Keto Journey: Week 7

Like many of you, I created a New Year's Resolution. (I know! I know!)

I stepped on the scale soon after Thanksgiving and I did not like the number I saw. So, I spent the remaining week of 2019 learning about Keto.

What is Keto?


Keto, or the Ketogenic Diet, is a diet that focuses on fat, protein, and carbohydrates. While there are variants in the amount of each macronutrient are eaten on the Keto diet, the percentages are typically as follows: fat - 75%, protein - 20%, carbohydrates - 5%. There are a lot of great macronutrient calendars online. I used this one:

Should I track? How do I track?


In a word: yes. If you don't track, you don't know what you're eating. For me, tracking (and measuring) has helped me get rid of portion distortion. Tracking is as simple as reading a label (no, really). What you do with that information, is up to you. You can either track via apps (Carb Manager and My Fitness Pal are two that are used frequently. Spark People is also another tracking app that is simple to use). Or if paper and pencil is more your flavor, you can keep a simple food log. I use this one.

When you track, start with carbohydrates. You can add the other two macros after you get the swing of tracking carbs.

There are two ways to track carbs: whole carbs or net carbs. There is varying school of thought on which you should track, but if you're used to eating All The Carbs, I'd probably track net carbs vs total carbs just to make it easier on yourself.

What is a net carb?


A net carb is a total carb MINUS fiber and sugar alcohols (please do not confuse this with sugar). Sugar alcohols are artificial sweeteners that do typically do not impact blood sugar.
Source

In the above food label, the total carbs (carbohydrates) is 31 g (grams). there is no fiber in this food, so the total carb count for this food (a 1 cup serving) is 31 carbs. However, if that same food had 6 g of fiber, you would subtract the total carbs (31) from the fiber (6), to get a net carb count (25). 

Many digital food tracking websites and apps (see the ones I named above), will automatically calculate net carbs if you set it up that way in your user settings. 

Once you get comfortable tracking carbs, then you can begin tracking fat and protein. Carb Manager gives you a pie graph of your macros so you can see at a glance if your percentages are in check or not).
CarbManager.com
This was a good day. You can see that my percentages are pretty good. I didn't quite eat enough to use up all of my macros and that's okay. I wasn't very hungry this day. Other days, I am hungry and when I am, I eat.

What else should I do?


Forget the devil. The scale is a liar. After being completely obsessed with the scale, I decided to put it in the closet during the week and only weigh in on Saturdays. So, how do I know what I'm doing is working? I take pictures and I take measurements.

When I took pictures back in January, I did not like what I saw. However, when I took pictures in February, I could really see some change, even though the scale wasn't a huge "success". And if that wasn't enough, I took measurements so I could sure that my eyes were not deceiving me.

I will update with three month totals on March 1st, so please stay tuned. In the meantime, come join me on Instagram and Facebook! I'd love to chat with you!




New Year, New Me!


Yes, yes. This is yet ANOTHER New Year post. So what's one more?

It's been while since I've brushed off the old "Create New Post" button. It's been so long that Blogger has completely updated their user interface for users (on this side of the screen; I don't think much changes on your end.)

The blog has been through yet another overhaul. I just couldn't seem to find the right color combo, but I think a simple green and white suits me just fine. (Odd since my favorite color is red. But I didn't think red translated so well in blog terms. I think simple is best).

I've spent all of Christmas break researching. Goal setting. Debt management. Diet. Exercise. Pretty much everything you research right before the new year.

Y'all..I know this blog is trite. There's not much I can do about that. I want to stay that I'm knock out these goals and that will be the end of it. But the truth is, I haven't been so great about goal setting when I've been in charge. I am convinced that I graduated college because everything was laid out for me. All I had to do was show up and do the work.

Which is the secret to all goal setting, right? Show up. Do the work. I haven't been showing up to my own life lately. And it shows. I'm a mess. An utter mess. Aren't we all on some level? The only solace I can give is this: you aren't alone. This is what my blog is all about - just trying to tackle life and sometimes getting it right. If I can share my experience and allow readers to learn from my mistakes, I'm willing to be vulnerable. Which is why I'm going to share my goals for 2020.

I'm going to lay out my goals and then I might take a post for each one to discuss how I plan on tackling them (tools, guidelines, etc). Then, you'll be able to come back and get updates on whichever goals interest you. I also am going to try to be a greater presence on YouTube and Instagram. If you don't already follow the accounts for This Side of Perfect, please consider following along.

My goals tackle four areas: Health, Money, Organization, and Life

Health: Lose 50 pounds by December 2020.
Money: Pay off credit cards by December 2020.
Money: Save $1,000 in savings
Organization: Create a morning and evening routine
Life: Complete a 50,000 word project by December 2020 (NaNoWriMo)

So why should you care about my goals? You shouldn't. They are mine. *Unless you're a friend or loved one who knows me personally or an empath, you probably don't care much about these goals.* BUT, my hope this year is that I can share what I'm doing to reach these goals and these tools will help you reach your goals. And I care about you reaching your goals (no, really, I do!)

As I said, I'll go into further detail about how I'm going to reach each of these goals (they will be one blog post each, I think so that they aren't too terribly long. People are busy. Y'all don't have time to read my drivel, after all.)

Let me finish this post, however, with a tool you need for setting goals. Every teacher on the planet is familiar this type of goal setting, as are millionaires and business people.

In order for your goals to be true goals (rather than just notes on a sheet of paper or hopes, wishes, and dream) there is a formula most successful people follow: the SMART formula. This idea isn't mine (and I'm not sure who created it) but it's tested and research based (teachers - see what I did there?)

A S.M.A.R.T goal is:

S - Specific - if you noticed, I didn't say I wanted to "lose weight" for my health goal. I was specific. I want to lose 50 pounds.
M - Measurable - how will I know that I've reached my goal? I lose 50 pounds
A - Attainable - it needs to be something that you can accomplish; I might want to own {insert Fortune 500 company} but considering I have zero marketing and business experience, the chance is slim.
R- Relevant - is it a goal that you set (verses one you think you should set or one everyone else is setting). For me to set a goal of running a marathon isn't relevant OR realistic. I don't like to run. I don't plan on running. I would never reach this goal because I'm not motivated to take step to make this goal a reality.
T - Timely - how long are you going to give yourself to achieve your goal? If you leave it open-ended, the chances are good that you will never reach it. Instead, give yourself a deadline. You'll thank your future self for it.

So, there you have it. Some examples of  non-S.M.A.R.T goals vs S.M.A.R.T goals :

non-S.M.A.R.T - Lose weight.
S.M.A.R.T - Lose 50 lbs by December 2020

non-S.M.A.R.T - Get out of debt.
S.M.A.R.T - Pay off 6 credit cards by December 2020.

non-S.M.A.R.T - Read more.
S.M.A.R.T - Read 2 books per month by December 2020.

Get the picture? Non-S.M.A.R.T goals, while complete sentences don't quite have the flavor that S.M.A.R.T goals do. They give you a little meat to sink into. They help guide you through your story.

In my next post, I'll break down each of my own goals and explain how I plan on achieving them, what tools I will, and how I'm going to track progress. I've never done this before. I'm the queen of setting goals, never to accomplish them. I'm taking my own advice here.

I hope you'll follow along this upcoming year and learn from my mistakes and (hopefully!) a few of my successes!

4 Ways To Plan for a Successful Summer Break

Happy summer!

I trust most everyone in the county is out for the summer? For those outside of the county, when does your summer begin?

If you're subscribed to This Side of Perfect (thank you!), you've might have noticed that TSOP has gone through a few changes. It's been a process. I've been playing around with colors and format for the past month or so.

I think I've finally settled on a theme. I like it. I hope you do, too. I hope it is gentle, but pleasing to the eye. I hope that as I slowly add elements to the blog, you're able to find what you're looking for. And if you ever have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below or (if you prefer) email me. I'll get back to you promptly.

4 Ways to Plan for a Successful Summer
4 Ways to Plan for a Successful Summer Break
Obviously, updating my blog isn't the only way I've been planning my summer break. I've actually created a list. I'd like to share with you six ways you can plan for summer.

1. Rest
As women, we are used to being on the go. If we're not going then we aren't accomplishing anything, right? I'm not a hard Type A personality, but even I have my tendencies. But this summer, I had a health scare that forced me to rest.

I had outpatient surgery on my ovaries to remove cysts. While the doctor was in there, he decided to remove my fallopian tubes as well, stating that doctors now know that ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes. A week later, my results came back and they were benign (that's non-cancerous, by the way), which was a huge blessing.

However, outpatient or not, I was still in pain. I was tired. I had to let some things go for the summer (very important things). And at the beginning, I was a little bummed. I felt bad. I felt like I should be doing so much more than what I was. But luckily, I listened to my body (and well-meaning friends and family), and I have rested. And you know what happened? The world kept on spinning. I kept on healing. And now I'm feeling a little more back to normal.

What I was experiencing was the fear of missing out (FOMO, for short). This is an actual phenomenon where a person feels like everyone else is having an experience that they themselves are missing out on. It's actually a branch of social anxiety

The best way to combat FOMO? Stay off social media. Which is what I was forced to do at the beginning of my recovery time. But as I began feeling better, I started edging away from social media (mainly Facebook). I got on to wish people a happy birthday (June is my birthday month, so not only do I celebrate, but I want other June Babies to celebrate, too!) I also posted inspiring and uplifting sayings. This was more so for my well-being than my friends', but I posted for them, too.

2. Catch Up
This might sound counterintuitive to #1, but I use the summer to catch up on things. I catch up on my reading. I try to read one non-fiction book and one fiction book at a time (yes, I read two books at a time; don't you?)

I catch up on decluttering and organizing tasks that go by the wayside during the school year. (Don't we all do this as teachers?) I recently found Cass at Clutterbug and I adore her! Her theory on home organizing is that we aren't disorganized, we organize differently. Genius! Take her Clutterbug quiz to find out what kind bug you and your organizing style. I'm a Ladybug! Please comment below your bug type.

I sit down and catch up with family. It's been a cross between very (very!) warm and very wet here in SE GA. The family and I spend a lot of time inside during those hot, muggy days. Our favorite things to do: watch TV. I know, I know. Watching TV sounds like a horrible idea when you're spending time with family, right? Not for us. We watch educational shows (some quite graphic - our current favorite: Embarrassing Bodies on Netflix). We also watch documentaries that get us talking. Finally, I have really enjoyed sitting down and watching movies with Baby Girl. She is my horror buff and will gladly watch scary movies with me. She also enjoys natural disaster movies. We recently watched the remake of Poseidon.

3. Reconnecting
This aligns a bit with catching up, but reconnecting can be anything that is meaningful to you. Baby Girl recently graduated from high school (has it been that long already?!?) and she was showered with gifts from family and friends. Well, now comes the time when she sits down to write out handwritten thank you notes to family and friends, thanking them for their generous gifts. (If you were one of the gift givers, a thank you card is coming - I promise. Just a month late. This side of perfect, remember?) Sure, she could email everyone, but there is something so special about a handwritten thank you note, wouldn't you agree? Summer is the perfect time to sit down with pen and paper and draft a letter to an old friend or a loved one (Or even make a new one!) Even if you "see" each other on Facebook every day, getting a letter or card from you would make their day!

4. Get Healthy
This goes hand and hand with getting rest, but get back to taking care of YOU this summer. If you're an educator, you've spent the past nine months taking care of your students, making sure you got your paperwork completed and turned in on time, completed lesson plans, administered state-mandated testing, took care of your family, and maybe definitely took care of some friends in need, too. Whew! I'm exhausted just writing that list. I'm sure you are, too.

If you're anything like me, you were put on the back burner (heck, I dare say I wasn't even placed on the STOVE!) My health has suffered greatly for my lack of attention to myself. I haven't drank the water I should. I haven't eaten the foods I should. And I've definitely eaten MORE than I should. As a result, I've gained about 20-30 pounds this year between the busyness of the year and the stress of the year. Not good.

So, this summer, I'm committing to taking care of myself again. Number One on my list: drink more water. It's free and my water tastes good (I get my water from Culligan. It tastes better than tap and it's cheaper - and I think more environmentally friendly - than buying individual bottles of water.) Search the web for two seconds and you'll get differing ideas on how much water you should drink: 8x8 Rule. 1/2 your body weight in ounces. Some say you should look at your urine to determine if you're getting enough water or not. I think how much you drink depends on many factors: is it summer? Are you working out? Are you nursing? Water isn't a magical elixir that will cure all ailments.But you can't deny science. Our body is mostly water and it only stands to reason that we need to give it water so that it can carry out the daily functions. So my goal this summer is just drink more water.

I have other health related goals, but I've learned through reading some of Michael Hyatt's books that goal setting needs to be done in small chunks in order to succeed. Otherwise, you're bound to fail. And I've failed enough. I'm doing this one small thing.
4 Ways to Plan for a Successful Summer
4 Ways to Plan for a Successful Summer

So there you have it: 4 ways to plan for successful summer break. Is it the most exhaustive list? Not by a long shot. But I believe these four will help get you started on a great adventure of summer!

Marie Kondo: The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up - But Is It Life Changing?


Five years ago, Marie Kondo published a book called, The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up. It seemed as if all of my friends were picking it up and reading it, so naturally, I followed suit. And then, I was really excited to learn that Netflix had picked up her series and it seems like Marie is making a second go around. In fact, Baby Girl and I were at Books-a-Million Saturday and the what should smack us in the face as soon as we walked in but a display of Kondo's book. (She actually has two, but for the purpose of this post, I will refer to her first.)

So, is it really all that it's cracked up to be? You don't have to search very far to see bloggers talking about it. Vloggers and YouTube stars are talking about it. (Word on the street, now is the choice time to do some thrift shopping at GW's or Savlos - Good Will and Salvation Army, respectively). 

In a word, it has completely changed how I think about my belongings. Is my house tidy and kept up? No. As I look around, I see some throws on my living furniture that needs to be folded and put on the back of my couch, love seat, and recliner. (Yes, I really have that many throws in one room.) While my bedroom isn't terrible my bed isn't made and I have a few items that are thrown on my dresser.

So, no. I'm not perfect. But, I would like to share five ways that her MariKondo method has helped me.

1. I am constantly thinking about joy. One of Kondo's premise of her tiding up method talks about having items in your possession that spark joy. In fact, her first lesson is to tidying clothing. In order to do that, she says, you must hold each item in your hand and think if it sparks joy. Now, the term "spark joy" sounds rather vague, doesn't it. Really, what does it mean? When an item sparks joy, it makes you feel good. That favorite hoodie sweatshirt from your college days that bring back fond memories? That item sparks joy. That old prom dress that doesn't fit and reminds you of the horrible time you had with Derrick? Toss it.

I just went through a clothing purge not too long ago. I pulled out every article of clothing I had and placed it on my bed. I then held each item in my hand and thought about it. Did it spark joy? Did I like it? Did it fit right? No? To the donation box it goes. Yes? It is folded to be placed in my dresser or hung up, neatly, in my closet. It really didn't take that long to do, either. I didn't think about it too much. I just haphazardly flung my frocks to and fro and was done with it.

The result: I have less to wash, less to fold, and less to think about it. Research shows that we suffer from something called Decision Fatigue. There are multiple case studies on the subject, but basically decision fatigue is the fatigue you feel after making several decision in a day. This phenomenon is so serious that studies have found that decision fatigue has been known to affect court cases and parole decisions based on when each case was heard. As a teacher, I made approximately 1,500 decisions a day! This is why in the morning, I'm raring to go and will tackle All The Things, but by the time I get home at 4 o'clock, all I can think about is crashing on the couch with a cup of coffee and enjoy peace and quiet.

It's real, y'all. And the MariKondo method of tiding brings it down a couple of notches. Bliss.

2. I'm less likely to bring stuff into the house. This one is a pretty big deal for me and it's also a place where I might lose some of my readers - especially my bibliophiles. 

I got rid of books. A lot of books. If I look behind me, I see in my 5-shelf bookcase two shelves dedicated to books. That's it. One shelf is for Bible study materials (I got rid of a quite of few of those, too!) and fiction/non-fiction books are on the other shelf. The rest of my shelves have notebooks and journals. (I probably should go through those shortly, too.)

I haven't bought any books for awhile. I've gone to the library to borrow some. When Baby Girl and I went to BAM, we browsed the used books. (Did you know BAM had used books? I didn't!). I found three I was interested in reading. I will update book reviews as I finish reading them. But if you're curious, the books I bought were:

After I read these three books, I will decide if they will reside on my shelf or if I will gift them to someone else. 

3. The folding method works! Whether you read her book or watch her show, one of the first things that everyone notices is how she folds clothes a little differently than most of us do. And to be honest, it takes some time to get it, but once I did, it really changed how I organized my drawers. I still have two drawers of t-shirts (teacher shirts, Autism shirts, Special Olympic shirts, and lounge shirts - they take up a lot of room!), but they are organized by type and I even went so far as to organize them by color (something Kondo talks about in her book, but I didn't notice her talking about in her show). 

4. Baskets and boxes are life-changing! Did you know everyone has a clutter type?  I never knew. But thanks to Cass at ClutterBug, I know I'm a Ladybug. A Ladybug likes things organized, out of sight, and simple. It's gotta be simple or I'm not using it! Baskets to the rescue. And guess what? KonMari method works well for us Ladybugs. 

5. A tidy home really does bring peace. I've discovered something about me: I like a tidy house. A cluttered house stresses me out. But the more cluttered a house gets, the more likely I am to shut down and not do anything about it. (Anyone else? No? Just me, then...) But I've found that embracing some of Marie Kondo's ideas of possessions and the home environment, I'm more likely to keep things kept up. (Not spotless, mind you - I must get to those ceiling fans! - but kept up.) And a kept up home is easier to keep kept up than a cluttered one. It takes a lot less time to do something, once you get into the habit of doing it. 

So, while I haven't embraced all of her methods (I'm not sure I can get down on my knees and connect with my house), a lot of what she teaches in her book (and in her Netflix series) really are useful and applicable to the non-housekeeper.

Please let me know in the comments section below if you've read her book or watched the Netflix show. Are you a total KonMari fan or an avid avoider? Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Guess Who's Back (Back Again - Tell a Friend!)

Hello, friends. Long time no type, eh? I know. I know.

It seems like at the start of every year, I spend the first couple of blog posts apologizing for not writing more frequently. (Assuming that 34 readers I have are still reading, that is. You are all still out there, aren't you?) For real, please comment below so I know the comment feature is working. Even if it's just a "Hey! Happy Monday!"

So, yes. Let me begin by apologizing for not being consistent in my writing. I really have no excuse. Not really. I could say life kind of got in the way (it did). I could say that I was too busy (I was busy, but not *too* busy). Now, friends, if I were being completely honest (and I always am), I wasn't putting priority on my writing.

And there it is. The ugly truth.

And I could whine and moan about how life is just too hard and it's too hard to write, but that wouldn't be entirely truthful. Sure, life *can* be unfair and yes, it is hard to write. But it's harder to write when you're *not* writing. Which is what I wasn't doing. So of course I thought it was hard.

And a small part (okay, maybe a large part) of me was (is) afraid of failure. But as I was sitting down in my planner today, mapping out the month of February, I made a promise to myself. And that promise is: I'm just gonna do it. Whatever it is I've been meaning to do and putting off doing, I'm just gonna do it.

But it's not enough to say you're going to do something. You actually have to plan for it (you knew that, right?). So, I sat down tonight and planned for it.

I use another person's blog schedule to slowly get into the habit of writing mine.

And this will be the first one of the month. Another one will come out in two weeks.

Why so far apart?

Because while I would love to go in whole hog and write every day, I am interested in developing a habit with quality writing - not junk thrown onto a screen just so I could say that I published something. (Admittedly, this piece is probably a little junky because I am trying to throw something up on the screen to get this published Week 1 of Month 1 (That's the first week of February. And I figure - why not publish on Monday? So here we are).

You'll get two blog posts per month from me to start. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it's a lot more than what I have been publishing!

So, slow and steady wins this blogging race. I'm more interested in getting into the habit of writing and building my readership than going all-in. I could go all-in. But I know me. I would fizzle out within a month and then feel worse about not writing than I do right now.

So, here is to a fabulous Monday to you all.

Until next time,
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Organizing in 2019: Freedom Filer Review


Organizing in 2019
Use Freedom Filer for all of your home, office, and school filing needs

If you've found this blog post, it means one of two things:

1. I invited you here via some form of social media.
2. I used the right tags and Google led you here.

Either way, thank you for taking the time to click over and read what I have to say.

While I haven't let you into my life completely on this blog in the past, this year that will change. This year, I commit to being honest and unapologetic for who I am. And it's time you all knew who I am.

I am a very disorganized person. No, no. It's true. I've had make shift systems in place for years that have fallen by the way side. On occasion, a few have stuck. For example, I have a laundry schedule that is pretty solid. When I use it, that is. As I type this, I've had "fold and put away laundry" on my to do list for ... well, almost all of Christmas break.

Another system that I used was a clip system for my bills. I'd clip together all of my current bills and then once they were paid, "file" them behind the clip. What resulted was a huge mess of papers that looked dreadful to the eye. And worse, it wasn't the least bit functional.

Did I pay the electric bill? I dunno. Where is the phone bill? Beat me.

[beep, beep, beep] What's that noise? It's the garbage truck. The garbage truck is taking away our garbage can. Did you pay the bill?

[crickets]

(True story, by the way. Yes. My garbage can was repossessed for non-payment one year. I told you - I'm keeping things completely real this year.)

Obviously, my system for bill paying (or filing) wasn't working. I needed to do something.

Of course, like most of you - I searched YouTube. (The other lot of you probably headed to Pinterest. Amiright?)

I found tons of women (because let's face it - organization is still mostly a woman's game) who had their act together. They showed me their systems. Accordion systems. Mobile systems. Filing systems.

Once filing system kept coming up again and again. I was intrigued. Especially because every single review I found on the system was positive. Better yet, I really liked how it worked!

After I watched the videos, I searched the company's website.

Everything looked amazing! The system looked really, really easy to use. How much was it? I was ready!



What I found was a $30 price tag. There was no way I was going to spend $30 for a system. So, I clicked away and pretty much forgot about it. I continued to use my system and things were okay. (No more repossessed trash cans, so that's a win!)

But then, I was talking to my team at work about how we all organized our home files. We all had a good laugh that one time Floyd had her trash can possessed. And we all admitted that we weren't where we wanted to be in the filing game.

I started talking about the system I had spent hours researching. I explained how it worked and how really excited I was to try it out - I just couldn't swing the price tag.

That night, I went home and began looking at the same videos I looked at before. I went to the same website and read the same information.

But I looked on it with different eyes. I was ready to do something. I was going to order the system!

There were several different systems to choose from (home, business, self-employed). I opted for the home system and waited for the labels to ship. (That's right - full disclosure - the system is a set of pre-printed labels for everything you could possible label in a home filing system. But the system also teaches you how to file! Please continue reading while I explain more).

The package came and I was really overwhelmed with all of the choices I had in how I wanted to organize my files. I poured over the book that came in the reusable envelope to study the system and to determine what I would need to complete my file system.

I headed to Staples where I bought some hanging files and some inner file folders (this is important for the system).

I set aside one Saturday and I do believe I spent several hours setting up the system. The book did say it would take about an hour and half (you could certainly divide it up into several sessions). I think it took me so long because my files were a mess. (Remember, this is a woman whose trash can was repossessed for nonpayment!)

But when I was done - oh what a glorious day it was!

I will probably do a video showcasing the filing system because it might get a little confusing to explain. But I will try, briefly, here.

The system touts itself as a "maintenance free" system. And for the most part, it really is!

I actually have two filing cabinets. One filing cabinet holds my bills and my taxes. This is really the beauty of the system. I've chosen to file my bills and other expenses on a monthly basis. (If I chose, I could have filed them by category. I chose monthly because this is how I pay bills). I have one set of folders for even years (ex. 2016, 2018, 2020) and a set of folders for odd years (ex. 2017, 2019, 2021).

Every month, after I pay my bills, I file them in the corresponding month. At the end of December of every year, I switch out my even and odd year folders. For example, this past year was an even year (2018). At the end of December, I took those 12 files (and 12 mos of paid bill receipts) and put them toward the back of the filing cabinet. I then took the odd year (2019) and placed it in the front of my filing cabinet. When I placed January's bills in January's odd-year file, I took out the bill receipts from two years ago (2017) and shredded them.

Using this system, I  actually keep two year's worth of bill receipts.

Why would you want to do that when there are online statements?

Very good question. You might not want to file your bills receipts if you get the statements online or use ebilling. But I don't. So I keep paper statements.

Now, have I ever needed to pull a past month's bill?

YES. (Fooled you, didn't I?)

And how exciting for someone like me (trash can repossessed chick) to go the exact file I needed to go to in order to find the exact paper I needed to find!

This filing cabinet also has my taxes. TEN years of taxes. (Do we need ten years of taxes? I'm not sure - but I have them!) And lo and behold, I needed to pull some tax info not too long ago and I had the past two years I needed - right when I needed them! These tax files are divided up by digit years. Year O is for 2000, 2010, 2020, etc.) Year 1 is for 2001, 2011, 2021, etc.) Year 3 is for 2003, 2013, 2023). You get the idea. So when I filed tax info for 2018, I filed it in Year 8. When I start working on this year's file, I will file it Year 9. In the year 2020 (it's closer than we think!), I'll use Year 0. When I get to Year 0, I will take 2000's tax returns and shred them. I can shred them in confidence, knowing that there's a good chance, I won't need them after 10 years. (But, it is kind of fun to look back of previous years' finances and see how far we've come!)

Whew! Are you still with me?

My other filing cabinet is organized like a "standard" filing cabinet. I have auto and renter's insurance policies, medical bills, banking and other paperwork filed in this cabinet. (It's not as near as exciting).

So, would I recommend the Freedom Filer system? It depends.

If your filing organization is in such shambles that you're likely to get a trash can repossessed for non-payment, then yes. By all means. Invest the $30. (If you're short on time, buy a ready-made system - stickers, files, and folders - for $95!)

But, if you're filing system is suiting you well - well, you probably don't need such an in depth system. But you might want to do something different. In which case, yes. Sure! Go ahead and give it a try.

The Freedom Filer "philosophy" is working for me so well that I've used the idea on my files at work. I have an archived drawer and an active drawer. I might have figured out this system on my own - but it probably would have taken a long time.

Instead, I'm glad I found it.

I know this was a lot to take in. If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. If you have any questions or need to me to expand on anything I've said here, please let me know in the comments below.

You can find out more about the Freedom Filer system by clicking here.

Until next time,
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Flashback Wednesdays: You've Come Along Way, Baby - Part III



This is the third installment of my homeless series that I wrote several years for the holiday season. It's not the holidays - YET. But you know it will be here soon. ABC Family has their 31 Days of Halloween and then Hallmark will begin their Christmas movies on November 1st. It's coming guys and it seems like it gets earlier every year.

So, without further ado - Part III.

Okay, by now, you're probably thinking - what were you thinking? Why didn't you get help? Why didn't you ask your family for help?

First, if you've ever received help from the community, know this: getting help around the holidays is really hard. That's why I encourage anyone who gives, to give especially well during the holidays - your efforts will not go unnoticed.

Second, and it's only now that I can vocalize this - I was really messed up as a young adult. I was never one for drugs or heavy alcohol use (alcohol doesn't agree me...and I don't care for it much, either). I wasn't a troublemaker by the regular definition. I just wasn't completely 'there' mentally.

My Little Bro and I were raised by my mother. Like most children who live in single-parent homes, we became very close to our mother. But no matter how close you get to a parent, that one parent cannot possibly take the place of two. So, as a result, I always felt as if there were a father figure missing from my family equation. (Well, of course, there was - my mom was a single parent. But I really didn't have ANY positive male role model while growing up).

So, somewhere along the line, I got this strange idea that when I got older, I wanted a guy to take care of me. It probably stemmed from the fact that I saw my mom struggle so much by herself. What I failed to realize, however, is that life is a struggle no matter if you're alone or with someone for life. In many ways, life IS struggle. Still, in my 20 yr old mind, I decided that the Man Beast should take care of me and our son; no matter that Man Beast was just a child himself at 18.

Anyway, back to my story.

The Man Beast and I were beat emotionally. We were both physically exhausted and it pretty much goes without saying that our spiritual life was dead. There is nothing scarier than feeling like you're all alone in the world - even if you're surrounded by people. The Man Beast's boss at the Pawn Shop was a pretty good guy. He knew our plight. The Pawn Shop had a regular customer - he was a preacher. Somehow, some way - the week after Christmas, we were out of hotel housing and living in a double-wide trailer split in half (I'll give you a second to process that. A double trailer. Split in half. A family living on each side. Small? Yes. But better than a hotel).

I later found out that The Man Beast's boss had given him a Christmas bonus even though he hadn't worked at the Pawn Shop for very long. The preacher had loaned The Man Beast money. We paid him back with TMB's next paycheck.

I'd like to tell you that at this point in the story, things magically got better and everything turned out happily ever after.

No. But this is where my story, for all intense and purposes ends.

And why do I air 'my dirty laundry' as I've heard it referred to on other blogs? Not for you to feel pity for me. Certainly not.

But what I do want you to feel is the knowledge that there are people out there - at this very moment, in your very community - who are struggling like I did with my family nine years ago.

Just because someone is in a homeless shelter does not mean that they are alcoholics, strung out on drugs or 'lazy bums'. Many times, these are people who are just down on their luck. And for someone reason, when it rains, it pours. Many would call this The Rule of Three or Karma, but since I'm a Christian, I don't believe in any of it.

What I do believe is that it's so much easier to kick us when we're down. It's easier to lose hope when we're already down, too. This is why it's so important to reach out to people when they are hopeless and give them hope.

Especially in our trying economic times.

Did you know that homeless shelters are filling up with MIDDLE CLASS; men and women who have college educations, have lost their jobs and are now too qualified to get even the simplest of jobs? It's true.

So during this holiday season  I encourage all of my readers to put money in that red bucket. (And yes, I consider Halloween the beginning of the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye and it will be 2019 before just. like. that.) Do not avert your eyes at the bell ringer, pretend you're digging in your purse for something, or go out another door to avoid them. The Salvation Army's donations go to good use. When you walk by an Angel Tree, pluck an angel off and shop for that child.

I know times are tough. Even little things help. Next time you go to your local Dollar Tree to buy stocking stuffers for your kids, buy an extra toy or two and plop it in the donation box by the door. Literally, every little bit helps. Sounds trite, but it's so true.

One last thing - as you gather around your tree, opening gifts or around your dining room table, feasting on your bountiful (or not so bountiful) harvest, take a moment to send out a prayer to all of those who might be going through some things this year. I know two of my readers offhand whose Christmases might not be as merry as years past. But they surrounded by family and friends who love them.

And let's not forget the true meaning of the season. It's not about the gifts or the food. It's not about the cookies or even the decorations. It's about the birth of our Savior. What better way to honor our Savior than to put Him first and act more Christ-like?
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