Bodacious Blog of the Week: Mr. Money Moustache

OMG I am in an awesome group I need to post about LATER, Nerd Fitness Rising Heroes, but for now let me say I challenged myself this morning.  I posted on the FB pages for the Rising Heroes group, asking them to help me stay accountable to ride my bike instead of driving ALL. THE. TIME. One innocent post change my whole day but mentioning Mr. Money Mustache and how often he talks about saving money thought bike riding instead of driving.  I've barely even singed up to be a cult member yet you MUST KNOW ABOUT THIS!  He is preaching to our Novak Family Choir.  We live WELL, we rarely fight about money, we cut some corners and we avoid debt.  Sometime I need to be reminded WHY, and this Mr. Money Mustache site just did that for me in spades.  I am so encouraged and fired up and STOKED.   I hope you feel the same.

Mr. Money Mustache ala TWITTER

This article on "Killing Your $1,000 Grocery Bill" got my attention this money, as I prepare to head out on my bike with trailer to grocery shop today.

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3 Tips on Saving Money: Princess on a Budget

Do you struggle to teach your kids the value of money?  Do your kids want All The Things All The Time?  Do they have a hard time paying for that $70 Hatchimal on their $3 weekly allowance?   Do you hit resale shops and garage sales to ease the cost of outfitting children who change sizes ever four minutes?  I'm lucky to have two daughters who can share hand me downs from their cousin and other friends, and they stair step even those clothes.  I still buy some shiny things from Target or similar, but I do work to teach my kids the value of money and to my family clothing costs low.  

Here are three simple tips to help teach your kids the value of money:

1)I cut costs with holiday dresses: I never buy the sparkly chiffon tulle extravaganzas.  I buy lovely dresses they can wear in regular rotation. They get something new for the holiday and I stretch the budget.  I have bought fancier dresses second hand, being mindful that they could be worn again.  We sometimes get fancy dresses handed down or as gifts and they love that.

2) I only keep about two weeks worth of clothes for each girl.  You know, a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe! I figure the clothes we hold on to "just in case" could be someone else's mainstay.  I know for me, holding on to excess needed to stop for many reasons.  One perk of limiting the sheer quantity of clothing my little ones own is LESS LAUNDRY!  It becomes much more motivating to get the laundry cycle finished when the drawers are empty or they have to be painfully creative when putting their outfits together.  (Sports t-shirt with tulle skirt, anyone?)This also helps teach your kids the value of money because they have to take better care of their clothes so they last longer.

3) My BEST stroke of genius in clothing has been sheer Bribery.  We were at Kohl's for winter coats and snow pants when I made Libby an offer she couldn't refuse: If she agreed to take Portia's coat from last year, I would buy her a toy under $20 right then and there.  Sure she didn't get the shiny new coat and snow pants($50!), but we both won and she got something after all. It helped me teach both kids the value of money through choices.

This month the school has a Fairytale Character Ball for the 2nd grade and families are invited to attend in costume! SQUEEEE!  After much tossing through our old outgrown and torn costumes from the past seven years, Portia wanted to be Belle and Libby wanted to be Briar Rose.  Both wanted sparkly new dresses.  As we looked at stores and I searched online, my pursestrings loosened and I actually went to the Disney Store.  I spent $60 on the Belle Dress and at Penney's I spend $36 on the Sleeping Beauty Dress.  It hurt, but I'm just practicing for prom right?  I was anxious about spending so much money on play dresses, but the look on their faces trying them on...well I want girls to feel like that always.

But then.

Then I tried the bribe.  I told them I would pay them each $20 to let me return the dresses and wear a costume we already had.  We assessed the repairs needed, length, sparkle, and both girls took me up on the offer.  I get about $60 back and my daughters have a chunk of money they rarely see all at once.  We all learned the value of making do with what we have.  

This lesson is more tangible because they HAD the dresses.  They put them on.  The dresses hung in their rooms overnight.  They tasted the glory of a new dress and decided they would rather spend the money elsewhere!  I consider this a huge win for all of us, one that we can harken back to in the future.  Living simply is a journey and this was a wonderful moment for all of us.  Even a Princess can budget!

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Always Be Prepared: NPR (88.1 WVPE) Radio Commentary with Michiana Chronicles

Prepper Much? Emergency preparedness and post apocalyptic society collide in my otherwise normal life. Listen in as I share my plans to cope with our uncertain World Political Climate with humor and diced tomatoes in this National Public Radio Bit "Aways Be Prepared".  

Listen to or read this latest NPR piece By Clicking HERE!

Find out more about the book I mention:

Lear more about preparing your family for emergency by Clicking HERE.

Running Music AKA Music I Don't Want my Daughters to Like

NOTE:  I wrote this eons ago, did it for NPR, and cannot find it on my own blog!  ENJOY!

“Running Music’ By Heather Curlee-Novak

I started running several years ago to distract myself from a broken heart and to quit smoking.  I hated it.  I did about eight 5K races with my Father who has been a three-miles-once-a-week runner for decades. Then I quit.  I was happy once again.

In the past few years I married my own Personal Prince Charming and have given birth to our precious first child.  Our lives have never been the same.  My body is not the same I decided to try running again. In about a month I was able to get up to a slow plodding run interspersed with lots of walking, as usual.  I found regular weekly running partners: our baby Portia in a jogging stroller, my Hot Mama friend Tracy on Wednesdays and of course dear old Dad on Monday or Friday. 

I have been running longer and better than four years and thirty pounds ago thanks to the maturing process of parenthood, good running partners and my Ipod.  The Ipod helps by distracting me from my agony and energizing me with wild happy songs just when I’m ready to give up and eat more french fries.  I also have the cool Nike Plus attachment that tracks all my runs in pretty graphs with stats that keep me motivated to go out one more time. I sometimes miss a run with my Dad or Tracy, but the Ipod is my constant running partner, I won’t go out without it.  Really. 

I was out with my Dad and my Ipod for a longer run and breathlessly mouthing the words to a favorite song in a quiet moment.  My Dad said “WHAT?”  and I realized what I had sung- “I’m a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie world, I’m plastic, its fantastic”  Funny happy words from a random song on my playlist.  I like happy sexy songs to keep my tired sweaty body on task...I am running to be healthier, sure, but above all to be thinner, sexier and to feel good about how I look. It may not be the highest goal in my life, but it is authentic!  Later on I was singing about “bringing sexy back”  and once again Dad stares at me and comments on the words. This is the man who takes me to Chicago operas, who likes classical music, NPR, and old style country.  Pop music is an alien world to him, and as I usually listen to NPR and Christian music, he is surprised at my play list.

I try to explain to him how the music gets me going and how I know the lyrics are vapid and hardly worth listening to let alone picking up as a daily mantra, but he doesn’t understand.  He asks, “Do you want your daughter to listen to this junk?”  I do have to think about that one.  I have already begun reframing my language, both foul and self flagellating, so that when she actually understands words I am giving her the best role model I can summon up.  I want her to know she is beautiful, captivating and valuable just as she is, whoever she is.  I want her to be confident, kind and love others well. 

I know the world may send her a different message. The struggle we women have with body image is an old dragon that never seems to be vanquished.  We can know the truth of our beauty in our hearts and then turn on the TV or open a magazine and question our value all over again.  We can have thin thighs in college but think they are enormous, not realizing the truth until our thirties when we learn the meaning of ...well, never mind.

Body image can be a real challenge for women and I certainly do not mean to perpetuate it by my running playlist.  How do I appreciate the lyrics for what they are without letting them affect me in the negative?  How do I protect and shape my daughters’ view of herself in a healthy way as she grows into a young woman?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I think that is a process that will take a long time.  But I do know that “I’m a Barbie Girl”  and Brittany Spear’s “Womanizer” help me run faster.  They help me run longer.  They bring me joy for what they are; silly upbeat dance songs that do not act as a moral guide for my life but keep my feet moving and my sweat pouring and my healthy beautiful mama’s body running.  I am happy once again.

Wise Hospitality: What to do with “Unusual Guests” at Church?

This is from a First Impressions Team Letter I sent at my church.  From the positive responses I received, I realized it is likely other churches could benefit so I am posting it here on the blog.  Feel free to reuse and edit as you like, no need to credit the source.  I am happy to answer emailed questions as I am able.

We had "Unusual Guests" this past weekend. I greeted them, welcomed them and chatted. I heard their story and they asked for $5 for gas. I said we did not give out money, but they could come speak with the pastor and get some help during the week.  I showed them where the coffee and donuts were and invited them to relax and enjoy themselves until the next service began.
We have discussed safety measures and responses in the past and the question was, "What Are we supposed to DO with an Unusual Guest?"
The short answer is SERVE THEM. Make them feel welcome. Ask their name, tell them yours and show them where the donuts and coffee are. Invite them to enjoy the service and show them where they can get questions answered. Be hospitable no matter how they sound, smell or appear. Period. Imagine they are your best friend's favorite person.
1) If you feel physically unsafe, they are yelling, angry or brandishing a weapon. RUN. Call 911. Alert others immediately.
2) If they ask for or about money, appear under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You are kind, you are welcoming, and you are assertive. Bring another person over to meet them. Get their name. Do all of the hospitable things AND....
1) Alert the Ushers, First Impressions leader(s) and Coffee Team that we have "Unusual Guests" so they might be alert and attentive in all the ways but especially with loose money lying around.
2) Keep them engaged and introduce them to other people so they are KNOWN and attended to.
3) You have permission to speak the truth in love. Someone let me know our Unusual Guests were asking individuals for money and I went right over to them. I again told them they were welcome here, when the service began, and that I heard they were asking people for money. I said "It is not ok for you to ask people here for money. You may come to the office during the weekday business hours and we can refer you to help, but we do not give out money here. We are glad you are here, thank you for understanding."
NEVER give out CASH. Just Never. We have brown bags with snacks at the Welcome Desk and you may give those to people. You may give out the red sheet with all the local resource options on it. You can sit with them for service, have coffee together at church or pray with them. We do not give out cash. That is dangerous and puts other people in danger too.

Our church is a place to connect to God and each other. Churches are a magnet for everyone who is broken and some of them are not ready to be fixed. Our job as Christ Followers is to show God's Love to everyone we meet. Especially the Unusual. Church is not a place for us to simply dress up and laugh with friends. There is work to be done. We look for the sad, the alone, the awkward. We try to make other people feel important and know they are valuable to God, to us. It is hard work, it is important work, and it is what matters to God. Thank you for serving God together as believers. I am honored to serve with all of you. I hope this helps you to love others by offering Wise Hospitality.

Love Better: Speak Peace (Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day, a Tumultuous Inauguration and Connections)

I am reeling today from the social media frenzy of friends and fake news and divisive politics and all of the powerful words at this mornings' Martin Luther King Day workshop at Valparaiso University.  Forgive my fumbling through a few of these thoughts as I try to figure out how to live well in our current world and circumstances.

There were four well prepared and insightful speakers & topics: "The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries" by Dawn Bartsch, "A Christian in India" by Alex Ramani, "How Lawyers Balance Justice and Faith" by Derrick Howard, and Joy Moore PhD offered "Purposely Provocative".  Derrick Howard made a statement "When those who are not injured feel as offended as those who are, that is Justice".  The idea is based on the Ben Franklin quote,  "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." 

This little bitty sentence  brought to my mind all the conversations I have had recently when my white privileged friends express dismay about the political climate and (to my personal subjective interpretation) beseech us all to just get along, to be positive, to accept things as they are.  It reminds me of when the wife of a councilman for my district said she didn't see that we had any race relations problems in our city.  I said many other white, privileged people would agree with her and not see the depth and breadth of racism around us. It has been easier to not see it in the past but it is a grave mistake to not see it now.  

We are all racist.  This is an idea I grappled with when I taught Fair Housing Classes for a property management company I worked for. We all see differences in each other including skin color and basic physical appearance.  It is human and perfectly acceptable to see the difference, to have thoughts or personal opinions about the difference.  What is troubling is when we believe and act as if those differences make us or them more or less of something.  

(From Art Installation Brochure)
As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbor as myself.  I am a clumsy Christ Follower. I say swear words and judge others' choices and buy cheap things from China.  I have so much food in my house I sometimes decide we should just go out to eat because I cannot decide what to make or do not feel like making the effort.  I say that to say this: Once upon a time ten years ago or so I was traveling for work and ended up at a Denny's.  As I waited for my carryout order I looked over the patrons and was surprised by something unusual: They were all ugly.  The people at Denny's were each fat or funny looking or old or toothless...I began to feel smug and amuse myself in my mind at their expense.  Then I heard God.  (NOTE: No matter your personal thoughts on God or the lack thereof, this is my story.)  God showed me this is how he could see every single one of us if he chose to.  Me included.  He could see my ugliness as I sat there but he chose to love me instead, knowing I was mean and ugly inside.  

Derrick Howard mentioned a quote he likes "Ugly people know they are ugly when they wake up in the morning."  He said most people know what holds them back in life. Most people know their ugly and pretty sides, and often this knowledge is where they speak and live from.  He encouraged us "Don't be ugly."

I work hard to write to 'us and our' to avoid lecturing so please forgive me as I speak to YOU.  I assure you I am included in this word.  I need it.  I am working to improve alongside any of you who step up to the challenge. And so to my friends fighting on social media  I say these things:

1) Do. Not. Be. Ugly.  If we belittle someone and call them names no-one will want to hear our words. Your mother was right, when you speak badly about another person it says more about YOU than them.  Be a mature adult and control yourself.

2) Everyone should get a chance to be LISTENED TO.  Yes, even Those People. Spend more time listening to other people and less time trying to speak your point.  Ask them questions.  Dig deeper with everyone's best interests at heart.  In the safety of being listened to, they may be able to hear our words differently.

3) Do NOT slip into a cocoon with only like minded people.  YES have your tribe, but do not discount and close off the opposition lest they react the same way.  Conversation in a bubble is worthless. Stop blocking and unfriending folks.  Doing that says your beliefs cannot stand against or beside opposing beliefs. (And If they cannot, are you sure you want to hold them?)

4) Everyone is loved by someone.  Everyone wants to be well thought of and everyone wants to be right. Remember this before interacting with them.  Treat each person you come into contact with with love and grace and kindness REGARDLESS of how they interact with you.  When they go low, we go high.(Thanks Obama!) THAT is the hardest thing to do and takes the most strength.  Be strong.
Relevant copy from VU Art Installation Brochure

Let us Choose to live well each day.  Be kind.  Be involved.  Help people daily and your life will be worth something...both when it is over and each day you are living in it.  

May God bless your mind and every effort you make to Live and Love Better. Speak Peace.