Posts filed under ‘happiness’
If you were about to pay off your mortgage would you throw a party to celebrate? It’s an interesting question for me. Although my last post may have been viewed as bragging, (at least I received one email letting me know it was perceived that way), I am not usually one to toot my own horn in real life.
When I purchased my beach house I didn’t tell my close friends or family. While my husband and I have worked hard to secure our finances I also know that we have been quite fortunate in life. I certainly didn’t want my success to make anyone else feel bad, so I kept my home a secret for nearly a year.
When I finally leaked the news to my close friends they were thrilled for me. If they were envious of my success they certainly didn’t show it, nothing in their body language gave any sign of animosity or jealousy.
When I make new friends and meet new people I almost never tell them my husband and I own a home in North Carolina. I feel like people would view me differently and not in a good way. When it does come up in conversation I always downplay the details. I tell them our house is only one story and a bit farther back from the beach than most. I try to be modest and fear that a mere mention of my beach home will be perceived as bragging.
While I would absolutely love to throw a party to celebrate the end of a mortgage I’m not sure that other’s would be so quick to celebrate alongside me. If you were invited to a mortgage free party would you be happy to celebrate with the homeowners or bitter that you weren’t in a similar predicament? Given my current situation I would be happy for my friends and family, but if my finances were in a not-so-fortunate state I’m not sure how I would feel about it.
I am extremely open about my finances on this blog, but only a few of my close friends know about it. I hate the idea that people would perceive me differently if they knew how much I owed and how much I was worth. In fact that’s the primary reason I blog anonymously.
What about you? As you write the last check to your mortgage company would you consider throwing a party to celebrate?
Every so often my husband and I sit down to discuss our finances. Among our favorite topics is what to do with the money we saved.
Sometimes we save with a specific goal in mind. We may want to remodel our bathroom, save for a larger car or take a much needed vacation. Other times we save with absolutely no purpose other than to set money aside.
A year and a half ago we decided to forgo the bathroom upgrades and new-to-us car so I could stay home with my son. With money in the bank we thought that the transition to a one income household would be slightly less scary. It was nice to know we had money in the bank if we needed it to fall back on.
As time passes our priorities shift, but no matter how our day-to-day decisions change over the years we still keep ‘one day’ goals in the back of our mind. ‘One day’ goals are those aspirations that are too distant to focus on day in and day out. They are dreams that won’t come to fruition for at least ten or twenty years. You hope that they will happen one day, but there is no telling when that day will come.
Our one day goals sound so simple, yet seem so hard to achieve. They are as follows:
- Pay off the mortgages of our two homes in less than 10 years
- Build a waterfront property. (This will probably involve selling the vacation property we currently own and using the money to build a new one.)
- Work fewer hours each week at a rewarding and interesting job. (This involves my husband working less, but also includes the understanding that I will return to work at some point in the next five years.)
In my dream scenario we would meet at all of these goals in the next ten years. By the ripe old age of 45 I would be mortgage free, living in a cozy house by the shore, working less and enjoying my job.
In reality I’m not sure what will happen, but regardless of how things play out it sure feels nice to dream about those ‘one day’ goals.
How about you? Do you set long term goals? If so, what are they?
If you’ve been married for awhile you probably notice that you and your spouse talk about the same things over and over. My husband and I rarely fight, but when we do it’s always about the very same things. You would think after knowing one another for over 15 years and being married for more than 8 that we’d know which triggers to avoid, but alas our fights are very repetitive.
We also tend to ask each other the same questions and bring up the same topics time and time again. Among the questions my husband asks is often “why are you blogging?” This is usually followed by something like, “is that really how you want to spend your free time?”
It’s not that my husband isn’t supportive. In fact, he is extremely supportive. It’s just that he doesn’t see the point in sitting down to blog about our finances when A) I make very little money from this blog and B) our finances appear to be in perfect order.
Every few months I consider giving this blog the boot. I’ve thought about changing it into a blog that talks more about my life as a whole and less about money. I’ve thought about giving up blogging all together in pursuit of something more meaningful and long term like writing a book or taking up a better paid hobby.
Yet every time I consider walking away from the keyboard I find myself right back where I started. I began this blog in 2006 at a time when my life seemed downright awful. I was physically sick and emotionally broken. I blogged to keep my mind off of my medical problems. In the beginning that was my only goal.
I wrote about money because it’s something that’s always held my interest. When I think back on my childhood I find that money is involved in many of my first memories. Over time those moments have come to define my character and personality.
Whether we like it or not money is a vital part of our lives. I used to think the goal was to save up as much as I could to buy the things I wanted, but one day I realized I wanted to save as much as I could to spend time with the ones I love. Money enables you to take time off work so you can care for an aging parent or stay at home with your children. Money allows you to worry less and live more. It provides peace of mind and freedom.
Blogging isn’t going to make me famous and doesn’t earn me much money, but it’s a habit I can’t seem to quit. I continue to write this blog because looking back over posts that span seven years makes me happy. I like to click back through prior years and read old entries. If I find the right combination of stories my financial history unfolds like a book before me. I consider this blog a diary of sorts and by reading about my former mistakes I find myself less likely to relive them. It doesn’t hurt to look back at the wise decisions either, after all, even a frugal girl needs to pat herself on the back every once in awhile.
Best of all I like to look back at all the posts that focus on the importance of wealth beyond money. There are many posts about gratitude, thankfulness, kindness and compassion. It’s a strong reminder that money is not the goal. I can unequivocally say that money does not equal happiness for me, but having money has made my life less stressful and as a result I am much happier.
Last week I wrote about my struggle to rid my home of sentimental clutter. Thankfully I received a bunch of great suggestions on how to pare down the mess. Among my favorites were picking out the very best items, removing duplicates and limiting the amount of stuff so that it all has to fit inside one small tote. I followed a similar set of rules when figuring out which of my son’s clothes to donate.
It’s funny what I hold on to in life. After my son was born I had no problem boxing up all of my old clothes and dropping them off at the donation center. I didn’t want to look in the closet and think about the size I had been or the size I wanted to be. That decision seemed like an easy one to make. Keep some of the pregnancy related items in case another little one makes his or her way into the world, but discard just about everything else. I kept my pants, sweaters and sweatshirts, but most of my shirts, blouses and skirts went off in search of a better home.
So if that’s so easy to decide why is it so difficult to get rid of other things. I’ve been holding on to an old pair of snowboard boots for the past seven years. Why? Because I didn’t want to face the fact that my health problems prevented me from returning to the slopes. Did keeping those boots in my closet help me snowboard again? No, in fact I felt worse about myself every time I saw them. So why did I hold on to them? The answer, (when I forced myself to think about it), was an easy one. I held on to them because I simply wasn’t ready to admit that my health and life had unexpectedly and unpleasantly changed.
Sometimes we hold onto things because they represent a happier, or in my case healthier, time in our lives. It’s tough to let go of a past when the present and future look a less rosy.
Interestingly enough I wasn’t even good at snow boarding. In fact I was downright terrible at it. I learned when I was in my early twenties and being 6 feet tall and not the least bit athletically inclined I spent more time sitting in the snow then gliding on top of it.
So this weekend I dragged my old snow boots and a few pairs of snow pants out of the closet, threw them into the back of my car and sold them at a local sports store that buys and sells used equipment. I decided that though my body may never glide down the slope it has been very, very good to me. After all, it helped me conceive and carry my son, something that I didn’t think would be possible when I first got sick so many years ago. I am grateful for my current health and although not perfect I am thankful for my body.
I hope those boots see the slopes again even if they won’t be strapped to my feet.
Over the course of my lifetime I’ve often downplayed my happiness and success. When I bought my second home I was hesitant to tell my friends and family about it. When I was promoted at work I decided to keep the news to myself. When I found out I was pregnant with my son I kept it a secret from all but two people for nearly four months.
My life is absolutely amazing. I am happily married to a man who is the yin to my yang. I have an amazingly easy and happy baby who I stay home with every day. Minus some lingering issues I am in fairly good health. My parents are both alive and still happily married. I am close to my ninety year old grandmother who is still functional and thriving.
I’m not saying my life is perfect, far from it, but in a world full of so many problems why does my life seem so easy? I often feel guilty about it. I tell my friends that I feel bad that my brother’s life isn’t as easy as mine. That I was born with a happy-go-lucky spirit while he was born with a down-in-the-dumps demeanor.
I tell people I’m lucky to have this-that-and-the-other-thing rather than acknowledging the fact that my husband and I have worked hard to achieve our success. I always downplay the work we’ve put into our lives. There are people in much more difficult, physically grueling lines of work then my husband and I. It seems strange to say we’ve worked hard when I’ve witnessed people truly working hard high on roofs, in heat or trudging heavy supplies and equipment.
I’ve never verbalized this before, but I suppose I feel unworthy of such happiness. Do I deserve to feel such joy? When others are struggling why am I so happy and fulfilled?
I am very grateful for all that I have, but I guess I’m always worried that something will happen to make it all go away. As crazy as it sounds I’m nervous typing this into my computer right now. If I tell people just how wonderful I feel, will it all go away?
I have friends and family who are perpetual worriers. They believe that every time something good happens something bad is sure to follow. I suppose some of that belief has rubbed off on me.
The joy in my world is so great that sometimes it makes my heart hurt. It’s those little moments. You know the ones. Like when my son plays hide-and-seek and runs out from behind the furniture when he hears me coming to get him. When my husband scoops ice cream, drizzles chocolate over the top along with brightly colored sprinkles and brings it to me while I sit in the living room. Or how about the sound of my son giggling for absolutely no reason from the back of the car. It’s a sound that immediately makes me smile and melts my heart.
I try my best to allow these moments to absorb into me. To pause and let the light shine into my heart and soul. To take a mental snapshot so I won’t forget how wonderful all of these tiny, every day moments feel.
I am grateful for all that I have and I thank my lucky stars every night for all that I have been blessed with, but as I count my blessings I sometimes wonder how long this joy can last. Am I the only one who worries that happiness can be short lived?
I looked back at this month’s calendar and was shocked to find how infrequently I posted on this blog. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. When my husband proposed in the spring I immediately knew I would wait well over a year to get married. I looked at the Farmer’s Almanac and choose the least rainy Sunday in October. We’ve been married for eight years now and it’s only rained once on our anniversary.
I spent a few days planning my son’s birthday party and another couple planning play dates, but otherwise it’s been a relatively quiet month for us. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary, we spent an afternoon pumpkin picking, attended football games every other weekend, swam with my son every Saturday and visited my parents every ten days or so, but all in all it’s been a quiet and delectable fall.
My son started to walk around 11 months and spent the last few weeks perfecting his gait. We’ve spent a lot of time outside enjoying the warmer than usual weather. He loves to climb up and down our front steps admiring the changing leaves and searching for acorns and fallen leaves in the yard.
I’ve tried to soak up every moment of my time with him. He’s pointing and clapping and giggling in ways that make my heart sing and melt at the very same time. Witnessing my son’s transformation in the past year makes me believe in both science and God in a way that is utterly magical.
This week he is fascinated by books. When he wakes up in the morning, (often before the sun is up), I take him downstairs in his pajamas, pull him in close and read stories with him. I usually keep a pile of books at our feet, but the other night I put all of the books away, so the next morning I pointed to the book shelf and asked my son to pick one for me to read. The book shelf is on the opposite side of the room, but wouldn’t you know that smart little fella climbed down off the sofa, walked over to the shelf, picked a story and brought it back to me. He repeated this pattern until we read almost every book on the shelf. I am so excited by his love of books and hope that his passion for reading continues.
At this stage he is still chewing on things, so I don’t want to borrow any books from the library. I’ve been trying to break him of that habit, but every once in awhile he nibbles the corner of one of them. Today I took a short trip to TJ Maxx to stock up on stories. While I love reading to him I get bored reading the same stories over and over. I shopped the clearance section of the store and brought home another ten books to add to our collection.
This was only the second time I bought books for him. I received books from just about every guest at my baby shower and received an additional box of books from a friend of the family. My sister-in-law also gave me a bunch, but many of them have real pages and at this stage I feel safer sticking with board books that can’t be tattered.
I haven’t been blogging the day to day details of my life, but I have been enjoying my days.
This year I will be out of town for my alma mater’s first football game. I could have listed my tickets on eBay or craigslist, found the highest bidder and sold the tickets to them. I could have asked friends and family members if they wanted the tickets and then asked them to pay full price for them. Instead I offered $100 worth of tickets to a friend and asked for no money in return.
I may clip coupons and pinch my pennies on a regular basis, but every once in awhile I like to make certain that I give back at least a portion of the money I earn and save. This time around I decided I’d much rather have a friend in my seats then a stranger. Even if that stranger did pay me money to sit there.
This year I was happy to host a giveaway for my birthday. It felt really good to give to someone else on a day when I would typically just receive things. I’ve read a lot of stories lately about little kids who host charity events rather than receiving gifts on their birthdays and I love the notion of teaching young children that they are not alone in the world. I want my son to grow up counting his blessings and realizing that there are other children that don’t have as much as he does.
Over the years my husband and I have earned quite a bit of money and saved that money to buy not one but two homes and one piece of land. My son may very well grow up with three bedrooms in three different homes. I want him to understand that he is lucky, fortunate and blessed to grow up this way and that many other children are not afforded the same luxuries.
How do you teach a child that you aren’t better than someone else just because you have more money? How do you teach a child that money isn’t the goal? I want my son to recognize that money is a necessary aspect of life. If you can earn a good living and save for your goals you will lead an easier, less stressful life, but money is not the end goal. Friends and family enrich your life and nourish your soul. Sometimes sharing the money you have with those you love will bring you the most soul-fulfilling joy.
You could have all of the money in the world, but what good would it be if you had no one to share it with?
How could I forget that my husband and I cannot shop for furniture without arguing with one another? I have written about our disagreements and debacles quite a few times before. There was the infamous coffee table that was recently shipped off to good will and before that arguments over bed frames and china cabinets.
It seems that most of the high end furniture stores have gone out of business in our area, so this weekend we ventured out to IKEA in the hopes of finding a new rug for our living room. The trouble is our living room is a hodgepodge of mismatched furniture. We own a plaid sofa bed that my husband bought for his first apartment. A purple chair and ottoman gifted to us from a renovated beach house and two IKEA chairs with brown and blue slipcovers.
With a cat who likes to claw at furniture there seemed no point in updating the living room. Despite the fact that neither of us was particularly comfy or cozy we decided to keep things as they were for the time being, but the minute we reached the rug department of IKEA all hell broke lose.
My husband didn’t want to purchase a rug that matched neither the sofa, chairs or ottoman. We walked around and around the rug department in search of something that was both big enough to fit the room and plain enough to match at least one piece of furniture. We were frustrated by the selection and the awful setup of our current space. Cat or no cat it just doesn’t feel comfy in there.
We walked out with a $99 rug that fit the space, but was unlikely to match anything inside our living room. He was mad and I was mad that he was mad. I know that seems ridiculous, but it’s absolutely true. I was as frustrated as he is about the situation, but I wasn’t willing to shell out a ton of money knowing that our cat will likely rip the new furniture to threads.
So we threw the rug into the back of the car and started off on our next set of errands. We barely spoke to each other on the ride other than to say neither of us was happy and for me to remind myself yet again not to go to a furniture store with my husband.
Next stop Costco. Well low and behold that trip to Costco solved all our problems. We found a new corner sofa that cost $799 and included an ottoman. It matched the new rug and two of our slipcovered IKEA chairs perfectly. I’m still not convinced that the cat won’t rip it to shreds, but for the price I decided to hope for the best and give it a try. At night we’ll cover the cushions with sheets and in the day we’ll have a water bottle on hand if the cat starts scratching.
We set up the new space and the room feels unbelievably homey. The rug is perfect for our son to crawl and play on. The sofa is soft and comfortable and helps define a space for us to enjoy each other’s company. Our living room is quite large and the sofa helps cut off some of the excess space. In that excess space we placed the purple chair and ottoman. They don’t match the sofa, rug or IKEA chairs, but they are slightly out of view when you are sitting on the new sofa and can eventually be slipcovered or replaced. Right now that’s the cat’s seat and we’re hoping it stays that way for awhile.
Our moods definitely softened once we donated our old plaid couch and sat down on our plushy, new sofa. At the end of the day I realized it wasn’t just about how the furniture looked. Given our issues with the cat I was okay with the fact that things were mismatched and ugly. What I didn’t realize was how the overall look of the living room was impacting our mood.
Clutter and cleanliness have a direct impact on my thoughts and feelings. If things are out of order I can’t seem to concentrate. With the furniture in disarray, shredded by cat claws and old and faded it felt less homey and comforting. With the new setup I love reading books to my son in the corner of the couch or chasing him around the ottoman. When my husband comes home the couch is large enough for all three of us to lounge and rest and for our son to climb over, around and between us.
I do know that it’s hard to teach an old cat new tricks. I sure hope he leaves the sofa alone. Step one make sure he knows exactly where the scratching posts are located. Step two trim, trim, trim those claws and hope for the best.
My 35th birthday is right around the corner and I feel happier than ever before.
I’ve always been a very serious, driven and competitive person and I’m sad to say that happiness didn’t seem to match my personality type much in my younger years. In fact, though I recall many moments of happiness I don’t believe I was an overall happy person.
My state of mind changed dramatically seven years ago when I unexpectedly fell ill. Faced with an unknown future I slowly began to realize that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed so I sure has hell better learn to live for today.
Although I consider myself unbelievably lucky and blessed I think it was my change in perspective that made me happier than anything else. After all, I know some very wealthy, healthy people that are downright miserable, so having either of those two things in life is not necessarily a recipe for bliss.
I feel happiest when I live in the moment. I know so many people that are waiting for something. They are waiting for love, money, better health or better friendships. They spend so much time looking forward to the the next thing that they never stop to appreciate today. It’s those little moments in life that need to be appreciated. I try my best to live fully in the moment, whether that moment is cooking dinner with my husband, playing peek-a-boo with my son or spending a lazy Saturday afternoon watching the Olympics.
I also know my faults and flaws and accept who I am as much as possible. I’m the kind of girl who needs a lot of space. If I go on vacation with my entire family, which I often do, I know that I need at least thirty minutes of time all by myself. If I can’t get this by waking up early and staying in bed, sitting out on the porch on a warm summer morning or trying to sneak in a few extra minutes at the pool then I’ll excuse myself for just a few minutes go into my bedroom and close the door. Do my in-laws think I’m being rude? Probably. Do I care? Most definitely not. We all have our own needs and in order to be a happy, healthy functioning individual I know that I need time to myself.
I spent the first ten years of my marriage trying to please my in-laws. Eventually I realized they wouldn’t be happy no matter what I did. There will always be some flaw, some issue, some problem with what I say or who I say it to. I now do and say what I want much more often. If I’m in the doghouse anyway I might as well enjoy myself on the way out the door. A few months ago I stopped worrying so much about what other people think.
I am amazed by how many of my friends still worry about how they are perceived by others. They are so afraid of the reactions of their friends and family that they stop sharing their lives with them or lie about their situations. In the end they only drive people out of their lives. They may not realize it at first, but true friends can tell each other anything. The longer people stay in the shadows the farther their lives pull apart. If people don’t react well to the truth then you may want to question why you are friends in the first place.
At the end of the day my perspective certainly helps me stay happy, but my life is also filled with lots of joy. My son, husband, family and friends all fill my world with happiness. A healthy emergency fund and money in the bank certainly helps too as does a relatively healthy body.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as happy as I am and my heart aches for my friends and family members that seem utterly miserable with their lives. Are you happy with your life? Are you miserable? What are your recommendations for those that can’t seem to find any joy in their lives? Where and how do you find joy?
If asked to grade your life what would you say? How do you think your current life compares to the life you expected at your age? Do you think you are on track, behind or have you completely changed course from the life you thought you wanted?
I’m not sure what I expected for my life or that I had a particular vision in mind. I vaguely remember writing an essay as a teenager in which I detailed my plans for the future as having children and teaching literature at the college level, though I’m not sure I ever really had a definitive plan.
Most of my early infatuations involved boys who were artists. I suppose I envisioned a husband who would spend his days playing guitar and teaching philosophy. Clearly making money was not high on my list of expectations.
I pictured living in a modest home like the one in which I was raised. A one-story ranch-style house in the country. A place where you could see the stars at night and feel the warm gentle breeze.
I never envisioned having or making a lot of money. It didn’t seem like my passion for literature and writing would fill my piggy bank and I assumed money would be tight for much if not all of my life.
So where did I end up…
Well I married a software developer, a technologist, a man who loves computers and all things science. Far from the guitar playing, philosopher I imagined, but I can’t imagine a better partner for my life long journey. Although our marriage isn’t perfect, it’s nearly as close to perfection as I could imagine. Every one has their issues and we try our best to voice our concerns and talk through our problems. He is the yin to my yang. He knows how to pick me up when I’m down and comfort me when I’m troubled. I attribute my greatest successes in life to having known and married him and I am eternally grateful that life and God brought us together.
As for my career… For twelve years I worked as a software developer. It’s a job I never would’ve held if I hadn’t met my husband in college. His passion for computers was contagious. It certainly wasn’t a teaching job, though strangely enough I did find a lot of similarities between literature and programming. I was forced out of the working world last year and now stay-at-home with my adorable eight month old son. It’s the hardest and best job on earth and I’m grateful that my husband’s employment affords me the opportunity.
Rather than owning one modest home I now own two sizable houses and a vacant lot that I hope to build on in the next ten to fifteen years. While my primary home is close to the city, my vacation home gives me a wide view of the night stars and welcomes me most mornings with warm gentle breezes.
Truth be told I want for very little in life. Some people have a lot of money but not a lot of love. Some people have a lot of love but not a lot of money. I have been blessed with both love and money. It’s taken a lot of work to reach this point in my life, but at 34 I am happy to say that life is constantly getting better. I thank my lucky stars for all that I have and I am grateful each day for the blessings I’ve received thus far.
Not everything in my life has turned out the way I would’ve expected and I’ve faced some medical hurdles along the way, but all in all I would have to give my life a definite A. At this exact moment I wouldn’t want my life any other way.