Charity during the Holidays: Focusing on the GIVING instead of the GETTING

DECEMBER IS FINALLY HERE! Have I mentioned how much I love the holiday season? The music, the lights… I love finding/making the perfect gifts for my family and friends. Granted, I am not all that fond of cold weather and snow (I am nearly ALWAYS cold unless it’s above 70° F), but I can appreciate how beautiful it is… from indoors.

What this season also means for me is giving to those who are struggling. When I was a child, we were a very frugal family. My parents saved every penny, used an impressive amount of coupons, and had an amazing budget. Every meal was made from scratch, and our annual garden was gigantic. My mom canned, froze, or dried every food available. My dad was our sole income for a long time. He was an auto mechanic at one of the local dealerships, so his paychecks varied by how much work came through the door. No cars meant no money. There were times when my dad came home from work at noon and didn’t go back to work for a week. Times were tough.

Our church would put Christmas boxes together for the less fortunate (we always called them “poor boxes” when I was little) with presents and food. I distinctly remember getting some of those boxes one year. My brother and I never knew we were struggling financially. My parents never discussed finances with us. We knew things were pretty bad when the boxes showed up on our doorstep. My mom had tears of gratefulness and relief in her eyes, and even though my dad didn’t show a lot of emotion, I could feel the wave of stress flow away when he brought those boxes into the house.

As an adult, I also know what it was like to struggle. I remember one year, when my kids were small, how little we had. We couldn’t even scrape enough together to buy a Christmas tree. Honestly, we didn’t even have a place to put a real tree in our little home. I contemplated how I was going to make the season festive for our kids.

No money for a tree? Try taping construction paper to a wall. Sometimes it’s all you can do.

As you already know, I am a craftsy person. I hold onto various art materials… you know, just in case. (**NOT a hoarder! LOL!) I made a construction paper tree and taped it to the wall. I had some tiny ornaments that my grandma had given me. I paperclipped them to our little tree. I sure wish I had owned a camera back then. I recall being very impressed with myself for our little 3 foot paper tree. The kids were happy we had a tree to put presents under.

 

I WANT OTHER FAMILIES TO FEEL RELIEF AND JOY… ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOLIDAYS. I am able to do that, with the help of my employer.

Every year, my employer adopts local families for the holiday season. Every store within our company adopts a family. We contact our local schools or churches, and have them nominate families in dire need of assistance. Wish lists are made, and my coworkers and I get to go shopping and buy food, presents, clothes, shoes, and coats for them. I use my money saving skills to aid in the shopping. I use every coupon and sale to our advantage to give as much as possible with the funds available to us… Maximum benefits with minimal money. The more I can get, the better! We wrap them up, label them, and deliver them before school closes for the winter break. It literally brings tears to my eyes to see the parents’ faces when we walk in with bag after bag filled with presents. I cannot begin to tell all of you how much it means to me to bring some joy and peace to someone that is struggling.

Here’s what I’m asking of you for this year, and years to come… I want each and every one of you to do some random act of kindness for someone else – preferably a stranger. I don’t care if it’s as simple as a kind word or little gesture. Focus on giving joy. Don’t make this statement dirty, and don’t think it means that you have to give away everything you own. I just want there to be more good deeds being done. This world NEEDS more kind words and kind gestures… with nothing required in return, with no strings attached. The feeling of inner peace I get from serving others far outweighs any physical thing I could possibly receive.

One of my dear friends made me this pallet tree several years ago, and it’s what I use every year instead of a live tree. I adore it.

 

Let’s get out there and do some good in the world. Let’s show some kindness and set a good example for those around us. Let’s inspire others to do the same.

 

LET’S SHOW SOME LOVE!

 

Keeping your sanity during the holidays

This past month has been a whirlwind of activity in my world. I can’t believe how quickly it has flown by! Work, home, family, friends… oh my! The next month is going to get even busier. How are you going to handle the craziness?

I have mentioned in previous posts about ramping up for the Christmas season early. Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? (I’m SO CLOSE to being done. I have one person on my list that I’m still struggling to find the perfect gift for. I’ll figure it out, hopefully sooner than later.) Getting the majority of your shopping done earlier in the year can help take stress out of the season. The pressure isn’t there. You’ve already purchased your gifts (I’m hoping at a great bargain), and now all that’s left to do is wrap them up. I’m telling you, frantically running all over town on Christmas Eve, along with half of the population of my city, DOES NOT sound like fun to me. That scenario stresses me out just thinking about it!

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

 

Wrapping presents is one of my favorite things about Christmas. I love making my initial present look just as lovely as what’s inside. I know I’m a weirdo, but I LOVE it. I also love finding the perfect box, wrapping paper, and ribbon. Yes, I’m a perfectionist on this subject. Cell phone boxes are one of my favorite boxes. Many of them have magnetic closures, and they’re really easy to wrap. Chip containers also make excellent gift boxes. Clean them out with a Lysol wipe, use wrapping paper or scrap-booking paper on the outside, and some ribbon, and you’re done!  You don’t have to use them just for foodie gifts… use your imagination here! I once log-rolled fuzzy pajamas into a Fritos can for my daughter. I was pretty proud of myself for that one, and she was impressed at my creativity. She had no idea what was in there.

 

Little items, like jewelry, wrap nicely in cute little boxes

 

 

This little metal box was actually a container filled with staples. It’s perfect for jewelry, or other little things.

I am also a big fan of using old Christmas cards and calendar pages for gift boxes. Gift cards would fit nicely in some of these, as well as jewelry. Add some ribbon to these little babies, and you’re good to go!

 

 

 

 

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

 

If you want to get really creative, you can make your boxes from scratch. There is an endless amount of gift box patterns available online. Poster board is one of my best friends for this. I have made some adorable boxes using poster board and gluing fabric to the outside. Like I said before… Get creative!

WHEN I AM PREPARED, I FEEL RELAXED.

Poster board and fabric… the possibilities are endless!

There’s a lot going on in here!

 

I’m pretty sure we all do. That’s what it’s all about for me. I have my stash, and my presents acquired. Crank up the Christmas music, and let’s get to wrapping! By the time Christmas Eve is here, all you’ll need to do is curl up with some hot cocoa, a blanket, and enjoy the fire in your fireplace (if you have one).

 

 

 

I’m not saying you have to be a hoarder of all things boxes, but it totally takes the panic out of wrapping when you have items on hand to choose from.

 

 

Let’s ENJOY the holiday season. Enjoy spending time with your family and friends. Think ahead, and have the time to do the really important things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone needs a little Jazz in their life.🎵

I am happy to announce that things in my life have slowed down to a fairly normal pace after the hectic wedding week. Work is back to normal, home is back to normal, and my weekly meetings with my music girls are back to normal as well! WHEW! I was beginning to think that the chaos was going to stick around forever.

Last week, my girls and I went to a favorite restaurant for foodies and live entertainment. One of our friends was performing. He was playing his acoustic guitar, accompanied by the upright bass. Heaven! As we were sitting there eating, our guitar playing friend gave us a shout out as a music group. He saw our video in the park, and thought it was quite humorous. It was suggested that maybe we should come up and do a number with them. Seriously, the coolest. How flattering is that? A song was picked, and off we went. Our lead vocalist sang, while our lyricist (who also has a BEAUTIFUL voice, I might add) and I sang backup… with guitar and bass. Mind you, I didn’t know the song, so I was faking my way through it, BUT WOW… It was one of the best feelings! This has reignited the passion of musical creativity… just one of the many reasons that we started our group in the first place!

One of the things that has come up from all of this is jazz… To be more specific, jazz piano. Sure, I played a little bit in the swing choir in high school… (For those of you keeping track… that would be 30+ years ago!) There wasn’t any theory involved. It was just playing what was on paper, or playing a tune by ear. I love jazz. I find it fascinating, entertaining, and exciting. Why is it I have never learned jazz piano? That’s about to change.

Here’s something you didn’t know about me…Most things music related seem to be pretty easy for me. Yeah, I might need to practice a bit to be actually good at it, but I catch on quick. I started watching YouTube videos earlier this week. This is so much fun! Yes, there will be MUCH practicing needed, but I can do this. I WILL do this! I’m starting to figure it out.

Notes working together create beautiful harmony

As I’ve been laying in bed every night this week, attempting to fall asleep, my brain has been contemplating the entire jazz genre as a whole. I had an epiphany…  If I were to describe myself in a music style, I think jazz just might be it. (I originally thought that classical was it, and maybe, because it secretly mirrors several of the same characteristics, it is also a part of me). Honestly, jazz would probably describe most of us, but, humor me here!

Melodic improvisation – Every minute I’m awake is one big improvisation. I want my day to be harmonious, but I love the thought of not knowing what is going to come next until it reveals itself to me. The chaos that happens throughout my day might be initially a bit displeasing, but I try to embrace it and put a positive spin on it.

Scat singing – Made up words that make no sense. Haha! If you’ve spent any time with me, you know that I don’t make sense a lot of the time.

Walking bass – The bass keeps it all together. It’s methodical… Reliable. I keep my cool. I keep myself in check. I am one of the most reliable, punctual people you will ever meet. I try, ever so hard, to do what I say I’m going to do, and on time.

Varied tempos – Most of us have our high and low points throughout the day, but what you do with it is totally up to you! Like the improvisation, embrace it and own it!

Inventive and creative – Um, yes! I think this one pretty much speaks for itself.

Have you ever really thought about what style of music really defines you? Are you an eighties big hair rock band? Hard hitting, screaming guitar, with a bit of ballad in you? Or maybe you’re a country, boot wearing, dirt road driving, horseback riding, kind of person…  Or are you an angry music, fly off the handle, everyone gets on your last nerve, in your face, leave nothing to the imagination kind of person…

Music is in my blood. I am always humming, singing, playing “air” piano, drumming, “air” guitar-ing… I might have a problem.

Think about it. What defines you?

Invite a little jazz into your life. Be proud of your ability to roll with the varied tempos of your day. Feed your creativity. Take time to be spontaneous. Sometimes it’s fun to make no sense at all… do something out of the ordinary!

 

 

 

 

 

Wedding overview – WE SURVIVED

It has been a few weeks since I have posted anything. I have been wrapped up in wedding prep and planning… So sorry about that, but hey, what’s a girl to do?

Three days post wedding, and I am sitting at my computer with my feet propped up. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for requesting a few extra days off from work to recoup. This is when I truly come to realize that I’m not in my twenties anymore. I am SO exhausted! My actual job is a very physical one… lots of heavy lifting, customer service, and thinking mix ratios, timelines, etc. That is a cake walk compared to this whirlwind of a week. I’m pretty sure that every muscle in my body aches. My feet are destroyed. My brain hurts. I am, surprisingly, ready to go back to work for some normalcy!

Here’s a rundown of my last week. I’ll have to sort some things through to make sure all my facts are in order. Bear with me here.

Last Tuesday, the 21st, was a normal workday. Mostly. My brother, John, along with his wife and thirteen year old son, started their journey from Idaho by car. He texted me throughout the day to give me updates on their travels. I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself. They arrived at my work around three in the afternoon. I was overjoyed to see them. I cried a little. My only sibling, and I haven’t seen him in nearly two years. I miss him! They spent the last two hours at my work visiting. I’m sure my coworkers were a bit annoyed with that, but, honestly, I didn’t care. It was so nice to see them. We all went home after that and unloaded their car. I gave them a tour of the house, and showed them all the changes since they had visited last. They got to meet my two new doggies, Joshua and Maya. My nephew bonded with Maya almost instantly. It was adorable. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and chatting about anything and everything. It was so nice.

Wednesday morning, the 22nd, I made a call to the contact person for the wedding venue to try and set up a meeting for Thursday afternoon. I had three phone numbers. The first number was disconnected… Uh oh! I left voice messages on the other two. I was a bit nervous about that, but I tried to push that to the back of my mind. I DID NOT say anything to my daughter. That was the last thing she needed to hear. She was starting to stress a bit. That’s what brides-to-be do, right? After that, John and I went through all the electrical components I had collected over the last few months to figure out what we still needed to make all the audio work for the wedding. (I have been collecting items for my music group here and there for future performances.) We had just about everything except for an amplifier/receiver and a few connectors and cables. We ran into town and found everything at one store. Hallelujah! My hubby had a receiver, RCA cables, and speaker wire, so all in all, I only spent about $30. YES!  That afternoon, I took the family, and met my music girls in Corvallis to do a music video of our first song, “Incontinence”. (Yes, you read that right!)  Corvallis has this wonderful event called “Play Piano Play” every summer. They place pianos all over town out in parks and on street corners for people to play. All free… just so people can enjoy music and talent. It is the neatest thing! We made a spur of the moment decision to go and perform. Why not? John recorded the song for us, and the wedding photographer came and took some photos. It was so much fun! 

  After that, we drove around Corvallis for a bit, and then took a little tour of the historic homes in downtown Albany. There are so many beautiful homes. After we got home, I made the family Instant Pot ribs for dinner. I have been raving about my Instant Pot to my brother for a few months. I figured I’d show him what he had been missing! They were perfect, fall off the bone, delicious… IN AN HOUR. He was impressed. We had another evening of chatting, drinking some adult beverages, and laughing. My daughter and her fiance came by to say hi for a few minutes. Another great day. 

Thursday, the 23rd, I left another message about the venue. I still hadn’t heard anything back, and I was starting to freak out a little bit. John mentioned that he would like to take his family to The Enchanted Forest.

Located on I-5 in Turner, OR. A charming little amusement park, established in 1971.

It is a quaint little amusement park about thirty minutes away. It has been there since 1971. The story behind the park itself is wonderful. It was a nice distraction from the worries going on in my head. We arrived at about eleven o’clock. The parking lot was full. It wasn’t too hot. Perfect.

Just have to take selfies with the family!

My nephew and I had a great time going through all the little rabbit holes, slides, and kiddie attractions. We were about to enter the haunted house, when I finally got a call back about the venue. The meeting and handing off of the key would happen at four that afternoon. WHAT A RELIEF! The rest of the afternoon was carefree. We rode the log ride and got soaked. We rode on the roller coaster. (Thank you, John, for not throwing up in the hood of my sweatshirt!)

Checking out all the cute little shops at The Enchanted Forest

The beginning of the roller coaster ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had lunch, did a little souvenir shopping, and made it back down for the venue meeting in plenty of time. We did a walk through of the place, exchanged monies and keys, and then things started to “get real”. My daughter was getting married… in a day and a half! I had my hubby make dinner that evening, since I was gone most of the day. He made a delicious manicotti.

The grange. The venue for my daughter’s wedding

I met my daughter down at the venue at six to practice. She asked me to rearrange a Metallica song for piano. For their first dance, she wanted to sing part of “Nothing Else Matters” to him as a surprise before they started dancing. The practice went really well. The room where the dancing would happen had amazing acoustics… just the right amount of echo bouncing around. I teared up as she was singing. It was absolutely beautiful. As soon as we finished up our rehearsal, we headed back to my house for dinner. My music girls were already there. We had another great laughter filled evening, visiting with my family.

Friday, the 24th… the day before the wedding. John and I woke up roughly around the same time. We decided to load up all the sound gear and haul it down to the grange to set it up and do an audio check. Everything worked great. He ran back to the house to wake up his wife, so I started working on the basement decorations. I put silver glittery ribbon around all the columns. It was simple, but very nice. Ron, the photographer, showed up to start setting up his equipment and taking photos of all the progress, and the bridesmaids arrived a little while later to help with the decorations. It was tough. We didn’t have as much stuff as we thought we did. Some ribbon, string lights, and other things that I had no idea what to do with. I had one set of people downstairs putting up lights, so I went upstairs to see what I could do for the stage and seating for the reception… I hung up all my mason jar lights in the windows, and the bridesmaids attempted to make some bows for the front of the stage. I didn’t like it. Not at all. I’ve never decorated for a wedding. Yet once again, I was in a panic. The groom, and several of his entourage showed up and helped in the basement with the lights. I guess the plan for the string lights was different than what I thought. I’m so glad they knew what was going on. They did a great job hanging them up. Carmen came and set up the tables in the basement with tablecloths, car centerpieces, and little canning jars with nuts, bolts, and battery powered tea lights in them. Then, my dear friend, Kate, (one of my music girls, and the officiant for the wedding) showed up and had brilliant ideas. We wandered around the venue and she assessed everything. She said she would come back the next day with a variety of things and help decorate. Seriously love this lady! We had the rehearsal at 6:30. We ran through the ceremony a few times to get things hammered out. It was good. Most of the wedding party left after that. I got a phone call from my florist friend, Rosa, that she was in my driveway with Carmen’s last minute bouquet, so I quickly drove back to my house to get it.

Modern Florist Oregon did a fantastic job with the bouquet! Beautiful!

IT WAS GORGEOUS! I gave her a huge tip for her effort, quickness, and delivery. I wrote the best recommendation I could on her business page. Modern Florist Oregon did a spectacular job! I am not even ashamed to give her business a boost here. The bouquet STILL looks perfect 5 days later! After I ran back down and showed off the bouquet, Kate and I did some more planning, and then my other dear friend, Janet, drove up. She had surprises for us! She made the most beautiful hats for us! Big, decorated hats to wear at the wedding! It’s amazing what tool and flowers can do!

These girls are seriously the best! These hats are FABULOUS!

It was decided that once the ceremony was over, we would wear them. How fun! By the time I got home that evening, John and his wife had gone over to a friends’ house for the evening, so I sat down at my computer and started getting Carmen’s playlist for the reception together. She had run out of time and couldn’t get it done. She sent me two pages of songs she wanted to have played. I was up until almost 2 am getting all the music together on my iPod. I had my feet on ice bags. They were so sore! My hubby finally came in and made me go to bed. I went to bed hoping to be able to sleep. I slept decent enough.

Saturday, the 25… THE MORNING OF THE WEDDING. I was up early yet once again. I drank some coffee, and my brother and I went into town to rent a couple of plug in lamp posts for near the stage. I had been looking online the night before for something to add that “extra touch” and decided on those. We get there, and… they don’t have them in their store. They had another store in Salem that showed they had a set. We went back to my car and called up there. Yes, they had them. I reserved them, and then called another dear friend… Super Bob. He said he was willing to drive the distance and pick them up for me. He also said he had a few tables that he could bring. What a life saver! After that, we headed down to the grange again. I was discouraged. Nearly half of the decorations we had put up the day before had fallen down. Panic… again. I went through and reattached everything with pushpins instead of tape. Kate arrived with fabric, hair ties, a big step ladder, and a variety of other useful things. She had incredible, doable ideas! We put up a beautiful purple swag above the stage, using hair ties to attach to the hooks above. The hair ties also were used for making poufs. BRILLIANT! (I seriously have THE BEST group of friends!) She commissioned the bridesmaids to do various tasks, and they did great! They decorated the photo booth area. We put some neat fabric on the backs of chairs in front of the keyboard and audio equipment to hide the eyesores. The groomsmen, all VERY tall I might add, attached a silver ribboned wall behind the keyboard as well. It looked awesome. Bob arrived with the lamp posts, after some major delays in weekend traffic on the freeway. The lights looked great, however, one bulb was burned out, and one post had bright white bulbs, and the other had soft white… Two completely different color bulbs. Yellow-ish vs white. Bob volunteered to get some more white ones, and left to get those and to get ready for the actual event.  Carmen and the bridesmaids left around two to start getting ready. My husband showed up with the backdrop for the ceremony… Natural lattice with braces attached to each side and the middle. John, Kate, and I grabbed Carmen’s lovely purple fabric and screwed it to the backside. Kate and John then took the long black tool Carmen had purchased and wove it from the back to make lovely little poufs on the top and sides. It looked gorgeous. Kate left, John left, and I finished checking things over before leaving at nearly four. I was hot and sweaty, and didn’t even have enough time to take a shower. I went and changed all my clothes, did my hair and makeup, and then waited for Carmen to show up so I could help her put her dress on and the final prep.

Saturday, the 25th… THE WEDDING. The photographers showed up for the final photos of the prep with Carmen. She showed up a few minutes later. We went upstairs, stressed and feeling the time crunch. Carmen’s official ride down to the wedding showed up. Thank you to Fred, for volunteering at the last minute to drive his beautiful black Chrysler 300, so she could arrive “in style”. We got her dress and shoes on with no issues. She had a few photos taken, and then I left her with Fred and her daddy. I rushed down to the grange to get situated with the rest of the wedding party. I pulled up, hot and heavy, and I see a nice turnout of people. Good! I had gotten a few last minute cancellations, so I was hoping there would be a nice turnout. There was. Janet came over and helped me carry all my stuff, and then it all happened. Carmen arrived in the beautiful black car. The music had been playing Diana Krall love songs while the guests arrived and sat down outside in the sunshine… a pleasant 80°F. Kate was already at the front when Jacob, the groom, walked up the aisle. His groomsmen followed behind, the first one carrying my tablet with a picture of the best man on it. He couldn’t attend. He is in the military, stationed out of the country. They built a scarecrow type man to hold the tablet as his face. It was perfectly humorous.

Handsome groom!

What a beautiful bride

Carmen and her daddy.

The best man was there in spirit

Myself, my son, and a groomsman

I followed the last groomsmen, holding a photo head of my son as a bouquet… Carmen’s brother. He couldn’t attend either. He is also in the military… stationed out of the country. The bridesmaids followed behind. Then, Carmen stepped out of the car, and walked down the aisle on my husband’s arm. My heart melted, seeing my hubby’s smiling face as he walked with my beautiful daughter, in her beautiful dress, up to us. He handed her to Jacob, and the ceremony began. Kate did a wonderful job officiating her first wedding. There was humor, seriousness, and it was heartfelt. I was impressed. They said “I do”, and the kiss was so very sweet. We walked back down the aisle, and that part was over! We did photos with the photographer while everyone went down to the basement to eat pizza and salad. We went down, ate, took some more photos, and then, after a bit, came the first dance. I got my microphone, and announced the first dance. I sat down at my keyboard, and started to play. It sounded really good. Carmen started to sing, and it sounded beautiful… and then the soundboard overheated and the keyboard cut out, in the middle of the first verse. She nervously turned her head towards me, and I loudly whisper, “Just keep going!”… And she sang it acapella until I got the electronics up and going again. She did a beautiful job! She stepped up to him at the end of the first verse, and I then serenaded them through the rest of the song after a few finger flubs of frustration.  At the end of the song, Jacob wiped a tear from his face. My heart was full. Everyone loved it, even with the glitch. How could they not? Metallica gone classical… enough said! Carmen had a daddy/daughter dance with my husband… “Wanna Be a Baller”, and then a dance with her biological dad… “Mental Health”. Odd? Not if you knew my daughter. They were the perfect choices. After that, the dancing was on, and my soundboard repeatedly shut off throughout the rest of the evening. SO FAR FROM PERFECT. I was stressed and irritated by it, but no one in my circle of friends thought it was a big deal, so I calmed down. “It is what it is”.

Carmen and Jacob’s first dance as husband and wife

There was much conversation, laughter, dancing, consuming of adult beverages, and overall enjoyment. The grange was just about empty by nine o’clock and we started winding down. Jacob sat in the basement with his friends from out of town for awhile. My family went back to my house. Carmen followed me there to get a few things before heading home… and it was over. We conversed for awhile about the wedding, and got ready for bed. It was then that I realized that my underwear had been on inside out the entire evening. I had been in such a hurry, I didn’t even realize it. Now that’s funny! I sent a text to Carmen informing her of this, (she gets a good laugh from this type of information.) and went to bed.

“Wanna Be a Baller”

Sunday, the 26th… the day after. I got up at 6:30 to see my brother and his family off. They didn’t end up leaving until almost 8:00, but that’s okay. I cried, of course, as they drove down the street and out of sight. I had fully planned on going back to bed, but I couldn’t sleep… Too much crying. So, I left a note for my hubby, and headed down to the grange to get going on the cleanup. I had all the ribbon down and rolled up, trash off the tables, and all the jars gathered together by the time Carmen and Jacob showed up. We got all the tablecloths off of the tables, all the jars boxed up, and everything completely out by three in the afternoon. (And yes, she laughed hysterically at my informative text from the night before.) We left the grange with nothing left to do but vacuum the stairs and mop the kitchen area. I went home and took a break for a few hours, and spent another hour vacuuming and mopping. I did another walk around check and left. I collapsed on the couch and did nothing for the rest of the evening.

Monday, the 27th… two days after. I got up at a decent time, after feeling ill in the middle of the night. Thankfully, I felt better when I got up. Mind you, I was even more sore than the day before. Today was my day of running around. I had to have the rented lamp posts back in Salem by noon. I also needed to run by the courthouse to drop off the completed wedding paperwork. It took me longer than I expected with all the traffic, to return the posts, but I made the deadline and headed back. It was noon when I got back, so I couldn’t go to the courthouse until after lunch, so I made a few stops, put gas in my car, and went to my daughter’s house for a bit. We talked about all the unique problems that happened at the wedding. She wasn’t upset at all. She laughed about it and said, “Well, that’s kind of how things go with us, isn’t it?”. LOVE this girl. She’s already ready to tell the story of her perfectly imperfect wedding.

You may kiss the bride

I have learned a few things from this whole wedding experience.

#1- It’s okay to fire your friend from being your free wedding coordinator when she doesn’t actually do anything. (Taking over a week or two before the wedding is not for the weak!)  Actually hiring a coordinator may cost money, but there won’t be nearly the amount of stress when your big day arrives. OR, be sure your person is going to be able to handle the responsibility. You HAVE to know stuff is going to get done!

#2- DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! “We’ll do that later. We’ve got time”, DOES NOT WORK! Even when we all have jobs, and lives, things have got to get done. Every time you say that, that’s one more thing added to your last minute list… that you don’t have time for.

#3- Having reliable friends and family is so, so important! There is NO WAY I could have gotten this all done without my husband, Kate, Janet, Super Bob, John, Rosa, Fred, Ron, and so many other people!

#4- It is okay to let people help you! Don’t let your pride get in the way. If people volunteer to help, LET THEM HELP! I have been humbled by this experience. Even though I feel that I need to do everything myself, other people can do things too! Ask. Delegate. Trust. Accept. Just let it happen!

#5- Don’t expect perfection. Nothing will ever be perfect. Of course you want it to be. I did. This is my baby girl. Of course I wanted it to be the perfect day for her. I told her, very frankly, to not expect perfection. Whatever is going to happen, will. Whatever isn’t, will just be one of those great stories you laugh at when you tell your friends about your wedding. She has a lot of things to laugh about for sure!

I present the bride and groom

 

So, now, my lovely daughter is a married woman… married to a wonderful man. I have another son. (I honestly don’t care about the “in-law” part.)  She is happy. They are happy. I am happy. And that, my friends, is all I could ever hope for…  And no one got arrested.

Mason jar mania: My obsession

I have a confession to make. I am, and have been, obsessed with anything and everything related to mason jars for quite a long time. Many just think of mason jars as what our moms and grandmas used for canning their peaches, cherries, and strawberry jam. It goes so far beyond that for me. I inherited A LOT of canning jars. When I say a lot, I mean HUNDREDS. I have too many reasons for loving these jars to list every single one, but I’ll address some of my favorites in my post.

My basement is full of mason jars

One of the main reasons I love canning jars so much is that, especially for me, they are readily available. My mom religiously canned every summer… Peaches, tomatoes, apple cider… you name it, and it’s entirely possible she canned it at some point. I have so many jars. Granted, I have given quite a few away to friends who can, but I still have so many! I decided quite awhile ago that I needed to use them as much as possible. So far, I have done a fairly decent job.

Yes! These really exist! Sleeves, coffee lids, etc.

Another reason I love jars so much… They are so versatile! The amount of accessories that are available for jars now is mindblowingly amazing. Several years ago I found some neat lids that could be used for drinking out of. I really like them. Recently, I have looked online, and the accessories are everywhere. This makes me so very happy!

I can use my jars as coffee cups, with real lids. No sloshing or spilling. Ingenious.

Use with your vacu-seal to extend the “life” of your dry goods

 

 

I use my jars for food storage. Not necessarily in the actual canning sense though… I use them in conjunction with my vacu-seal machine. I have the canning jar attachments that suck all the air out of the jars and seal them. I use them for most of my dry goods… flour, oats, pasta, nuts… the possibilities are endless.

 

I take my fruit salad to work in my mason jars. WHY NOT?!

I also love to use my jars in the fridge. They don’t take up as much room as other containers, since they’re more vertical. I also enjoy the fact that I can put them in my lunch box and take them to work. I decided to try and glue several lids together to make yogurt and granola more portable. I love parfaits… I sure hope it works out like I hope it will! I’ll let you know if it does!

 

Just…. WOW

 

The next reason for my love of jars is decoration. My daughter’s wedding is coming up in about 6 weeks, and trying to come up with elegant, frugal, and simple decorations are a must. I found a nice item that I think will be nice for the reception, and then be useful at home as well. These solar charging light strands screw to the top of the jars and look so beautiful. They make wire holders for hanging, so they could be hung up by my patio for a nice relaxing evening after dark.

 

 

If this self watering indoor herb garden works, I will be overjoyed.

 

My last, and newest reason for my mason jars… planting herbs for an indoor, self watering system. I read about this concept on Pinterest, and I was instantly intrigued. I have “the black thumb of death”. I am horrible with plants of every kind. I can kill any plant… just give me time! I either over water, or forget about them entirely. It’s totally unintentional, but it happens EVERY time. I do tend to get very distracted. So, I’m hoping that this system will forego all my plant flaws and let me grow things!

 

And there you have it… many of the reasons I love my jars. Jars are everywhere you look… Garage sales, thrift stores, attics, and basements. Let’s utilize what is already out there. Reuse, reuse, REUSE!

6 months until Christmas… are you getting ready?

I love the Christmas season… It’s my favorite holiday. I absolutely adore the music. I love the lights, the baking, the tree, and the smells associated with it. I love getting creative with gifts, and coming up with the perfect present. I love the look of surprise and joy when my gifts are opened. I love watching people selflessly give to others. It would be nice if everyone was so caring and sharing all year long, don’t you think?

I hate to break it to you, but Christmas is officially less than 6 months away! I know, right? This year is flying by! Blink again and black Friday will be here. I know it seems very far away, but trust me, it really isn’t! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already got a game plan together. It’s ALWAYS good to have a plan.

There’s a few things to plan for as you’re gearing up. THINK LISTS! You know how much I love my lists. Obviously, I start off with a list of the people I need to buy for. By each name, I write down their favorite color, things they collect, and the snacks they love. Next, I start brainstorming ideas for gifts. I keep an ongoing list in my notes app on my phone. That way I can keep up with the little things I notice as they come up.

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

Next, I write down gift wrapping ideas. Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with meticulous wrapping. I feel that the wrapping should be just as beautiful and exciting as what’s inside. A few of my favorite ways to wrap presents… Repurposing Pringles chip cans. They make great boxes. (Pinterest has excellent diy ideas!)  I also enjoy making used greeting cards into gift boxes. I used to ask all of my friends to save their chip containers and little boxes for me. I love using cell phone boxes too. I love this type of wrapping… easy yet elegant… And recycling things just makes sense!

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

One of the most important things to add is my budget. I HAVE to have a budget. Millions upon millions of people go deep into debt every year because of the holidays… buying everything under the sun… buying every single thing on children’s lists.  Personally, I absolutely despise the idea of being in debt, especially because of Christmas! I write up a realistic budget, and use all my frugal skills to ensure that my budget stays in check. Coupons, coupon codes, membership bonuses, gift cards, store rewards, ebates… the list goes on and on! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the resources are out there for the taking. MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK HARDER FOR YOU! A little bit of research can save you hundreds. If you come in under your budget by Christmas, that’s great! Set it aside for a jump start on next year. You could even get presents and clearance Christmas accessories in January. Save 75%+? Um, YES!

Another thing I do a lot of is homemade gifts. I love the creativity of making the perfect gift for someone… made with hard work and love. It could be beaded jewelry, gifts in a jar (cookies, etc… there’s actually cookbooks specifically for this!), a framed photo you’ve taken, a knitted scarf, the possibilities are endless. Make it, and make it personal! I thoroughly enjoy receiving these kinds of gifts. One of the things I do for all my employees is make each of them a Christmas stocking. Every year we hang stockings on the front of our counter for everyone to enjoy. Each fabric is picked for something that they love, and it makes me so happy to see them all hanging up. (When the holidays come around again, I’ll show you the counter. It’s absolutely lovely!) Things like that, to me, makes me appreciate the effort that was put into a gift.  It truly warms my heart.

LOVE personalized things!

I scour the thrift stores for wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows for pennies on the dollar. I save the majority of the colored tissue paper (used for gifts) that I get throughout the year. I have a little box specifically for it. When it’s full, I stop collecting. I do the same with gift bags. I have a container dedicated to gift bags. When it’s full, I’m done. If you find nicer ones, swap out for the less attractive ones in your stash. You honestly CAN have too much. Set a limit and stick to it. 

One of the things that I have realized as I have gotten older is this… you don’t have to buy EVERYTHING for everybody. I have always had a humble approach to gift giving. When my kids were little, they had very long lists of items they wanted to receive. I know, I know… that’s what kids do. I know I did. (I recently found one of my lists from way back. So THAT’S where my kids got the hilarity from!) Just because our kids ask for a hundred things DOES NOT mean you have to get them all. Remember that budget? Take the time to find out what they REALLY want the most. Pick out 3 or 4 things, and let them be happy and satisfied with what they have. My kids had a ton of toys, but yet could still be bored. How is this possible?  Well, I found out that the overabundance of toys results in a lack of appreciation for what they have. Totally true! This could be said for so many things in our lives. I appreciate my things so much more when I have to work to get it. I don’t get everything I want, and I’m honestly glad I don’t. When, and if, I finally get what I wanted so badly, I am much more likely take better care of it… use it more often, for a longer length of time.

So, what it comes down to is this… Take a little time, and start preparing now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the majority of your shopping done before December comes? Think how nice it would be to actually relax and enjoy the season instead of stressing out about it. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your Christmas fund is already where it needs to be, since you’ve been saving a little every month for it, right? If it’s not where you want it to be, now is the time to start!

Make your lists. Have a plan. Let yourself look forward to the holidays.

My class reunion – reflecting on my life

This summer marks a pretty significant event in life… My 30 year class reunion.  It just doesn’t seem possible. 30 YEARS? In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. In other ways, it seems like several lifetimes ago.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about it.

As I reflect on my life, and what I’ve done with it, I start to ponder… Have I lived up to my potential? Have I left my mark on the world? Am I satisfied with the things that I have accomplished? Are those things actually noteworthy? I have experienced a lot of very different things in my life since school… both good and bad. Marriage, kids, divorce, death, among other things… All those events have helped make me who I am. I’m stronger. I’m more opinionated and outspoken. I’m confident. I’m a very different person than I was. I’ll bet most of us are, and that’s the beauty of living in this crazy world.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted, but I feel that I have made significant progress. It seems like most of those forward leaps have happened just in the last couple of years. I feel like I’ve contributed to society. I feel like I have made a difference. That’s really what life is about, right? Making a difference?

What I find the most fascinating about the anticipation of my upcoming class reunion, is that I am genuinely looking forward to seeing all those people I graduated with. I am looking forward to seeing and visiting with the friends I had. Were we all friends? Absolutely not. Will I recognize all of them? Maybe. I don’t expect everyone to recognize me. I certainly don’t expect for all of us to become best friends. I AM expecting to find that, at this point in our lives,  we have gotten past all of those social boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before,  I was a very socially anxious and awkward person. I’m excited to see how we have all changed. I know I have. I am excited to hear about everyone’s successes. It all sounds so wonderful.

20180616_225445

Do I know what I’m going to wear? No. I know I won’t be dressing to impress anyone. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, so maybe I’ll show up like that. I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that I want to have enlightening conversations with all my fellow Bulldogs, and hear about all the great things they’ve done.

So, as our big day approaches, I wish all my fellow classmen and women well wishes and safe travels.  I look forward to seeing all of you, and catching up. May we be united in happy memories, and look to the future with excitement.

Hail West Albany High!

 

My need to have less stuff

I have a confession to make. Lately I’ve been feeling very closed in and trapped by my stuff. Over the last year I have gotten rid of a lot of things. I’ve had garage sales, and donated trunk loads of my unwanted and unused goods. I have a lot less. So why do I still feel like I’m drowning?

I have theories of course. I have problem areas in my home… my dining room table, a certain oversized bookshelf, and my computer/craft/music room. These are either my high traffic areas, or where I spend much of my time. I’ll be the first to admit that when I get home from work lately, I’m tired. I collapse on the couch and don’t want to move. That is where the problems start. Everything that has happened during the day doesn’t get taken care of, so it starts to build up. It sure doesn’t take long!

The “drop zone” at the end of the day

Where items with no home hang out

I also bring things home. That offsets all that I have disposed of.

I’m sure you can relate. I know I’m guilty of not putting things away. We don’t have control of what happens in our homes when we leave for work, unless you live by yourself. It all adds up in a hurry. Then, within a few days, I start to feel the stress of all my stuff hanging around… far away from where their rightful place is. I feel like I’ve lost control. My stuff owns ME.

IT NEEDS TO STOP!

I’ve read many articles, blog posts, and books about decluttering and minimalism. It all sounds so appealing… so very nice. My big struggle is getting past my heritage and upbringing. You see, I come from a long line of pack rats. NOTE, I did NOT say hoarders. My family has long believed in stocking up on things… getting extra when there’s a deal to be had. It’s not garbage and nastiness… Just lots of items for later use… large boxes of various electronic cables, canning jars full of random nails and screws, shoe boxes full of artist paint brushes. I’ve noticed, as I look around my home, that I tend to do the same things. What makes it all the more ironic, is that I live in the house I grew up in. I still have things in my basement that my dad saved. (Cabinet drawers full of screws, nails, zip ties, etc.) There used to be A LOT more things, but I finally got up the courage to sift through most of it.

I just need to be brutally honest with myself when I take time to deep clean. I need to take every single thing out of my closet and start asking myself those all important questions that all those articles have brought to my attention. Do I use this item daily?  When was the last time I used it? If I were to get rid of it, is there another item that I have that could work similarly to this one? Do I know anyone that I could borrow one from if it was absolutely necessary? If there are several similar items, is there possibly one item that could do all the things that the multiple items can do?

I need to get a variety of boxes together and designate them for definite keepers, undecided, throw away, and donate/garage sale. Ultimately, what I like to do is have my garage sale, and then donate what doesn’t sell. I try to find a cause to donate the clothes, crafts, and other specific items to, whether it be shelters, nursing homes, schools, or various local charities that could use them before donating to my local thrift stores.

I have already decided to do a garage sale this year. I’m really not all that fond of putting on garage sales. I never have been. I work in customer service, so sometimes having a break from people is nice. However, I will admit, that when my daughter comes and hangs out all day with me, it is much more tolerable. We usually don’t make a ton of money, but I do enjoy her company. We listen to music, talk, and laugh obnoxiously… THAT I enjoy immensely. I think the biggest thing that I have learned about the yard/garage sale process, from my coworker, is to price all your items as soon as you have decided to sell them BEFORE you even put them in that designated box. When you’re ready to have your sale, you don’t have to spend the time pricing everything frantically as you’re staging all your tables. It takes so much stress out of the entire process! (Thank you, Angie, for THE MOST amazing advice!) I am even going to talk to my neighbors about the possibility of a neighborhood sale. That would bring in more potential customers. Why not? Last year, I designated the money I made for birthday and Christmas presents. It worked out really well. AND I GOT RID OF STUFF! Watching my things leave with an excited person was refreshingly pleasant. I’m glad someone will enjoy them.

As the summer season approaches, I am going to try and be more vigilant about putting things away as soon as I’m done with them. I’m going to recommit to my “5 things a day” rule. I’m going to put my reusable grocery bags back in my car as soon as I’m done putting my groceries away. If I bring something home, I am going to try to get rid of two things for every one thing I have brought in. I’m going to “Power Hour” my way around my house and have my biggest garage sale to date. (Last year’s was pretty big, so I have a lot of things I need to get rid of!) I’m going to go thru all my clothes and shoes, and get rid of the things I truly don’t wear anymore. I’m determined to reduce the amount of things in my home!

Sometimes all it takes is the realization to reawaken the declutter beast. That has happened to me.

ARE YOU READY TO OWN LESS? I KNOW I AM!

Resisting the impulse buy and emotional shopping

It’s been a rough day. I’m not talking your average crappy day. I’m talking about the: “I have the worst possible migraine but I’m working anyway, every person I come in contact with is being the worst version of themselves, my car decided to have a flat tire, and I ran out of gas”, kind of day. “I’m so depressed. You know, if I bought myself a little something, it would cheer me up” kind of day.

Sound familiar? I don’t have these specific things happen to me often, and certainly not all at once, but circumstances are inevitable and out of our control. Crap is going to happen! How we deal with it is critically important. I can guarantee that if you choose to spend to try and make yourself feel better, you will end up feeling worse when you get home!

There’s also the: “I have cash burning a hole in my pocket and I just feel like buying stuff” scenario.

Enter the guilt phase. It really is a vicious cycle. Feeling down? Buy something to make you happy. Get the bill, and then you’re feeling down again… Better buy something to make you feel better…. I’ve been there! It’s tough to break the cycle and rage against the machine, but you CAN do it!

First and foremost, realizing and understanding the cycle will aid you in making better decisions for yourself. This is another case where self control is key to your success. The simplest and most obvious way to avoid the cycle is to NOT GO TO THE STORE. Several things have happened… you didn’t spend money, you didn’t use any gas, and you didn’t waste your time. There’s still temptation though. Our “everything is at our fingertips” life creates its own set of problems, doesn’t it? You can buy just about anything anywhere, and at any time. Modern technology is fantastic, isn’t it? If you’re fighting that urge, focus on something else. Play some music, work on a project, take your dog for a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, bake some muffins, do some laundry… anything that keeps your mind thinking about something else. The urge WILL pass, and you will have success. Little successes are still successes, and each one makes you stronger.

So what if you’re out with friends? Then what? Are you obligated to buy things because everyone else is? Um, NO! Even if you have to have a rehearsed speech to tell your friends… you CAN resist. Deep breaths. You’ve got this.

One step at a time. One situation at a time. You are strong. Flex your will (or won’t) power. You can do this!  And when you do, find joy in your success.

Be strong

Stay strong and enjoy your little successes.

The importance of friends and a support system

I have spent the last few days in Havre, Montana for work. I was excited to come and see scenery I had never seen before. I brought my camera. I was also extremely anxious because, never having been to Montana before, I didn’t know what to expect. New area, new people… I pulled into my location with my stomach in knots. How was I going to get past my own social awkwardness and do what I came to do?  I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and off I went. I walked in with a smile on my face and introduced myself. Please, oh please, just let me make it through the day without feeling like an idiot.

These people are amazing. They put me at ease. They made me feel at home in minutes. There is a low key, homey feel to the area, and I love that everybody knows everybody. They check up on each other. They help each other out. They bring in doughnuts and pie… just because they feel like it. (Very delicious pie, I might add.)  I can honestly say that I have made friends here. It’s been 2 days, and I have friends in a state that I had never been to before Sunday afternoon. We swapped phone numbers, and I know I will actually call or text them soon. I will check in with them and make sure they’re doing okay. I know they will call me if they need my help. I am their support system. It feels great.

Having friends and a support system is so important. We all need help sometimes. We all need to rely on someone at some point. We need personal cheerleaders standing on the sidelines to boost us up. We need people to look us in the eye and tell us everything is going to be okay, no matter what the situation is.

I have goals… A lot of them. I let people know what my goals are. They need to know. They can’t support me and help me along if they don’t know what’s up.

Last summer I decided that I was going to try to exercise every day, try and eliminate the majority of sugar in my diet, and eat vegetarian for 30 days. This was a big challenge for me. I tend to be lazy when I get home from work. I adore sweets. I also really love bacon and sausage. I told my friends what I was going to do, and they helped me so much. They laughed at me and thought I was insane, (hey, that’s what friends are for!), but they helped me through every single day with my internal struggles. I seriously could not have done it without them. They brought in healthy, meatless snacks… and they encouraged me to get a fitbit. I did, and I love it. I love my friends for helping me reach my goals.

Be that friend who lifts another. Be the friend that can be relied upon. Be the one that says, “I know chocolate comes from the cacao tree, but that doesn’t make it a fruit, no matter how much you think it should”. Be the type of friend that you would want cheering YOU on.