Hello From Home

Oh, hey there. It’s me, Amelia, and I’m writing from home. When I started this blog something like 18 months ago, I was approaching a sweet time in my life where I did the (for me) unthinkable and stayed at home for over a year. My daughter, Novella, was approaching 3- not old enough for PreK- but old enough to make lasting memories together. Like so many things in my life, I had one vision for how I would handle things and wanted to document my ideas. But, turns out, most of me was both overjoyed and basically braindead in that time. I didn’t have any interesting ideas- just time with my girl. I regret nothing.

I went back to work for the 2019-20 school year as a part time teacher. It’s been the perfect setup, honestly. I work 3 minutes from home, and Novella attends the school across the street from mine. Incidentally, this is the school she went to prior to our year at home.

I’ve had an interesting school year. Amazing, really. While there are always challenges, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life- a constant reminder that if you ask, you shall receive, but you better be ready when that calling comes. My team, y’all. The Dream Team. My kids, y’all. They have pushed me to my limits in many ways, but have shone a light into the cobwebbed corners of my heart and found a little place within myself I’ll never be able to unsee. I never imagined I’d be leaving them like this. I never imagined I’d be right back at home like this.

Novella and I are on day 9 of what has been labeled social distancing. Which is a fancy way of saying we are in quarantine, indefinitely. Brandon goes to work and to the store occasionally, but that’s it. I don’t even know where to start with this, so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning.

I can’t really remember the first time I heard about The Corona Virus, now called COVID-19 (which stands for COrona VIrus Disease, 19 is because it was first started/recognized in 2019). The first image I can remember from of it was actually just two weeks ago, when they showed residents singing from their windows. I’m going to be honest, I scrolled right past it at first, but returned to it.

That’s kind of how we are in America- if it isn’t our problem, well: it isn’t our problem.

I keep going back to this thought: I would give anything to go back to my problems last week. It would be comical if it wasn’t so damn sad. Ten days ago, I sent my husband a message bitching about what is now the absolute stupidest issue imaginable. The next day, everything changed.

***

Tom Hanks, well, I don’t even know how to describe him other than he is just so Tom Hanks. At the beginning of this school year, they asked us to describe someone who is a “warm demander.” A warm demander is one who can manage to make things happen without force, people just follow the leader because they see the leader and think Man, I want whatever he is having. I think Confucius is smiling down or around or above…wherever he is, he is super proud of Tom Hanks.

Last Thursday, I awoke to the news that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive for COVID-19. The day before, I read a post from an American living in Italy detailing what their lives were like while living in quarantine. It’s incredible how quickly my mindset changed. I went from thinking this was some small problem that would never impact me to full-on-prepare-for-battle mentality.

I began to think of everything we could possibly need for two weeks, beginning with medicine. Brandon and Novella were very sick over Christmas (we actually kind of think they had COVID-19, but more on that later), so I worked from there in terms of medicine and sick supplies. Then, I ordered practical things like pastas, tuna, canned goods. As I was placing the order for meds, they were disappearing from my virtual cart because the supply started depleting that quickly.

Brandon went to Sam’s and texted me: “Is Sam’s always this busy on Thursday?”

My work day went really well, really well, actually. I had a great day with my kids. Had an awesome evaluation post-conference. I grabbed my things and left abruptly. I would’ve done some things differently if I had only known we were closing the next day. (As of right now, we are returning April 3rd- I will be very surprised if we return at all.) Shortly after I left, we got the call that we were closing Friday. Not really a big deal as Spring Break was the following week.

Friday, it was more evident that people were reaching Panic Level Red and the proof was in the grocery store. My dad sent pictures of empty shelves, and I totally bought into the hype. I went to Aldi and it was like I couldn’t even see straight. I had no plan- I just started buying all the things I saw other people buying. Some of the things I’m so glad I bought, (feminine hygiene products), others I am wondering what I was thinking (random instant mashed potatoes, rice). I felt sick.

We went through the weekend like we were just observing one super long Sabbath. Except we had plans to go away that week. Every time I would try to pack, I would feel sick. Sunday night, we decided not to go after we learned we would receive a full refund. It felt like a burden was lifted from our shoulders.

Monday is when everything truly changed. It was like just one big crap pile that resulted in one big panic attack on my part. I could suddenly see the impact of this all coming at me full speed- the small business that supports my family and my sister would be hurt; kids would be out of school far beyond this week. Someone around my dad’s age died in the same state in which my parents reside. I was standing at the counter making Novella’s lunch when Brandon came into the kitchen. I looked at him and said: “I’m so scared,” then whoooooosh went the floodgates. I went for a drive and stopped to get a few crafts/ activities to do with Novella during our social distancing. After driving around aimlessly for an hour, I was ready to come home.

Tuesday, I felt the waves all day. Waves of nausea. Waves of exhaustion. Waves of panic. Waves of contentment. Waves of energy. Waves of hope. I took Novella for a walk around the neighborhood. I was starting to panic so bad I held back tears. I looked up to the Heavens and heard God say: ” You are imagining the worst case scenario, what does the best case scenario look like?” And so I had a vision that looked like people coming together, getting on the same page and saying we did this! We all sacrificed and we were all better for it. 

Actually, that conversation was on Monday. You can’t even believe how much the days are running together now.Tuesday was when I started feeling like the government at least understood the plight so many were facing: we know we all need to stay home but we can’t do that AND pay our bills. (I will be speaking so much more on this later) I felt so positive about the whole thing, and that feeling has stayed with me the most. Except those waves.

I’ve looked for ways to give ever since, and consider it a blessing just as much to me when someone is willing to accept that help. I’ve decided that’s my mission/ purpose in this. To be the light.

I’ve decided to take a break from Facebook for right now- it just lends itself so much to negativity, and as time goes on, I fear we are going to get meaner and our viewpoints narrower.

I am using this space to document our experiences as undercooked as I can. I want to remember this time as much as I want to forget it.

 

 

Getting Real About Money

money-stock-promo

Summer is officially here, which means it’s time to start on my SMART goal of writing a post every 3 days. Truth be told, I originally intended for “write at least every 3 days this summer” to define summer as “summer break for me, a teacher.” But sometimes dreams don’t come true, and all for good reason. I rocked a trip to the Dominican Republic in that first week, returned home to jump into house hunting and starting a business. If you’ve applied the reading skills your 7th grade teacher should’ve taught ya, then you looked at the title and suddenly nothing makes sense. It doesn’t seem like getting real about money would have anything to do with either those activities. Stay tuned!

I’ve decided to get really real about money. With myself. With my friends and family. And with y’all.

I know it’s not popular to talk to people you actually know about money. If you’re like me, you pin a crap ton of “frugal tips” on Pinterest, and you don’t even bother posting those to a secret board. It may come labeled as so many different seemingly non-money-related posts. Maybe you say “25 meals for under $100” or “How to be a Couponer.” We can paraphrase it any way we want, but we’re all wanting to save money.

Duh. Seems so simple. But then we don’t ever actually want anyone to know we’re strapped for cash, on a budget, trying to save, or even just plain looking at opportunity costs. Let me give you an example: Your friend asks you to dinner. You don’t want to go because you don’t want to spend money for any of the aforementioned reasons. Yet, do you simply say, “Eh, I’m trying to watch my spending. Two nights out to dinner, and that’s my phone bill!” Hardly ever. I’ve had many a dinner date, never been turned down nor have I ever turned anyone down citing money as the number one reason.

I am in no way, shape, or form dissing dinner. I love dinner. Seriously. I love food. I love restaurants. I especially love my friends. I say this merely illustrate the mismatch in our attitude towards money. We want to save, we want to be super responsible. At the heart of it all, good intentions shine through. We just don’t want our frugality to interrupt our lives. And we certainly don’t anyone to like us any less with only money to blame.

Just like anything, it’s all about finding balance.

So, why’d I go to the Dominican Republic? I booked this trip way before we committed to the frugal life, but I would’ve done it no other way. Just my dear friend and I went on this trip. And maybe one of these days I will write about what a wondrous place Paradisus is, but in staying faithful to the topic, I would like to say that this vacation very much stayed in the frugal category: all- inclusive, entertaining resort, and nothing but pure relaxation.

paradisus

How did I start a business? I know you’re probably picturing me in the thick of construction with some grand entrepreneurial idea that I’ve sunk a lot of money into. Not at all. I don’t have the guts for it, plain and simple. I joined ItWorks as a distributor. No, it’s not the blood sweat and tears you put into building business from the floor up (I’ve seen my husband do that a time or two. Not for the faint of heart.), but it still takes work. I’ve had a lot of fun doing so, and I’m already seeing how it can change a life. I hope this will bring in a nice little extra income as it grows. More on that later. If you’re curious though, check out my site here.

Body Contouring

Why am I buying a house? I know that seems like the least productive measure when you’re pinching those pennies, but for us it can be a major monthly savings and one that reaps a lot of rewards with longevity and perseverance. We are currently paying way too much for our rental. It was the most practical option as we moved into a new territory last year, but we’re settled in this little city, and more aware of what our options are. We found a little foreclosure that is going to save us about $800 a month. Maybe more…Lord, I hope for more! We thought about this option for a long time. We already own an investment property (our first home, which we’d still live in if not for this major move), but the two homes combined are still less than what the average cost of a home is.

Sometimes money can feel too personal to talk about, and I am of the school of thought that it’s impolite in mixed company. I don’t plan on ever disclosing how much we make, how much is in our bank account, etc. That’s plain rude and makes people uncomfortable. However, I do want to give you Help that Hopes! No matter what your lot in life is, we should all have some personal financial goals!

 

Nashville, Part 1

Image: http://www.flickr.com

This weekend I spent some time with girlfriends and my sisters (although my sisters are simultaneously girlfriends!) in Nashville. Ohmylanta we couldn’t have had a more wonderfully perfect time.

OK, maybe “perfect” is a stretch. Being that I am the queen of hyperboles, you really should trust nothing that I say. Actually, the trip began with a bit of a rocky and late start, a flat tire at intermission, and an encore set including an empty gas tank, hydroplaning, and nearly hitting a literal wall.

One thing I’ve learned is that everything is about perspective. Normally , I would’ve totally freaked when the telltale tire light blinked, but I decided not to ruin everyone’s evening. Plus, I have roadside.

I could talk about Nashville for days. I know it’s gained a lot of popularity because of that one show…what’s it called again? Oh yeah, Nashville. But, the hipster in me just wants to clarify: I was loving on Nashville way before it was cool. I grew up in basically a burb 45 minutes north of Music City. It’s where we planned pretty much every girls’ night in my formative adult years, where I strolled the malls on boring summer days after my first year of teaching (the struggle is very real, y’all!), and where my husband and I drove plenty a Sunday after church. It sometimes feels more like home than my actual home.

Can you believe there are people in this world that have not been to Nashville? Enter Miranda! She’s not from around these parts, but homegirl sports a Shania Twain key chain! It was a no-brainer! So, the planning commenced.

Because I like really wanted my sister to tag along, and she is one of the world’s best mommies to my two precious nephroos. Getting away one night was a huge stretch; two nights would be impossible. My other sister is currently on her personal vacation, so she was a definite sell. So, we planned on leaving Saturday morning, staying the night, brunching Sunday and then hitting the road back east.

In order to plan a trip to Nashville (or Amarillo, or Winslow, Arizona, or anywhere) the first task is to find a hotel. Well, because of the increased interest to the city, hotels were pretty much a bajillion dollars in the downtown area, and then like $45 in outlying areas. If we’re being honest, as responsible law-abiding citizens, we need a place within walking distance or a place with shuttles and easy taxi service. But we’re a party on a budget. Oh, the dilemmas! But, then…one shining star appeared and the Opryland hotel gleamed.

Source: addins.waow.com

What a place! I initially booked this gem via hotels.com with the option to pay upon arrival, but then I discovered a new site: alltherooms.com. All The Rooms is the world’s most comprehensive website for finding rooms worldwide, including hostels, houses, rooms, bed and breakfasts, etc. Using their website, I was actually able to find the same type of room for $50 less! (This is not a paid endorsement, just sticking to my mission of giving help that hopes!)

Upon arrival to Nashville (around noonish CST), we immediately went to our first tourist attraction: The Country Music Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is a must-do, as in you should do that very first. It will remind you how much you love country music and will hopefully set the tone for your entire trip.

***Hint: use the side entrance to purchase tickets. We had 0 wait time for tickets. There were TWO amusement-park-worthy lines in the front lobby.***

So, the whole time we were there, I didn’t take pictures, but had the lingering brain fart trying to remember why it suddenly felt important. I have not been adhering to my goals on this! But, here’s a little advice on how to navigate the Hall of Fame:

  • They’ll tell you to go immediately to the left for the Reba exhibit. The line for this was pretty long, but please do not even consider missing this. It’s a bit hidden, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was 100% worth the wait for me. Then again, I could listen to Reba tell stories all day. She’s just…so…Reba. And I’ve loved her since these days:

Source: http://www.funnyordie.com

  • Unless you are super interested in primitive country music, keep trucking on past and let the old folks do their thang, which is listening to audio tours and pressing their nose to the glass, and making sure that you wait your turn. So, keep moving until you get to THE CARS, THE BEAUTIFUL CARS, and just kind of side eye those cases.
  • GET YOUR BUTT DOWN TO THE SECOND FLOOR- amazing things are on the second floor. When you’re on the second floor, you’ll be tempted by the current Miranda Lambert Backstage Exhibit to the left. Slow your roll- you will see it eventually, and it’s easy to succumb to the enticement of all the shiny things. But the real gems, the history as my generation knows it is all on the right side and in the middle.
  • When navigating the second floor, know that the exhibits are chronological. It just feels better to see that portion in order, because it probably parallels your own personal history. It’s broken up a bit by a theater in the middle that gives a bit more history. We were on a time budget, so I skipped this.
  • Go around everything, and then soak in a little Miranda time! (Not my friend Miranda, although she’d gladly return.) If you’re a chick, spend that time channeling your inner Miranda. If you’re a dude, spend time considering what Blake did to pull that!
  • The actual hall of fame is on the first floor. I missed it this go ’round, but it’s worth it.

Up Next: Navigating a Night Out in Nashville

Help That Hopes

This is a site dedicated simply to giving help. For what? A variety of all the things!

My first piece of help that hopes stems from an action to which I am totally devoted and sold out on: setting goals.

You see, I will never be successful at anything in my life if I don’t set goals. Some people just make stuff happen, but I’m just not that person. I am exiting my third year of teaching, and not one implementation has been as significant as setting goals in my classes. At the beginning of the year (4.5 weeks), my students were failing miserably as a whole. They were unmotivated for a hodgepodge of reasons: lack of parental support, no buy-in to the curriculum, misunderstanding of expectations, and no real incentive to do any better than they’d done before. Thing is, I could easily say “It’s your choice; so be it!” But I decided to take action. It’s quite literally my job  to make them better twelve year olds, so they’ll eventually become better adult year olds.

Of course, any goal has to yield a reward. And it was up to them to decide what that reward was within reason. We made sure that those rewards could actually transpire before we moved onto the next step.

It’s amazing how much we adults think kids want versus what they actually want. I fully expected them to say “field trip to New York” (I wish too!), but instead they said:

  • A day to play on my phones
  • Time outside (side bar: I heard my kids reflecting today on their last day of 5th grade, and they unanimously agreed their biggest anxiety was the loss of recess!)
  • Time in the gym
  • Pizza
  • Ice Cream
  • Q&A session with teacher
  • Top performing student gets to eat at my husband’s restaurant

So, I took ole standard popular vote method, and declared our reward.

But what exactly would the goal itself be?

I was privy enough to encounter SMART goals:

Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Time-related

And just like that, we decided as a whole that we would achieve 80% by the end of the nine weeks. And I am so happy to report that we met those goals with a lot of planning. One class got their day in the gym, the next a cell phone day (wherein I played DJ with their favorite school-appropriate song), and a pizza party for the last block. And they earned every bit of it.

So, this blog is a new journey for me. And one that cannot be done without specific objectives. So, the laundry list:

  • Take pictures for the blog (believe me, this is the hardest, but “studies” show you will gain no readership without this element)
  • Write one post every 3 days this summer
  • Serve the blog’s overall purpose: to give unsolicited (and specifically useless) advice

What is my reward? I get to write. It’s maybe a bit taboo to admit this, but I love advice in general. I love asking for advice and I love giving it. We’re all trying to make it in this pinteresque facadebook world, and all the while we long for what’s real: what’s the best blow dryer to shave five minutes off of my morning routine, how do I survive through the rocky times in marriage, and how- for the love of God- fold a fitted sheet? I cannot answer the latter, but I’ll try and try to be practical. Above all (and to some people’s dismay), I will be real. I will not polish up my testimony! Promise.

You should know that I am paradoxical by nature: a perfect mess, organized chaos, and comically tragic. Most of all, I live by a faith that surpasses all reason, and I will always make the best of everything.

Help that hopes,

Moi-la