Gone but not forgotten.

Girl Ninja flew out of Seattle Friday night to attend a friend’s baby shower in San Diego. To say she was excited about leaving the cold and wet snow in Seattle, for the warm sea breezes of Diego, would be an understatement. I wasn’t expecting to hear from her much as I knew she’d be busy catching up with friends and prepping for the shower. On Saturday, she called me crying.

Her grandfather, who has been battling lung cancer, was in the hospital and on a respirator. He had contracted pneumonia and was struggling to breathe on his own. She went to bed Saturday hoping Sunday would bring better news. The next morning she woke up to a phone call from her mother; Grandpa was not doing well and she and her three sisters needed to drive to Palm Desert to say their goodbyes. He passed away while they were en route.

Girl Ninja flew to San Diego to celebrate the life of her best friend’s unborn child, but the Lord had different plans and instead she is in Palm Desert, celebrating the 80+ years of life her grandfather had.

Losing a loved one is difficult, but peace is found by reflecting back on her grandpa’s impact on the world. He was a simple man, at least that’s the impression I got over the five years I knew him. He enjoyed golfing, volunteering and serving at his church. He was a writer. A thinker. A theologist. He was the former executive of a company most of you know. He wrote many books (yes, they were published). He even started a blog with a little help from yours truly. He was a Korean War veteran. He loved telling jokes (even if you’ve heard them before), spending time with his wife, four children, eleven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, and he loved, I MEAN LOVED ice cream.

Although he was an accomplished individual, doing more in his 80 years than I could do in 180, he will not be immortalized for these things. Instead, he will be remembered as a man who wanted nothing more than to be an obedient follower of Christ. For all of his accomplishments are merely byproducts of his deep rooted love for Jesus.

Although many tears have and will be shed as a result of his passing, we find encouragement and strength in remembering who he was, how he lived, and most importantly how he loved.

I leave you with a short snippet from an article he wrote many years ago…

Listen friend, the will of God isn’t wrapped up in the details of what we do, but the character of who we are. It’s not just the large choices, but the daily small choices that cumulatively build us into who God wants (wills) us to be. God cares about the little things and His will can include details, but these are secondary. What is primary is that we choose to follow his clear direction in spiritual and moral arenas. Then all the details fall into place.

Please be respectful in today’s comment section.

Our begging worked! Girl Ninja wrote a post :)

Applying to a private school was something I said I would never do. I grew up in public school (until college) and saw value in the education and experience I had. Private school teaching (although it is in line with my faith) went against my philosophy of why I want to teach, bringing hope and love to students who may not get it elsewhere.

In San Diego, I worked in a tough urban area. It was literally down the street from a well-known intersection called “The four corners of death”. Child protective service agents were in and out of our doors weekly. We had class pets…cockroaches (yuck!). Some students lived in hotels, some came to school on the city bus or in a cab, and rarely was education something to be valued.

This is what drew me to teaching.

I wanted to show love and hope, and invest in lives that many deemed “a lost cause”. This was way more difficult than I ever anticipated. I went through an exhausting year filled with poorly behaved students, a severe lack of support from my administration, and ultimately a feeling of inadequacy in my abilities to be an effective teacher. Fortunately, I had the support of Ninja when I came home. He’d often prepare dinner so I didn’t have to, he’d listen as I cried over my exhausting day, he’d take me out on dates to de-stress, or he’d just fill the bathtub and give me time to relax.

In my job hunt last spring, I was ready to apply for any and every teaching job available. (Teaching jobs aren’t necessarily in surplus right now. This is how I ended up in my current private school job)

The good news is, in the last 3 months of teaching, I have come home from school crying only twice (and once was because I missed San Diego). I get positive feedback and encouragement from my principal and coworkers, the students’ parents are involved and supportive, and I was even given a stipend to help cover costs associated with setting up a new classroom. Until this year, I never realized how neat it is to teach students about the depth of God’s love for them. I get to incorporate God into all aspects of our day. Obviously, this wasn’t allowed when I taught public school. It is such a gift to see the faith of a child, and to experience their forgiving and deep love. Two years of teaching kindergarten, and two totally different experiences.

It seems like a no-brainer; I am so much better off emotionally this year, right?! But let’s not forget I started teaching to make a difference. I have a heart for kids that are in need of hope and love – kids like those in my San Diego classroom. Instead, I am working in a place where most of my kids come from supportive and loving homes, homes where parents are more financially and emotionally invested in their child’s education. Amidst this environment, I have found ways to help, shape, and influence my 20 five-year olds in practical ways. I am learning that I can still make a difference, just in a different way than in public schools.

As the year goes on, I will be faced with the decision of sticking with my lower paying private school job ($10,000 less than public school position) where I am supported and have a better work/life balance, or stepping back into the less stable public school system so I can meet the needs of those who need it most. I still don’t know what I’m going to do.

Ninja’s thoughts: As GN mentioned, she had a very difficult year in San Diego and often came home extremely upset. This year, she has had a much more positive experience. I’m torn. Honestly I could care less about the pay difference. It has been awesome having Girl Ninja come home, excited about teaching, and with plenty of energy to enjoy the rest of the evening. But another part of me, wants to encourage her to give public school another shot. As she stated she wants to “bring hope and love to students who may not get it elsewhere.” We both also agree that the majority of her ill feelings towards public school are probably the result of a lack of support from her Principal (who actually got demoted at the end of the school year) and administration and not from the “challenging” students. She’s got a heart for public school, but has thoroughly enjoyed private school. How the heck do I help her make a decision!?

What are your thoughts on public school? What about private? Any advice for us?

Single once again.

Girl Ninja is at a conference for the rest of the week, which means I am getting a taste of the single life again. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little excited about it. I don’t have to make the bed when I get out of it. I can hang around the house in my underwear all day long, and I can fart without fear of being physically beaten (Girl Ninja’s been known to hit me from time to time). It’s great.

I’ve been married for 14 months now (four of which were long distance) so I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert on being married. And since I am a self-proclaimed expert, I thought I’d share with you the pros and cons of being married thus far…

Pro: Tax deduction. Yeah I said it and I’m not ashamed.

Con: Can’t be selfish. I actually have to consider someone else’s feelings. Being selfish is easy, being selfless is a learning process.

Pro: Dual Income. Speaks for itself.

Con: Girl Ninja sheds like a dog named Chewbacca. I swear that girl’s hair is everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Pro: I get to live with my best friend.

Con: We sleep on a “full” size bed, in which Girl Ninja somehow angles her body in such a way that she occupies 80% of it.

Pro: I’m no longer on a rice, beans, and chicken diet. Girl Ninja makes sure our fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy and delicious food choices.

Con: I’m always hot and she is always cold.

Pro: I know I have at least one person that will always mostly support me in whatever I do.

Con: GN has more expensive taste than I do. Starting to think she loves Nordstrom more than me 🙂

Pro: Girl Ninja only finishes about half her plate when we go out to dinner, so I always get to eat the leftovers.

Con: Can’t think of anything else because marriage is pretty sick!

I love being married. It’s pretty much the second best thing in the world (the first best thing is center bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich)…

If you are single, dating, or married (all of you would fall under one of those categories)…What do you feel are the pros and cons of your current relationship status?

Oops I did it again

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than, oh I don’t know let’s say a week, you know I frequently fail at being the awesome husband I strive to be. Yet again, I have another story for you about my most recent shortcoming.

In April, I decided I wasn’t going to go to the financial bloggers conference in Chicago. But after some significant peer pressuring from some close blogging buddies, I caved in and decided I would go. I asked Girl Ninja if it was cool with her and she gave me the green light.

Gold star for me right? I had something I wanted to do, and before doing it, I got permission from the spouse! I’m pretty sure that makes me husband of the year. Right ahead of this guy…

So now comes the time where I share with you my epic failure.

While I did a good job initially communicating with Girl Ninja about the trip, I seriously dropped the ball at continuing the communication throughout the process. I didn’t talk with her about ticket prices, I didn’t see if she was comfortable with me sharing the room with a complete stranger, I didn’t ask if she was fine with me going to a nightclub with a bunch of other people (yeah we went to a freakin’ night club for one of the events. It was both awkward and awesome).

In my mind, all I needed was permission from the wife to go, totally overlooked the fact that she should probably be consulted throughout the process. Lord knows  I would be pissed at her if she asked if she could go shopping with a friend, got my consent, and then purchased a $1,000 purse.

And that my friends is why I failed at being a good husband. I was unintentionally pulling a double standard. I can do what I want, but Girl Ninja has to ask me if she wants to do something. Man, I’m a tool.

Fortunately, Girl Ninja is patient with me and instead of beating my mercilessly, she poked in the bedroom one day and asked if we could talk about the conference more. We sat down, had a heart to heart. She expressed her concerns about my lack of communication. I apologized severely. And we reconciled. Thank goodness for Girl Ninja being such an amazing person. Don’t know what I’d do with out her.

In fact, she’s so awesome she wrote up a short paragraph about her take on the situation. Here it is:

This situation was definitely one of those times I wanted to rub in Ninja’s face it’s time to practice what you preach.  Communication, teamwork, compromise – all words we have agreed to stick to when it comes to making decisions TOGETHER on larger purchases. Whoops.  Ninja started out with the right motives and got distracted along the way.  Honestly, I was happy to see this happen.  I was happy because I think it humbled him a little bit (always a good thing right?).  Yes, he is WAY more financially savvy than I am but it doesn’t mean his opinions trump mine.  He felt a lot worse about it than I did, so I went easy on him.  Instead, I suggested a trip to San Diego for me.  Fair? I think so!

So…Ninja’s not perfect. Thank goodness because neither am I, but let’s not talk about that right now :).

Have you ever been guilty of operating under a double standard? Have you failed recently in your marriage or relationship? Why is being selfish so easy?

I freaking love this girl…

It’s spirit week and Girl Ninja’s school is matching!

It’s homecoming week here for the local high school. I don’t know if your school was like mine, but during homecoming week each school day had a theme. One day you’d wear school colors, another a funny hat, or a costume, or my personal favorite….matching day. I’d always dress up to match my best friend….who was black….yeah it was awesome! Even though Girl Ninja is a kindergarten teacher, it seems her school is also joining in on spirit week. That’s right, they’re matching….

…..her 403B contributions that is. HA! How about that for a PF tie in?

For the first time ever, Girl Ninja will be directly contributing to her very own retirement plan (we are also in the process of starting up a Roth for her). She gets paid biweekly and will be socking away 5% of her gross income each pay period – which gets fully matched by her school.

She was so cute when she came home to tell me about it. She sat down, all professional like at the table, with a packet of information about her various investing options. She was talking to me about how her schools financial adviser recommended that she be relatively aggressive in her investments since she is only 24. I couldn’t help but smile. For the first time in our marriage, Girl Ninja was actually excited to talk about retirement! I think I fell in love with her all over again during that conversation 🙂

Anywhoozle, included in her financial packet was a worksheet designed to help assess how risky (or conservative) she should be with her investments. Check it…..

As you can see. Girl Ninja, on her own volition ended up ranking in the most aggressive category (makes me so proud). Here’s how the form recommends GN invest based on her “aggressive” assessment…

Not sure yet if we will follow their guidance 100%, but we’ll likely end up doing something close to it. I’m so stoked for Girl Ninja to start her 403B. I’m already making a list of all the things I’m going to buy with her retirement income; a boat, skis, new car, and of course… a unicorn 🙂

Where do you rank according to the first chart? Were you surprised by the results? Would you follow the recommended investing strategy on the second form? Why is saving for retirement such a turn on….meow.

Welcome to our Home…again

It’s about time.  Welcome to our home. If you were actually walking into my house right now I would have a great playlist on, you would smell the Capri Blue anthropology candle scent (my fave) and I would be offering you something to eat or drink (possibly a bite of the apple crisp I made today?).  But, since you are entering via cyberspace, I’ll just say….welcome 🙂

Entry Way:

Just a nice little area to display some art and picture frames.

The Dining Room:

Here is Ninja’s favorite find in the house.  This table was a Craigslist find for $250 down in San Diego.  It came with six chairs (one is used for the desk in our bedroom) and 4 leafs to make ONE GIANT TABLE.  The table itself was originally $800 from Crate and Barrel, and we found stickers on the chairs marking them at $79 from World Market.  We definitely got a deal on this.  The shelf above the black organizer was a DIY project idea from Bruce Bucks that Ninja whipped up the other day.  We are still deciding on a paint/stain color for the shelf. Suggestions?

The Kitchen:

Our landlord loved the idea of concrete countertops.  He wanted them in the main house below us, so he decided to get his contracters liscence and learn how.  Our kitchen was his guinea pig. They are super nice and pretty different. Nothing else too exciting going on in our kitchen at this point.

The Living Space:

the teal storage bench is temporarily kept here before being moved to my classroom

Ninja’s favorite piece of furniture in our house is the dining room table. My favorite piece is our white couch: the free white couch, might I add.  Everything in this room came straight out of our San Diego condo, no new pieces.

The Bedroom:

Yes, we share a full size bed. Yes, I sleep great….but don’t ask Ninja how he sleeps 🙂 This is my new West Elm bedding I got on sale and I LOVE.  Our office space for Ninja’s at-home working/blogging is shared with our bedroom.  Best thing about this room? Two windows – I love natural lighting.  This room is still a bit bare on the walls, but we’ll get there.

The $1.99 desk...can't beat it.

The Closet:

BIG upgrade from our last closet.  I love all the hanging space, and the built-in shelves.  Ninja and I got to have a say on the closet organizer/layout, but the dimensions of the closet didn’t really allow for any sort of “design”.  It fits our clothes…and we’re happy.

The Bathroom:

We can fit at least 8 times as many people in this bathroom compared to the SD condo.  Not sure why we would ever need 8 people in the bathroom…but still, it is nice to have space to move.  This bathroom also has a window….super BONUS… Especially after Ninja has been in it 😉

The Views:

All of our neighbors take great care of their yards/gardens, and we get to enjoy them as well.  I desperately want those flowers in a vase in my house…think they would notice?

Outside three of our windows we get a peek-a-boo view of Puget Sound.  This is where we get to see amazing sunsets as well.

Ninja and I are so excited about our new place.  Some upcoming projects include:

  • Painting (walls and our new shelf)
  • Hanging things in the bedroom
  • Hutch makeover (new backing/hardware)
  • Pillows recovered
  • Curtains

There are always more projects to be done, but I’m learning the lesson of being content…no matter how big the to-do list is, or what my dream design looks like.  We are so lucky to be where we are (9th best city to live in the COUNTRY) and to finally be together again.  Hope you enjoyed your tour!

What’s your favorite room in your house? What room do you desperately want to make over?

p.s.  Today is my official last day of summer so you probably won’t be hearing from me for a while.  I’m entering the world of crayons, ABC’s, and five year-olds.  Pray for me 🙂

p.p.s. If you wanted to see what our San Diego place looked like you can do so by clicking here

Guilt Free

Happy August 17th!  To some of you that means nothing. To me, it means 5 more days left of summer (unless we are basing it on Seattle weather…which means summer started about 5 days ago).  What have I been filling my time with besides relaxing vacations, catching up with Seattle area friends and family, and decorating our new place? I’m so glad you asked.  I have been experiencing GUILT FREE SPENDING.  It is almost like Christmas.  My school gave me $500 to spend on my classroom as a new teacher to the school.  HALELUJIAH! One of the most freeing aspects of this money? Ninja has no part in it (I mean this in a very loving way).

Five hundred dollars can go faster than you realize.  In efforts to implement some frugal habits I have learned from my husband, I have definitely done some research.

Garage Sales: I’m not a rummager.  If someone labels their stuff as junk, it usually loses appeal to me as well.  Last Saturday was a different story.  I scored good junk.  For only $20, I walked away with a big pile of books, puzzles, a tent, and a desk organizer.  So worth it.

Second Hand Stores: Half-Price Books is my new best friend.  I prefer this to Amazon so I don’t have 5 million shipping charges and I actually get to feel and see the condition of the book before I decide on the purchase.  The goodwill (as you remember from our too cute desk) has also surprised me.  My new teal storage bench ($1.99) for my class library is one of my favorite items this year.

Pinterest: I love Pinterest…and I began to love it even more when I discovered how many teaching ideas are cataloged.  I have gotten so many money saving ideas and tidbits from this website. 

Sunday paper sale advertisements: I have my mom and sister on my side with this one.  We all pay attention to Office Depot, Target, Walmart, and Staples ads and are sure to find the best item at the best price.  I have found folders, binders, pencil boxes, etc. all for less than $1.00 a piece.

I love shopping for my classroom and I love it even more when it doesn’t affect my own finances.  I’m so thankful for my new school and the budget and time I get to use to start the year off (last year I was hired and given one day to prepare before the kids were there).   The best part is I added up all my receipts yesterday and I have only spent $250 so far.  Maybe I’ll actually get to purchase some things off of my “wish list”, not just my “needs”. 

Do you have guilt free money set aside?  How do you spend it?  What would you use a $500 guilt-free budget on?

p.s. If you missed Ninja’s post today, check it out here.