Raising girls (little women) is hard work. If you are the mother of a pre-teen or teenage girl and are honest with yourself, you’ve discovered the answer to why animals sometimes consume their young. They can drive you crazy. It’s just the way it works. It’s hormonal and stuff. Find out how to stop the struggles and start raising up girls in a world trying to pull them down.

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Mothering girls in this day and age isn’t easy.  It’s an incredible task- raising strong, self-assured and independent but also humble, um-narcissitic and interconnected chicks. See? No small feat.

As a 21st century mother, I feel like my clucking is reduced to a whisper compared to the “advice” they receive from the world. It seems like that “advice” is getting further and further from the truths/habits/beliefs that I want my little hens to absorb. I have a feeling I am not alone.  So then, what advice should we give our pre-teen and teen girls? What do our daughters need?

I am not an expert. I do not play one on T.V. Many times, I have been the worst mother on the block. I assure you that I will be again at some point in the future (my personal bet is next week). My parenting “career” has been blessed with triumphs and cursed with failures. But after raising three girls with no fatalities (yet) and spending hours in counseling with young ladies, I have come up with a list of things that I believe we (as mother hens) need to consider to support our daughters to their full potential in this rough and tumble world.

You might agree with some of these. You will probably disagree with others (some feathers might even get ruffled). I hope, if nothing else, the following causes you to reflect on things that you DO believe will improve your relationship with your daughter/s. I hope it helps you raise up a women that will go out into the world and make some improvements. Lord knows we need some.

EMBRACE THEIR UNIQUENESS.

No, REALLY embrace it. Don’t just say you embrace it. A lot of times, as mothers, what we really want is for our kids to “blend”. Sure, we say we want them to be special and stand out. For many of us we mean “special in a way that maintains the status quo with their peers”. I don’t know if we have some kind of leftover pain from our own terrible middle/high school experiences and we want to shield our girls from that. Can I get an ‘AMEN’? Maybe we are just overly worried about what others will think of them or how they will judge us as mothers. When we say “just be yourself” there are unspoken caveats that run through our brains. Is being like everyone else really what will make your daughter happy? What could we be giving up for the sake of conformity?

Are we really willing to sacrifice what might be the most intriguing thing about our girls because of potential backlash/disapproval? Does the fact that my daughter wears old Beatles shirts and would rather draw all day then go to the mall mean I have failed as a parent? Does it mean she isn’t as happy as her trend setting peers? No. We need to stop trying to stamp down what makes them different. We need to teach them to  embrace that part of themselves and to search for ways to use their unique abilities/gifts/thinking to help them in their adult lives. It may be that the very thing that others find “different” is what will make your girl very successful and fulfilled in the long run.

SHOW THEM THEIR IDEAS ARE IMPORTANT.

It is easy to discount the ideas and thoughts of a tweener/teen girl. Very very easy. As mothers trying to raise women in our society, I think the importance of this one area can not be overstated.

Don’t get me wrong- I am not some gong-banging, bra-burning, man-hating feminist. If you look at the propaganda of how our culture stereotypes women…folks, we still have a LONG way to go. Your average girl spends quite a bit of time watching shows/movies, etc. that show girls with less than stellar cognitive abilities. If female models ARE shown to be intelligent and smart, they are most always also portrayed as manipulative and/or selfish and destructive.

I have had the fortunate fate of working in higher education for a long time now. Some of the most brilliant people I have ever met have had X & Y chromosomes. After talking with many of them, it’s apparent they grew up in households where their intelligence was nurtured and encouraged. It’s not enough that we pat them on the head when they get an ‘A’ in Social Studies. We need to make it a daily habit of listening to them and helping them to develop analytical skills. Challenge them, respect their ideas, and encourage them to delve deeper when they don’t understand something. Try not to give a flippant answer or just dismiss them. Soon they will be entering a society where their thoughts will be dismissed all too readily. We need to show them now what it looks like when their ideas are taken seriously so they can leave the coop and demand that same seriousness out in the world.

LAUGH WITH THEM.

Living in a house with multiple females can be tense at times. At our house, there is a lot of door slamming, eye rolling, and tearful shouting (sometimes the girls do it too). Emotions run high, lives are ruined, clothes are borrowed without asking, and don’t get me started on the failure to complete chores! It doesn’t make for a very happy environment and there are long stretches of time when laughter, excluding the maniacal kind, is nowhere to be found in our coop.

Why does a disagreement with my daughters turn into the Hundred Years’ War whereas my son and I can find the dirty dishes, yell, threaten to run away, pout, clean the said dishes and be cuddling in bed together within a half hour? Because we have a tendency to only remember the negative and dwell on it. When your daughters tell you that you only spend time yelling at them for everything- it’s because they BELIEVE that you only spend time yelling at them!!! YOU know they are exaggerating, YOUR ROOSTER knows they are exaggerating…but your little HEN doesn’t feel they are because they only focus on the yelling. On top of this selective memory thing, a lot of tweener/teen girls feel persecuted at the slightest admonishment during this time because they are so harsh on themselves and expect no less from others. And then…there’s the HORMONES! Lose~lose~lose!

Sometimes the only way to combat this perception and get through times like this is to open the top on the kettle and relieve some of the pressure (stress) from the situation. I know a lot of women like to bond with their girls over shopping or getting their nails done, etc. but don’t discount the need to just be silly and cut loose. Have a girls night where you watch hilarious movies or take a minute out of your day to text them a funny picture or inside family joke that you know will make them laugh. Not only are you reinforcing “good” memories and mending fences, but you are teaching your daughters to self soothe as adults from stress in a way that is free, non-fattening, and doesn’t require an appointment. Win~win~win!

SHOW INTEREST IN WHAT THEY ARE INTERESTED IN.

As I mentioned, I have three daughters. Three. Out of the three, only one of them is pretty close to my own personality. She and I share a lot of the same abilities, faults, sense of humor, and interests. Two peas in a pod. So, guess what? I find myself struggling to understand the interests of the other two.

While I am content to sit with chick #3 on the couch and share a bag of popcorn while binge watching Sherlock, I can not for the life of me understand why one would want to watch soccer games on T.V. being broadcast by stations that don’t even SPEAK ENGLISH! Another REALLY enjoys video games whereas the thought of playing Super Mario Cart for hours makes me want to go lay down in the university parking lot.

Regardless of whether you are interested in the activities they like or not, attempt to be an active participant somehow. We spend a lot of time, as a society, talking about how it is important when raising sons for fathers to spend time pursing interests with their boys but we don’t really talk a whole lot about mothers doing the same and what impact it has on development. When you show your daughter that an activity or hobby of hers is important to you- you are saying that she is important to you. The more important she thinks she is to you, the more likely you are to maintain open and honest communication that may allow you to speak into her life and offer valuable instruction concerning a situation that you would have otherwise been denied knowledge of.

 LET THEM SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS (WITH GUIDANCE).

This is probably one of the hardest suggestions to follow on the list. If I had a nickle for every time I took matters into my own hands and “solved” one of my kids’ problems when I should have offered wise counsel and instruction on how to take ownership of the situation…

While we need to strive to let kids work out issues on their own regardless of whether they are male or female, mothers of girls really need to take this to heart and do their best give their daughters skills to manage conflict and then only push their beaks into the fray when absolutely necessary. Why? Because of the shoddy examples of female conflict resolution that the world presents. Is it any wonder that “girl drama” seems to be escalating when the media, etc. glorifies the latest celebrity cat fight or messy divorce? The more outrageous/stupid/petty the reaction the better!

We need to raise women that know how to handle conflict in a mature and sensible manner and can practice those skills now (while under our supervision) because they are going to face it alone in their marriage, at their workplace, and in their relationships with their children and if their only conflict resolution skill set involves a “twitter” war of wits or manipulative pouting- we are in for it.

HELP THEM TO SET REALISTIC AND CHALLENGING GOALS.

I can’t relate to you how many times I have seen girls that have no concept of goal setting, even well into early adulthood. Now, I know a lot of our daughters declare that they are “going to go to college” or do this and that, but in reality, THAT in and of itself does not a goal make.

Serious goal setting is so much more than that and if our girls can grasp it from an early age, there is no doubt in my mind that they will have more success in the future. Successful people are goal setters, plain and simple. So, what is a goal then? For a goal to be powerful and complete it has to not only contain the end result your daughter wants to achieve but the steps and methods she is going to use to achieve it.  It isn’t “I am going to go to college” as much as it is “I am going to get into ABC college by taking a preparation course for the ACT, sitting for the test both my junior and senior years, taking any advanced coursework I qualify for in high school, maintaining a 3.5 GPA my senior year and etc. etc. etc.”

Why is this type of goal setting so important? Because it provides not only their ending point “college” but a road map of how they get from the present to that point. When you can see the path ahead, it makes it easier to stay on track when the final destination seems very far away. A lot of people aren’t unsuccessful because they didn’t have dreams- they are unsuccessful because they didn’t follow or stay on the paths to reach those dreams! We have to try to raise long term female planners in an age when anything over 8 seconds is considered an attention span ABOVE average.

HELP THEM IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP THEIR STRENGTHS. In the course of my current employment I ask a lot of girls “What are your strengths?” No answer. The seconds tick by and they start looking alarmed as if they are waiting on me to tell them or give them a clue as to the answer.

How sad is that?

No doubt that some of them know. But then you have to ask the question “why don’t they want to talk about it?”As a culture, do we still view confident girls as being ego-maniacs or too proud so they instinctively keep quiet? I don’t know the answer. My own experience leads me to believe that for whatever reason, girls either A)seem like they haven’t spent much time thinking about the subject or B) don’t want to address it or haven’t explored how it applies to areas of their life enough to engage in conversation about it.

As their mothers, we should be the FIRST people in their life to help them figure/point out what they are good at and where their aptitudes lie. We need to help them to examine how their strengths can be leveraged and used to make them successful women. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in a Middle School/High School but it sure doesn’t seem like there are a lot of girls lining up to do this job for you. Even as a grown women, a lot of us don’t have someone in our corner supporting us to develop our gifts. How many opportunities have been missed? How many songs haven’t been written or mountains haven’t been climbed?

Because of our role as their mothers we have the amazing gift of not only helping our daughters to see their potential but then acting as a role model for them of how to be supportive of other young women around them. Why is it so important to me that you teach your girls to be supportive as teens? Because some day they might be the women that interact with MY daughters! Ah…I look forward to the days when “Mean Girls” only brings up vague memories of a horrible movie.

BUILD THEIR SELF-ESTEEM BY REMINDING THEM WHO’S OPINION COUNTS. If you were to look at American culture from the outside, you would argue that we are one of the most self-esteem-building civilizations that has ever lived on the planet!!!  We’ve decided that trophies are awarded for participation, red pens can’t be used for grading and cyberspace is full of pictures of pouting, duck faced, perfectly groomed girls of every shape and size. It appears that we are ALL about ourselves ALL of the time. So, why do we have so many young women with low/little true self-esteem?

Something about trophies and softened correction and selfies isn’t getting the job done. That’s why.

So, if self-esteem can’t be predicted by selfie count, what is going on? First, we have to look at what self-esteem really is. One way to define esteem is the worth or value that one places on something or someone. Self-esteem then is the worth or value that we place, feel or have about ourselves. This is where it starts to get tricky. A lot of times, the way we view ourselves or the amount of self-esteem we have is based not on our own opinions of our abilities/talents etc. but is a reflection of the esteem we believe others hold for us.

If we have a high self-esteem but no one around us shows esteem for us, we can either be left with a false positive self-esteem (unfounded pride or narcissism) or our self-esteem drops in response to the belief that others do not hold us in high regard. Do you see the danger our daughters now face in regards to self-esteem in our current society? They are watching a society too consumed by itself to notice them to gauge how much value and respect they have for themselves.

It’s more important now than ever that we begin to show our daughters that its not the quantity of esteem (instagram ‘likes’) that is most important but the quality of the people around them that they look to for validation. What is the character of the person who’s opinion your daughter holds most dear? We need start explaining that they will only see a true and accurate reflection of how others view them when they are careful about who they give this power to…because it IS a powerful thing to a young girl/woman.

When your daughter comes home and someone from school has said or done something to damage their self-esteem, it isn’t enough to dismiss it as mean kids/teens. Help your daughter learn to evaluate whether the opinion of the offending party is a true reflection by comparing it to what important people in your girl’s life think about them.

FOCUS ON WINNING THE WAR TO DECIDE WHAT BATTLES ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. Remember when we were talking about goal setting for the girls? We need to be active goal setters in how we raise them too! What is the end result we are looking to achieve with our daughters? Some of us may want our girls to be highly educated and have challenging careers. Some may want theirs to grow into women that have compassion and put the needs of others ahead of their own. Some may want to raise up an individual that brings laughs and light to millions. Some (hopefully every hen) may be planning for all of these things!

Regardless of what values you hold dear for your girls, its important to really set down and decide not only what kind of woman you want to raise but come up with a game plan on how you will accomplish this and what things/thoughts/ideas you need to impart to them. I always tell my class that very few people are successful, really successful, by accident. This holds true for parenting as well.

What does this have to do with the day to day battles that we have with one or more smaller females in our house? EVERYTHING. You’ve heard the saying that we should “pick our battles” implying that some battles just aren’t worth winning and cause more strife than they are worth. Let’s keep “picking” them but instead base our choices on whether or not the battle is crucial to the overall goal that we have in raising up a woman. It won’t cause the battles to go away (hormones alone wouldn’t allow for it!) but I believe when you view battles in this context you can’t help but see every argument as an potential learning experience for yourself and your girl/girls. That change in perspective might be the difference between broaching a subject with grace and selling the offending female to the gypsies.

CHALLENGE THEM TO THINK BIG. It seems like the last few decades in our country have been marred by more and more bad news and deflated dreams. You can’t turn on a T.V. set without someone talking about how graduating college students will never find jobs and the growth of new business starts is crumbling. If you think your daughters aren’t putting two and two together or paying attention to these headlines, you are wrong. I meet a lot of students that come to college with no real interest in a subject area but choose a degree because their parents are “hoping I’ll be able to find a job” with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating all students major in Philosophy or Art. I understand the concern and worry about this for my own children. But at the same time, I want my daughters to also be able to imagine a world where they can accomplish something great. There are plenty of people in this world that will be telling your girls they “can’t”, I just think someone (mother hens to be specific) should be reinforcing the belief that they “can”.

If their dream seems unrealistic, instead of trying to set the bar lower or make the dream smaller-how about teaching them to brainstorm ways they can change the big dream to be easier to attain? Try helping them locate resources to work towards their goal. Not only will working together bring you closer but you might just find that impossible dream that your daughter had starts looking more and more achievable to you too!

TEACH THEM TO BALANCE FEELINGS WITH THOUGHTS.
The simple truth is that we live in an age where we are encouraged to make decisions based on how we “feel” about a situation/person/event or if our “feelings” dictate a certain response. A very clear example of this is the American brand of consumerism. We’ve been trained to confuse want (desire) for need (practicality). One is fueled by emotion whereas the other is fueled by reflective thought.

While this is encouraged in both men and women today, it seems to come more naturally to those of the female gender and I have seen it cause more heartache (in my own life and others) than you can possibly imagine. I see a lot of girls that are only capable of looking at life’s events through “feeling” colored glasses. Hens are (in general) more apt to allow ourselves to give uneven weight to emotions even when they run counter to how our heads are interpreting our environment. Sometimes, we are so lead that we refuse to put our thinking caps on at all until a decision has already been made and we’re left on the flip side wondering how we ever ended up (fill in the blank).

Balance is key. We were given brains AND hearts (the metaphorical kind)  for a reason. Our daughters need to grow up learning to resist a culture that says “do whatever makes you happy for the moment” and learn that the wisest choices for their lives are made when both parts are in on the decision making. As mothers we need to try our hardest to model this type of decision making for their benefit (I know, I’m asking for an impossible thing) but like I always tell my girls:

FACT CHECK THOSE FEELINGS BEFORE YOU REACT

SET THE EXPECTATION THEY SHOULD BE VALUED FOR THEIR MIND, THEIR APPEARANCE & THEIR SOUL. OK. If you haven’t already tuned me out, this may be the one that sends you over the edge and you start questioning the judgement of poultry.

I believe we need to be raising daughters to value their mind, their body/appearance and their soul. Too many times it seems like we are really good at two out of the three and we pat ourselves on the back as mothers for being pretty good at this “parenting” thing. Heck, sometimes we only focus on one and pat ourselves for that too!The truth of the matter is, there are really three facets that make up a well balanced grown woman.

Oh, I’ve heard a lot from women that believe we should focus on the mind and that education and learning etc. is what will set our daughters up for success. That regardless of their interests and abilities, this should be our first and foremost priority of female chick rearing. Others claim we should be focused on the soul and the character of a person. That if their heart believes they should live in the underside of overpasses for their entire life we should encourage and embrace it. As far as the last, I haven’t actually found a real-life mother specimen willing to admit its all about their daughter’s looks but I KNOW they are out there because I’ve seen Toddlers and Tiaras.

By the same token, sometimes we think we should cover the mind and soul part but that the looks part shouldn’t be important at all in an advanced society. To that I declare “Chicken Puckey”. In our attempts to take away the importance of someone’s appearance we are basically invalidating that portion of who they are. I don’t think girls should be consumed with what they look like. As mothers, I think we need to keep a balanced and open opinion about embracing all the aspects of our daughters without discounting a huge chunk.

As moms it is our job to teach our daughters to value themselves holistically and that means supporting and encouraging them to pay attention to and work on every facet of their being. Successful, happy, engaging and enlightened women have mastered all three areas and I think we should strive for nothing less than that for our chickadees.

Lecture over.

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Don’t you just LOVE Halloween? The caramel apples…the pumpkin patch…peeing your pants from watching scary Halloween movies?! I’m actually not so great with that last one, which is why I have the Greatest Spooky List of Halloween Movie Favorites for you EVER:

Halloween Movie Favorites

Halloween Movie Favorites

20 Halloween Movie Favorites for Tweens 

(or scaredy cat adults)

 

hocus-pocusHOCUS POCUS

There’s no way to go wrong with this one. It has it all: Comedy, Flying Witches, and a Dance Number that will be stuck in your head until Santa shows up!

After 100 years in the ground, the Sanderson Sisters are back to round up the children of Salem in an attempt to make themselves young and beautiful.

Did I mention there’s a talking cat and Bette Midler?

Halloween cinematic gold!

THE ADDAMS FAMILYadams-family-1

They’re creepy and their kooky, mysterious & spooky…

How can you get through Halloween without the hijinks of the Addams Family?

Uncle Fester is missing? Or is he?

This movie is a film adaptation of the show we all watched and loved as kids with Christina Ricci knocking it out of the graveyard with a hilariously sinister portrayal as Wednesday Addams!

aadams-family-2ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

If The Addams Family wasn’t enough and you’re still wanting to see if Pugsly makes it out alive, try the sequel-Addams Family Values! Joan Cusack plays a kooky femme fatale out to get Uncle Fester’s fortune and Wednesday’s ready to burn girl scouts at the stake to get out of Summer Camp!

 

 

 

LABYBRINTHlabyrinth

Back in the day before vampires ruined glitter- there was a Goblin King that would snatch your obnoxious, crying brother if you asked him!

Jim Henson teamed up with David Bowie to produce a movie gem perfect for getting you in the Halloween mood. Sarah’s a girl with a big imagination and a squalling toddler that has to venture into a fantasy world and snatch back her brother before her parents get home from ‘date night’.

 

beetlejuice BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE, BEETLE.. I’d better not!

Ghosts, a Farm House, and Winona Ryder make up the scene for this 80’s cult classic where a newly deceased ghost couple (barely cold in the ground) have to take extreme measures to keep their home from being taken over by yuppies.

Michael Keaton dons some goofy duds and decides to clear out their house in exchange for marriage with the new family’s eno daughter!

 

CLUEclue

It’s a game, it’s a movie, it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ wrapped up into 90+ minutes of mayhem and mystery!

Follow your old favorites like Professor Plum, Ms. White, and Colonel Mustard as they try to figure out why they’ve been brought to such a spooky old house and who’s killing off the guest. While there are a few scenes with minimal blood, this movie is more about being goofy then gory so it’s scaredy-cat approved.

 

edwardscissorhandsEDWARD SCISSORHANDS

Wanna watch a movie about a guy with razor sharp digits but Freddy’s a little too hard to stomach? Edward’s your guy!

Johnny Depp gives another crazy-good performance about a misunderstood stranger that would rather bathe your dog and trim your hedges than cause you any nightmares. Winona Ryder pops up again as Edward’s love interest that must keep her testosterone-fueled boyfriend from taking advantage of the timid monster.

THE CORPSE BRIDEcorpsebride

In case you’ve gone longer than 5 minutes without watching a spooky collaboration between Johnny Depp, Helena Bohnam Carter and Tim Burton, sit down and enjoy this stop-motion film about lost loves and ‘doing the right thing’.

Don’t let the ‘Corpse’ part fool you- She’s prettier than most living women and aside from the worm inside her head- scare free. If you loved ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ then you’ve got to check this one out too!

 

nightmare-before-christmasNIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Speaking of which, if you haven’t seen it, this flick is bound to get you into the Halloween spirit. Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town, is just a guy trying to find out if he’s missing out on life.

With his trusty skeleton dog named Zero in tow, Jack’s determined to change his fate and bring Christmas to his band of misfit, monstrous Halloween Town citizens.

The love interest Sally ‘seems’ to think this is a good idea and lends aid although her ‘seams’ keep holding her back.

GOONIES goonies

There are few things from the 80’s better than this tale of a group of misfit friends trying to save their seaside neighborhood from a group of yuppie, golf course developers.

Following a map they find in the attic, these adventurers go in search of an illusive pirate treasure while trying to avoid ‘boody’ traps and a family of blood thirsty convicts. Sloth’s not easy on the eyes but he’s not pushing the  ‘terror’ meter and except for a little language, this movie is a great way to get ready for pumpkin season!

hotel-trans-1HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA

Who doesn’t like Adam Sandler? blah, blah blah

Dracula has moved out of the crypt and is the sole proprietor of a luxury resort for monsters. He’s got everything- including a 118 year old daughter ready to spread her bat wings and experience the world. That’s a major headache when you’re trying to keep her inside and shield her from all humans.

Add one wayward traveler and a whole cast of traditional spooky favorites and you’ve got a great movie for kids and adults alike.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 hotel-trans-2

Dracula’s got a new grandson and everything would be perfect if little Dennisovich would just pop out some fangs.

While Mavis and Johnny try to figure out whether the hotel is the right place to raise their spawn, Drac and his buddies are determined to ‘scare’ the monster right out of the little tot.

Between trying to keep Mavis from moving and entertaining his overbearing and judgemental father, Drac is losing the battle to keep his human in-laws a secret.

the-witchesTHE WITCHES

Luke is convinced there’s something fishy about the convention of women descending on the hotel where he’s staying with his grandmother. He’s right-they’re witches!

They’re out to get rid of all of the children in England and Luke’s got to stop them before it’s too late.

THE GOOD WITCHthe-good-witch-the-movie

In case those other witches aren’t to your liking, you might enjoy this little movie about a mysterious outsider that takes up residence in a small town’s notoriously haunted house. She’s running a strange little shop full of strange little things but she seems harmless enough.

This made-for-tv movie is pretty short on scary and a great ‘halloween’ treat for even the most scaredy scaredy-cats!

THE BOOK OF LIFE

book-of-lifeIf you like sugar skulls and festive parties, this movie is a good choice. Manolo is trying to be true to his heart while still honoring the wishes of his family.

What we have here is a guy that would rather play the guitar then wrestle a bull and to make matters worse- he’s caught in a love triangle between his childhood sweetheart and the town hero. When the Mexican folklore Ruler of the Remembered and the Ruler of the Forgotten get thrown into the mix, mayhem ensues.

 

 

THE WATCHER IN THE WOODSwatcherinthewoods

Let’s face it- Bette Davis can be scary!

Even so, you can safely watch this 80’s Disney film about a normal family that moves into a old English Manor that they are renting from a cranky ol’ Bette Davis.

It’s not long before they’re hearing voices and wondering if their new home is haunted with the ghost of a missing young girl.

 

something_wicked_this_way_comes-frontSOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

While we’re traveling down this spooky memory lane, all you scaredy cats should pick up a copy this old thriller.  The title alone should make this film a Halloween favorite in your house.

Two friends find a curious oddity in the woods and before you know it, the mean people in the town aren’t problems anymore and the boys’ dreams are coming true.

Step on up to Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival. You’ll get everything you ever wanted and it won’t cost much…just your soul!

THE BURBSthe-burbs

Ray…poor Ray. He’s on vacation and so bored that there’s nothing to do except spy on his weird neighbors. (In his defense, one of them makes Boo Radley look like the guy next door.)

When the old man down the street goes missing, Ray gathers his equally paranoid suburbanite friends and before you know it, they’ve broken in next door and set the place ablaze.

Good times.

practical-magicPRACTICAL MAGIC

Sister witches. Is there anything better than sister witches?

How about three sets of them?! Sally and Jillian are just average witches plagued by a curse that kills every man that dares to love an Owens woman. When their curse ends up landing them in hot water, the two are left trying to clean up their own mess without the help of their aunts played by the most awesome Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest!

It’s a story about learning to accept yourself, whipped cream, and midnight margaritas.

THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES

harry potter

Harry Potter Movies

Last, but not least, there is no better holiday than Halloween to curl up onto the sofa with a mug of butterbeer and binge watch muggles and magical folks for about 20 hours.

Feel free to also try this at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July or even next Saturday if the mood strikes.

 

What Halloween movie favorites does your family enjoy in October? Help me make a complete list for scaredy cats!

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Marriage Relationships

All the hens I know do it in some form or fashion in their marriage relationships: Undermining our husbands. Find out 5 ways I was undermining my husband and why I’m determined to stop and build him up instead.

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

It’s sometimes a lot easier to tear down and undermine the people we love instead of taking the time and making the effort to build them up. After 15 years of marriage, four kids, a house, and two cats I seem to find plenty of ways to undermine my husband’s thoughts and feelings while struggling to keep our house operating from week to week.

We all have bad days and even worse moods, but this pattern can have a devastating effect on marriage relationships and how supported our husbands feel in their own home. Some are overt and some are thinly veiled, but I’ve identified 5 things that I was doing in my marriage to create a nasty pattern and how I’ve decided to stop it in its tracks.

Keeping a List and Checking it 1,000+ Times

Santa’s not the only one with naughty and nice lists. I am a great list maker. Know which list I am the best at compiling? A list of every annoying thing my husband has ever done and every mistake he has ever made. Before you start thinking Mr. Rooster is just married to a dragon lady, let me assure you I am NORMAL chicken. It’s just human nature to forget the way that doughnut we just ate tasted and remember every single detail about the day our husband gave us with a toaster for our anniversary. No matter how hard you might try, you can’t help but remember past wrongs whenever the bloom is falling off the “love” rose.  We may have even forgiven wrongs committed by our spouse in the past, but short of some science fiction mind swipe- you’re not ever going to forget.

Want to do know what you can do though? Refuse to bring it up ever again. This is the part of the story where I usually fail but I’m ready to fight-like-mad to fix. We might not have control over the memories that enter our brains, but by God, we have the ability to control the words that come out of our mouths! If you are like me and struggle with regurgitating old wounds while in the midst of arguments then think twice before doing it anymore. Bringing it up over and over again could be doing more damage to your marriage then the original event/harsh words/etc. ever could.

If you’re in the heat of an argument and your best defense or evidence is an incident that occurred 10 years ago, chances are you don’t have a great foundation for your position.

Woulda, Coulda, Shouldas

My second favorite past-time (besides list making) is concentrating on all of the things that I find distasteful, frumpy, or obnoxious about my true love. He should wear different shirts to the football game, he really could shave that part of his neck that is scruffy and scratchy and he would rather sit at home watching hours of the most ridiculous shows on T.V. then go out to eat with friends. I like to think about all of these things when we are arguing or there’s an undercurrent of tension in our home. I figure it’s ok because I never actually “say them” out loud.

But, is it?

Marriage is a game of give and take and sometimes we want to change things about our spouse to make them fit some perfect image that we think would make us happier. Who doesn’t want to be married to their dream guy? But, when I am concentrating on my husband’s negatives, I don’t leave a lot of room in my brain for focusing on his positives.

We’re really good at finding greener grass but really bad at fertilizing our own lawn. When I find myself thinking about the things I would change in Mr. Rooster, I am going to make a conscious effort to stop and think of three things about him that I couldn’t live without. If we spent three times the amount of brain power concentrating on our husband’s positives rather than negatives, I bet we’d even start remembering why we liked those guys in the first place!

Mum’s the Word

Often called the “cold shoulder” or the “silent treatment”, I am a master at shutting down verbally. BUT ONLY when it suits me. Sometimes it suits me in the heat of battle and I shut down all communication to “win” an argument that I am seriously “losing”.

Other times, I deploy this tactic when we’re not even fighting (that’s when it’s called pouting I think) and I’m just not happy with the way the world is spinning.  We tell ourselves that we are just trying to avoid more conflict and harsh words, but is that really the truth? Silence can be used dismissively. It says that the person it is directed towards is not in control of the situation. That whatever they want to communicate is not as important as your need to withdrawal.

If you’ve ever been asked by your husband what is wrong and you’ve replied with “Nothing” there is a possibility that your husband has felt belittled or undermined. While there are always times that it would be better to say nothing at all then to speak hurtful words you don’t mean, make a conscious effort to evaluate the situation the next time you are tempted to hold your tongue. Will doing so improve the situation or are you just using the silence as a way to gain the upper hand or to punish your spouse? Too many times I’ve chosen silence over civil conversation and I’m determined to reverse this trend and talk things out with my husband sooner rather than later.

The Bestest Mom- EVER!

I am a super parent and know EXACTLY what to do with children regarding all things and in all situations. This, of course, is only the case when my husband thinks we should say, do, or decide something different when parenting our kids. For the most part, Mr. Rooster and I see eye to eye on a lot of things: We like the same movies, we both love the outdoors, we share the same last name…

BUT, when it comes to our kids, I am always ready to jump to the conclusion that I know a better way or have a higher parenting I.Q. I’ve been known to scream “I don’t care what your father said, that is NOT how you clean your room” on many occasions. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s picking out church clothes or mending a scratched knee, if I am around I am convinced I can do it better.

Most of the time, I make my superiority known after the fact. I’ll ask Mr. Rooster to help get the kids ready and then question why he’s putting plaids with stripes. Not only is this demeaning to my husband (who is a really great father and tries really hard btw), it’s demeaning to my husband IN FRONT OF MY KIDS! I know I have let this pattern get bad when the little monsters start running to me AFTER they have already asked their father’s opinion. What does that say to my husband? I’ll tell you what it says! It says that my husband’s best is not good enough for his own offspring. I’m determined not to say that any more! Sure, my kid may end up taking school pictures in his awful holey Batman t-shirt, but my marriage will need a little less saving.

He’s Got the Moves Like Jagger

I like Mr. Rooster to romance me. I think it of it as one of the top duties in his “husband” job description. He should plan fancy dates for us and remember my favorite perfume, and tell me I’m beautiful, etc. etc. etc. Basically, if there’s any romancing going on, my husband should be the instigator since he loves and admires me SO much! Right?

Wrong answer. We’ve been married for over 15 years and seen hundreds of married couples and I am here to tell you, your husband needs to be pursued. When we leave all of the romancing and pursuit to our husbands, we are inadvertently denying them of something that we expect to receive all the time…admiration. You know how great it feels when your husband remarks that he likes your new dress or that you look sexy? That’s how he feels when you say the same things to him.

I’m not advocating anything rude or unseemly, but I’m ready for a change. Instead of getting upset that Mr. Rooster doesn’t ask me out to dinner for our anniversary, I’m going to ask him. I can plan a romantic weekend getaway at a local bed and breakfast just like he can! Ladies, its time we became the pursuers (just a little) instead of always expecting to be the pursued. It might not make YOU feel cherished to worry with the dating details but it will make HIM feel like a million bucks!

Do you struggle with showing your spouse respect or find yourself undermining your husband? Share your experiences and if you’ve been working to stop.

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

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Daith Piercing for Migraine Relief

If you suffer from debilitating migraines, you’ll do anything to make them stop…even put holes in your head! Find out why I chose to get daith piercing for migraine relief and if I’ve had success so far.

Daith Piercing for Migraine Relief

Daith Piercing for Migraine Relief

I was diagnosed with Basilar Arterial Migraines in the Fall of 2014 after being rushed to the emergency room thinking I was having a stroke at 39. Twice. Up until that point, my experience with headaches had been taking an occasional tylenol for temporary pain of the normal stress, fever, sickness induced variety.

My life radically changed that Fall.

For 18 months straight I suffered from nausea, vertigo, general fogginess, left side body/facial numbness and visual disturbances and was 85% convinced that I was about to die at any moment. It was a REALLY long year and a half.

After 3 MRIs, CAT scans, EEGs, enough blood work to feed a small army of vampires and a heart cath, they were finally able to diagnose me and I am still fighting an ongoing battle to rid myself of the awful accompanying auras with pharmaceuticals.

Needless to say, the idea of putting additional holes in my head to help stop them didn’t seem like that big of a stretch. Besides, daith piercings are cute and funky. I spent hours researching daith piercing online. Like all alternative treatments, the verdict on successful migraine treatment with daith piercing was mostly he said/she said with both sides adamantly agreeing to disagree on its effectiveness. I was left with no alternative but to suffer the needle and see for myself.

Daith Piercing Adventure #1

One month ago I went to my local tattoo parlor and got my right daith pierced.  I chose the right side because while my aura symptoms affect my left side, any pain I have is always on the right. (Yes, you read that right…I have the type of migraines that rarely produce the “headache” part).  I was often asked if it hurt. Yes, it hurt. It DID NOT hurt as much as birthing a child, so if you’re a mother contemplating getting this done- You’ve got this one in the bag! Immediately after getting the piercing, I suffered a pretty severe headache.

Daith Piercing Adventure #2

After allowing my right ear to heal for two weeks, I went and got my left ear done. At the time, I was in the middle of my aura phase and the left side of my face and tongue were very numb. Immediately after getting the piercing, I regained feeling in the left side of my face. WooWho! I also didn’t get a rebound headache after the left piercing.

Daith Piercing and Migraine Relief

Since having both ears done, I feel pretty confident in saying I believe it has helped with my symptoms though I have had one migraine since. This migraine was mild in comparison to past events and I was even able to go and enjoy a high school homecoming football game during it. (Normally it is straight to bed) Everything about that migraine (aura and pain level) was noticeably weaker and I was able to function like a normal human chicken. I am hoping that, given enough time, my migraines will continue to be mild or vanish all together.

Daith Piercing and the Healing Process

The only downside to these little earrings so far has been the healing process. Although I am using the salt water and cleaning as suggested, healing the two piercings has been a slow touch-and-go. I probably fiddle with them too much and that is causing the process to take longer. If you are considering getting this done for migraine relief, I suggest that you follow the instructions to not touch the piercings with your fingers, use the warm salt water twice a day, and additionally dab them with tea tree oil on a qtip in between cleanings.

Do you suffer from migraines? Why type do you have and what have you done to treat them and get pain/aura relief? Has anything been successful? Please share.

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Say No to Spending

The urge to shop and spend money can be a powerful siren. Her song isn’t always diminished by your determination to get out of debt or be more financially savvy. Even the most dedicated of savers and budgetees can fall under her spell. Here’s how to tame your inner shopaholic and JUST SAY NO TO SPENDING!

Say No to Spending

Say No to Spending

No Spending Tip #1: Visualize Your Goals

Budgeting and being thrifty is a little like dieting. You know how sometimes taking a look at your skinny jeans is enough to make you put down the doughnut?  You can employ the same tactics to help reach your goal of paying off debt or becoming more frugal. Are you saving up to buy something big without financing? Are you hoping to get completely out of debt and become financially free? Whatever your financial goal, keep tangible reminders around to keep you energized and on target and to help curb those spending urges. Concentrating on something physical that reminds you of why you wanted to save money in the first place will make it harder for you to justify splurging on a new purchase now.

No Spending Tip #2: Know Your Temptations

Do you spend money when you are bored or feel lonely? Is shopping a way for you to socialize and spend time with friends or family? Think about what is happening in your life and what emotions you are having when you get the urge to spend on something unexpected. By knowing your spending triggers, you can more easily avoid those situations that make you weak or set off your inner shopaholic. Learning more about your spending habits and impulses goes a long way to helping you say no to spending money.

No Spending Tip #3: Accumulation Evaluation

A surefire way to curb your desire to bring more into your home is evaluating everything already stuffed inside it. If you’re a true shopaholic then you already have excess “things” that require maintenance, cleaning and/or stowing. Take a good, long and hard look at all of it and inventory how much of your living space you are currently taking up with things you have already purchased. It’s easier to resist temptation to add to the collection when we are confronted with our current excess .

Often we buy new things because we forget about the old things we already have. Pulling our things out of all the nook and crannies can curb your urge to spend by reminding you of things that you previously bought but have not recently used. You might be willing to pass up on buying a little black dress if you know you have three already hanging in your closet.

No Spending Tip #4: Hang Out with Other Non-Spenders

Birds of a feather should flock together, unless it’s a group of shopaholics mixed with one reformed shopaholic.   Make a conscious effort to spend time with like minded frugal friends or even make some new friends with others trying to reform their shopping ways. Don’t start over with a new circle of friends (that’s just crazy). Take into consideration who your “shopaholic partners in crime” might be and suggest activities together where the ability to shop/spend is limited.

No Spending Tip #5: Stay Out of the Stores, etc.

Humans are visual creatures. We like to look at things which often leads to wanting things which in turn leads to buying things. Get the picture? You aren’t likely to run into a bedspread you just “have to have” on a nature trail and I’ve seldom felt a sudden urge to purchase a new shirt while having a movie night with friends. If seeing what you could buy keeps you from staying on track and being frugal, your best option might be to avoid stores, shows, television ads, etc. that give you the “gimmes” and instead concentrate on activities where you won’t be so tempted to spend.

Do you have any great tips on how to make it easier to say no to spending?

 

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Things to Consider Before Dropping a Class

It happens. You take a class that stinks or that you’re not prepared for academically. Your professor is awful or you just can’t make yourself get up for an 8 o’clock class. There are a lot of reasons for wanting to call it quits. Consider these 5 things before dropping a class:

5 Things to Consider Before Dropping a Class

5 Things to Consider Before Dropping a Class

 

Have You Checked with Your Advisor?

You should always consult your academic advisor before pulling the trigger and hitting “drop”. Are you in a program that requires you to stay in the course for that specific semester? Is the icky class offered every semester or do you run the risk of dropping it to find out that you have to wait another calendar year before it’s scheduled again? Is the class a prerequisite or co-requisite course that has to be taken at a specific point in your degree plan? The answers may all be “No” but it’s best to hear that from someone that specializes in your field of study and knows the ins and outs of your college major requirements.

It’s better to check before so that you know you won’t be surprised later by having to take an extra semester to complete all of your requirements. That would really suck.

Have You Checked with Financial Aid?

You might think you’re ok to drop that Chem course because your roommate tells you it won’t affect your financial aid. The problem is your roommate (though filled with the best intentions) may be devastatingly wrong. These days, students are coming to college with more complex financial aid plans than ever before. There are usually grants, loans, scholarships, etc. that make up part or all of your financial package. It can get really confusing trying to keep up what the restrictions and requirements are for each.

Before dropping that course, go to your financial aid office and have someone pull up your personalized account package. Make sure that dropping the course won’t negatively impact your ability to continue receiving all of your financial aid. Nobody likes going to the Financial Aid office! Sure, the line is long and you’re going to have to wait a while. It’s better to wait in line a while then to find out you’ve dropped below the minimum hours and can kiss your 20K in expected scholarship money goodbye.

Can I Save This Train Wreck?

There are times when you have to cut bait. Make sure this is one of those times. Before freaking out that you can’t make a decent grade and dropping the class altogether, seriously consider how much time is left in the semester and how many available points are left to be earned.  While you might feel awful and panicked because you flunked YOUR FIRST TEST EVER, if it’s only worth 20 % of your grade, you might not be in as bad a shape as you think.

Professors are people. Even the mean ones. Go to your professor and talk with them if you are having trouble in a class. They might be able to offer you a way to improve your grade or have ideas on how to get extra help and pull through. It’s not a wise idea to pay for classes that you don’t get any credit for. That’s exactly what you are doing if you drop past the date to receive a reimbursement. It’s like taking a Lit course that costs $700 worth 0 hours! No one would do that. Make sure there is no way to salvage the grade before throwing in the towel.

Consider the Money, Time & Energy

Speaking of wasting time and money…exactly how much have you devoted to the class you are wanting to drop? You might hate dragging yourself to class every other day, but you have already devoted a lot of time and energy into the course. Think about your total effort before dropping a class.

Do you just not like the material or the instructor? Is it really so bad that you are willing to overlook how much you have invested? If you’re only a few weeks from the end of these semester, it might be more beneficial to suck it up and stay in rather then to drop it late and receive no credit. Sometimes students get overwhelmed with the amount of work left to complete and turn in. You should also consider how much you have already been able to accomplish in the class.

If it is a required course for your degree, ask yourself it is worth taking the same boring material again. The only thing worse than sitting through Physics might be sitting through it for a semester and a half when you could just push through the last few weeks and be done with it once and for all.

What About Off Schedule?

You’ve carefully considered and still believe that dropping is in your best interest?  There are some things you can do to maintain your academic status for financial aid and completion reasons. Many colleges today offer off-schedule courses that only meet for a portion of the regular semester. Many times they are classes offered during the first half or second half of a regular semester.

If you must maintain 15 hours but you just can’t stand World Civ for one more minute, check to make sure you can’t drop World Civ and pick up another half semester/off schedule course. This will keep your academic course load at 15 hours. You’ll still end up paying for the extra class. However, it might be worth it to preserve your GPA and keep from losing your federal financial aid package or scholarship.

Have you ever dropped a college course and then regretted it? I did, only to find out that it was only offered in the Fall semesters so I had to wait the calendar year to take it again? Tell me your story…inquiring chicken minds want to know!

 

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Encouragement When Starting a Blog

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, then to write for the public and have no self.” ~Cyril Connolly

Starting a blog can be very frustrating. You’ve poured your soul into it, studied SEO til you’re blue in the face, and have great site graphics but still can’t get anyone to read? Be encouraged! You are not alone. We are many.

 

Starting a Blog- Support

Starting a Blog

There’s nothing more frustrating than giving something your 100% only to see it returned with mixed results. Most new bloggers start their writing journey with the same dreams.  They’re hoping to quickly develop a loyal following and expand their online presence. Many are hoping to leverage their love of writing into a side hustle to generate income.

Often, their dreams are harder to achieve then they envisioned. There are a lot of reasons that a blog can fail: bad design, crappy and/or inconsistent content, lack of promotion, etc. But what if you’ve covered your bases? What do you do when you’ve devoted time to all of these areas and still can’t pull in readers?

Encouragement When Starting a Blog

If you are a struggling new blogger- You are NOT alone! If you’ve spent anytime researching blogging and blogs on the internet, it seems like EVERYONE has a successful blog but you. It’s easy to get disheartened and feel like giving up.  That’s the one way to ensure that no one will read your content- stop writing it! Below are a few words of encouragement and ideas to keep you motivated when you feel like throwing in the towel and logging off for good.

Keep Learning and Growing in Skill

The keeping and caring of a blog feels a lot more like a marathon than a sprint. Unless you came into the market with an extensive background in online advertising, writing, programming skills, and a wee bit of graphic design you’re going to find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge needed to keep up with the big boys (or girls). Almost anyone can start a blog with a template and post a few lines of text in a few minutes.  Achieving a professional looking and operating blog takes a lot of energy and ‘know how’.

Even if you’ve done your homework and feel like you have a handle on all of the components to a successful blog, resist the urge to settle back and stop learning. When I become frustrated by readership numbers or my Adsense account balance (seriously, it’s currently sitting at $.02 as I type) I try to focus my frustration on learning even more about new apps, add ons, and SEO marketing in hopes of increasing my skills and in turn, increasing my reach. Even the best blogs and bloggers can benefit from increasing their skill set. So, keep learning- You never know what little change or tweak might get you noticed.

Be Willing to Try Something New

It takes a lot of courage to send your thoughts and words out into the cyber unknown. Blogging is not for the faint of heart. Keep building on that initial courage and be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new with your blog. Try out promoting on a new social network that you have found too overwhelming until now. Start your own shared Pinterest board and invite other bloggers to contribute. Mix up your use of pictures or colors or…ANYTHING to shake things up a little.

A lot of online success stories have occurred because someone was paying attention to trends and ran with it. Keep your eyes open for hot topics of interest that you are passionate about or new tools available to bloggers to make more mundane tasks (like social marketing promotion) less time consuming. This will free you up to spend more time on creative content for your blog.

Look for unique ways to market your blog. I once checked out a book from my local library on soapmaking. Hidden inside the pages were post it notes with the same online essential oil business. What a clever tactic for drumming up interest in your site. Think outside of the box.

Stay True to Your Content and Your Voice

When your blog is struggling to find interest, it’s very easy to assume that your graphics, your blog style, or even your writing style is unappealing. You can get caught up in measuring your site against successful bloggers that are getting the kind of exposure you crave. While you can always improve, you have to be careful not to adapt your sense of creativity to mimic others.

I see a lot of very successful sites with flowery images, soft colors, and swirly scripts and wonder if I should change my whole approach. Then I remember… I’m a crazy, quirky chicken and if I tried to stifle it, I’d be selling out! While it might seem like my voice is not very popular- IT’S MY VOICE. I can’t be “Pretty in Pink” when I’m “I Love Rock and Roll”. Unless you feel really compelled to change your content focus, keep going a little longer. Stick it out. Make sure your lack of visitors is due to your blog style and content. It could be because of bad SEO and too little or ineffective promotion.

Watch Peers with a Weary Eye

We’ve all seen them. They’re the inspiration for this post. Multitudes of pins on Pinterest claiming thousands in profits per month from bloggers across the U.S. and beyond. It’s really disheartening to see “I made $25,000 my Second Month of Blogging” pins when you’re wondering if your readership will break single digits today.

While a lot of bloggers have found a ginormous following by just plugging along with great content, a lot are using very sophisticated marketing and professional promotion. You’re up against some major players that are spending big bucks. That’s hard to compete with no matter how great your blog content. Sure, I’d much rather be the owner of the “$25,000” pin then the “$.02” pin. Who wouldn’t?  But I know if I dwell on in and let it get me down, I’ll never be able to use writing as a side hustle because I simply won’t write anymore.

If you really feel like you have good writing skills and offer value to potential readers, you owe it to yourself to keep going. I’d say that’s  my “$.02” on the subject, but if I gave it to you…I’d have nothing left. haha

Are you a struggling writer trying to find readership after starting a blog? Feel free to comment and share any encouraging tips for others below.

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The Year We Skipped Christmas and Lived

The year my husband and I got serious about getting rid of all of our debt…we got REALLY serious. How serious? Serious enough to skip Christmas…almost! This is the story of how a perfectly normal family made the decision to continue SAVING MONEY over the holiday season and lived to tell the tale.

savemoney

Saving Money During the Holidays

Things were moving right along in our family plan to stop spending, save money, and get out of debt once and for all. Then, we hit a snag. When I had put my foot down about no extra spending, I hadn’t anticipated that this declaration was going to come to a head around October of that same year. (Evidently, Chickens don’t look very far into the future.)

After much discussion, we decided that our spending freeze WAS going to extend over the holiday season and when we declared our intention to “opt out” of Christmas with our extended family, you would think we had decided we were going to marry the girls off to Russian spies on the Black Market.

It was ugly. At least…at first.

My mother worried that we were short changing the children. Other family members were convinced that we were really destitute and just didn’t want to talk about it. I think one Aunt was worried she would see our faces on milk crates or some such.

None of that happened. In fact, it was pretty awesome.

Saving Money Didn’t Freak Our Family Out

After the initial shock wore off, it was really like any other Christmas holiday. I was so concerned that we were going to feel strange or ostracized when we showed up to the get together with our family size bag of chips and dip and no presents for anyone. We didn’t. While everyone else tore into wrapping and gift bags, we sat around in the circle cheering them on. My kids were excited to see what everyone got and I think for the first time, we focused our attention and seeing our loved ones get excited instead of concentrating on what we were tearing open.

Not only did I not feel like a Christmas leper, I had several family members tell me how they admired our commitment to our goal. I wasn’t called a cheapskate and banished from the family. Some even remarked how they were a little jealous that I seemed so much more relaxed during the holiday season and that they wished they were brave enough to just “take a year off”.

Saving Money Meant Less Shopping & Less Stress

I can’t express to you how much less stress there was while “skipping Christmas”. Although we bought several individual small things for each child and did stockings, I was able to reduce our gift shopping and buying by at least 75%! No running from store to store looking for sales. No wondering if the person was going to like the present that was selected! IT WAS BLISS! I spent the time I saved by not shopping, buying, and wrapping on more important things like cooking and baking with my children and making some new ornaments for the tree.

Saving Money Refocused Our Idea of Christmascindylouwho

We were the typical American family. Over the years, our holiday focus seemed to shift from family and spiritual connections to present and gift acquisitions. We all spent so much time and energy picking out items and then wrapping said items that we had very little time left over to concentrate on why our family chooses to celebrate Christmas at all. During the year that we “skipped Christmas” I would stop and find myself feeling a little like Cindy Lou Who. It was like being a spectator to a sport that I had played my whole life but never really thought about why I was playing.

We didn’t get a lot of gifts the year we “skipped Christmas” but, as a family, we did spend more time focusing on learning about our beliefs and making new traditions then we spent filling up our baskets. That worked out pretty good too.

Saving Money as the World Kept Spinning

All told, the most crazy thing about ducking out of the holidays was the fact that it didn’t really feel all that crazy. I like to buck the system now and then, but even I was worried. What would happen if we didn’t spend a lot of money and have as many gifts as usual? Would the chicks revolt? (Nope) Would our family and friends think we were weird? (No weirder than normal) Would Christmas come and go and feel like just another day on the calendar? (Didn’t happen either) We just simply didn’t have as much stuff to put away after the holidays. I also had help making Christmas breakfast instead of everyone vanishing right after the wrapping was shredded.

I was afraid that we would miss the “feeling” of Christmas…but it turns out we might have rediscovered the “meaning” of Christmas instead.

What’s the craziest thing you ever did to keep saving money? Have you ever thought about “skipping Christmas”?

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Online Courses: A Convenient Alternative…But are they for everyone?

Should you take an online course?

With technology invading every aspect of our lives, it seems like a slam dunk to meet part of your course requirements by taking a few online classes (sometimes referred to as Web-based courses) while in college. I mean… who doesn’t want to go to class in their pajamas? Just because you CAN doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD!

What am I Getting Myself Into with an Online Course?

First and foremost, be aware of what most online professors and instructors expect. They expect you will be knowledgeable with their online Learning Management System before you ever even sign up for class.  While they will try to make things as easy to access as possible, there will likely be no tutorial on how to actually maneuver within the system or how to upload homework or participate in online activities. This is crucial because most online courses NEVER MEET FACE TO FACE and sometimes the instructor doesn’t even keep office hours on your campus! It’s up to you to know how to do this from day one. Be Ready!

What Kind of Student Succeeds in an Online Course?

Online course taking requires a slightly different set of skills than a traditional lecture based class. Before embarking on this new pajama wearing journey, ask yourself three questions to determine if online classes are right for your personality:

Are you good at finding/using help?

When you are in an online(web based) course, it is likely that you won’t know or even meet anyone else in your course during the semester. Sometimes, the instructor can only be reached by email. If you run into problems, it is up to you to solve them. Are you good with software and hardware issues? Do you know how to google your way out of an incompatibility error? Finding resources and using them to problem solve are crucial when taking an online course. You have to be willing to go the extra mile.

Are you annoyingly persistent?

Speaking of the extra mile? As mentioned before, you likely won’t be seeing your instructor face to face during the entire semester. If an assignment seems unclear or you have a question about a reading example, it is up to you to pursue an answer with your instructor or reach out to another online classmate for help. It takes a lot more effort to search someone out on the web then it does to lean over to the guy or girl sitting next to you in a traditional class and ask a question. Again, you have to be willing to go the extra effort to find the answers you are seeking.

Are you a time management ninja?

Most online courses require the same amount of time and energy as traditional lecture classes. Some require even more. Often, these classes are more fluid in their scheduled readings and assignments. Since there won’t be anyone to remind you of due dates, it’s up to you to plan! You must be able to make sure you complete everything on time. I have seen many good students bomb online courses because they simply “forget” to keep up with their online classes or to check their accounts regularly for added assignments. Don’t let the convenience of an online course tank your GPA!

Have you had a lot of success with online courses? What skills do you think are crucial to online course success?

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You Must Let Go to Get Out of Debt

You know that spending too much of your earnings will keep you in a never ending loop on the Debt Express. You can also get trapped in debt by refusing to let go of things holding you back from financial freedom. Here’s a list of things You Must Let Go to Get Out of Debt:

You Must Let Go To Get Out of Debt

Let Go of Keeping Up with Appearances

If you continue to worry about having the latest and greatest gadgets, cars, and clothing, you are never going to have surplus income to make a dent in the overspending you have already accumulated on your outdated gadgets, cars, and clothing.

You can’t get out of debt while keeping up with the Joneses. Things at the Jones’ house aren’t as great as they seem anyway. They’ve maxed out both their credit cards and their nervous systems. Any friends that judge you for your scuffed Nike’s might be part of the reason you are in your current financial predicament anywho!

If your debt level is severe or you are really committed to paying all of your debt off, you are going to have to go without some luxuries for awhile. Don’t worry. New and shiny things will still be waiting for you on the store shelves when you’re done. You won’t have even a smidgen of guilt when you load up your cart at your local TJ Maxx! Win win. Don’t tell yourself “No”, instead tell yourself “Not right now”.

Let Go of Bad Habits that are Holding You Back to Get Out of Debt

You have to be willing to let go of all of the financial habits that brought you to where you are now. Even little bad habits can add up to big bad problems. That daily cup of coffee at Starbucks might only costs $5 a day, but over the course of a month that’s $150 you could be applying to your Visa bill! Resist the urge to “reward” your fiscal self-control with anything that requires spending. You’ll soon find rewarding yourself for saving $5.75 at the grocery store with a new $10 shirt a good idea.

Some lucky people hate to shop and don’t struggle with the “gimmes”. If you aren’t one of these lucky folks, minimize the amount of time you spend in stores (both on Mainstreet and in cyberspace). Seeing available items will increase the chances that you make a purchase. In fact, get crazy and cancel your cable. This was one of the best things we did while eliminating debt. Advertisers are very good at making us feel like we need things that we really just want. Don’t fall for their traps!

Communicate with your significant other about money issues if you’re in this battle together. Money is one of the major reasons that marriages hit the rocks. While financial freedom gets rid of a lot of stress, the actual reduction phase can be stressful. Work together by keeping communication lines open.

Don’t hide from your issues. Admit your bad habits and begin replacing them with good financial habits. Check you checking balances and accounts for accuracy everyday. Come up with a budgeting system that works for you. Start a side hustle to get rid of the debt even faster. Control your money and stop letting your money (or the lack of it) control you! You can’t get out of debt using the same decision making that got you into debt.

Let Go of Huge Obstacles in Your Path to Freedom to Get Out of Debt

This is a hard thing to let go of. It’s downright scary.

Evaluate what large obstacles are in the way of your success. Think about three to five things in your lifestyle that were they to magically disappear, you would be able to get out of debt faster. Write them down. Rank them in the order of least to greatest cost to you (e.g. 1 being the greatest and 5 being the least costly). Next to this, rank these items again in the order of importance to your lifestyle (e.g 5 being the greatest and 1 being the least). Identify two areas where the level of cost is the greatest but the list of importance is the least. Target these “issues” for removal.

Be bold. Mr. Rooster and I decided to sell our fancy smancy suburban house to be able to get out of debt faster. Our friends and family thought we were crazy but I don’t regret it in the least. In fact, it was one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life! We didn’t even have to live in a cardboard box as my mother suggested. Go figure!

Don’t worry. You can always buy whatever it is back later when you can pay cold hard cash. Afraid you won’t ever find such a great deal as you got on your currently financed boat? Try going to a dealer and offering cash off season!

Let Go of Feeling like You are “Missing Out” to Get Out of Debt

Debt reduction is mind over matter. Plain and simple. It is a lot like starting a new diet. I don’t ever crave a doughnut until I can’t have one. Debt repayment is just like that. People often start debt reduction but can’t seem to let go of feelings that they are missing out on life. This causes them to abandon their plans and fall off the wagon.

Hang on to the wagon! Remember what I said earlier. Don’t tell yourself “No”. Tell yourself “Later when I don’t have to charge it”. There is light at the end of the tunnel and by sacrificing some things now you are opening up a lot more opportunities for yourself financially in the future.

To get through this phase, do exactly what you would do if you were dieting- gather some like minded friends! Go on a “spending diet” together so that at least when you feel like you are “missing out” you’ll have others to remind you that you’ve still got camaraderie to keep you going. It’s always easier to keep fighting the good fight when we have others in our corner fighting alongside us!

Let Go of Bad Financial Advice/Teaching to Get Out of Debt

Parents and family members can pass down little or no financial advice. Worse yet, some pass down awful financial advice. Some people believe that you should always take out as much home loan as the bank offers because real estate investments always go up. Those same people probably lost a lot of their personal wealth during the last recession as housing markets took a beating. No investment is without risks and it is always wise to seek the counsel of someone with knowledge about finances before making a large purchase.

Another common money myth is that debt is necessary. While this might be true on a very limited personal scale or for small/large business owners, your ability to acquire personal wealth will ALWAYS be restricted by accruing debt unless that debt is taken on for the sake of increasing income or generating additional money through investments.

If you have a limited or incorrect knowledge of personal finance, take the initiative to learn everything you can about the subject and become educated. There are plenty of people in this world willing to help you figure out ways to part with your money but not that many willing to help you figure out ways to grow your personal wealth.

Mr. Rooster and I like a lot of what Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have to say about personal finance. In fact, we used the snowball method to get rid of our debt. We paid off over $50,000 in debt and saved $50,000 in cash assets in the span of 2 years to achieve financial freedom.

Let Go of the Fear of Failure to Get Out of Debt

Fear of the unknown can cause us to shut down. Fear of not reaching our goals can cause us to scrap great ideas all together and never get started on things that can totally change our lives. Look at it this way: What you are currently doing isn’t working. There are scores of people that have gotten out of debt that swear it’s possible and that it is totally worth it! Debt reduction can be a scary change. You just have to be more afraid of continuing on your current path than you are of what happens if you commit to working for a better life.

You can’t get out of debt by worrying more about what “might” happen then what you are currently “letting” happen in your life.

 

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