My 12 New Things

Friday, December 17, 2010

Obama, Sex Tape, Twitter, Oh My!

If you follow my blog or have ever met me or my family, you'll already know that we're not a scandalous group. I'm pretty conservative. My parents are uber conservative. We're all good Christian folk.

Yet, my dad suggested I make a sex tape with President Obama. Sort of.

Let me explain this sordid suggestion. One night on the phone with my dad (my trusted advisor and a key strategist in my life), I was lamenting that it's hard to keep up the day job, figure out who I want to be when I grow up, handle normal daily life like making sure we have groceries in the refrigerator and that my kid has clean socks, on top of trying to pursue writing projects. I have a dream of being a fancy writer someday, with actual published work.

While my dad empathized with my struggle he told me that sometimes you have to just make time for it all if it's something you really want to do. My parents are the hardest working people I know, usually juggling multiple ventures at the same time and burning the candle at both ends to get it all done. As a freelance author for several magazines, my dad went on to say, "You know, sometimes it doesn't hurt to make a name for yourself." 

My dad went on to reference a controversial post-WWII article he had read years ago in which the writer made a bold statement that the men were coming home from the war to ugly women and that these women should be more appreciative of what their men had just gone through by trying harder on their appearance(s). (I'm paraphrasing). This bold article caused quite a stir, but the writer went on to have a successful career as he'd created a following with his attention-grabbing (albeit incredibly rude) headline.

When it comes to my parents, I like a little shock value every now and then just for giggles. So, thinking of all the starlets that have become instant brands with the ability to peddle oodles of merchandise, I said, "Are you telling me I need to release a sex tape to gain some publicity for my writing, Dad?" I expected him to say something to the effect of that not being a very Christian thing to do and that I need to not be so crass.

"Well," my dad calmly assessed, "it would have to be with Obama or somebody of that level to really make headlines." After I picked my jaw off the floor, I laughed uncontrollably for a good two minutes.

This conversation happened weeks ago and I have told virtually every one of my friends this story who have all concurred that it was an ironically hysterical topic to have discussed at all, but I wavered back and forth as to whether I should post it on my blog. What if my boss or a potential employer someday stumbles across this and reads about my Christian devotional book in one post and discussion of an Obama sex tape in the next?

Surely that would come back to impact me negatively. At the very least I may come off as an imbalanced or confused individual. That, and obviously creating controversy just for attention is rather cheap and not something I would advocate for. I have my morals and all, you know.

Then, today I discovered something shocking and decided I'd just throw caution to the wind and put it all out there for fun.

President Obama follows me on Twitter. You read that right. Forty-Fourth President of the United States Barack Obama (or to be technical in Twitter-speak @BarackObama) follows ME on Twitter.

Granted, he is (or more likely his staff are) following 707,803 other people too. BUT... he has 6,117,797 followers, i.e. he's not following everybody. I think that might mean I'm cool. Cool enough to follow on Twitter. By the way, you should follow me on Twitter- @ShannahG....

Upon realizing that all of my tweets are listed on the Presidential Twitter page, I instantly became giddy with my new political influence and began thinking of all of the fun things I could send my pal Barack ("President Obama" seems so formal now that I know we're Twitter friends) via Direct Message, a privilege reserved only for those who follow and are followed alike by someone on Twitter.

(For those of you that aren't familiar with Twitter, it can be one-way communication when you follow someone you don't know, such as celebrities and other public figures. For example, I follow Ashton Kutcher. I can see everything he posts, but what I post doesn't show up on his feed because he doesn't follow me. I also don't have access to send Ashton a Direct Message since he doesn't follow me. You follow?)

Shortly after making this monumental (and life changing, I'm sure) discovery, some coworkers took me to lunch for an early birthday celebration (the big 3-0 takes effect tomorrow. Eek). When they told me they were picking up the check, I feigned discomfort, explaining, "I feel bad letting you do that now that I have political influence." In the car on the way to the restaurant, a coworker's cell phone rang. I asked if the person on the phone had been informed yet of my political influence. In the bathroom right before lunch, I informed another coworker that I would need to start thinking of others more now that I have political influence.

I promise I won't mention my political influence for at least another few hours or so.

I called my dad a little while ago to ask if he would disown me if I link him to a blog posting with "Obama Sex Tape." He didn't answer the phone, so I guess it's consent by default.

If you're a future potential employer, please know that I'm not deranged. I don't secretly want to make a sex tape with President Obama and I am a perfectly intelligent and balanced individual.

Mrs. Obama, if you're manning the Twitter account tonight and see this, please forgive me. I have an unnamed disorder that makes me sometimes think I'm funny when I'm not. This is especially true if you don't think this is funny. If you do think this is funny, I take back the disorder claim and take full ownership.

*Note- Upon further investigation it doesn't seem as though there is actual criteria that must be met in order to make you eligible for @BarackObama to follow you on Twitter. 

Some user names and self proclaimed descriptions of the other 707,803: 
Tootie 1955 Mental retardation professional, happily married to the love of my life, lover, grandmother of 4 and mom to 1 min. wiener dog. 
Steve_Bebe Always bored
UnderOathAngel bipolar hippie
Zac420 likes to smoke

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Thing #12- November 2010- Just Be

I am not bendy. I haven't won awards in the coordination and balance department. 

This month I decided I should take up yoga. I've not had too much experience with this, though I did try a DVD once at home several years ago and somehow managed to mess up my shoulder for a few days. Groupon had a great deal on yoga classes recently, so I thought it would be a good November New Thing. (Yes, I know it's December. Cut me some slack). If you're just tuning in, this year I have vowed to do one new thing a month to get me out of my comfort zone and remember to actually do interesting things with my life. Read the beginning of my story here- My 12 New Things. 

I hadn't put a lot of thought into my impending yoga experience and I didn't even consult Wikipedia on the topic before leaving my house this morning, which is what I usually do. My game plan was to sit in the back row and muddle my way through the Yoga 101 class and then decide later if I wanted to do more than one class. 

I absolutely loved it. But, not at first. 

I walked in slightly late and the studio was warm, dark and lit up with candles and low, relaxing music was playing. I could have sworn I was in the womb, it was so cozy.  I rolled out my mat and sat the way I saw others sitting. 

I instantly questioned my pants and underwear choice. The yoga studio's website suggested loose but not baggy pants. I thought I had made an appropriate choice- what I was wearing were called yoga pants after all. But as I sat and then followed the instructor into various poses, all I could think about was if my crack was showing. Then, as we moved from the child's pose to the downward dog I wondered if my thong was showing. Next I contemplated if it was better to show crack or thong. I was still pondering this when new thoughts interrupted my crack/ thong thoughts, "Holy crap.... this is kind of hard." 

I always wondered how yoga fit into a fitness routine, but now I see how the poses really strengthen your body and am still sore to prove it. My instructor was a beautiful brunette named Ruthanne who had the body and grace of a dancer. During one particularly difficult pose, she came over and showed me where to put my arms and legs, kindly saying, "You're in kind of a complicated game of Twister, aren't you?! Sorry!" She was apologizing to ME because I wasn't coordinated enough to figure out what it was she was telling me to do. Where was the humiliation I was expecting that had been so prominent during my skiing and ice skating experiences?! I instantly fell in love with Ruthanne the yoga instructor. 

Throughout the 90 minute class Ruthanne softly quoted mantras such as, "Just be" and "Whatever is causing you tension right now- acknowledge it and let it go." At the end of the class, she led us in a relaxation exercise. I swear it was like being tucked in for naptime at pre-school. We were laying on our backs, focusing on clearing our minds, palms up with lavender satchels over our eyes. Ruthanne even laid blankets over each of us. It was heavenly. 

I left my yoga class feeling like I could, in fact, "just be." I seem to always be focusing on accomplishing, achieving, doing, or charting out my plan for the future. When I'm not focusing on those things, I'm focusing on who I'm not, what I'm not good at and who I'd like to be. On the way to my yoga class this morning, I was even thinking of an alter ego of myself, what she would be like and how she could help give me inspiration. This was probably because of the movie I watched last night. The nerdy boy in Youth in Revolt had a flashy, irreverent bad-boy alter ego  named Francois who helped him be his inner bada$$.Granted, he landed in juvie for it, but nonetheless it helped him accomplish his goals. Even Beyonce has an alter ego named Sasha Fierce. (I think this is funny because some people probably fantasize their alter egos as Beyonce or maybe since what they're seeing is Beyonce's alter ego, their alter ego is actually her alter ego...). 

Back to me. 

My alter ego would be Chantel- the name I had chosen to go by in my high school French class. (We all had to choose names, I didn't just randomly insist on being called Chantel.). 

Chantel would be irreverent as all alter egos are. She would be naturally and effortlessly thin but with the discipline to be a marathon-running vegan. Chantel would be witty and intellectual with perfect poise and spend her weekends hang gliding, flying her helicopter, and feeding the homeless. All things in Chantel's house would be in perfect order and her child(ren) would always be well groomed, precocious and polite. Chantel would conscientiously buy the most thoughtful gifts and actually get them to the recipients well before the date of whatever celebration was in order. Her house would always be clean and without a single thing out of place. Chantel would have it all together, but she wouldn't concern herself with what others thought about her perfection. 

I thought through all of this on my drive to my yoga class, thinking that having some sort of fantasy avatar would help me focus on actually becoming that person. During my yoga class, though, I decided to give the idea of "Just be" a whirl. It is incredibly exhausting to continuously think about how I could be better, always be in control and fix all problems around me. I decided today that I don't have to. 

Earlier this week I read something that further affirms this for me. I was given a daily devotional book called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I found this to be very helpful because when I pray (sporadically, as you might guess, with an increased frequency when I'm struggling), I tend to pray in strategy and ask for step by step things to work out in a certain way by certain dates. You've probably already guessed that this isn't generally effective.

The Jesus Calling devotional for November 30 says:

Problems are a part of life. They are inescapable, woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking. Not only does this habit frustrate you, it also distances you from me.

Do not let fixing things be your top priority. You are ever so limited in your capacity to correct all that is wrong in the world around you. Don’t weigh yourself down with the responsibilities that are not your own. Instead, make your relationship with Me your primary concern. Talk with Me about whatever is on your mind, seeking My perspective on the situation. Rather than trying to fix everything that comes to your attention, ask Me to show you what is truly important. Remember that you are en route to heaven, and let your problems fade in the Light of eternity. 
Psalm 32:8, Luke 10:41-42, Philippians 3:20-21

Given that passage and my yoga experience, I am going to give myself permission to "just be." I'm learning that I can only do what is within my control and even some things within my control aren't going to go as planned. I need to be okay with that and I will be. 

I'm also looking forward to my next 5 yoga classes. My Groupon was for 5 classes and when I got there, the chick told me the first class is always free. Holla! 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Misfortune Cookies

It's been one of those days, so when I got home it seemed like a good idea to binge on fortune cookies leftover from the last time we ordered Chinese food.

Here are my fortunes, with my editorial comments in italics:

  • Your qualities overshadow your weaknesses. I had been worried about that. 
  • Your hard work is about to pay off. Bring it. 
  • You will make a change for the better within the year. By the end of THIS year? As in a few weeks from now? Holla!  
  • An unexpected visitor will bring you good blessings. Let me know when you're coming and I'll have refreshments ready. 
Because I wanted to know if there are ever negative sayings in fortune cookies, I googled it and came up with these "misfortunes:"
  • The words "watoo-owan-koha" will bring bad luck and premature death to all who read them. 
  • You regard free speech not as a right, but a never-ending obligation.
  • You have a big future in food service. 
  • Act natural. Don't turn around. 
  • If you live a long life, it will be a remarkable testament to your friends' and relatives' self control. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

November New Thing Coming Up

I'm a little behind on my November New Thing. It will take place at 9:00am on Saturday morning and I'm hoping I don't hurt myself. That seems to be a common theme of mine...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who do you think you are?

A friend bought me the book, "The Truth About You" by Marcus Buckingham. It comes with a little notepad that you fill in things that you love doing and things that you loathe doing on a day-to-day basis. The idea is that you will become more aware of who you are, what your strengths and interests are and can become better at applying those things in your life if you're aware of them. 

Tonight my friend and I shared what we had in our memo pads. Just for giggles, here's some of what I had down... 

 I felt strong when: 
  • I put my thoughts together and connected a few ideas from my perspective on life for my blog. I love to write and see all my thoughts come together. 
  • I was involved in a meeting in which I was able to provide focus and direction for the conversation to end with follow up steps of who's doing what by when. 
  • I worked with a direct report on creating strategy and an action plan for an idea. We were able to work together to prioritize the action steps and move forward proactively at the end of the conversation. 
  • I led my department meeting and was able to offer solutions and/or give feedback on issues and relate it/ prioritize it back to overall organizational strategy. 
  • I negotiated terms of the publication of a book we commissioned- discussed the concept, the audience, the strategy in which to approach the project and determined next steps. 
General interests and tendencies: 
I like to be alone with my thoughts and thoroughly analyze whatever it is I'm thinking about. I like to come to a conclusion of whatever it is that I'm pondering and can get lost inside my own head for hours. I also like to be alone with a book. I enjoy being with people that I'm close to or really comfortable with. I don't like being around people all the time- I feel like I'm sacrificing something. I recharge myself with quiet time. 

I like to see (and make) things happen. I like forward movement at all times. If I don't have a focused goal on where I'm going in my life, I get into a deep funk. 

I like a finished project/ product or otherwise have a tangible sense of forward movement. I like accomplishment. 

I like to think about the big picture and strategize all angles involving the big picture. I don't like to get into granular details. I prefer others do that. 

I love to learn. I love to read, primarily nonfiction but enjoy some escapism in a novel (chick lit sometimes). I'm infatuated with libraries and anxiously want to read every book on the shelves. I want to just absorb all of the knowledge that the pages contain. I love the democracy of knowledge in this way. Regardless of how much money I do or don't have, I can become knowledgeable on any given subject. 

I like to travel and am exhilarated and in awe of the world. I love maps and studying them in the most minute detail, thinking about the things that happen on that dot on the map, who the people are and what they're like. I don't always get around to traveling, though as I tend to be a little reserved/ conservative and rarely actually get around to it. I think it mostly has to do with my frugal nature. I am pretty utilitarian in most aspects of my life.

I like to see a return on my investment of things that I put my time into. I think this is why I hate cleaning the house and preparing meals- I don't like cyclical tasks. 

Here are a few tools that I've found to be really helpful in determining my strengths and what/ how I should spend my time: 
The idea is that by spending most of your time in activities that make you feel strong, you'll excel even more in all aspects of your life. 

So, who are you? What do you like to spend your time doing? 

What are your strengths and how are you going to use them? 

Are you, today, the person you want to be? 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blades of Glory- New Thing #11

Tonight I went ice skating for the first time in my life as my New Thing for October. (Of course I know that it is actually November 2, but it will just have to do. Besides, I made these rules; I can bend them if need be).

If you'll remember from my first skiing adventure last December, I'm not coordinated in any stretch of the imagination. Nor am I fond of PDAs- public displays of awkwardness, that is.

A friend told me about a nearby ice rink that was having a free community skate lesson. She had me at "free." I also thought it might be fun. That's the mistake I make every month with these New Adventures of mine. : )

Before I headed to the lesson, I thought I should probably know a little something about ice skating. I did what I always to when I need to know something- I googled it. Wikipedia is a beautiful thing.

I read through the physical mechanics of ice skating, as well as the dangers. According to Wikipedia, "The primary danger in ice skating is falling on the ice." Shocker. Wikipedia also informed me of the dangers of fatality if I fail to wear a helmet. There's no way I'm wearing a helmet. I choose death over that humiliation.

Wikipedia went on to say that "the second, and more serious, danger, is falling through the ice into the freezing water underneath." At least that's not a possibility in an indoor rink. I summoned my courage and told myself that ice skating will be a piece of cake. But just in case, I prayed that I wouldn't run into anyone I know at the ice rink. I prefer anonymity in the midst of impending humiliation.

As the ice rink is fairly new to the neighborhood and I was attending a free community lesson, I had plenty of non-experienced skaters to hang out with. A couple of four year olds and I clung to the side of the rink near the entry way for a little while.

I slowly made my way toward the adult lesson area- on the opposite end of the rink as where I entered and thought to myself how cruel that was. They should stick the three year olds at the far end of the rink. If they fall, they're closer to the ground.

Upon my arrival to the adult group, I unnecessarily announced that I'd never been on skates in my life. Heather, my instructor for the evening, proved to be the most patient and kind person I've ever met in my life. She instructed me to penguin march across the rink. I didn't ask if this was a technical term, but I assumed it was. She assisted me back and forth and then I trekked out on my own. This went on for quite a while. Then, with the help of several kind-hearted twelve year olds- Darcy and Tracy- I "swizzled" (technical skating term) backwards back and forth across the rink. They were very sweet and told me how well I was doing- "You've got it!" (I think they must teach this line to ice skating instructors in their instruction of how to instruct ice skating. I heard it a lot and am fairly certain I didn't ever "have it").

At their first opportunity, Darcy and Tracy ditched me. I didn't really blame them. I went back to penguin marching on my own.

Forty five minutes later, a whistle blew and Free Skate Time was announced. Much to my chagrin, I realized that if I intended on ever getting out of the rink, I would have to skate (I use that term loosely) with the flow of the crowd three quarters of the way around the rink to get back to the entrance/ exit. I got started and after what felt like 20 minutes, I finally made it. I had survived my ice skating experience and I didn't even need a helmet.

My ice skating experience was actually pretty similar to my skiing experience- both involved uncomfortable (and rented) footwear, precocious toddlers zipped by me in both experiences, and I hobbled a lot.

One big, huge, gargantuan difference between my ice skating and skiing experiences- I didn't fall! The crowning achievement of my ice skating adventure was that I didn't fall once!

I (sort of) had a great time learning how to ice skate and am considering taking some ongoing lessons. I like the idea of possibly being proficient enough to one day take my daughter on an ice skating excursion. And lucky for me, dignity is a fairly renewable resource. As with my skiing experience, my dignity returned shortly after returning my rented footwear.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Staying Off the Pole

I don't have an October New Thing just yet and the month is drawing to a quick close. As my southern friends say, "I'm in a pickle, yah'll."

In my pursuit for finding a New Things to do every month (for my 12 New Things project this year), I joined Groupon a few weeks ago. I mentioned this website in my post, Strategies for Saving Oodles of Money a while back, though I had only heard of it and hadn't really explored it at that point.

Groupon is a really cool concept. Businesses in your area offer a great deal (50-90% off) and, from what I understand, it takes a certain number of people to purchase the deal to "tip it" and make it available (similar to meeting a reserve on ebay). You get an inexpensive experience or dining opportunity, the business gets some exposure (because you've told all your friends about it so as to "tip" the deal) and Groupon makes a little bit through the partnerships. It's a win, win, win and I'm all for it. I just wish I'd figured this out months ago.

Friends have recently told me that they've gotten cheap scuba diving excursions, zip line adventures, dance lessons and so forth. Therefore, I have been stalking Groupon deals for weeks, thinking this would make New Things just fall into my lap. The email notifications come to my inbox every morning and they're the first thing I look for on my Blackberry when I wake up.

I got really excited a couple of days ago, thinking I'd found a New Thing adventure for October. The deal was $29 for an unlimited number of dance lessons for a month. "Perfect!" I thought to myself. I'm terrible at dancing, so taking a couple of classes would push me out of my comfort zone and maybe I'll even pick up a few moves in the process.

I kept scrolling down through the email, ready to make my purchase. The description went on to say that the dance lesson package included unlimited tanning sessions as well. "That's weird," I thought to myself, wondering why ballroom dance lessons would include unlimited tanning.

That's when I saw the name of the "dance studio."  


I'll keep looking and let you know when I've found something for October.

*Just in case you were wondering, I'm not paid or otherwise compensated in any way by Groupon or PoleWorx to promote their services.

Monday, October 18, 2010

If a Bomb Went Off in Kansas...

I made a comment in my New York City blog posting that if a bomb went off in Kansas that the world may not notice. My father emailed me with a few good points convincing me otherwise. Though I was referring more to the global economy than movie stars and nightlife (as my dad references), I'll have to admit he's right.

Here's what he had to say: 


Something you, and anybody else that visits, lives and/or loves NY needs to remember is no Kansas= no food. The 1,2 3, and 4th largest meat packing plants are in KANSAS. Most of the wheat for your bagels come from KANSAS.  A very large share of milk and dairy products consumed in this country are from KANSAS. Military and civilian planes including Air-Force 1 are made in KANSAS. Also, it's no accident that one of our countries largest military bases is in KANSAS. The second largest Natural Gas Field in the world is in KANSAS. Movie stars and a great night life are ok but they contribute little to our society and wealth. Oh yeah-----a good share of my clients are from NY, trying to escape that rat race for a short time and experience KANSAS.


P.S. You were born into a 125 yr old western ranching legacy. Not many families, even eastern ones can match that. Every rich and successful person from Forbes to Turner goes out and buys a ranch------ and not in NY.
Hawes Ranch Outfitters

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How To Do Everything Better...

Let others do the heavy lifting for you- read a book. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Somewhere out there someone is an expert at what you need to learn.

While I like some mindless reading every now and then, by and large I prefer self-development books or ones that otherwise give me something to think about.

A friend asked me a while back if there were books I would recommend she read as she works on making some changes in her life. I have listed my favorite books below; these are ones that have been most influential on how I operate (or try to operate) my life.

Many of these books could be categorized multiple ways, but I made an attempt to organize them in the way that made the most sense to me. I've included links to learn more about the books or authors. I would imagine all of these are available through your library or on I also like for book purchases, just fyi.

Life/ Lifestyle:
  • The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For? by Rick Warren
  • Where Will You be 5 Years From Today? by Dan Zandra
  • The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinny Girl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel
  • The Skinny Girl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life by Bethenny Frankel
Career Development:
  • First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton
  • Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham
  • The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success by Marcus Buckingham
  • Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
Business Development:
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
  • Secret's of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins
  • Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins
  • E-Myth Mastery: The Seven Essential Disciplines for Building a Worldclass Company by Michael Gerber
  • The Daily Drucker by Peter Drucker

Books that make you go hmmmm....:

What are you reading? Share with me your thoughts on these books or others!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Thing #10- September 2010- I Heart NY

For my September New Thing I visited New York City, somewhere I'd always wanted to visit, but never had the opportunity.

A couple months ago, a good friend of mine relocated to New Jersey, to join her husband who is in his surgical residency. I just happened to have accumulated a free Southwest airline ticket and decided I should count the trip as my upcoming 30th birthday present to myself. (But, who am I fooling? I'm still hoping for a Kindle).

The trip was amazing. Being from the Midwest, every now and then I forget that there is a real world out there. I know that makes me sound like a complete country bumpkin, which I'm really not. I've traveled a little bit, and though not to too many big cities, I have been to Washington, D.C. five or six times. But, nothing prepared me for New York City. My friend Liz and I spent four and a half days exploring Manhattan. I spent the first few hours on my first day just trying to get over my culture shock. My stream of consciousness was, "This is so different than what I'm used to. This is just so different. This is really different." By the second day, I'd caught my stride (a little bit) and soaked it all in. I learned to walk with purpose and look through people instead of at them. That was half the battle.

I felt like just being in a city where actual world relevant things happened on a daily basis blew my perspective wide open. I felt like at any moment J. Lo could walk by, or that Bethenny Frankel could be strolling in the same park, or that I might even see Taylor Swift on the subway. (Or... you know, I could see Rudy Guiliani, Mayor Bloomberg or some foreign dignitary. Whatever floats your boat).

Just being there made me feel relevant to the world.

A sign posted near the site of the
proposed Muslim community center
My trip happened to fall on the ninth anniversary of September 11 and in the midst of the Muslim community center controversy. It was also Fashion Week, the Mets and Giants were both playing, and the U.S. Open was also going on. Not that I attended all of those things, but it blew my mind that all of these big, culturally and world-relevant things were going on around me. You know what happens in Kansas on any given weekend? Not much. My friend's husband (and a fellow Kansas native) mused to me, "If a bomb goes off in Kansas, the world would go on and probably won't even notice. If a bomb goes off in NYC, it affects the rest of the world." (I'm paraphrasing here. Forgive me if I misquoted that, Ben). 

Speaking of culturally relevant, while in New York, I visited the John Lennon memorial in Central Park, Strawberry Fields. Unless you've been under a rock or held hostage the past few days, you that know that what would have been his 70th birthday celebration took place this last weekend. 

Tribute to John Lennon in Central Park
John Lennon was shot and killed 10 days before I was born and prior to visiting Central Park, I hadn't really paid much attention to him. I didn't really grow up listening to his music, but I've always known who he was, that he was somewhat controversial in his "later" years, but most of all, I knew he was enormously talented in a number of different ways.

I've always wanted to be enormously talented. It's the figuring out what I should be enormously talented in that's been the conundrum. I have always wished that I'd been a precocious child that freakishly knew how to play the violin or do trigonometry as a toddler. No such luck. (I'm not sure how mad trig skills would help me, but surely they would).

Every now and then I sigh with emotion resembling teen angst and lament that I hadn't been born with an innate ability to do something... anything. My younger brother is an effortlessly amazing artist. The images just leap off of his pencil and on to paper and he gives them just as little thought- not really appreciating the gift he has. My older brother is effortlessly brilliant at anything technologically or mechanically oriented. He gets frustrated with us mere mortals who don't really get it.

Regardless of whatever talent I'll one day figure out that I've possessed all along- I've always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. That is probably my one true passion and the one thing that has always been consistent in my life and what has inspired my current interest in John Lennon. Love, hate, or be indifferent of John Lennon- he was definitely a part of something bigger than himself. And he knew how to work his talent.

My trip to NY reminded me how badly I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. Just being there made me think I could do it. I just don't know what yet. I don't want to be boxed in to Midwest suburbia running car pools. (Though I don't currently do that nor do I really even know what that means, the thought of it makes me ill).

I'm not sure why my next step is in the whole "being a part of something bigger than myself" project, but NYC has inspired me to explore it!

Just for fun, here are some highlights of my trip:

8 Average miles walked per day

7 Bus trips between Manhattan and New Jersey in 4 days

6 Items I bought on 5th Avenue at H&M, just so I could say I got them on 5th Avenue

5 Famous paintings I recognized at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 5 minutes we had before we were herded out, having arrived near closing time

4 Celebrities who were spotted at Bergdorf Goodman right after we left that area (Nicole Richie, Mary J. Blige, Victoria Beckham and J. Lo)

3 Blisters I sustained from the average 8 miles/ day walking

Eating excursions in Little Italy

1 Accidental trip to Brooklyn on the wrong subway line

...and can't wait to see what happens next!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

20 Good Reasons to Pay Your Electric Bill

Pysch! (I'm trying to bring that phrase back...).

There aren't 20 good reasons to pay your electric bill. There's only one-  it sucks to not have electricity.

I wrote this last night, but am posting it tonight. You’ll read why:

I am sitting in the dark in my living room typing by glow of candlelight. Not because I thought it would be romantic or whimsical. Nor was I inspired with any energy-conservation intentions.

I simply forgot to pay my electric bill. That’s right. No financial woes here; I just never got around to paying it this month. Even after several statements and a disconnect notice came in the mail, I managed to blow it off. I even sat down a couple of times to pay the bill online only to get distracted and work on something else instead. Well, apparently the electric company is serious about getting paid. Noted.

This has never happened before and I’m usually fairly intelligent. I read the Harvard Business Review here and there. I had a (nearly) perfect GPA in graduate school. (I got one B in a one-credit hour class my first semester. Grrr).

I’m sure there are other examples of my ability to function in the world. I should be able to remember to pay a bill.

I thought about making the proverbial lemons into lemonade, but poured myself a cocktail instead.

I thought of all the great things about having no electricity. I thought I could sit down and work on my blog without getting distracted by those Jersey Shore kids. But, it turns out my cable modem doesn’t work so well without electricity. Effingham. Oh, well. I can still type in Word and copy and paste later. Here's a thought- how about I blog about my crappy week?

Another great thing about my evening was that it took very little time at all to wash off my makeup since I had already cried most of it off. That was a good time saver.

Shortly after that, I took the time to review all of my flaws. This is a favorite pastime of mine. I usually reserve it for nights when I’m awake at 2am and can’t get to sleep, but thought I might as well think through the current ones. (On a really sleepless night, I like to review past, current, and potential future flaws. It's a flaw of mine).

Back to the current flaws:

  • I just caught up on my gift giving last week. I managed to take care of Father’s Day (3 months late), my mom’s birthday (6 weeks late), my nephew’s birthday (2 weeks late) and my other nephew’s birthday (2 weeks early!).

  • I competed in a Toastmaster’s (speech/ public speaking) contest last Saturday. I didn’t win. I was irritated by this because I like to naturally be good at things. I find this to be the best ROI of my time.

  • I’m not sure what to do with my two year old when she refuses to get in her car seat like she has for the past week or so. I’ve been battling with her because she has a little game she likes to play whenever we get in the car. It goes a little like this: I try to put her in her car seat, she screams, arches her back, wriggles out of my grip and then throws herself down on her stomach on the floorboard of the car. It's exasperating.

  • I was doing such a great job eating healthy the past few weeks, but completely fell off the wagon the past couple of days. Tonight I found myself setting a frosted sugar cookie on top of my copy of the cookbook Skinny Girl Dish. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Bethenny Frankel had in mind for her book’s use.

  • I fed Ella McDonald’s chicken nuggets tonight for dinner.

I have more proof of my imperfections, but I’ll stop there. You probably never even thought I was perfect, but sharing this makes me feel better in some strange way. And blogging is cheaper than therapy.

Update- the electricity was turned back on today and all is right with the world for now because of this.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Losing the Battle in War and Peace

As seen in the local paper-

Shanna has lost her battle with War and Peace. A passerby remorsed, "It was a gallant effort, one of the most difficult and long, drawn-out battles I've seen."

A family member sobbed, "She was so brave... right 'til the end."

It is known that Shanna bought the Russian epic with the best of intentions, wanting to broaden her literary horizons. It was a task that proved to be too much. While Shanna believed she could eventually prevail, she chose to end the suffering before it got the best of her.

A service is in the works. In lieu of sending flowers, memorial contributions can be made to your local public library as Shanna wishes the memory of her courageous effort not be in vain.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Thing #9- August 2010- Reading the Classics

Me in front of a book-adorned parking garage near the library
This month my New Thing isn't dangerous, bada$$, or hardcore in any way. You may not even think it's interesting, but bare with me... I'm broadening my cultural horizons.

I'm reading the classics this month and I'll tell you why.

I love to read, so that part doesn't necessarily make this activity qualify for a New Thing. However, I generally like the "chick lit" kind of books. I love anything by Sophia Kinsella and Marian Keyes and will sometimes even judge a book by its cover. If the graphics are cute and the tagline sounds interesting, I'll give it a whirl.

Using that cute graphics/ catchy tagline philosophy, I recently read two Candace Bushnell books back to back. Bushnell is best known for her book that turned into a little series called Sex and the City. I haven't actually read that one, but I did read One Fifth Avenue and Trading Up. Both were fairly entertaining, though Bushnell seemed to recycle some of her ideas and used the same brooding author character in both books. In One Fifth Avenue his name was James. In Trading Up his name was Craig and both were described as a modern day Tolstoy. There was a good amount of detail around describing the similarities around these characters and Tolstoy, so I thought maybe I should know who this Tolstoy guy is.

Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
I googled it and it turns out that Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy is widely regarded as the greatest of novelists. In researching other authors and literature that topped a Greatest Classics list, it became apparent that I hadn't read many of them. I had only read a handful on the list. I loved most of the ones I had read- Huckleberry Finn, Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Scarlett Pimpernel. However, I thought Catcher in the Rye was odd. No one ever says that, but I'll admit it. 

As there are so many classics that I have never read, my first thought in reviewing the list was to displace blame with, "What the h, Bucklin High School?! How dare you let me out in the world like this!"

I thought it was time to rectify the situation. Later that day, I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up a few classics that I will be reading between now and the end of my New Things project. (There is just absolutely no way I can get through all of them this month. Have you seen the size of some of these books)?!

Here's my reading list:
War and Peace by L. Tolstoy
Anna Karenina by L. Tolstoy
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Emma by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I'll keep you posted on my progress and what I think about each of the books. I'm currently working on War and Peace and I have to admit, this is taking longer than I expected. I can usually whip through a 400 page chick lit book in a few hours. It turns out I'm a slower reader if there's more depth to the story.

I just know that at the end of this project I'll feel much more cultured and well-read. If nothing else, I'll be able to throw out Tolstoy references at dinner parties, just because I can.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Thing #8- July 2010- Media Cleanse

It's finally over. For New Thing #8, I conducted a ten day Media Cleanse in which my rules included no television, movies, social media or flipping through magazines. I also couldn't do any aimless internet surfing. If I went online, I had to have a purpose in mind and I had to get in and get out.

The point was that I had been wasting too much time in mindless activities.

I would sometimes get online to check a couple of things and 2 hours later will realize that I forgot what I had initially been looking for. I would get swept away on Facebook or Twitter, wondering what was going on in the world (aka what my friends are up to). It's never really interesting. I don't need to know that someone just harvested truffles in Farmville or that someone else worked all weekend.

News headlines are a big time-wasting culprit, too, and the astonishing thing is that it's not the important stuff that I would spend my time on. Right before deciding to do a Media Cleanse as a New Thing, I found myself at the end of an article and scratching my head as to why I was there at all. The headline I had followed was called "Why the beard, Brad?"

I did, indeed, want to know "why the beard, Brad?" But is it important? Is it really relevant to my life? No. It's not even important or relevant to his life, apparently, because the answer to that question was that he was bored, so he had decided to grow a beard and put weird little beads in it. And I wasted my time reading about it. And you just did, too. :) The mindlessness needed to stop.

And it did. For 10 full days. (Mostly).

I did have a rough go of it a couple nights ago. I was stressed and tired and wanted to lay on the couch and watch tv. But, I knew if I did, I would hate myself in the morning. So I did what I always do when I don't want to hate myself in the morning. I called my mom to talk me down. It worked and the crisis was averted.

I have to admit, though, that last night I did go a little crazy. It was a little reminiscent of my Pepsi and Doritos incident during my Kind Diet (New Thing #2- February). I knew I was on the home stretch, but just couldn't take it anymore. All of the productivity and mindfulness of the previous nine days got the best of me and I threw all caution to the wind. I laid on the couch and watched Kathy Griffin- My Life on the D-List AND I perused At that same time. Shocking, I know. I'm not even ashamed, though I know I should be.

This was an excellent New Thing to have subjected myself to even though it sucked most of the time. I learned that I can in fact survive without social media, television and other mindless forms of entertainment. I got a lot of great things knocked off my to-do list. (Though I'm only a few things shy of completing my Christmas shopping I didn't get that stupid recipe conversion done. I'm not worried about it, though. There will be plenty of winter months in which that project will sound appealing).

While I won't be continuing on in a media-free state, I will be limiting my screen time significantly moving forward and will be much more mindful of how I spend my time.

I'm now signing off to go steam clean my carpets. Ciao!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Calling all New Thing ideas!

Four days to go on my ten day Media Cleanse for my July New Thing (and New Thing #8). It's going well as I'm thinking of things to work on instead of turning on the tv or cruising facebook. I've completed some of my to-do list and have even added a few things to it. I've drafted a new speech for the Advanced Communicatin series I'm working on for my Professionally Speaking Toastmasters group, outlined a business plan to submit to a foundation seeking new ventures and have been doing some research in preparation for my upcoming trip to New York City. It's all good stuff and I'm enjoying the time I've spent on these things, but I'm really itching to watch the new Mad Men episode. I've heard that the season premiere that aired recently was excellent. I'm thinking that watching it will be part of my Sunday itinerary (post Media Cleanse).

If you've been following this blog, you know that I've subjected myself to a bunch of random new experiences as a challenge and will continue to do so through the end of the year. If  you happened to read the paragraph above, you know that at the end of this week I'll finish my eighth New Thing. September's New Thing will be visiting New York City for the first time and all of the things that go into that (NYC subway, etc.). Past September I am going to need some ideas and I need your help generating those ideas!

The parameters are that the experience has to be outside of my comfort zone, it has to be something of substance, and it needs to be accessible. While I'd like to learn how to fly a helicopter as a New Thing, that really isn't in my budget. Unless you know a flight instructor willing to give me lessons for free...

Send any ideas you may have for me to experience as a New Thing and I'll take them into consideration. You might not intuitively know what is outside my comfort zone, but I'll recognize it when I see it! You can either leave a comment in this post or email me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 4 of my Media Cleanse

Day 0- Wednesday, 7/21/10
T minus 6 hours until the beginning of my July New Thing- a 10 day Media Cleanse. This is going to suck. Why can't I be complacent in this aspect of my life? What if something happens in the world (or on Facebook) and I miss it?

My goal is to focus my time on things that are important or relevant and to cut out all of the time wasters in my day. It's easier said than done.

Things I can do for the next 10 days during my Media Cleanse (what I'm calling my experiment of no tv or internet surfing- my two biggest time wasters):
  • Floss. I've been meaning to do more of this anyway.
  • Clean my bathroom. I've been meaning to do more of this, too.
  • Transfer my damaged recipe box to a new recipe binder. Just call me Suzy Homemaker... really excited about this one. (There should be a sarcasm font. The completed product will be nice, but I'm not looking forward to the project as my recipe box got moldy from sitting too near the sink.... Riveting information to share, I know).
  • Organize the Christmas and birthday gifts I've bought.
  • Finish Christmas shopping.
  • Write a to-do-list.
I must also give a qualifier on how I spend the majority of my day- I work full time, commute 1.5 to 1.75 hours/ day and have a 2 year old daughter. What I will accomplish during my Media Cleanse will be what I can get done in my "free time." I'm not necessarily a couch potato normally, but if I have a spare hour before I go to bed, I generally check in on Facebook, TMZ, MSN or watch television. That's the part I'm cutting out these days. I'm also wanting to spend more time engaging in activities with my daughter and being overall more purposeful with my time.

Day 1- Thursday, 7/22/10
When I drove to work this morning I wanted to get off to a good start on being productive. So, instead of listening to the radio like I normally do,  I called my sister-in-law and worked out some dates for an upcoming garage sale and talked through ideas for a niece's birthday party.

After work, my daughter and I went to Walgreens and CVS to pick up a few things. She loves going "to the stoo-ah," as she calls it. Her favorite part was tearing up a sales flyer and throwing it in the cart, tiny piece by tiny piece. I let her. After we checked out I shoved the million little pieces of paper in my purse to take home and put in the recycle bin. It was worth her being entertained so I could get my shopping done.

After she went to bed, I organized and inventoried all gifts I have bought for birthdays and Christmas, boxed all the kids' gifts and made a list of who I still need to buy for. I told my husband that if I die tomorrow, he'll be set for the next year with a list of what we have for who. Then we had a friendly debate as to whether or not he has bought a single gift for someone besides me since we've been married. He hasn't, I'm sure. He was fairly confident he had, but couldn't produce a name or item.

I also made a to-do-list and went to bed at midnight. To keep myself accountable and motivated, I'll share my list of things to accomplish during my Media Cleanse, to be completed by July 31:
  • Inventory Christmas and birthday gifts. (Done! I just wanted to be able to cross something off already).
  • Organize and de-clutter
    • my closet;
    • my 2 year old daughter's closet;
    • the cabinet under my bathroom sink;
    • and the basement.
  • Prepare for a garage sale by
    • set things aside during my organization adventures;
    • price items;
    • and take pictures of furniture and post on Craigslist for people to come by the day of the sale.
  • File all 2010 paperwork.
  • Put Ella's 2 year portraits in frames. 
  • Work on the marketing and PR tasks I volunteered to do for a fundraiser for a local homeless shelter. 
  • Complete recipe binder project mentioned above.
  • Research publications to submit my writing to and then do so.
  • Blog 2 times a week.
Day 2- Friday, 7/23/10
At 6am I cleaned out Ella's closet and re-organized it, removing all items that were still in there from before she was born (such as old cell phones). I also removed and stored all of the things that she has outgrown. After Ella went to bed, I cleaned the whole house.

Day 3- Saturday, 7/24/10
We traveled a few hours away to spend the day at a nearby state park with family and had a great time fishing, swimming, and playing Monopoly with the nephews.

Day 4- Sunday, 7/25/10
We didn't go to church this morning because we got home so late last night and felt the need to sleep in a little bit.

We had quite the productive day. I did laundry, sorted Ella's 2 year photos and put them in frames, reviewed information for the charity event I'm volunteering for and sent some emails in regards to that, loaded and ran the dishwasher, made banana bread, researched publications to submit my writing to and booked my tickets to go to New York City in September. (I'm going to NYC in September! I've never been and am SO excited). Ella and I played outside for a while and I even got to take a nap this afternoon when my husband took her to the park. Not a bad day at all... :)

In this experiment, I'm finding that if I pay attention and keep moving things moving on my task list, I enjoy my down time a lot more. I think it's because when I was laying on the couch watching The Real Housewives of New York City, I wasn't always enjoying it because I had other stuff I needed to be doing. It's kind of like how a milkshake tastes when you're on a diet.... you budget Weight Watcher points all week to be able to "afford" the milkshake and it tastes far better than if you allowed yourself a milkshake every day.

I'm not going to lie, though. It hasn't been completely easy. There are a few times that I really wanted to turn my brain off and just watch some tube for a while. I had a couple of email correspondences today that I had to send through Facebook and I really wanted to read through all the updates to see what was going on with all my friends... just for a minute. But, I didn't. I got in and I got out.

Six days to go on my self-imposed ten day Media Cleanse for New Thing #8. We'll see how it goes and how I adjust my new habits for the long-term.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Starting New Thing #8- 10 Day Media Cleanse

One day last week I pulled into my driveway and thought how did I get here? I barely remember leaving work.

I try to live consciously and with purpose. I think before I make decisions. I set goals. I recycle.

But, far too often recently I find myself zoning out and escaping the present. I get lulled into unconsciousness by the mindlessness of my bad habits (watching too much television and screwing around on the internet) and hours later groggily coming back to consciousness. It may be a little like experiencing a roofie. Who's been roofie-ing my life? Apparently I have.

I get frustrated because I have lots of projects I'd like to finish and also feel like I have too little time to do things that I enjoy. I think, "If only I had time to hear myself think I could get something accomplished." Then I swamp my brain with a bunch of useless nonsense because I think I'm too tired to think. Ironic, isn't it? All this thinking about thinking.

I need to clear my mind of the clutter and be more purposeful with my time, so this concept will be New Thing #8. For the next 10 days I am going to do a media cleanse and here are my rules:
  • No television.
  • No movies.
  • No flipping through magazines.
  • I can only be on the internet for purposeful tasks and be on for as short amounts of time as possible.(I'm still going to allow myself to blog as that seems purposeful to me as I've had a goal to start posting more frequently).
  • I am going to keep an activity log of all the things I can get accomplished when I'm not otherwise screwing around.
This media cleanse is going to start tomorrow.... tonight I have a new episode of Kathy Griffin- My Life on the D-List to watch. I have priorities, you know.  : )

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Strategies to Save Oodles of Money

In the spirit of my June New Thing, that I posted the other day, I thought I'd share some of my thriftiest pointers. For years my strategies have included being what I call "shamelessly shopportunistic." I think Marshall's used this term a while back in an ad campaign, but I've been saying it for long before that. :) Being shamelessly shopportunistic just means keeping your eye out for the best steals and deals for things you need (and want) and helps save oodles of money in the long run.

My biggest secret for saving said oodles of money- try to avoid paying full price as often as you can without being a jerk. Be a smart shopper, don't be a rude cheapskate.

It was around the time that our daughter was born two years ago that we went full Rambo on our finances, Dave Ramsey style. (See here for my last post on that). We had to get serious. With a new little critter (our precious child) in the house, we had new little expenses that weren't so little.

That same summer, my friend Jenn, aka Super Jenn, started a blog on money saving techniques and the use of coupons, in particular. (Her site has evolved to include more now). Following how someone else scores deals was incredibly helpful. While I've always been a bargain shopper, Jenn taught me how to spend pennies on the dollar and sometimes even make money buying groceries and other household items. It's true... you can actually make money buying toothpaste and razors. I haven't actually paid money out of pocket (or "OOP" as the coupon junkies say) for toothpaste in over two years. Check out Jenn's website at here. She also writes for the Lawrence Journal World in a blog called Shop Talk with Jenn and Julie. She's a true frugalista and taught me amazing ways to save money.

A few months ago I taught a workshop I called Mind Your Money and shared a number of things I've learned over time. Here are my best money-saving tips:

First, buy things before you need them. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but in my experience, I pay much for an item when I need it in a hurry than if I see it on sale and use coupons to pay for far in advance. I stockpile groceries when I find good deals. I also shop for birthday and Christmas gifts throughout the year. I'm able to collect gifts when I see good prices as well as this technique helps me spread the cost throughout the year.

You don't have to go au naturale just because you're watching your spending. I'm not about to cut out hair and makeup "essentials." No one would want to see that. Instead, find the deals. Here are a few ways I save money in the beauty department:
    • I used to buy Clinique foundation at about $23/ tube. I now use L'Oreal True Match and like it just as well. The last time I purchased the base and powder, they were on sale at Walgreens and I had coupons that brought the cost to $3 each (regularly $10 to $11 each). I bought several, which will last me about a year.
    • Target clearances all their departments out at least once a year, including the cosmetics section. There's nothing wrong with these items and usually the products aren't being discontinued. Generally they clear a section via clearance so they can build a new planogram (shelving and peg arrangement) and it makes more sense for them to sell the product rather than take it down and store it only to restock with the new planogram. Thus, the items go on clearance. You can combine coupons with clearance and get really inexpensive cosmetics. I've often been able to find Almay, Revlon and L'Oreal eyeshadow, eyeliner, lipstick, lipgloss and nail polish for around $1 or $2 by doing this. I've sometimes been able to get them for free or pennies, depending on the amount of my coupon. (For instance, if a L'Oreal lipgloss is on clearance for $2.15 and I have a $2 off coupon, the lipgloss costs me 15 cents. Not a bad deal and this has actually happened on a number of occasions).
    • I prefer my hair color to be reddish brown over my natural mousey brown color. I use Natural Instincts because it is semi permanent and healthier for your hair than permanent color (according to Kandee Johnson, make-up/ beauty guru). This brand frequently goes on sale and offers coupons just as frequently. Just this week, I was able to get 2 boxes for $2 each (regularly $7 to $9 each). Since I learned how to keep my eye out for deals, I've never had to pay full price for hair color or makeup.
    • Speaking of which... I mentioned that haven't "paid" for toothpaste in 2 years. That's true. How you do that is simple drugstore shopping. Walgreens and CVS (as well as others, I'm sure- those 2 just happen to be in my area) frequently offer staples such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, and shave gel for "free" (or close to it) after store rewards programs. These same products often have coupons out at the same time which (when combined or "stacked" as the coupon junkies say) end up being free or even making money. For instance, say CVS has Colgate toothpaste on sale for $2.99 this week and you earn $2 in Extra Bucks (in-store credit). That takes the real price to 99 cents. If there's a $1 off coupon that you can use on the transaction, that makes the total cost of the toothpaste $0. If there happens to be a $1.50 off coupon (which sometimes happens), you make 49 cents on the deal. You dig? You'll pay out of pocket (or OOP as the coupon junkies say), but you'll receive it back in store reward Extra Bucks. It's what I call a steal in the world of steals and deals.
Pay attention and be aware of bargains in all that you do. Just because you're sticking to a budget doesn't mean you can't do anything fun.  Every year I buy an updated Entertainment Book for my area. They are specific for cities across the country and contain coupons for restaurants, attractions and stores. is a great place to go for discounted restaurant gift certificates.

Lose some of your brand loyalty. I buy more name brand items than I ever did , but only because and when I get a great deal with stacking sales and coupons. I don't generally buy brands unless they're a deal- I buy generic staples. For instance, I've found Walgreens brand diapers to be sufficient and have consistently bought them when they're on sale. In fact, in November of 2008 (my crowning couponing achievement to date), I was able to combine a sale with a coupon and got diapers for $2.50 a pack (regularly $9 each). I bought 40+ packages, stored them in a closet in the basement and didn't have to buy diapers again for over a year and half. That was awesome, if I do say so myself.

Look online for good deals on clothes. There are a few online sites that I frequent. is a new favorite. They often have great clearance and there's a tab called On the Counter which is clearance on steroids, but in limited quantities and sizes. Items are posted on Saturday. On Monday, that discount price is reduced another 25%. On Wednesday, 50%. And on Friday, 75%.

Buy things at garage sales and on Craigslist. When I was pregnant with our daughter we found some great things on Craigslist and got a  really nice, new-looking crib, baby bumper set, changing table, bouncer and high chair for $100 total. I also like to think of these items being of the Reuse category in the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse way of things. I like the idea of items being passed around from person to person as long as use can still be gotten out of them. (I would suggest looking around online to be aware of recalled items, especially when purchasing items for infants and children).

I know everyone has little ways that they save money. Comment on this post or email me with yours and I'll compile for another post at a later date! Happy money-saving, yah'll! :)

Here are  few things that I'm not super familiar with, but have been recently informed of and will be looking into:
  • Take a look at Gymboree clearance and store rewards called Gymbucks. If you feel the need to buy new clothes and/or want to give as gifts, utilize store incentive programs. Gymboree has Gymbucks in which during certain times of the year, you earn $25 in store credit for every $25 spent during that time period. You can combine this with coupons and clearance selections to get the most bang for your buck. My sister-in-law Abby makes a passionate pastime out of this one and my daughter has some really cute clothes to prove it.
  • Shop online and earn cash back on purchases through Ebates. My friends Melanie and Jenn utilize this. According to the website, you can get up to 25% back from 1200 stores.
  • Get 50 to 90% off what your city has to offer by becoming a member of Groupon. A few colleagues at work have told me about this and really like it.