Dear Rhonda

Dear Rhonda,

2013 year in review maggieThank you for helping me find my house. I resisted liking that house since it was more my ex-husband’s preference than mine. You might even say that I resented that darn house for a long, long time, actually. Slowly but surely, the longer I lived in it (particularly the longer I lived in it by myself), the more it grew on me. The house and I made our peace. I learned to love not only the house but the yard, the view from the front porch (thank God for the pasture and horses paid for by the neighbors!), and the woods behind my property. With lots of help, significant elbow grease, and minimal financial investment, I converted the house into a home.

Rhonda, thank you for introducing me to Cheryl and Henry Wilson. They became surrogate parents to me. I miss them so much, particularly this time of year when I just long to go home to their house and bake, bake, bake spicy pfefferneuse cookies with Cheryl. 252482_516930600632_6872391_n

Rhonda, when you offered me the opportunity to work for you as a sub-contractor six months after we closed on my house, doing odd jobs under the umbrella of real estate, I felt relieved and honored. The offer came in the nick of time. As my life mentor says, “God goes ahead and plans in love.” He certainly did that time. I was recently divorced and desperate for extra income with flexible hours. Working with you was much more classy and fun than serving drinks at the Underground Pub, and I gained experience in real estate for three years, picked your brain on a regular basis, and benefited under your leadership and guidance.

229694_506890022032_1308731_nRhonda, thank you for mentoring me and teaching me everything you could in every situation we encountered while working together. I never felt bossed around by you; I felt like a team member. I watched you open your own business. I learned how to be fearless and brave. I listened to you open and close deals while upholding high ethical standards. I observed you undergo difficult business and personal situations with grace and dignity.

I cannot even begin to list the lessons I learned from you in one measly letter. Thank you for going to lunch with me and going shopping with me and convincing me to serve on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters with you (not to mention the countless other non-profit service projects we tag-teamed on together!). It was refreshing to share my passion for non-profit fundraising and development with someone who approached volunteerism and fundraising from a business perspective. You helped me grow and develop my personal interests, weed out some of my potential career paths, and hone in on my real passion: writing, reading, and teaching these two things to others. 189672_502826380602_5699_n

I know that we don’t make or find time to talk over the phone or face to face now (shame on us!), and we live two hours away from one another, but I hope you know that you made a significant impact on my life. You helped shape me into who I am today.

Did you know that I actually LIKE who I am today, thanks to people like you? Did you know that I have direction in my life now, and that I absolutely love waking up every single day with the people in my house and going to work every day, thanks to people like you who chose to invest in my life? It’s true.

If it hadn’t been for people like you, Rhonda, I might still be floundering and trying to find my way. Thankfully, you cared enough to share your experience with me. You cared enough to share yourself with me; you shared your time with me, and that is a gift I will keep giving back to those I mentor and teach for the rest of my life.

Thank you, my friend.

I love you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Bethany

Gaining by losing

After a decade of two failed marriages, a whole lot of enabling and rescuing by yours truly, and poor financial decision making, I found myself in the same sad boat as many people do in America–I’d planned my mortgage, bills, and expenditures based on two decent incomes, and suddenly I found myself with one. Even though I made more and more money as time went on, I found myself on a tighter budget than ever before and wound up filing bankruptcy after foreclosing on my house. I decided then that I wanted things in my bank account–not to mention the rest of my life–to permanently change. I wanted to ensure that I’d never wind up paddling upstream again.

But how?

I thought I was already pinching pennies, and at times, I was. The problem was I’d go for six months without spending money on myself, and then when I got a huge commission check or finally had some expendable income, I’d blow it on new clothes for myself or gifts for my family rather than saving it for the rainy weather I knew would return. I never learned–at no fault of my parents, mind you–how to find a balance between living excessively and being a total tightwad.

Thankfully, with a lot of help from my frugal boyfriend and as a result of my decision to take a job making 2/3 less than my salary at the time and to relocate to my hometown, I learned how to find that balance. I willingly gave up my cute little red car in exchange for an older, gas-saving, more purposeful vehicle. My payment was cut in half, as was the car insurance. I went without Internet service at home for nine months, and I survived. I’d already gone without television for a year, and I made it through that, so I knew it wouldn’t kill me to lose my connection to the outside world. We even went without home phone service (there’s no cell service at our house) for several months, making it pretty impossible to reach us while we renovated our home. And we jointly decided to select a home that provided just what we valued most and nothing more. While renovating, I selected finishes, fixtures, and surfaces based on thrift, not on fancy. I learned that cooking at home really does provide more nutritional benefit while saving lots of money. I sacrificed several habits and indulgences, one by one, and eventually came to the conclusion that I’m happier without all the stuff I had to begin with.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on saving money or a guru for minimalism, but I will testify that when you wean yourself from most of the things you think you need, you realize you never needed them in the first place. And oddly enough, you might find yourself with more extra income than you had when you worked twice as hard and made 2/3 more money.

You might, as I have, gain by losing.