for term life insurance. I plan to make an appointment soon with a lawyer to create a will. It's been two years ago in July, that I  first accepted the end of my marriage, and it's been one full year of endless paperwork. I am now good and ready for normal living!!  Well, a "new normal" living.  :)

Since I was still pretty new to the area, and had temporarily discontinued our church search during our separation and divorce process, I found myself attending Woodmen Valley Chapel since it was close by. It was only 10 minutes away. Seriously- I am always right on time these days (vs. being early), and I need a church to be as close as possible!!!
Through Woodmen Valley, I heard about a ministry for single moms, called "SEEN". I have been enjoying the times together, and often realize how blessed I am. My story could have been SO much worse!  I am often humbled when I recognize that I haven't yet struggled in areas other single moms have struggled. I'm often tempted to worry and fear that times will grow much worse since I've only been financially responsible for myself for 1 year (the women experiencing financial difficulty have been single longer), and then I quickly make myself think about Jesus, and ask Him to please keep taking care of me.

Though I've been financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually responsible of myself for just one year, it's been two years ago in July since my life changed. I am very grateful for God's grace, protection, and provision! I am immensely thankful that He has healed and begun a new work, and I have learned a lot more about myself than ever!! I have learned how to simplify life and do what is "well and healthy" for myself.   :)  I know that sounds hippy-like, but it's very true! So often, we fall into a rut of doing what everyone else does. "How would so-and-so respond to this problem?" In order to eliminate unhealthy stress, I've learned to ask God what is best for me before making decisions. I've made a few unwise choices, and discovered I had failed to pray and ask what was best for me in those situations. So .... I guess you'd say that I've been learning how to set aside any legalism that keeps wanting to hold on to me.  :)  I am thinking for myself, trusting that God somehow knows what He is doing. He has led me well into what's best for me. Nothing really makes sense at this point, but I'm sure there will be a better chapter one of these days. 

My spring semester is winding down, and my Economics class is killing me. The good news is that I paid extra to practice problems online (perhaps one of my unwise choices that now I think ended up being good)... and there is free tutoring on campus. I am hopeful to "hit" the tutoring later this week, and then study with a classmate on Saturday (a female- don't jump to conclusions so fast!). I honestly hope I do alright on the test!!

Two more years until my BA degree seems like a long time, and I am prayerful that God has more ideas in his mind for me besides schooling. :)  Some people think it's good to stay busy. I believe there is a good balance, and each person has to find their individualized balance. Staying aware of my children's continued need of me (even though they are teens & pre-teen), if I need to work less while in college, I will. Sometimes "busy" is not always good, and another area where I'm learning to listen to my heart. I want to do what's best for me and my kids.  :) Balancing my heart with real life is where I obviously need God to step in .....   lol!

Oh- I joined doTERRA essential oils to help keep myself and kids healthy. This is an area I have felt that I've needed to take better care of myself (health & wellness). I am loving my oils because they are amazing!  I will share more about my oils next time!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March already!

So ... now it's mid-March?!

     Spring semester has been flying by with no holidays to celebrate (we didn't get President's Day off), and I'm very much looking forward to spring break next week!!!   :)  :) 

     I often keep my life to myself when in public or at work, because if conversation turns towards me, I hear, "I don't know how you do it!!"
Well, I simply place one foot in front of the other. No, I'm not a career driven woman, dreaming of my future job once I graduate from college in two years.
     If people could fully understand ... that I used to live my dream as a stay-at-home, home school mom. I used to have more time for things I enjoyed, including time spent with my children. Life wasn't perfect of course, but it was much more aligned with the desires of my heart.
     Now, I navigate a rigid schedule of full-time college student, homework, part-time employee, and full time housekeeper/mom...though I find little leisure time with my children. My present life is definitely not something to admire. Therefore ... when someone says, "I don't know how you do it!!!"  .... I reply, "I don't either!!"    :) 
     I've spent the last nine months keeping my head above a sea of paperwork. I received two student grants this year (after appealing for financial aid), and then began the process of refinancing my home and transferring half my ex-husband's retirement funds into my own Edward Jones accounts. I am so thankful that I don't yet have student loans, and am hopeful it will stay that way! 
     Nine months after the divorce was finalized (June 2016), I am happy to say that all paperwork has finally ended!!!  Woohoo!!!!
     With the refinancing process over, I'm now purchasing items for the house and making note of various projects I need to tackle. 
I found great deals at IKEA this past weekend, including a dresser for Antonin. I love how everything fit nicely in my RAV4!!!    :)  :) 

     Also, I've been redeeming my credit card points toward gift cards for various stores and restaurants. This way, I can feel like I'm getting free things for the house (or a great discount) when I go shopping.  And, I can eat at my favorite restaurant for "free" during my alone weekends.   :)  Yes, I am getting used to being alone every other weekend.  I know what you're dying to ask .... am I dating yet?
     I am discovering how difficult it is navigating the dating world, and find that having two teenagers and one pre-teen actually deters suitors. Plus, since I don't look my age, I shock many people with my *having* kids. lol! That would be funny if I end up with someone 20 years younger, since I'm constantly on UCCS's campus. Just because I wrote this does not indicate I will be jumping blindly into any relationships. lol!
     What about female friends?! Well, seeing how my life has changed 180 degrees .... when I have free time (weekends), most old friends are busy with their families. It's typically much easier going on a hike by myself on a beautiful day, than to try and arrange around others' schedules. Surviving full weeks means my brain grows tired of thinking and scheduling. The last thing I want to do is "think" for the weekends. This remains the most challenging aspect of single-motherhood, since I never plan ahead anymore (much more spontaneous) but I don't intend to neglect friendships!! I am doing the best I can, including making new single mom friends. It has been a refreshing experience meeting and getting to know other single mothers like myself at a weekly Bible Study. Perhaps, I will invite a couple of them on a weekend outing soon, since we're in the same boat and they may be just as spontaneous as me.  :)

     Just remember ... unless you've walked in the rocky shoes of single mothers around you, be careful of your responses and jumping to conclusions about their character. They may just need to talk... and be reminded that they're still beautiful women. Also, allow your single mom friends to dream how their futures may look. There isn't anything inerrantly evil thinking optimistically toward the future and praying for a new chapter with a new boyfriend and/or husband. Some people call it "Hope".   :)