Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chapter of Regret

I've been thinking a lot about high school lately. I actually think about it all the time. Mostly, because I still volunteer at the Christian high school from which I graduated. I think a lot about the good times: volleyball practice, bus rides to volleyball games, volleyball tournament, walking laps around the gym with my girlfriends or passing the volleyball with them at lunch. I remember giggling off during chapel, "grading papers" with Abe when we were the only two students in consumer math, and pausing the chemistry videos when Mr. C left the room . I remember my first loves, the heartbreaks, the joys, and the pain that all came with high school. But, I also remember the bad things about high school. Not that my high school experience was filled with bad things I experienced personally, but the bad things I did to other people. I think about all the people I wouldn't be friends with because they were weird or "uncool". I think about all the girls I made fun of, and all the boys I did mean things too. I think a lot about one incident in particular where the whole high school ridiculed and harassed a girl because of a bad choice she made. That girl left school because we were so mean to her, and she wasn't the only story that ended that way. Yeah, there are a lot of kids we were beyond hateful too, and I think about those kids a lot. Some of them I still see around, and others I just wonder what happened to them. They are all sad stories, regrets in the chapters of my life.

I think a lot about that girl. The girl I used to be. I think about how immature she was, so desperate to fit in and to be liked. I know its not an excuse, but I'm sure a lot of the mean things I did to those people were my lame attempts at fitting in. I had no reason to be that way to them, but I was and I regret that everyday. and sometimes I wish I had an eraser, and was able to go back and take some of it back. People always say, "If I would of known what I know now..." Well, if I could of introduced my 25 year old self to my 17 year old self, I think I would of done a lot of things differently. Especially the mean part. But, I know that's not possible. I have to accept those incidents as things that played a part in shaping me into who I am today.

Who am I today? Well, I like to think I've come a long way from that desperate girl I was. I know I still have my moments, and I know that sometimes I still fall short. But, I also know that I wake up everyday and try to be the person God has called me to be. I try to show love to everyone, and I work really hard at being kind. Despite my facade, I really do care what people think about me and I can't stand it when someone dislikes me or doesn't want to be my friend. I tend to take those realizations really hard, even though I try to pretend like I don't care. Randy encourages me all the time not to care so much about what other people think about comes so easily to him, but I do struggle with it. I know that not everyone is going to like me or my strange personality...I'm not easy to take sometimes. But, I know that I can't quit trying! I have to embrace who I am and keep on loving people, even if they don't love me back. I know I'm not the same girl I was in the 11th grade, and I know that 25 year old Ashley would not have done some of things that 17 year old Ashley did. But, that's the past. I have to embrace my future and just be who I be, you know?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Too Much Month At The End Of The Money

Have you ever heard the saying, “There is just too much month at the end of the money”? That’s how I feel 99.99% of the time. My husband and I are a young couple, and while we aren’t really “just starting out”, we are only three and half years into this roller coaster ride and trust me, it’s been a tough ones. I know most young couples struggle the first few years of marriage as they work on getting a budget under their belt, but for us the struggle has been magnified 100% because of my credit card debt. Yes, that’s right, I said MY credit card debt. No shoving the blame off on my husband or anyone else, I for the most part am solely responsible for the four cards I maxed out from the time I graduated to the present, and the truth be told, I didn’t realize how bad it was until a few months ago when it finally hit and we were having a hard time making all the minimum payments. I knew that we were getting no where…FAST! So, I finally fessed up to my husband (most of it I had kept a secret), and after giving him a few days to, rightfully, be angry at me, we began the long road back to the promise land.

It started with a loan from our bank to pay off the biggest chunk of our debt at a much better interest rate than the 22% one of the card was giving us. After that, one of the cards negotiated a settlement with us and a lower interest rate as long as we allowing them to directly withdraw the payment from our checking account every month, and the other card is luckily still at 0% interest (it was fairly new and had one of the lower balances), so we are able to steadily work on that one until the end of year when we will have to do something different. Sounds like a game plan, huh? Well it is, and some days it even feels like it, but other days I look at our checkbook and just want to cry because this massive overhaul to get out of debt is really putting us in a bind. I know, I know…it’s a sacrifice I should be willing to make, and I am, but some days its just hard to bite that bullet. Especially if I feel other bills are in jeopardy or even my grocery list.

I guess the other kink in our game plan to get out of debt, is that I am a stay-at-home mom. Sure, we considered that maybe I should return to work part-time. But, we realized that if I worked part-time, a huge chunk of that money would just end up going into childcare, which would kind of defeat the purpose. Plus, we both feel strongly about doing whatever it takes so that I can continue to stay-at-home and nurture our daughter. So, with my returning to work not really an option, we investigated other avenues.

Some may say, “You just need to adjust your budget!” And my answer to that is, “We have.” We have cut alot of our costs. We worked with our insurance company and got a better rate, we eat out less, we filed for a hardship and were able to deflect my student loan payments for a year while we get a handle on things, and we try to conserve fuel and make the $50 gas allowance our business gives us last as much as it can. I’m sure there is always more we can do and probably will have to do like switch to the basic package with our satellite service, changing our home phone service to a cheaper provider, cutting our grocery bill down as much a baby food, wipes, and diapers will allow, and we’ve even considered getting rid of our life insurance policies (trust me, this will be a last resort!). On top of these adjustments, I am able to do a few odds and ends jobs that still allow me to stay-at-home such as some freelance writing and helping my mother-in-law in the office one day a week with the family business. In the fall, I referee volleyball matches for our local Christian school, and I also substitute for them. While I may not be contributing a whole lot, I do make enough to help out some, and it allows me to continue being the mother I want to be to my daughter and get out and occasionally be someone other than a wife and a mom.

So, this where we are at and I have a feeling that there is going to be “too much month at the end of the money” for a while. But, deep down, as much as I worry, I do know that we will be okay, and that while every young couple may not have such a huge amount of credit card debt, they are struggling like we are just the same…some just show it more than others. I know eventually we will get a handle on all of this, and I know that we are going to come out on the other side wiser and better spouses and parents…even though today it really doesn’t feel like it.

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