Be Happy Anyway

Be Happy Anyway
From Brave Girls Club

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vacationing the Groupon Way

Have you heard of Groupon? When I first heard of it, my friend ABW was trying to use hers up before moving back to Texas. I was unsure about them. Now, I know that they are a great way to go on vacation.

If you haven't used them before, they are basically deals that give you about 50% off meals, lodging, services, entertainment. When you sign up for Groupon notifications, you will get a daily email letting know about the latest deal. Each offer is only available for a short time and often for only a limited number of deals. When you see a deal that sounds interesting, you go to the main site and read the "fine print". This is VERY important. I will explain more about this later. You will then purchase a voucher for the meal, hotel, or service. This will stay active in your account until you redeem it. For example, if you buy a $20 voucher for frozen yogurt for $10, you can redeem it for $20 until the expiration date. (Watch out for those.) If the expiration date passes, the voucher is still worth $10 for a pretty long time. There is an expiration date on these too, but not for a long time.

The first time I redeemed a deal was with I had received three $25 cards as a reward for purchasing something else. These work a little differently. You tell the site which restaurant you want to redeem the cards at and print a voucher out. The deal is you have to spend $50 dollars at the restaurant. A friend and I were headed to San Antonio's Riverwalk so I looked for a restaurant in the vicinity. Here's one of the caveats I will share with you. READ REVIEWS BEFORE YOU GO! It never occurred to me that the restaurant might be terrible. Unfortunately, terrible it was. From that point on I learned my lesson.

So when my friend and I went on a mini vacation to Austin this summer, I was very cautious. Back in December of 2012, I saw a deal for Vintage Villas - a hotel on Lake Travis.

For $69, I was able to purchase a room worth $158. After checking out online reviews, I bought two nights with the plan to go for my friend's birthday. This is where I will remind you to be mindful of expiration dates. This particular Groupon required me to make a reservation by a specific date, but the actual use date didn't have to happen until December 2013. The great thing about a deal like this is that you can plan for a future vacation by purchasing the lodging when you have the money - like a vacation savings plan. This was great because the government has implemented a furlough on its employees which has basically cut pay by twenty percent having them only work four days out of five. This put a crimp in our already planned vacations, but not to worry Groupon and Living Social to the rescue.

My travel partner purchased meals like the ones we got for Chisos

where we ate lunch/dinner for only $10 for $20 worth of food. We also get weekly coupons/deals from Chili's that we love taking advantage of. This is where we learned that we were eating WAY to much so we started sharing an appetizer and an entree.

We finished our trip with mani/pedis compliments of Groupon at Donna Liane's. Donna and her daughter Ashley gave great manicures and pedicures.

I am now in El Paso for two weeks before the kids come. And you can be certain that I will be Grouponing my way through my stay here. That is when I am not cooking things I have promised I would make off of Pinterest...but that's for another post.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

All By Myself

The long expected day finally arrived; the day when their dad came to get them for over a month; the day when they find out that all his promises are true or not. I don't like putting them in that situation, but he has his rights and the youngest so wants to be with him. They listen to his grand ideas while he raises their expectations about some magical mystery job he has been going on about for two years with mysterious salaries that never materialize and they believe him. And I will be here to pick up the pieces when they come back with a new look at reality.

In the meantime, I will get Little Man's room ready with the sports theme that he has been wishing for. Maybe it will soften the blow. And in the same meantime, I will take my savings and go back to school shopping for both children to wipe out the memory of a year ago while we lived on public assistance when every other word I wanted to say was, "No, we can't afford it."

What got me through all of this? Aside from the helping the hands of loving family and friends? Art!

Over the past year, I have explored different media including doodles, sketching, water color, art journal and most recently Index Card a Day (ICaD) from Daisy Yellow. Although I am behind most of the people participating, I have tried to keep up with this challenge - 61 index cards in 61 days. (I started late.)

I love that this is a pretty open challenge with guidelines but no rules. I am the kind of person who when given rules will become so focused on them, that the creativity vanishes. On the other hand, without guidelines, I often stare at the blank page and get nothing - feeling jealous of those who just seem to have IT.

The following are cards I created (in no particular order)

One last thing for those who were following my son's team to the championship. Unfortunately, I came to discover that the coach's beliefs didn't gel with mine. In short, he felt that winning was more important than teaching children about good sportsmanship. I am not one of those parents who believe that his or her child is perfect and is going to be an athletic superstar. On the contrary, I know that my son struggles in this area. However, he was part of the team and he made 95% of the practices and EVERY game. BUT Coach felt that since he couldn't count on James to hit the ball every time or catch the ball 100% that he probably wasn't going to play him much if at all at the district playoffs. ****What kind of BS is that?! James was willing to delay his visit with his father in order to be a part of team he worked hard to play on yet this "man" couldn't see fit to put him on the roster - "For the good of the team." WHAT?! I explained that I didn't think it was fair that he would be a benchwarmer after doing his best. I also said that it was pretty crappy policy that the city was supporting his actions by allowing him to pick three "top" players from other teams who weren't going to district. These are eight year olds, not middle schoolers, not high schoolers, not college students. Your job is to teach them how to play and how to be good sports, not how to smash their hearts by leaving them sitting on the bench wondering what they have done wrong. In essence, this coach wasn't even man enough to say that's why he was leaving James off the roster. Instead, he blamed it on other coaches, on the city, even going as far as to blame in my son by saying he only plays because I asked him to which, by the way, didn't happen.

****Sorry, I wasn't going to there, but bringing up the subject brought back everything I was feeling that day.

In the end, I told James that he was not going to the playoffs because I didn't want him learning bad beliefs from his coach and so he could spend more time with his dad.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

We Are the Champions

Yep. They did it. The Pirates won citywide championship.

Earlier in the season, we had a few games rained out. The season was supposed to end on June 8th and the championship was to take place, yesterday. Because of the postponed games, the schedule moved everything to ending to the end. This meant that the kids had to play two regular season games Saturday in the early afternoon and then had to play the final championship at 7 o'clock in the evening. It made for a VERY long day. However, the kids did great and won the first place in the city.

Afterward, the we had a pizza party and the coach handed out trophies and medals.

The team will get to go to district playoffs in July. We have to decide what will happen because James is supposed to go to Kansas for the summer. He is upset about missing both. It's a hard decision for an eight year-old to make. We have a lot to think about.

In the meantime, I will share my ICADs (Index Cards a Day) that I have finished this week. 

I hope your summer is going well.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer's Here!

I have been literally counting the days for the past three weeks. Work was especially stressful for at least two months. The last day of work there wasn't much to do because I was on top of everything, so I spent the day listening to Audiobooks and watching the clock. I was reading Marit's blog and saw that she was participating in Index Card a Day at Daisy Yellow so I decided to join in. Can you tell what I am ready for?

I am so ready that on the last day of work, 
I couldn't even spell VACATION on my first index card.

The first order of business: Sleep in. And sleep in I did. Actually, I woke up at 8:15 and said, "In 15 minutes, I will get up and mow the lawn." Fifteen minutes later came an hour later to find me sound asleep. I woke up surprised to see how late it was (during the year I wake at 5:00 a.m). I then got the kids up to pick up anything that might get caught in the mower. I put the new edger together and put gas in the mower.

Index Card (ICAD) #2

Once the kids were done, I got started. I was very excited to see I could do the whole lawn myself.

The rest of the afternoon was spent vegging until I suddenly remembered James had baseball. So, off to baseball we went.

James tries hard, but there is no one in this house that knows anything about how to hit or catch a ball. I listen to the coaches, but it is impossible to get take book knowledge and turn it into on the field knowledge so James has been on his own in the hitting department. Today somebody watched some video of James and realized he has been closing his eyes when the exact moment the ball crosses the plate. In between games, all the coaches took James to the side (since he hasn't hit the ball once this season) and encouraged him and worked with him over and over until they were certain he knew what to do. James went up the batter's box and the machine sent the ball flying towards him and nothing. He let it go right by. Now this is okay because this is machine pitch and the players have been taught to let the first one go by to see where the machine is landing the balls. Second ball, no swing. Third Ball, no swing.

He is now at the point where he needs to swing or he will be sent back to the bench. The final ball is coming toward him and CRACK! he hits it straight down the field.

James makes it to first, the fielder misses the ball and he heads to second. OMG! He is on base. I can't believe it. The next batter comes to the plate and hits the ball giving James the chance to make it to third. As he does, the ball is still rolling around and can you believe it??! He gets to slide right into home as the catcher is scrambling for the ball!!! He made his first run this year. And I was a screaming fool.

This summer will be the first summer that both kids go visit with their dad for more than a week, so I am trying to make sure that I don't let my days go by without living them with purpose. This includes planning meals, playing games, playing "soccer" mom, and not sleeping the summer away.

Hopefully, I remember to take some pictures, too. If I do, you will see them here. Happy summer.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Getting Artsy & Crafty

Now that Spring Break is over and we are back to our regularly scheduled programming, I have some things to share.

First, I want to share with you something nice that my friend RLD made. He had been looking through the Internet for something to do with a broken plate. He found Kintsugi - the Japanese art of repairing ceramics. The problem was that the only kit we could find was from the Netherlands. We started researching and he found an epoxy that he could make black. RLD repaired the plate and added the Zentangle skills he learned from watching me and from the Internet. The result is below.

This was someone who didn't consider himself artistic. I think he is wrong. I also think we will breaking a lot more plates...on purpose this time.

On to my latest project...I enrolled in Mixed Emotions and finished most of the assignments.

It was a great time. I ran out of time in my life to finish the course, but I will get to it after I move.

Yep, you heard it! I am finally going to get to move out of this place and into my house. Moving day is around April 12.

I will probably be absent for a bit until after the move, but after that I really want to get back into blogging and my art full force.

See you then.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Break - Part 2

My trip is wrapping up. Tomorrow, I hit the road and make my way back to get the kids. Speaking of the kids...This little boy is not so little anymore:

He turns 8 today!

He told me he got a bicycle from his dad and that it DIDN'T have training wheels. He was worried about falling.

He would have loved going to this place with me:

White Sands Missile Range Museum

This would have been even more fun:

White Sands National Monument

If you have never been to it or don't know much about it, you can learn more here. That is gypsum sand, not snow which is why the kids are barefoot and wearing shorts.

I didn't come ready to play ( I sure will next time ), so I stopped to take some pictures instead.

As you can see, it was a very bright day.

After some time in the sun, we headed to the historical town of Old Mesilla. Everywhere you go, you will find references to Billy the Kid. But the most beautiful part of the town is the Basilica of San Albino Roman Catholic Church.

It was the perfect time of day with the sun setting behind the church. Just as we were leaving one of the many gift shops, the bells that date back to the 1870s began chiming that is was six o'clock and then played a beautiful tune. This building is the center of this town's traditional square which is surrounded by restaurants, jewelry stores, art galleries and gift stores. At times you will find the square filled with vendors selling various goods. If you are ever in Southwest New Mexico, head on down to Mesilla. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Break 2013 Part 1

This year is my first year that I am spending Spring Break without the kiddos. It was around this time last year that I made my decision to move back to Texas with them. Since their dad is in Kansas, he only gets to see them on holidays and summers. So what to do?? Go on a road trip.

After driving my kids from central Texas to Oklahoma, I turned around and stayed the night at a friend's house in Abilene on my way to El Paso. While in El Paso, I have already been on one road trip to Cloudcroft, NM.

 Click on picture to see full panorama

 Click on picture to see full panorama

We took lots of pictures as we drove through the desert and mountains.

The town of small, quiet village of Cloudcroft is tucked up in the mountains. The main street is lined with interesting gift stores and cafes.

As you drive past the center of the village, you will find some unique cottages and log cabins.

We even saw a cabin in the process of being completed.

Tomorrow, I will be heading to White Sands National Monument, Las Cruces, and Old Mesilla. More pictures to come. I will also be sharing the results of my participation in Marit and Michelle's workshop.
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