Sunday, September 24, 2017

Content with our gifts?

It's been awhile since I blogged anything, but something just keeps floating around in my mind and I'd thought I'd share- and maybe get your thoughts about this as well. It really sparked from a conversation that I had with one of my sisters recently. She was telling me of an experience and how someone told her "she was so kind" and my sister Mary mentioned that that was one of the greatest things someone could say to her, because that is not what she normally hears about herself. And I was like, "wait, really?" because for me, that is exactly what I hear all the time! I am so often described as sweet, kind... and for the longest time it has kind of frustrated me. What I have hoped someone would say about me is that I am smart or dynamic or probably any number of things that are not necessarily the first things someone thinks about when they hear my name. Things that I really admire in others, but maybe don't always feel about myself.  She went on to say that she is usually labeled as being smart or efficient, but not necessarily kind. It just made me stop and think. You know what- I love kind people! Why have I always been frustrated by that label? I'm pretty sure my sister also really appreciates smart and efficient people. Why have I wanted to diminish my natural gifts or personality traits ? In the Doctrine and Covenants 46 there are a few verses about gifts:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
My day to day kindness can hopefully benefit others and my smart and efficient ( and also kind) sister is an amazing nurse and those skills and talents help her to bless others as a nurse but in other areas as well. Can we be happy with the gifts that we've been given? Can we appreciate in others the amazing gifts they've been given? Can we not degrade ourselves when we don't have every gift to the extent we would like? I'm not saying I can't still strive to be dynamic in some way, or really smart, or that my sister shouldn't be kind, but just perhaps that we need to also accept our own goodness and stop judging ourselves so harshly.
Share your gifts and appreciate others gifts as well.
And so it goes...Sue
Just read :"Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy" by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg  I definitely found it to be a worthwhile read and think sometimes about kicking the heck out of option b and making it the best possible when things don't go according to plan A.
Reading now: " A Man Called Ove"  took me awhile to get into it, but a good book.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sharing Goodness
As we headed into the Christmas season, Jayna got busy rolling coins from our coin jar. We had decided that the $ there could be used to do good. Usually we have done some type of service/sharing project at Christmas, whether it be toys for tots or taking a tag from a church or United Way tree to buy for, but this time, rolling the coins we had a little more to spend and a defined amount that we wanted to make sure that we spent on sharing goodness. I got busy making a list of possible service ideas- these ranged from the typical tree tag, to putting treats in the mailbox for the mailman, hiding dollars in library books, free babysitting and more. ( Pinterest has a ton of ideas!)  Since Jayna is the child at home the most, she then highlighted some of the ideas that were most interesting to her and we got busy. I loved that this allowed each family member to serve in a way that they felt comfortable and in a way that seemed meaningful to them. So here is how we spent our time and money:
Tree tag- We were able to pick a name from a tree at the school I work at and buy 2 toys and a shirt/pants outfit for this kiddo. This activity Jayna, myself and Richard participated in.
Drive through paying- both Andrew and Richard served others by paying for the person behind them at the drive-through. Andrew has had people do this for him and it has always made him feel good, so it's a way he feels comfortable sharing goodness,
Food bank- Jayna and Whitney went shopping together and bought bags of groceries to take to our local food bank. Whitney thinks about food insecurity a lot, so I think this one has meaning to her.
Free babysitting- Jayna and I offered a family at church some free babysitting. I remember being young and having littles and how hard it was to get out for some time together.  We were glad we could serve another family, so the husband and wife could go out for a bit together.  This activity was free, but a perfect way to really think of how to serve someone else. Jayna being the youngest hasn't had much experience babysitting.  She wasn't so sure about starting off watching 4 kids!  We were a good team and did fine though.
Free meal- Richard and I were out for lunch one day and he saw an older lady dining alone and discreetly paid for her bill as well. It was nice to hear from our waitress that that happens more than one would think.

Build a community center in South Africa- my friend Rachel was fundraising for building a community center which will help a community. I would love to participate in an awesome humanitarian effort, but for now I could purchase a craft download with all the money going to this cause.
I debated about writing this post, I didn't want it to sound like " hey look at our awesome family and the good things we did." , but I did want to share our experience and how I felt it was important for everyone to serve and to find a way to do so in a way they felt comfortable.  By sharing good, they could also feel good.  Of course, service often takes us out of our comfort zone as well. I'm always a fan of activities that help us look outside of ourselves. For me personally I also realized how it can be easier to just pay for something or fun to pick out someone a present, but harder to do babysitting or take a meal to someone in need. It takes more from us, and perhaps helps to make more of us in the long run as well.
Jayna has asked if we will do this every year, and I don't know the answer to that right now- I don't think our coin jar gets filled up every year, but maybe we will continue to think about how we can share the goodness we have been blessed with.
And so it goes...
Reading Now- The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs- funny at times, thought provoking at times, sometimes enlightening

Thursday, August 4, 2016

No Buy July

I've had a lot of positive feedback about our No Buy July and questions too, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to our past month of decreased spending.

This is our 2nd year doing a No Buy July, and this year there were some changes. The take away point I want everyone to feel is do what works for you. We certainly weren't perfect but in the end seeing over a $500 savings feels empowering. I was initially inspired by posts like this and similar ideas found online. Growing up hearing things like " Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without", and "It's good for you to want things" ( one of my Dad's favorites!) I feel like I tend to be rather conscientious about our spending, but I also feel like we have $ that just slips away sometimes so No Buy July is a good way to see where our $ is going and see what we can change.   I have to say my family is a pretty good sport about enduring whatever great schemes I come up with.

Why July??? For me this just works and here's why: we just did a family vacation in June so just spent a decent amount of $ on having fun, eating out.., also Jayna already had a art camp scheduled and paid for, we participate in the kids bowl free program and have the family pass as well, I already had a pass paid for 10 yoga classes - so some "free "recreation was already in play. The older kids are busy with work and school and to be honest they have their own $ and if I say no to something they have some of their own $ to work. I also knew August would be a spending month preparing to buy supplies for school/college starting. Also a big thing for me about doing this in July is I'm not working this summer so I have the time to cook and plan more than I do during the school year.  Since going out to eat is one of our biggest areas of $ slipping away to, the fact that I'm home and can make our own pizza for Pizza Fridays or plan a good meal is a big deal. And as Richard says No Buy only rhymes with July.

Our tracking system: PNC bank has a virtual wallet that puts our spending into categories .  To be honest, I haven't found it overly accurate, however, I figure wherever they made errors previously, they would make again. So I looked at their spending sections and chose a few a felt we could track. I took the average of March, April and May from those sections ( leaving out June because it is kind of a spendy month with vacation) and used those numbers for my target number to be below. I used the categories of restaurants, general merchandise shopping and groceries.
Restaurants In the end we decreased restaurant spending by 76%. We kept our Summer DQ tradition of choosing a really hot day and going to DQ, then every day that summer when it gets above the previous high we get to go to DQ again. Cooking is not my favorite, but I tried to keep good meals coming so we wouldn't feel deprived. I made pizzas for Pizza Friday, upping the pizazz by making a buffalo chicken one and one with more veggies, along with traditional cheese and pepperonis. When I hurt my knee and was off kitchen duty we did break down and order food one night. Richard was prepared to cook, but had forgotten he had another commitment as well that night. It was interesting to pull the kids into looking at our spending and hearing their input. Whitney especially said she didn't really value DQ trips or pizza nights, but prefers the experience of our family all going out together. However, I know Richard really looks forward to ordering pizza and not going out after a long work week. This brings me to another key point- everyone values different things and that's ok. It's great to recognize what those things are and then work to spend $ on the things that are most valued and not let it just slip away spending less important things.
Groceries- Last year when we first tried No Buy July I spent little on groceries, using up what we what, using food storage... We ended up eating a lot of carb heavy meals, pasta, pancakes... And we felt yucky. A good reminder of the fact that what you eat matters. So this year I said I would still do grocery shopping. By adjusting our shopping from weekly to twice a month we decreased our grocery shopping by 11%.  It doesn't sound huge but if you think about how much a family of 5 spends on groceries a month, 11% is still a nice bit of change. Also, I didn't sacrifice spending less now just to have to pay more lately- so I still bought large Wegman's family packs of items, because they are so much less per pound. We ended the month with still chuck roast, steak , cheese and other items in the freezer. Another thing that I had started previously was when making a weekly shopping menu to only plan about 5 dinner meals, knowing the others could be leftovers, using what we still had or that we would end up going out- this decreases food waste.  It's true that by the time we get to the end of the 2nd week our fridge and cupboard are looking a bit bare, but there is still something that can be eaten, it may just not be as easy. Shopping twice a month does take some preparation so you eat those things that need eaten earlier than later, and making adjustments if you see something isn't being eaten to change your meal plans so it can get eaten up. Also because the time I fill up my cart with meal food, when shopping for two weeks, there is less room to buy some of those extras, also saving $.  I know that there are ways that I could have decreased our grocery budget more- rice, beans, more vegetarian meals, but I just didn't feel like that was what we should focus on  this month.
Shopping-  This was another area that saw a big decrease and really I think the biggest key was just not going to the store- although truly I think that was almost depressing to me! I did go out to buy a few things to make a care package for a friend and it felt so good to touch and look at things and be out! I also found out that I have a real weakness for chocolate because perhaps when I did go to buy something, chocolate may have ended up there too! I think a lot of our spending is just those extras that get added to our list as we are shopping.
Some things we did or did without this month:
* We enjoyed cheap outings- music on the beach, arboretum, and using free food from downloading an app, motorcycle riding.
* We delayed buying gender specific body wash, Pam cooking spray, saran wrap- knowing we had something that would do the job already.
* I put off painting my nails knowing we were very low on nail polish remover.
* We still spent $ and that was ok!
* We learned that we had extra $ that we are now putting towards a monthly car payment to pay it off earlier than later.
So that is the story of our No Buy July! I've been glad to hear that others have taken on the challenge or considering what they can do. It has made me aware that I don't want to let our $ slip away, but I want to conscientiously consider  how I want to spend it in the most meaningful way for us.

And so it goes...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

How much fun can we have?!

We just returned from our vacation trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We had 3 full days of fun and 2 days spent mostly driving. It was a great opportunity for our family to hang out together!  As much as I don't love long car rides, at times they are one of my favorite things.  Hysterical behaviors and conversations as well as some deeper topics discussed.

Our family needs room to spread out and be alone some, so renting a 3 bedroom cabin was a perfect option for us.
 Outside of our cabin and our trusty van which we named Van Go!
One silly kid!

The cabin had a pool table and arcade machine that everyone enjoyed for some cabin down time.

 View from cabin deck!
I found a reading nook although I didn't read as much as I thought I would!
The cabin also had a hot tub on the deck which some of us enjoyed the first night.
Nature! We loved getting out into nature!
 I was at the Old Mill General Store and saw they had duck food- so we went to find some ducks! And pigeons ! At times it felt like we were on the edge of getting attacked! They would eat out of your hands.

 2 bear cubs, Mama bear was a little lower in the bushes.
 Wild kid wild kid! Andrew in a tree.
 Andrew was not so sure about this sign!

 Tubing- I was one heck of a mess for this experience! Thankfully my husband and kids kept saving me. The water was a bit low and easy to get stuck or in Jayna's instance she had her tube run away from her. The kids all really enjoyed the experience, I was glad when it was over!
 Whitney and Richard after ATVing in the mountains. Jayna and I started out as well, but after a bit Jayna decided it was not for her so we hung out together.


This bear visited our cabin!

More Fun!

Jayna mini golfing, after she climbed over the fence.

This handsome guy ready to mini golf.
The Escape Game!  We didn't escape but we had a great time trying to! Lots of fun, and our guide said we were so much fun to watch!  He said so many people come very serious about winning, but that we seemed like we were having fun just playing the game! This was one of the last things we did and it ended vacation on a high note.
 The Dixie Stampede! Yes, I paid for this overpriced picture. It is so hard to get my 3 kids together for a photo and I thought this was a good one!
Waiting for dinner at the Stampede. The show was fun, and it was especially so since Jayna got chosen to be an audience participant. She participated in the bucket brigade and her team the North won! ( I'll try to insert a video later, but right now it is too big and I need my techy husband to help!)
The Island at Pigeon Forge. This felt lovely on a sunny day, music, fountains, shops ( Richard and Andrew checked out the moonshine distillery) we ate at Margaritaville and enjoyed the fun atmosphere.
We also enjoyed shopping and eating at the Old Mill area.
Fun! Fun! Fun! We had so much fun and I'm full of gratitude for the opportunity that we had to be together and enjoy fun things together.
And so it goes...
Reading Now- "Night Train to Lisbon" by Pascal Mercier , it is taking me a good while to get through, but I like it.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!

I was singing that line from the Drew Carey tv show, and teaching it to my kids, for a week or two before our family took a quick trip to Cleveland!  Richard and the kids planned a surprise trip for us for my birthday.  We went to a Cleveland Indians game, the Rock and Roll Museum and ate at Hard Rock CafĂ© and Paninis! I knew Richard and the kids had planned some kind of get away, since he asked me to see if the young men who watch our dog could watch her for an upcoming weekend. I couldn't figure out what we were doing and it was fun having something to anticipate and fun to go!
 I love going to baseball games! It feels like a care free time ( and that is a feeling I don't accomplish often), I think it has to do with the summer weather, being outside, the excitement of the crowd. It was fun hanging out with the whole Fam! And it was really fun to see how much Andrew especially enjoyed the game and watching him jump out of his seat!  It started out very toasty and sunny!

 Then it rained!  We stuck it out and it cleared up and we won the game!
 A very enthusiastic fan, who was a bit drunk, sat in front of us. Thankfully his excitement was fun, instead of really rude, and he kept his language pretty clean. I also tend to get a bit emotional when the National Anthem is sung.
Being 21, Andrew tried out the slot machines at the casino at Tower City.

I have to say I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Although I like music, I just wasn't expecting to care much about the museum. However I found it interesting and it really made me think about the connection people have to music and how that can connect us to one another. I also felt the power of music, especially as we watched about Farm Aid, We are the World and Do They Know It's Christmas- how artists came together for good.  It was fun to see the recording of I think "Do They Know It's Christmas", all of these famous artists showing up in their street clothes all working together for good and as they were told to check their egos at the door.

I'm so thankful we could have a good weekend and that the whole family could go together. I think it was really sweet of Richard to plan, and I know he is careful with his money and I find it sweet that when he did spend more than normal it was for me.
 Cleveland really does rock! Andrew especially says he could see himself living there- he was born there so maybe he will return to his roots someday.  I liked being by the water again- I miss it!

And so it goes...

Reading Now- "Night Train to Lisbon" by Pascal Mercier- I don't know how this will be but so far there are lots of passages that I wish I could mark. Thinking I may have to buy my own copy.
Just Read- " A Long Way From Chicago" by Richard Peck - a fun read! Also "That Part Was True"  by Deborah McKinlay.  I really enjoyed this book- it was just lovely!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Cool Mom!

Heading into Mother's Day I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to my Mom.  I wrote about Mom's love, care and self -sacrifice as she took care of my Dad- here.  Love Steps Up  She naturally demonstrated the same characteristics as she raised her 5 kids, as well as many foster children, also. Here's to you Mom!
Food and Fun
I had a Pinterest cool Mom, way before Pinterest was a thing.  Let's start with birthdays!  I loved that Mom let us pick out whatever our favorite meal was and she would make that for our birthday meal. Spaghetti with Mom's delicious meat sauce and Chicken and Broccoli were some of my favorites. Mom was known for her delicious cooking. She definitely had her own knack for it that I haven't developed. She is one of those add a pinch of this or toss in some of that cooks. I haven't learned that ability yet, I have learned that things go much better when I have a defined recipe to follow.  Dad was of a waste not want not mentality, which is great unless that means you are to eat liver, heart and whatever else grossness from the animals we butchered ourselves. How I loved and appreciated that mom fed some of those things to the dog when Dad was away. We still had to eat some of it, thanks to Mom though, not as much. Mom also made the coolest shaped birthday cakes. I think they were from a Baker's Coconut cut- up cake book.  We would pull out the booklet as our birthdays approached and choose which one we wanted.  I remember the hot air balloon being my favorite. They were spectacular, and not once did I ever hear my mom complain about making them.   The joyous memory of these awesome cakes and a mom that wanted to make our birthday special remains with me.
Mom was also awesome at making cool boxes for Valentine's Day.  I don't know where her ideas came from- because I am not naturally creative, but they were cool. She also gave us paper lace hearts on valentines day that were special coupons- I can't remember exactly what they were for but things like getting to choose a dinner meal, or not having to do a chore. It was lovely.
Mom also had the philosophy that if you got a day off for bad weather in the winter, that you should also get a day off for nice weather in the spring. She  tried to make work fun, by having a job cup, that along with chores we had to do, if we got lucky maybe we would pull the "chore" of taking a 10 minute break.
I can't write about my mom and not mention her love of flowers. She had many flower beds and always took a bouquet of flowers to church. She always sent them home with someone and I know she thought about who might need some brightening in their day as she chose who to give them to. I loved growing up with some many flowers around, often making my own vase of flowers for my room.
My Dad worked out of town for weeks at a time, so my mom raised us almost as a single mom. I don't know how she did it.  5 kids, 42 acres of land, farm animals, huge gardens. Sometimes a running car, sometimes not. She has told me time and again that you just do what you have to do. Because what other choice is there? That has been a great example to me. She was the one there figuring out and managing the day to day needs of kids and the farm. She helped the livestock through birthing issues, buried dead animals  and chased cows many times. She canned tons of food, gave birth to 5 kids, not one born when Dad was home, and  raised those 5 kids to be functioning adults. I know that she had great struggles and I'm sure she often felt alone and didn't know how she was going to do what had to be done. However, I'm so thankful that she did and so are my siblings. Mom has touched many lives and has taught me the importance of always moving forward and just doing what needs to be done no matter how hard it is.  However, she also brought joy and happiness to our lives by all of the other things mentioned above, teaching me to find the beauty in the daily routines.  Here's to you Mom! Happy Mother's Day with lots of love!

And so it goes...
Just Read- "Rain Village" and "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend"

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Power of Confidence

Confidence- I've known for awhile that the more I try to project confidence the more I feel it and others may feel it from me as well.  However what I'm thinking about today is how powerful and empowering it is to have others show confidence in you.

Recent jobs have made me reflect on this- 2 of them making me feel empowered and 1 of them making me feel the exact opposite. In my job as an activity director  at Ohesson Manor, I was all of a sudden asked to do all kinds of things that I had never done before- big things, scary things, cool things, amazing things.  Of course I didn't let on how overwhelming some of those felt.  I just said ok and went to work.  However, the kind words, help, support and overwhelming expectations that I could and would do just fine made such a difference.  They thought I could do something so I jumped right in and did so. They recognized my strengths and understood that since someone hired me to do this job, I could and would do what was needed. I felt empowered.  I feel like that job gave me a lot of personal growth- I moved outside of my comfort zone and did cool things- things I didn't know I had the ability to do until someone showed confidence in me.

As a recent classroom aide, I was basically told you are on the lowest rung of the ladder.  I felt like although I had a background that may have been useful in this setting, it didn't really matter. It just felt uncomfortable and depressing to be there. Not empowering.

I recently started a new job.  My first vote of confidence came from a former co-worker who said really nice things about me to her current boss, recommending me for the job. Another confidence boost came from a former employer who said the new place would love me.  So once I started working I was thrown into a tricky situation, but my boss just said ok this is what we are going to do and we did it. AND IT WENT FINE. I don't know that I would have trusted myself to just jump right in, but she did.  Afterwards she mentioned how impressed she was with how I handled it. Which just builds more confidence.

I'm grateful for those who have shown confidence in me. It has changed me.  It really makes me want to show confidence in others- to build others up, not put them down. I want my kids to feel confidence, that even when they don't feel up to something, that I'm going to be behind them knowing they can.  I want to help others in whatever situations to have the confidence to just move forward and try. I'm on your team.

And so it goes...