Following Your Dreams

Everyone has dreams.  I’m not talking wishing to win the lottery, world peace, or for people to be nice to each other. I’m not even talking about the dreams of traveling the world, building a school in a struggling community or funding research to find a cure for a disease.   I’m talking about the simple dreams of getting your life on track, dreams of having a home you love, being debt free, paying for your kids’ college or having enough money to get through the month.  Some days it all feels like an uphill battle, especially when you watch the news and the world seems to be falling apart in front of our eyes.

 Different types of dreamers

Live the dream
We all have dreams, some big and some small

From my years of reading books, listening to speakers and watching videos, the people that follow their dreams seem to fall into two camps.  One camp is all about putting on blinders and going for it.  They ignore everything else and just get it done.  These are people like JK Rowling who admitted to living in squalor for four years while writing the first Harry Potter book.  They ignore everything around them, get to the task at hand and wrestle their dream to the ground. While I admire their fortitude I am not that person.

 

Then there are the people who let life, the Divine or God direct them and go with the flow of life.  They set an intention and see where it leads them.  They know if they focus on one thing and ignore everything else, they set themselves up for failure so they prefer to go with the flow and let the Divine take the lead.  People like Jim Carrey who wrote himself a million dollar check that he put in his wallet fall into that camp.  I am more like that person.

 

There are potential problems with both groups.  In the focused group, while they often achieve everything they set out to achieve, when they arrive, they have no one to share the joy with because they never invested time in building relationships so the achievement pales.  A wealthy friend of mine told me once that there are more depressed rich people than you can imagine.  Think of people like Steve Jobs and Howard Hughes who were cash rich and relationship poor.  These people were so busy building their portfolio that they forgot to build a life.

 

For the people who let the Divine take the lead, the problem is different.  These people often have friends and family who love them, but they are the embodiment of unrealized goals and potential.  They are the woulda, coulda, shoulda people who end up wishing they had more time to be the person they aspired to be.  Because I tend to be this person, even writing this makes me sad.

 Pushing through the fear

The beauty of dreams
Learning to live your dreams is powerful

This past weekend I went to my first blogging conference In Portland Oregon.  Unlike other ventures that I invested a large chunk of money in, I left this conference with my head spinning with new ideas and a confidence I’ve never felt before about my blog and it’s future.  I only got about an hour of sleep as I flew a red-eye from the West Coast back to the Midwest.  In the past, that meant taking several days to recuperate before I would drag myself to the notes and try to figure out what to do next.  With this conference, I already knew what to do, and began implementing what I learned immediately.  I found the direction and guidance I was looking for, and I’m doing the work while still being a great wife and mother, which will always be at the top of my priority list.

 

Why am I telling you this?  Because I know you have dreams, and I want you to follow them.  Keep looking and keep trying until you find what works for you.  It may not be the right time, but you can learn and grow and be prepared for when the time is right.  I want you to take the steps to make your life better each day so that when the opportunity arises you can do that and feel good about what you’re doing, and if you need help with that, I’ll be posting about that over the next couple of months as I refine and redirect the blog.  There will be so much good information coming to help you live a better life and follow your dreams, whatever they are, and I’m excited to see where it takes you.

 

The 12 Week Year
The 12 Week Year

It can be scary following your dreams.  I know because that’s how I feel, but I’m reading a book right now titled, The Twelve Week Year, and it’s changing how I look at my past mistakes and failures.  The view this book says your mistakes and failures have valuable input toward your future success. Get rid of the guilt and shame and use your past as fuel for your future.  I love that and plan to use it as I work through the last twelve weeks of this year building a better experience for my readers.  One of the new features that is already in place is a new subscribe experience.  If you already subscribe to emails, great!  If not, beginning in October I’ll be adding a newsletter with additional tips and information especially for the holidays, including recipes, planning tips and maybe a video or two.

 

So, are you ready to rock the rest of this year?  Are you ready to set yourself up for a great holiday season and 2018?  I hope you are because you deserve to live your best life possible, and I can hardly wait to see you achieve everything you dream of and more.  If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe and as always, thanks for being your and have a great day.

Reasons Choices and Excuses

Choices, Reasons and Excuses, Which are You Making?

Do you make good choices or do you make excuses?  Most days I think I make good choices.  I choose to be kind.  I choose to let things go.  I choose to take care of my home and my family, and my future writing, speaking and blogging career.  These things make me happy, and when I focus on them, life seems to have a way of working out.

 How bad do you want it?

Choices aren't always excuses
Is everything that slows you down an excuse?

Lately I’ve been thinking about this quote.  I love quotes and usually find them inspirational and uplifting.  Recently, I’ve begun to take issue with this one.  I used to think it was an indictment of people like me who choose to stay at home while raising my children rather than balance that with a career.  If you think I have a problem with women who work while raising children, think again.  In my book, Everyday Heroes of Motherhood, I talk about ending the mommy wars, and I deeply admire several women who choose to live their truth and mother how it best suits them and their family.  As one wise mom once said, children thrive best when their mom is happy with her life. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and it’s why I chose the life I have.

In support of all moms 

Part of the reason I made the choice to stay home is because I would suck at being a full time working mom.  We’ve thrived as a busy family because I can focus on family; split loyalties are debilitating for me.  Even the few part time jobs I had, other than sports officiating with my husband, never seemed worth the time away from my family.  Add to that, ADHD on my part and my son’s, life threatening medical conditions that require regular doctor and hospital visits, and my personal abilities would stretch beyond what I could handle with a job.  Other women thrive because they have full or part time work to balance their lives.  Some also work because they have to, and I’ve been there too, but as soon as I could, I stepped away from outside work and focused again on my family.

 The Sacrifices of our Choices

Sometimes I wondered if the reasons I listed were excuses, but I can honestly say that my worst days at home never made me wish I had a full time or part time job.  While working, though, I often thought about being home with the ones I love.  Was I lucky to be able to stay home?  In some regards, yes, but we also live a different life than most to provide for our family.  I’ve shared before we drive cars until they die, I shop thrift stores and discount stores, use coupons and shop sales.  Our children go to state universities, but my oldest graduated with no loan debt and my second is will do the same.  Those choices help me to stay home.  I understand not everyone has or wants that opportunity, and I acknowledge our family makes sacrifices for mine.  For that I will always be grateful.

Reasons Choices and Excuses
Reasons are Choices. Choose well.

 The Advantages of our Choices

In addition to sacrifices, my family also has advantages.  I’m there for them when they come home from school and activities.  They eat home cooked food most evenings for dinner.  The house is mostly picked up, and the laundry is mostly caught up.  Mom is happy.  Dad is happy, and occasionally there are homemade treats, partly because mom loves to bake, partly because it’s more cost effective and usually healthier to bake than buy from the store.  Please understand I don’t care if other women eat every meal out and only buy store made goodies.  I don’t care if their homes are messy and the laundry is piled up, unless that makes them miserable in which case I would love to help them conquer that.  We make these choices because they make our home a wonderful place to be, and we’re happy.  

 Hobby to Career

Seven years ago I started blogging because I prefer nonfiction to fiction.  I tried writing for a digital newspaper but I left journalism years ago and remembered quickly why.  Blogging allowed me to write about interesting subjects with a genuine and authentic voice.  It’s been a lovely hobby, but now, as my daily parenting journey is ending, I want more.  I want a career, so I choose to invest in learning about technology and professional blogging.  I choose to go to a blogging conference later this month, and I am scared.  Blogging as a career option is foreign to this mom who’s been out of the work force for over twenty years.  Fear makes choosing more difficult, but not trying because I’m afraid is the worst excuse of all.  I don’t know if I’m ready or if my family is, but I owe it to all of us to try. 

 Following your Dreams

I believe in following your dreams, and I’ve taught my children to do that.  Each has a dream that they are following and are learning that those dreams often change as we move through the world.  I’ve learned the same thing.  My dream originally was to have two children, return to work when the youngest was five and live the American Dream life.  My reality is that I have three children, one with extra needs, and no desire to return to the “regular” work force if I can help it.  For now that’s a choice I make, and my family, especially my husband, support it, so I can follow my dream. 

Choices inform our decisions
One of the most empowering exercises I learned.

 Your dreams and choices

If you have a dream, are you following it?  Are you making choices or excuses?  Only you can answer that and most people know which they’re doing.  One of the greatest things I learned in life was to replace the phrases “I have to”, “I should”, “I need to” and “I ought to” with the phrase “I choose to”.  I learned everything is a choice, including making excuses.  The difference between reasons and excuses is in how we live every day.  I choose to commit to my family because my dream was to give them my best until they leave my home.  That means being present physically as well as mentally and emotionally to do my noble and sacred work and I’m ok with that choice.  The rest will wait.  Make the right choice for you and whoever you love because that is how you make dreams come true.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras sent directly to your inbox by entering your email into the subscribe box on this page.  Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you would like to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting TipsEveryday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.

 

 

Diversity and Charlottesville Thoughts

I’m sure many people are tired of hearing about Charlottesville and diversity, and all of the issues surrounding it. I had this post ready to launch last week, but I hesitated. I’m glad I did because a few things happened since then, and I think this is a better piece of writing and philosophy as a result. This is my story, and I understand we each have one. I hope mine gives you hope and perhaps a new perspective on your neighbor, whether they are a person of color or not.

I was not born into diversity, nor did I grow up in diversity. I was raised a white, Christian in a predominantly white, Christian area, but I was raised to be respectful to everyone. When I say predominantly, I mean in my high school of three grades, 10-12, with over 2,000 students, we had one black student and one Jewish student in the entire school. When you’re raised that way and go off to college and hear that all white people are racist, you wonder if that is true.

My first Taste of Diversity

Dollege diversity
My alma mater and my first taste of diversity

In college, I began meeting people of all races and backgrounds, and I loved it. I learned so much and became a better person because of the diversity of the people around me. One of the highlights of that time was being at a party and having the hostess of the party tell all of the n-word people to get in the kitchen. I can only imagine the shocked look on my face when she looked at me and said, “I mean you too.” At that moment, I realized I was the only white person at the party. For me, it was a confirmation that I looked beyond the color of the people in front of me and saw them as people, not black people. It was a good day.

Living in Diversity

When we moved to the school district I live in now, the diversity was a bit of a shock. We came from an overwhelmingly Christian district that had Christmas parties and Christmas concerts and Easter Break. We moved to a district that had holiday parties that eventually became winter parties with winter and spring breaks. My children still attended religious services and classes, so they never missed out on those religious moments; they just no longer had them at school. What they got was something better.

Banana pretzel marshmallow mennorah
Find this activity at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/375135843932593617/

Although each had a different experience, each of my children learned about different cultures and diversity in the most amazing and enriching ways. At my oldest child’s first holiday party, two Christian and two Jewish room mothers facilitated the activities. Those activities included making wreaths out of candy, playing the dreidel game, making a menorah out of a banana, pretzel sticks and mini marshmallows and listening to Christmas music. No one got offended and we didn’t talk about the religious significance of any of it. It was merely a celebration for 8 and 9 year olds, and everyone enjoyed the party.

When my middle child attended elementary school, his first grade teacher spent an entire month celebrating each child’s diversity and traditions. Each student picked a holiday or significant day in their heritage to celebrate with the class. They chose the standards like Christmas and Chanukah, but they also chose Diwali, Boxing Day, Passover, Kwanzaa and more. My middle child, whose birthday often falls during Lent or just before, chose Fat Tuesday because he loved when his birthday coincided with Fat Tuesday, and we served King Cake as his birthday cake.

King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras
Our favorite confection from our favorite bakery. King cake from Bonomini Bakery

My youngest child, whose birthday usually falls after Lent, decided in his third grade year that he wanted a King Cake to share with his class for that birthday. The teacher approved so we brought a huge King Cake to share with his classmates. It was different and fun and a few years later one of the Jewish moms told me that her daughter loved the cake so much, they bought a King Cake every year. Again, we shared diversity without harping on the religious significance.

 

 

Beyond Tolerance and Acceptance

This year I posted the following on Facebook for the first day of school:
I remember when my oldest child started high school in this school district. I had the privilege of sitting in the lunch room and it brought me to tears. The students or their parents come from over fifty nations around the globe. They are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist and probably some others I don’t know about. They are rich and poor and everything in between economically. They are academically gifted and special needs. They are physically able and challenged. They sit among one another. They are friends, and in my oldest son’s case, future spouses, and many adults could learn a life lesson or two from them. I know I did. Beyond tolerance is acceptance. Beyond acceptance is peace. I wish you all the peace these kids inspire.
I hesitated sharing because of fear that our district and our schools could become targets for people who don’t think like we do and would take violent action against people I care about. I don’t feel threatened by any of these people of color or their diversity, nor do my children who are all white males. They don’t feel that anyone is trying to erase them or their history because these people see history differently than they do.

What Diversity Teaches

Gaming gear
One of the many gaming options in our home.

One of the things I rarely discuss is that my boys are gamers. One in particular is an online gamer who plays with and against people around the nation and around the world. The other day, he played with a few of his friends and someone they had never gamed with before. During the game, the guy made an ignorant and racist comment about people of Asian descent. My son immediately spoke up and told the guy to apologize because the other three players on the team were Asian. I don’t remember the outcome of that situation. I do remember that my son stood up for his friends, and I’m so very proud of that.

It’s about Respect

I have often said that I forget how cruel the world can be because I live in such a diverse and accepting city. Charlottesville was a huge reminder not every place is as peaceful as the place I live. I understand that some people think that taking down statues is an attempt to erase our history, but I thought of something this morning that might help people understand. I have been married before, and like over 50% of marriages in the U.S., that marriage ended in divorce. While I wish nothing but the best for the man I divorced now, it was an ugly time in my life. It was a tumultuous and angry time. I still have pictures of that part of my life because it is part of my past, but I don’t display them in my home. Those pictures are tucked away in an album or in boxes, where they should be because displaying them would be disrespectful to the man I’ve loved, adored and been married to for the past 24 years. In my opinion, our brothers and sisters whose heritage includes slavery deserve the same respect, and if you didn’t understand before, I hope you do now. It isn’t about erasing history. It’s about putting it in its proper perspective. As always, I thank you for reading. I thank you for being you and wish you a great day.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras sent directly to your inbox by entering your email into the subscribe box on this page. Follow me on Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest and if you would like to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting Tips, Everyday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.

Living Up To Your Commitment

The 12 Week Year
The 12 Week Year

Recently I’ve been reading The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. Nearly every page has some amazing nugget of inspiration. One of the lines about commitment hit me hard this morning. According to the authors, “A commitment is a personal promise. Keeping your promises to others builds trust and strong relationships, and keeping promises to yourself builds character, esteem and success.” (pg 50). I realized I am great at keeping my commitments to others. I often fail at keeping promises to myself.

You see, I signed up for a blogging course back in February or March. The course has twelve units, and I thought I could easily finish them by the conference. I am on the second unit; yes, Unit 2 of 12. My initial plan was to complete one unit per week, although the creator of the program suggests at least one week and preferably one month per unit. I miserably failed my commitment to myself. As I’m writing this, I have five weeks to prepare for a blogging conference in Portland, Oregon associated with this course. When I land in Portland, I want to feel like I belong there as a professional blogger, not that I’ve failed yet again to reach a desired goal.

A lifetime commitment

On the flip side, my son got married on August 5th. It was a beautiful and stunning wedding and reception with a rehearsal dinner for 75. It was a busy and fun filled weekend, and my son and his wife truly got the wedding of their dreams. The commitment to give them the best possible day was certainly fulfilled. The ceremony was beautiful. The bride was stunning, as were her bridesmaids. The groomsmen were handsome and well behaved. The reception was fun and the happy couple were adored and loved on all evening. Mission accomplished and commitment fulfilled in every way.

Changes on the Horizon

Now I have five weeks to do what I initially planned to do in five months. Who knows what I’ll accomplish, but the deadline is looming, and maybe, just maybe I can shift the energy I put into the wedding into this blog. Maybe I can evolve into the blogger, writer and eventually the speaker I dream of becoming. Maybe I can commit to writing and improving the blog and taking care of myself in the process. Maybe I can learn to live up to the commitments I make to myself as well as I live up to the commitments I make to others. It will be a new experience, but it’s one I’m willing to try. With any luck, that will mean a much better experience for all those who read and enjoy the blog. And perhaps that’s the greatest commitment of all, to make life better for myself while making life better for others. I can’t think of a better way to live, so hang on; it’s bound to be an interesting ride.

Commitments to constant improvement
Website and blog improvements coming soon

As always, thanks for being you and have a great day. If you’ve enjoyed this, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras sent directly to your inbox by entering your email into the subscribe box on this page. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you would like to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting Tips, Everyday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.

Why I Love Positive Accountability and How to find your own Accountability Partners

How to find your accountability tribe
New thumbnail with updated colors thanks to an accountability group.

I am a born collaborator, team player and family member.  I love people working together to make wonderful things happen which is probably why my life improved through marriage and having children.  My husband and I bonded over cooking together.  I organized my home and life with the help of some online friends and my children,  15 minutes at a time.  When my husband and I started working on our finances together, we paid off $36,000 of credit card debt in a little over two years and helped finance six years of college with approximately six more to go.  I love being a collaborator because I love the mutual accountability, but it wasn’t always this way.

Some of my favorite accountability partners are in this photo
One of my favorite events and collaborations each year, Easter at my house

 

Not Always a Blessing

For most of my life, I thought being a person who works better with others was a terrible character flaw.   Every report card said I did good work but spent too much time socializing.  Every job listing asked for someone detail oriented who worked independently.  I worked some of those jobs and hated them.  If you know me, that probably doesn’t surprise you one bit, because if you know me, you know I love people and I love talking with them.  A few of my friends and relatives even comment about how funny it is to watch me float from group to group at a gathering, talking with everyone and including as many people as I can in conversation.  Is it any wonder I thrive with accountability partners?

The value of collaboration and accountability
Collaboration can speed up success like nothing else.

 

Together Everyone Achieves More

Currently, I work with six groups on different projects.  I still have my home organization accountability friends.  I have several accountability groups for blogging and for a creative group.  Each group energizes me and helps me focus on what I want out of my life because let’s face it, it’s so easy to escape into the TV, tablet or phone screen and forget to dream and fulfill those dreams.  These accountability partners point me in the direction of my dreams and inspire me to live better every day.  Some I met in person after connecting online and we are friends.  Some I still dream of meeting and some may remain treasured names on a screen.

What if you could have accountability partners all over the world?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. The more we learn about one another, the more alike we realize we are.

 

It Takes More Than a Village

What amazes me is how I found kindred spirits all over the world.  I have online friends all over the US, in Canada, Europe, the Philippines, Australia and even the Middle East.  We share struggles about keeping houses organized, creative angst and triumphs, business challenges and successes, and we realize that we are much more alike than different, which is a much bigger gift than we ever expected to get from a bootcamp, an online chat group or a blogging accountability group.  It makes the world smaller and less scary, and I think we need much more of that.

Searching for your tribe and accountability partners
Looking for your tribe

Finding Your Accountability  Tribes

So how do you find these groups?  Just Google it, because they’re everywhere.  I’ve always said there are more good people in this world than bad, and every accountability group I belong to proves that over and over again.  Nearly all of them post guidelines and expectations of their members and most include kindness and respect.  They require it of all members.  In a time where so many hurl ugliness through the internet, it’s refreshing to find people who still focus on creating joy, success and beauty.  It’s even more refreshing that we don’t tolerate each other’s differences, we accept them.  People in other parts of the world understand the United States a little better because they communicate with me and others in the group who view things differently.  I understand the influence of the United States in the rest of the world.  It is a sacred journey to embrace the world and listen to what they long to say.  It is more sacred to hear and understand, and perhaps that is the greatest gift of all from these accountability groups.  They hold me accountable for my home, my blog and my creativity, but they expand the view of what I’m truly accountable for.  I know I am a member of a much larger community called the human race.  When we are accountable for how we treat one another, regardless of how the other treats us, true accountability reigns supreme and people change the world. 

Are You Ready?

What do you want to change in your life?  How can you be more accountable and quit blaming others?  It takes courage to be accountable and to stop blaming others even if it is their fault.  You build strength the day you let that go and put personal accountability first in your life.  If you need an extra shot of inspiration, let Sara Bareilles inspire you to be Brave and accountable and the best version of you possible.  It’s magical and beautiful, and I hope you dive in and enjoy the ride.  After you practice for a while, it gets easier.   You live bigger than you ever dreamed.  When you live the accountable life for a while, let me know how it goes.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

 

 If you enjoyed what you read, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras directly in your inbox.  See the subscribe box at the bottom of the page.  Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting TipsEveryday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.

 

Peaceful mountain repose

What I Learned About Life from my Fathers’ Deaths

I’ve been thinking about death lately, not because I’m morbid or depressed but simply because of my life circumstances.  Recently an 18-year-old from our area died in a car accident on the morning of his last day of high school, a 40 something son of a family friend died from cancer, a concert was bombed in Manchester England, and I outlived my father.  Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been thinking about life because of those circumstances and, I’m aware that grief is very personal, so I’m not telling anyone how they should grieve.  What I am sharing here is how I deal with grief, and the perspective I’ve developed over the years.  I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a while, and I’ve avoided it for fear of backlash, but here’s the thing; death is a part of life and unless we deal with it, it will absolutely overwhelm us when it happens so here are a few things I’ve learned.

 

My dad with the last two loves of his life
My dad and my oldest sons at my dad’s last birthday party.

Cancer can be a gift

 Before you get offended by this statement, hear me out.  I know people are uncomfortable when I say cancer can be a gift.  I never want anyone to suffer with any disease, especially cancer, but in my case it was a gift.  My dad and I didn’t get along from the time I was twelve until just before he passed.  My dad did the best he could as a dad, but when I was young, his best wasn’t good enough, at least for me.  He and I had different views on everything.  He called me a women’s libber, and it wasn’t a compliment.  I thought he was stubborn and inflexible.  It wasn’t until my oldest son was born that I saw the best my dad could offer.  He loved my son more than I ever imagined he could, and I watched their relationship grow over the three years he and my son were in each other’s’ lives.  He only loved my second son for three weeks, but he packed a lifetime of love into those three weeks.  In both cases, he learned to be present with them and surround them with love in a way I never felt he was present with or loved me because he was too busy trying to provide what he thought we needed rather than what we actually needed.  During his six weeks in hospice, my dad and I talked about how we had drifted apart and forgave each other for slights and insults and bad behavior from sides.  He suffered, a lot, but we also healed, a lot, and when he left this earth, I released him with love and more than a few tears of gratitude for the moments that may never have come without knowing the end was near and taking the time to do something about it.

 

Peaceful mountain repose
My dad at peace on a mountain in Colorado

Celebrating a life is better than mourning a death

 My dad turned 54 years old the month he died.  He didn’t retire and live the life of his dreams.  He feared leaving the safety of his stressful corporate job that I believe contributed to his short life.  He was a database guru who developed a computer tracking database for one of the largest corporations in the US and was grossly underpaid to do it.  He wanted to do more with his life, but he didn’t.  The one thing he did do was travel.  My dad was happiest when he traveled.  Maybe that’s why I love to travel so much.  My dad made it to 49 of the 50 United States, and although he never visited Hawaii, he was so proud of how much of the United States he saw and how much of it he showed his kids.  Every time I go on vacation I think about my dad and some of the things I do that he would enjoy doing with us, and because I am a person of faith, I believe he does from afar.  We try new foods like he encouraged us to do.  We talk to people, locals and other travelers because we learned so much from them as children.  We enjoy the stops on the way as much as the destination because we’re on vacation from the time we leave until the time we return.  These were the best of times for my family when I was growing up, and they are the stories my children tell as well.  And I prefer to focus on that rather than the 60 hour work weeks and stressed out man who worked them just so he could travel a few weeks every year.

 

Dad and his older siblings
My dad and his older siblings who have all outlived him by at least 20 years.

Life is short no matter how long you live

 This one is a biggie for me right now.  This is the one that keeps me blogging and writing and pushing forward to follow my dreams of writing and travel.  You see, my dad thought he had much more time than he did on this planet.  He waited for retirement to enjoy his life, and he never got there.  He was qualified to do much more exciting and better paid work, but he feared leaving the “safety” of a company he worked for all of his 32 working years as a college graduate.  For a while, I worked where he did, and I met several people who knew my dad.  Not one of them ever said he was a great engineer or database programmer, but several of them took college level computer programming courses from him and told me what a great teacher he was.  My dad loved to teach and wanted to be a teacher at one time, but his parents told him there was more money in engineering so that’s what he did, and he spent a lifetime trying to find joy in that.  Teaching after hours helped him do that, and he could have been a great college professor making so much more money and having so much more fun, but he didn’t because he was afraid to make the jump

 Occasionally you know someone who does live life fully and leaves this life with no regrets.  It’s a beautiful thing when you do and my father in law was one of those people.  My father in law passed from cancer the same year as my dad.  He was first diagnosed 5 years earlier and decided to retire as early as he could.  He played golf, traveled a bit, spent time with his family and enjoyed every day as much as he could.  When he was on the verge of passing, he told us that he felt sorry for us because he was going to “win” no matter what happened.  As a man of faith, he truly believed that when he passed he would be in a better place, and if by some miracle he got to stay, he would be with the family who loved him.  On the night he passed, surrounded by family who sat with him until the end, he looked up at the ceiling and said (and I paraphrase here), “You’re all so beautiful.  I can hardly take it all in.”  Within moments, he was gone, and that story began to change how I view death and life.  I realized the best way to come to terms with death is to fully live while you’re alive, and that means different things to different people.  For my father, it took getting cancer and knowing the end was near.  For my father in law, it started much earlier as he lived each day fully and mostly joyfully for all the years I knew him.  Each one taught me so much about life and so much about death, and as we approach Father’s Day, I cannot think of any better way to honor them both than to say, “Thanks Dad!”

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Magic Menu Planning Tips

“Mom, what’s for dinner?” 

Warn, yummy family meal

Nearly every mom I know dreads that question.  I’ve been making family meals for over two decades and occasionally I still dread that question.  When I was a young mom, there were always women who looked like they had everything together.  I felt like there had to be secrets to what they did.  I’ve since found out that no mom has everything together, but there are secrets to being more successful, and one of them is meal planning.  However, I learned some kitchen magic through a wonderful thing called menu planning.  Menu planning saves my wallet, my time and most importantly, my sanity on a regular basis and it’s easier than you think.

It all adds upKnow your focus

What’s most important?  For most people the budget is the most important issue.  Food bills can ruin a budget, especially when eating out is your “go to” meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but in most cases, you can make food much cheaper than you can buy it already made.  Budget is always my primary focus, but I also account for convenience and the fact that I avoid grain based carbs for health reasons.  If you’re meal planning on a budget, you can decide how much you want to spend per month, per week and even per meal.

Decide where to shop 

This is a big decision.  Some people prefer to shop in one place only to save time.  Some shoppers prefer patronizing local businesses.  Bargain hunters will shop at more than one store to get the best prices.  Those looking to get the most out of the grocery budget shop at several stores to get the best bargains and save the most money.  Knowledgeable shoppers learn how to find the best bargains by learning about the stores in their area.  For example, in my area, Walmart has the best prices on the middle of the grocery store, like paper towels, peanut butter, canned goods and bagels.  Kroger is the closest and most convenient store for me and they have great produce and bulk items like organic nuts and seeds.  Meijer has great prices on both, but it isn’t worth my time anymore to drive 8 miles when other stores are only a mile or so from my house.  Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite specialty items, and Fresh Market has $2.99 Tuesday when their excellent ground chuck and chicken breast are $2.99 per pound.  All of these factors help me meal plan within budget, and I work trips to each store into my weekly plan to streamline my week and use my time well.

Binder for holding coupons and circulars Coupons and circulars

Some people love coupons.  Others hate them.  Some people love looking at the circulars to find bargains.  Some throw them away or recycle them immediately (I’m hoping they recycle).  Although some dinosaurs like me still like to have paper coupons, I am enjoying using electronic coupons more and more.  There are several apps for coupons, but I leave that expertise to others.  I clip coupons from my weekly circulars and the Sunday paper.  I add coupons to my Kroger shopper card on a regular basis, and I read the paper circulars every week to help me make my grocery list because I walk into the store knowing what the special and sales are, and I have a plan to take advantage of them the best I can.  This is where the meat of meal planning takes place for me.  Because of circulars, which you are online if you don’t get them at your home, you know which items are on sale and how to get the best value for your menu planning dollar.  This is where menu planning really happens for me.  I decide which proteins I will buy, which vegetables and which additional items I might need to make the recipes I am thinking of making.

Making the menu plan A written menu plan keeps you acountable

My plan starts every week by asking my family if there is any meal that sounds appealing to them.  If they don’t have any suggestions, I search the circulars.  For example, this week at my local Kroger, roast is on sale.  The temperatures are on the cooler side this week and a roast is an easy meal to prepare.  To make a roast, I use carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, beef broth, garlic and a sprinkle of dried thyme.  I checked my supplies and added the meat, carrots, onions and beef broth to the grocery list because I had the rest of the ingredients.  The best part about a roast is leftovers.  My husband shredded the leftover meat and enjoyed shredded beef barbecue sandwiches for lunch this week too.  I use the leftover vegetables and stock to make soup. 

Do you have a family calendar?  If you do, it is your best resource for meal planning.  If not, get one.  Meal planning around a busy life makes so much sense because it’s when we are the busiest that it helps to feed our family and ourselves the healthiest meals.  Slow cooker meals are a menu planning blessing on days when you know you’ll be home late or your family members will be eating at different times.  Sure, it’s ok to drive through now and then, but you’ll look like a hero when you have a nice hot meal at home too.

Ipad grocery list
Ipads work wonderfully for a digital list

Make a list

Having a list at the grocery is a game changer for those on a budget.  When you have a list, you know exactly what to buy.  Without a list, you wonder as you wander the aisles and pick up whatever catches your attention.  That’s how budgets get busted and you end up with five bottles of soy sauce.  Thank goodness they don’t expire.  Having a list made the biggest difference in my quest to keep my grocery bills in check.  To make things even easier, I have paper on our refrigerator and my family knows to write items we want or need on the list.  Although I have a paper list on the fridge for others to write on, when I go to the grocery I usually use a digital list that I can delete as I go.  This makes it easier to have several lists for the various stores I frequent. 

Keep a running total

Have you ever stood at the checkout and nearly cried when the cashier announced your total, even after coupons and deals?  I certainly have, and that is not a fun moment.  To keep that to a minimum, I now keep a running total of what I spend as I delete items off my digital list, and I rarely experience grocery sticker shock anymore.

 Shopping is done.  Now what?

Here are my best tips and tricks for following through on your menu plan.  First, post your plan where everyone can see it.  For years I bought groceries with a plan in my head that never quite came to fruition.  I would forget to take meat out of the freezer or forget what I planned for the day and before I knew it, I had unidentifiable perishables in my fridge.  Post the menu and it holds you accountable as well as reminds you of what you purchased and what you plan to do with it.  Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.  Cooked pasta will keep for at least a week.  Root vegetables other than potatoes keep for a few days after being cut up for a recipe.  Salad keeps longer if you open the bag and put a paper towel in it.  Celery stays crunchy for several days wrapped in foil rather than plastic.  Canned and frozen vegetables work in recipes that call for fresh, although I suggest using fresh whenever possible.  Get your family involved in the prep as much as you can, and finally, enjoy the menu planning process as much as you can.  It may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you that the time you invest pays huge dividends.  Before you know it, you’ll have more money to spend, more time to enjoy your family and most important, you’ll have an answer to the age old question, “Mom!  What’s for dinner?”

 To learn more

If you are in the Greater Cincinnati area and would like to learn more, join me Saturday May 13th from 2-4pm at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County library for their “How to Adult” fair.  I’ll be sharing more meal planning tips and giving away a list of Go To meals with recipes.  As always, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, please share it and join in the fun by subscribing to the blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter.  Thanks for being you and have a great day!

The 30 Day “All In” Challenge

Me when confronted with tech challenges

 

Do you ever have a moment when you just hate yourself?  I’m taking a course to improve my blog, and I’m confronting some things I hate about myself right now.  I hate that I’m tech challenged.  I hate feeling stupid.  I hate being afraid that the writing career I want so badly might not happen.  I hate that I’ve written three books and still don’t feel like a writer.  I hate that I’ve been blogging for seven years, and it’s still just a hobby.  I hate that I set a goal to launch a new blog on May 1st and I don’t feel ready to do that.  Most of all, I hate that feeling like this makes me want to run to the pantry and eat every chip, pretzel and salty, crunchy snack so I don’t have to feel like this anymore, at least until I get on the scale in the morning.  It’s amazing how bad we can make ourselves feel sometimes.

 

Stock photo because I don’t know any perfect women.

What I want is to be one of those women who appear to be incredibly put together; thin, beautiful, fit, excellent at their profession, amazing mothers and adored by friends, family and co-workers.   They are women who seem to have it all, and I want to be one of them.  Instead, I’m an overweight mother of three almost grown children who is struggling to make blogging a career, keep up with my home and family and keep my sanity at the same time.  You know, this could turn into quite the pity party if I let it, and for a little while I did because sometimes we need to vent.  We need to let our insecurities bubble up, so we can confront them and find out what is true and what story we’re replaying to keep us stuck in garbage thinking mode.  I don’t know about you, but I detest garbage thinking mode and the self-sabotaging it can lead to.

 

Chips don’t judge. They don’t help with tech issues either.

So, here’s what I did.  I got some chips out of the pantry and reminded myself that I could eat them if I choose, or I could remember that my son’s wedding is in three and a half months and choose to let the chips go unopened, which I did.  I remembered the spiritual workbook journey I started this week; the one I’ve done two other times and how amazed I was when I looked at the goals I set two and four years ago and how many we achieved.  Because I’m a person of faith, I thought if the Divine brings me to a challenge, there’s most certainly a way through it, and that way is rarely a straight path.  Most importantly, I reminded myself that those women I aspire to be like may have challenges of their own I know nothing about, and even if they don’t, their life lessons are not mine, so it’s best to leave them alone because my journey is not near as bad as garbage thinking mode wants me to think it is.

Combining tech and old school and constantly learning.

While I’m not near as tech savvy as I want to be, I have contacts that are quite tech savvy and are willing to help when I need them.  I have a clear enough voice that I have written three books and several blog posts that can help me create valuable content for my readers.  I have friends and family that love me, sometimes more than I love myself.  And I’m currently taking a blog course that is challenging me to face my insecurities so that I can be a more successful writer.  When I started this blog post, I thought I hated myself.  What I’ve come to learn is that I don’t hate myself.  Rather, I’ve been given multiple ways to improve myself through this challenging course, but it was easier to hate myself and those successful people rather than face the challenge of learning and growing.  So, I’ve issued a 30 day challenge to myself, and I’m inviting you to join me.  We all have things in our life that, if we did them, would empower us to live better.  Maybe you have a closet to clean out.  Maybe you have stacks of paper to file or shred.  Maybe you have photos to organize, a garage to clean out, a garden to plan and plant or a book to write.  Whatever it is, you know if you follow through you will be thrilled to accomplish it and a huge weight would disappear from your life.  I have several areas I would like to improve; one current and one future blog, a body to get more fit, photos to organize and a garden to plant.  There are more, but that will happen in another challenge.

Years of pictures waiting to be organized

I learned about this challenge from Lucrecer Braxton at a social media seminar by Dooley Media.  Lucrecer said that if you will go “all in” for 30 days, you will amaze yourself with what you can create and how you can grow in those 30 days.  She admitted it wouldn’t be easy, but assured us it would definitely be worth it, so I’m counting on that and diving in.  Where could you be in 30 days?  I invite you to find out.  Even if you spend a mere fifteen minutes per day, in 30 days you will have invested over seven hours into improving your life, and I am willing to bet you will feel very good about yourself.  If you follow Where Karen Goes on Facebook, I’ll post about progress there and will update with blog posts too.  Are you willing to join me and see how much you can accomplish in 30 days?  Are you willing to try even if there are days that you might miss?  Are you willing to change your life for a minimum of fifteen minutes per day?  I am, and would love to have you join me to go “all in” for the next 30 days.  Leave a comment to share how you will challenge yourself, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day. 

 

This could be a metaphor for my writing career too.

 

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The Theme and Inspiration of the Day

This week I’ve been participating in an online productivity course, and while I knew several of the steps and strategies, I gained a few new goodies for my own productivity journey.  I’ve been a goal setter for some time.  I use affirmations; I know some people scoff at them, but they help me so I use them, scoff away!  I’ve had all manner of successes and failures, and know there is so much more to learn.  One of the best things I learned in this course is about having a theme and inspiration for each day.  While that may sound silly to some people, it was a revelation to me.  The other thing that was a revelation was breaking down what your day is worth depending upon the income you would like to generate.  Holy cow!  That will get you thinking.

 

Look at it this way (and I am trusting the math of the course here):  If you want to make $100,000 with weekends off and six weeks of vacation, and who doesn’t want that, each day of the 231 days of the year that you work is worth $432.90 or $54.11 per hour.  Whoa!  As a stay at home mom, I haven’t been paid an hourly wage in over two decades.  To think of my time as being worth over $50 per hour is eye opening, and while it might take some time to break a few old habits, it makes watching TV and wasting time other ways look much less appealing.  This week has been about finishing this course before I head out of town for a few days but still having time to spend with my family and getting our home in order.  I know my family can take care of themselves, but I love coming home to clean towels and sheets and a kitchen table without piles, so it’s a gift to me more than it is my family. 

 

If you follow this blog regularly, you know I’m also involved in a creativity boot camp this month, so every day has a built in theme while that is going on, and it amazes me how the boot camp changes my perspective each and every time I participate.  I begin to see possibilities everywhere to be more creative.  At some point in each boot camp, I’m inspired to cook.  This boot camp, I’ve tried several new recipes that have been a hit with my family, the jambalaya pasta, not so much.  I’ve made yogurt and bread from the leftover whey of the yogurt making process, and we are only nine days in.  Fortunately or unfortunately for my family, I’ll be gone for a bit, so the crazed cooking will subside for a while.  I’ve given myself a pedicure for my trip and used a new lavender polish which is out of my nail color comfort zone, and I’ve written a piece of flash fiction that I could not and would not have written before joining these boot camps.  Each boot camp pushes me further creatively and gives me new perspective from the new and seasoned participants, and that is where I find the joy.

 

Both the productivity course and the boot camps change my perspective, and I think we all need that from time to time.  Sometimes it’s informative and creative like the things I’m participating in right now.  Sometimes it shifts your perceptions like some of my upcoming travel will most assuredly do.  Sometimes it breaks you wide open like a friend of mine who is mourning the passing of a loved one and is realizing how much more compassionate she will be toward others in the future who lose a loved one.  Hopefully it inspires you to stop, take a breath and reset yourself regardless, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll stop and smell the roses or just admire the daffodils and crocus or make a loaf of bread.

Homemade rolls made from the leftover whey of the homemade ygourt

 

So where are you stuck right now?  What seems old and mundane?  Is it your routine?  Are you in a rut?  Find a book, a course or someone to talk to that can inject some new life into your old ways.  Find a mentor, a new church to attend, go dancing or eat a cuisine you’ve never tried before.  It doesn’t have to be big, just different, and you may find yourself with a new perspective, a new theme and some new inspiration in your own life.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

 

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