Category Archives: Family

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 7 – The Conclusion to “Our Year of Living Minimally”

2017, Our Year of Living Minimally, has come and gone and it’s time for some reflection on how the decision to buy (almost) nothing for a year has impacted our family.  We are not the people we were at this time last year as this experiment has affected us in almost every way imaginable.  So here I share our five biggest benefits and takeaways from this project as well an as answer to the question for this year: What now?

  1. Perhaps the most tangible benefit to this undertaking is simply the amount of money we saved, or in our case, the amount of debt we were able to pay off.  We are teachers; we don’t make a lot of money, and for the past year and a half we’ve been living off 1.5 salaries (and just one the year before that).  I used to get really discouraged when thinking about how long it was taking us to pay off our school debt (Wheaton grad school loans are no joke, people); I felt like we would be stuck on Dave Ramsey’s baby step #2 FOREVER.  However, this year has cleared up a lot of that discouragement haze and allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. Maybe the most surprising benefit is how our decision has affected our health.  David has always been fairly thin and fit, but this year he’s gained more muscle and speed than ever before.  He’s getting closer and closer to achieving his audacious goal of a sub-5 minute mile.  I, on the other hand, will be happy to get back into sub-10 minute mile shape, and I’m not that far off.  🙂  By making the one decision to limit our eating out to approximately once a month, we are both so much healthier.  From January 1 to January 1, I am down 32 pounds, and it honestly wasn’t that hard.  By preparing our food at home, we are able to control both the content and amount we consume.  And if I’ve gone to the trouble of cooking, you can bet that we try to stretch that meal out into leftovers.  Rarely do we go back for seconds but rather eat a piece of fruit or nuts if we’re still hungry … cost efficient and healthy.
  3. By outlining guidelines at the beginning of the year, we avoided decision fatigue and the often resulting poor spending choices.  By eliminating many options ahead of time (clothes shopping, buying gifts for each other, eating out, etc.), we simplified our lives and freed up mental energy for other pursuits.  I have spent my time this year reading, teaching, cooking, working out, playing with my daughter, and relaxing with my husband, all of which I argue are infinitely superior to going shopping!
  4. The biggest takeaway I would say is our change in mindset.  Honestly, that first month of eating out only for book dates hurt a little.  I was in withdrawal, and Friday nights hurt the worst.  However, now it’s the new normal, and I don’t even really think about it.  Or if I do (on the rare occasions we do eat out), I think about how much money we’re spending and how much I could have bought at the grocery store with that amount!  Eating out has become a treat, something to be thoroughly enjoyed, savored even, not taken for granted.  The same goes with any purchase.  If something is a true need and we’re going to depart with our hard earned money to buy it, I want to ensure that it will last, that it’s actually worth the cost.  If it is, then we work to take care of it.  We are learning to be faithful stewards of what’s been entrusted to us whether that’s time, energy, money, or possessions.
  5. The most surprising takeaway would be an increased confidence in our ability to do hard things.  The only thing I’ve ever given up for a year was soda, and it wasn’t that hard.  However, as I was hearing stories of people’s journeys and experiments with shopping bans over the course of a full year, I was incredibly inspired.  All these people were doing this really hard thing!  We could surely do it too, couldn’t we?  Yes, we could and we did.  We didn’t do it perfectly, but when I look back at my life years and years from now, I am certain I will consider 2017 a catalyst for the achievement of many audacious goals.

So, what now?  Are we done?  Do we now get to buy all the things?  Nope.  We’re signing up for another year … or 50.  We’ve discussed our needs for the upcoming year and have settled on some guidelines to see us through 2018.  Our eating out plan is still in place as is our clothes buying ban excepting some athletic wear we’re both in need of.  I don’t think I’ll churn out a post a month (considering I didn’t even meet that goal this year), but I do plan to keep writing about our experiences in frugality and minimalism mostly for selfish purposes in that it keeps me accountable to the guidelines we set.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

 

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Enjoying her once a year Antipodean French toast!
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2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 6 – 2018 and Beyond

David and I aren’t career international teachers.  We didn’t move over here planning to retire in Indonesia; rather we were seeking to be faithful in “next steps.”  It began as a two year commitment and has grown into five.  This is our fifth year living overseas!  It doesn’t seem that long although I imagine our families would beg to differ.

Last year I went back to work part time teaching one section each of 11th and 12th grade English, and I could not love it more.  I always tell people I get the best of both worlds.  I get to spend time with my daughter as her primary caregiver while also taking on something mentally challenging and exercising my gifts.  It’s a sweet spot, for sure.  I’m not ready to go back full time, and for now we’re thankful to be in this somewhat odd situation that allows so much flexibility for our family.

Next year C will begin K-1 (school starts at 3 years old over here), and she’s already so excited about going to school “as a student.”  I’ll be able to teach while she’s in school and be there for drop off and pick up each day with the peace of mind that both David and I are in the same building with her should anything happen.  Our decision to renew contracts for another year was a bit tougher this year with my mom’s health issues, and we’re certainly keeping everything in mind moving forward.  For now we are looking forward to spending quality time with her and the rest of our family over the summer before returning to Jakarta for a sixth year in the fall of 2018.


I’ve fallen a bit behind on these end of year updates due to 1) potty training the first week of Christmas break, 2) an amoeba that destroyed our Christmas Eve/Christmas Morning, and 3) a desire to finish 30 books in 2017 … I finished the 29th today.  I’ll wrap up this blog series with a reflection on our Buy (Almost) Nothing Year sometime early in the new year, but for now Happy New Year to all and to all a good night!

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 2 – An Update on My Mom

The past few months have been a bit tough for our family.  Just after Thanksgiving I got a message from my dad that they had admitted my mom to the hospital due to rapid weight gain (over 30 pounds in three days!), and they were wary of her kidney function.  She was there for a few days, and it was ultimately decided that she would need to begin dialysis.

My mom has had a few health issues over the course of my life.  She was in the hospital two Christmases straight my 6th and 7th grade years, once for gallbladder issues and another time when they thought she had pancreatic cancer.  Thank the Lord, it turned out to be a cyst instead.  I remember being scared as a twelve year old girl but at the same time not really understanding just how much I had to lose.  Just after my brother was born, she was diagnosed with diabetes, which she has managed now for over twenty years.  The past couple years, however, she has experienced some problems with vision which require her to get shots in her eye every month or so.  She loves her eye doctor dearly, and thanks to the blood work they do each visit, they were recently alerted to issues involving her kidneys.

When I first heard the word dialysis in reference to my mother, my first thought went to Steel Magnolias, which of course terrified me.  Not knowing much about the treatment, I just pictured my mom succumbing to the same fate as Julia Roberts.  However, after some reading and discussions with friends and family in the medical field, I am much more encouraged as patients on dialysis can live for many years.  It’s a dramatic lifestyle change, definitely.  My mom will have to go for treatment three times a week for several hours at a time, and I think she’s mourning the loss of a normal life.  We’re so thankful, however, for the medical care she’s receiving and the huge circle of support and encouragement she has in her Abilene community.

Saturday night she was readmitted to the hospital, again for excessive weight gain in a short period.  She had been scheduled to have a temporary port put in early this week, but they went ahead and gave her her first round of dialysis on Sunday.  She had the port surgery yesterday and a second round of dialysis, which should be followed by a third round tomorrow.  Eventually she will receive her treatments through a fistula in her arm, but that will take awhile to heal once created.

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Thankful to have Kaye with my mom!

While physically this is certainly taking its toll on my mom, I think it impacts her emotionally just as much.  We wish we could be there to encourage and assist.  Clementine is the joy of her Gran’s life, and I know that nothing would cheer my mom more than a hug from her granddaughter.  We’re thankful that technology allows us to feel not so far away, and Clementine enjoys FaceTiming Gran in the “hossable” even if it means she doesn’t get to see the cats.  We are also so grateful that my aunt (who happens to be working through nursing school at the moment) is on break and is able to be there for my mom.  She’s such a rock for us all and a strong advocate for my mom.

Thankfully it looks like my mom will be released from the hospital soon and won’t miss another Christmas at home.  Thank you to those who have called and visited her and especially those who have prayed for her.  You have cared for and comforted my mom in my place, and I am immeasurably grateful.

More pictures from this summer (mostly) of C & Gran:

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 1 – Summer Synopsis

For several years now I have attempted a digital Christmas card letter/blog, often in the form of a top ten list.  This year I could only come up with seven things to share, so I’ve decided to break them into mini-blogs that I’ll be posting on the seven days leading up to Christmas.  Today’s (not-so) mini-blog is brought to you by our summer trip home.  (Can you tell we’ve been watching a lot of Sesame Street at our house??)

2017 marked our second summer visit back to the States since moving to Indonesia.  We had a full six weeks off this year, which allowed for much needed time with family and friends.  Upon landing we had about 36 hours before loading up for a 16 hour road trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It had been 18 months since everyone in David’s family (now numbering 22!) had gotten together, and with everyone spread out from Texas to DC and everywhere in between, Tennessee seemed like a great “meet in the middle” vacation destination.  David’s family rented a huge cabin which afforded a whole week’s worth of family togetherness.  We went hiking, white water rafting, cooked together, worshiped together, and played a ton of games.  Clementine got to meet her new cousin, August, and all of the cousins had a blast playing together.

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Cabin deck view
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A first for David and me!  Everyone else appears to be working a lot harder than I …
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The perfect space for our party of 22
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All 22 … and a half 😉

We also spent time in West Texas visiting my side of the family.  Our Abilene time was filled with traditional Abilene outings: visits to the Grace (for an outdoor showing of ET … David had never seen it), the Planetarium (where we were reprimanded for pushing the buttons on the astronaut suit), Perini’s (where C fell in love with sidewalk chalk), and the Abilene Zoo (C still talks about feeding the giraffe).  Clementine loved her time with her Gramps and Gran and Uncle Dan.  We made it up to Amarillo for the new annual tradition: Thanksgiving in July.  These short days were full of football, hiking, and lots of Rook.  In fact, for the first time since the inauguration of the Rook tournament plaque back in 2011, I won the tournament!  My mom and I made a good team and vanquished the other mother-daughter pair, Kaye and Carlee.

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Thanksgiving in July 2017

Thanks to my aunt lending us a car for the summer, we were able to take a few road trips to visit friends and family in Texas and Oklahoma.  David is an expert at planning these visits most efficiently!  We were thankful to spend time with loved ones in Austin, Waco, Georgetown, Norman, Harrah, and Oklahoma City this trip.  Even in Dallas I got to see a (newly engaged) old friend from my Illinois days!  Much fun was had spending time with David’s family in Dallas as well.

We are always thankful to be home over the summer because it means celebrating Clementine’s birthday with family.  And with our parents living only about three hours apart, Clementine gets plenty of celebration.  This year we got to spend her birthday morning with David’s parents and birthday evening with mine.

So that’s Day 1 … stay tuned for six more 2017 highlights!