Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When did this happen?

Sure, I write a lot about the wedding these days. It's just hard to get over how this...

Jeanne's blog on 1-21-2011

...became this...

"wedding" bedroom
How I went from being a teacher in rural Arkansas to being in the finance world in West Texas. How I went from griping about gas prices to hoping the price of barrels of oil stays up. How I went from riding 4-wheelers for a good time to riding in planes to see my beau. How I went from truly feeling I would be single my whole life to being 18 days away from our wedding. Seriously. When did this happen? You dream about things. You talk about "one day". And then all of a sudden you wake up and those dreams are really real and that one day is right here right now.

The coolest thing about getting married, in my opinion, is dreaming together now. We talk about things we want to do, houses we would like to live in, vacations we want to go on. Life is deeper, richer with someone the right person to live it with.

As I am in the teens on our countdown, I reflect on these 26 amazing years in Arkansas. I'll probably never be a resident of this state ever again. Wow, that's kind of hard to take. Go Hogs, Woo Pig, Razorbacks...I don't know. It'll be weird being so far away from the hoopla this fall, not being at all the basketball games this winter, not driving up the hill to baseball games next spring.

The last few days I've been going to town (literally) to grab some stuff for the wedding and run errands. It's inevitable I run into someone I know: getting medicine for my dog, leaving Wal-Mart, discussing balloons at the local pharmacy. It's going to be hard to adjust from my small hometown with 3,500 people to a new home with over 100,000. I've had hoards of people shout out congratulations when I would pass them in the store, because they saw our picture in the paper or my name on the sign at the pharmacy. What a blessing it's been to be born and raised in the precious place!

But I just can't help but realize that God gave me the courage to write that little note on that little blog all those months ago just to land us in this place at this time together. Somehow, in this big ol' world, God found a way to introduce little ol' us. It's just incredible to me. I have to praise Him that a picture on a blog became the face I will look at while I say my vows. Wow, wow. How "this" became "this" is an incredible journey and an incredible story, a story I'm so proud God penned just for us.

Here's to the countdown...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Savings: A Pause in Time

For several months now I have looked forward to Sundays (when I've been available) to share with y'all tips on saving in various faucets of life. This is NOT me cancelling this portion of my blog, but I do have to pause it for several months. Hopefully it will all work out to be a good thing!

As a teacher I just had basic things to share with you on saving money--personal experiences and what I've learned in 26 years--nothing job related. However, I have eluded several times to this new job I will be starting and you all know it's not in education.

I have actually been offered a job in the finance world and jumped on the idea. It's no secret how much I love finance and econ! In fact it was my first major in college, and I have regretted not staying with it since I started teaching. So to have this opportunity presented to me is a dream I can barely even believe is becoming reality.

However, that being said I know that laws will be different for me now actually being in the field and giving financial advice. Until I get all of my tests taken, understand more of my new position, and get a better grasp on how the law now pertains to me I felt it was best to suspend Sunday Savings. Hopefully I will have more regular and better tips to share with y'all as the process unfolds, but I wanted to cover all the bases to protect myself up front.

I can't wait to share more of the dirty deets with y'all!! You all have been so sweet with your words, and I have loved the little messages I have gotten as I've started the process of finding a new job, getting married, and moving to a new state. Thank you for sharing this portion of my life with me. My goal is to take this next step in life (yes, lots of steps being taken right now!!), hit it out of the ballpark, and learn more than I can possibly conceive to learn right now.

Thank y'all for always being there to listen read as I put my life on this little ol' blog. I hope somehow it inspires you to never give up hope and stay connected to your dreams. It's hard to believe mine are all becoming reality, but the Lord did promise He would give me the desires of my heart if I believed in Him. Wow, He really has pitched 3 curve balls in a row, and I couldn't be more thankful! Be blesssed!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Bicycle Built for Two

Oh yeah, two weeks ago now we had a couple's shower in Texas! I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to writing about it, because it was such a fun night! Never in my life will I ever be able to show the gratitude for the friends and family we have and everything they have done for us...like my mom who started at 7:30 this morning putting our center pieces together. Seriously. Cash and I have it made with the love we receive!
Cash's mom has an awesome group of friends who definitely know how to throw a shower. I can't really describe it in words very well, so I'm just going to start with the picture party...

When we got there the front yard was decorated with these signs. I couldn't keep my jaw off the ground.

Isn't that a cute sign in the tree? I love it!

They made the P with a bicycle chain (our theme was Bicycle Built for Two) and afterwards they let us have it. Cash said he'd put it up by the pool...won't that be cute?

Haha. I crack up every time I look at the picture they used for the cake. Cash loves cycling..and he loves bowties. His little cousin even said, "Cash, that looks like you!" Crack. Me. Up.

These were probably my favorite of the whole night! They had a plethora of coozies with our names on them and the same picture as the cake. I love them!! In fact when I saw them I shrieked and ran up to my mom and said, "Look! Look!" like I was in 2nd grade and it was Christmas.

The bicycle theme was everywhere!

A view of the backyard. It was just such a fun, relaxed night with so many of our Midland friends.

I do have to say, though, as an Arkansan moving to Texas I often get made fun of. Here Steve is no doubt harassing me. I get made fun of for my accent, which I can kind of understand. But I also get teased about my lack of shoes and branches in my family tree, which is all completely untrue! ha. I probably egg it on some though, like the night I told Steve's BIL that I only drink moonshine. My Arkansas friends aren't innocent though. They do their own share of teasing about my new home.

We started taking pictures by all the signs...

Would you have ridden this thing? Well, I didn't want to in a dress! Maybe it would've been a great picture..but some pictures just aren't worth it.

We had BBQ sliders for dinner, and everything was sooo good! I still can't get over how nice everything was.

my parents!
Going with the theme, they started handing out some bicycle sunglasses. My parents were good sports!

MIL, me, Mom
 I do have a great mother-in-law and mother! The very, very best!

Awww, my niece can actually look adorable in hers!

When we started cutting the cake, Connor started telling me which slice he most preferred.

They also had homemade ice cream in little mason jars! I just loved it!

Addi and Cash's cousin Mia started playing together and drawing their families. You can see Mia's large family on the left! ha. They played all night, then the next morning after church they were sitting there just chatting. I asked Addison what they had to say and she replied, "We were talking about going to eat together and how we're going to the same place." True story. We did go to brunch at Wall St.

Seriously! This was another great part! Haylie made us a scrapbook, and everyone signed the little slips of paper as they came in. I didn't even realize they had this set up until they handed it to us at the end. I was also amazed by the amount of people who came to celebrate with us! Several of Cash's co-workers, including his boss, came. And I even had a co-worker there!! Granted, he's Cash's friend and we haven't technically worked together YET, but we will by the end of July!

Honestly, thinking back, I'm not sure I've ever seen so many geologists in one place. I can count 7 off the top of my head. What is that? ha. Every geologist from Clayton Williams was there; I just realized that. That's pretty awesome that Cash has such great co-workers. Concho even had 2 geologists there...way to represent, Concho! haha. That's the difference in West Texas and Western Arkansas: occupations are tremendously different. When people wonder why I'm not teaching anymore, well, it's hard to explain when they've never experienced the world of Midland, Texas.

And the gifts...last but not least. Cash got a ton of tools including sawhorses, drills, even a chainsaw!! And he got a a remarkable amount of gift cards from Lowe's to get more! I was so excited for him, because he really wanted some tools (especially the chainsaw--he talked about it for weeks). We also received a million things for the house: dishes, luggage, a new comforter, a KITCHEN-AID MIXER, all of our towels (ALL of them--bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths), a lot of serving dishes...seriously it was so, so, so wonderful. I probably was most surprised by the mixer, but everything was my favorite! We left it all at Cash's house of course, but I wish I was able to go through it everyday. I'm still in shock by all the love!

The next morning we went to church (my family's first time in a Lutheran church!! and perhaps that calls for a post of its own), and then we went to Wall Street for brunch. Ugh...just to have a cinnamon roll right now would be amazing. I hated leaving, because it was the last time I was getting to see Cash UNTIL THE WEDDING!!! In case you are wondering, that's 5 weeks apart.

I am so ready for the festivities to begin. It's been wedding work and more wedding work since we've gotten back. It really has been a lot of fun planning and enjoying the whole process. I had promised myself those 26 years I was single that when I did get married that I wouldn't be a bridezilla; I would enjoy it because I waited so long for it. There have been a few things I've been upset about, but when I get like that I try to remember what it's all about--and when you go without that 1 thing for 5 weeks, it's easy to refocus on the big day. As of today...22 more days!!! It seems like it will never get here! Until then I'll just keep busy and hound my friends for their RSVPs. Turn them in, people!! :) Love y'all.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Savings: Vehicles

I bet you're scratching your head trying to remember what Sunday Savings means! Yes, I took a break while I was in Texas working hard on my tan. Today, however, I have a little treat for you'ins. We are going to talk about all things car-related. Get excited, because I know nothing past the gas pedal and radio! :)

While I may not know the parts and movements of a car, I sure do know I can talk about the finances of one. My parents told us growing up that they weren't going to buy us a car (I say car everytime I mean car, truck, SUV, flatbed, etc.), so since I was 16 and willing I've been on my own as far as car payments. That'll teach a kid a lesson or two.

I drove this old Honda Accord, manual shift, for six glorious years. "The cowgirl" showed me lots of good times and a few close run-ins with the vehicles behind me at stop signs on hills. My first lesson in driving? Don't forget the person in front of you might have a standard--scoot back.

Wow, doesn't this bring back a memory or two?!
 Anyway, on to the lesson for today...

Cash and I were driving the Loop in Midland a couple weeks ago, and would you know that the 2 vehicles in front of us were a) an Aston Martin and b) a Porsche Cayenne. Yeah, I didn't know what those were either until I went to an oil boomtown. Just a little FYI...James Bond drove an Aston Martin.

I don't know who drives a Porsche Cayenne, except some guy in West Texas who laid down about $100,000 for one of these mid-size luxury SUVs.

If you're wondering if I felt super outclassed, not at all. We were, in fact, in West Texas where the vehicle of choice is typically at least one truck per family. Lo and behold we were in the big ol' Dodge Ram, so my thoughts were that these 2 little prisses better get a move on, because I knew I had a grill on the front of mine.

But it did get me to questioning Cash about the cost of vehicles like these--or even the Land Rover LR4 or Lexus LX. Don't get me wrong. Miss Kitty, my perfect 4Runner, is in my opinion the greatest vehicle on the road. I truly, truly love it. However, we have been talking about my next vehicle behing a "luxury" vehicle. I've never driven one, so I may be missing out on a whole world of driving, but so far in my book the Toyota 4Runner trumps all the rest.

Bottom line. Cars are way too expensive. Almost so expensive it burns me. A house, okay, I can understand a good payment on that since it typically maintains or increases in value. But a box with 4 wheels that's going to get you nothing back in 4-5 years? Please. My money would be safer under the mattress.

I have a friend who was telling me the other day that she couldn't wait to get her vehicle paid off, because her payment was over $800 PER MONTH!!! I said, "You're crazy." That's all I knew to say. She bought it 1-2 years old, has that payment for 6 years, and it's not a "luxury" vehicle. It's a regular ol' vehicle. So regular, in fact, that I see them all over the place, which probably threw me back more because I know most of the people driving them probably have similar payments. CU-RAY-ZEE, y'all. Don't do that.

Okay, if you make great money, and an $800 vehicle payment is like change to you, I guess go ahead. I would still call you crazy, but go ahead. But that is higher than my house payment!! Granted, I don't have the largest house or the fanciest, but it's a great house...so for a vehicle payment alone to be more than my house payment. C'mon. What is up with that?

I don't have a great formula for what you should spend on a vehicle compared to what you make. I do have common sense though. Common sense tells me that if you are a teacher like I am (or was) you shouldn't be making a car payment of $800. And if you're a banker, politician, mortician, or anything else--your payment shouldn't be that either.

Let's say you can't live without that luxury SUV because Baby's gotta have the best for his little carseat. And you know I'm already opposed to such high payments (and let's presume you listen to me). My suggestion:

a large down payment AND paying extra towards principal every month

Okay, let's break this down.

1. A large down payment

When you think you are ready for a car payment, try yourself. Calculate what you believe your monthly payments will be and start socking that away in a separate account every month. Try it for at least 6 months or until you don't think twice about putting that money aside (and not touching it!) the moment you get paid.

That will do 2 things--a) give you a great down payment and b) let you know if you can afford to pay for the payment alone.

I'm all about big down payments. Do NOT buy a vehicle without one. You'll get screwed (sorry for my lack of a better word) on interest, so you better do yourself a favor.

2. Paying towards principal every month

I wanted a solid, round number for my vehicle payment every month. So I had the loan assistant put from my very first payment to have 21 extra dollars added to PRINCIPAL every month. (Make sure you denote it's towards principal.) That doesn't seem like a lot, but I financed my 4Runner for 4 years and had it paid off 6 months early with no other extra payments.

That hit me so hard. Even my little finance brain didn't realize $21/month would make that much of a difference! It got Cash to start paying extra on his truck, and we are going to have it paid off in no time because of that. It's definitely something I strongly suggest.


Cash was telling me a few months ago that the advice he had heard was to always have a car payment. Otherwise, you will get used to having extra money every month and won't be able to afford one again. I say to not start using that payment amount--put it towards something. Maybe that something is a trip account, a new vehicle account (as described above), savings, whatever. Don't just start using it for groceries and such or he's right---you'll never know how you did without it. But I don't interpret that as buying a new car every time you pay one off. Because that leads to other expenses that we should talk about...

Miscellaneous Car Expenses
  • car insurance--the newer, nicer, redder the vehicle the higher your car insurance. How to reduce that? Take driver's ed (if you're in school), make good grades, turn 25, and be a safe driver. All these things will add up.

  • gas--Yes, I'm marrying an oil man, but that doesn't mean I don't watch that MPG. It kills me, kills me, kills me to pump in 70 bucks at a time. It eases me a little now knowing that in some weird way I'm getting that back, but even oil people don't like breaking the bank at the gas pump. (Just like as a teacher I didn't like paying property tax! I still argue that one. hahaha) So to offset gas prices? Find a good, RELIABLE car with decent gas mileage. Do NOT get a smart car. DO NOT. You will automatically die if you run into a curb because they are so unreliable with safety. I say get a bike (even my geologist rides his bike to work on many mornings--and he drills for oil!! ha), take public transportation if you live in a city where it's convenient, carpool, or just be smart. I love riding in the mountains--that's where I choose to spend my gas money. But I allow myself an X amount for gas each month. Towards the end of the month I don't go drive around aimlessly as much. I'm also not saying to never use the vehicle you pay so much for. That is weird to me. People pay $500/month for a car then don't want to drive it. Don't even get the car. ha. But I am saying there are ways to cut down on gas prices; don't be afraid to use them. (And personally, I think Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have the cheapest gas.)

  • property tax--Texas doesn't have this (PTL), but Arkansas does. Every year I have to pay a property tax and that is for my house, vehicle, any boats or land, whatever property I may own (even if it's paid off). Again, the newer and nicer your vehicle is the higher the property tax. I think my first year with my 4Runner my property tax was over $300 just for my vehicle. Ouch!

  • upkeep/maintenance--I'm getting kind of tired so I assume you are too, so I categorized all this together. Oil changes, new batteries, NEW TIRES THAT ARE SOOOO EXPENSIVE, car washes, etc. All these things add up. I never want to be caught in the middle of Christmas or some other time where I'm spending a lot of money and have to buy 4 new tires. That happened once, so I started saving a little money every month for that purpose. $20/month didn't seeem like much. But that gave me $600 for new tires every 2.5 years. (You can do the math for you too.) I just put money away every month for maintenance and have it ready no matter my circumstances at the moment. It's proven to help me a ton.
I know we all get overwhelmed with excitement with that new car smell. Isn't it wonderful? I would never tell you to not buy into that, because I know I have! I'm just saying to be ready to buy into it. Have your down payment ready, adjust your principal payment every month, save for rainy days when the tires are slick, and just use common sense. Hopefully I'll see y'all around--driving your sweet rides with low payments.

Stay smart. Be savvy. Save money...
Avery Jane

Thursday, June 14, 2012

1 Month and Counting

Whatcha gotta say about that? Whatcha gotta say? In 1 month I'll be a married woman. It feels like that time will never come.

I told y'all about my 2 weeks in Midland, and I've tried to relive those days since I've been back to Arkansas. I'm definitely not back in the groove of the Natural State, but we'll get there--right about the time I leave again.

When my family came into town, Cash and I showed them around. I love Midland. Love might even be an understatement. So I was thrilled to get to show them where I was about to live.

No, this is not our house. Do you recognize this grand scene? It is indeed the childhood home of former President George W. Bush. The tour guide put it this way: 2 presidents, 2 governors, and 1 first lady lived here. Pretty incredible. And that's all in my new hometown--good ol' Midland, Texas. It is not a secret most people here are Republicans. Not a secret at all considering most people work for an oil company.

My sister is not a political person. Nor is my mom. But my dad, my fiance, and myself are. However, I think the apathetic voters found the tour fairly interesting. While we were touring I thought about 2 things:

1. People used to live with a lot less, and as a society we have gotten way too big: big houses, big cars, big plates at dinner. The bigger the better. Take a look at that house--2 presidents lived there! By today's standards that would be tiny.

2. We were standing in George W.'s bedroom, and it blew me away to think that little boy who played cowboys and indians on this very floor probably never even thought he would be managing a country during an attack like 9/11. It gave me chills...maybe because I was a history teacher. Maybe because I'm a nerd. Either way I find it pretty incredible.

Midland was only a stop along the way for George H.W. However, George W. grew up there, so it's more home to him. In fact Midland was his first stop after Obama's inauguration. Laura's mother actually still lives there. So, you ask, did we invite them to the wedding since we're such huge fans? Yes. We did.

After touring the childhood home we went to ClayDesta to show them where Cash works. I showed you a picture of the atrium a few days ago, but I snapped a couple pictures of some of the mounts the atrium is decorated with. And, yes, Clayton and his wife killed them throughout various countries around the world. Awesome, huh?

This alligator was taken in I believe Ethiopa. I do have the cutest niece in the world as well as the whitest legs after laying out for 2 weeks.

This is probably the most unique (or weirdest) mount in the whole place. The little creatures in the wagon? Their nails are painted. I don't know. It's definitely it's own kind of mount.

Of course we let Addi swim before the shower, and eventually she was joined by the whole slew of cousins. A little pre-swim snack? I believe we will.

I know what you're all thinking: why can't I have a niece that adorable? I'm sorry to all of you. I'm sorry I have the cutest one in all the land...and I'm about to gain the 2 other cutest ones. Lucky me. I might share if y'all are nice.

Well, Cash is about to be home from the Rockhounds game, so I better get going so I can talk to him. Tomorrow...or the next day I sit down at this PC...I will post about the shower. It was a killer.

Avery Jane

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2 weeks in the new hometown

I know. I'm a killjoy with my titles.
Memorial day weekend (wow, doesn't that seem forever ago) Cash came to Arkansas for a little social time with the fam and to pick me up. We had our last pre-marital counseling session, and I think we passed. That should be a go on getting married. Also, my grandmother's parents had a set of twins and triplets long before fertility drugs, so we went to the triplet's 70-something birthday party. I know, we relish in excitement. :)
On our way back to Midland we split it up into 2 days and stayed in Dallas for the night. We were hoping to find Cash's wedding band, but nothing seemed to catch our eye. Still yet after 2 hard weeks of searching, we haven't come up with anything. However, I did purchase my sister's MOH gift in D-Town and snagged a few new business clothes for the new job, so all in all it was pretty productive.

Also, we went on a self-guided tour of SMU which proved to be one of the prettiest campuses I have ever visited. I've been telling Cash that I will always be a Razorback fan but feel I need a Texas team to associate with since my clients will mostly be Texans. SMU is topping that list at the moment since they probably will never face my Hogs yet is a very highly sought after university. I mean, Kourtney Kardashian even attended there! To be honest that might be one reason I'm now a Mustang fan. That and Ralph Lauren creates shirts just for SMU, Barnes & Noble is the campus bookstore, and it sits right next to La Madeleine. Divinity.

While in Dallas my chilhood friend Joel met up with us for lunch, and I was so excited to introduce him to Cash. Joel was my boyfriend all through 3rd and 4th grades (oh yes) but he and his twin brother have been some of my very best friends my whole life. I just loved introducing my fiance to such a good friend.

When we got back to Midland, Cash had flowers waiting for me with 2 birthday presents. *Note: I had pictures of all of this, but I got a new phone and the media and contacts would not transfer. Bummer.* I didn't want to think about turning 26!!! but loved my new boat shoes and Republican tumblers he gave me. Cash had also ordered a belt off Rue La La several weeks ago, and it happened to be too small. Inevitably, he ordered another one and gave me the smaller one. Hence we have matching GOP belts...

My cousin Brent is a law enforcement officer, and he had been sent out to Arizona and New Mexico to work the wildfires. On his way back to Louisiana, he stopped in Midland to stay with us for a night. We took him to Cigar Frogs as he kept telling us about the next woman he finds he wants her to be a cougar. Lo and behold...we found her car...

We had a wonderful time with Brent! I was so excited to show him around town as he was my first family member to see my new house and all that goes with moving! Before he got there I was super homesick and kept worrying about moving so far from my family. But after he left I thought it would be wonderful for family to visit--and that I will definitely be okay. I stayed busy after that, and Cash even let me take his truck most days to go run errands. I'm still not used to parking that big thing though.

As you can tell I somehow switched my camera settings to B/W and didn't even realize it. It's kind of cool though, don't you think? One afternoon I was getting kind of bored and didn't get to have lunch with Cash since he had a lunch meeting with another company. Thankfully he has a wonderful job where I can go visit him for an hour or so as long as he's not too busy. I was needing some Cash time that day, so on my way up the elevator I snapped a picture of the atrium inside the ClayDesta Center. This is where he works, and it is owned and named after his CEO Clayton and his wife Modesta. It's pretty amazing!

On Cash's birthday this year he will by flyfishing in Wyoming with Clayton actually, so I tried to think ahead and celebrate his birthday while I was in town this time. We had decided to get each other something for the honeymoon, which will be in Kennebunkport, Maine, so he had gotten me the boat shoes. Cash is really excited about our sailing trip, so I wanted to get him some clothes for that evening. When I looked up what you wear to go sailing, it looked similar to the fishing clothes I've seen some guys sport. Maybe that's redneck to you, but it worked for me. I got him an outfit and this tour book. He's been in planning mode ever since. I also took him to Red Lobster to eat just to get in the whole seafood mindset. haha. Yes, I realize Red Lobster is not prime seafood. But considering I've never had a fish on my taste buds, I was all about some cheesy biscuits at RL.

Before everyone had gotten there, Cash and I were trying to make everything look nice. We had sprayed weeds out by the pool, and a couple of days later I went out there to pull the weeds. It's always a joke for me because the 2 times I've pulled his weeds I've been left with blisters. I definitely documented it this time.

Since the pool area was feeling a little more welcoming, I called some friends to come over. Barbara came over one afternoon and Pam came to lay out a few days later. It's hard to believe I have enough friends in Midland that now I stay busy seeing friends and running errands. I remember my first trip down I was so, so, so bored during the day because I literally knew NO ONE. Now I have friends over to lay out and meet them for lunch when Cash is working.

One evening Cash said he'd cook for us, so he grilled some chicken and made these little pizzas with naan (??). We sat out by the pool to eat, and it was such a fun night. After dinner we went on a bike ride around the neighborhood. I can't wait to have more evenings like that when we are married!

The morning after the bike ride I went with Cash to meet up with his friend Branco for an early morning ride around the football stadium and its surrounding areas. We met Branco a little after 6 and rode for probably 45 minutes. I honestly really, really enjoyed despite the West Texas wind slapping me silly. Cash said it's a good sign that I enjoyed it on my first real ride. Now I'm on the hunt for a new bike!

The second weekend I was in town my parents, sister, and niece drove in for our couple's shower. Addison was so excited to finally get to Uncle Cash's house, because she had been eyeing that pool all last summer when we skyped. And boy did that little girl have a blast swimming in that pool!

Cash's Uncle John and Aunt Chandra and their 4 kids came in on Saturday, so all the kids got to swim and play together. That evening was our SHOWER!! but I think I'll save that for another post. I was just elated the whole night and haven't stopped grinning since. I am SO EXCITED to finally be in Midland full time. I'm to the point I just want the wedding to be over, be married, and get to Kennebunkport. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to the wedding day..but I just wish someone else would plan this thing for me. Maaa. On the bright side we are 32 days away...

Avery Jane