Tammy McConnell

Tammy McConnell

Content creator/writer

What If You Fly?I write. A LOT. You might not think so, because very few articles have shown up on this site... where I keep promising to add more. My writing is mostly personal. I have journals packed full of the meanderings of my mind. Lately, I've been struggling with a few things, so pages and pages have been filled. It's my therapy. Occasionally, I will have a break-through, like I did this morning; and I feel an urgent need to share with my close friends who may benefit also.

Let's get right to it; shall we?

At the tail-end of this past summer, matters of the heart suddenly jumped to the forefront of my everyday life. After seven years of desert conditions, it felt like giant waves of cool, refreshing water just filled every dry, cracked area of my heart. Yep! I met someone. It was wonderful while it lasted! Then it was over. Just like that. My point has nothing to do with the actual relationship itself, so those details are not important here. I will tell you, it was good. I have emerged with a fascinating new friend, whom I will always think of fondly.

Because the relationship was always positive, I found it very difficult to cope with the loss. I am a deeply emotional person, and he was... not. It's okay. People are different. Honestly, I think that was the attraction. You know what they say about opposites. I went through all the stages: denial, rationalization, self-deprecation, blame, anger, hurt... A close, personal friend of mine could tell you what a roller coaster of personalities I have been over the past several weeks.

I believe all of this is a good thing. Those steps are important. They should not be left out. Healing is messy sometimes. Okay, it is probably always messy if we're honest. But, healing is the end goal. It must take place before moving on. You can't drag all of your old wounds around with you into the next relationship. It will be flawed right from the start. Every new person you meet will have to deal with your old hurts... directly or indirectly. That is not fair to either one of you. Some people get stuck here, and decide all relationships are hurtful, so they stop hoping. I refuse to do that. I know I am not here on this earth to be miserable.

Here is where I tell you, there is always a silver lining. Always. You have to look for it. Sometimes the clouds are so dark, and so big that it's hard to see past them. But... they are movable. They're not solid. You can push through them, or skirt around them. They really only look like monsters. It's an illusion. Has anyone ever told you, "This too shall pass"? Believe them! It's true!

I have a very objective inner voice. It likes to play hide and seek though. Fortunately, it has very good timing. Just when I think, 'I can't do this. It's hopeless', my voice tells me, 'You've got this! Have faith in yourself.' That's what happened this morning. 

Here is the analogy that played out in my journal:

Your heart is like your child. It is YOURS to take care of, nurture, teach. It is your responsibility to protect it. You are its caretaker. Just like your very own child, there will come a time when you need to let it go out on its own, to find the place where it belongs. You cannot place it there. It has to find its own way. If you truly love your heart, you will be less likely to just let it go prematurely. You'll weigh the decisions affecting your heart more carefully. You'll watch out for its well-being. What it boils down to is... self love. You have to love yourself first. If you don't, your heart will not be prepared for the great big, real world out there.

Okay, so this all sounds a little daunting. No matter how you come to parenting, at some point you realize this is your baby... literally! It's your ballgame. You call the shots. You are in control. You have to be. Yes, it is a huge responsibility to parent your heart; but, there are also tremendous rewards waiting for you. I fervently believe this! Parenting requires faith. 

One of my favorite quotes: "What if I fall?" "Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?"

If you've been nurturing, paying attention to what your heart's needs are along the way, it will grow wings. When you get to that jumping off point, you'll be able to fly. 

Up to this point in my life, I can tell you... my heart has only experienced this wonderful, soaring flight pattern once or twice. I've had a few false starts, and had to fly the plane back to the runway for refueling. And, I've had some pretty long flights, full of turbulence. I've even crash-landed a few times.  But, I refuse to close the airport just because life gets rough sometimes. 

As for those hurts and scars - healing. Healing takes time and attention. This applies to all kinds of grief. Some things are just not in your control. I've lost a few loved ones in the past couple years. I thought my heart would break right in half, and be unrepairable. It's hard when you can't control the outside situations that affect your heart. The key is to build up your heart to be strong. When things like that happen, you'll be able to withstand the blow. It's like wearing a bullet-proof vest. Yes, there will be bruises, but you won't die.

Love yourself. Nurture your heart. Be a good parent. Don't stop caring about other people. These things make your heart strong. When the time comes... you'll be ready for take off! ;)

As for me, I can now return to my regularly scheduled life. All those emotions have been sorted out and placed in their respective cubbies. They make sense to me now. Sometimes, one of them will crawl out and try to wreak havoc; but, because I'm paying attention, I can wrangle it back to where it belongs without too much trouble, hopefully. In the meantime, I will be preparing for the next... or last flight.

 

 

 

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.J

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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Super Heroes are Us! 

"You are so strong." "I don't know how you do it all." "You can do anything!" "I couldn't do what you're doing."

These phrases are meant to encourage a struggling, single mom. But, to be brutally honest, they come across as an insincere, canned response to... "Oh, you know, I'm okay... "

I am not strong. I'm a fake. I'm constantly terrified that I will forever damage my kids somehow. I go into my bedroom and bawl my eyes out more times than I will ever care to tell you about. I work really, really hard; I have no clue how it comes across as effortless. I'm exhausted, spent, done. I can't do anything right. Will you please tell the phone company about my super powers? All they ever think about is money. They just don't get it!

Here are a few tricks I've stashed up my sleeve since I became a single mom four years ago - my little contribution to the hopeful future of broken families.

Embrace 'same ole, same ole' 

Develop a routine... it will save your life on high-stress days. It will help you to stay focused on the important things. Keep doing what works. Change what doesn't.

I just finished my nightly routine of setting the coffee maker and the alarm clock. These are things I do every weeknight. It's expected. It's noticeable. If I forget, someone will remind me. Mom's autopilot is broken. Someone switch the old girl back on please.

My car practically drives itself to work every day. Before I know how I got there, I'm opening my travel mug of coffee, and tucking my spare behind the monitor on my desk. I set my phone to vibrate, so the kids can message me at work (for important - or not so important - details of their lives) without disrupting my coworkers. I can focus on my job without wondering constantly about what they're doing, and "do they need me?"

I cannot stress enough, how liberating this routine thing has become. I actually feel like a "normal" person sometimes!

Pay the mortgage/rent first 

Have your mortgage payment automatically withdrawn as soon after payday as possible (or pay your rent first out of your paycheck). Once that money is pulled out of your account, it's gone. You can't spend it on something else. Your mortgage is THE MOST IMPORTANT bill you will pay. It keeps a roof over your head. It gives your kids a place to come HOME to. It's very, very important! At the end of the day, when you come home after work, you can relax, knowing you've at least accomplished one thing. You've given your kids a safe place to hunker down and regroup. The 8-10 hours you just spent away from them was fruitful. You did THIS for them.

Accept help 

If you're anything like I used to be, it will be very hard to accept help from anyone. After all, you have your superhero image to uphold. You can't have anyone knowing how desperate you are. Get over it! You are in a desperate situation. You will learn humility, or you will be miserable for the rest of your life. It doesn't just make YOU miserable, it makes your kids miserable, and your parents, and everyone who ever cared about you. They want nothing more than to be there for you. Accept their help. Be grateful. A grateful heart sleeps well at night. A well-rested mama can focus on the important things. Who needed what sewn, and what day is that parent/teacher conference?

Protect quality time 

Caution: Don't spend all your hours working. Keep time for the kids. Knowing how important that dollar is to your family, the temptation will be to grab every single one you can get your hands on. Don't fall for it! Your kids NEED you! You will reap rewards later if you protect that bonding time with them now.

Know that there is hope 

I have five kids. Two are up and out, three are still living at home currently. I really am not anxious for them to move out. I hope they stick around. They encourage me, even my most critical, tell-it-like-it-is, even-if-it-hurts child. "Do what you know, mom. You're good at it! Even if you don't make a lot of money, you'll make a little." The support of my kids... priceless!!!

Evidence: They leave me personal notes - on my desk in my home office, in my purse, on the kitchen counter. They're encouraging. They see me trying very hard to meet their needs. They see me struggle. They see me fail. They see me try, try again. They know I am doing everything in my power to make their lives comfortable. They know they are valuable, precious to someone... me. In return, they try to do the same for me. They try to make my life easier. Sometimes they feel guilty for asking me to do things for them. They know I'm busy, or tired, or frustrated. They sometimes forget that they were trying to encourage, and instead whine. They're human. I whine sometimes, too. I expect it... occasionally.

Don't put it in park 

One last thought for the "still marrieds": Don't sit idly by, expecting that you will always be taken care of. Take care of yourself too. There is a chance, no matter how strong your marriage is, that you'll have to do things on your own someday. Maybe you won't get divorced; but what if your other half dies? Or a bear carries them into the wilderness, never to be seen again?

Be smart. Be prepared. Learn things. Do things - NOW, while you can. If you don't need money, volunteer. Go to school. Be useful. Do things that you can put on a resume later.

I know. I know. You won't need it. You can always do it later. That doesn't apply to you.

Don't be fooled. Develop your skills. Do something you love. Later, you can use it to make money, pay bills, support your family. Just in case. Please, I'm begging you. Do NOT be idle!

Hey, life will hand you lemons. Take them! Use them! Worst-case scenario - you have contributed to your family's well-being. You can NEVER go wrong there!

Tammy McConnell was a stay-at-home mom for 19 years! Then, the unspeakable happened. She found herself at a crossroads, with 4 teenagers and a grown daughter to pilot into and through adulthood, alone. It IS possible to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on! She uses her website, growing-home.net, to encourage others like her, to do just that.