Thursday, December 26, 2013

Probably A Good Idea Santa Didn't Bring Us One

If you own a television, I am sure that you have seen this commercial for the My Spy Birdhouse at least once.

For those of you who have never seen it, here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

It looks like it would be good for hour after hour of good old fashioned family fun!

For the low, low price of only $14.99 (plus an additional $7.99 for processing and handling) we would be able to see the birds as they built their nests, and raised their families. Granted, other than the birdhouse being open in the back, and having suction cups,  it doesn't look any more complicated than the birdhouses my girls have made during one of Home Depot's kids workshops, which were free. But still!

We love birds. We love watching them, feeding them, and photographing them. We even have a cockatiel bird as a pet. Here is Howie, perched on our Christmas tree.

Isn't he presh? That is short for "precious". My daughter used it one time in my presence, and now it is my new vocabulary word. Feel free to steal it, and use it often. It will annoy your children.

So....if I thought that the My Spy Birdhouse would make a perfect gift for our family, why in the world did I not buy one?

Here is why: I was afraid that by buying one and attaching it to one of our windows, I would condemn an untold number of birds to their tragic deaths.

You see, our lovely home with the large windows is where birds like to kill themselves. Time after time, we have heard the loud, sickening thump of a bird meeting its untimely death as it flies like a Kamikaze suicide pilot directly into our house. I have lost count of how many innocent, naive birds have lost their lives, or have at least sustained some form of brain injury from our windows.

Earlier this year, we had some beautiful bluebirds around our bird feeder. The feeder was up high in a tree, far away from our death trap windows. The bluebirds flitted around, without a care in the world, until one of them flew SMACK into the window. The poor bird struggled unsuccessfully to get up, but it could not. To my absolute horror, the other bird started pecking unmercifully at him! I assumed that it was trying to kill him, to put him out of his misery, but after discussing it over with Hubs, we think that he was trying to help it up the only way he knew how. He kept flying around the other bird, and pecking at its neck, crying over and over to the struggling creature. If we could have understood his bird language, I'm sure he was saying something like, "Get up! Get up! It is not safe for you to be on the ground! Don't you know a fierce DOG lives here?!"  Finally, he gave up trying to get the helpless bird, and he flew away. The injured bird just laid pitifully on the ground, still struggling to stand.

I hurriedly called Hubs over to the window, and pointed to the sad little bird on the ground. I got Hubs an old t-shirt and a box to put the bird in, and we brought him into the laundry room.

 The little bird was shivering, and breathing rapidly.

After looking him over, it seemed that he just had a few surface injuries, and a dirt encrusted, slightly bloody, rather unfocused eye.

 I got out my bottle of eye drops and cleaned out his eye to the best of my ability. Once the dirt and blood were wiped away, he seemed to appreciate being able to see better.

I placed him back into the warm box to rest, and try to clear his head.

After a little while, we went back in the laundry room to check on him. Hubs picked him up, and the bird immediately hopped onto his shoulder! In spite of smashing up against the window, it seemed like he was going to be okay.

When we were fairly sure that the bird was well enough to be on his own, Hubs placed him back in the box, took him outside, and let him go. He flew right up into the tree, and sat there for a bit, before flying away. Since that time, we have never seen him, or any other bluebird, in our yard again. It's as if he flew back to all of his friends, and warned them not to go anywhere near the birdie house of horrors.

While I still think it would be neat to have the My Spy Birdhouse, we will just have to be content to watch the wild birds from afar.

If you also have a home that birds like to fly into, what do you do to prevent this from happening? The birds in my backyard would be very appreciative of your advice...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Inexpensive Gift Ideas For Christmas

It's that time of year again, folks! Time for roasting chestnuts on an open fire (who does that sort of thing? Anyone?) singing Yuletide carols, and dressing up like Eskimos (unless, you happen to live in Florida).

Oh....and buying everyone and their brother something for Christmas.

Are you running out of money, AND out of inexpensive ideas for every teacher, neighbor, friend you want to give a present to? Then, feel free to steal my idea:

Christmas in a mug!

I love plants, and have quite a few of them. Just the other day, I was separating my plants (again) getting ready to give some friends and relatives some plant starts, when the idea came to me. Why not create an inexpensive Christmas present out of them? So, off I went to my local thrift store, to purchase some Christmas mugs. Now, some of you have never even set foot in a thrift store, unless it was to buy an ugly sweater for that annual office Christmas party.

Why not? Are you too proud to be seen in one? You would be surprised at all the treasures to be found there! That is a whole different blog post, but one thing you can find there this time of year is very low cost things for Christmas. For only 59 cents, at our local thrift store, you can get a like-new Christmas mug. 59 cents! That is even cheaper than going to the dollar store!

Here is an example of one of the Christmas plant mugs I created for a teacher gift:

If you don't already have plants, and you want to create a Christmas plant mug, you can buy a few starter plants at just about any store, and separate them out into several different mugs that you have filled with potting soil. I made sure to include at least three different varieties of hardy plants that transplant well. I used some festive garland I already had, and attached a little red bow.

There are many other things that would work well to put in a mug. By balling up tissue paper and placing it in the mug first, you can make it so that whatever you put in the mug will be elevated. Here are some other ideas for things you could put in a Christmas mug that would make great gifts:

*Hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows
* Cup O' Soup packets or any other "cup" food (my oldest daughter's term, and her favorite kind of food!)
*Assortment of hand sanitizer, lotions, or chapsticks
*Homemade or store bought candy
*Assortment of different flavored tea or coffee
*A variety of office supplies like paper clips, white out, erasers, etc.
*Small notepad and pens or pencils
*Golf balls and tees
*Deck of regular playing cards or UNO cards
*Small frame with picture of kids (would make a great Grandparent gift!)
*Nail polish and other mani/pedi supplies
*Any gift card (iTunes, coffee shop, movie theatre, book store, restaurant, etc.)
*Brownie, cupcake, or muffin baked in a mug (make sure the mug can be put in microwave or oven first!) Or, you could just write down a bunch of yummy recipes for mug desserts down on recipe cards that you make yourself. Need some recipe ideas? You can go here for some inspiration.

If you cannot afford to give much other than the mug itself, fill the mug with little slips of paper of all the things you admire about the person you are giving it to. Who wouldn't want to read all of the things you love about them?! That's a true gift from the heart.

You could also make up coupons for those people you know well. Need to give a gift to a friend or family member with small children? Offer to babysit their little tikes so they can have a quiet night out! Some other ideas could be to shovel their drive, a meal given to them at a later time, pet sitting, free house cleaning, really whatever you can think of that is a labor of love that the person receiving the gift would enjoy!

Use your imagination,  and I'm sure that you could also come up with some creative ideas on creating Christmas gifts in a mug.

Now, put on that Christmas thinking cap, and get busy! Only 8 more days until Christmas....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Table Tipping Part 2

Since the last time we "spoke", have you tipped over any tables?

If so, how did it go? Better than you expected? Worse? About the same?

Now, it's time to look at a totally different approach to table tipping. Those would be the tables that have been filled with the things that we, ourselves, have put there, either intentionally, or unintentionally.

Not only can other people pile things on our theoretical tables, but we can put things there ourselves. Take for example, bad habits that we never intended to develop, but over time, we have found ourselves entrenched in anyway.

It is said that it takes about 21 days to develop a habit; good or bad. I would say that for most people, it takes even less time than that for bad habits to stick, and more time than that to form good habits.

Other people can tell us what we need to do to change things, but until we genuinely want to change, things will remain the same way they have always been. Take for instance, someone who is a smoker. It is a rare person in this day and age that does not know the effects smoking has on a human body. You only have to look at the cigarette package warning label to know that smoking is probably NOT the best idea. Commercials appear on television, showing a lady in a wig, with a stoma in her neck, speaking about her experience with neck and throat cancer caused from smoking. The smoker may even know of someone who has died from the effects of smoking. And yet, they continue to smoke. Why is that? It's because, for whatever reason, they do not want to stop. Oh, they may WANT to stop, but they are not willing to do the hard things that are required of them to become a non-smoker.

Just like the rest of you, there are things that I want to change in my life. Some of my life tables have become cluttered with things that I never intended to be there, but have placed there any my OWN hands. People can tell me that I need to tip over those tables, but, unless I resolve to make those hard decisions myself, nothing will change. It is time to tip over those tables and start anew!

Most of us make some sort of resolution to start out the new year, such as losing weight, getting more exercise, or stopping a bad habit, but why wait until then? Why not start tipping over some of those tables now? Tables that YOU have piled high with bad habits, flimsy excuses, poor attitudes, unhealthy life choices, etc.

Just like last time, this type of table tipping may not be pleasant. It is not easy to take a good hard look at our lives, and realize that we have caused many of our own problems. Gulp.

How do you start making these necessary changes? By taking one baby step at a time.

 If for example, you feel that your spending habits have gotten out of control, it's time to tip over that table and begin again. What better time to start than before the beginning of the most expensive season of the year...Christmas. Resolve to just simply spend less. Sit down, and figure out how much you can realistically afford to spend on each person (which will probably be a lot less than you want to spend on each person) and then, stick to it! Try to remember that while people do enjoy getting gifts from you, it truly is the thought that counts.

Other than a few key items, I really can't remember very many of the exact Christmas gifts that I received as a child. Isn't that sad? Through the years, my parents and other family members and friends have given me tons of gifts, but I can only count on one hand the ones I actually remember. Just how many gifts that you have given to others do you think they will remember years from now? Yeah.....not many.

If you want to exercise more, you could start out by attempting to do P90X every day (although, if you have been a couch potato prior to this, I wouldn't recommend it) or, you can do what a wise person once told me, and just start out by walking a little bit each day. Which one do you think you would be more likely to stick with?

What is it that you have been wanting, but have not been willing to make those hard changes that are required to get what you want? What are you waiting for?

The time to start table tipping is.....NOW!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Table Tipping Part 1

13 Then it was time for the annual Jewish Passover celebration, and Jesus went to Jerusalem.
14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices, and moneychangers behind their counters. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out, and drove out the sheep and oxen, scattering the moneychangers’ coins over the floor and turning over their tables! 16 Then, going over to the men selling doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Don’t turn my Father’s House into a market!”
~John 2:13-16 (The Living Bible)

When you think of Jesus, do you think of him this way? As a man who would use a whip to chase people out of the temple, while turning over their tables and scattering their money all over the floor? If you are anything like me, you probably think of him as more of a "turn the other cheek" kind of guy. One who sought peace in any and all situations.

But that is just not the case. While he did strive for peace, he also would not tolerate certain things. And you know what? Neither should we!

Now, before you start writing me, telling me that what I am about to say has absolutely NOTHING to do with why these verses were written, I already know that. My purpose is not to take anything away from these verses, rather to show you how I feel we can relate to them in a different way. The more I thought about them, the more I realized each part of our lives is sort of like a table. These tables become filled with things we allow into our lives; good or bad.

I have realized, in my own life, there are certain "tables" that need to be overturned. There are things I have put up with for far too long and while I may have been upset by them, I was not willing to tip over the table. The older I get, however, the more I realize some tables MUST be overturned for change to take place.

 While God does require us to love others, he does not command us to be their doormat. I am beginning to learn the difference between allowing myself to be taken advantage of, and tipping the table to bring about much-needed boundaries in my relationships with others.

In their book, Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend write, "Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership".

Perhaps you have allowed others to manipulate you, use you, take advantage of you...the list could go on and on. Maybe it is time to start tipping some tables!

Have you ever heard the song by Little Big Town, Little White Church? If you haven't, here are some of the lyrics:

You've been singing that same old song
Far too long, far too long
Say you'll buy me a shiny ring
But your words don't mean a thing
No more calling me baby, no more loving like crazy
'Til you take me down
(Take me down)
You better take me down
(Take me down)
Take me down to the little white church

Read more: Little Big Town - Little White Church Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Sounds like a lady who did some table tipping of her own!

We cannot control how others choose to behave, but we can control how we respond to their behavior. What I do or don't do, say or don't say, shows others how they can continue treating me. If I put up with something, just for the sake of keeping that table upright, people are going to think that it is okay to keep filling my table up with disrespect, manipulation, bad behavior, etc.

Where do you need to create some healthy boundaries in your own life? In what areas are you allowing others to control you? Is it with your spouse? Your parents? Siblings? Friends? Co-workers? Children?

Now, I will warn you, people usually don't appreciate you tipping the tables on them. While you may not have liked what was happening to you in the past, you did allow it, so people have gotten used to treating you a certain way. When you put your foot down and say (in love) that you will NO LONGER allow yourself to be treated that way, people may not like what you have to say. The dynamics of your relationship may change, and it may not be for the better. That is the price you have to pay for table tipping.

If you have allowed others to fill your tables with things you do not desire in your life, it is time to tell them that, from now on, things are going to be different. They may still behave the same way, but you will no longer allow their decisions to affect you, or to fill your table.

Maybe you thought you had healthy boundaries in place, but over time, your life fences have fallen into disrepair, and it is time to do some necessary maintenance. A fence is only as strong as its weakest spot. It's time to re-establish those boundaries!

If you need to tip some tables, but are hesitant to do so, what is stopping you? How long will you allow others to fill up your table with things you don't want? How long will you allow yourself to be used, manipulated, and taken advantage of? The time to put a stop to it is NOW.

Let the table tipping begin....

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Taken For A Ride On A Saturday Night

I have a bad habit of being ripped off when I go shopping. Hubs has often told me that I should carefully watch as each item is rung up, to make sure that I am being charged exactly what I should be, but I rarely do.

He first gave this sage advice to me when the girls were very small, after I had been accidentally overcharged on several items at the grocery store. Of course, I didn't realize it until after I was already home.

After he gave me his little speech, I told him that I couldn't possibly make sure that every single item was being rung up properly. How could I, when I was trying to keep the youngest from climbing out of the grocery cart seat, the middle daughter from wandering away, and the oldest from adding things from the conveniently placed candy shelf to the cart while I wasn't looking? Those things were WAY more important than being overcharged a few cents on a can of soup. To be honest, it just didn't seem that important. I figured it was a small price to pay for my sanity.

Now my girls are older, and are (usually) quite helpful when I am at the store. They actually UNLOAD the cart for me now, and I don't even have to ask them! I still have to keep tabs on the younger one, as she is still prone to wandering, but we are definitely making headway on that one.

So, there really isn't any reason why I couldn't watch as each and every item is being rung up. Except, that I don't.

I guess it's not fair then to become upset when I am overcharged. However, a little while ago, when I was charged for two motion sickness medicines instead of one (at $4.99 a pop!) I was a little ticked off. Of course, I was already home when I found out, so I didn't do anything about it. I chalked it up to a lesson being learned, and the next time, I swore that I would be more careful.


I admit, usually when I am shopping, I am in a hurry. We are a pretty busy family, and it seems that we are always running late to something. I usually do not have a long, leisurely time in which to shop, so that by the time we are actually checking out, I am staring at my watch, with panic starting to set in, that we will not make it on time to our next activity. Can any of you out there relate? Please, tell me I'm not alone.

Tonight, Hubs and I and the youngest decided to order some Chinese take-out. Since we were out, I decided to swing by the store for just one item: La Choy Teriyaki sauce. Why La Choy? It is the only brand that I have been able to find that is gluten-free. I had already looked at my regular store, and they were out of it, so I decided to try the store that I don't shop at all that much.

Hubs went to look through the store's garden center, to see if there was anything on clearance, while I fought my way through the mass of people to the other side of the store where the teriyaki sauce is kept.

I looked in vain for that blessed bottle with the purple top. They were out of it too! In fact.....there wasn't even a tag on the shelf for it. I'm afraid that means that, *gasp*, the company may have discontinued selling it, or, the stores have decided to stop selling it because they have something against me. Yes, I'm sure that's the reason.

Hubs called my cell phone to tell me that they had fertilizer/crab grass killer on clearance, so he was going to pick up a few bags, and I could meet him in the front. On my way there, I also decided to pick up some corn tortillas and GF English muffins, because, I am an impulse shopper. It is a rare occasion when I can go into a store, and ONLY buy what I came in there to buy. It's a sickness.

Anyway, I had my items, and Hubs had his, so off we went to wait in line. Our Chinese food was only going to take "10 minutes" (that is what they always say every single time you call) and we were already running late picking it up, but we weren't too worried.

The young girl seemed to have a hard time ringing things up as this was a special coupon day, but she managed, and we eagerly hurried to the car, the delicious taste of Chinese food already in our mouths.

As we were getting in the car, I just so happened to glance down at the receipt.


I noticed the girl had charged me for not one.....but TWO English muffins.

Now, since I was actually behind Hubs, and therefore I couldn't even see as the items were rung up, it was actually Hubs that didn't notice that we were charged double! Oh, how the tides have turned.

He asked if I wanted to go in, or if I wanted him to, and of course, I told him that he may have the pleasure.

He quickly went in, got his refund, and came back out.

We had a discussion about how, if we wouldn't have noticed, we would have been out $4.99. Gluten-free items are not cheap, people!

I decided to look at the other items we purchased on the receipt, just to make sure they were rung up correctly.

I hadn't been with Hubs to know how much his fertilizer stuff was supposed to be, but when I told him that each of the three bags had rung up at $23.99, his jaw dropped.

Apparently, the fertilizer was supposed to be $20.79 Oh, the humanity....

Back in we go!

Hubs went BACK to customer service, to get ANOTHER refund. After Hubs expressed his displeasure at being overcharged not once, but twice, the man gave him a store credit for $2.50, on top of the money that he was overcharged for the fertilizer.

Knowing our ability to forget all about coupons, he decided to use it right then and there. Since he is a fan of Magic Shell, but he doesn't usually want me to buy it, he decided that, since we were given "free" money, he would spend it on that.

We located the Magic Shell, and proceeded to stand in line.....again.

As we waited in the long line, an older gentleman behind me asked me, "You aren't going to use that NOW, are you?"

Thinking he meant the Magic Shell, and being very confused since I couldn't very well use the Magic Shell now.....I looked dumbfounded at him, and stuttered something about not understanding what he meant.

He tapped the bag of fertilizer/crab grass killer, and repeated his question again. OH....he meant the fertilizer! Ha! I told Hubs the man had a question for him. Hubs reassured him that he wasn't going to use it now, but was just buying it because it was on clearance.

By the time we were finally able to pick up the Chinese take-out, way more than 10 minutes had passed. It had been closer to an hour.

The lady said that she had even called us, because she thought we weren't coming to pick it up! No, we were just trapped at the store.

By returning to the store.....twice.....we were able to get back over $15, plus we received a "customer happiness" coupon (that is what it was called) which resulted in free Magic Shell for our ice cream. I'm not sure that $2.50 made up for it, but I guess it's better than nothing.

I asked Hubs if he was charged correctly at the Chinese restaurant, and he said he didn't know.

But, with the way our night had been going......

Probably not.....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

He Knows My Name

I am not exactly a "household" name. I have family, friends, and yes, even aquaintances who know my name, but I am not someone that people talk about around the dinner table.

And....that is just the way I like it.

I am not very comfortable being in the spotlight. I am more of a person who just likes to blend in. I would hate to be famous, and never be able to leave my house without the whole world seeing a picture of me in my old t-shirt and jeans, hair looking messy, minimal make-up on, while pushing a grocery cart. Or, people hiding behind my bushes, just to get a picture of me while I'm taking out the trash.

My dirty laundry isn't featured on the front page of newspapers or gossip magazines. I wouldn't want it to be, either! I do my best to try and present a picture to the public that I have it all together, and that everything is "fine"....even when it really isn't.

If you have ever heard of Miranda Lambert's song, "My Mama's Broken Heart", there is a line in there that says, "you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face". Yep....that's me.

Sometimes the things we go through are things that we feel comfortable sharing with others. But, sometimes, we don't, or we can't. Maybe it is just too personal, or we think that others couldn't possibly understand. Or, if they knew, they would think differently about us, so we just keep it to ourselves.

That can feel very isolating. It can feel like we are all alone, floating along on this sea of life, with no one to turn to. No one who cares. No one who understands.

Even though it may feel like that at times, we are NOT all alone. There IS someone to turn to. Someone who cares. Someone who understands.

His name is......Jesus.

There is a song that came to me today that explains this better than I ever could. It is called, "He Knows My Name", by Tommy Walker. Here are the lyrics:

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call

As you are reading these words, how does it make you feel? Does it make you feel good that He knows your name?

What if you don't believe in Him? Does he STILL know your name? Does he still care?

Yes. He does.

Not only does he know your name, but he knows your every thought. That is the part that tends to bother me. My e-v-e-r-y thought. Not just the ones that are filled with sunshine and roses. If you are anything like me, you think thoughts that you would NOT want others to know. You only let people see the parts of you that you want them to see. The parts of you that will make others think well of you. Not the ugly side of you. Not the part that is selfish, or unkind. Or, just downright awful.

But.....he knows our every thought. He already knows you are thinking them. Why not just tell him?

What if you don't believe in him? Tell him that. Ask him to show you that he is real. He will!

If you are angry with him......tell him. He already knows you are! He can handle our feelings.

If you feel like he is distant.....tell him. Ask him to let you feel his presence today.

If you are sad or hurt.....tell him. Ask him to comfort you. He will!

In Luke 12:7, it says that not only does he know our names, but he knows how many hairs are on our head. Can you imagine that? He counts each and every hair! I'm not sure why this is important to him, but apparently, it is. That just goes to show you how much he cares.

It also says in Psalm 56:8, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."

He keeps track of ALL our sorrows. Every one. He collects our tears in a bottle. I envision that in heaven, there is a bottle with the name "Amiee" written on it. It is a rather large bottle mind you, because I cry a lot! Usually not in front of people, if I can help it. But, even when no one else sees that I am crying, God sees. Not only does he see, but he catches all of my tears, and puts them in a bottle. He records all of my sorrows. He cares.

I don't know about you, but that makes me feel pretty special!

So, today, if you are feeling sad, or lonely, or depressed, and you think that there isn't a single person who cares about you, remember this:

He knows your name
He knows your every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears you when you call

Call on him today.

He is there....

* To hear the song, "He Knows My Name", follow this link

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fighting For Meagan

"Please pray for Meagan and her family. She has just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma". This was the text I received from my friend in answer to the question we had all been asking ourselves. Did Meagan really have cancer?

My heart sank. I just couldn't believe it.  Not Meagan. I felt physically sick to my stomach.

I first found out something was wrong with Meagan during a softball game. Hubs and my two older daughters were on a co-ed softball team with her parents. Meagan's Mom and I were talking, and she mentioned that Meagan had a lump on her neck that the doctors were concerned about because it was growing.

At that point, there wasn't a whole lot of concern, because while cancer was a possibility, it was almost surely NOT that. Maybe it was just a swollen lymph node? I have had one of those under my arm, and while it was painful and scary, I just took some antibiotics and it went away. Yes, perhaps it was just that.

The one doctor wanted to do a surgery to remove it, but why jump to conclusions? Why not just do some blood work first? See if there was anything to be concerned about. A second opinion was definitely in order. So, a second opinion was sought.

Blood work was done. A biopsy at a well-known hospital was scheduled. Many prayers were said. We all hoped for the best. I was not expecting to get the text I did saying that yes.....Meagan has cancer.

 Meagan is a fourteen year old girl. She is my middle daughter's age. She is going into high school this year. She is on the track team. She is a fearless pole vaulter. I didn't want to believe that she could have cancer. Cancer doesn't happen to people I actually know.

 Especially, not to people who are MY daughter's age.

And had happened. The worst case scenario we were all hoping and praying wouldn't come true.....did.

Her parents are shell-shocked. They knew that a cancer diagnosis might be on the horizon, but how do you properly prepare yourself to hear that one of your children has CANCER? You can't.

Her sisters are scared. Who wouldn't be? They just want her to be okay.

Since Meagan's diagnosis just a short while ago, she has already had three different surgeries in three weeks. She had one for the biopsy, one to test her bone marrow to see if the cancer had spread, and one to install a main line port for chemotherapy.

In one day, she went from being a teenage girl who might have cancer, to a teenage girl who does have cancer.

So, what exactly is Hodgkin's Lymphoma? Prior to Meagan's diagnosis, the only thing I knew about it was that it was a cancer that was in the lymph system, and that it wasn't Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

That night, I started researching. That is what I do. I research. It helps me to cope with things better. I typed in Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and I started learning about it.

Here is some information I found on

Hodgkin's Lymphoma— formerly known as Hodgkin's disease — is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system.
In Hodgkin's lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin's lymphoma progresses, it compromises your body's ability to fight infection.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of two common types of cancers of the lymphatic system. The other type, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, is far more common.

The only symptom that Meagan had was the swollen lymph node that was growing.  However, other symptoms of this disease could be: persistent fatigue, fever and chills, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, coughing, trouble breathing or chest pain, loss of appetite, or itching.

After her diagnosis, the first thing they needed to determine was what "stage" the cancer was in. There are four different stages. After all of the testing was done, they found out that she is in stage 2, which means that more than one lymph node is affected, but nothing below the abdomen.

She went in on Friday to have her main line port installed, and she begins chemotherapy on Tuesday. Her Mom posted on Facebook that it was crazy how normal the abnormal becomes. They went from planning a fun family planning surgeries, blood work, and tests. From planning school shopping for her freshman year of high planning chemotherapy sessions.

My heart is just breaking for this sweet family. They have already been through so much. You see, this is not their first child that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Their middle daughter has Cystic Fibrosis. She has been through multiple hospitalizations herself. It took a long time for the doctors to figure out that she had this disease. She spent way too many years being misdiagnosed while she got sicker and sicker. Now, just as they were finally beginning to turn a corner with her illness, and she was starting to improve.....Meagan's diagnosis occurred.

We live in a small town, with a small hospital, that is not equipped to deal with serious illnesses. So, whenever they have to have a surgery, testing, or chemotherapy, they have to drive almost four hours round trip.

I know what that is like, because this is the same drive that I took with Hubs while he was going through his surgery to remove the basal cell cancer by his eye, and the subsequent visits.

It is long.
It is tiring.
It is expensive.

Time must be taken off of work. Child care must be arranged. Too many meals have to be eaten away from home. Too much money has to be spent to fill the vehicle with gas to get to and from appointments.

And then, the medical bills start pouring in. Hubs' surgery alone cost $15,000. That does not count all of the prior visits before his diagnosis. We have great insurance, but we still had quite a chunk we had to pay out of our own pockets.

Meagan's medical bills are just beginning. I can't even imagine how high they will go. The family is already dealing with bills due to their middle daughter's illness, and now, they have been hit with this.

A fundraiser link has been set up to try and help this family out financially, as they begin Meagan's fight. Every little bit helps! I know the family would be beyond grateful for every dollar. If you go to this link, you can also learn more about Meagan and her family.

Most of all, could you please keep Meagan and her family in your prayers? They are going through a lot right now, and could really use them. Pray for strength and courage, for their spirits to be high, that the chemotherapy would do it's job, and that Meagan can go back to just being a regular teenage girl.

Where her only worries are trivial things like what outfit to wear on the first day of school, if a boy in her class will ask her to the dance, or whether she will beat the school record for the highest pole vault...

No fourteen year old girl should have to worry about losing her hair, missing too much school, or being sick from chemotherapy.... us fight....for Meagan.....

Here is the fundraiser link:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How To Make The Most Of Your Public Library This Summer

"I'm BORED!"

We aren't even to the middle of July yet, but have you already heard these words uttered out of the mouths of your precious babes?

My own children know better than to speak these words to me, because if they do, I will always have an idea of something *super fun* that they can do. Can you hear the sarcasm?

However, I do try to keep the kiddos relatively entertained in the summer months. As I mentioned in my last blog post, this year, I decided to ask them what inexpensive things they would like to do this summer.

One of the things on our Summer Bucket List was to visit the library.

I am always amazed when I talk to people who don't take advantage of their public library. There are people who *gasp* NEVER EVER go to the library! Can we please have a moment of silence for these poor souls?

Some of my girls' favorite childhood memories have been made at the library. We used to go there all the time, but since the whole crazy busyness of moving, we have kind of gotten out of it. We are changing that this summer!

But, what exactly can you do at the library? Isn't it just a place know.....check out books?

No, my dear reader. It is so much more than that. Of course, one of the major perks is being able to check out books, but there is a whole other dimension to the library that you may not even be aware of.

Here is a Top Ten List of things your local library probably offers:

1. Free Air Conditioning

Is your house so hot that it feels like a sauna? Why not spend the afternoon at the library? Take advantage of their nice, cool air! Ahhh.....

2. Books

Duh. We already know that, Amiee. You ARE talking about the library. However, did you know that you can check out books that don't exist at *your* library? Let's say you want a particular book. In fact, you have been dreaming of reading it forever, but your small town library doesn't have it, and you don't want to purchase it yourself. If your library is anything like mine, they will most likely be able to get it for you through their inter-library loan program. All you need to do is ask the librarian to see if it is available, or order it through their online ordering system. They will call you when it comes in. It's as simple as that! I have been able to get many hard to find books this way.

Another thing that I was not aware of is that the library will even deliver books to people who are not able to leave their house for one reason or another. You do need to sign up for this special program, but what an awesome thing to do for people who would otherwise not be able to have access to books.

 3. Movies

We are not a family that goes to the movie theatre very often. It is very expensive to do that on a regular basis, so we usually just wait until the movie comes out on DVD.  You can rent a movie through Redbox for $1 and some change, but you know what price is even better? FREE! At our library, you are able to borrow five movies at a time, for a whole week. They have a lot of good titles, and though they are most likely not going to be new releases, they sure do make for a cheap movie night at home! They also have some really good documentaries, and I have used several of these for my girls for school and for classes I have taught at our homeschool co-op.

 4. Magazines

Maybe you're like me, and you are a bit of a magazine freak. Magazines seem to speak to me. I can hear them whispering....."read me". The problem? There are so many that I would love to read, but I don't want to pay a fortune for that privilege. I do subscribe to a few good ones, but there are so many others out there that I would be interested in reading if I was given the opportunity! Enter.....the library. The library subscribes to many, many different magazines. Their subscription is my gain! I can read and read to my heart's content! I can even check out some to take home, if I can't read all that I want to during my time at the library.

Do you know what else? Our library has a magazine exchange program. People who subscribe to magazines read them, and then they bring them in so other people can take them home and read them. You take leave some. It's a win/win situation. I encourage you, if you have a stack of magazines just lying around your house, take them to the library! Someone like me will thank you.

5. Computers/Printers/Copiers

Most libraries have computers that are available for people to use for free for a set number of time. Since we have internet access at home, I don't often take advantage of this, but during a time when we didn't, it was a lifesaver! You can also take your own laptop or phone into the library and access free Wi-Fi.

For a small fee, you can also print things off the computer. Maybe something like this? I plan on doing this with my girls on some rainy afternoon.

Want to make a copy or two, but don't own your own copier? The library is your answer!

 6. Coupons

I can just hear you now. "Coupons?! At the library? What are you talking about?" Yes, you did read that correctly. Coupons!

While your little cherubs are happily entertaining themselves, you can go through the coupons that are available. People will bring in their unwanted coupons (at our library, they are even all cut and sorted out in categories) so other people can use them. Score!

7. Classes, Crafts, and Activities

Are your little kids starting to drive you bonkers? Take them to story time! A friendly librarian will read them a story, and then do a craft pertaining to that story.

There will usually be a craft table set up at all times in the kid section, where kids can do a designated craft on their own, or even just draw and color.

Our library also offers fun activities for children of all ages. Here are some of the fun things they have planned this summer:

*Summer Reading Program

Your children will be rewarded for reading books. It's sort of like bribery, but hey.....whatever works to get those kids reading!

*Magic show

*Different amphibians and reptiles being brought in

*Rock Club (show-and-tell session about rocks, precious gems, etc.)

*Class on Origami

*Gardening (kids learn new things every week but also practice gardening themselves)

*Designing T-shirts

The list goes on and on. The library is definitely not just for reading books!

There are even classes for adults. Are you an adult who needs to learn how to use the computer? Your library may have just the class you need. Many libraries offer at least beginning computer lessons, among various other programs.

8. Games

Need to kill a bit of time between appointments? Go to the library and play a game! Most libraries usually have at least checkers, among other games. Teach your child how to play. I taught my one daughter how to play checkers at the library while her sister was at a violin lesson. You can also access many educational games on their child-friendly computers.

9. Research Genealogy

Are you interested in finding out more about your family history? Then the library is the place for you! Our library has a heritage room, where many different resources are available for you to begin your research. There is also a helpful librarian skilled in genealogy research who is available to assist you.

10. Volunteer Opportunities

Need something for your bored teenager to do this summer besides sitting around playing video games? Have them volunteer at the library. I talked to one of our local librarians, and she mentioned that they are always looking for good volunteers! Volunteering doesn't just mean re-shelving books and movies, although that is certainly one way they could help out. They also need volunteers to help run all of these incredible programs the library puts on. They could help out during story time or craft hour, or at one of the libraries many other activities.

One thing that I need to mention. Don't be one of those people who just drops their small children off at the library for the afternoon, so the library can watch them. If your child is not old enough to stay home by themselves, they are NOT old enough to be dropped off at the library! Little children need adult supervision, even in the library. This is not the job of the librarian. The library is not a day care center. The librarians are not babysitters.You would be amazed at how many people think that this is okay. It isn't.

If you don't have one already, it is time to get a library card! Make sure to get your kids one too, if they are old enough. There is a certain joy that comes over a child when they realize that they get to have their very own library card. With that magical little card, they are able to take home any number of books and movies that they themselves have picked out.

The next time you need an inexpensive way to spend a scorching summer afternoon, why not go to your public library?

You'll be very glad you did....

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Bucket List

School is out, and summer is upon us!

This year, I decided to ask all of my family members to make a summer "bucket list". When I mentioned this to Hubs, he said something along the lines of, "Isn't a bucket list supposed to be things you want to do before you.....DIE?"

Meh. Details.

Regardless,  I told him just to roll with it, and make one already!

I promised that I would not reveal which family members said what, and these are in no particular order of importance. I tried to focus on things we could do as an entire family, but also, for things the girls and I could do during the day while Hubs is at work.

I told them to try to keep their ideas inexpensive, but I did notice that some of them are a just a tad bit over my $10 or under limit. Some will definitely NOT be happening, but I was told that I had to put them on here anyway.

So.....without further they are!

*Buy straws (Gee.... I wish they were all this easy!)

*Go to the zoo

*Visit the animal sanctuary (we will probably wait to do this until the end of summer when my in-laws are here)

*Swim as a family

*Look at pictures of when the girls were babies

*Go to the mall

*Family fishing

*Tent outside in yard/woods or at a park

*Learn origami

*Buy a hula hoop

*Work on projects for the fair (to see previous projects, you can go here)

*Make crafts from Pinterest

*Go to pawn shop

*Make paper mache

*Get a giant bottle of bubbles

*Have a nature scavenger hunt

*Visit particular friends who live far away

*Get a kitten (this will not be happening, but a girl can dream!)

*Have a spa day

*Make DIY beauty products

*Nail painting party

*Go to the beach

*Make different kinds of popsicles (especially these)

*Buy a canoe or paddle boat

*Family canoe/paddle boat excursion

*Family bike ride

*Try new hairstyles

*Buy things for the lake (inner tubes, etc.)

*Go to the library

*Take family picture on the beach, then print and hang it

*Go to family camp

*Go to a local park, take pictures, and feed the ducks

*Go to a water park

*Camping with friends

Since I have three girls, some of these ideas wouldn't work well with boys, but perhaps there are things listed here that you could do with your own family. I was surprised by how simple some of their requests were! Most of these do not cost a lot of money......just time.

This summer, why not ask your own family members what would be on their summer bucket list?

Their answers just may surprise you....