I paid off my mini van this morning! 🎉

A year ago, I was pregnant with Anders and came to the sad realization that my Toyota Rav 4 would no longer fit our growing family.

I complained for weeks on end, I was NOT ready to be a mini van Mom and I was TERRIFIED of going further into debt to afford the upgrade. After weeks of back and forth, we broke our promise of NO MORE DEBT and took out a loan.

Today, I paid that loan off.

That brings our total debt pay off to $74,788 since April of 2019. I could just cry writing that.

Four years ago we were scared shitless. I went back to work 3 weeks after my c-section. We would run out of money the week before pay day and use credit cards to buy groceries. Craig didn’t even know about one of the credit cards I was racking up. I didn’t know about the tools he was buying.

Four years ago Gannon was hospitalized at Mayo for a week. We were so incredibly stressed over leaving behind this precious, sick newborn to go home and go back to work because we couldn’t afford to not work and stay in the hospital with him. We couldn’t even afford food from the cafeteria at the hospital. I’m so ashamed to even write this, we literally borrowed money from our 2 year olds savings account to scrape by until pay day.

On the way home from Rochester we sketched out on a notepad what we owed and how much. For the first time, we were totally honest and had to come clean to each other about how deeply in debt we truly were.

Our entire lives changed in April 1st, 2019. We cut up our credit cards. We changed jobs and then I changed jobs again. We quit eating out for that first Summer. Slowly but surely the debt started melting away.

We worked our asses off. I would work night shift (7a-7p), sleep for 6 hours in an empty patient room and work another 6 hours. I commuted an hour and 20 minutes BOTH WAYS to get a higher rate of pay. I picked up hours not only in the ICU but started PRN in the ER to make even more of a difference. Every single overtime check and bonus Craig got went immediately towards the debt.

WE. DID. IT. $74,788 LATER.

We have two debts left, our biggest one: my student loans and our mortgage. We will hopefully hear the supreme courts decision on student loans in the next week. If it isn’t forgiven, we know how to put our nose to the grindstone and knock that down too.

Medical debt, UGH. We were completely medical debt free last year at this time but we’ve accepted that we are ALWAYS going to have medical debt and are set up on payment plans for that.

If you’re one of the 63% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, there is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

We started out by reading Dave Ramsey’s book – The Total Money Makeover. We’ve had a love hate relationship with Dave throughout our journey. Sometimes we totally agree with him and other times we seek advice elsewhere. Regardless, this book is a great foundation on the path to financial freedom.

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Gannon Update – Genetics 🧬

(A long) Gannon Update:

We had a follow up appointment with genetics this morning. We scheduled today’s appointment last January. At the time it was their soonest available appointment. To say this appointment was highly anticipated would be an understatement.

I was headed into this appointment with one goal in mind: confirm a VACTERL syndrome diagnosis. Gannon was born with a myriad of birth defects, most are incidental findings, most don’t cause symptoms but added together, Gannon has some kind of defect of each system that would indicate a VACTERL syndrome diagnosis.

All of the specialists we’ve seen have told us: Genetics is the only one who can diagnose this. We put all of our eggs into this basket of a VACTERL diagnosis with genetics today.

And we didn’t get that.

First off, the appointment got off on the WRONG foot. The geneticist didn’t even know Gannon was hospitalized in December or why despite the fact I spent 45 minutes on the phone with the genetic counselor yesterday going over the past two years since he’s been seen. I felt like yelling “DID YOU EVEN OPEN HIS CHART?”

From there, he assessed Gannon, we talked some more and he said he would not diagnose Gannon with VACTERL. He thinks Gannon has something more.

Yes, VACTERL describes MOST of Gannon’s anomalies but not all of them. It doesn’t explain his hypermobility, his laxity, his loose skin, his complications with surgeries, his sleep apnea, his chronic croup etc. He said he would be doing a disservice to Gannon if we stopped at VACTERL. The case would be closed, the investigation would be over if we diagnosed him today.

So what now, he believes Gannon has something, he believes it can be explained. When we first got genetic testing done in 2020, there were 7,000 ish rare diseases. Just in 3 years there are now over 10,000. Since 2020 there is an entire layer of genetic testing that is now available to Gannon. Maybe there are other kids who can get help or a diagnosis by learning from Gan. Therefore Gannon is being referred on to: drum roll please

The Undiagnosed Disease Clinic (yes, that’s really what it is called) at U of I.

He will under go a skin biopsy, extensive eye exams, and his genetics will be resubmitted and re-examined. There is a gene that came from Craig that may be causing some of his issues. This will all be determined by the clinic.

Other specialists we have lined up include a sleep study in April (because he STILL is having sleep apnea), and the aerodigestive clinic in June – they will hopefully identify the cause of his “lax floppy” airway.

So that’s our Gan. Our 4 years of searching for answers is far from over. I’m disappointed but also, they have some pretty good reasoning to keep searching for answers. There’s something more to find.

Friedman Fam Update – January 2023

It’s been a minute since I’ve given a life update and there are many reasons for that.

First of all, I am on the struggle bus. I feel like I’m swimming through pudding. I feel like I can’t get caught up, I feel like my attention is being pulled in 80 different directions, my plate is very full right now. Someone told me the transition from 2 kids to 3 kids is the worst and holy cow, I’m FEELING it.

I’ve been so overwhelmed that Craig even took a day off work last week to watch the kids so I could sleep after night shift (Mom had her cancer appointments), he took the dog to the vet, cleaned house, and was just there for me. I didn’t even have to ask him to. I’m so thankful for him.

I’m back to work now (officially), I have been since the first weekend in January. I don’t know how I ever worked three shifts in a week, let alone when I used to work 6 shifts in 7 days. 2 shifts is already too much for me to manage. Night shift is harder, napping before work is harder, everything just got harder.

The kids have had some colds and missed some school, the kids have had snow days, Gannon has had Iowa City follow ups, Mom has had cancer follow ups, we are working on taxes and getting our finances lined up, it’s just. been. wild.

Many people have asked how Gannon is. Gannon is wonderful. Gannon is more prone to choking, I would say we have 3-4 choking episodes per week but beyond that, you’d never be able to tell how sick he was just a month ago. He can (and does) eat EVERYTHING. Gannon did regress a little over the month he was really sick. Gannon was super independent, could zip his coat, get dressed, buckle his car seat, he was doing AWESOME. Now it’s really difficult to get him to do things on his own. It’s something we are working on.

Anders turned 4 months, he’s started rolling over. Carver has really matured since Gannon got sick. He’s been SUCH a good helper and big brother. I can rely on Carver to help me out when things go haywire. He’s just been wonderful. Craig is the best teammate I could ask for. He’s just been there for me the past month. I picked a good one guys.

Craig and I are trying something new, we don’t keep alcohol in the house. No beer, no seltzers, nada. We drink if it’s a special occasion or maybe we go out with friends but other than that, no alcohol at home. We both felt like we were mis using it as a coping mechanism during stressful times. It’s cut down a ton on our grocery bill. Craig says he feels better but I don’t notice a huge difference in how I feel. We both like to have a little carbonation around 1700 – a sparkling water does it for me and then Craig has an non-alcoholic beer and that seems to satisfy the craving. Craig has ALSO kicked his 2 energy drink per day habit (YAY!) and we are now coffee nuts. Lots of changes in the New Year.

And why not START A LAUNDRY ROOM REMODEL WHILE WE ARE AT IT! For real guys, we are GUTTING our laundry room to the studs as of today at about 11 AM. The contractors will be in and out this week and hopefully its a quick and painless process from there. I’ll keep ya’ll updated.

The good news is, I’m in therapy. I see my counselor on Monday. I’ve got good support. I’ve got coping mechanisms. I’ve got a coffee date with my friend Gabe on Monday, I don’t work until next weekend so I’ve got some time to turn this all around. Don’t worry too much about me just yet.

Thanks for checking in, for all the messages and comments wondering where I was. You can keep up with me on a more day to day basis over on instagram – @kalissageorgia

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Something New: Social Media Management!

I have been on to something new! In October a local business asked if I could help spruce up their social media. I’ve been having SO MUCH fun working with them and we’ve really made some progress. I’ve learned SO MUCH in the past few months. 

In September I started helping my mom with some of her blogging and social media management. We went to a business conference together and it really lit us up and motivated us to keep trying new things, experimenting, recycling older quality content etc. Things have been going great. Maybe you can tell she’s more active on social media making reels and updating stories! 

I’ve also reached a point on my own social media platform, I’m getting paid by Facebook to create and share content! I’ve been doing it for a few months and that’s also been going great! I’m taking a small step back from my Etsy shop as I’m helping manage these platforms and also return back to work as a nurse after my maternity leave. 

All that being said, I wanted to make a post to explain a little bit about what I’ve learned and what the algorithm seems to be favoring. People have also been commenting they haven’t been seeing my mom’s blog posts on Facebook as much so I thought I’d give a few tips!

First of all, the goal of all platforms and apps are to keep you on the app and coming back to it. Instagram wants you to spend more time on Instagram. Facebook wants you to be on Facebook more. Therefore, it’s going to show you more content you like. 

TikTok REALLY has it down. If you talk to anyone who watches TikTok, they say they feel like TikTok KNOWS them and knows their interests. Really, they just take note of the content you’re watching, how long you’re watching it, if you’re commenting on it, if you’re liking it, and they show you more of that, again with the goal of keeping you on the app longer. 

Now I’m not an expert, and seriously anyone who claims to be an expert or a guru on social media may be yanking your chain. The rules are constantly changing. What works today might not work tomorrow. I can only speak to my own recent experiences. 

If you want to see more of a business, blogger, influencer, public figure, posts from a group or a page you follow, you must interact with the content. If you see, for example, a local restaurant share about a special they have and you want to know when they have other specials or events, you need to like the content they post when it comes across your feed. Even better, give it a “reaction” like a heart. Even better than that, leave a comment that says “Looks delicious!” The more you interact, the more they will appear in your feed. 

This is proving to be true for stories as well. If you enjoy watching someone’s stories on Facebook and instagram, interact with their story. Give a thumbs up, send a laughing emoji etc. When you can understand that Facebook and Instagram want to give you more of what keeps you on the app, you’re going to see less of what you DON’T want in your feed. 

If you comment on a ton of political mumbo jumbo and argue with people in the comments sections, your feed will be full of controversy trying to get you to interact with it, again with the goal of keeping you on the platform longer. 

That being said, all of the hearts, comments, likes, thumbs up, and interaction really means the world to content creators and it costs you absolutely nothing. Mom and I have gotten comments, “I don’t see your blog posts in my feed!” If you feel this way, run the experiment yourself. Go to my mom’s facebook page or even my facebook page and scroll through and LIKE or REACT or COMMENT with 5 – 10 or so posts. Then, wait some time and see if you see our content in your feed more often. 

Beyond that, if you see a post in your feed, click on the three dots next to it. You’ll see you have the option to “Prioritize their posts in News Feed.” Here are some screen shots:

So that’s a way that YOU can see more of what you want to see from people who want you to see it and less of what doesn’t really matter to you! Let me know if this helps or works for you!

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Still Here…

“Let’s go to the bar!” Craig said over the phone on his way home on Tuesday night. “I don’t feel like cooking.” To be honest, I didn’t either. It has been a huge adjustment going back to work – even just two shifts a week. I had just woken up at 4:30 and starting my “day.”

Carver got his cowboy hat and new paisley shirt we got him at the Western store. His cowboy boots completed the look. Looking in the mirror he was so proud. “I’ll bet Papa Moo would love this!” gesturing to his cowboy get up.

We all piled in the van and drove two blocks to our favorite bar. I had my 22nd birthday here. We celebrated Mom and Dad’s new house here. The owner brought us fried chicken the day after Dad died and stood outside the bar as his funeral procession moved through town in June 2019. He plays peek a boo with the boys from behind the bar and always gives M&Ms as we leave.

I remember the first time I ate at Riverside. I was probably 5 years old. We were in the West barn at the farm. I was hanging out with Dad as he finished milking. He said to me with a goofy smile – “When the cats are away the mice will play.” He loaded me up in the little ranger and took me to Riverside where I had my first taste of quality bar food.

We walk in the door, the boys fight over which booth to sit in while I get the cards. We deal while the waitress brings us our drinks. They usually don’t even have to ask what we’d like to drink, they know. Gannon asks if Grandma Jo is coming to join us, I hadn’t thought of it but she’s just down the street. I call her, take her order and she will be there in 5.

Mom walks in just after our “hodge podge” (also known as a combo basket) comes. I win the 4th round of “Junk” and put the cards away to make room for food. We all eat together and admire Carver’s “cowboy” get up. I joke that he needs a duster just like my Dad used to wear to church on Sunday’s. I can remember how heavy his authentic leather jacket weighed, I can still smell it. My mom comments, “Papa Moo would love your shirt, he loved pearl snaps.”

Craig talks about the farm, the same one my Dad worked at for 32 years. We talk about Craig’s fire meeting and the upcoming pancake breakfast, the same one I’ve worked at since I was old enough to pour milk and coffee. Dad served on the fire department and first responders my entire life.

Soon enough my brother Karl walks in the door. We didn’t know he was coming but saw our cars and stopped in as we were finishing up. He grabs a beer and a pool stick and soon enough he’s teaching Carver how to play. Mom talks about how Dad used to be in pool league as she tells Carver to “choke up” on the cue stick. Karl makes jokes about how he hates his bald spot, the same one that he inherited from Dad. Dad started losing his hair in 8th grade.

Karl pulls out a dollar bill and puts it in the juke box. He asks what we think he should play and Bat out of Hell is the first song that comes to my mind. Meat Loaf was Dad’s favorite. We listened to Bat out of Hell on cassette tape any time we were in the astro van growing up. We even all went to a Meat Loaf concert together my junior year of high school.

Soon enough I’m using my White Claw as a microphone. If Dad was here he would roll his eyes in that lovingly annoyed way. If Dad was here…that echoes in my mind for a minute. If Dad was here…

But he is. He is in everything we do but at the same time he’s not. His absence is so palpable on nights like these but also, he’s still very much here, sitting in this booth, ordering another Miller high life, stealing all the cheese curds from the basket, and telling Gannon to sit and eat his food. He would have loved a night like tonight. His absence and his presence have become one. It makes me happy and sad to think of him missing out on a night like tonight. But deep down, I don’t think he did miss it.

We pay the bill and all head home. On the way home, as we pull in the driveway, “Mom, I’m really sad Papa Moo died.” I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Gannon must have felt it too. “Me too, Gan.”

As I set Anders’ car seat down underneath Dad’s picture that hangs in our dining room, I wipe a tear from my eye. It gets harder and easier to talk about it. It gets better and worse in the same breath. I feel his presence and absence in the same moment. It stops me in my tracks and keeps me going. I can hold grief and love in the same heart. Thanks for the visit last night, Dad.

Hungry for more? Check out my latest posts!

Have you visited my Etsy Shop Lately? See what’s new!

I design and create a variety of quilting, cross stitching, and graphic tees as well as quilting themed stationery, stickers, notepads, cards, and more! I’d love for you to check it out!