Monday, November 30, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Ahh, home sweet home for 5 days and now I’m back to the reality of work, housework, etc… For the time being though, while my mind is still somewhat in Rockford with my fam, here are my top ten reasons why I love being home for the holidays:

10. Thanksgiving meals. Yep, that’s right. I said plural meals on Thanksgiving!
9. My parent’s couch is so inviting. Especially with the big fleece blanket and Falalala Lifetime drifting me in and out of dreamland.
8. Eating someone else’s groceries for a change.
7. Decorating the tree, Christmas music, and sparkling cider was a nice little treat.
6. Meeting up with old friends always has a sort of “Cheers” feeling to it. Everyone already knows you, where you came from, and why you are the way you are. There’s something freeing about that. Plus some of your friends just feel like home. Even after all these years.
5. Hugs from family members.
4. Cut throat board games always rock! I love that my family loves to play games.
3. Hanging out with my parents and brother never gets old (unless my brother is a crab).
2. Not having a set schedule is a nice break from my routine. Especially this fall.
1. Knowing that you can, in fact, “go home”. Regardless of what they say.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Dreamed of Africa

Have you ever had something stir inside your heart and no matter how many times you try and tuck it away it pops back up in the most unexpected ways? That is pretty much where I am right now. Heart stirring, mind racing, and soul searching. All of those combined usually mean that God is at work, like it or not.

The good news is that at this point, I like it. So, here it is. After 2 trips to Nicaragua, and although I told myself I couldn't do another trip next year as it was too hard thus needing a break, I've started to change my mind. I am pretty sure Africa is calling and I really want to answer her. With that being said, I also know that the scenes from the movie "I Dreamed of Africa" that I love so much, will most likely not be the majority of what I'd experience. On the contrary, where I would be would be cut off from the world, and a very desolate place. Sure the people will be the reason to go and they will be the light there, but I want to be sure my heart is ready. I'm certain that a trip of that magnitude doesn't just fade away after you've been back to the states for a month. Trips like that most likely haunt you for longer than I am used too, as I've heard this will be more challenging than where I've been. People in Nicaragua are malnourished, but the ones I have met or seen are not starving to death, nor are they dying of AIDS, etc... They need medical help, but for the most part they are not terminal patients like they are in Africa.

I am going to keep praying over this stirring for the next 2 months. However, if she keeps calling and God keeps leading, I won't just be dreaming of Africa, I'll be heading there myself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Living in the New Reality

In August I had the pleasure of hearing Bill Hybels speak at the 2009 leadership Summit, and even more so the pleasure of experiencing an “ah ha” moment thanks to him. In short he was amazing; along with almost all of the speakers, and his topic made me think the most and for that I am giving him a shout out blog-style.

As we head into another holiday season, many thoughts are running through my head. “How am I going to afford gifts this year?” “How is anyone, especially families with little ones, going to afford gifts this year?” “What do I usually spend money on this time of year that I could save and put into gifts for my family?” And so on, and so on…

As I selfishly try to ponder the financial aspect of the holidays and how they’re going to impact my bank account, Bill’s words keep ringing in my ears, “this is the new reality. Not just a phase”. The light bulb went off in my head as I heard him describe the times that we are facing right now, because up until that point I had the mentality that what we are facing was a phase, a bump in our economic road if you will. The harsh reality is that this phase is not going anywhere anytime soon. And really once it does start to turn around, we’ll all have lived through it and learned to manipulate our lives to survive in it. Is that not a new “reality”?

Knowing what I do, thanks in part to hitting rocky times in ’08 when I was laid off as a new homeowner, I hope to have grown and begun to thrive in our new reality. I’ve learned to look at what I spend and examine what’s really necessary and what I can do without. I’ve learned in my career that some of the things we think we need to do, we do not, and we’ve all learned to do more with less. I’ve seen families enjoy stay-cations without spending thousands of dollars. I’ve seen my friend’s excitement levels increase as they found new ways to have a swanky date night without breaking the bank by uncovering “specials” nights at downtown restaurants, and I myself have enjoyed searching my city for new adventures that I never would’ve known about had I not been thrust into this new reality.

And as I bring my mind back to the holidays, I am going to focus more on where I am and who I am with, and what everything really means during this time of year. Sure the presents are awesome (who doesn’t want a new iPod or sweater), but having to do more with less makes me want to give things that mean something to those I love and not just what’s flashy. And although this new reality hasn’t been the easiest, I am thankful for being forced to slow down, re-examine, adapt, and even thrive at times. I hope I never lose the lessons I am being taught as we head into whatever realities await us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saving Money Can be Fun, Who Knew?

Did you know that trying to not spend money could actually be fun?! Thanks to a few savvy friends and their ideas/new hobbies, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of saving in our not so ideal economy. If you would’ve told me one month ago that I’d be a coupon clipper I would’ve laughed at you, but now I LOVE it. And I mean, almost in a sad way, love it. I realized last night as I drifted off to sleep counting down the days until the grocery stores unveil their new weekly deals (which comes out every Wednesday) that I am quite possibly a saving junkie. Side note…if you hear me discuss or see me post anything about registering for a coupon workshop, or catch me in a “Couponing is my life t-shirt” please intervene immediately! That would just be disturbing.

Thanks to my Coupon Guru’s instructions, I’ve fallen in love the site This woman saves me at least $32.00 a grocery trip and at times has helped me save 60% off my grocery bill! Who doesn’t love saving money, especially right now?! Plus it’s almost become a game to see if I can beat the store and save more than I spend. I’ve seriously left stores feeling like I just won the lottery and when everyone is trying to do more with less right now, I’ll take a high like that any day. Look out BiLo, I’ve got some manufacturer’s coupons and I’m not afraid to use ‘em.

Last but not least, is my love for the new found style swap party. One of my friends hosted about 11 of us girls over for wine, cheese, brownies (hello, where do I sign?), and a style exchange night. Each girl brings gently used clothing and accessories that they no longer wear and trades them in for tickets. For example, I brought 32 items and received 32 tickets to “shop” with that evening. After we all perused the “boutique” and wrote down our top pics, we settled in for the swap rounds. Each person drew a number and was able to select their favorite item when their turn came around. This went on for three rounds (numbers were drawn each round to even the playing field), with a final open swap session following where you got to grab anything you loved that was still up for grabs. It was seriously one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever seen. What still had tags but never fit me just right, fit someone next to me like a glove. Why not share that with the girl who can rock it while also getting your hands on some really cute stuff yourself?! Plus if you do it right, like our Diva friend did, you don’t even feel like your swapping but instead feel as though you’re in an intimate little boutique shopping with wine and good friends and everything is FREE. Yet again, hello, where do I sign?

Retail therapy has always been one of my favorite pick me ups but the spend hangover can easily knock you right back down to where you started. Free-tail therapy however is the new black and looks great on everyone. Indulge yourself. You know you want too!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The FAIR is Here!

As I always do this time of year, here are my top 10 reasons why I am super pumped about going to my happy place in 2 days…aka…the Coastal Carolina Fair:

10. FREE PASSES AND RIDE PASSES! Thank you Mr. Schupp for saving me almost $50!
9. The faint smell of fair food is slowly wafting towards my house, I swear.
8. AC/DC. Enough said.
7. Nothing says “livin on the edge” like having a dirt caked under your finger nails, breath-wrecking of vodka Carnie lock your humble life into a ride that was most likely built in 1976. Oh Dear Lord.
6. Yay for petting zoo’s and baby pigs.
5. The bright lights of the Ladson Fair Grounds just make me smile.
4. Laughing while eating an elephant ear and having powder sugar explode all over your face.
3. Having my stomach drop to my knees on the Giant Drop and the Pirate Ship!!!! (Seriously my heart rate just went up 2 notches simply typing that sentence)
2. Hanging out with friends and realizing that your life is pretty darn fantastic based on the appearances of the average fair go-er. Mean, but so true and you know it.
1. Getting to be a kid again for 3 hours! Smiles from ear to ear, mirrors that make me look like I’m 187lbs and 3 feet tall, and laughing until it hurts.