Growing Home - Tammy McConnell
Tammy McConnell

Tammy McConnell

Content creator/writer

You know, I really don't like to hear whining. That's a very negative thing for me to say. I'm sorry. I've always been an objective person, I think. Maybe to excess. This character trait looks like naivete at times; I know. I've been accused of wearing rose-colored glasses on more than one occasion. I expect the best from people. Discussions with undertones of negativity usually spur my brain to jump to the most positive aspect it can find - and then it follows that thread on a more encouraging trail.

As I've mentioned in past posts, I always try to keep it positive. Yes, always. (Let's emphasize the word TRY there, also. EVERYONE has issues; and I'm not exempt, believe me!) Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat... and especially Facebook - I use my social media feeds to connect with my friends and family. Of my 650+ friends on Facebook, less than a handful of them are people I have not met in person, or communicated with in some other form (outside of Facebook). I am acquainted with them all! Most of them know me as a "put your best foot forward" kinda gal. I like it that way. How could this new grandma who posts all those cute pics of her family be a negative Nelly? I don't think so. 

My personal journal entries are even pretty positive. I won't call myself out directly on things I've done wrong... even in private. I always jump right to the most positive solution I can find for the issue at hand and start writing about that, sparing myself the negative self-talk. What good would THAT do? It's less stressful. It's how I cope. I don't know where it came from, but it works for me... most of the time. 

So, what on earth was going on in my last post (The Purpose of Struggle)?! It really was the most negative thing I've ever published. Comments about always identifying with the victim side of my personality, hiding the real me from everyone, not wanting to spend time with my own kids - SO not me! I was whining. I was complaining. I was wallowing. And... I'm not sorry.

I am not sorry, because it's who I really am. I don't like to (or want to) hide the REAL me. What you see is what you get. That's what I learned from that post. If anything, I feel bad for not reaching out to someone at the time when that all happened. I can't apologize for spilling my guts to you guys here on my website though. These are exactly the kinds of articles I've always wanted to write; but couldn't figure out how to, without being offensive. I have a lot of experiences to discuss - negative ones. I am a REAL person. I have REAL issues. And, I think I've figured out some pretty positive, workable answers for some of those issues. With my overly-objective personality trait, I can put an optimistic spin on almost anything. I feel like that is a gift I have been given. I feel like I should use this ability to help others. Does that make sense?

I have received several private messages, phone calls, and even had personal, face-to-face visits with people after writing about certain topics on my site. They have all been positive responses and thank yous. I am seriously humbled... and encouraged. Not to tip the scale into bragging; but, I am so happy to turn this seemingly negative character trait of mine - "those rose colored glasses" - into a constructive, encouraging counseling tool. Taking this route has enabled me to learn lessons from my own stupid mistakes, as well as the unavoidable challenges of life; and then, turn around and help others clear the same hurdles that I knocked over. I think that is the epitome of WIN/WIN!

I stopped making typical New Year's resolutions years ago. Instead, I am resolving to be as REAL as possible... all the time, not just this year. If that means showing my negative side to the outside world once in awhile, so be it. It's me. It's who I am - flaws and all! (Well... some of them. Lord knows you don't need to hear ALL about my bad side.) If I can figure out a way to make that undesirable situation smell like roses... you bet you'll see it here first. I promise! For the times that I just can't dress it in upbeat clothing, I'm sorry. You're going to hear about it anyway, if I think it will help. As for the rest - not sorry. In fact, I'm happy to help.

I seriously believe I just had a major breakthrough, and I need to write it down before it escapes the loose clutches of my brain... as it usually does. I've never experienced this particular train of thought before; but whenever one of these revelations happens, I am usually too busy to write it down. This morning, I was just lying in bed thinking, 'It's Sunday. I have tomorrow off (holiday). I have another day to take care of any pressing responsibilities this weekend. Go make coffee and get back into bed. Yay, me!'

I was scrolling through Facebook, and came across a post from a life coach I discovered a few weeks ago. She talks about claiming your "badass personna" and getting rid of your "victim, survivor mentality". Well... I happened to identify with that. Here's where my mind jetted off to after only reading snippets of her post.

I have been in survivor mode for... ever; even before I got married and had almost half a dozen kids. I've always identified with the victim side of my personality. I have been a victim of domestic violence. I was a victim of emotional abuse. I am currently a victim of financial stress. I am always fighting hard against something... or not.

At one point within the past... 15 years, I sunk into a deep depression for a few years. It happened when my kids were little, and we had so much going on in our lives that barely anyone even noticed. My husband did. He tried to help, but was not really equipped (emotionally) to do so. He quietly resigned to just picking up my slack whenever he could break free from his self-imposed, work-a-holic lifestyle. I had no desire to spend time with my kids; so he would take them sledding or to church events, and help them deliver their paper routes all over town; while I sat at home trying to figure out what to do with myself, staring at the wall, or doing mindless chores like dishes or laundry.

As I write this, I feel like such a hypocrite! One of the things that I struggled with most in my life then was the fact that we hid who we really were... from everyone! The picture perfect family that everyone loved, admired, and adored outside of our four walls, was totally different on the inside. Here I was... selfishly depressed, not reaching out for help, not able to. I know it wasn't my fault... now. But, back then, all I could feel was guilt, shame.

I had friends. I had family. Would I turn to any of them? Reach out? Nope. Couldn't. I had my image to protect. We were "super family". We had our s*#t together. I remember a comment someone made once regarding her son's perception of our family dynamic. He said he hoped he could have what we had someday. He wanted "that kind of family". I cringed inside when she said that. My thoughts: 'if he only knew".

Oh, I don't mean to be so negative in my recollection. There were good times; and I have a lot of good memories with my kids growing up. They will tell you the same thing. But let's also be realistic. No family is as picture perfect as they may seem. I can see you nodding in agreement. They will agree with that too. This is just a snapshot of one moment in my life. It's where my mind went to find a good talking point for this post.

I want to stop here for a moment to reassure you that I am so very, very proud of who my kids turned out to be, in spite of the struggles we faced as a growing family. If anything, I believe the ups and downs of our daily lives reinforce our strengths, help shape our coping skills. My kids have grown into capable, resilient adults. Strong. They lead productive, meaningful lives. They support each other unconditionally. That has always been my goal (I always wanted a big family) - that they would be close. I feel like I've succeeded in that respect.

You've all seen that meme on Facebook, right? The one that says, "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always." Well, through my (very personal) posts here on my website, that is my aim. Not only to always be kind, but maybe even help someone to realize they are not alone in their struggles. What I learned so many years ago, during that awful time of depression, was that you can be surrounded by gobs of people, even many who genuinely care for your well-being, but you can feel so lonely, isolated. You cannot sincerely believe that anyone wants to help, or even cares. BUT, what I now realize is that they do. Because I do. I care. I understand - because of my own personal experiences. I've been there, done that.

I have always strongly ascribed to the belief that God did not put me on this earth to be miserable. I have a purpose. He put me here for a reason. I've questioned what that reason could possibly be for most of my life. And I am not claiming to finally have an answer, but... I have to believe it has something to do with this - the fact that I've been through all this stuff. Why? What is the reason? What am I supposed to do with these experiences? Wallow in grief, self-pity? I am SURE that is not it!

I've learned a few things about me recently; and it's a good thing, because I have been focusing intently on finding that elusive purpose. I am outgoing. I like to write. I want to help people. I have a LOT of personal experiences to draw from. I want to turn the negatives into positives. I'm objective. A friend of mine told me this week, after I said I would tell her about this bad thing I went through if it would cheer her up about her situation; 'That's just like you - turning it around for someone else's benefit!' (paraphrase) I took it as a compliment.

So, here's my point. Admittedly, my posts on this site are usually very personal. The reason has become crystal clear to me now. While they leave me wide-open, vulnerable... my struggles, openly-confessed, might help someone else to realize they are not alone. Isolation is not required. You don't have to be an island in trying to figure out your life. Reach out to your friends, family, or even professional counselors, therapists. There is no shame in talking to someone about your problems. Truth be known, there are people out there that really do care!

This is not a totally selfless venture on my part. I get a benefit from publishing my innermost thoughts here - or at least from writing them down. It's my therapy. Here is an excerpt from my journal, word-for-word:

Dec. 19, 2017

So, so much on my mind today. So many different emotions, I almost don't know where to start. Serves me right. Haven't taken the time to sit down and spill my feelings out onto the page for a few days. Yes, I've had a lot going on, but that's no excuse. I can't keep everything bottled up inside. I've learned that about me recently. Actually, I've always known it, I think. I can only ignore it for so long. If I'm not careful, it gets clogged up in my heart and has to let loose all at once, like a dam bursting. That gets very messy, and sometimes people get hurt. Simple, preventative measures, letting it spill over the edge slowly, a little at a time, only releasing the valve occasionally - helps. Just put the words on the page, Tammy. You don't even have to read them again. It makes you feel better instantly... relieving the pressure like that.

So, you see? Mutually beneficial, right?

Ok, I'm not suggesting that you should write, if that's not your thing. But, find an outlet. Talk to someone. Run. Read a good book. Get a massage. Go skydiving! Do something that not only takes your mind off the actual problem, but gives you a break from the harsh realities of life that you are so often dealt. Point is... take some time to figure out how to release all the negative. Don't let it take over. If you can't think of anything, come here to my blog. I have no shortage of crises in my life to write about. Maybe you'll identify with something. ;)

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. I hope it helped. I know I feel better. :D 

Fear. It's what I'm feeling right now. Overwhelming angst. Panic. Anxiety.

I've been reading a lot lately about writing, because I want to improve. It's what I love to do, and I'd like to get better at it. I just read this article on Twitter about this CRAZY thing you can do to be an inspired writer. Just take what you're feeling at the moment, and write about it. Simple, right? I decided to give it a go. Well... here is the result.

I'm scared to death of what I'm about to do!

This summer I managed to wrangle all five of my kids, one of their spouses, and my grandson into going HOME for a visit with me. My brother and most of his family joined us also. It was a FEAT! I thought at the time, 'if I can pull this off, I will be able to accomplish ANYTHING I set out to do, ever again, from here on out!' Well... I did it. We didn't just go visit family, we took a daytrip (and into the night) to New York City while we were there! Many of us experienced the Big Apple for the very first time in our lives, even though my brother and I were born and raised in Upstate NY. I spent my first 37 years of life there. But, NYC! It was exciting! A dozen Upstate NY transplants, now living in Nebraska and Kansas, walking down Wallstreet, taking the ferry and the subway, eating at a pizza shop, snapping pics at the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park. We did it all! Fourteen people (my best friend and her daughter were our tour guides)... fourteen hours... It was a blast! An experience I will NEVER forget. And, I got to do this with my family! When I am an old, old woman, I will tell my great grandchildren all about my first trip to the big city (at 50 years old). Lol!! 

We attended family reunions, BIG ones! We had a few bonfires - my personal favorite - drank a few beers, listened to our kids sing and play guitars in my mom's back yard. My parents live in the sticks, just up the hill from the dairy farm where I grew up. They have Amish neighbors. Watching a horse and buggy trot by daily was a pretty spectacular sight! Very nostalgic. Sometimes, we could hear them singing. I just wanted to run out to the dirt road and hop on their buggy and sing along with them. Do you think they would mind? :D

We also spread my younger brother's ashes in his favorite place, back in the woods behind my parents' home. We planted a tree for my mom in her front yard, in his honor. That was tough. We had our tough times, just like everybody. We were a BIG family. I have step siblings, half-siblings, full-blooded siblings, and that dynamic is always tricky; but, when push comes to shove... we are all family. When my younger brother was murdered almost two years ago, we all felt the pain. This summer, many of us came together to honor his memory. I was so proud of us. All of us. We took time out... to recognize the fact that one of us was missing; and he wasn't coming back... ever. Yep! It was tough. But, we all still have each other, even though we live miles apart. This trip changed me.

Which brings me to this BIG thing that is causing me so much anxiety. After living in Nebraska for the past 13 years, seven of them as a single mom (of those five kids), I have decided to move back home. Home. Think about it. Home is not a geographical location. It's a place, yes. But, it's a place where you feel comfortable. A place where you feel like you belong. Look back up there where I referred to myself as a transplant.

I live in Nebraska. I have been here for a long time. I really do like it here, most of the time; but, it's not home. I haven't known my current circle of friends since I was a little girl. I did not grow up with them. We didn't hang out in the same haunts as teens. We didn't go to the same school for 12 years together. We didn't get in trouble together. They weren't the ones that came to visit me in the hospital every time I had a baby. All of my kids were born in NY.

My friends here are very precious to me. They've helped me through some tough times; like divorce, finding a job (after being a stay-at-home mom for almost 20 years), helping my kids with broken down cars, attending funerals with me. They've lent me money when I had no idea how I was going to pay the bills. They've cried and prayed with me on many, many occasions. And, I DO have family close by. My brother is a quick four hour drive south, and my oldest daughter just a little more. We've traveled back and forth for holidays and family visits since 2005. Wonderful, wonderful visits - Easter, Christmas, birthdays, and weddings... the birth of my grandson, and graduations. I do not lack, believe me! 

But... I want to go home. It's where I belong. It's where I came from. It's where 'MY' people are. My classmates, my friends, my family... a lot of them are still there, in that tiny, little town where I grew up. Cows, churches, bars, wildlife, snow.... LOTS of snow! Believe it, or not; it's where I want to be. Home. 

Why the angst, anxiety? I love my kids, my family, the friends I've grown close to in the past 13 years. I really do! If you've read any of my other articles on this site, you'll understand that I am a nostalgic, family-oriented person; maybe more than anyone you've ever known. My kids, my friends, my home that I've worked so hard to create over the past several years - I am SO going to miss them! How can someone live in two places at once? If I could, I definitely would! I long to go home, but I hate leaving. 

Aside from the obvious, painstaking stresses of moving... packing, leaving my job, finding a new one, finding a new place to live - there's the anguish of leaving my kids and their new families, my grandson (only a year old), leaving my job of four years. I found the perfect job for me here. The atmosphere I work in is awesome! It's very ME!

I just need to go home. For most of my adult life, I've lived far from home. My parents didn't get to see my kids grow up... not really. Even 1300 miles away, as we are now, they've seen more of my kids than they did when we lived an hour and a half away from them in NY - through Facebook. I know a lot of people think of Facebook as a negative thing, but it has been a Godsend for me... and my family. My mom doesn't miss anything! I make a post about Hannah's college recital... she's on the phone congratulating her on a job well done. My recent weight loss... she encourages me on every single phone call... and 'likes' every single post. If I don't post anything new or positive in a week's time, she's on the phone asking what's wrong. She's tuned in, connected. 

Snapchat screenshotThis is how I know we'll be okay. My kids use all the social media... Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. They've made sure I know how to use them too. We're good. I won't miss anything! We will have a connection that was never available before. I will get to SEE my grandson as often as I want. I can witness all the little things that happen in my kids' lives. 

And... I'll be back. I've decided not to sell my house here. After I've been HOME long enough (I think I'll know when it's time), I can come back. My kids will scatter. I know they won't stay in this town... or state forever. But, when I come back, I will be centrally located, able to visit to my heart's content! I'll have a place to come back to. At that point, I may just feel like I'm coming HOME.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 23 December 2017 14:48 In Latest Articles Tags
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My earliest childhood memory came to mind today, as it often does when I am reminiscing. This little girl, three or four years old, happily toddling across a hardwood floor in the living room of the home she shared with her parents and two little brothers. Light streaming in from tall windows, carrying sparkling fragments of Northern New York dust down to land gently, silently on the coffee table behind her; while she straightened the colorful, crocheted blanket on the back of the monstrous sofa. Standing on her tippy-toes, she was barely able to stretch her little body across the cushion to tug on a tassel. Music was coming from somewhere, maybe the big console tv in the corner, or from the record player in the next room. There was always music. Maybe that’s why, to this day, music is so important to her. At the end of this little reverie, my parents appear in the doorway to the dining room – smiling, happy.

This nostalgic vignette sheds light on another constant in my life – HOME. My happy place. The one constant I can carry with me… even when I’m not there. The roots of which, dig deep; even though the familial foundations were short-lived. My parents divorced when I was five.

Fast forward almost 50 years to any Saturday morning. My iPhone is plugged into the soundbar on the entertainment stand in the corner, filling the whole house with tunes from my favorite Spotify playlist. I’m flitting around the living room, Swiffer duster in hand, sometimes pausing to belt out a chorus into the yellow-handled ‘microphone’. Diffused light flowing through the sheer curtains that cover the big picture window behind the faux leather sofa (no blanket) carries equally sparkly Nebraska dust particles into the room (no coffee table). Katy Perry, Juicy J, and me… we’re warning everyone to beware of the Dark Horse that’s “comin’ atcha!” Water the plant, dust the piano, sweep the hardwoods; “… cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine, there’s no going back!” Just me… and URL, my 10 year-old miniature schnauzer. He is not phased at all by my dance moves, but is patiently waiting for the area rug to be vacuumed so he can roll around on his back, flailing all four legs in different directions. I call it frolicking. 

This is not exactly the scene you would expect to witness in the home of a divorced mother of five, who’s been on her own for the past seven years; juggling work, bills, matters of health & wellness and dating after age 50, is it? Juggling sounds like I'm handling things flawlessly; like those balls are swishing through the air one after the other without even a little hitch. Not! Balls have been dropping all over the place! I have scrambled for what seems like forever to retrieve one while another gets away - like wrangling five very young children for "perfect" Christmas card photos. It suddenly dawned on me today though, over the past several years, I have somehow managed to organize my personal disasters into their own neat little cubicles... somehow. How did that happen? How did I find my way back to this seemingly calm, happy place?

I don't know exactly when I started doing this, but Sudoku puzzles have become my Saturday morning ritual - before any cleaning commences. I wake when I'm ready. No alarm on this day. I shuffle out to the front porch in my pajamas to retreive the Tribune. Hopefully, the carrier didn't chuck it too far down the sidewalk since I'm dressed this way. Grind the coffee beans. Add cold water. Push the button. A few minutes later, I am sitting at the kitchen table or, in the summer, on the back deck with my coffee in hand, paper folded neatly in a small square, exposing only the puzzle. Saturday Sudokus are the best. They're five stars. The hard ones. I love a challenge! 

I'm guessing anyone who likes to work these puzzles has a method, a system that they use to figure out which numbers go where. I don't. Not really. I kind of work it backwards if I'm honest. Huh. I just realized that. I also read the paper from back to front. Not sure when I started doing that either, or why. Hmmm... Back to my puzzle. By backwards I mean, I figure out where the numbers CAN'T go, and by process of elimination only one empty square remains. That's where this particular number has to live! Simple, right? No. This is a five star puzzle, remember?

Have you ever seen a movie where the main character is a genius kid solving a cipher? All the letters and numbers get blurry and float around the screen until one by one they become crystal clear, and the puzzle pieces all fall into place. That's kind of how my puzzles work. I know. Weird, right? The numbers don't actually jump off the page and float around. Don't send your letters of concern just yet. lol!! But, when I pull the paper back away from my face (I'm not doing it because my glasses are still on my nightstand. Haha!!), I can see all of the numbers at the same time. It's easier to see what's missing. I can see a lot of 7's, so I look to see where the few that are missing will fit. Before I know it, my puzzle is done and it's time to clean the house.

Up close, the hard things in life look daunting, confusing. If we step back to view the big picture we can see what is missing. Think about it. A major life event... could be divorce, the death of a sibling, your kid's medical condition; how do you deal with it? There will be a lot of information to process. There will be a lot of emotions involved. It can be messy. When you're in the middle of it, you can't see through the tangled, gnarly knots of pain and confusion. It will seem like you'll never get back to dancing around the living room again. And you won't, if you stay there. Step back; find a clearing. Take a deep breath and take in the view. From this perspective, you can see more clearly what needs to be done. 

Seven years ago, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was getting divorced. I had been married for 19 years. Four of my five kids were still living at home. I did not have a career, or even a job. We homeschooled. My ex was in no position to help financially, even if he wanted to. It was Christmas. My family was 1300 miles away. I spent whole days in my bedroom, curled up in a ball on my bed, crying, agonizing, worrying myself almost to death. I really did feel like I was dying. My life was an absolute mess, but I still had all these responsibilities!

It is only now, looking back at this terrifying, gut-wrenching time in my life, that I realize what I did. I took a step back. A really, really big step! I packed up the kids and went home to New York. We stayed for six weeks. Some of my kids went to public school for the first time in their lives. I looked for a job, and a place for us all to live. In the meantime, all five of us crammed into my parents' two bedroom double-wide. Yep. Very cozy. My intention was to stay there, in New York, finish raising my family, pick up the pieces and move on with my life. That is not what happened. But, six weeks was enough time to think things through, regroup, make a plan. I was able to look at the 'big picture' from the safety of my parents home. I took a time-out; gave myself some space.

Here we are, seven years later, back in Nebraska. All of my kids are adults now. I have a beautiful one year-old grandson! I go to work every weekday, and clean my house on Saturday mornings. Yes, most times I'm dancing and singing along with my music... after my Sudoku puzzle is complete, of course. That rough patch is behind me. There have been others; some equally devastating. But, now I have insight. I know what to do when the going gets tough. I step back, take a long view, breathe. Then, I get to work. It's not always easy to take those hard steps, but hindsight is a great teacher. I call it big picture thinking. Next time you find yourself in a tight spot, you should try it. It works!

 

JournalSomeone asked me the other day, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Yes, I'm 51; but, the question caught me off guard. In truth, I was a little ashamed that I didn't have a well-thought-out answer. I thought to myself, 'Shouldn't I be that person by now? I've had this many years. Surely, I'm there, right?' Sadly, I admit, my feeble answer... "I don't know". 

I think the universe was focused on me during that conversation. It seems as though a path has been cleared for me to do some soul-searching this weekend. I've found myself sitting smack in the middle of a four-day weekend with no obligations pressing me for attention. No commitments. No schedule. No kids. Not even my dog! No REAL responsibilities to speak of.

So, what is a woman to do with all this time on her hands, and a burning question in her heart? Think. Ponder. Wrestle with her conscience. Then, write it all down. Well... that's what I do anyway. Writing it down has always given me clarity. When I'm done writing, I usually have my answer.

Initially, I wrote everything down in a journal. At some point (roughly 13 years ago), I started publishing my thoughts on a website that I built myself. You are here. (Thanks, by the way, for being interested in my ramblings.) I still write all the personal stuff in my journal; but sometimes the not so personal stuff ends up on this website, when I feel that others might benefit from the solutions I come up with. Because I have received private messages and phone calls after publishing some articles, I know that some people DO benefit. I am encouraged and humbled. Thank you.

So, what do I want to be when I grow up? I thought I knew once. A lot has changed in the past several years, and the person I thought I was going to be has disappeared completely. Just like that. Poof! Gone! Where did she go?

Life has a way of throwing you for a loop sometimes. It's easy to get so caught up in the chaos, that you lose yourself, the identity that you thought was yours. Here is where you need to step back, take a deep breath, and recognize this moment for what it is... a turning point. Take some time to think about where you are. Try to find the lesson in your circumstances. Usually, I start with all the negative, yucky feelings I'm having. Be glad you don't have to deal with THAT anymore! If you're feeling shame or guilt, congratulations! That means you are human. Take the lesson from it, and don't forget what you've learned. Now... move on.

Then, realize you have a golden opportunity to change things for the better. You can start over, and shape your path yourself. Think about the things that make you happy. Realize that you can NOW incorporate those things into the new you. It's YOUR life. You are in charge. Don't be scared. You are already coming out of this sharp curve, headed for a straight-away. You are in control of you!

Well, there now. Was that so bad? Guess what I just figured out. I like to write. I like to help other people. In turn, my writing helps me feel better about myself. It gives me confidence. It gives me clarity during the confusing turning points in my life. I'm thinking maybe I should revive my neglected little website and start writing a few more articles. I might never make money doing it, but I already have a job. And if it helps someone else, all the better!

I am already grown-up, and I am a writer. :)

Before - October 2016After - June 2017


UPDATE: I am happy to report, as of December 2017, total weight loss so far is 40 pounds!!

Over the past several months, I have lost 20+ pounds using apple cider vinegar. I've posted exactly twice about it on my Facebook wall. I started using the vinegar in March 2017. It is now July 2017. My weight fluctuates, so I speak only in ranges. The scale has read 24 pounds down - but right this minute, only reads 21. See what I mean? Yes, I do weigh myself often. I am on a mission. That's what I do when I have a goal to reach. I check for progress constantly. It's how I roll. lol! You don't have to. See Caveats below.

Food and I have always had a complicated relationship. I have my favorites, but I hate them - because I know they're not good for me... but I love them. I've never claimed perfection. lol! Comfort food is my thing. When I'm upset, I eat. When I'm sad, I eat. When I'm happy, I eat. When I'm content, I eat. But then, I realize what I'm doing and snap out of it... for awhile. You can imagine the yoyo thing going on here, can't you? When I got divorced, I just kind of gave up. In March, I reached a weight I had never seen before, and it scared me - so, I finally decided enough was enough!

I've spent a lot of time responding to private messages from friends and family regarding the method I'm using. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy communicating that way with you all, but sometimes it takes me a while to reply. You know, life and all. :D So, I thought I would write an article about it here on my website for you to peruse whenever you'd like to - answering the most common questions I've received.

First, The Caveats
This is how it worked for ME. I am not you. It might work differently for you. I am a researcher. I like to find out about things before I try them. When I'm satisfied that I have enough information, I will jump in with both feet. That's the kind of gal I am. :D

I checked with my doc. Actually, I had a consultation about a lipo-like laser treatment that he was offering. I was desperate. I got all the info and returned home to think about it. During the appointment, I told him I was considering acv. He agreed that it was a worthwhile endeavor. I took that as his blessing. The treatment was expensive, and the acv was not. I decided to see what I could accomplish while saving my pennies for the treatment. A few months in, I decided the acv would work just fine, and I could spend my money on our upcoming NY trip. More on that in my next article. ;)

Please be sure to check with your doctor, especially if you're not a researcher like me. He/she will know you and your body's physiology. Me, not so much. Okay, me... not at all!  

Is It Easy?
Hey, I get it. Believe me, I understand all that you have going on. If this wasn't easy, I wouldn't be able to do it. I am not the person who keeps a food journal. That works for people. I know it does. And I heartily applaud them on their success. It's just not me. Refer to Caveats again if you need to. ;) Weight loss is a very personalized thing. It has to fit your lifestyle. I think that's why so many of us struggle. There are so many different ways to do it. Each method fits a certain personality; and we all have different personalities, right? THIS particular method clicked for me. I've been searching for a long time for the right fit. (Oh, look at that pun! lol!) It takes just a few minutes a day. Mix a drink, drink it, and move on. The acv benefits your body in more ways than just weight loss. See for yourself!

How Do You Use It? Do You Drink It Straight?
The #1 question: Do you just drink it straight?
Short Answer: NO!
Longer Answer: NO! It can burn your esophagus. It is very stringent.

I mix 1 tablespoon of organic, raw apple cider vinegar WITH the mother (good bacteria) with about a cup of warm (not hot) water. It's very important that the water is not too hot. The heat will kill all of the good bacteria and enzymes that do all the work. Yes, bacteria. A topic for a whole other post. Trust me. There is such a thing as GOOD bacteria. I drink this twice a day, about 30 minutes before a meal. (If I forget, I drink it after my meal. It still works.) That's it! That's all there is to it. See? Easy peasy.

What Kind of Vinegar Should I Use?
Okay. Here is where you're going to find out what kind of person I really am. It's not bad; I promise. I am a whole foods/REAL food kind of person. Natural, if you will. Simple. Real. You can go look at another article I wrote on this site regarding that topic here. If I am privy to a conversation about how calories and saturated fat are evil, or low-fat, high fiber is the way to go - you'll probably notice me slinking out of the room, trying to leave the premises, undetected. I want no part of that pow wow. I know me. If you ask my opinion, you're going to get it. And you probably won't like it. Remember the researcher characteristic I told you about? Yeah. If I am able to summon the courage at the moment you ask my opinion, you are going to get my well-informed response. You better believe I've researched it! I've spent the last six years getting to know who I really am, and what my values are. I've discovered I'm kind of opinionated; especially when it comes to something I've researched the daylights out of. 

I am a strong proponent of natural remedies. I believe whole-heartedly that this method is safe because it's natural. Yeah, yeah... marijuana is natural. Does that mean it's safe? I'll explain my views on that in another post, at another time. Stay tuned... lol!

Organic, raw apple cider vinegar with the Mother is the only one I will use. There are different brands on the market. I believe any of them will work as long as they're raw, unfiltered, organic. The mother is the key. It is full of pre & probiotics that are good for you. It is responsible for the many, many benefits of this product. Having said that, let's move on to the next question.

Is it Safe? What About Breastfeeding Moms?
I believe it is totally safe. I've included a few links within this article. I intend to include a few more at the end. (Quick note about my research: I consider the source first and foremost. I won't just cite another person's article if I don't consider them an expert, or at least credible. I research THEM too. And, the docs are the ones with the degrees. Even so, I won't use their opinion if it doesn't line up with my findings.) Simple.

I will apologize here to the breastfeeding moms, one of them being my own daughter. I just started digging into this topic last week, and I am not satisfied with the results at this time. My REAL food peeps haven't been publishing their opinions on this issue, and I'm troubled by the findings from the other so-called "experts". They are advocating pasteurization. I believe pasteurization will kill all or most of the benefits. So, I can't recommend this method to breastfeeding moms at this time. I know you're all desperate to slim down. I know. I have given birth five times!

How Do You Get Past the Taste?
I know this will not be a popular answer. I kind of like the taste. I have made kombucha in the past. It sort of tastes like that. I also drink my coffee bold and black... for the taste.

Ok. So if you just can't get past the taste, I've read that adding honey will help. Raw honey. It is also packed full of health benefits. Why contradict everything we've learned here by dumping a spoonful of sugar on it? Maybe add a little more warm water. You're still getting all of the vinegar, but diluted more. Just make sure you drink it all.

How Long Does It Take?
I started to see results immediately, within a few days. I needed this most of all. Just a pound or two gave me the green light. I had to give it a chance, right? But, that's not my nature. I need incentive! One pound. Two pounds. Give it another week. Three pounds, four pounds. Now we're talking! After that, I just kept plugging away.

WARNING: It will slow down. As your body adjusts to this new habit, it'll say, 'Oh, this is what we're doing. Well, if we're in this for the long haul, we better slow down a bit. Let her get used to it.' It's OK! Don't panic. You ARE in this for the long haul. Don't push too hard. Don't wear yourself out. As with everything worthwhile, pace yourself. Remember the fluctuation I talked about back there? It's going to happen. Slow and steady is a good thing. Sometimes you need to take a step back to move forward. Hang in there. I have faith in you!

Is This the Only Thing You're Doing to Lose Weight?
About 2 months in, I added intermittent fasting. I will tell you, it's not for everybody; just depends on your mindset, I guess. You can read about it here if you'd like to know more. Again, I can't stress enough; do some research. Don't just take my word for it.

The basics: I fast for 16 hours, and eat normally for 8. During my 16 fasting hours, I sleep for 8. I always skipped breakfast anyway, so that was not an issue for me. Before you jump on me about breakfast being the most important meal of the day... consider where you learned that. Did someone just tell you that all your life? Or did you do your own research? ;) I go home for lunch every workday at 11:30, so that's when I start my eating hours. I eat NORMALLY during this time. I don't eat everything in sight, and I don't eat lettuce for every meal. I eat what I always ate before. OK, maybe a little less because the vinegar is still working to suppress my appetite. Then, I stop eating at 7:30. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.

When I added this to my daily routine, I saw immediate results again. Lost four pounds in the first week; then, leveled out again. Meaning - I still lost weight but not as fast. There are several different "plans". Find one that works for you. Do the research.

The Downside of Downsizing
If you're like me, you're going to need to see results FAST! Initially, you will. If you stick with it, you will get to a point where your current wardrobe is not going to cut it anymore. My moment of truth came when I realized my previously tight jeans wouldn't stay where they were supposed to anymore. It wasn't just one pair. It was ALL of them! Talk about mixed emotions! WooHoo!!! I've lost weight!! Wait, what? I need to go shopping. Ugghh! I hate shopping! (I know, weird, huh? Pretty sure it has something to do with my practical, miserly nature.) Shopping I went! Bought a few outfits that were a whole size smaller. Great! Perfect! Wait, these pants don't fit either. I got to exchange a pair for an even smaller size. Again, WooHoo!!

That's all I've got for the downside. Upside? You get to spend less money on groceries. Seriously! You can still eat normally, but I experienced a decrease in appetite, so had to start making some (not so tough) decisions. I'll have a hamburger with ketchup, mustard, and pickles. Hold the bun. Carbs are not my friend anyway. Just put it on a plate and eat it with a fork. Same with spaghetti, one of my favorite meals. I used to eat it with a slice (or two) of bread every time. Now, I skip the bread. The spaghetti still has carbs, but you're not adding more with the bread. Eggs. I get mine from a guy at work who has chickens in his yard. I used to eat them over easy with toast. Now, I eat them omelette-style without toast. See the evil carbs running away? lol! If I get hungry at work, we do have a vending machine. Instead of a candy bar, M & M's, or a danish, I get a little bag of trail mix. Just enough to tide me over. Yup, there are M & M's in there, but not many; and sometimes I pick them all out and eat them later. Find what works for you. I know you can, because I did. If I can do this, anybody can! 

I'm not done yet. Still have about 20 more pounds to get rid of. Just wanted you all to know - this works! ;D Good luck!

If you think of a question I have not answered here, by all means, shoot me a message! 

Life is so messy and beautiful!This photo is captioned: "Life is so messy and beautiful." Perfection is not necessary... and to me, not even desirable. New year resolutions should fit YOU and YOUR lifestyle.

My new year resolutions will be decidedly atypical for 2017. It's time to break out of that mold that I've encased myself in. My resolve will be based on MY expectations for my life this year, and not what I think others have come to expect of me. It's time to stand behind all those positive-thinking memes I like on facebook. (Sidenote: I have no shame in liking good, positive encouragement on social media.) 

This year, I'll go to the movies, by myself. I love a good drama! When I see a trailer for a good movie, I will make a plan to go see it, while it is still in the theater. Why should I have to wait for it to come out on BluRay, or for someone's schedule to clear up enough to go see it with me? I am good company! And I am an adult! I'm going to the movies this year!

My "me time" is going to be filled with home improvement projects this year. There are things that MUST get done. I call them, "put out the fires" projects. The toilet might fall through the floor soon, and we only have one bathroom. I think this one qualifies as, "hurry up and get it done!"

Then, there are the "wouldn't it be nice if" projects. I will make time for them also. Wouldn't it be nice if my whole bathroom looked like my Pinterest board? Yep, that's on deck this year. Side note for lurking gift givers: power tools... just sayin'.

I get great satisfaction from completing a hard job, especially one that involves physical labor. When complete, I've reached goals of physical, emotional, and intellectual fulfillment. Think about it. A home improvement project is a good workout. It makes you feel great about what you can accomplish all by yourself. And avoiding a big repair/construction bill makes your budget happy! No labor charges for this gal!

When faced with decisions such as saving money for a new couch vs. taking my kids out to eat, which do you think I'll choose? If you know me at all, even a little, the answer to this question is easy. Let's eat! ...and laugh, and share, and learn more about each other. When my life is over, and the kids are all grown up, no one will remember what my couch looked like. (Well, maybe my kids will; they HATE my couch!) But, I think they'll remember the wonderful, fun times we had together. Memory building will be the name of my game this year!

Over the past several years, since my divorce, and the death of my brother, my priorities have experienced a pretty big shift. I've come to realize that a connection with my extended family is a huge part of my well-being. Facebook is great. Phone calls are awesome. But, face-to-face has reached top-level importance for me. You guessed it! A 2,600+ mile, round-trip is in the planning stages as you read this. I have already turned in my leave request at work. FAMILY has become the center of my universe. I will not apologize for that, ever.

It appears that 2017 is shaping up to be a great year, even before it has started. My wish for you, is that you will be able to identify those things that are of utmost importance in your life, and reach for them like you never have before. A year's worth of reaching will not be wasted.  You'll see.

Happy New Year, friends!

 

Sunday, 22 May 2016 19:13 In Latest Articles Tags
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I’ve been on my own for 5+ years now. I didn’t start thinking about the perfect man right away when I divorced my husband of 19 years. In fact, it took me a few years to even dare to dream about it. I’ll be brutally honest; I didn’t marry for the right reasons. I wasn’t a strong person. I was a single mom. I had a past. I had a lot of things to figure out... and I should have done it on my own; but I didn’t. This guy came along and said all the right things, pretended to love my daughter (who was 5 years old), and told me he could live with my “demons”. I married him – after only knowing him for two months.

Nineteen years later, I had changed most of my bad habits, and given birth to four more children. All my life, I can only remember ALWAYS wanting to be a mom. I got my wish; and I wouldn’t trade even one moment of being a mom for anything in the world! My dreams came true! But, I am ashamed to admit, the marriage part suffered irreparable damage. Stuff happens... and boy, did it happen! The gory details are no one’s business. Let’s suffice it to say, divorce was the ONLY answer.

When my marriage finally came to an inevitable end, it felt like I had to leave the planet for a little while. It was like the time when I was in second grade - my cousin Holly rode her bicycle out into the road from her circle driveway, and got hit by a car, and died. She was only a year or so older than me. I remember my stepdad, her uncle, sitting on our kitchen floor, crying. That night, when the evening news came on, I was just incredulous! ‘How could the news still be on? Don’t they know what happened to Holly? Don’t they care?’ It was like that. My world had fallen apart, and nobody cared. Everybody just went on with his or her own life.

I’ve thought about writing this article for a long time. My decision to actually publish it comes with much trepidation! You don’t ever really know a person, right? I sometimes wonder if I even know myself. Over the past few years, I’ve pondered this exact thought, and wondered how I will EVER meet my perfect man. I’ve joked with friends and coworkers that he’ll have to be perfect, because now I know everything I don’t want in a man. I have so many experiences to draw from.

But, it’s time. Time to shake things up; maybe MAKE something happen. I will be fifty this year. I just can’t see living out the rest of my life alone. I have a lot to offer, and I’m really a pretty simple gal. I know there has to be ONE guy out there that’s perfect... for me. So... here are the private thoughts that happen in my head... constantly.

The perfect guy will love the outdoors, and want to go camping... a lot! “Please come with me,” he’ll say. “It won’t be any fun without you.” He’ll be handy, and make fixing things around the house a priority. Since the kids are grown up, and almost all ‘up and out,’ he’ll ask if they’re coming over this weekend, and he’ll hope the answer is yes. He’ll be genuinely excited about grandchildren and family gatherings. He’ll always include family, always.

Sometimes, he’ll want to hang out in the back yard; build a fire, drink a beer... with me... just me. He won’t mind just sitting and talking the night away. He’ll have to like talking... at least with me. One of the things I miss the most about being married – is having someone to talk to. I have my kids, but... there are certain things you just can’t talk about with your kids.

He’ll have friends. They will become “our friends” because they love spending time with him... and me. He’ll want to spend time with my friends too. He’ll want to be alone sometimes, or just hang with his friends... without me. That will be ok, because he’ll respect the fact that I’ve been on my own for quite awhile, and sometimes, alone time will be good for both of us.

He’ll have a good job, and be proud of the fact that he is able to provide for himself, and those that he loves. He’ll like going to work. He’ll be respected – among his coworkers, bosses, and peers. He’ll encourage me to excel at my job also.

I’ve learned what my values are over the past five years. (No, I didn’t know before.) I’ve also thought a lot about what’s important to me. I care a lot about certain things. Other things, I’ve decided, don’t matter to me. The perfect guy will respect that I have reasons for feeling the way I do. He won’t dismiss something as trivial, because he knows that I have a past – and I take very seriously the lessons I’ve learned from it.

I won’t expect him to enjoy everything that I enjoy, or even understand it. But, he’ll encourage me to keep tending my garden, renovating the house, and writing; because he will understand that those are the things that give me joy. They’re the things that make me tick. This is how I know he needs to have his own interests too. I will always be totally on board!

I will expect him to take some time to get to know me, more than two months. Not forever... I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I have grown to understand that people are SO different. It shouldn’t take long to realize, ‘you are not for me’. But, I think there is someone out there for everyone. I think there must be someone out there for me. Maybe I am the one person someone else has been looking for too.

Saturday, 30 April 2016 09:58 In Latest Articles Tags
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Finding balance with your money is not an easy task. Single moms especially, need to cut every corner. I am now one, with three grown children still living at home. With two daughters in a private, four-year, college - that just happens to be right in our hometown, and a son who is still gleaning wisdom from family & friends before he spreads his wings and flies away; I am constantly searching for money-saving tips, so I will be able to oblige when one of them says, "Mom, can I borrow $20 til I get paid?" 

The other day, while enjoying my coffee on the back deck, admiring my handiwork in the yard, I was perusing the internet on my iPad. I ran across this article with some very handy tips that I thought I should share with you. 

Nine Tips on How to Hack Your Electric Bill

 

These are my kiddos — my daughter and her husband. They just celebrated their 1st anniversary. Since their anniversary is so close to Christmas, and money is always tight, I decided that making something for them using my creative abilities was in order. My goal this Christmas was to give my kids meaningful, heart-felt gifts that they could truly appreciate. It didn't take me long to come up with this; and I'm very pleased with the outcome.

I've done this kind of thing once before, for a co-worker's daughter's birthday. It was one of those milestones that she wanted to freeze in time. That turned out pretty great, too; and she said her daughter LOVED the gift!

So, I've decided to offer this service to you. For $20 (via PayPal), a photo (that can be emailed) and a little info about the recipient, you can present your loved one with a truly meaningful gift for their special occasion.

It doesn't matter where you live! Everything can be done electronically. I will send you the file containing the finished product. It can then be uploaded to your favorite photo processing center (i.e. Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, etc.), and voila! You've got the PERFECT gift for any occasion! You choose the size, and finish. You can have as many printed as you want. You are in control. I don't retain any rights to the finished product. 

I will keep the file for a limited amount of time, just in case. And I would like to use the resulting image from your order in my portfolio — but only with your permission, of course. You can choose whether you'd like to have my logo on the photo, or not. Someone might want to know how they can get one of these beautiful mementos. :) 

One little disclaimer: My site is all about home, family, balance. I will not use obscene or vulgar photos, or produce something that I feel is inappropriate. These magazine covers are intended to be keepsakes. I don't want to encourage any hard feelings for anyone. I'm all about promoting unity and family bonds, not family feuds.

Please provide your email address below before you select the Pay Now button, so I can send you instructions about submitting files that I will need. PayPal will walk you through the rest of the payment process. You can also choose to pay with your debit or credit card within PayPal. Your amount will be $20 per magazine cover that I create for you. Once I send you the completed file, it's yours to print as many as you like. If you have any questions, please ask in the text box provided during the payment process, or jot me a line from my contact form.

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