Poverty

I share a lot about my financial situation. Then I have a conversation about air fresheners and I realize that I need to keep sharing it because people just truly don’t understand and I know some of them really want to.

I borrowed a car from friends to take my trip to Mayo clinic this week. There was an air freshener in the car that I absolutely fell in love with.  And even though it’s only $3.00, I’ll never splurge on that for myself.

Not only that I’d be short $3.00 for paying my rent; here’s where that $3 could be better spent:

  • Buying one of the boys a couple pairs of socks (they’re boys, this is an ongoing need).
  • Most of the cost of sharpening the youngest boy’s skates ($5.00)
  • A pair of pants of clearance for my oldest kid (found his last pair for $1 at Walmart)
  • Any of the bills I shuffle each month to pay (internet and utilities…both behind and on the verge of being disconnected).
  • Enough gas to get to work for a day or my kids to their activities.
  • Trying to rebuild my emergency fund.
  • Put it towards any of the other bills I have.

So it’s not just that $3 is a big deal, it’s everything that is already not being covered that adds up and $3 might as well be $3 million. It’s not that the air freshener is out of line, it’s just so far down the line that it doesn’t even get an honorable mention.

Seriously.

And now, my long term subbing job is finished and I have no guaranteed income after my final paycheck on the 15th of this month. And I don’t have a husband with a steady job or a boyfriend who pays the bills, or a savings account to cover my butt, or a family that can cover me for more than a couple hundred dollars. The child support I receive is barely enough to make a dent. And in 30 days my rent will be due again.

And it sucks.

I was given money from friends for the Mayo trip…and it’s gone, and I’m counting pennies to make sure I can pay the rent on Monday because I feel like I was stupid with the funds I got. I spent too much on the hotel (which was necessary but I could have stayed someplace much less expensive), I ate too often (Two meals a day) and too much (soup AND salad, that’s too much). I should have just slept on a basement recliner, I should have declined to sit down and eat and just grabbed a sandwich. I should not have bought that second cup of coffee to keep me awake on the drive home.

The enemy is so loud; and he has friends. And those friends tell me I should be working 10-12 hour days, and if I truly wanted to work I could. And that $3.00 really isn’t that big of a deal.

When I received the gift of money I was so thrilled and was planning on having left over funds to pay a few things that I haven’t been able to. Instead of paying those things first, I kept it, not knowing how long I would be at Mayo. I only ended up spending one night, and it’s all gone.

And rent is due Monday, my cell phone is due Monday, and I’m truly thankful for everything that has gotten me this far…and angry that I still need more. I’m sad that I am where I am financially.

The financial insecurity is unlike any other.

And it’s one of the reasons I always do Mayo on my own.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed having a friend with me on this trip, it’s not reality. It’s not my reality. My reality is sleeping in my vehicle or on a basement recliner, it’s not stopping to eat, or just buying cereal and eating that for every meal. It’s staying at the clinic even when I have 4 hours between appointments because leaving costs money (doing things I wouldn’t normally do).

The best part of this trip was that my friend was great as far as getting through the marathon day. She took the time to understand everything going on before we went so I didn’t have to educate her on the go. Having to ‘babysit’ other people and their ability (or inability) to process information on the go is why I have never had any desire to take people with me. Thankfully we got all good news so there was none of the real tough stuff.

I’m definitely going back to going on my own though. It’s too emotionally exhausting to bring somebody with me, even when it’s a good fit and good news. Medical trips are a whole other world for me. There is a distinct disconnect from daily life just to get through the trip and I never want those two worlds to become one.

And in 3 weeks I have the privilege of returning to Mayo to see if they can fix my arm that hurts and causes muscle spasms that is the likely cause of headaches I deal with daily…and another opportunity to reach out and ask for help.

I sure don’t feel all that lucky when I have to reach out, but I sure feel blessed when the request is honored.
Lord,
Thank You father, I’m so tired. I’m thankful for tired, because it means I’m still here to be tired. It means I have to opportunity to glorify Your name for another season.
But it’s exhausting Lord and I’m trying so hard to be light in a very dark place for so many. I’m trying to be Your poster child for AMAZING grace and mercy. I’m not sure why I got picked for this job; please help me Father to remain humble enough to ask for help, and secure enough to hear Your love over the enemy.
Amen

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Speechless

In 92 days I will skate my second marathon.

In that time, 10, 396 mothers, daughters, sisters, best friends, grandmothers, aunts, granddaughters, and cousins will die of Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) in the USA. JUST THE USA…

~~~~~~~
Well, this is not how this post was gonna go. I mathed (as Katie calls it) the numbers to make a point.

Then I re-mathed…and again, and texted Katie, and recalculated…

Holy shit.

I still have this pit in my stomach that feels like I’m going to puke.

For the first time in I don’t know how long, those numbers scare me.

It’s not like I didn’t know that 113 people die every day of MBC…but to put a number on a time line like that made my heart sick.

We are raising money for MBC research and a local charity…and suddenly it’s not enough. Suddenly, I feel useless and unworthy. I cannot save 10, 396 people.

But maybe I can save one.

Maybe, I can save two little boys from having to say goodbye to their single mom…a daughter from losing the one person she can count on to tell her like it is…a friend from the reality she has prayed against from day one…a mother from losing her favorite daughter…a sister…an aunt…a cousin…a grandma…

Maybe, I can be the voice for those I can’t save…the ones who are too sick to shout…those too busy trying a new drug, and another new one, and another experimental treatment…

I will be posting fundraising links in the coming days. Please join me in supporting those who are fighting for every breath, every step, every hockey practice, every bowling league, every football throw, every inline skate…for me and my friends. Shout with me for those who are dying for a cure.

My heart is so broken right now, and I’m throwing star fish back into the ocean…I can’t save them all, but I can save one at a time…I can raise one dollar at a time.

I CAN make a difference.

Will you help? Will you join me?

Thanks

Today is the final game for Squirt B Black as we play our last district game. A week ago we didn’t know if we would even being playing in the top bracket…and today we are playing for third place.

I don’t think anybody realizes that this is my FIRST year of healthy hockey…the first year I was diagnosed with cancer and doing chemo treatments while coaching, the second year I was healing from 6 months of chemo, 5 weeks of radiation and two surgeries, and at the end of the season (flew out the day after our final game) for an 11 hour surgery, last year I was taken off the ice with a knee injury in November and never got back on the ice.

This group of 12 kids, their parents, and their extended families; none of whom I knew before cancer, has been such a blessing to me, to Carson, to Kevin, to each other.
Next year, four of our teammates will move up to PeeWee and I will miss them so much. I look forward to this group every other year.

Right now though, my full heart is aching. I cannot love these boys and these parents more than I do…and the only way to show it is by telling the whole world. I have never felt so loved, so accepted, (so tolerated-lol), in my 18 years in the USA as I have this last winter.

This team has been led by three Godly men who have taught our boys that hockey is just a game, family is forever, and God is everywhere. They have taught them that praying is not just for supper tables, bedtimes, and church pews…but locker rooms and center ice as well.

They have modeled sportsmanship, teamwork, and class every step of the way.
As we go into today’s game…boys…YOU ROCK…I AM SO PROUD OF ALL OF YOU. Keep praying boys, keep asking to pray, ask the adults in your life to pray for you AND to pray with you.

Coaches…I got nothing…because no matter what I say it’s gonna make me cry…thank you for leading this team…through trials, triumphs…and most importantly, to Jesus.

Amber, all your hard work leaves me in awe every step of the way. THANK YOU for taking on the role of GM.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

#IsThisTheQuietSection

Dangerous Whispers

I’ve been pretty transparent about my financial situation and all that entails. I’ve shared our struggles, our triumphs, our goals, and our dreams. As I work on getting on track with our new budget, the enemy continues to whisper how terrible I am as a Christian, a woman, a child, a sibling, and a mother.

It’s that last one that it takes less than a whisper to take me out at the knees and I’d like to share how that manifests in my world right now.

I’ve been working super hard at balancing our budget and building our baby emergency fund of $500. I’m on track to have that complete ahead of schedule. We have scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and prayed.

Then the blower motor on my vehicle decides to finally quit. It’s been thinking about quitting for over a year…and I’ve been hoping it would last just long enough to get through the winter. Not having heat or a defrost function in northern Minnesota through the winter when you are carting your children everywhere is just not an option.

My vehicle has over 235,000 miles on it. My brain tells me that putting a $70 blower motor into a vehicle that may not last another six months is throwing good money after bad. My brain tells me I need to be saving for our next vehicle, not kicking a dead horse.

  • What kind of mother drives her kids around with the only heat in a vehicle being from whatever air is moved by driving.
  • What kind of person can’t afford $70 but can afford to have her kids in hockey and bowling and archery?
  • What kind of mom would miss her son’s first away tournament because she doesn’t have a reliable vehicle or the funds to make the trip?
  • If I wouldn’t have taken the trip to Minneapolis for Christmas, this wouldn’t be happening right now…I didn’t deserve that trip.

Those are the whispers surrounding JUST the $70 blower motor. Satan is an evil dangerous son of a bitch. He will take the smallest amount of normal mom-guilt and exploit it beyond all reason.

Sunday night was a difficult night in our home. One of the boys did something I probably did a thousand times as a kid; he ate some leftovers that I had plans for.

I lost my shit.

He stopped me, mid rant, and with tears streaming down his face said, “Mom, I want you to calm down. Remember when we were in the cities and you said that you hate to be upset because you look weak? Look at me, I’m upset and I’m showing it and I’m not weak.”

My son is no longer a child.

Everything he has been through, everything he knows about his Mama…he’s become a young man.

I told him I feel like a horrible mom when I can’t provide them everything I feel like they deserve. That I hate everything they have endured (divorce, cancer, poverty) and it kills me that they have to live in this cycle of poverty when they deserve everything in God’s Kingdom for how amazing and faithful they have been through it all.

~~~~

All those dangerous whispers from the enemy in my head…yet I can still know that all of this has got us to the point where my son gets it. My kid understands emotions and negotiation and love.

My kids get it…not in spite of where we are…they understand life BECAUSE of where we are. How can I even hate where we are when I see how it has manifested in the emotional growth and maturity of my boys?

I have one who sees through hurt, another who challenges every perceived fact.

These struggles are in my brain…and I need to drown out those whispers.

The type of mom who does those things whispers above…is a mom who is trying. Over and over again. A mom who never gives up, even for one minute. A mom who has been through more in six years than some moms go through in their children’s entire youth.

That mom shows a resiliency and faith that is rarely seen publicly in today’s society. She shows a transparency that brings people around her to hold her up when she’s taken out at the knees.

She shows a strength that moms who’ve never struggled are in awe over. Her drive are what draws people to God. Her faithful trust in the Lord are beyond understanding and inspiring to those with struggles they feel are insurmountable.

~~~

I need to remember that mom, that woman…IS ME. I’m the resilient one, the faithful one, the leader, the driven.

I have been given these blessings to raise men. Every struggle has been a blessing.

Lord,

These late night silent times when I can’t sleep are a welcome challenge. Being able to see both sides of the coin is a gift more priceless than imaginable.
These challenges laid in front of me, I bring to You. I come to You as I want my children to come to me. If I, as a broken human in a sinful world, wish for my children to come to my embrace; how much more do You long for me to find comfort in Your arms…that’s where You blow my mind every day Father.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these boys through this adversity with a faith not commonly seen publicly in today’s world.
Give me rest and give me strength to continue to be raw and real to bring Your light into my home, my work place, my social circle, my everyday life.
Continue to grant me these silent nights to hear Your love over the whispers of the enemy that drown out my daylight hours.

Amen

Financial

Well…back to the real world now; where things aren’t always easy and time keeps marching on anyway. I’ve already posted my physical goals and what work will look like in 2018. I’ve talked about finances some, but need to make some concrete goals to reach.

I will list each goal and when I want to complete it by. I will have little (seemingly easy to attain) goals and a couple that are way out there…as we all know that it is not us that controls how things go!

February 15: $500 baby Emergency fund
March 30: Pay off parenting time expeditor ($267.55)
June 30: $1000 Emergency Fund
December 31: $5000 emergency fund.

Considering $5000 is more than one third of what I brought home all of 2017 (including child support) that’s a HUGE number. I also know that God wants me to succeed, He wants my boys to have security even more than I do.

Yesterday, after listening to lesson two in Financial Peace University and hearing how kids the ages of my boys should start to take some responsibility with finances so they can begin to see how it really works.

It talks about giving them a commission instead of an allowance; meaning it is tied to whatever their job is.

This was easy for me.

For my younger son, who loves hockey and hates practice; his job from now on will be to not complain about attending hockey practice. Each day he goes willingly, he earns $1.00. When I explained this to him, he said goalie practice should be $2.00. Goalie practice is very difficult for him as this is his first year playing in net and he does not do well emotionally when he is not the best at something the first minute he tries it. I agreed, $2.00 for goalie practice. He will also get a $0.50 bonus for any day he goes to open hockey. His skating needs to improve, and only being on the ice will do that.

For my older son, his job is getting all his school work in on time and taking responsibility to show me the online report every day (no report, no money). He will earn $1.00 for every day that he has no missing assignments and nothing the other days that he either forgets to show me or has stuff missing. His available bonus will be $2.00 any day he goes without playing any games on the xbox.

I’m also considering adding bonuses for doing chores without arguments or reminders. I don’t usually get many arguments, but I have to remind them constantly. If I tie their responsibility to their income, that might change their tune a little bit.

My older son is ready to open a checking account and I’m excited for him. I believe he will be the saver of the two…but that little one might surprise me.

I told them that pay day will be every other Sunday. I’ll have to make a calendar to track their earnings between pay periods…their own time cards I guess you could call it.

For this money, it will come out of the money I make babysitting. I babysit two boys in the mornings before school (they take the bus from my house) and I get paid $25/week. Earnings from the last two weeks have gone straight into the $500 emergency fund.

So what will they do with their money…they will give, save, spend. They will be expected to give a portion (and I will give guidance towards tithing, but allow it to come from their hearts so they become grateful givers). As the older one will be opening up a checking account, he will have the opportunity to save money there. They younger one, I’ll likely employ the envelope system with him (give, save, spend envelopes).

For the remainder of this school year, I’m not sure that I will expect them to pay for any of their needs. From this point forward (after their first payday) they will have to spend their own money on any concessions at the arena or bowling alley. This is where the little one will go broke. I’ll add skate sharpening, and things of that nature. For now, I just want them to get used to taking responsibility to having a little bit of money.

We will have a saving discussion about maybe a waterpark day or trampoline park…something to that effect. I want to give them small attainable goals at first…so when they start thinking Disney World…they know it’s going to take some time and effort.

I’m guessing I won’t have to pay out more than $30 every two weeks so will use the leftover babysitting money to build up the payday fund. I’m so excited for these kids and their futures.

First PAYDAY will be January 28.

Dear Father in Heaven

I know how much You love your children, when I think about how much I love mine, it blows my mind that You love us even more than that…so much more.
Thank You for this opportunity to lead by example to teach these boys about finances and money management.
Help me to show grace when they need it most and to teach them to come to You when they are frustrated with the discipline of money management.
Lord, give my boys the heart of grateful givers as they have seen how amazing those gifts have been in our lives.
Continue to use me as a light in the world…

Amen

Thankful Thursday

While my boys go round and round about who gets in the shower first, I thought it would be a great time to just be thankful.

We drove down to Minneapolis yesterday and checked into our hotel which is directly across the street from the Mall of America. Immediately, the youngest was undressed and ready to go to the pool. The older one was busy setting up the xbox I had allowed them to bring.

So I go to supervise the little one and the older one (with strict orders that the xbox was brought for a specific purpose) decided to hang out in the room and read for a little while in peace.

While at poolside, I ordered pizza for supper and relaxed.

It wasn’t long after, Katie showed up at our room. Her and I were off to US Bank Stadium to go inline skating around the main concourse.

OMG

SO MUCH FUN

I skated for about 2 hours straight and her for three full hours. I knew going in that I couldn’t do the full time; and I didn’t care…the experience and the time with Katie was so worth it!

Of course we wore our “Cancer can Kiss My Skates” shirts and stopped at Target to buy pants because I couldn’t find mine when I left home.

Well, God was smiling on us OBVIOUSLY because we walked in and saw these pants that not only compliment our shirts nicely, they also have POCKETS for our cell phones!! SO COOL!

During the time we were skating, the boys had instructions to NOT kill each other, and no fighting over the xbox. I knew they could easily keep busy with games and movies for the couple hours I was gone…that was the ONLY reason I allowed them to bring it with us.

I DID NOT bring them on this vacation to sit in front of the xbox for three days…that’s for sure!

Today we are going to experience a virtual reality arcade, an indoor go kart track, and an hour of laser tag. Tomorrow is the Science Museum.

Father,

When I think of how full my heart is for my children, I cannot fathom how much greater Your love for us is. This is all I have to compare it to though…and it’s an amazing love. As I watch them be filled with peace and love and gratitude, it fills my heart.

It brings me such joy to give them gifts of time and memories. How much more joy must You have at each answered prayer?

It’s times like this that I am reminded to ask the Big Ask prayers. To ask for the earthly impossible…because everything is possible through You.

This trip is a reminder of that…without prayer, and without complete faith in You, we could not have made this trip.

I thank You over and over again for growing my faith over the last six years. I kept telling people it was worth it…every time they questioned how I could stay so positive, I only replied that I can enjoy the journey or be miserable…but I still had to go on the trip.

Lord, continue to rain your love onto us as we enjoy our time together. We have all worked very hard to get her and are so very thankful for every minute of this adventure!

Amen

Today I am hunkered down. Making preparations for 2018 and just spending time alone. I had a few invites to hang out with friends and their families, and except for one I will likely head to after a while, I needed some alone time after attending two church services this morning.

I have a plan in place, I am listening to God’s calling, and I am at peace.

The New Year has big things in place for us. New job, new opportunities, new life.

Oh God I miss my family today.

Being 600+ miles away is tough during holiday times. While I genuinely appreciate all the social invites, they are not the same as being with my children and my family. Most of the time I’d rather be alone than with people if those people don’t include my children and my family.

I’m not sad about that, I’ve come to realize that is just what works for me. Every other Thanksgiving, every other Christmas or New Years Eve my children are with their father and I’m okay with that.

It’s my time to be with me, and I’m as thankful for those moments as I am the ones I spend with my babies.

In two days my boys will be home and the next day we will be on the road to a three day adventure to Minneapolis. Three nights in a hotel with a pool, pizza in the bed with movies, Virtual Reality Arcade, Mall of America, Science Museum…just time to refresh and relax away from home.

I have scrimped, sacrificed, and saved up for this opportunity. I am thankful to those who have helped along the way.

As you may or may not know, I am a budget nerd. I am so excited for our 2018 budget and have complete faith in God to take a huge leap of faith in the new year.

On January 15 I will be giving notice in the kitchen at the school where I work. Whether or not they want me to work the two full weeks or not, is up to them and I am fine either way. I have three unused personal days I will use up before being finished as well. So although it looks like I have a full month left, there are 20 school days minus 3 personal leave days.

I have made connections at every school in our district to be a substitute para professional. I will also continue to be a cleaner substitute as needed.

I am so excited to be back on the front lines with the kids; in their midst. It will also afford me the flexibility to continue to volunteer for my youngest son’s teacher and for activities at my older son’s school.

The wage as a para sub is higher than my wage in the kitchen, and it is usually a full (7 hour) day as opposed to 4.25. Based on this, with only 3 days of work each week I will have the same income I have now. With the desperate need for para subs in our school system; I’m guessing I will likely work 15+days each month.

Anything over my current average monthly wages I will be setting aside for the first few months in case I have some extended time off. I’m also hoping to not have to work this summer.

I have been asked to be on staff at an area bible camp, and that would be a 5 week gig…it would likely be enough to afford me to take the remainder of the summer off. My goal is to eventually not work at all in the summer months.

I considered going home to Canada to work for the summer for one of the various construction companies; knowing I’d make enough over the summer to full fund a few months in an emergency fund.

Maybe next year. This year I have some serious training to do for three inline marathons and some serious fundraising. God has given me back my health to be put to work. This year work looks like making it big on the inline scene…reaching the podium. Shouting His praise every step of the way.

Lord,

The looks from people who wonder how I can give up my steady income for something that is not even remotely guaranteed makes me giggle. As I explain that I am following You, they don’t understand.

That’s okay.

When they see Your good works through me and my every grateful family, they will know that only You could pull this off. Then, and only then will they understand how faith is so much bigger than any fear. They will see how Your love is unending and limitless.

My eyes are so bright and my heart so free…thank you.

Amen