Thursday, December 27, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness

I'm not sure if it's because I just had a baby, I look crazed when I am out with the two little ones and trying to get them to the car or people have just felt in the Christmas spirit, but i have noticed an extra kindness from many people I don't even know or barely know lately.

Last week, a woman at our playgroup walked my son up the stairs because he kept running off when it was time to go and I was trying to get the baby, diaper bag and the treats we brought to share with everyone for the Christmas party.

I was at the grocery store and two women in the car next to me offered to put our cart away on a cold, rainy night so I didn't have to run it over there with the kids in the car.

Another person offered us her place in line so we could get out of the store when my son was at his breaking point.

All those little things made my week before Christmas a little easier and reminded me how the little things, that often take little effort can make someone's day.

Mission Accomplished!



So we successfully saved for and bought an entertainment armoire last weekend. Most of the money came from selling items we no longer needed on eBay and craigslist, but we did receive a little from my mom as a family Christmas present to help us reach our goal.

We are enjoying keeping everything out of the little one's hands and getting rid of our $14 bookcase I bought in 1991 and our $14 cart I bought in 2000 that were adorning our family room.

We got it for 60 percent off at a going-out-of business sale up the road from us at Levitz furniture. It felt so good to go in and buy something we had waited for and saved for. It feels like we are making progress in changing our spending habits, which is positive as well.

Thrifty Thursdays: Returns On Printer Cartridges


I don't know about you, but we go through a ridiculous number of printer cartridges. A great way to not only recycle them, but get instant savings is to save them and bring them into an office supply store the next time you need to buy some.

Most stores like Office Depot and Office Max can refill them or give you a store credit toward additional ones. I have five on my desk.

At OfficeMax you can get $3 off your purchase for each one you bring in (up to five per day). At Office Depot, you receive a $3 coupon for a future purchase.

For me, that is a free cartridge usually every few months. That means I can use the $15 for something fun, like going out to lunch, or something we need, like paying more toward our debt.

The little things add up. Take a look at this story my dad sent me this week. This guy bought a truck in cash with money he had saved up since he last bought a car 13 years ago... how awesome is that!

Focaccia - Yummy!


I have a lot of posts written in my head but have been unable to take five minutes to post them so several of them should be posted in the next few days.

I got a panini grill for Christmas and am trying out new sandwiches. In order to aid with the experimentation, I am also trying various breads. Today I made my first loaves of focaccia bread. It was surprisingly easy and very tasty. There is only a photo of one because by the time I went to take the photo, one was already devoured by my son and husband.

I got my recipe off of Bread-Maker.net and just added rosemary, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. I may have been a bit more creative, but my son got sick so I quickly baked it so we could head to the doctor....oh fun:).

You can get the recipe here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thrifty Thursdays: Dreaded Credit Card Debt


So my hubby and I are tackling our credit card debt with efforts to eliminate it in the next few years entirely. This is no easy task and neither of us are too proud of having it, but there are ways to reduce how much you will pay everyone with credit card debt should at least investigate. You can often reduce your interest rate with just a phone call.

I have had this on my list of things to do forever and am embarrassed I didn't do it sooner. We have debt from our years in school and unexpected medical bills and it has added up for too long.

We have three major credit cards and we realized two of the cards had interest rates higher than 10.5 percent. Since we know our credit scores and know we have pretty high ones, we also know we are in a low-risk category to creditors. We always pay our bills on time and haven't missed a payment, which really helps us.

I called the company we've have two of our cards with primarily because the other card we have with them is the one we've had the longest time (10 years now). I simply asked if we could reduce our interest rate on our card so we can focus on paying it off quicker. We were also looking at consolidating our cards so one way or another, we were going to be getting a better rate.

The rate we had was 15.99 percent on that card and the other one we were paying at an interest rate of 22.74 percent, way above what we should. The fist card offered me a rate of 12.99 percent or a rate of 9.99 percent if I transferred the other balance (the one at 22.74 percent) and a promotional rate of 3.99 percent on the transfer amount until July. There are fees involved (make sure you always ask). The fees, however, add up to what we would pay in interest on our second card in two months.

I ran some calculations and realized, if we continued to pay the same amount we were paying on the two cards toward the one card with the one balance instead, we would save at least $1000 in the next year that could go toward paying off the cards quicker. That is even after subtracting the fee and adding up the savings from the different interest rates with the two cards,

Make sure you spend the time to know the conditions and terms of any credit card agreement though. I spent a total of 39 minutes on the phone to put this together and felt great when I got off because I worked at reducing our debt by negotiating the terms on our credit cards.

I do recommend to check your rates often because they can go up for a number of reasons and a lot of times you may not even realize it. Credit card companies are anxious to keep you in any way though because they make money off of you. Plus if you pay your bill son time, they don't want to lose your money.

Of course it is better not to get into credit card debt in any form, but it is too easy to just feel like you can never get out of it when you are in it. The reality is, with a little planning and tightening the spending in other areas, you can make your way toward paying them off.

We had eight cards altogether (including a medical one and a few department store ones) and are now down four, which is a great feeling. Another two will be gone in the next few months and then we have two. Those ones are the larger debt, but we are putting all the extra money toward them and they will be on the way toward elimination. They are also the ones with the lowest interest rates.

Lesson: all it took was a phone call and 39 minutes. I think saving the $1000 makes it worth my time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Open Minds



I'm a sucker for good quotes and when I find ones I really like, I like to share them. I get a quote of the day on my google home page from C.S. Lewis and Albert Einstein. This one appeared today and I just loved it. What a great distinction he makes.

An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or of Practical Reason is idiocy.
~ C.S. Lewis
Interesting....

Or as my dad always put it "Keep an open mind in life, but don't let your mind be so open your brain leaks out." I don't really want my brain leaking out so I think about that one on a regular basis (Yes dad, I did listen once in awhile when you gave advice;).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Go Home And Love Your Family

I find it rather ironic and sad that those we love the most often see the worst sides of us. I heard a comment on the radio to that effect the other day and was reminded to examine myself and see what my family sees.

I think about all the times I am so stressed out or frustrated or in a fight and then the phone rings and the caller on the other end has no idea anything is even wrong because my voice changes, my tone changes and suddenly nothing is wrong.

When I have a friend or acquaintance do something that really frustrates me, I rarely say anything, but if it is my husband, all too often I am quick to get more frustrated than the situation warrants.

I know I am not the only one who does this. I do feel like you need to be able to have off moments. Let's face it - everyone does. But sometimes when I am in a funk it seems my husband and kids get more off moments than good moments. Granted we do get to know all the little idiosincracies living with another person and there are going to be things that drive you nuts. Then I think of the movie Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams is describing how he remembers his wife farting in bed in her sleep. He says:

Ah...! But Will, she’s been dead for 2 years, and that's the stuff I remember: wonderful stuff you know? Little things like that. Those are the things I miss the most. The little idiosyncrasies that only I know about: that's what made her my wife. Oh she had the goods on me too, she knew all my little peccadilloes. People call these things imperfections, but there not. Ah, that's the good stuff.
It's then that I have to sit down and think about why I get so worked up. My family means more to me than any other people in the world and this is how I show it. Usually when I examine what is happening, I quickly realize the "problems" that seem to put me in such a bad mood really are not too bad. They may still drive me nuts, but I just have to get over them.

My challenge for myself this Advent season is to really act with love toward those I do love. Life is too short and you never know how much time you really have left. I'm sure if I died tomorrow I would not regret not getting upset more often, but I may think about the missed opportunities to show love and compassion toward those who mean so much to me and the times I didn't show forgiveness when it really needed to be shown.

When Mother Teresa received her Nobel Prize she was asked, 'What can we do to help promote world peace?' Her answer; 'Go home and love your family.'
Amen! Let's do that!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thoughts To Ponder About Serving Others

So I was reading more of the "Mustard Seeds" book and I came across this thought:

Over coffee a man said, "Our role as Christians is to serve. Serving is not about ability, it is about availability."
How true is that? I know often I have missed opportunities to serve and help others because I think I have nothing I can truly offer them. I think my ability is not where i need it to be to be the best servant.

The truth is if we make ourselves available, God will use our willingness to be open to serve others in the ways He needs.

Several times I almost didn't take photos for various non-profit groups because I thought, "Who wants me to take photos for them? It's not like I'm famous. I haven't even been working out of college for long and don't have any prestigious awards to my name."

Often though I have decided to help out, mostly because the group really needs a photog. Oftentimes, the photos are better than what they expect and the organizations use them for many purposes in the following years.

Let us not pass us opportunities to serve because we're too worried about fine-tuning our abilities. Instead let us focus on seizing the opportunities we're presented with to serve and help others. We can let God worry about fine tuning our abilities to fit the needs of those we serve. All we have to do is say yes.

Thrifty Thursday: The Public Library


It's so easy to forget that for our taxes, we actually should expect some things in return. Ones of these amenities is the public library. For years I stopped going to the public libraries until I graduated college. I thought they were boring, I was cooler than that, yada, yada.... However, after we moved to the Chicagoland area as a newly married couple making very little money we rediscovered how many resources were available at the libraries.

Not only are there books, but now many libraries carry many movies (on VHS and DVD), offer training for computer programs, have free Internet access, a ton of magazines and often host many community programs and events. When we move now, one of the first things I do is get a library card. When I have extra time, I go and check out DVDs, books and magazines that I am interested in. I especially like the magazines because I thoroughly enjoy reading magazines, but can't justify the cost to subscribe to most of them.

Most libraries also have online reservation systems, so it is very easy to look online to see if they carry a book you're looking for and then put a hold on it. Our library is connected with 20 or so other area libraries and if any of them carry the book, you can get it sent to your library and pick it up when it arrives.

So even though they fall into the "old-fashioned" amenities, they are a great way to save money. I know many books I would like to read are not necessarily ones I have the money to buy. The library gives me access to so many more items than I would have without it.

Oh yeah, and as a mom they often offer events like weekly story times that cost *gasp* NO MONEY. Imagine that, something your kids can participate in and really enjoy that is free. Hard to find, especially on the East coast.

So that's my plug for the local libraries - hooray for reading!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thoughts To Ponder: Preparing For Christmas


I am reading a book given to me by a woman at church called "Mustard Seeds" by Matthew Kelly. It is a book with little one-line thoughts for the day and many of them are meant to get you thinking.

Anyway, I figured I'd mention ones that stand out to me from time to time. On November 20th, the entry is this:
This Christmas take as much time and care preparing your soul to receive Jesus as you do to prepare food, gifts and your clothes.

How cool is that? What a great challenge..... I know most years I spend so much time running around, getting presents ready and Christmas cards postmarked and trip plans made I can easily lose sight of the reason any of this means anything at all.

This year is a nice break because I threw all (ok most) of my expectations out the window. We decided not to travel and it will just be the four of us on Christmas here. Gifts are simple and we prepared most of them before our second son arrived.

Still, there is so much more I can truly do to prepare my heart and mind for the Christmas season. Every time I look at that entry, it is a reminder for that Christmas is so much more than the festivities and we need to not lost Christ in the Christmas.

Thrifty Thursdays: What Do The Ads Really Mean?


So after working in the wonderful world of retail during some of my high school and college days I learned two things.

1. I wanted to continue school if nothing else, so that I didn't have to be a cashier forever. It's a perfectly respectable job, but I could only take so much of it.

2. I figured out what all those headlines on the ads like "lowest price of the season" really meant.

It's not rocket science, but I guess I never really sat and thought about it much. There are some clues as to when you are getting a good deal and when you really aren't.

"Lowest price of the season" - pretty much never a spectacular deal. More likely a deal they run monthly. There are so many "seasons" in retail it's hard to keep track.

"Lowest price of the year" - a great deal if it's the end of the year, but you tend to see a lot of these at the beginning of the year. So technically it may be the best price of the year, but the year may only be a few weeks old.

"Lowest price ever" - this one you rarely see, but if you do, you're likely getting a good deal.

"Our best holiday prices' - pretty useless, likely equal to lowest price of the season.

Also, stores use promotions like rebates to lure customers in, knowing full well that nearly half of those customers who buy a rpoduct based on the rebate price will, in fact, never take the time to send the rebate in and therefore pay a lot more than what it is worth.

For example, I bought an SD card and a jump drive during black Friday on Circuit City's web site. Both items had mail-in rebates and the rebates totaled $25. When I received the package, I did not receive the mail-in rebates. After a bit of looking on their site, I found a section listing all their rebates from the last year and printed them off. It is the difference between me paying $40 for the two items and $15.

I have to make it a priority to send inr ebates however, or I fall into the group that never gets aroudn to it. I usually fill them out as soon as I buy the product so I don't forget.

Enough fun for today:). Happy shopping.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thrifty Thursday (On Saturday)


So I am still a little behind with having a new baby and Thanksgiving adn everything this week, but I still wanted to sit down and write this post for all of those Christmas shoppers out there.

A new site I am totally loving is Price Protectr. You can input any items you buy and if they show up cheaper within a certain time frame, the site will email you with the new price and may save you money.

I tried it out with a new camera I bought and over the four weeks, I got emails detailing more than $20 in savings. Unfortunately, the company I bought (I bought it on Amazon through one of their vendors) did not give money back and I was not sending my camera back because I wanted to have it when the baby arrived, but the point is they do a good job tracking the prices for specific items. With big ticket items, especially around Christmas, you could potentially save a lot depending on all the factors that make retailers discount prices.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Blessings


We have much to be thankful for this week, much less this year.

This week, I am so thankful for my mom, who has helped me out tremendously with my newborn and my toddler. Without her, I don't know how I could have possibly made the transition so smoothly. She has years of experience to offer after raising eight of us and has such a love for babies it's not difficult to sneak away for a quick nap. I am going to miss her and all the good cooking when she takes off. It's a rare treat we get a whole week with her and our family always relishes it.

I am also so grateful for a woman at our parish who offered to watch our son as we headed to the hospital. It's difficult to find people who are available, much less willing and offering. She came over at 4am and spent the whole day with him. Without her, I am not sure what we would have done. God really places the people and resources you need when you need them in your life. My mom arrived that afternoon and was able to take over for her.

Of course we are thankful for the birth of our second son. Over the years we have learned not to take anything for granted, especially the blessing of children. After this summer of bed rest and several scares, it is wonderful to be at home recovering from the birth of our son and to realize he is here happy and healthy.

We are also thankful for so many other things, here are a few:
  • my husband's new job

  • a place to live

  • the ability for me to stay home

  • selling our house

  • friends all over

  • family

  • our health

  • the health of our babies and those we love

  • the ability to travel and visit those we love

  • opportunities to take photos, write and share

  • health insurance

  • proper health care

  • money for medicines we need

  • strong faith

  • church community

  • new friendships

  • old friendships

  • everyone in between:)

  • freedom to practice what I believe

  • freedom to voice my opinion

  • freedom to live how I choose


So on this day of Thanksgiving, I am very blessed and grateful for all the gifts God has bestowed on us. May you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Making Newcomers Feel Welcome

I am keeping a running list of all the things people have done for us, which has made our moving around a lot easier in the end. I want to make notes because I feel like the benefit of moving around so much is that if we ever do get to move home or once we are in a place for a long time, we can be a resource for those who find themselves in similar positions as we have.

On that list are things like going out of our way to invite new people to do something socially. I know it's easy to forget when you have many friends around that the 'new' person whom you had a good conversation with and want to get to know may have nothing planned socially for the next several months.

There is nothing to make someone feel more welcomed than actually being included in something not by obligation, but because someone took five seconds to invite you. Even if you can't make whatever it is, feeling like you belong means a lot.

Another thing is just taking a few minutes to introduce yourself to someone. I can't tell you how many parishes my husband and I have attended for months or years, participated in activities, etc. and left still not knowing anyone. We tried, but so many people were so caught up in their lives and didn't seem interested in making any new friends.

A friend we had in Chicago was a master at this. We met him randomly and he began inviting us to do stuff with his friends. It was a big part of what made Chicago so special to us. And it wasn't just with us ... he did this with many people he met. You know what, the guy had a lot of friends and genuinely displayed God's love to us through his actions.

It is definitely not one-sided. We had to keep putting ourselves in situations where we would meet people or each place we lived would have been very, very lonely, but as a newcomer, it takes time to get used to a new area, new customs and new people.

I pray I may never forget how difficult it is to be the new one around and may always take the time to make a new person feel welcomed instead of wishing they could be anywhere else.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thrifty Thursdays: Preparing For Baby


NOTE: This was supposed to get poasted last Thursday, but as babies come we left in the middle of the night early Thursday morning for our new little one's birth. He was born Thursday and we are now home from the hospital so we can post:).

A lot of times you can find great deals just by keeping your eyes and ears open. Normally I don't even listen when I hear ads for meal-prep places like Sociale, but last year I got a half-priced gift certificate for it. I bought five meals for $30. It was when life was very chaotic and due to our circumstances I couldn't stay home with our son. I went one day and made up the meals and we enjoyed them over a two-week period. It was a nice break for me and when I figured out the costs, some of them actually cost less than if I had gone out and bought the ingredients to make them at home.

Preparing for our second baby's arrival, I have been storing up meals in our freezer. Since we're still new to the area, I doubt we'll have many visitors except our out-of-town family and I want to make sure we don't resort to going out just because my husband and I are exhausted.

While you may grow tired of pastas, they are very easy to prepare ahead of time and freeze. So far I have made a few lasagnas, the canneloni and chicken parmesan.

Another thing that I try to keep around are lots of common meats for the dishes. I get them when they are on sale, divide them into meal sized portions and freeze them. Since there have been so many meat recalls recently, I have begun writing the information (when we bought them, what they are) on the bags in permanent marker as well so I know if meat I bought got recalled. I hate throwing out something because I am not sure whether or not it was recalled and I am not willing to take the chance.

I would love to hear of other recipe ideas people prepare ahead of time for quick dinenrs on busy nights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mmmmm....Cannelloni




I tried making raviolis last week and failed miserably so tonight I took another stab at the pasta making -- mostly because I still had all the stuffing for the raviolis.

I am happy to report I successfully made, from scratch, cannelloni. I actually made two pans, one to bake and one to freeze. I decided to make a combo of butternut squash, pumpkin and some spices along with sausage.

With the ravioli I got hung up on my raviolis falling apart as I worked them through the pasta machine and finally we had some really sad looking pasta. Luckily my husband humored me and told me it really wasn't that bad. The only part that wasn't bad was the filling.

Then I realized I had to run the dough through the machine several times before attempting to make them into raviolis. Today it worked a lot better. After making the two pans, I used the extra dough to make noodles for a later dinner.

Before the sauce....














Extra noodles....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Missing Missouri


So I am from Missouri and am currently living on the East Cost - drastic change in the everyday life. Everything from what's around, to what people do to the pace of life is different. I think we are adjusting quite well, but after so many moves and never feeling too settled since we have been married we pretty much know what to expect when we move.

First there's the initial awe. Everything's new and different and an adventure. Due to my bed rest, this time was very quickly halted a few weeks after we arrived, but generally, that happens for a few months - 6 months tops.

Then there's the letdown period. I personally think this is the most difficult time period. It's when you are somewhat settled and actually know someone, anyone in the area, but not well enough to just hang out with them. A lunch date requires at least a week or two advance notice and spending any time on a weekend together could be fun, but also requires a lot of advance notice.

Finally, after usually a year or so there's a new comfort. You have some friends with which, if you left, you actually may remain in touch with. You don't know the area really well, but you know where the closest grocery stores, Targets and other necessities are. You know the quickest routes and possible alternatives if the main road is clogged.

So right now we're sitting in that in-between time. What's a bit more challenging is that we're having a baby any day. We are so excited, but it is also a bit scary.

My husband and I have spent a lot of time talking about what has moved us around so much and although we are glad we have had the experiences, we would have both welcomed a move back to Missouri, but we believe that door was shut at the time because God has a different plan for us right now. If we're honest with ourselves, we know even if the door had been slightly ajar, we would have done everything to push it open. We just wait for God to reveal what the plan is, whenever that may be.

As I was "cleaning" my digital files today, I came across a song that I think says what we feel. It's from a country star originally from Missouri and it's called "Missing Missouri."

I admit I can't listen to it without tearing up because even though we aren't touring like she talks about, I didn't grow up in the boothill and I didn't sneak out except once growing up:), I do feel like we are on another type of road. Whenever it leads us back home, even for brief amounts of time, there's a sense of relief, comfort, recognition and belonging that all the other places in the world can't compare to. Some days my heart just aches for that.

So anyway, this got longer than I planned but here is the song.

I love my life, love my husband
Without those kid's, man I ain't nothin'
I love my fans, love my band
Love my little Tennessee piece of land
Sometimes my life can get so hectic
Out of the blue when I least expect it
Somewhere between the hubbub and the drama
I get to thinkin' bout mama and

(CHORUS)
I'm caught up in missing Missouri
'Cause I wanna be with my family
Instead of stuck out on this road I'm on
Everytime my bus wheels hit the boot hill
There's no limelight and I'm alright
'Cause I'm almost home
Where they love me, where they know me
Where they show me back in Missouri

the road just ain't no place for whiners
It's motels, truck stops, all night diners
Hoping that your song'll sell
And having to smile when it ain't doin well
So when everything just gets too much
And I feel like I'm givin up
I close my eyes and say a little prayer
And its like I'm there and

(CHORUS)

Bridge:
Late summer nights sneakin out the window
Me and the girls driving down the backroads
Tobacco fields and bumblebees
And the cardinals playing on TV

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Take Time To Laugh


I love this. I was finishing cleaning up my craft area and found this from when I worked at a news station. I was having a difficult day, week, month, year (take your pick:) and I really needed something to make me look at the situation in a new light. One of my coworkers had this at her desk and I borrowed it, copied it and hung it high where I could see it every day. It really made me take a breath and remember to focus on what I could do to improve my situation and what I could learn that day, not what wasn't happening for me at work. It was a lot easier to focus on one thing each day too, instead of the overwhelming amount of aspects I wanted to change all at once.

Take Time to Laugh
Here are some great tips on how to make your day a little easier to take. And
remember there is always time to laugh!!!

Mondays are for Compliments: This overcomes our tendency to critize and be judgmental of others, which robs us of laughter. Look for the good in others,
tell them about it, and you might just end up laughing together. "A kind word
often goes unspoken, but never goes unheard."

Tuesdays are for Flexibility: There is no laughter in being stubborn. We all get set in our ways and yet it is a good thing to be open to new ideas. It can be more fun than being in a rut. An open mind lets the laughter in. "The tree that bends in the wind does not break."

Wednesdays are for Gratitude: A good way to feel miserable is to always think you need something more to make you happy. An attitude of gratitude
brings serenity and laughter. "As you go through life, let this always be your
goal; Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole!"

Thursdays are for Kindness: Think of ways to help make the other person’s life a little easier. Simple kindness may be the most vital key to the riddle of how human beings can live with each other in peace, and care properly for this planet we all share. "The practice of kindness creates healthy relationships and community connection and inspires people to pass kindness on to others."

Fridays are for Forgiveness: Forgiveness means letting go of anger. Find a way to see those who have hurt you in the new light of compassion. Releasing
anger makes you healthier and opens up room in your heart for more laughter.
"I never hold a grudge because while I am being angry the other guy is out
dancing!"

Weekends are for Chocolate: Remember to eat some chocolate or any other favorite food. Remember to take time for leisure, pleasure and relaxation. "A bad day fishing beats a good day working."

World Laughter Tour, INC.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thrifty Thursday

As a mom, I am always looking for ways to save money and to help make our money stretch further than it seems to want to. I thought I'd share some of these tips by following the lead of some of my fellow bloggers and create a "regular" feature. I'm not sure how regular it will when the baby is born, but for now and likely a month or two after, I'm going to take a stab at it.

One of my favorite reporters, whom I used to work with, has a great blog that often offers great tips on how to save money and general consumer tips.

In her last two posts and a story she ran last night, she offers tips on when the best time to shop for specific items is to when the best time to get specific services for your house. She also has several sites listed where you can often find great travel ideas. She is based in Minneapolis, MN so some of it is very hyperlocal, but a lot of it can be used across the board.

Since we're new in our neighborhood and haven't put all our prescriptions in a specific pharmacy, I have taken advantage of Target's coupons to receive free gift cards ($10 each) from transferring prescriptions or taking a new prescription to them. I am currently saving them up to use toward Christmas gifts. I have gotten three in the last few weeks and when I checked with my insurance, I was going to pay the same price anyway so why not?

My husband likes to joke about all the frequent buyer clubs I belong to as well. I refuse to pay money for them, so I only belong to the free ones but you can earn a lot of rewards and coupons by consistently using them. We just earned our free turkey for Thanksgiving (although we may have it at another time) by buying all of our groceries at the store we usually buy them at anyway. We also get three or so emails a week with Borders coupons of up to 50 percent off specific items. I get several $10 - $25 coupons at DSW each year including $10 just for having a birthday and we receive free meals at a lot of our favorite restaurants on our birthdays.

These are just a few of the practices my family and I have adopted over the last few years. I'd love to hear from you and hear what works for you.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Would You Do With $700K A Month?


Apparently court papers disclose that Britney Spears receives $737,000 a month and spends it all. Now I don't tend to read much of any news about stars and such, but this caught my attention - probably because it was a headline on several random news sites like CNN. (Click here to read the article).

I actually find myself feeling sorry for the girl because as messed up as she is, I think she's just really lost in life.

I don't know about you, but I can't even begin to fathom that much of money in a month .... or a year:). We make a decent income, but that's a completely different level.

My first thought, well after 'How in the heck do you spend that much money in month?!?!?' is what a chance she has to make a difference in the world. I truly believe that the gifts God gives us should be used to help out those in need of help and to carry out what God is calling us to carry out in life.

I'm not just saying that because she seems to have ridiculous amounts of money and we don't. I really believe I am just as called to share whatever gifts, resources and blessings I have as well. I may not be able to make million-dollar gifts to organizations I care about, but I can make regular gifts of $20, $40 or the like to help support their ministries. I can volunteer my time to help organize fundraisers, volunteer to work on elements for their web sites or volunteer my photography skills to cover an event they have. Many organizations rely on the charity of ordinary people to keep running and get the resources they need.

I may not ever get recognized in the same way as someone who makes some big contribution, money, resources or otherwise, but that should never stop me from doing my part. It's important to remember that no matter how small the gift, it's those everyday gifts that make up the majority of help organizations and individuals in our world will actually see and use.

PS: It also goes to show that money does not buy happiness. Although you may know this in your head, it can be difficult to truly remember this as we go through life - especially at times there are money worries, but God always provides for our needs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Really Tasting LIfe


So I was reading one of my favorite magazines the other day and ran across an interesting article talking about really savoring meals and snacks. The author poses an interesting question, "When was the last time you ate M&Ms one at a time?"

May seem silly, but she goes on to talk about how we're always on the go and we rarely take the time to really enjoy a meal or snack and in turn, do a lot of mindless eating.

I've been thinking about that whenever I eat ever since i read the article. How often do I take a handful of chips or candies or dried fruits or whatever and don't taste it. I don't taste the chocolate melting into my tongue. I don't enjoy the warm cheesy macaroni when it enters my mouth. Instead I usually eat very distractedly, often thinking about the things I still need to complete on my to-do list.

What good would it do so many families if, instead of sitting down for dinner with the goal to finish quickly so you can go on to do your own thing, we sat down with the purpose of actually sitting there, catching up with those who mean the most and really enjoying the meal God has provided for us.

When I was in college, I spent a summer living with 7 girls in one big house. It was part of a program that focused on faith in our lives and one of the things we were committed to do was to sit down together each night for an hour and eat, taking turns talking about our days. At the beginning of the summer it seemed so long and I wasn't sure what to do after 10 minutes, but after a few weeks I began to really look forward to those dinners.

I loved having the time to converse and learn from my household sisters. I loved learning about them through those meals and slowing life down, if even just for that hour.

We can't make it an hour at our house right now because we have an almost two-year-old who wouldn't sit still long enough to let it happen, but we can usually make it a half hour. When it happens, I know that is by far the best part of my day. I love just enjoying that quiet time with my family - no phone calls, no emails, no TV - just us enjoying each other's company.

One beautiful fruit from that time is on those days my husband and I seem to have more understanding and patience with each other because we know what has been good and what has been challenging throughout our own days.

Our family is working to truly enjoy the food as well as the company we enjoy it with. I challenge you to take pleasure in the little things in life like daily meals and enjoy all the gifts God has given us ....right down to that M&M.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Learning Something New.....


So I'm finding that trying something new every day can be quite challenging when you are very pregnant and supposed to spend more time resting than anything else:). I'm glad I combined it with learning something new, which is a lot more feasible within my home.

Yesterday I learned the word zoophagous, which means:

1. flesh-eating, meat-eating
2. animal, animate being, beast, creature, fauna, brute - a living organism characterized by voluntary movement
3. carnivorous - (used of plants as well as animals) feeding on animals; "carnivorous plants are capable of trapping and digesting small animals especially insects"

Interesting:).

Today I figured out how often you need to clean your dryer lint (apparently every 6 months), why it is important and how to do it. Apparently the dryer sheets can leave a film on the vent and increases the risk of fire because the holes are blocked, even if they don't look like it.

You can tell if any holes are blocked when you run it under water. If the water pools above the vent instead of draining out, it's blocked.

It was very simple to clean....you take a toothbrush or soft bristle brush, run it under hot water and use dish washing soap to scrub clean the holes.

In the end, keeping that and your vents clean help decrease energy use and, most importantly, keeps your fire risk a lot lower.

So it's not an earth-shattering lesson, but it is a practical thing to know how to do.

And now, back to work. I have a few more weeks, pretty much until the baby's born and then I am finished with it.

More soon....

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Favorite Ad Campaign

I usually don't pay much attention to ad campaigns in general, but one I have thought is far and above any I have ever seen is the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. When I first save the 'True Colors' ad, I was working in a newsroom cutting all the commercials from the Superbowl during the Superbowl for our station's web site. It stopped me in my tracks and I watched it over and over again because I felt it was so powerful.

I remember always not feeling like I quite fit into the image of beauty because I didn't fit the tiny, blond-hair blue-eyed version of beauty. It didn't help that my best friend was gorgeous and fit that stereotype (although she was still insecure about herself - most girls are not immune). It wasn't until I spent a summer working for a camp for homeless kids with people from all over the world I began to realize how many forms of true physical beauty existed and how many other forms did as well.

After that realization, I didn't stop struggling with how I looked, but I grew to appreciate who God made me and how He made me and become more confident in who I was at the time.

As part of the media and specifically as a photographer, I have experienced first-hand how much the media can influence young minds and how much decisions made, specifically in editing, lighting and creating photographs, can really affect what people see and how they see themselves.

There are three YouTube videos posted on here. The first one, 'True Colors,' is my favorite and gives me chills when I watch it because it gives me hope that there are people actually pushing to change the status quo ... people in a position to actually affect it most.

'Onslaught' highlights how much what we are exposed to everyday can shape not only our minds, but the minds of our beautiful children as well and to me is a good reminder to be ever vigilant about what I allow my children to be exposed to.

Finally, 'Evolution' highlights the "amazing" tricks in Photoshop and sheds light on why no one can truly live up to the models they see in the magazines - no matter how hard they try.

Dove Film 'True Colors'



Dove Film 'Onslaught'



Dove Film 'Evolution'

Friday, October 26, 2007

Five Years Ago....


Five years ago I began a journey with my husband I never could have predicted much of the path. We smile when we think about how much we couldn't understand about marriage until we were married and know there's so much more we will learn in the years to come.

We never imagined five years would lead us through two graduate degree programs, four states we have called home, five pregnancies, several of which ended in miscarriage and unimaginable feelings of loss, bigger fights than we had ever imagined and more love than we can express. So many people spend so much time preparing for their wedding, but not their marriage, which is a big mistake. The wedding lasts a day, the marriage lasts the rest of your life.

I remember when we began dating thinking, "I have never been this close to someone in my life. He's my best friend and I can't imagine it getting better."

Then I remember on our wedding day thinking,"I knew nothing when we started dating, but now I really know this person. I know what to expect. I know what I love and hate. I can't imagine it getting any better."

Five years later we laugh at how much we couldn't have predicted or known. I still feel like I can't imagine a better life, with all the ups and downs, but I now know this relationship is a journey, always changing, growing and evolving. I pray five, 10 and 15 years down the road we look back and seen we've grown that much more together.

So this day is to honor my husband for who he is and how he challenges me every day to be a better person. I look forward to many more years of anniversaries together. I pray we continue to grow together to serve God and each other through our lives and actions.

PS: I didn't make the quiche yesterday due to several factors, so I switched gears. Instead I learned how embed a search engine on a web site specific to that particular site. For what I do, it's a very helpful tool:). Today I am not sure what I am going to tackle, but it will be something fun.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Making The Most of Each Day


I was surfing the net and found this CNN story in CNN's "Young People Who Rock" section. Although the photo is weird - why in the heck does the woman have a mustache?!?!? - I like the idea she has and think it is not just for those facing what they feel is some milestone in their lives.

I am personally going to turn 30 in less than a year. I don't face it with dread, but the last few years have been very weird for me because I remember when my parents were my age and younger. I remember saying, "My mom is 27," when I was in kindergarten.

Instead I think how blessed I am to have had almost 30 years on this Earth and pray I am blessed with many more with my family and friends.

I do like what this woman is trying to do though. She has decided to try something new each day until she turns 30. I would think it would be so addicting in a good way you'd want to keep it up past then, but whatever:).

I really like this though because it makes examine all the big and little things in life and really appreciate them.

On that note, I am going to try to follow her lead and try something or learn something new everyday. I don't ever want to stop growing and learning and when I left grad school a few years ago, I knew that if I didn't seek out opportunities to learn and grow, I would experience so many less things in life.

God has given us one life to live - shouldn't we embrace it and make the most of where we are and what we have at the time? I challenge you to join in and try it until at least the end of the year. What have you got to lose?

Today: I am going to learn how to make a homemade quiche. My husband and I have really enjoyed quiche lately and it's about time I learn to make it - doesn't look that difficult:). Guess we'll see. I'll report back with the final product - even if it fails miserably.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just For Today


Likely you have seen this, but this is one of those poems that makes me smile and think when I read it. I think of all the times as a mom I get frustrated or short on patience and how most of the stuff that is bugging me really isn't a big deal in the end. I know my little man is just a kid and what he wants most from me is time with him. I know that if anything would happen to him, all this other 'stuff' that occupies a lot of my time wouldn't matter. It' s good reminder to cherish and spend time on the important things in life.

Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.

Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.

Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles..

Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.

Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.

Just for this evening when I run my finger through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.

I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore.

And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.

Dealing With Debt

One thing that has been difficult for my husband and me over the years is to save any money and pay off debts we have. A lot of it had to do with getting through graduate school, but now that we have completed that task finally, after almost five years, we are better able to focus on paying down debts, both school and non-school ones, and getting rid of all of it.

I know for both of us, it is such a relief to be focusing on it and although we have a long road to go, our goal is to be debt-free, with the exception of maybe a mortgage, in a few years.

It is a lofty goal, but when crunching the numbers is actually attainable. We are choosing not to buy another house right now since we are not so sure how long we will be around here. Instead we are renting just the space we need and using the extra money to begin chipping away at the debt.

THE CHALLENGE

Another challenge for us is our decision that at least for right now, I will stay home with our boys when the second one is born and even though I will do freelance work, I will focus on being home most of the time. We know if I worked, we could financially have a lot more freedom, but we also believe in the irreplaceable value of one of us being home with our kids while they are young. Sometimes it takes more creativity to make it work on one income, but even with my husband's salary and the small projects I take on, we are on the right track - just not as fast:).

Sometimes it is difficult to see friends going on great vacations or affording things we may have the income for, but we really shouldn't buy. It takes enough discipline for us to say even though we would really love to go out to eat some nights when it's been a long day, instead we are going to stay home.

It means finding free and cheap activities to do when we want to go out and really making decisions when we can splurge a little.

It also means that although we would love to visit our families every month during the year, financially we have to decide when we are coming and stick to it, barring any major emergencies.

It really means being realistic with what we can afford to do, which many people nowadays aren't.

I firmly believe this is like a diet and the best way to succeed is not to cut out everything extra completely. I know when I have done Weight Watchers, a key for my success besides prayer and support at home was to allow myself food I was really craving. When I really, really was dying for a piece of chocolate, I let myself have some. It was usually a smaller piece and I didn't eat it all day long, but it was enough to satisfy my craving. Likewise, there are things we don't need that we are allowing, like eating out once every week or two. It may be a $10 meal, but it's something my husband grew up with (many times a week) and completely asking him to cut that out isn't fair ... plus it is nice to be able to do it once in awhile:)

It is a change in lifestyle and thought. Our society constantly feeds us the messages of instant gratification - if we want it, we should have it now. The reality is the more we work to achieve or have something, the more we value it as well. I think that attitude has made us too much a 'throw-away' society in everything from the little things like disposable kitchenware to the big things like lives of those who aren't considered valuable in our society.

Even though we have spent the last five years in school, we barely had enough most of the time to make ends meet. We were not frivolous and didn't go on wild shopping sprees, but it is easy to run up debt when you also don't have any savings and emergencies happen.

DELAYED GRATIFICATION

One of the best things I ever bought was when I was in 6th grade. I really wanted a good stereo and a nice mountain bike. My parents told me that was nice, but they weren't going to just buy them for me.

I worked all summer and saved up enough money to buy a really good stereo system (which almost two decades later I still own and works quite well) and a bike. I spent every week of my summer working as an aide to a family down the street a few days a week. By then end of the summer, I was able to the stores and buy what I had worked so long and hard to get (my parents did contribute a bit to the bike so I could get a good lock to keep it safe and get a step up from the model I was going to buy).

I was very proud of both my bike and my stereo because when people asked me where I got them, I knew how much I worked to save up the money and buy them. I took such good care of them that my bicycle lasted me through my first two years of college as well before it was stolen from our campus.

While 'things' are definitely not my goal in life and never should be, I do want to get to a point where we don't owe all this debt and we really think before buying items we may or may not need.

THE REALITY

The reality is so much of what we think we need, we truly don't. I know growing up we had periods of very, very little money, but God provided what we truly needed. We had times like that throughout grad school and God doesn't disappoint.

But when He gives us enough or more than enough to survive on and we are still struggling because of debt, it's important to look at what is going on and what you can do to fix the problem.

The debt to me, hinders us from being able to help provide for and help those in our society, our churches and our neighborhoods who really need it to the full extent I want to.

Credit gives us a false sense of having more than we actually do and not taking a realistic look at what we need to do to get something.

Ignoring debt does not make it go away and now that we are entering a new stage in our life where we can choose to make it go away, we are.

PLEASE PRAY

Please pray for us as we continue on this challenging, but very rewarding journey that we don't get discouraged and keep pushing through to make it happen. It is not fun an it takes lot of work and it is a lifestyle change. It is one that I believe is fully attainable though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apple Butter Perfection


So after a miserable first attempt and a whole day of cooking, I made a second double batch of apple butter and after the day of cooking, got it right where I wanted it.

If it weren't for my mom and all the cooks that came before me in my family, I wouldn't be able to cook some of my favorite recipes.

So for all who don't have a good recipe, here's their recipe that is really not too difficult and quite yummy. I made a double batch and it yielded 13 1/2 pint jars of apple butter. Bonus: The house sure smells fabulous the whole day as the apple butter cooks:).

16 Apples - about 6lbs (I used Golden Delicious, but there are several good cooking apples you can use).
2 quarts water
1 ½ quarts apple cider
3 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice

Cut apples. Cook in water until soft. Run through food mill. Bring cider to boiling, add apples, sugar and spices.

There are two ways you can cook it after that:

Stove top:
Can cook at simmer on top of stove, stirring often until thick. Place in sterilized jars.

Oven:
Place in roasting pan and place in preheated oven at about 325. Cooking times will vary depending on the oven. Mine was about 6 1/2 hours, my mom said hers tends to be a few hours longer. Stir once every 45 minutes - more toward the end. Place in sterilized jars with about 1/2 inch room at the top when completed.

Tips:

~ When it begins to thicken, you can test to see if it is the correct thickness by sticking some in a small bowl or plate and cool it down to see how thick and spreadable it is. My first batch failed because I cooked it to a certain thickness in the oven and by the time it cooled, it was way too thick to spread.

~ After filling the jars, you can skip the water bath to seal it if you do this. Scoop it into the jars immediately, add a sealing lid and a rim and screw tight. Turn upside down on kitchen towel until cool. Generally the lid will seal from the heat.

It's a great recipe to cook when you are spending the day at home - especially when it's cool outside.

Thanks Mom!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Becoming Better Stewards of Our Environment


I've really felt God push me to consider more effects of our daily living on the environment. For those of you who are skeptical - hear me out.

I used to think a lot of the environmental causes were a ridiculous amount of hype and people who were a little wacky trying to show they really cared about something. However, in the last year, I really feel like there are truths in a lot of it. Through prayer and contemplation, I feel like just as we are to be good stewards of God's gifts in our lives such as our abilities and talents, we are also supposed to be good stewards of the gifts he has given us such as the environment we live in. God asks us to be good stewards of all the gifts He gives us, not just some of them.

So my husband and I are trying to figure out small ways we can do this. We don't have a lot of extra money right now and we are in a new place so it can be challenging, but one of my favorite newest things that seems to be catching on are reusable grocery bags. Most of the local grocery stores have begun carrying these reusable grocery bags. I didn't know how they would work, but at $.99, I figured we could buy a few, try them out, and if we liked them buy a few more each time we shopped until we had enough we would use on a regular basis.

I like using them so much! They hold a lot more than it first appears, probably because they won't tear like plastic, and they have sturdy handles that make them easy to carry. I now have seven and got 95 percent of our groceries to fit in them when I went shopping this weekend (we usually go on a big trip once every two weeks, and this was the week).

While I don't have time currently to do a ton of research on this right now, this is information from a National Geographic article in 2003.

"The numbers are absolutely staggering," said Vincent Cobb, an entrepreneur in Chicago, Illinois, who recently launched the Web site http://Reusablebags.com to educate the public about what he terms the "true costs" associated with the spread of "free" bags. He sells reusable bags as a viable solution.

According to Cobb's calculations extrapolated from data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 on U.S. plastic bag, sack, and wrap consumption, somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Of those, millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills—estimates range from less than one to three percent of the bags.

The figures may not be totally up to date, but even if we consume half that amount today, switching to reusable bags would still have a major impact on our environment.

I don't know about your household, but I know we throw away tons of those bags yearly because we just can't reuse all of them. We use them as liners for trash cans and lunches and bags for trips, but we can only use so many in a year.

We have always recycled and have increased our recycling to all the packages we can in our house, but I think this is one pretty painless step many of us can do to truly help reduce our waste in our world. I don't know how long these bags will last, but I figure even if I can get a good year out them, think of all the plastic bags I will have not used and kept out of landfills.

One warning to those who do not support the Susan B. Komen Foundation due to their support of Planned Parenthood clinics, there are bags floating around, especially this month since it is breast cancer awareness month, that are pink and a percentage of the sale goes to the Susan B. Komen foundation. It is not listed on the bag, but I looked up the information and they seem to be the only charity benefiting.

Happy shopping and let me know if you have any great ideas on ways to reduce waste.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Life Is....

I just really like this quote - especially the last line.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it!
- Mother Teresa

Monday, October 8, 2007

Decluttering


One thing I truly enjoy, as many of my friends seem to, is organizing and decluttering. Although I really don't like having to move, one thing I love is going through the boxes of stuff we have and getting rid of a lot of it that has piled up.

I just took another few boxes to the Salvation Army Thrift Store and it feels so good to 1) be able to pass it on to someone who may be able to use it and 2) get rid of it and have less stuff.

To me, it's amazing how freeing decluttering and organizing life can be. After having my son, I finally understood what so many of my friends and family had discovered earlier on, most likely with their first kids ... kids toys build up quickly and kids only "need" a few items otherwise they are overwhelmed.

I have already gotten rid of some toys my son, who is 18-months-old, received because he just doesn't have room for them.

One thing I have learned through this as well is that keeping every item from every experience is silly. Not only do have so much you never actually look at it again, but it also just takes up more space.

Additionally, the more "stuff" I have, I find more distractions in my relationship with God and more difficulties focusing on my faith life.

I mean, who really needs the VHS of a movie they really liked when they were younger...we realized since our wedding five years ago, we have watched a total of 3 or 4 VHS tapes, mostly in the first year.

So one of my current goals is to not have items in storage with the exception of items like baby clothes that we may not be using today but may likely use again in six months. I find a lot of times I don't even remember what I got rid of and the most difficult part is letting go of whatever it is.

I try to go through the house once or twice a year and always feel so relived once i get through it. Afterwards, I often find it easier to relax and focus on life more fully and what is truly important.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ahhh - The Birthday of A Mom


So I woke up tired, but happy because it was my birthday and it's difficult to really be down on your birthday - or at least it is for me.

My husband made me a fabulous breakfast and my son and I drove him to work so we could use the car for the day. I was driving back when I heard my son start yacking up his breakfast all over the car. At first I was like, "oh no!" and then I started laughing.

I pulled to the side of the road and started cleaning up the mess, stripping him down to his diaper and using wet wipes to mop as much up as possible. Being very pregnant, I got a little sick myself. After we got the initial mess cleaned up, I thought about it the whole way home. Even if I didn't want to, there was that beautiful smell permeating our car so the thoughts lingered.

I thought about how your perspective, expectations and desires in life change as you have kids. When I was younger, my birthday meant I didn't have to do any chores all day long. I could play with my friends, talk on the phone, etc. It was such a gift - so much better than most material possessions.

Even when I was a young adult and a young married person without kids, the day was still all mine. I could do whatever or not do whatever I wanted. I could sleep in, go to a spa, hang out with friends or just be.

Now as a mom, all that is totally different....and I LOVE it. No my idea of a perfect birthday is not cleaning up barf....that was way, way down on the list. My ideal birthday now includes just being....being with my husband and son. Enjoying a nice meal and celebrating the life we have together. We didn't go out to a fancy restaurant (although my husband made a dish only to be rivaled in the best places around). We didn't have a day without kids - instead I chose to keep my son home the daycare he is still attending because I missed him and wanted to spend the day with the ones I love. There was no last minute getaways or anything else as grand. It was exactly what I hoped for. A day playing with my son and enjoying time with my husband. I did some laundry, and worked on the kitchen a bit.....but it wasn't a bother.

When I think of all the ways I have been blessed in my life, I can't imagine it any other way and I try to spend more time looking at the positives instead of the negatives. I may not have all this laundry or dishes in my life.... or I may never spend a birthday cleaning up barf...., but then that would mean I wouldn't have a little person or a husband that I am doing it for either. That trade-off would never be worth it to me.

I'll take the extra dishes and laundry any day:)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Waiting Game

God pushes me in so many ways and even when I don't feel ready to face life challenges, He hands them to me and says to keep going.

This week, after our house being on the market for 100 days and us lowering the price a good $25k, we got an offer. I am not sure it will go through or what will happen with it, but it was nice to know that someone out there came in and likes our house and could make it their own.

If we didn't have to leave it, I would've easily stayed their another several years. It's difficult to look at the photos of all the work we put into it and not get to be there because it still feels like home. It's the first place since we were married that has and there are so many good memories there. But alas, we cannot keep it right now. It's not smart or practical and so we have to let it go.

It is so difficult to do that though, but I think God is making it easier by having buyers approach us finally. I hated the idea of selling it to a corporation to whom it is just a business transaction. At least we are not in the positions many people our age have found themselves in - unable to pay their mortgages and trying to fight off foreclosure. We were blessed in owning the house as long as we did and hope someday, we will get the chance to own another one.

This has been a good reminder to me that God will work it out. It has stinked and hasn't had the best outcome, but there is an end in sight and that brings a smile to my face.

With the challenges we have faced this summer, sometimes it's difficult to not compare ourselves to our friends and where they are in their lives. Most of them seem more financially stable and have everything more together. We have to remember that there are benefits and drawbacks of many of the life choices we make and it's easy to look from a distance and say "wow, wouldn't it be great...", but if you erase those choices, you may also very well erase who you became in the process and what gifts you have received as a result.

Now I feel like we just have to pick up the pieces and begin to move forward and build new dreams. We hope that one day, we will have a house again and can make it our own and things may be easier, but it is an important to remember that the easy times are not what shape us....it's the times when you have to really struggle that show what you're really made of. It's facing those difficulties without a clear way to solve the problems at hand trusting that God is leading you and knowing there's a plan for it all.

Although I definitely do not beg for more difficult times (I'm not psychotic:), I wouldn't trade any of the obstacles I have faced in my life for a life without challenges. I know so much of who I am and the faith in God, fight and determination I have are a direct result from those times. I know taking away the difficulties would be taking away many of the characteristics that make me stand out and make me the person I am. There's a definite peace in knowing that no matter how challenging life gets, I am so blessed with so many gifts and God doesn't leave me to face them alone.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Different Perspective




So I was speaking with our landlady today on the phone and she was talking about how she had a lot of medical problems and travels to New York to see her doctors. I found out that she is a survivor from September 11.

I really think I am going to see if eventually she'll sit down with me for an interview about it and about what is going on with her health. I think it could be really intriguing and I'm sure it's been done, but I could really improve my video skills in the meantime, so why not?

She said she was in WTC Bldg. 1 on the 105th floor when the planes hit. Being from the Midwest, I have met few survivors of the attacks and am always really interested in hearing their stories and how it has changed their lives, assuming it has, or why not, if it didn't.

I think I've found my project I am going to focus on during my time out here. Who knows, maybe it'll launch a new career and new possibilities for us in the future.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Place To Call Home

It's funny how God really begins to work things out when they seem impossible. I know i shouldn't be surprised because throughout my life it happens time and time again, but alas I am so very human and some situations seem to offer no hope.

We are in the process of selling our house where we used to live and we got an offer from the company, which was significantly lower than what we owed on the mortgage. We've worked out a deal with the company that will not leave us with anything extra, but should at least allow us to sell the house and start from scratch. It's really hard to let go of what you are trying to do and we feel like it's been a step back, but I feel blessed that in this terrible market we have an option. I am reminded often that many families don't and may face financial ruin because of it.

We finally moved into a new apartment and although I was against apartments, as far as this goes it's not bad. It's bigger than our house square foot wise and we have a garage for storage, a fenced-in back yard and a deck, calming my fears of having two little boys and no place for them to play. The neighborhood is filled with a lot of young families and I hope we can make soem friends here.

We visited the church we are planning on joining for mass last Sunday and felt right at home - it's definitely the place where God is calling us to be. We met very friendly and open people and hope it will be a positive experience for us.

I joined a Women of Grace study as well. I was quite hesitate because I am on average 15-20 years younger than most of the others in the group, but we have something in common.... we are all moms. That helps a bit. We'll see how it goes. I just am feeling the need for a community and a place to fit in more than ever.

Even though I have physically lived further away from home, I have never felt further from home. I always knew I would be coming back in a semester or less. When we lived in Chicago, I had to learn that I could spend the weekends "living" on the phone with friends or entertaining friends from far away or I could look for opportunities to make new friends and make myself more at home. It's just so difficult to start again from scratch, but I truly feel in my heart God has placed us here for a reason and I pray I open to accept the gifts and trials he has placed before me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yippee!



I am so happy to report I have been let off of the complete bed rest that I have been confined to for the last month. I still have to take it easy, but it was the best news I could have gotten. It was great timing because my best friend was in town so we actually got to go do some things instead of hang out in the hotel room all weekend.

God is teaching me so much patience this summer and a lot of times, I don't want the lessons but know they make me a stronger woman of faith. I am so blessed to have all the support I have, even being so far away from home. It is easy to get discouraged when everything seems to be working against you, but in the last week we have secured a place to live, found out the baby is developing normally and that I can resume some normal activities - all good news when it was really needed! Now if only I could have a drink....:).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Finally - A Place to Live

We've spent nearly all summer in temporary housing and we are so blessed to finally have a leasse signed for an apartment. We were hoping to get a house, but feel like it'll be better to wait until Spring. Especially since I am on bedrest and can't go searching for one.

God provides what we need, but sometimes he makes us get really nervous before we have definite answers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Gifts In My Life

The last several months have been a lot of ups and downs, but mostly I feel like it's just been us trying to keep our heads above water. God continously reminds me when it seems like everything can't get worse, He is there carrying me when I can't walk one more step.

Out of the blue, we have been blessed with new people in our lives. Even with me stuck at home all the time, I have still had visitors and we have made it through. It is just nice to have interaction with others especially during this period. It's so nice when friends of your friends are people you would be drawn to anyway.

The doctors said I may be able to begin a modified bed rest in a few weeks, which at least gives me something to look forward to. Guess we'll see:).

Lately I've bene thinking about how difficult life has been and then I just get more frustrated and depressed. Instead I realized I really need to focus on all the gifts I still have in my life and what I can do to serve God, even from my prime spot on the couch.

My husband is such a gift in my life. Oh yes, we fight and don't agree on so many things, but when it comes down to it, he is my greatest supporter and my greatest ally and God reveals Himself to me through my husband in all the little things my husband does.

Whether it's getting up to make sure the door is locked each night after we're nice and comfy in bed or making sure I have milk in the fridge even when he hates milk and would likely never buy it if it weren't for me, he does so many things when he's so tired to serve me. They may not be the exciting romantic spur-of-the-moment weekends or grandieur things novels write about, but in the end those little things are more wonderful and really show how much someone really loves you than the other actions.

I Love to Fly American

So with me going on bedrest, some smaller issues like a trip we had planned to see my family was obviously needing to be canceled. Since I had never had to cancel a trip before, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Much to my surprise, American Airlines was very helpful and very understanding. Normally I would've been charged a $100 fee per ticket for having to cancel the trip, but after I wrote them and since I was on doctor's orders for full rest, I instead got a voucher for the full amount for both tickets. It was such a blessing since we will easily use them after the baby is born but just can't right now.

So even though they have been my favorite airlines for awhile, they gained more respect from me with being so easy to work with during this challenging time.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chaos and Blessings


That seems to fit life pretty well right now. In the midst of all of our chaos, we have had many blessings and are so grateful for friends, family and prayer partners God has placed in our lives over the years.

We thought we found a place to move into by next Friday, unfortunately the tenants can't get out in time and so we either have to find another place, find a smaller place, try to extend our stay here for a few weeks and rent a storage unit or pay a lot more for a place that's too pricey. We're not sure what will be the best option, but pray God shows us what path we should take.

With me being on complete bedrest, our toddler began daycare full-time. I hate putting him in it and he cries when we have to leave him, but I know at least he's getting a chance to play and be active instead of sit at home with me.

I was so pleasantly surprised by a box of goodies from friends in Minneapolis. It really, really made my day a bit brighter and was a very wonderful surprise. I also got a wonderful box of crocheting goodies and books from my mom, which really helps kill the boredom.

We've also gotten several prayers from many places and a lot of support who have faced similar situations. It really seems like when it rains, it truly pours. It is just nice to have people share their experiences saying they've been there and are still alive to talk about it:). It has really helped me feel more hopeful that this too will pass and we'll come out that much stronger when it is over.

My husband is such a blessing to me, especially during this time. He has taken on so much with no complaint and I know it's not easy for him. I couldn't ask for a more selfless and loving spouse. At times like these, when one of us truly carries the load (right now him), I really remember what a good team we can be.

He said sometimes he really enjoys me having to need him because I don't tend to be as needy as a lot of girls and would rather do a lot of things on my own. We truly need each other for support and love and prayers and it can be easy to forget when things are running smoothly. We especially need it during things like wrapping up grad school, moving to a new city and state and me being on months of bedrest.

So I thank God for a good man who makes me so thankful I married him. Even through our struggles and frustrations, we are gently reminded our marriage really is worth fighting for and we should always seek to strengthen the relationship and marriage we have, because it truly is a gift.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Sudden Loss

What do you say when one of your friends suddenly dies? One of my longtime friends whom I spent a lot of time with in high school had a massive heart attack last week and after the family getting a report that no brain activity was found, they are removing his life support today. What really strikes me is that he was my age....literally... within a few weeks of my age. He wasn't even 29 yet. He leaves behind a baby the same age as our little boy and a wife. I don't even know my place in grieving with them. Most of the people we hung out with were related (siblings, cousins, etc.) and we are not family members.

The truth is, I rarely saw him after college, but I still care very much about him and the others from that group. I can't even imagine the pain and anguish they must be feeling right now. I can't travel home for the funeral, since I am on bed rest, but wish so badly I could join them in grieving in the same place they are.

He was such a good soul and was always fun and likeable. He was very much like one of my brothers and I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that today, they are removing life support. Today he is physically dying. I have to remember that although this is happening today, his soul likely left his body last week.

I pray that all of his family is comforted during this time of imaginable loss and that his little girl always knows what a good guy her dad really was.

Bed Rest

Well it looks like I may be able to blog a fair amount because I have just been put on bed rest for possibly four months. As bad as that was initially, I remind myself that the other options was that I was put in the hospital for possibly that whole time. I am very frustrated because since we are new here, we don't know anyone to help. The good thing is that there is daycare at my husband's work and they are taking the baby full-time so I can fully rest, like I have to. My mom is sending a box of goodies, which I am looking forward to since we are still in temporary housing and most of our stuff is not here. More to come soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Challenging Adjustments


Moving to a new place really can be fun and exciting and interesting as well as scary and challenging and lonely. I think I could have stopped moving a few cities ago, but God has had other plans and I trust that the Lord has a plan for wherever we are called to. We are still trying to find a place to live. We've decided to move into a rental for a bit so we can get a bit more settled while the baby is born and then in the spring find a place we want to stay longer. We are still hoping to sell our house in Minneapolis, but unfortunately the housing market is terrible and it's a difficult time to sell so we just have to wait and see.

We at least have our new doctors and our son had tubes put in his ear this week. We've now been here a month and at least know a bit more about where we are staying. It's really interesting because most families here are two income families and the ones that aren't, usually the working parent makes well over $100,000 a year and more likely $200,000 or $300,000.

When looking for houses, no one can seem to wrap their head around the fact that I am going to only work part-time outside the home because I really want to be home with my boys. The average house prices where we are run about $750,000 - yeah right! Moving from the Midwest, it's just a big jump. I guarantee that has the biggest influence on the increase in cost of living. In general, the overall cost is not that much, but depending on what you use and need, I think it can be more or less.

We've looked at pretty tiny houses and more often two bedroom apartments that cost around $300,000. It's just an adjustment and we think in order to just pay our bills and pay our student loans, I'm going to have to keep working part-time.

As far as moving, it can be difficult and put such strain on a marriage. My husband is such a good man and I appreciate how he honors me, but there is just a lot of strain because 1. We only know each other and 2. There are so many life changes happening at once. We also get torn between keeping in touch with friends back home and other places we've lived and spending that time making new ones. We try to balance it out, but it can be depressing hearing everything you're missing when you don't even want to and so it is usually healthier to make yourself put time into making new friends. It makes the adjustments a lot easier when all the chaos settles down.

I just keep my hope in the Lord, knowing He will lead and guide us and help us with all we need. I just hope the only move we have after this is back home, where we can stay for a long time.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Honor Your Husband Challenge

I actually joined this challenge as I began this blog so it hadn't quite made it on here yet. Thanks to Christine at Fruit in Season for this challenge and Stacey at A Measure of Grace for passing it on:).

I LOVE this idea and it comes at a great time for me, I think. I have been having trouble finding the graces and blessings being moved so far across the country and away from everything and everyone I know, but I know the biggest reason we're here is my husband's desire to be able to provide for our family and allow me to stay home full-time should I choose with my baby and soon to be number 2.


I know he honestly doesn't want to see me unhappy and wants to be able to be a good provider and he is. I am even getting Sunday mornings "off" for a little blogging and some sleeping in.

So all of July (I think I got started a bit late:) is my month to honor my wonderful husband and all the ways he puts his family and our needs ahead of his.

About Me

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Pennsylvania
I'm a mommy, wife and educated woman with an inquisitive mind. I am always looking in ways to challenge and grow in my faith. Many wise people I have known have reminded me if I am not growing, I am going in the wrong direction.