Lake Livin’

By June Greenlaw

Hello, everyone!  I know it’s been a long time since my last blog.  I apologize.  My husband and I have been on the hunt for a new house and just got moved in a few weeks ago to what we hope will be our forever home on Lake Wateree.  I have to mention that I’ve never lived in the country or on a lake, so there are lots of things that I have to learn out here such as – there is no city trash service!  We have to separate all our trash in preparation for the dump. Very new for this city girl!

IMG_3228I want to share with you a funny story about another lesson I’m learning about living by the lake.  First, let me say, I am truly blessed to be able to work from home and to live on the lake!  Second, glory day, I never would have guessed that THIS would be a new challenge in my life.  Keep reading.

So, during my lunch break today, I placed my leftover spaghetti in the microwave to warm up and put the leash on my baby dog to go out for a quick walk in the yard.  The yard has three levels because of our retaining walls, and we usually walk back and forth on each level.  The baby dog is slower than the big puppy, and she is on a leash (rethinking the big puppy not being on one as I type this).  We walk the first level. It’s a beautiful day, uneventful.  Bentley, our big golden retriever puppy that’s nine months old, trotting a short distance ahead of us on the second level.

Baby dog decides to do some “business” while we are on the second level, so I patiently wait for her to finish and look up to see where Bentley is headed.  He’s on the third level having a great time running in the grass.  He looks a bit intense though – like there might be a squirrel he’s chasing.  I look just ahead of him, and I see what he is after!!!  I promptly start yelling “NO BENTLEY! STOP BENTLEY! SIT BENTLEY!” and probably a few words that made me thankful I don’t have neighbors during the week!

In the distance is a large, dead fish with only the head left on its body.  Of course, I’m afraid he’s going to eat it because this is a dog that will eat anything!  But no, instead, while I’m screaming for him to “leave it,” a command learned from my friend Pam recently, he promptly goes up to the head of the fish, lowers his head down, and begins to rub his face against the face of this dead fish!  As if that wasn’t gross enough, while I’m running as fast as a girl can run downhill without falling on her face, he proceeds to snuggle up his entire body and roll back and forth over the bones and head of this fish.

So, for those of you that have me as a friend on FacebooIMG_3226.JPGk, you may have seen my comment yesterday on my friend Dawn’s post.  It has a picture of us riding in her boat on a beautiful, sunny day with my comment reading, “lake life doesn’t suck.”  I’ll amend that now to say, “until your dog rolls around on the dead fish that some disrespectful bird dropped in your yard!”.

Oh, and did I mention my husband is away on a hunting trip, so I now have to go pick up this dead fish AND wash the dog that reeks of dead fish.  I just need to take a deep breath and remember I still feel thankful and blessed for the opportunity to experience lake life.

 

WOW! This child is amazing!

By June Headley-Greenlaw

I was watching the news this weekend, and a story came on about a child that was honoring veterans.  Of course, being a military family, it got my full attention.  This was a story about a child in 7th grade that has been working for three years to honor veterans.  As I listened to his story, I completely went into the ugly cry!  As Carrie Underwood says, “you can’t cry pretty.”

The story on the news was a follow-up with a child they had featured last year.  They didn’t dig a lot into the backstory so, of course, I went looking for it and found it on the web.  This young boy, his heart and his actions, astound me!

He went to visit his Grandfather’s grave to place a flag and some flowers on Veteran’s Day and noticed that many of the graves didn’t have any flags or flowers.  Disturbed by this, he vowed to do something about it.  He started raising money by vacuuming floors, and he set a goal to place a flag and flower on the graves of each of the veterans resting in the cemetery where his Grandfather was buried.

His mission grew from there, and he has now honored over 180,000 veterans by placing a flag and red carnation on their graves.  He doesn’t stop there.  You can read the rest of his story at www.prestonsharp.net.

The story touched me so deeply because I remember the first Christmas after we lost our Marine, Jared Greenlaw.  He was only 25 years old when he died in April of 2017.  That Christmas, my husband and I donated to an organization called Wreaths Across America.  The organization was started in Maine, which is where Jared’s gravesite is located in a Veteran’s cemetery, and their mission is to place wreaths on the graves of veterans across this country.  However, we didn’t know if they would specifically get to his grave.Capture

We were devastated that we couldn’t be there to do something ourselves that year because we were in South Carolina, so we ended up calling Jared’s uncle Mark and asking him to do it for us.  Without hesitation, he did.  We were blessed to have family members close to the cemetery, but the sting of thinking that our son’s grave might be bare for Christmas was overwhelming.  It might not seem like a big deal to some, but when the only way you have left to take care of your child is to dress up their grave, believe me, it’s important!

I was touched by the actions of this child so deeply partly because of his age and partly because of his dogged determination.  Not many kids his age understand what it means to be a veteran and certainly kids his age have things more fun to do than visiting cemeteries.  Yet Preston seems to truly understand the importance of what he is doing.   I’m certain that the veterans he is honoring in the cemeteries are just as grateful to Preston as those veterans he’s visiting with that we are blessed to still have among us.

I am proud of this young man and his cause, and I’m hoping that you will be too.  If you’d like to help him carry out his mission, read more about him, purchase a t-shirt or a challenge coin, or donate funds for him to purchase more flags and flowers for our veterans by visiting his website at www.prestonsharp.net.

Count Your Blessings

By June Headley-Greenlaw

This blog may start out dark but stick with me.  I see so many people allowing negativity to consume them.  However, I’ve also been blessed to witness people going through devastating times and maintaining positivity throughout.  I wanted to use this blog to encourage readers to seriously consider their circumstances and what alternatives could be. pooh quote

Do you have a child that has never and will never be able to walk or talk or feed themselves or give you a hug?  I am blessed not to have encountered this in my life, but I have a cousin that has experienced this for 22 years with her son.  She could have chosen to put him into a long-term care facility, but she did not.  Her son is front and center in her life daily and she still finds ways to enjoy life and smile.  She inspires me!

Do you have cancer or are you watching someone in your family suffer from this devastating disease?  I am blessed to have avoided this diagnosis, but I have known many people fighting through this challenge.  Some lost their battle and others are still in the fight.  I have learned so much from the people facing this struggle as well as the people that have cared for them.  They have all inspired me!

Are you homeless or jobless or worried about where your next meal will come from?  I am blessed not to be in these situations, but I have met people that have been in all of them.  When I taught U101 at the University, I used to do a group community service day with all my students each semester.  We would visit places like the Salvation Army where homeless people could stay for a night or get a hot meal.  We did projects like painting rooms, serving food, etc.  We would always end our day with someone who was dependent on those services telling us their story.  Those people inspired me!

My point in mentioning all of these things is to ask you to think about all of these people and their situations as you go through your daily life.  Try not to allow yourself to get mired in negativity, but instead, tell yourself that there are many people going through much tougher times, and count your blessings.

quote 1I hope that most people who know me would say I’m a pretty positive person.  I tell myself I’m only limited by my willingness to work toward what I want or need in life and I play that on loop in my head always.  I take responsibility for my actions, and I understand that I am where I am each day only because of the choices I have made.  Well, that’s mostly the case.  There was never a chance of me playing professional basketball at 5 feet nothing!  I pray daily for those less fortunate and I thank God for all that He has given me.

I have found that a positive attitude can carry you through anything.  It may not make the outcome of your challenge what you hoped, but it may keep you from sinking into the doldrums of depression.  Give it a try.  Remember, your track record for getting through tough times is 100% so far.

Life After the Big D

By June Headley-Greenlaw

Statistics say that 40-50% of first marriages will end in divorce.  Unfortunately, I was part of that statistic.  I was married to the man I now jokingly refer to as my starter husband for nearly 20 years.  When that marriage expired, it was a very scary time in my life and the lives of my children.  I had been married since I was 20 years old and didn’t know what my identity would be outside of that marriage.  There was no abuse or anything else that you’d think would cause a divorce, we simply stopped loving each other the way married people should.

Our friends used to ask us how we had stayed married so long.  My then-husband used to reply that it was because we just never wanted a divorce at the same time.  It wasn’t because we never had hard times.  We did!  We were both going thru college while working and later raising children.  We struggled frequently.  We were both blessed with loving families and lots of friends.  We made it through – until we didn’t.  There just came the point in time when we no longer felt supported or loved by each other, and something told me it was time to start over.  I believed it was whispers from God.

I won’t tell you it was easy because that would be a big fat lie!  I moved into my best friend’s house for a few months and slept on what we now affectionately call “the divorce couch”.  She lived on the same street so the kids could walk back and forth.  I looked for a new home close to the one we owned so the kids, then 6 and 9, could be close to both of us.  I found one that was a foreclosure and needed a lot of work.  New carpet, new appliances, etc.  the house had 11 different colors on the walls from orange to black.  I vividly remember many friends and family members with rollers and brushes in their hands and my nearly 80-year-old Uncle taking up the carpet and hauling it outside.  But on Thanksgiving, all of those people had commitments.  Alone in this new empty house, I turned up the music and rolled and cried and rolled and cried.  The whole time praying that God would give me the strength to get through it and help me find a way to explain to my children that this was necessary.  I was determined to have a home IN ORDER by Christmas for the sake of my kids!

baby girl

Mom, baby girl child we share, Dad

I should tell you there were times when I thought my heart would just stop beating because it was so broken.  There were a lot of tears, sometimes anger, fear, and TONS of times when I questioned this decision.  Thankfully, my ex and I were both committed to not making this any worse than it had to be so we put on brave faces and marched thru the logistics of starting over.  We split the debt.  He kept the house with the equity, and I kept my retirement.  I took things from the house that he could easily live without and bought whatever else I needed.  On credit cards!  Ugh!  We even shared an attorney to keep costs down.  As divorces go, I think we might have had the cheapest one on the planet.  I strongly suggest that anyone going thru this think carefully before fighting.  The only people that win in these situations are the attorneys.  It’s much easier to buy new furniture than to hire a lawyer to fight over it.  You owe it to your kids not to sweat the small stuff.

boy child

Dad, boychild we share, Mom

We made about the same amount of money, and we shared custody, so neither of us paid child support.  We never argued over switching weeks or days with the kids for vacations, family events or other fun activities that might have fallen on the other person’s time.  We both wanted what was best for our children.  I’m very proud of the way we handled those years.

The divorce was final 17 months after we filed.  I would have bet when we split up that I

family

Bonus Mom, Dad, Baby Girl Child we share, Mom, Bonus Dad

would never remarry, but in a very short time, I met my do-over husband, and my affectionately called “wusband” met his do-over wife.  We were both remarried within five months of the divorce being final.  Those marriages are still going strong after ten years plus.  Fortunately, our kids were blessed with great “Bonus” parents and lots of new “Bonus” siblings.  I don’t use the word “step” because I think it insinuates some sort of distance between people.  A friend once told me that it’s always a bonus when you have another person to love you so we had a lot of bonuses in our new blended families!

While the statistics on second marriages are abysmal, we are all committed to beating those odds.  We have both thrived in our do-over marriages, and we still support our now college kids as a team.  All four of us!  I’m living proof that life after the Big D doesn’t have to be a horror show.  I credit my strong faith in God and a lot of commitment from all involved for carrying us thru such a challenging time.

 

The scholarship challenge

By June Headley Greenlaw

Anyone that has children in school should start looking now for scholarships!  I will warn you; it can be a daunting task. There are scholarships available for kids in K-12.  The first scholarship my daughter got was awarded when she was in 9th grade.  It was $5,000/year for up to four years, so nothing to sneeze at for sure.  I want to share a little of my kids’ scholarship journey with you and offer some advice.

capAlthough it’s never too early to get started, you will find that most scholarships are offered to high school seniors.  However, you should know that most of them are due in the first few months of the senior year.  There are some that allow kids in any grade to apply and yet others that are just for kids already in college.

Our four oldest children all went into the military after school making my first experience looking for scholarships was with our child that is now a senior in college, but his sister was only three years behind him, so I was searching for both of them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t start until his senior year which is why I’m sharing this info with all of you.  Don’t do what I did!

My journey started by searching the net.  Searching that way was very frustrating because there are a lot of scams out there and it can take quite a bit of time to see which ones are credible and then find out if your child is qualified.  I came across an app that I love!  It’s called Scholly, and I believe they now charge a very small fee for it.  Note that I don’t know who owns that site nor do I get any commission for recommending it.  It’s just a great site that will allow you to put in the details about your child and it will sort out which ones they qualify for you.  It also provides the link to each of them so you can go directly there and apply.

I called the adventure of scholarship seeking a part-time job, and that’s not an overstatement.  Luckily, both my children received a number of scholarships that ranged from $300 one-time to 5,000/year for all four years.  I decided during my journey to try to make things easier for friends and family, so I created a Facebook page called Scholarship Seekers (SS).  It has a graduation cap with dollar bills in it as the cover picture if you want to join it.  It’s a private page because initially I had a ton of unknown to me people joining and I thought I should limit the competition.  I’m opening it up to all who read this blog.

Many of the posts on the SS page are from years ago, but the vast majority of them are still available.  You’ll see a variety of opportunities from those that require an essay to those that just require your contact info to apply.  I suggest talking to your kids about how much time they have to spend on this venture because they will be the ones to write the essays.  I try to update the page and add a few new opportunities each year.

cakeI encourage you to search all the places you do business with such as your credit card companies, your insurance company, your bank or credit union, especially your place of work.  There are a ton of scholarships that are not awarded each year simply because nobody applies.  I was in college with an older woman that got a scholarship from Ponds hand cream!  There is money everywhere.  You just have to be willing to spend the time necessary to secure some for your children.

I hope some of my suggestions will save you time.  I wish all of you happy hunting, and I hope you start to think about scholarships everywhere you go.  When you are shopping in a grocery store, ask the manager if they have scholarships available.  If you are shopping for a car, ask the dealership if they offer scholarships to customers.  Never give up because you’ll be competing with many others, but the more time you put into the search, the more rewarding it will be!

Advice for all the Momma’s that have kids leaving for college

By June Headley-Greenlaw

I wanted to share some advice in this blog for all the parents that just moved their kids into college.  I feel like having taught a freshman orientation class at the University of South Carolina for 14 years and having moved two of my own children into college; I may have some insight.

Here are some things you should encourage your new college student to do:

  • Have them get to know their instructors early in the semester.
    • Go visit instructors at the beginning of the semester, don’t wait until you need them
    • Visit them during office hours and introduce yourself and let them know how important their class is to you.
    • Instructors are people too and they are teaching for a reason.  Most of them want to guide students and they enjoy getting to know them.
  • Take stock of all the resources available to students.  Most campuses offer Supplemental Instruction (SI) sessions for classes they have identified to be particularly difficult for students.  There may be free tutoring available.
  • Advise your child to make use of as many meal swipes as possible.  If they don’t have time for a meal, go get some fruit, chips, granola bars or whatever else might be offered that you can take in your book bag to class with you or back to your room for a late night snack.  You’ve already paid for it!
  • Have your student do a “schedule at a glance”.  Print out blank calendars and fill in all assignments from each syllabus so that you can see now where your trouble spots will be and prepare for them.  This is an assignment I gave to all my freshman and many of them verbally thanked me for forcing them to get it done.
  • familyRemind them often to use good judgement.  Moving away from home is tough and there are a lot of pressures in their first year.  It’s easy to get caught up in activities that they don’t realize may be detrimental to them later.  I often used the phrase in class “remember decisions you make today could affect the rest of your life”.  I meant that very literally and gave them examples.  The decision tonight to have unprotected sex could lead to an unexpected pregnancy and could change the rest of your life.

Remind yourself not to be hurt if they don’t call often.  They will be extremely busy getting acclimated, making friends, and doing all the things for themselves that you would normally do for them.  They still love you.  They are just doing their best to show you that they are all grown up!

Our road to debt freedom

By June Headley Greenlaw

Hold onto your teeth, my friends.  I’m about to tell you a story that will make them want to fall to the floor!  About six years ago, after a combination of life challenges, my husband (Jeff) and I found ourselves with $125,043 worth of credit card debt.  We had almost no equity in our house and two cars we were making payments on while my husband had been without a paycheck for about a year.

Hubby and I are both on “do over” marriages after first marriages that expired at around 20 years.  We both brought in hunks of debt from our starter marriages. There were lots of things that contributed to this mountain of debt that I won’t bore you with because we all have them.  They are called LIFE!

We were determined to get to debt freedom by the time I was retirement eligible, which is now 25 days away, and we have come pretty close.  We are literally just months away from having all credit cards paid off!  We are about one year away from having all cars paid off!  We now have a big chunk of equity in our house!  I wanted to share our story so that anyone finding themselves in that dark hole of debt could gain some hope that you can dig out too!

rawpixel-602154-unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The first thing we did was create a spreadsheet that listed all of the things we had a balance on and what payments were being made to each of them every month.  I had the spreadsheet incorporate the interest rates so we could accurately see what was happening to the balances after every payment.  We set it up with a goal of having everything paid off in three years.  Lofty, I know!  As you can surmise from the fact that the first paragraph of this post says “about six years ago”, it didn’t work as well as planned, but it HAS worked.  We now owe less than $8,000 to credit cards!

I won’t provide the color for your rose-colored glasses and tell you that it was easy.  It wasn’t!  No, we didn’t file bankruptcy.  We had to say no to our kids a lot.  Heck, we had to say no to ourselves a lot.  But with some hard work and determination, we’re doing it!  I took on extra jobs outside the house that even included selling Rainbow vacuum cleaners.  I still love that machine!  Hubby picked up nearly all the jobs inside the house.

I read a lot of “get out of debt” things on the web and after waffling back and forth about the best approach (paying off highest interest rates or smallest debt first), we went with the smallest debt first so we could keep ourselves inspired by shredding new cards each time one was paid off.  You can’t shred them before they are paid off because you might need them to play the “move your balance” game.  We did that a LOT to take advantage of lower interest rates for short periods of time.  You need to be careful when doing that because there are generally fees associated with those transactions and you’ll need to evaluate how much money it will really save you.

I think the most important thing is to create a list or spreadsheet of your balances and be able to watch them go down.  It helps keep you grounded when you want to fly off the handle and spend money on “wants” vs. “needs”.  There is nothing more empowering than cutting up that card!