Thursday, March 31, 2011

Winter into Spring

As winter turns into spring around here, everything seems topsy-turvy.  Letting go of the long winter, and trying to look forward to the spring and summer, has brought on some regrets and much musings.  I regret that I did not embrace the winter fully, even though it was excellent for skiing and outdoor pursuits.  I let my fitness go and am now clawing my way back to where I was last October.  Geez Louise, if only I had just kept going a bit with fitness...  I am in the messy middle of our Financial Peace University class.  Really coming to grips with where we are financially, and all the decisions that have led to this very spot.  Yikes, that is not very fun...  Thinking about our business I consider all that we have not done for that as well; budgeting, planning, and general management.  Sigh....  My work has been particularly challenging lately, as we are chronically short staffed, sometimes three or four short.  And while this has led to good decisions for picking up extra shifts, I have not felt like I have been doing a great job while juggling all the extra duties.  Plus the acuity has been high, and my last shift had me dealing with a violent offender, which is never fun.  Harumpff....  I am looking forward to warm weather and activities, but nervous about the time and skill needed to finally complete the long awaited attic project.  What if I do all my parts wrong... 

That's about it and those are the major brain twisters.  I do always have the blessing to hang on to that my wonderful son Alex is in the best school in the whole universe.  And I am married to a fantastic guy.  And I have some of the best friends in the whole world.  And I can back surf.  Other than that, does the rest really matter?

So I try to hear the regrets, and use them to plan for the future.  Learn from the mistakes and mis-steps, and move on.  It is hard!  But maybe hard work has it's own rewards.  Spring is truly right around the corner, things will green up over the next few weeks, and as the sun gets stronger I will leave these winter blahs behind.  Time to plan the garden, set up a few camping and outdoor adventures, and get to work on that attic...     -Beth out

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kick A** Lake Superior

I just got back from a trip to the Lake.  It is 30 degrees, and blowing at about 40 miles an hour.  A great day to be out!  You know, I sometimes wonder just why I live in Duluth.  Between 20 below zero temperatures, a fair amount of gray, cloudy days, two mud seasons, and bugs in the summer, an outdoor girl can get a little down now and then.  Days like today bring me back to why I love it here.  There are unique opportunities that you just don't find many other places.

The lake has ice ridges right now.  If you read my  Lakeneering post, you know what I am talking about.  Well, today the ridges were getting slammed by waves.  The wind is up, and the waves are high.  In fact they are mountainous.  Mountainous waves crashing onto mountains of ice.  The spray was flying so high that I first spotted it when I was driving on the highway, about six miles from the beach.  An impressive and unusual display, and I had to get closer.  So close, that I allowed my errands to detour me to the Tot Lot beach.  Out the car, and I realized it was going to be a challenge to keep my feet, as well as keep my hat on my head.  I was decked out in wool and down, in many layers, and my happy dog had his substantial fur on.  Oh, for the camera I forgot.

We headed straight out to sea.  Over the ice and sand, all whipped into strange shapes the weeks before.  No even footing whatsoever, and wind so strong I had to lean into it.  Jack, our border collie was in seventh heaven, it was like a Scottish day on crack.  Not only was it blowing sideways with pelting rain bits, but every wave crash sent ice pebbles and spray into the mix.  We got up on the second to last ridge line before ice met icy water, and it was a sight to behold.  The waves were pounding in behind the first ridge line, and every third one would throw both spray and wave itself over the top of that ridge, washing down the back with small rivers of water and ice chunks.  No one  in their right mind would go there.  The second ridge line was just fine, with no danger of hypothermic deluge, just the threat of slipping on sandy ice and banging a knee.  I only did it once in our 45 minutes out.

I made a deal with myself a few weeks ago, that I would work hard to get out at least 30 minutes a day.  Out the door, outside, out in the woods, or wind, or water.  You'd think that wouldn't be so hard, considering I used to spend 10 to 24 hours a day outside.  But life changes, and what once was a given can become a challenge.  Today that challenge was met with a huge smile.  We had fun, Jack and me, getting blown about on the ice ridge line.  We went all the way to the canal, and I had the supreme pleasure of standing on the lake side of the locked canal sidewalk gate... in the lake itself, so not really breaking the rules.  When they close that gate it means the waves are too dangerous for people to be on the canal sidewalk.  It goes without saying that people are not supposed to be IN the lake right next to the sidewalk either, because usually you'd be swimming and in strong danger of bashing your head in on the canal sidewalk wall.  Not today, as it was frozen for another 20 yards out on my side, so I stood next to the sidewalk, on the frozen solid lake.  It was strange to look over the canal walls to the unfrozen channel with waves rolling through, and although it was false naughtyness, it still felt good to stand where you usually can't.

Jack had a riot playing Dog-of-All-Weather.  And I remember, once again, why I live in Duluth.

 This photo was taken by Sherry Rovig.  It was actually a point break about 12 miles from where I was hiking called Stony Point, but it's from the right day, lake, and storm. And a beautiful pic, -Thanks Sherry!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mo' Money

Time to talk about money again.  I have blogged about money a fair amount, and set a goal last year to teach a money class some day.  Well, that day has come.  We have been teaching the class for over a month now and it has been great.  The class is called Financial Peace University.  Financial Peace, two words that don't go together.  But really, they can.  You just have to be weird.  Never one to worry about that, I have been embracing the weirdness of coming to terms with money for a long time now.

I found my first Dave Ramsey book almost a decade ago.  Financial Peace.  It had a hopeful message and sound principals.  Most money books are hard to read, but not this one.  Hard to do, yes.  But not hard to read.  I read it first back in '02 and got inspired.  We got on the envelope system, started tracking expenses, and worked to live below our means while cutting out credit.  Somewhere between '05 and '07 Kevin shot our last credit card.  Yes, I said "shot".  He canceled the account once it was completely paid off, confirmed that it was indeed a closed account, hung up the phone, and shot the card twice.  Then he mounted it like a deer, with antlers and everything.  It hangs in our living room today.

We got the principals down, but the actual doing ALL of it has come slowly.  Dave does a seven step plan, and we languished on step two (pay off all debt but business and home) for about eight years.  March of last year we paid off my student loan, which was our last personal debt, and we were finally done with step two.  Yahoo!  It felt amazing.  So amazing that I got serious about sharing it with others, and my pastor liked my hair brained idea too.  Kevin was more than willing to go along with it, so through our church we are teaching our first Financial Peace University class.  This has really upped our game, because now we have to do everything for real.  All the parts of the plan, including income planning, asset management, and the dreaded budgeting.  We have half budgeted for a long time, knowing mostly where our cash is going, but not keeping an eye on the income, or planning ahead for future expenses. Christmas has snuck up on us every year.  And we never had a real car repair fund, even though it is guaranteed we will have breakdowns with the age vehicles we drive.  "Let's just hope for the best" ain't gonna cut it any more and we sat down to hammer out a real budget last month and this month.  It was scary at first, but has already gotten easier.  We are finally getting a handle on complete budgeting, and it is actually quite liberating.  Really.  I swear.  It is so liberating we will be doing it every month.  Told you I was weird.  But hey, average means broke, so I am totally going for weird.

And now we are about to knock out step three.  With our upcoming tax refunds we are going to completely fund our 3-6 month Emergency Fund.  We had been worried about whether or not we would get a refund (due to poor budgeting we didn't really know), and then trying to wiggle out of doing the right thing.  But through the complete budgeting process we have seen where we stand, and it helped clarify where we really want to go.  Trips are nice, but life goals are better.  We are going to  complete the Emergency Fund first, then go on to a few little goals with what is left while leaving our budget in good shape for the rest of the year.  Christmas will NOT sneak up on us this year.  We are setting up appropriate savings (like for the car) and now have income goals to shoot for to keep our budget where we want it, and to build it for the future.  We are managing our money and telling it where to go, rather than wondering where it went.   Financial Peace... it really is possible.  Next comes climbing step four, Retirement Funding and planning.  Not as scary as it used to be, and now way less likely to sneak up on us.  Well, that's it from the money desk.  If you have been wondering where I have been, now you know.  Money land.     Happy financing, people!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

I am working on upgrading my blogging skills.  More specifically, my blogging photo skills.   I am terrible at getting pictures up, and it is time to improve in that area.  Just figured out how to raid photos off a friends Facebook stash, so will likely be doing more of that (see previous post with new photos).  Now if I can only figure out how to delete old photos off my camera, add photos to the computer, and upload them where I want them.  And organize them too.  Oh wait, I know HOW to do all that, I just need to figure out WHEN.  I guess that is my next new trick...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ice Lakeneering

It is Ice Lakeneering season.  Much like Mountaineering, you go to a specific, beautiful, and awe inspiring place to climb and clamber and reach a zenith.  You need warm gear and a stout heart. And a friend to go with you, for safety and fun.  Plus there is climbing, ice, and danger.

There is a special ridgeline to climb on in Duluth right now.  It will not last, and few will challenge it.  But those who do will reach a peak.  Or more than one.  Yes, Lake Superior is frozen, in yet another unique and beautiful way.  On Park Point the snow and ice and water have combined in an unusual way.  Through freezing temps, wind, and wave action, the lake has created a frozen landscape that stretches about a quarter mile out from the beach.  There are several tall ridges of ice and snow that you have to overcome and several planes of cottage cheese snow to cross to get all the way out to the water.  Almost cliff like in places, the ice takes on may beautiful forms.  Once to the water line you can watch the water and ice-plates slowly rise up and down, like the lake is breathing the frozen air.

This is it.  Today is likely the last really cold day of winter.  5 degrees and below zero wind chill.  It only gets warmer from here, and the Lakeneering will not be stable for long.  Like many things in Duluth, you have to get it while it lasts.  Get out there people!

 Thank you, Kerisa, for fun, motivation, and photos!