The Craziness of Life

messy office

Photo by Mizuno K

One week from today is Christmas. I am not done with my shopping. I have a good percentage done but really it’s the odds and ends and little stuff that seems to tie me up every year.

Two weeks from today is New Year’s Day. I do not have any idea what my resolutions/goals for 2024 are going to be yet. Usually I’ve spent a bunch of time at least pondering these.

It all comes back to what seems like is a common theme in my life: too much going on. And I’m sure I’m not alone.  I’ve noticed lately when I try to get info from people, whether it’s work or personal, that it takes awhile for people to get back to me. It’s a vicious cycle at times. So basically we’re all running around like crazy people…that’s my theory at least. Continue reading

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Stocking Stuffers for Everyone

Christmas stockings

Photo by Any Lane

It’s nearly Christmas time again. Who is ready? Presents bought yet? And if so, are they wrapped and under the Christmas tree? We just got the Christmas tree up and some minimal Christmas decorations out last week. I live in a tiny condo anyway and merging some of Michael’s things in with mine while he’s living at home again has left very little room for lots of decorations. 

Christmas shopping is going okay. I’ve got several gifts already purchased but with just two and a half weeks left, it’s definitely crunch time to wrap it up. 

Here’s my list of favorite stocking stuffers if you’re like me and always looking for last minute gift ideas each year for the stocking. Continue reading

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A Frugal Christmas

Christmas tree and lights

Photo by Jonathan Borba

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is 5 weeks from today. Everyone have their Christmas shopping done? Yeah, me neither. I have one gift purchased…well, actually two gifts, I guess, since I added my parents on to my Netflix account and they said that could be one of their presents, lol.

Do you at least have your Christmas money set aside and a plan for getting your gifts purchased? Haven’t gotten a list together of what people want yet but normally get that done on Thanksgiving day when our family is all together. I was much more deliberate about setting money aside this year into a sinking fund to help pay for Christmas gifts. I don’t have as much saved as I would have liked since my car and my home’s air conditioner had to be replaced this year but I am a little further ahead with funds than I normally am. Continue reading

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Holly’s Favorites-Winter 2023 edition

lighted candles by window

Photo by Alena Zadorozhnaya

It’s time for another edition of Holly’s Favorites! I’ve noticed that there’s a common theme going this time around with my favorites and that’s comfort. I guess that’s appropriate if you read my last post because this is the time of year that I really focus on Hygge. 

Roku Stick

We gave up cable television several years ago. Don’t think I’m totally crazy. I love my television so I didn’t give up my favorite shows, I just changed how I watch them. We stream nearly everything now, although I do have an old-school antenna in my living room and bedroom so I can catch live tv on occasion. 

Between me and the boys, we pay for Netflix, Paramount Plus, Hulu, Apple+, and Disney Plus and Philo. Now, full disclosure, if I paid for all of these services then I would probably be paying more than I was when I had regular old cable. I pay for a couple of the subscriptions, and each of the boys pay for a couple so it’s fairly reasonable this way. Continue reading

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It’s Fall and Time For Some Hygge

Fall scene with leaves and books and mug

Photo by lil artsy

Fall is my very favorite time of year. The weather is perfect (although it seems like we get less and less Fall weather every year where I live). Jeans and a sweater, gorgeous scenery all around with the fabulous Fall colors, and great conditions for a bonfire and roasted marshmallows. Fall is also the perfect time to add a little extra hygge into our lives.

What is Hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”)? Merriam-Webster defines it as a cozy quality that makes a person feel content and comfortable. Based on that, adding some extra Hygge in our lives can look a little different for us all. Here are some of the ways I like to add a little Hygge in my Fall/Winter routine: Continue reading

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More or Less

girl in a hammock relaxing

Photo by Rachel Claire

I am a creature of habit. If I ever go missing, it won’t be too hard for my friends and family to track me down. My kids tell me all the time that it’s a good thing I don’t have a stalker. I’m not sure if that’s because of my propensity for sharing on Facebook or my fondness for routine.

My ideal week includes at least one and preferably two Barnes and Noble visits. I wander the store a bit and then generally end up in the cafe to order a Venti (go big or go home, right??) Chai Creme Frappuccino or iced Chai tea latte with brown sugar and settle in to write for an hour or two.

I need at least one trip to the library…similar routine as Barnes and Noble. I bring a drink in with me there but I wander the library, grab a book (or two or five) and then settle down to write a bit or perhaps browse their magazines. Continue reading

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75 Medium Challenge update & What’s Next

Woman exercising

Photo by Ron Lach

So I’m 71 days into my challenge and let me tell you, this is not a challenge for the weak. I have never been so ready for a challenge to end. I expected it to be difficult but didn’t really realize just how long 75 days is…it’s basically 1/5 of a year!!

So, for those of you who are not regular readers of my blog and may not have any idea what I’m talking about….feel free to check out my previous post. I started this challenge on July 19th and this Sunday, October 1st will me my final day. Continue reading

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Living a Rich Life

mattress overlooking water view

Photo by Mo Eid

I love reading. My reading is not limited to just fiction though, throw a good motivational book at me and I devour those just like I do my Danielle Steel and Kristin Hannah books. Give me a motivational book that also delves into personal finance and I’m really going to geek out over that. I recently discovered Ramit Sethi and his book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Sethi also has a Netflix show called How to Get Rich, where he takes people who are in a bad financial place and coaches them to make better choices. 

Ramit Sethi believes you should live a rich life. Spend extravagantly on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t. I’m still in debt-payoff mode but I love the idea behind this. I feel like I do this to an extent already. Designer clothes, purses, shoes, and alcohol are low on my priority list. Eating out with friends, fancy coffee drinks, pillows, and calendars/planners/journals are high on my spending list. Continue reading

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Cruising Along

Photo by Diego F. Parra

One thing I wanted to prioritize in this second chapter of my life was to travel more. Cruise number 2 is officially on the books for the end of January 2024. It’s an early 50th birthday trip for myself. This will just be a 4 day cruise for a variety of reasons. We booked a bit later than we did on our last one so payment was due in full by the first week of November. We’re dragging along some semi-reluctant first-time cruisers, and also my eldest son is going and he’s just started a new job. I hated for him to have to use all his vacation days right off the bat. Don’t you feel sorry for me though, my next one will be a longer cruise. A friend and I have basically decided we’re going to make this our annual January/February trip.

Benefits of Cruising

There are so many benefits to cruising. You’re paying for your floating hotel room, restaurants, and transportation. Your basic room cost includes your room, a variety of meals that includes very basic drinks (water, tea, basic coffee, lemonade), pools, shows, a fitness center, and of course beautiful ocean views.

Your choices to upgrade start with your room type. My first cruise and this second one I booked a balcony room. I suspect if I continue to cruise, I will end up trying to downsize into a standard room though since they are considerably cheaper.

You can add a drink package if you like also. We’re getting the cheers package, which includes alcohol, specialty coffees, sodas, shakes, pretty much any drink you can think of. It’s a pricy addition to the cruise price but I like the idea of not having to worry how much I am spending ala carte on each drink otherwise. It’s also great because if I want to try something new/different then it’s not a big deal of I don’t like it, because I can just order something different. You are limited to 15 alcoholic drinks a day but all other drinks are unlimited.

A cheaper option if you’re not a big alcohol drinker is to the Bottomless Bubbles, which will get you unlimited soft drinks and juices.

Most cruises have at least 2 and sometimes more ports depending on the length of your cruise. My first cruise went to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Grand Turks. You will have anywhere from a few hours to most of a day in those stops to explore/hang out, book an excursion, or you can just stay on the ship and enjoy a less crowded environment for the day. One thing to keep in mind is that your food/drinks/activities at the ports will cost you extra. Your drink package is only active on the ship.

Cost-cutting Tips

As I said earlier, I anticipate booking my 3rd cruise soon. We’d like to try a different ship and a longer trip. I’ve not hit the lottery and some unexpected expenses have hit the pocket book so I’m going to look into a standard room which is much cheaper. Although a balcony room is fabulous, you have an entire ship to use as your balcony and most people are primarily in their room just to sleep and get ready for the day.

You can purchase discounted Carnival gift cards if you look around. On my first cruise I bought Carnival gift cards at Target and got them 5% off with my Target debit card. This trip I’m buying them with my new AARP membership and that gets me 10% off the gift cards. You can also get discounted cards for your airline tickets and hotels. My friend has a Southwest credit card that she uses to earn points on her flights.

If I really wanted to cut costs I could also cut out the drink package or drop it down at least to the soft drink package.

Ala Carte Vacations

I really like the ala carte experience that cruising offers. You can start your search by travel dates, locations, or even favorite ships. Choose a room type next and whether you want to include a drink package or one of the specialty restaurants. Decide if you want to book an excursion at your ports or just roam around on your own. Some people even choose to stay on the ship and enjoy the less crowded amenities.

Have you been on a cruise before? If not, is it something you might be interested in?

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Pick Another Book

Photo by Ivo Rainha

Every December, our book club members each choose one book that will be on our reading list for the following year. In 2021, my choice was Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The book followed a young lady who had decided to commit suicide and instead ends up in a library that is supposedly her between-lives world. The idea is that each book in the library is the story of her life if she had made a different choice in her real life. 

Truthfully, I liked the idea of the book better than the actual story but mostly because I just couldn’t warm up to the main character. The idea is so intriguing to me though because who hasn’t wondered in life what if I had just done this or not done this….so here’s the books that I think could have been available to me.

My Potential Book Shelf

Holly Joins the Coast Guard: Yep, I bet most of you didn’t realize that I almost joined the Coast Guard. I chickened out at the last minute when I thought to myself, what if you absolutely hate this and you’re stuck for 4 years. I wanted to jump out of the helicopters and rescue people, and I’ll have you know that I wanted to do this before the ultra-cool Ashton Kutcher/Kevin Costner movie, The Guardian, came out. 

Holly Finishes College: I did finish college, I just wish I had finished my degree earlier and maybe even stuck with my original plan of law enforcement. Life, however, sidetracked me a bit and I didn’t finish my degree until after Rick died and at that point I grabbed a “safe” degree.

Holly Finds a New Job: Definitely should have job-hopped a bit more. I tend to get comfortable in a position and stay though. Today’s world, for the most part, does not reward people for staying in one position/company anymore. Although I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule that allowed me to get to my kid’s activities when I needed to, I hurt myself financially because my pay stayed stagnant. I took the safe route.

Holly and Rick Bulk Up on Life Insurance: Life Insurance! I cannot stress enough the need for life insurance. The world is not set up for single parents. Our lives could have at least been easier financially if we’d had more life insurance when Rick died. Trying to figure out how you’re going to survive financially when you’re in the throes of gut-wrenching grief is not ideal.

Holly Does Not Buy the House in the Fancy Neighborhood: I definitely bought too much house my first go around. I was lured in by the fancy neighborhood after I was approved for my loan. The location wasn’t great for where our jobs and schools were. The lot was terrible; it was a huge, rocky, corner lot that could never grow grass properly. If I’d bought a smaller, more appropriate place I might have more equity now.

Would I Choose Another Book?

My life today is most definitely not what I thought it would be. It’s been so much harder than I imagined at 17. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone though who can say their life turned out exactly how they thought it would. 

If I had joined the Coast Guard, I would not have met my husband. We met 2 weeks after I was supposed to leave for boot camp. If I hadn’t met my husband, then I wouldn’t have my two wonderful sons. I truly believe that every little step we take plays an important role in our current lives, even if they seem like terrible steps. 

I certainly never expected to be widowed at 25. Life has certainly been a struggle at times, financially and emotionally. I would not choose another life though. Even considering the hard times, I love this life of mine. I had a true love, even if it was short-lived, and how many can say that? My boys are phenomenal, I have the best friends, I have family that has always supported me. My job fulfills me for the most part and I’m writing almost daily now, which is my true passion. Travel will hopefully become a bigger part of this 2nd chapter of my life as well. Guess I need to get busy finishing this best-selling novel of mine to help with the travel expense.

New Chapter or A Sequel?

So, I’m not going to choose another book. I’m going to get busy on my sequel though.

My boys are now grown and self-sufficient (well, mostly). I love that we are close (in distance and relationship), but they no longer need me. Now is the time that I can be more selfish. Hopefully, I can be more deliberate on what my next chapter in life looks like. Obviously, there’s still limitations, money primarily, but I’m determined to work on my bucket list. I have one in progress that I’m working on before I turn 50 in March but I need to get to work on a bigger life bucket list as well. 

What are some things you would change in life? Or if you’re like me and wouldn’t change the past, what do you want to do in the future?

Oh yeah, buy the extra life insurance though!! 

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