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Wealth

I have been thinking a lot about money the last few days. Today a friend posted on Facebook about wealth, and a picture of someone she recognized as being wealthy even though to a lot of people in this world, they wouldn’t have thought that. I have learned as I have gotten older that money isn’t what life is all about, and that wealth doesn’t always bring the ease and leisure that we might have hoped. In fact, wealth has very little to do with money, and everything to do with life and your perspective about life.

My husband and I have never made a lot of money when you look at the national averages and what they consider wealthy, middle class, and lower class incomes. But over the years I have had the opportunity to learn how to manage what we do have so that it will stretch as far as we need it to. Because my husband is a general contractor, we don’t get paid like a lot of working people. We get paid by the job or at certain intervals during the job, and when the job is finished, the money stops coming. This means that I have had to learn how to make the money stretch until the next job is at least partially finished so we can get a payment. Sometimes that’s just weeks away from the last job, sometimes it’s six or more months away, and we really never know because, in his industry, you don’t have a job until you’re on the job working.

I used to struggle, watching everyone else around me going on vacation, or buying their kids cool electronics or new cell phone. But we had goals, and we didn’t let those feelings of jealousy or envy take hold. We stuck to our goals, and continue to do so. Sometimes that means we live differently than others, but I have found happiness and peace as we have maintained a lifestyle of living debt free and paying for everything when we purchase it rather than getting a loan or putting it on a credit card to pay over time. This approach to our finances has allowed us to have peace of mind. Sometimes we are stretched thin, but we don’t owe anyone anything so we know we’ll be ok in the long run.

I have also learned that managing the money we have is key to that peace. So many people in this world pay for things on credit, or think that somehow if they don’t pay that the companies they owe money to will have to somehow work with them to help them pay it off, or forgive the debt somehow. That’s a lot of somehows! But they aren’t in business to give people free stuff, that’s not how a business works, and if we agree to use their service then we agree to pay for that service. It works the same with college debt, car loans, anything you buy on credit is now your responsibility to pay for. That’s how it works. We need to be aware enough of our finances that we can make wise decisions as to how to spend what we have, spend less than we have, and keep a little bit for a rainy day, because rainy days come way more than we might like to admit.

Lastly, gratitude plays a huge part, more so than money, in how happy and content we are with what we have. When we can be grateful for the job we have, the food we eat, the home we live in, the ability to do what we do, grateful for everything in life, then we recognize what real wealth is. Peace of mind and peace of conscience can’t be bought, they have to be worked for, planned for, and sacrificed for. But when you have those things, you realize how wealthy you really are.

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Driving

This evening one of my daughters, one of my sons and I went to Wasilla (about 30 miles away) for a fireside that the missionaries in our area had organized. When we left it was snowing here in Willow, about 10 miles south it was a rain snow mix, and about 10 miles past that it was just raining. Winter driving in Alaska. The roads however, were pretty clear. We sat through the fireside and it was a wonderful meeting. We stayed and ate a cookie, visited with a number of people, and then decided to head home. As I was leaving the parking lot I received a text from a young lady in my ward who had been traveling to a different activity that my other son had also attended. She wanted to know if he had made it home safely. I said I thought so, but I wasn’t home. She said they roads were really bad and they were just creeping along. She had to go about 45 miles past our house and then a 20 mile snow machine ride home, so she had a long drive ahead of her. I told her she could stay at our house if the roads got too bad, called my son to verify he had gotten home, and then continued on our way.

Leaving Wasilla it was raining still, and the roads were still wet. My son said the roads had been fine all the way home just an hour or so earlier, so I didn’t figure they would be bad when we left. I was mistaken. About 5 miles out of Wasilla I realized the roads had deteriorated rapidly in between when my son had left and when we were leaving. For the next 20 miles we slowed to about 35 miles per hour at the most. There were Semi trucks on the side of the road all along the way, some just waiting, others chaining their tires so they would have traction. There were cars slid off the side of the road and it was still actively precipitating, not full on rain, but enough that it was creating a lot of ice as it hit the road. We made our way slowly back to Willow. About 5 miles south of our home it started actively snowing and the roads were a lot better, snow covered but not icy and slick like they had been.

Over the last few years of driving to Seminary early in the morning, I have become much more comfortable driving on the winter roads in the dark. Rarely are they plowed as early as I need to leave. I was grateful this evening with the confidence I found as we drove home. I do have studded tires on my car, which makes a bigger difference than a lot of people realize. But studded tires aren’t a replacement for safe driving practices. Over the years I have learned a number of things that have helped me drive on bad roads.

First, and biggest, slow down. There is a correct speed to drive for every road condition that we find ourselves in, and it may not be anywhere close to the speed limit. Tonight it was 35 or so miles per hour in a 55 mile per hours zone. But everyone has a different speed they feel safe at as well. Sometimes we see people fly by us in poor conditions and wonder about whether we’ll see them 5 miles down the road in the ditch. Sometimes they are. Other times we find ourselves behind people going 10 or more miles per hour slower than we feel comfortable going, and it can be frustrating to follow when we could be going faster.

That leads me to the next suggestion, be patient with the other drivers on the road. Road rage often feels out of control today, and especially in poor driving conditions when we should be giving each other a break so we can all get home safe. Maybe we could drive faster, maybe we think the fast driver is crazy, but if we are patient with each other, again, we can all get home safe.

Don’t drive with cruise control on in the winter. This is the biggest cause of people sliding off the road here in Alaska. They get out on the road, get up to speed and put on the cruise control. The problem is, the computer in the car is propelling you forward whether your foot is on the gas or not. When your foot is on the gas and you react to move to the brake, you stop propelling yourself forward. That little bit of slow down, without the computer continuing your speed makes a huge difference. The reaction time of your foot moving from it’s resting position to the brake may only take a split second, but if the engine is still trying to keep up the speed, it can be the difference between an adjustment of speed and direction to ending up in the ditch, or worse, in an accident.

Don’t drive in 4 wheel drive. My husband says the difference between 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive is about 15 feet and a lot more stuck! 4 wheel drive is harder to control, and if you are not experienced in controlling a sliding 4 wheel drive vehicle, you should never drive like that. Plus, it wears out your 4 wheel drive to always be engaged. 2 wheel drive with a rear wheel drive car is fairly easy to steer out of a skid or slide. Front wheel drive or all wheel drive is a little bit different. It’s harder to slide or skid in a front wheel or all wheel drive car, but not impossible.

Get familiar with how to control your car ahead of time. One of the thing I always do with my kids when they are learning to drive is take them to an empty parking lot right after a snowfall and we go do doughnuts and slide around in the parking lot in whatever car they will be driving around. This gives them confidence and knowledge of how to control the car when they get in a situation where reaction time is critical. They don’t even have to think about it, just do. They are also familiar with their own car and how it feels. It makes a huge difference.

Poor driving conditions happen a lot in Alaska all through the winter, and conditions can change rapidly in many parts of the country. Having a thermometer in the car and knowing when it’s getting close to freezing, especially when it’s precipitating in any way, will also help you be more aware and conscientious of the roads. Snow and rain happen, and they can be beautiful or dangerous if you’re not prepared. Lastly, stay safe by paying attention to the roads and conditions around you rather than the distractions like phones and radios on the inside. No matter the road conditions, distracted driving is always dangerous driving.

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Fun

Either WordPress recently updated something on their blog stuff, or mine just updated recently, because every time I open my blog it has a daily prompt to use for inspiration. Most of the time however I have been mulling things over in my mind of things to write about anyway so I just ignore it. Although they are fun ideas and make me think. Today I decided to wait until I saw the prompt before I decided for sure what I was going to write on, and it was a great prompt because it was light hearted, which I don’t feel my blog posts have been lately. So I am going to run with it. Now I can’t remember exactly what it was, but something to the effect of what are 5 things that I do for fun, so here goes.

The first one is going to be really weird, and some people might even think it’s a little mean. You can let me know in the comments. Let me start by saying, if you’re older than me, I will never do this to you, in fact, if you’re not a member of my family I probably won’t do this on purpose. But I love to scare my kids. Not like Halloween or horror show or gory or anything, but like jump scare when they’re coming out of the bathroom, in the front door, things like that. I don’t do it very often, and even when I do it, it doesn’t always work, but that makes it all the better when it really does work. My kids have learned from me however, and they like to jump scare me once in a while too. When they were younger it didn’t work very often, but the older they get, the better they are at it. I know, weird, but it makes life a little more enjoyable.

Now on to more normal things. Next, I really enjoy going places, quite regularly. I am a homebody in that I don’t like being gone from my home for extended periods of time, but I enjoy day trips and overnight trips. When my oldest daughter played basketball, I always looked forward to her away games because my husband and I would go Friday night, watch her play, stay overnight, watch on Saturday and then usually when she was done, she would ride home with us. Now with my youngest two rock climbing, we enjoy going to Fairbanks and Anchorage for competitions and wandering around each town. I love going down to Seward or Kenai with anyone who will go with me, often with art, but sometimes just for fun. In the summer I love driving over Hatcher’s Pass, just to get out, even though I go many times every summer, and Talkeetna is always a fun little excursion any time of the year. Turnagain are is also a fun area to go and explore. There is so much to see!

I love to hike. Getting out in nature is so healing to my soul in a lot of ways. In the winter we don’t do much hiking, and sometimes in the summer we don’t get out as much as I would like, but no matter how much we do, I love doing it and come home feeling refreshed. My kids enjoy the ridgeline hikes, which I also enjoy. They are hard in the beginning, getting up on top, but then oh the views! Miles in every direction. We love Hatcher’s Pass for the views and ease of getting on top, but love to hike the Butte, Portage Pass is beautiful, as well as so many others. But I don’t mind being down in the trees either. I have been on so many beautiful hikes around lakes and near rivers and waterfalls. There is so much beauty regardless of where we go. This is one I don’t care to do alone for the most part, but having more people makes it more fun anyway.

I enjoy watching people make things. When I was a kid one of my favorite shows was Mr. Roger’s because he would always do a segment on how things are made. I still vividly remember watching how crayons are made. Growing up my dad and I would wander around building projects in our area after all the workers went home. It was always fun to see their progress. Now, my husband being a contractor, I get to see homes built from start to finish all the time, helping with various stages of the project, and it never gets old. I also love watching YouTube videos of how things are made. Recently I have been watching people make fantastic things out of chocolate. I enjoy watching the process and what goes in to everyday products or special occasion items.

And number 5, I love baking. Baking to me is fun and it makes me happy. Coming into the house and smelling freshly baked bread or cookies, or even the smell of dinner cooking in the oven. I love that. My favorite thing to bake is cookies. My kids have never understood that. They always say, “why don’t you make something like a bar cookie or brownie that can all bake at the same time and be done in 20 or 30 minutes instead of an hour like sheet pans full of cookies. I have no good answer except that cookies make me happy, and I find if fun to bake cookies, well bake almost anything, but that’s my favorite. I also love eating cookies, I think that’s my favorite sweet snack.

So there are 5 things I find fun that you may not have known about me. What do you do for fun? I would love to hear from you!

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Adjustments

Yesterday my oldest daughter and I went to Seward. She has been itching to get out and go somewhere, and I needed to make a trip down to Seward sooner than later, so this was a great opportunity. I picked Saturday because the weather was supposed to be beautiful, and it did not disappoint. We had beautiful weather, mostly clear roads, and not a lot of traffic. It was a perfectly unusual trip because of the lack of people on the road and the beautiful weather the entire way down and back. My daughter is a photographer, she has taken a number of pictures that have become my paintings over the year, and she took many, many pictures this trip. I will share 3 of my favorites here, although I should probably let her pick. She took over 3,000 pictures and pared them down to 1,000, with 98 favorites. I am grateful she is willing to share her talent with me!

Now on to the adjustments. The reason I needed to go to Seward sooner than later was because the shop that I have sold my art in for the last 2 years was closing. The woman who owns it had some medical things that needed to be taken care of and needed to close the shop for an indefinite amount of time. I am so grateful for her willingness to display my art and sell it for me, it was a good location and my art did well in her shop. I pray for her speedy recovery and a healthy future. This loss of revenue as well as several other things has really gotten me thinking about how to sell my art more productively, and what direction I want to go in. Last year I was going to redesign my website, but wasn’t really sure which direction to go, so I didn’t change anything. But as I continue forward, I think I will be changing quite a bit.

I recently decided to open an Etsy shop with a number of art pieces to test the waters, and will hopefully have that up and running by the end of this coming week. Earlier today I was doing an unrelated internet search looking at the most searched subjects on the internet, and Etsy is in the top 50 for the world as well as the United States. Even though that was not what I was looking for, it caught my attention and helped me be more motivated to get that going sooner than later. I have also been debating on the price of my website. Because it is an ecommerce website, it does cost money. I have debated on whether to keep it that way, or just make it informational with links to my various other content, like Etsy and YouTube. I have not ever recouped the cost of the website with sales in any one given year. Just a side note, WordPress has been a great platform, easy to set up, lots of help videos for anything and everything on their website, and the price has not been astronomical. I was set up with a different hosting site and paid almost double what I pay for WordPress. Just in case you’re looking at opening an ecommerce site.

When I first started to sell my art I thought that more was better. I tried putting my art on everything from bags to lampshades, puzzles and playing cards as well as key chains and stickers and so on. Not everything was as productive as I thought it might be, and I lost money on several of those items. But, just like I wrote about minimizing my home last week, I have decided to minimize my art as well. I love painting and want to spend more time painting. I’ve decided I want to just sell my art, not all the other products with it. So I have decided to pare down to a couple of items. I will sell fine art prints on paper and canvas as well as my notecards. I am working on writing another book but don’t have a timeframe at this point for that, and my other books are available on a number of different platforms already so I might link to them but won’t sell them here either.

I’m not sure where I will be going with everything exactly, but I am going to take a step out into the dark and see where it leads, know that my Heavenly Father will light the path in front of me each step of the way, or see when I need to change directions when need be as well. I will still be writing my blog on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s. If you have any suggestions for website design, Etsy shop suggestions, or blog post topics you’d like me to write about, I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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Inspire

Today I was watching a reel on Instagram from a friend of mine who inspired me to get into art. She taught my daughters art lessons when I was homeschooling them through middle school. I never took the lessons she taught in person, but then she started to do online lessons. I decided to try those lessons and found out that I love painting! She still does art lessons but always wanted to travel the world. Now she does her art lessons while traveling the world with her family, and it’s fun to see the different places they go and the experiences they have. If you would like to follow along, her name is Ashley Krieger. You can find her on YouTube here or her website here. Hopefully both links work!

Anyway, I was watching her reel thinking how I love watching all the fun things they do. I am very much a home body, and while sometimes I would love to go travel to a few specific locations around the world, I wouldn’t enjoy traveling full time. But it is fun to watch them go and do it. And, while I don’t think I’d like doing what they do, I am inspired by her courage to follow a passion to travel the world, to expose her kids to different cultures, and her and her husband’s commitment to jump in and do it! As I pondered on Ashley, I also started to think about other people who have influenced me over the years in some way.

I always think of my family first. Who I am at my core is in large part because of how I was raised by my parents. While that is the case for most of us, we can at some point decide the values they taught us in our youth are not going to be our values or way of life, we always have a choice. But we can embrace the good that we learned as a youth and teach the upcoming generation the good things we learned as children as well. If we pass on the bad, that’s a choice we make, to not change. I feel blessed that my parents taught me good values and that I can rely on those values and strive to teach them to my children.

I have always enjoyed exercising and staying fit, but I hated cardio, until about 12 years ago or so. A number of friends and family members suddenly decided to get into running. I had been thinking about trying that activity to stay in shape but knew my cardiovascular system would need a lot of work. I had already started doing a little running at that point but often got discouraged because I couldn’t go very far very fast. But when these friends and family started to run, it motivated me to actually put forth some effort and do better. Some of them still run, some don’t, but they all still inspired me. Because of them I have run for many years, not as consistently as I once did, but still way further ahead than I used to be. My cardiovascular system is much stronger than it has ever been, and I love the health benefits that started years ago with running and I am grateful for those who inspired me to keep trying even when I was discouraged.

Lastly, I had a friend who inspired me a few years ago when I was discouraged about my art. I hadn’t told anyone that I was frustrated, but as I visited with him one day, he must have sensed my discouragement. By that point I had sold only 20 or 30 prints and a few hundred note cards, but I was discouraged thinking that I should be farther along in the process by then. I had decided I probably wasn’t an artist and had seriously thought about quitting. He gave me a pep talk, in a nutshell, I had already sold art, so people obviously liked it, and these things just take a little time to get going. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was in text form, and I kept a screenshot of that text for several years, so when I got discouraged, I could look back and read it. His words kept me going, and while I’m not leaps and bounds further along than I was then, I have progressed at least artistically, and I am so grateful I didn’t quit. I am also grateful for the many people over the years who would come up to me randomly, like at Church, at the Post Office, wherever, and ask about my art. Their interest in what I was working on at the moment has also kept me going, knowing there are people out there watching, even when I’m not aware they’re there.

My husband inspires me every day. This past week my husband has had all of our kids at his job helping him tape and mud a couple of small cabins. I watch as he patiently teaches the kids new skills, whether it’s taping or mudding sheetrock joint, or laying down concrete, or framing a house, or installing trim, they learn a little bit more every time they work for him. Because of his willingness to teach them, they jobs usually take a little bit longer so he can explain and instruct, but he does it because he wants them to have marketable skills and knowledge, even if they never work in the same field, they could. They have also learned how to work hard over the years, which is a blessing in and of itself.

My kids are huge inspirations to me. I have people, come and tell me what wonderful kids we have, very respectful and kind, conscientious of others and always willing to help. While we have always tried to raise our kids that way, and they really are that way, both at home and in public, I think they came that way! I’m not sure it had a ton to do with our imperfect parenting. They are of course teenagers, and definitely not perfect, but when the chips are down, they usually make the right choice, and when they don’t, they are willing to admit it, correct it, learn from it, and move on with life. They inspire me always.

I am so grateful for all the people in my life, so many I know personally, and so many that I may never know, but who crossed my path and inspired me in some way anyway. Who has inspired you today?