Dear Mom, Thank You and Happy Birthday

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Today is my mom’s birthday! In honor of her special day, I decided to share an article I wrote for the May issue of Forsyth Woman. 

Dear Mom, Thank You:

On Sunday, May 13th, many people will honor their mothers and grandmothers. Every year on Mother’s Day, we celebrate the women who have raised us and taught us about life. Mothers spend time teaching their children, cleaning up after them, staying up all night when a child is sick, and making sure we have food to eat and clean clothes to wear. Growing up, they were our chauffeurs, chefs, nurses, cheerleaders, and life planners. No child will ever understand what a mother goes through for 18 years, all the worry, joys, and tears. One of the biggest things a mother does for her child is teach them lessons about life. These lessons are different and vary from family to family. We also learn knowledge from our grandmothers. Most of this knowledge has been passed down through the generations and is timeless.

I was raised by the hardest working single mother I know. She always made sure my sister and I had what we needed, even if it meant she went without certain things. Growing up, we lived with my grandparents. To me, my grandmother is more than just a grandmother. She is an inspiration, just like my mother. There are many lessons that these two women have passed down to my sister and me, and I have picked out a few of my favorite to share below.

  1. Always say “I love you.” One time I remember being on the phone in the same house as my mom. We were in two different rooms at opposite ends of the house. As we hung up, she said “I love you.” I didn’t think much about it at that time, because it was a common phrase we said as we hang up phone calls. However, thinking back, this little phrase can mean the world to someone and make someone’s day. It is a little phrase one can say at any time to just show someone they are thinking about them.
  2. Always celebrate birthdays. My mother goes all the way for birthdays. She decorates the house with a theme, days before the actual day, allowing the birthday person more time to enjoy it. Go overboard for this person because, after all, it is just one day a year and everyone deserves their special day.
  3. Always stay strong and never give up. I could write a book about all the trials and tribulations my mother and grandmother have gone through and are still standing. My 85-year-old grandmother is a two-time cancer survivor and stroke survivor. Her doctors call her the “energizer bunny.” Their actions are perfect examples to always keep going, no matter what life throws at you, and that you are stronger than you think.
  4. Organization is the key. My mother is always organized with everything she does. On the other hand, I am not. I’m always learning ways to keep my papers, forms, and life in order from my mother. There is no shame in color-coding, having separate notebooks, and a place for everything in the house.
  5. Family comes before everything. My family is very close-knit and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother, mom, sister, and I relied on each other for strength. We have an unspoken motto that whenever someone battles anything, we battle it together. They are “my tribe.”

I am lucky to have a mom and grandmother who are also my friends. My mom is one of my best friends and I know nothing will change that, no matter how many times we disagree and see things differently. Like my grandmother, my mom is my role model and one of the strongest women I’ll ever know. Because of that, thank you Momma!

Happy Mother’s Day!

xoxo,

Megan

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7 Life Skills Everyone Should Know

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Throughout life, people learn many lessons and skills. At a young age, we learn to walk, talk, read, and write. Most of the time, in early adulthood, we are taught how to balance a checkbook and how to properly do laundry. The list of all the tasks goes on and on, but there are a few that everyone should learn how to do as they become an adult.

  1. Cooking: It doesn’t have to be a five-course meal, but learn how to cook something. Freezer meals and take out only go so far. Get proficient in a few simple, go-to meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plus, you’ll be able to impress your family and friends by cooking them one of your signature dishes. Also, when it comes to cooking, everyone should learn how to cook an egg, how to properly cook meat, and what fruits and vegetables are in season.
  2. Basic Home and Car Repairs: You can save lots of money by teaching yourself how to fix the small home and car problems that occur. If you are unsure how to stop the leaky faucet in the kitchen, unclog the toilet, or how to replace a flat tire, a quick Internet search will show you. A piece of advice for all minor problems, if you think you can, try to fix it yourself before enlisting professional help. Also, if you ever get stuck, either in a pinch or out in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be able to get the job done without having to wait for help to arrive. Lastly, by having an understanding of basic home and car repairs you will have the knowledge to decide whether or not a professional is being fair in price and quality of service. For car repairs, DMV.org is a great resource.
  3. Basic First-Aid: It never hurts to have the ability to perform CPR, bandage a cut, and handle a burn. Always have a first-aid kit, filled with Band-Aids, gauze, alcohol wipes, gloves, and more at home. You never can predict when an injury or emergency will occur. Other first-aid skills you should have are recognizing the signs of a heart attack, stroke, allergic reaction, and a concussion. Check with your local Red Cross, community center, and community colleges to see if they offer classes in first-aid and CPR.
  4. Writing a Resume and Cover Letter: This task can be tough for many people and can be a dreaded one. However, it is a skill everyone needs to learn and is a must when looking for employment. Many employers don’t spend a great deal of time reading resumes and cover letters. These documents need to be well-written, professional, and to the point. Think of it as being your 30-second elevator speech on paper. Community colleges and career centers in your area, as well as, Goodwill, are willing to assist and answer your questions. Also, there are multiple resources online to consult.
  5. Organizing Important Documents and Financial Records: Sometimes I’m guilty of throwing away receipts that might be needed later, especially during tax season. It is important to have documents, such as your birth certificate, social security card, and insurance information, in a safe place that you can easily reach. Also, store any receipts and tax documents in that same spot, as well. You never know when you’ll need something, but this will especially come in handy during tax season. A good way to store these documents is to invest in a fireproof box.
  6. Tasks We Rely on Our Cell Phones to Do: It might be a harsh reality, but sometimes you won’t have internet access or a way to charge your cell phone’s battery. Teach yourself how to read a roadmap, in case GPS is down, learn the phone numbers of close family members, in case you can’t reach your address book, and how to compute simple math equations, without the help of a calculator. Utilizing these skills will help pull you out of difficult times, if needed.
  7. Emergency Preparedness: No one wants to think that they might have to deal with a fire, flood, or tornado during their life, but sadly, some people do. Whether the power goes out or an accident strikes, it is vital to have the knowledge on what you should do and the supplies to stay safe. Part of being prepared for emergencies is having the ability to keep yourself safe. Take all precautions to avoid any unnecessary situations and how to handle the moment.

As a person goes through life, they acquire many skills and lessons that can be useful. Always keep learning something new and you’ll be confident knowing what to do when a situation calls for a specific skill.

xoxo,

Megan

Quick and Simple Fruit Dip

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This evening, I’m going to a summer party with some friends. Being from the south, I have learned the aged-old tradition of never arriving to a party empty-handed. Earlier today, I wiped up this quick and simple fruit dip and cut up some beautiful fruit to take. This recipe is a personal favorite and one I had to share!

Fruit Dip:

Ingredients: 

  • 8 oz. packaged cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff
  • 2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Directions: 

  • Scoop the marshmallow fluff into a large bowl and microwave for 15 seconds.
  • Add in the softened cream cheese and orange juice concentrate. Whisk until very smooth.
  • Chill for a few hours or overnight.

The dip works great with strawberries, blueberries, and apples!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

New Neighbors? No Worries!

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There’s a house in your neighborhood that’s for sale. After anticipating who will move in, the big day finally arrives and now you have new neighbors. You’re excited to go over and meet the newest additions to your community, but when is too soon or too late to introduce yourself? Do you bring a welcome gift or not?

For new neighbors, moving to a new neighborhood can be a time full of anxiety. Making an effort to introduce yourself helps them feel more comfortable. There are many polite gestures a person can make to help welcome the new neighbors into the community.

  • Introduce yourself  However, wait a few days before going over. Let them settle and start unpacking before stopping by to introduce yourself. If you happen to bump into them while outside, keep it brief with a simple hello, give your name, and say you’ll stop by again.
  • Bring other neighbors with you  There is no better way to introduce the new neighbors to the whole neighborhood than by bringing others with you. This tip can help relieve any possible awkwardness in creating a new conversation. Also, introducing yourself as a group will limit the number of times neighbors will stop at the new family’s house. This is also a great way to get your new neighbors interested and involved in neighborhood communities or watches.
  • Include baked goods  There is nothing a sweet treat can’t overcome. This traditional gesture is one many people appreciate. However, keep in mind possible allergies people might have and include a list of ingredients. Another option would be purchasing baked goods to deliver.
  • Bring a bottle of wine  Another kind gesture is gifting a bottle of wine. This drink is considered a traditional housewarming gift and can be a great accent to food. Some tips to remember are to choose a bottle of wine you enjoy. This way, if you are invited over, it can be used as a way to get to know each other. If including the wine in a welcome basket, pair it with foods or snacks that go well with that type of wine.
  • Host a party in their honor  Whether it is a cocktail party, block party, or dinner party, host an event for a few families or the entire neighborhood. This provides the new family one place to meet everyone in a comfortable environment. Block parties are great ways to introduce the children to neighborhood kids. Remember to give the new neighbors time to settle in before throwing the event.
  • Create a local list  This is helpful especially if the family has moved from another town. Create a list of local services, restaurants, and businesses, as well as other valuable information. Also, provide contact information for the Neighborhood Watch and a neighborhood directory.
  • Give them a local specialty  Each town has its own local treats. Give your new neighbors samples of local specialties or add them in their welcome basket. Gift certificates are also a nice way to help ease the stress of moving. Presenting them with a local specialty will help them learn about their new home and community.
  • Invite them to neighborhood groups  If your neighborhood has community groups, invite the new neighbors to attend a meeting with you. It will give them a chance to meet other members in the neighborhood and hear their views. Also, consider inviting them to book clubs, garden clubs, or school groups, such as the PTA.
  • Respect their privacy  The most important thing you can do for your new neighbors is respecting their privacy. It can be tough being the strangers in the neighborhood. Sometimes people don’t like meeting new people and might not seem friendly. It could also be because they are adjusting to a new area or they are more private people. Whatever the reason is, don’t take it personally and still smile when you see each other. When it comes to introducing yourself to these types of neighbors, keep it brief and polite, and then leave. If they are busy, suggest possibly meeting another time that works for them.

When a new family moves in your neighborhood, it can be an exciting time. But, it can also be stressful for the new neighbors. Remember to be polite and do your best to help make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

xoxo,

Megan

A Guide to Summer Travel Safety

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Exploring a new town, city, or country can be an exciting time. It can also be a time of unknown, wondering what could happen and whether your new location will be safe. However, there are several ways to ensure your travels are safe, while still having a memorable time.

Leave an itinerary and emergency contact: Before leaving for your trip, leave your itinerary and contact information with a trusted friend or family member. Your itinerary doesn’t have to be down to every detail, but give them the basics as to where you’ll be and when. Try to check in with them often, so that in case something does happen, they can contact authorities.

Choose your transportation wisely: Research transportation companies and their safety records before starting out, especially if you are traveling abroad. Avoid less-safe vehicles by making sure your mode of transport is in good condition and has working seat belts. According to the World Health Organization, the number one death for U.S. citizens abroad are motor vehicle crashes.

Secure your items and leave valuables at home: It is very important to secure your luggage, money, and other items when traveling. Keep your valuables, such as laptop, jewelry, and other expensive items at home to avoid them being stolen or lost. As for your luggage, always have locks on it. TSA-approved padlocks are great to prevent airport security from taking them off and having your things falling out after inspection. If you need to secure your bags, use a backpack and a bag mesh protector. Your bags will be in a wire mesh, where you can lock them inside. When you are in your room, use a travel door alarm on your luggage to make you aware of any suspicious activity or tampering when you are out sightseeing. Lastly, always remember to secure your money. Travel wallets that strap to parts of your body are dependable. Whenever I travel, I use a cross-body purse to carry my belongings. Other travel wallets can strap to your legs, waist, and shoulders. Also, let your bank and credit card companies know when you are traveling, especially overseas. Remember to not flash your money every time you pay for something. Also, be protective of your cell phones. It is common for thieves to grab cell phones out in public.

Stay alert: When you’re in a new city, stay alert to your surroundings. Your surroundings include the areas you are traveling to, buildings, and people around you. If someone is making you uncomfortable, walk away in either the direction you came from or a quicker way out. Head towards a safer, more touristy/populated area. If they follow, find the authorities. Try to blend in and not take on the typical tourist look. Don’t have a map sticking out of your bag or pocket, or a camera around your neck. These actions are a giveaway that you are unfamiliar with the area and a tourist. Instead, dress like the locals and be alert when using your camera, maps, etc. An important part of staying alert when traveling is always having an escape route. For your room, take note of the map on the back of your door and familiarize yourself with the emergency routes. Also, if you are venturing into unknown areas, be aware of the buildings and landmarks. If you feel unsafe, go into a café, shop, or restaurant, until you are more comfortable.

Be aware of your location’s safety: The State Department is a great resource to check whether or not there are travel alerts and warnings for your destination. In addition, you can find out what possible vaccinations you need and local laws. Be sure to check on the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Within this program, you can register your travel plans and if an emergency occurs, the State Department will be able to notify you.

Traveling to new places and touring unfamiliar sites is one of the best things a person can do. It’s a time to make new memories, fall in love with new places, and learn about other parts of the world. However, it is important to always be safe and alert when traveling. Using the tips above will help make sure your trip is stress-free and a memorable adventure.

xoxo,

Megan

How the Cash Envelope Method Can Help Your Budget

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Every so often, I add a new trick to my budgeting system. Sometimes this new addition helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Recently, I tried the cash envelope method, also known as the envelope budgeting system, and this was definitely a positive move. The idea is that you pay everything in cash and don’t use a credit or debit card. Instead, you withdraw a certain amount of cash from your bank account and divide it into the payments needed for different expenses. Then, place each amount of cash into an envelope, label it with the name of the expense, and don’t touch it until paid. Sounds simple, right? Well, after using this system for about a month, I discovered there were some advantages and disadvantages. Continue reading to see what worked for me (and what didn’t).

  • It works, but you need lots and lots of discipline. With the cash envelope method, preparation and organization are key. At the beginning of each month, as you are preparing your budget, think about what expenses are automatic withdrawals or can be paid with cash or check. Then, schedule in the bills that will be automatically taken out of your account. After calculating your new bank account total, determine how much money will be needed for the rest of the month’s expenses. For me, all of my bills are automatic withdrawals, so I used this method for my extra expenses, such as groceries, toiletries, etc. Lastly, be prepared to make multiple trips to the bank or ATM. For me, I withdraw money in larger amounts and then set aside individual amounts for the different expenses. To calculate that bigger amount, I added in how much I would spend on the individual expenses. Getting started can be confusing at first, but it is worth it.
  • One downfall for me was not recounting my extra cash often. Early on, I allotted different amounts for upcoming expenses. However, if I didn’t spend all of that certain amount, I had change left over (mostly one dollar bills). But, I discovered I was able to use this loose cash on expenses that popped up during the month (it acted as an emergency fund). Lastly, when I didn’t count my cash often, I relied on my debit card for some purchases. One of the ways to fix this mistake is by always knowing the amount of cash you have on hand.
  • It provides you with a sense of security. I went ahead and set aside money for upcoming, planned expenses towards the end of the month. When the expense was finally needed, I was at ease knowing I already had the money for it and didn’t have to worry.
  • Adjust your system to fit your needs. The cash envelope method is very flexible and can be individualized for any budget. For me, it worked best continuing the automatic withdrawals and using this system for the remainder of my monthly expenses. For you, it might work better to use the method for everything, including your bills. Find what works for you. This budgeting method should help your budget, not harm it.
  • Stick with it. This method is unique and will take time to work. Try using this system for only a few weeks and then you can lengthen the time as you become familiar and comfortable with it.

The cash envelope method is something I will continue to use in my budget system. After time, I will be perfecting what works and how I can make it better. You can do the same. Give this method a try, at least once, because you never know how much more money you’ll have left over after all expenses are paid.

xoxo,

Megan