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Courtesy of Unpacking and Search Engines

While unpacking some miscellaneous desk items, I unearthed a post-it note on which I had scribbled some of the odder phrases that led people to my blog through search engines. Without further ado, I present the list.

IVF and pepper (huh?)

OB-GYN Christmas jingles (huh? two times!)

perfect me heart motives (sanctification for pirates!)

entrusted picture dictionary (how would you draw a picture of "entrusted"?)

want to be infertile (trust me, honey, you don't)

arrested development in the emotions of an embryo (I... don't even know what to say about that one)

Those of you who've been following along for a while will be glad to know that people are still stumbling upon my site when looking for:

chicken reproductive system pictures

And now, also:

artichoke reproduction system

I hope the chickens and artichokes are more successful at reproducing than I've proven to be!


Oh Yeah, There's More to Our Lives than Home-Ownership

So, not only did we move into our new house this weekend (hello, boxes that are still everywhere!), I also started medications and appointments for a new IUI cycle. A friend who was helping me unpack our kitchen laughed at the initial contents of our new fridge - a large jug of water, a bowl of leftover potato salad (from a night we had spent painting at the house), four boxes of Follistim, and one box of Repronex. Rather telling of our priorities at the moment!

I don't think I've mentioned this yet on the blog, but Dr. Owlish has left the practice (he moved to be closer to family, so I guess I can't begrudge him that). It was disappointing, as we had been so pleased to start seeing him, but we trust God's timing. I've been handed over to the other doctor at the clinic, but I haven't actually seen him yet (and may not for some time, who knows?). He's a very respected doctor in the field, nationally, so I assume I'm in good hands, but I don't know if we will click with him personality-wise in the same way we did with Dr. Owlish. Anyway, the new-to-me RE reviewed my charts from the cycles I did with Dr. Owlish, and he decided to add Repronex into the medicine mix. I don't really know what it does, but I've been too swamped with all the house stuff to worry about asking. It's another injectable drug, one that I mix myself. Then I squirt the Follistim into the same syringe, so I only have to give myself one shot total instead of one for each medicine. It makes for a lot of needle juggling, especially once I've sterilized things and don't want to set them back down! I've taken this combination of meds for three days now, and a check-up today showed dozens of small-to-medium follicles on each side (the largest were 13, 12, and 10 mm) and an E2 level of 202. I'll continue the same doses (75 IU of Follistim, 37.5 IU of Repronex) for three more days and go back for ultrasound and bloodwork on Friday.

It's kind of strange to have infertility treatments feel like an afterthought, amidst all the business of settling our new home, but I'm grateful for the temporary shift in focus. I pray, of course, that the upcoming IUI will be successful, but I have such abundant evidence of God's kindness all about me right now that it's easy to trust him for the future. No matter what happens, I know that he has positioned us well for whatever will come next.


Look at That! My House Matches My Blog

Here are some pictures of our house! We put in some long days of work on it over the weekend. This week, we have contractors in to work on the basement and the hardwood floors. We move in on Saturday. I'll post a variety of before and after pictures of the interior soon.


After More Delays and Obstacles Than I Would Have Thought Possible

We're buying a house this afternoon!

What are you doing today, big or small?


$50,000 to $0: How We Did It

(Grab a cup of tea; this is a long one! I'm answering the questions about how we paid off our debt as a Works-For-Me-Wednesday post.)

Thanks for all the congratulations on paying off our debt! Several asked how we did it. It began when, a little less then a year into our marriage, our church hosted a Money Wise Workshop*, given by Tom Werth (now on staff at CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, WI). At the time, ironically enough, Aaron had just lost his job, so we couldn't begin to apply much of the information until a few months later when he had full time work again. Still, we gained a conviction that being debt-free wasn't just preferable but biblical, and we learned some practical tips to send us toward that goal.

We had a credit card balance from our honeymoon, a handful of student loans (mine were consolidated, Aaron's weren't), and two car loans, all adding up to about $50,000, as best as I can remember. We didn't have a large income at all; that year, our combined earnings were about $45,000. I share that to encourage you that it can be done, even without a huge cash flow.

As our first step, we set up a thorough budget, based on our income after taxes and giving to our local church. We cut out just about every extra - clothes, eating out, etc. During that time, we asked our family, in lieu of regular birthday and Christmas gifts, to give us gift cards to favorite stores and restaurants; that helped to give us little splurges that we couldn't otherwise afford. We did what we could to keep our living expenses to a minimum (affordable rent on a small apartment; the most basic phone plan; no internet at home - we used the library; a strict grocery budget that sometimes meant we ate nothing but eggs, pancakes, and pasta at the end of the month).

Once the budget was in place, we asked some financially-sound friends to help us make a plan to pay off our various loans. They gave us some advice that actually went counter to some of the conventional wisdom but that worked well for us. For instance, one recommended that we pay our credit card off before starting any "emergency fund" type savings; his reasoning was that the interest rates on a savings account were so much lower than the interest we were paying on our debt that we would actually lose money by saving. So we paid off our credit card first, as quickly as we could, then started an emergency fund (the standard 3-months-worth of living expenses) to save for things like car repairs, job loss, etc. Another friend (and a CPA to boot) recommended that, rather than following the course of paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first, we pay the loans off essentially from smallest to largest. This had a huge impact, because we were able to quickly escalate payments on each loan.

Here's how that worked: Aaron had one small student loan (about $1000, I think) for which we only paid about $10 per month. We paid up on that as much as we could and were able to pay it off fairly quickly. Now, we rolled that $10 a month into the payment for the next loan, another small student loan on which we owed $30 per month. That one was paid off fairly quickly, too, and it motivated us quite a bit to see the progress of having two fewer bills to pay. We added $40 per month (the combined amounts from the two loans now paid off) to a car payment, meaning we paid something like $190 per month instead of the required $150. It took a while longer, but after we paid off that car, the snowball effect of the cumulative payments really took off. By adding the now freed up $190 per month to our other car payment (which was set at $175), we paid that car off in half the time of the 5-year term of the loan. At that point, we turned to tackle our two largest student loans (originally about $13,000 and $20,000 respectively). Again, adding all the previous payments no longer owed to the monthly payment on those loans (one at a time), we paid about $450-500 per month toward the first loan, and eventually about $1000 per month toward the second loan. We couldn't always make the big payments (like at Christmas-time, when we had extra expenses in the form of travel and gifts), but we paid as much as we could every month, and the effect was enormous!

During that whole process, we used any unexpected windfalls to pay whatever loan we were targeting at the time; tax refunds, Christmas bonuses, and the like took big bites out of those loans. We started out paying off our loans with very slow, small steps, but eventually we could take long strides and pay down debt quickly. When we began, our debt seemed insurmountable and I felt we'd never be done with it; but it only took five years!

As our income increased over time (although we still make a very moderate living) and our debt decreased, we were able to build non-essentials back into the budget, although we still keep those to a minimum (i.e. $50 per month for clothing, $60 per month for eating out). We don't buy things unless we have cash in the bank for them, and we use debit for most purchases. The only occasional exception is travel; we might put part of a vacation on credit, but we determine to pay off the balance within a month or two at the most. Once we take on a mortgage, we'll have to tighten the budget again, but now we know we can do it, by God's grace. We certainly couldn't have stewarded our finances this way without help, and I hope that by sharing these details some of you are helped, too!

*It looks like you can download the seminar audio and workbook for this workshop from our related church, Covenant Life, here.


"Madness" and "Craziness" Are the Two Words Most Frequently Uttered in Our Household Right Now

I'll spare you the details, but here's a status report from the past week of our efforts to buy a house.

Tuesday: We think the sale will fall through.

Wednesday: We might get the house!

Thursday: We think the sale will fall through.

[Insert holiday weekend.]

Monday: We might get the house!

Tuesday: Negotiations are still up in the air, but we're engaged in a mad scramble to pull everything together to possibly close next week.

Please pray for us!


Approximately $50,000 to $0 in 5 Years

As of today, we are completely and gloriously debt free! We just paid off the balance of our last school loan, so now we have no education debt, no car payments, no credit card balances, no mortgage, nothing owed to anyone. We're so grateful for the teaching we received early on in our marriage about the principles of financial stewardship and for the money-savvy friends who helped us put together a practical plan to pay everything off as soon as possible. Thank you, Lord, for providing!


Orange-Avocado Salsa

For the Five-Ingredients-or-Less edition of Works for Me Wednesday, I thought I'd share this orange-avocado salsa, a summer favorite of ours. We like to serve it over grilled chicken breasts with rice, but I bet it would be tasty with fish or pork chops, too.

Orange-Avocado Salsa

1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp honey
2 large navel oranges
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 avocado, pitted and diced*

In a medium bowl, whisk lime juice & honey together. Season w/ salt & pepper (I know, those weren't on the ingredients list, but that would have made for seven ingredients rather than five; shhh!). Set aside.

Cut up the oranges: Slice of both ends of each orange. Following the curve of the fruit, cut away the peel and pith. Quarter the oranges (basically, cut an X lengthwise through the core of the orange, if that makes sense), then lay each half (two of the quartered sections) flat and slice sections 1/4" thick; this will give you a bunch of little orange triangles.

Add orange pieces, onion and avocado to honey-lime mixture. Toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.

*This may be obvious, but here's how I dice an avocado. Use a chef's knife to cut the avocado in half vertically, curving around the pit. Separate the two halves, then whack the pit with your knife (this is why I use my big, nicely weighted chef's knife for this task); twist to remove pit. Now, cut 1/4-1/2" dice into each avocado half, without slicing through the skin. Use a spoon to scoop the dice from the skin of each half. Nice and neat!


Progressing Towards Home

We were finally able to get a variety of professionals in to the house at the end of last week. That process was a comedy of errors that felt more like a tragedy at the time - locks changed on the house so we couldn't get in for the first appointment, miscommunication about the rescheduled appointment so that we weren't all in the same place at the same time, and so on. The realtor, an air tester, an HVAC professional, a mold assessor, and I all managed to converge on Friday. Conclusion? The furnace, which wasn't working at our original inspection, was repaired by the seller; it's still an ancient, inefficient piece of machinery, but it's safe and it works. The air test showed the presence of mold spores common after basement flooding, but it's not toxic and the levels aren't too high; it still needs to be addressed, but it's not a major health hazard. And the mold assessor judged that the only areas of the basement that definitely need remediation are the bathroom and storage area, although we asked for a quote for the whole basement to be safe. All in all, we feel much better having a more realistic picture of the works that the house needs, and we were reassured to find out that not everything has to be done up front. We're asking the seller to remediate the mold, so please pray that those negotiations go well (and quickly!) this week. If we reach an agreement on that, and if Aaron and I feel like we're not taking on too many future projects, then we'll move forward. I'm ready to be done with this whole process!

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1).