Mama Says … Happy (Belated) Labor Day!

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Originally written: Monday, 1 Sept. 2014

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Happy Labor Day!!
Summer is over, right, or is it?

    The summer heat isn’t over yet. It will still be hot into October, at least, in Southern California. And there is always Indian summer back east, right? So, if we think of summer in terms of temperature then summer is still here. If you think about it in terms of the seasons then Fall is here as September is the first month of Fall. After all June, July, and August are the summer months. The traditional school year starts after Labor Day, so I guess some of the signs are indicating that Fall is here. (Many school districts here in Cali have year round school and many students started back to school in July.) But, that aside, traditionally Labor Day marks the end of vacations and the end of summer. Be that as it may, let me share some thoughts with you about Labor Day.
    How many of us grunt and groan when the weekend or vacation is over and we have to return to work? I hear it at work and I am sure you have heard it, too. If I am being honest, I myself have uttered those words, “Do I really have to go back to work? No. I don’t want to.”
You would think I would be immune to these thoughts after being laid off and out of work for 6 months. Everything came to a standstill. No money. Unemployment didn’t go far. Then it got cut off because I was honest on my paperwork that I was required to submit every two weeks. I got a tentative job offer from the County of San Diego but had to go through a background check and a physical. Because I listed that I was tentatively hired the unwise powers that be at the unemployment department terminated my benefits. It didn’t matter to them that the hiring process would take two months and that in the meantime I would have no money. (Ah, government bureaucracy and idiocy. Who hasn’t been touched by that?)
  So when I finally got hired and was happy with the work position and the company I was ecstatic! Finally, money for food and the mortgage and clothes and petrol for the car, etc. Truly I am grateful. Every now and then the “please don’t make me go back to work blues” hits me and I suspect I am not alone.
    It’s not that my job is awful. It’s just that sometimes being at home sitting on my big fat fanny reading a good book or taking a nice afternoon snooze is more appealing than work. I don’t have the life of Riley and I am not a millionaire so I must work. Honestly, though, I do enjoy my work a lot. Work is really a blessing and not for solely monetary reasons.
     Working gives you a sense of purpose. Work allows you to order your life. Work makes you put your skills to work and hopefully, work challenges your brain, your problem solving  skills, and your social abilities. Employment allows you to feel useful and needed. You can have a sense of pride in your job. There are so many gifts and blessings that come from being gainfully employed. It is a big bonus if you love what you do. I can say that I do.
     In light of the fact that it is Labor Day I have some tips courtesy of the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan. Did you know that your Labor Day celebration could bring you better health? Here are some of the whys and ways to celebrate the day and life in general:
    1) We would be wise to list our assets, the good stuff in our lives. Make a list of the things you appreciate about yourself. (Don’t even dare to say that there is nothing good about you. That’s a lie. Everyone has been blessed with gifts and abilities. It sure doesn’t matter if yours are different from other folks. Differences make the world go round. Think about one of my favorite quotes – How silent the woods would be if only the best birds sang. Amen to that.) It is okay to feel good about yourself and your abilities. Think about your artistic talents, your good penmanship, maybe the ability you have to make people laugh. List every quality that you value in yourself. If you write this list down, highly recommended by the way, you can reach for it to give yourself a boost when you negative inner voice starts putting you down. When you accept yourself you are better able to spread the goodwill to others.
    2) Give thanks. You know I have definitely written about this before. Sincere gratitude is a gift. You know that when you thank someone from your heart you have made them happy. They feel lighter than air. Everyone wants to be acknowledged. If you know how good it makes you feel, pass this blissful feeling on to someone else. Write a note to someone to tell them what a great job they have been doing on that work project. Thank you mail carrier when you see your mail being delivered. There are a million ways to give thanks to family, friends, co- workers, and people in the community. Researchers have discovered that saying thank you can boost you energy, help your immune system, and can even help reduce pain. How do you like those apples?
    3) Volunteer. Studies show that even if you can only give a couple of hours a week you can reduce depression and boost your spirit. What are you waiting for? Find a cause that is close to your heart. Do it on your own or get a family member or good friend to join you. The more the merrier. There are so many charities and causes out there that anyone can find some- thing that fits them.

    Yes, it is Labor Day. Let us be glad for this great country and the freedoms we have and the opportunity we have to labor. Work is noble. Things don’t get much better than this.
    Coming soon, I will be starting a journal on this site so people can keep track of our diet efforts and the ups and downs of life. I promise it won’t be some morose thing nor will it be filled with bragging about myself. On the contrary…    
    Till, then, Blog You Later!!

Mama Says … Are You Prepared?

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California has its droughts (which we are in right now) and its wildfires (which we experienced just a couple of months ago. I had friends and acquaintances who had to evacuate their homes because the fires would literally in their back yards.) The Northwest has its rainstorms. The Midwest has its tornadoes and dust storms. The East has its blizzards and ice storms. The South has flooding and hurricanes.
     Have I captured an overall picture of the events across the United States that can put people in a state of emergency? Whoops! I just remembered another joy that Californians get to enjoy – earthquakes! Lately, it seems that Mother Nature is pretty upset as there are now the tremblers in other parts of this wonderful country.
     You know that I am not a doom and gloom person. I really am an optimist and love to see the glass at least half full. So then you may be wondering why I am listing some of the unpleasant weather conditions that we all experience instead of speaking of sunny days and picnics, etc. Well, because I know these things happen. When, I don’t know, but they will come. And I believe that if we are prepared the shock and trauma may be controllable.
     How do we lessen the fear and trauma? By something as simple as having 72 Hour Kits. Have you heard of 72 Hour Kits? Why 72 hours and not a week? Because the disaster experts have figured out that if you are displaced from your home in an emergency situation you will need 3 days worth of supplies before disaster services will be fully in place. In the meantime services may be spotty. There is a wonderful saying that goes like this: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
    How do we make a 72 hour kit and what goes in it? Use a large backpack and have smaller ones for the children. These kits should be kept in a place where you can grab it quickly and carry it if you have to walk a ways to get to a safe location. The kits shouldn’t be hidden in some back closet with golf clubs, skis, etc. on top of them. My children and I have 72 hour kits that are in the rolling luggage that you see at the airport. Big enough to hold what we need and yet easy to pull instead of carrying something heavy on our backs. What you choose is up to you as long as it holds what you need and is portable.
     Before I forget to mention this, set a date every year to twice a year in which you pull out your 72 hour kits and go through them. I haven’t managed to be good at doing it twice a year, but at least we get them out and go through them the day after New Years. Adults and children can grow and change clothing sizes. Some of the food contents may need to be rotated, adding fresher items to the kit and using the items from the kit for snacks or lunches, depending on what you put in them.
     Pack clothes to cover hot and cold temps. Have you seen those reflective blankets that look like a sheet of tin foil but are flexible and fold up into little squares the size of a man’s wallet? They really do work to keep a person warm and water runs off them. You’ll need flashlights and extra batteries. A supply of medications for those family members who need them. A first aid kit. Pack $20 dollars in your kit and get pre-paid phone cards. (Why not your cell phone? Because what if the disaster has interrupted the electric supply? You won’t be able to charge your phone.) While you are at it tuck in some important phone numbers. When in an emergency situation everyone gets a little rattled and phone numbers may slip your mind. Lighter, matches, flares, a portable radio so that you can hear updates as they come in. (There are radios that can be wound up and then you don’t have to worry about toting extra batteries for a radio. We each have one. They weren’t that expensive.)
    Other items to include: a tube tent, 50 feet of nylon rope, shovel, sewing kit, whistle, and of course, duct tape. It does have a thousand and one uses! Food for each person and water purification tablets. The food can be in packages like granola bars5 or canned. Pick items that your family will eat. If your family members won’t eat Spam (and I agree with that) don’t put it in your kit. If they’ll eat tuna, put that it in the kit. Base your kits on your individual family’s needs. Hand sanitizer and a 2 gallon sized ice cream bucket, minus the ice cream, to use as a port-a-potty if you can’t dig a hole in the ground. Grim detail, but you have to prepare for anything.
      And if you have kiddies don’t forget baby formula, diapers, diaper wipes. (We call them butt wipes for short and even grown-ups might need these.) Take a deck of cards and some crayons and portable games. You might leave the hand-held Nintendo at home since it will run out of batteries in no time and let’s face it, batteries are heavy. You may have to tote them around until you find a safe shelter.
     Last but not least, important papers. Copies of medical info, birth and marriage certificates, SSNs, insurance, wills and up to date photos of family members.  If you should get separated it will be a lot easier for the rescue workers to have a picture of who they are looking for.
     This is by no means an exhaustive list. I just didn’t have enough room to list everything. You can contact the American Red Cross as they have plenty of info and recommendations for a 72 hour kit. Or drop us a line and we’ll be happy to send the info we have to you.
     So sorry I haven’t blogged lately. I guess I need to improve my time management skills. (I’m reading a book on that now.) Have a great week!
                                             Blog you later!! :)

Mama Says … Lend a helping hand

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It sure is nice to be able to give to help others in need.

     It is past time to share another one of my favourite charities with you. This is something we all can do and it will only cost you postage.
     Have you heard of St. Jude’s Ranch  for Children?  It is an orphanage in Nevada that takes children in need of all ages, including teenagers. They run a really good program where the children receive schooling, clothing, a good place to live, and practical skills, such as learning how to earn an allowance or working with horses. I discovered them by accident when I was reading a book some years ago on charities. How to spot a good one. How to determine if the majority of the money is really going to the beneficiaries  or to employee wages and overhead. Even ones that can be supported with very little money on the donor’s part.
     St. Jude’s fits all three. Curious as to how to help? Let me tell you. Do you buy products with the “Box Tops for Education”?  Simply clip those, collect them, and mail them to St. Jude’s.  The box tops can be turned in for computer equipment, school supplies, etc. St. Jude’s turned the label into a van to transport the children. Pretty awesome, right?
     If you have school aged children you may be saving the box tops for their schools. That is cool, too. You can help in another way, though. Do you receive birthday cards, Christmas cards, or any other type of greeting cards? I am sure most of us do. Do you hate to throw them away but don’t know what to do with them? (You’re reducing clutter, remember?) Here is a chance to give them a second life and make someone else smile.
     The children at St. Jude’s will take your old greeting card fronts and make new greeting cards. They sell these and that is one way they earn allowance. One year I bought a set and they were really cute. Here’s what you do. Cut the front page with the picture off the card. Keep it in a large envelope. Recycle the rest. When you have a full envelope seal it and mail it. That’s all there is to it. There are two card brands they cannot take because of copyrights – Hallmark and Disney- so don’t send those. Also the inside front of the card cannot have any writing on it. (When I’d run out of room I’d write there, but since knowing the card isn’t usable when I do this, I write my blah, blah, blah on a separate sheet of paper.)
     You can always buy a set of the cards if you are interested. I honestly can’t remember how much they are, but I know I didn’t pay big bucks.

Ready to help? Here’s the address:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, Nevada
89005.

     Who know that helping others could be so easy? I really believe that giving to others makes the world go around. And you really can’t feel bad when you are doing right, right? Keep Smiling and Sharing !
                                          Blog You Later!
                                         PS – Thank you!

Mama Says … Let’s Talk About Saving Money

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Saving money.

Doesn’t that sound like an impossible thing to do in this day and age? Many people’s budgets are strained to the max and somehow putting money aside for a rainy day or a vacation or college, etc. doesn’t seem feasible. I am here to tell you it is possible. Believe me, I am doing it. Now I am not saying I am putting away enough money for a summer cruise as that would be an out and out lie. But the point is I am putting a few bucks away each pay day. That is more than I have done in a very long time. (Or if I was a valley girl, “Like a way long time.”) Let me share a couple of things I have done or am doing plus some awesome ideas that I got from the debt management book I had been reading. (Debt-Free on Any Income by Lyle and Tracy Shamo.)
There is a very wise old saying, and one I predict most of us ignore than obey, that goes like this: The best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket. The simplest, maybe not the easiest, is to just hold off on spending that extra few bucks calling you from your pocket or wallet. One way to do this is not impulse buy. Think about your purchase for 48 hours and decide if it is something you really need or have to have then go ahead. If not, save it and you are already ahead.
Separate wants from needs. What do you need to survive and what would be an extra? I am sure that my body thinks I need that sack of Hershey’s kisses down on aisle 8, but my head and the scale know differently. I have to be strong and say “no” to the cravings, especially when I know that the few bucks I am saving can go toward petrol for the car or in the bank to earn interest.

But shopping is so much fun! I know that is what has gotten me into the deep doo-doo I am still mired in. Limiting ourselves does not mean don’t enjoy life, it just means be wise, trim the fat (which has so many meanings in my personal life), and think about the future.

There are a lot of TV lovers out there. My son loves movies and Daphne loves TV. So how then could I cancel cable? I canceled it and we are all still alive. You can get movies and TV shows on line. Even a monthly membership in a movie service is way less than the monthly cable fees. In actuality, it has given us more time together as a family, allowed us time to explore our talents, and there is less of a din raging in the house with the TV off. We actually found that we have more time by not sitting in front of the screen for hours. We have also become selective in our entertainment choices because we want the best for our time and aren’t just satisfied with whatever is airing at the time.
Canceling cable is not your idea of a good time? Maybe cancel one of the premium channels. That can save a few dollars. Or pass on that sack of Hershey’s kisses that is yelling out your name and put that money in your savings account. I realize that with inflation a penny saved is pretty insignificant, but what about $3.99 for the chocolate?

Do you have an affinity for crafts? Do you knit? Are you good with a jig saw? Why not turn your craft into a secondary income? Just think, you can make some “pin” money (another expression of my father’s) doing what you already enjoy doing?

Daphne and I have literally just started an independent business called “Sugar and Spice Designs.” We listed our first item on ETSY a couple of days ago. We are making greeting cards from scratch. (Darn cute if I say so myself.) I also knit beanies, make hand-poured soap, and bath salts. In the past I have sold quite a bit of these items, except the cards. Those are a new venture for us. Why it has taken me this long to start selling again, I can’t say. Probably the old proverb applies, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” We are thinking of hosting a little party featuring our products and serving some homemade goodies.

Let me share some money saving tips with you that I gleaned from the above-mentioned book.

1) Drive at a safe and reasonable speed and avoid fast starts and stops. Believe it or not you can save as much as 50% of the energy needed to run your car.

2) Running the air conditioner is more fuel efficient that driving with the windows down. (My children will be happy to hear that. I can’t stand using the car AC thinking it costs more.)

3) Slow down. By reducing your speed from 70 mph to 65 mph you will save $5 for each hour of driving and about $10 if you drive a truck or SUV.

4) Donate things you are no longer in need of or have not used in 1 -2 years. (That’s the rule for clearing out clutter, so say the experts.) Donate books to the library for resale. The money raised helps library activities. Donate clothing and household items to a thrift store like Deseret Industries, Salvation Army, or Good Will.  Estimate the value of your donation based on what a thrift store might charge. Get a receipt and you can deduct the value from your taxes.

5) Get a little exercise at the supermarket. Look for items above and below eye level. Sometimes you will find the best deals there.

6) Buy small gifts at the dollar store.

7) Remember those old Christmas Clubs at the bank? My parents used those faithfully. My siblings and I were blessed to be spoiled at Christmas. Banks may not offer them now, but set aside some money just for Christmas. Open a savings account and leave enough to keep it open for next year when you are done making your purchases.

8) Maybe the best advice yet. Be happy with what you have. An incredible amount of time and money is spent trying to impress other people who don’t really care. Be grateful and happy for what you do have and enjoy it. Remember the famous adage, which is quoted frequently around our house, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

It isn’t easy always to tighten the belt buckle or the purse strings, but think about the fact that you are living within your means. The weight of debt on one’s back and mind is very costly. Avoiding debt is a great stress reducer and a formula for peace of mind.

Blog you later!

My new “other” blog!

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Good evening, everyone! I sincerely hope you are doing well.

 

On a complete whim, tonight I started a new, separate blog for any and all of you out there who might be writers or bloggers yourself. It’s going to be a site chock-full of writing advice, tips, prompts and challenges. So come on over and get inspired.

 

WRITING TOOLS BLOG

 

P.S. I hope to make a new post here this week… possibly focused on the much-beleaguered show known as The Vampire Diaries – and how I would fix that hot mess! Also I plan to update all of you on what’s going on with me personally (ie. have I stuck to my diet plan?!).

 

Thanks for stopping by!

The Best TV Show You’re Not Watching

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Gone are the days when one could only find re-runs to watch in the summertime. Now TV is “on” 24/7. With so many shows to choose from and with time being so limited in our rush-rush society, true TV show gems can easily be overlooked. One such TV show already getting lost in the shuffle is “Young and Hungry” starring Emily Osment (best known for her work as Lily on “Hannah Montana”). I, myself, watched “Young and Hungry” on a complete whim but I am so glad that I did. I LOVE it! It is leaps and bounds better than most of the other sitcoms trying to pass themselves off as “comedies” on TV today! I am already addicted to it.

 

Here are 5 reasons you need to check out this show ASAP.

 

-Y&H has an utterly charming cast. Every single actor is pitch-perfect. Honestly, I wasn’t a big Emily Osment fan before this show debuted but I am now. She plays the lead character of Gabi to perfection and shows how much her acting skills have improved since her “Hannah Montana” days. All of Gabi’s friends (and foes) are perfectly cast as well. There is not one weak link in the bunch. Betty White is famous for saying you can’t force a cast to have chemistry and she is so right. You either have it or you don’t. Thankfully the “Young and Hungry” cast have IT in spades.

 

- It’s actually funny. Gasp! A comedy that is actually funny? Who would have thunk it? There are so many sitcoms out today that try so hard to force a laugh out of their viewers that it only gives one a headache, making them wonder why they tuned in at all. Fortunately Y&H’s writers know how to draw laughs from truly organic situations. They don’t need to bring on a whole dog and pony show just to make you laugh. You laugh well, because you can’t help it.

 

-Major shipping potential. Gabi and her boss Josh are seriously EEEEE-worthy. If you are a ‘fan girl’ by nature, you understand what that means. Emily Osment and Jonathan Sadowski have fabulous chemistry and their characters are so perfectly matched that you know at the end of the day, they belong together. If you are like me and can’t watch a TV show without rooting for at least one fictional couple, then Y&H gives you an excellent new couple to obsess over.

 

- It’s realistic. Well, as realistic as a TV show full of gorgeous people can be, anyway… Gabi worries about debt, relationships, and her job … Basically, she is muddling through life while trying to better herself. Who can’t relate to that? The show is based on the life of a sassy food blogger named Gabi Moskowitz. Naturally the writers are mining her real-life events to tell the story. Real-life, as we know, is often way funnier than fiction!

 

-See it for yourself! Seriously, I am giving you a testimonial here but the only way to find out if you truly like the show too, is to watch it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite. We all need something to look forward to each week!

 

If you watch “Young and Hungry” be sure to let me know what you think of it. Also go ahead and recommend a show in the comments that you love that you wish more people would check out. Thanks for reading!

 

Here’s a promo for this week’s episode. I can’t wait for it!

 

Mama Says … Be careful out there!

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Daphne and I have recently experienced a couple of unusual firsts in our lives. One is rather comical and the other, downright scary.

You know when you have some information to share with someone, say an employee, and there is good news and bad, you try to figure out what you should do first. Bad news first and make them feel better by giving them good news at the end? Or good news first to make them feel at ease and then deliver the bad news? I guess it can go either way depending on the situation. So what does this have to do with the firsts in our lives? Well, should I do the comical story first and then the serious, or vice versa? My father has this expression: Always leave them laughing.” So I guess I will start with the serious one as a cautionary tale for all you good folks out there, and finish with a little humor.

My daughter, Daphne, (I am sure you know that she’s my daughter by now.) purchases a fair amount of things on the internet. She has never had a problem until she made one recent purchase. She found someone on Facebook who could make edits of a show she was interested in and so Daphne ordered from this woman and paid her a fairly large sum for what she wanted. This was back in early April. She waited and waited and no product arrived. She contacted this woman and very nicely asked when the product would come. Each time the woman made an excuse. First excuse, it’s taking a little extra time. Okay, that’s believable. Second time, going on vacation for 13 days and when I get back I will finish them and get them to you. The edits never came. Daphne’s requests for the item or a refund went unheeded.  Finally, Daphne just wanted the problem over with so she asked for her money back and canceled the edits. No reply from the seller.  Last weekend she sent the seller a straightforward message telling her to refund her money by a certain date and all would be forgotten, otherwise she would take them to small claims court. As Daphne will tell you it wasn’t the money so much as the fact that this woman never kept her end of the bargain.

This woman fired back an e-mail threatening to harm Daphne. Her e-mail said, “Don’t’ mess with me, b—h! Don’t forget I have your address and I know where you live. I’ll mess you up.” Is this really okay to say to someone? Can you believe some people? So, now because of the threat of harm the police are now involved and we are contacting PayPal and Facebook. I don’t know where this is going to end up .I can only hope and pray that this shyster  is just blowing hot air and  has no real intention of acting on her threats.

The point to this story is to keep yourself safe. Only order things through people who have earned a good reputation and have a high level of customer satisfaction. If you smell a rat, go with your gut, and don’t order from or contact them. It is really true that your first inkling, instinct, or gut reaction is the advice to follow. When Daphne ordered the edits from this crooked woman she thought it was odd that the seller requested the payment be listed as a donation, and had a couple of other unusual requests. Daphne’s first reaction – this is strange. Why would she want to do it this way? Sadly, my daughter didn’t go with her first reaction.  Unfortunately, Daphne’s suspicions were true. Please don’t get yourself in a situation like this. It is rather frightening.

Now, on the lighter side… I received a Dear Jane letter and it wasn’t even from a guy! It was from a pen pal! Can you imagine that? I have never been dumped in a letter, text, or e-mail before by anyone for anything. But as they say, there is a first time for everything. (Actually this woman also Dear Janed Daphne as well since they were pen pals, too.)  In her “I’m dumping you” letter she said she enjoyed my letters but she was reducing her pen pal list and so she wrote me out of her life. You know it is serious when someone sends you your address labels back! My offense:  I had taken too long to answer her letter and she felt it showed a lack of interest and devotion on my part. She made it clear that she finds a little time each day to write so why can’t I?

From her letters she is the mother of two wonderful children, happily married, and she goes to the movies frequently because her brother works at the cinema and can get her discount passes. I am happy that she gets the joy of being a stay-at-home mom. I would have loved that when I was raising my children. She made it clear that she was very busy. I believe it.

In my last letter I had apologized for the delay of 1 month in writing to her. I explained I had been sick for a bit there and was finding that life was a little hectic with all that was going on. Let’s see. I work full-time on the graveyard shift, I spend time with my grandchildren whenever I can, my own two children have a lot going on, I volunteer at the library twice a month, and I am very active in my church. In addition, I have been working overtime lately to try and get our finances under control. So, Pen Pal, I am busy, too,

She signed her name at the bottom of the letter and in bold script and underlined (You know it is serious when someone underlines things more than once.) she penned the famous line: No Reply Needed. Yowsa! My children and I are still laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Dear J (aka No Reply Needed); I would recommend a course in tolerance and forgiveness for you. And I hope that it would contain a lesson on not judging people without walking a mile in their moccasins. (And, yes, Pen Pal, I do have moccasins. They were a gift from my dear daughter that you also Dear Janed.) I did enjoy writing to you. I do hope your other pen pals are more “devoted” than I was and that you get all the letters your little heart desires. Just thought I’d let you know how silly and infantile you are.  Remember, life is too short to let little things like this ruin you or a relationship. Best of everything to you and your family.

PS: J – Right back at you: No Reply Needed!

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Fourth of July. Blog you later!