Tammy Helfrich

Encourage. Empower. Connect.

Page 36 of 81

What was your first fear?

Do you remember it? Do you remember what it felt like?

I have a vivid memory of mine. I was about four. My parents owned a glass business. In the afternoons, my Mom would often take me with her to the shop. I guess I would sometimes fall asleep on a bench in the showroom. This particular day is burned into my memory.

I open my eyes. The daylight is dwindling. I’m so tired and confused. The lights are off. Why are the lights off? Something is wrong. It doesn’t seem right. Where is everyone?

I jumped up from the bench and head straight to the sliding glass doors. They overlook the street. The building is set back from the street with a large parking lot in front. There are no cars. But I can see the traffic passing by on the street. And that’s when I see it.

A big, bright yellow glass truck. Heading down the street. Away from the shop.

My Dad is in it. He’s heading home. Without me. He left me!

I panic. I am instantly frightened. I scream. I beat my fists on the door.

Nobody can hear me. I am alone. I am afraid.

All I can do is curl up in a ball and cry. I didn’t know how to use a phone. I didn’t know where the lights were. I had no idea what to do. So I stayed still, and sobbed.

The minutes seemed like days. He left me! He forgot about me! How could he???

Those were the only thoughts I had. Time stood still.

In my mind, an eternity passed. The light continued to fade and it was getting dark. I did not like to be in the dark. At all.

And then I saw it. A bright yellow truck. Racing around the corner and flying into the parking lot. Skidding to a stop in front of the patio doors.

He jumped out of the truck. His worried face tense with emotion. He saw me and his eyes lit up. I was safe.

He pulled me into a huge hug, telling me over and over how sorry he was that he had forgotten I was there. Although I was frightened and a little angry at him for leaving me, I also felt relief. I had been found. I was not forgotten.

While we often joked about this as I grew older, this is one of the few memories I have from that time in my childhood. It impacted me.  Fear looks different now, and instead of curling up in a ball and crying, I work to face it head on.

What about you? Do you remember your first fear? How has it impacted you?

LifeChangers – Barefoot and Free



It’s a series about people like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their stories.

I am excited to introduce you to Karen Putz. Her story is so amazing, and her never quit attitude is contagious.  Karen is a speaker, writer, barefoot waterskier and mom. You can check out her website or follow her on Twitter. Before you read our interview, check out this amazing video of her story.



Find more inspiring video, audio, and images at Growing Bolder.


Tammy: What was your biggest challenge before starting to ski again?


Karen: My biggest challenge: I was overweight, out-of-shape and a little bit anxious about the possibility of losing the last bit of hearing I had left should I take another hard fall.  Plus, I didn’t relish the idea of getting into a lake where alligators reside!


Tammy:  How has your life changed by continuing to do what you love?


Karen: My life has done a complete 180. I have met so many wonderful, amazing people as a result of unwrapping my passion again. There’s a quote by Joseph Campbell that explains this perfectly:

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”


Let me give you an example of this. Two years ago, I took the Passion Test (www.tinyurl.com/urpassion) and my number one passion was to be able to barefoot water ski all year around. At first, I wondered how in the world that was going to happen as the lakes in Chicago are frozen during the winter. But by writing down my dream and putting that vision in my mind, little by little, it began to come true. People popped up into my life and offered to pull me. Opportunities and funding came up from several sources. As a result, I ended up barefooting 11 months out of the entire year!


Tammy: What would you say to someone who is stuck in ordinary,and doesn’t think their dream matters?


Karen: It is so easy to become complacent with life and get wrapped up in the day-to-day living. So many of us have bought into the “American dream” — a dream that might not really be “our” dream–so we forget what brings us joy or our dreams become buried in mediocrity. (Tweet that!)

When you get into a place where you feel “stuck,” that’s a sign to take some time and rethink the path you’re on and come up with new visions, new goals. Read some new books, learn new skills, surround yourself with people who you can learn from or those who can mentor you. You were born with unique gifts, talents and abilities– there is no one else in the world who is just like you. So dig down deep and unwrap the passion you have within you– I promise you, it is there. The result is a life filled with joy!


Tammy: What are you currently working on?


Karen: I’m currently working on my fifth book and I have several more in the works. I love being an entrepreneur and creating my own income. I also work for a non-profit, Hands & Voices (www.handsandvoices.org)– an organization which I’m fiercely passionate about.  Thanks to several sponsors, I am able to train at the World Barefoot Center and indulge in barefoot water skiing on a year-round basis.



Thank you, Karen, for spending some time with us. Your story is amazing and one that inspires me.


What are you passionate about? Share in the comments.



What’s your symbol?

Do you have a symbol that resonates with you?

Something that has special meaning for you?

Maybe it’s a family symbol, or something that has helped you through a tough time.

My Dad loved sunsets. He loved to photograph them. I don’t really know if there was ever a meaning behind it for him, or if he just appreciated the beauty of it. I love sunsets because they remind me of him and also of the beauty in the world.

I know others who have gotten tattoos of their symbols and it gives them strength.

For me, the tree has been something that has been very symbolic for me as I’ve gotten older. I’ve always been a pretty strong person. I’m responsible, difficult to ruffle, and my roots are strong. Those things are characteristic of a healthy tree.


It made sense to me why this symbol resonated with me. However, a few years ago, I started to get discouraged by being the tree.

Why do I always have to be the strong one?

I felt like people were constantly climbing on me, and sometimes it just got overwhelming.

Then, I heard a teaching by Jeanne Stevens that really hit home with me. She was talking about the story of Zaccheus. I’ve heard the story a million times, but she said something unique that felt like it was directly for me.

Sometimes, you have to be a tree, so that other people can climb up on you to see Jesus. (Tweet that!)

That really changed my perspective. It was like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes it feels like we can get walked on and climbed on and taken advantage of. But when we reframe that and see that people need us to help them see Jesus, that changes everything.

Do you have a symbol? I’d love to hear about it.


I don’t want to talk about this

I don’t talk about this subject much on my blog. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done one post about it. I’ve hinted to it a little, but it’s not something I really like to write about. Rick and I are very private about this subject and have not shared details with many people.

What is it?

Photo credit: Creative Commons (vipez)

Photo credit: Creative Commons (vipez)



There’s a reason most of us don’t talk about it. It’s embarrassing!

Who wants to admit they have it?

Who wants to be out in the open about their STUPID financial decisions from the past?

I certainly haven’t wanted to.

Yes, we’ve talked to friends and even took a class to help us more than four years ago. It was called Financial Peace University, by Dave Ramsey. Yes, the same Dave Ramsey that I referenced on Monday.

Which leads me to why I decided it was time to write this post. We had the chance to meet him last week. And I told him what most people probably do when they meet him. I thanked him for what he does, and thanked him for helping us get our finances in order. I also told him I couldn’t wait to come on his show and scream our Debt Free Scream. I got to tell him this in person. And I meant it.

This brief meeting, as well as my Pastor’s talk on Finances this weekend (listen here), nudged me to finally have the courage to write this post. Because, if I’m honest, this is one I want to keep inside. I truly only planned to write about it when we had conquered it. When we could look back on it with satisfaction and know that we had actually done it.


Sometimes, I think we are supposed to write about our experiences before we think we are ready. (Tweet that!)

This is one of the things my Pastor said this weekend.

“If you’re not generous now, you won’t be generous ‘then’ either.” Scott Hodge

I heard him say this in a similar teaching more than four years ago. I remember breaking out in tears when he said it. All of my life, I have wanted to be generous. I have wanted to help others. I have wanted to make a difference. But at that time, we weren’t being generous. We couldn’t. We had mortgaged our life for things that didn’t really matter. We were extremely broken financially. Heck, we were barely surviving!

I will go into more of the details another time, but the quick version is that we had enjoyed making a decent living for most of our married life. I have always been in sales. My income fluctuates. Some years were great.  Others were okay. But, for the most part, we did well. We started our marriage in debt, and somehow it continued to grow at larger proportions along with our income. We “managed” it well. Our credit was excellent. I remember saying so many times that we had a lot of debt, but great credit scores and the income to back it up. We always drove newer cars. We bought things we wanted. We took trips. Usually paid for with credit cards. Life was good. We’d eventually pay it all off. Someday!

Then, one day, out of the blue, the housing industry started shifting. Fast! The mortgage industry that had been so good to me started to crumble. I was caught in quicksand. I was part of the collapse of an entire industry. My income plummeted by more than 2/3. Ouch! And I quickly found myself unemployed.

Again, there is so much more to this story that I will save for another day. The bottom line was that when the regular income that sustains your lifestyle and helps you “manage” your debt is dramatically decreased, life gets hard in a hurry. Suddenly, there wasn’t enough to cover everything. The water was coming in the boat, and it was rising fast. We were holding our breath.  We’d never been underwater before.

How could this happen to us? What would we do?

When I heard my Pastor’s sermon, we were close to drowning. We didn’t know how we would make it, honestly. I had been unemployed for a while and actually had just gotten hired on with a new company, which we were excited about. I wanted DESPERATELY to be generous. I’m a giver. I wanted to give something. Anything! But we were in over our heads.

That sermon was also the first time I also heard about Financial Peace University. We were going to be offering it at our church! We were interested, but could barely scrape together the $100 for the class. Looking back, it seems so crazy, but I am so happy that we made the decision to stop the madness and take a small step towards change.

I was absolutely scared to death! I had heard by then that one of the first things Dave asks you to do is cut up your credit cards. WHAT????? How is that even possible? How do people survive without credit cards? I couldn’t even fathom it at that time.

I also heard that we would then be splitting up into groups to talk about what we learned. Ugh! No way! I was too embarrassed to share anything with anyone else. Thankfully, we clicked with our group quickly. And do you know what? We realized that we were not alone. In fact, some of them were even in a more difficult position than we were. I was stunned!

Taking that class made us do something we had not been willing to do. It made us face the number. The number we had been too afraid to face before then. It was not easy. My chest tightened just thinking about it!

But, we did it. And we worked the plan. And we started getting back on track. We looked at our money differently. We no longer used credit cards. We were making progress!

Fast forward to today. While we have followed Dave’s main principles, we did not stick one hundred percent with the program. Honestly, things changed quickly as my job was back in line with the higher income I was used to, and the opportunity to make even more with my commission structure. Our main objective was to pay off debt. And we have consistently been doing that. While we are not completely there yet, at the end of last year, I started looking at our finances again. I had started to notice some old spending habits creep slowly back into our lifestyle. We have not added to our debt, as we don’t use credit cards, but we were just starting to coast a little again.

After meeting Dave last week, it prompted me to go back and look at some of our original FPU papers and budgets. Because I haven’t consistently been using the debt snowball, I had lost sight of the bigger picture and where we started. I was thrilled to see our progress. We have paid off over 70% of our credit card debt!!! And that doesn’t include a car loan that we also paid off during that time. I was stunned, to be honest. I knew we had made progress, but that got me so excited. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So what else has changed in the last four years?

Our income has continued to climb again, which is always nicer than the alternative. But there is a big difference this time. Our lifestyle has not kept up with the increase. In fact, it’s actually decreased. We have made significant changes in how we spend our money. We are much smarter about where our money is going.

Guess what has been even more encouraging to me? Our giving has dramatically increased over the last four years. Each year, we have given more to our church and other charitable organizations. We’ve been able to contribute to unique projects, and give back to our community. I love that!

So, as you can see, we are certainly not experts. As I talk about FPU again, I wish we had been more disciplined with the original principles and stuck with it better. But, we’re not beating ourselves up about it. That light at the end of the debt tunnel is shining brighter, and beckoning us to draw towards it. We can see the $0 credit card bills. We can hear ourselves screaming our Debt Free scream!

I don’t say any of this to make you feel bad about your financial choices, or to pass any judgment. Believe me, I know we have all made mistakes! I just know that the few people we have shared our story with have been encouraged. I am also convinced that it is extremely hard to chase your dreams and live life differently when you are trapped in the grips of debt. There is nothing worse than wanting to be generous, but not being able to be due to debt. But don’t just take my word for it.

I’d love to introduce you to some people who HAVE successfully paid off their debt and encouraged me. Their stories are amazing. People like Scott, who has paid off over $100K in debt. He is an amazing guy, and his story energizes me.

People like Julie, who help others adopt without debt. How amazing is that? She’s the author of Adopt without Debt. I met her right after she was able to give Dave Ramsey a copy of her book in Nashville. If you know someone who is thinking of adopting, buy them this book!

And then there’s Jen. Iron Jen. She has an incredible story. They paid off over $150K in debt, and she’s a tri-athlete. Her book is incredibly inspiring and will encourage you to change your life. I do admit that her book gave me some chest tightening as well, as I relived some of the angst and feelings that she so eloquently describes that accompany drowning in debt. But she overcomes. And her book is incredibly inspiring.

So, there you have it. A good portion of our story that I did not want to tell. It was not easy for me to write. But, I truly felt that it needed to be told. If I can help one person understand that they are not alone, and that there is hope, then it will be worth it for me.

Also, there are FPU courses held all around the country. We’re even getting ready to start a new session at our church in the next few weeks. You can also find out more about it online.

What about you? Can you relate to any of this? Do you have an inspiring debt free story to share?




Average or Awesome. You decide.

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend Jon Acuff’s Start Night. It was the introduction to his new book, Start.


Jon’s message has had a big influence on me over the last year and a half. I’ve had the opportunity to attend all of his Quitter conferences, where he developed much of the material in the book. Every time I hear him speak or talk with him, I feel empowered and ready to change the world. He’s also been incredibly supportive to me personally, and I am so thankful to have been able to support and celebrate with him on this exciting night.

We had the chance to meet (and reconnect with) so many amazing people, which is another thing I always love about attending Jon’s events. This time, we got to meet someone who has had a huge impact on our financial health: Dave Ramsey! We even made it into a quick video that was taken before the event.

You will be hearing more from me about the book, Start, prior to the release date in April. I’m part of Jon’s book launch team, and believe whole heartedly in this incredible message.

Pre-orders are available now, and you get over $250 worth of free product when you pre-order the book. Here’s what it includes:

Get $250 worth of free stuff when you pre-order:

  • Start Night Event Video
  • The Hater Handbook e-book and The 3 Stages of Every Awesome Idea eBook
  • START. eBook, ePub format and Kindle
  • Four Quitter Conference audio lessons

You can go here for more details. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, Dave Ramsey, Barnes and Noble, and Booksamillion.

Here are a few pictures from Start Night.


The theatre was beautiful!



It really is!

One of my favorite quotes from the book.

One of my favorite quotes from the book.


Now, here’s your choice for today. Which switch will you choose?



« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2015 Tammy Helfrich

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑