Tag Archives: friends

Vehicular Therapy

Something new to me is the peace that comes from the solitude found during a morning commute.

Before kids, I would wake at the last possible minute before dashing through my morning routine and flying out the door and down the road to work.

Four years as a SAHM meant no silence in the car, never a true chance to let my thoughts flow and truly listen to what my body and mind were telling me.

Sure, there were times when I could do some introspection, which lead to one of my best posts of all time.

Sure, I could listen to my audiobooks while the kids entertained themselves in the backseat.

Yes, there were chances to talk with other adults on the phone while I drove.

But to truly seek yourself every morning takes either discipline or forced solitude.  Like my morning commute.

Eight Weeks of Intensive Therapy

I have been at my “new” job for a little over two months.  Since we live in the middle of nowhere, I have a minimum of 35 minutes in the car each morning.

I’ve been training myself to select the day’s outfit and pack my lunch the night before plus set my alarm to give me plenty of time to bathe, dress, paint and coif, eat, and possibly care for a small child that woke too soon.  Most mornings, I am beyond blessed to get out the door without the kids waking and seeing me off.

Any parent who has walked away from a crying child with the guilt of “I’m putting my paycheck before you, little one” knows what it means to leave before they’re even awake.

I take my time because I’ve gifted myself that time.  I climb into my little four-door, four-cylinder car, pull out of the driveway, and get my mind into the zone.  No music or audio books.  No rush where I have anger or panic to focus on.  No one in the car to watch me as I silently run through a gamut of emotions because I’m mentally pulling apart the past few years of my life.

Or, some days, my whole life.

I spend roughly 30 minutes every morning picking through my experiences, thoughts, and emotions like I’m untangling a knot of metal chains that have rusted together.

I practice deep breathing and different levels of prayer and meditation.

I am working on picking myself back up, one mile at a time.

Underrated

One day, taking a long lunch away from my desk and picking up a dear friend from her nearby work, I confessed to her what I had been doing.  It was pouring rain and we had a slightly rushed lunch in a loud, packed Panera.  As we sat in her work’s parking lot, I told her that I had been working through some of my issues during my morning commutes.

She nodded emphatically.  She said she knew what I was talking about, knew how critical that alone time is for her in her busy life.  She agreed with me that vehicular therapy is underrated.

That is why I’m sharing it with you.  You need to know this.  You, who get up in the morning (or evening) to go to work, to spend time away from family and home and friends and an ever-growing to-do list; you, who find yourself wound up and bent out of shape before you make it to your lunch break; you, who wonders what more is there to life or if there’s something wrong with you or why can’t I find the perfect job, perfect car, perfect friend, perfect lover.

You, my dear reader, need to know what a blessing your commute time is.  This is your chance to truly be by yourself and look narrow and deep or wide and shallow at your life, your behaviors, your future.

Embrace your vehicular therapy time.

Personally

I’m working through a year’s worth of grief.  I’m working through a lifetime of pain cause by my mother and almost a decade of issues with my mother-in-law.  I’m working through the drama and bullshit that came about after a lying liar lied about me…and was believed.  I’m working through long-term goals and what my hang ups are.  I’m working through marital issues, mommy guilt, crises in faith, and so much more.

I recommend you do the same.

Because I feel more on the level now than I have in a very long time, even though to an outsider it may look like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Personally, I will tell everyone I encounter about the joys and blessings that come from 30 minutes of silent introspection at least 5 days a week.

Murphy Momentum: Plans and Thoughts

So much change in so little time…

We are still reeling from the changes of the past year.  Our path has been altered so much, yet we are still able to see how we must and can move forward.

After the deaths of three of the most beloved people in our lives, we became inundated with grief…and their stuff.  We accepted furniture and dishes, we inherited a house and property, we have had to reimagine our dreams and redesign our goals, and we now feel confident about this new path we’ve been set upon.

Forward Thinking

All our hopes and dreams seem within grasp now.  It will not be easy.  The steps we see laid out in front of us, the process we’ve created to handle what comes our way, the plans we have developed to see us from this point to the fruition point are all thoughtfully sought and spiritually guided as we rely on our Maker once again.

We have been through hard times, and we have always been surrounded by bountiful blessings.  Now that we recognize them, we see where we have been blessed, we know how to be thankful and less fearful of the future.

Where We are Now

Yesterday morning was greeted with a lot of excitement and a little trepidation as I phoned my new boss to inform her that I would accept her offer of a position.  I will be the Communications Specialist for the local diocesan office.  My “vast skill set” and “impressive education” have landed me my dream job!

We worked hard to get to this point, but this is merely one step.  Much work will still need to be done.

The BHE will be stepping up around the home as he steps out of the traditional role of breadwinner.  Shortly after I got off the phone, he called his boss to deliver his two-weeks’ notice.  The BHE is now a SAHD!

That’s right, folks:  my bearded, hardworking, dedicated, driven, intelligent husband will be caring for our children day in and day out.

But what about the projects?!  We have so many projects between the three properties we now own that, yes, the BHE is going to need some help.

We discussed at length how we must set aside our control-freak natures and accept the assistance of others.  We must tamp down our pride and stubbornness to get ahead by asking our friends, family, and neighbors for help.

Assistance and Accountability

I’ve been working diligently on 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year plans to show us each step of the way to our goals.  I have been plugging projects into a spreadsheet and constantly jotting down ideas that I toss at the BHE and he tosses back at me.  I am researching ballpark figures for what we want to do, where, and when.  We even had a realtor come out to give us some advice.  Yes, folks, we are moving forward like a steam engine, chugging along but aware we need to slow well before the curves.

The first thing I believe we will ask for is help with the children.  When I enter this 8-5 M-F office job, the BHE is going to need someone to rely on a few days a week to care for our babes.  He can’t get work done with two toddlers!  We figured with the Angel starting PreK in the Fall on MWF, it would be best if he was SAHD those days but a friend or neighbor watched the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Evenings and weekends will see me back in my Mommy role when he can get even more work done.

What is that work, you ask.  Well, that’s where the Accountability comes it.

As much as we would like physical help, like people to paint or build or mow or roof or watch the kids or whatever, we also need to be reminded where we are on our path.  It is all well and good if I print up a pretty checklist or create a spreadsheet that we look at from time-to-time, but we need to be reminded to check things off and follow the steps we have laid out.

When I complete my projects list, when I finish those long-term plan sheets, I will post them here for you to see where we are and where we are going.  I keep thinking something cheesy like Friday Facts to share what we’ve completed and learned then Momentum Monday to explain where we hope to go next.

For instance, this week, I’ve built up our inventory on the eBay site and accepted a new job; next week, I will complete my father-in-law’s taxes so we can be (almost) all caught up on the clean-up of his estate and take a day to myself to prepare my body and wardrobe for the return to the workforce.  This week, the BHE made serious progress on finishing the final bedroom upstairs at the big house and made some dough taking a truckload of cans to the recycling center; next week, he will complete that bedroom and order the replacement windows for the little house.

See?  I’ve told you what we are doing.  Now I feel like I’ll be letting you down if we don’t do it.  That’s how this accountability thing works on my end.  On your end, you get to share in our triumphs and pick us up when we falter.  Thank you, dear reader, for agreeing to be part of our village.

That’s What Friends are For

I look forward to not only getting stuff done but getting connected to my village as we complete projects, move forward, and stay on our thoughtfully sought path towards our dream goals.  In return, I will learn more about you so I can find opportunities to assist you where you need it.  Networking is a powerful tool.  Apply it correctly and we all see our goals come to fruition.

Where are you on your path?  Do you need some help getting up and moving forward?  Do you know how you can help others in your village to do so?

Why I Don’t Talk Politics or Religion

I have an opinion.  I have lots of them.  Just like I have a lot of passions and dislikes and feelings and hairs on my head.  There are certain things I just don’t discuss, though, like politics and religion.

Here’s Why

I am 33 years old.  I not only have a formal education but also knowledge gained through experiences and that which I sought out because of my interests.  I consider myself to be above-average intelligence.  I have a husband, children, parents, family, in-laws, a priest, friends, a routine, books, access to the Internet, and so on and so forth.

What I am saying is I am an individual capable of original thought.  I am smart and have varied interests.

What I have learned in 33 years is that most people can say what I’ve just stated, or some variation of it.  Therefore, we all have our childhoods lived, our opinions formed.  Barring crises of faith, most of us aren’t interested in hearing others’ opinions to HAVE OURS SWAYED.

Think About It

Really, now, when was the last time you engaged in a conversation in order to have someone else TELL YOU HOW TO THINK OR FEEL?

I cannot fathom why another adult would think I need him to tell me what to believe.  If he disagrees with the way I believe tax dollars ought to be spent, I am not really open to him telling me I AM WRONG and that I SHOULD believe otherwise.  If she doesn’t think my religion is THE RIGHT ONE, I do not want her to tell me I AM WRONG and that I SHOULD follow a different religion, or that there even is a “right” one.

Seriously, people:  wars are started over this stuff.

So why on earth would I want to ARGUE WITH FRIENDS about it?

I guess I’d rather have friends.

Difference of Opinion

I believe that having a friend or family member with a different opinion or viewpoint is quite healthy SO LONG AS we continue to BE ADULTS and agree to disagree.

Shouting at me that I need to think differently because the Constitution says thus or snidely remarking under your breath that my faith is misplaced because the news has sensationalized the Catholic priests who have done wrong IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE MY OPINION or my beliefs.

No, really.  Think on it.  A difference of opinion is quite healthy and normal; what is neither healthy or normal is attacking another for it.

I respect that your faith is different than mine.  I respect that you have feelings about how this country should be run.  I respect that you are an adult, that you are capable of independent thought, and that you and I are not exactly alike.  In fact, I prefer that; that’s probably why I am friends with you.  I respect all persons for all their differences, whether it be choices of religion or choices of diet or even things that are not choices, like skin color and the demographic in which you were born.

Please respect me in return.

Love and Friendship

I personally feel that discussions regarding religion and politics ought to be kept as such:  discussions.  I want to talk about my feelings (yes, that’s a biggie in my generation) without being concerned of who will be offended or will try to sway my judgements.

But I can’t.  I cannot talk to certain friends or family members regarding politics because it is never just a discussion, a comparison, an enlightenment.  With certain people, it becomes a battle.  They are so set in their opinion and so passionate about what they know and feel that they can only see the point of the conversation as conversion.

They want to convert me to their way of thinking.

How is that either friendship or based in love?  How is believing my opinions are WRONG any sort of open and honest relationship?  How is thinking I MUST CHANGE for you healthy for either of us?*

Well, Maybe I Would Talk Politics and Religion

If you truly want to know what way I’ll vote in November or why I’ve chosen which church I frequent on Sundays, please ask.  I’d love to discuss my faith and feelings WITH OPEN-MINDED ADULTS.  Maybe you have some input or insight.  Maybe you’re looking for input or insight.  Maybe we will both learn something, like that our differences have common ground.  Or that we don’t see eye-to-eye but can respect that.  Or that we have no differences at all and now have someone to openly talk to.

If you just want to attack me, prove me wrong, change my view, shatter my faith, have an argument, or whatever… if you have an agenda, please don’t ask.  Please don’t start that.  Please don’t pick a fight with me if you truly consider me a friend or loved one.

That is neither nice nor respectful.

And you won’t “win.”

Never in all of my years have I ever thought, “Yes, you’re right.  I’m an ignorant idiot who has been WRONG ALL THIS TIME.  Thank goodness you and your aggressive approach to our differences have CHANGED ME into what you want.  I’m so glad you’ve usurped my autonomy.  Thank God you had an agenda. Gracious, you’re a good friend.”

Nope, never thought that.  And if I said it, you heard my thickest sarcasm.  Good for you!

The Facts

I do not feel threatened by your political viewpoints.  I do not feel threatened by your religion or your faith-based choices.  I do not feel threatened by your gender, your sexuality, or how you’ve chosen to present yourself to the world.  I do not feel it is my place to dictate how you live your life, so long as your choices do not cause harm to those I love or myself.

Now, if we could all agree to that, and we could all have thoughtful discussions about our beliefs, viewpoints, knowledge, and differences, there wouldn’t be so many problems in the world.  But I can’t control the world.  I can merely control what I choose to discuss and with whom I discuss those topics.

If you are out to attack my beliefs or change my opinions, I am not going to talk to you about politics or religion.  If you are curious and want to learn, please know that I am curious and want to learn.  But that I am not interested in a sales pitch. I will not further your agenda.

And I certainly don’t want anyone telling me I’M WRONG.

 

*I apologize for those split infinitives.  If you heard me say these out loud, you would understand by vocal inflection how I’m trying to pose these rhetorical questions.  As it is, you’ll just have to muddle through reading those.  Sorry.

Goodbye, Negativity in Me

I actually sat down at the laptop with the intention of writing to get out the negativity in me, to cleanse my mind and my heart of the sickness called “hate” and the illness called “anger” and the disease called “unforgiving”.

Gratitude

But the first thing I did was look up addresses online to complete the thank you notes I’ve had sitting on my desk.  Something about taking the time to write out my gratefulness that these people in my life donated to a great and personal cause, the March of Dimes’ March for Babies that I participate in every spring, got me to a different place in my mind and heart.

I know I have a lot of ugliness I need to get out but right now, I’m grateful for my friends and family as well as the ability I had this morning to gather my healthy family into my reliable vehicle to drive us to church so we could participate in Mass** where we learned much about receiving the Holy Spirit.

I guess learning about that fire put a damper on the one that’s been smoldering, and sometimes raging, within me these past few weeks.

Months?

YEARS?!

One for you, meme for me

I just checked my Facebook on my phone because I can’t ignore that little red indicator* that I have updates.   So I clicked.  And one of the individuals in my life right now that is, let’s say this bluntly, part of the problem actually posted a plain meme that says, “The less you respond to negative people, the more peaceful your life will become.”

My first thought surprised me.  Rather than me thinking it was ironic she posted that, all things in the recent past considered, I thought to myself that she must be thinking of me.  That I’m one of the negative people in her life!!

Let me take a deep breath and ruminate on that one.

image

 

…Ruminating…

Who doesn’t get defensive when there is a finger pointed at them!?  Everything my mind could conjure up to answer my question of how I’ve been a negative impact on others’ lives (particularly hers) had another thought chasing it on how I’ve had a positive impact on others’ lives lately (sadly, not hers).

But that isn’t the point, is it?

This isn’t tit for tat.  This is not a competition between the good and the bad.  I should be making positive impacts on the lives of those I love and those around me without there having been a negative one.

I bitch a lot, sure.  I blow off steam verbally in ways that I hope are meant to be constructive.  There are many times, yes, that my hurt or anger make me lash out and my vocalizing is just plain negative, no frills or resolutions in sight.  I would say on the whole, though, that if I bring up a touchy subject or let out something that is bothering me, it is so I can get to the bottom of the problem and fix it.

For instance, if I go on and on to my father about the issues I’m having with a friend I have known since high school (and therefore he’s met and knows plenty about), it isn’t just to drag him down or blow off steam.  It is because I know he’ll give me a direct answer to my question:  What do I do?  My dad doesn’t give unsolicited advice.  He doesn’t really give advice at all.  He listens and he laughs.  He can see where things are just too darn funny to take seriously.  But if he takes something seriously and gives me advice, you better believe I’m going to listen to it.  Because it isn’t off his cuff or meant to gloss over the issue.  It is a clear view of the situation and how to proceed in a way that’s healthiest for his baby girl (that’s me!) and his grandchildren.

When my father suggests that it is time to wash my hands of the troublesome “friend,” then it is time.

image

Taken from Facebook via Gary Owen.

You are my sunshine

I need to be more conscious of how my words and actions directly affect people.  That is the bottom line here:  I need to pay attention.  I should not be a negative aspect of anyone’s life.  I should not put another in the position of searching for answers or solace that may result in them receiving the advice to wash their hands of me.

I don’t want to be a negative person you have to stop responding to!

I need to get back on my thoughtfully sought path through life.  I need to seek within me that which can not only be positive and grow but also cultivate that same positivism in those around me.

Sure, there are a few in my life right now that I’ve tried and failed to do that with.  But that isn’t for lack of me trying.  Some people are just so mired in their own negativity that you need to walk away from them for both you and them to gain perspective.  Maybe they’ll never see how hurtful and harmful they are; maybe their eyes will open and you’ll have an amazing friend, sister, daughter, whatever again.  Maybe there will be sunshine after the rain.

All I can do is be me:  a happier, healthier me on the lookout for ways I can help, even if it is just by setting a good example.  I need to be the sunshine to their rain, and I should shine my light elsewhere when their clouds threaten to overtake me as well.

If I can’t help their lives to be more peaceful, the least I can do is help mine to be.

image

A sweet card from a good friend.

 

* Yes, I know I can turn off the notifications.  I have.  Really.  Go into my settings and you’ll see that I’ve turned off the option that seemingly can’t be turned off.

** I wrote this on Pentecostal Sunday, so forgive me for posting it in the middle of the week.

 

Why I Reenact, the short version

I met my husband over a decade ago at a reenactment at Fort Ouiatenon at the annual Feast of the Hunters’ Moon.  Now, a handful of weekends a year, we load up our SUV and trailer, drive to various forts and historic sites, and dress in funny clothes to represent life during the American Revolution.

Why On Earth?

You know, this isn’t the easiest hobby a girl could go for.  The clothes need to be researched and made by hand (a lot of the obvious stitching ought to be hand-sewn, even).  The gear includes very rustic implements like canvas wedge tents held up by wood poles, cooking gear made of cast iron, bowls and spoons made from wood, candles in lanterns, and wool cloaks for cold events.

It isn’t the cheapest hobby, either.  The BHE is a member of the 42nd Royal Highlanders in 1776, which means he wears a red wool coat with lacing and metal buttons, a pretty intricate garment that cost us over $500.  Just the coat.  That he wears maybe 4 times a years.  That gets tossed into a trunk, hauled around the Midwest, worn in all sorts of weather and around campfires, gunpowder, and beer.

Why, Indeed

Our friends do this.  Our family does this.  We as a family essentially go camping with over a hundred of our (crazy) friends over 3- and 4-day weekends throughout the summer and fall.

This is hard work requiring research and sleeping on the cold ground as well as marching with military precision and keep tiny tots away from things that are hot, pointing, or go BANG.

Mommy and Clare at Vincnees

But we do it as a family with “family” and that makes all the difference.

Plus, Y’know, Education

We are educational non-profit living historians of life during the American Revolution.*  I know members of our reenacting unit that are well-versed in British military lifestyle of the 1770s.  I have a very near and dear friend who could answer any question you have about fabric, styles, shoes and hats, and the life of a woman in the American Colonies.  There is a man in our group that has all the answers when it comes to cooking over a campfire with period-correct pots and utensils. Group Massac

This is what we do.

Not to Mention All the Fun

What we also do is party.  These are our good friends that live far and wide, and we really only see them on these handful of weekends.  Personally, we have two coolers that go to each event:  food and beer.

That’s right, folks:  we drink.  We hoot and holler.  We bring out every instrument you can think of (and plenty you’ve never heard of) to have a good time all weekend long… especially after “gates close” and the spectators go home.

Woodsmoke and Laundry

It is a lot of work:  years of collecting the gear – tents, clothing, uniforms, cookware, blankets, etc – so consider the work well worth it.  It is a lifetime of enjoyment.  It is a lifestyle of knowledge and fun.  It isn’t for everyone.

But if you like the smell of woodsmoke, if you enjoy little sleep and lots of laughter, if you don’t mind packing to travel back in time, and if you can handle the crazy laundry when you get home, this is for you.

There are plenty of us who do this strange hobby.  There are different time periods to choose from, even.  Most everyone I know that reenacts came into it by being born into it or through a family member or friend who either was born into it or brought by a family member or friend.  It isn’t the easiest “club” to recruit members into, so if you are interested, ask around.

Chances are you know somebody who can lend you some funny clothes and knows someone with an extra tent.  Most likely, you show some interest in this, you’ll find yourself in buckle shoes and a canvas tent over Memorial Day weekend.

Start asking around.

You Know You Wanna

Ancient Vincennes

*Our unit belongs to a couple different umbrella organizations that represent slightly different time periods.  Our main one is the North West Territory Alliance and information about them can be found here:  NWTA.  I’d like to point out that I know a lot of the pretty people featured in the photos on this website.

Happy birthday (to me)! How we celebrated my 32 years for under 20 bucks

FREE STUFF!

Did I get your attention with that?  I know that catches my eye.  I like FREE stuff.  Not just any ol’ stuff but food and beverages and clothes that I like… for FREE.

Yes, I treated myself for $4.32. Then spent about $9 to cover what the coupons didn’t.  That isn’t technically FREE but this is what I got:  a fancy coffee from Starbucks, a tasty pastry from Panera, a regular sized bowl of noodles from Noodles & Co. plus a drink, a handful of cute things made from fabric from JC Penney, and chocolates from CVS.  If you count what I spent two days before at Coldstone Creamery, the total spent (not including gas) was $18.57.

And you can do it too!

Follow me, and you’ll get some wonderful goodies for yourself on your birthday.

First, think of what you really like.  Me?  I’m a big fan of food.  Any kind of food will do but the best kind of food is FREE food.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Let’s see… I like Asian foods and drinks, I’m a sucker for desserts and sweets of all kinds, I love wine, I enjoy a good cup of frilly coffee, I’m a big fan of shopping for new clothes, I like good barbeque, I want to spend more time with my husband and friends, and I’d love for someone else to regularly clean my house.

Sadly, no one turned up to clean for me.

Next, pinpoint specific places and people that can deliver what you really like.  Noodles & Co. makes a dish they call Japanese Pan Noodles that I prefer to get with tofu.  Starbucks makes a great caramel macchiato.  Panera has an assortment of pastries while Coldstone Creamery has a million ways for me to enjoy ice cream.  Penney’s is my go-to place for new clothes as I have a store credit card there.  Sadly, there isn’t a decent bbq place under an hour’s drive from where I live.  As for my friends, family, and clean house… well, we’ll tackle those desires another day.

Then, go to the websites of your favorite restaurants, stores, cosmetic products, foods, et cetera.  Just about everything out there has a website and the majority of them have clubs or newsletters or fan lists you can sign up for.  Go ahead, sign up!  See what goodies you get!

Examples (FREE stuff and Almost-FREE stuff):

Noodles & Co. has an eclub, where you sign up for their Noodlegrams. For my birthday, they sent me an email with a coupon for a FREE regular-sized bowl of my choice.  (I chose to add a drink so paid two bucks and change for food and a refillable beverage, which fed and hydrated both myself and Angel Baby.)

I now have a My Starbucks Rewards card that led to me being emailed a coupon for a FREE regular coffee or tea.  Now, this is where things didn’t go the way I planned.  I needed to go to Target while in town and our Target has a Starbucks in it.  Sadly, the emailed coupon from my rewards card was not accepted at the Target’s Starbucks; something about how the ones in stores are actually Target and the code to be scanned could only be scanned at a free-standing location.  That’s cool, though, because on this particular Target trip, I had a coupon from a previous trip where I’d get $1.50 off one of the specialty drinks.  Since I got the littlest size (who the eff named the sizes at Starbucks anyway?!), I only paid two and change for a fancy-schmancy caramel macchiato.  I got my frilly coffee for Almost-FREE.

Before a few weeks ago, I didn’t have a My Panera Rewards membership.  I signed up and immediately got a coupon for a FREE pastry.  That’s it.  It didn’t have to do with my birthday or anything. But check this out:  I had the option to “donate” my treat.  They have this aspect to their program that once you earn something with your points or if you don’t want that first FREE pastry, you can give it back to them to give to someone in need.  How’s THAT for warm fuzzies?

I’ve had a JCPenney credit card as long as I can remember.  Some years, I use it for every last item of clothing, linen, kitchen gadget, et cetera; other years, I won’t touch it once in efforts to pay it off.  (I have a love-hate relationship with credit cards.)  No matter what I spend, every December, I get a coupon for $10-15.  This year, I received two coupons in a mailer (YES!  Snail mail!):  one was FREE shipping on anything to anywhere; the other was $15 off a single item of $15 or more.*  So, like, FREE money?  Thank you, Penneys!  Don’t hold me to this but I’m pretty sure last year I received a mailed coupon for $10 to be used however, no fine print about it being on one thing costing at least $10.

The BHE and I enjoy the Jack Daniels menu at TGI Fridays.  As Stripes club members, we had points plus I received an emailed coupon for my birthday to get a FREE appetizer.  Dinner would have been Almost-FREE, but Angel Baby wasn’t game for behaving in a busy restaurant, so we skipped that.  But, hey, we could’ve had FREE food, leading to a cheap dinner, on my birthday.

I’ve also joined the eclub at Coldstone Creamery so got a coupon for my birthday from them as well.  In my email, I got an offer for BOGO FREE ice cream.  After my father bought us dinner a couple days before my birthday, we dropped into the Coldstone that was just a mile up the road and spent about $4 for waaaay tooooo much ice cream (two of the medium-sized bowls) which we split between the BHE, Angel Baby, and myself.**

Finally, you can have a great day on your birthday for Almost-FREE!  Just do a little clickity clackity on your computer (I did most of mine from my Windows OS phone), gather your coupons (I had others that had been piling up, some for FREE goodies and some were just money off or BOGO—that’s how I got $6 worth of chocolate for $1.98), and head to town. Maybe call a couple friends or plan an evening with your spouse.

Ta-dah!  A cheap and easy birthday!

The bonus:  Angel Baby was such a easy doll all day.  It was like she knew the best present to give me was awesome behavior.  Not that she’s a difficult child by any means; it was just nice that she napped when I needed her to and happily went along with everything I did.

*I needed panties.  Ever since I had Angel Baby, my body has gone through some weird transformations.  I don’t fit the underwear from before nor the ones from during pregnancy.  Anyway, JCP had some great deals like 5 panties for $25… but that isn’t a “single item of $15 or more.”  Grr.  I found in the baby section 4 long-sleeved onesies as one item for $16.99 on sale plus got a few pairs of panties.  My total was around seven bucks.

**Don’t discount FREE meals purchased by someone else.  I’m not suggesting you take advantage of anyone.  Your friends and family love you, they offer to buy you lunch or dinner, you say yes and enjoy a meal and their company, and you got something for FREE.  Be grateful, but don’t abuse it.  😉  I got FREE dinner out of my father, and a couple girlfriends had bought lunch for Angel Baby and myself a few weeks before.  I’m grateful for their company as well as the food. Thanks again, ladies!

Cramming It All In (Surviving the Holidays series, pt. 2)

People think I’m crazy.  I hear it every time I mention our yearly Christmas party… and what happened at the previous ones.

The first was in 2011; it fell on my 29th birthday.  (Legit, 29; not like I’m trying to avoid 30.)  We had owned our house for about a year-and-a-half, all 3500+ square feet of it.  That night, we turned our creepy-ass basement into a bar to rival your favorite pub.  We had over 70 guests come out for the craziness and at least 30 crash overnight.  It was a party to remember!  Except, well, I couldn’t.  There’s an ugly rumor that I had to take a nap prior to the start of the party because I’d gotten overly schnockered with the early arriving guests.  That ugly rumor is true.

Twenty-Nine and Full of Wine

Twenty-Nine, Full of Wine

My house was trashed.  One darling overnight guest had a fit in the morning over the “disgusting PIGS” that had trampled through my kitchen.  She was trying to tidy the mess so it wouldn’t be overwhelming for me.  Luckily, I have friends like that.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

See, crazy-huge-drunk-as-a-skunk-in-the-snow holiday parties sound like a nightmare to many people.  Well, those who might be hosting.  Guests tend to think these things are darn good ideas!  As I host, I do as well.  Again, people think I’m crazy.

It is all about learning how to smile.  So many people get wrapped up the stress of the holidays, the pressure to buy the best gifts and cook the best dinner and have the best decorations and make sure Every. Single. Person is the happiest they could possibly be because you are the best.

Get over yourself.  You aren’t the best because you can’t be.  You’re human.  You can be your best but not if you’re distressed over every last little detail for the solid month (at minimum) that covers “the holidays.”

Why on earth do three or four days (for us:  Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve) have to take up a solid month?  Thanks for asking.  I’ll address that here.  See, the BHE and I are both children of divorced parents.  We both have siblings.  My paternal grandparents are still living.  He has coworkers he considers friends, and I have friends from two former jobs.  Also, I still have a relationship with my ex-stepfather.  Don’t forget our friends, his friends, and my friends; that’s three different but sometimes overlapping groups.  Gah!  That means we have many people, many families, many locales, and many miles to travel to cover everyone we love.

Dammit all, Crammit all!

Or we host a great big shindig at our house and hope to see them all in one fell swoop.  (Or, should I say, swell foop?)

“Why, Sarah?  Why on earth would you invite over 70 people into your home?  What are you thinking?  And how could you do it year after year?”

Ahem.  Please reread the opening line of this post.

Now you’re wondering how in the world one couple hosts such a large party every year.  And now they have a toddler.  And only one income!  Well, my friends, keep reading.

Learning How to Smile

The first rule of party-throwing is that you must LET IT GO.  Whatever preconceived notions you have are wrong.  Whatever idyllic scene you have in your mind is so far from reality that you really ought to stop thinking and start drinking.  This isn’t a movie.  This is life.  You aren’t reading a Victorian novel.  This is life.  You can’t have the perfectly decorated tree, the gorgeous spread of beautifully displayed homemade food, the children who smile up until bedtime when they quietly shuffle off to their beds, the guests who wipe their feet at the door… nope.  Can’t have it.  This is life.

You have to learn to let go of what you really want at the same time you have to let go of the responsibilities and stressors that come along with party-throwing.  Realistically, you cannot do it all.  I tried that once.  I like to refer to that attempt as My Wedding.  Let’s discuss THAT another time, shall we?

My "ugh" face, ready for more wine

My “ugh” face, ready for more wine

Back on track here, you want to throw an awesome party that you enjoy so you must recognize that you cannot have negative stressors—you can’t be under distress.  Not only will you not enjoy the fruits of your labors, your guests will see and feel your stress and either (a) feel guilty for attending a party whereby making you work harder or (b) feel like your sour-puss behavior ruined said party and wonder why you threw it in the first place.

Here’s what I have learned:

You cannot do it all.  Look around and decide what it is you must do.  This is typically shit you do anyway:  vacuum the rugs, dust the mantle, put up your tree and maybe other decorations, make the beds (but with guests in mind), and wipe the toilet seats.

I use vinegar water (1:1) to clean everything as it is a natural disintectant.

I use vinegar water (1:1) to clean everything as it is a natural disinfectant.

Send out invites as cheaply as possible.  One year, since we send out a Christmas card to everyone we know each holiday season, I included little strips of red and green paper that had basic party info on it:  date, time, location, BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything:  drink, mug*, bedding, clothes, toiletries, maybe your favorite coffee creamer, etc).  The money was being spent on the photocards and postage anyway. This year, I created a Facebook “event” and also sent out a mass email since not everyone we know is on FB.  For those who aren’t online at all?  I bet you never even thought of this:  We call them!  Of course, that’s like all of three people, but whatevs.

Make it clear you are not providing food and drinks.  Yep, you read that right.  Go ahead, read it again.  This isn’t a full-service gala at the Ritz or whatever.  This is a big ass party at your house.  Hell, it is YOUR HOUSE.  You have to clean before AND AFTER.  Yes, we have had to use a floor squeegee for the “after” a couple times.  This is a big deal.  Your guests know this and appreciate this.  It isn’t so far out of bounds to ask them to bring drinks to share or a casserole or a bag of chips or a cooler of “drink ice” or plastic cups or paper plates or even toilet paper.  It really is ok to ask for these things.  Almost all of your invitees will agree this is totally acceptable hosting behavior.  Those that don’t can suck it.

Enlist your besties to come early and stay late.  I had two lovely ladies show up two days before our first party not only to decorate BUT WITH DECORATIONS.  I shit you not; they brought the decorations and hung them.  I just had to take them down and return them later.  Every party we’ve ever thrown has included a clean-up bit.  People naturally pick up after themselves (particularly in the light of day).  Those who don’t stay overnight get out of it, but those who are here for breakfast automatically chip in.  They gather trash, sweep the main areas, rinse bottles and cans, etc.  Our second Christmas party included various bins for separating recyclables… and people did!  Don’t underestimate your friends.

Choose to enjoy your holidays!  Try to recognize your stressors and eliminate the ones you are in control of.  You can’t control the weather.  You can control your reaction to it.  You can’t control the mud and slush getting tracked into your house.  You can remember that your floors are meant to be walked on and will be cleaned in good time.  All in good time.  Deep breath!

Merry Christmas!

Borrowed from http://www.frammentiarte.it/. Google Image Search terms "Hogarth+tavern"

Borrowed from http://www.frammentiarte.it/.
Google Image Search terms “Hogarth+tavern”

*mug= The majority of our friends tend to go to all social gatherings with an 18th-century-style ceramic or pewter mug.  See, the largest portion of our social circle is from the group of people with whom we reenact.  THAT is a series of posts in and of itself, so stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought to learn more about our crazy lifestyle and the strange steps we take on this path through life.