Count Your Blessings

By June Headley-Greenlaw

This blog may start out dark but stick with me.  I see so many people allowing negativity to consume them.  However, I’ve also been blessed to witness people going through devastating times and maintaining positivity throughout.  I wanted to use this blog to encourage readers to seriously consider their circumstances and what alternatives could be. pooh quote

Do you have a child that has never and will never be able to walk or talk or feed themselves or give you a hug?  I am blessed not to have encountered this in my life, but I have a cousin that has experienced this for 22 years with her son.  She could have chosen to put him into a long-term care facility, but she did not.  Her son is front and center in her life daily and she still finds ways to enjoy life and smile.  She inspires me!

Do you have cancer or are you watching someone in your family suffer from this devastating disease?  I am blessed to have avoided this diagnosis, but I have known many people fighting through this challenge.  Some lost their battle and others are still in the fight.  I have learned so much from the people facing this struggle as well as the people that have cared for them.  They have all inspired me!

Are you homeless or jobless or worried about where your next meal will come from?  I am blessed not to be in these situations, but I have met people that have been in all of them.  When I taught U101 at the University, I used to do a group community service day with all my students each semester.  We would visit places like the Salvation Army where homeless people could stay for a night or get a hot meal.  We did projects like painting rooms, serving food, etc.  We would always end our day with someone who was dependent on those services telling us their story.  Those people inspired me!

My point in mentioning all of these things is to ask you to think about all of these people and their situations as you go through your daily life.  Try not to allow yourself to get mired in negativity, but instead, tell yourself that there are many people going through much tougher times, and count your blessings.

quote 1I hope that most people who know me would say I’m a pretty positive person.  I tell myself I’m only limited by my willingness to work toward what I want or need in life and I play that on loop in my head always.  I take responsibility for my actions, and I understand that I am where I am each day only because of the choices I have made.  Well, that’s mostly the case.  There was never a chance of me playing professional basketball at 5 feet nothing!  I pray daily for those less fortunate and I thank God for all that He has given me.

I have found that a positive attitude can carry you through anything.  It may not make the outcome of your challenge what you hoped, but it may keep you from sinking into the doldrums of depression.  Give it a try.  Remember, your track record for getting through tough times is 100% so far.

Life After the Big D

By June Headley-Greenlaw

Statistics say that 40-50% of first marriages will end in divorce.  Unfortunately, I was part of that statistic.  I was married to the man I now jokingly refer to as my starter husband for nearly 20 years.  When that marriage expired, it was a very scary time in my life and the lives of my children.  I had been married since I was 20 years old and didn’t know what my identity would be outside of that marriage.  There was no abuse or anything else that you’d think would cause a divorce, we simply stopped loving each other the way married people should.

Our friends used to ask us how we had stayed married so long.  My then-husband used to reply that it was because we just never wanted a divorce at the same time.  It wasn’t because we never had hard times.  We did!  We were both going thru college while working and later raising children.  We struggled frequently.  We were both blessed with loving families and lots of friends.  We made it through – until we didn’t.  There just came the point in time when we no longer felt supported or loved by each other, and something told me it was time to start over.  I believed it was whispers from God.

I won’t tell you it was easy because that would be a big fat lie!  I moved into my best friend’s house for a few months and slept on what we now affectionately call “the divorce couch”.  She lived on the same street so the kids could walk back and forth.  I looked for a new home close to the one we owned so the kids, then 6 and 9, could be close to both of us.  I found one that was a foreclosure and needed a lot of work.  New carpet, new appliances, etc.  the house had 11 different colors on the walls from orange to black.  I vividly remember many friends and family members with rollers and brushes in their hands and my nearly 80-year-old Uncle taking up the carpet and hauling it outside.  But on Thanksgiving, all of those people had commitments.  Alone in this new empty house, I turned up the music and rolled and cried and rolled and cried.  The whole time praying that God would give me the strength to get through it and help me find a way to explain to my children that this was necessary.  I was determined to have a home IN ORDER by Christmas for the sake of my kids!

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Mom, baby girl child we share, Dad

I should tell you there were times when I thought my heart would just stop beating because it was so broken.  There were a lot of tears, sometimes anger, fear, and TONS of times when I questioned this decision.  Thankfully, my ex and I were both committed to not making this any worse than it had to be so we put on brave faces and marched thru the logistics of starting over.  We split the debt.  He kept the house with the equity, and I kept my retirement.  I took things from the house that he could easily live without and bought whatever else I needed.  On credit cards!  Ugh!  We even shared an attorney to keep costs down.  As divorces go, I think we might have had the cheapest one on the planet.  I strongly suggest that anyone going thru this think carefully before fighting.  The only people that win in these situations are the attorneys.  It’s much easier to buy new furniture than to hire a lawyer to fight over it.  You owe it to your kids not to sweat the small stuff.

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Dad, boychild we share, Mom

We made about the same amount of money, and we shared custody, so neither of us paid child support.  We never argued over switching weeks or days with the kids for vacations, family events or other fun activities that might have fallen on the other person’s time.  We both wanted what was best for our children.  I’m very proud of the way we handled those years.

The divorce was final 17 months after we filed.  I would have bet when we split up that I

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Bonus Mom, Dad, Baby Girl Child we share, Mom, Bonus Dad

would never remarry, but in a very short time, I met my do-over husband, and my affectionately called “wusband” met his do-over wife.  We were both remarried within five months of the divorce being final.  Those marriages are still going strong after ten years plus.  Fortunately, our kids were blessed with great “Bonus” parents and lots of new “Bonus” siblings.  I don’t use the word “step” because I think it insinuates some sort of distance between people.  A friend once told me that it’s always a bonus when you have another person to love you so we had a lot of bonuses in our new blended families!

While the statistics on second marriages are abysmal, we are all committed to beating those odds.  We have both thrived in our do-over marriages, and we still support our now college kids as a team.  All four of us!  I’m living proof that life after the Big D doesn’t have to be a horror show.  I credit my strong faith in God and a lot of commitment from all involved for carrying us thru such a challenging time.

 

The scholarship challenge

By June Headley Greenlaw

Anyone that has children in school should start looking now for scholarships!  I will warn you; it can be a daunting task. There are scholarships available for kids in K-12.  The first scholarship my daughter got was awarded when she was in 9th grade.  It was $5,000/year for up to four years, so nothing to sneeze at for sure.  I want to share a little of my kids’ scholarship journey with you and offer some advice.

capAlthough it’s never too early to get started, you will find that most scholarships are offered to high school seniors.  However, you should know that most of them are due in the first few months of the senior year.  There are some that allow kids in any grade to apply and yet others that are just for kids already in college.

Our four oldest children all went into the military after school making my first experience looking for scholarships was with our child that is now a senior in college, but his sister was only three years behind him, so I was searching for both of them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t start until his senior year which is why I’m sharing this info with all of you.  Don’t do what I did!

My journey started by searching the net.  Searching that way was very frustrating because there are a lot of scams out there and it can take quite a bit of time to see which ones are credible and then find out if your child is qualified.  I came across an app that I love!  It’s called Scholly, and I believe they now charge a very small fee for it.  Note that I don’t know who owns that site nor do I get any commission for recommending it.  It’s just a great site that will allow you to put in the details about your child and it will sort out which ones they qualify for you.  It also provides the link to each of them so you can go directly there and apply.

I called the adventure of scholarship seeking a part-time job, and that’s not an overstatement.  Luckily, both my children received a number of scholarships that ranged from $300 one-time to 5,000/year for all four years.  I decided during my journey to try to make things easier for friends and family, so I created a Facebook page called Scholarship Seekers (SS).  It has a graduation cap with dollar bills in it as the cover picture if you want to join it.  It’s a private page because initially I had a ton of unknown to me people joining and I thought I should limit the competition.  I’m opening it up to all who read this blog.

Many of the posts on the SS page are from years ago, but the vast majority of them are still available.  You’ll see a variety of opportunities from those that require an essay to those that just require your contact info to apply.  I suggest talking to your kids about how much time they have to spend on this venture because they will be the ones to write the essays.  I try to update the page and add a few new opportunities each year.

cakeI encourage you to search all the places you do business with such as your credit card companies, your insurance company, your bank or credit union, especially your place of work.  There are a ton of scholarships that are not awarded each year simply because nobody applies.  I was in college with an older woman that got a scholarship from Ponds hand cream!  There is money everywhere.  You just have to be willing to spend the time necessary to secure some for your children.

I hope some of my suggestions will save you time.  I wish all of you happy hunting, and I hope you start to think about scholarships everywhere you go.  When you are shopping in a grocery store, ask the manager if they have scholarships available.  If you are shopping for a car, ask the dealership if they offer scholarships to customers.  Never give up because you’ll be competing with many others, but the more time you put into the search, the more rewarding it will be!

Advice for all the Momma’s that have kids leaving for college

By June Headley-Greenlaw

I wanted to share some advice in this blog for all the parents that just moved their kids into college.  I feel like having taught a freshman orientation class at the University of South Carolina for 14 years and having moved two of my own children into college; I may have some insight.

Here are some things you should encourage your new college student to do:

  • Have them get to know their instructors early in the semester.
    • Go visit instructors at the beginning of the semester, don’t wait until you need them
    • Visit them during office hours and introduce yourself and let them know how important their class is to you.
    • Instructors are people too and they are teaching for a reason.  Most of them want to guide students and they enjoy getting to know them.
  • Take stock of all the resources available to students.  Most campuses offer Supplemental Instruction (SI) sessions for classes they have identified to be particularly difficult for students.  There may be free tutoring available.
  • Advise your child to make use of as many meal swipes as possible.  If they don’t have time for a meal, go get some fruit, chips, granola bars or whatever else might be offered that you can take in your book bag to class with you or back to your room for a late night snack.  You’ve already paid for it!
  • Have your student do a “schedule at a glance”.  Print out blank calendars and fill in all assignments from each syllabus so that you can see now where your trouble spots will be and prepare for them.  This is an assignment I gave to all my freshman and many of them verbally thanked me for forcing them to get it done.
  • familyRemind them often to use good judgement.  Moving away from home is tough and there are a lot of pressures in their first year.  It’s easy to get caught up in activities that they don’t realize may be detrimental to them later.  I often used the phrase in class “remember decisions you make today could affect the rest of your life”.  I meant that very literally and gave them examples.  The decision tonight to have unprotected sex could lead to an unexpected pregnancy and could change the rest of your life.

Remind yourself not to be hurt if they don’t call often.  They will be extremely busy getting acclimated, making friends, and doing all the things for themselves that you would normally do for them.  They still love you.  They are just doing their best to show you that they are all grown up!

Our road to debt freedom

By June Headley Greenlaw

Hold onto your teeth, my friends.  I’m about to tell you a story that will make them want to fall to the floor!  About six years ago, after a combination of life challenges, my husband (Jeff) and I found ourselves with $125,043 worth of credit card debt.  We had almost no equity in our house and two cars we were making payments on while my husband had been without a paycheck for about a year.

Hubby and I are both on “do over” marriages after first marriages that expired at around 20 years.  We both brought in hunks of debt from our starter marriages. There were lots of things that contributed to this mountain of debt that I won’t bore you with because we all have them.  They are called LIFE!

We were determined to get to debt freedom by the time I was retirement eligible, which is now 25 days away, and we have come pretty close.  We are literally just months away from having all credit cards paid off!  We are about one year away from having all cars paid off!  We now have a big chunk of equity in our house!  I wanted to share our story so that anyone finding themselves in that dark hole of debt could gain some hope that you can dig out too!

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The first thing we did was create a spreadsheet that listed all of the things we had a balance on and what payments were being made to each of them every month.  I had the spreadsheet incorporate the interest rates so we could accurately see what was happening to the balances after every payment.  We set it up with a goal of having everything paid off in three years.  Lofty, I know!  As you can surmise from the fact that the first paragraph of this post says “about six years ago”, it didn’t work as well as planned, but it HAS worked.  We now owe less than $8,000 to credit cards!

I won’t provide the color for your rose-colored glasses and tell you that it was easy.  It wasn’t!  No, we didn’t file bankruptcy.  We had to say no to our kids a lot.  Heck, we had to say no to ourselves a lot.  But with some hard work and determination, we’re doing it!  I took on extra jobs outside the house that even included selling Rainbow vacuum cleaners.  I still love that machine!  Hubby picked up nearly all the jobs inside the house.

I read a lot of “get out of debt” things on the web and after waffling back and forth about the best approach (paying off highest interest rates or smallest debt first), we went with the smallest debt first so we could keep ourselves inspired by shredding new cards each time one was paid off.  You can’t shred them before they are paid off because you might need them to play the “move your balance” game.  We did that a LOT to take advantage of lower interest rates for short periods of time.  You need to be careful when doing that because there are generally fees associated with those transactions and you’ll need to evaluate how much money it will really save you.

I think the most important thing is to create a list or spreadsheet of your balances and be able to watch them go down.  It helps keep you grounded when you want to fly off the handle and spend money on “wants” vs. “needs”.  There is nothing more empowering than cutting up that card!

 

What being 50 means to me

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet June:

By June Headley-Greenlaw

So it happened – I turned 50 on July 16th!  I’m counting among my birthday gifts finding out that I was chosen to be a new blogger.  I am excited to share some of my experiences with all of you.  Hopefully, my thoughts about turning 50 will help you get to know me a little and I look forward to sharing more each month.

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During my birthday week celebration, I reflected on all the blessings I have in my life.  But that week, I also found myself reflecting on things I don’t normally think much about – my childhood.  For me, turning 50 means I not only made it through, I survived and thrived!  I was fortunate to have lots of neighborhood friends in our very lower-class neighborhood, but times were tough!  I grew up in a 900 square foot house with a family of four.  It’s taken a lot of hard work the last 30 years for me to get to a life I’m proud to crow about.

I have a wonderful husband that is my hero!  He cooks and cleans AND does the grocery shopping!  We have six kids minus one.  That’s a story for another blog.  Four of the kids served in the military and the youngest two are in college.  Five boys and the baby girl.  I am blessed!

I have a nice home in a nice neighborhood where kids are safe to play in the streets and adults can be seen chatting on curbs.  I’ve learned a lot from these chats and sincerely recommend that you get out and get to know your neighbors.  There’s always someone you can call when you need help with a project.  We literally call each other and say, “Hey, can I rent your husband for an hour”.  Yes, I know how steamy that sounds, but it’s really just about a toilet or some heavy lifting that needs to be done.  I promise it’s not that kind of neighborhood!  Although we LOVE “the hood” it is more than we need now so we recently showed it to a couple that would like to buy in our “hood”.  I told them I had to put a disclaimer on sales documents that our neighbors might show up unannounced to use the pool because they have a standing invitation.  We don’t have to be there.  They are all welcome!  Don’t worry, I’ve got good insurance.  I am blessed!

I drive a 10-year-old minivan because I haven’t quite come to terms with the fact that my youngest child is now 19 and in college.  It’s a really nice van and I see no need to upgrade.  I am blessed!

I have a wonderful job that has gotten me to within a month of retirement eligibility.  I am blessed!  Since this is my first time blogging here, I’ll let you know that I work at the University of South Carolina.  Primarily, I help faculty members develop research proposals, but I also help coordinate a very large regional conference each year and anything else that folks need me to do.

While I’m starting to feel parts of my body losing strength, I am pretty healthy.  I am blessed, but a little scared!  During my birthday week, someone at work literally said to me, “get ready for bladder leakage”.  Really?  Yesterday I was 49 and today I’m supposed to start peeing my pants?

So here I sit, at the age of 50, just waiting for my application to join AARP to arrive in the mail!  Feeling completely blessed and grateful to have made it this far!