Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What happened when I gave up Facebook

Like many people today, I use my phone as my alarm clock.
I would start every day just the same, I'd shut off my alarm first, and then immediately check my Facebook page.
That would take at least 15 minutes, if not more.
And then, throughout my day, I would check my Facebook page roughly ... well, I don't know, If I had to guess? I would say about 40 times a day... with my day ending on Facebook. Glued to the screen, for more than an hour, more than 2 sometimes... reading, posting... stalking profiles. As you do, don't say you don't... it's Facebook!!

Though I knew I spent too much time on Facebook, it wasn't until the political year really started to kick off, that I woke up.

I actually found myself judging and getting mad at my friends and family for their political views! I mean seriously. 
My dad says there are 3 things you should never talk about... Politics, Sex and Religion. Dad is right. 

Chances are the people that we choose as friends, will most likely have the same interest and views as us, but not always. And family? Well, We all know what the opinions of family are like.. They all have one, and no one wants any one else's, then a war will usually break out when family decide to compare and debate their "always right" political views! 

I just had enough of it. I was tired of all of the political fighting, and especially all of the bashing. When I find myself not freely accepting others for their views and opinions, it's time to take a step back. So originally, yes... it was politics that made me leave facebook.

The thing is, the longer I was away, the happier I felt. I didn't feel guilty about too much "screen time"

I suddenly I had time. 
Time is a beautiful gift

What did I notice was different about my life?

**In just 2 months, I have noticed I feel more relaxed.**
**I listen to my children, I don't just "half" listen while I'm scrolling on my phone. I intently listen and make eye contact**
**I started crocheting again, I crochet and create my little heart away**
**When I miss my friends, I'm actually forced to make contact with them, by phone or email. Reading a post now and again, doesn't count as making contact with your friends, I have written more letters and emails the last 2 months than I have in a few years**
**I have been organizing like a crazy person!**
**I've fallen in love again**
**I've actually tried cooking some new dishes**
**I've opened a store on Etsy**
**I've sold loads of things on Ebay, I have been downsizing more and more every year, it's completely freeing"
**I tackle household chores right away**
**I have done a lot of research, learning new things about the environment and health issues, very interesting things, that I can't wait to share**

I know there are many more things that I'm not even thinking of at this moment, but the above list are the areas in my life that I have seen a true impact.

I am still on twitter, but I've never been drawn to twitter like I have Facebook, it's a whole different platform. I'm not saying I'll never peek in again, but the truth is. I just don't miss Facebook. I really like the time I have found to do more in my life.
The saying is true you know.

"We find time for the things that are truly important to us"
What's important to you?

I hope you're having a great week!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lessons Learned ... My Expensive Travel Mistakes

We all make mistakes right?

Well why do mine have to be of ridiculously, monumental, amounts? All I have to say is, it's a good thing my head is attached, as I would probably leave it somewhere.

I'm linking up with some travel bloggers, all of which are sharing their lessons on travel. I seem to learn the most by making really big mistakes!! (One of them, only a few weeks ago). Please, allow me to share with you, what you should NOT be doing!
Monumental Mistake/Lesson One:

My first big travel error was last year, when we spent the summer in the UK. One of our adventures took us to Ireland. (Ooooo how I love it there; I can't think of Ireland without thinking of miles of pristine emerald green fields). We were to be in Limerick for a week, we were staying in a lovely flat that over looked the River Shannon and spending a lot of time with my friend Hazel and her family. We had a lot of mini tours around Ireland. It was magnificent... there is just no other word. Apparently it was all just too enchanting for me, because upon returning one night, to check our reservations for the next day, I realized that I had missed our flight that morning. WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FECK. Who does that? Who actually misses their flight by a whole day? I went into panic mode and I called the airline, which happened to be Ryanair (Have I mentioned they are a &*#*^ airline?) Ryanair of course did nothing, (as I expected) and gave me prices over 700 Euro for 3 tickets to London--One Way. It's a very good thing that I found flights on skyscanner for half the price. I have no idea what I was thinking. It's very, very apparent that I wasn't.
Now when I fly? I keep my itinerary printed out and on me... I look at it several times, I singe it on my brain.
Monumental Mistake/Lesson Two:

I booked a trip to NYC, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps... I then later decided that I wanted to take my daughter with me. I booked her flight going one way, (ensuring carefully that we got on the same plane) and then a couple of days later, I booked the other part of the ticket (I waited hoping to get a better deal, but I didn't want to push my luck too much, so that we got on the same plane, I went ahead and booked the return ticke a couple of days later)... Well. The ticket back from NYC, for my daughter, I accidently booked in my name. Let me tell you what happens when you book a ticket in the wrong name. American Airlines will do absolutely nothing to help you. It will be so sad and too bad. I was so obsessed with getting my daughter on my flight that I booked her in my own name. It seems to me it would be so easy to go onto the AA website and change the name, but I'm afraid that now days, with all of the security that's about, that can't be done. I'm not complaining about security. Just the opposite. But you must book your tickets carefully these days. If caught early enough, I'm sure the airlines will help. I however, had to book a whole new ticket. Double the price (I think they prey on our stupidity... ok ok just kidding... they have their rules, I get it). As if NYC isn't expensive enough, messing up my daughters ticket, NYC turned out to be as expensive as a trip to London.
My advice?

When you book your tickets, seriously pay attention to what you're doing. Never rush. THINK.. Book undistracted! I'm a seasoned traveler, I grew up traveling with my family in the military, I lived in England for 4 years and I've traveled many many places... I should not be making these kinds of travel mistakes. But that's why they are called "Mistakes". We don't mean to make them.
However, I'd like to think that I learn from my mistakes and only make them once... (Men and Dieting are excluded!)
Happy travels!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty...

I've seen her so many times from my airplane window, drifting past her as I headed into NYC, bound for a further destination, always thinking "oh cool, look ... it's her". I also thought "I'll go see her one day"...

Well, the day came.
We saw her, the lady that offered freedom and hope to many weary travelers, years ago. First generation americans saw her as a new beginning, when they sailed over in ships, full of hope from foreign lands.

The Immigrant monument shares diversity and welcome. A historical depiction in Battery Park, a preparation of the journey ahead.
Today, Lady Liberty is a tourist attraction. If you visit her in the summer you will stand in hours of lines, even with tickets purchased in advance. But trust me, she's worth it. She's still represents liberty, justice and democracy.
We had previously purchased tickets, but still waited in a line for the ferry, for about 45 minutes. The Statue of Liberty is a National Monument and treasure, so you will have to go through strict security. No drinks except water. And absolutely no food. (They took our banana!!)... think of it as Airport security, because it isn't far off, but Ms. Liberty is so worth it!

The ferry will first take you to Liberty Island, you will meet her royal highness and be in complete awe. There are stunning veiws of Manhattan, a large park, places to eat and of course, the opportunity to get to know Lady Liberty.
My personal perception before seeing her, was that she was this massive building, stretching to the sky. However, though she's quite a tall statue, a good portion of her sits on a pedestal.
Your stair climb will be inside of liberty's pedestal, unless of course you're lucky enough to score crown tickets. 
We cheated
We took the elevator to the top of the pedestal, it gets crowded up there, but again... worth it! There is no elevator from the pedestal to the crown.
Lady Liberty's Shadow...
After you've explored Liberty Island you'll wait another 45-60 minutes in line for the return ferry. If you book your tickets early enough you'll also be able to explore Ellis Island and "The Immigration Museum" as well. We had afternoon tickets, so we didn't get off at Ellis Island, the ferry stops there before returning to Battery Park. I completely regret that now, as Ellis Island is rich in American history. Seriously,  what was I thinking (an excuse to return? Perhaps?) Ellis Island is where the vast majority of immigrants stopped before being allowed into the United States. There were families living in quarantine and many obstacles to encounter for the past hopeful settlers. 
Read about the history of Ellis Island here 

Visiting "The Gateway to America" is one of the cheaper tourist destinations in NYC. Manhattan and it's surrounding areas are VERY expensive, so $25 for a Ferry ride to and from two islands, plus entrance into Ms. Liberty, is a bargain!

She's breath taking to sail past...
If you want to book your tickets in advance, watch for scams, many ferry's just sail by and do not stop at Liberty Island. Also, if you want to book a ticket to go into the crown of the statue, you have to book months before you plan to visit. I'd say 4-6 months in advance.
The Official Statue of Liberty site
If you want to know more about why the country of France was so generous with their gift to the US... Read about it here...

A visit to Liberty & Ellis Island will take up the majority of your day, so plan accordingly and enjoy.

The Statue of Liberty does not disappoint!

50 fun Statue of Liberty facts!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dairy Free Rice Krispy Squares

I'm seriously excited about these!
Why you you ask?
Ever since April of 2015 when we found out my son Andy was allergic to dairy, our lives came to a screeching halt... we consumed so much dairy, we probably should have owned a cow.

These treats are so easy to make, I can't believe I haven't made them before now. When my daughter asked me to make rice krispy squares, I thought "well, ok, I guess I'll just use vegan margerine"... seriously though... have you SEEN the chemicals in some of that stuff?

Then, I had an epiphany :)
I only needed a little something to melt the marshmallows. OLIVE OIL it is then!

You'll need (trust me you need these in your life)

10.5 ounce bag of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup olive oil
5-6 (I used 6) cups of rice krispies

Combine the marshmallows and olive oil in a large sauce pan. Warm on medium heat until melted completely. Stirring often.
Suddenly, everyone was a marshmallow melting expert :)
Once the marshmallows are smooth and melted, add in your rice krispies quickly. Stir and coat your the cereal well before putting them in a baking dish of your choice. Press the gooey-sticky mixture down into the dish. Have your teeanger place rice krispy treat in the fridge for an hour (after all, he has nothing better to do :)
We made a double batch which he carefully managed a balancing act of.

After an hour, cut into squares.

They are a sugary delicious vegan treat!
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 25, 2016

I love you Mom

My mom left the world on September 23, 2015.

Isn't that just complete crap?
I mean... Seriously?

We plod around through life, thinking "Well maybe things aren't perfect, but they aren't so bad"...
And then.
It's as if, you're hit by a freight train. 
That's the best way to describe it. 

When you lose someone you love, every part of your being hurts. 
You hurt physically and you hurt emotionally.
You hurt deeply.
You hurt in a way that you have never felt.
You feel very alive, because of the excruciating pain that is ripping through your soul.

When you lose someone to death.
Someone that was part of your heart.
You begin to understand just how trivial most things in life are, you know that the very things that upset you, meant nothing. 

You learn that it's just not worth it to sweat the small stuff. 
And just about everything is small stuff. 

What matters...
The feelings of others.
Well.. There are many things that matter, but what matters to me... Are the people I love in my life. I want to hold on to them tighter than I ever have, and I want to never take them for granted. 

As crazy as it sounds, losing my mother made me feel as if I have lost my way. 
My whole life seemed to be centered around her, not in a bad way, but in an "I really love my mom and care about what happens to her way". I always worried about hurting her feelings when I talked about moving to England. And I would get so upset at her when she would say "You can't leave until I'm not around anymore"... I'd get so angry when my mom told me that she wouldn't be around for very much longer. Of course, she thought it would be her heart, mom had a sick heart, but it turns out... it was quite strong through it all.

Though I never lived life thinking I had to please my mother, I always did have her in the back of my mind and on my heart. Sometimes we would annoy the heck out of each other... She always had to be right... She was always so feisty! My mother was the strength of our family and was what held us all together. It was her that we all wanted to be with during the holidays and for our birthdays. It was mom that was the strongest.

It was just so unexpected. It started with a kidney infection. Then she fell and hurt her back. Then she was put in the hospital for pain in her back and complications in her kidneys... then pneumonia... when the pneumonia didn't leave her body, the doctors dug deeper and a cat scan discovered that she had cancer... she was covered in it. Her lungs, her abdomen, her skin... She died 2 days after we found out. She never knew. Which was a blessing, as it was her biggest fear in life. Cancer.

I held her hand as she left this world. 

So where does this leave me? 
For awhile, I felt bad if I even smiled.
For months I didn't have too many happy moments, but they are breaking through more and more.
Hannah and Andy have been my focus... I dreaded Christmas, in fact I was absolutely pissed off most of the holiday season. I did my very best to keep it together, I made it as special as I could muster up for my children. This year there were no cards, or baking... Or much else... But I know that next year will be different. I still won't like having Christmas without my mom, but I will have learned a little better how to live life with her living in heaven.

It has now been 7 months since I lost my mom. At first, I buried myself in work. Then, I would latch on and look to others to filll my void. You see, being the ex-wife to a military man, meant I moved a lot. And when we moved, I would find comfort in making friends all over the world. But once I was back in Texas, well... I spent all of my extra time with my mom. She was my best friend, she was the person that I called about serious things and silly things... Like what brand butter to buy. After all, mom always seemed to have all of the answers. She was my best friend. When I lost her. I was left with my feet kicked from under me. I have painfully learned that I can't look to anyone else to fill the void that's inside of me. It's no one's responsibility and there is no one that can.

Instead of focusing on the void in my life. I will now only focus on the good. There is always good. I haven't traveled since I lost my mom, I haven't done anything. I have felt sorry for myself mostly. But you know ... As I learn to live life without my mother, I will also learn, that it's okay to enjoy life again. I will slowly return to the things that I hold passion for. Like traveling, helping those in need, blogging, reading and continuing to study about the latest environmental issues... The things that make me, me. The things that make me tick.

For the last 7 months, In my own self pity, I have not focused on my 2 children as much as I would normally. I've taken care of their needs physically, of course. But they are used to me taking them on "mom/daughter dates" and "mom/son dates". Or just the 3 of us would go out and explore Austin. (Or London... Or Ireland... Or Florida... You get the picture). It's time for me to stop spending my extra time laying in bed. It's time that I stop feeling sorry for myself. I can still mourn. But no more self-pity.

I may not be ready to take on the World again, but I'm making plans to. :)

Before I close, I want to add, that before my mom died, and while she was still coherent. I was able to thank her for being an amazing mother. I was also able to thank her for the greatest lesson that she ever taught me, I'd like to share with you what that was.

I told my mom "Thank you for teaching me unconditional love, thank you for always making me feel loved no matter what I did, or didn't do. Because of you, I am able to show that same unconditional love to my own children and people in my life".

I love you mom, thank you for teaching me to be a strong woman.
I'm going to be okay.

                                                   Florence Louise Chrzan 
                                August 22, 1952 - September 23, 2015