The Music of My Life

Annie Hair

Annie Hair

I have always loved music.  When I was a young girl, I received a record player for Christmas.  I used to listen to my records over and over again, pretending to be the singer and entertaining my stuffed animals or whoever else wanted to listen.  I was Annie and Fräulein Maria and even Loretta Lynn from Coal Miners Daughter.   My mother took me to various musicals and plays over the years which made me love singing even more.  I remember sitting in the front row of Annie when I was about eight years old.  I had on the classic red Annie dress and the black patent leather shoes.  I was mesmerized by the orphans, Miss Hannigan, and Little Orphan Annie.  I wanted to be Annie, so much so, that I had my hair permed into a curly hairstyle so I could look just like her.

As a teenager I sang in the school choir and performed in the school musicals.  I never got a lead role, but I always hoped that my day would come.  I am not a natural-born singer or even a great talent, but I can hold a tune and reach some pretty difficult high soprano notes.  I came close to getting big roles in high school a few times, but there were always girls that were better, and so I settled for the chorus parts.  I had no choice and I made the best of my parts because I really like to sing and perform.

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High School Musical – Oklahoma

During my college years, karaoke was born.  Karaoke was the place to be in my home town and so on weekends, I drove two and a half hours home, to sing karaoke in the local clubs.  Pretty soon, I met many people who became the “regular” karaoke followers.   In the mid nineties, you could find a restaurant or a club that hosted karaoke seven days a week and these special group of karaoke regulars frequented those spots almost every night of the week.  I was always bound to run into someone I knew.  In fact, we all had our own special songs and so it became karaoke common courtesy to never sign up for a song that belonged to someone else.  We all knew which song belonged to which person and so as we perused the karaoke books, we used to say, “Oh hey, that’s Hotel California, that’s Lon’s song.”

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Karaoke – Mid Nineties

It took me awhile to get the courage to sing karaoke in front of a large crowd.  I wanted to for a long time, but it took the prompting of my special karaoke friends to finally talk me into it.  Once I hit the stage for the first time, I was hooked.  I could stand up there for hours, pretending to be Madonna or Diana Ross or Barbara Streisand and just belt out the songs, one after another.  Sometimes I sang well, sometimes I sang bad, but I always had fun entertaining others and letting others entertain me.  Karaoke was like the American Idol of the nineties.  Long before Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, karaoke meant being the star, even if for just a few moments in a small dive.  Music was a big part of my life.

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1991 – Singing at my brothers wedding – Home Sweet Home Chicago

When my daughter was three years old, I signed her up for dance class and when she was in 1st grade, took her to audition for her first play.  She got the part as Lottie in The Little Princess.  Since then, I have watched my little girl grow up performing, dancing, acting, and singing in her school performances and in local community theater.  She also plays the piano.  When Lizzy is not performing or practicing, she is blasting her IPOD and singing to her stuffed animals, and anyone else who will listen – me mostly.  When she was five years old, I took her to see Annie, and like me, I dressed her up in the red classic dress and black shoes.  We sat in the front row!  She loves musical tunes and we have both memorized all of the songs from Wicked.  She plays the part of Elphaba and I am Glenda.  I see myself in my little girl.  Lizzy loves music and she is so much more talented than I ever was!

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Lizzy – Dorothy in Wizard of Oz

I wholeheartedly believe that music will always be a big part of her life.  She talks about going to New York for college and becoming a music teacher.  She still has many years to grow and figure out her future, but I love listening to her hopes and dreams and I love watching her perform.  This past December, Lizzy performed in her first high school choir performance.  When she walked on stage, I began to cry.  My little girl looked so grown up and sounded angelic.  Lizzy is the music of my life now.

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Lizzy and Me – Lerner Theatre Christmas Production 2013

Occasionally, I hear an old familiar song on the radio and for a short moment, I go back in time and remember my music days and all of the fun I had being the star.  I sometimes wish I could go back to relive my “glory days” but then I remember my Lizzy. I am so glad that she loves music and that we get to make music together on our car trips to and from her practices.  Right now, she is performing in Beauty and the Beast so I am leaning all of the Belle songs.

For Christmas, I asked for an IPOD station with speakers and an i Tunes gift card.  Every night, I fill my bath tub with bubble bath, light my candles,  and put on my music.  I drift away to my favorite songs while I relax after a long, hard day.  This ritual is my way of forgetting the stress of the day.  Sometimes I sing, sometimes I just soak and let the music ease my mind.  Certain songs connect me to particular memories and people.  My song for Lizzy is “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack.  Eighties tunes remind me of my best friend Jenny and all of the rock concerts we went too in high school.  “Love Will Save the Day” by Des’ree was my theme song during my student teaching days.  Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” reminds me of my neighbor, Tom, who passed away a few years ago from cancer.  Many songs hold dear memories for me and I love listening to them over and over. 

Simply put, let music heal your heart and relax your spirit.  If your life is hectic like mine, take time to find the music and joy in your life.  Who knows, the next time I see a karaoke advertisement on a kiosk, I might stop in to belt out a tune, and be the star for just a few minutes!

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My future music teacher!!!

Sunday Night Insomnia

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Tonight is not Sunday.  It is Wednesday, I think.  I have been home for six days after our area was pummeled by snow and cold.  I am not complaining at all.  I have actually had the experience to be a stay at home Mom for the past few weeks.  In between all of the whining and crying about being bored , I have enjoyed having the very rare opportunity to be at home with my children.

My professional life as an elementary school principal is so busy.  Trying to manage both a career and home becomes overwhelming and so I have to really be attentive so that I feel like I am giving equal attention to both areas of my life.  School has been cancelled for 7 days so far this year, a record during my lifetime.  This has never happened before.  We are usually lucky to just get one snow day a year.

But, like most Sunday nights, here I am with “going back to work” anxiety.  This feeling usually hits me about early evening, after dinner, on Sunday nights before I go back to work.  Tonight, I played around on the computer for a while and watched the news.  My husband eventually meandered off to bed and I soon followed.  I said my prayer, nestled underneath my covers, and situated the dogs in a comfortable cuddle spot.  Then my mind started thinking about work.  I began to think about all of the meetings I have to reschedule and all of the work that needs to be done to prepare our students for upcoming standardized tests.  I began to think about some of the more serious problems I must face again in the morning and how I will approach them.  I began to think about my after school Mom duties and getting my daughter to piano lessons and then getting the twins to basketball.  My brother, who is the coach, will be gone tomorrow night so I will be in charge.  I don’t know anything about basketball.  Before I knew it, an hour passed by.  My stomach began to growl and I finally gave in to come downstairs and wait out the anxiety.

I know that all of my work will get done.  I know that tomorrow night at this time, all of my professional and motherly duties will be done and I will be sound asleep from exhaustion.  I just have to go through this weird ritual that occurs whenever I transition from one role to another.

Anxiety is such a horrible feeling.  I am a big worrier.  I worry about everything.  I worry a lot about circumstances I cannot control.  I cannot control other people’s behavior or actions, I cannot control all of the bad in the world.  I cannot control what might happen tomorrow when we all go back out into the real world.  Being out of control drives me crazy.  I always want the happy ending.  I always want situations to turn out for the best.  I always want everything to just be okay.

People always say things like, “You have to go through the bad, to see the good.”  “Every situation is a learning experience.”  “You will grow from your mistakes.”  My very good friend Julie says, “You need to trust in God and have faith.”   I try really hard to have that blind faith.

Yeah, I get it.  I know life is not perfect.  I know not every situation is going to turn out the way I want , yet I still worry which then steals my sleep and sometimes my happiness.  I worry the most about my children.  I want them to be healthy, happy, and safe every single day.

Sometimes I cannot watch the news because I worry about what is happening in the world.  The news always reports on the most dreadful, awful stories.  I find myself thinking, “Gosh, I hope that never happens to me or my family.”   Just think what it would be like of the news stations reported only on all of the good happening in our communities and in the larger world?  What would it be like if for one entire week, the only news stories reported were of kind acts, good deeds, and happy endings.  Would the ratings of television networks really go down or would people start watching and really start paying attention?  Is there the possibility that if we focused on all the good people do, we might encourage others to take on random acts of kindness and good deeds?  Might it be possible that by spreading good news and being positive about our lives, might change our world?

I don’t know how to not worry, but I keep praying about it.  I hope that one of these days, I will learn to just trust that whatever happens, I can deal with it.

Simply put, tomorrow I go back and will do the best I can do and learn to let go of what I cannot control.   Now, off to sleep .

Top Ten Most Dreaded House Chores

most-hated-house-chores

Since the Midwest has been under snow storm duress and wind chill warnings for the past week and I have been home for 6 days now, I am catching up on house chores.  I haven’t done a deep cleaning since Christmas so it is time to get out the scrub bucket, plastic gloves, mop, and toilet cleaner.  There are certain house chores I really don’t mind doing at all, but there are others that I avoid at all costs until I cannot take it anymore.  These past few days, I have been getting them done.

So here goes, my top ten most dreaded house chores in order from least to greatest:

1.  Putting away laundry – Don’t mind washing, drying and folding, but dread putting away. This chore takes way too long!

2.  Washing windows – Boring, no fun, cannot get out streaks.

3.  Mopping floors – Don’t like my feet to get wet!  I always have to change my socks.

4.  Scrubbing pots and pans – The dish washer has made me so lazy.

5.  Carpet scrubbing – Carpet is so much maintenance with dogs and kids.  Hard wood floors are so much easier.  The canister in the carpet cleaning machine fills so quickly and it takes forever to get a whole room done when I have to keep emptying it and re-filling.

6.  Matching socks – I know this technically goes with laundry, but I cannot stand having 10 single socks and not one match.  How does this happen?  Where do the socks all go?

7.  Cleaning out the refrigerator – It is such a hassle to empty the fridge, take out all of the glass shelving, scrub it down, and put it back. The shelves always get stuck and never go back in the right way.

8. Scrubbing base boards – awful, boring, time consuming, not fun.

9. Dusting ceiling fans – Such a hassle to climb up on a chair, reach each fan spindle and try to get off the dust while maintaining my balance with dust sprinkling in my eyes.

10.  Scrubbing the toilet.  Okay, first of all, boys need to learn how to potty in the toilet, not on it.  Second, the base of the toilet is just as disgusting as the actual bowl.  I hate the little section on the side with the little cover that looks like a cap of some sort.  It is so disgusting scrubbing the crevices.  I am a huge germaphobe so this chore stinks big time!

Can you tell I have cabin fever?  Can you tell I am also avoiding mopping the kitchen and cleaning the downstairs bathroom?

Simply put, someone has to keep this place clean, so I guess I will  meander down to the bathroom for my next chore.  What is your least favorite chore?

Headache Queen

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I cannot exactly pin point the first time that I ever had a migraine headache, but I do know that I have been a victim of these terrible attacks for years.  I have probably had hundreds of headaches, the most occurring over the last ten years of my life.  I have never written about my migraine attacks before, namely because I don’t know how to put into words how debilitating and unsettling they are.  I have different forms and variations of attacks, but the outcome is always the same, long-term suffering over the course of 48 to 72 hours or longer.

Sometimes I get what is referred to as a “classic migraine attack” which begins with an aura.  I feel perfectly normal, and then without warning, for no apparent reason, I get these weird white zigzag lines that appear in front of my eyes.  If I try to read something, I can only see half of the word.  As time goes on, the zigzagging gets worse and a strange feeling comes over my body.  This bizarre sensation lasts for about 30-40 minutes before I can finally see normally again.  Not long after, I begin to feel the pain and pressure in my head start to pulsate.  Sometimes, I can actually feel the pressure of the blood vessels in my head start to swell.  Usually the pain is localized to one side of my head, either my left or right temple, and I begin to feel nauseated and very, very tired.  Sometimes this beginning phase is highlighted by chronic yawning.  I read in an article one time that the yawning has to do with the decrease of serotonin in my brain.  I will yawn and yawn uncontrollably until the headache is in full swing.

Other times, I do not have the aura.  I just begin to feel the pressure and the headache starts out small.  At times I am able to ward it off by taking a couple of Advil and drinking some caffeine, but more often than not, if I don’t catch it immediately, in less than a few hours, I am headed for a full-blown migraine attack, accompanied with the nausea and severe pain.

During a migraine attack, I almost feel as though I am having a seizure, even though I don’t know what having a seizure feels like.  My brain feels like there are electric shocks running through it and I just don’t feel like myself.  Then my anxiety kicks in because the pain is so awful that I feel like I will pass out or have a seizure.

Over the years, I have had many tests done and scans.  I have seen a neurologist, my family physician, and even my OBGYN to help with various causes, treatments, and cures.  I have tried many homeopathic remedies and cures, changed my diet, paid big bucks for a personal trainer to teach me how to exercise, and even had a minor surgery all in the name of curing my migraine headaches.  To no avail, I am still stuck with them.  My great-grandmother suffered with headaches and I truly believe migraines are a part of my genetic make up.  It doesn’t matter what I do.  I will never get rid of them.

When I was a teenager, before there were many options for migraine medications, my Dad, who is also my family physician, resorted to pain medications to help “kill” these violent episodes.  Unfortunately, although the pain went away, these medications had awful side effects and sometimes I would sleep for days.  I think part of my medical anxiety and fear of taking medications comes from my early years of being treated with such heavy drugs.  As time went on, I simply stopped taking pain medications and eventually resorted to Advil, which really does not help very much.

Now, I realize there are many more available options for migraine treatment, including both preventative medications and eletriptans which literally block the pain and kill migraines in their path.  My Dad has been begging me for years to try these new medications.  I know it sounds crazy, but after my very scary experiences with the previous migraine medications, I elected for many years not to try these new drugs.  My life as a professional and my life raising children does not allow me to be non-functional.  Even with the headaches, I muster on and do my best even under the worst of circumstances.  I have to live my life.  Everyone in my family could not understand my resistance to taking the medications and my Dad even became angry with me.   He was so frustrated because his life as a doctor is all about curing and helping people.  Why wouldn’t I allow my own father to treat me and make me better?

My sister-in-law also suffers with migraine headaches and mentioned to me that she takes a drug called Relpax.  Lisa told me that Relpax was literally a life changer and that she does not go anywhere without it.  As the years have gone on, and my headaches have gotten progressively more frequent and violent, especially over the last 6 years, I finally considered taking it.  During one 72 hour attack, I left my house to stay with my mother.  My mother sat with me on her couch as I took the Relpax for the first time.  Within a few hours, my headache went away and I realized how silly and foolish I had been for so, so long.  I am so thankful my mom’s persistence and support helped me overcome this fear.

I still have medical anxiety and I don’t like to take medication unless I absolutely have to, but I am taking the Relpax when my migraines are unbearable. Most of the time, the medication helps me and I feel better.  There are some minimal side effects.  I feel tired and groggy, but not to the point than I am non-functional.  I am still able to get through my day.

I absolutely despise having migraines.  Throughout the years, these headaches have taken so many hours and days from my life; however, I know that there are far more serious illnesses that exist.  I know that I am able to live with migraines unlike other people who are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.  I try to keep this in perspective.  I pray about my attitude and ask God to give me strength to fight the headaches, but also to be thankful that my condition is treatable.  I try not to feel sorry for myself and just deal with the circumstance.  I have also been a bit easier on myself when I get an attack.  When I don’t feel well, I am more comfortable taking a day off of work to rest.  I am much better about taking my medication and I have learned to trust God.  God created doctors, like my Dad, and medications to help people get better.

Simply put, sometimes our fears prevent us from seeking help.  We must be brave to overcome the obstacles of our lives.  Pray about your fears and let God help you.  He is always with us.

Goodbye Matthew Crawley . . . You Will Be Missed

matthew-crawley-downton-abbeyDisclaimer:  There are major spoilers from Downton Abbey in this post.  Do not read if you are not current with the episodes or are planning to watch in the future.

For awhile now, my mother has been very persistently urging me to watch Downton Abbey, the very popular PBS series.  With such a hectic schedule, trying to find uninterrupted time to sit down and watch television is a challenge, but with the recent Midwest snow blasts, I finally gave in.   My Mom supplied me with all three seasons on DVD.  After the first two episodes, I was hooked!  My teenage daughter, Lizzy, also quickly became addicted when she tried to get my attention and I kept saying, “Hang on, just a minute, I have to see this next part.”  During my “ignorings” while she sat and waited for me, she couldn’t help but get caught up in the intrigue and drama of the characters, most notably, Lady Mary, Matthew, Edith, Sybil and our favorite, Granny.

I am so enthralled by the time period, the beauty of Downton Abbey, the beautiful gowns that are worn, the jewelry, the daily life of the royals, the servants, their English accents and phrasing,  and all of the rules the Royal family must adhere to.  The characters have come to life and I feel like I know them.  Lizzy and I have had many Downton Abbey marathons over the last two weeks trying the get through the first three seasons of the show since Season 4 is currently now playing on Sunday nights.  I even have my husband watching. In fact, he pulled two “all nighters” and then we had to catch up to him.

Last Sunday in church, our pastor was giving the sermon, and he related his preaching to Downton Abbey.  Lizzy and I were about half way through Season 3 at the time.  Then, before we knew it and without warning, he blew the bombshell!  He told us that Matthew Crawley, the main character of the show, died.  Lizzy and I looked at each other in horror.  We waited all of Season 1 and Season 2 for Matthew and Lady Mary to finally get engaged.  Every time they finally got together, something would happen to pull them apart.  We were so thrilled at the end of Season 2 when they finally got engaged.  In fact, we re-played the video several times to watch their beautiful engagement in the snow.  We could not believe that Matthew Crawley was going to die and how dare Pastor Bob for spoiling it for us! (We still love you Pastor Bob.  We know you were just preaching your sermon).

Lizzy got angry and refused to watch the show for a few days.  I told her we had come this far and we absolutely had to keep watching so last night, we finished Season 3 and watched poor Matthew “drive” into his death on the way home from the hospital after visiting his newborn son.  The scene was absolutely dreadful and I am so sad for Lady Mary.

Lady Chloe (my min-pin) and Lord Benny of Osceola (my Yorkie), also watched from their chair.  They were frowning at the end of the episode.  Today, I almost wore black.  Needless to say, I now will join the ranks of Downton Abbey fans and watch how Lady Mary and her family will deal this most recent tragedy. I hope she is able to recover and find someone new to love just as she loved poor Matther Crawley.

Simply put, if you are looking for a good show to watch, I highly recommend Downton Abbey, but obviously, if you have not watched the show yet, and read this post, you will know ahead the tragedy that lies ahead.  I still recommend it!  The show is well written and you will get hooked right away.

In fact, Mom, Lizzy and I are going to Downton Abbey someday.  I cannot wait to buy my Lady Mary gown and jewels!

Snow Blast Car Adventure

Snow around Billericay-676029Last night, I assumed my nightly mother cab duties to drive my daughter to piano lessons, play practice and the twins to basketball practice. Unbeknownst to me, a snow storm quickly emerged over the area.  After practice, when we went out to the Jeep and pulled away, I became aware that I could not see anything in front of my car.  The snow was falling so hard that there were no tracks on the road.  I felt like I was in a 3D movie.  The flakes were flying into the windshield and coupled with the darkness, I truly could not see anything but 3D snowflakes slamming into my window.  My son Nathan began navigation.  “Mom, just drive slow and go a few more feet.”  We somehow made it to the mall and I pulled over at a nearby McDonalds.  I called my husband to ask if he could come and lead us home, but at the same time, my daughter called to say that her play practice was over and that we needed to come and pick her up.  I sent my husband to get her and continued my dangerous quest home.  My other son Alex now became the navigator.  What you should know about Alex is that for some strange reason, he memorizes street names.  I have always been intrigued by this on our car rides home as he very methodically calls out the names of each street when we pass by.  I was so thankful during the snow blizzard that he actually knew where we were and could assist me.  He was so sweet, “Mom, you are doing good. We are almost to Capital, we are almost to Luan, we are almost to Bittersweet.  You are doing good.  Just keep going.  You can do it Mom. I love you Mom.  Just keep going.”  Truly, I would not have made it home last night if Alex had not been with me.  His kind heart and encouragement kept me going.  About half way home, I considered pulling over again, but Alex kept me going.

Our home is on a country road.  The snow drifts and blowing are really prevalent during inclement weather and last night was no exception.  I was terrified.

When Alex and I reached the driveway, we both started cheering and when I pulled into the garage, we all hugged.  He kept saying, “Mom, I love you so much.”  We were so happy to be alive!  I immediately called my husband to make sure that he was safe.  He arrived home with my daughter about an hour later.

Today we do not have school again and so I am enjoying true family time with my children.  There is nothing like a dangerous drive home to put my problems into perspective.  I appreciate every moment of my life everyday.  Life is so fragile, so precious.

Simply put, I will be more attentive to checking the weather forecast before my cabbing.  Memorizing street names is also not a bad idea!

What I Would Do if I Won the Lottery

cropped-p1070249.jpgIt seems so cliche’ to title this post  “What I Would Do if I Won the Lottery” because I think at one time or another we have all thought about what we would do if we won millions of dollars playing the lottery.  When the jackpots get really high, the media builds up the anticipation and excitement which is when I usually break down and buy a lottery ticket.  I am not a regular player of the lottery.  I am a realist in the sense that I know the odds of me winning the lottery are so microscopic that buying the ticket is setting myself up for disappointment.  You see, I am a big dreamer!  When I buy the ticket, I already start planning for my immediate retirement and vacation plans and then feel really let down when I find out my numbers didn’t even come close.  As I was cutting coupons the other day from the Sunday paper, I came across and entry for the Publishers Clearing House (PCH).  I started to think about whether or not the prize patrol is really true or just a scam, so I did a little research on the Internet to discover that yes, PCH does really award big prizes to people every year.  However, just like the lottery, the chances of winning are very, very, very teeny, teeny tiny, mini Whinnie.  I entered anyway just for fun and now I am getting really annoying emails about re-entering to “up” my chances of winning.

I cannot help but dream anyway of what I would if I won millions of dollars, or even one million dollars. So here goes:

  •  Give a large allotment of money to my Mom, Dad, and brother.
  •  Pay off my current mortgage.  I love my home and want to live here forever!
  •  Buy the land behind my house.  Possibly use the land to develop a “Log Cabin” village for ND Home Game rentals or to host  annual Women’s Retreats.  This would be a future business endeavor.
  •  Start my own Pumpkin Farm in the Fall and invite families to come and enjoy a fun Fall experience – pumpkins, hay rides, chili,  hot chocolate, goats, crafts and more.  Yes, I said goats – two to be exact and one will be named Shelia.
  •  Give an allotment of money to my church to pay for children and teenagers to attend church summer camp.  My church has  always given me a scholarship to send my children to camp every summer.  I would pay for every child to attend.
  •  Set aside money for 3 college tuitions for my children.
  •  Pay off all my current bills.
  •  Take a trip to Alaska.
  •  Take a trip in an RV across the country – no set plan, just get in the RV and go!
  •  Take my Mom to Downton Abbey in England.
  •  Take my close girlfriends on a Caribbean cruise – all expenses paid.
  •  Self-publish my first book.
  •  Take my daughter Lizzy to see a Broadway Show in New York City.
  •  Buy ND season tickets for the rest of my life.
  •  Provide Christmas gifts and dinners every year for needy families at my school.
  • Get my PhD in Creative Writing.
  •  Put the rest of the money in a safe investment fund.

I would retire early but volunteer weekly in a school or at my church.  I would love to have my own business on my property and I have a myriad of ideas about how to do this.  I would still want to serve others in my life because I think God has a purpose for all of us. Financial freedom would just allow me the opportunity to help others and give back to so many people who have helped me through the years.  My family has always supported me through good and bad times.  I would give to them generously as they have given to me.  My church has supported me through the years by sending my children to summer camp so I would give back and pay for many children to enjoy the same experiences mine have.  I love to travel and I have only listed a few potential vacation spots.  I would travel far and invite friends and family to enjoy the experience with me.  I value education and so I think I would pursue my PhD and also pay for my children’s own college education. They will go to college no matter what!  I would not spend foolishly.  I am happy where I am and with the car I drive, so I think I would just pay everything off and stay put.  I would definitely seek financial assistance from an adviser and be sure to put a large chunk of money away to provide my family with a future nest egg.  I am sure other opportunities would present themselves, but for me, life would be about new experiences with the people I love the most.

Having financial freedom sure would make my dreams come true, but I am hopeful that without winning the lottery, I still will be able to enjoy some of the dreams on my list.  I will just have to be a bit more patient and tackle one dream at a time.  The lottery will not dictate whether or not I achieve my goals.  In fact, I do plan to start working on my Pumpkin Farm and ND rental idea this summer.  I am still researching the goats.  I am not fully committed to the goats yet.

Simply put, dreams are a part of our lives. You have to have big dreams and hope in this crazy, crazy world and we do not have to win the lottery to have big dreams.  What dream will you start working on today?

Braving the Flu Mist

Flu-mistI am a big chicken when it comes to medical issues.  My medical fears are really quite ironic since I was raised the daughter of a family physician.  I have been around health care my entire life.  In fact, when I was growing up, I worked at my father’s family practice and later was a registrar at a local emergency room.  Yet, even though I have seen and heard so much throughout the years related to health, I am still the biggest coward when it comes to shots, medical procedures, and even picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy. I am the patient who needs to throw away the informational inserts that tell you all of the possible side effects and outcomes of taking the medicine.  My medical anxiety gets me so worked up that I actually believe I am the 1 or 2 percent of the population who will have a very rare reaction.  I convince myself of this.

So it was no surprise last month when I freaked out after reading in the newspaper that there were several deaths as a result of the outbreak of the flu in our area.  Now, what you should also know is that two years ago, near the END of flu season, I contracted the H1N1 and was sick for two weeks!  My Dad told me I was his only patient that year to get the flu so late in the season.  Once the flu hit the news media again this year, I panicked because I did not get the flu shot in October when everyone else did, nor did I have the children vaccinated.  This wasn’t on purpose. I just didn’t think about it until the flu story hit the news.  Once I started hearing all the dreadful stories in the news, I immediately decided that we needed to get in to the doctor to get vaccinated.  The other big story in the news that week was the snow storm that was quickly approaching our area.  There were warnings that people were not to be out on the roads and that the storm would be very dangerous.  I had to weigh the options and make a decision as to which scenario would be worse, contracting the flu or being out in the storm.  So, I called all of the local pharmacies to find out where I could find the flu shot only to be told that most were sold out except for Target which had the Flu Mist available.  I made my husband drive the entire family in the snow and cold to get our Flu Mist.  Once we got there and were checked in, my children voted that I should go first.  Of course, there was no line since we were one of the very few people in the store.  The pharmacist was very nice and informative and very quickly stuck a vial of liquid up both of my nostrils.  It was a very odd feeling as the liquid shot up my nose and then came dripping back out.  The entire procedure was painless and over in less than 30 seconds.  It was my anxiety that got the best of me.  As soon as I was done, my daughter stepped up and I began to think to myself, “I now have several strains of live flu virus floating around my body.”  Suddenly, my hands became very clammy, the back of my neck was sweaty and I felt extremely nauseous.  My head was dizzy and I really thought I was going to pass out.  I sat down on a bench nearby and continued to feel more and more nauseated.  I kept thinking, “This is it.  I am the one percent of the population having a reaction.”  My daughter came over with a bottle of water and I told her to get the pharmacist.   The pharmacist, Marty, came over and assured me that I was fine.  He said, “Ma’am I get the flu shot every year, and no matter how many times I get it, I always get nervous and feel like I am going to throw up.  You are fine and nothing bad is going to happen.”  As he continued to calm me, I did start to feel better.  He was such a kind man.  By this time, my children and husband were laughing at me.  They thought I was crazy to almost pass out.  I didn’t even have a shot.  Needless to say, that evening after I went home, I ate a good meal, felt perfectly normal, and didn’t have any kind of negative reaction.

This past weekend, I happened to be back at Target and I stopped by the pharmacy to see Marty.  I thanked him once again for being so kind to me.  I even tried to buy him a cup of coffee but he told me that pharmacists are not allowed to accept gifts.  Oh well, I just greatly appreciated his kindness during my very embarrassing moment.  Sometimes, I think God plants the right people to be with you at the right times.  That day, he truly did earn his money.

Yes, next year I will get the Flu Mist again, but I will not wait until flu season is in full swing in the middle of a snow storm.  I have learned my lesson.  I will start early and do the right thing to protect my family.  Simply put, God gives us medicine for a reason!  I have to trust He knows what he is doing.

Shaving $50 off the Grocery Bill

P1070424I set a budget every two weeks for groceries.  Basically, for a family of five and two dogs, I budget 175.00 for groceries per week (350.00 every pay check).  I am not sure if this is high or low for other families comparable to our size, but I know that my growing twins boys and teenage daughter eat through our cupboards which are bare by the end of the two weeks when I get paid again.  This also includes non-perishable items and cleaning supplies like laundry soap, dish detergent, deodorant, shampoo, and dog food.  One bag of dog food is nearly $20.  The items add up quick and on the last few days before my pay check comes, we are usually eating frozen foods or canned soup.  My past spending habits at the grocery store vary.  Sometimes, I have been very attentive to sales. food prices and bargains.  Other times, I am in a hurry and items simply go in the cart so I can get the shopping done and get home, especially if I am shopping after work, it is cold outside, and I am tired.   For the past year, my daughter, Lizzy has been my grocery partner.  I actually look forward to this time with her and we always guesstimate the total cost of the bill at checkout.  Since we have moved into our new home, expenses are a bit higher here and I am really having to stick to a tight budget to pay our bills.  We have had some unexpected emergencies come up (furnace going out on Christmas Eve, Jeep needing a new water pump, Jeep needing a new tire, a root canal, and a crown – all within a month), so I am re-evaluating all of my bills and trying to create a budget that will allow our family to eat well, but not cost so much! My thinking is that if I can just shave my grocery bill down about $50 a month, I can take that $50 and start my emergency fund (thank you Dave Ramsey) and start paying down some of the other bills.

I have discovered some very cool couponing websites that have taught me a few things about coupons and have started saving me some cash at the register.  I am not sure if I have saved the $50 yet, but I am seeing the benefits of saving a few dollars here and a few dollars there.  First, I do most of my grocery shopping at Meijer and Walmart.  The first discovery I made is the Meijer mPerks Digital Coupons.  I am usually in such a hurry at checkout that whenever the cashier asks me about mPerks, I just shrug and say “No, I don’t have any.”  I saved 5% off my entire Meijer grocery order last week just by signing up for mPerks.  I will attach the link at the end of the blog so that you can go on and sign up!  I also discovered digital coupons.  What is cool about this, is that you can go on the site, check mark the coupons you want to use, and then print off your grocery list.  Then at check out, you enter your mPerks code and all of the savings are deducted as you check out.   Yesterday, I called my mother and got her signed all up.

Another very helpful website that I signed up for is the Grocery Coupon Network.  There are actually videos you can watch to explain how to start saving with coupons.  I was amazed to learn that there is actually a whole couponing world that exists out there.  I watched the very basic video on how to get started with couponing which I found to be extremely helpful.  The most important first step is just to start by making your grocery list.  Then you go onto both the Grocery Coupon Network website and the store website (Meijer, Walmart, Target, etc) and start clipping and printing your coupons.  Do not clip coupons for items you would not regularly buy.  This is one of the ways you will spend more money at the store, not less.  Try to find items that are already on sale at the store and you have a coupon for.  Lizzy and I bought to mascaras for the price of one at Walmart last week.  Another great place to get coupons is in the Sunday newspaper ads and when you are looking for something in particular, just go online and type in the item name and see what pops up.  I use a higher dollar lotion on my skin in the winter for dryness, and I was able to find a coupon this week by simply doing a Google search for the brand.  You can also save lots of dollars by filling your prescriptions at particular stores (like Meijer and Target) and then earning rewards towards your total grocery bill.  For instance, the kids and I recently got our flu shots at Target and signed up for a rewards card.  I just received a 5% discount for our next grocery bill.

I am learning so much about couponing.  My plan is to watch some more of those coupon videos and see what other strategies I can pick up.  Some of you may already be experts in this area, but I am just amazed.  I never paid attention before.  So far, I estimate over the last two weeks, I have saved about 20 dollars total, but that is 20 dollars I can put towards something else.  I am going to track carefully over the course of a month to see if I can reach that $50 dollar savings plan.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, after reading this blog, you need to now go to sign up for mPerks and Grocery Coupon Network!

Grocery Coupon Network

Meijer Perks

Things are Always Better in the Morning

I have written the following blog over the past two days.  It is an account of my first two days back to real life.  I almost didn’t publish, but then I remembered one of the reasons I decided to write this blog is to record the realities of balancing work and home.  So here goes . . .

The alarm rang at 5:00 a.m.  I was out the door by 6:52 and deep into my work by 8:00.  I had a busy day.  At 4:00 I scurried home to pick up my daughter for a piano lesson and play practice.  After I dropped off Lizzy, I had to take Nathan to the Urgent Care Center (long story, but he is fine) and then off to the pharmacy for medication.  We ate a quick bite at Subway and then rushed back home so that my hubby could use my jumper cables to awaken his sleeping car so that he could return to pick Lizzy up from practice. I have been home for about a half hour.  It is now 9:03 p.m. and I am exhausted.  Somewhere in the midst of the mayhem, my husband asked, “How was your first day back?”

It started off well.  It actually felt good to take a shower and get dressed this morning.  I cheerfully drank my morning tea and headed into work blasting Taylor Swift.  I was happy to see the staff and the children return to school.  I had a great deal of work to do and my day was really productive.  I got crabby after school.  I was in a rush to get home so that I could get all of my children where they needed to be.   The traffic was horrendous.  The roads were still very icy and slick, so drivers were really being cautious.  Then I learned that my son wasn’t feeling well which added to my frustration. I was really worried about him.  I had to get him to Urgent Care.   As my vehicle crept along in rush hour traffic, I became more and more enraged.  I just wanted to get to my destination, get my son to the doctor, and get back home.  I was tired.  It was a long day.

How many times do you feel like your life is just stuck in traffic?  You are in such a hurry to do something or go somewhere or get something done and you can’t.  You are just stuck.  Every now and again you get to go a few feet and creep along, but basically you are stuck.  As I sat in traffic today, the clock kept ticking away and there was nothing I could do about it.  Maybe another reason we hate to be stuck in traffic is because we cannot control it.  There is no way to get around or get out.  We just have to patiently wait until the jam subsides.  Why is it that we have to wait so long?

When I went to bed last night, I was feeling miserable.  I wrote my blog, but didn’t post because I just felt like it was way too depressing.  But then this morning came, and I felt a little bit better.  In my favorite book To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee writes “things are always better in the morning” and yes, Friday morning was better.  I had another great work day and my son was feeling a little bit better by Friday night.

Speaking of “Mockingbird”  and traffic jams, my mother and I took a trip a few years ago to Monroeville, Alabama where Harper Lee grew up and modeled  the fictional small, tired town of Maycomb.  I have always wanted to go to Monroeville. Before I became a principal I taught high school English for 10 years.  Every year in the spring, my students and I read To Kill a Mockingbird and Jem, Scout and Dill became my own personal friends.  I have such precious memories of sharing this novel with my students and no matter how many times I read and studied the book, I always cried when I read the final chapter.  For years, I wanted to take my students to the town and watch a re-enactment of the play which is performed every year in the Old Courthouse.  Harper Lee grew up watching her father try cases in this courthouse.  It truly was a magical moment when I walked into that courthouse for the first time.  A piece of history came to life as I observed the dark mahogany colored wood, the spiraling balcony and the judges podium.  The town was very small, very desolate, and empty. In the center of what looked like was once a small, charming tourist town, stood the beautiful Old Courthouse.

My mom and I set out on “our longest journey ever.”   We were so very excited when we hit the road and began driving South.  We listened to music, had great conversation in the car, laughed and enjoyed the scenery of small, quiet country towns.  About half way to Monroeville, we stopped at a truck stop to make a phone call to the Old Courthouse.  The actress who played the role of Scout would be giving tours of the fictional “Maycomb” and my Mom and I wanted to see if tickets were still available.  That phone call started the mayhem that would continue to plague us for the rest of the trip.  Mary Badham, the actress, was ill and could not make the trip.  We had already paid big bucks for a special evening with Mary and a dinner.  We truly were disappointed, but tried to stay positive as we continued our journey.  When we got to the town, we checked into our hotel and then decided to get some dinner.  Much to our surprise, the town is literally shut down except for a few hours a day.  All of the local restaurants were closed and we found one small place to get some sandwiches.  The next day we visited the magical courthouse and learned that visitors can get car tour maps to drive around and tour some of the local historical sites.  We drove for miles to see Harper Lee’s residence, some old log homes, some historical churches, an old school, and an old mill.  When we got to the mill, it was closed for repair.  I remembered that we laughed and laughed because our trip did not go as planned.  On the eve of the Mockingbird play, mother nature decided to rain.  I remember one of the actors saying that in all the years the play was performed, this was only the second time it had rained.  It felt like the chapter in Mockingbird when the children first see snow!  The set of the play was outside on the courthouse lawn and so the first entire Act had to be cut out.  We were all seated in the courthouse and the play began with Act 2.  Afterwards, we attended a reception with the actors and tents had to be set up so that we could visit.  All in all, much like my first day back to work, our trip didn’t go as planned.

The next morning, we were in quite a hurry to go back home.  My children were calling and asking “How much longer until you get home?”  We left on Saturday and Mother’s Day was the next morning.  I was determined we would drive straight through and get home, until we reached the main highway and became stuck in the worst traffic jam I have ever been in my entire life!  We sat completely parked for at least 5 hours.  There was no movement, no end in sight, nothing we could do but sit.  My son kept calling my phone asking “How long until you come home Mommy?”  I was so frustrated!  When we finally did reach an exit, everyone was getting off, including about 50 semi-trucks so the back route was just as treacherous.  There was so much traffic, time continued to idly tick by.

Finally, after hours and hours of torture, we decided to check into a hotel for the night and start fresh in the morning.  My son was really disappointed and I felt really bad, but there was nothing more I could do.  But, things are always better in the morning.  My mom and I finally made it home, and now we laugh as we recount our adventure to Monroeville.

I have no regrets.  It was a wonderful trip, despite all of the complications.  I got to spend time with my mother and visit one of my favorite historical places!  I got to see history in the desolate town and surrounding sights.   Even though I only got to see half of the play, the actors and actresses where phenomenal and I will never forget it.

Traffic sometimes gets in the way of our lives.  I suppose the way we deal with traffic is most important.  We will encounter many, many traffic jams in our lives.  I think we just have to remember that “things are always better in the morning.”

mockingbird mockingbird2 mockingbird3

Monroe County Museum