February 21, 2013

Thoughts On Blogging...

So, let's cut straight to the point of this blog post.

Lately I've been struggling with the question of "Should I continue blogging?"

Every time I stop by my favorite bloggers sites it becomes more and more clear to me that I'm not as savvy with photo editing, or I'm not that great of a writer, or I don't have fancy outfit posts or DIY projects or drool worthy recipes or tutorials to share.

I'm just me. Sharing our story. Or whatever else I feel like sharing that day.

But lately I've been wondering if that's enough, 
and really questioning WHY it is that I keep this space going.

When I first started writing this blog I loved the community of bloggers that I met. I can honestly say (and I hope that no one gets offended!) that I haven't connected with fellow bloggers on the same level that I once connected with bloggers two years ago, when I first began writing.

I feel like the blogging community that I once loved has recently taken a turn for the worst and that the "community" is now one big competition. It feels like a silly rat race of who will get the most GFC followers, or Twitter followers, or Instagram followers, etc.

And really ... what's the prize?

Being so "number hungry" it's actually very silly, because guess what? - those numbers, specifically GFC numbers, are NOT a clear indication of who actually reads a blog ... in fact, GFC followers are typically just other Bloggers who use the Blogger.com platform, or people who signed up for GFC in order to enter giveaways and "follow via GFC", which is one of the hottest giveaway entry trends right now.

To be honest with everyone, when I decided to offer advertising options, and when I started hosting group giveaways, it was because everyone else was doing it. It felt like something that I had to do once I hit X amount of followers and Y amount of pageviews, to prove that I meant business in the "blog world".

Don't misunderstand me - I appreciate every single person who invests their hard earned money on advertising with me ... and what first started out simply as "the thing to do" has grown into something where I genuinely enjoy picking out my favorite items from shops, and my favorite blog posts from bloggers, and passing them on to my "followers" to enjoy, too.

I think sponsoring blogs and participating in giveaways are fantastic ways to market yourself and to get your name out there to an audience who all share at least one common interest, the blogger who you're advertising with.

In fact, advertising on other, more popular blogs such as Erin's or Aunie's is where a chunk of my blog followers (who actively engage with me) have come from. Advertising does work.

But I want "followers" and "fans" who actually care about what I have to say - I don't want people who just stop by, hit the Follow via GFC button or "like" my page on Facebook and never return again.

And I want people to follow the blogs and the businesses that advertise with me because they are happy that they were introduced to them ... I don't want people to follow a blog or business that advertises here just in hopes of winning something from the group giveaway.

So, to answer my "Should I continue blogging?" question, which I asked up above before this post went haywire and all over the place - yes, I will continue blogging.

But I will continue blogging for me.

From here on out - I want people to "follow" my blog because they enjoy what I publish here.

Or, unfollow me if you think it's crap. That's fine too.

I'm over playing the numbers game.

While I may not have Photoshop or an expensive sense of fashion, I do have heart ... which I pour into most everything that I publish here ... and that's what you'll find here - my heart, my voice, my journey, my interests, and my life - all of which are much more relatable than the number of followers I have on Facebook.

So, with all of that being said - let's try to bring the true community back to blogging, shall we?


February 19, 2013

Day By Day Nothing Seems To Change, But Pretty Soon Everything Is Different.

TJ's team begins pre-playoffs this weekend. 

We could be leaving Germany in as early as four weeks 
(of course, we hope that they advance!)

But it's crazy, right? I feel like I just got here.

I've written once before about Defining Moments.

And today, I'd like to add to that post...

Sometimes I find myself longing for the girl who I use to be.

I carry these very vidid snapshots in my head of who I was at specific moments in time.

In Worcester, in Wheeling, in Hannover, in Texas, in Florida...

I remember certain characteristics about myself from each of these places,
but they no longer define who I am in this present moment, because each time we move,

So, I guess I miss a girl who doesn't really exist anymore.

Right when I think that I have myself figured out, I have to start all over again.

And I do, I figure it all out ... until we pack up and we prepare to go home for the summer, and I ready myself to gel back into the person who I am and the routine that I have in Massachusetts. 

Each time we arrive home I notice that my brother has grown just a little bit taller, and my sister has bloomed just a little bit more into a beautiful young woman, and my family and friends have carried on without me.

New memories have been created that I am not a part of, 
and I have seen places and met people who my loved ones may never know about.

I fit in just fine with family and friends back home ... but it's always a little strange at first.

Conversations don't come as easy at the start.

I've missed out on being physically present for the things that have altered my loved ones ... whether it be a birth, a death, an engagement, a promotion, etc ... and they have missed out on the things that have changed me.

"Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything is different." - Bill Watterson
pretty much sums up this transition.

It's all very bittersweet how much this "moving around thing" can fulfill me in ways I could never explain, yet break my heart all at the same time.

Have you ever been on a trip that has changed you?

February 13, 2013

Guess What Guys? We're Not Millionaires.

Before I flew over to Germany I went out with a few girlfriends for dinner and drinks. 

When my check came, it was around $40, and I was trying to quietly calculate how I should pay for my meal. 

Should I pay for it in cash? I need to fill up the gas tank this week before I drive Brutus an hour and back for his vet visit and USDA stamp. 

Should I swipe our debit? What's the date? When does our car payment automatically come out? Is there enough money in there? 

Should I charge it? Which credit card isn't maxed out yet? 

One of my friends laughed and said "What do you mean? You guys are rich!" when I ended up slipping and saying aloud that I didn't know which method of payment I should choose. 

After our silly $30,000+ wedding this past summer, four carload/UHAUL trips from Massachusetts to Florida, Florida to Massachusetts, Massachusetts to Texas and Texas to Massachusetts....then flying over to Germany....we've spent a lot of freaking money in the last twelve months. 

Luckily, the team in Orlando reimbursed our travel money both ways, but we were still there for over a month during preseason (preseason is unpaid, mind you), setting up our apartment, buying groceries, etc....most of which was charged to credit cards with the mindset that we would pay them off once TJ started getting paid during the regular season. That didn't happen. 

Texas has yet to reimburse us our travel money. They owe us over $1,000 (which I charged to a credit card that has been accumulating interest since November because the team thinks that they can continue to ignore us and the PHPA). We again, set up our apartment, paid for groceries, cable, internet, etc. The paychecks that we received while we were there were going straight to minimum debt payments, our car payment/insurance, TJ's student loans, and trying to play catch up. Since it was our decision to leave Texas, we had to pay our own way home. Tack on another $1,000. 

The team in Germany paid for both of our flights over here, but not for Brutus or extra luggage. Brutus was $400 and the luggage was $200. Brutty's vet appointment and USDA stamp was around $200. There's $800 more. 

The team here in Germany only pays once per month, so TJ didn't actually receive a paycheck until February 1st. 

Holy hell, as you can imagine - it's been a stressful past few months. 

"Why are you doing this, then?" I'm sure some of you are thinking. 

Well, because it hasn't always been like this. We've hit a bump in the road. This hockey season in particular (due in a large part to the lockout), screwed us over, as well as many of our friends who also play minor pro hockey. 

My point in sharing all of this personal information is to give you a little glimpse of what "living the hockey life" can sometimes be like. 

It's not as glamorous as one might assume. 

I saw Tweets etc. from hockey fans during the lockout who were all riled up about NHL players arguing over million dollar contracts. 

Well, guess what guys? We're not millionaires. 

Not even close. 

You're welcome for my gift of transparency. 

Right now, this is our reality ... 
living paycheck to paycheck and trying to crawl out of our financial hole. 

I've always looked at our five credit cards as five separate entities
a $850 bill here 
a $4,300 bill there 
but when I added them all together I was shocked to see that we owe over $10,000. 

I spent the better part of yesterday calculating math figures and calling creditors to see if they could lower our interest rates. They did. I guess sometimes it doesn't hurt to ask. 

So, where do we go from here? 
Well, our plan right now is to give the Debt-Snowball Method a try. 
We're going to focus on paying off our smallest debt first and then tackle the larger ones. 

I'll keep you updated on our progress. 

When did I become a grown up with grown up problems?
Have you ever been in our financial situation?
Have you given the Debt-Snowball Method a try?
Leave some advice below:

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February 11, 2013

☕ Monday Morning Coffee ☕

If we sat down for coffee today I would tell you:

The weather here is finally starting to warm up! Well...it's only 35F, but compared to the last few weeks, it feels like 60! We've been out walking around town a whole bunch and I've been messing around with my camera. I'm going to study this digital photography course this week and hopefully learn a thing or two.

I made a simple chili this weekend - just ground beef, kidney beans, corn, and this homemade chili/taco seasoning. TJ and I eat tacos a few time a month, so before I came over to Germany I made that recipe in bulk and brought it over in a mason jar. We use 3-4 tablespoons per pound of ground beef - it's spicy and we love it. The next time I make this chili I'll be sure to add shredded chicken and black beans to make it just a little heartier.

I miss my siblings sooooo much! My sister cracked me up with this Facebook message about Brutus receiving some mail - I'm pretty sure that my family misses Brutus much more than they miss me :) The little drawing on the bottom left is my brothers Flat Stanley. Stanley has come to Mexico, Florida, Texas and Germany with me. The convo on the bottom right took place via the Pinger EX App. With the Pinger App I received 60 free minutes, and I receive 2 extra minutes (up to 100 minutes) by watching quick 30 second videos (I usually just sit with my phone next to me and keep playing the videos while I'm watching TV or something.) I received a free telephone number with my home area code, and I'm able to place and receive calls as well as send and receive texts from anyone over WiFi - they don't even have to have the app!

I never really talk about how TJ is doing with hockey. After the really stressful and emotional months that we went through from August-December, I'm so happy that we've finally landed softly somewhere. TJ's team plays in "rounds", and he is currently leading his team in points and +/- this round. He was also named Assistant Captain a couple of weeks after getting here. I'm really proud of him - it's all just been a huge sigh of relief after such a shitty start to the 2012-2013 hockey season.

I made these pancakes for breakfast yesterday and they were so good! TJ even approved, which is sometimes a difficult task when I try to push something even remotely healthy on him.

This recipe made 8 pancakes.

3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl
2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix well
4. Scoop 3 tablespoons of mix onto a well greased frying pan over medium heat
5. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 1-2 minutes

If we had coffee today, what would you tell me?

P.S. - I'm linking up with Sami today!

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February 6, 2013

Remember That Time I Got Married?

I've been meaning to share a whole bunch of wedding photos since we finally got them back from our photographer in December ... but then I didn't want to be annoying with post after post (especially since we got married seven months ago, *sigh*, I'm old news now) ... so instead, I've created individual pages with some of the photos from our big day.
You can access the pages from my sidebar, or by clicking the links below: 
Engagement Photos
DIY Save The Dates
DIY Invitations
The Ceremony
The Music
The Details
The Ombre Ruffle Cake
The Wedding Party
The 15 Faces Of A Bride
Mr. & Mrs. Fox
Feel free to Pin anything that you'd like by hovering over the picture, 
and remember to Link with Love :)

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February 5, 2013

Hurry Up And Live

Did you know that there are only 24 more days left until March?
And there are only 42 more days left until Spring?
And there are only 135 more days left until Summer?
I feel like we (and maybe I'm just speaking for myself here...so, maybe it's must me??), 
are always counting down days until the next big "thing".
The next day, the next week, the next month, the next birthday, the next season...the next whatever - there's always an active countdown of sorts, that's forcing us to 
Hurry Up and Live ... to rush to the next moment.
I don't know about you...but I don't want to look back on my life one day and think 
"That was it?"
I want to embrace each moment, each day, individually.
I want to focus on the things that make me happy and the things that inspire me.
I want to live each day with intention.

I want to try new recipes.
I want to be conscious of my health and fitness.
I want to learn how take my T4i off of the manual setting.
I want to focus on turning a secret dream that I've had into a reality.
I want to have more movie nights with my cell phone and computer turned off.
I want to create a budget and figure out a way to pull us out of debt.
I want to stop worrying about what others are doing.
I want to finish each day and be done with it.
I want to spend more time reading.
I want to practice kindness.
I think that's a good focus, for now.
Are you focusing on what makes you happy and keeps you inspired?

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