Dear Diary...Facing My Student Loan Debt






Dear Diary,


Have you ever been so overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty that is paralyzes you with inaction? Knowing the problem will never go away, but you still remain in denial or want to run away from your problems.

We have all been there at some point in our lives. While the issues at hand may vary, each and everyone of us has faced obstacles and difficulties. How we deal with those uncertainties are as individual as we are as people.

Over the summer, I made the decision to finally face my student loan debt, as my deferment reached it's limit and Uncle Sam would be wanting his money back, that I have been accruing interest on since I signed my first student loan at Northeastern University in Boston back in 1996.

Going to all private universities, minus the college I eventually earned my bachelors degree from, including undergraduate and graduate school, wasn't exactly affordable. Tuition was outrageous, but I was still determined to get my fancy pants degrees.

Hindsight has taught me that no one cares what college I went to and getting into stupid loan debt was not the wisest decision. Some of my closest loved ones never went to college and they have ZERO debt. I am pretty sure they were the smart ones. I just have a piece of paper that said I have a degree. UGH. We live. We learn.

I have over $100,000 loans in student loan debt. You read that right. I didn't add an extra zero. It's crazy I know. I cannot believe I was such a financial nimrod.

However, at the time, everyone I knew was also in massive student loan debt. Well, except my really rich friends whose parents were footing the expensive college tuition bill.

But, for the rest of us, we were signing our financial futures away with one signature on a promissory note. Even my ex husband had student loan debt that almost doubled that amount after going to law school.

Ahhhh...but we were young and we thought we would make a ton of money one day or at least my husband would. In my naive brain, I thought I would use my salary as a teacher to knock out my student loan debt in a matter of time.

After graduation, I was paying off my student loan debt, since we had a comfortable double income no kids (DINK) lifestyle. Life was going according to schedule. 

But, then, divorce happened. Oh. Crap. How was I going to pay this all back?

Well, I had an even brighter idea to go to graduate school after my divorce. Don't ask me why. Divorce brain makes you do stupid things sometimes.

Anyways, I had discovered graduate school is ever way more expensive than undergraduate school. Just piled on more and more student loan debt towards my Masters in Special Education, which honestly doesn't make that much of a pay difference.

At the time, I was planning on teaching at the university level and all I needed was a masters degree to become a professor.

After a few years of painfully boring and overwhelming graduate school, on top of my already bonkers busy life, I spoke with my counselor to take an extended break from graduate school. Currently, I am four courses shy of earning my degree, but I have decided to pay for the rest of my courses in cash and I refuse to take out any more loans.

I would like to return to school after I see how this new school year balances out. I have already conferred with my university counselor, but I am creating an action plan to accomplishing my graduate school goal.

It's not that I cannot do graduate level work, as I did really well, but I was so burnt out and needed to take a life breather.

Anyways, I guess I should get to the point of this, so I can get to bed because I go back to work tomorrow.

You see, I have been dreading calling my student loan center to begin my payment plan. Basically, I was looking at nearly $1,000 a month in student loan payments. Which would be roughly a majority of one of my teaching paychecks after taxes.

When you live in expensive as hell Hawaii, every penny of your paycheck counts. Between housing, food and basic living expenses, there really isn't a whole lot left over. So, you can see why I was so overcome with anxiety and fear when it was time to start paying up.

Don't get me wrong. I know I am responsible for taking out the loans and that is exactly what I am doing. I have no one to blame but myself. No one put a gun to my head to take out loans, but they sure made it easy to do.

Seriously, who loans a kid $100k when they are just out of high school? I actually talked to my sister about this, as she was a former financial officer at a local community college. Our educational system is a mess in this country, but that is a whole other blog in itself.

With many stressful things in my life, I decided to deal with it head on. As I like to tell my students, "Face it to erase it."

I decided to face my student loans in order to erase my fears.

After praying long and hard about it, I picked up my cell phone and dialed the student loan center number.

Lord. I am giving this situation to you. Give me courage to face my fears. 

Within a few minutes, I was able to explain to the specialist my situation and finances without any judgement and was offered the Income Driven repayment plan. With my information, I was able to lower my student loans from almost $1k a month to just $200 a month, give or take a few dollars of course.

Even better, after 25 years of repayment, the remainder of my loan is ALL forgiven. I may also qualify for the Teacher Forgiveness loan program, as I have taught special education at two Title 1 schools in my career.

Praise the Lord. I couldn't believe it was going to be this easy.

I felt like the gates of heaven opened up, all the angels were singing and Jesus himself was doing a touch down dance. Now this was totally reasonably, doable and I wasn't going to be in the poor house with my student loan debt.

Amen. Amen. Amen. 

Truth be told, THIS is the greatest stress in my life right now and I finally faced my fears and have it all under control.


So, now I can sleep a little better at night knowing this is one less stressful issue in my life. Also, I feel really proud of myself for facing my fears head on.

As you read this, there may be a problem you are facing that is bringing great stress in your life. I want you to know that you are not alone. Many people live silently in their stress, but you don't have to live your life this way.

Have faith it will all turn out and give your problems to the Big Guy upstairs.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Love, 

Sweet Cicily










Make These Healthy Turkey Meatballs

"The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in."
-B.K.S. Lyengar

As a busy and single mom, I don't have a lot of time to spend cooking dinners ever night of the week, so embracing healthy meal preparation has been a life saver.
 
With my schedule filled with work, soccer practice and being CEO of running a my home, time is a precious commodity. Not only do I love efficiency and time savers, but I also love knowing that I can still eat healthy with careful planning. 

Many of my friends tease me to cook and prepare them healthy meals whenever I post my latest creations on social media. 

Truth be told, while I would love to afford to order from a local clean eating catering company, I simply cannot justify the costs. 

So, ever the budget minded mom, I decided to become my very own clean eating chef for my own family. Besides costing much less, I actually have fun learning how to cook healthy meals. 

Going out to lunch or dinner adds up fast, but cooking at home saves you money and you always know what you are putting in your body. 

Tonight, I will share a few tips with you, so that you can start enjoying creating healthy meal preparations for yourself. 

One, go out to Target and buy two weeks worth of tupper ware for all the lunches and dinners you are going to prepare. 

Two, go stalk Instagram for the hash tags #mealpreparation #cleaneating #paelo and start following anyone who promotes clean eating. I promise you that you will find so many different ideas for your breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes. 

Three, if you are like me, choose a protein and boat loads of vegetables. Basically, that is what I usually do. Either I eat organic salmon, chicken or turkey. After my diverticulitis  diagnosis, I rarely eat red meats these days. 

Picking a spice or marinade is pretty simple, as I just use either Flavor God spices or Steve's Paleo Goods to add extra flavor to my proteins. 

You can either put it in the fridge or freezer and you are good to go! Usually, I make it a routine to meal prep every Sunday, so I don't have to worry about cooking for a week or two. Just depends on how ambitious I am feeling.

So, after a long day of teaching, working out at CrossFit and or running around being a mom, I can just pop it in the oven and I don't have to worry about cooking. 

Below is a quick healthy turkey meatball meal I made accompanied with sweet potatoes with cinnamon and zucchini and squash. 

I literally have no set recipe here. Just mix ground turkey with a cut up red onion, chives and one egg for the meatballs. Don't forget to season with Flavor God which is totally Paleo friendly and sooooo goooooodd!!!

As far as my squash and zucchini medley, I just throw some coconut oil on it and bake till it looks ready. 

Sweet potatoes are cooked with coconut milk and sea salt in the oven. Again, at this point, I just eye ball it and don't have a set recipe. 

Give it a try this week and tell me what you think!

Love,

Sweet Cicily

















Why You Should Make A Vision Board


“A dream is a seed.
Vision plants it.
Imagination nurtures growth.
Opportunities create blooms.
Thoughts become things!”
― Donna McGoff


Over the last few years, I have been creating vision boards to remind me to keep focused on my life goals. Having visual reminders allows me to set goals and motivate myself to create the life that I want for myself. 

Every morning, the very first thing I do is walk over to my vision board and carefully look over my goals I have set out for myself. Whether it has to do with fitness, finances, education, personal growth, travel, faith, love or life mantras, I look to my vision board for direction.

Successful individuals understand the great importance of goal setting. Basically, all a vision board is a way of setting goals by using a combination of pictures and words.  

After reading the book "The Secret" and watching the movie, I was inspired to begin creating my own vision boards. One of the writers in the book, Jack Canfield, creator of the Chicken Soup For the Soul book series, shared his experience with creating an empowering vision board. 

Quick fun fact, years later, my son's father published a best selling book with Jack Canfield himself, after I shared with him my experience reading the book. 

So, with just a stack of magazines, scissors, glue sticks and my imagination, I began crafting my dream life. 

I asked myself, "What do I want my life to look like 3 months from now, 6 months from now, 1 year from now, 3 years from now and 5 years from now?" 

Don't be vague with your goals, here is your opportunity to be specific in what you want. Think of it as your order to the Universe or God.  

Ask. Believe.Receive.




At first my vision board included a trip to Italy and France. Little did I realize that less than a year later I would be spending my fall vacation in Rome, Naples and Paris, without having a spend a penny, on my very own Eat Pray Love journey. 



Years later, I went on more adventures to Australia, Indonesia and Japan, after placing them on my vision board.  

Despite financial obstacles, I was STILL able to go see the world as I had always dreamed about. I am praying that Ireland and Spain will be in my next journey. 

No matter how long it takes, I WILL make this happen, along with all my other goals.



It was freaky and wonderful watching so many of my dreams turn into reality. Whether it was  large unexpected amounts of money or unexplained chance opportunities, I cannot tell you just how many goals I placed on my vision board manifested itself into my life.

Before you think this is totally hokey, I want you to hear me out.  I don't think gluing on words and pictures to a poster board are going to make your dreams magically appear. Otherwise you will be waiting around forever and left feeling disappointed. 

However, I do believe that visualization and goal setting are powerful tools in being successful at making dreams happen.

Bottom line, successful people set goals and create action plans. Action plans that you look at daily and bust your butt at accomplishing.

One of the very first things I put on my vision board was the phrase Write Your Story and this was long before I started writing as a blogger. Powerful words such as this inspired me to open my first blogger account, write my life story, which led to even great writing opportunities and finally self publishing a book about my life. 





Once I set a goal for myself, I am relentless and never give up on myself. Although, I may face obstacles, I do believe that whatever I ask for in prayer, if I believe in it, I will receive it. Again, our prayers are not always answered in how we wish for it, but I do believe all our prayers in answered.

My vision board is also my prayer board. Sometimes, I feel led by the spirit to write something on there and BAAMMMM months later it comes true.

You would get chicken skin if I told you all the stories. Call me crazy, but I like to still look at the world through child like, magical eyes.

Not only do I dream, but I dream BIG. You should too!

Even when I set out to CrossFit, I found photographs and phrases that embodied where I wanted to be as a CrossFitter in the next year.

Placing this on my vision board, helped me keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was reaching a PR on an OLY lift or being published on a national CrossFit enthusiast website,  I could refer back to my goals easily by taking a quick glance on my board.

Sometimes, I will forget a goal I wrote and one of my friends will catch it on my vision board.

Hey, wasn't that on your board?

Recently, I published my first major fitness piece on the popular website Tabata Times about How I Have Learned To Love My Body Through CrossFit. In the article, I shared how I was inspired to join CrossFit by watching a video featuring the famous CrossFitter Jackie Perez.



After publishing the article, my CrossFit Coach Gil, who is friends with Jackie Perez, sent the article to her. She even started following me in Instagram and said she loved the CrossFit post I wrote.

Jackie Perez, my CrossFit hero, knows who I am and loved reading my work!!!!




By the way, I set this goal less than 6 months ago to publish an article on a major fitness website and I was determined to check off this 6 month goal. Not only that, but I am now a contributing writer for Tabata Times, with several articles under my belt.

After all this, Coach Gil reminded me of the vision board poster I created that I placed Jackie Perez on over a year ago or so ago.

FREEEEAAAAAAKKKKKAAAYYY!

I hope today's post will inspire you to start setting your life goals, create action plans and light a little fire under your butt to get going in the right direction.

According to Matthew 21:24 in the Bible, "If you believe, you will get anything you ask for in prayer." I believe this with all my heart and have seen my life as a testament to God's promises.

Have a wonderful week ahead and get started on your vision board today!

Love, 

Sweet Cicily








Smile



What made you smile today?

Love,

Sweet Cicily



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Stop Telling Me How To Live My Life



For the most part, I take other people's opinion with a grain of salt and try not to take comments personally. After all, at the end of the day, I will continue to live my life as I see fit and try to remind myself that usually comments are out of genuine concern, despite how it is delivered. 

But, please if you are reading this, I am asking you to please stop telling me how to live my life or feel the need to tell other people how to live their lives. 

I love you all and I know you have the best intentions, but can you imagine getting like 10 emails lecturing you on CrossFit, when you feel absolutely crappy? 

Never would I ever just send you emails judging you for your life choices, especially when you are feeling down. 

While I know you feel it is out of love, it sure doesn't feel like it for me. So, please, stop making this even worse and give me a little slack. 

Unless you are perfect, then consider keeping your opinion to yourself. 

Many of us are guilty of having an opinion and projecting it onto other people.  Trust me, I have been guilty of this myself, but have really been working on shutting my mouth and minding my own business the past year. 

Finally, one day I came to the realization that it wasn't my responsibility to tell people how to live their own lives and didn't always have to be right. 

Many feel they are being good friends by being honest with their feelings, which I totally respect, but there is a point when it isn't about your actual concern, but an opportunity for you to be right.

Trust me, I see friends do things that I think are crazy or stupid, but I don't feel the need to just nag and needle them. 

I get it. It isn't lost on me, but no one is changing my mind. That is that. 

Not even my own mother does that. I am almost 40, not a little kid who doesn't know any better.

Now that I have listened and took to heart what many have said, maybe you can listen to what I have to say. 

I get it. I love you still, but just stop or it will seriously push me away. 

Usually, I let negative comments slide off like water on a duck's back. However, we all have our tipping point and I have been in pain all week. So forgive me if I am not feeling sweet and being honest with my feelings. 

As my father once said, "Opinions are like assh*les. Everybody's got one and everyone thinks everybody else's stinks."

You know what really stinks? Having to go to the Emergency Room after a week of severe lower excruciating sciatica  and then being bombarded with a ton of negative Facebook quotes and emails from your loved ones telling you to quit CrossFit. 

Honestly, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything to me at all. When someone is in pain, the right thing to do is to ask if they are ok or is there anything you can do to help? Not lecture me on how CrossFit is terrible and make me feel even worse. 

Last night, I was crying from the pain and I have a high tolerance for pain. When I had my son, I was completely natural and didn't cry, but OMG it was not for seven days of 24 hour throbbing pain that was shooting down my back to my toes.

When someone is down, you don't kick them in the stomach. But, sometimes our need to right supersedes being a good friend. Again, I haven't been perfect in this area myself, but after a few experiences, I have come to the realization that I don't always need to insert my opinion in everything. 

Ahhh...but when you CrossFit, everyone and their brother has an opinion about what you do. I have been hearing this for the last 2 1/2 years since I joined CrossFit. 

Let me get the record straight, I had sciatica years before CrossFit was even a glimmer in my eye. 

Five years ago,  I was in love with a man who was a serious runner. We are talking a brisk 16 mile Sunday run was his norm, which I still think is absolutely b-a-n-a-n-a-s, but who am I to judge his passion.

Well, when you a date a runner, it is only natural to start taking up running too, if you want to spend quality time with your partner. I knew I was head over heels in love, because I use to think exercising and running was for crazy people. 

I did not have an athletic bone in my body.

Soon my couch potato life was transformed and I became a honest to goodness runner. Looking back, I would run on average 30 miles a week, but soon I noticed that I was starting to develop sciatica and having foot pain. 

While I loved running, I didn't love what it was doing to my body, so I decided to hang up my running shoes. 

When I do go out for a "run", the reality is that I am either walking or jogging for brief moments. Always afraid of a sciatic flare up. 

Anyways, last week, I decided to chance it and go for a walk/jog/run for two miles last week. Nothing crazy, just a stroll or nice job to the beach and back. 

Waking up in pain the next day, I realized that my decision wasn't the best idea and I was looking at a nasty flare up. However, I never imagined for it to last this long or feel this painful. Hands down, this is the most painful my sciatica has ever gotten. 

Despite resting, stretching, rolling my muscles, getting a massage, icing, heating and watching tons of YouTube videos on alleviating sciatic pain, I decided to finally see a professional about my injury. 

Well, I drove myself to the Emergency Room and was fortunate to have a great team of doctors and nurses work with me. 

I knew they were going to ask me what kind of activities that I do. Of course I explained my running story and that I was a CrossFitter and waited for the judgement or being told to stop CrossFitting. I know people have been dying to tell me I told you so.

Instead, my medical nurses both shared with me that they are also CrossFitters. Even my nurse explained to me she had sciatica for 4 years, but with physical therapy, she was able to become a better and stronger CrossFit athlete. 

She even shared with me, many of her colleagues give her a hard time about CrossFitting too, but don't give up. 

Listen, I get it that many of you are concerned and have good intentions, but no matter what any one says, there is no way I am quitting CrossFit. 

People make assumptions about CrossFit and let me set the record straight. I am not delusional and think I am Camille, Annie Jackie, Christmas or any other female CrossFit rockstar. I am just simple Cicily who really enjoys going to CrossFit.

I know I will never go the CrossFit Games or even Rx a workout and I am completely fine with this. Hell, sometimes, I can't even do the recommended scale of a WOD and I scale it even further. I am not comparing myself to anyone and work out my own level. 

Don't assume I am lifting crazy heavy weights. In fact, I am probably lifting the lightest weights in most of my classes, because I want to make sure I have a correct form and I don't want to injure myself. I feel no shame if I have to just use the bar, use five thousand bands to get a pull up or opt to row instead of run. 

Is it possible I hurt myself at CrossFit? Yes. Is it possible I hurt myself running? Yes. Is it possible I could hurt myself eating a taco? Yes. Which funny story. I actually did hurt myself eating a burrito the other day and jacked up my lip. So you see, anything we do involves risk and we can potentially get hurt. 

With rest, consulting with my physician and going to physical therapy, I will be back at the "bar" again and better than I was before.

Think all you want, which is totally fine with me, but I am still going to live my life for me and not the opinion of others. 

Thanks for your concern and thanks even more to my friends who asked if I was ok and if there was anything that they could do to help out. 

My muscle relaxers and kicking in so I am going back to sleep again.


Love, 

Sweet Cicily





I Went For A Run

ER


Thank You Jesus For Rx

Turkey, Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna


 "There is nothing more romantic than Italian food."

When I started eating "clean" and Paleo, I was really worried I would have to give up having to cook Italian food, as it is hands down my favorite food  to eat. Who doesn't love Italian food?

After my divorce, I whisked myself off to the country of Italy twice, to bask myself in bowls of carbs, drank copious amounts of wine and even took a fun cooking class in the heart of Roma. God, I love the Italians!






Over the last three years, I have really embraced eating more healthy and even went strict Paleo for 6 months. I have no earthly idea how I did not eat bread, sugar, processed food, dairy or grains for half a year?! But, I did and I actually dropped a ton of weight.




 Coach Gil Says No SUGAR

Prior to joining CrossFit, I was at my heaviest weight in years, living a sedentary lifestyle and no self control when it came to my eating habits. Truth be told, I am sure it might have played a factor in me developing Diverticulitus. Knock on wood, I can continue to keep it in check and avoid another hospitalization.


Laying in a hospital for a week, with severe gastric pain last fall, was my wake up call to really be stricter with my diet and become more physically active.

Once I got out of the hospital, rested a month and got the green light from my physician, I went straight to CrossFit and told my head coach Gil that I was ready to come back with a full time membership. 
I was going all in. 

Minus one month break after the CrossFit Open, I have been CrossFitting between 4-6 times a week since December. That is huge for me!

Anyways, now I am clean cooking fiend and love trying out new recipes I find on the internet. Sadly, I am not naturally gifted in the kitchen, so I rely entirely on wonderful healthy cooking blogs I find on Instagram or Pinterest.

Today, I am so excited to share with you this great recipe I found on Healthy Delicious and created for my own family. Even my son, who is super picky, LOVES this healthy Italian Lasagna meal.

Not only was it budget friendly, but it lasts all week! Surprisingly, I bought most of the ingredients at Whole Foods and the prices were much lower than other grocery stores. I live in Hawaii, which is land of the stupidly expensive everything, but this didn't cost much to make.

If my memory serves me correct, two jars of the sauce I bought for the recipe from Whole Foods ended up being $5, which is really cheap out here for fancy pants spaghetti sauce.

Check out the photographs below, as you can see just how easily this is to make for your meal preparation this week.

Mangiano!!!!
Sweet Cicily 

Turkey, Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna


Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Combined with all of the other filling ingredients, you won't miss the fat in the ricotta. Don't be tempted to go fat free for the mozzarella though - it won't melt properly and the flavor will seem off. On the other hand, don't use full-fat mozzarella either, or you'll be left with pools of grease on top of the lasagna.
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound extra-lean Ground Turkey
  • ½ teaspoon Fennel Seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 package (about 8 ounces) Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups Baby Spinach
  • 4 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 4 ounces Turkey Pepperoni, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 12 no-boil Lasagna Noodles (from a 9-ounce box)
  • 15 ounces Fat Free Ricotta
  • 1 cup shredded Part Skim Mozzarella
  • Fresh Basil

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix the ground turkey, fennel, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Add to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently until no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft - about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted - about 2 minutes. Stir in the turkey.
  4. Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover with 4 lasagna noodles, overlapping as needed. Layer half of the filling on top of the noodle, then layer with half the ricotta. Top with 1 cup of sauce, half the pepperoni, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Add another layer of noodles and repeat the filling, ricotta, and sauce layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and basil.
  5. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes, or until noodles are soft and mozzarella has browned. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

 Not Everything at Whole Foods Costs Your Whole Paycheck!



 Can You Smell It Already?