Show Me the Money


By: Azure Stilwell

Saving money

Anyone who knows me knows I love a great deal. I enjoy saving money whenever I can, so I rely on a few apps and websites to get me great savings.

Ibotta: An app that allows you to unlock various grocery or retail items by watching short videos, answering a multiple choice question or simply pressing unlock. It only takes a few seconds to unlock each item. Once they are unlocked you simply go grocery shopping, scan the items, and take a picture of your receipt. Money is then added to your account and can be taken out when you reach $20. My favorite ways are regal cinema gift cards and itunes. I have saved hundreds of dollars over the last year and half using this app.

Saving’s Catcher: A Walmart app that allows you to shop at your local Walmart and then upload your receipt. The app/website then compares all local stores (usually 50 to 90) for a better price. If one is found you get the difference back and can add it to a bluebird card that can be used at any Walmart or an e-gift card for I used my savings from this site to pay for almost all of my son’s Christmas gifts two years ago. I have used it countless times to purchase birthday presents for others.

Saving Star: An app that allows you to upload store cards for automatic savings when an item is purchased. You simply add the available items that you want to your account and then shop. Upload your receipts for places that don’t have a card, like Walmart. With this app I have my funds added to PayPal.  For me this one takes a little longer to earn money because you sometimes have to buy in bulk but it has still been worth it.

Finally, the site allows me to upload a receipt via my cell phone whenever I purchase a Kellogg’s item. I have gotten tons of iTunes cards, movie tickets to AMC, and free kids books. This is the easiest site for me to use and I rack up lots of points with all of their bonuses.

I hope these resources help you save some money, too!

For Want of a Nail…

By: Stacy Thompson

To those who know me well, I am fairly multi-faceted–I’m a lawyer, a hiker (when my mom takes me along), a former college athlete, a creator of superb tailgates, a world traveler and a lover of all God’s furry creatures. But it comes as a surprise to many of my friends that I’m also quite crafty, a pseudo-Martha Stewart without the penchant for perfection and the unfortunate Federal incarceration. My grandma Betty was the ultimate Craft Queen–I have the best memories of any time we spent together, days filled with awesome knittinghandmade teacher gifts, unusual crafts for my parents and even the odd limerick about cherished family pets (‘there once was a beagle named Luke, whose curly tail wasn’t a fluke…he got spooked by a fly, and jumped up to the sky…and everyone thought he was kook!’–my favorite, by far).  

I decided about two years ago to learn how to knit…no reason…just, because (and it was New Years Eve, so you gotta make a resolution, right?!?). I bought an app and more yarn than any person could knit in a lifetime, and here I am now creating very basic, very mundane, but gorgeous (thanks to cool yarn) scarves that I enjoy to no end. (Only with the knit-stitch and an occasional purl– my next New Years Resolution is to learn to knit in the round.) Despite this accomplishment, many of my Facebook friends were shocked at a recent reference to my ‘sewing table.’ Unabashedly and, in fact, with great pride, I gave them the following explanation–

Some of you think it out of character that I have a sewing table–before you believe I’ve lost my mind, here is the progression:

1) Your parents decide to downsize after 39 years in your childhood home.

2) Said parents tell you to come get all of your stuff (or it will be thrown into the dumpster they rented), which includes boxes of Duran Duran keepsakes (don’t worry my childhood friends, I’m keeping them) and boxes of T-shirts and sports uniforms from your youth.

3) “T-shirt quilt” immediately springs to mind, as you have inherited your father’s penchant for holding on to anything remotely resembling a keepsake and being physically unable to throw said items away.

4) Google search of ‘T-shirt quilt’ reveals that those things are way too expensive and heck yeah, I can do that myself. (I should have also Googled ‘Pinterest-fail’ at this point.)

5) You take advantage of Amazon Prime and order a sewing machine and every appurtenance known to man (including so much fabric that Michaels has asked to keep you on standby should they run low).

6) You realize soon after delivery that despite YouTube videos and a capacity to complete law school and pass the Bar Exam, no, you can’t figure out this complexity on your own.

7) A course schedule for Midlands Tech magically appears in your mailbox the following week and you sign up for Sewing I. Hilarity and utter creativity ensues…

**mike drop**

My sewing table provides peace, serenity and one kick-butt quilt. (Once I finish Sewing I, Sewing II and get as much help as possible from the fine ladies at JoAnn’s–OK, maybe not even then, but I will have fun trying!!) And yes, I’ll post pictures once I have something remotely resembling a finished quilt.

To all my friends and those reading this blog…step out of your comfort zone and into something you never thought possible–win or lose, you will not be disappointed!!

Making Peace with My Body

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

tumblr_kx1lagnvy91qah3ado1_500Sunday, I woke up tired, groggy from pain meds and in some discomfort from the angiogram I had earlier in the week. I had a million things I wanted to do, but decided to rest and have a low key day. I pulled out a legal pad, and the next thing I knew, I was re-writing the profile on my “My Fitness Pal” food log and fitness app.

I’ve resisted updating this profile, but it’s time for a fresh start. It’s been a crazy 19 months, to say the least. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write, and soon it came together as this blog post.

Six years ago I started a wellness program through my workplace and lost nearly 100 lbs. I didn’t know then that this transformation was preparing me for the fight of my life: a ruptured brain aneurysm in March 2015. It wasn’t an easy recovery by any means, but the doctors credit my survival to the fact that I was healthy and fit at the time of the rupture. (Thinking back to my rehab days, I don’t think I could’ve done it with any extra weight, but especially not an extra 100 lbs.!)

Thankfully, I suffered no permanent deficits, but my vocal cords were damaged during intubation, which has impacted both my voice and my breathing. Both are being treated and may get better, but for now my workouts are limited due to my constrained airway. Since around January, 2016, I’ve been doing light strength training with cardio on the NuStep and/or treadmill at a local gym. I’m definitely building strength, especially noticeable over the last few weeks, but I can’t do the hour on the treadmill or elliptical like I used to do.

mary patWith today’s weigh in, I’m officially up about 11.3 lbs. from the day I had the rupture. It doesn’t sound like much, but with my inability to exercise at the same intensity, it looks and feels like five times that amount. To add insult to injury, most of the changes have occurred between my waist and knees. I feel embarrassed, ashamed and worst of all, like an overweight short-haired-blonde Wonder Woman.

Today, I’m taking steps to make peace with myself and get a fresh start. My weight is up, and I look and feel much different, but that doesn’t take anything away from my miraculous recovery and my gratitude for surviving. I am where I am, and I’m thankful to be here. My body has been through a significant trauma, and if it took a weight gain to survive, that’s okay. If given the choice, I would’ve easily opted for the weight gain over dying. But because I do now appreciate life so much more, I’d like to lose some weight so I can enjoy it more fully and freely.

My journey starts now. I’ve set a goal of 22 lbs. to keep myself honest, but it’s less about the number and more about the way I feel.

Here’s to a fresh start and the beginning of a new chapter in my recovery.

Five Things I Learned From My Recent Travel

By: Chaunte McClure

travel tips

Packing up for vacation is always exciting and can be a little frustrating when you have to decide what to pack. My general rule is to take two outfits for each day, but sometimes I tend to go overboard. Not for this trip though; I was conscious of baggage fees. I think I’ve learned how to over pack and stay underweight. During this trip, I learned a few other things the hard way and hopefully sharing this information with you will make your next travel experience better.

Here are five things I learned during my recent travel to the Caribbean:

1. Before you board the plane, make sure your travel partner has his or her cell phone. Doh! Always, always keep your cell phone in your hand or your pocket. Don’t mistakenly leave it in the airport terminal.

2. Bring your own wash cloths. If you know me well, you’ll be surprised to learn that I did not pack towels or wash cloths. We stayed at a lovely resort and had unlimited luxury amenities, but I had to request wash cloths one time too many. I still don’t understand why.

3. Pack snacks for the plane. When traveling more than an hour or two, it’s a good idea to have trail mix or candy in your carry-on bag.

4. Brush up on the country’s native language. I had at least nine months to relearn basic Spanish, but instead I spent the time daydreaming about beautiful blue waters.

5. Be prepared to say, “No, thank you” a million times. The locals want to sell, sell, sell. The good thing is you can haggle, haggle, haggle.

Stay tuned! I’ll share more about my vacation in November. Until then, I’ll leave you in suspense of my whereabouts. By the way, despite the list above, there’s no doubt, I had a fabulous time.

A Letter to Infant Loss Mothers

By: Jordan Tate


Just like you, before a healthy baby happened, my heart, mind, and physical body were already transformed fully to those of a mother. My body is scarred by pregnancy, cesarean section, and natural birth. My “mother’s heart” was forever awakened the moment I held my first little girl. She did not go from womb to some mystical place in the atmosphere… her physical body came into the world and I held her when she died and I carried her sister and held her as she died and they were taken from me, but my badge of a mother was not. I would argue that it was more fully earned.

Further, I would argue without a doubt in my mind that carrying those incredible girls to term and delivering them and watching them die will always always always be harder than doing this thing I’m doing now- it’s harder than these fleeting sleepless nights that I get to wake up and feed my sweet child who breathes and cries and wants to be held. Wait- so you mean I get to wake up and hold a snuggly baby!? Still blows my mind. This term “mother,” that you and I are just now being stamped with (or have yet to be stamped with if you’re still waiting) by most of society is being used in a way that doesn’t do justice to the word mother.

One of the meanings behind the word “grief,” is “the heart of a mother.” Why? Because mothers feel so deeply and love so deeply and the meaning of that hits my heart way more intensely in regards to Ellie and Elsie than it does with Shepherd. Our children who are gone are still very much a part of daily life..but that doesn’t always make sense if you haven’t felt it.

Waking up to care for Shepherd, my very alive son, is literally a piece of cake in comparison to the cumulative months of sleepless nights I cried through with a heart that ached, both during my pregnancies and, of course, after they died. Does that mean parenting my son is easy? No. It means the other stuff was so very hard. The hardest.

Does it mean I’m not a sleepy mom? No, I could nap at any point of time…anywhere. But sleepy is not equivalent to bad. It’s equivalent to blessing. It is equivalent to redemption.

So, my friends. I see you. I feel your heart when people ask how many children you have. You have permission (not that you needed it from me) to include your sweet babies that died much too early. I see the tears and the nights of heartache that nobody really knows about. I understand that you can’t turn off the mama part of your heart even though your babies aren’t with you and that is simply not fair, and wouldn’t it be easier if we could? You are a mom, because you did the hardest thing a mom could ever do, and that is saying goodbye to her sweet baby.

If you haven’t yet had your “rainbow baby,” I’m here to tell you this: it’s a joy. It’s all a gift. Few will have the privilege of seeing parenthood the way you will…some do get it – you know who I mean. But loss makes the gift of your healthy baby inconceivable to most who have never had to say goodbye. I would never wish our loss on anyone..but don’t you wish your heart and feelings could be felt for just a moment by anyone who wished it? It’s a devastating experienced that now gets to be your greatest weapon as you parent your alive baby with a deep understanding of purpose and a deep gratitude for health. It will forever make you a different brand of mom. The best kind.

You’ve seen the very worst side of motherhood and none of the best sides. You don’t get to pull up to baby play dates with a baby in your arms and you can’t talk about how often your kid dirties diapers or his latching abilities or his nightly routine, but you can talk about planning baby funerals and how much your heart aches and how you hate baby aisles in stores right now and so it’s not fair, my friend, that you’ve seen only the worst and none of the best and yet you may not be labeled a mother until you see the good.

So, if your heart allows, when people ask you how many kids you have: tell them. We say we have three and two aren’t here with us. It may be alarming to the average person, but it opens the doors, if they want, for tough conversations about life but great conversations about healing and hope.

Are moms who haven’t experienced loss a lesser kind of mom? No way. Never. But you are a different breed. Your journey to motherhood was not the kind you asked for–but if you let it, it will be the source of the greatest moments of gratitude and amazingly miraculous perspective on the very beautiful gift of life.

A Pumpkin Patch Frame of Mind

By: Rachel Sircy

A Pumpkin Patch Frame of Mind

My favorite season has begun. Autumn always seems to suddenly appear just when I feel that I have had all the summer I can stand for one year. I always picture the progression of a year as another loop in the rollercoaster called life. On January 1st, we find ourselves at the lowest point on the circle and we run upward and counterclockwise through spring. We are fully upside down in the warmest and brightest days of summer. By mid-September, we begin our descent into the dark days of winter, and we all know that falling is the best part of any theme-park ride.

At the risk of being thought a weirdo, I am going to admit that I am a person who does not like to listen to music for its own sake. I would almost always rather hear a book on tape than a song on the radio, but this time of year I begin to crave music. My taste in music is at once eclectic and limited. I listen to gospel music year round for inspiration and edification, but, in the Fall, the little girl I used to be wakes up and demands Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts music round the clock. The Great Pumpkin Waltz and the Thanksgiving Theme song have been played so many times that my CDs are wearing out. The part of me that is a true hillbilly – I originally hail from the Appalachian foothills of Ohio – demands instrumental Bluegrass, Alison Krauss and the Cox Family’s country gospel album, and one Stephen Foster song, Hard Times Come Again No More, as performed by James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma, to remind me of my home and my family across the Ohio foothills and the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. To me, music is typically a tool to accentuate the feelings associated with time and place. These songs bring out the Fall-ishness of Fall for me, just as salt draws out a food’s natural flavor.

Autumn’s great appeal is that it is paradoxically warm and wistful. We decorate with food – pumpkins, corn, squash – and with cornucopias and pictures of turkeys. We surround ourselves with images of plenty and we have a feast day set aside for the purpose of remembering to be grateful that those decorations are not merely the stuff of fantasy. And yet, the evening comes on sooner, the weather turns colder, we find ourselves too often indoors, and the impending Christmas season often causes more anxiety than joy. I know quite a few people who become depressed this time of year.

To those people, I would like to say that I understand. The saddest time of the year for me is February. It’s just that month when winter is still going strong, but there aren’t any family get-togethers or holidays or gift exchanges to look forward to. You just hunker down and pray to God that that stupid groundhog sees his shadow. Or doesn’t see his shadow. Truth be told, I don’t really know how the whole groundhog trick works. I know that February has Valentine’s Day, but Valentine’s Day rates as #2 on my list of tackiest holidays. Someday, maybe someday soon, I will publish my list of tackiest holidays in a blog post. I have softened on Valentine’s Day quite a bit since I was a teenager. My husband and my daughter make it kind of fun, but I have fun under protest. Pink, purple and red just do not go together and I feel like my eyes are being assaulted by Valentine’s decorations every year.

Anyway, I say all of this to tell you that I understand the feeling of seasonal depression and anxiety. But, I would like to offer a suggestion to anyone who feels blue this time of year: consider Fall a challenge. It is a two-sided coin, but a person doesn’t have to leave the side they land on to random chance. Cynicism is a monster that I seem to fight over and over again in my life. However, I think that with God’s help we can be vehicles for a very unnatural goodness. You can’t wait for times and seasons to make you happy. You have to make yourself happy in them. Every year when I was a kid I watched the Peanuts Halloween special – despite the fact that my family, as Christians, did not celebrate Halloween. I guess they figured a little cartoon from the 60’s couldn’t hurt too much. It is undoubtedly one of the weirdest cartoons I’ve ever seen and, in the end, Sally and Linus and Charlie Brown all end up pretty unhappy. Sally doesn’t get any candy, Linus doesn’t get to see the Great Pumpkin, and the girls at the Halloween party use Charlie Brown’s head as a model for their jack o’ lantern and his trick or treat bag is full of rocks. But Linus, as ever, has a great line that, like my Autumn playlist, brings out best flavor of the season.

Linus says: “You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

Perhaps all those years of watching Linus skip out on the trick-or-treating and the partying of the Halloween special made me feel that Fall can be a season of sincerity. The way to love this time of waning daylight, this twilight of the year, is to choose to create an atmosphere free of hypocrisy and selfishness. The pleasures of heat and sun are beginning to be over, but they will come again next year right on schedule. It is time now to turn our thoughts to harvest, to plenty and, in my mind, to casting our bread upon the water.

In an effort to rid myself of any signs of hypocrisy and surround myself with sincerity (those are two separate acts, you know. You can easily rid yourself of hypocrisy only to be surrounded by nothing) I am going to attempt these three things:

  1. Make a list of things I am truly grateful for and hang them where I will see them every day.
  2. Skip out on Black Friday specials and instead give a little of my Thanksgiving and Christmas money to Harvest Hope.
  3. Be friendlier. My goal is to share not just food or money with someone in need. I plan to share time and friendship with as many people as I possibly can this Autumn.

If you feel a little down in the dumps this season, forget the candy and bobbing for apples and take the opportunity to sit in the pumpkin patch with Linus. It may be the craziest thing you ever do, but it just might make you feel better.

Suggested Reading: To Autumn, by John Keats

Is Your Ideal Daily Routine Achievable?

By: Shannon Boatwright


I recently read an article in the September 2016 issue of Readers Digest. It completely fascinated me and well, frustrated me. The article is titled “The Daily Routines of Geniuses,” written by Sarah Green Carmichael from the Harvard Business Review. She talks about how she has spent her life searching for the ideal daily routine and how a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work fascinated her. She shares all of these fabulous tidbits of information about artists’ daily habits… artists ranging from Jane Austin to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Mozart, Andy Warhol and Picasso. She’s right, “the routines of these thinkers are strangely compelling.” Many of them took daily walks, sometimes for up to three hours! And that was part of their daily routine, part of what helped provide inspiration and rejuvenation for their inner spirit, their mindset, their physical wellbeing, for their talents.

It is compelling indeed, mostly because I cannot imagine ever having the time to take long walks like these late greats did, much less do it daily! Many of these genius minds would spend their mornings engaging in their main talent, whether painting, writing, composing, etc, then they’d spend the afternoon doing “busywork.” As I read the article, the entire time I couldn’t stop thinking, yea that was THEN! Way back then when there were no constant, overwhelming sources of communication and interruptions of everyday modern life. No emails, texts, distracting Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos… no absurd job requirements, work hours, traffic, endless bills… I could go on and on. But let’s face it, way back in the day, life was flat out simpler.

I’ve written in the past about one of my mantras, which is Carpe Diem… Seize the Day! I do my best in this modern day and age to seize my days, making the very best of them. It’s not always easy and some days it seems near impossible. So I must admit that when I think of the days when some of our famous artistic idols lived and created, there is a part of me that is incredibly jealous of the time they had to focus on their physical, mental and artistic well-being. Now, I know some of them worked better in other circumstances and under certain influences, but the daily routines of so many of our late greats truly were what we would call a luxury nowadays. I start to think… how could I actually achieve that kind of time? Time in my daily life that would allow me to take long walks and rejuvenate my body inside and out. When I really think about it, I’m dumbfounded! I figure I’d either have to win the lottery or become a really well-off retiree. Or I’d have to never sleep. And I promise you, getting no sleep is not a possible part of my life if I want to actually stay alive.

So how do we conquer the modern day nonsense that keeps so many of us from living that dream-daily-routine, blessed life? What would be your ideal daily routine? Quite honestly, in this very moment, I’m so exhausted from a long day teaching, among many other things, my mind is mush and I just don’t even know where to begin to answer that question for myself. Maybe a super long, relaxing walk would do the trick. If only I didn’t have to get up in a few hours when my alarm goes off way too early tomorrow morning.