Stephanie Under Construction Blog

Choosing Your Professionals

We’ve all been there, the person or company looks great and exactly what we’re looking for, and then once we sign on the line, we immediately realize the mistake we’ve made. Today I’m going to share some different things to look for when choosing health and wellness professionals that will hopefully make the decision a bit easier. It takes a little time on the front end, but saves us a lot of frustration and heartache on the backend (because wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was just honest up front?)

  1. Are they certified, and by who? Not every service you are seeking has a regulated state or national certifying body, or a university degree program of study by which they have completed in their field, but professional training is tantamount. Life experience is always nice to have with our practitioners, it makes them more empathetic and sympathetic, but life experience alone does not prepare someone to care for you and run a business. Verify certifications. Certifying bodies have ways for you to check professional credentials for those that tout their name, and there are also third party verification companies as well. For example, several of my certifications are held through the American Council on Exercise, and those certifications can also be cross-referenced through the US Registry of Exercise Professionals.
  2. Do they belong to professional organizations or business groups? Now, this can be a tough one for new businesses because the cost of joining organizations and maintaining memberships can be prohibitive as they are growing, but professional organizations and many business groups also vet the legitimacy of a business entity for their integrity before allowing them as a member. There are groups specific to the field of the individual’s field or just business as a whole. Organizations or groups that I belong to are You Define Wellness and my local Chamber of Commerce. One that I aspire to (that cost prohibitive thing…) is being an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau (this is important to me because I desire the external recognition of an ethically run business)
  3. References. Ask for references. Your provider should be able to provide professional references and possibly client references (if they have received a confidentiality waiver to do so)
  4. Testimonials. Either on their website or other review platforms, ask to see testimonials provided from clients or those that have worked with the provider.
  5. Registries. There’s a contact list for everything these days! Hopefully your provider in making themselves visible has put their contact information out there in multiple places so they can be found–and it’s up to date. I’m on several women in business registries, the You Define Wellness Provider Registry, and also the HAES (Health at Every Size(R)) Provider Registry (which involve a code of ethics for HAES aligned practices in order to be listed).
  6. Where do they show up? Again, new businesses sometimes are in a silo in simply operating the business, but is the business visible beyond the marketing and delivering of services? Where are they in the community? Are they on boards or committees? Do they give back of their time and talents? This is subjective, but to me, this is important in looking at anyone I work with—it shows me they aren’t just in their work for the paycheck, but they are part of something greater. Maybe it’s just important to me because I don’t know how I couldn’t not be a part of, but do a bit of research.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, maybe you feel differently about how you choose those that you work with, but let’s take a minute and talk about choosing MLM (multi-level marketing) companies.

If you’ve been on social media for all of five minutes, you’ve likely had “health coaches” or other MLM company representatives that call themselves a myriad of different things slide into your comments, DMs, and email. Some are legitimately coaches and have completed accredited programs independent of an MLM company, however them term coach is not regulated and your Beachbody, Optavia, and other MLM health coaches/products are not accredited coaches like someone who has actually completed a health coaching certification program through a certifying body. These MLM representatives are making you a promise that their program and/or products with provide you with a specific result based on studies. Ask for the studies. Then ask for a study not sponsored by their company. The research is independent–but follow the money, I have yet to have an MLM rep supply me a non-biased study proving the efficacy of their programs. That’s not to sway you from what they have to offer, it’s just food for thought–there’s no quick fix.

I’d love to know questions you have about choosing health and wellness providers, or any other information I can provide. Drop a comment or contact me directly!

Bringing Back F-U-N!

We know that self care is important, we hear it all the time. You might have also heard the adage that self care isn’t all bubble baths, but work too.

Well, there’s a middle ground. I’ve had a singular focus for awhile that has come around and drained me. While I’ve focused on all of those core needs and secondary needs that I’ve talked about previously, I’ve still been neglecting that time to stop and smell the roses.

It started with the question from someone, “what do you do for fun?” I felt a little dumbfounded because the things that come to mind are the parts of my business that I enjoy, triathlon training, and many of the tasks that surround those things. I became very aware that I’m not in-tune to fun because it’s been too long since I’ve taken the time to have some fun!

As with all change that I incorporate, I started looking for the low-hanging fruit–the small actions that I could start to take immediately to focus on fun. While I came up with some small actions, they still seemed a bit insurmountable because of the guilt and shame that I’ve been programmed to carry.

It took me quite a bit of time to reconcile the idea of putting myself first mind, body, and soul/spirit so that I was able to be at the best service to others. Even in that, I had to fight around the constructs of previous work and voices telling me that taking care of myself was to be secondary to the people served. When I started to consider this idea of fun, I had to come back around again (like peelng away the layers of an onion), to remember that fun is a form of self-care and it equips me for service.

Now, as much as I would’ve loved to have dropped everything and gone for a month-long vacation, that wasn’t in the small steps I have been incorporating to focus on fun–but what I have been doing is things like playing and experimenting in the kitchen, doing workouts that don’t have a singular triathlon focus (I’m looking at you bellydance!), and even looking at games to spend a few minutes playing to free my mind. That last one was the hardest–I had a hard time looking at it being okay to play games on my computer or phone because it had been hammered into me how horrible those things were.

But…fun!

I love puzzle games and games that make you think–card games, yahtzee, tetris, dominoes, and more–those are my speed when it comes to fun games. Not video games or live action/roleplay, that’s not my thing. I started to think about some of the computer games that I used to enjoy on the old (OLD) microsoft operatig system–things like Taipei (Mahjong), Free Cell, Solitaire, and more.

Then I stumbled onto https://www.solitaire.org/ that has all of those games that I love! And better yet, for FREE! Now that I’ve been able to put aside the guilt and shame of taking a few minutes to play a game to clear my mind and recharge, it has increased my engagement and energy level between appointments and throughout the day. My favorites are still Mahjong and Free Cell.

Now, taking fun from a small action of playing a game to something larger is still a ripple effect in process, but hopefully someday soon I just might be taking that month-long vacation! I’d love to know what some of your favorite games to play for fun are? Comment below!

Those Little Insidious Things…

…that aren’t so little.

I speak to a lot of people about basic core needs–those things that have the greatest impact on our health outcomes. For example: sleep, hydration, consistently eating, movement, and others are good indicators of moving the needle on how we want to feel.

But beyond those basic core needs, we have this next level of needs–this includes our emotional, intellectual, spiritual needs and more. All of these areas also play into our heath and wellness as well.

Now, we also have external things too that we don’t always consider–areas of our lives like finances or our environment (home, work, climate, etc) also and they can have a direct impact on those basic core needs and other intrinsic needs as well.

I’ve mentioned it before on social media, in other posts, and sometimes I feel like a broken record, but one of my partners, You Define Wellness, has practitioners that address all of these different areas of wellness from the basic core needs to much deeper and all of those things that affect us externally too.

Today I want to look at how one area of wellness–finances (yes, it’s actually an area of wellness)–affect our overall health. Think about it. When the money in our lives is handled pretty well, we feel pretty good–but when we have money issues, it spills over in to other areas. If you’re struggling with money, does it weigh on your emotions? Do you lose sleep over it? Does it affect your appetite? Do you consume more alcohol/use more recreational or illegal drugs? Does stress elevate your blood pressure? Whether we are doing these things consciously or unconsciously, if you’re struggling around money–what is that level of stress that you’re living with?

Have no fear. There is relief. Financial issues don’t have to last forever. We can chat with a money manager, financial planner, accountant, and other financial experts and get some great guidance (and if you need some recommendations on where to start, please reach out). There’s also great resources online like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and other programs, but the most important thing to do is to in the big picture is to take a look at our credit.

Now, Let’s be clear I’m not a financial advisor in any sense, but the team at DebtConsolidation.com has put together some great tips on ways to repair your credit. No matter your financial position, all of these tips are things that as your work over time to chip away at and implement, they have a huge ripple effect in our money situation–not only with our credit standing, but with our handling of money, our emotions around money, and how money impacts our physical health outcomes. What are some of these ideas that you might be able to implement today?

  • Investigate your Credit Report (PS-NEVER pay for your credit report except in the instance of mortgage application, etc–there are many free ways to obtain it out there that don’t ding your report for checking the score)
  • Pay bills on time
  • Pay of debt (even if it’s $1 above the minimum payment, you’re still paying it off faster)
  • Avoid letting accounts go to collections (you’d be amazed if you ask how many companies are amenable to payment arrangements)
  • Use credit cards responsibly to build credit
  • Don’t close unused credit cards you’re not using (I learned this the hard way–it actually dings your credit score! I think that’s stupid…but, it is what it is)
  • Become an authorized user of another’s credit card
  • Avoid applying for loans you won’t get
  • Be picky with loan and credit card applications (or anything you apply for that requires a “hard” credit check)
  • Patience (none of these is an overnight fix–but they work with consistency)

Information provided from: https://www.debtconsolidation.com/repair-your-credit/

Just like any change or goal I talk about with my clients when it comes to fitness, nutrition, accountability, or habit change–it’s the tiny actions that make the big difference in the end. Small actions, over time, multiply and reduce those stressors we have around money and help us to combat the negative health outcomes that accompany financial stress. If you need any referrals or have any questions, please reach out today!

Inefficient Movement

There have been a few clients and prospective clients that I have spoken with that are frustrated with themselves because they have the desire to begin a fitness regimen, but report that they lack the time and ability to make fitness a priority.  When I hear this, it makes me first question the client on how they define fitness and movement.  The second area that I start to probe into is what their daily life looks like.

How do you define fitness? Movement?  Often people have a perception or expectation of movement that it must look a certain way, achieve certain benchmarks, and bring about a specific (and often unrealistic) outcome.  If you start walking tomorrow, it is not plausible (without great strain and danger of injury) that you are going to run a marathon this weekend.  It is important to have fitness goals and something to strive for, but we need to break down those goals into bite-sized, manageable pieces that fit into daily life to build a solid foundation and flourish from there.

One way that we do this is through what I have coined inefficient movement.  When we start to intentionally stop looking for the easiest and simplest way to complete tasks, the potential is almost infinite on how to incorporate more movement—thus building our overall fitness (endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, and mobility)—without much impact on one of our most valuable resources, time.

So, what is inefficient movement?  It is the ability to break down tasks into multi-step processes to maximize the greatest impact on the body.  One of the easiest examples to look at this concept is carrying groceries inside our home.  Instead of being the person that loads all the grocery bags in your arms, put one or two bags in each hand and make multiple trips to the car.  By breaking this task down and taking multiple trips back and forth, you are 1) increasing strength capacity through several repetitions of load on your arms and upper body and 2) putting in more steps and depending on the distance you are walking back and forth, increasing your heart rate, and experiencing cardiovascular benefits.

Some other great ways that I incorporate inefficient movement throughout my day is making multiple trips back and forth from closets to the laundry room.  I will take a dirty load to put into the machine, come back to the closet to grab hangers, carry a clean load to put away, and bring another load back with me.  At least in my home, the closets and laundry room are at opposite ends of the house, so it contributes to many steps, and the bonus of carrying the weight of the laundry back and forth is great for continued strength building.  What are some other ways that you can breakdown everyday tasks in the home or at the office to maximize your inefficiency?

Inefficient movement is beneficial for people of any fitness level.  It gives those that are just starting to incorporate movement into their life the ability to gently ramp up in building capacity for greater movement and stamina.  For people that already engage in an exercise regimen or are active most days of the week, inefficient movement gives them the ability to keep moving and building on the benefits of their exercise, and that active recovery to keep muscles loose and flexible in the recovery process.

Just like any other exercise regimen, there are considerations for make to help your body to thrive when engaging in movement.  Some of these basic needs are:

                Sleep: making sure that you are getting enough sleep is the key to body recovery, cognitive rest, and giving yourself that break to recharge.

                Hydration: proper hydration is always important in any lifestyle, but considerations to make around hydration with engaging in inefficient movement is the new stressors on the body that are requiring more hydration intake due to the energy expended.

                Consistent Eating: with inefficient movement, there is not a need to boost your calorie intake as the daily calorie expenditure is not vastly increased.  The key here is to make sure that you are consistently eating snacks and meals throughout the day to nourish yourself in a manner that is appropriate for your needs.

                Rest and Recovery:  While sleep is important, rest is important.  This is disconnecting from daily activities to engage in self care activities.  Self-care looks different for each of us—for some, it is bubble baths and face masks, but for others it is taking a break from the structured schedule of the day or taking some time to engage in those basic needs of hydration or consistent eating.

In addition to engaging in inefficient movement and providing the basic needs for our holistic selves, it is important to remember that occasionally there is lack in feeling how we want to feel in our body.  This can be remedied in several ways, but one of the most empowering things we can do is just start with a nutritional supplement like a men’s or women’s multivitamin that help to stand in the gap from the nutrients that need a boost to help us thrive. 

Curious about where to start with inefficient movement or selecting a nutrient supplement right for your needs?  Comment below or reach out for assistance in how you can be supported in feeling great today.

Influencers.

What does the word influence or influencer bring to mind? For some it’s images of celebrities or Instagram stars–but as I’ve learned (through my own journey as an influencer *gasp*) it’s so much more than that.

I admit, I had a lot of hate around the influencer culture, and in some ways, I struggle with those that abuse and take their ability to influence others around them using their platforms (hence, influencer) to the extreme.

I am picky. I partner with a company that works with everyday influencers that have a passion for different things in life–whether it be beauty, music, technology, pets, business, whatever! The company vets the products and services that are pitched to their influencers for legitimacy, so that we aren’t getting scammed for our work. We also have choice in the matter. I never accept a pitch that doesn’t align with my personal beliefs, and my personal beliefs align with my business practices–so you know anything I’m sharing is filtered through my worldview and I wouldn’t be sharing it if I didn’t try it myself and stood behind it.

I’ve said no. I’ve had clothing companies send pitches that I’ve rejected because they aren’t inclusively sized. I have had other companies that market products that I don’t use because of other beliefs. I’m not the right person to share about those things, but there are people out there that are.

It’s not about having the biggest following, the most popular kid in school, the newest and flashiest out there–being an influencer is about being real, open, and honest about the products and services that benefit you and your life in a real way so that you can maybe make a difference others lives. If it is helping you, it can help someone else too. And what better way than to share it on social media? Isn’t that where all our friends and connections are? If we have found something that is helping us, isn’t it worth helping our friends and neighbors too? That’s influence! You get to be the conduit for bringing something new into someone’s life that they didn’t know was out there, saving them the time from searching it out–because you are their trusted source. If you’ve tried something, and they trust you, then they are ready to get what you’ve got too. Win-win all around!

You don’t have to be Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, or *insert male celebrity here* (shows how many I follow, lol), you just have to transparent and authentic with your networks and platforms that you’re on and the products and services you’ve tried. Get some help editing a blog post or shooting a video. Learn how to make some photo layouts or take some product pictures using your phone. You might be surprised how much you can do on your own without any experience just being uniquely you!

Have you thought about giving it a shot? Want to know more about my experiences and what’s involved? Reach out and let’s chat, or you can sign up for an affiliate account at Intellifluence today!

Menopause, Real Talk

This might seem like an awkward post immediately following talking about my 40th birthday, and other than what can sometimes be an awkward topic, y’all know I’m always going to be real about life and all the things that go along with it.

As many of you know, I had a complete hysterectomy almost two years ago–the whole shebang, nothing left behind. This was fully welcomed in my life, as I have dealt with issues and quirky autoimmune flares that all stemmed back to those organs since my early 20s. It was recommended then that in order to regain the level of health I was seeking to get a hysterectomy–although, finding a doctor to perform such a surgery at that age, not so easy. I searched for awhile, gave up, and resigned myself to a lot of misery. Finally in my late 30s, enough was enough and I started the search for a doctor again. I still came up against the backlash of “you might want kids someday”–despite we had been married over a decade and that resolve wasn’t changing, but I did find a doctor. Ironically, it was a second visit to a practitioner I had seen several years earlier for other issues at my highest weight and was treated in a horribly fatphobic way–and upon my return in a very different body I was greeted in a much different way. While I was not a fan of the doctor’s bedside manner, he was good at what he did, and I could put my feelings aside for a short time to get through surgery and have further care carried out by my preferred practitioners. Anyway, that’s a completely other story for another day.

Long story short–my hysterectomy was a success! It achieved the outcomes we (my preferred docs and I) set out for. As expected, my body came back to a state of homeostasis after many, many years. The only after effect I still experience from the autoimmune issues is my thermoregulation (I’m always cold) is improved, not completely gone. I am very grateful that HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is unnecessary, even with the lack of ovaries, etc. My doctor phrased it this way, “Because your body was so jacked up for so long, I don’t think HRT is going to be a need because your body is just going to chill out and not swing the other way after surgery.” So far it has.

My other gratitude in that putting my body into full menopause in one shot, that only some things have affected me. While my weight hasn’t fluctuated, my body composition has changed–that’s played a bit of a mind game, but it is what it is. For the longest time, I felt that was the only menopause symptoms that I was experiencing. Haha sucker–don’t think so fast!

Several months ago, I started experiencing pain, itchiness, and increased UTIs. It felt like as soon as I would feel better, that the cycle would start again. Traditional medications and treatments seemed like they worked for a bit, but not entirely. I started blaming my lifestyle–as a fitness professional, I wear workout clothes most all day, and I thought I was creating an environment not conducive to healing. I tried showering more, different fabrics, doing laundry more and more, but it seemed like I was just exacerbating the issues. Enter NeuEve.

I wasn’t particularly excited about trying something else or something new, but these products have been life-changing. There isn’t anything at the pharmacy or prescribed that has helped me like these. I had the opportunity to try several different products. The first was the Gold Vaginal Suppositories–this was the strongest formula and I felt better within a day of the first use! After 3 doses of that, I stepped down to the Silver level–a slightly gentler formula and this continued to keep the symptoms at bay, and used that for 3 doses. Finally, I continue to maintain comfort with just the balm cream. It’s insane–the difference is night and day! No more discomfort, no infections since.

Now, y’all know me and that I don’t just pick up random things and use them–I do my homework and research what it’s all about. I really liked the medical research behind NeuEve products, and that via a Facebook group, that the creator, Dr. Renjie Chang, is readily available for feedback, advice, and to answer questions. How often do you get that kind of access to someone for help? I’m sold!

The whole reason for this post is not about to sit here and air my dirty laundry and very personal things–it’s not everyday that someone talks about their lady parts in print–but to make one point very clear: you don’t have to live in discomfort. Symptoms that you know aren’t normal absolutely aren’t normal. Only you are the expert of your body. We don’t just have to “deal” with things, we can get to the root of the problems we’re experiencing and there is relief.

And I promise…it’s not a regular thing to talk about my lady parts here, lol.

The 40 Before Fifty

Next weekend I turn 40 years old. No, it’s not old, but for many it tends to mark a milestone. To be quite honest, I don’t mind getting older–with age comes experience, and there’s something rewarding about having that experience acknowledged and valued–which hasn’t been the case until recent years. Along with getting older, I am probably one of the handful of people that enjoy looking older. I have always appeared younger than I am, and probably once a week or more, I’m still assumed to be in college/early 20s. This comment isn’t flattering, because the assumption is made on my age without knowing me, I am treated as a younger (read: inexperienced) individual before people learn about who I am, my knowledge, my experience, and what I bring to the table. Heck, I left my last table and started a whole new one! Also, I enjoy the “effects” of getting older–I think the silver strands that glitter in my hair that are now becoming grey and silver streaks are beautiful. (What can I say? Silver and natural red hair looks mighty good together, especially since embracing my curls! Thank you Curly Girl Method!)

As I approach my birthday, there isn’t a lot of fanfare or anything like that. No plans. Just as the last several years, it will be a day to relax and work at my leisure–especially since I’ve been able to structure the day that on Saturdays I send the car to work with my husband to keep myself focused on what I want to get done for the day, and since the majority of clients come to me, or are virtual, I can be a captive audience.

I got to thinking about the last decade of life, and how things have changed. I can tell you in complete confidence that I am happier, stronger, healthier, more confident, more engaged in my spiritual growth, and living in complete peace and joy–all things I wasn’t experiencing upon turning 30. Life is utterly different, and beyond comprehension better than I ever could have dreamed. If that much can change in a decade–especially in the last 7 years as I’ve focused on my holistic health and the last 18 months since our newest chapter–what does God have in store for the next 10 years? 20 years? 30+ years? It’s so exciting to me as to what can be next that I am overwhelmed with anticipation.

I’m not much of a bucket list gal, but you all know #igotgoals, and in this anticipation of what lies ahead, I’m making a list of the 40 things that I want to accomplish in my 40s–which will be from here on out, the #40beforefifty. All of these things are seemingly one-off events and activities, but they all require the systematic planning, action steps, and ultimately goal achievement to check them off the list. Some will take longer than others, but I’m here for the ride–and after the last several years, I know wholeheartedly that anything is possible. So, without further delay (and in no particular order)…

The #40beforefifty

  1. Complete an Ironman triathlon
  2. Conduct a Heart & Sole retreat at a minimum of 3 out-of-state locations
  3. Run a 100-mile ultra marathon
  4. Get a second vehicle so my husband has his own
  5. Purchase a brand-new vehicle
  6. Go to Mexico
  7. Go to Greece
  8. Go to Italy/Sicily
  9. Complete a cycling tour
  10. Write a book (my own book-yes, I am releasing one this fall with other co-authors)
  11. Create an online course
  12. Zero debt (with the exception of mortgage)
  13. Work 30 hours a week or less on direct client care (aka: building my trusted team to take care of everything else in my business so I can focus solely on clients)
  14. Renovate our kitchen
  15. Put in new flooring throughout the house
  16. Paint the outside of the house a different color
  17. Put in a solid wall in the backyard so we don’t have to see the neighbor’s yard
  18. Screen in the back patio and front porch sitting area
  19. Make the entryway to our home more accessible (railings and other ADA compliance to make in-person services here on site attainable for more individuals
  20. Complete a race (triathlon or running) on another continent
  21. Appear on a national television platform
  22. Give a Ted Talk
  23. Furnish our guest room
  24. Complete furnishing our master bedroom
  25. Provide my husband the garage of his dreams for his hobbies
  26. Go sky-diving
  27. Ride in a hot air balloon
  28. Go out for a day in a boat on the lake (yes, we’ve lived in Lake Havasu 7 years and have never been out on the lake, sans swimming from shore)
  29. Take a spa/girls trip in Sonoma County or other wine country area
  30. Take an Alaskan Cruise
  31. Go on an Israel study tour with our church with my husband
  32. Upgrade and expand the equipment in my gym
  33. Fund a mission trip through our church’s different mission ministries
  34. Create the ability/sustainability to take a trip to visit my family on the east coast annually
  35. Be president of our Kiwanis Club (slow your roll, nominating committee–not for a few years)
  36. Hold a local elected office (no, I won’t say which one I’m passionate for yet, but I know)
  37. Mentor a new-to-the-industry trainer under the Heart and Sole umbrella that encompasses my same values, philosophy, and HAES alignment
  38. Give a keynote lecture
  39. Publish in a reputable medical or mental health journal
  40. Renew our wedding vows in the dress of my dreams

Some may understand my desire for some of these goals/outcomes, some may not. That’s okay–they’re mine, not yours. In every single one of them there’s planning, intentional action, and goal achievement that comes in to play. When I look at this list in it’s entirety, it’s overwhelming–but I remind myself of the momentum of the last decade and how life is completely transformed, and remember that I have the ability to accomplish all 40 and more, but also stay grounded in daily living the life of my dreams that I already have today. Some items easier than others, but not a single one of these are unattainable. Like I mentioned above, anything is possible.

#igotgoals and will be unstoppable–stay tuned as I start to check off the #40beforefifty

Money, Money, Money…

…Mon-ey! (C’mon, you started singing the song as you were reading the title, admit it. I know I wasn’t the only one!)

We all know that I’ve never been one to shy away from touchy subjects, and money is one of those that for many of us increase the heart rate, tighten the muscles, raise the blood pressure, and even make us feel a little warm under the collar. It’s personal! Just like our physical health, our habits, our fitness, our nutrition, our emotional well-being, and so much more…we don’t like getting deep in conversation about our financial health and wellness.

I’m going to give it to you straight–suck it up, pull off the band-aid, and have the hard conversations around money.

Now I’m going to soften that blow a bit through some of our experiences and hopefully make that idea seem like less of a blow. For those just joining the party, you don’t know that in the beginning of 2020 my husband and I walked away from a life dedicated to service. Though the stipend for our living expenses was humble, it was a steady and reliable income with benefits that we chose to leave behind. We made that choice for more reasons than we even chose to express in our two-page resignation letter; God had something different.

Not only did God have something different, God had something far better when we chose to walk in that obedience. But, of course, that doesn’t mean everyday is sunshine and roses either–because we still have to support ourselves and function in a society where cash is king above the One we worship.

One of the first things that we did was create a family budget. This needs to be an easy working document that you can come back to and alter often. For us, the biggest edits we have made are income with sources of income from my husband’s employment changing, and then as my business started to become solvent, the process of what I pay myself and how expenses between our household and a residential business are determined. We love online calculators because we can take the numbers from our different spreadsheets and get a fast determination on what we need to alter and where without the headache of doing the math.

In setting up that family budget and determining our household expenses, we also had to consider how debt played into the equation. Starting over as “brand new adults” with only six months severance in our pocket, at the outset of moving, we accrued some consumer debt. In setting a plan with how to eliminate that debt without paying more interest than necessary, again, we hit the calculators to give us a clear picture of how much to budget for each payment and where that debt was best seated between creditors to pay things off quickly.

We don’t completely institute all steps of Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps, we do employ a number of the concepts into our savings and spending. The radio show is usually on in our car when we’re driving about in the evenings, and Financial Peace University is a great place to develop accountability around money.

The big piece to the financial puzzle that has been the hardest to conquer with the greatest amount of reward, is conquering money mindset. We did not realize that due to the work we had done for so many years that deeply engrained a scarcity mindset around those dollars. We don’t just wake up one day and live in freedom and with an abundance mindset, it takes careful and intentional cultivation, prayer, trust, and courage to make the transformation. The biggest helps that I have had in the journey are the mentorship of my two (yes, two) business coaches, Caterina Rando and Laura Gisborne–as I affectionately call my dynamic duo. These women have helped me to position myself in business and personally to grow and thrive, to increase my value (incoming and what I put out to the world through my business), and move the needle from fretting over every dollar to understanding and trusting that I am just a conduit for God’s money and giving freely of what I have been entrusted–and through that, all my needs are met.

Through this money mindset transformation, we have been able to support our church above and beyond our tithe, my business engages in monthly giving, I have developed a program to support others that are not able to afford my services with no-cost and low-cost options, we invest in the our future, and meet our current financial obligations.

Easy? No. Totally worth it? Absolutely!

Let’s hear from you on what your best financial successes or tips that help you thrive!

Money made easy at: https://calculator.me/

Ditch The Diet Swap: Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Welcome to the first of what will be many reimagined recipes from some of my old favorite diet cookbooks. Yes, diet cookbooks. You know, those recipes where you had to go out and spend extra money on tasteless, cardboard-y, and usually chemically-modified ingredients to enhance the flavor in order to replace the calories, fat, or sugar that was being taken from the original products?

NO MORE!

I’m reclaiming these recipes and our taste buds to create them in a cost effective manner where they are packed with flavor, real food, nutrient dense ingredients, and broken down in the simplest and easy (and/or fastest) ways to prepare them.

First up, comes from probably one of my most referenced diet cookbooks–the biggest offending diet ingredient in the original recipe called for non-fat powdered creamer to create the creamy effect in the soup. I have altered the amounts/ingredients so much, this recipe is lightyears from the original and SO MUCH more flavorful! Oh, and this recipe cost me $2.97 to make because I got a killer deal on the squash.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • About 4 cups (1.5 lbs.) diced butternut squash
  • 1 onion, cut in small pieces
  • 3-4 smashed garlic cloves (Or, if you’re me–2x that quantity #allthegarlic)
  • 4 cups of your favorite stock (vegetable, chicken, beef, etc)
  • 1/4 cup Hatch green chile (fresh, frozen, or just canned green chiles–more or less to taste, and be aware of the level of spice!)
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (optional)

Bring all of the ingredients except the milk to a boil and simmer at a low boil for 60-90 minutes until butternut squash dices are tender all the way through (you could steam the squash first, but it creates a less creamy texture to the soup that breaks later in leftovers).

Bring down temperature of mixture for a few minutes from boiling and add to blender with the milk (optional) and puree completely to a creamy texture. The squash on its own creates the creamy texture, so the milk only enhances it and helps to temper the heat of the chiles–up to you! Serve hot or cold, it’s delicious both ways!

My test batch created roughly 1.5 liters of soup. This freezes beautifully or lasts several days in the fridge. Great for a main dish and the leftovers can be for lunch for a few meals depending on family size. Enjoy!

I would love to know if you make this dish–please provide some feedback or tweaks you made to the recipe in the comments!

Spicy Condiments to Make Your Snacks Better

Snacks are the best part of any workday.  They pull you away from the stress of your nine to five and give you something fun and tasty to focus on.  Although you could easily go for some yogurt or bagel bites, a real snack needs some strong flavor to boost your energy!  Spicy food has been seeing a massive surge in popular culture as more people are cooking from home than ever before- and because of this, even our snacks are kicking it up a notch.

Here are the top spicy condiments to boost the flavor of any food you could possibly eat!

Sriracha

This spicy red sauce has been enjoying a surge in popularity for the last ten years.  Based on a famous red Thai cooking sauce, it gets its heat from red jalapenos, which on their own aren’t that hot!  When mixed and fermented with vinegar and then condensed to a thick squeezable paste, the heat comes out to play!  This can be a delicious dipping sauce for any fresh-cut vegetables or even just drizzled on a little rice.

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

Spicy and flavorful jelly has gained a cult following in the last couple of years, with people learning how to make their own and coveting whichever brands they do like buying from.  Jalapeno pepper jelly mingles sweet and savory flavors together into a perfect mixture that will wake you up and get you energized.  You can enjoy this spread on anything from crackers to sandwiches and even make it into a salad dressing by mixing it with vinegar or olive oil!  It’s incredibly versatile and packs a punch!

Gochujang

If you’re familiar with sriracha, it’s time to kick it up a notch with gochujang.  This sweet and spicy chili paste is everything that sriracha is: plus more.  The thicker consistency lends itself well to cooking, but it can also be used for anything from a dipping sauce to something you can scramble into an egg or some minced veggies.  The heat builds on you, and you’ll find yourself wanting to both eat more and also take a break for some water to quench the heat!

Banana Ketchup

This fun Philippine sauce is so much more than its name lets on.  Made with bananas, sugar, spices, and vinegar- it’s usually sold being no spicier than a banana is on its own.  Fortunately for anyone who can get to a good Asian market: there are tons of spicy varieties.  The spicy versions of this sauce are spunky and fun, and fabulous on anything you can eat!

Brown Mustard

Although this sauce isn’t new or thought to be as thrilling as its counterparts on this list, brown mustard packs a punch that shouldn’t be ignored!  Using brown mustard seeds as a base, and often containing the full seeds for texture, brown mustard keeps the original tangy flavor of the condiment while adding heat that can liven up any sandwich or soft pretzel.  You can buy, or make, variations with a smokier flavor or balance it out with yellow mustard for less heat: but it deserves a spot on this list for its longevity of use!

Which ones do you enjoy? Which ones are you going to branch out and try next?