Monday, May 31, 2010

cold hands (and feet)

Last weekend, we drove to northern California to visit with Charlie's family.




On the way home, we stopped by San Francisco to visit the sites and then opted to take the beautiful Highway 1 through Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur all the way to Morro Bay.




I've done this drive before, but it never ceases to take my breath away.


(Especially this place.)


(We stuck around for a while. Ghiradelli is the Patron Saint of ... me.)


The California coastline is absolutely spectacular. Hopefully, these photos which were taken through an open window as we zipped along, convey the awe inspiring majesty of this region.




I know Virginia will be beautiful, too. But I've got this tiny little feeling that every so often manifests in to this great big booming voice that screams, "DON'T LEAVE CALIFORNIA!"




The weather is definitely cooler in northern California than southern California. So when we stopped for lunch in Big Sur, and a light rain began to fall and the temperatures dipped in to the 50's, I could feel myself start to get chilled and then almost instantly, my fingers turned that corpse-like Raynaud's white.


How will I ever manage in Virginia?


When the temperature in January falls sub-freezing?!


And there is snow and ice for as far as the eye can see?!


I'll be a human popsicle!!


I'll never survive!!


Nonetheless, we're going. So every spare moment of our time is absorbed with looking online at real estate in Virginia. We're currently looking in Fairfax County and if our current house hadn't lost 60% of it's value over the past three years, I might not be suffering quite so much sticker shock.


But it has. And if that wish to retire before the age of 90 is still on the table, I'll need a bigger dandelion.


If we move outside of the "Beltway" it seems that we'd get a lot more house (and garage) for our money, but then, I'd be stuck with a 45+ minute commute each way and that doesn't fit in very well with my plan of being in the car as little as possible.

(Unless this was my drive.)


Add to that, a large portion of the pictures we've seen show the homes BURIED under snow. Yes, I know this past winter was a harsh one ... but even if those "harsh winters" only come along once every few years, I'm seriously doubting my body's ability to self regulate it's temperature and not instantaneously freeze.


From what I can see, it's highly unlikely we'll be doing this next Ground Hog Day. Unless, we're visiting California on vacation. Or back out at the absolute last minute and never leave in the first place. While I am genuinely excited about the prospect of change, I can't stop thinking about ice, snow, falling down and breaking my hip, huge mortgage payments and lack of garages with so many homes.

Which begs the question, where do people put their strollers and bicycles if they don't have a garage?


It may not seem it, but I'm really trying not to second guess our decision. I'm really trying to not let the fear of the unknown creep in. I'm really trying to resist the temptation to call the whole thing off. I'm really trying to be strong, courageous, go forth and LIVE!!!


To do that ... I've got to stay focused.


I've got to take this one step at a time.


I've got to keep my eyes and chin UP.


Provided we find a suitable home that doesn't force us to live off rice so we can make the mortgage. And provided the working in an office every day schedule doesn't turn me in to pulp. And provided I acquire some good cold weather gear that can withstand temperatures to minus zero Fahrenheit, I'm certain ...

This move will be a good thing.


If I repeat that 22 times, while blocking out all reasoning and turning clockwise in a circle chewing a clove of garlic, I actually start to believe it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

favorite thing friday

This past January, Charlie and I decided to do something wild and crazy. We decided to stop using credit cards, all together, and live solely off of cash. Although we knew where our money was being spent, we had come to rely upon credit cards almost exclusively.

At some point, we had convinced ourselves we were using credit cards for the perk of "free airline miles for every dollar spent" but the truth is, credit cards can be wonderfully convenient and incredibly painless. At least until you miss paying off your full balance for a month or more and interest starts to rack up. And then credit cards can hurt. A lot.

So we decided to get rid of them and have been amazed at how much more control we now have over our money. Which is extremely nice, since we're planning to buy a new home in the next month and oh mercy, why didn't we cut up all of our credit cards TEN YEARS AGO?


Earlier this year, after hearing countless times about Dave Ramsey's strategies for financial success, we decided to buy one of his books. Seconds after we purchased a copy of the book, The Total Money Makeover, Charlie whipped out his iPhone and found the same book on Amazon for $9.50 less. So he promptly returned the book to the store and purchased it online, instead. And then we wandered over to Starbucks and spent the difference on some Venti sized drinks and a scone whilst feeling thoroughly pleased with our financial prowess.

(Oh wait. We should have saved that money and had our tea at home for a fraction of the cost? Darn!! There's still some room for improvement.)

Anyway. It happens at least once a quarter, we'll receive a huge box from my sister, Beth, full of wonderful toys and supplies that my nephew, Michael, has outgrown. It is no exaggeration that at least 90% of the books and 75% of the toys in our home have originated from the fantabulous Beth and Mike duo. They have totally set us up and I'm forever grateful for their generosity and incredibly good taste in educational materials. Now, a few months ago, we received a box from my sister and in that box were a series of books, written by none other than Dave Ramsey.

(I'm assuming this is the boxed set of all the children's books Dave Ramsey has written. From what I can tell, we're only missing two.) (Here are links to all of the D.R. children's books that we own, separately.)


That's right, the King of "How To Manage Your Money And Make It Work For You", has written a series of books specifically for children.


And let me tell you ...


These books are AWESOME.


Especially if you found yourself getting bored with "The Total Money Makeover" because it was just a whole lot of words and totally lacked fun and exciting cartoon pictures.


What I like best about these books is that they convey very important messages about saving - spending - earning - integrity - charity - and avoiding debt - in a way that children (and adults) can easily understand and apply.


The stories all center around a little boy named Junior and his fascination/obsession with a television show called, "The Adventures of Dollar Bill."


Each book has it's own storyline and each one is better than the next.


Our children love these books. William especially will sit down with the entire series and read (aka: flip) through one after another. "Mom! Please read me this one. Then this one. Then this one. Then this one. Then this one. And then ... this one again."


Learning at a young age, how to manage money will undoubtedly serve our children well.


In every aspect of their lives ...


And on whatever path they decide to pursue.

(Disclosure: I'm not in any way compensated for these "Favorite Thing Friday" posts and I'm only writing about those things that we use and recommend. If anything is purchased through an Amazon link that I provide [or click through to Amazon], I earn approximately 4% on the sale. Last month I earned $5.57 via my Amazon store. Year to date, the balance is $23.94. Rest assured, those funds will be applied toward my next cancer crusade raffle and not towards something like say, an extravagant Mediterranean cruise. The next raffle will probably be coming up within the next two months - but no more than four, because the 3-Day walk is in October.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

always look on the bright side of life


One of the most challenging things in going through an ectopic pregnancy, other than the feeling of terrible loss and sadness, is the fact that it isn't "over" for quite a while. In my case, it's been a smidge over three weeks since this has all started and I'm still having to go in to the doctor's office at least once a week for blood work. As of today, my HCG levels are still in the hundreds. Three hundreds, to be exact ... which means that it's likely I'll still have a few more weeks of 'testing' before me.

Last Friday morning, after I received my lab results from Thursday - and told to write down all of my HCG levels over the past two weeks (in the event I wound up in an emergency room), I was given the green light to drive up to Sonoma County for our niece, Angela's, high school graduation. Not only did we want to help Angela celebrate this monumental event, we wanted to seize the opportunity to visit with Charlie's family one last time before we pack up and head east in four short weeks.

The trip north was wonderful.

We loved every minute of it.


I'll write more about that, later.

For now, I want to write that over the past couple weeks, a lot of people have asked me how I am doing? They seem to be concerned because there have been so many things that have happened in our lives over the past month, that it doesn't seem fair that we should have to deal with "so much" at once.


Yes, it really stinks losing a pregnancy and bloating up like a balloon. And then there's the whole moving, not moving, moving, not moving - roller coaster that can wreak havoc on one's digestion. (Hence triggering even more bloating.)

But more often than not, I can't stop thinking how much worse it could be and how truly blessed I am. Not that I'd in any way want to challenge the powers of the Universe to test my survival and coping skills, but my heart goes out to those who are challenged to their very core. Those who lose family and friends to disease or accidents or senseless violence. Those who are tested and tried and entirely drained of their will to live, but yet - still find the strength to go on.

It seems to me, regardless of what you are going through ... it could always be worse.

And the fact that it's not ... makes me thankful.


This past weekend, while we were in San Francisco, I was afraid that we would not only be leaving our hearts in that beautiful city, but also the contents of our stomachs, when Henry woke up vomiting early Sunday morning. For a brief moment I grimly thought, "Surely this will sweep through the entire family while we are 600 miles away from our washing machine - dryer - and all vomit mitigating supplies."


But as I filled up the hotel bath tub with clean water and put a pale Henry in to soak, my grim thoughts were replaced with overwhelming feelings of gratitude when I stood looking at my little boy and thought of the earthquake victims in Haiti, and the children we sponsor in Peru, India, Uganda and Bangladesh. When those children are sick with a stomach bug, are their parents able to just stick them in a clean tub filled with fresh potable water?

Are the components of the BRAT diet ... bananas - rice - apple sauce - toast, at the touch of their finger tips when they call for room service?

And if a woman in one of those countries is one of the 2% who has an ectopic pregnancy, would she be successfully diagnosed and treated - before it's too late?

I'll go out on a limb here and guess no, no ... and no.

I went to a business meeting today and one of my coworkers brought in a bag of Dove chocolate. While preparing to inhale savor my first piece, I saw this inspiring message from Jean in Houston, Texas:

"Blessings only come to those who notice."


What's incredible is that you can pick how you want to live your life.

(Get it? PICK? I love this picture. These children steal my heart.)


As for me, I most definitely notice.

And that alone makes me feel even more blessed.