Thursday, July 30, 2009

Saving for More Sunny Days

I haven't blogged the past two weeks because I have felt pretty uninspired. Following our staycation, I returned to work with a heavy heart because I had to go back to work while my husband, the teacher, continues to enjoy his summer days. It was fun while it lasted. Since then, I must admit, I have been a bit down in the dumps.

Now, I must admit, he hasn't been completely carefree. It's like I have a totally different husband for the summer. He cleans like no one's business. Not that he doesn't help out here and there, but, it's nothing like what I have come home to lately. For instance, yesterday he did five loads of wash (including folding) and sorted out papers in the office for filing and shredding. I know I am lucky, but, I am still jealous that he is home while I am at work.

All in all, it has been a good summer, but, it has been going way too fast- only 1 month left. And even though we have had to scale back a bit, we are still luckier than most considering both of us are still working and we are still moving little by little towards a goal. The goals have shifted a bit, from buying a house to paying off our debts and saving more money, but, none the less they are goals. Like many, I have learned a lesson from this economy; always put away something to plan for the unexpected. Also: work on paying down your debt whenever possible. In the long run, it will get you further.

Speaking of which, I recently found a new resource about saving moneysavingadvice.com. As you probably guessed, the web site offers lots of helpful tips on ways to save, freebies, financial news and includes a number of blogs on personal finance.

Hope you are planning to enjoy what's left of your summer days in whatever way makes you most happy. And as for feeling jealous, I think I am getting over it. Having learned some lessons about my personal finance, I am hopeful there are some brighter days ahead for all of us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Precious Memories

My family and I are back from our travels overseas. It was a great adventure! We made some wonderful memories and took some pictures that will be cherished for generations, I'm sure. The minute I booked my parents' and my family's tickets back in February, I knew this trip would be a real tear-jerker, and I was so proud of myself that I held it together for the entire trip without balling at every turn.

You see, my father stated that this would be his last trip back to Germany (having a high degree of Wanderlust, he'd rather explore other parts of the world like Hawaii or Alaska). That alone choked me up. The reality of a final trip to Germany for my parents, who are 68 and 74, had never entered my head before. My memories of Germany over all of the years of my time spent there are all about being young, really. My first real memories of Germany were from our trip when I was 16 (I had been there as a little kid but don't remember much). Then, I studied in Bonn (the former captital of West Germany) at 19. I spent a lot of time with my relatives that year. My dad's sister, my aunt, was about 60 then, and she was definitely my surrogate mother during my time there; we became very close. I visited her often at her home in Detmold, the city of her and my dad's birth and where they grew up. She was a very energetic woman who was always smiling and laughing. During each and every visit, I had a lot of fun with her walking through downtown Detmold, shopping, eating in cafes, and hearing countless stories about her and my dad growing up. In fact, even though I spent a year away from my dad during my time studying there, I came home that next summer believing I had gotten to know him better than I ever had. My aunt's stories revealed a lot about my father that I had never known. And just spending time among Germans for a year opened my eyes to so many of my dad's mannerism, speech patterns, and quirky habits that before then I had thought were just a little odd; after that year, I discovered they were typically German and that his homeland had truly shaped the man who was my father.

This summer's return to Germany brought together two families who have all gotten older. My dad hadn't been back to Germany for 19 years. His sister, my Aunt Erika, is now 80. Her son, Martin, my only first cousin, is over 50 and has 3 boys. I'm married and am a mom to a preschooler. Although I've been there numerous times since then, this trip made me realize how long ago it was that I spent my year there exploring the country and soaking up every minute of youthful freedom, independence and excitement that studying abroad instills in a person. Time continues to march on.

During this trip, we spent a few days in Detmold where my dad lived with his family until he was 21. We accomplished the one thing I had wanted to do the minute I booked our tickets: we took a picture of 3 generations of relatives in front of my dad's childhood home. It's a huge half-timbered house that was probably built sometime in the late 1500s/early 1600s. Here we are (my son, me, my dad, and my aunt):

And here we are in the center of town (my cousin, my aunt, me, my dad, and my son):

Who knows if we will ever get pictures like these again. For my son, it may be the only time he is ever with his Opa in Germany. I will keep my fingers crossed that this won't be the case, that my parents will remain in good health for years to come and that we will all travel there together again someday. But for now, we will all cherish the precious memories that we made this summer and look to the future with anticipation, certain of many more to come.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the Road Again...

This week, we are headed on the road again heading east. My husband's family is having a reunion and that is the ultimate destination. Along the way, we will have mad-cap family fun in the car, consume some Cincinati Chili AND we are taking our youngest to her very first amusement park: Coney Island:-)

So wish me luck on our latest adventure:-) I won't be back next week because of the trip but keep my family in your thoughts because we will be taking a second crack at my mother's catherization on Wednesday the 29th. I will let you know how everything goes in August:-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

I Am Exhausted

That is pretty much how it is going over here....exhausted. Last week's trials with my mother's healthcare has left me spent with little or nothing to give. I tried to blow off some steam this weekend but I fear, it has only delayed the problem.

In my house, we live in a culture of sickness. Her illness permiates the house. Joy is supressed before it even has a chance to flourish by the constant nagging afflictions that she brings us. I am wasting my youth in her decay. From that, my spirit is abating. How can I be in this vocation that I was born with? How did her problems become my fate? I struggle with this everyday. I will be straddled with this corrosion until the day she leaves this earth. By then, I will have been squandered.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stress Busters and Staycations

Reading Sue's blog from earlier this week got me thinking... I am glad that she is asking for some advice. There are many women out there who feel challenged or stressed by obstacles and part of our problem is that we have a tough time asking for help- especially those women who are used to taking care of others. Sue, I will call you tonight or tomorrow to see how things went, but, I hope you know you can always pick up the phone and call me even if it is just to talk it out.

Sometimes, rather than giving or getting advice,listening can be even more valuable. I also found this great article in Reader's Digest that offers 79 Instant Stress Busters that anyone can easily do. They include everything from buying yourself some purple lisianthus and light blue or green hydrangea, a flower that has a calming effect, to drinking some cool water and going for a walk.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I don't mean to belittle what Sue is going through as normal stress that can be solved all that quickly. Sometimes life throws us a punch that nearly anyone who would normally keep it together might need to ask for help and taking care of a sick parent is one of those things... In fact, the article states, that a sick family member is one of the top 10 stressors, but, doing a number of these things in times of stress can help.

What am I doing to relieve stress this week? I am on staycation with my husband. Like many in this economy, our costs have been rising due to the ripple effect. Fortunately, my husband and I are still both working, but, we realized a vacation might not be the best thing for us right now financially. We still needed a break, so I took some time off and we are taking the time to do some things we normally wouldn't do in our own city without the added cost of travel and hotel.

We have eaten at restaurants more than we usually would. We have taken in some tourist attractions, a movie at the theater(something we only do every couple months), went to the beach, road our bikes, and generally relaxed. I also purchased a book about cheap ways to enjoy Chicago that gave me some tips for free, sometimes free or discounted activities. Now, I know not everyone lives in a big city, but, if you take time to do research on the place where you live, I am sure you will find something you might not have thought of before.

Taking time for yourself is important, because if stress builds up, you could end up being in a far worse predicament with your health. It can also help your relationships and even your approach to work once you return. Hope everyone is taking time to enjoy their summer where you are and taking time to let go of a little of your stress. Feel free to share how you do it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Managing Stress

My mother had an abnormal stress test. This has resulted in an echocardiogram Tuesday to see if the valve she had replaced in 2000 is leaking. If it is, she needs surgery. Then on Wednesday, she is having a catherization to find if there are any blockages in her arteries. If there are, she will get a stent or angioplasty or surgery. So, as you can see, I am going to be under a lot of stress over the next couple days.

My job is to get her to her appointments, be there for any questions the doctor has for her, communicate to the family what is going on and make any hard decisions that need to be made. That's quite a bit for one person so, I am implementing all of my stress relieving arsenals that I learned in therapy. Deep breathing. Slow down. Focus. It's pretty scary but, I have been here before and I am sure that I will be back. All of my struggles before will not be in vain if I can maintain myself through this again.

So, if you could find the time to send me some positive energy on Tuesday and Wednesday, I would really appreciate it:-) I have tools but...everyone needs a little help now and then, right?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy 4th Everyone

Sorry my posts have been absent for the past couple weeks. I have been a little more busy than usual and more tired lately on the weekends as well, so I haven't been up to writing. I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish everyone a happy 4th of July with some thoughts about how much I appreciate living in the United States.

One aspect of living in a big city like Chicago is that I get exposed to more people of a variety of cultures and backgrounds than I might otherwise. Nearly every day that I ride the train, I hear people speaking a different language and it's not just Spanish. I work with people of different backgrounds as well. Many are from different states and different countries. I appreciate having the opportunity to work with them and sometimes even experience a bit of where they come from. I have been fortunate enough in my life even in my high school years (when I lived in Milwaukee) to experience some of this, having attended a school that celebrated the differnt cultures we all come from.

On something of a different note, I recognize how lucky we are not to have the wars we fight going in our homeland and am grateful we have so many freedoms that others do not. As American women we are very lucky. In other countries, we may not have a choice to work. We might not have a choice as to who we marry. We may be limited as to how many children we could have. We may be persecuted or scorned. We may be treated as property or trash.

Now, I know the reality is there are some American women who are still in these circumstances, but, for the most part this is not the norm. I pray for anyone who is suffering in such a way, regardless of what country they are in. Times have been tough lately, but, we are still more fortunate than most. On this 4th of July, take a few moments to consider the people around you and the good fortune you have. Best wishes for a safe a happy holiday!