Thursday, January 31, 2013

No Spend/Low Spend January is Over!


It's January 31st, last day of our attempt at a no-spend month, which realistically was more of a "low-spend" month.  And guess what? It was something of a non-event.

We did take the kids out to eat twice.  Both on very busy, fun days, both using a combo of gift cards and coupons.  The husband and I also went for lunch together a couple of times on our own and paid with our personal cash.  The kids have done the best job ever of eating what we give them and trying at least a little of everything on their plates.  I am convinced now there is a correlation.
 Our total expenses, not including utilities, mortgage, etc., totaled LESS THAN HALF of the average monthly expense for all of 2012.  That is SHOCKING.

I have quizzed the husband and kids, and no one feels deprived.  We paid for the boys' spring sports, we had four grocery trips, gas for the car, and a few needed odds and ends along the way.  

We finished the month with a comfortable surplus of cash to replenish the sad little savings account.  And did this despite having a heavy month of semi-annual and quarterly bills due on top of our normal monthly bills.

This little experiment worked so well we've decided to do it again in February.

Our "rules" are as follows:
  • No big box stores without a list in hand. Period.
  • Try to shop smaller neighborhood stores when we need one thing, such as the hardware store.
  • Purchases to be determined as a family.
  • Use a gift card if you have one.
  • Two restaurant trips are do-able, but try to find a coupon and/or gift card.
  • Keep cleaning out the pantry and freezer for home cooked meals.
  • Use what we have first.
  • Make a reasonable attempt to fix things before replacing
What I learned this month: We waste a lot, and we shop for fun.
Time to fix that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Right now I'm...

:: Enjoying my coffee to a little bit of quiet on this late start morning because the kids finally sat down to scootpad.com.
:: Re-reading The Bostonians by Henry James. Not everyone gets James, but I like him. I've been frustrated with the books I've been picking lately.
:: Dreaming up ideas for the cub scout den for the latter part of the year.
:: Sulking at the 2 pound weight gain after Chinese food yesterday.
:: Pleased that husband and I finally had a lunch date at the hole in the wall Chinese place we've been meaning to try for years.
:: Debating if I really need to go to the store today.
:: Ignoring the great pile of papers I just scraped off my desktop and into a 31 Gifts bag.
:: Making lists of things to do, because in truth I don't feel like doing any of it.
:: Wondering if it would be best to just take a nap :-)



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oh boy, here we go....

You've no doubt gathered I really like scouting.
This year I stepped up and became the tiger den leader.
Guess what?
As of May I transition int my new role.
Gulp.
Cubmaster.
Excited and terrified pretty much sums it all up.
Here goes nothing, right?
Wish me luck!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No Spend January and Kids Economics






About this time last year, I wrote this post in response to my son asking me why I am so cheap.  It got more traffic than nearly anything I've ever posted here!  Since that time things have changed in the way both of my sons view money, and I thought I'd share a few of the things we've done here.

Established an allowance. I know allowance can be a touchy subject in parenting.  Some families swear by it, other families feel helping out is just what a family member does.   While I agree wholeheartedly that being a family member means helping out, I do feel it is important to attach work to money in some form, whether it's per-job or a weekly sum, working for the family or doing odd jobs for a neighbor.  That's how the world works, and it's hard for kids to understand the value of a dollar when they have no experience earning it.  To be fair, the husband and I have always given ourselves a cash allowance too, so that we do have a source of no questions asked funds for lunches or little things we want.

Allowed them to spend the money they earned.  Even when I hated that they wanted to buy gum or football cards or more darts for their NERF guns.  They have to gain an understanding of the cost of an item as it relates to their earnings. Is the $5 box of football cards worth a week's allowance?  I do insist that they save half, and I encourage them to give money to charitable causes from time to time. 

Talked honestly about our financial situation.  We're in pretty good shape, but we've made a better effort this year to find teachable moments to demonstrate practical examples of how we save money and what we are saving the money for.  We tell them what we pay for things, such as a season of baseball or soccer, the price of the uniforms and equipment, or the weekly fee for the music teacher, and put that in context with other household expenses.  The most important part here is to communicate the information without any weird guilt trips.  We also frame things in the long term: that we want to have the house paid for before they graduate, that we need money for our elder age, and that we put money by to help them with college.  We also have family wishes, such as a trip to Austria to meet family, and a trip out west to see the Rockies and the Grand Canyon and such.  They feel good being a part of the family goals.

Took moments to explain our values.  When a kid asks why does so-and-so live in a "mansion" and we have this "little" 2000 square foot house, we explain, patiently, that to most of the world we are living in a mansion.  We also explain that so-and-so makes probably makes more money and different decisions with their money.  We  talk about the greater cost of goods, such as sweatshops in other countries or plastic junk toys that will live in landfills for hundreds of years.  We talk a lot about the importance of quality, useful goods, and how that doesn't always mean a higher price.  You can get things used, for example, that are just as good.  We care for our things and make them last, no matter how we got them, and we try to avoid waste.  We bless others with the things we no longer need.  And we talk about the importance of helping the needy.  I am happy to forgo the little things so I can give a little to help someone else out.

Encouraged them to prioritize for themselves.  This one is hard.  It requires letting our own judgements go a little bit.  We've created a family list of needed and wanted things.  On this spreadsheet my husband made, we listed the items, we price them, classified them as needs or a wants, then filled in the source of funds.  We discussed each of the items as a group, and talked about whether we felt it should be paid for out of family funds or our own allowance, or could use a gift card from Christmas.  We also had to prioritize things in order of how badly we needed or wanted the items.  It was a good use of our time, and really made the boys feel empowered.

Taught the boys how to comparison shop.  This really got going last fall when the older son wanted to buy an iPod with his own saved money.  He saved up enough for the iPod between allowance and a couple of gift cards, made sure that he still had an equal amount to save, then spent an afternoon with me on the computer comparing the prices.  When it was his own money on the line, he really woke up to the fact that nothing has an inherent monetary value, that is all about what the merchant is charging, and what you are willing to pay.  We ended up finding a good deal where the merchant was throwing in a free accessory pack with purchase, plus free shipping.  He takes better care of that iPod than I've EVER seen him take care of anything.  You can do this easily in the grocery store.  As a family we've tested all the off-brands and decided on which ones you can cheap out on and which ones you can't. 

Gave them reasonable, if not superior, things to do for free or cheap.  This is key.  My boys love restaurants, mainly because they get to pick what they want.  The simple act of making fun weekend dinners like burgers and fries or tacos at home has literally made a non-issue of the restaurant thing.  And allowing them to plan and/or make dinner.  We also do a lot of hiking, which they love.  I taught them how to go on the library website to reserve books and movies, which empowers them and teaches them all the good, free stuff you can borrow.  We always have a ton of art supplies and things in the house for creating with. I dug out a lot of games and puzzles they've never touched. And now we have Wii sports, purchased for free with bank card points, which I'm shocked to report we are all having a ball with.  Nearly every Saturday night we are hunkered around the TV taking turns at boxing or archery or bowling.  Very very fun, and I can't believe how sore my arms get!

Set limits, which created priorities.  Over the summer I refused to buy a pool pass.  Way too expensive, and I had a feeling we would be too busy with other things to make it worthwhile.  But I did offer to pay for five trips to the pool, which would run about $100.  The pool in our area is large and has many different areas, so by packing a lunch and making a day of it, I felt it worthwhile.   They really wanted a pool pass because a lot of their friends had them.  I told them, fine, but that they would need to give up something worth about $300, which would make up the difference for the $400+ membership.  Soccer, scouting activities, baseball, camping, it all adds up and we can't do everything.  In the end, we only ended up going to the pool four times because we were so busy doing other things.

Has it all helped?  Yes!  I expected a fight when I first brought up this idea of a no-spend month.  Instead, it has been almost a non-event.  I've only had to remind them a couple of times that we wouldn't be buying unneeded things.  They have not complained once about the restaurant thing, so we took them out (on a gift card) after the Pinewood Derby on Saturday.  They ate in near-silence.  It is miraculous.  We even ended up in a Dick's sporting goods store the other day for a "recon" trip.  We'd been out with their grandmother and they wanted to stretch their legs (it's cold here!)  I thought, oh no, this is going to be a wrestling match.  But we traversed the store two or three times, with them checking prices on different things.  They couldn't help but notice how much more expensive things were than at the second hand sports shop and talked about the things that are worth buying new versus used.  The most interesting conversation I've had with them this month involved us coming to the conclusion that although No-Spend month is coming to an end, we should never go back to the way we were doing things before.

Bottom Line: It's about trust and empowerment.  As I read through all this the theme that pops out again and again is that we're giving them the information they need, empowering them to make decisions, and trusting them to balance their own wants and needs with the perspective of the well being of the family.  It has not been an overnight transition by any means, but rather something we've whittled away at over time. 

How the month is going overall.  Pretty good.  Since my last post we've only spent money on gas, our YMCA membership and our Netflix membership. I'm trying to get through the end of the week without another grocery trip.  We still have a ton of stuff in the freezer to make meals with, and plenty of things for kid lunches. I almost let husband talk me into using our apple gift cards from Christmas for an Apple TV.  I'm sure it's a fine product, but we don't need one more thing in this house to feed!  And honestly a lot of electronics really amount to another mouth to feed.  We did take the kids out on the last of our bank card bonus points, and their grandmother took us out for lunch on our free day yesterday.  I paid for the bowling, and thank goodness I found this deal online for $5 off per person!  Our outing with Oma was fun, and a chance to talk about "spending out" on things that you value.  We don't see their Oma often, so when we do it makes sense to really have a good time together.

What are your thoughts on kids and money?  What works for your family?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pinewood Derby

Had a blast yesterday.
My job was helping to keep the cars in order between heats.
I even got a cool pit crew badge.
My Nathan came in 3rd!
And my Zack, he did his best
And had fun.
Both boys built their own cars
With minimal help from Dad.
My car, Extra Crispy,
Was voted "most shocking."
My den had 100% participation.
I'm a proud Mama Tiger.










Saturday, January 19, 2013

Derby Day!

It's Pinewood Derby day for us. Weigh in starts in about an hour. Very excited!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Simplicity

I've spent some real time thinking about simplicity this week. What does it mean? How is it a guiding principle in my life? It can be a very complicated subject. I find myself getting lost among the pretty bloggers' pictures. Comparing myself, maybe. Perhaps even bringing a lot of pressure down on myself to do more and more, ironically in the name of simplicity. Feeling like if I wasn't baking the bread and sewing a quilt and simmering my own broth and on and on, if I wasn't doing every single thing myself, then I was failing at simple living.

Huh? Counterintuitive, I know.

I've done myself a favor. I've up-ended my notions and placed the things I really love at the forefront. Now I work out daily. We go on family hikes. I do the scout leader stuff. I've found time to return to my workroom to do scrapbooks, even dabbled with a few artistic pursuits. And I've cooked most of he meals around here this month. At the end of the week, I feel, for he first time in a long time, accomplished. It is a wonder what you can do when you get your priorities in order.

Simplicity is about intention. The actual placing of the priorities at the forefront. It's about not letting in one thing that does not belong. Powerful stuff.



Thursday, January 17, 2013

A few pics, personal revelations, and No Spend Month update




A few scenes from the homestead this Thursday.  Dishes aren't done, but the laundry is chugging along.  The work room is happily abuzz with heavy duty scrapbooking.  Other zones in the house are happily picked up and tranquil and for that I am grateful.

I am also grateful for a new found sense of peace with my body.  I've been working out five days a week, and quit weight watchers.  I've said before, if you track on WW, you WILL lose weight!  But I wasn't tracking.  I also was finding myself having these little "food crises" wherein I would just lose it.  What do I eat?  Should I go Paleo? Vegan?  Dairy? or No Dairy? Grass Fed?  I'm now at peace with just trusting myself, my own instincts.  I watch my older son...he's skinny as a rail.  He eats sensible meals, and sometimes he noshes on yogurt and apples and yes, Sunchips. But he never overeats. Ever.  He eats until he's full, even if that means no dessert.  That blows me away every time.  But then I realize, am I always hungry for dessert?  No.  The hardest thing is to TRUST MYSELF.  

Today I'm inspired by fellow blogger Lady Cordelia, who kicked the facebook habit!  This is something I am heavily considering myself.  It is very hard, since I have reconnected with so many friends, and am able to keep up with family that I wouldn't otherwise keep up with. Also, I'm going to try to spend more time on this space sharing love with favorite bloggers.  Another article this week was from the Non Consumer Advocate who asks the question what is frugal living and what is simple living, and how are they alike and different?  Thought provoking.  You really have to read all the comments on this one!

On the No Spend Month front, we are still doing great!  Since my last update, our only expense has been another grocery trip, and $7 to fix that pesky zipper I blogged about the other day.  All we are doing is basically staying home to eat, which keeps us from meandering into a big box store to "see if there's anything we need."  There is a world of fun things to do out there that are free.  Like going for hikes and reading library books.  When you get down to it, we are busy enough with school work, music lessons, and scout activities to notice that we haven't been eating out.  As a bonus, I've even lost a few pounds.  A mini challenge I've been doing is to fix something out of the freezer every single day.  We are using up all those wonderful deals on bulk chicken and fish bargains I've picked up over the past six months, and thus keeping our expenses low.

Also on the DIY front, husband fixed a toilet issue with a $6 flapper valve.  I love having him around.  And you know what? Fixing plumbing issues is not all that hard.  Some things I'd still leave to a pro, but with all the books and youtube vids out there to learn from, just learn to do it.  When I worked for the movie theater, I learned a lot of maintenance ideas from watching the repairmen who were called in.  I do that now.  Heck, I paid $7 to get a zipper fixed, but my seamstress showed me how to do it.  "Next time you fix yourself!" she said cheerfully.

It's January 17th, how are those resolutions coming? Also, any good blogs you would recommend? (And yes, you can recommend your own, lol)


Sunday, January 13, 2013

The weekend

::Went to the Winter Hike Series at a metro park with a few guys from the pack. The park volunteers served chicken n noodles and hot chocolate, and sent us away with leftovers! Going hiking on a drizzly day was worth it!
::Nursed Nathan back to health after a tummy bug.
::pulled in the last of the decorations.
::browsed a stack of home decor books from the library.
::Supercleaned my room now that I know I'm allergic to dust mites.
::made a lot of awesome meals including a steak dinner.
::Had a productive family discussion about our future spending habits.
::Played wii sports as a family.

Linking with Amanda


Saturday, January 12, 2013

No Spend update

(Art Room Vignette)

Okay, so far our January No Spend Month is going great! I think, though, it's more appropriate to call it a low spend month.  Still, we're doing fantastic.  So far I've only made the following expenditures:
  • Two grocery trips, about $300 spent.  A bit higher than normal, but we're eating totally at home. I've learned that it pays in the long run to spring for a few higher end items to make great meals.  That keeps us eating at home.
  • Two gas fill ups.  
  • Pet store---fish food and filters.
  • Spring baseball fees and monthly drum lesson payment for the elder boy.
  • $15 in craft supplies for the den, and Pinewood derby stuff.
  • $10 in Liquid Plumber.
I couldn't be more proud of my family.  The kids and husband are totally on board.  Here are a few notes from the month so far:

The plumbing.  Had a horrible clog in the drain the other day, caused by a rag stuck in the disposal, which was causing water to spill out of the dishwasher all over the floor.  Thankfully I caught it early.  I was able to yank the j-pipe off and catch much of the dishwasher water in a bucket.  I then used our 5 foot snake to try to unclog it, but it was too far down the line.  So I went to the hardware store and got a big bottle of drain opener.  I told my husband we've too often called the plumber only to pay $85 for someone else to use liquid drain opener.  Thankfully it worked and we were able to get all the mess cleaned up!

Kids Lunches. The kids have been packing lunches, but some days they are using the money that was already placed on their lunch accounts.  They have agreed that no more will be put into their accounts when it's gone, and that before February we will have a discussion about what we consider to be reasonable funding for hot lunches.  I don't totally dismiss hot lunches because both of my sons have gotten over a lot of their pickiness by trying new things at school.  And we are lucky to have a school that offers things like hummus and edamame.

Personal expenses. The husband felt that if we have cash of our own (we give ourselves an allowance every pay day) that we should be able to do what we wish with it.  So he's been out to lunch with coworkers a few times.  In June he begins working full time at home, so I get that he wants to socialize.  For my part, I took him out to lunch one afternoon as well.  It was kind of nice to get out of the house, but made me realize there's nothing magic about restaurants.  I don't want to make a habit of that.

Restaurants. No one has complained about eating all of our dinners at home.  Not a peep.  And every evening mealtime gets easier.  Now, my boys have been on a positive path with eating for a long time.  But the past two weeks they have just really stepped up.  They have eaten everything put before them, with very little alteration.  I couldn't be happier.

Memberships. I've decided to cancel my Weight Watchers membership.  I am working out almost every day, and in the long run that will get me where I need to go.  Weight Watchers is a fantastic program, and if you track your points daily, you WILL lose weight.  Alas, I don't.  I often either forget, or I've eaten so badly that I don't want to track.  Either way, it's no longer worth the $18.95 a month.  However our YMCA membership, even at $80 a month, is worth it.  I go almost daily, and on the weekends I can take the kids swimming or rock wall climbing.

Coupons.  I've also decided not to renew our local newspaper subscription.  We were down to the Sunday paper anyway, and that's mostly for the ads.  I feel a little scared to lose my beloved coupons, but over the years couponing has lost its appeal.  Lots of processed foods,  for one.  Also you can't get the wow deals anymore, and I'm convinced that the popularity of the show "Extreme Couponing" has led the manufacturers and stores to tighten up their coupon rules.  This irks me.  I used to get a real kick out of scoring a free toothbrush or mac and cheese box on a double coupon deal.  It never occurred to me to try to get a hundred toothbrushes!  The most extreme shopping trip I ever had was a 40% reduction of my total food bill.  It was fun, but now I see so many more strategies to save on groceries. Plus I estimate that the total saved with coupons doesn't even pay for the subscription. Also, about those ads: my husband and I used to religiously read every ad on Sunday morning, then spend an hour discussing what we "needed" before heading out to Target or wherever. On the whole, ignoring ads will save you the most money in the long run.  And I can still find most of the circular coupons online.

Socializing.  I'm doing much of my socializing at the gym, or at school or scout activities.  We had several of our friends over for New Year's Eve, and that's fun.  I also enjoy book club.  We usually meet at someone's house.  Economical, and fun.

So how are we filling our time?  Making meals. Cleaning up the Christmas stuff. Getting back into the swing of school and work.  Playing with the games and toys we got for Christmas.  Playing with forgotten games and toys from past birthdays.  Playing outside.  Listening to our CD collection.  Watching movies we already own.  Watching favorite tv shows. Revisiting forgotten ideas and projects.  When you get down to it, we already have far more than we need. There is never a lack of things to do around here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Five

This week I:
1. Resumed the workouts this week, hitting the gym daily.
2. No spend month is going unexpectedly well. So far no complaints about the lack of restaurant trips, or any comments about anything to do with it.
3. Received my copy of Dottie Angel's new book. Previously loved, of course.
4. Really got back into tv viewing with the return of "Downton Abbey," " Biggest Loser," "Castle," and "Once Upon a Time." The good thing is that they are on the Sam two nights, so I didn't watch tv on the other nights and read instead.
5. Gave out bobcat awards to my den, including Nathan. He asked if I could always be his den leader. "At least till I get my Eagle," he announced. I love his ambition.



Sunday, January 6, 2013

My weekend was...

...pretty boring.

But, I threw many hours and a ton of energy into a long procrastinated project: updating my iPhoto library.  It's really pretty good organizationally, but I got iCloud not knowing how it worked.  A couple thousand photos later I realized that all of my devices were not synced up, and I was supposed to be deleting photos (or paying for more space.)  Plus my husband had photos I'd never seen.  So like an archaeologist, I reconstructed our married life, adding pictures here and there, plus naming all the files.  So motivated to scrapbook now.  Plus I re-discovered a few forgotten pictures, like the one above from 2010.  Glad I just did it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

No spend month: a Rocky Start

Truth time: I've shopped for three days in a row. Yikes. Groceries on Wednesday. Fish food and aquarium filters on Thursday. And to Michaels today for supplies for a scout project. Needs? Sure. Did I veer off the path and buy stuff I didn't need? Nope. However I'm a bit disturbed by the frequency of my spending. The mere act of shopping: why do I feel the need to run out and get something on a daily basis? What will I "need" tomorrow?

I'm also thinking about the materials I got for he scout project. I'm happy to do this kind of things for the kids, and it was not a lot of money. But I could have used what I have. The world will not end if the craft is less than "perfect." I also could have prepared before the last minute, and asked around to borrow what I needed. Scouts are thrifty and resourceful. I really need to embrace those ideals myself. This is a process.

I'll leave you with our den's citizenship board...turned out nice! We used Zots to put the pages on, so we can use our board over and over.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Vision boards

On New Years Day I actually got my family to do a vision board project together as a way to flesh out the coming year. I love how they all came together to do this. Our boards were all so different from each other, but the same in that they all featured some outdoor pursuits. I feel like the visual aspect of it helped us to understand each other a lot better. The phrase I found that. Love was "Live vicariously through yourself." What a powerful thought. How often we tell ourselves I ought to... Or I need to... Or I should... And now that I think about it, how little I actually say "I want to..." As I look at my own board I realize the images are not things to be bought. I do feel good that my life is starting to look like this...fresher, greener, more active. It's and uplifting thing to see each morning.






Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Spend January: Gift Cards and a Broken Zipper


Here we are day 2 of my no-spend January, and already I'm trying to run out and spend!  What happened was the zipper broke on my husband's nice and warm winter coat.  And the temps this week are in the teens.  He mentioned as I was about to go grocery shopping "if you go to a store that sells clothing could you get me a coat?" This is precisely why we are doing this.  I fiddled with the zipper for fifteen minutes and got it back into workable condition.  Seriously, we were getting to the point that we hadn't even attempted to fix it and were ready to run out and buy new!

Keeping things fair and balanced, I am no better.  When he asked for the coat, I thought maybe I could take my gift card and get myself some new workout pants.  For a split second I felt these were a "need" because it is cold and I only have cropped yoga pant, and my other long pair was misplaced.  And they are getting really faded.  And I had a gift card, right?  I had to stop myself in my tracks: I don't need more pants, and I don't need to blow my gift card on January 2nd, and yes gift cards do count because the whole point of the thing is to take a break from spending and practice a little self control.

Happily I came home with no new coat or workout pants.  Instead I did a reasonable grocery trip, ringing in at $116 for the four of us for a week of no restaurant eating.  No candy, cookies, chips, pop or wine was in my cart.  Good things, things we like, yes, but no junk.

I'm seeing this is going to be more challenging than I thought.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's a new year

I always set out not to do resolutions, but I guess what I end up doing is making a list of things I want to work on. And heck, why not? My mind is clear, I'm well rested, and certainly well fed. Here are a few things I am working on, and you can expect if you visit this year:

::My January Project: a fiscal fast. My family agreed to do his together. For the month of January we will only spend money on necessaries. So no restaurant meals, no big box store trips, no nights out to the movies, you get the picture. The only prominent exception will be to keep our Y membership, which keeps us busy and healthy during these cold winter months. Now, I'd love to say I will blog on this daily, but that hasn't yet worked. I will blog as topics arise.

::Gardening. My enthusiasm for my garden severely waned last summer. A drought will do that. I plan to muck in and try some new (to me) techniques this year, as well as approach it with a sense of thrift.

::Weight-loss-as-science-lab. Last year I really did great with maintaining an exercise routine, but lost no weight, in fact I think I gained a a few pounds. This year I want to open my mind. I'm going to experiment with different ideas about eating, and try to figure out what works best for my particular body type.

::All that frugal and green stuff I used to do. It's like I woke up one day and realized my pantry is full of processed, overpriced crap, my kids are eating single-serving everything, and we're producing 3 bags of trash a week. When I'm not living my ideals, I'm just existing.

::Stepping away from social media, especially negative comments. Really the thing I most want to get away from is obsessively reading things like long negative threads on Twitter or Facebook. And news site comments. Seriously, if you feel like being angry or depressed, read the comments on any HuffPo article.

::My word for 2013: CONNECT. It sums up what I learned about myself in 2012: I am an extroverted, social soul, happiest when I am "out there" helping other people. I especially enjoy the tactile and the mundane, not so much the limelight. Things like volunteering at the school. You need something laminated, yeah, I got that. I love my role as den leader, working with the scouts and their families. I want to engage more with the husband and kids, an ongoing thing that gets away from me when I take it for granted. And of course I want to connect more with what my little son used to call "My Big Friend Up There." Somehow I've let my life get in the way of my spiritual life, and that seems very backwards.

I wish you all a wonderful 2013, and thank you for stopping by!