Bye-bye busy, time for productive

I’ve been so busy lately that I feel like I’ve been living in a fog.  Of course part of that may just be because my allergies are wrecking havoc on my sinuses so my nose has been bouncing back and forth from being completely open to sealed tighter than a drum.  The weather has shifted to typical cooler Fall weather, which I love! Unfortunately, with that comes some seasonal allergies as my body adjusts to living in a new state for the first time in 30+ years.

I’ve been working a lot on organizing my To-Do list lately.  I’m actually not organizing as much as consolidating.  I’m a compulsive list maker! I don’t remember to do anything if I don’t write it down.  If I see you at the store, and you ask me to email you a recipe when I get home, I literally have to stop and set an alarm on my phone right then and there to remind me when I’m at home later.  Otherwise, it’s as good as forgotten by the time I get 2 aisles over and start picking out frozen vegetables.

So what happens is I end up making multiple lists.  I have a list on my phone, one on my desk, another in the car, and a few on random pieces of scratch paper that I grabbed when an idea came to me that I didn’t want to forget. 

Now, I’m compiling all of them into one spiral notebook!

Then, I’ll start tackling them in order of priority or interest.  I’ve got recipes to taste, crafts to create, homeschool projects to do, field trips to explore, and blog posts galore to write!

I know the holidays are coming up, but even taking that into account, I think the next month is going to be much calmer for me than the last few months have been.  Once Granny leaves in a few days, we have no plans to travel or have visitors for some time.  I’m very purposefully keeping the calendar pretty open so that I can focus on what matters most. 

I’ll be back in a few days as I get started on that list of blog posts I need to write!

How to make your clothes fit every time just like the celebs

I read this blog post today after a friend recommended it.  I think it is right on the money, but I really could do without the language that was thrown in for effect.  So, this my edited version of the original post with the cursing removed.  In order to give proper credit, the original post can be found here.

This weekend I was told a story which, although I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, because is it ever obvious, is kind of blowing my mind.

A friend of a friend won a free consultation with Clinton Kelly of What Not To Wear, and she was very excited, because she has a plus-size body, and wanted some tips on how to make the most of her wardrobe in a fashion culture which deliberately puts her body at a disadvantage.

Her first question for him was this: how do celebrities make a plain white t-shirt and a pair of weekend jeans look chic?  She always assumed it was because so many celebrities have, by nature or by design, very slender frames, and because they can afford very expensive clothing.  But when she watched What Not To Wear, she noticed that women of all sizes ended up in cute clothes that really fit their bodies and looked great.  She had tried to apply some guidelines from the show into her own wardrobe, but with only mixed success.  So – what gives?

His answer was that everything you will ever see on a celebrity’s body, including their outfits when they’re out and about and they just get caught by a paparazzo, has been tailored, and the same goes for everything on What Not To Wear.  Jeans, blazers, dresses – everything right down to plain t-shirts and camisoles.  He pointed out that historically, up until the last few generations, the vast majority of people either made their own clothing or had their clothing made by tailors and seamstresses.  You had your clothing made to accommodate the measurements of your individual body, and then you moved on.  Nothing on the show or in People magazine is off the rack and unaltered. 

He said that what they do is ignore the actual size numbers on the tags, find something that fits an individual’s widest place, and then have it completely altered to fit.  That’s how celebrities have jeans that magically fit them all over, and the rest of us chumps can’t ever find a pair that doesn’t gape here or ride up or slouch down or have about four yards of extra fabric here and there.

I knew that having dresses and blazers altered was probably something they were doing, but to me, having alterations done generally means having my jeans hemmed and then simply living with the fact that I will always be adjusting my clothing while I’m wearing it because I have curves from here to ya-ya, some things don’t fit right, and the world is just unfair that way.  I didn’t think that having everything tailored was something that people did.

It’s so obvious, I can’t believe I didn’t know this.  But no one ever told me.  I was told about bikini season and dieting and targeting your “problem areas” and avoiding horizontal stripes.  No one told me that Jennifer Aniston is out there wearing a bigger size of Ralph Lauren t-shirt and having it altered to fit her.

I sat there after I was told this story, and I really thought about how hard I have worked not to care about the number or the letter on the tag of my clothes, how hard I have tried to just love my body the way it is, and where I’ve succeeded and failed.  I thought about all the times I’ve stood in a fitting room and stared up at the lights and bit my lip so hard it bled, just to keep myself from crying about how nothing fits the way it’s supposed to.  No one told me that it wasn’t supposed to.  I guess I just didn’t know.  I was too busy thinking that I was the one that didn’t fit.

I thought about that, and about all the other girls and women out there whose proportions are “wrong,” who can’t find a good pair of work trousers, who can’t fill a sweater, who feel excluded and freakish and sad and frustrated because they have to go up a size, when really the size doesn’t mean anything and it never, ever did, and this is just another thing thrown in your path to make you feel bad about yourself.

I thought about all of that, and then I thought that in elementary school, there should be a class for girls where they sit you down and tell you this stuff before you waste years of your life feeling like someone put you together wrong.

So, I have to take that and sit with it for a while.  But in the meantime, I thought perhaps I should post this, because maybe my friend, her friend, and I are the only clueless people who did not realize this, but maybe we’re not.  Maybe some of you have tried to embrace the arbitrary size you are, but still couldn’t find a cute pair of jeans, and didn’t know why.

Notes, Notes, everywhere!

I love Post-it notes! Truth is, I love all school/office supplies.  It’s a quirk I have.  I could spend hours wandering around office supply stores.  Books and school supplies make me happy.  Colored pens, stickers, decorative paper clips, scented markers…..but I digress. 

Back to the Post-it notes.  I love the different colors, and the fancy ones shaped like flowers or butterflies.  I don’t care about the brand name.  In fact, I often buy then in the dollar spot at Target. I used to have Post-its everywhere! In my journal, in books, on walls, mirrors – everywhere.  I used to make lists of my lists.  Of course, I’d also often forget where I put my list.  That did me no good.

Welcome to the digital age of Post-its!  Now I have several places to store my ideas and “to do” lists.

  • Bookmarks on my web browser – I have countless folders and bookmarks on my browser.  It’s gotten overcrowded and I actually have trouble remembering where I put some things.  Or I forget to go back and look at them.  I definitely have some purging to do.

 

  • My collection of notes in my Microsoft OneNote.  I LOVE this product! You can make tabs for different sections, and then tabs within the sections.  It’s is seriously a digital version of Post-it notes.  I’ve got homeschooling notes, lists of things to blog about, lists of books Emily has read, To Do lists, lists of activities to do – by month, and much much more!  I’ve got so much information in there, and it’s all in one place!  Again, I could spend a little time purging in here too.

 

  • And now…Pinterest!  Oh my, that place is addicting!  It’s like bookmarks, only WITH PICTURES!! SO much better! I will definitely be retiring my bookmark list.  It is not only a place to save all of the things I like – craft ideas, decorating ideas, products I want, gift ideas, etc.  I can also follow my FRIENDS’ lists and see what THEY like!  Organizing, getting new ideas, and stalking too! 

If you aren’t already on Pinterest, and you want to be, just send me your email address and I’ll invite you to join.

 

Of course, even with the digital version, I will always have a stack or two of Post-it notes on hand.  They are just fun!  They are also one of my favorite choices for entertaining a child!  Kids of various ages will be entertained for quite some time with a stack of these sticky notes. 

Super young kids are simply entertained by pulling off one page at a time.  Over and over and over.

Older kids learning to read can use them too.  Write names of objects around the house on them and have the child match the note to the object. 

They are perfect for car trips too because the kids can draw on them and stick them everywhere without Mom & Dad worrying about sticker residue damage on the car. 

I feel happy just thinking about them.  Must need to get a new stack!

The military does not cause poverty

This may not be a popular post, but I feel like writing it, so bear with me while I express my opinion.

A while back I saw a petition going around for people to sign trying to get free internet for deployed soldiers.  As people sign, they can also leave a comment.  I had trouble accepting some of the comments I read, and it just goes along with something I’ve been hearing several people talk about lately.

Please, don’t get me wrong!  It’s not the petition I have a problem with.  I’m not against giving our soldiers free internet or any other privileges.  I would love for them to get free internet in their rooms!  They deserve each and every extra they get for the sacrifice they are making.  Our soldiers make up less than 1% of the population and they step up to a job that many wouldn’t do. 

I get that, I really do. 

I’m also thrilled to accept any and all military discounts that stores want to hand out to us as families.  Who am I to argue if a store wants to give me 10% off, or if the Post Office wants to give us APO boxes that are cheaper than the regular flat rate boxes.  I love free stuff!

However, I have a hard time with people acting like we don’t get anything, that being in the military forces us into a lifetime of poverty or that we can’t afford to buy groceries without food stamps, or that just because we are in the military we are automatically entitled to free handouts of everything.

I hear so many people complain that the military doesn’t pay well.  Do I think they should get paid more for what they do?  Of course!! But I think the same thing about teachers, the police, firefighters and all service workers. 

However, just because you are in the military, does not mean you have to live in poverty.  Even based on an E2 pay, assuming they’ve been in for 2 years or less, and assuming no “extra pay” like being Airborne qualified – it is possible to live with a family well above the poverty level. Especially if you live on post and don’t have to pay electric or water each month.  I did the numbers and it’s enough money to have money for tithe, groceries, gas, cell phone, cable, a little ‘fun’ money, and a little left to put in savings.  Now, that assumes no second income, but it also assumes no credit card bills or other unnecessary debt.  If you have a huge car payment, then maybe you can’t have cable or get your nails done, or save as much, but it can be done.  For those with multiple kids, they probably qualify for WIC or food stamps, which just provides extra money. 

Keep in mind, the military also provides almost-FREE healthcare (we pay a small amount each month for dental), and that includes prescriptions, and free life insurance.  Part of our paycheck that goes toward housing (BAH) and food (BAS) is not even taxable. We have guaranteed retirement if the service member serves 20 years.  There is also the free education, including not only job training but college as well.  We have a PX on post (think of a Walmart type store) and a commissary (grocery) – both of which are tax free.  We have access to several free gyms (some even with rooms for the kids to play while you work out), swimming pools, parks and playgrounds on post as well as a multitude of other recreational activities that are free or super cheap.

That’s a lot to be thankful for!

Now, before you say, “but you don’t know my situation” – you are right.  I don’t.  I don’t claim to.  I’m speaking in generalities. But I do know a bit of what I’m talking about. Hubby and I have been through our share of financial struggles – some that were our own doing, and many that weren’t.  I also know from experience that making more money does not mean the financial problems go away.  People tend to spend more when they make more.  We did learn though.  We made our mistakes and we learned from them.  Hubby and I haven’t used a credit card in 9 years.  We are a cash only family.  We’ve made a 6 figure income combined, and now we make…..well, not even close to 6 figures.  We live by a strict budget and know where every penny goes. 

If you want to learn about living on a budget and getting out of debt, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  It will change your life!

 

Now back to deployment…

First of all, for Hubby’s current deployment, our soldiers over there DO have access to free internet.  They only have to pay a monthly fee if they want to have internet access in their rooms.  While I would love for all of them to have free internet access in their rooms, and I would love to save the $65 a month that we are paying, it is not mandatory that we pay it.  It’s a choice. 

I realize not all soldiers that are deployed have the option to have internet in their rooms, or even at all.  Getting it for “free” would not necessarily change that.  Some of it depends on where they are and the object of their mission.  There is no guarantee that Hubby will have it during his entire deployment either.  In fact, even us paying for it did nothing to stop it from going down for 2.5 days.

In addition, while they are deployed, our soldiers receive extra pay.  There is hostile fire pay, hardship duty pay, family separation pay, a daily per diem, and our entire income while he’s deployed is tax free.

That extra pay more than makes up for the $65/month for internet access in his room.  Maybe a lot of families couldn’t afford the extra $65 normally, but with the extra deployment income there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to pay it.  You are paying for it with money that you normally don’t have anyway.

While the soldier is deployed there is a wealth of other free things available.  Lots of companies provide free items or discounts when a soldier is deployed, including sporting events, the circus, travel, even Disney.  There are even free summer camps for kids.  The Army itself provides us with $400 toward classes and sports for my daughter just because her Daddy is deployed. 

Cell phone companies will let you put the soldier’s cell phone on hold – saving you the monthly cell phone bill for a phone they can’t use.  Auto insurance companies will often let you lower your rates for the car that isn’t being driven as well if you are a 2 car family. 

Our soldiers can send letters home free of charge.  Packages cost money, but they can send letter envelopes for free.

No amount of money can replace having my husband at home, but I just have a hard time coming up with something to complain about in the money department.  I’ve talked to Hubby’s grandmother about when she was an Army wife, and realizing how far we’ve come puts it all into perspective for sure.  They didn’t get a clothing allowance each year.  They didn’t get issued several uniforms and pairs of boots.  They didn’t even have the option of the internet.  The soldiers then had to wait months and months to *maybe* get a letter from home. 

We have nothing to complain about. 

If your own financial choices are making it impossible to pay your bills each month, then make different choices, but don’t blame the military.  Seek help, learn to live on a budget, do without some extras for a while, shop at thrift stores, embrace frugality, get creative.  You can do it!

My goals for 2011

I know most people have already posted their goals for the year.  So, I’m a couple weeks late sharing with you all, but here it is:

My goal for this year is ACCEPT and ENJOY my life and my circumstances.

I spent a lot of time last year wishing and hoping.  Longing and aching.  Surrendering.

First, Hubby and I surrendered our dream of moving to Florida or the Caribbean islands and running a SCUBA diving shop together.  A dream we’ve had since we first got together.  A dream we had to set aside when we clearly heard God calling us to join the Army.  It doesn’t mean the dive shop will never happen, but we are looking at spending at least the next 13 years in the Army now, so it’s definitely on the back burner. WAY back.

We also had to surrender our baby.  Not really OUR baby, but our foster son. For the last couple years, I have felt like God had given me a promise that we would have more kids.  We absolutely LOVED having lots of kids here when we first had 2 foster girls, then a group of 3.  It was chaos, sure, but it was amazing! So much love and laughter.  A full dinner table. I really felt it in my heart and I was sure I had received it in the Word from the Lord that we were to open our home to more kids.  I really thought we were going to have a boy. Since we can’t have any more ourselves that leaves adoption.

Then, once we received our foster baby and we were led to believe we’d get to adopt him, I thought that was the answer!  I wanted to believe it was the answer.  After we lost him, I was heartbroken.  How could God put him in our lives and then take him away knowing how badly we want another child?

Through a series of events, I have come to realize that God’s plan for me during those 9 months was much bigger than adding a baby to our family.

So, this year, I have prayed a lot about my goals.  I have some minor ones like,

* Run a 5K & a 10K (starting from not running at all).  I’ll be working on the Couch-to-5K program that I started last year and then quit when I quit sleeping with a newborn around. As soon as we move, I’m starting it again!

* Work on reading the Bible in chronological order. I’m not trying to finish it in a year.  If that happens, great, if not that’s ok too.  I’m doing this in addition to my regular quiet time because I’m really interested in reading it the way it happened.

Overall, my goal is to ACCEPT and ENJOY our life.  I don’t want to look at every baby, or family with 5 kids that I see and wish I had that.  I want to just enjoy this time I have with our daughter and enjoy the blessings that come with having an only child for as long as I have one.

I’m only 36. I have plenty of time left to grow our family if that’s what God chooses for us.  A couple things have helped this sink in for me.  One is remembering the story of Abraham and Sarah.  They were promised a son and had to wait.  They thought they were too old and that it was impossible, but God can do anything.

The other thing that has helped me with this was meeting Kylee.  She is a friend of a friend of mine and is the most amazing young lady! Check out her blog.  No really, go read it. I wish I had been as mature at her young age.  Her parents were foster parents, and have recently adopted 3 young children – while their own children are grown, with their youngest being a teenager.

Why do I think that just because God promised me something that I have to get it RIGHT NOW?  I was so frustrated last year because I just KNEW that God had given me a promise of more kids, but then it wasn’t coming true.

Only, God never gave me a timeline. Maybe it’s not even supposed to happen for 2 or 3 or 10 years.  I can choose to spend every year wishing for what I don’t have, or I can choose to accept the awesome blessings that he has already given me and enjoy them!

Or maybe, we are meant to be the “Middle Parents” – fostering kids, loving on them and giving them a home until their permanent one is available.  I have had to change my heart to be open to that as well.

I adore my daughter and I truly love spending time with her. I don’t want to spend my energy wishing and hoping for something else when I should be cherishing this precious girl right in front of me and enjoying every single second that I am with her.

I also want to ACCEPT and ENJOY this new Army life we are heading into.  Before we even cross the state lines, I am determined to make the best of every situation.  I know there will be hard times, tough times, lonely times – but there will also be amazing adventures, funny stories, and new friends.  I know that God will grow us through this time, teach us things, and use us for his glory.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

I want to be independent!

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Rumor has it, when I was a child I often said “I do it myself!”.  I was, and still am, pretty “in-de-pen-dent”.  Just like the misfit dentist on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” movie.

I also grew up hearing “You only fail, if you fail to try”.  Well, the reality is that sometimes you fail even if you try.

Today I failed.

I failed to change my own flat tire.

I sure tried though!  I went out to head to the grocery store this morning while Granny was here watching Lovebug.  I told her if she’d stay here and let me go alone, I’d get her Christmas groceries for her while I was there.  Deal!

Then I pulled out of the driveway and heard it.  Thump.  Thump.  Thump.

That didn’t sound right.  I got out and checked and sure enough, my front-right tire was flat.  Seriously FLAT, not just low.  So I backed the van back into the driveway and weighed my options.

I could ask our helpful next door neighbor to do it.  Nope, his truck isn’t there.

I could call USAA.  Hmmm, we DO pay for the service after all.

Or I could do it myself.  I never have changed a tire ALL by myself.  Might be empowering.

Or it might just be amusing.

I went inside to change shirts as I prepared to get messy and win this battle.  Hear me roar!

Or maybe it was a meow.

I had to check the manual to figure out how to get to the jack and to get the spare out from under the vehicle.  Ok, not so bad.  I managed to lower the spare under the car.

The next step was to loosen the lug nuts on the tire before jacking up the vehicle.

Loosen them with WHAT? There wasn’t a tool for that with the jack.  I cheated and sent a txt message to my husband, and when he realized what I was attempting he promptly called me to remind me that I could just call USAA and they would do this for me.

But I wanted to be in-de-pen-dent.  At least, after he told me where to find the tool I needed.

I hung up with him and got back to work.  Now, to loosen those lug nuts.

Grunt!  Groan!  Push!  Pull!  Kick! Stomp!

Did they put these things on with SUPER GLUE?

I tried and tried and managed to get ONE of them loose.  ONE!  That wasn’t going to do it.

If it had just been my arms, I would have keep trying.  I really would have.  But I started to feel it in my back, and I was not about to risk throwing out my back 3 days before I get to see my husband for the first time in a month.  Capiche?

So I marched inside waving my white flag and took Granny’s car to the store.  I called USAA when I got back and a nice gentleman came to change my tire.  He looked normal, but he must have really been a body builder or on steroids because he got those lug nuts off like he was opening a pop-top!

So much for in-de-pen-dent!

Maybe getting help isn’t so bad. At least we are getting our money’s worth from the Roadside Assistance.

Where did all the birds go?

In case you are wondering where all the birds in your state have gone, I think I found them!  Check out this absolutely INSANE amount of birds at an intersection I stopped at.  Lovebug said it was all the birds that migrated south for the winter.  I guess they not only came to Texas, but they were all staying at this ONE intersection.

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Look at the rooftops too!

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Perspective

The other day we were driving down the road and Emily shouts out, “That’s a cool car!”

This is what she was talking about:

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Now, be honest.  Your first thought when you saw this car wasn’t “cool”, was it?  In fact, I would dare say you automatically made assumptions about the person driving this car.  Their income level maybe?  Where they might live?  Their education? Maybe even their race or gender?  You wouldn’t be alone.

My daughter went on to say, “I love the pretty colors, and how the stickers on the window look like beautiful rainbows!”

I don’t know if you can tell since I blurred out part of it, but folks, that’s a NEW license plate tag.  Someone JUST bought this car!

So, how do we know this isn’t someone with plenty of money that chooses not to spend it on something that could be lost in an instant due to someone else’s negligence?  How do we know that this isn’t someone going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University working hard to pay off their debts with gazelle intensity.  Maybe they bought this car with CASH instead of taking on more debt.  Maybe this person doesn’t have a $300, $400, $500 or more a month car payment, but instead is using that money to give to those in need.

Do you feel differently about the person driving that car now?

When does our perspective change.  When do we go from being the kid who thinks that car is cool to the grownup with entitlement that thinks we deserve nothing less than a brand new, latest model car?

I think there are many reasons for this shift in thinking and I can’t put all the blame on just one, but a big contributor to this line of thinking is the media.  Advertising.  They are starting with the KIDS.  Just watch this commercial and pay attention to this kid’s attitude.

Did you notice his sense of entitlement?  His feelings of gratitude (or lack thereof) toward his parents?  Since when does a young child get to determine what car his parents drive?  Imagine this kid 10 years from now and how demanding he will be about his own first car.  You think he’ll be thankful to drive an old family hand-me-down?
When I was in high school, my first car was a 3rd time hand-me-down.  I wish I had a picture of it, but let me paint one for you.  It was about 10 years old and the shocks were long gone.  If I went over a bump in the road, the car bounced for the next 100 yards.  It was brown.  All brown.  My friends at school lovingly made fun of it.  Yet, they were all plenty happy to catch a ride in it.  It got me to school and back without having to walk.  It had been in a wreck so one of the tires was tilted and wore out faster than the rest.  The power steering went out on it.  At one point, someone even tried to steal it from our driveway, but they only got a couple houses down the alley before giving up and leaving it there.  I guess they wanted something with power steering!

Let’s put our perspective in check.  Let’s not make assumptions about people based on the car they drive, or the house they live in.  We don’t know their financial situation and what choices they are making.  Maybe they *choose* to live on less so they can give more.  Or maybe they are in need and we should live on less so we can give them more.