My Story

Hello. My name is Liz Lara, aka, The Fort Worth Homemaker. I am the wife to my best friend, soul mate and the love of my life; I am also a mom to a blended family of 5 kids and 4 rescue dogs.  My passions are my faith, my family and my home.  These things have always been my passion, even though I didn’t know it.

young me

I was born and raised in a row house in Queens, NY. When my parents’ marriage was in trouble, they thought a move to a new location would help out, so we moved to a tiny, quaint country town in Massachusetts, were they inevitably got a divorce.  After that we moved to a larger suburb of Massachusetts and my brother, sister and I lived with my mom, while my dad was the part time parent.

Both of our parents worked as a matter of necessity so we as tweens and then later, teens, pretty much raised ourselves. I learned how to cook for my siblings and me, since my mom worked odd hours at her job and we helped out with household chores on a daily basis while going to school.

We didn’t have much money back then, so when we would ask our mom for a few bucks to buy something or to hang out with our friends at the mall or the arcade, we would always get a resounding “no”, not because she was mean, it was simply because she didn’t have the money to spare.  We were young and we did not talk about money as a family, so we didn’t have a clue she was doing all that she could to just keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

It was obvious to me, that if I wanted cash in my pockets, I would have to do something about it.  So at the ripe old age of 12, I started working.  I got an after school, newspaper route in my neighborhood (yes, I am that old that newspapers were such a thing that existed back then) 5 days a week and on weekends, I would pick produce at the local farm.  Over the next few years, I had many “under the table” jobs, I babysat, I washed dishes for a restaurant, I swept floors and cleaned up at a hairdresser’s salon, all until I was 16 and legal age to get a real job, with a real W-2.

I then got a job, at a now defunct, department store. I worked there for many years.  After graduating high school, I went to community college and was studying Business Administration; during this time I had continued working at the store and was also dating my first serious boyfriend, so you can probably surmise, I was slightly distracted from my schoolwork.  Needless to say, I wound up withdrawing from community college, my boyfriend and I were soon married and I proceeded to work full time at the store. I would like to say that I was happy back then, but I wasn’t, I felt a lack of passion. I decided to go back to school, but this time study something that excited me.  Thankfully, I found that the community college had just added a culinary arts program and I could not get to the campus fast enough to enroll.

I loved cooking and it came naturally to me, probably because I had been doing it to help out my family for many years.  Unfortunately, I never did get a chance to take what I learned from my schooling and turn it into a profession.  Shortly after finishing the program, I became pregnant with my first, then my second and a couple of years later, my third.

It seemed like we always had money problems, so when my kids were little I worked part time.  I had many part time jobs, which rotated around my husband’s schedule so we didn’t have the cost of childcare bearing down on us. We struggled in every way, financially and emotionally so we disagreed and fought,  a lot, and more than just money, we were simply, just growing apart.

family

Things seemed to happen pretty quickly after re-locating and in only a few short years of moving to Fort Worth, Texas, I got a divorce from my husband, got a full time corporate job, met, fell in love with and married the man who was put on this earth for me by God and blended my 3 children with his 2 kids and we became our own version of the “Brady Bunch”.

It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that a family of 7 with 4 dogs needs money to survive. At the time the majority of the kids (4 boys and 1 girl) were in their teen years, and anyone who has or has had teens, will tell you, they are not cheap!  So my husband and I worked full time (sometimes more).  Both my husband and I had good paying corporate jobs and my husband’s job let him telecommute, which was a Godsend.

My routine was getting up at 6:30 a.m., out the door by 7:30; a half hour commute, (if traffic was good) work until 5:00 p.m. (most of the time it was later), commute back home and through the door by 6:00 p.m.; start working on dinner; eat and clean up by 8:00 p.m.; maybe start or finish a load of laundry;  get ready for the following day; picking out and/or ironing clothes, going through the kids school work; packing any lunches that were necessary, etc….. and into bed by 11:00 p.m.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t don the “Superman/woman” cape by myself, my husband did just as much, if not more than I did to keep our family afloat.  While I was at the office, he would do light housekeeping;  run any errands that needed to be done; go grocery shopping; do yard work, pick up and drop off for school; help with homework; all while he was working his job from our dining room table.

saving

For years, I had read about frugal living and families that successfully lived off of one income, but I thought with the size of our brood that it was an impossibility for us.  My husband and I had many long talks about it and started to put away some extra money into savings to help cushion the blow if I decided to leave my job.

After quite sometime of this “rat race” lifestyle, we were both exhausted and miserable. We felt like we were in survival mode at every second of every day. It had gotten so bad, that I would come home on the verge of tears most evenings and on Sunday evenings I would start to have panic attacks, just thinking about going to work the next morning and starting this crazy routine all over again. The way we were living was straining our marriage and our home life; we knew we needed to change this.

We just needed for the time to be right, to make a drastic change, but like most things in life, when you wait for the perfect time, you will be waiting forever. Fortunately or unfortunately, the company I was working for was undergoing some legal issues and some drastic changes that directly impacted my department and they were not for the good, this of course was adding to my already high stress level, so my husband and I decided to take this as a sign and I pulled the trigger and left my job.

Now, I would love to tell you, that it was the best decision I had ever made, and that I wished I had done it sooner, but I can’t.  Having a really good work ethic, striving for perfection and having been in the working world since the old age of 12, came with huge “buyer’s remorse”.  I spent a very long time wondering if I did the right thing. I mean, we have a large family and both my husband and I want to retire someday with a nice lifestyle, it seemed next to impossible to accomplish on just one income!

After only a few months of “coming home” I was feeling an overwhelming loss,(I sometimes, still do today) and I did not know what to do with myself if I was not working for someone else during the day, every day. My kids were not little anymore, so I didn’t have to chase after diaper wearing toddlers or catch up with sleep when they took naps, I did not have to home school, make PB & J sandwiches and chicken nuggets everyday for lunch, I did not have to attend PTA meetings, make arts and crafts, or help with school projects.  I did not have to schedule play dates, plan birthday parties or worry about what to do with the kids during summer and holiday breaks.

During this time we were taking more stringent money saving measures and started tightening our belts even harder and there were plenty of times that both my husband and I worried about our financial outlook for the both the present and the future.  After awhile, it became evident to me, that saving money, as much money as we could now became my full time job and I learned that after only a year, I was pretty good at it.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, I believe this to be true, so in addition to being the COO of our home and savings, I opened up a small shop on Etsy and started selling some really cool, vintage stuff, and you can check it out here: my Etsy shop . The money I make from this does certainly not add up to a corporate income, but with it I am able to; put money into an IRA; go on summer vacation with the family; use it for holiday shopping and entertaining.

married couple

Now after leaving my corporate career and being home for a few years, I can step back and look into mine and my family’s lives and this is what I see:   we are much happier, we argue less, we are closer to one another, we get plenty of rest, we don’t worry as much, and we enjoy our lives and each other.

And now I have decided to start The Fort Worth Homemaker blog site.  I want to share my experiences and knowledge and I hope that it helps others that have decided to that “coming home” and taking care of your home, family and finances is a satisfying and rewarding full time career.