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Why I’m fasting social media

January is the month for setting the stage for the new year. It’s the month to decide on new habits and habits to let go. I selected the word “decide” because it is a simple decision when the emotion is taken out of it. I’ve identified some things I’m going to be intentional about in 2021 (you can read about here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021). I’ve listed my goals in one of my phone apps and am still working on my vision board (completion by the end of January). I’ve identified some pictures and decorations for my vision board. I just need to put everything together.

Every January, Pastor Randy Phillips from my church LifeAustin (https://life.family/) challenges us to set the tone for the new year by fasting for 21 days.  I’m not going to go in depth on the principles, but fasting, (i.e., giving up something you love for a set period of time) allows you to focus what God has done in your life and what you want God to do in your life. Abstaining from a thing, especially when you want it or are used to having it, causes you to reflect on why you’re sacrificing the thing. This is the simplest way I can explain it.

Truth be told, I’ve had a love/dislike relationship with social media for years. I love I am in contact with family and friends from all over the world. I likely would not know what some of them were up to if it weren’t for Facebook. I love seeing their updates. I love being creative with my page and posting what I want. I love sharing inspiring messages and pictures of myself and family. I love seeing inspiring messages, pictures, and comments. I love accessing all of my favorite magazines and following sites that interest and inspire me.

I dislike being exposed to hateful and thoughtless comments. I dislike not being able to control what comes across my newsfeed until I “unfriend” or “unfollow” the offender. I dislike the constant advertisements. I dislike the strong potential for comparing your life to someone else’s newsfeeds. I dislike certain posts which are triggering for me. I dislike messages of wanting more, being more, and doing more. If you’re like me…attempting to be content in this life, then social media can be a difficult place to be.

A few months ago, after about 11 years on Facebook, I decided to join Instagram which I still haven’t fully learned how to use. I’ve said numerous times I could only handle one social media account at a time because it can be all consuming. However, once I learned my teenage daughter had an Instagram account, I had a nagging need to join so I could keep tabs on her. It turns out that she doesn’t post that often, but still.

What I discovered, to my surprise, is that just about everybody I know on Facebook also has an Instagram account. Go figure! There are only a couple of friends/family I know on Instagram who are not on Facebook, so I’m glad I can keep up with them. Overall, Instagram is not that triggering for me like Facebook. But then again, I gravitate to Facebook more since I’m used to it.

While Pastor Randy was stating possible ideas of what to fast, a light bulb hit me when he mentioned social media. I had been annoyed by some posts lately, anyway. So, I decided to fast social media for one day a week through January. I’m also fasting meat consumption for one day a week. This is my second week.

The fast evolved to abstaining from social media five days last week instead of just one. I was encouraged after the first day to see how long I could go. I started on Monday thinking I would set a positive tone for my week. Another parameter I set for my fast was social media specifically refers to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I’m not sure if my blogging site is considered social media, but I didn’t include WordPress or YouTube.

Some initial observations on the first day are: *Scrolling on social media is a habit. *Scrolling is a mindless activity for my hands. *Scrolling is a mind numbing activity that can suck hours from my day.

It was on the second day I abstained from opening the app at all. I thought I would have to uninstall the app from my phone for lack of self-control, but no need when I became conscious of my actions. Another observation was fasting from more than one thing at the same time/on the same day was too much for me. On day one, I prepared my lunch as usual and included meat out of habit. I decided to change my meat fast to Wednesday. I just realized I forgot to meat fast this past Wednesday so I’ll change it to Friday. Oh well. I’ll give myself some grace. In life, you’ve got to be flexible.

Update: My fasting also includes daily prayer and bible reading.

I’m believing God for a lot of positive things in my life this year. This makes me look forward to 2021 and all the possibilities.

What are your thoughts about social media? How does social media impact your life?

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Hindsight is 2020

What a year…though 2020 has not been a miserable year for my household. We received closure on some very important financial matters that had been looming for years. My small family of four spent more countless hours together in 9 months than we ever have. It’s been mostly enjoyable and comforting. In an unprecedented move, the state agency I work for sent thousands of employees home with laptops in March. I love the experience of teleworking. In April I took the COVID-19 test and the results came back negative. It turns out I came down with a very bad case of bronchitis. You can read about experience in my most read posts of 2020: COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in. In August, we signed papers sealing the deal to build our new home which is an experience we’re having for the 2nd time in our lives. The plan is for this house to be our retirement home. I’ve written about these experiences all year. Thank you for being there with me as I navigated 2020. If you haven’t been there, WELL, you’ve got some catching up to do on my posts.

2020 has revealed some very ugly and unfathomable views and actions of people in America. From my perspective in my 47 years of life, this is the most politically divisive I’ve seen the country. People have gone so far as to ascribe God to a political party as if God is American and takes sides. I generally tend to avoid politics on my blog, but 2020 has shown me anything goes. I still won’t dwell on it in this post. The deaths of people who are black at the hands of law enforcement caused thousands of people (around the world) in sheer FED-UP-NESS to protest, mostly peacefully, during a PANDEMIC. Thankfully, normal, every day people are able to capture the atrocities on their cell phones; otherwise, how would we know and how would we know people are being held accountable? I’m too young to have grown up in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. While attending my all black high school in Chicago, we learned about civil rights and the works of many notable people who are black during the movement such has Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many others. I’ve seen countless video footage of speeches and protests. 2020 was eerily similar, which begs the question: how far has this country really gotten?

I feel a great deal of sorrow for all the lives lost and for those suffering. Heroes also emerged in 2020, particularly in the healthcare industry. The grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers also came through for all of us. I know people are ready to put 2020 behind them and move forward. I think it’s healthy in times of uncertainty and global unrest to shrink into your corner of the world…to the things you have more control over. For 2021, I think instead of “goals” and definitely not “resolutions”, I want to use the term “manifest” to describe what I envision for my life. I might change it but it sounds good to me for right now. I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 for a few months now and thinking about what I want to manifest. Some of it is already in process. I find that when I’m thoughtful about what I want to manifest and go as far as to capture it on a Vision Board, it’s more likely to happen. There maybe some research to support this, but I’ll save for another time.

If you have never put a Vision Board together, I think you will find that it will help divert your attention from the sorrow in the world to something that will actually be beneficial to you. Creative activities tend to have that effect. It’s also a great tool to keep you accountable and focused. It takes some planning to create a Vision Board though, so if you’re considering it, I hope you’re up for it.

You’ll need to ask yourself some practical questions and make several decisions on the following such as:

  1. What are your goals or what do you hope to manifest?
  2. What will you use for the board (poster board, cardboard, etc.)?
  3. Where will you get the pictures (old magazines, newspapers, online pictures, etc.)?
  4. Do I have enough supplies (scissors, glue, tape, poster board, glitter, etc.) and where will I get them?
  5. When will I work on my Vision Board and when do I want to complete it?
LPC 2020 Vision Board

I created 2020’s Vision Board in January 2020. I purchased most of the supplies from the Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and I used old magazines for the pictures. Of course at the time, I had no clue how 2020 would materialize. Several times throughout the year, I did review my Vision Board and contemplated progress. I even wrote blog posts about my financial progress which you can read about here: 2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole and Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In 2020, I was most successful in accomplishing financial goals. I also kept up with my exercise goals and cooked/ate healthy most of the time. There are a couple of pictures of women who signified that I would put more thought into my wardrobe selections for a more polished appearance…not that I struggled with that previously. I accomplished this goal also.

There were some things I didn’t accomplish, one of which was travel. You probably can’t tell because of the lighting, but there are two pictures of tropical beaches. My plan was for my family to vacation on a Caribbean Island somewhere. The pandemic threw that dream out the window…at least for 2020. Also, there is a phrase “care more, stress less”. I did demonstrate caring more in 2020 by donating finances to different causes I don’t normally contribute to. This was not planned or reflected in my Vision Board but 2020 inspired me to help more people when I could. However, I still need to seriously develop a plan for managing stress. In my last post, Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021, I shared some of the areas where I struggle regarding stress.

I asked my husband, Bryan, to buy a poster board for me while he was at Walmart, so I have that. I’ll probably start on my 2021 Vision Board in the next week. I’m still asking myself what I want to manifest.

I’d love to know if you plan on creating a Vision Board if you haven’t already. I know some people start early. What do you most appreciate about the experience? What goals did you accomplish in 2020?

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Top things I’m letting go of in 2021

Be proud of yourselves folks. We made it to 2021! Making it through 2020 means you can overcome anything. Well, in Texas, we still have a few minutes, but I’m counting it early. I was trying to explain to someone this morning that 2020 felt like it flew by rather quickly, yet was excruciatingly long at the same time. How could that be?

How could a year that was traumatic for so many people worldwide, be one of the best years of my life? Only God knows. There is not much I control in this world. What I can control are goals I set for myself and my attitude. Every year, I strive to be better and grow, which entails taking inventory of my life. I came up with a short list of things I’m letting go of in 2021 and I’m sharing with you. I hope my list inspires you to let go of some things no longer serving you too.

  1. Offense
    • I was introduced to the book the “Bait of Satan” through my Life Group in the fall of 2020. A Life Group is comprised of a small group of couples from our church who gather for several weeks to study a lesson together. The book really opened my eyes to offense, how it manifests, and destroys relationships. The concepts are totally counterintuitive to how most people (i.e., Christians), including myself, think. This is a must read, especially if you are a Christian.
    • I will forgive people immediately, whether they are aware or not, and move on.
  2. Stressing
    • On my 2020 Vision Board, I glued the phrase “Care more, stress less”.  I’ve been practicing not caring too much about what people think of me for years now. I need to work on the stress less.
    • I need to stop stressing over my work “to do” list. I put in ample hours. It’s a never-ending list. I will put in my daily hours and then cut it off.
    • I need to stop caring so much about my family having a homecooked meal every day or leftovers of a homecooked meal. I live with two teenagers and a husband who loves fast food. They don’t care.
    • I will instead cook smaller portions of mostly healthy meals I want to eat.
  3. Bad sleep habits
    • I will not slouch around until 10:30 pm to get ready for bed.
    • I need to be ready for bed by 9:30 pm during the work week. Period. “Being ready” means I will have taken a shower, my pajamas are on, and I’ll have a book in hand and am in the bed by 9:30 pm…no phone or laptop.
    • Getting enough sleep is a cure for just about everything.
  4. Underestimating myself
    • It doesn’t happen often as I’m usually very confident, EXCEPT in situations where I’m with people who I PERCEIVE are very knowledgeable. I’m surrounded by smart people on a daily basis, but it’s certain people. Time to unpack that and let it go.
    • Also, no more second guessing or doubting myself.
  5. Weight
    • The physical weight that causes me to be overweight and puts me at higher risk for certain diseases.
    • The mental weight of perfectionism.
    • The mental weight of anxiety.
    • The mental weight of things I can’t control.
    • I’m developing a plan to be much lighter.
  6. Guilt
    • For not being the parent I think I should.
    • For not being the wife I think I should.
    • For not being the sister, aunt, friend, cousin, etc….I think I should.
    • For not doing everything everybody else thinks I should.
    • For taking time for myself.
    • I will work on more positive affirmations and self-talk and acceptance.
LPC’s 2020 Vision Board. I’ll start working on 2021’s next week.
This book and study guide continue to blow me away. I have a lot of growing to do. LPC

I’ll follow up with a post on my vision for 2021. What are you letting go of in 2021?

Cheers to another year full of opportunities, the unknown, joy, peace, blessings, and light lessons!

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No spend challenge: Day 6

It’s been long overdo, but I decided to see first hand what it feels like to not spend money for one week in an attempt to curb my spending addiction. You can read about the impetus for the challenge here : No spend challenge.

Not many people would probably admit publicly they spend too much money, especially if they do it to impress others and are living above their means. I’ll be the one to raise my hand admitting I spend more than I’d like to with the hope that it inspires others to take a closer look at their behaviors and how it affects their financial outlook, and life for that matter. For those that think this challenge should be easy or it’s not a challenge at all, more power to you. I challenge you to determine if anything I describe in this post resonates with you and then do something about it.

The most glaring thing I noticed from this exercise is how MUCH I think about buying things. It’s a natural occurrence in my head to be thinking about what to buy no matter how small the item. I attribute some of this to being the primary household shopper for my household. Therefore, I’m keenly aware of our household supply and when we need to restock (i.e., eggs, toilet paper, laundry detergent).

I plan the budget, input the numbers on a spreadsheet, track inventory of our supplies, type the grocery and household lists, and make the purchases. I’m constantly searching for the best deals by examining the ads from my favorite stores and timing my purchases appropriately based on sales. It’s a deliberate process that requires detail and attention in an effort to maximize our budget.

Many external forces also contribute to constantly thinking about buying. CONSUMERISM. These forces can be subliminal or overt. Keep in mind we live in a capitalist society here in the U.S. Take a look to see if you can relate to any of the items in the following list. I might be missing some.

  1. People on social media
  2. Ads on social media
  3. General internet ads (ads embedded in internet articles)
  4. Emails from your favorite stores
  5. Texts from your favorite stores
  6. Smart phone apps
  7. Magazines (lifestyle, travel, food, etc.)
  8. Kids asking for stuff or to go places (fast food, “let’s go to Dollar Tree”, etc.)
  9. TV commercials
  10. Youtube videos on shopping “hauls” (Dollar Tree, Target, Aldi, Walmart, Costco, etc.)
  11. Sales flyers
  12. Product samples
  13. Friends/family wanting you to support their business

In the first couple of days of the challenge, ideas would pop into my head of what I needed to buy and then I’d remember that I made this commitment to myself to not spend any money. I’m not going to say that by Day 6, I’m not thinking of buying anything because that’s not true. However, the act of not buying something when I want it, and knowing I can afford it, made me pause to consider how important the item really is. It made me assess needs and wants, which is the basics of budgeting and personal finance.

It’s not a foreign concept for me to substitute or make do without something because for 3 years, I was supporting our household on one income. I had no choice but to focus on our needs primarily. There was little room for wants, but not much. I tapped into my creativity in making do with what we had. Although we’re no longer in that tighter financial situation, we still have financial goals to achieve. One goal is to give more money to causes we support. We’ve done some of that this year already.

This challenge is only a week so I will spend again eventually. I honestly don’t like that thinking about buying things takes up so much space in my mind because there’s much more to life. Some of the things I’ve done to clear my mind of the bombarding messages to “BUY BUY BUY” is to avoid Youtube videos on shopping hauls. I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube and there are a lot of these types of videos. When I watch them, they give me ideas on things to buy that I don’t need. I also have unsubscribed from some email lists. I need to do the same for texts. Why do I need a text from Dressbarn and Bed Bath and Beyond? Since I also realized that some of my spending is emotional (boredom, happy, anxious), I also made a list with my husband and daughter of activities we could do that doesn’t involve spending money.

This challenge has put things in perspective. It also reminds me of how grateful I am for my loved ones, the life I get to live, and my blessings.

Mantra: I have enough. I am enough.

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No spend challenge

You read that right. My next challenge is to not spend any money for the next 7 days. You know something is going to be hard when you DON’T want to do it. I DON’T want to do it, but I need to. The challenge starts today.

It’s long overdue too. I’ve had the sneaky suspicion for the last several months that I might be addicted to spending money. I think my whole family is addicted to spending money. I complain that we should all take a break, but who am I kidding??? It starts with ME.

Now, my husband, Bryan, and I have accomplished A LOT financially in 2020 and you can read about it here: Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In fact, we’re in the process of having our new home built.

Me standing on our lot. LPC

Making some financial strides gives me no excuse to let my guard down just cause I’m comfortable. And it’s the seemingly little purchases that can eat away at your finances. My magic number at my favorite grocery store, no matter how few items I have on my list, is $90.

I blame COVID-19 a little because remember when there was no food on the shelves??? There were plenty of vegetables, BUT no toilet paper, paper towels, milk, flour, bread, etc. Food and household items were rationed. Well, I only have to experience something like that one time for me to get on a MISSION to build a well stocked pantry and freezer. A well stocked pantry is what I have now and it spills over into the garage.

Kitchen pantry. It’s way more crammed today. LPC
Kitchen pantry door. Every cubby is filled including the row not pictured at the bottom. The glue in the top left and flashlight underneath the glue have since been replaced with FOOD. LPC

So I’m engaging in a nice dose of restraint for 7 days. It’s been painful thus far. I can probably think of at least 10 things that I could purchase today alone and then remembered the commitment I made. I told Bryan the only way I’m spending money is if it’s a medical emergency. I’m also not including line items I budgeted for in my monthly budget such as gifts. Other than that, for 7 days, I will not spend any money. I want to prove to myself I can do this and I want to break a habit. I need to continue my path of building wealth and nickel and diming myself is not going to cut it.

Mantra: I have enough. I am enough.

How about you? Have you ever done something like this before? How did you feel afterward? Please share tips and encouragement!

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Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE

On February 17, 2020, I wrote a blog post sharing my financial goals for 2020 with an image from my 2020 Vision Board. Guess what? Despite the madness of 2020, it is possible to accomplish goals and align yourself in the appropriate path to secure a better future. My life is moving right along despite the pandemic, political turmoil, and racial unrest. I still don’t have enough time in my day to work, take care of my family, and do a little self-care because there’s so much I want to accomplish. I’ve been shielding myself from media to focus on the things that matter to me the most (i.e., read the previous sentence again on what matters most to me).

I do realize there are many people struggling and have lost their jobs. I’m not typing this post with the intent of being insensitive to them. I can only speak to what I’m experiencing in my life. However, I’ve experienced my share of turmoil with financial and physical setbacks that has caused cascading effects on emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. I think every person will experience life’s tumultuous ride at some point. You can overcome it, especially with faith, support, patience, education, and action.

In full transparency, since WordPress updated it’s site features a while ago, I haven’t quite figured out how to link previous posts into my current posts. Until I figure that out, please feel free to read my post from February 17, 2020 because it will give you insight into my financial goals and why I chose them. In this post, I will provide an update on my progress with the intention that it inspires you to keep reaching (or plan) for your 2020 goals.

DEBT. Since April 2020, my husband, Bryan, and I have been aggressively tackling debt and paid off thousands of dollars. I just realized I need to tally up the figures. We each had our own debt, and as a married couple, had some combined debt. The amount we’ve paid is probably well over $15,000 (update: roughly $20,000), but I’ll get into that in another post.

In case you’re wondering how we accumulated debt (also read the 2/17/2020 post) and how we paid it, here’s an explanation. Bryan has not worked in gainful employment for over 3 years. He has had decent paying jobs over his lifetime, especially while living in Texas. He acquired a medical disability that threw that out the window and impacted our lives forever (i.e., turmoil I mentioned).

My income is the only income, albeit a decent income, that has supported our family since 2017…except for the 2 months he worked at UPS in the fall of 2018 so we could have a good Christmas (and we had a GREAT Christmas!). In case you don’t know, I have a real GEM in this man. He was approved for full disability status in March 2020.

As part of his disability determination, he received back pay for most, but not all of the time he didn’t work. Our plan all along has been to pay down debt and save money so we could buy another house. PERIOD. I type “another house” because we’ve owned before and downsized due to life circumstances (some of that turmoil I mentioned earlier). Read my posts from 2016 through 2018 for insight.

If you are familiar with financial expert, Dave Ramsey, then you’ll know his stance on debt. He abhors debt! We’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m going to make a pivot from his baby steps. The only substantial debt I have is student loans and I’m not going to wait until I pay those completely off before I buy a house. PERIOD. I totally agree with eliminating the consumer debt and the like. Most of our debt was medical. We were both diagnosed with chronic medical conditions in 2016. We had internal revenue service debt, very little credit card debt and no car loan, personal loan, or mortgage debt.

Lately, I’ve been following YouTubers who show there are other ways of conceptualizing and managing debt and overall personal finance. I’ve been so inspired. All in all, we’ve been crushing debt!

INCOME. I work hard. I have a demanding job. I work in public mental health. I manage a team of smart, driven people committed to serving the most vulnerable populations. I earned a raise in June 2020, which increased my salary. In August, I was promoted. I’m transitioning from manager to director. This was not in my vision board, but fruits of hard labor eventually pay off. All of this is for the benefit of our goal to buy a house and to provide a better life for our family. PERIOD. Now that Bryan receives a monthly disability check, we are in even better shape.

HOUSE. We’re in the process of purchasing a home, which will be built by the spring of 2021. We are so EXCITED!!! How fitting is my cover image which is from my 2020 Vision Board??? Is this a good time to buy, let alone build a house? It is for me & mine. PERIOD. As I tend to do when embarking on new endeavors, I’ve been consumed with learning everything I can about the home buying process and real estate market. I’ve been YouTubing myself into a coma. Bryan even asked me if I planned on pursuing another career with all this knowledge. NOPE. My goal is to be informed so I can make the best decisions.

Sure, there are predictions about a housing market crash here and there. There are so many opinions. You know what? The best time to buy a house is when YOU ARE READY. PERIOD. Will we have a down payment? YES. Will we have savings? YES. Are we able to afford a house? YES. Can we do all this and take care of our kids? YES.

If God is willing, this is our retirement home, our FINAL home. Do I think my life will change once I get the house??? To a degree, YES. Some people may not understand the big deal, so to them, I say bare with me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live where I want in the surroundings that will afford me the most comfort and peace of mind. PERIOD.

What progress are you making on your financial goals? Feel free to share any tips you may have.

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Blessings abound

Even in the midst of a pandemic, blessings abound. I’m approaching my 8th week of telework already and it has been an adjustment. Yet, my stress from the work commute is zero. I’ve been meeting some work related goals such as hiring another brilliant person to my team. My family and I have been spending unprecidented amounts of time together without being at each other’s throats. My son got hired at Walmart about a month ago. I feel loved, safe, and healthy. I’m actually reluctant to return to the office whenever that is and my agency is definitely in the planning stages.

My husband, Bryan, and I have had our share of hardship over the years, but particularly since 2016. We have serious battle scars, so as I’ve indicated in previous posts, this pandemic pales in comparison to what we’ve been through. Hell, I even took the COVID-19 test and never worried about the results. We were so thrilled when we received the FABULOUS news that Bryan’s social security disability was finally approved after two years since he applied.

Bryan’s social security disability hearing with an administrative law judge was held in March… right when COVID-19 was solidifying itself as a global pandemic. I think it’s cruel for a person to be forced to wait so long (years) to get results. When I worked at an outpatient mental health clinic years ago, I saw my clients struggle with housing, food, and health issues as they waited on disability. On some level, I’m assured that the government doesn’t just grant it to whoever who asks. You have to prove you need disability. It is what it is and ours was approved during a time when many people are living through very tough financial circumstances due to COVID-19.

I’ve financially supported my household solely for almost 3 years. I would be lying if I didnt tell you it was a struggle at times, especially in the last 6 months. It did force us to be very careful about spending and stick to a budget. We’ve accumulated so many medical bills due to both of our health issues. After a while my credit score began to suffer, but I knew in January 2020 things would get a little worse before they got better. That didn’t stop me from making a plan. See my previous posts about my 2020 financial goals.

I’m so grateful to have been able to support my family and will continue to do so. Bryan’s social security disability determination puts an end to the waiting, wondering, and stressing. A huge weight has been lifted from Bryan’s shoulders more so than mine. I also find the news bitter sweet because it confirms he has a disability, but we’ve known this and are coping with it just fine. Now, Bryan gets to put this process behind him and plan what his future will be.

This past week was one of the best weeks for us in a long time because we were able to pay off some debt, add to our savings, and gift funds to our family. We did make a few purchases. The gifting was the most exciting part. We also tithed to our church. On top of that, on Thursday, my boss told me I received a raise (without asking)!!!

And the ultimate activity that almost took me over the edge on Friday was telling a few members on my team that they would be getting raises, unbeknownst to them. They were so surprised and one told me her spouse had been impacted by COVID-19, so the raise was shocking and much appreciated. I was grateful I had a window of opportunity a couple of months back to make this happen for them.

I wasn’t sure about posting this message because I never want it to seem as if I’m tooting my own horn. I struggle with embracing the good in my life with humility. If you get anything out of my message, I hope it’s that with patience, faith in God, positive action, and perseverance, you can get through just about anything. Just keep moving forward.

How have you been coping? What blessings have you seen come out of this pandemic?

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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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To all the badass women leaders

Oh dear! This is the last Christmas Eve of the decade! Listen, 2019 has tried to WHOOP my behind and I mean TRIED, but I have a second wind. I’m percolating with ideas and enthusiasm. I’ve been laying low and recharging my battery, particularly my spiritual battery. For anyone in a similar situation as me, we can end 2019 with a BANG, or at least with the acknowledgment that we did the best we could and we’re still standing to tell our story.

My lovely boss gave me an early Christmas gift and I’ve already begun diving into this book. I know I’m a badass and I don’t doubt myself like I used to. In fact, the older I get, and the more experience I gain, the less I doubt myself. However, sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt your path, BUT I’m here to tell you to keep going. Obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t bother asking, “Why me?”.

If you’re not in a struggle now, you’re coming out of one or are headed that way in the future. But don’t fret! It strengthens your muscle, and which muscle being strengthened (character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.) depends on what lesson you’re meant to learn.

Intermingled with the obstacles in 2019, are some definite wins. This is why it’s so important to take time every so often to reflect on your life. The end of the year, or decade for that matter, is a great time to reflect. It’s important to review your goals, assess your progress with achieving them, and determine what other work you need to invest to reach them. It’s also important to acknowledge and express gratitude for the things working well in your life because there’s something to acknowledge, no matter how small.

I want to spend a little time doting on the badass women leaders I know. I’m fortunate to work in a environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. I’ve known this already, but it really stood out to me last week. The strongest traits I see in them that I admire are articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things, encouraging others, providing constructive feedback, taking the time to learn, adjusting, and bravely making hard decisions on a daily basis. These are just my current colleagues. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.

My mom, Solange, was a package of strength and vulnerability. I was perplexed by this combination for a long time. She raised 4 children on a meager salary on her own for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned how much her salary was. I think I made more money than her in my first full time job and that job wasn’t much.

Solange was strict and had high standards. She passed her work ethic down to all of her children. I believe the work ethic she instilled in me is responsible for why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is responsible for why I push myself so hard….I’m an overachiever. Overachieving comes with some drawbacks as you’ve seen me blog about previously. I’m in a constant battle of doing and being okay with not doing. I have to tell myself to “chill out” sometimes.

The other badass woman leader example I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody called “bossy”. Naturally, most people have a problem with the “bossy” ones because they don’t want to be told what to do. However, she was practical and had an organized sense about her.

As it turns out, people who are bossy make great managers and she’s been in leadership roles at various jobs starting at an early age. I’ve always admired Gina’s ability to speak with confidence and articulate what she meant. Gina was frank and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain personnel matters at work.

Then there was my older cousin who is so smart. I’m purposely not typing her name. There’s a lot of pressure in Haitian culture to do as your parents have set out for you. Our parents’ generation had some relational tactics that I found were controlling and manipulative. As the middle child, my cousin, from my perspective, learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. In fact, I think Gina, also has these traits as she is the middle child.

My cousin maintains relationships with everyone even if those individuals don’t get along with each other and some don’t. She’s the common denominator. They all get along with her. I’ve also watched her achieve her goals and meet high standards she set for herself and standards her parents set for her.

I could go on, but these are just some of my examples. If you’re a striving to be, or are a current badass woman leader, surround yourself with other badass women leaders.

The traits I admire in women leaders such as articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things despite the audience, constantly learning and adjusting, negotiating, managing personalities successfully, offering constructive feedback, bravely making and standing by hard decisions, managing work and family life simultaneously, don’t come easily to many of us. Women are raised, or at least used to be raised, counterintuitively to what makes a great leader (please everyone, don’t say what you think, be nice, etc.)

2020 is right around the corner and I plan on being even more BADASS than I already am. And BADASS for me does include taking the time out for myself doing the things I most enjoy. I’ll share some of my goals in the coming weeks.

As a jump start, I started my Christmas break doing something I love…dancing. I was one of the instructors at a Zumbathon benefiting a shelter for women and children.

LPC leading a song at the Zumbathon 12-21-2019
Zumbathon 12-21-19…badass instructors and students who remained to the end. LPC

We normally attend Austin’s Trails of Lights spectacular, but we opted to go more low key and small town this year. Therefore, my husband, and I, went to the small town of Buda’s Trail of Lights. It was seasonably cold.

Peace..more of this in 2020 – Buda Trail of Lights 2019 LPC

Then, yesterday after I spent the day preparing a feast for my husband’s birthday, we went to our church to hear the amazing Annie Moses Band play Christmas music. Their performance was so beautiful, it left us speechless.

Annie Moses Band LifeAustin 12-23-19 LPC

I hope you all have an AMAZING Christmas and holiday season! I know this time of year is difficult for many due to financial stress, missing a loved one who is deceased, and loneliness, to name a few. The biggest misconception is that you’re alone. The reason for the season is Jesus’s birth and He is with you. Please take comfort in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.

Now it has just occurred to me, I’ve repeatedly used the same curse word throughout this post, and yet ended the post writing about Jesus. I’m not perfect, but I know the reason for the season. I plan to curse less in 2020, but in all fairness the book started it!

What wins have you had in 2019? Who are the positive examples in your life? How do you plan to spend the last few days of the decade?