Saturday, April 29, 2017

Goodbye Student Loans—Car or Mortgage?

Tim and I have been meaning to add another car to our family for almost a year.  With both of us working and having kids, carpooling and accommodating growing car seats has posed its challenges over the last 10 months.

The question we've continued to ask ourselves has been, what to do? Get a brand new car that's guaranteed to have a good life? Get a used car and take our chances? What about certified pre-owned? We could buy one from a rental company...

When you're facing upwards of 50K in student debt (and climbing down the hill from 100K), buying any sort of big purchase immediately becomes more complicated. We need to remain smart and prudent while accommodating our changing circumstances and growing family. Striking that balance isn't easy.

They say buying a brand new car is the worst purchase you can make as it begins to depreciate when you drive it off the lot, so we were unsure of committing to a high payment every month for something that will just lose value. Though finding the perfect used car on Craiglist is time-consuming—time we didn't have. So, in a bit of we-got-to-get-this-done mindset (the worst mindset to have when shelling out a wad of money) we decided on the car we wanted, found a rental place that had one, and got pre-approved for a loan.

 A few days before we went to seal the deal, we were talking to a family friend who is experienced in this area.  He suggested what to look for on Craigslist, and I did some searching that weekend. We found a few contenders and decided on an '09 Dodge Journey with over 100K miles on it.  The avid new car buyers might think we're crazy, but we did our due diligence in researching—clean title, well-maintained, all highway miles, new brakes. We were able to negotiate the price down, write a check, and drive away—no loans, no car payments and we now have the car that will serve our needs for the time being.

We decided to put any sort of car dreams aside (buy for now, 2016 Pathfinder) and focus on a down payment for a house. For us in this stage of our lives, buying a house is our top priority—right underneath paying off our student loans, that is.

With both Tim and I working, having a car payment every month wouldn't have killed us.  It's for this very reason that we momentarily lost sight on our big picture goal and thought shelling out a handful of hundreds on a car payment was the right call. Just because it was doable doesn't mean it would have been the best use of our money, and it wouldn't have been. I'm happy to have had that conversation which brought us back down to earth.  When your journey of paying down debt is years-long, it can be easy to stray the path. Double incomes!? Let's buy the entire Target clearance rack! It's almost easier to have less money.

So, on our path we continue. Man, it's a damn long trail. But we've celebrated so many little victories and buying car out of pocket was a pretty big one for us. So, let the 'Journey' continue.

Monday, April 10, 2017

From the weekend—75 & sunny

Oh, how much harder it's going to be to see Sundays fade into Mondays as the weather continues to get warmer.  Come the weekend, I go into full-on mom and wife mode and soak in all the family time I can until duty calls once again 8AM on Monday.  And since the weeks have been getting increasingly warmer, we've upped our park-going game (which was highly encouraged and endorsed by Ella).

I've grown a newfound appreciation for Sundays over the course of Lent.  Since the start of Lent, we've treated Sundays differently than the rest of the week.  Not going out for coffee or having sweets throughout the week makes indulging in a nice (paid for) iced mocha and doughnut on Sundays special.  And Sundays should feel a little more special than the other 6 days.  If the Lord can rest, so can we.

We're spinning out of the weekend and into my favorite week of the year—Holy Week.  It seems like this is also one of the most vastly misunderstood weeks in the calendar.  Next Sunday is Easter, but many forget the preparation that proceeds the celebration.  It's when we understand and experience this week in its totality—Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday—that we fully appreciate and are able to joyfully celebrate what Easter Sunday brings.  Going into this week, I have Egypt on my mind and am painfully reminded that having the opportunity to fully understand and partake in Holy Week is not something to be taken for granted.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Coming up without air

In a few months, I will have been on my anti-depressant for an entire year.

I wish it were just a coincidence that this year has been one of the most freeing, truly enjoyable years I've ever had, but a coincidence it is not.  I know some people go their entire lives never having found the littlest bit of relief, so I have worked above and beyond to be grateful for this year even if that's meant going out of my way, changing my attitude about a situation or not letting petty matters get to me.  An anxiety-free life has been a gift.  No needing to scope out where the bathrooms were in places upon entering, no nausea every time I entered a car, no uncontrollable shaking behind a steering wheel, no flaking on someone because of panic, no raging mood swings, no panicking every time I was left alone with my kids, 3AM hospital runs to Emergency, heart palpitations, panic attacks, crying fits, uncontrollable waves of sadness, freaking out I'd get food poisoning upon eating a bite of food.

I drove across the country.  I was interviewed by a friend I hadn't talked to in years.  I went to a musical and sat in the mezzanine.  Nine short months ago these instances would have been nothing but a pipe dream.

I lived.  And I lived freely.

Anti-depressants are not for everyone, especially if your doctor rushes you on meds and your case can be remedied by a few lifestyle changes.  My case required medicine, and when it kicked in, it felt like my paranoid, anxiety-ridden indestructible shell had been crushed, shattered, and defeated, and I could - for the first time - see and hear and smell.  It felt like the person who I wanted to be finally crawled to the surface and could breathe. My internal dialogue reflexively went to is this what living feels like?

With any ailment that demands perpetual management, evaluating progress is required.  So as I approach the one year mark, I've got a few things on my mind.  Typically, the longer you're on an anti-depressant, the harder it is to get off.  Taking anti-depressants is not advised while pregnant (at least the one I'm taking).  And it's not unusual for your body to begin adapting to the medicine and it losing its effect after a while.  For these reasons, I'm wanting to take a more comprehensive, holistic approach for management and healing, or at least head in that direction.

I haven't found a therapist since moving out to Michigan—something I was advised to do by my Washington doctor.  I haven't taken care of my neck and back injuries, and I'm only semi-dedicated to fitness.  All of the above need to be taken into account while going down this next path of anxiety management.  Anyone who is...'seasoned' in dealing with anxiety knows self-care is vital in beating the demons of anxiety.  As a wife, mom, and employee finding that time can be hard, but when self-care equals sanity, some things on the continually-growing priority pyramid must get booted.

I'm scared.  When the pill bottle begins to empty and I've begun to wean off, I could go from a functioning, working, driving, playing with my kids, wife and mom to not a non-functioning, unemployed, emotionally removed, agoraphobic invalid.  It's the scariest, most nerve-wracking decision I've faced, because I don't want to lose what I've gained.  I hid the miseries and realities of clinical anxiety for years dating back to grade school.  To have known what it feels like to live without the daily and and often raging symptoms of anxiety has been eye-opening in the most heartbreaking and relieving kind of way.  I'm not prepared to go back.

There is always the possibility of me needing to be on some sort of medicine for management indefinitely.  With mental illness in the family, this fate could already be written in the stars for me. And if that's the case, let God's will be done.  

It's a hell of a process, though, to begin to wean off and to make sure my body and mind is in a state that can cope sans drugs—vitamin cocktails, regimented workouts, designated "me time", breathing exercises, yoga, therapy.  Here we go.  I've never been skydiving, but I imagine this is what nearing the edge of the plane door feels like.

Here's to hoping for a smooth landing.

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