January 2020 Lookback

2020 started off differently than I anticipated. It's been beautiful and gross all at once. There are some positive things yet to come, but I have been reminded that each day is a gift and that tomorrow is never promised. But for now I'm going to sip on my English breakfast tea with heavy cream (a luxury to say the least), and just be. I can't control the future and maybe the best I can do is just enjoy the moment for what it is.

Listening to:

Marc Cohn - "Walking in Memphis"


This past Christmas and the days following. It was a whirlwind. A death in the family has got me contemplating life and my values.


mostly travel. I just got an update from my employer regarding the next 6 months and my work schedule, so I've been putting mine and Justin's holidays into a calendar and working out our schedule for the upcoming year.

Scotland, a cross-country road trip, and some time in Florida on the panhandle, maybe Hawai'i for Christmas?

This month for Scotland planning, we booked train tickets from Paris to London, and from London to Glasgow. We also laid out a general road trip plan.

For the cross-country road trip, I booked a rental car. At current prices, the road trip may not happen? We're going to watch the prices though and see if they drop to something we are comfortable with.

For the trip to Florida, I just booked a rental car.

While we had been looking at a trip to Australia for the new year, I'm not entirely sure that will fit in with my work schedule. We might try to meet up with our Australian friend in Hawai'i or elsewhere over the holidays. This has yet to be decided. Alternatively, it may be another year at home.

I also bought a birthday gift.

Anxious about:

picking hotels for Scotland travel. I know I need to start looking, but I just haven't wanted to.

Interested to Know:

if meeting a friend will work out. If the friend will stay in my life.


Intimately FP Adella Frilled Chemise in wine, rose, dark grey, moss
FP Adella Burnout Slip in navy, slate, and ballet• FP From the Valley Mini Skirt black, and red
Bloomingdales My Featherdown Euro Pillow
FP Rumors Denim Jacket
Anthropologie Orsay Knit Mini Dress
FP Forever Your Girl Babydoll Tee in Turquoise Mirage, Garnet Empress, Black, White, and Plum Lilac
FP Moonbeam sweater in rose, white, black
FP Daisy Chain Beanie in Peony Pink, Hyacinth Purple, and Natural
Anthropologie Stella Ruffled Mini Dress in grey
Steve Madden Belted Ruffle Trim Coat in black
FP Dancing in the Forest Sweater in mauve and neutral
Dolan Left Coast Cherie Babydoll Top
Hansel From Basel Fleece-Lined Leggings
Vicky Thermal Waffle Tunic in Black


Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. I received the book free for review from SheSpeaks.

IWSG 2019 #1

December Goals
Finish Christmas shopping.
Research Scotland. Make more decisions.
✗ Get all of my French notes in one place. Print.

Additional Successes
• Lots of family time.
• Planning travel last minute.
• Drinking all of the tea to calm my nerves.
• Replaced 4-year-old boots with new ones. (I've been looking for a while.)
• Bought a canon 5d mk iv.

January Goals
– More tea.
– Continue planning Scotland. Do two things.
– Oil change and tire rotation for both vehicles.

IWSG Question –– What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just "know" suddenly you wanted to write?

In 5th grade, we were required to do one new research project each month and present it to the class. We could choose any topic we wanted. We needed a visual aid and had to write a paper on it. During the beginning of the year, it was a real struggle. I didn't want to do it. But by the end, I was becoming really creative. I got my dad to help me make a birdhouse when I did a presentation on cardinals. Then, I did a research project on bluebirds and created a clay bird nest, bird, and bird eggs which I had my art teacher heat in the kiln. By the end of the year, my grandfather, who worked for AT&T at the time, hooked me up with a computer, an email address, and the internet. I did a research project on Walt Disney World and the history of it. I made a book using pictures from the internet.

Going into 6th grade, the encouragement to write continued. My teacher told me I was a good writer, and I decided to enter a writing contest, which I didn't have a chance of winning.

In those next few years, I developed skills in writing and researching.

Some of my favorite assignments included challenges related to writing. My best friend would check my papers for errors, as I would hers. We wrote emails back and forth, all the time. Writing to people whose first language wasn't English helped to develop my vocabulary. And, at the time, Word came out with a thing where your writing would be graded and it would say "this is a grade 12 paper" or whatever. So I always aimed for the highest grade I could achieve – longer words and sentences, the use of more vocabulary, lots of descriptive adjectives.

I've never earned money from my writing, but I still very much enjoy doing it Maybe one day?

Your Turn

December was hard. Buying presents in time for the holidays, baking a cake using a French recipe... Just getting to the holiday break was overwhelming and stressful. Then, when I thought I had gotten there, my husband's grandmother got into a car accident, was put on life support, and died shortly thereafter. My world was turned upside down. All my plans were out the window. And by the grace of God, we were able to be at the hospital for her passing. I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

I sincerely hope your holiday break was better than mine. Having six days straight of family time, saying hello to a new baby (husband's cousin gave birth), and goodbye to a relative within the same week is mentally and physically exhausting.

Where does this put me in 2020? What is my takeaway from the past week as I transition from the holiday season to the new year? I'm still trying to figure it out, but I would love to hear what your plan is for 2020. Did you learn anything in 2019 that will help you transition and become a new, better, or stronger individual in 2020? Did you make any new year's resolutions regarding writing?

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2019 Review

What a year 2019 has been! There were days, weeks, months that were a struggle, but in the end we made it through. Here's where I was mid-year. I'm not sure I've gotten much further regarding my new year's resolutions, but I've gotten much farther with regards to my mental health. Even knowing how I fell behind with most of my other goals, I am quite happy with the direction 2019 took. I can only hope that 2020 will be that much better.


Avensole Winery in Temecula, CA (July 2019)

We started taking French lessons at the end of August/beginning of September. Learning French has been a bit of an adventure.


South Pointe Park in Miami, FL (April 2019)

I started chatting with people on 7 Cups and actually making connections. The first connection happened with a UK therapist who I had hoped would stay in touch with me. I'm still hoping he will contact me again, over a month later. And then there were some misses – an Indian with a foot fetish who I ended up having to block when the chats got weird. Then I talked with a Canadian who seemed cool until he fell off the face of the earth and stood up me up for a meeting. But during the week of Halloween, I hit the jackpot in terms of friends. An Australian who assured me we wouldn't stay in contact has taken to messaging me every morning when he wakes up and last minute before he falls asleep at night. He shares videos of kangaroos and we contemplate life together. He calls me out when I'm being stupid and is one of the kindest, warmest human beings I've ever met. Then, on Halloween night, I chatted with an Indian living in the US who then introduced me to all of the Indian food. And finally, I met a neurologist living in the UK who teaches me all about the ins and outs of mental health.

During October, we also celebrated my grandmother's 80th birthday and Justin's aunt's 50th. I got out on the ice rink for the first time since I fell and got a black eye. And before the month ended, I got to celebrate Halloween in New Orleans seeing a huge two-hour-long parade called "The Krewe of Boo". It was an awesome experience and I highly recommend going to anyone wanting exciting Halloween plans in the future.


Washington DC (April 2018)

November was about building friendships. My confidence grew and I willingly began attending parties and get-togethers again. We shipped out Christmas gifts to Germany and started working on family gifts. Then there was Thanksgiving and our niece's first birthday.


Joshua Tree National Park in California (July 2019)


1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before? took French classes, tried many variations of Indian food

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for next year? I kept some of my New Year's resolutions, but not all of them.
+ Paid off car.
≠ Did not let interest eat us alive.

+ Participated in April A-Z
+ Participated in WW
+ Participated in a LOT of twitter chats.

+ Saw a new beach (Venice Beach, Malibu Beach)

+ Lost weight.
+ Went ice skating

+ Replaced a few things that needed replacing
+ Went through more clothes
+ Went through more household items
+ Fixed things

+ Practiced German and started learning French
+ Drank a lot of wine and tea.
+ Made friends.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? my cousin Kelly, Justin's cousin Ami

4. Did anyone close to you die? my mom's cat, Justin's grandmother

5. What countries did you visit? Egypt (beginning of January), Germany

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019? I didn't really lack this, but more friends. And confidence. I felt really out of it this year; it's taken a lot to "come around again".

7. What date, from 2019, will remain etched upon your memory, and why? No date in particular. Nothing stood out. It was all just meh.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Making new friends and gaining confidence. Becoming happier. Making a practice of going ice skating once a week, for a good bit of the year. Sitting outside. Mostly learning about mental health and making an effort to work on my mental health.

9. What was your biggest failure? Falling apart in terms of blogging.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I fell and got a black eye. All of the people wondering if hubby was beating on me. That was fun.

11. What was the best thing you bought? A new laptop bag, flights to Paris (to go on to Scotland), a lamp from Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, new used ice skates, French lessons

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Justin's for keeping me sane and fully supporting me in everything. <3

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? A few people, but mostly my family for not listening to me when I raised concerns.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? My Christmas present for some friends. I always try to think of something exciting and different from the year before which means I have to start thinking in the summer about Christmas. We ended up sending our friends an advent calendar of American treats. So rather than getting one gift, they get 24 different things! How fun is that?!?!

16. What song will always remind you of 2019? Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – "Always Remember Us This Way"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? happier
Thinner or fatter? thinner
Richer or poorer? mixed? Probably richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I think I did what I had to do to get through the year, so I don't really have regrets. I can't think of a thing I wish I had done more of. Maybe if I had been in a better mental state – read more books?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Shop. Then maybe I'd have more money for travel. Or I would have paid down more debt.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? at home

21. How will you be spending New Year? also at home

22. What was your favorite TV program? The Good Place

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No

24. What was the best book you read? I didn't read anything particularly good this year.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Lady Gaga can sing!!! What is this?!?!?!

26. What did you want and get? It feels a bit early to say this, but friends?

27. What did you want and not get? Lower debt.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? The Good Boys

29. What did you do on your birthday? At the beginning of July we went to LA and the surrounding areas, which I kind of counted as my birthday. But for my actual birthday, we explored 30A on the Florida panhandle.

30.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I think towards the end of the year I started getting this, but ... again, friends. Having people that enjoy talking to me and that I enjoy talking to. That definitely would have made my year immeasurably more satisfying.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019? BoHo chic. Girly. Lots of dresses. Pink, black, blue.

32. What kept you sane? Lots of people! I always say my husband, so this year I'm going to start with my friend Anne. She had a way of putting things into perspective this year. "Be confident!" she told me. And she even reminded me to control my temper. When Anne wasn't available, I spent a good bit of time talking to a new friend from Australia, Keith, and a guy from Indiana, Jordan. They listened to me, consoled me, and basically gave me so much attention that I found it hard to get things done. But I was so grateful for their friendship and distraction. Then there was Paola, who had my back at work. We started hanging out a little after work ... and just ... she's awesome. So grateful for her friendship.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Claire Saffitz of "Gourmet Makes" because she's amazing, beautiful, funny, and totally skilled.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? I quit following politics this year. I was too stressed and depressed.

35. Who did you miss? Actually two people. One person, I barely knew, but we had a connection and I just loved talking to him. I don't know why we lost touch, but I can only hope he'll come back into my life in the future.

I also missed someone else and my friendship with that person. The whole experience of missing that person led me into a depression earlier in the year, which can only really be explained as sadness for what was and what can never be again. I don't know that I'm completely past that, and I don't actually know if I ever will be, but I have come a long way emotionally in the past year. For that, I am grateful.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.
People change. They grow apart. You can't make them stay with you. You can't expect them to be the same person they were ten years ago. Maybe they don't know how to love you like you need to be loved?

Keep looking though. Because someone out there does know how to love you and can help you out when you need it most. And also, just because someone can't be there for you like you want or need them to be, doesn't mean that they aren't being there for you in the best way and only way they know how.

I had a friend tell me "I love you unconditionally" and in the time since, I've tested him. Never intentionally, but I'm female. Sometimes I say the wrong thing, sometimes I get emotional. And he told me "How deep is my love for you? ... No one knows. Best guess? Really f'ing deep." and then he gave me a virtual hug. And that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. The realization that whatever I'm going through, no matter how stupidly I behave, he's got my back. And it just makes me so happy to know that there is someone out there that will have my back no matter what.

37. Quote that sums up your year.
"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   
so close that your eyes close with my dreams."
- Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII

2019 Financial Review

Every year since around 2013, I've taken the time once a year to look at my finances and evaluate: what went wrong, what went right, and what are my financial goals for next year? Every year is a little different. Some years are better than others. Nevertheless, the following is my review for 2019.

We will begin with debt. This the main reason for the review in the first place. This is what conquering student loans and car payments is like for us. This is where we stand and, not only an evaluation of where we are at, but it is also an evaluation of how we are getting there.


2014 - $2,067.12 decrease
2015 - $10,026.93 decrease
2016 - $4,196.70 increase
2017 - $13,116.63 decrease
2018 - $4,741.82 decrease
2019 - $9,049.59 decrease
TOTAL DECREASE - $34,805.42


2014 - $1733.85
2015 - $9505.14
2016 - +$1,017.70
2017 - $13,784.46
2018 - $13,753.50
2019 - $10,956.13
TOTAL DECREASE - $48,715,48

Mint says payoff date is 1/2023.
Earnest says payoff date is 3/2023.

We refinanced Justin's loans at 3% rate with Elfi, coming down from a 5% rate with a potential $400 credit for my loans and $100 credit toward Justin's.

Our car was paid off in January.


2014 - $333.27
2015 - $521.69
2016 - -$3,179
2017 - -$667.83
2018 - -$9,011.65
2019 - -$1,906.54

We opened a Chase Slate to move some of the debt around and decrease how much in interest we were paying.


Extremely grateful to have conquered interest. While we did pay more in interest fees than we did in our lowest year to date, 2015, I am grateful we didn't let the banks eat us alive like we did in 2018. That is a lot of money lost to interest last year. And while any amount of money lost to interest is negative, I'm going to take this decrease in loss as a positive. Maybe we will be able to improve even more next year,


green = this year; yellow = last

I failed rather miserably at spending less each month than I did in 2018. I found myself, many months of this year, stressed and depressed. I would buy one extra thing to bring myself joy. Only, to be fair, extra food and extra clothes only brings temporary joy. It's just really hard to think about that in the moment. Hopefully, in 2020, I will more carefully consider how I want my money to be spent rather than spending it on things that bring me temporary joy.

Where Our Money Went

green = this year; yellow = last

Top 10 Categories:
1. Food & Dining (wine, trying new cuisines)
2. Shopping (We bought a camera + accessories, ice skates for 2 + accessories, )
3. Auto & Transport (We paid more for 3 terms of car insurance this year instead of 2, which means we can hold off on looking at car insurance again until July. We also bought car batteries for two cars and tires as well.)
4. Travel (France/Germany/Egypt hotels, Miami in April, DC in May, Athens

 in June, CA in July, FL in August, and NOLA in October)
5. Financial (addition of stock options with Justin's company)
6. Taxes
7. Bills & Utilities
8. Education (French classes)
9. Personal Care
10. Gifts & Donations

Top 10 Stores
1. Stock Option
2. IRS/taxes
3. Electricity
4. Kroger
5. Rent for 15 mos.
6. Costco
7. Trader Vic's
8. Liberty Mutual car insurance
9. Canon (5d mk iv)
10. Amazon


We spent more than we made for 3 months of the year. 

I couldn't remember exactly how that was possible, so I am grateful for my monthly financial reviews posts that helped me break up my expenses into manageable chunks so that I could write this review at the end of the year and have some recall of where my money went and on what. 

See below for a month-by-month summary.

Expenses –

• travel in France, Germany, Egypt
• car loan paid off
• 6 mos car insurance
• DROBO purchased
• increased withholdings for taxes
• Stock option paid for through Justin's work
• taxes
• travel to FL
• travel to DC
• flight to LA
• ice skates
• expenses related to my dad and grandmother being in the hospital: extra gas, extra food expenses, hotel. 
• Justin dropped his laptop so we had to get that repaired. 
• And we had to buy a hard drive so he could work from the hospital.
• CA travel: hotels, car rental, food, wine
• French lessons
• car insurance paid for the year
• Justin received a raise
• FL travel
• Bills increased
• Opened Chase Slate to transfer debt and avoid interest
• tires and rims for the car
• booked NOLA hotel for October for both friends and ourselves
• French lessons
• paying a year worth of rent
• Car repairs: battery, brakes
• travel to NOLA: restaurants, public transportation, rental car
• Bills went up again.
• Started Christmas shopping
• flights to Paris
• replaced truck battery
• shipped Christmas gifts; more Christmas shopping
• purchased Canon 5d mk iv and accessories
• Christmas shopping
• purchased far too many clothes; Justin lost weight and none of his pants fit anymore.
• Interest drop for Justin's student loans when we switched to Elfi.

Luckily, this year, despite taking on more debt, we also grew our assets and networth. We now have more money than debt! YAY!



credit scores:
796, 800 (me)
748 (Justin)

Overview of the biggest impacts on our finances in 2019:
1. First year buying stock options.
2. Huge tax increase.
3. Two new hobbies: French and ice skating
4. Travel: France, Egypt, Germany, FL (x2), DC, CA, NOLA
5. Family in the hospital
6. Electronics: Raspberry Pi, DROBO, Canon 5D MK IV + accessories
7. Bills + rent went up drastically this year making us question whether or not we need to move
8. Car repairs: brakes and tires.
9. Paying for a stock option. 

So where were the downfalls? What went wrong financially this year?
1. Bills/rent going up.
2. Taxes. And not withholding enough last year.
3. Family in the hospital. We had extra expenses related to gas, hotel stay, and food. I lost money because I was out of work for a few days and had to leave one day early. Justin dropped his laptop on the hospital floor while trying to help out, and that was an almost 1k repair.
4. Buying things I didn't need - a camera, clothes.
5. Not getting price adjustments as well as I should have.

* Our debt increased.

What went right this year?
1. Getting my images backed up. Hurt financially this year, but in the end, it could potentially save me money.
2. Paying for the stock option. - Now Justin owns part of the company!
3. Taking up our two new hobbies. Gave me confidence.
4. Travel with friends. Getting to see a wedding in Egypt. Seeing a parade in NOLA. The stuff of memories.
5. Getting Justin's student loans to a lower interest rate.

• Our assets increased!
* Our net worth is now positive!

What are our plans/goals for next year?
1. Open a Chase account for $300.
2. Work on credit card debt.
3. Keep track of travel spending.
4. Continue doing monthly financial reviews.

How did I do on my 2019 goals?
Consider applying for a loan that will lower Justin's student loan interest rate.
Get rid of (or change out) unnecessary credit cards.
Pay off the Mazda.
Lower food spending.
And shopping costs.
Try to find car insurance that costs less.


There was good and there was bad in 2019. Hopefully 2020 will give us a new chance to improve in the areas we struggled in and do even better with our successes.

Will you be reviewing your finances for 2019 or making any financial resolutions for 2020?