9 Helpful Tips To Fix an Overdraft Problem in Your Checking Account

Overdraft Square

Let’s admit it. We all have, at some point, looked at our bank account or updated our check register and realized we are in the red. If you have never had this happen, congratulations and move on with your amazing life. As for the rest of us, this is a scary situation to be in and I must confess, I have been there more than once.

Luckily, I have matured a little through the years and although money is still tight in my family, we are getting better at staying out of the red altogether. Here are a couple of tips to both avoid getting in the red and how to get out quick if you happen to find yourself there.

How to Avoid Dropping “Into the Red” in your Checking Account

1. Keep a detailed list of deposits and transactions


Enter YNAB. I have written an entire post about why I love YNAB, which is a budgeting software. One of the great features is the ability to track all of your spending. Remember those old school check registers that we used to use to keep on top of how much was in our checking account? YNAB allows you to do essentially the same thing via your computer or smartphone. This has been a lifesaver for me and I have faithfully recorded every transaction since the beginning of last year.

Some people fall into the trap of only using online banking to check their account balance and fail to record their spending. I would bet I’m not the only one who, while adopting that philosophy, spent money when my online banking said I had it in my account, only to overdraft later because something hadn’t gone through yet. DON’T TRUST YOUR ACCOUNT BALANCE FROM ONLINE BANKING!

Most of us have automatic payments set up for most of our bills, some of us still use checks on occasion, and some pending transactions don’t show the true amount for a couple of days. All of these things make it difficult to budget your spending based on what your online banking shows. The best way to get around this is to keep your own records. It really isn’t as difficult as you may think. If you don’t want to use a budgeting software there are many free check register apps that are helpful too.

Of course best practices would include to record transactions on the spot, which is why a mobile app is helpful. However, life is busy and there are days when I don’t record anything. This is when I first wrack my brain to remember what I paid for and then use my online banking to double check. If I get gas and it shows as a pending transaction on my online banking, I can usually remember about how much it was. I will record that number and flag it so I can remember to check back later, when the transaction is cleared in my account, I adjust the amount as needed. This helps me stay on top of my spending and always know how much is ACTUALLY in my account and not just what the bank SAYS is in my account right now. I always look at my numbers when deciding how much money I have left, not my online account balance. This helps to keep us out of the red.

2. Round your transactions

When recording your transactions, round the amount up to the nearest dollar. When recording your deposits, round down to the nearest dollar. This is helpful in two ways. 1) You are always dealing with even dollar amounts and 2) You create a small cushion of savings. When recording your transaction for your trip to Walmart where you spent $100.57, record it as $101. When entering your paycheck for $829.78, record it as $829. This makes recording and calculating much easier, as you don’t have to deal with change. Think of it as a change collector.

We have a mason jar where we keep most of our extra change and I sometimes dig through it when I go to the car wash or something. This is essentially the same thing. Instead of accounting for every penny, forget you even have it and round your transactions. Throw the change in an invisible mason jar and feel good about the fact you are building a small cushion in your checking account to avoid overdrafts. This is another reason to record your transactions because your bank account will always say you have more than your records say you do. Trust your records and you’ll be fine.

3. Build an emergency fund

Emergency Fund2

This is a no-brainer but apart from your invisible mason jar, you want to set aside money in some kind of easy-access emergency fund. This helps to avoid going over your budget when you blow out a tire on your car one day or forget you have your amazon prime yearly subscription due this month and you don’t have that money budgeted. You can build it little by little. Making this step automatic is even better. If your job allows for direct deposit to more than one account, take advantage of that and set it up for a certain percentage to go into a savings account to build up that emergency fund. In just two years, you can save $1,000 with only $42 a month going into that account. If you get paid biweekly, that’s only $21 a paycheck!

4. Set up overdraft protection

This is the last option because I’ve come to find out that this doesn’t necessarily avoid paying fees. Most banks now charge a fee if they have to transfer money from your savings account or transfer transactions from your checking account to a credit card in cases of overdraft. It’s good to have this set up as a precaution but remember to include the other steps above in order to avoid problems in the first place. If you completely fail to check your account balance one day or by the time you check it the banks are closed, this would be a great protection. The fees associated are most likely much less than the alternative of insufficient funds fees.

What To Do Immediately If You “Drop Into the Red”

1. Start a spending freeze

Spending Freeze2

If you’re in the red, please do not continue to spend money. Insufficient funds fees are usually based on the number of transactions overdrawn. The minute you find out you’re in the red, freeze all spending in your family. That means letting your spouse know it’s NOT ok to buy a coke on their way home from work and you will have to cancel your hair appointment that day.

,Challenge yourself to only cook what you already have in the house for dinner this week, until your next paycheck. You may need to contact your utility company, cell phone provider, or any other bills that are scheduled to come out of that checking account between now and your next paycheck. Many companies will work with you if you let them know you’ve run into a small financial crisis and many times they will allow you to pay your bill a little late with little to no penalty.

2. Deposit cash or directly transfer from savings

If you check your account daily, which you should, you will see those red numbers and should act immediately. If you’re quick and you check it in the morning, you can deposit cash or directly transfer from your savings account within the same bank to cover the deficit in your account. Most banks, I believe, will waive the fees associated with overdrafting from your checking account if the problem is taken care of immediately. Depositing a check will not take care of that immediately. It must be cash or direct transfer within the same bank.

3. Raid your house for things to sell

Yard Sale2

If you don’t have the cash…or savings…or mason jar of change…raid your house for things to sell quickly. Do you have something you meant to return to the store but haven’t yet? Get your butt to the store, with the receipt hopefully, for a cash refund. What can you part with at home that you could sell quickly? There are usually many facebook groups where you can sell things locally and if you do it right, you could sell it the same day and deposit that money right away. In Utah we also have KSL classified ads where you can sell things online, or there’s always craigslist. Get real about things you don’t necessarily need and let somebody else benefit from them while saving your financial butt.

4. Do a service for quick compensation

A while back while chatting with my sister about having to replace the transmission in our truck and wondering how that was going to be possible with our budget at the time, she quickly said, “Oh hey! I’ll pay you $100 to finish painting my furniture I started!” She gave me the money right then and it took me a few days to finish her furniture.

Maybe you don’t have a gracious sister like I do but I bet you have a neighbor who could use your help in clearing the leaves and debris from their yard. Or I once heard of a young man going door-to-door offering the disgusting service of washing out your city garbage bin for 20 bucks. The point is, people are willing to help you if you let them know you need it. I wouldn’t recommend borrowing money if at all possible. That can drive a rift between you and the ones you love. Instead, ask if there’s anything you can do to help them out and receive a little compensation in return.

5. Work on avoiding these situations in the future

There are small changes you can make to totally avoid ever going through this again in the future. I rarely overdraft in my account anymore but I do sometimes “overdraft” according to my own records. This is when my online banking shows I have $500 but according to my records, I’m negative $78. It’s sometimes easy to let that slide because I know I have an invisible cushion from rounding my transactions and it’s unlikely I will really overdraft in my checking account. However, I try to treat these “overdrafts” just as I would a real one with insufficient funds fees from the bank.

Let’s quickly recap: First and foremost, avoid these problems by keeping meticulous records (and by meticulous I mean rounding your transactions ) saving money, and setting up overdraft protection as a last resort. If you end up in this situation of “being in the red” start a spending freeze and deposit cash or directly transfer from savings immediately to cover the deficit. If you don’t have anything to deposit, get some cash by selling stuff or working for it. It’s that simple folks.

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So…what are you going to do differently to avoid these situations? Or if you find yourself there now, what are you going to do to get out of it?

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Depression: 4 Ways to Boost Your Physical Health

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**As always, these ideas are merely suggestions and if you feel you might have depression, talk to your doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat any kind of mental or physical illness. 

Don’t you hate it when you go to the doctor, for anything really, and the answer they give you is: diet and exercise? I swear every single doctor I saw during my “dark days” told me to exercise and eat right. I would stare at them blankly like, “What? You want me to workout and meal plan when I can’t even muster the strength to get out of bed to go to work or school?”

I wish I could tell you that I found a way to get myself to exercise and eat right when I was deeply depressed but I can’t. Even though I knew, intuitively, that those things would make me feel better I literally felt incapable of making myself do it. However, hindsight is 20/20 and now that I’m out of the “black hole” I can see some options and ideas that I didn’t try. I have used these ideas to prevent me from getting depressed.

It took the right medication to pull me out of that dark place in order for me to feel capable of making changes to my diet and movement. But if you find yourself starting to slip into that dark place, these few ideas might be your first line of defense. Don’t ever forget how very connected your mind and body are. Taking care of your body will in turn, help take care of your mind.

1. Exercise


I have had to consciously work on my attitude toward exercise. For a long time I didn’t count it as exercise unless it was a long run or an exhausting trip to the gym.

My new definition is “moving with motivation.” This means, hoofing it up and down my stairs to do my laundry totally counts. I love to take walks even though I didn’t use to consider it exercise. I don’t necessarily sweat that much and it doesn’t usually make me sore afterwards but it absolutely gives life to my body. Being out in the sunshine and fresh air is a definite plus. 

If you can find a buddy to just walk with you, it will give you even more reason to get out. Just be careful you don’t ask someone who is going to make you feel worse than you already do. Instead, think about someone you know who could be compassionate and if you try to bail on a walk, that will be helpful and encouraging instead of critical and judgmental. 

2. Healthy Eating

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Eating healthy is extremely difficult for someone who feels depressed because again, if you can’t hardly get out of bed how are you going to prepare a meal? The pressure to take care of our families can bring with it an added layer of failure that we feel when instead of cooking healthy meals at home, we resort to McDonalds or pizza just about every night of the week.

Instead of spending that money on take out or expensive pre-made meals at the store that are mostly junk, what if you just hired someone for a little while to cook for you and your family until you’re able to feel a little better? I doubt it would cost as much as you think it would. I’m positive it will cost less than eating out every night.

You could put up a quick ad on Facebook, KSL, craigslist, etc. Or, if that seems like too much work, ask a friend or family member if you could hire them to cook twice the amount they would for dinner to help you care for your family while you’re going through this tough time.

Chances are, they’ll want to do it out of the kindness of their hearts but if there is any way for you to afford it, I would suggest you insist on paying them. Paying them will get you around that feeling of being a burden and help you offer work to someone who could benefit from the extra money. As a bonus, hopefully the healthier food will help you work your way out of a slump. 

3. Sufficient Sleep

sufficient sleep2

Everybody responds to depression differently. Some don’t get enough sleep while others oversleep. The trick is getting sufficient sleep, not too little and not too much.

I was an over-sleeper. I could sometimes sleep for 14-16 hours a day. That’s equivalent to the amount of time we should be awake in a day! The result was constantly feeling groggy and wanting to escape my life by going back to sleep. Now that I have kids, that would never be an option. Although I have at times, gone through the day half asleep and hardly moved from the couch. 

Just like any other habit, creating a routine and sticking to it is key. Explain to your family how important it is for you to get to bed at a certain time and enlist the help of everybody to make it happen. Follow good sleep habits to ensure you get to bed and have the best chance of falling asleep on time. Then create a morning routine and give yourself an appealing reason to get up on time.

My new favorite alarm is an app called Kiwake and it literally makes it impossible for you to miss it, skip it, snooze it, or otherwise ignore it. It makes sure you’re totally awake and annoys you to the point that you have to be. Works for me!

If you can get out of bed before anyone else, try doing something you love during that alone time. Savor it to take care of you emotionally. Whether this is when you take your walk, read, write, paint, or dance around the kitchen, it doesn’t matter. Just pick something that excites you and makes getting out of bed easier.

4. Light Therapy

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Sometimes all we need to feel a little better is to head outside and let the sun’s rays boost our mood. For me, nothing brightens my day more than just being outside for a little while. It is proven that sunlight boosts our serotonin levels which helps lift our mood.

For some of us, the struggle with depression worsens during the winter months when the days are shorter and the amount of sunlight in a day drops significantly. Especially in a place like Utah where the sub-freezing temperatures keep us from heading outside most days. I know for me, cold temperatures exacerbate my anxiety which can lead me to hunker down indoors during the winter as much as possible. This doesn’t do much for my mood though and has a tendency to lead to depression.

When I returned to Utah after living in Texas for a couple of years, it was a huge climate change. I came home and went straight to the coldest place in Utah to go to school, probably a 70 degree drop in temperature from the sunny Texas weather. Clearly I didn’t think about this ahead of time.

I noticed myself slowly slipping back into the attitude of wanting to stay in bed instead of walk the five blocks to school in the snow and ice. One day after grocery shopping I saw an advertisement for a tanning salon and it occurred to me that all I wanted in the world in that moment was to be warm and to feel the sun on my skin. Against my better judgement I signed up for a punch card.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate tanning beds, we all know they can ruin our skin and give us cancer. But let me tell you, those tanning bed sessions that winter were like a healing salve to my anxious-ridden soul. It was a combination of the warmth and the light that saved me.

Since then, I have done some research and found a much healthier option. I had heard of light therapy for people with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but didn’t realize you can buy these light boxes and have one in your home. Basically, it is a small-ish box that you can place on a table and sit in front of it for 30 minutes while it fills your eyes with light. You aren’t supposed to actually look into it but rather do something else while sitting there such as get ready, read, write, crochet, whatever. 

They don’t emit the harmful UV rays but have been proven to lift people’s mood, especially during the darker months. I haven’t tried one yet but I told my husband this is a must have for next winter. 

When our bodies are taken care of it is much easier for the mind to think rationally and to pull ourselves out of a slump. Sometimes we need medication or other therapy to get us to that point. If we consciously take care of ourselves by moving regularly, eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, and getting outside (or at least in front of a light) we can strengthen our mind/body connection and hopefully avoid some of those traps that lead us down the rabbit hole of depression. 

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Have you seen a difference in your mood when you take care of your body in these 4 ways? Which one affects you the most and how do you make it a priority even when you don’t feel like it?

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Carnitas Tacos: Easy Crockpot Recipe

Carnitas Square

I have an unhealthy obsession with tacos. I think moving home to Utah from Texas has made it worse. That’s probably because of the scarcity of real, authentic tacos. Since I can’t run down the street to El Tio’s Taqueria anymore where our good friend Rogelio dishes us up some amazing tacos al pastor, I’ll have to make do at home.

When I first started making carnitas it was a little bit of a disaster. I didn’t really know what I was doing but tried following several different recipes online and came up sorely disappointed. Most of the time, they just tasted like dry, plain meat. 

Then we found this amazing restaurant in Salt Lake City called The Red Iguana. Ok, if you live in Utah and don’t know about this place, I’m about to blow your mind. There are two locations right off of North Temple and please, go there. Like now. I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like yet. My husband is suuuper picky about Mexican food here in the states but he loves this place. It’s kind of like gourmet Mexican food if you ask me. And The Red Iguana gave me the secret ingredient to their AMAZING carnitas.

First, I suppose I ought to clarify. Carnitas means “Little meats” which is funny to me because that’s what I used to call diced ham at salad bars when I was little. I loved the “little meats” on my salad. And carnitas are also little pieces of pork but oh so much better than plain ham.

So my husband ordered the carnitas at The Red Iguana one time and told me, “You have to try these. They’re amazing!” He was right. They were so amazing that I asked for a menu again just so I could read the description of the carnitas to see if it provided any clue as to how they make them. Sure enough, right there in the description it said, “Tender pieces of succulent pork cooked in it own juices, with spices and orange pulp, then fried with beer and a hint of milk.” 

It sounds so exotic and strange doesn’t it? Who fries pork with orange pulp, beer, and milk? Smart Mexicans do apparently.

So I got back to my kitchen and started experimenting some more. We don’t have beer just lying around and I don’t like to buy special ingredients for one dish so I omitted it and it’s still delicious. But the orange and milk thing I did experiment with. I’m all about convenience and less trips to the grocery store. Since I don’t buy oranges very often (maybe I would if I lived in Florida or California but it’s hard to come by a juicy orange here in Utah) I used store-bought orange juice. 

And please, don’t be afraid of the bacon grease. We all cook with fat and sometimes bacon grease is really the only fat that gets the job done. I rarely waste the stuff and usually keep it in a mason jar in the fridge for just such occasions as making carnitas. And flour tortillas. It’s like my secret weapon. 

Carnitas Closeup

This is my own version of carnitas and we all love it! Me, my kids, my extended family, and even my husband. Let me assure you that if my husband loves it, it’s approved. He’s not shy about telling me where my cooking lands on his scale of “real Mexican food.” He has told me on a number of occasions that it’s too sweet because I added too much orange juice. The other night I made them again and after taking a bite he looked up and said, “That’s it.” 

There’s a lot of freedom here and I never measure of course so trying to pinpoint an exact measurement is extremely difficult. I’m going to give you some ballpark figures and you’re going to experiment on your own, mmmkay? 

My American family likes more orange juice because they like a sweeter meat. My husband turns his nose up at sweet meat and thinks Americans have ruined their pork by adding coke, brown sugar, orange marmalade and all other abominations. My family likes the meat crispier and my husband thinks it dries it out. So, you can’t please everybody. I think I’m leaning more toward my husband’s side though. Too much orange juice will make it too sweet and you lose the actual flavor of the meat. At that point, it won’t taste Mexican. If you’re ok with that, go on ahead. These are your carnitas. 

Oh, have I mentioned yet that this recipe is so stinking easy?! That’s hard to come by when it comes to Mexican food. I don’t know what it is but it feels like real Mexican food takes a lot of time and a lot of sides. That’s what’s so great about these. You’ll want to garnish your tacos with the following, and only the following if you want to be a real Mexican like me :

  • Finely diced white onion
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Splash of fresh lime juice
  • Salsa

The crockpot is your friend for this one. The slow cooking of the pork is what makes it so “succulent” as the Red Iguana likes to describe it. I love that you can throw it in in the morning if you’ve got a busy day ahead of you and fry it up when you get back home. Done and done. You can easily chop the onion and cilantro while the meat fries up and the salsa, well we always have some in the fridge. If you’re really short on time, use some store-bought although we all know, nothing compares to homemade salsa. I have a different one I usually use for tacos that is more taqueria-style but this one I’ve already posted works just fine, especially if you omit the onion and cilantro.

That’s it guys! This is a meal all on its own! I can’t wait for you to try it and for it to blow your mind. Don’t forget to let me know how it goes and if it delivered, which I’m sure it will 

Easy Crockpot Carnitas Tacos
Serves 4
Super easy crockpot recipe that delivers tender, shredded pork tacos with just a hint of sweet.
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  1. 3-4 pound shoulder blade or butt pork roast
  2. 4 tbsp. bacon grease
  3. 1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
  4. 1 tsp. black pepper
  5. 1 tsp. dried oregano
  6. 1/2 cup orange juice
  7. 1/4 cup milk
  8. Corn tortillas
  9. 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  10. 1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  11. 1 lime, quartered
  12. salsa
  1. Grease the bottom and sides of your crockpot with a little bacon grease. Cut up the roast into 2 inch chunks and add the meat, salt, pepper, oregano, and the rest of the bacon grease to the crockpot. Let cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender and easily pulls apart. Shred the meat with two forks while in the crockpot.
  2. Working in batches if necessary, add enough of the crockpot liquid and meat to cover the bottom of a large frying pan. While frying over medium high heat, add orange juice, milk, and more salt if necessary. Stir frequently to keep the orange juice and milk from burning in the pan. Continue to fry meat for about 5-10 minutes or until there are some crispy pieces throughout. After tasting the fried meat, decide if you want to add more orange juice or not.
  3. To assemble tacos, heat up corn tortillas on a griddle with a tiny bit of bacon grease. For a sturdier taco use two tortillas per taco. Add meat, chopped onion, cilantro, lime juice, more salt if desired, and salsa for garnish.
  1. Adjust measurements of seasonings, orange juice, and milk according to your desired preference.
Count the Happies http://countthehappies.com/

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Tell me, where is your favorite place to eat carnitas? What other kinds of tacos do you drool over? 

Signature Yellow2 



8 Tips to Keeping Your Home Smelling Fresh


I live in a really tiny house. We call it the “circle house” because you can literally walk in a circle and go through every room; they are all connected. The problem this poses for me is the fact that bad smells travel quickly. For a girl like me with a hyper-sensitive nose, it drives me berserk!

I love to cook and I especially like to try new things. My husband calls them “inventions” or “experiments” as if I’m some mad scientist or something. I try to explain that I’m rarely coming up with something out of the blue, it’s usually a new recipe I’m following. Like the Chicken Pad Thai Catastrophe of 2011.

After a month of painstakingly searching the entire state for all the ingredients, including fish sauce, I was incredibly disappointed when it turned out to be a revolting disaster. I kept thinking the smell of the fish sauce would subside and meld with all the other flavors in the dish. A couple from church stopped by to say hello as we were gagging while dumping the entire pan of slimy noddles and stinky fish sauce into the trash can. I’m sure they regretted that visit but I am also sure they were warned the second they opened their car door.

Or there was the regrettable “fat-rendering in the crockpot” idea. It hadn’t occurred to me that putting a paper towel under the lid to absorb the condensation would cause the beef lard to burn. When I pulled up in my driveway after being gone for almost 10 hours, I thought my house was burning down! I’m lucky it didn’t.

I had to open all the windows and doors, take the smoking crockpot outside, which I’m sure my neighbors really appreciated, and leave for a couple of hours. I had to wash every blanket, pillow, and swatch of fabric in my entire house. 

For brevity’s sake let’s just conclude that I have some experience trying to get bad smells out of my house. These are two extreme examples but there is the everyday problem that every meal I cook seems to permeate the entire house. Without a ventilation system in my kitchen or even a range hood, the smell of bacon or any kind of frying oil is destined to lurk about my house and offend my nostrils until the next meal takes over.

I have tried every way imaginable to minimize odors or try to eliminate them after the fact. Let me share with you what have turned out to be my best practices to keep your home smelling fresh and inviting.

Keep the kitchen clean

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Prevention is key in keeping bad smells from taking over. Here are a few ideas to keep on top of it.

1. Food

The longer an odor is allowed to sit and steep, the more it is able to permeate. Common sense tells you to get that crap out immediately! I have started using a little bucket as my “garbage bowl” when I cook. When I cut up strong-smelling foods like onions, garlic, or fish I throw the scraps into my garbage bucket and set it outside until I’m finished cooking and I can take it to the outside garbage.

Getting rid of (aka taking outside, not throwing in your trash can) frying oil or grease as soon as you finish cooking will slow the spread of that wretched smell significantly. I empty the grease into a mason jar and take it outside.

It is also wise to make sure you put the leftovers in a container and in the fridge as soon as possible. It keeps your house from stinking up and it keeps you from getting salmonella the next day. So, win/win.

I suppose it also goes without saying that we should empty our garbages often.

2. Dishes

We like to have a big breakfast on Sundays with bacon, eggs, and sometimes pancakes before we go to church. Usually what happens though is I’m in a big hurry to get breakfast cooked and eaten so I can get ready, which causes me to leave the clean up until we get back. I love the smell of bacon when it’s cooking but the after smell of bacon…gag 

Washing your dishes as you go not only helps the cleanup process go much quicker but it also helps to get rid of those food smells before they unpack their bags and decide to stay a while. 

3. Surfaces/Appliances

Quickly wiping up spills and messes on your stove, table, and countertops keeps bacteria from growing and disturbing your fresh smelling kitchen.

However, if you’re not washing those rags and towels daily, you’re just spreading nasty bacteria all over your surfaces. Please, for the love of all that is holy, change out your dish rags daily

If you are regularly cleaning out your fridge, oven, and microwave you won’t have to deal with those mystery smells that are difficult to get rid of. Keep an opened box of baking soda in your fridge to absorb strong smells and change it out monthly. To quickly clean your microwave, put a small bowl of equal parts water and vinegar with lemon wedges in and turn it on for 2 minutes. Then let it sit for 2 more minutes. When you open it to clean it out, the walls will be full of condensation and will have soaked the stuck on junk to make it easier to wipe out. 

Cleaning your garbage disposal regularly is an easy thing to do and will prevent bacteria from building up down there. Just throw in some ice cubes and lemon wedges weekly to break up stuck on food and kill the nasty stuff. Rinse, with the water and disposal turned on for a couple of minutes to make sure all the junk clears the pipes.

Get rid of lingering smells

4. Vinegar

Vinegar is our magical tool when it comes to getting rid of really bad smells. I had read that putting out a bowl of vinegar in your kitchen and letting it sit overnight got rid of bad smells but I thought it was pretty far-fetched. So I decided to try it. I went a step further and laid out several bowls, one on my stove, one on my table, and one near my sink. It smelled like vinegar for the next 15 minutes or so but then magically, that smell disappeared and the bad smell started to fade. Pretty amazing if you ask me. Vinegar is like the all-purpose cleaner and deodorizer and is a whole lot safer than bleach. I am pretty stocked up on vinegar right now as he has become my new BFF when it comes to cleaning.

If the smell still doesn’t go away you could try heating up the vinegar mixed with equal parts water and some citrus peels on the stove for a couple of hours.

5. Febreeze

I always keep a couple of cans of febreeze air effects in my cleaning arsenal. It is a quick and easy way to spray around your house and although it doesn’t work like magic, it certainly helps the situation. If I walk in and my house smells like the Malt Shop where I used to work, I take several trips around this little circle house, continuously spraying my febreeze and usually notice it keeps the odor monster at bay. Then I can get down to business and see what, of the above steps, I haven’t implemented. 

Keeping it smelling fresh


6. Ventilate

My little house gets so stuffy in the winter and just starts to smell stale. I have started opening a window in every room in the mornings, no matter how cold, to let the air move around a little. 

Also, when I cook, I open the kitchen windows and turn on the ceiling fan. Getting some air flowing through the house keeps those unpleasant odors from sticking around and keeps a constant flow of fresh air moving around.

7. Plants

My husband can testify I’m not very good at this one. I love the idea of having lots of live plants in my house because hello, they’re constantly breathing fresh oxygen into your space. However, I tend to kill anything green that sets leaf in my house. He has finally, after almost 7 years of marriage, resorted to buying me regular flowers that will die anyway instead of potted plants.

I am going to try it again, starting with a small herb garden. Basil, rosemary, mint, oh my! Can you imagine how delicious it’s going to smell? 

8. Smellies

I have an entire drawer in my kitchen, I’m not exaggerating, dedicated to keeping all my little scented wax packages. I have a wax warmer in 3 of the 5 separate spaces in my house. Basically, you can’t walk more than 20 steps in my house without coming across a wax warmer. 

I have also used wall plugins, candles, and an essential oil diffuser. All these things can help transform your home into a delightfully smelling haven. I can’t express the feeling I have when I walk into my house and it smells fresh and clean. It busts my anxiety like nothing else. 

Don’t underestimate the power of the sense of smell and the effect it can have on the overall feeling of your home. Making a few small changes when it comes to your cooking and cleaning habits will have your home smelling superb in no time.

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Depression: My Story

Depression My Story

There are some demons we fight that never leave bruises, cuts, broken bones, or other physical signs of struggle. These are sometimes the most difficult to overcome. They usually leave us feeling alone, inside our own minds, with nothing and no one to comfort us.

As a young child, I witnessed some things that I pray my children never have to see. Some of those images cannot be erased from my memory. I still have nightmares about them. I still find myself having to catch my breath when I see or hear something that reminds me of those experiences. I cannot write about this without getting emotional because it is something that has so deeply affected my mind and heart.

I have decided to share these experiences not to scare people, convince them to feel sorry for me, or make them feel uncomfortable around me. I share them with the hope of raising awareness about the reality of mental illness and hopefully offer some comfort to those currently in the trenches, fighting to get help.

In a strange way I am almost grateful for my experiences. I have learned some important skills that have turned out to be very useful. Because of that, I have a better understanding of how to teach my children those skills without them having to experience what I did. I also hope that I can be some kind of resource or encouragement for people going through similar struggles. This was a big part of the reason I wanted to start this blog.

I have seen many therapists and been on many different medications throughout my life. Just last year I was working with a therapist who diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the many symptoms of this much larger problem is anxiety and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows the results of a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the year 2014. It shows that 15.7 million U.S. adults suffered at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. That is 6.7% of all U.S. adults. When you consider how devastating and even dangerous this disorder can be, that is a huge number of people. 

Looking even deeper, the NIMH states that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, including an estimated 10-15 percent of women who, after giving birth, experience postpartum depression. This is a serious problem and deserves our attention in order to bring more awareness, understanding, and better treatment for those who suffer from it.

My depression and anxiety started as a young girl with odd, obsessive and compulsive behavior. In my unpredictable and turbulent world I was fighting for some control. As a result, I developed some tendencies that I still struggle with today including compulsive overeating and binge eating, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, a disproportionate desire to please other people, and severe anxiety in situations where I do not feel safe or in control.

I also experienced physical symptoms that were aggravated by anxiety. These included bedwetting, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which brought with it a whole slew of digestive problems including extremely painful colon spasms.

I used to think about how much I wished my symptoms showed up as bruises and broken bones because at least people would be aware of my struggle and maybe they would be more understanding and I wouldn’t feel so alone in my own head.

After escaping the dangerous environment of my early childhood, I went through the rest of my young life, being embarrassed about my past and my “issues” but managed to cope enough to get by and live a fairly normal life. I would occasionally go through downtimes and see a therapist for a while, even try different medications but nothing ever seemed to help and most medications caused side effects I couldn’t deal with.

After decent success in high school in my many endeavors I received an excellent scholarship to the college of my choice. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend the university I had dreamed of but knew I could never afford. I set out on my own, with total confidence and thinking I had control over my mind and my life. Little did I know, I was on a straight path to total breakdown.

After some unfortunate and traumatic experiences that brought me back to feeling like a scared child again, hiding in my closet, I barely survived my first year of school. It was suddenly brought to my attention that maybe I had made a bad decision. I was completely and totally overwhelmed and my anxiety was on full force. As a result, the deep depression I fell into was an act in the story of my life I hardly even remember. Most days, I didn’t so much as get out of bed.

My roommates would try to encourage me in different ways. Sometimes they would do it lovingly, other times more direct and offensively. One roommate in particular felt it necessary to add insult to injury when she nonchalantly commented one day while we were all in the kitchen, “I can’t stand people who waste their scholarships. I have to pay my own way through school and so I work hard to get good grades. Yet there are people who have scholarships where someone else is paying for it and they don’t even go to class.”

Of course what she said was true. But that didn’t help motivate me. In fact, it made me feel even more guilty and more worthless and…more tired. So I went back to bed.

I would sometimes wake up hysterical and crying and want to punch myself to wake me up out of this fog I was in. It was incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Some days I lost the will to live but was too exhausted to do anything about it.

As a result of all of this, I lost my scholarship, my acceptance at the school, my job, and my entire identity. I slowly sunk into what felt like a never-ending hole that I would never be able to get out of. I can see, while many people absolutely cannot, how there are people in this world who feel like taking their life is the only way out.

Black hole2

It is difficult for many to understand why we depressed people just can’t see the brighter side of things. When you’re in the hole of depression, everything looks black. You don’t see the entrance nor do you see the exit. Your biggest fear is that you are stuck in that black hole, with only your own terrifying thoughts, forever. You begin to feel that everyone in your life would be better off if you just weren’t here. They could move on and stop depending on you and being disappointed when you don’t get out of bed and show up. They could stop worrying about how to help you.

Luckily, I have an amazing mother who finally got to the bottom of my aloofness and realized I was in a very dark place. She suggested I move home in order to try to get back on my feet.

Moving home saved my life. I was once again in my “safety zone” and my anxiety was turned down tremendously. I had to start over essentially. I started over at a different, much smaller school, with good friends from my childhood who buoyed me up and helped me climb out of that black hole.

Turning my focus back to my faith in God was vital in my transformation. Although I had never lost it completely, I relearned how the atonement of Jesus Christ can help us overcome absolutely anything, including climbing out of the black hole of depression.

Through therapy with the right therapist and finally a medication that actually helped, I was able to rebuild my life. Soon after, I graduated with my associate’s degree and decided to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

My mission was truly the highlight of my life up to that point. I was extremely apprehensive about my ability to stick it out the entire 18 months because I knew it was another drastic change, taking me out of my “safety zone”. Fortunately, and much to my surprise, I was able to manage my anxiety and depression by continuing with my medication and learning to rely on my Savior. I made many new friends and learned more about my relationship with my Savior and myself than I ever could have otherwise. It was life-changing and prepared me more for the rest of my life than any other experience.

It is also because of my mission that I was able to meet my husband.

Dating had never been a big thing for me. I never really had a steady boyfriend and frankly, trusting men was never something I felt like I could do. I felt incredibly anxious around them and an unhealthy obligation to please them. I enjoyed having guy friends but could never allow them the privilege of holding my heart because I knew how fragile it was, especially in the hands of a man.

Somehow my husband convinced me otherwise. I fell in love with him as a person before I ever fell in love with him as an eternal mate. I respected him in a way I had never respected any other man. All that he had been through made me admire his strength and I felt safe in his presence. He became my new “safety zone.”


Since marrying my husband I was able to successfully wean myself off my medication. I am not convinced that I will never need it again but I am committed to going without it as long as I possibly can. I have learned new and more effective coping skills to deal with my anxiety and am more aware of that downward spiral that quickly leads to the black hole of depression. With my excellent support system that includes my husband, my kids, and my close-knit family, I have been mostly successful without depending on medication.

This month I would like to create a series about depression and hopefully offer some help to both the victims of depression and the loved ones of those victims. Depression is kind of a general symptom of many mental illnesses. It is different for everybody and there are all different kinds, causes, and levels of severity.

Please note that I am not qualified, nor would I ever claim to be, to offer advice or treatment for people suffering from mental illness. I only offer my story, strategies that have worked for me, and the always undercurrent counsel to seek professional help. Therapy and medication were what essentially saved me when I was in the depths of depression and I would always encourage anybody I know in similar situations to seek counsel from a doctor or therapist.

The topics I intend to cover this month are warning signs of depression, strategies to keep you from going down that rabbit hole, advice for loved ones trying to help, and hopefully some strategies that might help people who suffer from anxiety that tends to lead to depression. Again, professional therapy and medication are often necessary and very helpful and I am not against them in any way. If you or a loved one is suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please talk to your doctor.

I hope you will join me in the fight against mental illness by being more open in our communication about it. It is scary to talk about our thoughts and what we feel when we are in the depths of these things but it is the most secure way to climb out of it as well. I hope what I share this month will either help encourage you personally or that you will share it with someone you believe might be encouraged by it.

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Do you or someone you know suffer from depression and/or anxiety? What has been your experience and what has helped you?

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