Hello from Paradise

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It’s a beautiful day here in Nassau, Bahamas. Our family vacation has been nothing short of magical. Enjoying this place with my family has been wonderful. My husband and I have been here a few times, previously and we were very excited to bring the kids to experience this adventure with us. Now that they are older, they can really appreciate Atlantis.

Atlantis Resort Paradise Island

If you have never been to Atlantis or Paradise Island, you should, at least once. For me, nothing is better than Island life. And this Island is full of fun things to do, beautiful beaches and if you go into the downtown area, The Straw Market has a lot of talented local artists and handmade souvenirs. However, this post is not about any of that, don’t get me wrong, I could probably write a nice travel blog, but what I want to focus on is family.

So here we are. This is my family, husband, handsome bonus son, and beautiful daughter. I call him my bonus son, because at our house “step” anything always felt too Cinderella-ish. So instead I am his “bonus” mom and he is my “bonus” son. The great thing about our blended family is that his mother and I get along really well. I consider her family and she is a sweet friend as well. I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful relationship with her. It wasn’t always this easy, but over the last fifteen years, we’ve really tried hard to be the best moms we both could be. And here we are now, killing this co-parenting thing!

Becoming a blended family right out of the gate was difficult for me, to say the least. I was still fairly young and I was not really interested in being a “mom”. However, it was the best decision I have ever made. Instead of just gaining a husband, I also got a son, and his extended family too. A few years later, we added our daughter to the mix, which completed our family. Our little family was perfect!

Look at these kids! They have had so much fun this week, together. They snorkeled in the beautiful ocean, swam with dolphins and stingrays and were amazed by the aquariums located at the hotel. They have played in the sand and went down 60ft slides. I would say they have had one of the best vacations with us. They are sad that we are leaving to go home today. But we are already planning our next family vacation!

For our family this time of year isn’t about gifts, but more for time. Time with each other, time spent making memories, time spent having once-in-a-lifetime experiences. So as we gather around our Christmas tree this year, it won’t be for the gifts, it will be for story telling, laughing, smiling, and planning our next adventure.

Happy Holidays to everyone near and far. Enjoy your time together!

Hello Monday……

Happy Monday, everyone!  I’m back for another fun-filled work week and here for your blogging pleasure.  The nice thing about this week, is I am just getting back from vacation.  I feel relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the week.  The bad thing about this week is I have a pile of work to tackle and I will be leaving again in six days to take my family on a Bahamas vacation for my hub’s 40th birthday!  Why would I do that to myself you say?  Why would I plan two back-to-back vacations?  Well, friends, the thing is, I didn’t plan it that way.  My Thanksgiving get-a-way was not planned at all.  Last week’s Florida vacation was completely spontaneous.  I know the planners and budgeters in the room are probably freaking out.  Believe me, 15 years ago I would have been too.  It’s cool though, I am going to make it work. You know why, because the Hubby’s Bahamas “40th Birthday Bash” has been planned and paid for since March and we are ready to go!

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So back to reality, right?  Let’s be honest, coming back to work after a nice, relaxing vacation is not so much fun.  There are mountains of work piled on your desk.  Your inbox is full of unread emails just waiting for your reply.  You are busy trying to play catch up from the time you missed and that can prove to be difficult.  Especially if your coworkers want to talk with you about your time off.  Did you enjoy it?  Where did you go?  What did you eat?  Did you do anything fun?  They are excited to hear all about it because maybe they didn’t get to go on vacation this year.  For most, vacations are a luxury, that the majority of families can only afford once a year, at most.  We are fortunate in that my husband and I make it a priority to take our family on vacation as often as feasible with a minimum impact on our normal budgets.  It’s like saving for Black Friday all year to get the best deals and all the Christmas shopping done, with the smallest amount of damage to your wallet.  For our family, time spent together is more special than a bunch of gifts under the Christmas tree, so we make sure to prioritize our “Black Friday” budget for our vacations and family adventures.

It isn’t always easy to save for a vacation, weekend get-aways, birthdays,  holidays, or any other reason to save, but you should do it.  It really helps to reduce stress and alleviate all of those bad vibes when the bills hit the mailbox!  Believe me, I should know.  I spent the majority of my 20’s trying to figure out where all of my money went, instead of keeping track of it and telling it where to go.  It is so much nicer to be able to pay all the bills and still have a nice little chunk available at the end.  No more paycheck to paycheck for this chick!  I enjoy my $9.99 bottles of wine.  Sometimes, they are more but let’s not get crazy!  I always try to spend less than $20 on a bottle of wine.   Here are a couple of my favorites if you are interested:

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Also, make a note, if you drink wine like I do, a screw top is just fine.  You aren’t trying to age this stuff.  Let’s be real, you’re drinking the bottle in one night, two max.  Enjoy!

Okay, sorry about that, I like my wine and it’s close to quitting time now, so I am wondering if I have a bottle in the chiller?  Lord, I hope so.  It is Monday after all.

I digress, back to savings.  How many of you actually have a savings account?  Hands?  I hope quite a few are going up, but the 30-something in me, says probably not as many as I would like.  Saving isn’t something we start thinking about usually until it’s too late.  Your washing machine washed its last load, your refrigerator is no longer keeping your wine cold (Lord, help us all), or maybe the Toyota Corolla you’ve had since college rolled 200,000 miles and finally decided it can’t go one more mile.  Whatever the case, it’s usually met with an “Oh Sh!t” moment, because guess what?  You have no money to pay for the repairs or to buy a replacement for whatever appliance or vehicle that decided to die on you.  Am I right?  This is a terrible feeling.  One of shock, loss of control, maybe some crying, possibly even a fight with the significant other in your life, because, “how could you be so irresponsible” and “what do you mean, we have NO MONEY?!  These aren’t the warm and fuzzy moments that make life special.  These are the moments that are cringe-worthy and that we avoid at all cost.  All cost, except doing what would have actually avoided the situation which is to save money, duh!

Some of you may be saying, “I can’t save money, I only make “X” dollars per week”.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  But just because you don’t make $1,000 per week, doesn’t mean you can’t set aside a little bit to save for a rainy day.  So here are my tips for saving your money.  Granted, it won’t be like “retirement worthy” savings, but it will get you that new refrigerator or washer that you need. Or maybe be able to take that Disney vacation you’ve been dreaming of.

  1. Open a savings account, preferably one that is not linked to your bank card or checking account.  This will ensure you can’t just withdraw or transfer money into your checking whenever you need to.  I suggest checking into one of the banks listed here. 
  2. Do yourself a favor and get the highest interest rate account possible, but don’t sign up for an account that requires annual or monthly fees, if you can avoid it.
  3. I am not a huge fan of minimum savings amounts either, however, this will require you to be more diligent about your spending.  If there is a $500 minimum balance requirement in your account, you will be less likely to take money out that you don’t need, mostly because a low balance will result in fees. Check out Nerd Wallet.  They provide some decent tips to help save money and avoid fees.
  4. Set aside $5-$10 per week out of your paycheck to deposit into the account.  Direct Deposit works best for this.  That way, you never see the money anyway.  It goes directly into the savings account, never to be seen again until you absolutely need it.  Check with your human resources or payroll department to set this up.  Most employers now have the ability to direct deposit into more than one account on your behalf.
  5. Once you have everything set up, sit back and watch your money grow.  And if you want to save for something special like an island vacation, there are tons of planners and spreadsheets available online to help you know exactly how much you will need and to keep you on budget.  One of my favorites is this spreadsheet.   It is easy to use and doesn’t require too much effort.  There are also tons of apps that you can download to help you save and budget as well.

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Now that you have a few tips and tools you can use to help you get started on a savings plan, go ahead and start the process.  You will see your pennies stacking up in no time!  Then you can start planning for a spontaneous Florida vacation in the future!

As with all things, the blog for this week has come to its end.  It’s time for me to get back to work.  I have tons of things to accomplish this week before I head out again.  I’ll be tackling work, school, and home and I hope you do the same.  Just remember to take some time for yourself to reflect on all the good you are doing.  Take a bath, go for a walk, enjoy a glass of that Pinot or Chenin-Blanc I recommended (seriously, go buy some).  Take it a day at a time, friend.  You’re doing awesome!  Until the next time, cheers!

 

 

 

Vacation Week: Day 1

Hey there friends!  It’s Monday, the start of the week, and also the first day of my vacation.  I don’t know about you guys, but the one thing I love to do on vacation is sleep in.  Am I right?!  No corporate job waiting for me this week.  Well, the problem with that is that my little biological clock (and my iPhone alarms) said uh-uh, girl!  You’re still getting up at 6am! Seriously?  How could I have forgotten to turn off my freaking alarm?  Oh, I remember why it was because I drank 3/4 of a bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio on my first “official” night of vacation the night before.  Some of you might be saying, how irresponsible!  The reality is, I am on vacation and this week is going to be filled with wine, probably every single night. I may even throw in some of those fru-fru, girly frozen drinks with the little umbrella in them, which will be delivered to me, poolside!  It’s vacation, I will do me, you do you, girl. So needless to say, after I was rudely awakened by that relentless beeping, I smacked that snooze button hard and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.  At 8:30am I made my way to the pool with my coffee in hand and my cute, sleepy husband by my side and thanked God for the day and the beginning of my vacation.  It was lovely!

Vacation

Vacation, it’s the best.  The time you set aside for yourself to relax, spend time with family, and not worry about all the things (work, school, blogging) that you left behind.  Wrong.  Not this girl.  By 9:00am my laptop was already out and I was working on assignments that I needed to complete for school this week.  Did I mention I am completing my MBA and I am literally three classes away from graduation?  I’m so ready to be done!  Don’t get me wrong, I love school.  If I could be a career student, I would.  I love learning and being challenged all the time.  I think it keeps me on my toes and will hopefully keep me from losing my mind when I’m old.  Keeps me sharp, you know?  The problem with this is that I don’t know when to stop.  I have a need to constantly be doing something.  I feel like that is normal for most people nowadays.  No one can just sit and enjoy the silence.  It’s always computers, iPhones, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, insert next social media platform here, craziness.  And I get it.  We are all so connected all of the time, that it is difficult to unplug, disconnect, and unwind.  As I sit here writing (on my laptop), my 82-year old grandmother, my husband, and both the kids are all on their own devices.  It is difficult to manage and it’s also difficult to stop.  At our house, we have a “no electronic devices” rule at dinner.  That is a time for us to have a conversation with one another about our day and discuss the plans we have for the week.  If you haven’t instituted a similar policy in your home, I would suggest it.  It will be challenging at first, but I promise, it will be worth it.  I would suggest limiting your family’s “screen time” as well.  The iPhone’s most recent update just provided the user with a “screen time” report for the week.  As a parent, it would be a good idea to monitor this screen time, for yourself and for your kids.  Make a game out of it.  Whoever spends the least amount of time on their device for the week gets to pick a special dinner or picks the game for the family game night.  Just do something to help get your family to spend time with each other (no devices allowed)!

So now that we have set some limits, let me make one thing clear when it comes to working on vacation:  DON’T DO IT!  You deserve time away from work.  We all deserve a break from what we do for a living.  Remember what I said about being too busy making a living, to live your life?  That would apply in this situation.

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Limiting screen time is important, but so is limiting time spent concerning yourself with work issues.  Guess what?  You know all that work you left behind on your desk?  It will definitely be there when you get back.  Don’t worry about it.  While on vacation you should put an out of office message on your email and unlink your work email from your phone.  This will ensure you won’t be tempted to answer emails while you are trying to enjoy your time away from work.  Now, I am a total hypocrite because I have been answering work emails all day, however, this is a “Do as I say moment, not as I do”.  I have to get better at limiting my work time while on vacation, but up until a week ago, I was a Human Resources department of one for the last twelve years.  Fortunately, I was able to hire a fantastic team member last week and she has been handling a lot already and especially since I have been out of the office.  (Quick shout out, THANK YOU girl, from the bottom of my heart.  You know who you are).  So now that I have someone looking out for my employee’s and my company’s best interests while I am out, I have no reason to be constantly connected to work.  Go ahead, I will hold your wine will you disconnect your work email from your phone.  You can do it! Your boss said they support your time away from work!

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Now that you have some words of wisdom on screen time, work time, and vacation time, I want you to really make a plan for how to handle those things in your life.  Remember to set your boundaries.  You need to be able to enjoy your time on this Earth,  It is finite and not guaranteed to last any longer than today.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving.  Enjoy your families, wine, and good food.  I am thankful to each of you who have given my blog a chance!  I will be signing off for the rest of the week.  Happy Thanksgiving and if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, just enjoy your week and make time for your family.

On Friday’s We Win(e)

Yeeeeesssss!  It’s the weekend! Winning! Saturday is upon us and I’ve been up since 5am getting my family ready to head south for the next seven days.  It will be nice not to see ice and snow on the ground for a week! I am certainly thankful for that.  This time of year is all about family, friends, giving thanks and of course, drinking wine.

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Thanksgiving is a bittersweet time for me and my family.  We have tons of family that live within 15 minutes of our home.  However, we also have extended family located all over the country.  My paternal grandmother lives in Florida by herself, so we make it a point to make the trip to be with her during the holidays if we can.  My grandfather and father, who lived with her, passed away in December of 2006 and 2014 respectively, so she has a difficult time during the holidays. This year she persuaded us to spend some time with her, so my husband and I decided it would be nice to get away and make her little heart happy.  Making this trip is difficult not because of the travel, but it forces us to forego Thanksgiving with the rest of our families.  We leave my husband’s parents to celebrate on their own (he is an only child).  We also leave my mother and step-father, my siblings, their partners, and my nieces and nephews behind.  This is hard for everyone, but especially my mom because she really enjoys spending time with all of her kids, their significant others and her grandchildren.  So in order for my husband and I to feel less guilty about not being here for Thanksgiving, we spent some time with my family last night and will be doing the same with his family tonight.  I have one million other things to do, but what the heck, let’s throw in a couple more.  It’s fine, right?  Last time I checked I was a card-carrying member of the “mom’s with super powers society”, so it’s cool.  I got this!

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So let me go back to last night.  Yesterday was Friday, and I was feeling it!  Work was good, I got most everything accomplished that I wanted to before leaving for a week on holiday vacation.  I left a little early and my daughter and I went to get relaxation massages.  Yes, she is spoiled and no, I don’t care that people think that.  She is the only daughter I will ever have, so we do these kinds of things together.  We are bougie (https://www.refinery29.com/2017/01/135407/migos-bad-boujee-meaning)  and we like it that way.  Anyway, back to the massages.  They were a way to really put us in the mood for the next seven days of sun, sand, and stuffing our faces full of turkey! In short, it was a nice start to the weekend and the week ahead.

After our massages, we went to my mother’s house for dinner.  My mom lives in a sweet little cottage that I adore (it’s as hot as the seventh circle of Hell), but it is so welcoming and she ALWAYS has food.  My mom is always cold and doesn’t like to be, so her sweet little house is kept at a sweltering 78 degrees in the winter. Stuff twelve people in there and it’s another thousand degrees, easily! Aside from dying from heat exhaustion, it was the literal definition of “eat, drink and be thankful and merry”. We had wine and food, and then some more wine, layers of clothes came off (my sister and I ended up in tank tops in the kitchen).  My sister-in-law, Kate had what she referred to as a “baby GAP” t-shirt on under her sweatshirt, so she just complained about how hot she was and left the sweatshirt on!  It was hilarious!  Soon, stories of Thanksgivings’ past were brought up, and I laughed so hard, that it made my side hurt!   I loved spending that time with them. It’s always so much fun, and totally worth the time spent doing it.  Priorities, people.  That’s what life and being a supermom is really about.  Making time and prioritizing that time for the things and the people who you love.

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So as I finish cleaning, packing, and heading off to sunny Florida, I will be thinking about my family (and wine) filled Friday night, laughing to myself and giving thanks for the time I do get to spend with them.  While it may not be as often as we like, or for as many hours, I am glad we were able to all get together.  Remember that if you are too busy making a living, you will forget to make a life.  Make time for the important people in your life, relax, drink wine, and make new memories that are good enough to put your phone down for.  I challenge you over the next few days to really prioritize someone special in your life, think about what you are thankful for and then show them how much they mean to you.  You may not even know how much that will mean to them.

There is no place like home

Another day is in the books. It was a long one, folks! I woke up this morning at 5:45am to what we midwesterners like to call the “icy death”, which in short is not quite rain, not quite ice and accumulates on everything, which makes the roads look and function like an ice skating rink. It’s beautiful, but not something you want to travel in. This “icy death” usually results in downed power lines or fallen trees and a whole lot of people who suddenly lost the ability to drive responsibly or in some cases, drive at all.

I received the notification that my daughter’s school was on a delay, I decided I was going to lay in bed for a while longer and try to relax a bit, I had some coffee and watched the news. It was in short, an amazing start to the day. I didn’t feel rushed, the dogs laid quietly beside me, my husband had already left for work. No one was talking to me or needed anything from me! It was magic…….

Then at 7:30 I realized I still had to drag my butt into work, so I started to get ready. I woke my daughter up, explained to her that we needed to get moving. School was delayed, but I had to bring her to work with me so I didn’t have to drive 15 minutes to work and 15 minutes back home to get her, just to drive the 15 minutes back to take her to her bus stop and go back to work. My house is situated in between two cornfields in a teeny tiny town. Road maintenance isn’t exactly a priority in these parts. I was not driving in this crap all morning. Nope, no way. Not interested.

So the kid was finally mobile, thank the Lord. I don’t know how many of you have teenagers, but they are literally the worst little things to wake up and get moving. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “buuuuuttttt moooooommmmmm, I’m sooooooo tired”! Kid, you don’t know what tired is. When you work 50 hours a week, run a household, and are in the process of completing your MBA, you can tell me how tired you are! These kids have no idea what tired is. Exhaustion is really what it is! I’m pretty sure I’ve developed a permanent eye spasm, which has resulted from not getting enough sleep. Oh well, my husband still thinks I’m cute, even with my weird eye tick.

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So fast forward the rest of the morning, the day went well, I felt accomplished for a Thursday. However, before I knew it, it was 6:45 and I was still working. Why does that happen? You promise yourself and your family, I’ll be home early today. And then it’s almost 7 o’clock. Why is it so hard for us as professionals, to turn it off? Why do we insist on working later than everyone else? Why can’t we stop? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I like working as hard as I do. But then I don’t and then I regret it, a lot. Remember the eye twitch? This is usually about the time I would suggest a glass of wine. Pinot? Chenin Blanc? How about readers choice. Get your sippy cup, we are about to have a “drink in the closet” moment.

I’ve noticed lately I’ve been working many more hours than I ever have. Plus, I’m trying to finish my MBA. And now, I added writing a blog on top of it. Why in the heck would I do that to myself? And my family? Well because I think this might be helpful for me. I’ve journaled before, but this is like writing a journal on steroids, that hopefully people look forward to reading. It makes me accountable, not just to my readers, but also to myself. I’ll be able to look back on these posts and really see how I have progressed from day one of this blog and hopefully have something I can be really proud of.

So I hope that all this hard work really does pay off. I hope you enjoy my silly stories and wine filled commentary about this crazy little life. Today was good, it was busy, but when I finally did get to spend some time with my family we had dinner, laughed and talked about our upcoming holiday and family vacation. It was nice. Now I am laying in my bed, husband softly snoring beside me, and the dog making herself extremely cozy next to me on my blanket( yes it has wine on it, Thanks mom!) The house is quiet, warm, and filled with love. And this my friends, is what that hard work is for. There is no place like home.

My Yorkie, Tinkerbell
My Yorkie, Tinkerbell.

Welcome to My World

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Welcome to my blog.  This is all new to me and before today, I didn’t even know what a blog was.  Yes, I am old.  Older than I look, (thank you Oil of Olay).  I really enjoy writing.  I journal in a little notebook at night, however, I thought, it’s time I start giving someone else something to look forward to.  I wanted to write about my crazy life, the things I have to manage as a mom, wife, and professional woman, and hopefully, do it with some grace and some humor.  This is where the blog came into play.  I’ve heard of other’s blogging and I didn’t get it.  Why would you want to manage something else in your life?!  Yet, here I am, starting a blog.  Sipping my wine, laughing at myself and thinking, “Tarra, you are crazy! Let’s add one more thing to manage in your life!” You have to be able to laugh at yourself, otherwise, we would all go crazy! And drink wine, that helps too!

This blog is my way of giving back to all the other mom’s out there who are riding the struggle bus, just like me.  This is a platform for me to tell them, it’s okay to drink wine out of a sippy cup in your closet.  If that’s how you eventually get dinner on the table, then more power to you, enjoy your Pinot in that Paw Patrol sippy cup, girl!  No judgments here!  It’s also a way for me to engage some other mom’s out there.  Whether you are holding down a family on your own, or if you’re in a loving relationship with a partner, this blog is about making connections, building each other up and getting real on many levels.

I hope you enjoy my blog.  I will be writing about many topics, but if you ever want to have “real talk” on a subject, shoot me an email or comment on this post about the topic you are interested in.  Otherwise, pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and enjoy the show.  It’s a circus, but it’s my life too and I’m living and loving it!  I want you to do the same!