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Stand tall with grace (part 2 of 2)

Stand tall with grace?  What is that all about?

In my last blog I spoke of the things I am most passionate about.  These are the things I consider the foundation of my soul.  It is important to recognize these things and even list them or say them out loud from time to time to remind myself that they are there.  So when day to day life gets me spinning in a routine that gets of course, I know where I want my focus to be.

Recently I have been thinking about my past both good and bad and I thought to myself that I have never really sat down and listed my accomplishments for myself.  Never really taken an inventory of my own of the things I have done (good and bad), the places I have been, and the people I have met along the way.  So here I am doing just that.

Places I have been: Inside the U.S. – Florida (Home State.  Many adventures throughout the state and lived in at least 4 major cities and many smaller ones), Georgia (vacations and family), Alabama (Roll Tide vs. UCF football), South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia (Hiking as a teen and young adult thru the Appalachian Trail 200+ miles in total completed over several summers), Tennessee (Vacations and Family), Texas (vacation), Arizona (Vacation and Family visits), Nevada (Work and Fun), Utah (Work and Fun), Illinois (Work and Fun), Missouri (Vacation and family), New Jersey (Lived here for a bit), Connecticut, New York (Vacations and fun)

Places I have been: Outside of the U.S. – Bahamas (Several cruises), Cayman Islands (Cruise), Jamaica (cruise), Mexico (cruises), South Africa (3 weeks supporting “The Simunye Project”)

Things I’ve accomplished in life (so far, I have many more years in me): High School Graduate (while in H.S., I was on the swim team and competed at state level for performing arts), College Graduate (Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration), Experienced countless music and sporting events as a result of a fun career in the event industry.  Tried my hand at wedding planning for a year (and learned I don’t like planning weddings for a living).  Became an Executive Assistant and learned I am very good at helping others to be organized and on target.  Learned to paint.  Learned that I love to snorkel.  Volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem.  Got a tattoo (and then a few more).  Went skydiving.  Bought a house.  Got married (3 times, but divorce twice… The last one is meant to be, the others were just practice I guess).  Adopted my two amazing sons to make my family whole (as if it could have been more perfect?).

Things I have overcome in life: My addiction to alcohol and drugs (to be clear I am a recovering alcoholic and addict, you never fully recover… it is a one day at a time – life time thing), My addiction to cutting, My addiction to Chaos (This sounds silly, but for many years I have had a deep desire to muck things up for the fun of it, to make a mess of life for the adrenaline rushed it caused to have to fix it.) I have been a victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence and moved on (only looking back as a tool to better myself as a confident strong woman, not as a victim).

The mess I made and walked thru:  In short, I was married twice and divorced twice and both situations were ones that I should have avoided and chose not to.  I have caused or been a part of 20+ car accidents due to careless driving and being hungover the next day (none due to drunk driving).  I have hurt friends and family.  I have not paid bills and walked out on responsibility time and again.

The walk thru it: As I mentioned in part 1 of this 2 part blog, I have a foundation of things I’m passionate about.  My twenties were a hot mess, there is no doubt and no one I know will dispute that.  If I have a friend left from my twenties, I assure I consider them family now and they are the truest of friends.  There is a saying, “Until you hit rock bottom, you will not be truly sure which way is up”.   I had to hit rock bottom.  It was hard and flat and lonely and when I hit there I was a horrible mess from the inside out.  I hated myself and everyone around me.  It was the lowest I ever felt in my life.  So low, that I literally had no feelings left and death was all I dreamed of, all I thought of and all I prayed for.  Death was very close.  Miracles happen.  Family and friends are there when you need them and you will surely find out who they are in times like these.  But from the bottom, up isn’t as hard as it seems.  It happens one day at a time.  Before you know it there are days and weeks and months passing.

Life as a book:  Your life is a book.  Your write in it daily.  I knew my husband was the one for me when during our wedding vows he asked me to write our story together one page at a time.  (He gets me).  Your story starts as a child.  And with every good book, there are tense moments in the middle and the readers (your family and friends) are feverishly turning pages waiting for the start character of the story (you) to make choices, dodge bullets, and win at life.  My story is long with many nail biting scenes held within its pages.  Not to worry, at the bottom of each page of my book, the reader will notice a small rose.  My daddy always told me, “The prettiest of roses have to have a lot of Sh*t thrown on top of them to be so pretty”.  This saying along has helped me through my darkest days.  I’m so very grateful for the readers of my life’s book.  I’m grateful for those who continue to turn the pages with me.  I have a plan for the last half of my book.  I plan to live.  To tick of my bucket list items.  To embrace my foundation and always make sure it is strong.  I plan to have the happiest of endings.

Dear reader, I hope to see you at the end of the book.  Have a happy day.

Stand tall with grace (part 1 of 2)

I warn you in advance, this is a long blog.  In fact I’m going to write it in two parts, so I hope you stick around for both segments.

PART ONE:

I have a few things I am crazy-passionate about:

1. Paying It forward (Hold the door for the next in line, smile at a stranger for no reason, pay for the person behind you in line because you can, doing a random act of kindness expecting nothing in return).

2. Keeping a balance in life (saving vs spending, eating healthy vs splurging on my favorite foods, keeping enough positive thoughts in my head to keep the negative self-talk at bay)

3. Having fun at everything you do (You only get one chance at life, don’t be held back by your fears.  It is your fear that keeps you from even knowing what you are missing.  Take a leap of faith)

4. Loving my family with every fiber of my being.  My family are “my people” .  The consists of blood and non-blood relatives.  Some by marriage, some by adoptions and some by many years of love laughter and tears that has made them mean more to me than any birth-right ever could.  These people in my inner circle of life keep me ground and still encourage me to keep my free spirit flying happily with the angels in the clouds.  I need them.

5. My faith in God.  I am a Christian Woman.  To me that is a very beautiful and bold statement and one that I am most proud of.  I have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and have placed my eternal faith in him forever.  I have experienced many miracles big and small, in my life and have no doubt there is a power greater than myself at work lighting my path.  Without him there is no doubt in my mind I would not be here today. I am stubborn and hard headed and I some times need a giant blinking neon sign to fall on me to hear God’s word, but it is there everyday of my life.  All I need to do is be still and listen.

There are many other things in life I love and have passion for and want to share with the world, but the above 5 are the key ingredients to may life.  Now with that said, I want to tell you why these things are so important o mention.

As we start out in  life we fall down and get bumps and bruises on our knees.  Our moms and dad help us up and brush us off and send us back on our way hoping we learn from whatever caused the bump in the first place.  Maybe don’t run so fast on the wet grass, maybe don’t hit the brakes on our bikes as we try to jump the speed bump.  These are lessons we only need to learn once.  The scrape or bump hurts, but heals and we move on with no major scars.  But what about the bigger bumps and bruises.  The ones that happen to our hearts or egos.  Hope fully we are old enough and have a solid enough foundation to handle them as they come at us, but this isn’t always the case and then the scars form.  After time, scar tissue gets thicker and bigger until what’s underneath (our child-like heart and ego) is hidden and our true, genuine self seems to have dissipated.  The truth, it isn’t gone at all.  Just covered up by the jaded experiences of our lives and we have to learn how to uncover them in a healthy manner so that we to can be the strong mommy or daddy to help our next generation dust off and get back up when they fall.  It is a never ending circle.  In the beginning others are responsible for us, but along the way there is a shift and we become responsible for ourselves.  How was fall and how we get up, but also how we heal and move forward.

As I sit here today, an adult, a woman, a daughter, a sister, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a niece, and a granddaughter; I think about the way I fall, the way I get up and how I move forward each day.  The 5 things I’m passionate about have become my foundation on which I choose to fall.  I run toward them, striving to help them grow stronger.  I fall back on them knowing they are there for me because I have nurtured them along the way, and I bask in the enjoyment of them when I just need a little time for myself to reset and regain my balance.

 

 

 

Do you make every penny count?

As you know by know I am a HUGE advocate for paying it forward AND for making every penny count.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a woman who likes to shop and loves a bargain so I’m always on the hunt.  I wanted to take a minute and chat about reward programs, opportunities to save and opportunities to pay it forward.

In today’s day and age there are a million ways to cut costs and the majority of us could use a leg up in this area.  Here is a list of reward programs that I have found helpful.

  1. Digital Coupons – many grocery stores and pharmacy stores have a reward program or on-line membership (free of charge) and linked to those programs is a digital coupon option.  If you make it a habit of logging onto those sites once a week and digitally “clip” the coupons to your account, you have an opportunity for potential savings you may have missed.  Here is an example.  I frequently shop at Publix and Walgreens for various items.  Once a week I jump on-line and click on as many coupons as the program allows.  I may or may not use them all, but if they are in my account (linked to my phone number) all I have to do at check out is enter in my phone number and any applicable coupons are applied instantly.
  2. Ebates – If you have not signed up yet, you are missing out!  If you do any on-line shopping this is a great program to be a part of.  It costs nothing to join and you are rewarded with cash back when you shop.  There are tons of stores linked to the program and there is even an option for in-store shopping if you choose to link your credit cards.  To date, I have received over $130 back for shopping I was already planning on doing.
  3. Piggy Bank – This is another app.  As you are browsing on line, if you have signed up for the piggy bank on your phone or computer, it will pop up and let you know if coupons are available or cash back is available.

This brings me to paying it forward.  How many times have had loose change rolling around the bottom of our purses or the floor of our cars?  How many times have you found a couple of bucks in the washer or dryer?  These are all signs that we are not as careful with our money as we think.  Sure, we are penny pinchers when it comes to larger purchases or even something that may be $5 vs $1.  But what about all the unused change?  My point here is that the next time someone at the check out counter asks if you want to “round-up” for a charity, say yes.  Think of all the times you have foolishly spent money and here is an opportunity glaring you in the face to share forty cents with someone in need.

Are you an Amazon shopper?  I am for sure!  I am convinced they have everything!  I am proud to say I am now an Amazon Smile shopper.  What’s the difference?  Well if you log into http://www.amazon.com you are shopping at amazon without the opportunity to help the charity of your choice with proceeds from your purchase.  If you shop at http://www.smile.amazon.com you can create a profile and select the charity of your choice to help.  As you shop you will notice various items are  “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation”.  If you choose these items, The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases. How great is that?  Same shopping, and you are helping the cause of your choice.

There you have it a little saving and a little donating.  Keeping balance in every aspect of our lives is so very important.  A good level headed perspective is what keeps us all moving in a positive direction.  As I have said before.  It is a great place to be when your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your head is happily in the clouds.

First Aid Kits (Home, Travel, Office)

Do you have a first aid kit in your home or car?  When is the last time you opened it?  The aspirin may be expired and the liquid items may be out of date or worse, dried up.  Once a year you should make it a point to update your first aid kits, refresh them, and add any notes about medication changes.  (In Florida or the south, I would suggest doing this in June as that is the start of hurricane season.)

First aid kits come in many shapes and sizes. You can purchase one from the Red Cross Store or your local American Red Cross chapter. Your local drug store may sell them. You can also make your own. Some kits are designed for specific activities, such as hiking, camping or boating.I would suggest having a kit for your home, your office and your car.  You never know when or where an tiny emergency will pop up and you will need some sort of medical supply.  Below are some suggestions to customize your kit to your family or needs:

What a kit should include:

 

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket) 
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches) 
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Additional items to think about:  Include a list of current medications or allergies for each member of your family.  This should be updated annually.  Keep your first aid kit in a known location in your home and car.  Add any emergency equipment that may be required by your family (i.e., epi-pens, etc.)

First Aid Kit Review:

  1. Include personal items such as medications and emergency phone number or other items your doctor may suggest.
  2. Check your kit regularly
  3. Check expiration dates and replace any used or out-of-date items.
  4. Store your kits in a place that is out of reach of children, but easily accessible by adults

Ouch! Paper-cut! Simple solutions for small boo-boos

It’s summer and many of us have kids (or grandkids) running around and getting into all sorts of things.  Little “boo-boos” happen all the time.  Here is a great list of home remedies for the little ones in your life.  Always first assess the situation of a boo-boo.  If your child has a cut or sever pain, medical attention from a professional may be required.

Sunburns – Use Aloe Vera to soothe sunburns. It contains compounds that reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, it’s earned the name “burn plant” for being the perfect natural remedy for sunburn. Additionally, it’s a refreshing way to cool and moisturize skin during those hot summer days. SIDE NOTE: Get an ice cube tray from the dollar store and fill each cube with aloe vera gel.  When you need it, you will have the perfectly portion size for little hands.  It will melt and the coldness will help in addition to the aloe’s healing qualities. NOTE ABOUT BURNS IN GENERAL: Don’t apply butter or other oily substances to the burned area, and if blisters form, don’t break them- both of these things can cause further damage to the sensitive area. Encourage kids not to peel skin resulting from the burn to reduce scarring.

Insect Bites – A baking soda paste can soothe the pain from bee stings and itchiness from insect bites. Baking soda neutralizes the acidic venom from the sting. Mix up a baking soda paste by using baking soda and water. Remove the stinger and leave the paste on the sting or bite for at least 15 minutes. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub toothpaste onto your child’s bug bites to stop the itching

Bee Sting – chop up a white onion and rub one of the raw pieces on the sting site for 5 minutes. This will help to prevent infection, while also reducing pain, as it draws the poison away from the sting.

Bumps and Bruises – Epsom salt has been used for centuries as a home remedy for all sorts of minor muscle and skin pains. Epsom salt relaxes the muscles and relieves the pain from bruises.  Add 1 cup of Epsom salts to a bowl of warm water. Soak a clean towel in the water and wring it out so there is no dripping. Place the warm, moist towel on your child’s sore area. To maintain its warmth, place a hot water bottle on top of the towel. The warmth boosts the magnesium content in the body which leads to a reduction in swelling. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub some vanilla extract onto a bump and your child should stay bruise-free.

Cuts and Scrapes – Apple cider vinegar contains proteins, enzymes, and germ-killing bacteria that can help fight infection. To help heal and soothe your kid’s minor cuts and scrapes, add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath. It’s also good for rashes that your kid may be prone to during the hot summer months. They may not be happy about the smell, but they’ll be happy to feel some relief.

Hives, Eczema, or just itchy skin – give your child an oatmeal bath. Grind oatmeal into a fine powder and pour into the warm running water as it fills up a bath. Let your child soak in the tub to alleviate the itching associated with these skin afflictions.

As always, have a happy day.  Stay safe this summer and have fun!

 

Find your tribe, love them hard

I am a huge fan of “Family” quotes.  I wanted to take a moment and share some with you.  To me, family is everything.  It is the foundation that built me, the love that has shaped me and the rock on which I can always fall back on.  Throughout my life I have watched my family evolve into what is the most precious thing I have to date.

  • Family – Where life begins and love never ends
  • The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing
  • Family – We may not have it all together, but we have it all
  • Family is not about blood, it is about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it the most
  • Family is family, whether it’s the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way.

I suggest you take a moment and draw your family tree.  You may be surprised to see the list of parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. that are there.  If your family is small, try adding leaves to your tree that include your complete tribe.  Do you have a family friend that has been like a sister or aunt to you?  Do you have a best friend that has helped you raise your children?  They are all leaves on our trees.

When you get a moment, send a note to your tribe and let them know what they mean to you.  Here are my little notes:

To my parents: “Thank you for teaching me to eat with a fork, to wipe my own butt, to get up when I fell down and to laugh so hard my belly hurts.  Thank you for teaching me that this life is a beautiful gift and then telling me to go live it”

To my sons: “You may not have the same eyes or smile as me, but from the very first moment, you had my heart.”

To my grandchildren: “Trying to explain how much I love my Grandkids is like trying to count the stars”

To my cousins: “God made us all cousins because he knew our parents couldn’t handle us as siblings.”   Thank you for being my first playmates and now my greatest friends.

To my extended family: “Family is much more than a word – It’s a feeling of warmth and love that neither time nor distance can change.”  Thank you for always being on the other end of the phone, a text, or an e-mail.

To my husband: “You are my forever and always”.  God knew what he was doing when our paths crossed.  There is no one more patient, loving, understanding, strong, or crazy than you.

To my friends (Both near and far): “Friends go like waves on the ocean, but the true ones stay like an octopus on your face”  Hahahaha…  and this is why we are friends!

 

“Date Night” on a dime

So many times we lose track of what is important and that is ourselves and our relationships.  We focus on the day to day of work, house-keeping, kids schedules and more.  Here are a few fun options for an unscheduled date night on a limited budget.  We all have the excuses of no time, no money,  too busy.  Hopefully you will be able to keep this list handy and stop from time to time to enjoy life.

  1. Movie night – pull out the blankets and pillows.  Pop some popcorn and have a movie night.  Make it fun with a theme and watch a series of movies. As days pass by, build your DVR list with movies that are coming up or pick-up the DVD’s on sale at your local store for date nights like this.
  2. A walk in the park – So many parks have benches, exercise activities, play grounds, and trails.  Make the most of all of them.  If you haven’t tried Geocaching yet, give it a try too.  Fun and free time for the whole family.
  3. Go for a swim – Put on a bathing suit and take a swim.  Find a pool, a beach, a lake or a river.  If you are able, get a tube or float and relax or rent a kayak or paddleboard and get some exercise.
  4. Have a campfire – You can use a fire pit, or find a place for a bonfire (safety first of course).  Make s’mores, tell stories, or just listen to the crackle of the fire under the stars.
  5. Build a snowman – Put on some warm clothes and build a snowman, make snow angels, or have a snowball fight.
  6. Pick fruit at a local farm – Find a local strawberry farm or blueberry farm and spend the day picking fruit.  At the close of the day bake a pie or make a fun dessert together.
  7. Watch a sunset – Take a walk or sit on a porch somewhere and say good bye to the day with a loved one.
  8. Watch a sunrise – Get up early in the morning and fins a beach or great park and enjoy the start of a brand new day.  Take a thermos of coffee with you and some music or maybe a good book.
  9. Have a game night – When is the last time you played yahtzee? Monopoly? Candy Land? Clue? Scrabble?  Pick a night and pull out the games you loved as a kid or even as an adult.  You can do this with just two people or make an evening out of it with friends and family.
  10. Dance together – Get on spotify or youtube music and create a music list together of your favorite songs.  Keep it handy and when the mood strikes, dance with each other.  Dance in a park, in your living room, or in a restaurant.
  11. Go window shopping – Walk thru IKEA, or find a shopping mall.  Take some time to hold hands, people watch, day dream together about a DIY project or a future home.
  12. Get creative….  this list is just the tip of the iceberg.  Make and keep a list of ideas for those times when it is rainy, your broke, or your bored and check items off your list.

Digital memory books (AKA E-mail)

Have a child in your home or one you are responsible for or assist in raising?  Create a digital memory book for them.  You can do this at any time in your child’s life (as a newborn, school age, heading off to college or the military, or as they have children of their own).

Create an e-mail account for them.  (I suggest doing this with a service that is tried and true, dependable).  I am not supporting one outlet over the other, but I prefer g-mail becuase I’m pretty sure Google will be around for a while.

Don’t give them the password for this account until you are ready to share with them the contents.  The purpose of the e-mail is to provide them with bits of advice, stories about themselves or their heritage, and other funny things that happen throughout their lifetime.  Keep this e-mail address to yourself or share it with your family and friends.

Anytime you experience a situation where words of wisdom have helped you, send an e-mail to this new account.  Family recipes, photos, etc. are all great things to share.  So many times we wait until we are older to ask our parents for stories of our childhood or of our heritage.  There will come a day when we leave this world and leave our children behind, this is a great way to create a memory book of sorts for them that they can rely on for years to follow.

Have you personally lost a parent or close relative or friend and later wanted to give them a call to ask a question or are sure that if they were here they would know the solution to a situation?  Take this “digital memory book” and use it to alleviate the pain of not being able to call years down the road.

I have lost my grandparents and a few other friends and relatives.  I wish they were here now to share all of their wisdom and wit with me.  Take advantage of your resources in today’s age and pass on some history wrapped up in love and good intentions.  Your child will cherish it later in life.

SIDE NOTE: Share the password with them at a turning point in their life.  When there are no words at the moment, but so many thoughts have come and gone.  A child heading off to college, or preparing for their own child are perfect times.

 

Snacks for the beach (or a hot day in the sun)

It’s summer time, that means road trips, days in the summer sun and fun!.  It can be expensive to get snacks while you are out and about so here are some easy and fun ideas for treats as you play.  We all work up an appetite and the summer sun can drain us.  Take advantage of a little pre-planning to pack your snacks and enjoy your day without breaking the bank.

Ranch-Seasoned Spice Crackers

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce dry ranch seasoning mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

5 cups oyster crackers ( 9 oz bag)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat the oven to 250F.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, ranch seasoning mix, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk everything together and add in the oyster crackers. Toss everything together until the crackers are coated.  Spread the crackers out onto a baking sheet.  Pop the baking sheet of crackers in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10-minute mark. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Chex-Mix

INGREDIENTS:

3-1/2 cups Rice Chex

3-1/2 cups Corn Chex

2 cups Wheat Chex

1 cup peanuts (you can also use 1 cup of mixed nuts)

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup bite-sized pretzels (I like the pretzel sticks broken in half)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine ingredients for Homemade Seasoned Salt in small dish then set aside.  In a very large bowl combine Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, and nuts. In a small bowl stir together butter, Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons seasoned salt garlic powder, and onion powder. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture then stir with a spatula to coat. Pour into a 11×17″ or larger baking dish then bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in pretzels when Chex Mix is cool, then serve! Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Salt and Pepper Oven-baked Zucchini Chips

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/8″ to 1/16″ thick

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (recommended: kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Use convection bake setting if your oven allows.  Place sliced zucchini on paper towels and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot the tops of the zucchini with another paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place the zucchini on the pans in a single layer, making sure not to overlap.  Pour olive oil into a small bowl and lightly brush onto the zucchini.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake for about 2 hours, flipping zucchini after about an hour, until zucchini is crispy and starting to brown. Start checking them at about 1-1/2 hours in as ovens can vary. Any pieces that are crispy and starting to brown should be removed.  Serve immediately!

 

 

 

Chore Charts – They work wonders!

I grew up with two sisters in my mother’s home.  We were all close in age and all very very different.  There were rules to follow of course, but my mom gave us chore charts.  She did this when I was little and again when my sisters and I were teens.  They were very different as they were age appropriate, but looking back they taught us to do our fair share and to take responsibility for ourselves.

As a little girl, my chore chart had the days of the week (I was learning those), and the chores that I was responsible for and capable of doing. (i.e., making my bed, picking up my room, putting my clothes in the dirty laundry hamper, etc.)  My sister and I shared the responsibility of laundry, cleaning our bathroom, dusting and vacuuming as we got older.  The chore chart faded away as the things we did became a habit and generally just expected.

As a teen, the chart came back into effect for dividing up chores and keeping us each accountable as individuals.  We had a calendar hanging in the kitchen with our initials on the days and order.  1, 2, 3, and repeat.  This was our dishes calendar.  If our name fell on the day, then we were responsible for doing dishes that night. (no question or hassle, it was there in black and white). NOTE: If our name fell on a day where we had a pre-planned social activity that kept us away at dinner time, the task of dishes fell to my mom, so she had her fair share of dishes nights too.)

As a young child, there were rewards for accomplishing all of my chores and doing them well.  Gold stars placed on my chart, a prize at the end of the week (this was either being able to stay up 30 minutes past my bedtime, or maybe watching a movie of my choice, or being able to have a friend over).  The consequences for not doing my chores were just as clear (i.e., no TV, no friends coming over, etc.)

These chores taught me to keep my home clean, to respect my property and that of others,  to be responsible for myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I did not have a difficult or challenging childhood, but my parents had rules and they had good reason for them.  Looking back I am so grateful they did.  I am the woman I am today because of them.  Things like washing the towels and sheets on your bed, vacuuming AND dusting, cleaning out your closet occasionally, are all random things we take for granted as an adult but should thank our parents for teaching them to us when we were young.  After all, they taught us to use a spoon, wipe our own tushes, and hopefully to take care of ourselves overall as were grew into successful independent adults.

If you have a little kiddo in your home, I hope you are teaching them to grow into fabulous independent adults.  The joy is equal in succeeding as an individual as it is to watching your child succeed, knowing you did a good job.

SIDE NOTE: I was an argumentative child at times.  I hated to be told no.  I would accept a choice or a reason, but the word “no” sent me through the roof many times.  These chore charts outlined exactly what was expected of me and decreased the arguments over all.  As I grew older I appreciated conversations with reasons and purpose rather than being “told what to do”.  Today as a result, I have a pretty solid foundation and open line of communication between myself and all of my parents.  (As I mentioned before, I have two step-parents that also raised me and I respect them as much as I respect my biological parents.)

Summer fun on a budget

We all love the roller coasters, concerts, and road trips during the summer, but those activities can end up costing a fortune if you aren’t careful and if you have a family of four or more that cost gets higher faster.  Tickets, Food, Gas, Souvenirs, yikes!

I wanted to take a minute and offer a few ways to save some pennies this summer and still make great memories.  We all know I love to make lists, so not to disappoint below is a list of inexpensive summer plans and additional ways to save some cash while having a blast.

  1. Summer Concerts in the park: Many cities offer free or nearly free shows in parks (especially if you live near a college town). Bring a blanket and a picnic and kick off your sandals while you enjoy the music. Bonus fun if you get up and dance with your kids!
  2. Camping: If well managed, this doesn’t have to be an expensive adventure. For starters, you can camp in your own back yard and have just as much family fun outside under the stars there as you can in a campground.  Second, plan ahead and weekday campsites are typically less expensive.  Plan food ahead and don’t forget to bring some fun (free) activities like outdoor games and challenges to keep kids having a great time. Simple meals like sandwiches don’t require cooking so no charcoal or grill supplies are required.
  3. A Day at the beach: Find your nearest waterway. It might be a river or a pond, but chances are you can find a body of water close to home that offers a chance to try out some water activities. Many water locations have recreation areas where you can rent kayaks or canoes very inexpensively. (They may even offer free usage for locals and students.) There’s plenty of fun to be had on the banks of a river. Make it a daytrip, don’t forget to pre-pack your snacks and enjoy!
  4. Get a National Park Pass: If you live near a National Park, then it’s a great idea to buy a membership pass that you can use all year. Don’t want to splurge on one? Most National Parks have very affordable one-visit passes, and some even have discount days.
  5. Free Pool Play Dates: Be sure to take advantage of your neighborhood pool, and set up play dates with friends and family. Don’t have a neighborhood pool? Set up a play date with someone who does!
  6. Free Outdoor Concerts or Movies: There are many free outdoor performances over the summer. Check your area for any, and see if you can pack a picnic to take with you. Hint: if you’re looking for a summertime date without the kids, swap a night of babysitting with a friend, and bring along a blanket with some wine and cheese. Kick back and enjoy your free performance under the stars!
  7. Free and Cheap Store Events: Several national chain stores offer free kids’ activities throughout the year, such as building wooden projects in Lowe’s Free Build and Grow program, Home Depot’s free weekly workshops, $2 Michael’s Kids Crafting Classes, Lakeshore Learning Free Crafts for Kids, Disney Store’s Free Summer Play Days …and the list goes on and on.
  8. Be a hometown tourist: You don’t have to leave town to go on a vacation: Get to know the town you live in. Look into local landmarks, call the local historical society for some fun hometown trivia, and ask a neighbor for her favorite restaurant recommendation to try somewhere new.
  9. Volunteer your time: Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility—it also keeps kids busy. Little ones can do plenty, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods.
  10. Geocaching: This is a fun activity for all ages. There is an app to download (free).  This is a real life treasure hunt for trinkets.  Move the trinkets from location to location and log your finds and trinket status.  Add a trinket (once logged) and keep an eye on it via the website to see if your trinket is able to move across the state or country.

Extra ideas: Splash Parks, Free Bowling Nights, Free Skating Nights, Playgrounds and Parks, Local classes at Home Depot or Michaels Craft store, Storytime at a local library or bookstore, Game Nights, Bicycle Rides, the options are endless!

Opinions: We all have them but nobody really wants them.

This morning I was listening to a talk show discussing opinions and judgement of others.  It reminded me of what my father has always told me… “Opinions are like bellybuttons, everybody has them.  They are also worth what you pay for them which is usually nothing.”  That has resonated with me my whole life and listening to the talk show this morning brought it back to the forefront of my mind.

So many times we ask for an opinion for a friend, colleague or family member.   When that happens, are we really asking for their genuine opinion or are we just asking them to agree with ours and possibly seeking praise?  Yes, there are absolutely times when we seek out a genuine opinion of a subject, I’m not saying this is an all or nothing discussion, but generally if I ask “how do I look” I do not want to hear, “You look like crap or that’s the ugliest outfit I’ve ever seen.”  This is the age old joke about the wife asking if a dress makes her look fat and the universal husband answer is “No”.  It doesn’t matter if the dress is ten times smaller than the wife, but there is no reason to be hurtful.  A smart husband will usually answer “Maybe a different color or pattern would work”.  The same opinion gets across, he doesn’t like the dress, but in a less hurtful way.

Not everyone will agree with this, but words can hurt and you can never take them back.  Physical wounds heal and a scar may remain, but you can never “un-experience” something and words can be heard differently than they were meant to be spoken.

I challenge you to pause before passing judgement and the same when offering an opinion.  Is it necessary?  Will your words or actions be hurtful and unable to be repaired?  Are you speaking out of anger? Jealousy? Resentment? or is your opinion heartfelt, and coming from a good place?  It is not our place to judge others, we may have an opinion of a persons actions or words but it is just that, our opinion.  Of course speak up when you see wrong being done.  Don’t sit back and let others get hurt, but question your motives and make sure your behavior is of a genuine nature.  The way we speak to our children, our spouses, our extended family and friends shows what type of people we are the character we have. How do you portray yourself and how do others view you?  Remember, our children are always watching, listening, learning and many times repeating our behavior including how we treat others and speak to them.

SIDE NOTE: It is my opinion that if a person is continuous in a behavior or mindset that you don’t approve of or wish to partake in, than leave the situation or detach from that person.  You only go have but one life to live, choose happiness and peace of mind.  My personal rule for things such as social media is a three strike rule.  If I have friends that post three negative comments in a row or comment three times about an issue sensitive to me, I unfriend or unfollow them.  That is not me saying “I don’t want your friendship”, it is me saying “I don’t want your opinion” so I choose to not read about it.  It is anyone’s right to post their opinions ans feelings, we do not have to agree but we also do not have to participate.  Surround yourself with positive attitudes and positive people whenever possible.

Love yourself, love others, and have a happy day.

What to do with cook-out leftovers?

Did you have a recent cookout or party at your house? Is your fridge filled with leftover meat, veggies, and other yummy goodness? From chicken tacos to pan-fried sausage, here’s how to use up all the leftovers from your cookout and make sure they don’t go to waste.

Grilled Chicken Tacos:

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion,

cut into wedges,

keeping root intact 2 garlic cloves,

finely chopped 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, coarsely crushed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 corn tortillas, warmed (for serving)

Charred Tomatillo Salsa Verde (click for recipe; for serving) Cilantro sprigs, sliced radishes, and lime wedges (for serving)

RECIPE PREPARATION Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toss onion, garlic, chicken, cumin, oil, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Grill onion and chicken until cooked through and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with tortillas, Charred Tomatillo Salsa Verde, cilantro, radishes, and/or lime wedges.

Grilled Sausage and left over grilled veggies = Fritatta You can chop up leftover sausage and add it to an egg scramble, omelet, or frittata.

INGREDIENTS

6 large eggs

6 ounces leftover roasted vegetables, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)

½ cup leftover cooked grains or crumbled leftover sausage

1 ounce coarsely grated or crumbled cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped tender herbs, such as thyme, basil, and/or chives Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

RECIPE PREPARATION

1. Vigorously whisk 6 eggs in a medium bowl until streak-free.

2. Add 5 oz. vegetables, ½ cup grains (you can use left over sausage too), 1 oz. grated cheese, and 1 Tbsp. herbs; season with salt and pepper. Mix with a rubber spatula to combine.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium; swirl skillet to coat with oil.

4. Add egg mixture and cook until edges are set, about 30 seconds.

5. Using spatula, agitate eggs by scraping bottom of skillet in a small circular motion and bringing edges toward center of pan to form large curds, then let mixture sit undisturbed until edges are set again, about 1 minute.

6. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tilting skillet and lifting edges up with spatula to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath and around sides, until surface is wet but center is mostly set when you shake the pan, about 5 minutes.

7. Shake skillet to loosen frittata. Place a large plate over skillet and invert frittata onto plate.

8. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet over medium, swirling to coat. Slide frittata back into skillet; reduce heat to low. Cook until set all the way through, about 3 minutes.

9. Let frittata cool in skillet 5 minutes, then invert onto a cutting board.

10. Season frittata with salt and pepper. Cut into wedges to serve.

SIDE NOTE: This Fritatta can be prepared in advance covered and chilled. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Great to have on hand for the morning after and any visitors that may have stayed the night.

Other left over ideas can be the following:

1. Hot Dogs can be turned into beans and franks

2. Grilled steak can be converted to street tacos (use caution when re-heating so you don’t dry out your meat or over cook it.

3. Left over condiments like olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc can be made into a fun pasta salad (use rotini and an italian dressing seasoning packet for great flavor)

Do you have a bucket list and are you ticking things off?

When my mom turned 60, my sister and I asked her to create a “Bucket List”.  She laughed and responded, “I’m not dying!”  On the contrary, my mother is in impeccable health and will probably live well into her 90’s.

Our point in asking her was that she spent the majority of her life raising my sisters and I and now that we are grown doing well on our own with families of our own, we want to ensure she has and is ticking off items from her own “Bucket List”.  When tasked to make a list, she started small.  We went to a painting class, we took a segway tour around a city a few hours away, we went to a hockey game, and even zip-lining.  As she tried more of the things she had yet to explore we found that her list grew longer and more adventurous.  We have learned a lot about our mom, been able to experience great things with her and grown closer as adults.

In the past few years she has experienced her first concert and for this our cousins and husbands joined in the fun.  It was an amazing time.  This past year my sister and I had the pleasure of accompanying our mom on her first cruise.  The three of us traveled to Mexico where we ate authentic Mexican cuisine and went snorkeling in an underground river.

As she has added to her list and our adventures have grown, so has my personal bucket list.  I’ve discovered more of what I would like to do and where I would like to go along the way.

I challenge you to create your own bucket list and ask your family to do the same.  By writing it down and posting it you will not only discover your family’s dreams but also have a visual reminder of the things you can plan for and do.

This Saturday I will be skydiving for the first time in my life.  I’m terrified and excited all at once but as they say “You only life once” and I truly want to experience it all on my trip through life.

Enjoy your family, experience the world around you, and make memories everywhere you go.  Have a Happy Day!

Happy Fourth of July, Celebrate safely

Happy Fourth of July! As we gather our families and friends to celebrate our nation’s holiday let’s remember to use caution and be safe. Below are some easy safety tips to follow and share.

  1. Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks. Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  2. A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  3. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  4. Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  5. Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles. Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water. Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  6. Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  7. Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  8. Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

And let’s not forget the safety of our pets!

  1. Don’t bring your pets to a fireworks display, even a small one.
  2. If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound.
  3. Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
  4. Never shoot fireworks of any kind (consumer fireworks, sparklers, fountains, etc.) near pets.

Extra tip for pet owners: I personally have two very very small dogs and loud bursts of sound terrify them. During holidays and celebrations that include fireworks, we like to leave the tv or radio on a little louder than normal close to their sleeping quarters. This provides for constant sound, drowns out some of the noise from fireworks, and helps to reduce the stress of the random bursts of noise.

3 ways to cook corn on the cob for your next get together.

Corn on the cob is a great staple for cookout! Here are three easy ways to cook the perfect corn on the cob for your next cookout. #Cornonthecob #cookout #cookingisfun

1. Boil it up: Boiling is the classic way to prepare sweet corn. You can either use a wide, flat pan and lay the corn on its side, or use a taller stockpot to boil a big batch at once. Either way, fill the pan with enough water to cover the corn and bring it to a boil. Shuck off the outer husk and silk from the corn. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in the water and add the corn. If your corn is very fresh, cook it for three to five minutes. For corn that’s a few days old, go for six to eight minutes once.

2. Microwave it: In our house, we use this method a lot when having corn as a side dish for dinner. Shuck the corn and wrap it in damp/moist paper towels. Cook on high for three minutes. Carefully remove from the microwave (it will be hot), coat with butter and seasoning and wrap it in aluminum foil. It will continue to steam in the aluminum foil and absorb the butter and seasoning as it cooks.

3. On the grill: Roasting on the grill gives the corn a smoky flavor that is absolutely delicious. Peel back the husks, but leave them attached at the stem. Remove all the silk and then brush the corn with olive oil (butter can sometimes burn). Add salt and peper to your preference. Cover the corn back up with the husks and secure them closed with a piece of string or aluminum foil. Roast the ears of corn over a medium-hot grill, turning occasionally, until the outer husks are charred and toasted. This usually takes about 15 minutes. Let the corn cool enough to handle, then strip off the husks and eat.

You are responsible for your own happiness

I learned a long time ago that no one can MAKE you happy or MAKE you sad.  You in fact are responsibly for your own happiness and the way you feel.  Now, don’t get up in arms so quickly, finish reading with an open mind before you come up with a hundred scenarios to try and prove this statement false.  Yes, there are many, many many situations that are very very sad, even tragic.  And there are many many situations that are so filled with joy is can bring tears to our eyes almost uncontrollably.  Now I ask you, do these feelings last?  Do they last five minutes? Five days? Five years?  Because if they do, than maybe I’m wrong, maybe these are the things that make us happy and sad.

What I mean when I say we are responsible for our own happiness is just that.  I allow what others say and do to affect me negatively or positively.  Take the birth of a child.  If my friend has a baby, I may be filled with joy for their new arrival.  I may be filled with jealousy over wanting a little bundle of joy.  I may be filled with concern over their ability to care for the child, or for the child’s well-being in general should there be an issue.  None of these are brought on by the mother or the children they are all in my head and in my heart and I choose to feel them and think them.

Recently I lost a friend due to alcoholism, liver failure to be exact.  I chose to not be filled with sorrow though I was very sad.  I choose to embrace his memory and his struggle and use it as an example of what alcohol can do.  Share his story and move forward.  I think I would have a good reason to be very sad for a good length of time considering the back story on my particular friend and the situation,  but again…. I am responsible for my feelings and my thoughts.  This is my choice.

When I was a child and was angry or upset, my parents would ask me how long I intended to be angry.  At first I thought it was strange, but then it became normal behavior.  If I responded with twenty minutes, than for twenty minutes, they would leave me alone and let me sulk and be very very angry with them.  However, at the end of the twenty minutes, they would come to me and let me know my time was up.  It was time to change my outlook on the situation.  Now there were situations as I grew older that required full days or even several days of anger or sadness, but just the same, at the conclusion of my time frame, my parents would come back to me and check to see that my frame of mind had adjusted and let me know it was me responsible for my happiness and it was time to find that within me once again.

I watched a video this morning on this very topic.  It spoke of being responsible for your own happiness within a relationship (marriage specifically).  If you are not happy within and responsible for your own happiness, than you come to the partnership with an empty cup, constantly rattling it begging for someone else to fill your cup for you.  If you both come to the table that way, it is destined to fail.  If one of you comes to the table that way, it is destined to fail.

A partnership is defined as a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities.  Notice the words “joint rights and responsibilities“.  JOINT.  Not part, not sum, not half-way.

Come to the table with your own joy from within.  Throughout your marriage there will be many peaks and valleys.  Sometimes you will pull 50% of the line and sometimes 70%, even 90%.  Just remember, there are days when your partner will be pulling the same amount when you are in a valley.  If you are responsible for your own feelings, it will make towing the line int he relationship so much easier.  As thought there is no anchor weighing you both down.

I hope you find your happiness within and enjoy your journey through life.  As always, have a happy day!

Feeling fluffy and finding my way

So I just have to share a little about self-esteem today.  I have struggled with this a lot in the past year.  Probably more so than I ever have in my life.  About a year ago I got super sick out of the blue and was very scared and unsure of what was to come.  I lost a lot of weight as a result.  Though I’ve never been a very large woman, I started to look like Skelator with a bobble head and it was very scary.  My friends and family were noticing and getting super concerned as well.  I have since made a full recovery and have gone in the opposite direction and am now feeling a little fluffy.  Still not a very large woman, but bigger than I would like to be.  Then again, I think this could be the complaint of any woman on any given day.  Now, I am not looking for diet advice or a compliment here.  Trust me, that is the furthest thing from my mind.  What I am trying to do these days is find a happy medium in my mind.  It truly bothers me when anyone makes any comment good or bad about my looks or my weight.  It always has.

I am curvy.  I am not small.  I am not large.  In my husbands eyes, I am beautiful and this is really all that matters.  But I want to see beautiful when I look in the mirror too.  I see other woman who are bigger than me and smaller than me and I am secretly jealous of not their beauty, but of their confidence.  I want to be as confident of a large woman who holds her head high and knows she is just as beautiful as a small chested very petite woman.  Self-confidence starts at a young age.  It is built up and broken down.  I’m not really sure where mine went off track, but in the past year of my body shape drastically changing, coupled with many years of drastic changes due to decisions of my own… my self-esteem was the first thing to suffer.

Here I am trying to re-build it.  I have tried and am trying all the fad diets, the trendy outfits, the make-up and more.  As I think of it, it is truly an inside job.  I have to accept me for me and love me.  I have a beautiful life.  A wonderful husband.  Two wonderful sons who I am beyond blessed to have, grandchildren, a sister, amazing parents, and friends.  (Notice I didn’t mention the “stuff”)  Sure, I have “Stuff”, but it’s the people in my life who make me smile and fill my heart.  The stuff keeps me comfortable, but I can’t take that with me,  The memories I make every day with the people I love is what matters.

I have no idea if anyone out there feels that same way.  Confused and struggling with their self-image, but all the while knowing they have a pretty damn good life and happiness is right there.  The smile is waiting for me in the mirror if I just give myself a chance and cut myself a break.  I guess I just needed a reminder.  A daily reminder to keep smiling at myself in addition to the stranger on the street.

I hope you are having a happy day.

Losing your place in line

Do you ever feel just a little bit lost?  Like you know you belong but you still feel out of place?  Like you’ve been standing in line for a long time and for some reason lost your place and now you are standing outside of a crown looking in?  This has been me lately.  I’ve always shared pretty candid blogs and mostly very upbeat, but today, I’m tired.  I feel like I’ve been trying to keep up for a long time and I’m simply running on a hamster wheel.  Like I have a voice that cannot be heard for some reason and now it feels like I’m drowning.

LOL, Wow, that is a lot of metaphors.  Please don’t misunderstand, my life is wonderful and I’m generally very happy but from time to time I think we all get just a little stuck.  We start to feel maybe a little numb inside where we are sure there should be joy and happiness.  My question to you is what do you do to get out of it?  As I was waking up this morning and to be honest, fighting back tears and the desire to stay in bed under the covers, I watched my husband as he opened the blinds this morning.  This may not sound like a lot, but it truly made my heart smile at the perfect moment.   He isn’t usually the one to open the blinds and let the sunshine in.  He sleeps during the day and works at night.  But this morning, I know he did it to make me smile and feel better.  I am pretty sure I fell in love with him all over again just for that one little act of kindness.

As I watched him, I realized that it is up to me to participate in life.  He open the blinds and it was like a hand up in the right direction.  Now it is time for me to do something to get off the pity-pot.  And to be honest, I’m not even sure what has made me sad.

I may be blue and feeling a little lost lately, but as I got ready for work and drove, I realized how lucky I am to have someone who can see me.  Really see me.  Just when I feel invisible and a bit run-over, he opens the blinds just because I love the sunshine and he knows that.  He sat with me on the back porch and talked about little silly things with me and he hugged me.  It’s times like those that make me realize, I’m not lost… just a little down and there is always a way back.  The people in our lives matter.  Family and friends (no matter how many or how few) matter.  I thought about people n my past.  Relationships, friends, and others who aren’t here anymore or for some reason our lives have gone in different directions.  I am grateful for exactly how things worked out.  My dad used to tell me the most beautiful roses grow through sh*t and come out better than ever.  I think of that often and it reminds me to be so grateful for the path I have walked and reminds me to be very happy with the shoes on my feet rather than want to be in someone else’s.  My path made me the quirky, weird, slightly off woman I am today.  Any other path would have not made me… me.

I know it sounds cliché, but so many times a hug really does fix so much.  A smile, a laugh, or just a text to say hello can mean someone is thinking of you when you feel like the world is passing you by faster than you can keep up with.  I am a pretty spiritual woman and I believe in God.  At my darkest moments, I’m sure I was not alone then either.  I am sure that the people who are gone are meant to be and the people who are right here, are here for a reason.  It is up to us to embrace the little tiny moments and take the hand-up.  If we don’t, than it is our fault we remain on the pity-pot and we will end up sitting there alone.  So if you are there as I am (and have been), it’s time to take whatever smile is tossed your way and grab hold of that joy.

So today, have a happy day.  Realize that even if you are feeling a little blue or down, your smile can change someone’s day and theirs can change yours.  Today, I will smile at a stranger and hope they know “I see them, and they are important”.

Keep positivity in your life, let negativity pass you by

As I was driving into work this morning I was listening to a radio show that was right on target with exactly what I believe.  They were discussing negativity as it relates to social media and in life in general.  The example given by the radio host was this: “If you post a picture of a slice of pizza, comments back should pertain to the slice of pizza.  How can there be much negativity surrounding the pizza?”  Potentially, there may not be fans of the topping flavors and that is acceptable banter between friends of course, but this is not a platform for a political ambush. Would you agree?  Well, I do!

A long time ago a good friend offered me a bit of advice.  Surround yourself with positivity and let the negativity pass you by.  Step aside and let it go whenever you can.  Negativity is everywhere and it is so much easier for us all to go so quickly to the darker side of things so take a moment anytime you can, to find the silver linings in all of life’s little situations.  Your life will be better for it.  I’ve started doing this years ago.  I personally have battled levels of depression at times in my life for various reasons and this advice has truly helped me battle through.  Obviously I subscribe to many platforms of social media and I have a hard and fast rule for all of my connections; If you post three negative things back to back, I will disconnect from you.  This does not mean I don’t want to associate with you.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like you.  It means that when reading my social media feeds, I prefer them to be positive.  Constant negativity is not what I choose to allow to filter through.  Once or twice is understandable and I want to share in the lives of my friends, but continuous complaining or bashing is a no go for me.

Think about it.  When you turn on the news, read the paper, even drive down the road and read signs… is the news 80% happy?  70% happy? even 60% happy?  If the answer is no, then all of this negative information is being inserted into your brain and into your heart for you to filter through and process.  I’m not saying we should block out the news of the world and live sheltered lives where there are only unicorns and rainbows.  I am saying that it is up to us to see the wild flowers growing in the median and notice their beauty.  It is up to us, to see the ducks and their babies floating in the retention pond and maybe stop to feed them once in a while on a lunch break.  Enjoy the beauty and the world around us. Giggle out loud when we see something funny.  Take a moment and think about yourself.  Do you walk around with a smile on your face generally or do you frown?  This is how the world sees you.  Have you ever thought of that?  This is how your children see you as they glance across the room.  Are you a general happy person?  Or have you allowed too much negativity to turn your child-like smile to a more permanent frown?

I will admit, I am a hippie at heart and if I could fill everyone’s day with a happy thought, start everyone’s day with a smile and a hug I absolutely would.  But I can’t.  It is up to each of us to remember to hold the door for a stranger, smile at the cashier, say please and thank you, but most importantly, care for our own precious souls and ensure they are positive ones, always.  Please remember if you have little children, they are watching you always and they see you when you don’t think they are looking.  Even as they get older, they are still watching you and learning from you.  Please be a positive, happy role model for our future and keep the positivity flowing.

As always, have a happy day.

When water is thicker than blood

Many times I have heard the saying blood is thicker than water when it comes to family matters but I have found that this is not always true.  If you have had the pleasure, the HONOR, of living in a blended family than you know that water can be thicker than blood.  Let me give you some beautiful examples from my own experience.

Let’s start with my parents.  Both of my parents re-married when I was young and I was blessed with two step-parents who love me as their own.   My step-mom is my first example.  From the word go, she has treated me as her very own daughter and never waivered.  I have tested her love, tried her patience, and even tried to drive a wedge into her marriage to my father simply because I was a punk kid at times.  (Even into my twenties).  I made some rough choices and she stood by my side, encouraged me, lifted me up and helped dust me off when I fell.  She is one tough lady but has always been there standing next to me and even behind me letting me shine as I found my own light as an adult.  Just as my own biological parents have done.

Next there is my step-father.  This is another example of unconditional love.  He and I have a different relationship than he does with my other siblings.  Though he loves us all very much, he and I have a special bond that I value very much.  This bond is a result of choices I made in my twenties that changed my life and the lives of my family. (I will go into this in a separate blog someday down the road, but trust me, bad choices bring out major changes).  My parents, all four of them stepped in to help me at varying degrees and this opened up many channels of communication that I never thought possible.  It was when I was at my lowest point that I found the most love and tolerance.  I thought I had pushed all of my family to the breaking point, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.  My parents and my step-parents have taught me what real unconditional love is for a child and for another human being.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

This brings us to the present.  I am now married and a step parent to two wonderful grown men.  They of course don’t need a mommy or by any means even a mother, but here I  am and they are stuck with me.  I say that jokingly.  I love these two men as if they were my very own all along.  I now know how my step-parents felt and feel.  I worry about these guys constantly and want the best for them always.  It’s crazy!  They have children of their own and I am beyond blessed to be their “grandma”.  Words cannot describe the feeling I get when the family I married into comes together.  Some live close by and some are out of state, but I assure you they are all as close to me and as important to me as my sister, my niece and nephew, and my own parents.

Each of my sons participates in a blended family as well and I am so proud of the kind of men they are.  They are great husbands / boyfriends and amazing fathers.  Raised by an amazing man, my husband.  Though I didn’t have any part in raising them, I am still just as proud of them as ever.  My cup runneth over!  For the longest time as a child I took my step- parents for granted.  I was so very wrong.  They chose to marry my parents, they chose to be a part of my up-bringing and they choose to still be a part of my everyday life and for that I am so eternally grateful and blessed.  I too choose to be a part of my sons lives and I am so blessed that at this stage in their lives they let me.  As adults they have the opportunity to accept me into their lives, their homes and their new families.

Throughout my life, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that your family is what and who you make it.  It consists of blood relatives, people you marry and friends that are just as important or even more important than family.  Family can be close in proximity or live far away.  You can talk every day or once a month or once a year, but they are still there for you, supporting you, loving you, and in your corner when you need them and you are there for them as well.

When I play those silly games wondering what would you want with you if you were stranded on an island, my answer is always my family.  I can  make it through anything anywhere with them by my side.

My wish for you, my friends, is that you love your family / friends as much as I do.  That you have the opportunity to make amends if they are needed and that you embrace life and love more than “stuff”.  At then end of the day you “can’t take it with you”.  After all…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”

As always, have a happy day.

Let the grass grow under you, let your roots sink in

I have lived my life with a bit of a “gypsy” flair and let the wind take me where it will for so many years.  That’s right, I have never actually put roots down anywhere longer than a year or two.  To be very clear, the longest I have ever lived in one place is between 2009 and 2012.  I was renting an apartment on the beach.  That’s right, just barely three years is the longest I have ever stayed in one place until now (and I am 40!).   My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a house and the word process is an understatement!

I have been so fortunate in my life to be able to move from here to there and just pack up and go wherever the wind blows.  I have had so many wonderful experiences and some not so wonderful.  If I am being honest, part of not settling down was probably due to fear of getting older, fear of responsibility, fear of losing my “free-spirit”.  I am here to tell you, there is also something wonderful about this part of life.  I feel very stressed, this is true, but I also feel very proud of myself and of my husband.  I feel like we will now have a home-base and a foundation.  I may not be communicating this feeling very well, but if you have that free-spirit in you as I do, then maybe you can understand where I am coming from.

I wanted to share with you a bit about the home-buying process from someone who has never done it before and is doing it at a bit of and older age.  First of all, I am an extremely organized person.  I have gone so far as to create a spreadsheet for all tasks to be completed as far as paperwork to be signed, deadlines, inspections, etc.  I am treating this as though I am the project manager and this is any other work related entity that has a beginning, middle, and end.  I have found it is the best way to stay on top of the vast amount of documents, uploads, and e-mails that seem to occur almost daily!

Between my husband and I, we have one point of contact for the lender, realtor, title agency, and any other contact and that is my husband.  I do the paperwork, he does the talking.  It works best for our schedules and cuts down on the “he said, she said”.  That way, at the end of the day when he and I come together we can have a pow-wow on my progress and his and meet in the middle.

We close on our home April 10th if all things go well and the stars align.  (I say that because I have learned that until you sign on the dotted line, there is always room for something to go wrong).  I am usually a glass half full kind of gal, but with the home-buying process, this is one place where you can never afford to put the cart before the horse.  It can literally leave you homeless!  Yikes!

We all know I love a good list, so in following with all of my other blogs, here is a list of the top ten things I’ve learned so far in the home-buying process.

  1. If at first you don’t succeed, try about 100 more times! (We have had to put offers in on several homes.  Just because we fell in love with a home didn’t mean the seller fell in love with our terms or our offer price or our conditions or maybe a higher offer came in, there were a multitude of reasons!)
  2. Be patient. (The whole world is not on our time schedule and that has to be alright, but it is also ok to be on top of things and follow-up if inspections or appraisals are not happening in a timely manner. This is a fine line.  Be polite, but not a doormat)
  3. Over-budget! (This is the time where you should not be spending money on anything extra and you should be planning on money to be needed in areas you never considered! Binder Check, Inspection, WDO, Appraisal, and the list goes on all the way to closing and beyond!  Don’t forget about moving costs, cleaning your current home, packing supplies!)
  4. Think long term (if you are like me and have been renting you place(s) forever than it is time to think long term. Do you LOVE the house, can you see changes you want to make, and can you see your family growing here? If you don’t love it than this isn’t the place)
  5. Life Insurance (Once you purchase your home, it’s time to think longer life planning. Make sure you have insurance in place should something happen to yourself or your significant other you will still be able to afford your new home).
  6. Schedule the best you can! (This isn’t always easy to do if you are selling a home and buying one at the same time, but if you are renting like us, it is a little easier to manage. Make sure you don’t leave yourself without a place to stay.  Schedule your closing on your new home BEFORE you have to be out of your current home.  If this is not an option, you may need to utilize storage PODS for your moving expedition or get creative and hopefully have friends you can stay with).
  7. Once you close, clean! (Before you move in and get boxes in the new home, you have a blank slate in front of you.  Take a few days to paint, clean, make alterations to the home prior to having boxes and furniture in your way.)
  8. Keep good records. (You will sign tons of documents and have a ton of papers at the end of your home-buying experience.  Create a file for your new home and put all of those papers neatly into your file cabinet.  You will need to address your home purchase when you do taxes, should there be an emergency, should there be an insurance claim, etc.  Stay organized.)
  9. Make a contacts list (Through this process you will have gained a lender, a realtor, a title agency, an insurance agent, security system, company, and many more contacts. Generate a contact sheet that is a quick reference guide for your home.  My husband and I live in Florida and this past year experienced a very difficult storm season.  We have an “important papers” file that we use during evacuations and keep handy during any emergency situation.  This contact sheet should be included in that file in case any damage is done to your home.)
  10. Have fun! (This is the most important part of the whole list. I can tell you that my husband and I have bickered and gotten on each other’s nerves from time to time during this process but at the end of the day, we have enjoyed finding our dream home together and planning our future together.  Day-dreaming about each room and how we will decorate and what we want for years to come.  These are memories we are making together and this is how our house will become a home.)

If you are like me, than letting the grass grow beneath your feet is a very big step to take and I can tell you, there is no one in the world I would rather take it with than my fabulous husband.  When you find the right one, you just know.  The world becomes a brighter place and troubles become less.  If you are bold enough to buy a home on your own, than you have my greatest admiration as well.  No matter how you find yourself letting roots sink into the ground, just make sure they are solid and in the right place.  I hope this list helps someone on the same path or made someone feel like they are normal for having the same stress level as we have.  As always my friends, have a happy day.

Easter isn’t just for the little ones… it is a family affair!

Don’t let the fun of Easter fade just because your little ones are growing up.  This season try a new twist on the Easter holiday if you have slightly older kids in your home.  If you are planning an Easter dinner, you are of course going to spend a little on grocery shopping and that will take time.  or maybe you are planning on eating out as a family.   Well, I propose a little something different.  Take that cash you will spend and hide it in the little plastic eggs you can buy at the dollar store.  Send your kids on a fun (potentially long) egg hunt and this one could include a scavenger hunt if you have older kids.  If you prefer not to do the plastic eggs, than just make it a scavenger hunt where each clue leads your kids to a cash prize and closer to the finale where they will find out the location of dinner (and the fact that the cash is what will pay for the dinner!)  That’s right…. dinner is on them this year!

If you are a softy like me, you will of course have their Easter basket for them at the family dinner or at the final clue location so there are candy and treats to be enjoyed, but the fun can be had for older children as they figure out the clues and race through the yard as they did when they were younger hunting for eggs.  Below are some examples of great clues:

  1. If you’re in a hungry mood, go here first and find some food.
  2. Now you’re on your second clue, these go on before your shoes.
  3. If you want your teeth to shine, pick this up and spend some time.
  4. Take a walk and step outside, this is where you go to ride.
  5. I used to write to send a letter, but now this machine does it better!
  6. Rubber ducky your the one!  You make ______ lots of fun!
  7. Hickory Dickory Dock, The mouse ran up the ________!

There are so many more you can come up with.  You can google “Scavenger Hunt Clues” and the lists are endless or come up with your own to include the fun places in and around your house.  Use a theme, rhyme, or make fun jokes.  Have fun and make it interesting.  This can be a fun tradition your children will look forward to each year.

On a side note, have you ever wondered about the history of the Easter Egg or the Easter Bunny?  What are they and where did they come from?  Well here is a quick history lesson for you as we hop into the holiday and hunt for our eggs.

The egg is an ancient symbol of new life and rebirth. In Christianity it became associated with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.[102] The custom of the Easter egg originated in the early Christian community of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion.[103][104] As such, for Christians, the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb.[14][15] The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute decorated chocolate, or plastic eggs filled with candy such as jellybeans.

The Easter Bunny is a popular legendary anthropomorphic Easter gift-giving character analogous to Santa Claus in American culture. Many Americans follow the tradition of coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving baskets of candy. On Easter Monday, the President of the United States holds an annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn for young children.[105] Since the rabbit is a pest in Australia, the Easter Bilby is available as an alternative. Easter eggs are a widely popular symbol of new life in Poland and other Slavic countries’ folk traditions. A batik-like decorating process known as pisanka produces intricate, brilliantly-colored eggs.

The celebrated House of Fabergé workshops created exquisite jewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.

I hope you enjoyed the quick little lesson and I certainly hope you plan on trying a scavenger hunt or something fun with your family this Easter.  As always, have a happy day!

Vacationing – “Gypsy Style”

The best vacations are the unplanned ones.  My husband and I have just returned from a whirl wind trip around Florida where in one week we accomplished the following:

  • A weekend trip to a friends wedding where I participated as a bride’s maid.
  • A visit to my dad’s lake house to pick-up a few things for my dad (pre-surgery for him)
  • A few days in the keys (fishing, kayaking, site seeing, etc.)
  • A celebration of life for my Great Aunt who has passed away (at 95 years of age)
  • A visit to my father’s house (post-surgery)
  • A visit with  my son and some house hunting
  • And home to in-pack and do some laundry.

Now, I will admit, some of these little day or multi-day trips were pre-planned, but for the most part, we just jumped in the car and headed out for a road trip and our vacation worked our beautifully.  Stress free and my husband and I laughed harder and longer than we have in so long.  Along the way we made new friends and connected with old ones.  We made side trips to the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs and took a little hike thru the Florida Panther and wildlife preserve down in Alligator Ally (neither of which were even thought of in advance).

If I can offer a few pieces of friendly advice they are the following:

Love often and laugh hard.  Tell jokes!  Sing along to the radio.  And don’t get mad if the other person likes to hum.  That’s right hum.  I have learned that my husband hums when he is happy.  It used to irritate me, now, I listen for it because it lets me know that he is genuinely happy in is heart and then I have done my job.

Hold hands with your best friend just because you can.  I love it when my husband comes up beside me and takes my hand to go for a walk.  There is no reason.  He isn’t “Dragging me somewhere” or “Showing me something”.  He just likes me close to him, and I, he.

Stop and smell the roses, and take a picture too!  Along our trip, we noticed things that had we been in a rush we would have missed.  The Alligators on the shore of the ditch along the road.  The iguana eating lunch in the mangroves as we kayaked in the afternoon.  The beautiful shells along the seashore and the tide changed.  The local food, the music, the smells in the air, all so beautiful if we just slow down and put our electronics away for a moment.

Stop worrying.  We had so many things to see and do during the week.  A wedding, time for each other, a surgery for my dad, extended family worries, and a funeral of sorts.  But as my dad has always told me….  Even when you leave this world, someone will still pile things into your “inbox” and the world will still turn.  Do what needs to get done and don’t sweat the small stuff because after all, it’s all small stuff.

So with that in mind, we enjoyed the heck out of each day and love each friend and family member as we made it to them.  And all the while, we held hands, sang songs and laughed.

May your next vacation be very soon.  Try to take an evening away, a little weekend getaway or even a few days to get back to what is really important and that is each other.  As always, have a happy day.

The best advice ever…

I read an article today that struck my fancy and I just have to stop and share a few tidbits.  I hope that it will inspire you to either share your own words of wisdom or pass these on.  The article asked women executives from across the country to share nuggets of knowledge that had been so kindly shared with them.  Little quips that helped to mold their careers, the way they face the world and/or everyday challenges in life.  You know I love lists, so of course, I’ll share them in list format.  I feel a list makes them easier to pass on, remember, or if you are like me, when you see it… you copy and past it into your digital notebook of tasty treats for your mind and soul to be nibbled on at a later date.

  1. Get your education
  2. Follow your compass
  3. Make whatever you do your passion
  4. In a world where instantaneous action is expected, we cannot lose sight of the value of pause…
  5. Approach every situation as if you area a small child.  Observe those around you, honor their experience and learn from their expertise.
  6. Build a network, add value to a room
  7. Set your bar high and go get it…..When you reach your goal, reset and do it again… continue to aim high.
  8. You create your own destiny by how hard you work and the time you put into the business
  9. Always sit at the table
  10. Don’t give up before the miracle happens, and it does happen (this one was my addition).

This article was found inside the pages of the Jacksonville Business Journal Vol. 33, No 19 in case you care to take a peak.  Here is a little blurb from the paper….

“A mentor could be your mom or dad, your first boss or someone you admire from afar.  You can talk to that person every week or remember his or her words for decades.  A mentor’s advice stays the same when you change jobs.  It prepares you for your next promotion and helps you recover from your most-recent setback. And the day will come when you hear your mentor’s voice in your head and the message becomes your own.”

My wish for is that you have a mentor and become a mentor.  Remember that everyone should be treated with the same respect from the Janitor to the CEO and that includes yourself.  You can go so far in  life and you are only held back by your fears of success.  Go move mountains my friends and remember along the way….

have a happy day

 

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