Champions of Extraordinary Marriages

We’ve Moved January 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tony & Alisa @ 10:35 am

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The Marriage Dance January 12, 2010

Do you long to dance with your spouse?  Do fantasize of an evening out dancing together?

I do.

In many ways Alisa and I are doing a daily dance.  We interact with each other (talking, listening, touching, seeing) and our kids (telling, acknowledging, helping, teaching) the most, but there are times when family and friends also enter the dance.  Sometimes it’s good that they enter and other times not so good.  You know what I mean.

There are days when I’m dancing on clouds and other days I feel like my feet are stuck in cement.  I often wonder why this happens and sometimes in the same day.  Do you ever feel like this in your marriage?  It’s frustrating, but as the years have passed I’ve come to understand the flow of our marriage.

This past Friday night was our “Date Night”.  This is something that we are purposeful about each and every month.  It is our time alone.  Love my kids, but I want to spend the rest of my life with Alisa and if we don’t invest now who knows what could happen.  These dates give us time to connect and dig deep into our relationship without the constant interruptions.  I’m being interrupted right now as I type, my oldest isn’t going to sleep and I’m starting to get frustrated.

Back to the blog…for this “Date Night” we had decided to learn take a Cha-Cha class and then attend a dance party at the studio.  The week leading up to our date night Alisa had been “practicing” the Cha-Cha moves from instructional youtube videos.  I was getting excited to go out and dance with Alisa.  The last time I was this excited to dance was on our wedding day (13 years ago) because I knew we would end up in our hotel room afterwards.

This time learning to dance stemmed from our desire to find a passion and activity that the two of us could do together.  We were stepping out of our comfort zones to stretch ourselves and our marriage.  For me being the extrovert in the marriage I also figured it would be a great way for us to branch out and meet new people.

Friday started off great, date night was planned,  kids were going to the sitters, Alisa was going to make a romantic dinner at home and then off to Cha-Cha lessons.

Except for one small thing…kindergarten immunizations and flu shots.  Dang those shots.

Abby received five shots and Alex two as they spent 2 hours in the doctors office Friday afternoon.  Guess what?  Date night didn’t happen.  Both kids were traumatized from their long afternoon at the doctor’s office and this was one of those nights that we didn’t think it wise to leave the kids with the babysitter.

We made the most out of it the situation.  We were able to have a quiet dinner while the kids watched a movie followed by family movie night watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Was it what we had planned? No, but the reality is that life often doesn’t go the way that we plan.  I would like to just end this here and say that everyone went to bed happy, but in reality I was upset and frustrated.  Have you experienced this in your marriage?

You know what I did, I wallowed in my own negativity, but as I laid down I realized I made a big mistake.  The time with Alisa, although not a date night, was still needed and should have been cherished.  I didn’t do that.  Even though I didn’t handle the evening perfectly, I learned from it.  Isn’t that what marriage is all about?  Learning, falling, getting up and then doing it again and again. It’s The Marriage Dance.

When things don’t go the way you plan them are you going to be negative and wallow in the misery of the situation or are you going to try and find a way to take these new circumstances and use them to your benefit?  What dance are you dancing with your spouse?


Debt Sucks! January 7, 2010

Filed under: Financies & Career — Tony & Alisa @ 8:01 am
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Do you and your spouse ever discuss finances outside of the when the bills are due?  I mean sit down pull out the BUDGET, we call it a Cash Flow Plan, and talk about your finances.

Which one of you is the Spender?  How about the Saver?

Do you talk about the consumer debt you have?

Is there a Cash Flow Plan in place or do you fly by the seat of your pants hoping there will be enough money for the month?

Tony and I used to have loads of consumer debt.  There were student loans from Tony’s college days, 2 vehicle payments, around 10 credit cards that we maxed out, department store cards, as well as unpaid utility bills.  I’m sure there were others that have escaped my mind.

We had amassed over $50,000 in consumer debt.  The hardest part for me were the constant calls from creditors, letters coming in the mail with past due notices, and no plan.  I was STRESSED OUT. To add to all of this we were newlyweds!  We spent the first 3 years of our marriage living month-to-month. We juggled the credit cards by getting a new lower rate one, transferring the balance from a high rate card to the new card, and then repeating the process as many times as possible.  It finally came to an end when we could no longer get another credit card.  Eventually the stack of bills, past due notices, and collectors calling got to be too much.

We didn’t talk about our finances then.  We just ignored this very large elephant in the room, never saying anything to each other about it.  When we did talk about money we were yelling and arguing about the lack of money we had.  The romance, passion, and intimacy that we had before we got married wasn’t there any longer.  Money and debt were driving a wedge between us.

Finally, Tony had enough of living month-to-month.  He sat me down one night to talk about “our finances”.  This was the first time we sat down and really talked about our money situation.  We decided to find a credit counseling service in our area.  We found one and with their help we developed a plan to pay off our debts.   There was only one problem we hadn’t really learned how to manage our money.  They gave us a way to get out of the debt we had but didn’t teach us how to avoid debt in the future.

We also enjoyed going out with friends and living a very comfortable life but we weren’t ready to make a lifestyle change.   Becoming debt-free required a radical change and we weren’t there.  So, we kept living the lifestyle and the elephant was still in the room with us.

Tony hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2000 and shortly afterwards we moved to Spokane, WA.  He needed the change of pace after hiking the PCT as well as spending some time away from Southern California.

For the first time in our marriage we were able to live on Tony’s income and use mine to pay down our debts.  It wasn’t happening fast enough.  One day while listening to the radio Tony heard the Dave Ramsey Show and what Dave was saying struck him and then me.  Dave’s 7 Baby Steps are:

1.  $1000 Emergency Fund
2.  Pay Off ALL Debt with Debt Snowball
3.  3-6 Months Expenses in Savings
4.  Invest 15% into ROTH IRA & Pre-tax Retirement Plans
5.  College Funding
6.  Pay Off Your Home Early
7.  Build Wealth and Give

These 7 Baby Steps enabled us to GET MAD at our debt and finally pay it all off.

Dave’s Baby Steps, (cash only, NO credit cards, NO debt) has made our marriage a happier one!  I am happy to tell you that since 2002 we have not had a single credit card.  Over the years this has meant that we do without sometimes, but I never have to worry about going to the mailbox and seeing a crazy, big credit card bill or answering the phone with someone who wants me to pay my bill to them.   We have a roof over our heads, cars to drive, food to eat and clothes to wear.  Do my kids get everything they want?  NO.  Neither do Tony and I.  We save up for those large items and pay cash.

Now, we talk about money openly in our family.  The kids know that they can’t have everything they want.  We talk to them  about saving for trips and for expensive items that we want.  Last year Alex “needed” a Nintendo DS.  He saved his birthday money and Christmas money to get it.  He paid for it with his hard cold cash and to this day he knows where it is and treats it with a lot more care than most other toys.

We’re sharing all of this because over the past year, we’ve gotten soft.  We didn’t get any credit cards or department store cards, but Tony and I haven’t been talking to each other and working together on our Cash Flow Plan.  Money is coming in, but more is going out.  Towards the end of last your we realized that our lack of planning was starting to affect us.  With the start of a new year we decided it was a great time to get back into those “good habits” with our finances.

So, what are we doing?  You can do this too.

  1. Have a conversation with your spouse about your money.  Talk about your financial goals, maybe you want to be debt free or take a vacation or buy a car.  If you don’t know what you are working for how will you know when you get there?
  2. Develop a plan. He who fails to plan, plans to fail.  We’ve all heard it and know its true-without a plan for your money it’s literally going to just disappear.  For years we have had our monthly budget on an excel spreadsheet that we update every month.  We take care of the basics first:  tithing, shelter, food, utilities and health and then the other categories like preschool tuition, vacation, car maintenance etc.  Just recently Tony came across this website PearBudget which allows you to set up and monitor your budget online.  It’s very simple and straightforward and yes, it does have a nominal monthly fee ($3) but I am finding that this is a tool that works well with our lifestyle.  Give it a try to see if it works for your family.  There is a 30 day free trial.
  3. Do it! Don’t just talk about your money and the plan you have for it, live it.  Give yourself a month or 2 to work out the bugs.  Keep trying even if it gets hard.

I can honestly say that the last 7+ years of being debt free have been amazing.  The passion, romance, and intimacy that was missing in the early years of our marriage is back.

How will you change your financial future?  Please share with us what you are doing today to make a difference tomorrow.


7 Days to an On Fire Marriage January 4, 2010

Filed under: marriage,Romance — Tony & Alisa @ 9:55 am
Tags: , , , ,

Each of us desires to be more romantic in our marriage.  You may be in a loving relationship, but you don’t know the first thing about how to romance from the heart. Sure, you can say, “I love you,” just fine, but all those wonderful, romantic ideas just seem to escape you.

Start 2010 on the right foot with you beloved.  Below are 18 ideas that you can do to for your spouse over the next 7 days to set your marriage On Fire.  You can simply follow these 18 ideas or you can adapt the suggestions below to your own nature.   Either way, you will be well on your way to being the true romantic!

Day 1:

1. Leave a note professing your love for your partner to find during the day. Put the note where it will be found, easily. Try their briefcase, the driver’s seat of their car, in their coat pocket, in their lunch bag, taped to the receiver of the phone, taped to their computer, or left taped to a doorknob.

2. As soon as you arrive home for the day seek out your partner and offer a big, loving kiss. Tell your partner how much you love him or her and ask about their day. Make this a new, daily habit.

3. As an alternate idea, when your partner arrives home for the day, take their hand and pull them towards you aggressively. Offer a huge hug, kiss and say, “I missed you today!”

Day 2:

4. While your partner showers, heat up his or her towel in the dryer.

5. Have flowers delivered to partner at work.

6. Surprise your partner by arriving home with their favorite drink, snack, or ice-cream.

Day 3:

7. Arrange for an intimate lunch date with your partner.

8. Afterward, send a virtual card. Tell them how much you enjoyed lunch together.

Day 4:

9. Call your partner in the middle of the day to discuss your romantic plans for that evening.

10. Print out some love coupons (find them on-line) and present them to your partner.

One might say: this entitles loved one to a full-body massage, and sign your name.

Day 5:

11. For the kid in all of us! Use multi-colored, sidewalk chalk to draw a BIG heart in red and write. Print out the words, “I love you” in the middle of the heart. Do this someplace that is prominent such as on your driveway so that when your partner comes home he or she will see it.

12. Cook a favorite meal for your partner and then eat it, slowly, by candlelight.

Day 6:

13. When the weather is best, take a brisk walk through a nature trail with your love and talk about all the reasons why he or she is so special to you.

14. If the weather is dreary, have an indoor picnic. Spend the time together, inside enjoying your favorite board games and just relaxing and talking.

15. Cuddle up in your pj’s and relish a romantic movie together.

Day 7:

16. Just sleep in and cuddle together. Call into work and explain you are “under the weather” and need to rest a bit more before coming in.

17. Make a long list of the many reasons why you love your partner as you do and then have them framed and present it to him or her.

18. If you don’t live together, call your loved one just to say goodnight. Recite a favorite love poem over the phone and end with, “Sweet dreams, until we meet again!”

What can you do this week to romance your loved one?


I Resolve To… January 1, 2010

Filed under: General — Tony & Alisa @ 12:52 pm
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2010 is here and if you are like most people you have thought about your New Year’s Resolution, if not actually making a resolution.

Not surprisingly the top 2 resolutions center on fitness and finance. Why do you think so many gyms see a spike in membership right after the holidays? And with debt from the holidays looming, many say, time and again, that this is the year that they take control of their finances.

These are two excellent subjects for resolutions but what about adding one more, one that really should go before the other two.

This year I resolve to put my relationship with my husband/wife as my #1 priority. I am going to choose my spouse over all of the other “stuff”. This is not to say that you can’t have hobbies or do things without your spouse. Please!  Can you imagine if I told Tony that he couldn’t ride his bike? For those of you who don’t know, Tony is an avid road cyclist who averages about 6000 miles per year. And if I didn’t get out for some me time, YIKES!

What I’m saying is that by choosing to put your spouse first all of the other resolutions will fall into place.  If your relationship is the priority then you will want to look good physically for both of you.  You will also want to be on the same page financially whether it’s getting out of debt or saving for that special trip for the two of you.   Finances are one of the top causes of marital struggles.  Resolve to make your spouse a priority and work through the financial issues in your relationship.

Now that you know what I’m resolving for 2010…what is your New Year’s Resolution?