Wednesday, October 11, 2017

5 Best Movies for Halloween

Happy October! Fall is the time for hot drinks, chunky sweaters, soups, stews (thank God comfort food is back!), and HALLOWEEN MOVIES!

Yes. Halloween movies! I know some people have been getting ready pretty much since September 1, but I like to start in October. It's like concentrating on spooky movies for a limited amount of time, making it all the more special.

So without further ado, here are my five picks for Halloween movies, in descending order.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I know. This is probably at the VERY TOP of some people's lists, but not mine. But it IS up there. I think that The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those groundbreaking films that really showed artistry in animation. The story is fun and the music is even better (Be sure to check out the cover songs album too!). 

When this movie came out I remember my sister and I begged our parents to let us see it. It was NOT what we were expecting (I don't think it was what anyone was expecting), and we didn't watch it again for years. I don't think my sister likes this movie at all, but it continues to intrigue me.

What skeeves me out about this movie is Oogie Boogie, though. That entire sequence just gives me the willies, which, honestly, is something to look for and appreciate in a Halloween movie. 

And absolutely you can watch this at Christmas, too!

4. Practical Magic

The trailer to Practical Magic makes it look like a cutesy romantic comedy, but it is NOT that (BAD trailer editor!). This movie is actually a lot darker than that (though it does have it's funny, fluffy, romantic moments). 

I'm a sucker for movies about sisters (have I blabbed about how awesome my own sis is lately? She's the bee's knees!), and this one is no different. 

Sally and Jillian Owens are witches, descended from a line of witches doomed for their true loves to die horrible deaths. Sally vows as a child never to fall in love and casts a spell that one specific man will be her true love (she doesn't know who he is, she just gives him really specific traits like one green eye and one blue, he can flip pancakes, has a good heart, and his favorite shape is a star). She makes it so outrageous that he won't actually exist. Jillian is just the opposite. She falls in love almost daily and runs away with a boyfriend, sending postcards to Sally and their matronly aunts. When Jillian calls Sally in distress, Sally rushes to help her and they find themselves involved in a murder investigation that leads Sally to her destiny. 

Starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as the sisters, and Aiden Quinn, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiest, this movie is the Halloween chick flick to end all Chick Flicks.

The Book is also great, and makes a 3-hour drive go quickly!

3. Young Frankenstein

Put ze candle Beck!

Oh, Mel Brooks. Where would we be without his wit and charm? And this wonderful monster movie?

When I was in high school we read Frankenstein and as a reward for making it through our teacher let us watch Young Frankenstein. This movie is so funny! It's the story of Victor Frankenstein's great great grandson, Frederick, trying to live down his kooky ancestor's antics, but while on a trip to Transylvania, he discovers the scientific principles that led Victor to reanimate life. Along the way are memorable characters and gags that would continue into all of Mel Brooks' films

I frequently quote this movie (apparently I inherited that from my parents. They used to quote it to each other all the time!), and it was one of the movies we watched last year when Gene Wilder passed away.

2. Hocus Pocus

Would you believe that I don't actually own Hocus Pocus

Also, this movie scared the bejeesus out of me as a child (I was eight when it came out). The idea of witches sucking the life force out of children struck a nerve.

I got over it by the time I got to college, and actually watched it with friends one rainy afternoon. A few years later two friends and I dressed up as the Sanderson sisters for Halloween (I was Mary). When I took an Insta-pic of my Halloween movies last week the general consensus was outrage that I didn't own this movie. So when I get paid, I'll be popping down to Target for it.

This movie has everything Halloween: Witches, Zombies, Black Cats (we LOVE black cats!), and shenanigans. Lots and LOTS of shenanigans! If you've never seen it, check it out. You won't regret it!

1. Carrie

I never considered myself a Stephen King fan until I saw Carrie. I don't know what it is about this movie, but I absolutely LOVE it. I love the story (I read the book last year), I love the acting, the drama. I actually own the 1976 version, the 1999 sequel, and the made for TV remake that they tried to turn into a TV series. I don't own the newest version, but I have seen it. 

The first time I saw this was on the night of my sister's prom back in 2002. I was sixteen and watched it with my best friend. It was a fun night. I've seen it several times since then, and it's really fun to see the who's gone on in their careers.

I'm trying to convince my family to watch it with me this year. My mom suggested that we do a movie night with PMS food (the story starts with Carrie getting her period, and all hell breaks loose from there).

Also, fun fact: Apparently Piper Laurie, who plays Carrie's mother, thought the movie was a comedy and will argue that fact to this day. That's why she played it so over the top. Same with Nancy Allen and John Travolta. Nancy thought they were such bickering morons that they were the comic relief. Film editing can make or break a movie.

When I was in college, I took a film class, and this was one of the first movies we watched. I'd seen it, but no one else had, so it was funny watching all of the reactions to everyone during the Prom scene, and what followed.

Your Turn!

  • What movies do you recommend for Halloween viewing?
  • What is your absolute favorite Halloween movie?
  • Do you dress up for Halloween or hide in your house? I prefer to hunker down and pray for daylight, myself. 

Post Contains Affiliate Links

Monday, October 2, 2017

How to Find Super Cute Prescription Glasses

I got a pair of sunglasses from to write this post, but the opinions are 100% my own.

Since it's back to school time, that means a lot of people are looking to buy new glasses for their children, for themselves, or you could be like me and just want to get some really cute prescription sunglasses in preparation for a cruise to Mexico in December.

I was first directed to buying glasses online by Lauren who'd had some experience with it. Before that, I'd always just picked up glasses at the kiosk inside my eye doctor's office, but I have to tell you, the number styles always left something to be desired. On top of that, I have a wide face, so finding glasses frames that didn't squeeze my temples was next to impossible and I was left with frames that not only were uncomfortable, but they just weren't the style I was looking for. 

I will say, when it comes to prescription glasses and sunglasses, my tastes are basically as retro as you can get, and I want funky frames that make me stand out a bit. I've been like this since I got my first pair of glasses in eighth grade (sadly, I couldn't find pictures of me wearing them, but I was going for a Lisa Loeb look. Hello, 1999.). I like to think I was part of the movement that brought funky frames to the forefront of American style (please don't crush my dreams). That's why is a great place to shop. They actually have styles for every taste. For people like me who like to express themselves with their glasses, to people who just wear glasses and don't use it as a style statement. 

One of the things I loved about it is that you can search for your glasses by size. No more trying on a hundred pairs just to find something that fits. You can input your current glasses measurements (mine are 150 55-17-145, which measures the bow, the lens width, height, and the total frame), and they'll list all of the glasses with the same measurements. If you don't know your exact measurements, you can select small, medium, and large and it'll help you get an idea of what you want. 

Also, as you can see from the screenshot above, their prices are extremely reasonable. I get vision insurance through my employer, but even with insurance, I always had to pay a little something extra, which was quite a strain on the finances. I'd rather use my Flexible Spending Account on something a little less extravagant (I was taught from an early age about shopping for the best deals, and it's stuck with me throughout life). If I can get more for my money I'm there 100%. Getting two pairs for the price of one at a normal eyeglass shop is right up my alley. 

I got this snazzy pair of sunglasses from and I am in love. They're HUGE, they're lightweight, and they came in a nice case with a glasses cloth to clean them as needed. I was originally drawn to them because they reminded me of the glasses I got for my last vacation (which were NOT prescription but fit over my regular glasses). Now I can get the same look without doubling up on glasses (and risking scratching both pairs).

In order to get prescription glasses, you will need to know your prescription from your eye doctor, including Pupillary Distance (PD), but they should be able to give you that at your appointment, which you should get done once a year (Speaking of which, I'm a bit due for mine). 

Discount Time!

If you're in the market for new glasses (or you just want some variety with what you currently have), then I have a treat. has given me a discount code for you to save 50% on frames with FREE LENSES! What a great deal, right? Just add GSHOT50 to the promo box at checkout and you're in. That's a fantastic deal if you ask me. I'm due for new glasses in a few months, and I know I'll be going through I'm very impressed with everything they have to offer.

You can check them out on Facebook or Instagram and see what other people are buying and how they're styling themselves. 

Your Turn!

  • How do you like saving money on glasses?
  • Which frames are your favorite?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The A to Z of Me: A Birthday Post

I thought it would be a lot of fun this month, my birthday month, to go through from A-Z of my favorite things. It's easier than coming up with 32 interesting things about me (Finding 30 for my 30th birthday was hard enough!).


Amazon is crazy addicting. I love the power to sell your products, Prime, how easy it is to compare pricing. I even enjoy their original programming. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was one of the funniest pilots I've seen in a long time. When is the entire show going to be available, please?


Okay, so September IS my birthday month. Even as I get older, I absolutely ADORE my birthday. It's almost always a good day, and my family and friends always make me feel special and loved, even when they're not nearby. 


I love my kitties. They're all so interesting and weird. They show affection on their terms, and their personalities make me laugh so hard. Tris is the Queen, Henry's a cocky knight, and Jane is my meek princess. I love them all, and can't imagine life without them.


Daddy's girl in the house. I've always been close to my dad, but we've become very good friends as I've become an adult. I enjoy his company, and he'll watch old movies with me. He's the best dad in the world. 


I don't know why, but I've always loved Elephants. I think they're beautiful, gentle giants. We recently got a new African plains at the Henry Doorly Zoo, and it's absolutely amazing. These elephants have so much room to roam now.


When you're a kid, you think the number of friends you have is more important than the quality of friends. I've been burned so many times by people I thought were friends, but it has helped me take a step back and realize how lucky I am for the friends I have now. I'd rather have a small close set of additional family members that I've adopted, than tons of people who only know me on a superficial level. 

G-Game of Thrones

Yeah, okay. Game Of Thrones is very polarizing. And with Season 7 having just completed, I'm pretty tired of all of the articles on why you shouldn't watch it. I'm rewatching the entire series because I watched it all months apart thanks to sporadic availability at the library. I'm able to see just how intricate the plot is, and I'm even realizing just how enmeshed everything really is. It's such an interesting show to see people's motives and actions. It was intense watching it without spoilers with the rest of the world this year. 

But of course, viewer discretion is advised.

H-Halo Top

How did I ever live without HaloTop? HaloTop is low-cal, high protein ice cream. It is so tasty that it's incredible. My mom and I found an epic sale on it at HyVee a few months back, so we're pretty well stocked. I even have some Birthday Cake ice cream I'm saving for my actual birthday. It's only about 200 calories for an entire pint (varies based on flavor). You DO have to let it thaw for about 10-15 minutes, but trust me. It's worth the wait.


Instagram is just a lot of fun. I don't use it for anything much, except taking pictures of Chuck, Frisket, Jane, Henry, and Tris, but it's still a blast. I follow a lot of people, and I'm amazed at the caliber of photographs people take. I'm always trying to up my own photography game, and I recently started using Tailwind to schedule my posts, and even to get help using hashtags for further outreach.


I've been using Jamberry since 2014. I've been a consultant since 2015, but more of a hobbyist in the last year or so. but I absolutely love Jamberry nail wraps. I love how many designs I can mix and match to create a unique look. They're heat-activated vinyl, so they don't chip, I don't bite my nails when I wear them, and they even have Disney, Marvel, Peanuts, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars wraps. What's not to love?


Time to get gushy, but I absolutely ADORE my sister. She knows it, but it always bears repeating. She and I used to hate each other (well, there was that sibling rivalry thing), but since we got to college, graduated, and became adults, she is probably one of my closest friends. We tell each other almost everything and actually enjoy spending time together. We hear these stories about siblings that practically kill each other, and we just don't get it. We honestly can't think of anything that would make us stop talking. We don't even have the same taste in men, so we don't have to worry about petty romantic squabbles. 


Oh, my college best friend, Lauren. My little sister, my short twin, my fellow misfit toy. Where would I be without her? Lauren and I met in college and bonded over the fact that our screenwriting classmates hated our scripts. We both have an affinity for quirky movies and romantic comedies, plus she shares my addiction to Jane Austen (though she's not as obsessed as I am). She's the Leslie to my Ann, the Amy to my Tina. Love her so much. 


My mom is made of sunshine, rainbows, happiness, and starshine. We've been really close since I was a baby (obviously). Over the years our friendship has gotten stronger and stronger. I mentioned last week that most of my friends growing up didn't like their parents, but I've always enjoyed spending time with mine. I never understood how someone couldn't love their mother. Mine is awesome, from her puns, to her absolutely ridiculous behavior when faced with her heroes (Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Bugs Bunny), to her positive support of my dreams as a writer. She and my dad made sure to read to Kiri and me as children, and we're book lovers to this day. She's absolutely everything. I'm glad she's mine. 


So, don't think I'm trivializing nut allergies because it's very serious business, but I've always said that if I ever discovered that I had a nut allergy, I'd probably die a happy person because I would never stop eating them. I love peanuts and peanut butter, and walnuts in my brownies, cashews in everything, and Ferrero Rocher candies (my favorite candy in the world). People say that they don't like the chocolate sets with nuts, but those are the ones I prefer. Anyone else?


Everyone loves otters these days, but I've almost always loved them. Ever since I saw the movie The Beverly Hillbillies, and Ellie Mae had a pet otter that was swimming with her in the cement pond, I've wanted one, too. When I turned 23, Lauren, our friend, Jess, and I went to the St. Louis Zoo and each got otters at their Build-a-Bear. We love our Otters, and they're just the cutest animals. I mean, they're basically water cats. 


I flipping love puppies. How could you not? With their big eyes, and their paws that somehow grow faster than the rest of their bodies? I forgot what it was like to have a puppy until I got Chuck. It's just so funny to watch him grow and face plant when he runs all over the dog park. Puppies are stinking cute and no one can convince me otherwise. Plus, watching him and Frisket run outside together is one of the cutest things in the world. Frisket didn't like Chuck at first, but I think he loves his little buddy now.


My mother is quite artistic. She's been sewing since before I was born and made about 75% of my clothes as a child. I didn't appreciate them as much then as I do now because sewing is hard work. Quilting is on another level, and my mom excels at it. I've got four quilts that my mom has made me, and they're all very special and beautiful. I took a page out of her book and made a strip quilt for Lauren, which she adores. If you ever get a chance to go to the Quilt museum in Lincoln, I recommend it.

R-Renaissance Faire

This is more my sister's thing than mine, but I do enjoy a good Renaissance Faire. I love shopping at all of the little stores, because the majority of them are artisans as small business owners, and their products are so nice. It's amazing what people can do and sell as a product or service, and aside from all of the history involved, Renaissance Faires are filled with people wanting to make a living at their hobby, which is the story of my life. Plus there's jousting. 

S-Stephens College

It was expensive, and I know my parents regret my decision to go to Stephens, but I absolutely adore the school. It was my home for five years, I met my best friend there, I learned so many lessons there, and even got the greatest compliment ever (my voice teacher, Harry, said when I was at my peak, that my voice sounded like a young Julie Andrews). Yes, I had some hard lessons that I learned, about who to trust, and which direction life should go, but I don't regret it. Except for the cost.

The day I graduated, with my two favorite littles, who aren't so little anymore (2009)


Tacos are one of the greatest foods ever invented. Spiced meet and yummy veggies and cheese in a corn wrap? Yes, please! there's a restaurant that we order tacos through at work, called D'Leon's that makes the best tacos with grilled onions and fresh radishes. They're just the best. And you get a lot for what you pay for. 


I'm going to admit something here that I know isn't a popular opinion, but I've always gone against the grain: I didn't hate the How I Met Your Mother finale. In fact, I saw it coming all the way back in season 1. What I loved most about the last season, though, was that we got to meet Tracey, the mother, who was a musician, and played a ukelele. Ukeleles are really fun, and quirky, and they just make a lovely, casual sound that still manages to sound special. Love it. 


I know. Everyone loves vacation time. But it's still something that I love doing because I get to explore the world. My next one is to the Mexican Riviera with my family, the first cruise that's just us four since 2009, and I can't wait. 


No-brainer, right? Well, it's true. I absolutely adore writing. It's been something I've done every day (almost) for over twenty years. I tried to stop for a bit to see if I really was meant to write, but no. I got antsy and had to get back to it. I love writing, and can't wait to publish my book.


I honestly couldn't think of an X. I thought about going with a 10, because X is the Roman Numeral for 10, but...I got nothing. Maybe next year.


If you're not familiar, YouVersion is an app that has a ton of different Bible studies on it. I always get behind on my Bible reading, but they have a lot of studies that only last a few days to a week, which helps. And anything that will get me into my Bible more consistently is a good thing in my book.


No surprise here. I love animals, and I love zoos. Omaha has the best zoo, and I'm not even being biased. I've been to the Kansas City Zoo, Denver Zoo, and St. Louis Zoo in the last ten years, and while they're all pretty nice, they don't hold a candle to Omaha. Omaha has been named #1 zoo in the country for a reason. They're always building something new to further animal comfort and patron education.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Me! I hope you all have an amazing Thursday.

Your turn!

  • Pick an A to Z and tell me what your favorite thing is!
  • Birthday cake: What is your favorite flavor? I'm a chocolate girl all the way. MAYBE Marble if I'm feeling fun.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Seasonal Bucket List: Fun Fall Activities

I still find it hard to believe that it's been 16 years since the horrible event that changed our country. I stand in solidarity with the victims, their families, and everyone affected by the horrible 9/11 tragedy.

God bless America.


It's no secret that fall is my favorite season, and with good reason. My BIRTHDAY is in the fall (actually, the last day of summer, but I'm totally a fall baby!), I love the cooler temps (though we've been experiencing a lot of those in America's Heartland this late summer! Crazy town!), and I really enjoy when it gets darker earlier.

Anyway, I thought it'd be fun to make a list of things to do this fall.

Visit An Apple Orchard

I LOVE Apple Orchards. We used to go to Martin's Apple Orchard when I was a kid on school field trips (No relation to me, and sadly they're closed now), but there is still a nearby orchard, Ditmer's, that I'd love to visit and get some apples, cider, and donuts. They make AMAZING donuts.

Carve a few Halloween Pumpkins

I absolutely love carving Jack-O-Lanterns. I went to Vala's Pumpkin patch with my cousin and niece a few years ago and brought home a big pumpkin to carve. My cat, Henry, was so interested in the entire process, and he even enjoyed eating the pumpkin pulp (It's not bad for cats, is it? I couldn't stop him! but he didn't get sick).

I also like to name my pumpkins. That one ended up being called "Donald O'Connor" after the singer/dancer/actor/sidekick in Singin' in the Rain. Maybe this year I'll make a Disney or a Debbie Reynolds. I've also made a Kermit the Frog Jack-O-Lantern that turned out really well.

Have a Harry Potter Movie Marathon

I've actually been planning this one for awhile since I'm re-reading the books, but with Halloween right around the corner, re-watching the Harry Potter movies is just the perfect next step. I recently got my dad to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Wonder if he'd watch these with me this festive, spooky season?

Dress Chuck Up for his First Halloween!

I need to preface this with, I really want to be Cruella DeVille for Halloween this year. Like, really really really want to be Cruella. When I got Chuck, I had this brilliant idea of making him a little Dalmatian coat so we can participate in our church's Harvest Fest and Trunk or Treat. I'm also trying to talk my parents into dressing up as other Disney Villains and joining me. 

Your turn! 

  • What are your Fall Plans?
  • Any Halloween party suggestions or recipes?
  • What is your favorite fall/Halloween movie?
  • I want to see your fall photos! Instagram with #MJAFall

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Guest Post: "Comparing the Dave Ramsey Method to Others" by Josh Wilson

Hi guys! Today I've got some interesting money facts to share with you, written by Finance blogger, Josh Wilson.

I've written about my own debt journey in the past (And recently discovered Income based repayment that made my student loans affordable!), and I'm always looking into new options that can help me focus on budgeting.

Without further ado:

Financial guru Dave Ramsey has gained a significant following for his no nonsense advice on handling money, particularly when it comes to debt. Ramsey advocates paying off debt using the “snowball” method, which is a strategy that asks users to focus on the debt with the smallest balance first. Other financial advisers claim that the debt “avalanche” method is better, because a person pays off a debt with the highest interest rate first. Both strategies ask users to focus on paying off one debt at a time, and to just pay the minimum on all other debts. So which one is better — the debt snowball or avalanche method?

The Debt Snowball Method

With the debt snowball strategy, championed by Dave Ramsey, you pay off your debts by starting with the debt with the smallest balance and eventually working your way to the debt with the largest balance. The debt snowball method does not require users to pay attention to interest rates; instead, the only concern is which balance is the smallest. Users start by paying off that debt, and once that is paid off, they work their way up their list of debts until they pay off the debt with the largest balance.

The advantage of the debt snowball method is largely psychological. Having debt can be incredibly stressful, and seeing mountains of bills come in each month can be discouraging. When you use the snowball strategy, you eliminate some of these bills fairly easily, scoring quick victories. For example, you may owe $250 on a hospital bill, $5,000 on a credit card, $20,000 on a car loan, and multiple balances of several hundred dollars each on store credit cards. When you pay off your debts from smallest to largest using the snowball method, you may be able to eliminate several of these smaller bills before tackling the larger debts — giving you confidence when it comes time to pay off these bigger debts.

The Debt Avalanche Method

In contrast, the debt avalanche strategy targets loans and debt with the highest interest rates. With that said, it typically targets pesky credit cards, some personal loans, and high interest student loans. This strategy is generally considered to be the best way to get yourself out of debt since it allows you to repay your debt in the shortest period of time. It also saves you the most money on interest. However, it does not give users the same psychological boost because it may take longer to eliminate a debt than with the debt snowball method.

To use the debt avalanche method, simply make a list of all of your debt, ranking it by interest rate from highest to lowest. Then start paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, making the minimum payments on all of your other debts. Each month, whatever extra money that you have should be devoted towards paying off your highest interest debt. Once you have paid off that high interest debt, you will have even more cash available to put towards the debt with the second highest interest rate, which is what gives this strategy its name: your money will “avalanche” to the next debt, making it that much easier to pay it off.  

While the debt avalanche method typically will result in paying less in interest over time, it can be more difficult to stay motivated when using this strategy because it will usually take longer to pay off the first debt on your list. However, once you have paid off the first debt on your list, it will become that much easier to pay off the remaining debts.

Which Method Is Better?

There is a fierce debate about which method of debt reduction is better: the debt snowball or debt avalanche strategy. Each requires you to focus on one debt at a time, with the main difference between the two methods being the order in which you pay off your debts. The debt snowball method offers the immediate motivation of seeing debts eliminated, while the debt avalanche method has the benefit of helping you pay less in total interest.

If you are working towards getting out of debt, the best method is the one that you will stick with over time. Staying focused on your debt and committed to your strategy are more important than any one particular plan. If you think that it is more important to see your individual debts eliminated quickly, even if you pay a bit more in interest, then the debt snowball method may be the best choice for you. But if you are a numbers person and want to pay less in interest overall, then the debt avalanche is the better choice — as long as you are OK with waiting to pay off that first debt.  

The ultimate lesson: to get out of debt, choose the method that works for you, and stay the course.

By Josh Wilson, a new blogger who made his debut after starting Family Faith Finance. Read his website or follow him on Twitter to learn more!

To inquire about guest posting for The Modern Jane Austen please send your pitch to martin (dot) beks (at) gmail (dot) com. I'm looking for posts on finances, fashion, decorating, recipes, and any tips that would be helpful for people in the 25-40 age range.

Monday, September 4, 2017

You'll Thank Me Someday

I'm not shy about saying I have the best parents on the planet. I've been saying it for years. When my friends would complain about their parents, I'd just kind of sit there, smile and nod, and be unable to help them commiserate. Truthfully, sometimes I'd internally side with their parents (shh!).

It's a common phrase that parents say, "You'll thank me someday." Teenagers loathe hearing it, because what could parents know about being a teenager in today's world?

Well, as my mom likes to point out, there's nothing new under the sun.

On the outside, my parents were strict. They demanded my sister and I always try our best in whatever we did. We weren't allowed to quit baseball until we finished the season (and I have two good memories of that season, but that's for another post). We had to get jobs for mad money when we turned 14-15, which was the legal age that teenagers could work certain jobs in our town. We had chores. But we didn't have a set curfew, which puzzled our friends to no end.

My parents also monitored our TV and computer habits. If there was something they didn't think was appropriate, we didn't watch it. I didn't see Dirty Dancing until I was 13, despite my friends having watched it almost from infancy. When The Brady Bunch Movie came out in 1995 (1996?) my classmates returned from the weekend quoting it, while I stayed oblivious.

It almost sounds like I grew up in a convent, doesn't it? Well, not true.

Because of their movie monitoring, I'm a huge fan of old movies. My first horror movie was The Birds when I was about six. I couldn't go near my sister's parakeet for a week. I'm a film buff that can tell what year a movie was made by looking at the cinematography. I've seen almost every Judy Garland movie ever made.

Because of their insistence on my having a job when I was a teenager, I've been steadily employed for over half of my life. There has only been one instance where I've been unemployed, and that was when I moved back to Council Bluffs and was looking for a job. I was out of work for a little less than six weeks. And I got hired at that job because of my long work history (Ironically, I only stayed at that job for ten months).

Because my parents spent a lot of time sharing their interests with me, I appreciate all forms of art, including the lesser appreciated ones, from sewing and quilting (My mom is an amazing quilter) to theatre organ music (My dad's been a member of the River City Theatre Organ Society almost my entire life, and I frequently attend concerts with him).

It's looking like I won't be having kids of my own (I'm actually kind of okay with that), but if I were to be a mother, the loves my parents taught me will be passed on to them.

When my parents were relatively new parents, they had friends who would cancel plans and grudgingly say they couldn't do anything because they had the kids that weekend. My parents couldn't relate. They liked spending time with us, and they do to this day. We still vacation together (Our cruise is in December!).

When you're a kid, you might not think you have a lot of freedom. I had more than I realized, but my parents wanted me to ask permission almost as a courtesy, so they'd know where I was. When I wanted to go somewhere, they'd rarely say no.

When I had a supervisor call me stupid in front of a customer, they were the ones to have my back and help me, not get revenge, but make sure that the supervisor knew that wasn't okay (it turns out he'd called other girl cashiers stupid, and I guess mine was the straw that broke the camel's back. Management couldn't let it slide anymore, and he was demoted).

I want to be like them if I ever have children, and I know how lucky I am. I'm thankful for them. My sister and I won the parent lotto, and we let them know every chance we get.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you more than you'll know! Here's to 35 more years!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What Everyone Ought to Know About Cat Adoption

One of my favorite novels is in the Anne of Green Gables series. It's the third, Anne of the Island and chronicles Anne's life as she attends Redmond College in Kingsport makes new friends and wards off several proposals (even the one she shouldn't have!). It's certainly one of the more romantic of the novels because we get to see little sparks of Anne's true feelings for her one true love, Gilbert, but in between confusing thoughts and shattered dreams are little chapters like Chapter 16: "Adjusted Relationships."

In this chapter, we see Anne starting her second year of school, where she'll be living in a house with three friends and a chaperone. On her way home from school, she notices people staring at her, but she can't think why. When she finally stops and turns around, an ugly brown cat is following her. Anne is determined not to have anything to do with this thing, but every time she stops, it stops and waits for her.

When she gets back to her house, Patty's Place, she slams the gate in its face and hurries inside. When her friend, Philippa, returns home, the cat sneaks in with her, and immediately finds a place to sleep on Anne's lap. With their chaperone coming with her own cat in a week, the four roommates decide they can't keep the cat, and decide it's gotta go (this is probably the most horrifying part of the story).

Phil, the resident girly girl, offers to be the one to chloroform the cat, but the morning following the act, the cat is still alive. Anne is so horrified as to what has happened and what they almost did decides then and there that the cat has to stay. She names him Rusty, and after a few run-ins with the two cats Aunt Jamesina brings along, the three animals become bosom friends.

It's an absolutely horrible scene, but one that many cats face because they can't find good homes. But my experience with cat adoption has been somewhat similar.

Meet Jane Austen

When I was in college, I took a friend to a cat foster home to adopt her own cat, and while there I was sitting when this pretty little Tortie cat stared at me from her spot, cuddled up with a German shepherd. I love German Shepherds, so I decided to make friends with both of them.

The kitten, Ameda was her name, loved my pets and anytime I took my hand away, she reached out for more. Watching us, my friend said I should get Ameda and take her home with me. I didn't have the money at the time, but the Foster said that if I could pay half now, she could save the Tortie for me.

That was more feasible, so I made the down payment (which covered her first set of shots, and getting spayed), and two weeks later, after her operation and my next pay day, I brought home Jane Austen, who has been my love and constant companion for the last ten years.

Miss Tris, the Priss

Around that same time, in Oklahoma, my sister was living in an apartment, doing her own college thing. She worked a lot, she studied a lot, but what she didn't really have time for was a pet. The cat that hung around their complex had other ideas, however.

This cat, a gorgeous girl with a silky black coat, was all Queenly attitude. She'd come visit my sister while my sis was on her porch, reading, and the two became friends. One day, she heard something at the door, and when she opened it, the cat was standing there, and the two looked at each other. A moment later, the cat waltzed into the apartment with an air of, "Yes. This place will do nicely." And like that, my sister was adopted by Tris.

Henry's Journey Home

After having Jane for a year (well, my parents had Jane. I couldn't have her in my apartment), the same friend that insisted I get Jane told me to take a break from my packing, to come play with kittens. Someone had left them on the doorstep of her boyfriend's friends. I drove up to the address, and we all sat outside playing with two little brother cats. 

The two who somehow ended up with the cats kept saying if they couldn't find them homes, they'd probably be euthanized at the humane society, as they were really young (I think I calculated them to be about 4-6 weeks). Guilted, I took one and my friend took the other. I named him Henry.

Henry and I never made a huge connection, and it was made a bit worse when I brought Jane to the dorm to live with us. As he got bigger, he kept terrorizing her. In March 2009, I asked my parents to take him so that he could have a whole house instead of just a dorm room to roam.

Funny thing. Henry is a man's cat. He tolerates women, but he just loves men. He bonded with my dad, and now the two are extremely close. I'd feel worse about it if my dad didn't like cats, but he loves cats. He and my mom both. 

The Chosen Ones

It's safe to say that cats will choose who they belong with. My mom and I watched this Hallmark movie last year, The Nine Lives of Christmas, where Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)plays a firefighter who tries to fight this cat tooth and nail about being adopted. He insists he's not a cat person, but once he accepts the love this cat wants to give him, he ends up very content. 

This is cat ownership in a nutshell. 

Your Turn

  • Do you have cats?
  • How did your cat adopt you?
  • Any funny stories? I'd love to hear them!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

All That Matters Now (Finding Neverland)

I've been a MASSIVE Peter Pan fan since I can remember. Disney, Mary Martin version, I loved this story. I actually have several memories of watching both of those versions. Once while my cousins spent the night, we watched it and kept jumping off the couch, trying to fly. I also clearly remember my sister asking our mother if the reason Wendy, Michael, and John couldn't fly anymore was because they washed the fairy dust off after their Saturday night bath.

True story.

Well, back in 2004, there was a little movie called Finding Neverland starring my favorite actress, Kate Winslet. I was really looking forward to seeing it when I came home from college for Christmas vacation. Well, things were a little busy that month I was home.

Reason? My grandmother died on the morning that finals started.

I was close to my grandmothers, and I'd lost them both within a year of each other (one on New Year's Day, the other on finals week). I was pretty wrecked, and it took me many years to fully move on from losing them both. In 2013, I visited my grandma Winnie's grave in Kansas when I drove through, and without expecting to, I started sobbing uncontrollably.

Anyway, back to Finding Neverland.

The morning of my grandmother's funeral, I sang a song during the service, and we said our goodbyes. After my family left (they were all from out of town), my then-best friend, Sam, called me. She was going to break her own rule and see a Kate Winslet movie (She doesn't like Kate. I should've known our friendship was doomed). She took me to see Finding Neverland, one of the saddest fairy stories known to man.

If you don't know, it's about JM Barrie's friendship with Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies and her sons. This friendship is the entire basis of what we now love as Peter Pan. *Spoilers* At the end of the film, Sylvia (Winslet) succumbs to a long illness and "Goes off to Neverland."

At that scene, I looked over and saw Sam sobbing more than I'd seen her cry in the eight years I'd known her. We were the only ones in the theater and she demanded to know why I wasn't crying, because I was the one who loved Kate Winslet.

"I spent all morning crying over my grandmother's real death. I'm not about to cry over Kate Winslet's fake one. I don't care how brilliant she was."

I've since rewatched the movie and have cried, but then a few years ago I learned they'd turned it into a musical. On a whim, I found the soundtrack on YouTube, and fell in love with one song in particular. "All That Matters Now," sung by Laura Michelle Kelly, who played Sylvia.

We're talking chills. Near sobbing. I need this sheet music so I can learn it and find something to audition for.

I just wanted to bring this song and Kelly's talent to your attention. It's pretty awesome.

It's coming to Omaha at the Orpheum this year, and I want to try to save money to go see it. It'd be absolutely amazing.

  • What's your favorite fairy tale?
  • Do you have a favorite musical?
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Monday, July 3, 2017

Everything I Needed to Learn About Life...

I didn't learn from High School.

Seriously. High school was the worst! Nothing in it prepared me for anything, except maybe Driver's Ed. That was extremely useful.

Never once have I needed to use algebra to figure out life's problems (I do realize if you go into engineering or medicine or something sciencey and technical, math is important. But I'm a writer).

I know more about English history than American history because of National History Day and PBS. My American History teacher bailed on us halfway through the year, and our sub (who tried to fail me and my History Day partner for working on our project AND doing class stuff at the same time) only showed War movies: All Quiet on the Western Front, Schindler's List, Pearl Harbor. Because no one took artistic license with those at all...

I even took a class that was supposed to prepare us for life outside of high school and still learned nothing of value, which is what I'm here to talk about.

In this class, Senior Survival, we learned to do taxes (though I still think those forms are impossible to understand, and thank God for the internet and easy walk-through filing), tie a tie (No husband, no boyfriend, no son to do this for. My dad's pretty much got that project nailed), and there was even part of the curriculum that said we had to go to someone who had our desired job and interview them.

Do you know how many novelists were in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2004? Me either. And the internet was almost useless when trying to figure this out at the time. When I went to my teacher to get assistance, want to know what she said?

"No one really makes money writing books. You work at HyVee. Interview someone from there."

So, insulted, I did what any budding young writer did: I made up a writer, answered my own questions based on other interviews, and submitted my paper.

And I got an A.

When you go through high school, there are so many other students that teachers probably won't see your potential, even if you're tap dancing on their face (Don't actually do that. That is a felony).

All of these shows on TV about finding someone who recognizes who you are and what you want to do in life are absolute nonsense.

People's opinions of you don't matter. Sure, it might give us warm fuzzies (I still fondly think of former voice teacher who told me I could really have a singing career if I really wanted one), but what truly matters is if you can see potential in yourself and you just go for it.

Don't be afraid to step out on a limb. Know your value. Know what you want to bring to the world. If someone expects you to do one thing, but you know in your heart of hearts that it's not what you want, no one is forcing you to be that person.

  • What do you think they should teach in high school?
  • Did you have a "Watch me Shine" moment back then?
  • How about a "Told you so!" moment?

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Jail Break: Tails of Chuck Barkowski

If you've been fortunate enough to be the parent to a puppy, you know how quickly they can worm their way into your heart while simultaneously destroying even the most sacred of family heirlooms. Or, you know, a laptop cord.

Luckily Chuck hasn't really destroyed much. His worst trait is that if he doesn't get enough exercise he gets really belligerent, especially toward our old pup, Frisket, who just wants to sleep. He doesn't want to play. Chuck also is still not completely potty trained. I try to take him out once an hour when I'm home, and there are puppy pads all over the house, but accidents happen.

Anyway, as a puppy, Chuck has been hanging out in my bedroom in a dog pen with the TV showing Animal Planet whenever no one is at home. It's something that's worked for us, though he's managed to adjust the pen so it's smaller than I left it. We call him a "Barkitect."

This past Friday evening, my family and I went out to dinner and to get some groceries. When we came back, Frisket was waiting at the door to be let out, as he normally does, but so was Chuck!

We'd almost been expecting it to happen. While we were camping a few weeks back, Chuck kept jumping and almost cleared the smaller pen that my aunt had brought up.

I tried to scold him, but I was more concerned with whether or not he'd chewed up anything he shouldn't have or even made tons of messes all over the house.

Would you believe it? Neither happened.

After that, we started talking about whether he was ready to be left out with Frisket and the cats, and I think my dad and I were more inclined to trust him, but my mom, who doesn't actually like dogs, was more wary. She suggested that I keep Chuck locked in my bedroom.

My room is a bit of a disorganized mess right now. Plus, we live in an old house, and my bedroom gets a little warm in the summer. Instead, I decided that he can hang out in my studio, where there's a window AC unit. It's brighter, there's a TV, more space to run around, and will stay cool.

He's not terribly fond of being locked in there. He's back to barking at me after I leave him, but he did that when he was a bitty thing, stuck in the pen. I worry that he'll get really lonely, but I just ordered two baby gates. Now I'm considering putting them both in the Studio doorway, so the cats (okay, Jane) can come visit.

But because he's bored, I've decided to get him a subscription to BarkBox. I've been meaning to for awhile, but money has been tight. Luckily, my sister sent me a link, and I got a free month for signing up.

If YOU want a free month, follow the link and help yourself. And if you buy before June 30, you get an additional toy in your box! Great deal! (Full disclosure, for every person who uses my link, I get a free month too. Share the love!)

I'm really enjoying being a puppy mom and all of the exciting things that it's shown me. I haven't had a puppy of my own since I was ten, and this is definitely a different feeling (I had more energy twenty years ago), but I love my little bud so much. This morning he even coaxed me out of bed by laying on my chest and licking my chin. Sure, he probably could've stayed like that all morning, but I couldn't sleep through those cuddles. And is he a cuddler!

If you're interested in adopting a little snuggle bug of your own, you should check out PuppySpot, a website that connects puppies with dog lovers to find them good homes. In their own words:
We are a community of dog lovers, committed to connecting the nation's top breeders to caring, responsible individuals and families in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Dallas, and across the U.S. We hold ourselves and our clients to the highest standards and aim to improve the life of each puppy, breeder and owner who joins our family.

  • What's your favorite thing about being a pet mom?
  • Have you ever used a subscription company for your pets? For yourself?