Archive for November, 2012

My Dad Could’ve Been $10,000 Richer!

My dad likes to play the lottery. He isn’t a fanatic or anything, but he buys tickets from time to time and always jokes about what he’d do with the money if he won. Sometimes he let’s the machine pick the numbers, but most of the time he buys a ticket with his lucky set. Three of the numbers are the birthdays of my brother, mother and grandmother and the other is his anniversary date.

This time he didn’t buy a ticket for the $587.5 million Powerball jackpot, but this time his numbers were picked! Four of the six numbers, including the Powerball number, were among the four he plays week after week. If you match four numbers including the power ball you win $10,000 and $10,000 would’ve made a pretty sweet Christmas gift!

Well you win some, you lose some, but it’s true what they say “you have to be in it to win it” and this week of all weeks he decided not to play. I haven’t talked to my dad yet today, but I’m sure he’s kicking himself about it.

I rarely play the lottery, but I do enter online giveaways from time to time. Winning for me is less about the prize then the excitement of being picked. I’ve been pretty lucky in the past. I once won a $250 gift card to Marshall’s. That was definitely my biggest haul, but I’ve also won smaller prizes typically ranging from $25 to $50. My favorite prizes are money and gift cards, but I’ve also won board games, books and even a huge box packed with high-quality barbeque sauces.

I’m usually a pretty optimistic girl, but I really love the idea that luck is on my side. Entering and winning giveaways somehow reinforces that notion. Here’s to hoping I win a couple of prizes and that my dad’s lucky numbers are picked on a day he actually plays the lottery!

November 29, 2012 at 11:53 AM 2 comments

Stocking Stuffers for My Husband: Part Two

Between the end of November and the end of December ‘stocking stuffers for my husband’ is the number one search query readers use to find this blog. It seems my blog is inundated every December by women searching for that perfect Christmas gift for their husband.

The original post that lures Google readers to my blog isn’t much of a post at all. In fact, in it I ask readers for their suggestions on the topic, because I had absolutely no idea what to buy for my husband. Since that post, originally written in 2008, I’ve come across some great ideas.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Most of the items highlighted in red contain links to similar products on Amazon.)

  • LED Lanterns. We keep a few of these in the house in case our power gets knocked out. They are great for providing enough light to play cards or board games and even light up the bathroom if you need it. We also keep one of these in each car in case we are stranded on a dark and lonely night.
  • Of course LED flashlights are a must have. We keep a handful of these in various rooms in the house and one in each car too.
  • Headlamps. I know, I know you’re thinking “another light!” But trust me this one serves a different purpose. Headlamps are great when you are fixing cars, household appliances or just about anything else where you may have limited light. You can place them on your head and keep your hands free to do the real work. My husband LOVES these! Ever try to hold a flashlight while changing a toddler’s diaper. With headlamps you can have both hands free! They range in price from as low as $10 to $15 to as high as a few hundred. The more expensive ones usually burn brighter and more directly.
  • With all those electronics you’ll certainly need batteries, so throw in a pack or two. Make certain you double check the type you need. There is nothing worse then buying something that needs AAAs and you have nothing but AAs in the house.
  • Favorite candy or cookies. Some guys like to chomp on gum, others prefer something chewy like Starburst or chocolatey like M&Ms. Throw in a bag of whatever your husband loves. Odds are they’ll be eaten before the end of Christmas day.
  • Walk inside any gourmet grocery store and you can spend hours picking expensive vinegar or olive oil from the shelves. If your husband is a foodie he might enjoy using a more expensive version of one of these staples. You can also look for unique bottles of honey or jam.
  • Spices are another great gift for someone who loves to cook. Have you ever looked at the price of saffron? If your guy likes to cook try buying him a more expensive version of a spice he typically cooks with or buy him an ingredient he’s never tried before. Find a new recipe that includes the ingredient and tell him part of the gift is finding a night to cook together.
  • If your guy doesn’t like to cook, but loves to eat, how about some unique hot sauces to spice up his meals? Tacos and enchiladas are a staple in our home, but dinner always feels a little extra special when you can add something unexpected to the meal.
  • Does your guy love pancakes or waffles? Why not buy him a box and promise to make him breakfast in bed. Don’t forget to throw in a small bottle of maple syrup.
  • My husband LOVES to eat movie theater popcorn. You could add a few bags to your husband’s stocking along with a new Blu-ray movie. Tell him you want to plan a date night where you light a fire in the fireplace and stay snug indoors. There are also all sorts of popcorn seasonings that might be fun to try. Consider buying vintage sodas too.
  • For the man who savors a cold beer after a long day’s work you can search for a unique brand he’s never tried or buy him a special beer mug. Bottle openers are good ideas for stocking stuffers too. If your husband is like mine he likes to keep one near the fridge, one in the garage and one in the cooler for tailgating.
  • If your spouse travels a lot for work think about buying him photo luggage tags or tags that are unique or unusual in shape. He won’t confuse his bag with the guy standing next to him ever again.
  • What man doesn’t like to put his feet up at the end of the day? How about a pair of warm slippers. My husband prefers slippers with plastic soles so he can go take out the trash, pick up the newspaper or walk around the yard without ever having to put his shoes on.
  • If your husband is anything like mine he could also use gloves, scarves or a warm winter hat. My husband tends to leave his gloves behind and often needs a spare pair mid way through the winter.
  • If your guy loves his car consider buying him a car cleaning kit. Even better offer to help him clean it on a hot, sticky day next summer.

If you have any other ideas or think I left something hot and juicy off the list feel free to leave a comment below.

November 28, 2012 at 4:30 PM 4 comments

$20 Voucher to Toys ‘R Us or Babies ‘R Us Just $10

Want to save a few extra dollars on toys or baby related items? If so, hurry over to Groupon where you can buy a $20 voucher to Toys“R”Us, Babies“R”Us for only $10. Make sure to read the fine print but as far as I can tell this Groupon would also be valid on baby related items like diapers or baby food. I don’t see any exclusions stating otherwise.

November 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Saying Goodbye To My Past

Last week I wrote about my struggle to rid my home of sentimental clutter. Thankfully I received a bunch of great suggestions on how to pare down the mess. Among my favorites were picking out the very best items, removing duplicates and limiting the amount of stuff so that it all has to fit inside one small tote. I followed a similar set of rules when figuring out which of my son’s clothes to donate.

It’s funny what I hold on to in life. After my son was born I had no problem boxing up all of my old clothes and dropping them off at the donation center. I didn’t want to look in the closet and think about the size I had been or the size I wanted to be. That decision seemed like an easy one to make. Keep some of the pregnancy related items in case another little one makes his or her way into the world, but discard just about everything else. I kept my pants, sweaters and sweatshirts, but most of my shirts, blouses and skirts went off in search of a better home.

So if that’s so easy to decide why is it so difficult to get rid of other things. I’ve been holding on to an old pair of snowboard boots for the past seven years. Why? Because I didn’t want to face the fact that my health problems prevented me from returning to the slopes. Did keeping those boots in my closet help me snowboard again? No, in fact I felt worse about myself every time I saw them. So why did I hold on to them? The answer, (when I forced myself to think about it), was an easy one. I held on to them because I simply wasn’t ready to admit that my health and life had unexpectedly and unpleasantly changed.

Sometimes we hold onto things because they represent a happier, or in my case healthier, time in our lives. It’s tough to let go of a past when the present and future look a less rosy.

Interestingly enough I wasn’t even good at snow boarding. In fact I was downright terrible at it. I learned when I was in my early twenties and being 6 feet tall and not the least bit athletically inclined I spent more time sitting in the snow then gliding on top of it.

So this weekend I dragged my old snow boots and a few pairs of snow pants out of the closet, threw them into the back of my car and sold them at a local sports store that buys and sells used equipment. I decided that though my body may never glide down the slope it has been very, very good to me. After all, it helped me conceive and carry my son, something that I didn’t think would be possible when I first got sick so many years ago. I am grateful for my current health and although not perfect I am thankful for my body.

I hope those boots see the slopes again even if they won’t be strapped to my feet.

November 26, 2012 at 7:30 PM Leave a comment

Minimizing: How to Let Go of Sentimental Clutter?

In 1999 I bought a children’s medical kit for $5. You know one of those plastic boxes full of pretend thermometers, stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors. I intended to use it as part of my Halloween costume, but changed my mind at the last minute and switched from dressing like a doctor to dressing like a school girl.

Although I lived in a very tiny 9-by-9 room I found a small space to store that medical kit and when I bought and moved into my house it came with me. I held on to it with the intention of gifting it to my niece or nephew, but for one reason or another I kept forgetting to put it in the car.

Thirteen years later I found myself digging through the basement in search of that little plastic box. I know I placed it somewhere among the toys we’ve been handed down from friends, former coworkers and my brother, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I placed it.

I want to find that medical kit so my son and I can play with it. After all these years I want to make use of it. My niece and nephew are too old to care about it anymore.

As I searched through the basement I came across all sorts of other treasures I’d forgotten about. The dolls I’ve held onto since I was a child. The essays I wrote in high school and college, complete with typing errors and bright red grades. Photographs dating back to the sixth grade. So many random pieces of my history that bring so many memories flushing back to me.

I try to clear my house of unwanted clutter. I try my best to get rid of things we don’t use and don’t need. In my heart I know that I could digitize a lot of these things. I could scan the photographs into my computer, along with the old essays and other random things, but I’m not sure it will feel the same when I look at them.

There is nothing quite like holding onto the very paper you wound into your typewriter. The white out marks won’t look the same from my computer screen. And viewing an old photograph won’t be nearly the same as holding one of those old fashioned Polaroid pictures in the palm of my hand.

So what’s a girl to do? It’s not like I look at these things often. I know people who move a lot wouldn’t have the desire to box these up and move them from one place to another, but I don’t plan on moving anytime soon. Should I dedicate a small area of the house for these legacy items or finally give them the old heave-ho?

November 22, 2012 at 10:51 PM 12 comments

The Dreaded Christmas List

My mom has been bugging me to create a Christmas list for weeks now. “Can’t you just sit down and come up with a list for me,” she asks. So I pour myself a large glass of ice water, plop into my favorite chair and stare at my laptop. I have every intention in the world of generating a neat, little row of bullets that will help make my life more complete. The trouble is my life is already complete and I can’t seem to think of a single thing in life that I want or need.

I stand up, move about the house and walk from room to room waiting for inspiration to strike me. Nothing pops into my head. I stroll about for quite a bit, but still nothing. I wander into my closet. I could use some new sweaters, a jacket and a couple of long sleeve shirts, but buying clothes is unbelievably difficult. I’m over six feet tall and most brands simply don’t fit me. The only thing I dread more than creating this list is standing in line returning each and every article of clothing I receive on Christmas day.

God bless my mom. She wants us to be excited for Christmas as we were when we were children. When you are a kid Christmas is awesome, because you have absolutely no money to your name, no means of transportation and thus no hopes of buying anything for yourself. As an adult you buy what you need when you need it, so there really isn’t a lot of sense in asking people to buy you something when you can drive to the store and get it yourself.

My mom hates it when I give her a list of things we want with specific links to the places where she can buy them. She says there is no fun in that and while I agree I must say that it’s more fun that standing in long lines returning a bunch of stuff I didn’t want in the first place.

It’s not just wasted time for me. She’s also wasting time walking from store to store in search of the perfect present. When we all know perfect doesn’t really exist. That seems like a lot of time and energy that could be spent in better ways.

So this year I’m thinking about making a Christmas list with just one item. It’ll look a little something like this:

  • Time

Rather than spending countless hours walking through malls and searching the Internet for things we may or may not like I’d like my mom to grant me the gift of time. We can spend that time baking sugar cookies with my son, rolling out play dough, finger painting, walking through my neighborhood or just sitting together in the living room. I don’t really care how we spend the time as long as we spend it together.

When all the presents are opened and Christmas day ends I can barely remember all that we received. With the gift of time we’ll have memories that will last forever.

November 21, 2012 at 1:34 PM 3 comments

Do You Downplay Your Joy?

Over the course of my lifetime I’ve often downplayed my happiness and success. When I bought my second home I was hesitant to tell my friends and family about it. When I was promoted at work I decided to keep the news to myself. When I found out I was pregnant with my son I kept it a secret from all but two people for nearly four months.

My life is absolutely amazing. I am happily married to a man who is the yin to my yang. I have an amazingly easy and happy baby who I stay home with every day. Minus some lingering issues I am in fairly good health. My parents are both alive and still happily married. I am close to my ninety year old grandmother who is still functional and thriving.

I’m not saying my life is perfect, far from it, but in a world full of so many problems why does my life seem so easy? I often feel guilty about it. I tell my friends that I feel bad that my brother’s life isn’t as easy as mine. That I was born with a happy-go-lucky spirit while he was born with a down-in-the-dumps demeanor.

I tell people I’m lucky to have this-that-and-the-other-thing rather than acknowledging the fact that my husband and I have worked hard to achieve our success. I always downplay the work we’ve put into our lives. There are people in much more difficult, physically grueling lines of work then my husband and I. It seems strange to say we’ve worked hard when I’ve witnessed people truly working hard high on roofs, in heat or trudging heavy supplies and equipment.

I’ve never verbalized this before, but I suppose I feel unworthy of such happiness. Do I deserve to feel such joy?  When others are struggling why am I so happy and fulfilled?

I am very grateful for all that I have, but I guess I’m always worried that something will happen to make it all go away. As crazy as it sounds I’m nervous typing this into my computer right now. If I tell people just how wonderful I feel, will it all go away?

I have friends and family who are perpetual worriers. They believe that every time something good happens something bad is sure to follow. I suppose some of that belief has rubbed off on me.

The joy in my world is so great that sometimes it makes my heart hurt. It’s those little moments. You know the ones. Like when my son plays hide-and-seek and runs out from behind the furniture when he hears me coming to get him. When my husband scoops ice cream, drizzles chocolate over the top along with brightly colored sprinkles and brings it to me while I sit in the living room. Or how about the sound of my son giggling for absolutely no reason from the back of the car. It’s a sound that immediately makes me smile and melts my heart.

I try my best to allow these moments to absorb into me. To pause and let the light shine into my heart and soul. To take a mental snapshot so I won’t forget how wonderful all of these tiny, every day moments feel.

I am grateful for all that I have and I thank my lucky stars every night for all that I have been blessed with, but as I count my blessings I sometimes wonder how long this joy can last. Am I the only one who worries that happiness can be short lived?

November 19, 2012 at 8:04 PM 6 comments

This Is Much Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

This week I decided to take a stab at the plastic containers full of baby clothes and toys in my basement. My original intent was to donate most of my son’s stuff to a local charity. Although I’m pretty sure my husband and I will try for a second child it seemed kind of silly to hold on to everything. After all, we don’t know if the child will be the same gender or born at the same time of year.

So I started the great dig on Friday. Only moments into the first box I realized this was going to be a lot harder then I ever imagined. I started with my son’s earliest items, the clothes and blankets he wore during his very first days on this earth.

Of course, I wanted to keep the onesie and blanket we brought him home in. Then there was the little hat a friend knitted and the swaddle blanket we dressed him in on his first day. “Okay, okay,” I thought, “those were no brainers. Now let’s find some things to donate.” The problem is that every little outfit brought memories flooding back to me. Every little terry cloth sleeper, every blanket, every little onesie made me smile. I can’t believe how much my son has grown in a year and every time I pulled an item out of the box I stared in disbelief at how little he once was.

A friend of ours is expecting a baby in April. So I dug through the boxes and found a few sleepers and onesies that were super cute, but no where near favorites of mine. I found enough items to fill a large gift bag.

My husband’s cousin is visiting this week and their son is a few months younger then my son but much smaller in size. I bundled up a few items that might fit him. Again they are super cute, but not really favorites of mine. Some of them were actually hand-me-downs from a former coworker of mine and a bunch of the items were never worn by my son.

I didn’t get rid of nearly as much stuff as I expected. Despite the fact that I’ve taken thousands of photographs of my son in these clothes I couldn’t bear the thought of getting rid of them just yet. I’m not normally sentimental about stuff, but it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy process.

I did decide to donate a bunch of holiday related clothing. Friends and family provided us with lots of Thanksgiving and Christmas gear that is really too cute to sit inside a box waiting for our next child.

I also pulled out everything that I didn’t absolutely love. My son was given a lot of clothes from friends and family and then received a ton of hand-me-downs. If I felt a special affection for an item I kept it, if I didn’t think much about or thought it was cute, but not ridiculously adorable, then I donated it. All in all I ended up with three grocery bags full of baby clothes sized newborn to twelve months.

I managed to cram all of the remaining baby clothes into one large plastic container. I also kept a smaller container with sleep related items like baby blankets and sleep sacks. It still seems like quite a lot of stuff, but my heart isn’t ready to pass it on to another family just yet.

November 18, 2012 at 10:14 PM 4 comments

Book Review: My Life Map

Ever wonder where you are headed or think hard about where you’ve been? Are you unsure of where your life might take you? Are you struggling to decide what you really want out of life, where you want to live, what you want to do for a living or how you want to spend your free time?

Does everyone tell you to find your passion in life? That the best course of action is finding a job you truly love. How many times have we heard Oprah say “it’s not work if you love what you do” and wondered why you can’t figure out what you want to do?

Kate and David Marshall, the authors of My Life Map, want to help shape your future. They’ve devised a workbook that steps you through a series of questions to help you narrow your focus and define your goals. This isn’t just about your career. It’s also about the people in your life, the places you should live, the service you want to impart on the world and how you want to learn and play.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and reflecting on its questions. The book begins by focusing on aspects of your past and present. You are asked to write down your strengths, the top ten significant events in your life thus far and the top five emotional highs and lows. You are even asked to grade yourself in various aspects of your life including work, love life, physical health and friends. After writing down the answers your goal is to search for patterns, themes and lessons. On one page you are asked to decide what aspects of your current life you want to keep and which you wish to change.

As you reflect on your past and present the book guides you through the process of creating ten year and whole life maps. I like that this book focuses on ALL aspects of your life. It isn’t just about the job you do, it’s also about the people in your life, the service you commit to the world and the way you spend your free time.

I know a couple of miserable folks who aren’t happy in their lives, but aren’t sure how to make things better. They know they are unhappy but they don’t know what they’d rather be doing. Unsure of where to turn they stay stuck in the exact same place day after day. I plan to lend my book to one particular family member. I hope it helps him reflect on his life and focus on a new path for the future.

To learn more about My Life Map visit the BlogHer book club.

Note: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

November 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM Leave a comment

Second Child? What to Keep? What to Donate?

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately by the sheer amount of stuff in our house. This always seems to happen to me this time of year. The weather is cold, we spend a lot more time indoors and I know that with the holiday season upon us the number of possessions in our home will soon increase dramatically.

I ventured into the haven for plastic containers, otherwise known as my basement, to dig through what he currently own and what we no longer need. Among the boxes I found clothes, equipment and toys that my son has outgrown as well as toys, clothes and equipment he hasn’t grown into yet. My brother provided us with box after box of toys that he might not use for the next two, three or even four years. I hate to get rid of these items, because I know my son will enjoy them one day, but for now they take up a tremendous amount of space in the basement.

I’m not sure what to do about all of this stuff. It seems silly to hold on to a bunch of baby clothes that our son has outgrown. If we do have another child we don’t know if it will be another boy and we don’t know if he or she will born at the same time of year or be the same size as our first. Our son wore a lot of warm weather items between 3 and 6 months. What if the next child needs short sleeved summer clothes during that same time frame?

Also, I’m not sure how many of the older toys I should hold onto either. Does it make sense to keep boxes of toys in our basement for three to four years while I wait for my son to grow into them?

I don’t want to waste the money and have to buy everything all over again but I also don’t want to keep moving boxes around and juggling containers of stuff we aren’t using on a regular basis. This is a particularly good time of year to donate items to children who may be in need. Why keep all of this stuff in boxes waiting for some day when another child could use them right away?

I’m sure there are a lot of parents out there who can weigh in on this topic. Did you keep a lot of your baby’s clothes, toys and equipment or did you decide to donate what you had on hand and buy new if and when the time came?

November 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM 3 comments

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