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2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole

Hello world! On February 3, 2020, after a glorious January of drinking delicious green smoothies and crushing my health goals, I came down with a vicious, RELENTLESS COLD! I haven’t had a cold in like…YEARS. I honestly think I haven’t had a cold since some time before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Let me tell you, I don’t want another one again!!! I believe I picked it up from someone at work and passed it on to my husband. The rest is history. It was terrible! I’m mostly better, but I’m not 100% yet.

Despite spending the first half of February fighting a cold, I’ve set other goals related to my finances. Check out a snapshot of my vision board in the cover photo. (Ignore the weird smile.) Have you ever made up your mind about something to the point where you became obsessed??? This is me right now. I can barely think of anything else.

I’m not quite sure what clicked in my head that’s caused me to become so laser focused and determined to get out of debt, but I’m glad to be here. I’ve been reading and watching videos on YouTube daily, and mostly all day on weekends, about personal finance, getting out of debt, and building wealth.

Lucrece’s Financial reading

I’ve been toying with Dave Ramsey for years. I even bought his daughter, Rachel Cruze’s book and audio of “Love Your Life Not Theirs” (not pictured). I’ve taken on some of Dave Ramsey’s principles, many of which are from the Bible, but haven’t fully committed. For example, I’ve been doing a zero based budget for years. In my budget binder, where I track our household expenses, I can see I’ve been using the budget worksheet from one of his books since at least 2007-2008. I also have a Financial Planner I’ve recently recovered and have notes in there from 2008 (when my handwriting was much neater). What I haven’t done is save for the emergency fund and start the debt snowball yet.

For the last few years, I’ve been living in some kind of alternate reality, as best as I can describe, because I haven’t put much thought into my financial goals. Sure, I do a budget every month and pay my bills, but I haven’t planned much beyond that. Retirement and insurance are automatically withdrawn from my check. My husband hasn’t worked for a couple of years due to his health issues, so my income is all that we’re working with for this period in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things working in our favor with regard to our finances such as my salary and I’m fairly organized. However, there’s much, MUCH more work to be done. My husband is on board now too. Call it mid-life CRISIS or perimenopause, but there’s a sense of urgency in getting this part of my life together that I’ve not had before. I’d like to build wealth for my family.

Like most Americans today, a large chunk of my debt is student loan debt. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do some things differently; however, I can’t go back in the past. I must move forward learning the light lessons along the way. I’m highly educated (my student loans are my receipt of this education) and am going to use the tools I already possess to reach my financial goals.

I’ve taken the time to total my debt, which I haven’t done in years and years. I think this is a sign I’m serious. I actually wrote down the numbers. The amount is mind boggling. However, I know if we (my husband and I) put our minds to it, we can dig ourselves out of this hole. You can too.

The best place to start is to: acknowledge there is a problem, decide to do something about it, decide on the best course of action, plan, and then put your plan to ACTION. Also, surround yourself with information and successful stories of people who have reached your same goals. And then often VISUALIZE yourself reaching your goal(s). IMAGINE what it feels like. How good does it feel to make that accomplishment?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What are your financial goals for 2020? How much progress have you made? Planning on getting a 2nd or 3rd job?

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2020 Communication-Can you hear me MEOW?

Let’s get clear about something in 2020. Effective communication is essential in sustaining fulfilling relationships. Yet, in communicating, it’s so easy to get wires crossed, misinterpret, make assumptions, jump to conclusions, ignore the facts, etc. I urge everyone to work on improving your communication in 2020. If you think you communicate superbly, you might want to consider further refining your skills.

What am I talking about? I’m glad you asked because as you know, communication takes several forms such verbal, nonverbal, and written. The communication styles I learned about in college as a social sciences student was assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive. (HINT: You want to be assertive.) There are many platforms of which to communicate (Ex., in person, phone, instant message, text, emails, audio, video calls, etc.) and the act of communicating can entail multiple simultaneous activities (Ex., listening, watching, speaking, processing, interpreting, etc.)

At my place of work, communication is a constant challenge because I work for a large bureaucratic agency. The volume of work is VAST. I’m flooded with emails on a daily basis. And here’s a NEWS FLASH!!! Emails are not the most effective mode of communication. Yet interestingly, many people think it is the best way to communicate. My opinion is that in person is the best way and all other modes can work to support in person communication, but not without extra effort.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed communication problems with a member of my team. In these types of situations, as the leader, I assess where I can tighten up my communication style to ensure I’m communicating effectively. Be direct. Check. Give sufficient information – no more, no less. Check. Paraphrase what was said to ensure I understand. Check. Repeat. Check. Summarize. Check. However, despite my best efforts, communication continued to decline. We ended up having a meeting with a director to help mediate the situation. At the end of the day, it was a matter of communication styles and some other factors.

I love how my cats Beignet and Cannoli (pictured) communicate with the four humans in their house (us) and with each other. Beignet is the alpha cat of the two. He’s aggressive with his expression of love. He is constantly affirming his love for me by following me EVERY WHERE, giving me tail hugs, brushing up against my leg when I’m on the toilet, meowing for me to open the door after I purposely locked him out, winking at me when we lock eyes, laying on my chest in the early morning, sleeping on my shoes, and believe it or not, there are many more ways Beignet displays his love for me.

Cannoli does all the same things as Beignet, but to a much more tame degree. He barely meows. Yet, he will communicate he loves me by laying at the foot of the bed instead of on my chest, except for when I’m on the couch…he’ll lay on my lap. He’ll gently rub against me when passing by, but not always. He’ll give me a wink too if he feels like it. I don’t get quite as many physical expressions of love from Cannoli as Beignet, but that’s fine because they’re different cats, communicating the same thing. They love me. Message received.

When my kids were younger and we first got our cats as kittens, I taught them to “listen” to what the cats were trying to tell us by their actions. I especially had to remind my daughter, the younger of my two kids. Don’t keep trying to hold Cannoli when he’s squirming in your arms. Let him go. He’ll come back to you when he’s ready. Beignet is wagging his tail rapidly and his ears are pointed up, which probably means he’s agitated and may lash out at you. Don’t get in his face. Cannoli is rubbing up against you again, which probably means he wants you to pick him up. There are plenty of nonverbal cues our cats give to let us know what they want, but you have to be observant and discerning.

I wish communicating with other humans were as simple as communicating with pets. Despite all the tools at our disposal, communication can go haywire if you don’t pay attention. Each person is different, has different learning and communication styles, and motivations. People can use all the tools thinking communication will be better, but not necessarily. It takes effort and intentionality. Beignet demonstrates his love using all of his tools and because I’ve received his message, I reciprocate. You have to be intentional about communicating. I’ll do a later post on communicating with your loved ones.

So I encourage you to evaluate how you may need to improve your communication style in 2020. There is always room for improvement.

What’s your communication style? What areas do you need to improve upon?

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Nobody’s gonna save you

Today is Day 24 of drinking my delicious green smoothies. I’m RAWKING my health goals! It dawned on me these last few weeks, as I’ve been organizing my personal affairs, that there are some things I’m letting go of effective immediately. I don’t want to spend another day in 2020 disillusioned, believing:

  • Someone else will save me.
  • Someone else will fix it.
  • Someone else will take care of me.
  • Someone else knows what’s best for me.

No, no, no! The sooner you come to the realization that nobody’s gonna save you, the better off you’ll be. You’re it. It’s you and God. With God, He’s more than enough.

What beliefs do you need to let go of in 2020?

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2020 Health Chronicles

This time of year, I’m usually vegan, but I’m vegetarian for right now because I enjoy a little cheese and plain, greek yogurt on occasion. I’ve been craving a GOOD veggie burger. Alas, it’s that time of the month where eating out is not an option, so the next thing I knew, I found myself searching online for black bean quinoa burger recipes.

Homemade black bean quinoa burger. LPC
Black bean quinoa burgers with shredded cheddar & sauteed onions & jalepenos LPC

This recipe was easy & super tasty. Since this isn’t a cooking blog, I don’t normally provide the step by step instructions. You can do an online search for recipes yourself. My main goal with sharing my food is to inspire you to cook at home and enjoy more plant based foods.

I will say that sauteeing onions, peppers, and spices in coconut oil prior to adding to the bowl of drained, smashed black beans added a flavorful touch. I also added bread crumbs, an egg, and more spices such as cumin, chilli powder, smoked garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little dab of liquid smoke.

I’ve blogged about setting yourself up for success to achieve your goals. In like fashion, I prepared another one of my vegan staples for the work week.

Vegan hash cakes ready for the oven. LPC

I got the hash cake recipe from one of my vegan cleanses. I love them because they satisfy my savory and crunchy desires. I plan to eat these throughout the work week atop a salad with a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil. The ingredients for these hash cakes are similar to the black bean quinoa burgers in that they have quinoa and beans (garbanzo and peas). The difference is the hash cake recipe includes fresh herbs (parsley and mint….I used cilantro in place of mint) and the binder is chia seeds soaked in water instead of an egg.

Roasted carrots, macaroni & cheese, french green beans in balsamic glaze. LPC

For Sunday’s dinner, I made a pot roast for my family along with the sides pictured above. The pot roast (not pictured) looked divine, but I didn’t have any. The sides were delicious.

I took advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician for my annual exam. I saw my oncologist last month. My primary care physician walked into the office asking me if I’m still doing Zumba. Everything looks great….just waiting for the blood work results. I talked to my doctor about how I work hard to stay healthy.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours sorting through my mail. I had a paper bag full of paper for the recycling bin. It’s difficult to explain, but since the time I was in graduate school (2009-2011), I’ve lost interest in sorting through mail. I think during the time, since I had to narrow my focus to survive my grueling schedule as a working mom and student, I decided to put the mail on hold. I left it to my husband, and although he means well, he isn’t nearly as detailed as I am.

Sorting, reading, and filing the mail continues to be something I’ve ignored over the years. I could blame it on graduate school and having a demanding job and family. Whatever the case, it’s time for this habit to stop.

In an effort to improve my whole health in 2020, other goals of mine are to improve my financial health and get on top of this mail.

What are you cooking up this week? What are your top goals for 2020? How’s your progress with sticking to your goals?

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For the caregivers

Thus far in 2020, I’m being brave and accepting the realities in my life. I’m a caregiver. I have no choice, but to be brave because it’s vital for me to live in honesty and authenticity. I’m not a caregiver to a parent who is aging, as you would expect, because my mom passed away two years ago. My biological father and stepfather passed away several years before my mom. My mom was 78 years old. I’m a care giver to my husband, Bryan, who is just 54 years old. I’m just 46 years old.

Could I have imagined this in my life at this time while raising a family? Absolutely, not. I’m not bitter or disillusioned either. It goes without saying that I love Bryan. I will do whatever I can for him. I’m deeply grateful I have the capacity to manage all I do because I’ve often prayed for God to give me the capacity and He continues to do so. I’m coming to terms with yet another challenge I must endure.

It does sting a little to add the title of caregiver to my list of roles because it requires me to let go of dreams and plans for how I saw my life. I remember a year ago when I was planning to get my 4 wisdom teeth removed, one member of my team was describing how wonderful her mom was with catering to her as she recovered from getting her wisdom teeth removed. She indicated I would enjoy being catered to. I vividly recall telling her that in my life, I’m the one who takes care of people not the other way around. I’m her mom! This employee, and about half of my team, fit the millenial demographic.

It is what it is. I’m built to be strong. And Bryan is my rock when he is well. He did take care of me for those days of recovery after my wisdom tooth surgery. He could drive at the time too, which was helpful. When I was in the thick of my breast cancer treatment, he took care of me. We’ve taken care of each other over the years. That’s what marriage is.

I’m not interested in wrestling with my circumstances. I’m interested in learning from the light lessons, increasing my mental, spiritual, and physical capacity, and finding joy in the seemingly smallest things.

So if you’re a caregiver of any age, to any one, I know what that means. I choose to focus my energies on encouraging you (and myself) to be brave. Stay encouraged. You are the best person to care for your loved one. But take time for yourself. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s so true.

Little things count towards self-care like taking a warm shower, cooking (or buying) healthy meals to nourish yourself while you care for others, calling/texting a friend, unplugging, listening to inspiring music, researching support groups online, and taking time off work, to name a few.

If you’re a caregiver, you’re not alone. I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself. Please share any tips for me in my journey. 😀

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What’s next on this 2020 health journey?

Now that I’ve completed the 10-Day green smoothie challenge, what’s next for me on this health journey? Well, for starters, I will use this momentum to continue to cook and eat healthy meals.

Canned goods for Sunday soup. Mango Madness green smoothie in the background. LPC

I used my homemade chicken broth (collagen benefits) as a base for my delicious vegetable soup called Flat Flush soup. Soup is my ultimate comfort food. Flat Flush soup is full of nutrition. You can do a search on the internet for Flat Flush soup recipes.

Soup prep LPC

The ingredients in my soup are: onions, garlic, a variety of peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach, canned tomatoes, beans, parsley, cilantro, lots of spices, and chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth). Whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand for this soup will work. The cover photo was taken prior to simmering for 2 hours.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that cooking healthy meals is not just about keeping my physical body healthy, it is a soothing, essential part of my self-care routine. I particularly needed self-care yesterday after sitting in the emergency room for hours with my husband, Bryan. I was reminded then (not that I needed the reminding) health is beyond physical health. Physical health is very important, but in order to take care of our whole selves, there are other aspects we must attend to.

Health is a state of well being that includes physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, occupational and environmental health.

It’s essential that we all take care of our whole health. It may not be feasible or make sense to tackle everything at one time. This is where goal setting, planning, and execution comes in.

On a special note, I’ve adopted a new perspective on planning in the midst of the realities of life. I’ve been following Pastor Tony Evans out of Dallas, Texas. He wrote the bible lesson plan on Detours. He says to by all means plan, but plan making a space for God’s will. Plan acknowledging, “if God wills it”. That way when life doesn’t go according to our plans, we won’t be so crushed because we know God is with us and we’ve made a space for Him.

So in 2020 I’m looking forward to setting more goals, planning, and taking care of my whole self, my whole health, bit by bit.

How about you? What are your health plans/goals for 2020? What steps have you made thus far? How are you setting yourself up for success?

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The Green Glow: Day 10 Citrus Crush

I CRUSHED this 10-Day smoothie challenge. I closed out my final day with two smoothies: Carrot Cooler for breakfast and Berry Blast as an after dinner night cap. I didn’t have pineapples or grapes for the Citrus Crush, so I’ll try the recipe another day.

Believe me, it crossed my mind that the drink in my glass should be wine, but alas, I don’t have any.  My green smoothie was a much healthier option any way.

For fun, this next section will be in “question and answer” format.

  • What was your favorite part of the 10-Day green smoothie challenge?
    • I enjoyed interacting with the other participants on the live facebook group. There were about 14,000 people participating.
  • What was your favorite green smoothie on this challenge?
    • This question is hard because they were all good. My top 3 were Beginner’s Luck, Pineapple Dream, and Carrot Cooler. Pineapples was a common ingredient in each. I love pineapples.
  • How difficult was it to keep up with the challenge?
    • It wasn’t difficult. If you count the time it took to read the manual, shop for the ingredients, prep the produce, blend each recipe, and transport the prepared smoothies, it still wasn’t difficult.
  • What else did you eat?
    • I ate my normal foods and snacks. 
  • Was this 10-Day green smoothie challenge a diet or detox?
    • No
  • What didn’t you like about the challenge?
    • I didn’t have all of the smoothie ingredients so although I had a smoothie every day, I didn’t try every recipe. I missed 2 recipes out of 10…the ones with grapes. Grapes are expensive right now.
  • Did you lose weight?
    • No
  • Why did you do the challenge?
    • I did the challenge to set the tone for my 2020: “health is wealth”, “new year, better me”, “self-care is a priority”
  • What advice would you give to someone new to green smoothies?
    • Prep, prep, prep. Make your smoothies in advance and always have one ready in the fridge.
  • What did you learn about yourself?
    • I can do whatever I put my mind to do.
  • What’s next?
    • I may move on to a 7 or 21 day vegan cleanse.

Listen, completing this challenge makes me a RAWKSTAR for sure!

What goals have you crushed so far in 2020?