My favorite episodes from the Work & Play podcast

29 September 2020

Today is a fun day — my first episode as a podcast guest (outside of work) debuts on my dear friend Nancy Ray’s podcast! Though I will likely always feel I’m better able to communicate in writing versus speaking, I was honored to be asked to come on as a guest and hope I did okay! We sure had fun either way :)

Recording live from the floor of my closet!

The episode is focused on camping, but don’t worry if you’re not particularly interested in camping – we touch on lots of other topics like friendship, slow parenting, how Nancy and I first met, the joint trip we hope to take for our 15th camping anniversary, and book and product recommendations. We also, of course, cover many nitty gritty adventuring tips. I hope you give it a listen! I’ll be hearing it alongside y’all for the first time later today – eek!

I mention in the episode that I am a super fan of the podcast, and I didn’t just say that to be nice – I really have listened to all 81 (and counting) episodes of Work & Play with Nancy Ray! I love it for a few reasons:

— Most of the episodes are bite-size – 15-20 minutes. Since I have a limited amount of time to listen in my week, I appreciate that she packs a punch in less time than it takes me to drive to the office.
— Nancy gets specific and practical in her episodes, walking you through, for example, exactly what she writes in her journals, what she does in her morning routine, or the rhythm of her work week. As an Enneagram 5 who craves information and real-life examples, I find this so valuable and instructive! I’m not always going to follow what she does exactly, but it provides food for thought and a different perspective. It reminds me of what I was taught in my poetry classes: that the most personal is the most universal, because we can often more easily see ourselves in the little details than we can in the broad strokes.
— As a host, Nancy is professional but not overly polished. Having had many conversations with her as a friend, I can truly say that listening to an episode is like… having a conversation with a friend :)
— To know Nancy is to love her and admire her. I have learned so much from her about faith, family, friendship, work, marriage, and more in our decade plus of friendship, and I love that listening to her podcast each week helps me learn in a new way!
— Every Tuesday, it’s kind of like spinning the roulette wheel of topics – I never know what’s going to pop up! But selfishly, Nancy’s definition of work and play encompasses everything I’m most interested in, so I’m never disappointed. If you love Em for Marvelous, you’ll probably love the variety of W&P, too :)

Today, in honor of my episode, I thought I’d share a few of my past favorites!

002: Rule of Life
012: 3 Habits to Put Social Media in Its Place
023: The Fear of Becoming a Mom with Katelyn James
025: Work Hard, Sabbath Hard
045: How to Journal
048: Update to Our Dave Ramsey Journey
057: 40+ Mom Hacks for Kids Under 5
058: Raising 6 Kids with Mary Lindsey Blanton
059: Growing Faith in Your Littles
067: Check In: Working One Day a Week
068: 12 Years of Marriage, Part 1 and 069: 12 Years of Marriage, Part 2
081: A New Look at Self Care

Find every episode of the podcast here and feel free to subscribe with your favorite podcast app!

I’d love to hear: if you’re already a fan of Work & Play, which episodes have been your favorite?

P.S. For more on camping, start here. For more with Nancy, check out our How We Do It series, starting here! And hey, if you’re new, welcome!! You can find out more about me and Em for Marvelous right here.

June in June: Volume 5

24 September 2020

Upon watching this video for the first time, my brother-in-law said, “it looks like there’s nothing wrong in the world.” This video was filmed in June 2020 when, to be clear, there were many things wrong in the world (as there always are). But isn’t it a gift to give our little ones a world that is safe and good and kind and lovely? To imprint on them the things we hope they’ll seek out for themselves, and create for other people, for the rest of their lives? I think so. Consider this volume of our annual video a compilation of everything good in our world. I hope you enjoy a peek at our life together!

June in June: 2020 from Emily Thomas on Vimeo.

The password is JUNE.

Ready for a walk down memory lane? See Volume 1Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4. (And just try not to cry a little bit.)

P.S. If you want to make your own video

Marvelous Money: Our net worth meetings

18 September 2020

In honor of our anniversary, I have a relationship-themed Marvelous Money post for you today! (Boy, between this and my post earlier this week, I’m sure leaning hard to the unromantic side of married life for anniversary 8, ha!) Today, I thought I’d tell you a bit about our bi-monthly net worth meetings: what they are, why we have them, why we love them, and why they’re incredibly helpful for our financial progress.

What is a net worth meeting?

A net worth meeting is our chance to review our family’s finances in the big picture. We celebrate progress, check in on our financial goals, discuss challenges and opportunities, and do a bit of nitty-gritty budget upkeep. And, as you might have guessed from the name, we calculate our family’s net worth.

We hold our official net worth meetings every other month, usually in the second weekend of the month unless we’re traveling or otherwise occupied. In this season of our lives, they’re held in the afternoon while the kids are resting, or in the evening.

Tell me more about what you do in this meeting.

Well, first John calls the meeting to order, then we take attendance… j/k j/k. “Net worth” sounds very official, but our meeting is not! Generally, we like to get the small stuff out of the way first by entering any outstanding transactions into our budget doc. (We each have responsibility for entering certain cards and accounts into the doc, which we do about every two weeks, but this is an opportunity to catch up as needed and ask each other any categorizing questions.)

Once the budget is fully up to date, we’ll flip to the “Net Worth” tab of our doc. (For more about the custom Google Doc we use to track our budget, read this post! It’s a bit out of date, but the premise is still the same.) Here’s what it looks like:

Note: these numbers are completely made up, so please do not read anything into them :)

On the left, we’ve listed every single place we have money or an asset. This includes our checking and savings accounts, our IRAs and 401ks, our investment accounts, our kids’ 529 accounts, and our home equity. Yours might include other categories. For us, right now, this is a total of 20 places (I’ve simplified above).

One by one, we log into each of those accounts and enter the current amount as of that date (to be exact, one of us logs in and reads out the totals, the other is the typist). For the home equity line, we simply subtract the remaining principle of our mortgage from the amount we paid for our house to keep things simple. In cell B4, a formula totals everything together – our assets.

In the middle, you can see a column for our liabilities. Currently, this is just our mortgage, but previously we had entries for car loans and student loans. We do the same thing here – log into the account and enter the current number.

All the way to the right, a formula in F4 calculates our net worth – our total assets (B4) minus our total liabilities (E4). We also like to track our more liquid net worth, which for us is our net worth minus our retirement accounts, our HSA, and our home equity. That’s in cell F5.

Next – and this is the highlight of the meeting! – we click over to the tab next door. This tab is called Net Worth Over Time, and for us, it dates back to July 2012 – two months before our wedding, when we began having these meetings! This is what it looks like:

Obviously I have deleted the numbers, though that is our actual chart over the last 8 or so years. This screenshot only shows a fraction of the months we’ve tracked – rows 2-5 scroll and scroll to the right to go all the way back to 2012!

To update this tab, we enter the new numbers for assets, liabilities, net worth, and liquid net worth and then adjust the graph. Generally, it goes up – which is exciting! It’s nice that you’ll see the line go up whether you’re focused on paying down debt or building up savings.

That’s usually the meat of the meeting, but if there’s a challenge or opportunity we want to talk through, this is often a great time to do so. We are comfortable talking about money and it comes up regularly in conversation, so we usually don’t wait for one of these meetings to, say, talk about an upcoming trip or change in our investment strategy, but if you’re newer in the process, using this set aside time for that might be helpful.

Finally, because I know the budget is as up-to-date as it will ever be, I’ll go through it category-by-category to make sure we’re on track for each one, and adjust as necessary (of course, always making sure our total in the ISE is in the black!). Again, for more on how we budget, go here.

Why should I have one of these meetings?

First and foremost, we consider these meetings an opportunity for celebration. They’re a way to recognize the good decisions we’ve made and the willpower we’ve exercised, to cheer ourselves on to do more of those things. Saving money is often not “exciting,” especially over a long timeframe, and so we find it helpful to build in excitement where we can, to keep us motivated for the long haul.

A comment my friend Kelly made years ago on an MM post brought home why this is important. She commented that she often feels like the money she puts into her 401k “isn’t real,” since it’s taken right out of her paycheck and she basically never sees it again. While in some ways this is good (you don’t need or want to be checking in on longterm investments constantly!), you’re also missing out on a chance for motivation if the money you’re saving never becomes real to you. If you see the amount adding up over time, and watch compounding work its magic, you even might be motivated to save MORE!

Second, working toward a goal together is great for a relationship. It gets you on the same team! Whether it’s a money goal or a fitness goal or a trip you’re working toward, feeling unified in the things you want bonds you together. These meetings help with that.

The final and really important reason to have a meeting like this is so that both partners have visibility into the family’s finances. In a very practical sense, they help make sure both partners know what accounts exist, where they are held, how to log into them, and approximately how much money exists and where. No matter how duties are split, everyone should know the basics.

One final point to address: I hope this has been clear throughout this post, but these meetings are not about us counting up our money for the sake of having money. Having money is not evil, but it’s also not the point. For us, the point is freedom – freedom to live and give how we wish, to the best of our ability and for the glory of God. We also believe our money has been entrusted to us, and we want to be wise managers of it. A wise manager checks in and makes adjustments to get the most out of what they have, and these meetings are one way to do that.

Friends, I would love to hear: do you currently have a financial check-in? (And YES, you can totally have one of these if you’re single!) Any questions about our meetings, or requests for a future MM post?

P.S. Building an emergency fund, making a yearly budget, and prioritizing spending versus saving

Banned phrases in our marriage

15 September 2020

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary! Eight years ago today was the most beautiful, crisp, blue sky Saturday in Connecticut we could ever have asked for. I can still feel moments so clearly from that day – literally feel what the air, the dress felt like on my skin. The memories from earlier are clearest: arriving to the Inn for hair and makeup in the dark of the morning, sitting on the bed to copy out my vows onto an index card while the moms and sisters milled around, stepping out of the car at my house, standing on the point in the breeze and sun waiting for portraits to be taken. It was a perfect, beloved day.

The eight years since then have been equally beloved. I am a words girl, and yet words could never express the relationship John and I have, or how precious it is to me. He is my other half, my best friend, the most loving dad, the first person I want to celebrate or cry or dream or do anything else with. He makes everything more fun, he holds everything together. He is principled, loyal, hardworking, smart, generous… I could go on :) God is so very good to have created him and to have brought us together.

And yet, we are still two imperfect people. We leave the dishes in the sink, lose our patience, snap at each other, disagree about how things should be done, argue over whether food in the refrigerator can be eaten. And so today, for this celebration of long-lasting love, I thought I’d share something practical that has been incredibly helpful in our marriage: specifically banning certain phrases.

Like us, I’m guessing you have phrases that, when uttered by your partner, (almost) literally send you through the roof. It’s like you can feel your blood pressure rise, your face redden, maybe some smoke come out of your ears — taking an otherwise level 5 argument to a level 10 in a snap. We have two:

The first: “What is wrong with you?” Which is usually expressed more like, “what is wrong with you?!?!?” This needles us, I think, because it implies that WHO WE ARE is the problem, not what we are doing or thinking.

The second: any variation of “calm down” or “relax” – because obviously, those are the least calming or relaxing words in the English language, and the last thing you want to hear when you are decidedly not calm nor relaxed.

For you, it’s probably other phrases. Maybe you can think of yours right now :)

Once we realized that these phrases had a unique ability to explode arguments, we simply decided to ban them. And for several years, we have, to great effect. Of course, we still get into arguments, but this simple change has helped us work through them in a more productive way and left us less bruised in the process. In fact, if one of us lets one slip on accident, they actually now serve as something of a pressure release valve, taking down the temperature a few notches.

How comforting it is that the smallest changes can make such big differences even in relationships as grand and complicated as marriage! Whether things seem hard or easy in yours right now, never hesitate to move the needle just a little bit in the right direction. It will make a difference.

Now, of course, I would love to hear: what is the phrase that is (or should be) banned in your relationship? :)

All photos by Tanja Lippert, who is the literal best. I opened up the folder to choose a few images for this post and didn’t get past our wedding morning – then thought it might be fun to share a few “behind the scenes” snaps. After all, after eight years, you’ve seen all the glamour shots already :)

P.S. Observations on our first anniversary and putting on our work clothes