Resolutions are great, but...

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everybody! For many of us, we're probably home, enjoying the long holiday weekend.

Here it is the third week of January; how are you doing with your resolutions? Are you eating healthy? Exercising everyday? How's your household budget looking?

While I plan on shooting some free resources your way to help you with your health - both in diet and exercise - I want to focus on your financial health first. (Quick note: When I say "diet", I don't mean starve-yourself-so-the-scale-reads-the-numbers-you-want-to-see. I mean Healthy Lifestyle Change. But we will get back to that.)

I am most focused on financial health because this is where my family is at present. I'm not going to pretend that on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm a 10; not even close. However, I really like how David and his wife, Andrea over at The Coupon Wizards approach helping people get out of debt. Instead of trying to push product (either theirs or an affiliates), they present their readers with a use-what-you-have strategy. In other words, the help they provide both at the Coupon Wizards website and their sister website, Learning 2 Coupon - a financial blog for couples, for free.


I am one of those people. But really, I'm just sharing some linky love.

And passing on freebies.

The Budget of Your Life: Breaking the Chains of Debt by Kenneth B. Soward is offered as a free Kindle download. As a reminder to those who do not know, you can download the free Kindle app to your phone, PC or Tablet. Simply do a Amazon search for "Kindle App for _____" (whichever device you want to place the app).

I just downloaded it myself. I will be reading the book this week and will post a review. However, I wasn't sure how long this ebook would be available for free. The hardbound book is available for $9.99 - but going back to the original idea of this post - getting out of debt without spending money - I figure buying the book is kind of defeating the purpose. Especially when I can take the electronic version with me where ever I go.

So, I'm passing on the freebie.

Until next time...

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Okay, real quick...

I know I said awhile back TMB was going to redo my blog. Well, life kind of got in the way. He got my button (over to the right) and my banner (it won't fit on this template) finished, but then he kind of went kaput.

Well, life has a funny way of working out. Out of the ashes of life comes something new and exciting. Just call my blog (and my life) a phoenix!
The phoenix grows old, disappears in a ball of fire, and out of the ashes, is born again.


Anyway, TMB bribed me to complete my homework early this week. He said if I did, he would help me get my blog up and running completely a la me, as opposed to borrowing wonderful templates on the web.

So...stay tuned!

Until next time...

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All of life's lessons can be explained (and solved) with Yoda

For an early Christmas present, the Man Beast received Star Wars: The Complete Saga box set. It is his favorite epic movie of all time and he's having a good time showing the Kiddos a timeless classic. It has taken us awhile to get through it, but tonight, we watched Return of the Jedi. While I was watching it, particularly the scene when Luke Skywalker meets Yoda for the first time, it dawned on me that much of life can be explained with Yoda:

 “Do or do not... there is no try.”
If you're going to do something, do it. If you approach something saying you'll try, it means that you will accept failure. Whatever we do in life, we should not accept failure. Instead, we should persevere.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
Regardless of your size (your age, your education, or how much money you make), you can accomplish great things.
“[Luke:] I can’t believe it. [Yoda:] That is why you fail.”
Success begins in the mind.

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”
Ultimately, we fear the unknown. Once it is known, we can begin to deal with it.

“The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is.”
While the dark side is primarily anger and fear in the movies, the dark side in our lives can be anything negative that clouds our judgement.
“Happens to every guy sometimes this does”
Stuff happens. To everyone. You are not alone. But it's also not the end of the world.

Until next time...

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Everyday People

This past Saturday, I made a one-hour trek out of town in order to take one (of many!) teacher examinations. For those not familiar, thanks to No Child Left Behind (and good, ol' common sense), teachers actually have to prove they can teach your children. (I will let you know in a month if I qualify.)


When you're driving by yourself, attempting to keep yourself awake after waking up and getting out of the door before the sun even rises (and most people are enjoying their Saturday sleep-ins), you tend to find things to do to keep yourself entertained. Considering my Droid Incredible 2 was busy making sure I didn't get lost (Google maps. Greatest. Invention. Ever.) and texting and driving is a tad on the illegal (not to mention, stupid) side, I listened to music.

Traveling through towns, radio stations are a tad sketchy. If I find one I like, chances are, in a couple of minutes it's going to be nothing but static. And static is stressful! As luck would have it, I had cleaned out my car a couple of days prior, so I found a CD I complete forgot I had!

It was Reba's Duets album. It's a great album. It really is. But I had forgotten how great until I heard "Everyday People". The song outlines the lives of three groups of everyday people. College seniors build Habitat for Humanity houses during their Spring Break. A young mother  is diagnosed with cancer and her friends and community pitch in to ensure her bills get paid. Another family moves into the Habitat house. (I'm getting chills just thinking about it.) The essence of the song is everyday people performing huge miracles by doing nothing more than just being there. Showing up. Doing the small odds-and-ends to help someone else in need.

In these past few weeks, I've encountered everyday people in my own life - family, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers. I am in absolute awe (and gratitude) of people who reach out a hand to you during your time of need. The cynic in me thinks that reality TV shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is complete produced and artificial. But the woman who has been completely slapped up on the head by the beauty of humanity knows that while much of TV is produced, humanity is not. People are real. And I thank God they're there.

Until next time...


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Real Quick

Seems like I'm getting these blog posts later and later. Once again, I'm procrastinating, however. I have a very large teacher test tomorrow morning. The testing site in an hour away, so I will have to leave my house at 6:30 am. This means I will probably have to wake up around 5:30 am. I know that I am not going to sleep well tonight, so I might as well spend my time doing a homework assignment that I've had eight weeks to do but will do in a day. Oh, and this blog post.

So, with money tight, everyone is looking for a way to make an extra buck, right? Unfortunately, many ways to make "easy money" are extremely time consuming, too "gimmicky" or just plain bunk.

Luckily, this isn't the case with Swag Bucks. I don't even remember how I found Swagbucks. It's just one of those things that I stumbled upon and have been using ever since.

Swagbucks is primarily a search engine where you can earn "bucks" for your searches. You can trade these bucks in for different prizes - both digital and real. My favorite item to cash in are Amazon and Pay Pal gift cards. Unlike other programs, Swagbucks doesn't take forever to accumulate points (if you use it on a regular basis - which if you look at the picture below, you will see I have not in the past - but times, they are a changin'!).

Fridays are the days to search because they are called Mega Swagbucks Day and you can earn up to 100 Swagbucks for one search! I didn't think it was possible as I've never gotten anything above 12 Swag Bucks, but today, I earned 25 Swag Bucks!

I have spent most of my Swag Bucks on Amazon gift cards (see the above picture), but I've also bought entries in a raffle (I didn't win) and a desktop background.

There are tons of other ways you can earn Swag Bucks, including watching videos or taking surveys. I don't do this since I'm a full time wife, mother, and student, but if *you* decide to do it, please give me a shout and let me know it how works - TurtleMom23ATgmailDOTcom. I have included the Swagbucks widget in this post. (You can also find it aaaaall the way  at the bottom of my blog.) Simply click on the button that says SC (Swagcodes) and check to see if there are any listed. A lot of times, you can get Swagcodes delivered right to your Swagbucks homepage. Many of these emails include hints on where to find swagcodes (Swagbucks blog, etc) or by simply completing offers (they offer in difficulty and price. For example, some are completely free - likes games - while some are just trials - like Netflix).

Now, to go do homework!

Until next time...


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Perfect

Today was the first day back at work for me. Considering I'm still recovering from surgery, I'm absolutely exhausted.

However, one of my New Year's Resolutions (and the only one I plan on NEVER breaking) was to blog 366 days this year. So, since I don't have a lot of energy or brain juice left (and haven't quite gotten the time to schedule blog posts), I will make it short and sweet.

Priorities change. What was important to me 20 years ago is no longer important. What mattered then, doesn't matter now. My priorities now are different than my priorities then. Does it mean that my priorities then are less important than my priorities now? Absolutely not. Priorities change just as people change. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we get older and we get wiser. Wisdom comes with age; it cannot be taught. I've said it before: I am much more comfortable with who I am as a 35 year old woman than I was as a 20 year old woman. I'm not any healthier (in fact, I'm less healthy). I'm not any richer (at least where material possessions are concerned).

I'm just in a better place.

Do you want to see my better place?
It's the simple things


The one person who knows me better than myself (scary!)

Until next time...

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It's gonna cost ya...

I am a huge procrastinator. I can find something, anything to distract me from the task at hand.

Such was the case with my coupons. Between work, school, surgery and yes, procrastination, my coupon inserts piled up and up and up. A couple of months ago, I went through them. All of them were expired. In essence, money down the drain.

I vowed that I wouldn't let my couponing get the best of me. Well, you know what they say about good intentions...

I was looking for a way to procrastinate from doing homework the other day, so I decided to tackle my coupons. (At least it's a productive procrastination.) After several hours, I ended up with this:


This is several months worth of expired coupons. *hangs head in shame* While going through all these coupons, I found coupons that I would actually use adding salt to an already-opened wound. As I'm going through them, the following conversation transpires between TMB and myself:

Me: "I found a Hormel Chili coupon! Expired! *defeated*
TMB: ...
Me: "I found an eye solution coupon! Expired! *ashamed*
TMB: ...
Me: "I found a Tetely tea coupon! Expired...*disgusted*
TMB: "Have you learned your lesson?"
Me: ...

Yes, Mr. Man, I have indeed learned my lesson! When I was finished, I had a nice (albeit, smaller) pile of coupons:


Which I will file-whole inserts-here:

Why would I publicly bare my shame and procrastination? Why, to help you, of course. I know everyone is knee deep in resolutions. (It's everywhere! I saw a couple of nurses walking during their lunch break, for crying out loud!) Since I certainly can't teach you what to do, I can teach you what not to do.

The truth of the matter is: not being organized can cost ya - big time. The proof is in the pudding (well, pictures). I outlined three coupons that I found that were expired. These are brands/products that my family uses every month; these aren't obscure brands of the oh-I-don't-use-that-brand-so-it-doesn't-matter land. No, these were high-end coupons that could have saved me $3. What's $3?, you might say. $3 is a pound of ground beef when it's not on sale. It's a pound and a half when it is! $3 is a gallon of gas! $3 is a gallon of milk! You get my drift. I threw away $3. Trust me, it's a big deal.

Why am I rambling on about coupons when most of you don't use them for a variety of reasons (too much time, too much hassle, not enough money saved, etc)? Because if you have them and don't use them (especially if you have them for items you normally buy), you are wasting money. Still not connecting with you?

Okay, let me put this little spin on it - if you have bills due and you don't keep track of them (or their due dates!), you will incur late fees (which is pretty much free money to the companies because you aren't paying them for a service). Or, you lose that service (cable or internet isn't such a big deal, but electric, water and housing is a whole other story!)

And, since a lot of you are wanting to save money this year, getting organized with the stuff that matters is a very good way to do it. Is it common sense? Of course it is. Most of the things that we have to do to "fix" the things that are wrong in our lives is - simple common sense.

So, how do you get organized? Well, it largely depends on who you are. Taking coupons for example, there are several ways that people choose to organize them. Some people cut them out and file them individually in notebooks (been there, done that - it took too much time). Other people file whole coupon inserts (like me, it saves time - when you don't let them pile up). The same is true for bills. Some people choose to have their money automatically withdrawn from their accounts; others use online bill pay or other online bill paying system. Some people budget using Excel spreadsheets; others use simple pencil and paper. The point is: a system that works for you is the system you should work.

Steph over at Debt Free Through Spending is working with her husband to create a webinar series to help people help themselves get out of debt. It is completely free - their theory is that you shouldn't have to pay money to get out of debt. She and her husband have included free printable forms that go along with the webinars. By the way, in case you're wondering, I plan on undertaking the task of getting (more) debt-free in 2012. (Disclosure: Just sharing some linky love - I am not compensated in anyway other than helping you help you get out of debt.)

Until next time...

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Catch a Wave

With the right curve, you can avoid wipe outs.
Here in GA, school has been out since the 15th. The Boy had been doing K12 and was "in" school up to the 21st (we have decided to put him back into a brick and mortar middle school). I had surgery early in December and have been on medical leave since then. Basically, life has been one, long veg-fest. We've been staying up late, sleeping in late, eating late...basically, everything we've been doing has been bumped up a couple of hours. But this time is over.

Tonight is the first, official Girl Scout meeting of the year. Tonight, we also kick off Girl Scout Cookie Season. That's right; in just a few weeks, you'll be seeing rosy-cheeked cherubs help you break your New Year's Resolutions. (Tip: We take donations and we use those donations to send cookies overseas - our soldiers need the little comforts of home. You can help. Your waistline will thank you.)

Tonight also means that baths get taken on time and bedtimes are adhered to because tomorrow, bright and early, the Turtle Clan will be wide awake and ready to start a "new" year. Parents know that after Christmas break, the school year seems to fly by. As a parapro, I can say that the rest of the school year will be one deadline after another. It will be May 21st before I know it and Baby Girl will be "graduating" to sixth grade and The Boy will be heading to the high school. This will also be my last year working as a para before I quit to student teach next fall. Yikes! Stop this crazy roller coaster; I want to get off!

Okay, not really. Change is good. (Have you seen the new Lion King in 3D? You should). Change is also inevitable. We can't grow without change and we can't take all the good things that life has to offer without change. Sometimes change is painful. Sometimes change is emotional. But change is coming, like it or not. It is better to accept it for what it is and ride with it. But, are you a roller coaster enthusiast or a surfer? When you ride life like a roller coaster, you have no choice but to go where the ride takes you. This is life living you instead of you living life. But a wave is different. While  you still can't control the wave (and if you're not careful, it can drowned you), you can control your moves. So, that instead of the wave wiping out, you ride the wave through. And what a wave it can be!


Cowabunga, dude!

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Family Game Night with a Slightly Sick and Twisted Spin

Whether by chance or choice, every year, the Turtle Clan has a themed Christmas. Where most people choose to decorate their Christmas tree to fit a yearly theme, we gift themed gifts. This year was the Game Year.

The Boy and Baby Girl got a wide variety of games this year, many not even electronic. The Boy wanted (and received) a chess set. Baby Girl wanted (and received) three Angry Birds board games. A game that was on The Boy's Amazon wish list (which I highly recommend, especially if you're a frequent Amazon shopper - we are) was a game called Munchkin.

Anyone familiar with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Magic might easily merge into this Dungeons & Dragons-like card game "with none of that stupid roleplaying stuff".

The game is full of potty-humored styled cards. The game is played with the simply goal leveling to Level 10 as quickly as possible. Who cares if you stomp on friends and family along the way?

We played New Year's Eve for four hours. The first two hours were spent with the four of us playing; the last two hours were "the guys" against "the lone girl" (me) after Baby Girl went to bed. As customary of our game play, even though I pulled a pretty impressive kick-em-while-they're-down move, The Man Beast pulled an impressive I-always-win move and the game was over.

Munchkin has dozens of expansion packs which can be used with the basic game. The Munchkin website has videos, downloadables, and links to apps that can be used with the game. (The Man Beast downloaded the free Munchkin app in order to keep track of our levels/strength, but the paid app boasts a few tips and tricks for the game.)

The game can be played by 3-6 players and is geared toward the over 10 crowd. A note about some of the language/content of the game. It is filled with potty humor and contains a slight magic element (Boots of Butt-Kicking, Drooling Slime, etc). If your family has an aversion to potty humor or games like Magic, this game is not for you. However, if you're cool with Magic, there's a good chance you'll be triple cool with this game.


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One of a Million New Year's post

Look around and you'll see that most everyone is posting some type of New Year's blog post this week. Check your blog rolls (or mine) for proof. I've looked at A Year in Review blogs, the best of the best blogs, most read posts blogs and my favorite: the new year resolutions (solutions, challenges, etc). Call me crazy, but I love these type of blog posts the best. Why? Because while most of us never keep our resolutions longer than a few hours days weeks months, there is something magical about the New Year. It is a chance to change whatever it is that was messed up for you during the previous year. Common resolutions include:

1. Stop smoking
2. Lose weight
3. Get organized
4. Save more
5. Spend less
6. Get to the project that is sitting in the basket, closet, or garage
7. Spend more time with family

Did I hit them all? These are on most people's lists. (By the way, stay tuned for the end of this post for links to sites that can actually attempt to accomplish some of these solutions - Merry Christmas) Looking over the list, I see the stop to a lot of excess (smoking, eating, laziness, spending, procrastination). Amazingly enough, I don't think I've ever seen the following on a New Year's Resolution List:
You know, I really spend too much time with family. I really need to knock that off.

So, if our lists are made with good intentions, why do they fail? Too much, too soon, too fast? Perhaps. Slow and steady wins the race, right? Could it be that we forget the key component of these resolutions: ourselves? If someone wants to quit smoking (or do any of the aforementioned things), they must change long, ingrained habits. They literally have to change their way of thinking, acting, and maybe even their self talk. That's a lot of changin' goin' on!

So, what about doing one thing every day for a month. Just a month? Is it a doable? I think so. Fitarella has posed the challenge to her readers: Simply pick one thing to do every day for a month. When that month is finished, quit doing it. If you choose. Or continue doing it, but add a new "thing" that you will do every day for the next month. At the end of 12 months, you will have accomplished 12 mini goals. Even if you didn't stick with it, you did something. And that's saying something, right?

With all of this talk about resolutions, you might be asking: Do you have one? Yes. No. Like many of you, I never stick with resolutions. However, I have a feeling that this year is going to be different. You see, the same thing that convinced The Man Beast to quit smoking a year ago is the same thing that will motivate me to accomplish my resolutions: necessity. A year ago, TMB was so sick, he was hospitalized. Have you ever felt like you couldn't breathe and there wasn't a thing you could do about it? We are talking worse than the worst panic attack. This is what TMB felt. So, despite being on Chantix (which was causing all of the bad side effects listed on the side of the box), it was that stint in the hospital that scared him enough to allow him to quit cold turkey. No amount of nagging or guilt from the doctors or myself could do that. While I would never wish this scare on anyone, I am glad that The Man Beast was given a glimpse of what could be without having to go the whole nine yards. He was saved and for this, I am thankful.

My New Year's resolutions to-do list includes several things, many of which I will reveal throughout the months to come. If you haven't guessed, one of my items on my to-do list is to blog more often. I enjoy writing and just haven't done it as often as I should. Writing brings me joy and it gives me an outlet. It also allows me to connect with people who might be feeling/experiencing similar things. Ultimately, writing for me is just fun. Besides, when you've spent the past three years writing term papers, you need a fun outlet.

And now for those links I promised (all of them free to help you with Resolutions #4 & #5):
1. Quit smoking: Quit Net
2. Lose weight: Spark People Look me up: Surfette729
3. Get organized: FlyLady
4. Save more:Coupon Wizards
5. Spend less:Credit Karma Check your credit for free (100% and forever)
6. Spend more time with family: See the little red "x" at the top right corner of your computer screen? Click that. Then press your computer's power button to turn off your machine. Move away from your desk. Go find your family!

Until next time...
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