Last week, 14,000 women attended the sold-out Women's Conference in Long Beach, California. This year's conference theme - Be Who You Are. Feel It. Live It. Pass it on. - was shaped by First Lady Maria Shriver.
It looks like it was an amazing conference, and I wish I could have been there, but I was pleased to find video archives of many sessions on the website, along with tons of information and even blogs. I hope you enjoy checking out the site as much as I did.
Do you see something that interests you? Head on over to this blog's new home at www.JustPlainJoy.com and subscribe today!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Last week, 14,000 women attended the sold-out Women's Conference in Long Beach, California. This year's conference theme - Be Who You Are. Feel It. Live It. Pass it on. - was shaped by First Lady Maria Shriver.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I'm taking a few days off this week to prepare my dissertation defense.
To hold you over, here are some posts you can look forward to in November:
TWO NEW SERIES: Giving Thanks and No Spend Month
Top 10 Garage Sale Finds
My Best Investment This Year
10 Ways to Avoid Overspending - and How I Did It!
25 Frugal Things I Do
30 Ways to Spend 30 Minutes
And, more Friday's Fun Finds, Sunday's Super Simple Solutions, and a new weekly post - Tuesday's Top Pick.
Want to read them all? Subscribe to my blog (enter your email address in the box on the right)!
Monday, October 27, 2008
I believe the best thing I've done for our darling daughter (DD) is babywearing. I try to wear her at least a few hours each day. I wear her in the fabulous Moby wrap. Our doula brought us the Moby a few days after DD was born. At first, I was intimidated by all the fabric and thought it was too complicated for me. However, I quickly figured it out when I learned it was the fastest way to stop the crying. According to Dr. Sears, there are many documented benefits of babywearing:
1. Helps babies thrive - motion has a calming effect on infants and therefore they cry less. Babies who cry less spend more energy on growing.
2. Organizes and regulates the baby - by extending the womb experience, the baby's irregular rhythms become regulated by the parent's rhythms (heart beat, breathing, walking).
3. Enhances learning - carried babies show enhanced visual and auditory alertness.
I came into this a little late in the game, but apparently October is attachment parenting month. Visit this site for a good article on babywearing and attachment parenting.
Have you tried babywearing?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This is one of the best home organization solutions I've "invented." For years I searched for the ultimate jewelry box. I looked at expensive wood jewelry boxes and full size armoire style jewelry boxes. Nothing I found met all my needs. The problem was finding a place to store my jewelry that didn't take up too much real estate in my bedroom.
One day I was with my darling husband (DH) at the hardware store and I came across this box. It's designed for a workshop - presumable to store screws or the like. For me, it's the perfect jewelry box. It's mounted to the wall in my closet and holds 95% of my jewelry (the other 5% rotates it's way through a small box on my dresser).
*Please don't think I own lots of valuable jewelry. Most of my jewelry is worth less than the cost of this box - which was under $20.
How do you store your jewelry?
Friday, October 24, 2008
This Friday's Fun Find is HonestBaby.com and came from Berrie Sweet Picks (you can check out an interview with the owner on her blog). This is a website that celebrates imperfect parenting. It's refreshing to know that we're all just doing the best we can. The best part of the site are the t-shirts with funny sayings, like "i'll walk when i'm good and ready" and "back off i'm teething."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
My Chase Freedom credit card arrived in the mail today. For the past five years, I have earned frequent flier miles with the United Chase Visa card. Now that we have a baby, we aren't going to be doing as much flying for awhile. Plus, the United Chase Visa had a $65 annual fee.
The Chase Freedom card has no annual fee, gives 1% back on all purchases, and gives 3% back on purchases in your highest spending category. You can redeem your rewards as cash or points. Points can be used to purchase gift cards, air travel, car rental, or merchandise.
I like using a credit card because the transactions automatically link to my budgeting software. Plus, earning points is like free money. The trick is to pay off the balance every month and be mindful that you're still spending cash.
*Thanks to SLO County Mommies for helping me research various credit card options!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Today I'm looking forward to a walk with my sister. She recently informed me that she's making more time for the important things in her life. Her message reminded me of my favorite part of Stephen Covey's book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - his demonstration of time management. Covey compares our most important relationships to "big rocks" and all the other stuff as small rocks and sand.
If your time is analogous to a bottle, and you first fill your bottle with small rocks and sand then there is no room for the "big rocks." However, if you first fill your bottle with "big rocks," then the small rocks and sand will fit in between the cracks. Covey's message is to schedule the important stuff first - a date with your spouse, a phone call to your best friend, a workout, a massage, etc. Otherwise, these things won't fit into your schedule.
Covey focuses on relationships and roles - wife, mother, sister, daughter. You are encouraged to keep these roles in mind as you create your schedule each week. To assist with this process, he has created a tool called the Weekly Compass Card. You write your roles and your commitment to each one on the card and then schedule the tasks on your calendar. When I was a paper-calendar girl, I used these cards all the time. Now, it has become habit to schedule these tasks on my calendar first.
A weekly compass card could look something like this:
1. Give my husband a massage
1. Spend 15 minutes reading together
1. Write thank you note to mom for baby clothes
1. Schedule lunch date
The weekly compass card can also be used to target an area in your life, i.e. physical, emotional/social, mental, or spiritual. For example:
1. Five 30-minute workouts
1. Send email update to girlfriends
1. Visit library and read latest professional journals
1. Attend yoga class
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The presidential election is two weeks away, and there are so many issues on the table. To name a few, the economic crisis, the war, health care, social security, medicare, clean energy, education, and unemployment. Many of these issues are interrelated - it's impossible to talk about one without the others.
There is one issue that hits home for me though - it's health care. We live in the wealthiest country in the world and yet our citizens go without basic health care and preventive medicine. During my years in social work, I witnessed families become homeless because of medical bills. I saw people of all ages with illnesses left untreated because of the cost of health care.
In a country where capitalism and entrepreneurship reign, it's ironic that our citizens make career choices based on whether or not they'll receive health care benefits. We have to move our country away from the old "eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away" approach to health care and into the 21st century. So, for me, health care is the deal breaker in this election.
What is your deal breaker?
photo by Darren Hester
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
We're all going to be looking for holiday gifts soon. Here's a new gift idea. I haven't actually tried this one, but I think it would make a good gift for Grandparents when our daughter takes her first step. Or, perhaps we'll videotape her eating her first solid foods...the possibilities are endless. Check this out ... Flip Clips.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
My mom likes to tell stories about when she and my dad lived on his one salary - they only had one car, she rode her bike to the grocery store with my sister on the back, and he dug clams to provide food for the family. I'm not sure how many clams he really dug, but my hunch is they weren't eating clams every night. The truth is, it was a simpler time. Today, there are so many ways for us to spend our money. Some thing have gone up exponentially - property taxes, housing, cars, and gas. Other things didn't exist - personal computers and the internet. And then there's regular 'ole inflation. Here's how our lifestyle now compares to theirs in the 1970s.
They could camp on Hwy 1 for free.
We pay $20/night to camp at our local state park.
They had no cell phones.
We pay $65/month for our family plan.
They had one television channel (I don't know how much it cost).
We pay $33/month for cable with...um, over 100 channels.
They had no internet.
We pay $47/month for internet.
They paid $2.50 for a movie.
We pay $10 for a movie.
The average cost of a new car was $3,500 (in 1970).
Now, the average cost of a new car is over $20,000.
Other things they lived without: ipods, CDs, DVDs, Starbucks, Home Shopping Network(HSN) and QVC, personal computers, home printers, scanners, copiers, and fax machines, digital cameras, video games and gaming systems, and Netflix.
My DH and I could live without all these extras, but as a modern family are we willing to give them up? Sadly, the answer is no.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
My paid maternity leave has finally come to an end. This month will be the first month I won't be receiving my paycheck. We've been trying to live frugally, but now we will be put to the test. We have enough saved to make it through the rest of my maternity leave when I go back to work part-time, but only if we watch every dollar.
There are certainly places in our budget where we could make cuts - one being our cable. The ultimate minimalist would not own a television and certainly the most frugal families do NOT pay for cable. I have several friends without cable or a television. I wish my DH and I could commit to living that simply, but we're not there yet. Also, we have a roommate, and we have an agreement that cable and internet are included in her rent.
That being said, I'm excited to share that I have saved us $35/month on our cable bill. Our cable bill was as follows:
Digital Receiver $5
Digital Cable $28
Channels 156-188 $5
Modem Rental $3
I called the cable company to downsize to basic (and keep our internet service), which would have brought us to around $75. They offered us a 12 month promotional deal for $79.99 to keep our existing services and add Showtime and the Movie channels. I know this is how they make their money, but in this case, I took the deal. We'll be saving $35 and not have to give up any of our existing services. To my friends without television...more power to you!
photo by autowitch
Monday, October 13, 2008
The human brain absolutely fascinates me. I feel so fortunate to live in a time when we know so much more about it. Of course, much about the brain is still a great mystery. Lately, I've been wondering if "Mommy brain" is real or simply another way of saying "over-worked and sleep-deprived."
What I've learned is that Mommy brain may actually be caused by a developing baby stealing its mother's Omega-3 fats. To improve short term memory, women should add more Omega-3 fats and get plenty of sleep postpartum to help the growth hormones needed for brain activity. Apparently, the brain shrinks by up to 8% during pregnancy and then re-wires itself postpartum. It actually becomes more powerful after pregnancy, which may explain why mother's become hypervigilent and sometimes even anxious.
A recent publication, The Mommy Brain by Pulitzer-winning journalist Katherine Ellison, explains more about how this phenomenon can be an asset for women in the workplace.
Here are some more fun facts about the brain:
- The female brain is nature’s default setting. From conception until eight weeks, the fetal brain has the circuitry pathways of the female brain. After eight weeks, a huge testosterone surge makes this unisex brain male by killing off some of the cells in the communication centers and growing the areas dedicated to sex and aggression (big surprise).
- The brain feels no pain. This fact allows neurosurgeons to probe areas of the brain while the patient is awake (yikes!).
- A child's ability to learn can increase or decrease by 25% or more, depending on whether he or she grows up in a stimulating environment.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I enjoy celebrating birthdays, and between my DH and I we have lots of friends and family to honor each year. Unfortunately, we have been known to forget a birthday here and there. Luckily, a few years ago I implemented this birthday-reminder system. The greeting cards are filed by occasion and I keep a list of birthdays and anniversaries for each month on a card that rotates through the clear front pouch.
I also just updated my calendar with the birthdays of my friends' children. We've celebrated six new babies in the past 18 months!
- Tape your list of birthdays to the bathroom mirror, pantry, or the refrigerator.
- Keep a perpetual calendar that never goes out of date.
- Tailor your daily planner. Write all the birthdays in a different color pen so they stand out. Keep a post it note as an "alarm" a few days before the next birthday. Once you've mailed out your card, move the post it ahead to the next birthday.
- Or, to avoid rewriting birthdays every year, write down birthdays in the tabbed divider of your planner and use the dividers the following year.
- Write and mail cards the first of each month.
- Address an extra envelope when you send holiday cards and file the envelope by month.
- Consider sending an e-card (better for the environment and saves you a stamp!)
Saturday, October 11, 2008
The current level of consumerism in our country is neither sustainable for our pocketbooks nor our planet. If we want to continue living an enjoyable quality of life, we either have to stop fueling our economy through consumerism OR we need to increase the demand for eco-friendly products. While I typically favor buying less, I seem to be on a spending spree this month. In this post, I am attempting to save our planet through consumerism! Here is a list of my top ten favorite eco-friendly products.
1. Aveda Rosemary and Mint Shampoo & Conditioner
2. Trader Joe's Next to Godliness Auto Dish Soap
3. Seventh Generation Biodegradable Diapers
4. Trader Joe's Recyclable Grocery Bags
5. Cloud Star Buddy Wash Pet Shampoo
6. Method Hand Soap
7. Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
8. California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Bodywash
9. Arbonne Baby Care Body Lotion
10. Good ole baking soda and vinegar!
What are your favorite green products?
Friday, October 10, 2008
Yesterday I wrote about the big bucks I've been making on eBay. Well, today I will share how I've been spending all that dough...Four words...Shop-It-To-Me. It's like having your own personal shopper. You select your favorite stores and enter your size, and they send you an email when items go on sale! You decide how frequently you receive their email. I get mine on Tuesday and Thursday (when most stores release their new markdowns). You can request daily or weekly emails as well. The best part is, they only send you items in stock that are your size. But beware, it can be dangerous!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
eBay has become my new best friend. I picked up a book at the library called "1000 Best eBay Success Secrets," and it's been my road map to the land of eBay. Last month I made $300 selling my maternity and baby clothes, cloth diapers, a purse, and a fountain pen. The Internet is a great place to get rid of clutter!
So far, here are the best tips I've learned:
1. Anything with tags or new in the box (NIB) is hot.
2. Brand names get you top dollar.
3. Save money by selling items that fit in a small box or better yet a flat rate box (no need to calculate shipping). USPS provides Priority Mail boxes for free!
4. Sell a "lot" of similar items under one listing, i.e. "four nursing tank tops" or "six pairs of footed pajamas."
5. Write a juicy description and include what you originally paid for the item. Think like a salesperson.
What are your eBay secrets?
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The current economic situation is a grim reminder that the American economy has been built on credit and consumerism. For many Americans, our "stuff" defines us. Most of us are living beyond our means or from paycheck to paycheck - or both. I wish I could say I'm an exception, but I'm not.
I struggle to live within my means as much as the next person. I remember one day my dad said to me, "Happiness is living within your means." I remember thinking, "Happiness is living within YOUR means." Luckily, I have found a management tool that has made it much simpler for me to live within my means. It's an online home budget software called Mvelopes.
Mvelopes works on the traditional envelope budgeting concept that you allot a certain amount to various categories (envelopes) and only spend from those envelopes. If you don't have money in the envelope, you don't make the purchase. Mvelopes requires a little more discipline because you don't carry around cash. But, it's worth it because the program automatically tracks all your credit card and banking transactions. Unlike other budgeting software programs, you don't have to manually enter each transaction. I've been using the software for 5 years and it has kept me debt-free.
Check out my other posts on budgeting.
What are your budgeting secrets?
Monday, October 6, 2008
Adjusting to being a mom has been...well, an adjustment. I have sought a lot of counsel via the Internet. During this process, I came across some great blogs. Here are a few I think are worth sharing...
Working Moms Against Guilt: working moms who struggle to resist the guilt and embrace the journey
Simple Mom: live simply, stay sane. life hacks for home managers
Parent Hacks : includes great tips to make parenting easier
Cool Mom Picks : awesome fashions and fun finds for diva moms
Green Mom Finds: for eco-fabulous living
Berrie Sweet Picks: reviews and contests for sassy moms and babies with attitude
No Time for Flashcards : a resource of activities for young children that promote learning, play and discovery!
The Crafty Crow: a children's craft collective
The Secret Life of Ducks
Malodorous Messes: inhaling the perfume of parenthood one diaper at a time
My Moments as Told by Me
What is your favorite blog for moms?
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Like most girls, I love shoes! But at one point, I noticed I was wearing the same pair every day. Part of the problem was that I didn't really remember what shoes I owned. Since they were all hidden in boxes on the floor of my closet, I never bothered to pull out any of my great shoes. So, I used my digital camera to take a picture of each pair of shoes (a polaroid camera works even better). I taped the picture to the front of the box and put them all on a shelf where I can see them easily.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I'm still riding the high of finishing my dissertation and feeling optimistic in the face of our nation's uncertain future. The topic of my dissertation is motivating college students to be civically engaged (i.e.volunteer). Before I took my maternity leave, I managed The Community Center at a large public university. It’s the best job on campus because the students who volunteer are incredibly dedicated and inspiring. Being with these students is the part I miss most about being on maternity leave.
I was back on campus this past week, and it was great to see all the action. They are in the second week of the quarter and there is still a lot of fresh energy! With the economic crisis and all the other political issues, I can imagine this must be an uncertain time for college students. It's not uncommon for the younger generation to face criticism for lacking social responsibility or civic engagement. But I think this generation is turning it around.
In fact, according to the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, in 2005, there was a significant increase in commitment to service among American freshmen – presumably due to the natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. That trend continued with slight increases and in 2006 freshmen responses to questions regarding commitment to service and civic concerns were at the highest point in 10-12 years.
I cited these statistics in my dissertation but, unlike other statistics in my paper, they have stayed with me. I have faith in the next generation and believe there is hope for the future!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Yesterday was the first day of October which means it's Halloween Season! Halloween is my favorite "holiday," so of course I've been looking forward to dressing up our darling daughter (DD). My mom bought her this outfit and I'm sure it will get worn a lot this month.
Fall is my favorite time of year. For me, it marks a new beginning more than New Year's because I've lived on the academic calendar for 21 years. It's the time of year when my darling husband (DH) and I started dating, when we moved in together, and when we found out I was pregnant (over the course of 8 years). It's also when I start taking out our decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, of course there's the change in the weather. Even though we live in California, it still cools down enough to cuddle up in a soft sweater and wool socks. Now, I look forward to the new memories that we'll be creating during this time with our DD.
Speaking of making memories, our DD's newest thing is laughing out loud. She doesn't do it all the time, and when she does it's like a little gift. It's so cute it's scary!
What is your favorite time of year?
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
3. I am a new mom to a beautiful 3 month old (at the time of this post) darling daughter (DD). We had a homebirth and it was incredible!
4. I just completed my Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizations.
5. I am turning 30 this year.
6. I love the ocean and believe I will always live near it.
7. I don’t enjoy cooking, but I DO enjoy eating.
8. I enjoy shopping at garage sales, running, traveling, walking my dogs, reading magazines, and sleeping.
9. I work at large public university.
10. I love lists (and will be sharing them with you as I blog).
Tell me something about yourself!