The pretty yellow house

When I got to be a grown-up, I started thinking about things like houses and decorating them and what kind of floors they should have.

Wood floors was my answer, and it took me three houses to get them.

The light blonde wood floors of my new house are my favorite (though I can’t seem to keep them clean!). The painted-white trim around the baseboards, the windows and the ceiling are my second favorite.

The green-walled bedrooms upstairs are my third favorite.

And the master bathroom with the white wainscoting halfway up the walls and the white pedestal sink and the subway tile in the shower? My fourth.

The yellow walls? My fifth.

The house is sort of perfect for me.

But we’re moving out and that’s cool. It’s just a house.

Today, I’m going to rearrange some furniture, bring up a bright yellow flower picture from the basement and see what I can do about all those leaves outside (What? Rake them? Ohhhh…).

And I’m going to pull up a little nostalgia while I work. Ninth grade, anybody?

(Before they sold out. At least skip ahead to “Thunder Road.” Worth it).

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And so it begins

My eyes are tired. The little girl woke up no fewer than eight times last night until finally I put us both out of our misery and did the unthinkable: I brought her into my bed.

And then we slept, a little less fitfully.

The bad dreams raged on, though: Someone is chasing me and he/she looks like my old boss for awhile and then my boyfriend’s old girlfriend and then someone I don’t even know. And then the chaser disappears, but I am left, wide-eyed and breathless, not having any idea where to go.

I am stuck, in the middle of a wide open field, somewhere completely unfamiliar. And I am alone.

This house is a home like Bon Iver is peace. My home. My peace. Even if they are newfound.

“For Emma, Forever Ago” is the only record up on my little bookshelf that is actually mine.

This morning, I keep listening.

Everything that happens is from now on…

This house like a home goes on the market today. It is just a house. A pretty little yellow house in the middle of America. I haven’t had it long enough to be this attached. It is just a house.

Today, I feel a little like running away, holing up – for a while. Just existing without all this worry, without all these endless job applications that go nowhere. Just figuring out how to keep doing what matters most – loving the three people I’d do anything for, ever. Figuring out how we can all live happily ever after.

This morning, on the way to school, the little girl out of nowhere looked up at me in the rearview mirror and said, “Mom, I miss you when I’m at Grammy and Papa’s.”

It was both sweet and sad at the same time. But she loves her Grammy and Papa, and we are lucky. Still, to hear her say she wishes I could somehow not be absent while she’s with those other people she loves made me feel, well, warmer.

Thank god for those moments, for those wonderful days, for those beautiful babies, for that amazing man, for those do-anything-at-all parents (all of you). We will get through this.

Mom Saves Money: Where to find coupons

Love that this picture is so ridiculous. "Look at all my coupons and how happy they make me and my boobs!"

Working in the newspaper industry for as long as I did, I heard from people on both sides.

There are those who get the Sunday paper only for the ads.

Then there are those who don’t get the Sunday paper because they don’t want to deal with all those ads.

(I’ve always sort of thought anyone who didn’t subscribe to the paper simply because they couldn’t stick the pile of ads in the recycling bin was a bit, well, silly. But what do I know?)

As it turns out, though, the Sunday paper is only one spot to find deals.

Nicole McDonald’s (momsavesmoney.net) Monday guest posts continue today with where to find coupons outside of the newspaper.

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Nicole McDonald, momsavesmoney.net

Top 10 most unique places to find coupons:

  1. Wine tags – Check the liquor aisle for coupons hanging from bottles of wine. I’ve found coupons for meat, cheese, flour and produce and most with no alcohol purchase required.
  2. Magazines – Most magazines have coupons. All You magazine, available only at Wal-mart, regularly has more than $50 in coupons in every issue. Other magazines may have two or three coupons or a discount to a major clothing retailer.
  3. The doctor’s office– Next time you visit your doctor, peruse their literature. Often, you can find coupons for lotions, medicines, formula and even diapers. Some offices will give away recent magazines and those may include coupons. I’ve even scored a few All You magazines from my pediatrician.
  4. Birthdays – Many stores and restaurants will issue coupons for free items on your birthday. Just sign up for their birthday club online and wait for emails and mail to arrive a few weeks before your birthday. I get a free Starbucks drink every year in the mail and each of my kids gets a free $3 Toys R’ Us gift card for their birthday.
  5. Facebook and Twitter – Follow your favorite brands online and often they will issue coupons or freebies to followers.
  6. Ebay – It’s true: ebay has everything, including coupons. Technically, the coupons are free (since selling them is illegal) and you are paying for the seller’s time to clip them. Just make sure you are buying a legit coupon if you buy on ebay. If it looks like it might be photocopied, steer clear.
  7. Convenience stores – Check the cooler section for high value drink and candy coupons.
  8. Product packaging – Always double check the inside of the box or wrapper for a coupon. Frozen foods sometimes have a coupon in a small plastic bag and cereal boxes have the coupons printed directly on the cardboard box. I’ve been known to buy boxes of cereal, of course, with a coupon, just to get the coupons that come with it.
  9. Free samples – There are lots of free samples available online and many of them come with high value coupons. If it’s a new product, you can often match the coupon with a sale promotion and get a full-size item for free.
  10. Sampling programs – Companies want you to try their new products and will send you coupons for free products through their sampling programs. Kraftfirsttaste.com, vocalpoint.com and pssst.generalmills.com are all companies that work with brand-name products.

What other unusual places have you found coupons?

(Learn how to coupon and more at Nicole’s next coupon class this Wednesday, Nov. 30. Full details and sign up here.)

Nicole McDonald writes about freebies, coupons, deals and product reviews and hosts giveaways at www.momsavesmoney.net.

Freebie Friday: #2

The first time I told my son he was eating so many waffles that he might just turn into an Eggo, I knew: I’d become my mom.

Most days, I think I drink so much coffee that I might just turn into a pot of the black, hot, good stuff.

It’s only fitting then that this week’s giveaway is, YES, coffee.

Delicious, warm, hit-the-spot-every-time coffee.

Not just any coffee. CRANE COFFEE.

Locally owned and operated since 1995, Crane Coffee now has seven locations around Omaha (77th and Cass, 153rd and Weir, 60th and Center, 129th and Maple, 119th and Pacific, 84th and Spring and inside Methodist Hospital). They make great drinks and great pastries, and more importantly, are always just so nice.

So. I’ve got a Crane Coffee tumbler and a pound of vanilla Crane coffee to give away.

Yum.

Leave a comment here to enter. One winner will be selected at random on Monday. Good luck!

Goodness gracious

On the gratitude list I have in my head:

– Healthy, happy, spunky, smart, beautiful children who truly make my world go round.

– An amazingly kind, wise, talented, funny, handsome, caring, tender-hearted, patient, loyal man who lets me love him and loves me right back.

– True friends to laugh and cry (and drink wine) with: Kate Anderson, Katie Phillips, Chris Johnson, Melissa Cruickshank, Sarah Tucker, Mara Rasure, Jeannine Purser, Jenny Strohbehn, Kim Moeller, Melissa Young, Kitty O’Kane, Michaela Saunders, Grant Mussman … there are more. I am lucky.

– Parents who love me and my babies. Ex-in-laws and someday in-laws who love us, too. My sisters and my brother.

– Music and running and good stories and good writing. And love and emotion and all the good that comes with that. Mountains and lakes and being outside. All the things that make us feel alive.

Truly, things are worth fighting for.

Worth smiling about.

Worth breathing a little deeper, savoring a little more.

Thank you.

His nickname was Tippy

My grandpa died last week. His nickname was Tippy and I didn’t know him at all.

He wasn’t even really my grandpa, though that’s why my last name is Daehn. His was, too, and he adopted my dad when he was just a kid. One day, my dad’s last name was Cotton; the next, it was Daehn.

Anyway, he died. And that made my dad all sorts of sad. Which, in turn, has made me sad.

It’s also part of what has made me feel like tucking inside myself a bit, like wrapping the covers around my most important pieces and not venturing out.

Leaving my job has been difficult. Some parts of me are relieved to no longer work for an employer that treats its employees the way that one did. A bit of me is relieved to no longer have to worry about that website’s traffic and profitability and poor design.

But when you take the covers off, much of me feels vulnerable. Who can I trust? Why did that website matter more than my friendship to a few people who have made me question the way I spent so much time and energy the past two years.

I don’t know.

What do any of us know really.

Except that these things still remain, no matter who’s standing beside us:

– We owe ourselves happiness. If you’re not happy, seek it out. Don’t stop until you find it. Never give up. It exists. I’ve found it, and even though every day I have to choose to feel it, it is there. A beautiful overarching truth.

– We ought to believe in ourselves, at least most of the time. I mean, really. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? At the end of the day, we have our own reflection to answer to. Our own expectations to meet. Don’t give up. You can do it.

– It really is – somehow – going to be OK. A friend last week reminded me of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech. You can’t connect the dots of your life looking forward, he says. Only backward. You have to believe the dots will connect down the road.

(I watched this video the day he died. I just watched it again. He was fired from Apple, at 30 years old. For a few months, he didn’t know what to do. Then he realized, he still loved what he did. So he decided to start over. He created Pixar and he fell in love and got married. I’ve found the love, maybe now I’ll find my Pixar).

“Do what you believe is great work,” he says. “Love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

My dad didn’t get to see his dad before he died. (Cancer is an evil, ugly thing). But he went to Sheboygan last weekend, to pay his respects, to see his brother and to … well, find some closure, I suspect. The people who are left behind have it worse than the ones who have died. I’ve always thought that.

Anyway, my dad came home with a suitcase full of memories. Inside that old case were pictures of his late mom, love letters his dad wrote to her long ago and other mementos. My dad opened the lid, was brave enough to peek inside for a second and then shut it up.

That trip was for another time, a different day, when emotions weren’t already high, when his own self no longer felt bruised and vulnerable.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My babies are with their dad and their grandparents and I am so thankful they have so many people to love them. I am thankful I, too, have someone to love, and family to share the day with.

Think I’m going for a run.

In the sunshine.

Mom Saves Money: Surviving Black Friday

If you don’t know her yet, you’ll want to.

Meet Nicole McDonald, blogger/owner/CEO of momsavesmoney.net.

Head over to her site. You’ll like it.

Know why?

Cause she tells us how to save money. 

Awesome. We could all stand to learn more about that.

And get this: Nicole has agreed to partner with me and offer a guest blog each Monday on Single Mom with Love.

It begins today.

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Nicole McDonald, momsavesmoney.net

Are you excited for the biggest shopping day of the year? I love the Black Friday deals, but let’s be honest: This day of shopping can be stressful.

Right?

Well.

Here you go.

My tips for maximizing your Black Friday shopping experience:

1. Preview the Black Friday ads and devise a plan – Where will you shop? What will you buy? What time do the stores open? Plot a map of the stores and make a road trip and time plan. Visit the store a few days before Black Friday to get a feel for where the deals will be placed. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your shopping trip.

2. Arrive early for door-buster deals. Quantities are usually limited, so if you really want a certain item at the sale price GET THERE BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE. This is the only day of the year I willingly wake up before 6 a.m. Some stores offer freebies to the first 100 or so shoppers. Be aware that you may have to wait in line (outside, in the freezing cold) 30 minutes to an hour to snag a coveted freebie. I recommend some dollar-shop hand warmers and a good winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves.

3. Shop with several reusable bags instead of a cart. You can maneuver better through the store and won’t be stuck in shopping-cart traffic. Just place your purchases in your reusable bags and get your shopping done quicker.

4. Don’t take small children. If you’re serious about getting good deals, leave the little ones at home. They will slow you down considerably — and with large crowds, they’ll be safer at home, too.

5. Use the buddy system. If you make a shopping list and realize there is no way you can get all the door-busters you want, recruit a shopping buddy. Both want door-busters at separate stores that open at the same time? Make a list and you shop at one store for both of you and your friend shops at the other store for you. This way, both of you can get the deals you want. Or stick together but head to opposite ends of the store to snag the deals right away.

6. Stay safe and be respectful. Don’t push, shove or fight others over a deal. I only say this because I’ve seen it and it’s not worth getting hurt over a good deal. Also, keep your purse and wallet on you at all times.

7. Buy only what you need. Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap. Think about what purpose the item has, who will be the lucky recipient or how you will use it yourself. I know it’s hard to pass up those insane deals, but no matter how steep the discount, remember, it’s still your money you are spending. If you don’t have a specific purpose for the item, buying something you don’t really need is just throwing away your hard-earned dollars.

8. Have Fun. Enjoy yourself and don’t take Black Friday too seriously. If an item is sold out, it’s sold out and there’s nothing you can do about it. No need to join the ‘angry mob’ (I’m sure you’ve seen these people who start yelling and get so mad an item is sold out when the ad specifically says limited quantities). Just relax, sip a latte and have fun shopping. Maybe even put on your favorite Christmas shirt or Santa hat and jam to some holiday music in your car to get in the holiday mood.

Let the shopping madness begin!

What other tips do you have for Black Friday shopping?

Nicole McDonald writes about freebies, coupons, deals and product reviews and hosts giveaways at www.momsavesmoney.net.