Secrets of Safe Snow Driving

With winter upon us, traversing snow-packed and icy roads is something we will all have to do at one point or another. Seeing as I am married to a claims adjuster, I can testify to the fact that tons of weather-related accidents occur every snowy, icy day. But they don’t have to. I have always been proud of the fact that I am a very competent and smart snow driver (knock on wood), so I am going to share some of my tricks and tips with you to (hopefully) keep everyone safer throughout the winter months.

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Start With The Right Vehicle

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I’m just going to say it: this is Colorado, people. You need to have either a four wheel drive vehicle or, at the very least, an all-wheel drive vehicle with good snow tires. Ideally, you want something with a high clearance for making it through snow drifts. But if this isn’t your current situation, don’t fret. You can still be a better, safer snow driver by following my other tips.  However, I strongly recommend you look into getting a more capable vehicle as soon as you can realistically do it.

Take good care of your car, ensuring you keep up with all the regular maintenance year round. Trust me, the middle of a huge storm is not the time you want your battery to die or your brakes to go out. Keep your gas tank at a reasonable level too. You don’t want to add panic to an already tense situation because you are almost out of gas. Watch the weather reports, and plan ahead. Furthermore, it’s a great idea to have some basic supplies in your car in case you do get stranded somewhere. Blankets, flash lights, non-perishable snacks, water, and even an overnight bag with a change of clothes and basic toiletries if it’s really bad out. You never know.

Choose The Easiest Route Possible

This one is another obvious point, but I’m going to say it anyway. Have alternate “snow routes” to school, work, or wherever you drive on a regular basis. Your ideal snow route should minimize hills and busy roads, if possible. Being on an icy, hilly road is a disaster waiting to happen because you are at the mercy of gravity. Heavily used roads mean heavier traffic, which just compounds your chances of an accident. Even if you are a great snow driver and use the utmost of caution, that doesn’t mean the other drivers on the road will, too. Fewer cars around you means fewer opportunities for collisions and accidents.

Only Go Out If You Really, Truly Have To

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Do some soul searching and decide if it’s truly necessary for you to go out. Sometimes it’s unavoidable but other times, well…do you honestly have to have milk today? Is it really that important that you go to the gym today? God will forgive you if you skip church because the roads suck. I promise. It’s far better to miss one day of church than to meet Jesus. Today.

Do A Road Test In A Safe Area

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What I mean by this is, before you leave your neighborhood or the parking lot you are currently in, find a relatively open, empty area and speed up slightly, then hit the brakes. This allows you to “test” the road condition somewhat and see how slippery and/or icy it really is. This gives you a much better idea of what you are up against. However, keep in mind this result doesn’t apply to your whole drive…it’s just a general gauge of the immediate road.

Observe The Rule Of Twice

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Give yourself twice the amount of time it normally takes you to get wherever you are going, because you want to drive slowly. Allow for twice the distance you normally do between you and the car in front of you, because you might slide. Think about your chosen path of travel twice before you head out. Let’s look at some simple equations:

Icy roads + speeding/rushing = Disaster

Icy roads + tailgating = Disaster

Icy roads + hills/highways/busy streets = Disaster

Is this starting to make sense?

Keep Your Headlights On

headlightsAlways, and at all times during inclement weather. The more other drivers can see you, the better.

Remember You Have Very Little Traction

This applies mostly to intersections, or if you are trying to turn through a steady stream of traffic. Remember if the road is icy or snow packed, you aren’t going to have the “get up and go” that you normally have in your car. If you time your turn for a lull in traffic, but then your tires can’t grip and you can’t actually GO at your planned moment…where does that leave you? Partially in the road, with cars barreling towards you at full speed. Yikes.

Take Hills Fast

This is the one and only time I will advise you to go faster during winter driving. If you must maneuver a steep hill, wait until it is clear and then gun it. The idea here is that you have to have enough momentum to get you all the way up the hill. If you drive like a sissy chicken on this one, you are going to slide. Backwards. And maybe sideways. NOT a situation you want to be in.

If You Don’t Know, Assume the Worst

If you think it might be black ice but you aren’t sure…assume it is. If you think it’s probably not that icy, but you aren’t sure…assume it is. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and proceed slowly and carefully than to get in a terrible accident.  If you are concerned about time, think of it this way: is it worse to be 15 minutes late getting somewhere, or to wreck your car and go days (maybe weeks) having it in the repair shop, or completely totaled? Right. That’s what I thought, too.

Don’t Let Other Drivers Bully You

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If other drivers are tailgating you or pressuring you in some other way to speed up, pass, or go through the intersection when you aren’t certain it’s safe…let them pass you and don’t stress over it for even one second. Chances are, you will see that speed demon off in the ditch or hung up on the median further down the road. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather drive like a grandma and actually die as a grandma, rather than do something stupid and unsafe because I didn’t want to be viewed as a pansy by other drivers. Screw ’em.

If Visibility is Poor, Utilize The Clues Around You

There are many times when the snow is falling heavily, it’s dark, it’s foggy, or the road is so snow-packed you can’t see the traffic lines. This is when you need to broaden your vision and really look at your surroundings. Are there trees on either side of the road? Street lights or signs? Fences or mile markers? There is almost always some kind of landmark to help orient you to where you are on the road. Let’s use this example:

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If you only look at the road, it’s hard to know where the lanes are, and where you are situated. However, if you utilize your surroundings, it’s much easier to get oriented to the space and where you should be on the road. Just be mindful of potential ditches on either side, and try to stay on the right side in your lane. If you are driving down the road dead center, chances are someone coming from the opposite direction might be, too.

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Be Aware Of the Potential Unknowns Ahead

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This road looks fine right now. You might feel safe going 60 mph here. However, you can’t see anything past that huge tree on the right. Once you get to that point, it’s possible you might hit an icy patch or a snow-packed area, especially if it’s in a shady spot where the sun can’t melt the snow and ice. BE AWARE OF THAT POSSIBILITY, and drive accordingly.

Shiny Is Bad

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See how these tire tracks have a bit of a shine to them? Anything shiny always equals ice. Previous tire tracks mean the snow has been packed down or melted, and usually frozen over again if it’s really cold outside. For this reason, it’s best to offset your own tire tracks slightly from the existing ones to minimize the icy areas. Drive slightly to the right or left from the previous driver. In general, packed snow is less slippery than ice, and you want to avoid following the previously made tire tracks. Here is an example of the right way to do it:

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NEVER SLAM ON THE BRAKES

And when I say never, I mean NEVER. Ever!! If you are driving on a slick road, slamming on the brakes is only going to achieve one thing: YOU ARE GOING TO SLIDE, and at that point you have zero control over your vehicle and you are nothing more than an object in motion at the mercy of the laws of physics. GUARANTEED. That’s terrifying. The right thing to do is to tap your brakes repeatedly and aim for a slower, but controlled, stop. Furthermore, if you have listened to what I have said previously, you should not find yourself in a situation where you have to slam on the brakes (unless, God forbid, another driver slides in front of you). It is better to end up in a minor fender bender than to send your car sliding at a high speed. But, if despite your best efforts, you do slide…

Turn INTO The Slide

If you lose control of your vehicle and you start to fishtail or slide, turn INTO the direction your car is sliding. For example, if the front of your car starts to slide to the right, turn the steering wheel to the right. This may sound scary, but by turning into the direction of the slide you are actually straightening out your tires and “righting” your vehicle, which means you immediately regain control and can get back to the correct position on the road faster. This is a far better scenario than trying to turn the steering wheel left when your car is sliding right, and you end up in all-out spin. These never end well. Trust me.

Always, Always Have A “Ditch” Plan

I hope you never have to use this, but it’s a safe practice to always being thinking in terms of the worst case scenario. If another car comes barreling towards you completely out of control, what are you going to do? Have a “ditch plan” BEFORE this situation occurs so you can react faster and make the safer choice. Reacting in the split second, heat of the moment rarely gives you the best outcome. Let’s look at an example:

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So let’s say another car is sliding toward you, and you need to do SOMETHING. In this particular scenario, the obvious correct choice is to veer to the right so you don’t hit the person walking on the road, even if it means you end up in a (literal) ditch or buried in a fence. It’s a matter of prioritization and safety.

What about this one?

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Your initial instinct may be to veer to the left if you need to get out of the way, and fast. HOWEVER, the incline on the left is steep enough that you run a very high risk of rolling your car, plus you have no idea based on your immediate view of how far that incline continues down. The far safer option here is to hit the guard rail on the right. I mean, let’s be honest: no one wants to wreck, but if it’s inevitable take the route that is going to stop your car in the safest way possible. You would probably hit the guardrail here, slide for a short distance, then stop. If you were driving too fast, though, the momentum from the impact might just bounce you off the guardrail, back into the road, and into a spin. Again, this is yet another reason why you need to drive SLOW in bad weather conditions. Do you see my rationale here? By having a pre-thought out plan, you would actually act against your initial instinct (which would have given you a worse outcome).

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you are not confident in your winter driving skills, it is imperative you get some practice maneuvering bad road conditions. Go to a deserted parking lot late at night, and practice your reactions when your car is sliding or spinning. Or head out to an empty road somewhere in the country, and practice those worse case scenarios in a safe environment. This helps you to get a better feel for your vehicle and how it handles on bad roads, plus it helps to burn those reactions into your mind so you are more likely to react correctly from your subconscious when you need it the most. A word of wisdom to parents of teenagers: IT IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT TO DO THIS PRACTICE WITH NEW DRIVERS. You will always learn more about a road by driving it than by consulting every map in the world (so to speak). Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats good old fashioned practice and repetition for safe, smart, and effective winter driving.

Further Motivation To Drive Safely

If nothing I have said thus far has gotten through to you, consider this one final thing. I’m sorry to end on a grim note, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

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So terribly sad. Don’t let this be you. Your life is worth more than getting somewhere on time, or making a novice driving mistake that could have been prevented.

 

So that’s it! I hope you learned something here, or at least got a few new ideas to think about before you head out on your next winter driving excursion. My husband is a claim’s adjuster. He will handle your destroyed car if it comes to that. But believe me when I say he’d rather not.

PLEASE BE SAFE AND HAVE HAPPY DRIVING!!

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: There is a lot you can do to minimize the potential of dangerous situations while driving in bad weather conditions. Remember this one, too: It is better to arrive late to work than early to heaven.

 

 


Secrets of Half Marathons (Yes, You Can)

When I say the phrase “half marathon”…what comes to your mind? Ugh, 13.1 miles. Do you conjure up images of toned, sweaty athletes that are functioning like well-oiled machines? People whose whole mission in life is running? Do you envision yourself gasping, in pain, and barely crawling over the finish line dead last? Well, you aren’t alone. I think most people have those same initial thoughts. It’s sad, because those misconceptions probably keep a lot of people from trying it.

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I completed my first half marathon a few months back, and I’m here to let you in on a huge secret. It’s not like that. At all. Sure, there are a few super toned people whose abs and legs make 99.9% of the population jealous. But they are definitely not the norm. The majority of participants are just regular, everyday people huffing along and you may be shocked to discover that many of them are fatter and older than you. By a lot. You can complete a half marathon, and here’s why…

You Don’t Have to Run

Notice I previously used the word “participants” and not “runners”. Did you know you don’t have to run the whole 13.1 miles? I’m going to say that again for emphasis. Did you know you don’t have to run the whole 13.1 miles? Yes, that’s right (couch potatoes and lazy bums, rejoice!). Typically, they give you anywhere from three to three and a half hours to complete the course. Even if it’s only three hours, that means you only have to cover about 4.4 miles per hour. That’s the pace of a focused walker, or a lazy jogger. Or both (and that’s worse case scenario). You can do it.

Take me, for example. I’m not a runner. I don’t completely love it, and I don’t live for it (I tell people my running speed is “one click above a lollygag”). I’m just a married, 30-something mom that wants to keep my butt at (or below) it’s current size. Nonetheless, I actually enjoyed the training because I got outside and it made me feel like I had done something worthwhile that day.

I used Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run Method to train, and I can’t sing it’s praises enough. It helps you figure out your baseline fitness level, and you just go from there. You don’t feel like you are being tortured the whole time, and it’s much easier on your body incorporating the walking intervals. The point in training is just to cover the mileage, and it doesn’t matter how fast you do it or if you even run a single step of it. There is no shame in walking a half marathon. You still get the medal and bragging rights either which way, as long as you finish.

I also highly recommend the Runhelper app for your phone. It’s free, and it tracks your distances via GPS. You can program in run/walk intervals at any time ratio you choose. You can specify if you want to run for distance, time, or calorie burn, and it also includes a log section so you can track your progress. It vibrates when your interval is up, which makes it extremely easy to use while out doing your thing on the road or trail.

You might be surprised to know that my only point of real anxiety during my half marathon was when I was lolly-gagging along, and an elderly woman speed-walking the course passed me. I had an “Oh, HELL no” moment, and I jogged a bit faster til I lost her. Then I slowed back down.

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13.1 Miles is A Great Distance

Yes, it’s a long way. But it isn’t that long. After all, most people can tackle it in under three hours. I was surprised during my training when I actually had thoughts like, “Oh, good. This will be an easy day. I only have to do 7 miles”. Sick, twisted, I know. But you can get there, too, in only a few short months of dedicating yourself to go the distance (pun intended).

Numerous studies have shown that full marathons (26.2 miles) are actually harmful to your health. It’s great to be in shape, but our bodies aren’t meant to take that kind of beating. 13.1 miles, on the other hand, is a great distance to challenge yourself, it’s very managable as far as time required to train, you won’t kill yourself doing it, and it still offers up some decent bragging rights.

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You Will Lose Weight and Be Super Healthy

If you aren’t used to covering long distances, it will shock your metabolism into high gear and your calorie burn will skyrocket, even if you walk the whole thing…training, race, and all. Furthermore, you will feel better than you have in a long, long time because your heart and lungs will be so healthy from all the cardio. You will look better, sleep better, and have less stress because you will burn it off on the streets (or trails, or whatever). If nothing else, you can eat dessert and not feel guilty about it.

It’s Awesome to Have People Cheer For You

How often in your daily life do people cheer for you? Be honest. I’m not talking moral support, or someone being a good friend. I’m talking actual, legit cheering. A screaming, whooping crowd clapping and yelling and pushing you to keep going. If you do a half marathon, you will have this very thing for 13.1 miles. Maybe you have a phenomenal job where people cheer every time you clock in, or you are a public speaker that people absolutely love. Good for you. As for me…I lead a fairly mundane, average life and I still think being cheered for is freaking awesome. In fact, I’d say the registration price is worth the cheering section in and of itself.

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You Will Be Motivated With Your Training

Remember that “race day” is just that…it’s only one day (and really only a few hours of that one day). It’s not even about “the race”, it’s about the prior months that you will say to yourself, “I have to get ready for said race”. You will have three to four months of training sessions, and they will make up 99% of the whole experience. If you are someone that struggles with regular exercise, this will cure you of that problem. I promise. It’s one thing to say to yourself, “blah, I have to go exercise”. But it’s entirely another to say, “I have a training session to do”. It will make you feel awesome to know you are working toward a bigger goal, and you will hear the “Rocky” theme in your head every time you lace up your shoes (Plus, once you are registered there is money and pride on the line). Come on, get pumped! Risin’ up, back on the street. Did my time, took my chances. Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet. Just a man and his will to survive…

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You Will Feel Amazing When You Cross the Finish Line

Whether your finishing time is two hours or three and a half, it doesn’t matter (I almost wish they didn’t call it a race). You will be filled with an awesome sense of accomplishment at what you have just done. I cried when I finished my first half marathon. Not the bad tears, either. The good tears that come when you are completely overwhelmed and so amazed at yourself you can barely stand it. I don’t know what happens at that finish line, exactly, but it’s profound. On the other side of that line the world suddenly seems a little less scary, and you suddenly feel a whole lot tougher.

I just registered for my second half marathon.

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***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: You don’t have to run a half marathon (you can walk, jog, or do any combination that is comfortable), nor do you have to “race” anybody. It’s only about you accomplishing something you can be proud of. Don’t just exercise; train. If anyone had informed me of these things years ago, I would have done it a lot sooner. I promise you it’s worth it.

 


Secrets of Second Grade Wisdom

My family and I recently attended an evening event at our daughters’ elementary school. We were wandering through the area with the second grade classrooms when I noticed something that absolutely captivated me. It was simply an array of small, colorful signs posted over the sink detailing kind behaviors for the children to adhere to while in school. However, it somehow struck me as having much greater significance than that.

Considering all the deadly shootings, the terrorism, the crime, and the evil that has infiltrated the world in so many ways, it actually made my heart ache to think about how different our existence would be if everyone actually adhered to these simple colorful signs.

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If we all learned to forgive consistently, there would no longer be injustices labeled “hate crimes”.

If we all told the truth, there would no longer be a need for courtrooms.

If we all got better at building true friendships, depression rates would drop drastically.

If we all worked hard welfare could be a thing of the past, and the economy would skyrocket.

If we all encouraged each other, we would be too busy with that to point out each others flaws.

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If we all worked together, war would cease to exist.

If we all took turns, there would be nothing to fight about.

If we believed that everyone was equally important, racism would disappear.

If nobody gave up, we would have more inventors, entrepreneurs, and Olympic athletes.

If everyone laughed more, we would be happier.

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If we all accepted that mistakes happen, we would be much quicker to forgive.

If we all respected ourselves, body image issues and addictions would stop.

If everyone gave praise, low self-esteem would cease to exist.

If we all respected each other, religious conflicts would end.

If we all knew it was ok to ask for help, there would be fewer mistakes and accidents.

If we all continued to learn, the world would shine with it’s richness, talent, and expertise.

If we all continued to grow, nothing would ever be stagnant.

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If we all respected each other’s property, no one would steal.

If we all worked as teams, our families and businesses would be stronger.

If we were kind to everyone, world peace would be a reality.

If we all said thank you, no one would ever feel unappreciated.

If we were all dreamers, we would have more sculptures, more poetry, and more space expeditions.

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If we all listened to our teacher, the teachings of Jesus would prevail.

If we all tried our best, the words “subpar” and “mediocre” would be removed from the dictionary.

If we all listened to each other divorce rates would plummet, we would have stronger friendships, and we would respect different points of view.

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Just imagine.

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: If we all actually practiced the rules we learned in second grade, the world would be a much, much better place.


Secrets of Minimizing Food Waste

As Americans, we often take for granted that there will always be enough food. We throw out leftovers, let fresh produce sit in the refrigerator until it’s rancid, and walk away from uneaten portions at restaurants. This creates unnecessary expense to our budgets in addition to mindlessly wasting something that is a precious resource…but we rarely think about that. We forget that what is commonplace to us is an overwhelming blessing to others.

Don’t believe me? Consider these recent statistics on hunger and poverty:

  • 48.1 million Americans live in food-insecure households, including more than 15 million children (according to Feeding America.org).
  • Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined (Stophungernow.org).
  • Of all the households in America receiving some kind of assistance with groceries, 69% still have to choose between buying food or paying for utilities each month (erlc.com).

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Humbling, isn’t it? Now that I’ve gotten your attention, let’s look at ways to cut down on our own food waste and be responsible with the food we are lucky enough to have.

#1: Be proactive. Plan out weekly menus, and only buy what you need. This saves money and cuts down on waste. If you can’t eat huge restaurant-sized meals, split a meal with someone or order a la carte. In short, if you know you aren’t a “leftover person”…just don’t create leftovers!

#2: If you do have leftovers, eat them for lunch the next day. They make for a super easy hot meal on the go, and this alone can save you hundreds of dollars a month compared to buying your lunch out. If you still aren’t convinced, read this article on how much money we blow annually just by buying lunch. Really, it’s revolting, and it will make you look at leftovers in a whole new light.

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#3: If you have food leftover from a huge party that you know you don’t want, ask people if they want to take it home before you throw it out. I can almost guarantee someone will take it.

#4: If you are moving or going on vacation, offer the perishable items in your refrigerator to family members, friends, or neighbors. Once again, I can practically guarantee someone will take it. Milk is expensive.

#5: Utilize tricks to keep your produce fresh longer. Lettuce will last longer if it’s in a sealed bag, and most fruits and vegetables actually last longer if you don’t store them in the fridge. Keep them in a highly visible area in the kitchen so you remember to eat them. For more ideas on preserving fresh produce, check out this article at Popsugar.com.

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#6: Utilize leftover food to create new menu options. For example, leftover turkey and vegetables can make great soup, and leftover beef can be used in casseroles or stew. Never underestimate meatloaf, either. You can throw all kinds of crazy things in there and it will still taste good!

#7: Don’t forget you can freeze things, too. If you can’t eat the same meal 3 nights in a row, throw it in the freezer. Food will stay good for weeks at a time this way, and it might be a welcome easy option for dinner on a night you don’t feel like cooking.

#8: If you still have extra food that you can’t give away to anyone you know, donate it to a local food pantry. Many of them accept fresh produce and, in fact, are often desperate to acquire it. Go to Ampleharvest.org and enter your zip code. It will give you a ridiculously huge list of places you can take it to.

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#9: If all else fails, try posting an ad online. I have actually seen numerous ads in the “free” section of Craigslist giving away unwanted containers of lasagna, casseroles, stews, etc. Just put it in a disposable container and leave it on your front porch or driveway. Someone will come and take it. You never know…you might just be helping a family in desperate need, or a poor college student barely scraping by. You were going to toss it anyway. Why not do a good deed instead?

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***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: With so many hungry people in the world, it is in our best interest to appreciate the blessings we have been given in the way of food.

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Do you have any stories of a time you helped someone in the way of giving food? I’d love to hear it if you do. 


Secrets of Easy Couponing

Life is expensive, isn’t it? Well, there are many ways to save money with couponing that actually don’t require a ton of time or effort. Let me enlighten you with a few of the tricks I use on a daily basis.

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#1: Get the Entertainment coupon book. Click on that blue link and it will take you directly to the website. Enter your zip code, and order your book. Enter the coupon code “FLASH” at checkout and you will get the book at half price, plus free shipping (it will cost around $17). It contains hundreds of awesome coupons for restaurants, clothing and shoe stores, entertainment activities, and tons more. If you even use just one or two coupons out of it, it will pay for itself. Plus, none of the coupons expire until the end of the year.

Get in the habit of keeping the book in your car, and just flip through it before you head into any place you are about to spend money. Chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much money you save just doing this one simple step.

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#2: Go to Coupons.com. The trick here is to only go to the website after you have written out your shopping list. Coupons have a weird way of sucking you into buying stuff that you don’t really need (but it’s irresistable because it’s such a deal). Scroll through the pages of coupons for a few minutes, and only print out the ones for items you were already planning on buying. I mean, really…if you didn’t already have a problem with bees then you shouldn’t buy two cans of bee killer spray just because it is “buy one get one free”.

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#3: If you shop at Wal Mart, go to Savingscatcher.com. When you get home from your shopping trip, enter your receipt information into the website. It will verify your purchases and compare the prices you paid to surrounding stores. If there is a cheaper price anywhere, the website will refund the difference to your online account for you to print out and use the next time you go shopping (or let it accumulate to larger amounts). It takes all of 30 seconds to do this, and you will usually get between $3 – $9 back per shopping trip. It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. It’s free money that you didn’t have before, right?

So that’s it. This is, after all, “Secrets of Easy Couponing”. I couldn’t rightfully ask you to invest more than 5 minutes of your time each week with a title like that.

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: It’s amazing how much money you can save just by doing a few quick, simple things!

Do you have any other super easy couponing tips that I missed? I’d love to hear from you if you do!


Life Secrets From a Magenta Man

I learned a long time ago that there are essentially two kinds of dads, and they can be classified into two respective categories based on a simple color coding system: pink and red.

The “pink” dads get their namesake from the fact that many of them actually wear pink shirts or pink cargo shorts. This color is also highly representative of their parenting style–a little on the soft side. “Pink” dads are the guys that drink mocha lattes, don’t believe in spanking, and say things like, “It’s ok buddy. We’re ALL winners!”.

“Red” dads are at the other end of the spectrum. They get their namesake from their harsher parenting style, and from the fictional dad Red Foreman on “That 70’s Show” who said things to his kids like, “What are you gonna put on your resume–dumbass?”, or “Life isn’t hard; you’re just an idiot!”. “Red” dads take their coffee black, they absolutely believe in spanking, and they rely heavily on militaristic tactics to raise their children.

My own father was a unique combination of both colors when I was growing up. I would formally classify him as a “Magenta” (he had a few streaks of “pink” in him, but he was predominately “red”). I mean, the guy cried at my wedding, and I can recall some awesome hugs he gave me when I needed them the most. However, throughout most of my childhood and adolescent years I actually believed his parenting mantra:

“I brought you into this world. I can take you out, and make another one that looks just like you”.

Despite his gruff parenting style, I learned some tremendous life lessons from the “Magenta Man” that have continually served me well in life. For that reason, I am going to share them with you now. For the purposes of proving my point, as well, I have included the “color” of each life lesson as it relates to the parenting style involved.

#1: The School of Hard Knocks (Red)

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I always loathed the times in my life that my dad would sigh and say, “Well, we’re gonna have to chalk this one up to the school of hard knocks”.  This meant I had done something incredibly stupid that reflected my naivety in life (like the time I swerved my car to avoid hitting a squirrel and hit a tree instead, causing thousands of dollars in damage).

If you can recall any memories that make you cringe and say, “What was I thinking?!?” then you, too, have taken courses at the School of Hard Knocks. But it isn’t all for nothing. The secret here is learning those hard life lessons the first go round, and never making the same mistake again. Somehow, though, even the repeat failures serve a purpose. If nothing else, they provide a fine example to everyone else of how not to be. Just don’t go whining to my dad about it if this is the case. He will simply inform you:

“It’s like you are banging your head repeatedly against a brick wall, then complaining to me that it hurts.”.

This particular lesson from my father came to the forefront of my mind the time I was offered heroine in college. I considered it, but it just seemed like it had way too high a probability of being a class at the School of Hard Knocks. I said no, and left.

#2: On matters of law enforcement (Red)handcuffs-354042_1280

My father worked as a volunteer sheriff for many years during my youth. One night, he came home exhausted from a particularly trying shift involving the scum of the city. With no warning at all, he turned to me and made a bold declaration:

“Just so you know…if you ever get arrested, I will not bail you out. In fact, I will probably try to talk them into keeping you longer to serve the time for crimes you have committed that they just don’t know about yet.”

Just to really drive the point home, he handcuffed me to the stove for around 15 minutes. Well, needless to say, I have never spent a single second of my life in jail. In fact, if I ever found myself in a situation where there was even the slightest chance of a tangle with the law…I was OUT.

#3: Religion is like a road trip (Pink)

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Once during my teenage years, my dad and I were involved in a deep discussion on the various religions of the world. I asked him the bold question of which one was “right”. After a careful moment of thought, he summed it up like this:

“Religion is like a road trip. There are hundreds of different road combinations you can take but, ultimately, you will all arrive at the same destination”.

That philosophy made a lot of sense to me then, and it still makes sense to me now (more than 20 years later). Because of that one conversation years ago, I have never been one to belittle anyone’s belief system or think of anyone in the terms of “right” or “wrong”. Instead I have maintained the attitude of “you take your set of roads, I’ll take mine, and I’ll see you there”. Imagine what a vastly more peaceful world we would live in if more people had heard, and believed, my dad’s simple speech all those years ago.

#4: Don’t think of money in terms of dollars (Red)

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When I was contemplating purchasing a newer, sexier car as a teenager, I was begging, pleading, and bargaining for my father’s financial assistance. He said no, and proceeded to tell me I should not think of the cost in terms of dollars but, instead, in terms of how many hours I had to work to pay for it. It is one thing to think that something costs, say, $7,000. That’s just an arbitrary number. But when you do the math and realize it will take you 720 hours of working at your job just to pay for this one thing…suddenly it all gets real. New cars lose their shine, and that upgraded phone just doesn’t seem nearly as important when you realize servitude is on the line.

This life lesson from my dad is probably the reason I am so adamant about clipping coupons, shopping at thrift stores, and I drive a vehicle that is over 10 years old. But hey…it’s paid for. I have wheels and my freedom. Take that, world.

#5: Don’t discount nerds, because nerds are the good guys that rule the world. (Pink)

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I was given this particular life lesson in college when I was talking to dear old dad about a few of my dating prospects. I casually laughed and remarked that one of the guys was a nerd, and for that reason I had passed him up. This one must have hit a sore spot with my father, because he immediately got defensive. He made the point that, while all the “cool” guys were out at bars drinking and womanizing, the “nerds” of the world were home alone studying astrophysics and learning to manuever satellites for NASA.

Sure enough, when I look around now to the leaders of the free world, the CEO’s of companies, and the guys driving sports cars with six figure price tags–many of them are actually really nerdy! But even beyond that, many of them are also very humble because they endured years of being teased, rejected, and passed up by women. Enduring these trials builds tremendous character in a person.

So hear me on this one, ladies, and hear me loud: go against your initial animal instincts and bypass that smooth talker at the bar with the flashy smile. After tangling with this character, when you are tattered and heartbroken, no one is going to feel sorry for you when you say, “But he was SO sexy, and could outdrink every other guy in the place”.

If you are serious about your life and being treated well, look a little harder. Seek out that quiet, shy guy standing in the corner whose pants are just a little too short. Chances are, that one is the love of your life. My dad often knew what he was talking about.

 #6: The Hit or Miss Theory (Red/Pink)

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As odd as it may seem, I actually learned a tremendous amount about love from my dad. In addition to the nerd theory, he also taught me a simple method of determining whether someone is worth your time or not. A “HIT” has these characteristics:

H: Healthy, in body and in mind. This pretty much rules out alcoholics, drug addicts, and psychos.

I: Integrity. This one states that the person is essentially good, and has a solid moral framework.

T: Treatment of me. Does this person treat me well and make me happy?

If your potential suitor has all three qualities, then he is a “HIT”. If he is missing any (or all) of these components…then he is clearly a MISS, and you should keep looking elsewhere.

#7: Slowing down vs. stopping (Red)

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When I was learning to drive with my learner’s permit, I once slowed to a roll at a stop sign, then continued on through the intersection. My father immediately called me out on it. “Why didn’t you stop?” he asked, exasperated. “What difference does it make? I slowed down and looked, and no one was coming anyway.” After a moment of silence, he said to me:

“If I was beating you with a huge stick, would you want me to slow down…or stop?”

I have properly honored stop signs ever since.

#8: Don’t get married unless you are ready to get a tattoo. (Red)

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As my wedding neared (as a young, naive girl), I was having breakfast with my dad at Village Inn. He surprised me by asking if I was ready to get my future husband’s name tattooed on my body. Without thinking, I laughed and answered, “Why would I do that? Tattoos are forever!”

He just stared at me with a grim look on his face.

#9: Your ex is like a tumor. (Red)

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On the day my divorce was final, I called my father sobbing. His response was something I will never forget. He said to me:

“You know, it’s like you just emerged from a life saving procedure of having a huge, cancerous tumor removed. And now you are crying and saying to me, ‘But Dad, I miss my tumor’. I don’t get it”.

This one phrase set me on the path to healing, and I never looked back.

#10: Goat Puke (Red)

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Any foufy coffee drink that involves sweet, sugary components and frilly words like mocha, latte, or frappucino was always deemed as “Goat Puke” by my father (he takes his coffee black). “You don’t need all that crap”, he would say. So just don’t do it (and I don’t).

So, as you can see, the title of “Magenta Man” serves my father well. He is a unique combination of tender, insightful moments mixed with moments of harsh, utter truth spoken in a way that even the foggiest of minds can comprehend. For all his lessons I believe I am a better, stronger person that has had greater success in navigating the muddy roads of life.

I hope I have made him proud, because I know he brought me into this world. And I’m still not entirely sure he couldn’t take me out of it, and make another one that looked just like me.

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: Avoid the School of Hard Knocks if you can. Don’t get arrested. Know that religion is like a road trip, and you shouldn’t think of money in terms of dollars. Be kind to nerds, and make sure the one you end up with is a “HIT”. Stop completely at all stop signs, and don’t get married unless you are ready to get a tattoo. You are better off without your ex. Don’t drink goat puke.

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The Secret of Biblical Influences on Daily Life

The bible has long been revered as the most influential and widely read book in existence. But do you realize quite how much of that trickles down into our daily lives? From the current date all the way down to the figures of speech we use, you may well be astounded at what you learn.

Biblical Influences

#1: The Current Year

Biblical Influences Of course we all know it’s 2016, but you do know why it’s 2016? Where did that number come from? In essence, the calendar we use today was originally created by the ancient Roman Empire. They based the dates around the birth of Christ, using B.C. and A.D. So technically it’s 2016 A.D., since it’s been 2016 years since the birth of Christ. Interestingly, this number includes a simple mathematical error made by a monk and is actually off by several years, but correcting it would be an overwhelming prospect with far reaching consequences. So 2016 it remains.

#2: Sunday

Biblical Influences

Sunday is part of our weekend, and the day people usually go to church. It is also the day most businesses are either closed or have shorter than usual hours. Is it any coincidence, then, that Sunday is the seventh day of our calendar week and it states in Genesis 2:2, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested”? An amazing truth here is that no where in the bible does it specifically state that Sunday is the “day of rest”, but Saturday. However, Mark 2:27 states, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”. Essentially it is a commandment to take a day off to recuperate from our busy lives each week, and the specific day doesn’t matter that much. It is widely believed that Sunday is honored as the day of rest and worship because Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday (exactly two days after Good Friday).

#3: Our everyday diets

Biblical Influences

We eat a lot of chicken. It is one of our main staples. But why not other birds? Consider this verse from Leviticus 11:13:

“These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat”.

Ever had an owl sandwich? What about stork soup or eagle chili? Me either. Or how about this one: considering the wide array of various meats we eat, why not weasels or lizards? Could this next verse from Leviticus 11:29 be the answer?

“Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon”.

These are just a few prominent examples, but if you ever dig in to the pages of Leviticus you might be surprised at how many of the listed dietary guidelines we still follow today.

#4: Our personal hygiene

Biblical Influences

The bible states in 2 Kings 5:10, “And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean'”.

Our mothers always told us to bathe and wash our hands, but it seems to me that this idea originated from somewhere other than our moms (they just told us we had to be clean, and thankfully never used the phrase “your flesh will be restored”).

#5: Common names

Biblical Influences

How many Marks, Matthews, Lukes, and Johns do you know? Probably a lot, as they are very common names. Isn’t is interesting that these are also the names of the four men that wrote the gospels of Jesus? Let’s also consider the names of the 12 apostles as listed in Matthew 10:2:

“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him”.

Chances are, you know many men with these names as well. But have you ever known anyone named Judas? I know I never have, and probably never will. This may have something to do with the fact that he was the apostle that betrayed Jesus three times. What about Mary, Abigail, or Sarah? Leah, Naomi, or Ruth?

#6: Common phrases in our everyday language

Biblical Influences

Some of these may seem obvious, like “he thinks he can walk on water” (when talking about an arrogant person), or “it’s your cross to bear” (when referring to a heavy situation you no longer want to be involved with). How about when someone successfully installs a lightbulb, then proudly exclaims, “Let there be light! (Genesis 1:3).

Have you ever said to someone, “Stop being such a Doubting Thomas?” Well, Thomas was the apostle that refused to believe Jesus had been resurrected until he saw the resurrected Christ standing right before him.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m washing my hands of it”, meaning they are done or no longer involved? Consider this verse from Matthew 27:24, in which Pontius Pilate is trying to spare Jesus from death, but the crowd is insisting he be killed:

“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility’!”.

“Bite the dust” comes from Psalm 72:9, “by the skin of your teeth” comes from Job 19:20, and “go the extra mile” comes from Matthew 5:41 (“if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles”). “Rise and shine” comes from Isaiah 60:1 (“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you”).

Have you ever been in a situation that you deemed was a “double edged sword”? It comes from Proverbs 5:4 (“but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword”).

This last one is probably the most irreverent of them all. How many times have you heard someone with a fiendish grin report to you, “I got laid last night?” Is it any wonder, then, that in 2 Samuel 12:24 it states:

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went in to her and lay with her, and she bore him a son, and he named him Solomon”.

Something tells me they didn’t just “lay” together, if she then somehow bore him a son.

There are literally dozens of daily phrases that come directly from the bible, and for a more comprehensive list you can click here. 

Taking all of these many factors of our daily lives into consideration, it is no wonder, then, that our forefathers described us as “One nation, under God”.

Biblical Influences

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: Whether you like it or not, believe in it or not…the bible has influenced our lives in absolutely astounding ways.


One Secret Reason Voices Crackle in the Night

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I woke with a start, breathing heavily. The living room was dark and quiet, except for the rhythmic click, click, clicking of the battery powered baby swing. Nothing seemed immediately out of place, but something had woken me up. What time was it? I reached over and groped around for my cell phone on the nearby coffee table in the darkness, then heard a metallic thud as I knocked something onto the hardwood floor behind the couch with my hand…my glasses. At that moment I remembered that I had left my cell phone plugged in to the charger by my bed, which was upstairs.

As a brand new mother of a three week old infant, I had quickly learned that she slept far better in the baby swing in the living room than she did in her crib upstairs. Therefore, I had long since resigned myself to sleeping on the couch near her most nights just to get some much needed sleep. Since all seemed well, I nestled back down on the cold leather couch and pulled the blankets tightly around me.

Just as I closed my eyes, I heard it. A deep, gruff sound that barely drifted down the stairs. I sat up again, and listened intently. After a few seconds of straining to hear in the silence…I heard it again. It sounded like a distant voice, but I couldn’t make out what it was saying. Was my husband talking in his sleep from the bedroom upstairs?, I wondered. But as quickly as the thought had arrived, I dismissed it. I remembered that, on this particular night, I was home alone. Of course.

With my head clearing from the grogginess of my recent sleep, I pondered the situation further. Had I left a TV or radio on upstairs? I replayed the earlier events of the evening in my mind, and realized I had turned off all the lights and electronics in the house before coming down to the living room to go to bed on the couch near my infant daughter.

I heard the muffled, low toned sound again. It was definitely a voice…and a man’s voice, no less. I was certain of it. In a sudden chilling moment, I realized that someone was upstairs. As my heart began to beat faster, my head started to swim. It didn’t make sense. I had been sleeping on the couch in the living room on the main level of the house. Any intruder that had gained access would have had to cross me first before making it upstairs…up from the basement steps, through the garage, the front door, or the back door. But at this moment in time, the logistics of the situation didn’t matter.

I threw the blankets back and leaped from the couch in the darkness, now fully awake as the cold night air shocked my bare legs. It was the first week of December, and outside the ground was blanketed with a fresh layer of snow. I quietly crept up the three hardwood stairs into my kitchen, and pondered my next move. What time was it? I squinted in the darkness to see the green glowing numbers on the digital clock of my stove…3:23 am. Without my glasses or contacts, my vision is extremely fuzzy and poor, at best.

“Mmph, hmmm, mmm.” I heard the voice drifting down the stairs again, but still couldn’t make out what it was saying.

I whirled around and groped the cold counter top, searching for the block of kitchen knives with my hands. I felt the largest one, and pulled it out. As I crept closer to the stairs, my whirling mind was cataloging everything I had working against me. I was out of shape, having had a baby just three weeks earlier. I was half naked, wearing only underwear and a t-shirt. Furthermore, I was nearly blind since I had lost my glasses behind the couch just moments earlier.

As I listened to the soft click, click, clicking of the baby swing in the dark, I decided that none of it mattered. Someone was in my house.

With my heart pounding furiously, I started up the stairs, barely breathing as to avoid making a sound. I made it halfway up when I heard it, clear as day: a gruff male voice stating, “I’m going for it.”

I’m going for it???

I was struck with a sick feeling as I realized the voice was coming from the nursery, which was directly across the hall from the master bedroom. Strangely, the voice sounded close, yet somehow still distant. The nursery door was only open a few inches, but it was enough for me to hear what was taking place. Who was this sicko? How had he gotten onto the second floor? Why was he in my baby’s nursery? But most importantly, what was he “going for”??

I gripped the kitchen knife to my chest so tightly my fingers hurt. I had the thought that I could bolt into the master bedroom, lock the door, and call 911 from my cell phone. But again, I struck the thought down as soon as it had materialized. If I chose that course of action this terrifying, unknown intruder would be left to roam the house while I waited for the police to arrive….and all with my newborn baby downstairs. It simply wasn’t an option.

As I crept up the last few stairs to the hallway, I realized my hands were trembling and my chest hurt from the hard adrenaline coursing through my veins. At that moment, I prayed a silent prayer. Please God, be with me here, now. Protect us.

What happened next could easily be classified as the bravest, most courageous moment of my life. I stopped thinking and just did what had to be done.

I took a deep breath, righted my iron grip on the kitchen knife, and kicked open the nursery door with such force it slammed into the wall and left an indent in the drywall. With my heart pounding out of my tight, near breathless chest, I went crashing through the doorway with every intent of fighting.

As I whirled around in the dark room with the knife cocked, my confusion hit unparalleled heights. The room was empty. I squinted to see the closet in the darkness, still searching for the intruder…but no one was there. I stood there panting and gasping, trying to make sense of what was happening. The voice I had most certainly heard…? What was itWhere was it coming from?!?

Then, something in the corner of the room caught my eye. A small, green, flickering row of lights.

“Well Jim, just make sure you…the chains on, and…keep it in low gear… you don’t…burn your brakes out,” I heard a choppy, crackly, distant male voice say…and all in time with the small row of pulsating green lights.

What?

In a sudden rush of draining emotion, I realized what was happening. I took a breath, and reached over to flick on the light in the nursery. I stood there, blind and half naked, staring at the baby monitor.

“Sure, I-70 is icy tonight.”

Somehow, in a bizarre twist of events, the “receiving” end of the baby monitor was picking up transmissions from truck drivers. They were discussing on their CB radios how to safely traverse the icy night conditions of I-70.

I leaned up against the wall of the nursery, and slid into a heap on the floor. I finally released the death grip I had been holding on the kitchen knife, and dropped it onto the carpet beside me. I don’t know if it was my sheer exhaustion as a new mother, the insane hormones coursing through my body at the time, or the fact that I felt so relieved (and stupid) all at the same moment, but I sat there crying for several long minutes. I laughed through my tears and wiped my runny nose with my cold, bare hand, utterly thankful to be alive and well. I let out a loud sigh and waited for my trembling hands to be still.

At that moment, I heard soft grunts emitting from downstairs. It was the “eh, eh, eh” sound that is so characteristic of newborns that don’t yet have the lung capacity to really wail. I had probably woken her up with my ninja move of busting open the nursery door at full force.

I stood up, straightened my t-shirt, shook off the heavy emotions that had just plagued me, and started back down the stairs to my upset baby girl. But wait. I turned around, went back into the nursery, and promptly switched off the offending baby monitor. I had certainly had enough of that. It seemed like this night, just like so many others before it with my newborn, would pass without a moment of sleep.

 

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: If you are a parent currently using baby monitors, make sure the “receiving” unit is turned to OFF when you are not actively using it. Otherwise you run the risk of finding yourself in bizarre, knife-weilding situations, and honestly questioning if you are Schitzophrenic.

 

 

 

 


Secrets of Beautiful Weddings On A Budget

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Congratulations! You are engaged, and are now in the exciting phase of planning your upcoming wedding. Contrary to popular belief, weddings don’t have to be ridiculously expensive. Check out my tips and ideas for having the most beautiful and memorable day of your life…and not regretting the bill later.

The first (and most important) thing you’ll want to do is remind yourself to keep the whole affair in perspective. Yes, your wedding is an incredibly special day. But remember that it is just that…one day. I believe too many couples approach their wedding as the end-all-be-all, and the “grand finale” in a sense. However, your wedding is not the end at all; in fact it is the beginning of your new life and new marriage together. For this reason, it makes sense to avoid a situation where you accrue huge bills and debt right off the bat, either for yourselves or for your family members that may be helping to foot the bill.  Starting a new marriage is stressful enough on it’s own without adding these unnecessary financial burdens. Also, keep this in mind…most weddings last an average of only three to six hours. You have the option of spending a huge chunk of change to make those few hours an absolute blow out bash, OR having a simple, elegant wedding instead and using the rest of your money towards a wiser investment…like a down payment on a house, or paying off school loans.

The next step in planning your special day is deciding, realistically, what your ballpark budget is. What are you able to comfortably spend on it, and what are your priorities within that budget? Have you always dreamed of getting married on a beach, and nothing else will do? That’s fine. Just decide then that a simpler gown or fewer guests will be your compromise. Do you absolutely, positively have to have that designer gown that you’ve dreamed about since childhood? That’s fine, too. Just be willing to consider a simpler wedding venue or to forego a fancy honeymoon to compensate for the costs involved.

With all that being said, let’s look at each component of a wedding, and how you can save money in each respective area (while still having an absolutely beautiful ceremony and celebration).

#1: The guest list. mayor-917149__180

This one is a huge factor in the overall cost of your wedding. For obvious reasons, the smaller your guest list is the more affordable your wedding will be. But the benefits of a smaller wedding don’t stop there. I believe that exchanging marriage vows with your future spouse is an incredibly personal, private, and sacred event. Honor this fact by only inviting the people that really, truly matter in your lives. It will be so much more meaningful if only your immediate family and true friends are in attendance. Think about it. Does the guy that works in your finance department really need to be there? Or the third cousins you haven’t seen in 15 years, but your parents insist on inviting? Politely remind everyone that this is your special day, and don’t get bullied into inviting the “obligatory” guests that don’t really matter to you.

The other great benefit of fewer guests is that you will actually have time to talk and visit with all of them. Everyone will have happier memories of the day if you are able to spend a few quality minutes with all of your guests, instead of just a rushed receiving line where they each get two seconds of your time and feel completely insignificant. This is exhausting for you, and holds little value for them. Guests of small, intimate weddings often report they felt incredibly special and honored to be one of the “chosen few” included in the coveted guest list.

Finally, having fewer people involved opens up a ton more possibilities for the next item on the list, the venue. You have so many more options in finding the perfect, most romantic place for your wedding if you only need to accommodate 50 people instead of 200.

#2: The venue. 2608-1273404731jPsY

Decide what your vision is for your wedding, and start exploring possible options. In general, destination weddings are extremely expensive and not as many invited guests will be able to attend. It’s asking a lot for everyone to take several days off work/school, and also afford airline tickets and hotel rooms in addition to that. For this reason, keep it local.

Also try to choose a place where you can hold both the ceremony and the reception. This avoids having to book out and pay for two separate places, avoids the hassle of coordinating dates/times (which can be frustrating and near impossible in some cases), plus it just makes the day less stressful for everyone involved. You don’t want to have to face potential traffic jams and parking issues, of all things, twice on your wedding day either.

Be open minded and consider a lot of different venues. Weddings outside offer less hassle with decorations (the landscape is your backdrop), but also include the unknown variable of the weather. Consider the possibility of rain or hurricane force winds, and how you would feel about that. You may have always envisioned a church wedding, but will be surprised at how much you love the serenity and romance of a local bed and breakfast instead. Think outside the box on this one, too, and consider unusual and different venues. Local museums, historic sites, or even the home of a relative with a gorgeous deck or yard might be just the ticket. These places offer a truly unique experience for you, and they are often a lot cheaper than the “standard” wedding venues that everyone goes with.

A quick word of warning on the “all inclusive” places, too…they may initially seem like a bargain because they include the decorations, the wedding planner, the caterer, etc. However, keep this scenario in mind… when you are excitedly talking about your wedding plans to anyone and everyone, it may be a tremendous let down to hear five other former brides state, “You are getting married at the Pine Tree Event Center? I had my wedding there, too.” You want your wedding to be memorable and unique, so treat it that way and make each part of it something special that you chose.

#3: Be flexible with the date and time. calendario-2014-1384905962n56

You may be shocked at the drastic price difference between a Saturday night vs. a Sunday afternoon wedding at the same place, or between an April or a June date. Choose a date and season that you will be happy with, but also one that stays within your budget. Each season offers it’s own unique beauty, so be open to the possibility of a winter, spring, or autumn wedding. There is absolutely no rule stating you have to get married in the summer.

This same principle applies to the actual time your wedding takes place. Again, you may be surprised that the same venue is literally half the price if you get married at 10:00 am instead of 6:00 pm. I have heard some beautiful accounts of morning weddings that included the sunrise, an elegant breakfast buffet, and champagne. So consider that option, too.

#4: The decorations. candles-at-wedding-table

This may seem like a huge expense, but it really doesn’t have to be. It seems that lighting is what contributes the most to a romantic and serene ambiance, so opt for lots of candles in simple glass holders. If the venue doesn’t allow real ones, you can get the battery powered candles that look just as real. Don’t underestimate the power of the dollar store and the craft store here. You can make amazing centerpieces for your tables that are absolutely stunning, and cost only a few dollars each. Hunt around for ideas online, then get to creating your vision that is uniquely yours. Also, don’t underestimate Christmas lights. Strands of white lights can offer a beautiful and elegant touch that are also extremely affordable. A few strategically placed rose petals strewn about can add a ton of romance and character as well. You can get the imitation ones online for a fraction of the cost of the real ones, and these ones won’t wilt in the heat or tear (added bonus). Do it all yourself and you will save a lot of money on a wedding planner. You can totally do this, and have a blast with it as well!

#5: SKIP the wedding party.  beach-wedding

This is probably my favorite tip out of all of them. When you really think about it, the only ones getting married are you and your soon to be spouse, not the two of you plus your 10 closest friends. Is it really necessary that they stand up there with you? By foregoing a wedding party, you reap several huge benefits. First, you avoid the obvious costs of buying bridesmaids gowns/shoes/jewelry/flowers/gifts and renting tuxes (and I have always thought it was inappropriate to ask those people to buy/rent their own outfits; they did not ask to be included in your wedding so it isn’t fair to force that bill on them).

Furthermore, these people that would have potentially been in your wedding party will actually thank you when you release them of that obligation. I promise you. This means they do not have to spend a ton of money, they are not obligated to arrange their schedules to attend rehearsals and such, and it allows them to simply enjoy being a guest at your wedding instead of having a long list of “expected things” they must do on that day. It erases a ton of cost and stress from the event in general, and I believe it actually enhances the sacred and romantic nature of your vows when it is just you, the love of your life, and the officiant standing up front.

There is a bonus benefit of this one, too. If there is not a huge wedding party that has to attend a rehearsal, you can also skip doing a huge rehearsal dinner (which equates to more money, more planning, and more stress in addition to everything else). You and your fiance meet up with the officiant one afternoon for a quick run through, and that’s it. No big deal. Focus your energy and available finances on planning the wedding itself, instead of being stretched between several big events.

#6: The gown.  wedding-dress-301815__180

This one is a potential landmine of excessive costs. I have heard of brides that have successfully mail-ordered imitation gowns for extremely cheap prices, but I can’t promote this practice in good conscience. For starters, I don’t think it’s wise to spend money on something you haven’t even tried on once. You may love it on the model in the picture, but not so much on yourself. Or it may arrive and turn out to be really poor quality. Then where does that leave you? You have spent $200 on something you can’t even return because the website either doesn’t allow it, or you don’t have time to start over with the ordering process. Best to play it safe on this one and avoid the risky gamble. You want to feel absolutely beautiful and confident on your wedding day, so put your hard-earned money towards the gown you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the right one.

Begin shopping for gowns at consignment stores FIRST. Start at the lower end of the price spectrum, because you can always move up on the price scale if you don’t find anything. But if you immediately fall in love with a $4,000 gown…well, there you are, and anything less will feel like a disappointing compromise.

Be open minded to considering a “used” gown as well. Many brides may scoff at this, but really think about it. “Used” means it was worn ONCE before, and for only three to six hours. How used is it, really? And who is going to know besides you? Once again, perspective is paramount. Whatever gown you choose for your special day will be special because it is worn by you, and the history of it is totally irrelevant. After the wedding, it is going to get boxed anyway and put in your closet for eternity. Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to “re-sell” a used gown, so don’t plan on that to offset the expensive cost going into it.

The simpler gowns are often less expensive and extremely elegant, too. Remember that, while you may love the look of the 8 foot train or the strapless top, you actually have to wear this gown and be functional in it. You don’t want your wedding day to be miserable because you are dying of heat stroke, can’t walk, are tripping over the lace trim constantly, or hiking up the front repeatedly so you don’t accidentally flash someone.

Opt for a simple, beautiful gown that is almost exactly what you want when you pull it off the rack. Avoid falling in to the trap of expensive and time-consuming alterations. A few nips and tucks here and there to get it to fit perfectly is fine, but if it’s going to be a major overhaul project…just move on and keep shopping. That one’s not your gown. Alterations can easily add up to hundreds of dollars quickly, so choose wisely from the start.

Some boutiques offer free tuxedo rentals if you purchase a gown from them, so be sure to check on that option, too.

#7: The food.  smaplock-mat

You want to provide your guests with a nice meal at your wedding. Don’t skimp here and only do finger food unless your wedding is a truly simple affair. After all, they went through a lot to be there for you, and it’s a nice way of honoring that. You can offer a full meal with appetizers without breaking the bank. It doesn’t have to be filet mignon and lobster, nor does it have to come from a caterer. Grocery stores often offer delivery of large food trays/appetizers for very reasonable prices, so check this option out. Also call around to local caterers and see what elegant, delicious, and budget-friendly options they offer, too. Remember it’s often the place settings and dishes that make the meal special anyway, instead of what is actually being served.

#8: The alcohol. champagne-celebration-for-two

In my humble opinion a wedding is, once again, a very sacred event. You are taking eternal vows of love and devotion before God and your family. I don’t feel it’s appropriate, safe, or necessary for it to become a huge drunken party (especially when you have elderly guests and children in attendance, too). By avoiding an open bar, you save a ton of money on hiring a bartender and paying for liquor. In addition to this, you avoid the potential horror stories of someone getting completely smashed and making a scene at your reception, or getting arrested for a DUI afterwards. Offer a bottle of champagne and/or a bottle of wine per table, and leave it at that. You can check around, too, for coupons offered by the local liquor stores. 20% off may not seem like much initially, but if you are purchasing 15 bottles of wine it can make a huge difference in the bill.

Once Grandma and the little ones have gone home after the reception ends, there is no one stopping you from hitting the town afterwards. Get a hotel room downtown, go places within walking distance, and really live it up! Most of your fellow party goers will buy YOU drinks for the celebration anyway, so it’s a win win!!

#9: The cake. wedding-cake-64821287878047ARgX

Again, perspective. You want your wedding cake to be gorgeous and memorable but it is, after all, just a cake. It will get eaten. There is no reason to go to an insanely expensive bakery “specializing” in these cakes. Some of the most amazing cakes I’ve seen are simple, but elegant. They are beautiful because they have gorgeous flower arrangements and toppers on them; not because the cake itself required a huge amount of intricate skill to make. Check around with your local grocers. King Soopers offers amazing wedding cakes that are delicious, beautiful, and a fraction of the price of the professional wedding cakes.

#10: The flowers. bridal-wedding-bouquet

Same tips apply here as for the cake. Your local grocers offer amazing bridal bouquets for a fraction of the cost as a “professional” florist. You may even find that this route saves you not only money, but time and stress as well since many brides flood the florists with business this time of year. This increases the likelihood that your order could get lost, delayed, or mixed up if you go with them. The grocers offer very professional and timely services that often include delivery free of charge.

#11: The music. young-man-violinist

Don’t just automatically hire a DJ. You may well be shocked to find out that DJ’s are often more expensive than actually hiring live musicians (and all DJ’s do is play CDs). There are plenty of talented musicians in your area that do it as a second job, and would take on your wedding for a very reasonable price. Don’t believe me? Go to Gigmasters.com and check out the local talent in your area. If you are having a smaller wedding, keep in mind too that a full band may be overkill for your more intimate venue. A single acoustic guitarist who is carefully chosen, a skilled violinist, or even a two man ensemble may be exactly what you need to bring the day to life. These musicians are often willing to “host” the wedding as well by announcing dances, cake cutting, garter tosses, and the like. Ask around and you may be surprised what you find. Just make sure you find someone reputable that has tons of great references; after all, you really need the guy to show up (and pull it off).

#12: Skip the limo. 296-1241223552ePic

Not only is this a totally unnecessary cost, it can actually throw a wrench into your plans, too. Think about it. If you leave your wedding in a limo, where is the driver going to take you? Once they drop you off, you are now stranded there without a car (unless you have gone through the trouble to plan ahead and have someone drop off a car for you previously..ugh. More stress). Save the money and leave in your own car. This is more fun, anyway, because your friends can decorate your car with flowers, streamers, and window paint. They can’t do this to a limo!

#13: The photographer. 33-1271962906ZmAU

This is one area I will actually advise you not to skimp on. You will only have this wedding once, and the pictures are the best way you will have to really capture and remember it. If you have a friend who is really, really good with photography, see if they will do it for you (but still offer to pay them for their trouble). If not, though, don’t gamble with your wedding photos. Hire someone good. But call a ton of people and get detailed price quotes. Many places only quote you the price of hiring the photographer, and don’t tell you that you have to buy the pictures at an additional cost. So shop around, and know what you are signing up for in advance. Also, see if you can negotiate the price down. It’s worth a shot, and the worst thing that will happen is they will say no. Stay away from the big box places, and opt for one-man businesses instead. Again, these people often do this as a second job and don’t depend on it for their livelihood. It pays to dig around and seek them out (instead of hiring a photographer that costs more than the rest of your wedding combined). As far as video goes, just about anyone can film the wedding for you and do a decent job of it. No need to spend extra money on this one. Ask a friend to do it in return for you buying them dinner or something similar.

#14: The honeymoon. glasses-213156__180

There is no rule stating you must go on a fancy, week long honeymoon right away. In all honesty, you will probably be so exhausted after your wedding day/night that you will be too tired to immediately jump into traveling anyway. Get a nice hotel room for your wedding night, and then have a relaxing day (or two) afterwards at home. Trust me, after all the family in town, the chaos, the planning, the last minute rushing around, and then the excitement of the wedding itself, you are going to be completely worn out. No need to add in the extra stress and expense of travel planning, packing, and all the logistics of a vacation on top on that. Plus you will probably still have family and friends from out of town around that you never get to see, so don’t bail on them while they are here. Enjoy the time with them, and plan a big trip for further down the road. Your sanity and your finances will thank you for it!

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: Smaller, simpler weddings can not only be more cost-effective, but also far more romantic, sacred, and memorable than the bigger blow out variety. You will feel so much better afterwards if you stick to your moderate wedding budget, instead of beginning payments for years to come on something that has long since passed.


Secrets of Choosing Innovative Pet Names

 

There are too many Maxes and Cocoas in the world, OK? There just are. I’m not blaming anyone (In fact, I once owned a Max and a Cocoa…the shame). But come on, people…we can do better than that. We live in a world that is lively and interesting, so there is no reason to give our pets boring and typical names with so many other sources of inspiration out there.

Still staring at that new puppy or kitten in your living room, just waiting for the right name to present itself? Well, this is no small thing. Names last for a lifetime and beyond, so this really is a mission you are on, and nothing less. In my attempt to quell the phenomenon of boring and overused pet names, I have compiled a list of ideas and methods to help you find the most creative, innovative, and absolutely awesome name for that furry little thing. So toil no longer, my friends, and let’s get started…

#1: The first rule of thumb here is to avoid “people” names. No one likes a cat named “Jaime” or a dog named “Bob”. These names just sound weird for animals, and they don’t work. Your pets aren’t people, so don’t name them like they are.

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If you absolutely, positively must take this route, at least choose something that has some character behind it. For example, I once owned a black, female cat named “Jada” (after Jada Pinkett). “Denzel” (as in Washington) might work well for a black male. Just make sure the name you choose isn’t ordinary, and that it makes for a great conversational piece.

#2: download (22) Think of places that matter to you.

In general, states don’t work (“Sit, New Mexico, SIT!”…umm, no). Cities, however, often do. Does your pet look like a “Phoenix”, a “Laramie”, or a “Dallas”? Maybe so. You can go even deeper than that, though. Where were you born? Where did you meet your spouse? Or better yet, where did you get the animal? You can tweak the city names, too, to make them come to life even more. For example, cats acquired in Montana might be well served by names like “Mr. Billings” and “Ms. Missoula”. If you are an international traveler, draw inspiration from that, too. “Cyprus”, “Fiji”, and “Tonga” would be fabulous pet names!

#3: download (21) Spend a few days getting to know your pet.

Then, start brainstorming words that describe his/her noteworthy characteristics. Lively, mean, and sleepy are some of the words that come to mind. But don’t stop there. Insert those words into Thesaurus.com, and see what other options pop up. You might end up with a dog named “Spunky”, or a cat named “Groucho”.

#4: download (23) Stare at your new pet.

What does he/she look like and make you think of? A cookie, a wet mop, or a fancy coffee drink? Take these initial images in your mind and run with them. “Macadamia”, “Swiffer”, and “Latte” are all noteworthy choices. I have to give props to my brother in law here, too, who named his black and white puppy “Tuxedo”. Brilliant! I should also mention that I currently own a cat named “Mocha”, but she was almost a “Muesli” (after the multi-grain cereal that accurately represents her array of brown and white colors).

#5: Still not feeling it? The next place to turn for ideas is movies.

download (24)This avenue provides thousands of ideas. Star Wars alone creates a gigantic list of possibilities! Obi-Wan Kenobe might work well for an animal that appears to be wise and thoughtful (You can call him “Obi” for short), “Yoda” works for any animal with huge ears, and “Vader” (as in Darth) is a great idea for anything black that breathes heavily. Hell, you could even go with “Jedi” or “Saber”. Not into Star Wars? How about Lord of the Rings? “Gollum”, “Gandalf”, and “Frodo” are fabulous names I tell you, simply fabulous! Or why not The Godfather? I would truly be inspired by someone with a dog named “Don Vito Corleone” (“Vito” for short), who possessed traits that were somewhat dark, menacing, and gangster-like. Ok, forget the trilogies for a minute. “Scarlett” and “Rhett”, anyone? Or how about “Two Socks” or “Rocky”? Go to your home collection of movies, and let the inspiration SOAR!! Don’t underestimate Disney movies, either. “Aladdin”, “Jasmine”, and “Bambi” provide innovative name options, as do the seven dwarfs (Bashful, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Doc). You might find that you now have so many great name choices that you have a hard time deciding on only one!

#6: So the movie idea flopped, huh? No worries, I’ve still gotcha covered. Are you into books?

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Think of some of the most famous book characters you know, and begin working with that option. My sister once owned a barn cat named “Catticus Finch” (after Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird“). This may, quite possibly, win as the best pet name I have ever heard, and all simply because my sister loves to read. How about “Pip” from Great Expectations, or “Miss Havisham” for the pet with a weird obsession? Or even “Oliver Twist” for the pet that always wants more food (“Please sir, more soup!”). “Huckleberry” might work well for a blue heeler, or “Owen Meany” for the cat that continually bites and scratches you. Is your dog a perpetual lover? Why not “Romeo”? Go look at your bookshelf and let the creative juices flow!

#7: Are you an outdoor person that plans on taking your dog hiking on a regular basis? Why not draw inspiration from the 14ers or other mountains/trails since your dog will spend a huge portion of his life with you here?

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The mountains “Bross”, “Shavano”, and especially “Sneffels” provide totally awesome and innovative dog name choices. Or even “Denali” and “Mckinley”. Brainstorm it, look up different trail and mountain ranges in the U.S., and find one that fits.

#8: download (2) How about your favorite band?

I’m not saying you should name your cat “Metallica” (well, maybe), but start thinking of ideas that branch off this inspirational tidbit. “Lennon” might work for the pet of a huge Beatles fan, or “Lynyrd” for the scruffy stray dog adopted by the die hard Lynyrd Skynard lover. “Floyd” or “Zeppelin” make for innovative and interesting name choices as well. I actually wanted to name our fat, totally chill, black male cat “Marley” after Bob Marley (but my husband vetoed it). Every time I think of my black cat’s lazy, relaxed sense of being I can’t help but think of the lyrics “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing, is gonna be all right”. Observe Exhibit A (my cat) below:
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His name should be “Marley”. Seriously, am I wrong on this one? (His real name is “Murphy”, in case you are wondering). I did not name him, as his name clearly violates rule #1 of pet naming. It’s ok, though. Mostly we call him “Moo Choo”. Don’t ask. I have no idea.

#9: Do you like beer or wine? An occasional Margarita? Well, why not find inspiration there?

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“Heineken” and “Guiness” make awesome dog names! “Merlot” might work well for a snobby cat, too. Take a gander around the liquor store the next time you are there, and see if inspiration hits.

#10: If all of these pet name ideas have failed you thus far, I have one more concept to throw at you. Think of your pet’s original country of origin. For example, German Shepherds come from Germany, and Shar Pei’s originated in China. Look up standard names for your pet’s respective country of origin, and see what ideas come to mind. “Baldrik” (it means “bold”), or “Baldwin” (it means “brave friend”) might work well for a German Shepard. Or how about “Chao” for the Shar Pei (it means “excellent”)?

So now that you have learned how to find innovative and totally awesome pet name ideas, let’s practice on a few to get you even more ready to name your next new animal:

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What would you name this cat? Pulling from our new-found knowledge, I would have to call him “Yoda”. No, scratch that. He would be “Dumbo”. Yep, that’s the one! Just don’t call this guy something lame like “Whiskers”. He is so much more than that. “Whiskers“. Bleh.

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What would you name this little guy? I am definitely feeling “Merlin” on this one, based on his awesome, scruffy beard. I would never do him the disservice of calling him Max. Or Fido.

And finally, what would you name this dog?

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Actually, let’s see if you learned anything. Add a “comment” in the blog and submit your awesome, innovative name for this dog. “I’m all ears” to hear what you all come up with!!

***Today’s Simple Life Secret Revealed***: It is not hard to come up with amazing, interesting, funny, and different pet names. I expect there will be NO Maxes and/or Cocoas in your futures. Name on, friends. Name on!