A Couple Ways to save for next Christmas

This year, we didn’t have a whole lotta extra funds for gifts, and I thought I’d let you in on a secret – I got a couple of gifts for free this year.

How?

  Two apps. The first is the Walmart Savings Catcher. If you go to Walmart with any regularity, there’s no reason not to use this app. It is quite simple: You scan your receipt when you’re done shopping. If the app finds that a competitor has a cheaper price on pretty much anything on your receipt, it will credit you with the difference. Most of the time, it’s 50 cents on the whole bill, but every once in awhile, it’ll be a couple of bucks. And over a year, that adds up. You can redeem for a gift certificate whenever you’re ready, or use it towards your grocery bill or anything you buy in the store. Easy peasy.

The second is Shopkick. This one works in various stores, and will notify you when you are near a participating store if you let it. The stores I get credit for are mostly Walmart and Best Buy (because we do not have many of the others in our area), but there are many more stores for which you can get credit, so you should check it out. Again, you get “kicks” just for visiting the store sometimes, and if you have some time to kill, you can get kicks for scanning certain items. When you are ready (and have enough kicks to be eligible), you can redeem them for gift cards, movie tickets, gasoline… lots of different things! Some are a pretty good deal, others are not, but you’re getting something for doing something you would do anyway, so in my book, anything is a good deal. I actually got two gifts (one from restaurant.com for $100, and one from GameStop for $25) from this app this year, but I think I’ve been accumulating kicks for longer than I’ve been using the Walmart app.

In any case, I got three free gifts for zero dollars, and it helped a bunch. If you’re the type to plan ahead, check out these apps now, and you just might be able to save some cash next year. (I’m not affiliated with either of these apps, just glad I was able to save by using them.)

Things Are Looking Up

This morning, I start my new job. I am thrilled, relieved, and excited.

When we moved almost three years ago now, this is the type of job I was sure I would find. It just took me three years to get there. Great pay, great hours, benefits, only two other people in the office, and job duties I know I can handle. The other great part is that it is a salaried position, so my hours are flexible as long as I meet the expected number of hours. This is ideal for the parent of an autistic child who may have IEP meetings or random meltdown rescues to handle in the course of a year.

It is in a tax office, and so the next few months will be hectic. But I’ve done hectic, and I can handle it. I know I can, which lends credence to the idea that even if you aren’t in the best situation (my previous, high-stress job), you’re still learning.

This great news, along with the receipt of our building permits (finally!), and a report card for The Boy that has all 90s on it means I want to shout from the rooftops, and dance in my pajamas this morning. It’s one of those feelings you want to bottle for darker days.

As always, thank you all for your continued support. Good things come from being kind, looking out for each other, multitudes of patience, and support from a great community.

BuJo and ASD

I mentioned recently that I have begun bullet journaling, and it has helped me put one foot in front of the other to get past some pretty dark, helpless feelings this fall. I also belong to a fantastic facebook group with over 14,000 members who also bullet journal, and it has connected me to people across the globe. One of those fabulous ladies is an autism mom in the UK who shared that her son was helping to set the table, and began by making a list of “supplies” he would need – five plates, five forks, etc. – on his iPad. Then, he gathered his materials and put them in the appropriate spots on the table (while shouting loudly what each was). She remarked to him about his list. “Why did you make a list?” He said, “You remember everything, Mom, and you make lists in your journal all day long.”

This story got me to thinking. The reason many of us bullet journal is because it can get overwhelming relying on our brains to remember everything. I, personally, am the type to need to get things on paper, because if I don’t, I will remind myself to do that one thing at least six times in one day – how exhausting, and how almost perseverative (is that a word? it is now…)… Overwhelmed… Perseverating… Indeed, one of the most relied upon strategies for coping with autism is the social story (a list of sorts to describe what will happen), and another is “first, then” (First we will do some homework, then we will have some m&m’s).  Maybe, just maybe some kiddos, young adults, and adults on the spectrum would benefit from bullet journaling.

I may try this with The Boy. But my primary purpose with this post is to share an idea, a connection, a possibility. This may be a strategy that could help you or someone you know. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

BuJo

It’s OK to be Offended

It’s funny how much our culture is influenced by the young. It’s probably our obsession with youth and inability to age gracefully, but whatever the youngsters are into is what you’ll see on TV, in the stores, and in the comment section of anything you read.

Have you seen the term “butthurt”? Yeah, me too. I hate that term. It’s part of this prevailing attitude (thank you, hipsters) that if you get upset or heaven forbid, offended, you are part of the problem. “Everyone is so sensitive these days”. “Everyone has to be so politically correct”. “If you don’t like it, just keep scrolling,” they say.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to be offended. It’s ok to be upset when someone says something mean or crass, or that is derogatory to someone else. It means you have a strong sense of values, and that you are brave enough to speak up either for yourself or for others who are not able to stand up for themselves.

Do you need to fight every battle? No. That would get overwhelming. As the great Mama Fry from Autism with a Side of Fries says in her latest post, “I’d rather on doing something else than having the same exact fight again and again.” She is referring to a troll who is continually poking the bear to get a rise out of the autism community, and I wholeheartedly agree with her. There are times when people do this crap for attention, and because they think it’s funny to see a bunch of people to get pissed off. This world clearly needs more therapy.

But don’t be bullied into thinking that you shouldn’t give your opinion, especially when people are being mean or derogatory. Don’t be mocked for reacting negatively to bad stuff. We need to stand up to that or it becomes commonplace, and we lose our values in this society. I’m not sure how it got to be so cool to not care about a damn thing or anyone’s feelings but your own, but I’m done with that attitude.

Besides, I’ve never been cool, so why start now.

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Reflection on 2015

That's me.  Just Doing it.I sat down to do a little reflection on the year, and tried  to jot down ten highlights, ten disappointments, and a few other details about the past year. It hasn’t been the best of years, so I was surprised when my list of highlights was just about done, and I was still on number four in my list of disappointments. As I reflected on this, as well as what I had written, I came up with a few things.

Perspective is an amazing thing, and unfortunately we’re often too busy with our daily lives to get any, but one thing I realized is that I need to reflect more on a regular basis. I’ve kind of fallen out of the habit of journaling, but have picked it back up again. I’ve long maintained diaries, starting when I was in elementary school, and this habit of writing to myself at the end of each day is one that I realize I have missed. Besides, writers need to write, right?

I also look back on the crises of the year and realize that time passes and the urgency of the crisis passes. In the thick of it, I am always in panic, unable to see how we can possibly get through it, but after a few months, it’s almost forgotten. I have to try to remind myself of that when the next crisis arises. This too shall pass.

Finally, even if my days are filled with tasks I would deem far from the biggest contributions to society, I can choose to still be relevant, I can choose to continue learning and creating. It’s ok to work a dead-end job, but it’s not ok to succumb to being dead-end. It takes work to create opportunities for myself to engage my intellect and creativity, but it is imperative. Otherwise, I’ll look up in twenty years and wonder where my life went.

Anyway. I hope you have an excellent and safe New Years Eve, and look to 2016 with wonder and anticipation at what might be coming next. Enjoy!

Happiness is…

This may be it this week. I’ve been nagging myself to post, but we’ve opened the shop an hour earlier this week, and with The Boy home for vacation, my routine is so funky, I’m all messed up. So rather than stress, I thought I’d write a simple post to wish you all the happiness of the season. 

My family is my heart and my happiness, and this week in particular, they are my focus.

Love you all to bits!

My boys and the beach

Feeling in Control

One of the bits of advice that hangs on is “Fake it ’til you make it.” This bit has rung true for me. I have been able to pretend long enough to get the hang of something more times than I can count. Part of getting out of this low, scary place I’ve been has been “faking” that I am in control. In other words, planning.

I’ve done several posts on planning, and how it’s just part of my DNA. And even though I don’t have much to plan at work (besides how I’m going to spend six hours a day with no customers, which is actually enjoyable), I have found some peace.

You may remember that that I was trying to determine if I was going to order a Plum Paper Planner or another Erin Condren earlier this fall. I ended up ordering the Plum Paper Planner, and it is very stylish, and lovely, and just what I wanted at the time.

MTNAbout two weeks later, I found Midori Travelers Notebooks on Pinterest and fell in love. Had to have it, ordered one as an incentive for NaNoWriMo. It was so lovely to hold, and such a neat little niche of paper geeks that came along with it (I think I joined three different facebook groups). It was a fantastic motivator for NaNo (I won by the way!). I used it everyday, and loved how grown up and worldly it looked, as opposed to the sorority girlishness of the Erin Condren world, and I started to feel guilty toward my Plum Paper Planner.

Shortly after that, I came across the Bullet Journal again. I had dismissed it earlier because it sounded complicated. But the more I looked into it, the more creative I found it, and ironically, the more personalized. Way more personalized than Erin Condren or Plum Paper Planner could ever hope to be. Of course it was more work, but if the act of doing more work helps one find focus, remember more, and get more done, isn’t that a nifty trick?

habittrackerOn the last day of November, I started my BuJo (short for Bullet Journal), and have used it daily ever since. I was even able to take it to the meeting with the school administrators, with a page dedicated to the topics I’d like to discuss, and space on the facing page to take notes during the meeting. It is much more than a planner, containing “collections”, quotes, and goals. The community I have found (again on facebook and even instagram) has helped me plan, design my own setup, track habits I’d like to form, and figure out 100 life goals I’d like to achieve in the next ten years.

If it sounds hippy dippy, it’s really not. You can put into what you want, and take from it what you want. Goal setting was not something I had done in a long time, and what is better to do at your lowest point than set some goals and plan some ways to climb out of it?

If you are at all interested, you should check out this from the guy who came up with the system – Ryder, and this from one of the ladies who has made it fun – Kara Benz at BohoBerry (it’s actually the second in her series, but I find it more informative than the first). If not, that’s ok too. I just wanted to share what has helped me turn a corner.

And if you’re wondering about my Plum Paper Planner, I’m going to use it for blog planning and bill paying. That’s the plan, anyway ;)

Stickers with a Story

This is a planner post, but it’s a little more than that.

Those of us that are into planners and planning know that people make money off of us.  Big money. The planners themselves aren’t cheap (I’m looking at you, Erin Condren), and then the accessories… Holy Cow. Search Pinterest for Planner accessories and you’ll see what I mean.  There are hundreds of people on eBay who just sell planner stickers. Planner Stickers! And when you add in shipping… well, let’s just say I’ve never felt comfortable spending that much on a consumable, and especially now that it would cost me the better part of a day’s pay for a couple of sheets of stickers…

So what’s a girl to do? All I wanted was a set of stickers to put on days when bills are due.

I started looking at some neato stamps by l2e, but the neato stamps were at least $14 a set. Add in the shipping, the ink…  Not consumable, but still pricy.

Then I went to iconic fonts – the sometimes-free fonts you can download from enterprising young graphic designers that are like tiny little pictures.  I thought if I could find a set that had the icons I wanted, I could put them into a word document, or even a label template and print them out. But it was difficult to find the icons I wanted, especially for free.  Those pesky young graphic designers want to be paid, too.

And then I found this, by Mike Rohde, which are actually some hand drawn bullet journal icons.  At first I thought, “Those are really cool, and kind of what I want, but I can’t draw!”13792208535_267770f11a_m

No, seriously.  I can’t draw.  I used to prepare my students for this fact the few times I had to draw things on the board, and they still laughed.  I explained that this is why I was a music teacher… Can’t draw to save my life.

But.

I came across another pin, recommending Sara Zorel on YouTube.  One of her videos was called “Doodle With Me: Planner Icons”.  Now, doodle I can do.  So when you say “Doodle,” I think I can like that tiny blue engine that could…

And with some practice in my moleskine, I did.

doodle planner icons

I bought a flag shaped punch on clearance at Walmart for $3, and I already had sticker paper (In fact, had scraps of it from my NaNoWriMo prep – more on that later), and so I colored the scraps with markers, punched out some flags, and started doodling.

It may seem small, but I am totally geeked that I can make for myself and not spend money unnecessarily. And that I can kinda sorta draw. Not people, though. That’s just scary.

more doodle planner icons

Shift your paradigm, and when you say to yourself, “I can’t,” question it. Sometimes you can amaze yourself.

Participation

Participation trophies.

Let me tell you that I’m on the fence here, but I’m leaning.

Kids should not get something for nothing.

I do not think you need to have a graduation ceremony from preschool.  Nor do I think you need one from kindergarten, 5th grade, or 8th grade.  There should be one graduation ceremony, honoring your hard work, which was a long-term goal.  The rest of that nonsense does not need to happen.  A celebration?  Sure! Graduation? No.

Nor do I think 8th graders should be taking limos and renting tuxes for their 8th grade dance.  That’s a prom thing, and some traditions should be kept to the original event.

But participation awards?

That’s a little different.

This country has an obsession with sports.  If you look at the highest paid people in any society, you will see what they value in their culture.  Look at how competitive kids sports are.  Look at how young they enter AAU leagues, and spend their entire summers (and sometimes school years) traveling, training, and competing.  Look at how many news stories you see about parents who don’t know how to support their children, and cannot control themselves at games.

Every field day, my kid comes home with a participation ribbon.  He doesn’t win stuff in sports.  I didn’t either.  Just about every kid in my elementary school was on a soccer team.  I wasn’t.  I had absolutely no interest.  I played parks and rec basketball and softball a bit.  I was on middle school and freshman volleyball, and I played co-rec in college.  But it wasn’t my bag.

And it gets old seeing other people get stuff all the time.  It’s like watching the popular kid be popular all the time, or the really pretty girl be the center of attention all the time.  It just gets old.

And maybe the participation is kind of a socialist thing, spreading the good feelings around to everyone, regardless of athletic ability.  But before you jump on the socialist part of that statement, think about the other part.  The part about spreading good feelings around to all the kids.  Isn’t that something we want?

I don’t think participation ribbons make any kid think they deserve stuff for not earning it.  A participation ribbon never made me think I had really won anything.  But it told me that at least I showed up and tried at this thing I wasn’t really into.  And in truth, there’s a lot of value in that.  Lots of people grow up and have jobs that they’re not really into, and they aren’t the very best in their field, but they still get paid because they show up and try.

The Boy has taught me a lot.  Every kid is different, and too much in our society tries to peg them into the same interests and hierarchies.  It’s time we really look at kids as people in their own right.  Just because they didn’t win the tournament doesn’t mean they didn’t learn anything from it.  In fact, they probably learned much more from losing.

So if a participation ribbon commemorates showing up, trying, and learning, isn’t that what life’s really all about?

Participation ribbons for everyone. Everyone.

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