Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Leaning On Some Friends I Know... "

When I was a kid I had a purple radio / tape player that I used constantly. Whether I was listening to the radio and calling the station 8651567812 times to request a New Kids on the Block song or listening to one of my favorite mix tapes, I can always remember a constant feeling: that I never could get close enough to the music. I would lay my head right against that purple speaker and listen to these songs that I loved so much... but even still, that wasn't close enough. I could hear the music in my ears, I could feel the beat in my chest, and I could feel the lyrics make their way into my soul but I always, always, always wanted more. I guess that was my way of learning at a young age how powerful music can be.

I've been going through a rough time this last week... a week that's been filled with a lot of tears, fears, and medical terms that I never wanted to hear. I'm not much of a talker when I'm in the midst of a hard time... actually I'm not a talker at all. I think and then I write, that's my therapy, that's my way of letting things out. Also? I listen to music.

Being on the go so often, I don't get a chance to listen to music as much as I used to. Sure, the radio is always on in the car but I don't truly listen, at least not like I used to. But this week, in the middle of the madness, I've found myself comforted by my favorite music and I truly couldn't be more grateful. I've laid on my couch with my ear covering a speaker, just like I did 20 years ago. And that feeling of not being able to get close enough to the music was still there... and for that I'm truly thankful, too. What a gift it is to have music touch you so deeply that you can't ever get enough.

I'd probably bore you if I listed all the songs I've been listening to that really hit me right now, but this is one of my favorites. I'd actually almost completely forgotten about this song and happened upon it a couple of days ago... perfect timing...
At some point I'll likely blog about this whole experience but that time won't be right now or probably any time soon. For now, I'll be over here listening to my music... leaning on some friends I know, the road and the radio...


Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend Recap

It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks around these parts. Between going away last weekend, dealing with a flare-up of Ryan's stomach issues this week, my headaches/new treatment/new eating plan, and our usual array of school, work, games and practices, let's just say I was more than ready for the weekend to roll around! And it did not disappoint...
Friday night I rushed home from work to feed the kids and then we headed off to the local high school football game. Man oh man, watching my kids walk around with their friends, watching the game and being all social... they were just so grown up. I still don't feel like it was that long ago that I was in high school walking around with my friends... so to see my kids walking around with their friends at a high school football game just seemed kind of unreal. Time flies, it really does. We had such a fun night though, all 3 of us!

Saturday it was another early morning to head out of state for Ryan's baseball... he had a double-header over in New Hampshire where they won both games. After those 2 games and the drive home, we had to head to a birthday party for a friend of Emily's. It was a super fun party for the kids and although I didn't plan on staying for it, I ended up chatting with other moms the entire 2-1/2 hours.

Sunday was a "me" day... a lazy day at home all alone where I did nothing but clean, laundry, and watch the Food Network alllll day long. It was glorious! A day like that was definitely long overdue and I don't feel bad about it one bit! Notice how I didn't mention a headache? That's because I didn't have one yesterday! That's a big deal because I always get headaches on Sundays. Perhaps we're making progress here! Actually, I know we're making progress because after my treatment today I could turn my head... I know that sounds ridiculously simple but I can't even remember the last time I could turn my head to the left and now I can. It's the little things!

Speaking of my treatment, I absolutely love my doctor! She's amazing at what she does, so incredibly helpful, and she makes going into the office everyday not such a chore. Not that it's a great deal of fun to have to go to the Dr.'s every single day but if you have to do it, she's a great doctor to have to go to. Today we got talking about our mutual love of country music and she told me about the time she touched Kenny Chesney's leg and how it was the greatest day of her life! Ha! Needless to say, we spent a few minutes chatting about our mutual love!

So that's it... a pretty simple weekend but full of fun and relaxation. Pretty perfect!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Living in Pain

I'm not exactly sure why I'm posting this on the blog today... someone's (read: mine) health is a very personal thing... but it's also such a big part of my life right now and this is a lifestyle blog after all, so today you get the (very abbreviated) story of how I live in pain every single day.

For most of my adult life, I've suffered with headaches... and I don't mean a little headache here and a little headache there, where I can take a couple Advil and go on about my day. I'm talking about frequent headaches where the pain is so intense that I can't function. Think migraine-type pain, but not technically a migraine. And I get them often. The frequency tends to ebb and flow... sometimes I get them every single day and then sometimes I'll get in a really good stretch where I'll only have one every couple of weeks. For the last few years, I've been stuck more in the stretch of getting them almost daily. At the first onset of pain I take 3 Exedrin and some days that helps (thank God!) but then some days it doesn't... and those are the days that absolutely crush me.

I've seen countless doctors, gone through so many tests, tried many different medications, all with minimal results. It's such a vicious cycle for me... I'll see a doctor, try something new, it won't work, so then I'll carry on as is since that treatment didn't help. And then I'll get to a point where I just can't take the pain any more so I try a new treatment. This has gone on for years and years and it's beyond frustrating.

This past weekend was one of those moments where I just got fed up. I had an absolutely amazing weekend with Emily and then on the last morning, I was hit with a headache. I powered through and was able to keep on my happy face while finishing our time at camp, but by the time we got back home I was in absolute agony. And that's not what I want my kids to remember. I don't want them looking back on their childhoods thinking "we had such a great weekend until my mom came down with a headache"... that probably sounds silly, but when it's such a major part of your life, it's realistic.

So on Monday I called yet another new doctor and, because I was a crying mess on the phone, they were able to get me in the following day. Today will be my third day going back this week and I'll continue to go every day for the next two weeks. They did all kinds of tests and we're working on all sorts of things... things that probably sound ridiculous if you don't understand, but things that will (hopefully) treat the cause and not just the pain. They're doing work on my neck and shoulders, of course, but they're also doing a lot of work on nerves and muscles and my brain. It's insanely interesting to listen to them explain (in simple terms) how everything works together and how and why they're treating it the way they are. I can't even begin to explain it to others yet... perhaps when I understand and grasp it more then I'll be able to. But for now, I have some hope... hope that in the weeks and months to come that I won't be living with this pain as part of my everyday life.

On Wednesday I mentioned that I had a new nutrition plan and that is part of this treatment as well. It has nothing to do with losing weight; instead it's taking these next six weeks and getting rid of the inflammation in my body that's causing so much pain. The list of things I can eat is pretty limited and it will certainly be a learning experience for me. Like tomatoes, I love tomatoes, they're one of my all-time favorite foods... but I can't eat them. Bananas and peppers? I eat those all the time but can't have them for the next six weeks. Who knew foods like that caused inflammation?! Not me. It'll definitely be a big adjustment and a huge learning experience for me... but one that I'm 100% on board with if it gets rid of the pain!

I'll stop there... there really is so much more I could say but that's enough for today. I know that a lot of people live with chronic pain and it's absolutely debilitating. So if you're there, understand that you're not alone. Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me if you have a story to share... I obviously can't fix anyone else's pain but I sure can listen and relate to your story.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Easy Ways to Earn & Save (Christmas!) Money

Now that we're almost into fall, I have to admit that I have Christmas on the brain! Too soon? Probably. But with 2 kids and 1 wallet, I love to shop ahead, score good deals, and make my money stretch as far as possible for the holiday season. And actually, this is pretty late for me... usually I start my shopping in the midst of the summer! Because I'm all about a good deal, I'll likely be sharing good finds with you from now until the holidays (as you saw last week).

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I earn some extra spending money and a few of you had questions... so today I'm sharing a few things I do nearly everyday to help with the holiday spending.
SWAGBUCKS - I've had this account forever but never really used it much until I started chatting with Erin about it. Basically you earn 'swagbucks' for doing all sorts of activities online... surveys, games, simple tasks, searching, etc. It really is very simple to earn the swagbucks and once they start adding up, you can redeem them for gift cards (Amazon, PayPal, all different stores, etc.).  Right now I have over $150 in gift cards that I'm saving for the holidays and I'm hoping I'll earn at least another $150 within the next couple of months. Totally doable and you better believe those extra few hundred dollars will come in handy when I'm Christmas shopping. I've only been earning on my swagbucks account for the last few months so if you use this all year long and let them add up, you could get a whole lot of your Christmas shopping covered! You can get started with Swagbucks here.
CHECKPOINTS - This one is a website and an app (I have an iPhone, not sure if it's available elsewhere) and it's SO stinkin' easy! Another friend turned me on to this app a couple of months ago and I'm so glad she did! Everyday I 'check-in' to different places locally just by opening up the app and clicking on the locations that are available. Every time you 'check-in' to a location, you get points and then redeem those points for gift cards. There are other ways to earn points within the app or online that are super easy as well. I've been earning about $50/month in Target gift cards with this app... can you imagine how helpful it would be to walk into Target (or Walmart or wherever - tons of different gift cards available!) at Christmas time and have a free hundred or two to spend?! I can't wait! Go online or search your app store for the 'CheckPoints' app and when you sign up, you can use my bonus code of 'shesabigstar' to get free points that will get you started!

GROCERY - I posted about a few grocery apps that I use a few months ago and that info is all still valid and super helpful. I'm certainly not raking in the money with these but they're super simple to use and the money definitely adds up. Read this post for all the details or just click these links to sign up for the ones I use the most and find the most beneficial: SavingStar, Ibotta, and Checkout 51.
SALES - Be smart with sales! It seems like everyone and their mother ran to Bath & Body Works this last week to take advantage of their candle sale. Their candles are the absolute best and usually cost $22.50 each. This week they're on sale for 2/$22, making one of them essentially free. Good deal. You want something even better? Thanks to Kayla, I saw that they have a coupon good right now for $10 off a $30 purchase that you can use in addition to the candle sale. That means you can get 3 candles for the price of 1! Deals like this are too good to pass up and are the perfect opportunity to stock up for your home and also for Christmas gifts!
FREEBIES - There are so many websites out there that will help you score freebies. I don't have time to be checking a bunch of different websites everyday so the ones that I find most useful, I follow them on Facebook. That way if a good deal is available, it will pop up right where I'm most likely to see it! A lot of these freebies can be small sample sizes but you can also score some bigger ticket items as well. A few weeks ago, American Eagle (who has the best jeans ever!) was having a promo online where you could win a pair of jeans, gift cards, etc. So many people were winning so I knew the chances were good and sure enough, I scored a $50 gift card! I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not I'd actually get the gift card but sure enough, yesterday it arrived in my e-mail! A pair of jeans and a new scarf later for a grand total of $2.37 out of my pocket! Yes, please! Like I said, there are SO many sites to follow along but Coupon Clipinista is one of my favorites.
EBATES - Ebates, Ebates, Ebates... I'm always going to tell you about Ebates until every last one of you is signed up because it's simply silly not to! All you do is sign up, and then when you shop online you go to Ebates first, search the store you're going to shop at, and click their link to get to that store. It's a couple extra clicks of your mouse and it earns you a percentage of your money back. That $2.37 I spent on my jeans and scarf at American Eagle yesterday? I got a $2 rebate back through Ebates. They also have a lot of sale codes and free shipping codes for you to use which is always helpful. Once a quarter they'll send you a check in the mail for the amount of rebates you've earned. Free money. And with the holiday season coming up where we'll all be doing a lot of online shopping, you definitely want to keep more of your money where it belongs... in your wallet! You can sign up for Ebates here... simply the easiest money you'll ever make!

Those, along with the ones I posted earlier this year, are just a few of the ways I earn and save money for the holiday season... do you use any of these? What are some of the things that you do to earn and save? I'd love to hear your tips!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Weigh-In Wednesday - "Fed Up"

Happy Weigh-In Wednesday, friends! Once again, I don't have an actual weigh-in for you and I need to get better at that! A scale that needs a new battery makes it really easy to not keep on top of the actual number of your weight and for me, that also makes it really easy for me to slack a little too! But that's all changing right now for me... due to some chronic health issues, I have a certain eating plan that I have to stick with for the next 6 weeks. It's drastic, a little tough, and really has nothing to do with weight loss, although I know that will be a good side effect of this treatment. I will likely chat with you more about that next week... it should definitely make for an interesting 6 weeks around these parts!

Today I wanted to touch base on something I've talked about before, something that I think about a lot in regards to this whole weight loss journey, and that topic is health. Of course we all want to lose weight to be skinny but my overall goal is to be healthy. That's my focus and will continue to be. The more I read on different blogs, websites, magazines, etc. it really astounds me how choices people make may fit a certain plan and may help with weight loss, but have zero value to your overall health. I know we're all doing the best we can for our own bodies, but I just wish the focus overall would shift from being skinny to being healthy.

I saw this trailer for Fed Up last week and I can't wait to sit down and watch the whole documentary...

Now, after watching that, don't you agree that we need to shift focus back to being healthy? I'm not trying to be all preachy here on my blog, God knows I've made a lot of poor choices myself... but this just reiterates to me why our health is most important. Sure, it's nice to look hot in a pair of skinny jeans, but if we don't have our health we don't have anything!

Let me know your thoughts... do you focus on strictly counting calories and losing weight or do you look at the overall picture of your health? I know we're all doing the best we can... I'd just love to chat and open some eyes to look at your health instead of just the size of your clothes!


Monday, September 15, 2014

"I Had the Best Day With You Today... "

When I was a kid, I had friends that went away in the summer to a 2-week sleepover camp called Camp Nellie Huckins. It was, what I imagined, a quintessential all-girls summer camp. I can still remember one of my friends telling me I should go with them one particular summer and begging my parents to let me. They said no, and although I have just about the worst memory in all the world, I can still remember sitting in my room being upset that I couldn't go away to summer camp. Life is funny sometimes; if only my 6th-grade self would have known that some day she'd still get to be a "Nellie girl," maybe she wouldn't have been so upset.

This past July, Emily spent her second summer making memories on the shores of Lake Ossipee at none other than Camp Nellie Huckins. I certainly didn't grow up thinking that some day I'd send my daughter to Huckins but as fate would have it, that's exactly what I did. Huckins remains as pure and simple as I imagine it was when I was a kid and I couldn't be more thankful to have it as part of Emily's childhood.

This weekend was the annual Mother / Daughter Weekend at Camp Huckins and so, at 35 years old, I finally got to be a "Nellie girl." It was just as perfect as I'd imagined, and quite honestly, it was one of the best long weekends I've ever had in my life.

Just like you do when you're a camper, we stayed in a cabin...
There were meals at the dining hall filled with singing lots and lots of camp songs. Pure joy. There were new friends, all brought to mother-daughter weekend to share the Huckins' love with the people they love most in the world. There were camp fires and s'mores...

There was the waterfront, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, the water trampoline, and the beloved water mat...
There was archery and tennis and mountain biking and the ropes course and a mother-daughter kickball game...
There was arts & crafts, there were loons out on the water, there was the rock-climbing wall, and there were 200 mothers and daughters who barely changed out of their pj's all weekend.

Just like at regular camp there was a Vespers ceremony and Candlelight... 
I'm not sure if there was a dry eye in the room when we all sang Taylor Swift's "The Best Day"...
And then, most importantly of all, there was the best little camp friend that I could ever have...
Spending the weekend with her, completely disconnecting from the outside world and fully connecting with her, was so incredibly special. It was a gift to me, to share these days with my daughter, and a gift that I'm so thankful I could give her, a weekend making memories with her mother. Just like she does when she leaves camp in the summer, I'm already counting down the days to when we head back to camp for Mother/Daughter Weekend next year.

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