Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dave Ramsey Would be Proud

Dave Ramsey would be proud of me.

I posted over the last few months about some of my money "issues."  What I didn't post, that really contributed to a lot of the angst over finances was that my job at the zoo at the end of 2011 was a big contributor to that angst.  At the zoo, I am limited to a maximum number of hours every year.  These hours equal about 1870 hours for the whole year. Should I work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, the total is 2080.  So, my hours are about 90% of full time.  I made it all the way until mid-October before checking in with HR to make sure I was still on track with my hours.  I was CERTAIN I'd done a good job of keeping track and sticking with my hours.

Imagine my shock when in mid-October I learned that I was ALMOST OUT OF HOURS FOR THE YEAR!  I was dismayed. How was I going to get through the rest of the year on so little money. In addition, one of my housemates informed me that she was moving out (which, honestly, is a whole other post to be written about the unethical way she handled this).  Compounded with the medical bill looming over my head, I kind of went into shock.  I did some serious budgeting and cutting of expenses and immediately began looking for another job.  I wouldn't have had money for food in December had someone from my church not anonymously given me $200.  Additionally, I had the huge blessing of the hospital forgiving the rest of my bill (almost $2500) from my ER visit in August.

I did manage to apply for several jobs.  And, I was hired for one of them in mid-December. I started working for Sylvan Learning Center as a tutor.  It wasn't my first pick, but at that point I didn't know if I would be hired for anywhere else.  Then at the end of December, I was hired by Rosetta Stone as an English teacher.  So, the two jobs in December helped me make it through with just barely enough money to get by. 

So for the last three months, I have been working three jobs.  In Dave Ramsey speak, I was "gazelling" it.  This was especially the case because my second housemate told me in February that SHE was moving out.  Boy was I glad for three jobs!  And for a while, it seemed do-able. 

However, in the two weeks it has become clear that physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I am NOT cut out to be working 55-60 hours per week.  Not if I want to have time to also eat well, do laundry, keep my house somewhat clean, and have time to spend with friends and family too.  So, I quit Sylvan.  It was the least-paying, least fun, least number of hours of all three jobs.  I know I should be in gazelle mode, but honestly, as much as I love Dave Ramsey and as much of his message that has impacted me, I just also have to be honest about what I am capable of. 

I am still applying all of the Dave Ramsey principles.  I am no longer using credit cards.  I have paid one of them off and I am 1/3 of the way through another.  If I keep up this payment schedule I could potentially be out of credit card debt as early as August.  Then, I would move onto my student loans and be out of student loan debt in another 8 months after that. 

And, I am so looking forward to being done with Sylvan.  It's only 5 hours out of my week, but in those 5 hours I could go grocery shopping, or do laundry, or cook dinner, or honestly just chill out.  I think those things are more than worth the $260 a month I'm losing by not working there any more.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Blogging Conundrum

So, obviously, I have not written a blog post, a REAL blog post in quite some time.  I have, actually, done this quite deliberately and quite purposefully.  Truth be told, I have learned a few things along the way the last six to seven months or so, and it has affected my desire to post.

1.  I am not sure what of myself I actually want to be out in cyber space so publicly.  With all of the social media that's out there right now, life, it seems, for most people is lived pretty open and public.  However, if you put something out there, it's likened to making an announcement in a crowded room....people can overhear and are free to comment.  I am still in the midst of an internal debate with myself about what I actually want out as public knowledge. There are people who read my blog (not any of my 'subscribers') that I honestly don't want reading my blog.  Ultimately, what I want is real relationships with real people, not people reading about me and believing that this is actually the same as being in my life.

2.  I am still not sure what, exactly, my blog is about.  Sometimes I post stuff about myself personally.  I have posted links to articles that others have written, or even written blogs myself in response to one thing or another going on out in the world that I felt I had something to say about.  This lack of focus of my blog has been the major reason why I have blogged in fits rather than consistently.

3.  Sometimes, saying the same thing over and over gets redundant.  Life is in constant change and my life is no different.  However, some of the major themes of my last few years of blogging have not changed much.  Even I get tired of  writing about the same things.  If my blog were more of a "day-to-day" in the life of Erin, it might be a different story.  Then, I would post about the mundane things that change, rather than the "big ticket" items. 

4.  Sometimes, no a LOT of times, I am really intimidated by the blogs of people that I subscribe to. Some of those blogs are even listed here should you chose to click on them.  I am not a missionary to a third-world country.  I'm not raising a huge family and writing all about the cool crafts or lessons I am teaching my kids.  I am not ministering to inner-city kids every week.  I am not...well, you get the picture. 

Sometimes when I open my blog and I start reading through my blog roll, or when I click on a blog that I have "favorited" on my computer I start to wonder, "What the heck am I doing that I would even write about?"  Speaking as someone who has struggled most of her life off and on with significance, coming face-to-face with all that others are doing is well, frankly, discouraging.  The last year or so has been a real journey for me in coming to terms with being OK with just being ME...with no other adjective to add on.  There are many days when I just know that coming to my blog to post is going to be a battle of comparison.   For this reason, should I continue to post, I might drop the blog list on the side.  We'll see.

There you have it, cyberspace and my 11 readers.  If you have any thoughts or feedback, I'd love to hear. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Dating, Relating....

Can it really be over a month since I last blogged?  I guess so!  A lot has happened and I'll try to blog later about some details. Meanwhile, I read this article by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church. While I don't always agree with him, sometimes he hits the nail right on the head.  This article is one.


I thought it was genius.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Let's Run the Race Together

I have some good news to report on the financial front.  Things are still tight, but I have managed to have a few blessings along the way! 

I called the alarm company to come out and fix my alarm.  It took a total of 15 minutes.  Rather than charge me the $130+, the service guy was gracious and only charged me for half that amount.  Whew! 

I have managed to get rid of the ants (so far) by using Raid on the inside of the house where they were coming in.  I also managed to figure out where they were entering the house from the outside and sprayed there too.  Voila, no ants!

My car is also fixed. I took it to Auto Zone where they diagnosed it for FREE.  They also sold me the parts I needed to fix it. Then, I gave the parts to a guy from church who repaired it for a mere fraction of the cost it would have been anywhere else. 

I was able to order a knob for my dryer off the Internet for about $10 and repaired it myself.

And, finally, I am borrowing a vacuum cleaner from a friend until I can repair my old one or buy a new one. 

So, this leaves my cat litter box, ceiling fan and medical bill left to take care of.  I purchased a cheap, covered litter box that will do for now, and with summer over, the ceiling fan can wait.  The medical bill is another story all-together, but I am working with the hospital to figure a payment plan out.

In other news, my current foray into online dating is coming to an end.  I have always had a hard time with online dating for many reasons and I think I have partially figured out why this is.  It has felt like this has been my only option to meet people, however, and I am pretty sure this won't be my last venture into the online dating world.  Right now I can't afford it, so my current season of this is coming to an end.

My success, or lack-there-of, is only partially why I am frustrated with online dating.  My most recent dip into the online dating pool didn't produce the "sharks" that I have talked about before.  But, the passivity I encountered with the men on there has just astounded me.  I have talked about this before, but sometimes I wonder whether men in the online dating world really want to find someone at all.

This time around, I was encouraged, initially, by the quality of men on paper that I was "meeting." Several of them were very promising and things got off to an amazing start.  I had no less than three dates lined up within a two-week span.  How many of them did I go on?  Exactly zero.

This is not from any kind of hesitation or lack of trying on my part.  Two of the three, when it came down to actually nailing down a day/time to meet, just kind of fell off the planet not to be heard from again.  One of the three at least continued to communicate with me, but kept coming up with one excuse after another: my car broke down, I have a friend in town from Germany for the week, etc.  Can you see what I mean?

So, as this latest venture winds to a close I was challenged recently by a couple of friends to actually write down what I am praying for in a husband.  I am not going to get into the full details of my list, but I realized, as I was writing it, just how important someone who is an initiator is to me.  I used to think *I* was the one who was passive...wanting so desperately to be pursued, or that I was fearful of stepping out and being vulnerable/putting myself out there. 

I am realizing, however, that really this is a deep heart-cry of mine.  Maybe it is rooted in fear or passivity on my part a little, because what of anything is ever 100% pure?  But, I think it's OK for me to say that I want someone who is a leader and an initiator.  I am those things, but I don't want to be the leader nor initiator in my relationship.  So, I think that is partially what bothers me about online dating....in a lot of ways I feel like it is too easy for the men on there to be passive, as evidenced by my latest round of online dating.  It feels like I am doing most of the work.

I know it only takes "one." I do have a few friends that have met their partners online and I know that it does happen, but I just sometimes really pray, deep deep down that I would just love to meet someone someday the "old fashioned way" and look at that person and realize that we are running the same race, in the same direction and that we'd be better running the race together than apart.  And, that he'd be the one to grab my hand and say "Let's run together."


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When it Rains, It Pours (AKA the blog in which I complain about finances)

In the last month or so I have taken one financial hit after another.  It is strange how everything seems to happen all at the same time.  Am I the only one who feels this way or is there some sort of generational curse I'm living under?

Here is the run-down of my financial woes since the middle of August.

1.  My alarm system has a monitor that is malfunctioning.  Normally you'd just call the company and have 'em come out and slide a new monitor, right? Except for the fact that I don't have a maintenance agreement with my alarm company.  They are going to charge me $135 for the first half hour and then $35 for every fifteen minutes after that.

2. My vacuum cleaner died.  This vacuum cleaner was a hand-me-down from my grandmother and we figure it is at least 20 years old.  This vacuum clearly is from an era when they actually made things to last rather than breakable.

3.  I have a *very* fancy cat litter box.  This is because in such a small house the smell of dirty cat litter is about the grossest thing ever.  As a result, I invested in a very fancy litter box that keeps my house nice and odor-free.  However, like current vacuum cleaners, this has not been designed to last as long as I would like.  It broke recently too.

4.  The knob on my dryer to turn it to the correct setting broke recently.

5.  The ceiling fan/light fixture on my ceiling in my living room died.  Not sure why, just died.

6.  At the end of August, I had an infection that morphed into a full-blow allergic reaction to the antibiotic that they put me on.  This resulted in hives all over my body as well as a spike temperature of 103.5 and a trip to the ER.  I just got the bill for my visit and it's going to cost me over $2500.

7.  I have an ant infestation in my house.  I am trying to fight it without calling an exterminator, but if I can't get rid of the, I'll have to fork out $200 for an exterminator.

8.  The "check engine" light is on in my car.  I'm not sure what's wrong, but I'll have to put it in to the dealership to have it looked at.

Anyone have any creative ideas for earning some extra money??


Friday, September 02, 2011

Hiatus Over

I have, as you may have noticed, been on a loooong hiatus from blogging.  It isn't that I haven't had things going on to blog about...it's been that I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off for the summer.

Here is what I have been up to:

1. Catalyst.  This is my church's summer program for college students.  I volunteered with this program last summer, in a very limited capacity.  This summer, my involvement was ramped up a notch.  Last summer I wrote and edited the devotional and just generally hung out with the students. This summer, I rewrote a part of the devotional, was also in charge of all the finances, and was the state-side communications liason for the month that the group was in Asia.  All of this plus working full time, plus all of the "social" thing that happen during the week left me pretty much busy from morning til evening most days of the week. Today is the last day of the school.  I love being involved with this, but it definitely is something I can only imagine doing for a couple of months at a time. I am not sure I can handle a schedule like I have had this summer all the time.  I know my house, yard, other friends and everything else that got neglected in the last few months certainly can't handle it!

2.  Family.  Back in June, my brother, sister-in-law and two nephews moved into town for good!  My brother has felt a call to church plant for a number of years and my parent's church feels called to plant churches....so it's been a great fit.  There is a need and my brother desires to fill that need.  So, they packed everything up and headed out here.  It has been maybe the best thing ever!!!  I have been spending tons of time over at my parents.  Brady, my three-year-old nephew got to come to summer camp at the zoo.  He and I went on a nephew/aunt date after one day at camp to McDonalds and then my house to play with my cats.  I also got to babysit Kason, the one-year-old while my brother and sister-in-law took Brady out.  It has been such a treasure having them here.  I love them all so, so much.

3.  Sickness.  In the middle of August I went to the Dr. to have a abscess looked at. They initially put me on antibiotics to try to take care of it that way. When those didn't work, they  lanced and drained it.  They also put me on a second antibiotic.  I had a severe reaction to the second antibiotic and ended up COVERED in hives from head to foot and running a 103.5 degree temperature.  Needless to say I was miserable.  I ended up at the doctor's office several times and even a took a trip to the Emergency Room one day.  It took me out for about a week.  I am all better now, but I won't be taking that antibiotic ever again!

4. Work.  I ran this year's summer camp program again, just as I have the last two summers.  This is summer was the best of all of the summers I have been a part of so far. The crew we had instructing was fabulous and it just went very, very well. 

What is coming up?
Honestly, I am not really sure.  Last year at this time I was going through one of the hardest times of the last four years.  The truth that it is always darkest right before dawn proved to be true yet again.  Starting in about November or December, things really turned around and have been great for the rest of the year.  But, I'll be honest, there is a real part of me that is scared that this fall will be like last fall.  If for no other reason than it is hard to not have a bit of a "let down" after being so busy.  And truthfully, many of the same circumstances are in play this year as were there last year.  I mean, in my head I know that no year is exactly  like the others, but it is still a fear, however irrational it may be.

Here are a few tidbits of what I DO know:
Possible involvement with PLU's campus ministry called "Ignite." 
Possible involvement in my church's women's ministry. 
A week-long trip to LA and then Phoenix for two weddings.
Postponement of my Africa trip until February or March.
Possible foray into online dating (this involves a whole other post, but suffice to say it has become clearer and clearer that this is probably the only feasible option for meeting someone, though in my heart of hearts, I despise and loathe online dating for many reasons).

I think that's all for now!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guard Your Heart

Right before I stared my freshman year of college, I began dating my first "real" boyfriend.  I mean that I fell for him *big time.* I tend not to do much half-way, and so I gave my heart to him about as fully as an 18-year-old can.  Without getting into the sordid details of the story, suffice to say my heart was broken pretty *big time* as well.

The result of this relationship is that I lost my ability to trust my discernment on the character of men, and so all men became unsafe.  I grabbed onto a verse and made it mine: "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23)."  I heard lots of messages about guarding my heart, but never really did hear how I was to do this in a practical way, nor did I hear any wisdom on how long I should do this.  So, what was my interpretation? Lock my heart up like a dungeon.

As I am navigating my world of singleness, though, I am coming to a new revelation....I'm not so sure that I've been interpreting this verse correctly.

I recently looked up the whole 4th chapter of Proverbs.  It has a lot to say about wisdom, but the section that contains the verse about guarding our hearts is actually a section on a call to righteousness! You see, back in biblical times, much as it is now, the "heart" was a catch-all word for thoughts, emotions, and soul.  What this verse, in context with the other verses around it, is saying is not to keep our hearts apart from others, but instead to keep our hearts apart from evil and instead preserved for righteousness.

Obviously, a lot of unrighteous things happen in the context of both romantic as well as platonic relationships, and in that sense, we need to be careful to put some things in place to keep those relationships from evil.  For example having accountability is a huge way to keep relationships pure.  I also think that determining in your heart the character traits of what a godly person looks like so you can recognize them in another is a huge help too (for example, teachability). But I think more than anything, prayer is key.  Prayer for wisdom and discernment are exactly what Phil 4:6-7 tells us is the best way to guard our hearts.

My revelation, however, has been that guarding my heart is not an all-or-nothing situation. I really believe that instead of being black and white, there is much more of a gradient scale with a lot of gray in between.  I'm not advocating giving our hearts away fully to anyone and everyone who comes along, but I am also not advocating for locking it away like it doesn't exist.

CS Lewis has a great quote: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

So, I am trying a new thing.  I am trying to figure out how to allow myself to be vulnerable and open, especially with the opposite sex.  I realize that this might mean I could get hurt....but that's the beauty of freedom...that you forgive, you heal, and you move on.  I find that a lot of women my age have become so discouraged by life that they have lost their youthful optimism and spirit.  That is the last thing I want to be.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


I never question whether the Lord has His best in mind for me when His best aligns with my ideas of what is best.  It is in those moments when His best doesn't line up with my idea of best that I question.  If I could agree that His best is always best, regardless of what it looks like, I could save myself a lot of heartache.  However, I think this is a large part of the human condition...agreeing with God that His best is best all the time. 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

You Can't Turn a Chihuahua into a German Shepherd

A Chihuahua is a small little dog.  They are considered a bit of a pocket pet, which means that have been breed specifically to be a companion animal.  They provide little else in the way of what other dogs might provide....not much of a guard dog (other than the fact that some of them bark), you can't really take them running, and you certainly wouldn't use them as a "working dog" (think herding dogs on a farm).  Their one and only purpose as a dog is to just hang out with their humans.

Now let's look at German Shepherds...now there is a dog with a lot of purpose.  They are great guard dogs, many of them are used as K9 dogs, you can take them running with you, and so on.  But certainly, if you wanted to put one in your purse and carry it around with you, like you would a Chihuahua, you would not be able to do that.  Paris Hilton, for example, would probably never chose a German Shepherd as a dog to own.

If you bought a Chihuahua you would never expect it to do or behave the way a German Shepherd does and vice verse.  They were designed to do very different things.  It would be ridiculous.

Yet, I regularly find myself admiring certain traits or personality characteristics of people around me, wishing I was more like them.  By this I don't mean traits that I should be admiring like patience, kindness, gentleness etc.  In fact, those ARE traits that I should be seeking to become more like in my own life.  Instead, I am talking about the traits in others that are things that you can't always, nor should you, become like.

For example, I have a friend who has several tattoos. In fact, she regularly says: I'm bored, I think I'll go get a tattoo today.  I, on the other hand, don't have a single one. I have thought about getting one for quite a while, but just have never done it.  At this point, I think it would be a surprise to me if I ever even got one.  I have yet another friend who is super into music.  All kinds of music.  She can carry on a conversation about music producers and albums and all sorts of things that I don't have a clue about.  I love music, I play the violin and a little guitar, and I have a decent singing voice, but I am not passionate about music like she is.

What I am finding, generally, is that those traits I admire are usually traits that I am jealous of, or jealous of what they "get" that person.  My friend with the tattoos....she connects with teens like no body's business.  She is amazing with them.  I on the other hand am seen as a bit of a fuddy duddy.  My other friend who is so into music....she had a lengthy conversation with someone tonight about music that was way over my head. 

I am learning more and more each day to stand confident and firm in who *I* am created to be.  I am probably never going to be the tattooed rocker chick (though I secretly love good rock music; especially with a good guitarist).  However, there are things about me that make me amazing and great.  There are things that my tattooed friend and my music friend don't have that I do.

Who I am is amazing and great and awesome and wonderful.....I can't become someone I am not and the sooner I stop trying to be...the sooner I will be at a greater level of peace.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering to be Thankful

When I was in college my grandmother suffered a stroke.  This first stroke was just one of many she suffered over the course of about three years until she finally died from one.  These strokes affected her in a progressively negative way.  The first one she had affected her ability to raise her right arm and also her speech.  She also fell and tore her rotator cuff in her left arm, rendering her virtually unable to use either of her arms.  As the strokes progressed in severity, her ability to take care of herself was also affected.  About a year after her first stroke, we decided to put her in an assisted living facility.  As she deteriorated, we moved her to an increasing level of care until finally, right at the end, she was in a fully assisted nursing home.

I remember my aunt coming up to visit my grandmother while she was still in a section of the facility that was for folks who were still fairly independent, but needed some extra help.  In this section of the facility she was served a couple of meals a day and got some help cleaning her apartment. 

During my aunt's visit, we ended up having lunch over at my grandmother's apartment.  After lunch, my aunt and I were washing dishes by hand and my aunt casually looked over at my grandmother and said, "Boy, I sure bet you don't miss washing dishes!"  Suddenly without warning, my grandmother burst into tears.  My aunt and I stood there shocked for a moment before we could register that my grandmother was crying over not being able to do the dishes.

I was pretty young when all of this was happening...maybe 20 or 21, but the memory of this day is etched with me.  You see, my grandmother wasn't sad because she liked doing dishes....she was sad because even if she had wanted to...she was physically incapable of helping.  It wasn't the dishes, it was what the dishes represented.  My grandmother was a feisty, strong and capable woman.  I don't know how she couldn't have been, growing up in the depression, raising a family of four and then in her later years nursing my invalid grandfather until his passing.  This woman, who'd served her family and others for her whole life was now almost completely dependent on other people. 

I had an epiphany at that moment....the epiphany was just how thankful and grateful I should be over the things I had...at any moment they could be taken away.  I resolved to try my best to complain less about the things in life that were really not worth my time or energy to complain about.

I was reminded of this truth again this past week.  I just got done reading a book called "90 Minutes in Heaven."  This book is about a man who died in a car accident.  He was so dead that the paramedics who arrived did not even bother doing CPR on him.  His dead body sat in his car for 90 minutes until a man happened to come along and asked to pray for him.  After being declared dead for 90 minutes, this man, named Don Piper, came back to life.  Of course an accident as traumatic as he was in had a lasting impact on him physically.  Much of the book is about his road to recovery after this accident.  He lives in almost constant pain, he has no use of one of his arms, his leg is missing a whole piece of bone and is shorter than his other leg, twisting his body and causing arthritis among many other physical ailments.

In one chapter of this book, Don describes the emotional trauma of realizing he is unable to throw a football with his boys again, and cannot take the youth group skiing like he used to.  I was struck anew with all that I take for granted in life.  I am relatively healthy.  All my arms, legs, fingers and toes work exactly the way they were designed to.  My brain is fully functional, I can communicate with others and take care of myself. 

I am resolved yet again to be grateful and thankful for what I have....even when it means I am mowing the lawn for the second time in a week, or doing laundry yet again, or any of the things in life that seem to be my least favorite things to do.  I am going to remember to be thankful I have the ability to do them.