Kalissa’s Gift Giving Guide

I like to pride myself in being a good gift giver. If you’re stuck on what to buy for who this holiday season, you’ve come to the right place.

If you ever purchase any amazon products from MY link, I do get commission. If you buy, let’s just say, $150 worth of other stuff while you’re on Amazon by following my link, I also get commission on those things you purchase. It’s a way to support my blog and it is a way to score some great quality products. I just want to be honest with you guys. I would have raved about these products even if I didn’t make any money off of it.

Baby Einstein Star Bright Symphony Toy

I LOVE this star and it is a staple for any baby gift I give. I can hang it on their baby gym, car seat, crib etc. I love the music and they love the lights! It would make a great stocking stuffer for the new little one in your life!



Contigo Autoseal Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Thermal Coffee Travel Mug 

These things are titanium. I have SEVERAL contigo waterbottles. My mom was riding in the car with me the other day and I tipped mine upside down and threw it in the diaper bag. She reached in to grab it quick before it spilled but I was NOT concerned. These things are truly leak proof. I put them in back packs, I can drop them down the stairs, I can do anything and if it is a contigo water bottle, it won’t budge. This is the energizer bunny of waterbottles. It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. I’ll put ice in it before I go to bed and it will still be there when I wake up! Who wouldn’t want a super sturdy waterbottle!? Everyone could use some hydration!



Sangean LB-100 Ultra Rugged Compact AM / FM Radio

I bought this for my dad last Christmas and he LOVED it! It’s nothing fancy but a good quality solid radio! It can run on batteries or plugged in. It is drop resistant and water resistant if they are working outdoors. Overall this made for an awesome gift!



Stainless Steel Anatomical Organ Heart Pendant Necklace 

My sister got this for me one year for Christmas and I just love it! Nothing drives me more crazy than when jewelry is NOT anatomically correct! This necklace is perfect for the medical nerd in your life!



Mybbay Newborn Baby Soft Fleece Booties – Stay On Slippers

Nothing drives me crazier than when Gannon pulls his socks off! Keep baby’s socks ON with these booties! This is another gift I always give at baby showers! They are so warm and fuzzy – Gannon has had and worn every size! I HIGHLY recommend! I got some for my niece Georgia and they still wear them ALL THE TIME!



Quilting Pendant from Me and My Stitches

Check out my previous blog post here: http://www.thepinkshoelaces.com/a-gift-for-mom/

Handmade Bubble Bath Bomb

We LOVE bath bombs at our house! If you haven’t jumped on the bath bomb craze yet, bath bombs are these soap kind of ball that you put into the water and it fizzes and turns your bathwater a different color AND smells amazing! This is actually a gift set – 24 bath bombs are broken into 4 separate boxes to be gifted or for you to use all on your own! Carver and Gannon love the bath bombs and Craig and I do too!



and finally….THIS TOTE!

Demoment Canvas Utility Bag for nurses and teachers!

I’ve raved on about how wonderful this tote is in this blog post: http://www.thepinkshoelaces.com/a-dead-car-battery-chicken-lo-mein-a-bike-and-a-super-cute-tote/

I’ve gone on to sell a TON of them on Amazon and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful reviews! They have new patterns all the time – I don’t see my black and white striped bag there at the moment but it could come back! My sister has bought several of these totes as well and loves them!



Sherpa Lined Plaid Flannel

This one was a suggestion from Craig and is perfect for anyone planning on spending time outdoors this winter! I personally can’t get enough Sherpa in my life and now Craig is hooked too! We bought 4 of these for Craig on Black Friday (more on that in Saturday’s blog post):



That’s all folks! Let me know what YOU recommend for your go to gift!

A Gift for Mom

Every year around this time my did usually enlists me to help him shop for a gift for mom. While Dad let me take the reigns, I always kept him updated and asked for his input along the way. It was always one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Well, as you know, my Dad passed away last June. This year will be the first Christmas without him. I’m missing out on our annual Christmas gift planning.

I still have this want/need to shop for a gift for mom from dad but obviously it isn’t the same.

Last year about this time, Dad and I were going to get her jewelry. I had gone to our local jeweler but nothing seemed right. Mom isn’t very blingy and she doesn’t get dressed up for work. I wanted something meaningful but something she would also wear.

Mom has a necklace from Julie at Me and My Stitches. You can follow her here. https://www.facebook.com/Me-My-Stitches-121655861247257/

I messaged Julie and told her my plan. She was ON IT! She was so so fun to work with and was so excited to help! Each grandchild has a charm – Scotty has a flag from the 4th of July, Carver has a pumpkin quilt charm for his September birthday, Lucy has a Christmas tree charm for her December birthday, Gannon has a snowflake charm (not shown) because he was born right after a blizzard, and Georgia has a clover for her March birthday.

Last year at this time when we gave her the bracelet, there were only three grandkids. I bought her two more in the Spring and now after our new arrivals come in the Spring again I’ll buy her two more.

Julie is so fun to work with. If you are looking for something unique for a quilter in your life I highly recommend finding her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Me-My-Stitches-121655861247257/ or her website http://www.meandmystitches.com/

I still get really sad when I think about how mom won’t get a gift from dad. Do you have any suggestions? Mom HATES the gaggy memorial angels and statues and quotes about heaven. I have plenty ideas to get her as a daughter to mom but I just still really feel a responsibility to help dad get mom a Christmas gift.

Here’s a link to mom’s blog about Christmas 2018: https://www.joscountryjunction.com/my-christmas/

Nurse Hours

I wanted to do a post explaining how nurses hours work. I try to make sure I have this conversation with my nursing students before I set them free into the nursing world because it can be difficult to understand.

A lot of nurses work in FTEs. Each 0.1 FTE is 4 hours. For example I work a 0.9 FTE that means I work 36 hours in one week or 72 hours in one pay period. (9×4=36)

If I was a 1.0 FTE I would work 40 hours in one week.

If I were to be part time I would usually only work a 0.6 FTE and I would only work 24 hours per week or 2 – 12 hour shifts.

Usually positions that work below a 0.75 FTE (depending on the organization) are not eligible for full time benefits or they have to pay more for their benefits that they receive. Sometimes when you are new, your only option is to wait until a full time FTE opens up to get all of the hours you want and take a lesser FTE like a 0.6 to get your foot in the door.

I personally enjoy working my three days a week and then having the other four off. If you were to group all of your days together, for example, if you work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday you would have the next week off because you worked all of your 72 hours in one week which is what I’m doing this week.

As I’m trekking through a long week of work – here’s a glimpse into my work schedule:

Monday – 12 hours – day shift

Tuesday – 12 hours – day shift

Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – 12 hours – overnights – that’s working the next 6/7 days – a 72 hour work week.

It also gives you an opportunity to pick up major overtime in your scheduled week off. I’m averaging 48 hours a week for December with my overtime.

Various organizations have incentives to pick up extra hours. Sometimes you can earn $3-$4 an hour extra just for picking up a shift but you can earn time and a half every hour worked over 80 hours.

There are also weekend package options which is where you work 4/5 or 5/6 weekends – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they are eligible for full time benefits, and then earn either time and a half or a dollar amount more per hour depending on the organization.

We do self scheduling where I work and I love it. A blank schedule goes out, all nurses take the time to fill in which hours/days you’d like to work, and then it gets tweaked by our supervisor. I would say I get 90% of the shifts I write down or sign up for. There isn’t much overlap because we are all on different weekend rotations.

You would think this would be a difficult way to schedule nurses but it actually works out great. Many of our nurses WANT overnights and many WANT day shift. Personally, I’m a flip flopper. I don’t like to work only days or only nights so I usually end up working Monday and Tuesday day shift and Thursday night overnights with my every third weekend rotation.

We call it “hell week” at work because if you work all of your shifts in a pay period in one week you get the next week off completely without taking PTO which is great!

It’s also nice because I can still take a week off of work for a vacation without having to use my paid time off. I just schedule myself accordingly but that may also mean I work the “hell week.”

I’m sharing this with you just to give you some more information on how nurses “crazy hours” actually aren’t that crazy and they definitely have their perks!

In conclusion, to my nursing friends, I want you to consider and ask a few questions before you take a new job with new hours:

Do they consider seniority when making the schedule?

How many weekends will I work?

Is there an opportunity to decrease FTEs to part time?

On average, how long does it take to get the shifts/schedules I want? (for example, does it take several years of night shift to get seniority to move to day shift?)

How many FTEs do I have to work to gain full time benefits?

What works best with my family’s schedules?

How long am I willing to work the shift I don’t want to work to get to the shift I want to work?

That’s all I have for today folks! I hope this is helpful!

P.S. I also wanted to touch on what it means to be PRN – PRN means AS NEEDED. Many nurses, when transitioning to a new job stay PRN at their old job which means they can still pick up hours and they are still an employee of the hospital. You can have a full time job and work PRN somewhere and pick up hours!

Thanksgiving 2019

I’m sure you are all heading back to work this morning after your long weekend. I thought I’d do a post to fill you in on how we spent ours!

I worked overnight on Wednesday night into Thursday morning which was a bummer – most of my siblings (I’m the youngest of 5) came home on Wednesday night. That also meant I was super tired. I wasn’t the only one.

This is my husband Craig – he JUST finished harvest the Tuesday before and is still catching up on sleep.

Jason was pretty tired too. Here is napping after lunch with my niece Georgia. Thank goodness mom’s new couches have enough room for all of us! I spent most of the afternoon napping after we ate and cleaned up dinner (as pictured below).

My mom, sister Kayla, and brother Karl cleaning up after pork tenderloins
Nap time for the littles
My niece Lucy found a bucket – HA!

Carver got a hold of my phone camera and was running around the house taking pictures. That was a dangerous decision. Now he constantly wants my phone ALL THE TIME to take pictures and most of them look like this:

But he did get a few good ones too…

My sister Kelli
Gannon is working on standing up/walking!
My sister Kayla – she’s knitting of course

Thanksgiving is pretty low key in the Kramer house. We live just across town from mom and by across town I mean about 4 blocks. Kayla my brother Buck live farther away – they have about a 2 hour drive home.

We always celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. It is about the only holiday that is non-negotiable in the Kramer house. Every year me, Craig, Karl, Mom and Dad get together on Christmas Day. We play the farming game and eat A LOT and do a small gift exchange. Whoever is home on Christmas day is welcome but we don’t really “celebrate” other than going to candlelight service.

We don’t really do much with our extended family – my mom came from a family of five kids who all went on to have a minimum of 3-5 kids who all went on to have a minimum of 3-5 kids. We would need a Colosseum to fit all the Johnson clan and we usually get together in August every year instead. We aren’t very close with my dad’s side and don’t celebrate holidays with them.

I know you’re reading this on Monday but I’m actually writing it on Saturday. We are headed to Craig’s parent’s house about an hour away tomorrow morning for Thanksgiving Dinner. Unlike my family, we can fit Craig’s entire maternal side of the family at the dinner table so it is a much different vibe and change of pace which is nice.

I’ll be making my green bean casserole which I am always asked to bring and enthusiastically do so (it is SO easy) which is what I also brought to mom’s house.

Towards the end of the day around leftover/supper time, I headed out to the garage to hang out with the boys. I walked out there and my heart sank. I honestly truly was shocked when I opened the door and Dad wasn’t there. The boys were all laughing and drinking, the garage was filled with cigarette smoke just like it is every other holiday, and Dad wasn’t there. I was just shocked it was like a punch to the gut. I just assumed he was.

It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t this big awkward moment every time he got brought up or someone mentioned his absence which I so appreciate. My 4 year old nephew asked where Roger was and without missing a beat we just explained he was with Jesus and doesn’t live at Grandma Jo’s house anymore. I was afraid holidays would be awkward and like we were tip toeing around this big gaping hole but it isn’t. It is different but it was okay. It really was. Another “first” in the books and it was easier than the first first.

That’s all folks. I’ll update you on my Black Friday shopping tomorrow morning!

The Rundown…

Good morning friends! Coverage on thepinkshoelaces has been pretty spotty this past week – we’ve been busy! Here’s a recap:

Two of my good friends from high school got married last weekend:

Me and Olivia – the bride
Kalissa – Olivia – Regan
Regan and her longtime boyfriend Garret
I was SO jazzed – Regan caught the bouquet! (hint hint Garret!)

We had a ton of fun – Craig ended up missing out on the reception because he was in the combine. Regan is always ready and willing to jump in as my wedding date! We still had a blast – I saw a ton of people from our class and we had a great time. It is so nice – the popular reception hall where many of my friends have their dance is about a block away from my house. I could cut through our backyard in the summer!

Olivia and I were great friends through school and Nic and Olivia were a part of our friend group through high school. They are such a sweet couple and I am so happy for them. Many of my classmates ended up marrying their high school sweet hearts which is so fun but has also made for a CRAZY busy wedding season.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing, shorts and indoor
Olivia and I were in a band together in high school called “In the Making” 🙂 Olivia is on the far left, she played piano, Macey is in the middle and she played drums, I sang and played guitar. Macey also married her high school sweetheart and a classmate of ours last year!
Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling
Here’s just one example of my friends from high school – everyone but me in this picture has gotten married in the past year
(Ashley will be married in June!) It has been so fun but so busy between weddings, showers, bachelorette parties etc.

Carver got to ride with Craig in the combine on Sunday – he rode for about 6 hours! He did great. Carver is OBSESSED with farming and combines and Craig loves having a buddy!

Feel free to follow Achen Farms on Facebook! I grew up on the home farm, Craig started working for Achen’s in August and my dad worked for Achen’s for 25+ years.

The final PUSH to finish harvesting was last weekend before we got snow. They did it – Craig got home very late on Tuesday night but they are DONE with getting the crops out of the field but that still leaves a lot of work and a lot of cleanup.

The snow did come on Wednesday morning – I worked overnight and caught a few pictures on my way home – if it wasn’t so slippery out it would have been really pretty!

It was such a pretty snowfall I couldn’t even be mad about it!

Gannon has been working on pulling himself up! He’s doing SO GOOD!

But he also has pink eye – courtesy of big brother Carver. We’ve been passing around colds and boogery eyes and runny noses all week. Don’t you just love when kids share? Tis the season!

Carver is OBSESSED with tools right now:

Everything is getting measured, all of his tractors get flipped over and fixed, AND he got a hand me down tool box from some family friends of ours – he was so excited he picked it up and carried it into the living room all by himself! See the video:

Last but not least – here’s a funny for you:

Carver is all about Christmas and the wisemen and the shephards and baby Jesus right now.

The other day he came out and was carrying some liquor bottles. I asked him what his intention was with them and he said “Me bring them to the wise man from baby Jesus!” HA!

I think he meant to say he was going to pretend he was a wiseman and BRING the empty bottle of Malibu and Southern Comfort to baby Jesus like Frankincense and Myrrh!

He wasn’t too happy to get his picture taken but I wanted to remember it 🙂

You’ll hear from me hopefully soon! I’m kind of straying from my Monday Wednesday Friday schedule for a bit to make sure I don’t burn myself out! Check back soon! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Remember this.

You’ve been searching for a moment like this.

The dots connected.

The answer was yours.

You said the right thing.

You made a difference.

You are enough.

In this moment it all feels worth it.


I know you’re busy.

I know you have a million things you need to be doing right now but STOP.

I want you to close your eyes and breathe in this moment.

Remember this.

Feel this feeling.

Breathe in. Breathe out.


This sweet moment will carry you through a thousand bitter ones.

When the cancer comes back.

When we made a mistake.

When we can’t find the heartbeat.

When we’ve done all we can do.

When you want to quit.

This profession will rip your heart right out of your chest and spit on it.

So remember this.

This sweet moment will carry you through a thousand bitter ones.

This is why we do what we do.

Take a second.

Close your eyes.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

And go help the next patient.


You guys, I’ve received some pretty incredible gifts in the past month or so and I want to share with you how kind people have been!

First of all, our sweet sweet neighbors mowed our yard and lawn swept all of the leaves and took them away! Whether they got tired of looking at our yard or were just being kind, thanks either way Mike and Janet! They have always been such sweet neighbors to us. Many times we came home from a long day at my parents when dad was in the midst of treatment and our lawn would be mowed or trees would be picked up.

Second of all, my mom and I got to meet Jean not to long ago. To brush up your memory, here is my mom’s blog post about Jean: https://www.joscountryjunction.com/busy-saturday/

I just ADORED her necklace – It looks like a cross but when you turn it to the side it actually spells out faith.

A few weeks later, in my mailbox came a necklace just like Jean’s with such a sweet little note. She also included another chain for the necklace in case this one didn’t work! How thoughtful!

THANK YOU JEAN! That made my WHOLE week! 🙂

Another awesome thing, I mentioned in my blog post last week too was this rocking horse that showed up on my front porch! Carver LOVES riding his horse! We still haven’t found where it came from so PLEASE speak up if it was you! THANK YOU!

Finally, last week was my LAST day of clinicals with my students. I had SUCH an awesome group this semester. I always tell them on the first day: “I love orientation because I’m meeting 8 of my new friends today!” While we both respect professional boundaries, it is so true! I become their references, their friends, their mentor, long beyond their 128 hours of clinical time in their final semester before they become an RN!

This group was just so sweet. They got me a MASSAGE! I was so excited I booked one right away when I got the gift certificate! I got the massage today and it was truly wonderful. They told me that I don’t take enough “me” time and I make time for everyone else. They got me a few other “spa” day items and a bag of chocolates and a brand new CONTIGO water bottle: MY FAVORITE!

That got me thinking – Am I really doing anyone justice by working myself to death? My students are watching, my kids are watching, people are looking up to me and it is so obvious to them that I AM BURNT OUT and I’m not taking time for myself. That is NOT the example I want to set. That is NOT the message I want to teach my students. While the gift was so so appreciated, it also came with a lesson which is equally as valuable: you can’t pour from an empty cup.

So to my students (I know you guys are reading) I GOT my massage and it was FABULOUS! But thank you for reminding me about me. Thanks for slowing me down. So today I had a ME day. I got my massage, I got my haircut, I did some light housekeeping and had LOTS of cuddles!

Yes I was THAT excited about my massage!
I treated myself to IMPACT coffee!
and extra snuggles!

THANK YOU! To those mentioned in this post and THANK YOU to my readers! Check back again tomorrow around 5:30 am!

“Rate your pain on a scale of 0-10…”

Patients HATE this question. HATE IT. Usually I get a big eye roll when I ask this question.

But I LOVE this question. It tells me SO MUCH about you. I have a little speel that I can roll off of my tongue in my sleep:

“Can you rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. 0 is no pain 10 is the worst pain.”

Then the patient almost always responds:

“Well it isn’t really a pain but more of a discomfort.”

“Okay. Can you rate your discomfort on a scale of 0-10. 0 is no discomfort, 10 is the most uncomfortable feeling ever.”

And sometimes I get a rating then but then sometimes they say:

“Well it is more of a pressure than a discomfort.”

“Okay. Can you rate the pressure on a scale of 0-10? 0 is no pressure, 10 is the most pressure like an elephant is sitting on your chest.”

Sometimes I even ask this: “Can you rate your shortness of breath on a scale of 0-10? 0 is breathing easy and feeling great, 10 is you feel like you are going to die, suffocate or are drowning.”

I love LOVE the rating scale for several reasons:

  1. It tells me how much a concern this is for you. If you rate it a two or a three, that doesn’t seem all that concerning and I probably won’t need to intervene or advocate for orders. If you tell me the pressure on your chest is a 10/10, that really perks our ears up. That tells me we need to intervene right away. That tells me this is not something you can just brush off.
  2. I don’t feel what you feel. I don’t know what you can or cannot tolerate. This is the best way I can understand how your feel.
  3. Certain pains mean certain things. If you have a sudden onset, 10/10 headache, you’re likely getting a CT scan to rule out a stroke. If you have 10/10 unbearable tearing crushing abdominal pain/chest pain, you need a chest/abdominal CT scan ASAP because you could have a dissecting aortic aneurysm which is immediately life threatening. If you have this nagging uncomfortable feeling between your shoulder blades, I’m going to run an EKG to check your heart because it could be a heart attack. It tells us what tests we need to run and gives us an idea of what problems we are looking for.
  4. Combinations of pain means certain problems. If you are vomiting with your back pain, and it feels like your testicle is going to explode, we will go down the kidney stone route and need a urine sample.

I’ll leave you with this: Be HONEST about your pain. Give the best description you can. Write down your symptoms if this is a long term problem that you and your care team are investigating. Note everywhere you’re having pain even if it doesn’t seem significant.

Most importantly, don’t roll your eyes at the nurse and say “I hate that question!” every time we ask. Because of the reasons listed above but also because we are mandated by our credentialing agencies to ask and monitored on how well we control your pain.

Thanks guys! See you again tomorrow morning!

We got a “new to us” car! Read about our Toyota Highlander:

Well friends, I did something I didn’t want to do this week and that is to go into debt (if you’ve been keeping up with my financial Friday series you would understand) and buy a car. While I’m not happy I went further into debt, I’m excited to talk about my new Toyota Highlander.

My equinox has become increasingly unreliable. It is a 2013 and that particular year of Chevy equinox has been particularly problematic. After welding a flex pipe and new tires( $1,400), replacing the entire engine (for $3,700) in 2018, changing the oil constantly, I started having problems that it randomly wouldn’t start and needed a jump. I had taken it in and the mechanics couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The timing chain busted 5,000 miles after warranty. This is a lemon of a car and I am NOT the only one who thinks so.

Let me start off by saying that Winter has come WAY too early in Northeast Iowa. We’ve had about 2 weeks of snow on the ground, I have NOT been home to do a “winter transition.” I need to haul out the snow pants and boots and see what fits and what is in storage and find that matching glove etc. I still have to find Gannon’s car seat cover or transition him to a new rear facing car seat in general.

On Monday night, I had driven across town to my mom’s for supper and of course when we went to leave my car wouldn’t start with a 6 degree temperature. The boys were already in their car seats, not dressed that warmly, and my car wouldn’t start. It had just been a day. I was crying and brought the boys back into the house. Mom broke it to me and said, “Kalissa, you need to trade your car in. What if your car would have stalled and the boys were left wearing their fall jackets in the cold?”

I already knew that. I just didn’t want to admit it. (and gosh darnit I need to update to the winter clothes!) While I hated my equinox, we were SO CLOSE to paying it off. It was only a 2013 – why does it have SO MANY PROBLEMS! Karl and I spent about 45 minutes outside FREEZING trying to get it jumped.

What hurt the most is that Dad should have been there. He would have been able to start it. He would know what to do. In hindsight, I don’t think Dad knew much about cars but he was always there for me to offer advice and answer questions and he would ALWAYS test drive the car with me before I committed to buying it.

He has pulled me out of the ditch more than once. He has brought me gas before (whoops) and even though he wasn’t an expert, in my eyes he was the only opinion I’ve ever trusted when it comes to cars. And he’s gone now.

I started asking around. I googled “most reliable vehicle brands” and Toyota was #1. Dave Ramsey has always recommended Toyotas. I asked my nursing students what they had or what their parents have liked and one suggested a Toyota Highlander.

In Northeast Iowa there are a LOT of Chevy, GMC, and Ford vehicles. There aren’t a lot of foreign car dealerships. There aren’t a lot of foreign car mechanics either. Toyota isn’t a very popular brand but I knew it was a brand I could trust.

I had stopped in the ER to chat with the staff after clinicals one day. I knew at that point I was looking for a Toyota Highlander. Someone suggested to check out the dealership that my friend arianna_unsure (I’ve talked about her before – go follow her on Instagram and Spotify for podcasts) Anyway her boyfriend works at a dealership about an hour away.

I looked up the website and the first car that was on the website – 2013 Toyota Highlander with 103,000 miles – right in our price range!

I called and scheduled a test drive, called the bank and arranged the loan, Craig was able to come with because it snowed ALL DAY LONG and we bought the car the next day!

So I traded in the equinox. It didn’t bring much because they have such a bad reputation now.

Dad always said – NEVER buy a car without a full tank of gas – thank goodness they offered one before I had to ask or I may have teared up a bit. They threw in a free oil change, they gave us a gift certificate to go out and talk it over before we made the purchase, they offered us hot chocolate, all in all it was a wonderful experience and over with in ONE afternoon! Everyone was SO friendly and really seemed as they enjoyed their jobs! Who could ask for more?

The third row seats are hidden under the floor mats.
We won’t use them often so we get ALL the trunk space!!

So far I love it. The engine is a V6 compared to my 3.6L in my equinox – I can FEEL the difference. AND it has 4 wheel drive for the winter weather and my 32 minute commute! It had seat warmers, third row seating, and most importantly it is reliable and gets great gas mileage!

Here’s a trip down memory lane for you:

My ’87 Buick LeSabre. I loved this car. I loved it so incredibly much. I drove it back and forth to the nursing home and CNA class and all over NEIA with my friends (mostly to WalMart because we had nothing better to do) the entire summer after I turned 16 until the summer before senior year. I bought “Betty” from my brother Karl for $200. These pictures were on the last day of my sophomore year I think? I hit my first deer in this car. I put it in the ditch on the first icy day I had ever driven. I was about 400 feet out of the driveway. I called dad to come help me. He walked down to where I put it in the ditch, got in it, and drove it through the ditches to the farm. I am dying laughing thinking of that story while I’m writing it. I was so mad he made me walk.

Here’s a picture of me and my brother Karl. We wanted a last day of school picture with Dad! HAHA! See him driving the tractor and doing chores in the background? Perfectly timed photo mom!

Here is my 2000 Lincoln town car – I also loved this car! It had key less entry, leather seats, it was a beast! I bought it the summer before senior year. It was rear wheel drive which was SO inconvenient in the winter. It had a pink fuzzy steering wheel cover that Craig HATED! I bought it with only 60,000 miles on it and I finally let it go at 138,000 miles after the rear axel broke AGAIN about a month before I got pregnant with Carver! (2012 – 2016) I ditched this car on the way to clinicals (it was so snowy, they should have been cancelled) and mom and dad came to save me. This picture was taken the first day of my senior year – same scene in the background! and yes those are GIANT feather earrings in my hair!

And then the dreaded equinox *eye roll*

And now – the highlander:

I’m optimistic. I think it was a good choice for our family. I’ve heard Toyotas last a very long time and can have crazy high mileage and still run like a champ! And we can have that third baby without having to move up in vehicle (not that it is anywhere on our radar at the moment) BUT we can grow into it!

My first car buying experience without my Dad brought back so many memories and things he has taught me. Now it is Craig and I. It’s different now. We will get used to it. Another “first” that I didn’t think would effect me this much.

Do you guys have a Toyota? Have you had trouble with your eqinox? What was the first car you bought?

See you tomorrow at 5:30 am! Thanks for reading friends!


Welcome back to my Financial Friday series! Buckle up! Here comes week #2! If you missed the first post, you can check that out here:

Today I want to talk about how budgeting changed our financial game.

Budget. What a dirty word. Who else cringes when they think about actually doing a written, well thought out, planned well in advance budget?

I’ll start off by telling you how I used to budget and plan for expenses:

I would spend all of my money, then fill in a spreadsheet at the end of the month with what I spent, and wonder where it all went and why I was overdrawn.

I was SO confused by people who would fill out a budget BEFORE the month begins. How do you know how much money you’re going to make? How do you know how much stuff is going to cost?

I was an over spender – the first month we made a budget we had spent well over $500 in eating out. I’m not even kidding you guys.

Craig would spend $300 – $400 a month on food, chew, cigarettes, energy drinks, more food, tools, etc.

I would buy groceries on a credit card and joke to Craig, “Ha! It is credit card week until payday!”

I would put all clothes on a store credit card, we financed a couch, if we couldn’t afford it, onto the Citi card or Discover card.

An overdraft fee was a monthly expense for us. It was bad. If I wanted it, I got it.

Adults carefully devise a plan and follow it. Children do what feels good. One definition of maturity is learning to delay pleasure. The Bible says it this way: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it yields a harvest of righteousness.”

– Dave Ramsey

Let me introduce you to my favorite budgeting tool: EveryDollar

So right away when we jumped into Dave Ramsey’s plan I bought the app EveryDollar – I had tried SO many budgeting apps but none were keeping my budget in line. EveryDollar was a game changer. It also came with Dave’s online course/program Financial Peace University for a total of $129.99 per year.

You guys. That’s a big price tag but it is an INVESTMENT. I’m telling you right now, it has made us 10x that amount of money by finding an app that links to my bank and KEEPS ME ON TRACK!

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If you’re not ready to fork over the money, my mom uses a free version of EveryDollar – the only bummer is that it doesn’t hook to your bank account unless you pay.

Craig also has the app downloaded on his phone and at any time can check our budget as well which involves him in our finances which was new for us! I used to do it all!

I have coworkers who have also enjoyed Mint – a budgeting app as well as writing out a zero based budget on pen and paper. No matter how broke you are, you can afford a budget.

Here is a tour of EveryDollar and you can actually test out your budget for free! There is also an info graphic on zero based budgeting. Here is a link: https://www.daveramsey.com/everydollar?snid=tools.everydollar

If you have an irregular income (like Craig and I do!) you have no excuse. You. Still. Need. A. BUDGET! If we can do it, so can you! Here on page four you can find the “tips for irregular income” work sheet: https://cdn.ramseysolutions.net/media/pdf/forms/fpu-budgeting-forms.pdf?_ga=2.236636228.496785712.1573394132-1556354130.1573394132&_gac=1.115059061.1573394157.CjwKCAiAh5_uBRA5EiwASW3IaprhQBhCWDGE7QLKVvi4rbFay94f-coI0MSsZV3Ab41yKyr-E9ArmRoCqRwQAvD_BwE

I’m going to let you look into that and decide what kind of budget works best for you. In the meantime, I’m going to tell you…

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  1. I know how much money I have This may seem obvious but when an unexpected expense pops up, I know exactly if we will be able to cushion it and where we can adjust in our budget!
  2. I feel like I got a raise! This is a very common feeling after sitting down and dividing the money into appropriate categories. If you finally can pin down exactly where your money is going, you can direct the right way! You’ll find money you didn’t even know was coming in.
  3. I know what I can and cannot afford. If everyone is ordering out at work, I know exactly how much money I have budgeted for restaurants that month and if I have any left. Let’s say I don’t have any left but I can take $10 from my monthly fun money if I still want to eat out! If the money isn’t there, I DON’T SPEND IT!
  4. I have permission to spend! Likewise, I don’t have to feel guilty hitting up my favorite meat locker because I have money designated specifically for groceries! I can afford it! If Craig needs new boots next month, I enter a category for Craig’s boots! If I want to go shopping, if it is in the budget and is balanced, I can spend it!
  5. I get better at it every month! I’m telling you it really takes at least 90 days to get good at budgeting. STICK IT OUT! It is a breeze now and I don’t know how I lived without one!

Thanks for reading! You can enter the Total Money Makeover book giveaway on every financial Friday post (every Friday until Christmas). My order isn’t in yet so I will announce 2 winners NEXT FRIDAY! To enter leave a comment with something you’ve learned or implemented in your life because of my blog and SINCERELY recommend my blog or Facebook page to a friend!

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While I would love to post an affiliate link and make money off of the sales, Dave’s website has a $10 sale right now! ALL OF HIS BOOKS ARE ONLY $10!! For real – it is a better deal, here is the link – it doesn’t get cheaper than this!


Thanks guys! See you on Monday! I’m off to work the weekend!!