Life At Home

Our Hands Change- Helping Animals One Step at a Time

Do you ever stumble upon people in your life that you realize right from the start are genuinely good people? That’s how I felt when I met my friends Rob Newton and Jessica Ernstberger (now Newton).

I met both of these wonderful humans in college. In fact, I introduced them to each other at my house. From there they dated, moved across the country, got married and then, best of all decided to help the world. Specifically, animals.

Rob and Jessica created their own animal sanctuary, which houses their twenty-three rescue goats, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and even a parrot. They call it Diego Farms, and they graciously care for these animals on their own.

Apparently housing these animals was not enough for them, because they’ve even taken it a step farther. They have started a company called, Our Hands Change. With every purchase made, 50% of that purchase will go to a charity. My favorite part is the money will either be donated in the form of cash, or given in the equivalent monetary amount of food and/or supplies (blankets, dog beds, dog toys, etc). All of their products are made right here in the US.

Check out their awesome site, and read the stories of the people and animals involved. If we had more people like Rob and Jess, the world would certainly be a much better place.

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My shirt is one of their best sellers. Check it out here!

Life At Home

Why I Live in a “Diminishing” City

Growing up I always told myself when I was old enough I would get out of this city. I felt as though my city had nothing to offer my generation. There wasn’t anything to do. It was extremely boring.

Then I grew up. I went off to college, but after graduating returned home thinking, “Ok, I’ll start here and figure out where to go next”. How was I going to find a job around here? Why are people my age staying?

Well, I did find a job, and then I had a family. “Ok, you’ll raise your baby here for a few years so she can be around her grandparents, but then you are definitely moving”.

Uhhuh, sure. Go ahead and tell yourself that.

I live in a city that is considered part of the Rust Belt. Years ago our city was known as the “Furniture Capital of the World”. Now most of those buildings and warehouses are empty and desolate, almost haunting to look at. Over the years our city has been hit hard with a drug problem. Heroine, meth, cocaine, and opioids are some of the recent drugs that police have seized. Poverty is slowly consuming more and more families, leaving homes rundown and decrepit.

How am I supposed to raise my daughter in a city that seems to be falling apart? We have friends and family that have left. From Maine to Florida they’ve hightailed it out of here and made a new life for themselves in cities much more thriving than ours.

So why stay? Why live in a boring, drugged up, impoverished, diminishing, small city that seems to be minutes away from annihilation?

I’ll tell you why.

Because there are things to do.

As a high school teenager maybe I was “too cool” to do these things or just didn’t think they were interesting enough for my “too good for the world” teenage brain, but there truly are plenty of places to go with your family, spouse, or just independently around the city.

There are fun activities such as bowling alleys, golf courses, tons of local parks to play at. There is an ice arena to do free skate, and there are plenty of events held there as well. We have local theaters that continually give performances or show popular movies. There is amazing local food such as SAUCE, Forte or the Landmark. There are adorable places to get coffee like Crown Street Roasting Company or Labyrinth Press Company. Grab a drink after work at The Pub, Souther Tier Brewery, or Brazil. Stop and get ice cream at The Sprinkle Cone, and while you’re there check out the skatepark right next door. A few days a week there is a Farmer’s Market to attend, or Historical Walking Tours to try. Our local library offers story time, classes, or fun lego activities for children. Get out and enjoy nature with a newly created Riverwalk trail along the river, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute or visit the Audubon Community Nature Center. There are even new  Escape Rooms to gather a group of friends and try out.

This doesn’t even include all the places in our surrounding area that are a just a drive away. Our beautiful Chautauqua Lake, Midway Park, Chautauqua Institution, the many wineries we have in our area, Allegany State Park, local places to ski, the list goes on and on.

I’m sorry, but you cannot tell me there is nothing to do.

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Because there are drugs and crime everywhere.

Face it. No matter where you go there will always be drugs and crime. Yes, we’d like to think that we live in a picture perfect town where everyone gets along and does what they’re supposed to do. I’m sorry but that has never existed, and will never exist. I’m not condoning drugs, and I’m not condoning crime, but I will tell you that you will never be able to completely run away from that. Drugs are taking over lots of places right now, not just our city.

People are beginning to realize the problem, and more and more people are stepping up, trying to make a difference.

Because the cost of living is lower.

This may not be true for everywhere, but compared to large cities, the cost of living will be more affordable. Buying a house in this area is a great way to start yourself off financially as opposed to some other places.

Because there is a sense of community.

Don’t you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. C’mon guys, I had to.

Living in this city means no matter where you go, you will always find someone who knows you. Growing up I thought this was slightly annoying. My mother ALWAYS ran into at least three people that she would have fifteen minute conversations with, and errands like grocery shopping seemed to take months.

Now I go to the grocery store with my daughter and the same thing happens to me, except this time it’s comforting. People ask me about my family, my job, my house, “and did you hear that so-and-so is pregnant again?”.

People truly care about one another.

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Because the city is trying.

There are tons of people in this city that are trying to make a difference. We now have the a local Renaissance Corporation that has worked so hard to improve the city in so many ways. They have started a farmer’s market, are working on creating a vibrant downtown atmosphere, are building community gardens, are installing programs to clean up our city, and coming up with friendly ways to encourage better looking homes. People in this city are trying.

And let me tell you they are doing a damn, good job.

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Because it’s home.

No matter what, the place you grow up in is your home. It’s who made you who you are today. The people, the places, the neighborhoods, the traditions, they are your home whether you chose them or not. Most of our family is here, and to us that’s home.

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Because if I move, how am I going to help make a difference?

Earlier I stated, “So why stay? Why live in a boring, drugged up, impoverished, diminishing, small city that seems to be minutes away from annihilation?”, and this is the biggest reason why. I want to help. I want to make a difference. I want to make this city beautiful again. I want to keep our downtown renovations worth something. I want my daughter to live in a place she’s proud of.

A lot of my friends have moved away. Do I blame them? Not even a little. Do I respect their decision? I do, 100%.

But for those that continue to ask me, why do I stay? This is why, and I hope you can respect my decision too

Self Love

How To Be Even More Awesome Than You Already Are

There are a lot of really terrible people in the world. I mean, not you of course. You’re awesome. But a lot of other people? Yeah. They’re not cool.

It’s really hard to be as awesome as you and I. I mean it takes work to get to this level. Maybe that’s why so many people just don’t even try to be better people. Here’s what you can do to be even more awesome, or maybe these lame people should give these things a try.

Smile at people.

People you do know. People you don’t know. Just smile at them. Don’t be creepy about it, but if you make eye contact with people across a restaurant, give them a quick smile. Did you have a nice cashier as you were checking out at Target? Give her a polite small.

It can go a long way.

Listen to people when they talk.

No I mean really listen to people as they talk. Even if their story is about how they went through their grandma’s sock drawer, listen politely. Make eye contact, ask some simple follow up questions to show that you care, “Wow, so I mean, how old do you think some of these socks are?”

Even if you don’t care, show people that you do. It’s just a nice thing to do.

Bring a gift when you go places.

Going over to a friends house? Bring a bottle of wine. Hanging out with the guys to watch football? Bring some beer. It seems as though alcohol suits these situations best, but other small things can be great too. A small potted plant or bouquet of flowers. Homemade cookies, brownies… let’s be honest, homemade anything.

People will appreciate it. And who knows, maybe they’ll want to return the favor when they show up at your door.

Stop talking about people.

Okay, for real. What is the point? Maybe you’re truly not one to gossip, but every once and a while it just slips out when you’re with your gal pals. It happens, but if you notice that you’re talking about an individual do these two steps:

  1. Stop! Think to yourself, “Hmm, would I like it if I was the person in this situation right now?”
  2. Veer the conversation in a different direction.

That’s not so bad, right? Now doesn’t that feel good?

Tip a wee bit higher.

“But I’m already an amazing tipper”. OKAY FINE, then skip to the next one. But a lot of people are not. Really this goes for the good service you find. Servers, drivers, anyone that you’re tipping appreciates and remembers the faces of people who tip well, so why not?

Compliment someone.

Don’t be afraid to say something nice to someone. Most people don’t bite. We live in a day in age where people get offended by something that is said in the blink of an eye, so I know that sometimes you may be nervous to put yourself out there and talk to people. But if you really like someones jeans, or you see a mom doing a kick-ass job grocery shopping with three kids, or you run into one of your old, favorite teachers, tell them how you feel. Compliment them on the awesome job that they’re doing.

We need more nice people in this world.

Put your phone down for a bit.

If you are hanging with your friends on a Saturday night, put the phone down. You can interact with your friends human faces instead of their virtual ones.

I’m not saying you have to put it down for the entire time, but if you’re playing a game or you’re having a conversation with friends don’t worry about your phone. If people are talking and you’re liking things left and right on social media, are you really giving your friends the attention they deserve?

Hang out, talk, eat, and relax without the phone. You can check everything later.

Ask your host if they need help with anything.

When you go to a friends or families house for dinner ask the host if they need help cooking, or setting the table. It is a fact that 98% of the time if you ask your host if they need help they will say no.

Okay, that’s not true, but I mean it could be. Even if they do want help they’ll probably just ask you to peel potatoes or something. Eh, that’s not so bad!

Either way they will appreciate that you offered to help, or that you actually did.

Just be nice.

Say nice things. Try to see the positive in everyone and everything. Be friendly to people you know. Be friendly to people you don’t know. Help others. Just do good.

Our world can be a sad, angry place. We need more awesome people like you. And for those that are already awesome, why not be AWESOMER?

Bonus- Dress like a unicorn.

I mean who’s more awesome than a unicorn?

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Baby

To The Friend Who Was Pregnant Long Before I Was

Now that I have experienced this whole new parenting thing for the first time in my life, I have learned a lot of things along the way. Much advice came from family members who had been parents for many, many years. Most of their words of wisdom were very helpful, but sometimes I took their advice with a grain of salt knowing very well that parenting has significantly changed in the last thirty years.

Some advice was from friends who had already experienced pregnancy, and were raising their own children. For some reason their advice seemed to stick with me more. The latest kids shows on TV, food trends, baby items all seemed more relevant than the, “Well back when you were a baby…” advice.

I had some friends that already had five year olds by the time I had my first child. They were in a different spot than I was. I was breast feeding and barely sleeping and they were school shopping and attending soccer practices. It made me realize three things about these friends of mine that had a few years of experience on me.

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Thank you for the advice.

Seriously. Thank you. The whole first time parenting thing is scary and new. Thank you for being there at any hour of the day so I could send you a text, or call you to ask questions. Thank you for answering my stupid questions like the difference between 24 month shirts and 2T shirts. Thank you for sharing with me what foods I should probably try first with my child. You were so helpful, and allowed me to calm down and see the beautiful part of pregnancy and the beginning stages of human life.

I’m sorry I didn’t know what to ask when you were starting your journey as a parent.

I did not have a clue what pregnancy was like, let alone welcoming a new baby into your home. I’m sorry I never asked you how you were sleeping before the baby’s arrival or after baby came. I’m sorry I showed up to visit without a meal for you to eat, or even a gift for your baby. How silly of me to not even bring a simple meal, or small toy for your child. I’m sorry I never asked if you needed help with anything. I could have done a load of laundry, or let you go take a nice, deserved nap. I’m sorry I never asked you how baby was eating, or about her health. I’m sorry I just assumed that you could still hang out whenever you wanted to. I was so naive when it came to parenting, and I’m sorry I was not a better friend for you.

I cannot tell you how much you have taught me.

I watch you and your children. You are amazing at being a mama. Your children are just as awesome as you. Whenever we are together I enjoy watching you be a mom. I watch the things you say, how you handle arguments or tough situations, how much they eat, absolutely everything. You have taught me so much about being a parent, and I have so much respect for you.

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From the hand-me-downs to the simple texts, thank you and I love you. You are one awesome mama, and an equally amazing friend.

Baby · Self Love

Here’s To You, Mama

You’re reading this. That means that you have survived the day (so far). You have made it to a point in your day that you will maybe get a sliver of time for yourself to read at least part of this. Maybe you won’t finish it because the milk will spill to the ground, or small people will start yelling, “Mommy!”. But that’s okay, because here’s to you for all the things you did today.

Here’s to you for preparing.

Preparing meals, preparing for sports, preparing tomorrows outfits, preparing the diaper bag, preparing for meltdowns.

Maybe you still weren’t even totally prepared. That’s okay, you can’t always be, but you tried.

Here’s to you for trying.

Trying the homework you were not doing “like the teacher does it”. Trying to understand why the baby was crying right now. Trying to make everyone happy all at once. Trying to get the house clean faster than it becomes messy again. Trying new events or activities with the kids even if you were nervous about how they will go.

You tried, and that’s all that matters.

Here’s to you for smiling.

Smiling at your coworkers even though you were up all night with a sick kid. Smiling even though you’re exhausted. Smiling at your teenager even though you knew you would never in a million years get a smile in return. Smiling at the woman that stared at you, judging you because you just picked up your kid’s pacifier and put it back in his mouth without really wiping it off.

Sometimes smiling is the last thing you want to do, but you did it anyway.

Here’s to you for helping.

Helping your daughter with her science project even though you don’t know the first thing about static electricity. Helping your mother-in-law get to her doctor appointment. Helping your co-workers with something that needed to get done today. Helping that lost dog in your lawn find it’s owner.

You didn’t have to do those things, but you did and they didn’t go unnoticed.

Here’s to you for knowing.

Knowing exactly what your son needed even before he did. Knowing how much time it was going to take to get from the dentists office to soccer practice on time. Knowing what to make for dinner so everyone’s happy. Knowing the last day the baby had a bath was three days ago and he’s due for another.

You knew, you always do.

Here’s to you for loving.

Loving your kids every second of the day even when you’re so angry at them you could cry. Loving your husband, your teammate. Loving your chaotic, messy life just the way it is.

Your love is the glue that holds everything together.

Here’s to you for living.

Living a life for others. Living a healthy life. Living a happy life. Living your life as a mom, wife, daughter, friend, coworker, human and doing an awesome job.

Where would they be without you?

 

So here’s to you, Mama. For every single thing you do.

 

Love

15 Easy Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him

My life is busy. I’m a teacher by day, mom by night, and there is this guy I live with that I occasionally see that goes by “husband” or something.

I’m so guilty of putting my daughter first, at times myself and sometimes even my students before my wonderful husband. He works so hard, and does so much for our family.

One night after a very busy day, we got into bed and I thought to myself, “Have I even asked about his day yet? Have we hugged or kissed today? Have I even said ‘I love you’ at all?”

I realized WHOA. Step back and reevaluate this. It’s time for bed and you’re not even sure if you’ve had a meaningful conversation, a quick “I love you”, or better yet a simple hug or kiss. Either something has to stop, or something has to start because this is not okay. I wanted to find more ways to show my husband that I love and appreciate him.

Thank him.

Thank him for something he’s done. Even if it’s small. Even if it’s something he SHOULD be doing, and SHOULD NOT need to be thanked for. Whatever it was, he did it and he will appreciate being thanked for it.

Help him.

Ask him if he needs help with something. Even if he doesn’t he will appreciate that you asked.

Apologize to him.

There is no shame is owning up to something you did or something you forgot. Mistakes happen. Apologizing about a fight, a crazy outburst, a minor thing you forgot, anything that you’re sorry about. He will respect you for taking responsibility.

Leave him a small note.

Everyone loves getting a letter or small note. Leave him a little note somewhere surprising to tell him you love him or you’re thinking about him.

Buy something special for him.

I’m not saying go buy him an expensive watch or a car. If you’re at the grocery store and you see some beef jerky that you don’t usually get, buy it for him. Unexpected ways of showing him you were thinking about him (well, and beef jerky) will make his day.

Send him a quick message.

A quick call, text, email, Facebook message, to just say I love you will put a smile on his face.

Compliment him.

It needs to be genuine. Are you proud of his work ethic? Does he look good in that shirt? Was that a funny dad joke? Whatever it is compliment him. It will go a long way.

Plan something for him.

Maybe it’s just a dinner for the two of you to enjoy. Maybe it’s a cards night for him and the guys. Maybe it’s a surprise birthday party. He will love that you took the time to think about him in some way.

Cook his favorite meal.

Figure out his favorite meal and cook it every once and a while. Don’t save it for a special occasion, do it just because you knew he’d love it.

Check something off his to-do list.

Now don’t go meddling around in his workshop or shed if you’re clueless, but if you know he needs to get something done that you can handle, do it for him. Take a chore that he usually completes and get it out of the way for him.

Let him pick.

If you’re a person that usually picks everything let him choose something. Watch a scary movie he’s been dying to see even though you hate them, or go to a weird restaurant that he’s into even though you could care less about it.

Grab his hand.

Out in public without the kids tugging at your hands? Go for his. Nothing like a sweet, public display of affection to show your love.

Listen to him.

Sometimes he will just need to vent or tell a story. I know life is busy, but if you’re constantly doing other things while he talks, he may feel like a burden or unappreciated. Stop and just listen to him.

Kiss, kiss, kiss.

Find one time of the day that you start kissing him every day. Maybe it’s in the morning before work, before you go to sleep, before you sit down to eat dinner, after dinner cleanup (hopefully it’s all of those and more). Finding at least one consistent moment in the day to give that husband a smooch will be the highlight of both of your days.

Tell him you love him.

Probably the easiest way to show your husband you love him is by telling him that you love him. Feel free to give him more than just, “I love you”. Be honest and truthful about all the reasons you love him. You don’t have to list them all at once, but make sure he knows why.

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(Husbands glasses are from Warby Parker)

Baby

To My First Born

You will never know the special place you hold in my heart, my first born. It doesn’t matter how many children I have, there is one spot in my heart that is saved specifically for you. This does not mean that you will be my favorite, and it certainly does not mean that I will love you more. It means that you and I will have a bond that none of my other children and I will share. I know I will hold a strong attachment to them in someway as well. But you, my dear, you are my first born.

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You made me a mother.

You are the first person to give me the greatest title I’ve ever received, “mom”. I always wanted to be a mother, and you made that happen.

I will have more children, and I will also be their mother, but it was you who put me through the initiation.

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You’ve taught me so much.

I knew nothing about raising a baby before you came along. Literally nothing. I was so scared. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. “How will I know how much she needs to eat? Is she going to be warm enough in this? Is it okay if her poop is this color?” It was a new and challenging time for both of us.

You made it easy, and slowly we figured out things together.

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You introduced me to all the wonderful things about motherhood.

Watching you grow was the greatest thing I’ve ever witnessed. Every small thing you did I celebrated. It was so exciting to see a child discover the world around them daily, and you were able to give me that excitement for the very first time. I know I will be just as excited when my other children have their first accomplishments as well, but you introduced me to how truly remarkable a growing baby can be.

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You introduced me to the tough things about motherhood.

There were times when I was lost. Times I just didn’t know how to make you happy. There were days that we both just sat there and cried and neither of us knew what to do. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything right. We made it, though. We’ve made it through everything together, and it’s made us stronger. Maybe you’ve even paved the way for the next child so things won’t be as hard for me the second time around.

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You’ve made me appreciate others.

Even though you were an easy baby, you were still a lot of work. You made me appreciate the family and friends that were constant supports whenever I needed them.

You showed me a new side of my parents as you gave them this new title, grandparents. You helped me to appreciate the way they raised me as I began to raise my own little human.

You made me look at my husband as not only the man I married, but this wonderful new father, whom I saw in a new light. We became a stronger team, having to make decisions and come up with new ideas together for you.

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You showed me how to love in a completely different way.

I never knew how much I could love something until you came around. It was like a different part of my heart that I didn’t even know existed opened up to love this tiny baby more than I have ever loved anything. I feel like I can love more, and I feel like I can love harder.

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Thank you, my first born. Thank you for entering my life and changing it completely for the better. I will never be able to explain the place you hold in my heart, and just how deeply I love you.