Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tips For How To Be Better At Saving After Clearing Your Debt

(contributed post)

What comes next after clearing your debt? A big holiday? A new car? A new wardrobe full of clothes? Clearing your debts can be freeing – but if you’re not careful, you could end up back where you started.

So what should you do after paying back your debts? Planning for your future is a great place to start. Instead of being a spender, learn to become a saver and keep your finances on the straight and narrow. Take a look at the following tips to help you become better at saving after clearing your debt.

Set a monthly budget

Whether or not you’ve had a budget before, it’s never too late to start one. A budget is often met with negativity, but it actually makes sense to have one to keep track of your finances. Getting started with a budget is simple, and it will help you to know exactly what your income and outgoings are.

Sleep on it

Do you tend to rush into making purchases you might regret down the line? Sleeping on a purchase might make you realize you don’t need it after all, as things can appear different in the morning. Ask yourself if you really need something before you buy it, and if you can’t justify spending the money – don’t do it.

Save now to spend later

If your past behavior involved buying the things you want and need now and paying them off later – you can change this habit. The habit of using credit to pay for things can be dangerous, so you can learn how to save for the things you really want. It will feel much more satisfying paying for something you know you can afford over something you’re still paying off a year later.

Invest your money

By investing your money, you’re helping to grow your savings ready for the future. Investing means your money is tied up elsewhere, preventing you from spending unnecessarily. If you’re looking to invest in a lower risk environment, a Japan ETF (exchange-traded fund) could be the right answer for you. Alternative investments include property and startup businesses, giving you plenty of options for places to put your money.

Develop better money-saving habits

Being thriftier with your spending is no bad thing, especially if it means you use the extra money saved to put towards your savings. There are plenty of excellent money-saving tips out there to help you save on everything from your grocery bill to your vacation, and the more you do it then the better you will be at it. Look for bargains where you can to help your money stretch further.

When you’ve cleared your debt, the next important step for your finances is to plan for your future. With some good money-saving savvy behind you, you can become a great saver to put you and your family in the best financial position possible.

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Maybe We Should React With Empathy: The Situation at the U.S. Border

I have read so many incredibly disturbing stories, tweets, and Facebook posts about the situation of illegal immigrants’ children being separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border that I can’t stay quiet any longer. Maybe I’m encouraged by Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, and I will try to state my opinion clearly and kindly without offending anyone. But that may be impossible.

What I don’t understand is all of these parents who are actually saying things like: “Well, the parents are at fault. They broke a law. So the children should be taken away.” I have to think that the parents who are saying this have never felt desperation to save their child from a future like they had. Do you think these parents would leave their home and risk everything if their situation was good? Many of these parents are not selfish and horrible. These parents want something better for their lives and their children, and they have been told time and time again that this future is possible in America. Is it? Who knows? But it’s what they have been led to believe their entire lives, and they feel it is in within their grasp.

If you can’t understand that, and you are a parent, can you understand what it would be like to have your child ripped away from you? Your baby? Your child with a disability?

But let’s actually look at this from the CHILDREN’S point of view because they are the ones who are innocent victims of a big political mess and governments that seem to not always take their people into consideration. We were all children once. Many of my readers and Facebook friends grew up in the Midwest and have similar backgrounds. Can you imagine being ripped away from your loving parents who sacrifice everything for you, and put in a strange place with other crying, upset strangers, where you have no idea what will happen to you day after day? As adults, most of us would do horrible in this situation, and these are kids–many of them under 5! Where is our empathy?

I have no idea what the answer is to the problem of illegal immigration. We live in a messed up world. Every single country, including the U.S., has injustice, poverty,  and crime. But I know the answer is not to take people’s children away. The answer is not to separate children from their parents. And for everyone who is quoting Bible verses or talking about Christianity–just stop. The point of Christianity has been lost in this case.

It is a confusing, complex, terrible situation without an easy answer. It is painful. It is horrible. Maybe that’s what we should be saying. There is no simple answer to this problem. But we can all react with kindness, right?  We can all state truth. We can all have empathy for these children who are living in fear, in conditions we wouldn’t want to live in.

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How to Survive the Silent Treatment by the Narcissist

If you know a narcissist as a friend, parent, family member, co-worker, or partner, then you’ve experienced “the silent treatment.” This is on my mind today because I’ve been working on a novel with a narcissistic character, and he just gave the main character the silent treatment. I also recently saw a post on a Facebook group by someone who has dedicated her life to helping men and women get over narcissistic abuse and live a healthy life again. She said something like: “Look at the silent treatment as a gift. You are not dealing with the narcissist during this time.”

That is great in theory, but the problem is that the love and communication the narcissist withdraws from you because he or she wants to punish you for whatever wrong you did or didn’t do is a form of abuse. It makes you feel shameful. It makes you feel desperate. It makes you feel insane and unstable. And it can occur for countless reasons that make no sense to you even after the silent treatment is over and the narcissist has forgiven you or at least decided you were worthy enough to be in his or her life again.

There are countless blog posts and articles on the Internet about the silent treatment and why it happens. Many of those articles end with some kind of warning statement about how you need to get away from the narcissist immediately or give him or her the gray rock treatment. But if you are reading this article, and are experiencing or have experienced the silent treatment, and LONG for that love in your life to come back, please know you are NORMAL.

You are not crazy. You do not like to be punished or treated like dirt. You are following a normal behavior pattern that is now a habit in your life, just like smokers, and in order to get out of this habit, you have to want to change and have the ability to do it. (For example, if you are a teenager, and your mom is a narcissist, you may have to learn how to deal with this–you’re not able to say good-bye forever or be a gray rock.) I had a counselor one time tell me that resilience is the way go when we have to deal with narcissists in our lives, and I don’t think she is wrong. Sure, you can get rid of some–if you are dating, for example–but it’s still not easy.

So how do you survive?

  1. Talk to someone about it: Find a friend or a therapist you trust and talk about the silent treatment and how it makes you feel. Keeping all of that inside will only make you feel worse.
  2. Write about it: Journal about how you’re feeling or exactly what happened, as you remember it. Write a letter to the narcissist about your feelings, but don’t give it to that person–just write what you really want to say, so you can get your thoughts clear.
  3. Give yourself a break: What will make you feel better? Is it binge-watching Netflix? Going to the library and reading a book? Taking a walk with a friend? Whatever it is that you enjoy, do it during the silent treatment. You need to practice self-care and self-love and try to relax.
  4.  Count your blessings: Chances are that you have some amazing things going on in your life, but they are hard to see because you are so worried about the narcissist, or he or she has made you feel terrible about everything in your life. Take a deep breath and find one thing you are thankful for. Then, the next day, find two things. For example, I have a beautiful daughter to hug. I have a house with heat.

The important thing to remember is that when you have an argument with someone, it is okay to take some time away from each other to cool down and figure out what you want to say. That is not the silent treatment. When you are trying to reach out to someone close to you, and this person is consistently not answering you or won’t communicate (aka the silent treatment), the only thing you can control is yourself. It is not okay for this person to be “punishing” you, but you can’t control it. You can try some of the strategies in this post to start building your self-esteem and practice self-love.

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5 Things To Consider For You and Your Family When Dealing with a Serious Injury

(contributed post)

When you sustain an injury that puts you out of action for a considerable length of time, your work life will change  and your family and home life might too. It’s therefore in your best interest to think about what you can do to stop those changes from wreaking havoc. It’s possible to limit the negative impact of this situation if you take the right steps. 

Adapt Your Home

There are certain adaptations that can be made in your home to help you navigate it a little more easily after your injury. If stability is a problem when you’re getting around the home, it might be a good idea to add some grab rails, so you feel more sturdy. If you’re using a wheelchair, widening the doorways in the home might be a good idea to explore, too.

Find New Ways to Work

Just because you’ve suffered some sort of injury doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay off work completely. As long as you feel up to it and your doctor agrees, you might be able to work in new ways that are more accommodating for you. It might be possible for you to work fewer hours or simply work from home instead of heading to the office.

Secure Compensation if Possible

If your injury occurred as a result of someone else’s mistake or fault, you should look into getting compensation for what happened to you. The major benefit of this is that it allows you to cover any loss of income you might experience as a result of your injury. An injury lawyer should be able to help you with all this, so it’s worth pursuing. At least look into whether it could be an option for you.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Your mentality and general outlook will certainly be important when you’re looking to come back from an injury. If you take a negative approach to everything and spend all your time feeling sorry for yourself, you probably won’t make the most of your time. So try to maintain an outlook that’s as positive as it possibly can be given your circumstances.

Recovery Properly Rather Than Quickly

Sure, recovering quickly is obviously going to be what you want to do, but not at any cost. There are lots of things that can go wrong if you rush through your recovery process. That’s why your recovery should be focused on the right way of doing things rather than the fastest way of doing things. You don’t want to make mistakes that result in setbacks for you.

Experiencing a big injury can be really difficult to deal with, especially when it impacts your career and family life. However, you just need to approach things in the right way if you want to limit the overall impact on your life, and the tips here will help you.

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What Happens When You Surround Yourself In Positivity

I really like this post below, which came to me as a contributed post. What I like about it is that they aren’t really telling you HOW to be positive, but they are showing you that if you can manage to have a positive attitude, here are the benefits. And I agree with everyone of these below. It’s not easy to always be positive–that’s for sure. And no one is saying that. What KT and I have been trying to focus on lately is our blessings. Every night, we are saying three things we are thankful for, and it really makes us examine our day–often we have more than 3!

Life has a nasty habit of getting negative. No matter where you go or who you meet, there are always things to see and be down about. The weather. Your job. Debt. All of these things allow a cloud to hang over your head and sometimes that cloud can be all consuming. The thing is, no one wants to walk around all day long with a cloud over their head. No one enjoys feeling unhappy or unmotivated; not only is it not productive for your day-to-day life, it’s just downright miserable, isn’t it?

You should instead be spending your life feeling happy, secure and motivated to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve. The key to this is people. People and positivity. If you’re surrounding yourself with positive influences, then you’re going to feel that happiness and uplifted spirit leech into your own life. You cannot have a life that is positive and happy if you’re dealing with negative emotions all the time; it just doesn’t work that way. So, what will go down if you start to surround yourself with positivity? Let’s have a look below and see whether you can live a fulfilled and healthy life.

New Attitude. Living a life of negativity can often lead to crutches like drugs and alcohol being used. Deciding to move away from these destructive behaviors isn’t easy, but choosing to surround yourself with sober companions instead of destructive ones will change your life for the better. Time with healthy people will change your attitude and allow you to feel happier and more positive every day.

New Accomplishments. People will always work better and harder when they feel happy – it’s the nature of productivity. When people are oppressed in the workplace, they don’t concentrate, and working is like moving through quicksand. When you surround yourself in positive people, you are giving yourself a chance to achieve more than you ever thought possible.

New Friends. When you’re in a low, you often feel too sad or depressed to speak to new people. When you are feeling positive, new people don’t seem so daunting, and you’re far more likely to be welcoming with new people around you. New friends can bolster your confidence and allow you to feel happier and contented in your life.

New Success. Successful people are motivated, driven and confident in what they do. None of that is prevalent with negative people. People want to spend time with other happy people, and it’s this that will draw the right people to you in a good way. Successful people take their time to get to know others, talk and carve out their own opportunities. And if you are feeling happy and positive, that’s exactly what you will be able to do for yourself.

Taking the time to surround your life with positive influences is only going to serve you well. Don’t be afraid to reach out and choose happiness: it’s all in your power.

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I Need To Write 500 Words a Day

All right, enough is a enough! That’s what I’m telling myself and you today. No more excuses. No more self-pity. No more being overwhelmed with life. I am writing 500 words a day even if this latest novel I’m working on goes nowhere!

What’s it about? Well, it’s for adults–that’s new for my fiction, most likely it would be considered women’s fiction. And it’s about a woman who has her first serious relationship with a narcissist in college, and she has an alcoholic sister. She doesn’t know who she is (maybe that’s the reason for my true self post the other day!) except for being connected to the narcissist her entire adult life and being a caregiver for her sister–so yes, she’s totally codependent. In this novel, I explore if it is possible to break free from these habitual patterns of unhealthy behavior and choose yourself over codependency.

And I need to work on this every day. I will write at least 500 words a day.

When I vowed on here to do Morning Pages, I did pretty well. I’m still writing in a journal in the morning several days a week, and it’s very helpful. So I think vowing on here to write 500 words a day will hold me more accountable than if I just tell myself I will do this.

Want to join me?

 

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How To Keep The Family Going When You Lose Your Job

Losing your job is always a scary time. You’ll be worrying about how you’re going to find another job, and more importantly, how you’re going to manage financially until you get back to work. All of those worries are magnified if you’re the main breadwinner, and you’ve got a family to support. But don’t worry, even though it’s going to be a tough period, you can make it through the other side if you follow these simple steps.

Borrow Some Money

Borrowing isn’t a habit that you want to get into, but if you’ve just lost your job, you might have to. When the end of the month comes, you need to cover all of your bills. If you don’t have enough money there, you could take out a short-term loan to keep your head above water until you sort something more permanent out. Click to learn more about where to find the best short-term loans. Just remember, you shouldn’t think of this as a long-term solution; it’s just a way of making sure that you don’t miss any payments.

Take Stock

Now that you’re not earning, you need to take stock of your finances and work out exactly how much money you’ve got to work with. Check all of your savings and then add up all of your monthly expenses. By doing that, you’ll be able to work out exactly how many months you can afford before you’re in financial trouble. Once you’ve got that budget drawn up, you can start planning properly.

Cut Back On Expenses

When you’re out of work, you need to start prioritizing the things that you’re spending money on. A lot of the luxuries that you were buying when you were earning are going to have to go. It’ll only be temporary, and you can get spending back to normal; but the more you reduce your outgoings, the longer you can survive without an income. Things like TV subscriptions, expensive phone contracts, etc. are easy things to cut out of your budget right away. When you’re shopping for groceries, consider switching to a cheaper store and always be on the lookout for any deals and offers that will make it less expensive.

Be Honest With The Family

You probably don’t want to tell the kids that you’ve lost your job and you’re in a bit of financial trouble, but trying to hide it is only going to make things worse. Children are very perceptive, and they’ll be able to tell that something is going on. If you keep them in the dark, they’ll only worry about it more. The best thing to do is to be honest with them and tell them that you aren’t working at the moment, but it’s only going to be for a little while and they don’t need to worry about it.

The most important thing that you should remember in the wake of a job loss is not to panic. It might feel like the end of the world, but it’s only a temporary situation. As long as you manage your money properly, you’ll be fine.

 

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Wonderful Graduation Gifts for the Graduates

What gifts can you give to graduates now that they have completed the course and reached their goals? Looking for something to add to that check you are writing for them? Flowers provide the best option for your special gift to the person you want to congratulate for making it to graduation. There are plenty of choices online, but a florist can give you something special to give as a gift on Graduation Day.

Flower Bouquets

One way to gift your dear brother, sister, or friends is through a florist delivery of a beautiful hand bouquet. Graduation flowers can be the prettiest gift you can give them to let them know how happy and proud you are for completing the course. With a lovely flower arrangement or plants in pots, you can make the Graduation Day celebration more special.

Greeting Cards

Whether you personally make the card or you buy one from a store, giving a card full of meaningful and thoughtful messages will make them feel special. This is just one day of celebration for all the days they dedicated their time and effort to study and reach their goals.

Special Gift Items

There are hundreds of gift items available at a flower shop. With the help of the florist, you can find the right items to give them. Whether you want to give a special bag or book, or a memorable picture of his or her hard work in school, you can always ask for help from a florist.

Personalized Gifts

You can also choose to give them personalized gifts, like paper flowers, handmade bags, hand-printed wall decorations, and many more. Get ideas online or from the florists, in case you want to know more unique ideas for Graduation Day gifting.

Basket or Hamper of Gifts

You can always give special baskets or hampers of gifts on this special day. When you give or send them any gifts, you can expect them to cherish the items for the rest of their lives.

Completing the studies whether on the elementary, secondary, or university level is a challenging journey. Your brother, sister, friend or loved ones deserve the best and most wonderful graduation gifts on their day of graduation. Let them know that you are proud and happy for their achievements. On this special day, send them thoughtful gifts with a surprise gift of flowers to appreciate what they accomplished.

(contributed post)

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Finding My True Self: A Work in Progress

Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.

~Richard Bach

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the subjects of shame, belonging and authenticity. This is not light, beach reading, obviously, and sometimes, it takes me to places that I’ve been avoiding, well, my entire life. But I also know that these books, journals, reflections, and meditations are leading me closer to my “true self.”

We all have an ideal self–someone who we wish we were. This person looks perfect, acts perfect, and is perfect. And this person will never and can never exist because we are human, and no one is perfect. But our striving to be this person, this version of whatever we think is perfect, is killing us–it leads to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, drinking too much, and a whole host of other unhealthy things.

So to find my true self, I’ve been trying to recognize when I’m comparing myself to this ideal image . When I look in the mirror and I say to myself, why didn’t you use more sunscreen when you were younger? Or maybe you should skip that dessert tonight! Or even: why can’t you make more time to work on your novel–look at how successful your friends are? Why are you so impatient with your daughter whom you love more than anything else in the world? When I do this, I am being hard on myself, and I’m comparing myself to this ideal image of the way I think I should be.

Look, we’ve been doing this since we were kids. It’s why when we aren’t married to Prince Charming by the time we are 25, we start freaking out a little. It’s why when we get let go from a job we thought we would retire from, we feel defeated. It’s why when our book doesn’t make the bestsellers list, we think we have zero talent.

I would venture that many of us don’t know our true selves. I’m working on knowing mine. And the way I’m doing it, thanks to this book to the right and journaling, is by recognizing a few things:

  1. When I’m not sleeping at night because I’m analyzing my behavior during the day and wondering if I was good enough. Did I do everything correctly? Is anyone going to be upset with me in the morning? Now, I’m reframing this and saying: Of course, I wasn’t perfect, but I did some of these things correctly and next time, I might do this instead. Then I think of my blessings and go back to sleep.
  2. When I’m not authentic. One of the examples Darlene Lancer gives many times in the book is to ask yourself: do you find yourself accepting blame or saying you are sorry when you don’t really mean it? Do you say things at work or in your family that you don’t really feel to keep the peace? Sure, we all do this, and there is a fine line between always saying what you feel and respecting other people. But as Brene Brown pointed out in her book, Braving the Wilderness, we can listen with an open mind to everyone, and we can respond with kindness. It can still be authentic, such as, “I’m sorry I just don’t agree with that point, but I see where you’re coming from.” If we can learn that sentence, we may be closer to our true selves than we ever have been before.
  3. When I feel joy: I think since I’ve been thinking about this subject more than I ever have before, I’m actually feeling more joy and more peace. I think I’m sillier with Katie. I feel more in control.  I feel like I can do this single parent thing. This is not to say that I’ve got it all together. But there are more positive moments filled with joy than before. I’m not always doing something because I think I should (like planning an activity for Katie every day–some days, we’re staying home and she’s figuring out what to do herself). I’m prioritizing what brings me joy and what I need to do to feel organized and good about myself, and then doing those things.

As I’ve written about before, this journey I’m on is filled with imperfect progress. I don’t have any of this mastered yet, but I thought I would share because you might be on a similar journey, or these words might inspire you to join with me in finding our true selves.

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Only the Boring Get Bored–Tell Your Kids This Summer

(contributed post)

If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt heard your kids utter the words “I’m bored” at one time or another. Some kids say it more than others, but it’s pretty common for them to say it at some point. What do you do when your kids say this? You might give them something to do. Maybe you tell them to go and play a game, or paint a picture.

However, giving your kids things to do all the time can stop them from using their own creativity and imagination. It’s normal for them to ask for something to do, especially once they’ve started school. After all, they’re told what to do all day long there: stand in line, do this equation, draw this picture, don’t do that, etc. They may feel like the same should be happening at home. However, their time at home is their opportunity to do what they want to do (within reason).

If you always give them something to do, they’ll rely on you. They’ll say they’re bored all the time. They’ll stop discovering new things that they like to do all on their own!

Make sure you tell your kids that only the boring get bored! They aren’t bored, and there isn’t nothing to do. They’re simply uninspired. Provide your kids with what they need to come up with their own activities and games.

Make sure your kids have the following:

Materials For Drawing And Painting

Drawing and painting can be quite a therapeutic activity for kids. Making sure they have various materials for drawing and painting can be a way to ensure they always have something to do. You could even make sure they have coloring books.

Something For Writing

Some kids like to write poems and stories. Maybe you could get them an old school typewriter, so they’re not always on the computer getting distracted. Plenty of pens and notebooks can be great, too. You never know what they might come up with!

Books

Books are a fantastic way to get kids improving lots of skills, from reading to listening and even communication skills in general. Kids that develop a love of reading while they’re young usually have it while they’re older, and this can be very beneficial for them in their school work. Books are like watching a TV show in your head, so they encourage imagination.

A Musical Instrument

An ear for music can be tough to develop when you’re older. It’s so much easier when you’re young. Encouraging your kids to play a musical instrument could help them to develop confidence and allow them to see what they are really capable of. Sites like Easyukulelesongs.com are designed to help anybody learn songs quickly and easily. Your kids could be playing their favorite songs in no time.

A Garden Area

Kids should be spending time outside. The sunshine and fresh air is important! Give them a place in the garden they can play. It might be a sandpit, a mini park, or even a vegetable garden they can tend to.

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